Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reason #002 to Learn Japanese: Governmental Broadcasting Corporations

Well, for the first time since I’ve lived here, something has got my blood boiling. This tale begins with our hero, me, returning home after a long day of work. Like on most days, I arrived home at approximately 9:30 PM. However, this time, a man stopped in the stairwell. He seemed confused or lost so I attempted to help him (yes, even I realize how backwards that statement is). After some poor communication on both our parts, he wanted to know if I lived in the building. Like a fool, I said yes. At this point, he reveals that he is an NHK employee.

For those unfamiliar, NHK is a governmental broadcasting television network. It’s funded by people living in Japan who they are able to catch. It’s a television network which if you own a TV, you have to pay for it regardless of everything - if, one of their agents talk to you. Are you following still?

So like, I have a TV because everyone in my building has the same TV. Ask me how many seconds of Japanese TV I’ve watched in my apartment? Answer, zero. However, by OWNING a TV I am forced to pay this service charge. Dafuq? I know what you’re thinking and no, this isn’t a scam, this is actually how this is run. Why isn’t their a bill or just a tax for this then? Why do you only have to pay if you are caught by an agent? Unknown.

I’m getting ahead of myself. So, in the stairwell, I tell the man I don’t speak Japanese (which is true) and he didn’t speak English so it was a sort of “good day sir” sort of situation. Or so I thought. He takes out his smartphone and starts translating the most broken of broken phrases I’ve ever heard. His opening statements were things along the line of “It’s Japanese law. You have to pay. Could go to court.” Keep in mind I’m changing these phrases to make sense.

I sigh, he demands to go to my apartment. At this point he’s trying to get payment from me, asking for my bank card. That was a huge red flag with a 0% chance of happening. He was totally trying to strong arm, threaten, and pull if this crazy fear tactic that quite honestly was having the reverse effect. I wasn’t afraid, I was super annoyed.

Thus, I pulled out my own smartphone and argued back. I said things such as. “But I don’t watch TV.” He replied with, “It doesn’t matter.” What. I asked him, “What if I remove my TV?” He said, “Then you don’t have to pay but you have to pay this month.”

This went on for a good 30 minutes. I have to imagine this was about as fun for him as it was for me. I felt super uncomfortable paying for something when I didn’t understand the situation or what I was paying for (at the time). I called someone to translate for me, which they did. Even after that phone call we still had some back and forth. All peaceful mind you, but quite annoying.

In the end I lost and paid the damn fee. It was about $20 and ONLY for this month. I refused to pay with card and paid with cash, which he wasn’t happy with (small victories). There was no way I was giving them my card info though. Moral of the story, unhook my TV and answer the door for no one. If I see someone in my building, grab a late dinner.

What a dumb system.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Loco in Yoko

At the beginning of this month I had a three day weekend. This means traveling! For about a month I’ve been telling people that I’d go to Yokohama. I finally went to Yokohama. This port city is just south of Tokyo and is fabled to be the place ramen started in Japan. How could I not come with sort of resume?

After a later start than I wanted, I took a LOCAL train to Yokohama instead of the Shinkansen. I traveled half the way with a friend/coworker so the increased length really wasn’t that bad. She was headed to Tokyo so we rode the train together until she had to change lines.

I had been asking around for a powerful ramen place to try there. Someone had promised to go to a specific place with me sometime in the future so I decided to put off the ramen outing until she is available. I wouldn't want to ruin my first Yokohama ramen experience afterall. This is key.
A note about my trip to Yokohama. I walked. I walked a lot. My phone keeps records of steps I take and on both Sunday and Monday I broke records. The following days I was sore from the ridiculous amounts of walking I did - that much walking. Could I have taken more local trains? Of course. Why didn’t I? Well, I’d never been to Yokohama and walking the streets allows me get a better feel of the place. At least that is what I tell myself.

I stayed in the smallest and worst hostel yet. I wouldn't recommend this place nor would I stay there ever again. It wasn’t in the best part of town - which explains the price. I had an interesting, umm, experience. As I left my “room,” this older gentleman who appeared to be on something spotted me from down the hall and walked up to me, getting very close, and said “konichiwa.” I responded but then he just stared at me. I returned to locking my room, double checking it now, but he just stood there. Eventually he just walked away. F’n weird man.

My first destination was the port. On may way though I passed by Yokohama Stadium - home of the Baystars. No baseball games were being played but I still scoped the place out as much as I could. Someday.

The walk from the stadium to the port wasn’t too bad. There was some really weird/entertaining street “show(?)” going on. I’ll let you watch the video below. I can’t say I understood entirely what was going on but I did watch it for a bit. I went from never expecting to hear “Dancing Queen in Yokohama” to “100% listening to Dancing Queen in Yokohama” in a matter of seconds. Japan is one hell of a place.

Everyone told me to check out this Red Brick place if I visit Yokohama. So, that’s what I did. This whole area had a sort of Boston vibe to it. The architecture was, well perhaps you guessed, red brick. It was filled with all sorts of shops from chotskies to high class bars. It was a neat little place. From there I walked to Cosmo World. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Yokohama I think of that damn big Ferris Wheel. Well, this wheel is near the port. It’s called the Cosmic Clock which is admittedly pretty awesome. It’s huge, lights up, is rideable, and tells you the time in a digital format - a near perfect Ferris Wheel. I walked past the Cup of Noodle Museum but unfortunately it was closed.

My last stop for the night was Chinatown. Yes, Chinatown IN Japan. Why not? What did I do in Chinatown? I ate of course. The food was a bit pricy but it was pretty damn good. I spent far too much time trying to decide on a place to go. In the end, I’d say it paid off.

