Thursday, December 13, 2007

forward forward

So things seem to be moving forward in the work department. Positive. It'll all be OK, I suppose. But thats boring. What else is new? Well, not much.

I did upload billions of pictures to my album site, check them out if you want. Tons of pictures of when Evan visited me, when my mum came for a visit, and all sorts of other stuff. I have even more to upload, but haven't got around to it yet. (On an unrelated technical note, I changed the current look of my blog. It doesn't work in IE, so I might change it again, but I currently use firefox so it doesn't bother me. End of unrelated technical note.)
It's been getting really cold here in Tokyo, but winter is cold in many parts of the world so I wont bother to say much about that. In fact, I'm really unsatisfied with this blog post. I almost pressed cancel, but whatever a diary is a diary. So here we go.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

old numetal & walking around

I wasn't really thinking I would be going to a Nu metal concert, but thats what I found myself doing last week. My friend Kayo had an extra ticket to a Linkin Park concert and I went along. I was most interested to see the opening band Dir En Grey (a Japanese odd rock act) but bad timing led to getting to the stadium right before Linkin Park was set to go on. It was a large full stadium of anticipating fans. We pushed forward towards the front and as the music washed out onto us the fans writhed and pulsed and smashed us like waves. It was a thick chaotic moshpit. The music was high tempo, and the bass resonated into the bones. It was a good musical escape.

My American friend Evan came to Tokyo (from the countryside of Japan) to visit me for a week before he heads home to America. We've been walking around and seeing many random things. (A video of this is online for you to check out.) Yesterday, Evan's friend invited us to a bar he works at. I refused because I don't have enough money right now, but his friend insisted saying he would pay for everything. I decided I should go along and hang out. His friend sat us in the VIP section and provided endless free drinks. The bar was what you would think of when you would think of a stereotypical Tokyo bar. Big orange chandeliers, a lit up floor and an occasional burlesque show (picture of that above). There was a mix of foreign and Japanese stylish people with artsy jobs and a slightly demure lighting. It was a fun night out about town.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Adventures in Joblessness

I'm not sure if I made it clear before, but I can make it clear now. My company apparently just evaporated. I worked for two months, waiting for them to finally pay me, but instead they disappeared in a cloud of collapsed effort. 4000 teachers with out a job. I was talking to my landlady (I would like to invent a new word such as "landperson" if I could) about whether I would have enough money to pay rent next month (who is, by the way, a super super nice person) because being unemployed suddenly from a job that wasn't paying usually leads one into a situation where it is difficult to pay rent. She suggested I go with her on her trip to the government office. I know that my scrawny wrongcountry-frame wouldn't do me much good begging for government help, so I gladly took her up on her offer. So we head on over, and we go up to the third floor, and fill out the forms requesting unemployment money handouts. In all my adult life (which isn't that long I suppose) I haven't had to ask a government to help me because I didn't have a job, but I don't really see it as a bad thing and they seemed helpful enough. I filled out the forms, and they said they would process them and we would get details of the success or failure of the application later. There was a little more to be done, so they suggested I go down to the 2nd floor which was the job-listings database floor and look for a job. They told us they would be done tinkering with their tools in about an hour, which left plenty of time to go down and get on the job searching computers. We go down to the counter to get a card for me to use the computer.... and the man behind the counter nervously avoids me and says to my landlady (landperson) that they basically "can't help his kind" I look at him and ask, "Why not? I just want to look for a job." and I kid you not, he continues to avoid me and looks at her and says "Because they don't understand our language. Go to Shinjuku or something, they can help his kind." And I was kind of annoyed, to say the least. I was wanting to lay into him, but luckly my landperson is my civil. She points out that the 3rd floor told us to come down here. He says how odd that is, because they can't help me. That there must be a mistake. Instead of dealing with him anymore, we go back up to the 3rd floor (we had eaten lunch between going to the 2nd floor, so it was about time to go up there anyway) and get the final paperwork setup. My landperson with her cultivated words asks why they wouldn't let me use the computers down stairs. The lady and man behind the counter seem confused. I poke my cheeks and say maybe its a skin thing. They assure me it isn't that at all and send us down to the 3rd floor again. This time we skip the guy at the counter, and she sent me directly to the counseling counter while she went off to do her chores. At first it was a bit hard for the lady to understand my slightly coagulated accent, but she warmed up enough and I was given my card to search for jobs on the computer. Found three possible ideas and turned them over to another counselor. He looked like a mouse, almost literally, and he set about getting me the contact information for the jobs and giving a little advice. His Japanese reminded me of a mouse too, I'm not sure why he seemed so mousy to me. In between tasks he couldn't help but talk about this Australian he had met once and other random things that didn't really seem connected. He told me to come back next week because they would have new listings. I thanked him and left. None of the jobs wanted me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

late night drifting

I'm laying here on my futon, propped up on one elbow, typing on my laptop's dirty keyboard. The up key stopped working, and that is annoying me. Wondering about work is keeping me awake. Payday came and went and no one at work has received pay yet. We are effectively working for free. Well, some of us are working for free. Many of my coworkers are just not coming to work, under the philosophy of no pay equals no work. Not sure why I keep going. I think we will get paid eventually I guess. And we have some cool students. The future is a bit murky, but it will begin to unroll when I wake up tomorrow. Time to try to sleep.

