September 17, 2006

Tokyo Trip part 2 - Fuji Q Highland!

I'm back in Canada, as some or all of you may know but I'm not going to talk about that just yet. I'm gonna talk about Japan again. More specifically my trip to Tokyo last month.

We arrived at the Shinjuku highway bus terminal EARLY on Friday morning. At 5:30 there are people out and about, but not a whole lot is open except convenience stores and the bus station. We asked around a bit and found the station we were to catch our bus to the amusement park from with a minimal amount of trouble. There was a bit of time to waste until then so we grabbed some food from a local conbini and sat to rest a bit.

We arrived at Fuji Q Highland somewhere around 9:30 if I remember right. A little tired, but looking forward to the day. We hit several rides, the most exciting being FujiYama rollercoaster! The track was so long that there are three sets of cars on it at any given time. The haunted hospital was really great too. Three stories of creepily-decorated rooms and VERY in-character actors. They even got me to jump twice!

The other ride I really enjoyed was a simple drop-chair. It went up like 60 (or maybe 70 meters) then just...falls. Lots of fun. We ended up riding a couple other rides with some girls I struck up a conversation with while waiting in line for the drop-chairs too. All in all I had a great time at FujiQ even though I wasn't feeling that well.

Take a look at some more pictures with these links:

September 01, 2006


We interrupt our irregularly unscheduled programming with this brief segue into um...strange vocabulary.

So this week has been a little odd. I packed up most of my stuff and mailed it off yesterday. On the plus side, it cost quite a bit less than I was budgeting it to. On the negative side, I had to fill out tons of flipping forms just to send them! I can understand the postal service wanting to be sure they aren't going to lose your stuff, customs wanting to know what they're transporting and the government salivating to slap taxes on everything when it arrives, but this was bloody ridiculous.

The night before I spent a goodly while carefully taping and labelling everything with clear TO and FROM addresses. So when I get to the post office the lady kindly informs me that I have to fill out another form for EACH BOX with exactly that information, plus the contents and value of each. Also, I had to fill out a second address in the event the package couldn't be delivered.

So I grumble and mutter, but fill those out...dreading what I know is coming next. Recently packages going to Canada have to have some special form filled out with all the information I listed above on it. THIS paper gets folded up and stuck inside a clear plastic envelope on the same box as the green form I filled out first! Lame lame LAME.

Anyway, it took me like and hour to fill all that crap out. By the time I was done I was much crankier than when I'd started. But I do feel much better knowing that one of the big things is taken care of. This weekend it's the clothes...

Pictures from Tokyo are coming on Monday. Stay tuned!

August 21, 2006

Tokyo Trip part 1 - Painful Prelude

Well, I got to see the inside of a Japanese ambulance on Thursday. It's pretty much just like Canadian ones, except for the guys ask you all the questions in Japanese. Imagine that! Answering questions in another language is bloody difficult when you're in a lot of pain and I really don't recommend it.

Sitting on the floor of my apartment watching TV before breakfast then suddenly going from a stiff back to wracked with pain and unable to move would be scary at home. Add in the fact that I don't know where the nearest hospital is and that it took me four calls to get a friend on the phone who could help me and I fully admit to being terrified.

A trip to the hospital and a short stay later I found out that Japanese hospital charges are lower than ours and I should be fine. BUT! I wouldn't wish kidney stones on anyone I didn't have a serious hate-on for. Seriously not recommended.

For those of you who don't already think I'm crazy, I didn't cancel my trip to Tokyo. The bus left at 10pm Thursday night and I was on it. I did feel like someone had been using my torso as a punching bag for several days though. Made it to Tokyo without any trouble and had a great time. Stay tuned for details on that later this week!

August 06, 2006

Sometimes the bruises are worth it.

Now don't go thinking anything sordid you perverted readers!

Over the weekend here Fukui held it's annual "Phoenix festival". The symbol of Fukui prefecture is a phoenix, because the city has been destroyed several times due to war, fire, and earthquakes. The festival is great fun. For three days they set up tons of kiosks with food, drink and some games. There is a huge yosakoi dance festival on Saturday night and it's just a great time. Oh yeah, it's not illegal here to walk on the street with a drink either, so you can imagine there were a lot of folks out who'd had a fair share to drink.