The next day had a serious rain problem. I didn’t let this get me down nor stop me. I went to the closest convenient store and bought myself a 500 yen umbrella for the day. My destination was Sankeien Garden. For this walk, I relied on Google Maps to get there. The route was, um, interesting? It took me through several neighborhoods, up and down small mountains, and through more side roads than I could count. I just blindly put my faith into Google. I found a Dennys along the way. I HAD to try out a Japanese Dennys. It was not the Dennys I knew. I’m talking small breakfast menu and breakfast only at breakfast time. I had omurice. It was good, just verrrrrry different.

For being such a big garden, this place was damn hard to figure out how to get in. There were two entrances and I just totally failed in finding them at first. At this point the rain cleared and the day was improving. Sankeien Garden was a random, last minute find but man - it ranks as one of my favorite places in Japan thus far. It was beautiful. Being early November, the foliage was beginning to start. That was awesome. I don’t know why this place stuck such a powerful note with me, it just did. Hell, it was beautiful and peaceful. I took 324756295 pictures of it.

At this point I decided I was done with Yokohama but I still wasn’t ready to journey home. What does this mean? A half day dertour to good ole Tokyo. It was only about an hour away by local train. Since I was running on a weird garden high, I continued my trek Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park. The foliage gave another powerful assist to making both of these locations awesome. Meiji shrine just bled history and tradition. Yoyogi Park (beside sounding like someone hard talking to a famous picnic basket stealing bear) has a delightful juxtaposition of being a hidden away fantastical garden while being surrounded by the skyscrapers of Shibuya. Pretty awesome.

While contemplating heading back that same coworker that I left with a day ago contacted me about meeting her and her friend (who lives in Tokyo) in Roppongi. It was closeish, drinking sounded awesome, and I’d get to learn how to take the buses from Tokyo to Numazu. Win win. Though I claimed it would take me a half hour to get there, I got super lost. Super lost. To be fair, I had never been to Roppongi before and the bar was on the 5th floor of a skyscraper. I was at the skyscraper within a half hour, figuring out it was on a different floor and then the three different elevators I (had to?) take to get there was another thirty minutes. It sort of reminded me of delivering pizza to the Boca Hotel Beach Resort but with no one speaking English. I accept the fact that few people will understand that reference, but just know I mean it as a sort of time restrictive personal hell.

I found it though! Then drinks were had. I was drinking some foreign beer that I had never heard of nor remember the name of. It tasted decent and came is fun gigantic sizes that impressed/worried the bartenders that served them to me. It was that or Hennigan on tap, now you understand my decision. I got to witness higher class Japanese game spit and equally got to watch higher class Japanese game get rejected. Despite my lack of Japanese language skills, some things are universally clear as day. The drinking was incredibly fun and was completely worth the frustration of being momentarily hopefully lost. Fun times for all! I want to have a big night drinking in Tokyo in the near future.
As promised, I got to take the bus back. The bus is sort of awesome. Don’t get me wrong, trains for days. BUT, taking the local train to Tokyo involves transfers and doesn’t guarantee a seat. The bus has no transfers, takes about the same amount of time, cost cheaper (on weekdays), and guarantees a seat. The downside to the bus is traffic, which luckily, was find when I took it. Once back in Numazu we said our farewells, and thus ended the long weekend voyage to Yokohama... and Tokyo.

My next goal is to figure out how to get this giant moth out of my room.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I Stopped Believing

I just sang Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" in a karaoke room with 10 non-sober people and not one person joined in. Everything I know is wrong. Where am I? I question everything.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Everyone's Kyoto

Sure people have heard of Japan’s infamous week off called Golden Week, but have you heard of Silver Week? Bronze Week not yet confirmed. Silver Week however, is a very very real and very very awesome thing that happens in September. In 2015, it happened from September 20th-23rd. If you're a mathematician like myself, you’ll notice right away that four days isn’t quite the length we’d attach the title ‘week’ too. To that, all I have to say is that, it was two extra days I didn’t have to work so does it really matter? The answer is a clear no. Where a four days exist, so does a mini vacation. When I knew I was coming to Japan I wanted to do two things - climb Mt Fuji and go to Kyoto. Check and check. (Yes, yes, Fuji post is still coming)

Kyoto! Known for it’s tradition, culture, and overall awesomeness. I needed to see this amazing hotspot of, er, Japaneseness(?). This mini vacation sounded like such a great idea to me, the timing was perfect! It turned out that half of Japan agreed with this sentiment because Kyoto was damn well packed. Not just a flood of Japanese tourists but also foreigners from ever neck of the woods imaginable. I was no better. Sunday and Monday were crazy town but Tuesday and Wednesday calmed down much more. Kyoto station was out of its mind.

The plan was to meet up with those lovely folk I trained with back in early May. Since they are all in the Nagoya region I’d take the Shinkansen over to Nagoya, we’d all board the same train, and bullet ourselves over to Kyoto land. I was quite surprised when this plan worked out perfectly. I love it when a plan comes together. I found this ridiculously awesome house to rent via AirBnB for stupid cheap for five guests. EVERY hotel in Kyoto was booked and super expensive. This was a HOUSE, with two floors, two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a kitchen, and lobby only one 5-minute train stop from Kyoto.

I of course was suspicious of ye ole ‘too good to be true’ situation, but, I have to say, it was actually just perfect. For the five of us, for three nights, it was $100 per person. Unheard of. This was my first time using AirBnB but I can guarantee I’ll keep it in mind for the future. The person we rented the place from even met us at the train station, have the cab driver directions, and showed us the place. He spoke good English, was friendly, gave us a map in English, and offered suggestions and recommendations to us. What a guy.