Friday, September 28, 2007

armageddon and my mama

As I'm sure any reader has noticed, I don't usually talk about work on my blogs. Work is work, it isn't my blog and I think it's best to keep it that way. However, recently work has been boiling to the point where it might spill over into my personal life. My company is self-destructing. There is massive meltdown going on. The students are running away because of scandals, the government has shut down signing up new long term contracts, and many teachers are running away because it's all so demoralizing. The company is on the brink of a massive belly-flop if something good doesn't happen. It's got so bad I even have Japanese friends from out of town calling and telling me to find a new job. It's an awkward odd moment in my work life, not sure what's going to go down.
But in happy news my friend Christina D. came to visit last week, and from today my mama comes to visit me! I can't wait to show my mama around town. It will be fun to go to famous places, and look at beautiful things for awhile. And then maybe after that I can deal with the job melt down with a peaceful mind.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

night of living silence

It's 1:40 at night. I'm waiting for my clothes to dry at the coin laundry. I sit on the hard sidewalk, back pushed against a vacant building, reading a really good book about Australian place names. My shoes are off, my barefeet pushed against the asphalt. A thin misty rain starts, cutting through the still humid night. I ignore it and keep reading, part of me aware of the feeling against my skin and the occasional taxi drifting past in the darkness beyond my peripheral vision. It's moments like these that my mind kind of twirls, reflecting on a kind of 3D depth to my life's current state connected to what it is and what it will be. These deep thoughts distract me briefly from the book, and I see the mist has left a thin glistening sheen on the pages. I check my chipped orange cellphone, another 10 minutes. I keep reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

time enough for time itself

more pictures!! 25 new ones A few more moments that were unblogged about hanging out with my college friends Evan and later Priscilla.

Going to the post office on bikes in the rain with Evan, the rain getting harder, not cold in the summer heat, but drenching me like a shower. My glasses get misty, rain drenching my hair, running down my face, the rain gets thicker, introducing the typhoon that was on the way. Evan rides infront of me, calling out directions so that I wont get lost.

In a shopping center with Priscilla. She's buying some Hello Kitty stationary. We are standing behind a guy who buys over US$150 on small sparkly girly stickers, the store worker has to almost grunt when she puts the huge stack of sticker sheets in a big bag. I cant help but be impressed and wonder if he will use them on letters or what. How often does he spend such a chunk of money on such things?

Stuffing things in a laundry bag to go to the laundry with Priscilla. She rejects my red shirt, thinks the colors will bleed on to her whites. Walking to the coin laundry mat in the melting hot heat. Priscilla using her sun umbrella with one hand, clutching the big laundry bag with the other. On the way back we stop at a bento (lunchbox) store. I dont have a table, I never have, so we sit on my floor talking, eating Japanese food and drinking lemon tea.

I have many more memories, but I dont have the time for them now. For those interesred there are some pictures of these times and more. 25 new pictures to browse as of now, in any case.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

hello kitty reloaded

A friend from Hong Kong, Priscilla, came to visit for a week. It was good to see another hong kong friend (so far HK is winning in most visits! buy your tickets now and represent your country at the Neonvirus Hotel-House[stinky one room studio appartment]!) but I still havent uploaded pictures (for that matter, still missing most of the ones from my Yamaguchi trip too, I need to upload)...
Basically when I had free time off of work, me and Priscilla did a lotta shopping. She loves shopping, so it was kind of a shopping vacation for her. Oh. And Hello Kitty Land (Sanrio Puroland) was also on the agenda. Week of Stereotypical Girly Events. I had fun talking and being noisy, after all... we all know its fun to gossip and be silly. Photos up when I stop being lazy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