Some of the students and teachers from school spent a few hours having dinner then headed down to check out the festival. It was tons of fun and there should be some good pictures coming. I was with friends who actually had digital ones, so hopefully I'll be able to post some soon.

I didn't stay out at late as a lot of my friends because I had to be up fairly early to go rafting in the morning. There were a few hungover rafters among our group though! hehehe>:) Rafting was a ton of fun, just like last year. We did have a few scares though. Lotus got tossed out of her raft at the first rapids, but handled herself well and was rescued without too much trouble.

Valerie had never gone rafting before and was dumped badly twice. The second time we both went under, her first then me basically right on top of her. I don't remember being afraid, just thinking that I needed to get her head above water. I was able to roll over, lift her out and push her towards the rocks on the side where someone helped her to shore. I got stuck in the rapids but just let my lifejacket do its work and grabbed the first rock I could hang onto.

Scrapes and bruises aside I had a good time and would go again. You might have a little more trouble convincing some of the others though!

The pictures are coming, really!

August 02, 2006


Well I bought my ticket home on Monday, paid for it Tuesday. Started telling friends and co-workers about the when/where on Wednesday. It's a little strange. I don't really feel like I'm going anywhere yet, even though I've been trying to pack and all that kinda stuff for quite a while now. I still have a fair bit to sort through and try to stuff into boxes that are going to cost a fortune to mail home.

As much as I may complain about my apartment and the annoyances of my job I'm going to be really sad to leave. I like Japan a lot, and the people here (ok, most of them) are great. If I had a job in my chosen field and a house / living space bigger than a postage stamp I would consider making this home. However, that's not really an option right now, and I am certainly looking forward to coming home mid-September.

Now if only I had a new job waiting...

July 31, 2006

Love the beach, but sunburn's a bitch

Most excellent greetings my friends and anonymous readers. The weather has been all over the map lately, but we were blessed with absolutely fabulous weather on Sunday. Project Luck had planned a huge beach party for Sunday and we were worried the weather forecast (cloudy skies and rain) would come true.

Maki's friend Kayo was to pick me up WAY early at 7am, at which point I was still sleeping. I was able to get dressed, pack my junk and run the 8 blocks to the pickup spot in just over ten minutes! Not bad for someone who'd only gotten around 3 hours of actual sleep I think. To top it off we ended up being somewhere around 25 minutes early to where we needed to be. Talk about irony!

Anyway, the setup they had at Takasu beach was really great. There was a full square of open tents, and they even had a food and beer tent set up! We spent the whole day doing various activities. The first thing I tried was making some bead accessories. My bracelet was a mess, but one of the girls liked it so I gave it to her. After I tied a bunch of knots I took a stroll down the beach in search of a washroom to change into my swimsuit. Given the weather that took a lot longer than it had to, due to the fact that I was easily distracted by the absolutely insane number of cute girls running around in bikinis. Have I mentioned I love the beach?

After I finally made it back to our pavillion a few other folks were ready to hit the water. (All told I'd say there were easily over 35 people out for the party!) There are some concrete pylons set up maybe about 300 or 400 meters out from the beach, so I swam out there myself and waited til everyone caught up. We enjoyed the sun a bit then headed back to hitch a ride on the jet-skis. I've never ridden on one but man-o-man what fun! The guy driving had it up over 60km and the water was choppy, which gave us some pretty good jumps. I highly recommend giving one of those things a try!

After collecting our breath we made another trip out the pylons with some non-swimmers in tow. I gotta give Rika and Kayo kudos for trusting us enough to pull them out that far into the ocean with nothing but a tube to keep them afloat. If I couldn't swim I don't know that I'd have been willing to go out any further than I could walk.

Oh yeah, I forget about the part of the pavillion where they had some girls set up doing hand massage and nail painting! LOL well, I don't know how the Project Luck folks talked them into it, but they got some girls from one of the Fukui beauty shops to come out and work on a Sunday. I let one of them paint the nails on what started out as one but ended up as both hands. It was an interesting choice of alternating black and purple. Ladies, I have to say I don't know how you can do that. You wouldn't think nails have pores, but nail polish feels bloody awful. I couldn't wait to get that stuff off this morning. Blech. Ah well, I was all purdy for a day anyway.