Stop one on this great adventure was one of the reasons I wanted to go to Kyoto, Fushimi Inari-taisha. If you’ve ever seen pictures of the Japanese shrine with what seems like infinite reddish torii gates, that is this place (as seen above). Beautiful, truly f’n beautiful. It completely lived up to the hype. It was a slight hike up a mountain, but well worth it. From the top, you could see all of Kyoto and even a the tops of some of Osaka’s highest skyscrapers in the distance. Breathtaking is cliche but the truth. Never have I seen so many torii gates or fox statues in my life - 10/10, highly recommend, would go again. The rest of the night was spent walking around Kyoto proper and eating at a delicious izakaya.

The next day we were off to the west side to the aen power spot known as Arashiyama. This is where the fabled Bamboo Forest exists, dozens of zen gardens, and over all peaceful gardens. The illusion was a bit shattered by the moving walls of people, but my imagination is strong. Our next stop was Kinkaku-ji aka the ‘Golden Temple.’ I have mixed feelings about this place. Was it cool, yes. Hell, it was a golden temple. However, that really was all that was there. It’s a bit small and you can’t enter it. Was I satisfied, yes. Did I expect more, yes. That’s all.

We then met up with someone I met back in the states at my recruitment for my current job. She ended up taking a different teaching job but still came to Japan. We met several of her coworkers, drank beer from yard long science beakers, got hammered, then returned to our house for more beers. She stayed with us and joined us on Tuesday’s adventures.

While sure, I’ve used the phrase “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” before, but this was different. Our main goal with this day was to get full on kimoned up. The girls booked a reservation to get dressed up by professionals. From start to finish, it took about two hours before we were on the road all decked out. For women, there are looooots of choices on what to wear for each part of the outfit, as you may expect, it took some time. While for a man it is far simpler, it still took a bit and a level of knowledge that is beyond anything I’ll ever understand. How I wore that, how she put it on me, how it stayed on… unknown.

There we walked over to Kiyomizu-dera (awesome) in this Japanese traditional garb. Now, here’s the thing. We were basically looked upon like we were all members of a circus. As a foreigner in Japan you stick out. As a foreigner in Japan dressed in kimono you REALLY stick out. Everyone looked at us. Granted, we looked damn good, but was there more? I didn’t know if it was frowned upon or seen as us embracing the culture? I’m sure it’s different case by case but it was something alright. While we certainly weren't the first foreigners to ever wear kimono, some people certainly treated us that way.

Then came the photos. Soooooo many groups of similarly dressed Japanese people all wanted to take pictures with our group. We’d be walking and from behind us “kawaii” in a high pitched woman’s voice. So many pictures. No lie, at one point we had to tell this one group to wait to take pictures with them so we could take pictures with another group. Sure we may have been a circus act, but we also had our fans. It was a surreal experience. Kiyomizu-dera is also beautiful, my second favorite place we visited in Kyoto, and was the perfect place to take tons of pictures.

Then things started to go, well, not so good. Remember when I said I had no idea how to put the kimono on? Well, when it started to come undone that became a major problem. My fellow travel buddies tried to um, fix it, but honestly made it waaaay worse. We did this shamefully in a local shrine while a group of Korean women also in kimonos literally pointed and laughed at us. It wasn’t embarrassing at all! So I had to like hold it on. We left our clothes back at the shop. While I tried to tough it out, I finally broke and said I had to go back. I told the others I was very cool with getting changed and meeting them after but they sucked it up and went back with me and we all changed out. Good folk. After all that embarrassment we went to a delicious okonomiyaki restaurant and stuffed our faces. My friend left us that night, back to Osaka.

After ‘checking out,’ we gave Kyoto one final spin before returning to our respected towns. We stuffed our luggage in a train locker and went to the Kyoto International Manga Museum. This place was interesting; not in the way I hoped but in a different way completely. It was an old manga school now turned into an archive. People go there, pay 800 yen, and just spend the day reading manga. You can take any book from any shelf and read. There are outside areas, children areas, indoor - it’s amazing. So many people just reading manga. The museum part was underwhelming in size but interesting in material.

After the museum it was a short walk to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. A beautiful area but we couldn't get inside the palace walls. It was in a nice park though. Not getting in was a bit of a let down but still worth a look see. We grabbed some local ramen, grabbed our luggage bought out Shinkansen tickets, said our goodbyes, and returned to our respected towns. Kyoto trip - successful!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reason #001 to Learn Japanese: Emergency Warnings

Imagine this scenario if you will. After a brutally hot summer, the last few nights have finally cooled down. So, you sleep with your windows open. The key word here is 'sleep.'


At 3 am you are awoken by what can easily fall into the category of top five most unholy sounds you've ever heard. Luckily, I've never heard an air raid siren in practical use before, but, an air raid siren is the closest match I can think of still. It was, well, loud. Needless to say, I woke up.

Being my first city-wide siren alarm clock, I woke up confused and honestly a bit panicked. What do I do? The siren only went off for only a few minutes. Then, silence.

Until, a voice started to echo through the streets. The voice was loud, firm, and had an air of no nonsense to it. Unfortunately, I still don't understand Japanese. I can only assume this voice was explaining the noise, explaining the situation, and maybe even giving instructions on what to do. Helpful to the right ears, waisted on me. This went on for minutes.

So it's about 3:15 am, there was a siren, there was a city-wide announcement, and I still have no idea what is happening or what I should do. No longer in that rocked out of bed sort of mindset, I'm thinking more logically but still a bit shaken. My phones got emergency messages in Japanese - sigh.

I look to the streets to gauge the level of panic. None. None at all. Is everything okay? I look up what an emergency alarm could mean. Heavy rain, volcano eruption, or tsunami. One isn't like the others. There has been heavy rain and thunder, or what I hoped was thunder and not eruptions.

So I did what I had to do. I went back to sleep - eventually. Oh, it was a tsunami warning by the way. It was backlash from the earthquake in Chili. It only ended up being 60 inches, but better safe than sorry.

For the first time in my life, I honestly didn’t know if the sound of thunder was actually the sound of a volcano eruption. That’s some shit.