yamaguchi memories

I had a few days off work so I thought I would take the bullet train down to the last prefecture on the main island of honshu. Yamaguchi. I woke up early, and made my reservations on a vending machine in Shinjuku station. I picked up a station lunchbox (ekiben) and hopped on the nozomi bullet train (shinkansen). It takes about 5 hours on the bullet train to get to Yamaguchi, and only about 2 hours on the airplane. But somehow I like the feeling of being a rocket cutting through the countryside of Japan, nothing beats it. The plush green fields, small hamlets clustered around the train tracks, and the tree clumped mountains. Increasing in frequencey near the bottom of honshu, it was most surprizing to count the endless amount of tunnels the train would speed through. It felt like a land-based submarine, sometimes coming up for less than a minute to offer a breathtaking view of a deep country valley or something before submerging in a long tunnel again.
Hanging otu with Evan in Yamaguchi was a lot of fun. He is a very open-minded friendly guy, so he had a lot of local friends to introdue me to. Including a couple running a sushi shop, a rich widow, and an elementry school teacher from America. My second day there we rode around on a bike tour of his countryside town, warm air floating past us with a taste of rain-coming in the fragrance. And when the rain came, I poured. The welcoming dance of a typhoon on it's way towards the coast. I had to run up to Tokyo, with the typhoon chasing me. Eventually it got lost in Nagoya, and I was back in Tokyo with fairly little rain left to be thrown at me by the smashed typhoon. (Photos uploaded soon maybe?)
And speaking of natural earth things, a quick word on the earthquake that rocked this area. I was teaching when suddenly the table began to shake. I looked around at the students, everyone paused. I remembered how the current left-to-right shakes are a good sign and the not-present up-and-down shakes are a bad thing. I said something about that, and then got back to teaching. Although the tremors shook down some houses in the prefecture next to Tokyo, over here in Tokyo area we all bairly noticed enough to change what we we were doing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

summer light falling

I've been feeling like I should do something more creative than waking up and going to work and going home and repeating this cycle over and over. The creative urge. I just never seem to actually get my ideas out from inside my head and into the real world. I got to try more often.

These days, this blog always seems to be about pictures, so I might as well point out I have more than 13 new pictures and a few videos for viewing. That is all for now.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

collection of moments

I was walking to the 100yen shop at 2 in the morning (why is another story) and I walked past a group of construction workers huddled around a chalk sign posing after the completion of the installation of a drainage network. Is that something I missed when I was in the states? Is that something that isn't common here, I just happened to see it? Why are construction workers taking school-style group photos? The moment lingered in my mind.

Today I had to wake up really early to go to immigration in Shinagawa, but the weather was great. So on the way home I decided to make a video about the Yamanote loop line. Just the idea was fun for me to think up, I was going to translate all the station names into literal English. I got a tuna sandwich and chunky mango juice, and emptied out my 1 GIG digital camera memory card. I ended up giving up on the translate all the station names thing (all that text was too cluttered looking and a lot of work) but I still made the video. Making it was fun, and brought back memories of my total geeky moment of riding the Yamanote loop about 7 times last year. Its a big loop. Anyway, I cant vote for its coolness (7 minutes of a train, that might not be your thing?) but this (Live Video stream, it wont show Japanese right now, but the English text works) is the video I made, if you want to check it out.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

here i am again

So my friend is getting married, so I jumped over to Korea with very little planning and here I am. Sitting in Kim's Guest House in Hapjeong. Sunny day, echos of a street vendor in the distance. I love this place. Right now Sunny (not sure if she spells it this way or the korean way Soon hee or something, the owner) is checking in a customer who forgot to take his shoes off. Shes a friendly person who tries to help her customers. I highly recommend this place. It always feels like my memories mix and mingle when I stop by, maybe because the owners seem to remember me. And this time it was even stronger because someone from last time was here too. What a small world it is.

My friend Mr.Frog is getting married tonight. I shaved my cheeks, ironed my shirt, and bought a new Korean style Zipper Tie. I'm ready to go check out his wedding!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

a day at sumo

In my whole life, I had never gone to see a sumo match. Last week, I decided to change that.I talked Kayo into going with me, and we went fairly early in the morning and got there at about 11:00. Although this was many hours before the main matches would start, the cheap upper row tickets were already sold out. We got the next cheapest ones (about 3000YEN) and went inside. The minor wrestlers were already going through their rounds. Not that many people were watching, and it was fairly easy to get real close. It was fun to be so close to these semi-religious (shinto) pro wrestling power pushers. We decided to go try the sumo style soup, which can be had for 200 YEN next to the sumo rink. It was good, and filling. If you ate a big bowl of that everyday you would definitely beef up. We went out of the stadium (and got a hand stamp so they would let us back in) and walked around for an hour or so. When we got back, the action was starting to pick up. So we went to our seats way above the rink, and watched. I took a million photos and videos. There was something surreal about being in a rink that you have seen so many times on TV. Near the final matches we sneaked down and found a seat near the ring that wasn't taken and made bets between each other about who would win which match. We opened a few cans of sake and I began to yell support for some wrestlers, just like a lot of the other drunk salarymen around me. The final match was with the grand champion Morning Blue Dragon, and he regretfully lost. As could be expected, the crowd through their cushions into the air and towards the ring. I took a million photos, but somehow I misplaced my memory card (stupid!) so right now there are only a few online, plus a video which I will paste as a embedded player below.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