I sat down for a few beers and tasty food from the food tent before heading out to collect some rocks and shells. "What for?" you ask...well they were taking pictures and printing them out for us to take home, in our own customized frames. They had tables set up with paints, brushes and crazy glue to make stuff with. Being as we were some of the last folks to do that there wasn't quite enough glue for me to finish mine with. But I brought everything back and finished it here (yes, I have crazy glue on hand). It's ugly, but no one's to blame for that except me I guess.

We headed back around 5, everyone well fed, well entertained and well sunned. In my case, more than well-done! It doesn't seem to matter whether I use 20 or 50spf sunblock, I always end up with a hell of a burn on my neck and shoulders. :( Ah well, it'll be a sexy tan by the middle of the week. Heh, who am I kidding? I need more than two days and a tan to be sexy!

And...I'm spent.

July 18, 2006

Life's a little strange when you're a stranger

I don't know what the title has to do with my entry, but it is a line from a song in the movie The Lost Boys, which has popped up in conversation several times this week. So, it seemed appropriate.

Let's see, where to start. Ah ok how about on Friday? Sitting in my classroom with my two students around 3:30 in the afternoon. Hear a few sirens and whatnot, but figure no big deal right? Head downstairs to the lobby after class to see quite the commotion going on down the street. Apparently the ramen shop three buildings down had itself a wee meltdown. Back home that wouldn't be a big deal, but in Japan it can be a rather alarming thing, since there is basically no such thing as space in between the buildings. It'd take little more than a soft breeze to take the fire over to the next building and before you know it the whole block is gone. Fortunately only the one building was damaged.

Saturday was supposed to be a lazy day at home. Sleep in, no plans, sit around and watch videos kind of day. I ended up waking up sans alarm around 9am (wtf is up with me waking up early on the weekend I'll never know). Seeing as I was up I figured I might as well start going through my junk before I head back. This resulted in me dumping the entire contents of my closet on the floor of my apartment and organizing it into piles. I'm sure it didn't look too organized, but I got two more boxes of stuff ready to go home and can probably finish packing no problem now. :)

Later in the day my friend Hiro dropped by to see if I wanted to go check out our friend's band, playing at one of the universities. As a musician myself I couldn't turn that down. Miho's band was easily the best of the 8 or 9 we watched, certainly in terms of talent. Surprisingly they were the only group that had an original song. All the other groups were covers only, which isn't a bad thing, just surprising because most of the players were really quite good.

After the bands finished up they headed off to a local restaurant for a dinner / party. We were invited along, which again was hard to turn down. I mean, it's not like my videos couldn't wait another day or so. They weren't going anywhere. Everyone was really friendly (as always here) and I had a good time, not to mention more than my fair share of beer and snacks. :D Apparently they're having a party at the beach next month, which I'm supposed to go to. Hopefully it'll work out to be on a day I'm free...things are starting to get pretty booked up!

It's been raining a ton here since Friday night, and Monday was no exception. There have been flood warnings issued and all the trains are running behind schedule. That really threw a damper on Valerie and my plan to head to Kanazawa for some siteseeing and shopping. We eventually made it there (two hours later than we planned). The rain slowed us down but we had a good time and made it back at a decent hour. I didn't take many pictures because most of the places I'd already been to, but I had to get a shot of the water clock outside the station. It's pretty cool, because it tells the time (digitally) with a bunch of tiny little water spouts. Very nifty.

What? I'm easily amused sometimes...shut up.

July 04, 2006

Most unimaginative title ever...

Hey they can't all be witty...

Another party-packed weekend. I seem to be collecting those too recently. Three parties in two days if you want an accurate count. Saturday I woke up WAY earlier than planned (ie: 6:45 AM!). Not having anything planned until about 13 hours later you can imagine my frustration at not being able to go back to sleep after that.

The day was rather rainy and dreary but I slogged through the drizzle to achieve my entire list of "to-do". There is something to be said about persistence I guess. Hey I even managed to clean up my apartment a bit. Not that that's really anything to brag about but I digress.

I headed down to the pub for the Canada Day party I'd set up with a few other displaced Canucks. Naturally I was the first one there even though I was late. Seems stomach flu, girlfriend implosions and laziness disuaded my three countrymen and -women from attending. That left me to entertain the 12+ Japanese folks that showed up. So, we hung up my 6" Canadian flag at the end of the bar, drank, talked and enjoyed ourselves with Canadian stickers and temporary tattoos like the one sported by Masa here (the owner of the bar).