I need to learn Japanese.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Overjoyed for Obon

Thus, my glorious Obon vacation comes to an end. In Japan, there are three confusingly, possibly wonderful, one week long holidays that occur during the year. Obon is the one that happens in summer. ALL of Japan gets off. This is both awful and horrible. My take on the actual holiday is that it is a time when your dead ancestors come down to Earth to chill. You stick toothpicks in a cucumber which represents a horse and more picks into an eggplant which represents a cow. Your ancestors take the horse down and then the cow back - the cow is slower so the spirits can take their sweet time back to paradise. So yea, a week off work.

Still new to Japan, I did what any man would do, everything. I filled out my week quite masterly to the point where I have to stretch 20,000 Yen (~$200) out for a week and a half. Oooops. If times get hard, I still have US banks. There are no worries here, I don’t regret any decisions made during Obon.

During my Saturday night’s izakaya drinking celebration, I got invited to my very first Japanese BBQ. This took place the very next day along a river. There are several similarities and differences between American and Japanese BBQs. First off, no burgers or dogs. I know right? The grills here are round and more like tables than those rectangular hot boxes we think off in the states. A combination of delicious chicken, meat, vegetables, and even fish are thrown onto these grills. Everyone who goes splits the bill the host paid for the supplies and everyone bring their own beer. Quite honestly, a perfect afternoon. The BBQ was followed by evening drinking at an izakaya and then night drinking at a bar. Beers were had. Ever feel hungover before you go to sleep? Yea, that.

The next morning… Tokyo! Yuuuup, Tokyo take two! Once again I met the same friend/co-worker who took an entire day to show me around once again. Since she had never had chocolate chip pancakes before, we remedied that first thing with an overwhelming stack right off the bat. While they were absolutely delicious, my rapidly shrinking stomach couldn't finish them. I felt both horribly ashamed and proud of my weight loss progress. In Tokyo you can truly find anything.

Which is a perfect transition into my next reason for coming to Tokyo - to find s@#$ I can’t find elsewhere. My goal was to find hiking boots. Where I’m living, I couldn't find anything bigger than 28 cm. I wear 30.5 cm. My gracious guide used her connections of professional hunters (not even joking) to recommend places we could try to go. While the selection was still slim, boots were acquired. I did pay WAY more than I wanted but as the old saying says, beggars can’t be choosers. I was just happy to finally have boots for all the future hiking to come (this is foreshadowing).

We met another for a little something Japan likes to call a maid cafe. For those who know know, for those who don’t, buckle up. It’s basically a cafe where high teen to early 20’s Japanese women dress in maid outfits, act all custey, and call you master for the entirety of your stay. That’s only the beginning. They “cast spells” on your food and drinks, draw art in coffee foam, and charge you to take pictures with them. Now, this leads me to a certain observation I made during my time at this establishment. A business man, probably in his mid 40s, full suit, briefcase - paid a maid to play Connect Four with him. This is something I witnessed.

Next stop, Mexican! Before you judge me, Mexican (not to mention GOOD Mexican) has been previously impossible for me to find in Japan. Leave it to Tokyo though, no problem whatsoever. Now just the two of us again, we ate and we drank. To say tequila shots were had and margaritas were drank would be a gross understatement. It was glorious. Imagine craving a food/drink you thought was temporarily removed from your life suddenly could be had? You are going to cradle that and keep it close. This is what happened. It was like being able to eat a Dodo egg again. The food was great, drinks were perfect, and the company was spot on. While speaking English, eating/drinking Mexican, and being served by American bartenders - it was a surreal moment where I had to actually remember I was in Japan - Tokyo of all places. A gerat f@#$ing night.

If you recall, my last trip to Tokyo was cut short by a need to catch the last bullet train home. I cut out that pain this time and got myself a 3000 Yen, step above a hostile, “hotel.” My room was bed and some outlets. This, not a complaint. What else did I really need? Sure it was a shared bathroom but whatever. For that price, a steal. My plan for the following day was to just explore Tokyo on my lonesome and see what I could discover. Instead, I chatted up a guy from Colorado and a woman from Holland in the lobby of the “hotel.” I told them I was going to check out the Ueno Park museums and they were all aboard. So yea, I was in Japan looking at a Cleopatra and Egyptian exhibit. After some coffee, watching a street magician, going to museums, eating lunch, and visiting the Imperial Palace, we all split up and went our separate ways. My way was home.

The NEXT day (Wednesday), I woke up early to take an hour train ride to Shizuoka City. There I met my Australian friend from initial training. We had hiking on the mind. Now, with 100% new boots. We took one train stop and about a 40 minute walk to arrive in Mariko. Here we did, well, pottery. Mariko has all sorts of arts and crafts you can pay to do and have professionals show you how to do it. I have to admit, pottery was pretty fun. It will take two long months until I get my “beautiful” “cup,” but I’m excited for the day! The people who helped up were very kind to deal with our poor Japanese skills and even worse pottery abilities.

It was a short walk to the mountain range from there. The mountain range was your stereotypical rolling green mountains you see in movies. Instead of taking the simple paths, we sort of went our own way in attempt to discover whatever lays hidden in the trees. We found rusted belts and machinery for sending carts up the mountain to collect oranges. Other than some long forgotten farming tools and sheds, I wouldn’t say we “discovered” all that much. The hike was good but it was bloody-damn hot. The summers here are no joke. Everything they warn you about is true - it’s brutal. Once our water ran out, we returned down from our adventure, grabbed a local bus, and went our separate ways.