revolutionary critical mass

As I sit eating my microwavable cheese and ham and egg naan I can't help but think about the impending revolution that is reaching critical mass in Japan. Some Japan-watchers might think I'm talking about the coming militarization of Japan that the prime minister and his companions are pushing for at the moment. That is frankly a little scary, and it will ultimately lead to a change in the way Japan sees the world. But, no, I mean a far deeper change I can see all around me. Tokyo, and thus by some extension the rest of Japan, is on the cusp of becoming a truly international city. I can hear that in the myriad languages I can come across down town, I see it in the faces of the millions of foreign people streaming past me in the train stations with a look of wonderment on their faces, I can sense it in my kids classes that seem to be quite full of multiethnic children these days. In most countries in the world, seeing a huge mix of the world mingling on the streets, and children of different ethnic heritage in a classroom shouldn't be and isn't surprising. Japan has been stereotyped as a homogeneous society, but the foreign population is reaching critical mass. When you can see a white guy working at McDonalds in front of your house, you know its about to happen. A Japan that truly begins to become a new country with a new culture that will lead to a new way of seeing the world. Change is coming.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

trip to immigration

My friend in Korea is getting married but as a quasi-member of this society I currently reside in, I had to go to the immigration office today to get permission to travel. Although I find it kind of weird that I can't travel internationally unless I get permission, thats the way things roll, so thats what I went to go do. I woke up a little late, because I had a special day off and wouldnt be going to work today. The sky was getting darker, even though it was day, so I decided I should rush to the station before it began to rain. And thats when the sky decided to down pour. Litteral buckets of rain smashing down. Heres a direct link to a 7MB (I didnt have space on my card, so its lo-res) quicktime video of the rain turning some stairs into an urban waterfall. My socks, and pants were totally soaked. Well, I got on the train and head to the immigration office in Shinagawa... and since this wasnt my first time, I got the required "revenue stamp" at a convenience store before going up to the immigration office. For some reason, they wont take cash and require these special stamps but dont post any information about it. So a lot of people just wait forever and get upfront and are told they cant be helped with out the stamps, or that was my experience anyway my first time there. Today I heard some lady complaining on her phone in English about how she wasnt sure what to do but she was just waiting anyway. When she got off the phone, I asked her if she had revenue stamps, and explained what they were... and immediately like flys attracted to sugar water, I was swamped with several other inexperienced foreigners who wanted more details. I also noticed that English speaking foreigners are noisy. While I ended up waiting for about 2 and a half hours, I noticed that a baby crying in one corner and the white guy talking to his wife on the other side of the room had about the same level of vocal output. Who would have thunk it. So after the loooong wait, I go up to the counter and say almost nothing, hand over my passport and get the permit in literal seconds. You'd think it would be more efficient if it was built into my visa, instead of requiring me to wait for it. But oh well, thats bureaucracy. As I walked out of the office, the sun was beaming bright on the freshly bathed earth as if signally a movie-style change in moods.

Friday, May 11, 2007

i admit it

OK. So I saw Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision today. And if you are a fan of high quality movies, dont even try to watch it. But if you are a fan of good quality bad movies, sloppy B movie freakzones, this one doesnt disappoint. On the honestly good side, not bad acting for this kind of "direct to dvd" kind of movie, and the martial arts weren't so bad... fun to see a few detailed kick 'em ups outside of the realm of kickass hong kong theater or (shudder) walker texas ranger (if you dont know what i reference here, you might want to count yourself lucky). The plot and the special effects on the other hand were amateurish but fun. The prerequisite "time travel" effects looked like someone painted on some colors with photoshop. Though when mentioning the time locations traveled to, one should point out that they were fairly good... on par with a fairly decent TV show. Too clean, and the signs in nazi germany looked like they were printed off with a printer, and the costumes were all too "rented" looking... Although the locals (temporals? haha) all spoke the correct language or accent of their time ("correct" is used loosely here, because the Japanese used was so mangled it was funny-cute), which I prefer. Speaking of time zones traveled to, they hit almost every stereotypical zone, nazi germany and wild west, etc although they forgot the 1950s, but I guess the trip to the 1980s, was equivalent just more hip for people who would feel nostalgia for the 80s not the 50s. And oh god, the plot was juicy! There were some major plot holes that really tear through the mind of a rational thinker, in a good way if you enjoy odd movies. To give you an idea about how minor this movie was, it didn't even have a Wikipedia page until I added one. Come on, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch had a major page on wikipedia (including a section detailing "Continuity issues" ... which is kind of scary actually, that someone(s) cares so much about the continuity issues in a kids cartoon.) Anyway, thats my movie review I guess!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