Luckily I came prepared with a few dozen scraps of Canadian trivia and assorted baubles and trinkets to give away. Everyone seemed to have a good time except the few British guys I knew who came in late to watch their team lose in the World Cup. Oh well! The trivia and chatting went over well and apparently I'm going to learn how to ride a jet-ski at the end of the month. So, uh...hooray for Canada Day parties!

Sunday I had to do two farewell parties for my co-worker in Tsuruga. His last day at work was Friday, so we had to have a party for the kids (lots of kid students at that school), and one for the grown-ups / people-who-don't-like-kids later. It was a good day but TIRING. I'll be sad to see him go, but I am pretty sure we'll keep in touch.

This entry is a little dry I'm sure, but I'm tired. Complain in the comments or write me email. Of course I'll ignore all the complaints anyway, but do whatever works for ya. :P

June 26, 2006

If sleep's for the weak, you can call me a sissy...

I feel fine now, but wow was my weekend tiring! I got up early to hit the closest mall so I could pick up a small birthday cake for my friend Mari. Early for me on a weekend being before 10am. I wasn't able to buy one the weekend before (which was her actual birthday) because I didn't have any money. Don't act shocked, it's a constant of my life over here.

Anyway, she dropped by around 11:30 laden with groceries!! She'd said she going to make sushi but she also made niku-jyaga, which a kind of stew with beef, noodles, potatoes, carrots and onions. It's pretty tasty.

Of course most of you have probably eaten sushi before, and some of you may even have made it, but I never have. It was a lot of fun and really isn't that hard to do. Once you have the rice cooked (don't forget to add sushi vinegar!) and everything you just lay it out on the nori (seaweed sheet) and roll things up. Like this:
After you roll it up, gently of course, just plop it down on the cutting board and slice it up. The rice is really sticky so you can't just sit there sawing away at it. One cut or everything'll fall apart. Luckily I didn't make a mess of anything and they turned out to be pretty tasty. Best part of it all was that I didn't have to cook again until well...maybe tonight I guess!

Saturday night I headed down to the regular pub and had a few drinks with the regulars. I didn't stay too late as I had plans for Sunday, but apparently the rest of the crew stay out late enough to be able to go to McD's for breakfast! I'm glad I went home long before that, because Hiro came to pick me up at 7:45am! I don't care who you are, that's early for a Sunday morning, especially when you don't get home until almost 3.

Sunday was a fun, if tiring day. I met up with the folks from Project Luck (the same people I went planting / made pizza with last month) to play some badminton and have a barbecue. That was a good time, but of course i totally neglected to take any pictures. Sorry. Anyway, I finally got back to my place around 6:30 pm, utterly beat.

So I'm thinking, "Great. I can sit down, relax, maybe watch a movie and just chill." Right? Nope. Hiro informs me that we're going to Hiroshi and Michiko's for yakiniku (kind of an indoor barbecue) at 8! Cool, but man I was full and I was tired. We went anyway and had a great time. Everyone is always really nice at these things, but I have to admit that sometimes I get a little embarassed. More often than not (most notably it you're the only non-Japanese) almost all of the conversation revolves around you. I will usually do my best to deflect it and ask questions of the other guests to keep them involved, but that doesn't always work.

Long story short, I got home at 11, was very tired and slept until 10am Monday. Good weekend, but I think I need a break just to catch up! :)

Jya, mata neh!

June 23, 2006

And then it hits you!

Ever sit around wondering just exactly what you accomplish in a day? Happens to me all the time. My job isn't exactly a difficult one to do, but I enjoy it for the most part. It does leave me with a fair amount of free time though, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on the day.

Lately I've been trying to focus a little more on some of the various projects I've started, or want to start. I'm one of those people with too many hobbies, way too many ideas and not enough knowledge, motivation or assistance to get anywhere near all of it accomplished in my lifetime. That doesn't necessarily stop me from working on stuff, it just slows me down a lot.

Anyway, what's my point here you say? Well, I've had this story idea for quite a long time. I have lots of story ideas...but they're just that unless you do something with them right? Well, yesterday I was struck by some inspiration. Two of my concepts that had been kind of wallowing in the ether of undeveloped thought suddenly came crashing together and gave me one of those moments where everything stops and you just go, "Whoa." After shaking off the unpleasant Keanu-ness of the whole thing I typed away madly for something on the order of three hours while searching the internet for characters names, historical reference and various other minutiae. After all that was finished I had to say it again...