The following day I rested and slept in for the first time all break. Why? Well, the next day would be one of my greatest adventures to date - a little place called Mt Fuji. While this climb did occur on Obon, it deserves it’s own post and should not be jammed in with the rest of the week. So next time, Fuji-san.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hydrangea Season is Serious Business

On June 27th I had my welcome party. Your first thought it probably why was your welcome a party a solid month after starting? Well, the school likes to plan events and spread them out. Since the previous party was the going away party for the leaving teacher, this was just how it was spread out. In all honesty, it didn’t matter when it was. It was however, pretty great. Much beer was drank, I got to socialize with many students I’ve never spoken to before, had to give some impromptu speeches, and overall was pretty swell. The second party involved more drinking and the students agreed to pay for me so I didn’t spent a yen all night.

Despite an, ehem, last start the following day, I decided to take a solo day trip to the highly recommended Kamakura. It was off an on raining but clear enough to brave. It’s the rainy season right now and if I let rain stop me from exploring I’d have to wait about another month and that’s not happening. By local train it took about an hour and a half with only a few transfers. This was quite the achievement for me since it was the first time traveling by train completely on my own without any precise explanations from others. Both Google Maps and an app called HYPERDIA make train travel elementary. I didn’t screw up at all either there or back and that’s a huge win for me. On the way back I found a route that only required one transfer and that was down right awesome.

So Kamakura is temple and shrine happy. They are everywhere. I went there having no idea where I’d be going or what I’d be doing. I looked up some of the larger sites on my phone on the train ride and asked some friends recommendations - then I just sort of hoofed it. My first target was the giant Buddhist Temple known as Hase-dera. This is where a giant Golden Buddha exists. This thing was beyond awe inspiring. I respected the signs and didn’t take a photo but I really wanted to. I just stared at it for a few minutes. Truly remarkable. This location also had a cave that I had to duck to travel through. It was filled with tiny Buddha statues and dim light, you know, something that seems like it would only exist in like an Indiana Jones flick.

I happened to visit Kamakura and especially Hase-dera during hydrangea blooming season. I was quick to learn that this is quite the big deal. While I imagine the place is normally covered with tourists, it was especially busy this day. Loooots and lots of people. There was even a Hydrangea Viewing Path that had a roped off waiting line. The moral of the story is that hydrandeas are serious business and shouldn’t be taken lightly by any means. I mean, sure, they are pretty and all, but hot damn the people.

Even getting my fill of Buddha, I needed some Shinto action. On Google Maps I saw what appeared to be a huge shrine near the station. That would be my next destination. First though, food. I walked for a bit waiting for something to speak to me - then is spoke. Of all things, a burrito restaurant. Before you roll your eyes you have no idea how few Mexican style restaurants I have seen since I’ve been living in Japan. The second I walked through the door a Japanese woman in perfect English greeted me. I chose correctly. The burrito was like a burrito / wrap hybrid but very delicious. I chatted with her a bit and then head back off.

Google Maps was correct, this shrine was massive. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura’s most important shrine. There are archways on the street that lead to it. Apparently during cherry blossom season the place is absolutely beautiful - not that I was complaining when I went. I visited some of the side shrines before going to the main area. Here I noticed a bunch of money just laying on the ground. I looked around and saw a man and an elderly woman looking over the ponds. I slow English and my limited mixed Japanese I asked if it was theres. The woman checked for sometime and realized it was hers. They were both super thankful and it felt really good. Since it occurred right in front of a shrine, I donated to it and prayed for a spell.

The two main building were quite impressive. This place had full time shrine maidens working - the real deal. Just exploring all the areas I was permitted to go was pretty amazing. I kept finding side shrines in strange locations which was awesome to me. The main building was on top of a hill that you have to climb a tall flight of stairs to reach. From there you can see much of Kamakura and especially all the street arches which lead to it. I can’t even imagine how busy this place must be come New Year.

At this point it was getting late but I was still an hour and a half from home so I marched on. Unfortunately the larger shrines close down around 4:00 pm thus my window had long ended. It was sprinkling and I was definitely getting exercise at least. I passed by a place claiming it had award winning glazed pork bellies over rice so I had to try of course. I’ll admit, it was pretty damn good. It came with a side of udon - really good stuff. With that though, it was time to call it a day. I was pretty damn exhausted. The night before slowed me down a bit, I got to a late start, it rained, but I regret nothing. I’ll return to Kamakura - the place is beautiful. I’d love to see it with the cherry blossoms instead of the hydrangeas.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Oh no, there goes Tokyo go go Godzilla!

What a lovely day for an update. Yes, yes - perhaps I have been updating as much as I originally had planned but as to be expected of blogs. What is important, is that I DO update. Er, even if that update may come a week(s) too late. There is much to write about since last post so I’ll get right to it. My plan is to do a few posts this week to catch up. I want to give these memories proper justice so I’ll keep them as separate posts.

On June 21st I received my first tour of a little known place of Tokyo. Holy hell, that is some city. One of my fellow teachers was kind enough to offer to show me the ropes of this mammoth so of course I accepted. While I spent the majority of the day there, this goes without saying, but I only scratched the surface of the place known as Tokyo. What a place though, such a fun day. After all, it is the only way to do them true justice.

With a mere one hour Shinkansen ride I arrived in Japan’s capital. After a challenging 15 minutes or so or trying to find each other, we met up in Tokyo station and instantly jumped on a local train to one of the Mecca’s of geekdom - Akihabara. While I’ll admit it was far smaller than I expected, it definitely lived up to the hype. The core of the area was only about two streets but those streets each have three floors of shops on them. Everything from retro video games, cosplay shops, maid cafes, anime, manga, figures - you name it - you can get it in Akihabara and in abundance. While proving difficult to not blow the entirety of my life savings in a mere instant - I refrained from buying anything and used this trip as more of a, well, scouting, experience.