jumbled mumble

It seems more often than not, my posts these days are about new photos I've added to my album. I suppose thats the current mode my blog has taken on for the time being. My memories of the past few weeks seem a bit jumbled in my head, as if I shook up a box of confetti, emptied it out on a windy day, and grabbed a few strands as they twirled off. I have met a lot of people from many years ago who just happened to be in the area for one reason or the other. Memories make me who I am, I suppose. And still more people are moving, changing, going other places. I wonder what life will be like when too many memories build up under my finger nails, behind my ears and under my bed. Follow the link, if you want to see about 14 new pictures in my album.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

life as it goes on

Several people have left my company, and one of my work friends will leave soon too. Its got me thinking about these kind of cycles. Most of the people that disappear from my work will disappear from my life, as if they pass away. In life, we live in a certain moment and as we glide forward we bump into many souls, but most of the people we meet fade into the shadows of the rush forward. I guess I should be really thankful for the few friends and acquaintances that have managed to keep their light bright enough that I can continue to know where their soul goes, even after all these years. Most of the other people are just whispy memories, ghosts inside my shifting thoughts.

It had been awhile, so I uploaded something like 47 new pictures to my web album, so if you like to browse pictures be sure to check that out. Even a few new videos too. Life continues.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

another night

Maybe it's because I work until fairly late, or maybe it's because I am a "night person" but I usually find myself awake at odd hours of the night. Tonight, before going to sleep I thought I'd run to the local cheap shop to buy myself some shaving cream and toothpaste (ran out of both on the same day, go figure!) even though it was about 2:00 at night. I step out side, and I'm met by a pleasant wind tempting me to assume spring is on it's way again. It sure seems like winter has hidden in the curtains this time. The wind compliments the darkness, and the splattering of late night/early morning rain that comes as a combination meal. I have a surge of clarity, like when I'm writing and I suddenly know what the next character will say. My surroundings sharp, my mind clear. I floated along in my reality bubble, and walked past an old gentlemen bar. Small neon sign in front, fading door. A customer was singing badly to an old 70s tune, reaching the crescendo, the payoff, and he ended it with a half-hearted "yeea!" to congratulate himself, and a few hands could be heard clapping briefly. And I wondered about motivations, and I wondered why he was singing karaoke at 2 in the morning, why he was sining such an old song, to such a small audience. Did he have images of being a rockstar? Being famous? Being a good singer? Being loved? What motivated him? Why was he singing here, what drove him forward? And before more thoughts could bubble further, the bright blue and orange lights of the cheap 99yen shop disturbed my flow, I hesitated while I made some sort of mental bookmark so that I could write my thoughts down later, and then I stepped inside.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

late night thoughts

So its 3 in the morning and I should be sleeping. I was thinking about a few days ago when I thought spring was finally here. It was my half day, so I was walking home in the afternoon. The sun was golden, warm. And suddenly tiny sprinkles of rain speckled my skin, like tactile polkadots I could feel but not really pay attention to visually. And next the wind picked up and blew strong down through the corners of buildings and around the bend in the sidewalk, blowing hard against my face. I opened up my jacket, and held it out with my hands, as if I was wearing a kite. I learned into the sudden impressively strong wind, and honestly could feel the force of the wind supporting me.

But now its all cold and sour again. I guess spring isnt really here yet. My feet are cold, and my room is cold, and outside is an ice cube factory.

The other day I was talking to Kayo (who was walking around in Shibuya) on the phone, and then she suddenly goes "Ohmygod! its michael jackson, michael jackson just walked right past me!" and I knew he was in Japan, so I told her, get off the phone, follow him and take a picture with your phone. And she goes "But he might be upset if I take his picture." and I thought it was really funny and an interesting view of her way of thinking. The "rational" thought would say, he is a celebrity he should be used to people taking his picture, and beyond that even if he does get upset why would it have an impact on kayo's life? I laughed and said "yeah, if you do it, he might not be your friend anymore after that, maybe he wont call you to hang out anymore." By the time she realized she should try to get a picture, quite a few people had begun to recognize him, so he had already been whisked away and was gone. (For those wondering, Kayo says he was wearing some sort of "Indian [as in, person from India]" headgear wrapped around his head, and he was accompined by a Japanese woman who appeared to be a guide of somesort, and thats it. Checking out the streets of Japan!)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Trip to Oshima