At this point it's still just an idea, but it's a damn GOOD idea. Oh yeah.

June 19, 2006

Same old same old?

It sure feels like it this week. Mondays are pretty quiet at work, as I'm usually the only person on staff. That means I open and close the school, chat with any visitors or parents that come by (as best I can) and essentially am bored stupid when I'm not actually teaching a class. One of my co-workers stopped by today though, so at least I had someone to go for lunch with. :)

On the weekend I had a few people over for dinner, which is always interesting in my tiny little apartment. I made pasta and salad, my friends provided desert and drinks. Everyone seemed to have a good time and enjoyed my cooking, so I guess you can say it was a successful evening. We drank our way through my last birthday present too: a bottle of (what I'm assured was very good quality) Japanese sake. It was pretty good chilled, but probably not for the faint of heart or easily hung-over. Some of you may choose to stick with beer.

Sunday was pretty warm outside, if cloudy. I didn't really have anywhere to go or anything to do, so I spent most of my day reading and sketching. I've been working on a comic project for a friend, but I have to admit it's coming along really slow. So far I've only pencilled like 2 pages in the past two months. I could pull a Japanese and say I'm too busy, but we'd all know that'd be a pile of crap. I'm a little more focused on my Joe Kubert pencilling course, so it's not like I haven't been drawing!

Let's see, of my closest friends here in Japan had his last day at work on Saturday. He doesn't live very close so we don't see each other much, but I'll be sad when he's gone. He'll be around Japan for another month or so. We're trying to set up a weekend to hang out before then; I just hope funds don't make it impossible to do.

What else? Edmonton won game six, just as I said they would. Japan and Australia lost their most recent games in the World Cup, also as predicted. I called my dad to wish him a happy Father's Day. It's hot here. I guess that'll do for now.

June 14, 2006

Time differences really hurt my hockey experience

I'm about 16 or 17 hours ahead of my "home" time zone, which means that evening games of hockey are mid-morning in my schedule. Problem is, I usually have to leave for work before the friggin' games are over. It's rather annoying listening to a tied game (via internet radio) and having to leave with ten minutes left in the third period. When you get back home it's over and all you can do it check the final score.

Admittedly listening on the radio isn't nearly as interesting as watching the games, but hey, you gotta take what you can get. I was happy to come back today to find that Edmonton's own cardiac kids were able to pull out an OT win and send things back for a game six. Way to go boys!

Yes, I consider myself a Calgary fan first having lived there for almost a decade...but I grew up in a small town smack in between Calgary and Edmonton. People say you can't cheer for both, but to that I say...well, I can't type that because I'm trying to keep my blog PG.

The best part of forcing a game six is that it'll be on Sunday morning for me, which means I can get up at a leisurely hour, not have to hurry and catch the whole game. Of course when (not if, WHEN) it goes to game seven I'll be back in the same boat as this morning. But, make do with what ya got and all that, right?

June 12, 2006

The World Cup can be fun...

Japan's team lost their first game, but I've been out a few times since the World Cup started, just to see what the mood is like. With the number of foreign people living in my city there have been supporters for almost team playing, which has been pretty interesting. I'll admit that the Aussies at the bar last night had the Japanese people beat in terms of volume. Rowdy bunch that.

I'm a hockey fan at heart, and try to catch what I can on internet radio (damn you Oilers...ya dropped another one), but World Cup soccer here comes close to the same feeling. It's fun to see people get worked up over sport like we do back home. Some things are just universal I guess.

June 08, 2006

Can you be addicted to plastic?

My name is Aaron and I collect toys. Ok, my name isn't Aaron, but the second part is true. I've been trying to organize my possessions here and have been having a hell of a time making progress getting things into boxes. "Why's that," you ask? Well, Japan may have a lot of strange things (like vending machines that sell just about everything) but if nothing else, Japan easily has the coolest toys around.

I've collected stuff for as long as I remember: comics, DVDs, books, toys, ex-girlfriends, whatever. The thing is, that when you collect things, you don't really give them much though when you buy them. You know, a few comics here, a Transformer there, a couple DVDs next payday... It hardly seems to register all that much. That is, until crunch time comes and you have to put it all into nice organized groups to pack and ship home! Joy.