The next stop on this tour was a slice of historic culture. She took me to Sensō-ji in Asakusa. This was my first ever time visiting a Buddhist Temple and what a temple it was. It has a famous gate which I’ve seen in pictures before with storm gods protecting it. Here I got face deep in demon exercising incense. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it has been difficult to live 31 years without ever being purified of evil spirits. I must have worked since I drew the luckiest of all the fortunes from the temple. For those keeping score, this means from both a Shinto Shrine and Buddhist Temple I have pulled the luckiest fortunes twice in two pulls. What can I say? I’m lucky. I got the walkthrough in the process of how to pray after an offering, bought some incense, and we ducked out of the rain for a short spell.

I was gracious enough to warn my generous host that I’d be in full tourist mode for the day and she would have it no other way. Despite the Tokyo Skytree looking us in the face the entire day, we decided to visit its predecessor the now obsolete Tokyo Tower. On our way we stopped at a shrine that was putting on a Taiko performance - which we watched for a bit. Then we approached Tokyo tower. Not before resting to eat crepes. Tokyo Tower was quite the view. The day was rainy and overcast so we couldn't see forever but it was still beyond impressive. I’ve been to large cities before but Tokyo goes on in every direction as far as the eye can see. The view from the tower was 360 degrees and there wasn’t anywhere which wasn’t urban sprawl. What really surprised me, is that Tokyo Tower is like a mall. It even has its own gym. Unknown.

At this point it was time for dinner and drinks. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This means we were off to get some official Tokyo grub - Monjayaki. This took us to Tsukishima Street in Chuo. Talk about capitalism at its finest. This entire street is all Monjayaki restaurants, right next to each other, on both sides of the street. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. Even stranger, they all had people in them. How do you choose? I just picked one that had a wooden rabbit statue in front of it - I’m only human. At the restaurant you order a few Monjayaki and pay for different toppings for them. The tables have flat-top grills on them. You’re handed the bowl and make it yourself. After being shown the process, I made a few of my own - I still have it. Despite eating a ton of cabbage, they were each pretty good.

Along side several beers and good conversation, this was the end of my first trek to Tokyo. We passed an underage kid getting arrested for being drunk, jumped on our the last trains towards our respected locations, and I started the hour long ride back home. Fun fact, the justified famous anime Evangelion starts June 22, 2015. My first trip to Tokyo, the place where Eva takes place (Tokyo 3), was the day before where the show starts. Pretty groovy. I didn’t see any Angels. Probably a good thing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Abode

By many of your popular requests, I decided to finally suck it down and show off my darling little apartment. Yes yes, this was a long time coming but oddly enough I’ve been busy! Which, well, is good. So while waiting for my laundry to dry I did the ole’ video tour. I’m going to attempt to embed the video in the body of this post, but if not, I’ll share the link.

As of June 9th, I’ve officially been in Japan for a month. Besides people asking about the apartment, they commonly ask me if I regret my decision or any part of it in deciding to leave everything and move here. The answer is no. This first month has felt like a year but by no means is that a bad thing. As with living anywhere, how much you enjoy it will be how much you make out of it. I’d like to think I’ve been making the most thus far. I’m adjusting, the people are great, and the job’s good. I really don’t have any complaints.

This post was supposed to be about the apartment though so I’ll leave it at that. The place is small even though it’s larger than I expected. All that said, it definitely gets the job done. I’ve never needed a lot of space to live and this is just reinforcing that ideal further. I’m pretty satisfied with it all and am sleeping really well now a days. I miss an over, but what can ya do? All is well.

I finally caught up with Game of Thrones via sorcery.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

‘Of New Life and Lava’

Due to the high volume of death threats recently for not updating in nearly two weeks, I’ve decided to bless you all with one. You’re welcome. My reason for not updating is actually pretty solid - I didn’t have internet. While I somehow COULD get on Facebook, Gmail, and YouTube - I couldn't get on anything else. This includes Blogger. I only got internet a few days ago.

So as of May 18th, I’ve been living in Numazu. The best way I can describe this place is think of Cape Cod as a small city and filled with Japanese people and mountains. The two things Numazu is really known for is fish/fishing/sushi and medical research. Even though it is by all means a city, many Japanese people refer to it as ‘the country’ due to it not having a ridiculous population density as say Tokyo. It doesn’t feel too country to me but compared to the only other Japanese city I’ve been to (Nagoya), I suppose it’s pretty country. It also comes with its very own Idol group because, Japan. There are billboards and buses with ‘Orange Port’ all over them.

So, yea, the Mt. Fuji is pretty amazing. I already have plans to hike it come August with a group from school. If you’ve been following my photos, I’ve been pretty obsessed. After living in flat Florida for so long I just can’t help it. To get to Numazu I took the Shinkansen (Bullet Train). After traveling through a tunnel for a few minutes you just appear in the valley. Staring me right in the face was Mt. Fuji. I know it may sound corny, but damn, it was majestic. I was sitting at the window seat and it was just so mighty standing in full view. I don’t think I’ve felt that way about a natural land mass since seeing the Grand Canyon in person. Most the times the building in Numazu block site of Fuji but every now and then you can get a powerful glimpse of it.

The first week of work was rough. Not for anyone particular reason but every particular reason. As most new jobs, there is a lot of front heavy memorization and work that goes into it. With only a week of training, I was thrown straight into the fire after two mostly observing days. Keep in mind, none of this is a complaint. For this type of job, the best way to get better is by practicing and doing. One of the reasons I came here was to challenge myself after all. The baby bird either learns to flap its wings on dies from the fall. The second week was soooo much better. Once I became more comfortable the job became actually fun most of the time. I think my sleeping problems came from nerves and not any sort of mystical jetlag. The last few days I’ve been sleeping straight through the night.