clickie here for album link
Oshima is an island (literally "big island") off the coast of Tokyo. Me and my good friend Kayo decided to take a brake from the grind of endless work, and hop over for a quick two day trip. It was a lot of fun, although not so much different than Tokyo. On the way there we took an airplane, and the view was amazing. Pulling up and away from Tokyo, Mount Fuji poked up over the horizon and slipped away as the ocean revealed the destination. Oshima is famous for a type of flower called Tsubaki (camellia in English?) and although the peak of the blooming season was over, there were still a lot of Tsubaki flowers everywhere. The air was a little cold, but not too bad. Oshima was extra interesting for me, because I'm a big Gojira (godzilla) fan. Gojira escaped from this island's mountain when it erupted, and thats just so cool. The first day, we went to a small sushi restraunt and I got some really fresh maguro tuna. Kayo's bowl was spicy and had a piece of a bandaid in it, so she had crap luck for lunch I guess. After that we took a bus to the other side of the island and walked to the ocean. It was peaceful, almost no one around. No sounds but the waves, a few birds, and Kayo singing karaoke to herself. Me and Kayo have known each other for a long time, so sometimes we would get a bit grumpy in the cold air, but I guess thats the nature of our communication sometimes. After watching the waves for awhile, we took the bus back to the area where we were staying. The sun was fading, but we decided to rent bikes and ride along the shore on a bike path. The sky was a dark blue with a ribbon of pinkish-orange, and we were shooting along in the crisp air. The road would snake through chunks of old lava and trees, or along a row of old restaurants being renovated, or along the mellow ocean. It was beautiful. The next day, we woke up really early and ate breakfast at the inn and then we took a bus to the base of the mountain. We walked/hiked up the dissolute mountain for a couple of hours. Endless fields of lava-rocks and lava-sand. Kind of impressive for its complete sterile vibe. I felt a bit like I was walking along mars after it had just been terraformed or something. Endless bleakness. It was really geographically interesting, but really hard work in ratio of the reward when we reached the summit, which was simply a semi-smoking hole. I can now say I've peaked down the hole of a volcano. Next we made our way to the port, and took a boat back to Tokyo. The boat was slower than the airplane, but it was fun in its own way too. I took 2GB of photos and videos, I think that shows how bad I needed a vacation.
Below is an embedded video clip collection of my trip:

Monday, February 26, 2007

two sides to one coin

I was walking to the local 99YEN discount shop, and I walked past a bar I had seen when Tom came to visit me from Hong Kong. Its a chicken-on-a-stick (yakitori) bar, and sometime around 11 at night me and Tom had walked past it. We were hungry, and the Japanese sign out front read "open for business" so I slid open the door and started to step in (with Tom behind me, not yet through the door) and the owner looked over at me and said (in Japanese of course) "We're not open for biz-nuss, son" (I'm trying to capture in English the feeling of informal friendliness that could also be seen as rude depending on which way you want to read it.) Although that sounded oddly like something from a cowboy movie when the greenhorn walks through the doors, even more so because of the open sign, I decided I must have just caught the bar right as it was closing up. Which brings me to my 1:30 in the early morning walk past it a few minutes ago. It was still open, with customers inside. Heres where we get to the two sides on one coin idea. This situation could be understood as zenophobia or racism or a mix of the two. But it could also be understood in a million other ways too. Maybe the owner's friends came in from out of town. Maybe the customers were yakuza gangsters and the owner was afraid to push them out and close up. Maybe he has special super-late hours on Sunday nights. The list could go on forever. The same two sided coin situation can play in the opposite way. When I got to the 99 YEN shop, I was in a hurry so I just grab my super late dinner stuff and just as I'm thinking about walking to the counter, the register-guy runs over and brings me a basket for my stuff, I tell him I dont need one because I'm buying my stuff at that moment. He responds by bowing and using respect words in a hurried nervous manner that makes me feel important, like he needs to sell me my stuff as fast as he can so I can go home to my warm house. Of course, up pops the two-sided coin. Maybe he was thinking I was a drunk foreigner and when I communicated with him he realized I wasnt one of those two things. (I'm sure you can figure out which!) Or maybe he was feeling guilty for not liking me which translated into rushed service so he could get me out of his hair. Or maybe his rush was fear I would hurt him or speak to him in some freaky language, or both. Theres always more than one way to see the same thing, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

visits of souls i know

Thats right. Friends from out of town! Thats always good news. My friend from Hong Kong, Tom, came to visit Japan for about a week. He stayed at my small place, and took the bullet train to Kyoto or Osaka almost every day. (He had a JR pass, so it wasnt so expensive.) It was fun to have someone in the neighborhood, I hadnt ever made that much time to check out local bars and restaurants so much. At the same time, two students who I had taught in Korea came to Japan with my previous boss. I hung out with them for a few days while my hong kong friend was in Kyoto. We went around Tokyo and did most of the tourist things I never do. It was fun to pretend like a Tokyo Tourist for a few days. And yeah, the end result is 34 new pictures that you should check out... just click next in the upper right corner to go through them all! (Well, they arent all about the things I mention above, kind of random actually, I have been lazy to upload recently.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Untold Story: part 1