Having lived here for nearly two years, I have somehow managed to accumulate a surprising amount of stuff. The funny thing is that I have bought next to nothing for myself since my trip home for Christmas. With my recent birthday presents though (ok yeah I bought a few toys for that...shut up), and a few friends down in Osaka who keep sending me free stuff, there are probably more toys in my apartment than individual pieces of cutlery in your kitchen drawer. So the next question becomes: what do I do with them all!?

I've been selling stuff online for several months; a few items a week, and I think I've got it down to a few more rounds of that. I also started making some custom toys to waste some of my copious amount of free time. Of course I'm still drawing and doing 3D modeling, but one can never have too many hobbies.

With that I leave you with these: my first three custom action figures ever! They're made from Microman figures, which clock in just under 4 inches tall (that's slightly taller than a GIJoe figure for you toy nerds out there). Go ahead. Make fun of me. If you're not careful you just might end up with a big box of useless plastic arriving in your mailbox.

Symbiote Spiderman:

Alpha Flight's Guardian (with guests):

Batman Beyond:

June 05, 2006

So uh...yeah.

I felt like posting something but don't really have a firm direction to go here. Not only that, but I am a little short on time before I head back to work. That being the case I thought I'd just post up a couple of funny signs I found in my travels over the past week.

First up:

Ok maybe this is only funny to me, but one of my friends from another school pronounces it exactly like this. So when I was walking down the street and saw this I started laughing right then and there. Had to take a picture for posterity.

And second:

Ok read that out loud. Now check it again. Yes, it really does say "Tit Collection". Somehow though, I am rather doubtful as to that being the intention of the sign's creators. My guess is that it's an unfortunate scripting choice. Since the shop was closed at the time I can't be certain. I've been meaning to go by again to see just what they sell in there. Maybe it's not a typo...

That's all for now kids. Tune in next time for further adventures...

June 03, 2006

Party pics

I picked up my pictures this morning, some of them are pretty good. I added some silly captions because it seemed like the right thing to do. So here's a link, I hope it works.

B-day party pics

May 30, 2006

Welcome to party central, this is your Captain speaking.

I'd been planning to post this one two days ago, but things/people just keep dropping in. So I finally got some time and thought I'd write up something of interest. Once again I'm light on the pictures, but at least this time they're on the way. I made sure to buy a disposable camera, they're being developed as I type. Won't have time to pick them up until Thursday though.

Friday night proved more interesting than planned. I ended up being invited out for drinks by some folks on their way home from a PTA meeting if you can believe it! One of the guys was hilarious, and is apparently a maker of some fairly famous soy sauce around the region. I should go check out his shop one day. I don't know how they make that stuff, do you!?

Ok, so Saturday was my 29th birthday. Getting far too close to that number starting with thi- but what can you do right? My lovely sister was the first to call me with birthday wishes from back home. I got some emails too, thanks folks! My friend Mari popped by shortly before noon and we went driving, did a little shopping and had an early dinner. She took me to Toys R Us and bought me this little beauty:

Those of you who know me well will be unsurprised. What kid who grew up in the 80s wouldn't want a super-posable, transformable Optimus Prime? I mean, really...what's a birthday without at least getting ONE toy right? Since my mom's on the other side of the ocean I bought myself some socks too; so don't worry mom, I'm all hooked up!

A few weeks back I sent out a bunch of email and invited a goodly number of folks for a night of beer and bite-size snackage to celebrate my increasing decrepitude. Going by the number of replies I received, and using a healthy dose of experience-gained pessimism I guaged the turnout to be somewhere around 18 to 20 people. I was pleasantly surprised when the number ended up being 29~30, with several of the "for-sures" bowing out! The reason I say ~ is because I'm not sure that my mathematical abilities we quite up to par at the time I did the counting. I did another count on paper afterward however and found my brain wasn't so pickled as the negate me being able to count to thirty! I do remember being incredibly surprised by a phone call from my DAD to wish me a happy day. That was very cool, as I'd missed the earlier call from my mom, although she did leave me a recorded version of the birthday song on my voicemail!