I have to admit that much of my ease with adapting to this new lifestyle and job has come from the staff at my school. I really lucked out. Every single member has gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable, helped me overcome hurdles with language/cultural boundaries, helped my buy stuff and set up my apartment, and really just made me feel welcome. If not for them as a collection, there is no way I’d be as happy or comfortable as I am now. After leaving somewhere where I had godly group of remarkable friends, a big fear of mine was moving somewhere and having nobody. Hell, the day I moved here I was invited to go to an Izakaya with the majority of the staff which was a great introduction.

In the three weeks I’ve been in Japan I’ve survived a typhoon and an earthquake. Granted, both were small time. The typhoon was far and translated into a single day of rain. The earthquake happened yesterday and had to be pointed out to me. It felt like being on a cruise ship going over slight choppy water. I thought it lasted for a long time but apparently the buildings here shake with the earth so they don’t topple. The ‘extra’ quake I felt was just the building returning to its normal positioning. I was told that in a matter of fact way as if to make me feel better about it all. All the news talks about is how a volcano near Fuji could erupt. Since this mountain is connected to Fuji, there is a chance Fuji may erupt - yea the volcano which hasn’t erupted since like 1700’s. I’m pretty sure if that does happen we all just die due to proximity. So, I have that going for me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Shrineing Moments

Saturday night was the last day of training. The six days were both draconian and educational. While I’m happy these days are over, I feel like another week would better prepare me. I now have lists of my schedule, classes, and students and it's all becoming more and more real. Today is a traveling, moving, and errand day. I’m finally moving to Numazu and setting in the place I’ll be living for at least a year. I've been waiting so long for the opportunity to see this apartment.

Saturday night, after the last training, was an evening of celebration. This involved another outing and finally some drinking. Kirin may not be the best beer I've ever had but if it has to be the Japanese staple, I’ll take it. After getting our bellies full of chicken wings and beer, we seeked beer. A street side hole in the wall did fine. Beer was drank, conversation had, rice balls - fire eaten, and broken Japanese was spoken to a new Buddhist Monk friend. The night was delightfully simple, delightfully fun.

Sunday, our first day off in a week, became another day of exploring Nagoya. What started as an errand to get our inkan (stamp with your name on it), turned into a whole ton of exploration. We explored a few shrines, checked out an electronics shop, ate at a Fridays, saw some high fashion, and sort of watched an outside rock concert (Another World).

The Fridays was hilarious and so damn welcomed. Don’t get me wrong, I've been enjoying the Japanese food, but American food has also been missed - it was a darling reminder. You know, with decor of baseball bats, red/white/blue lighting, a soundtrack of Coldplay to country, and bars lined with Jim Bean.

The shrines were beautiful and as mesmerizing as you’d imagine. Just these pockets of Shinto culture smack dab in the middle of a huge sprawling city. Once again the juxtaposition of old and new strike me in a delightful way.I’ll scour Numazu for them as well, preparing me for the day I hit Kyoto.

More than a week in my life here in Japan, I have to say I've been challenged. My attempted escape from mediocrity has been brutally successful thus far. Minus the days off, each day has been stressful and nerve wracking, While I’m finally moving today, teaching and executing all the techniques learned this last week sit heavy in my mind. Tuesday and Wednesday will be mostly shadowing previous teachers but by Thursday it’s full on. Everything is moving fast and I realize that can’t last forever, but right now it’s quite intense. This is all a good thing though and not a complaint. This is exactly what I wanted.

Leaving today means saying farewell to the people I've become close to this last week. While these are sad times, they will all be an hour (?) away by train. These aren’t goodbyes.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Ate Horse

Since Monday, my days have been dominated by the nine hour training sessions and attempts to sleep. These days are long and brutal but effective and necessary. In a week’s time we’re to learn to be proficient in teaching among several other business tasks for the company - no easy tasks. Yesterday we taught our first self-created lesson to actual Japanese students while getting heavily critiqued by the trainers and peers. This was an important and challenging moment for us, one I’d say we all accomplished. Not without flaw of course, but as to be expected for our third day of training. The growth is already clear.

At the end of training on this monumental day, each of us trainees were given a present. These gifts were hand crafted letters/postcards from the school we’ll be joining in a week - from the area we’ll be living in a year. I have to admit, the amount of work, humor, and sentiment that went into this was really touching. The teachers and staff from the school really gave me a true sense of welcome. Their goofy poses, kind words, and how the paperclips holding the card shut were hearts were all just such sweet touches. Getting over this leap of completing my first lesson and then receiving this card all in one day, really boosted morale during these hard training days.

My fellow six trainees were all feeling similar feelings. We all just felt relieved and well, happy. Thus, we all went out. None of us knowing where to go exactly, we just walked the streets of Nagoya. There was an arm of a typhoon that hit yesterday so the night was warmer than usual - nice though. We ended up finding this hole in the wall bar that, to my surprise, had two more floors above it. We ended up getting the entire second floor to ourselves. The decor had us all sit on mats on the floor where we all sat at one long table. A waitress/waiter would come when called, we’d order alcohol and food when we wanted, and it just felt really good to let loose again.

While beers and sake were drank, our Australian compatriot’s eyes went wide when he noticed something on the menu - horse. Yes, horse, like the mammal. He ordered it, fully knowing it was horse. As it was served we just watched. Not only was it horse, it was raw. It was raw horse. We watched him eat raw horse. So, I too ate raw horse. It was admittedly horrible. I can’t say if it was the horse meat or the fact that it was raw. Since, you know, I never eat meat uncooked. The texture was unflattering, sort of slimy, and it didn’t offer much taste. He described it at first as sort of a tasteless jelly - I’m not sure I disagree. For reasons unknown, we were the only two to try it.

As if we just didn’t just fill our bellies with food and booze, there was one more stop on the way back to the dorm. As we passed a Takoyaki booth, another compatriot sprung an order for all of us to try. Takoyaki is a desert food, octopus puffs/balls. You can get it covered with a takoyaki sauce with option of mayonnaise. I had heard of this before, but certainly never tried it. So, I tried it. Easily not the strangest thing I’ve eaten this night, it was better than I thought but not necessarily something I’d pursue. They come out alarmingly hot.