I have too much stress to sleep right now, and I really need to get to bed. In an attempt to relax the mind, I will tell the story of the first time I came to Japan about 7 years ago. (Time flies when you are living life strapped to a rocket.) Some of you might be familiar with this story, and some might not know much about it. And I honestly have to admit that a lot of it is lost in the haze of my incredibly selective memory. So some of this story will remain lost forever, either by personal choice, by bad memory or simply because I wish to build suspense for a further episode of my look up at the memories blowing away. (Warning this might be a little long.)

Somehow I ended up eating lunch with some international students at my small community college. The "how" of the situation is too much of a bother to explain at the moment. I remember the dull peptobismol-pink tables, the noisy people trying to be cool. It was usually the same table. I cant remember what class I was coming out of or going to. European Art History? Northwest American History? Seemed to have a lot of history classes for no reason that year. I had learned a few words in Japanese from my friends or students. I had been helping out in the tutorial center for about a year or so at that point. Well, I had been helping out with the benefit of $6.50 an hour that helped to put me through my early years in college. I was playing with the Japanese words I had learned and somehow it came to me. Why not go to Japan? The idea of a foreign country was more an abstract glow, I knew it wouldnt be like Canada or California, but I think I was niave enough to not even make a solid picture of it in my head. I dont think I even ran an internet search on it. I just thought, hey, I should go and check it out for the summer. Part of my reason probabbly had to do with the fact that because I wasn't going to go to school in summer, my dorm wouldn't let me live there. If I was "homeless" I thought I might as well enjoy a wild ride of it. I had been saving money for the last few years. I doodled out some ideas. Lets see, after buying a cheap airplane ticket, my budget would give me about 600yen (about US$6 at the time) a day for everything. Food, transportation, lodging, everything. Thats not bad. I showed my Japanese friends at lunch. I suppose saying they freaked out would be an understatement. They told me there was no way I could survive on such a small amount of money. That I couldnt even get a hotel for that cheap. I said that I was just expecting to sleep under bridges or in parks. I really said that, thinking back I either was incredibly stupid or just super happy-go-lucky or some odd mix of the two. Several of my Japanese friends spent the next few days trying to find me options, one of them found several people who wanted to let a "foreign person" stay at their house. Cultural exchange so to speak. So I was off. Not so fast young man! I found out my wisdom teeth needed to be taken out, they were impacted and it was dangerous to go anywhere with out doing anything about them. I got them ripped out and literally went to Japan the next day, with a pocket full of pain pills. My ride over was a haze. The only clear thing I remember through the daze of pills was looking down at my hand after eating some shrimp and seeing the perfect triangle of bumps that sometimes appears after eating shrimp. I must have some sort of odd allergy. I got to Japan, and the guy who I had been put in contact with to stay with first surprised me by meeting me at the airport. Tatsuya. Tall, thin, t-shirt and jeans. Glasses and a friendly but a slightly odd smile. As I got on the local train I realized that the air was thick, and it smelled different. The smell of air is something that always lets me know when I'm in a new country, every country seems to have a unique fragrence twirled into its translucent local atmosphere. I didn't know at the time that the airport was in the countryside, so the endless green streaming past the windows put me into a happy sleepy daze. A glimpse of the light that had begun to fade as we got closer to Tatsuya's and then I lost all my memories until I woke up later that night, a victim of jet lag, a smile on my face in the dark silence. A dog barked in the distance and I was in Japan!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

bad jokes & warm rooms

Lets listen in as I fail to make a funny joke. When I work at Matsudo, they have the school front desk on the 3rd floor, and the teaching rooms on the 5th. Yeah, a bit odd. So when the front desk Japanese staff want to talk to us, they have to call up stairs on an intercom phone. The phone rings, I answer.
"Hello, is Dansen there please?" says a staff member, asking for me.
"Oh sorry" I say "He isnt here. He died."
Silence. The staff member is shocked. Or maybe just a little confused.
I try to laugh, "haha... just joking. This is Dansen."
She says in chilly Japanese "You're pissing me off."
I need to work on my humor skills. I'm a total idiot huh. ha ha!

So I was woken up this morning by my landlord and the electric store handyman. I put on my pants, and let them in. When I came home, the air conditioner (and thus my heater) was working again! Oh joy! No more chilly nights, with a runny nose in the morning. Yay!