I had a great time and am really grateful to everyone who came out to party with me. Lots of food, tons of conversation and just lots of fun. To top it off I was even more surprised at the number of great presents I got. I wasn't expecting to get any but if there's one thing the Japanese people, and my non-Japanese friends, are is generous. I got the aforementioned toy, some very nice flowers (only the second time I can recall getting flowers), a cool book, a PSP game, a DVD, some handkerchiefs (these are handy in the summer when you're sweating your nuts off here), candles, tea, incense, dishes, cake and cards galore. I took a picture of most of the stuff so you can all be jealous. :D

After working the restaurant staff ragged for nearly 6 hours most of the folks decided it was time to go home. Three am is a good time to call it quits right? Wrong! A third of our number decided they needed to do some singing, so I get dragged along to Big Echo around the corner. Another three hours later, a Proclaimers and Monty Python song later the sun is coming up and I am finally in bed.

Sunday and Monday are totally different stories, you'll have to wait for those along with the party pictures!

May 21, 2006

Giant samurai and a microphone

Saturday morning dawned wet a rainy, holding on par with my weekend-ruining weather conspiracy. I was supposed to meet an Australian friend at 10 for coffee then we were going to head to a festival in Mikuni. He and his girlfriend picked me up a little late, but we made it to the festival on time.

Truth be told I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of this festival is, but the little town was packed with people. Greg and I had been asked to help pull one of the many carts through the town. The carts were big enough to hold around 6~8 people inside who were playing drums, shamisen and flutes doing some kind of song/chant. On top were two more people to make sure we didn't run into any people or buildings as well as push the multitude of low-hanging phone and power lines out of the way.

Granted this may sound rather boring, but it gets interesting when you take into account the fact that each cart had a 5+ meter tall samurai um...puppet thing on top and that the streets in most Japanese towns are incredibly narrow. Add in the fact that the streets were packed with people and various kiosks and we had quite the challenge. It was an interesting experience and I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures we too.

Oh yeah, I was interviewed by some reporter for the local news too. She busted out the full speed Japanese on me, so I can only hope that I understood her questions and answered correctly with all the noise and people around. I'd kinda like to see it, but I also sorta hope that no one I know sees it! Those of you who know me fairly well know just how much I like having my picture taken, so video is that much worse.

The weather turned out to be pretty nice in the end. It stopped raining shortly after we started pulling the cart through town and stayed pleasantly overcast. Honestly if it'd been sunny I think it would have been a little too hot to be pulling a massive cart around. After we finished the cart route we walked around taking in the various people, food, crafts and games on display. We also stopped at Mikuni shrine to say a prayer and get our fortunes. My fortune was a bit of a mixed bag, but that's not terribly surprising given some of the recent events around here lately. I won't be posting those details on here though, so um...yeah. The festival was a lot of fun. :D

After the festival I hopped on the train to go to a welcoming party for the new Japanese teacher at my second school. We had about 16 or 17 people total including staff and students, which is a little small for a school party, but we did start late so I think a lot of people decided to stay home.

We went to a nice little izakaya and drank as much as we could in 90 minutes. Why? Well a lot of places have what's called nomi-hodai. That is basically all-you-can-drink in a given time limit for a set price. We paid for all the food we ordered on top of that, but trust me you can get a lot of drinking done when you are on a time limit like that. :D Everyone was in good spirits and we had an entertaining time.

Sorry about the lack of pictures. I'll post some as soon as I can.

May 17, 2006

I kinda sorta like Thursdays

I likely won't be posting much during the week because there isn't much to tell. Monday thru Friday I work 12-9. Wednesdays and Fridays I commute to work on the local train, which adds approximately 3.5 hours to my day. BUT! On Thursdays my schedule is a schmoov 2 classes, one kids class at 5pm and my brightest highschool student at 7pm. One nice thing about my job is that when I'm not teaching, preparing lessons or doing paperwork I'm not supposed to be in the school.

So on Thursday I roll in to school, punch in, chat with the manager to see what needs to be done (if anything), prep my classes if I need to and then LEAVE. That's right, I only work for about two hours on Thursdays. I usually just hang out at home or do my errands like going to the post office and buying groceries, washing the dishes and doing the laundry. Not the most fun I admit, but it sure beats working.

Today I already did all my errands and thought I'd post a picture of my uber-tiny living space. With that I give you...Chuck's apartment!There's a bed and TV on the left side. If you walked backwards you'd end up in the 'kitchen' which is smaller than most of your closets. The bathroom is over there too, and is small enough that I can turn in a circle and touch the walls with my arms bent. It's not so bad as it sounds, but it IS small. Right now I'm sitting at that table typing this thingy up. After that, I'm going to waste another two hours before going back to work! >:D

May 15, 2006

Pizza, plants, booze and a sunburn?