Monday, January 22, 2007

its cold in here

The air conditioner (and thus the heater) seems to be broken, so I am sitting in a room the temperature of a cold fridge. The hum of the microwave. The smell of my frozen cheese and vegetable spring rolls sizzling in the microwave. The computer on one futon, me on another, wrapped in several layers of coats. My (intentionally, tastes better that way) cold fried chicken, and crispy fresh don tacos chips ready to be consumed. Its a night to remember. The microwave bell goes off, I get up to check on my springrolls. The bottoms are hot, the tops not perfect but I take them out of the microwave because I'm hungry. It's dinner time. I eat a few cheese sticks of goodness, complimented with divine chips, and then get up and boil some water. The boiling water will heat my room (a trick I learned from my mum) and hot water is also perfect for my red plastic yutanpo. This room is getting a little wet (from the steam) but its a little less chilly. Thats good, just like my cheese sticks.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

tired tired

Yup, 33 new pictures in my album, tons of photos, too many photos (a even a video I took in Yokohama), if any one checks them all out they deserve a few points.

I saw Letters From Iwo Jima with a friend tonight. It was a sad movie, and a sad night. After the movie I was upset with my friend (for various reasons) and we each went home angry at each other I guess. A cold angry night in Tokyo. This blog is starting to sound quite negetive? Just an echo of what the current state of my existance is. Winter can feel this way I guess. I can smell spring coming though, its coming, and after that, I cant wait for summer to brake through these cold days.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

3am rant

Three in the morning. Is there a better time to splatter a blog with an empty rant? In the buttcrack of morning, I can riploose from the normal constraints and social rules, I can be free, I can express my innerself! Frolic! For example, admit that I'm eating my second dinner for tonight. The first one, when I came home from work ages ago was a yummy pasta dish from the convience store. But midnight (postmidnight if you know what I mean, nudge nudge) munchies hit me harder than a tree living in a freshman dorm at Rastafarian College and Recreation Center. So my second dinner is nacho chips, and a sandwhich. With brown bread. A rarity in this spot of the spiny globe thing. And a second carton of orange juice. I already drank one 1000ml carton of orange juice with my first dinner, and now I'm on my second. If pirates drank orange juice instead of rum I would be well on my way to becoming an honary pirate, my friends. It might take a few more cartons before I would get my first eye-patch. And with that, I leave you with the smile that I have a special day off work tomorrow in which I can take a bath in my shallow self-pity and putrid sense of achievement. Or something silly hip-jokester like that! Me sleepy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

happy new years!

Its offical. Its a brand new world, time to start making things, this is my year of creation. Watch out world, here I come?
Anyway, new years itself was really fun but not that exciting. Sheena's roomates (Matya and Shannon) invited me over to watch movies and drink with them. We saw Sisterhood of the traveling pants (a member of what some people call "chick flicks" although it was entertaining), some mystery movie with the guy Frodo from lord of the rings, and at that point it was about 1 in the morning and offically 2007 so I suggested we go to the local buddhist temple/shrine to enjoy the actions of the community. Matya said it was too cold, so (being drunk) me and Shannon tried to litterally drag her out the door by her feet. Poor Sheena who was trying to sleep, we were not so considerate. Matya didnt go. The temple was fun, even though I've seen those kind of celebrations other times of course, it was still fun to have some sort of send off for New Years. Hearing people ring the temple bell, and eating balls of battered octopus chuncks, and downing free hot temple sweet sake, with that fresh bits of rice still in it flavor. Ahh, the new year. After that I went back to their house and watched a really old godzilla movie. After that I took an early morning train home and crashed.
Well, enough of that. Now for some words about a "new years party" that my friend Yuka invited me to. Her family and reletives always get together on the 2nd of January to have Chinese food in Yokohama. Its like a family tradition. It was fun to meet everyone, and interact a little with her reletives. Before heading off to the dinner appointment their grandma talked some of us into going to the cemetary and visiting Yuka's grandfather's grave. Yuka's grandma is very forgetful, she forgot her grandson (yukas brother) several times on the way there, and forgot who I was a few times also. Shes a cute old lady though, so it didnt seem negetive. They let me put some incense in his reception box too, and clense his headstone with temple water. It was fun to be welcomed like that. And then it was off to dinner with reletives of my friend. A few reletives kind of gasped and kind of freaked out when they saw me. But I'm used to that, no biggie. The food was really good, and the conversations were fun, the beer cold. Good times. Well, I dont usually embed content into my blog (links can be changed, but embeded content can be messed up if the original server moves or whatever) but I really like this spin video I made of hanging out at the restraunt. Enjoy! (Just press play and let it stream to you.)
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