Saturday dawned rainy wet and had no signs of letting up. I know it's simply my pessimistic nature peaking through but sometimes it seems that the tenki-no-kami-sama (weather gods) conspire to ruin at least one half if not all of my weekend by raining or snowing. Since I had things to do though I grabbed my latest umbrella and headed out to perform my errands. I returned a few hours later several thousand yen poorer, and more damp than I'd bargained. On the plus side I was actually able to get all the errands I had planned completed. Boo-ya.

Being the glutton for punishment I am I decided around 8pm that I had had enough sitting on the floor of my apartment staring out the window, so I grabbed a dry pair of jeans and headed to the only bar likely to have regular people in it: Bear's Bar. All told Bear's isn't a bad place to grab a drink. Cocktails and anything in a bottle is a cool 500 yen and the staff are friendly. The two downsides to it are that a) it's approximately a 40 minute walk from my apartment building, and b) the night-to-night turnout is damned near impossible to guage in advance.

I was one of 5 people in the bar when I arrived, the other four being ALT (assistant language teachers who work in public schools) and NOVA (a competitor with my company) teachers. I've seen them all around before but didn't really know any of them well enough to join in their conversation so I pulled up a table of my own, ordered a drink, an overpriced pizza and sat back hoping my jeans would dry sooner rather than later. Luckily one of my Japanese friends was able to drop by for a few rounds and some animated conversation. I headed home around midnight after chatting with a few other folks that showed up who I actually knew. I had to get up early in the morning.

Somehow I got 'volunteered' to help with some group that my friend Hiro is a part of. They were planning to spend the day reclaiming a garden somewhere in the mountains. ie: I had a day of digging in the dirt planned for me, and I got to pay for the pleasure of it! In reality it's wasn't as bad as I make it out to sound.

About 30 ~ 35 people showed up to help out and we had a good time. The view in the area we were at was very nice and the weather was cloudy but pleasant. We split into groups and moved about some stations they'd set up, making pizzas and small stews by hand, trimming and weeding the garden, planting in our designated area and finally eating and drinking far more than was necessary. I met some nice people, got some color in my face and had a good time. We cooked everything we prepared on makeshift charcoal ovens and no one got burnt or too drunk that they hurt themselves so I'd call it a successful day.

I had to rush home because I'd invited some people over for dinner at 6pm. I made tacos and martinis, which my guests finished nicely with some Haagen Daas icecream and strawberry cake. We all ate too much, but it was a good time. If that wasn't enough my co-worker Justin decided we needed to go out for a beer after everyone headed home. He was crashing at my place due to an early-morning dentist appointment. We ate and drank too much at a new izakaya near the station and finally crashed out around 2am.

I think that's it. Probably the busiest Sunday in my time here in Japan. I'm beat!

May 13, 2006

First post...obviously

It's been suggested, several times I might add, that I should have started one of these things when I first came over to Japan. That would have required me actually putting an effort into typing things up as they came. As well, I'll admit I'm still not too sure how comfortable about writing up all my personal thoughts and experiences on a website for the world to see. Granted, there aren't likely to be millions of people reading this thing, but you know what I mean.

For a first post we might as well start with a little background then. I'm a Canadian guy (pushing 30 but not quite there just yet) living in Japan since December of 2004. I teach English at one of the big Eikaiwa joints. Basically I think of myself as a kind of fast food employee serving English happy-meals to the Japanese population. I'm good at what I do, but I don't consider it a career by any stretch. My students are improving and enjoy my classes. Hell if you really want me to sing my praises one of my high-school students scored the highest in Japan in the English section of one of the University entrance exams.

I live in a smallish city on Honshu (that's the big island of Japan for the geographically challenged) and am generally bored out of my skull. There's not much in the way of entertainment or nightlife here unless you have a desire to sit in a mostly-empty bar with a bunch of foul-smelling Japanese businessmen. Of course I could go to the local hostess or "snack" bars, but they charge you 3000 to 5000 yen for a half hour just to walk in the door. Some of them actually have nice looking girls working in them from what I hear. Sadly I don't have the funds right now to really go and find out. :( I would prefer meeting women that I don't have to pay to talk to though, but hey, that's just me.

So let's see...what else? Oh yeah, I resigned this week.

How's that for the start of my story?