After our gluttony, we checked Karaoke prices for a future celebratory date and headed back to the dorms. It was a good day. It was the first and ideally the last time I could say my stomach was filled with both horse and octopus simultaneously. Three more days of training.

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Making the Everyday Better"

After landing in Nagoya, I took a train to the training facility. I was accompanied by two fellow trainees who arrived around the same time. We all agreed that since tomorrow (Sunday) was a day off, that we’d go explore Nagoya together. The facility itself is from the future and my dorm room borderlines something from the Jetsons. My toilet is automatic and I think part robot, the switches on the wall glow green when off (confusing), and the entirety of the dorm’s power involves me putting the key to the room into a wall socket. The three of us took our first trip to local 7/11 (which are everywhere and the grocery stores here) for some questionable sustenance. One of my food choices said in English, “Making the Everyday Better.” Well said burrito(?).

The follow morning I met up with my two fellow trainees with the addition of two others. Without a real plan or destination, the five of us set off to:

1) Get something to eat
2) Explore (get lost)

I’d say we nailed both of these two things fairly well. After searching for some not expensive lunch cuisine, we ended up getting okonomiyaki. I consider this my first real Japanese food since moving here. It’s basically a pancake with all sorts of foods mixed within it. The one I got had egg, pork, and squid. I know what you’re thinking, I ate squid? Yea I did. If I’m living in Japan I'm going to have to get use to some seafood at least, this was a solid introduction. It was pretty good and filling. I wanted some water to go with is but I ended up buying soda water. I swear I’ll get use to this.

My suggestion was to go to the Nagoya Castle because, well, it’s a giant awesome looking Japanese castle. Another suggestion was a park. Luckily, Nagoya Castle is in the center of a huge park. The group was delightfully diverse and we all got along pretty well. There is nothing like walking to a castle with a group of people you’ve never met before to build bonds (social links). This group consisted of three Americans, one Canadian, and one Australian - all of them awesome people.

We walked around using this thing called a “map” that was like a large piece of paper with the image of the city on it. None of us had our phones set up in Japan yet thus we lacked GPS machines. The combination of different people’s direction sense, intuition, and fluency in Japanese got us there surprisingly easily.

The castle lived up to the hype. The thing was both massive and beautiful. The inside has been turned into a museum so we got some knowledge bombs mixed in with massive allure of this goliath. This elderly Japanese man with solid English ended up befriending us and becoming a sort of non-official tour guide. He stayed with us far longer than I thought he would and had an answer to about every single question we could fire off at him. He did say that I "looked American" which I don't think is a good thing but I also don't think he meant any harm by it.

The jet lag ended up conquering the majority of us and after we headed back to the dorm. On our way out we came across the Nagoya Omotenashi Busho-tai (Nagoya Samurai Greeters) performing so we had to watch that for a bit. It was some sort of mix of armes play mixed with dance? The crowd was into it and it was definitely entertaining. Check out the link for the end of the performance.

The rest of the day involved studying, reading, ironing, and a late night 7/11 run for dinner and breakfast. I start my first day of training today and am exciting to see what it’s like. I’m a mixture of nerves and excitement.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Elderly Man in Fishing Hat Behind the Counter in a Small Town

This post will be entirely on the travel aspect of my trip here to Japan, after Toronto. What can be said about a thirteen hour flight. Well, it was long. Easily longer than any flight in my life. My seat was a center aisle with the seat to my side being vacant - pretty rad. All announcements were in English, French, and Japanese. For literally the first half of the flight I slept. How tired I was ended up working to my advantage. I’d awaken to eat the meals offered and then pass out again. I can’t complain about how fast time moved at first.

Then time stopped moving fast and I still had half a trip left. For ‘lunch,’ we were given a Cup Noodles which I thought was a joke at first but soon learned that it was very very real. Good think I like those but man, unexpected. Alcoholic beverages were free and the man in my row on the other aisle sucked down Jack and Gingers whenever humanly possible. Good man. There was so much space for belongings and with the people who needed it, the trip reminded of a train scene in a kung fu movie - unfortunately missing Jackie Chan.

What better way to pass a huge chunk of time than with one of the Hobbit movies? I saw the first one and this was the third. I don’t felt like all that much was lost skipping the entirety of the middle film - something about a dragon I suppose. Why was Gandalf trapped in a Dark Souls elevator? It held my attention, entertained, and most importantly swallowed a bunch of hours. The rest of the trip involved more sleeping and audio-books.

As predicted in the previous post, it was after this flight landed that I hit my biggest and most stressful snag. For how big the Boeing 777 was, it cleared out fast and landed 15 minutes early. I only had roughly more than an hour to do a lot so I was already in a high gear mentality. The Tokyo airport was extremely accommodating with English on all the signs which made life possible. I had to wait in short line to receive my residency card and to take some paperwork.

Now I had to gather my luggage. Unlike the US, the baggage carts are free and I used the hell out of them. Unfortunately, my HUGE bags were among the last to come out - the whole time I’m watching the clock. After receiving both, customs was a breeze and I’m now in the international part of the airport. I got a bit lost for a moment but then found my way to the place to give my bags over for a domestic flight. The line was moving pretty quickly but then as I was the next person at bat, the two people that were getting helped had problems. I’m not even being dramatic here, they each took 10+ minutes to help. Guess what, I needed to have these bags checked 45 minutes before departure and missed this window due to those folk ahead of me.

The woman apologized and said I’d have to go to the domestic terminal. This is where panic occurred. I had 20 minutes to get to an entirely new terminal with all four bags of my luggage. To top that, I had to take a free bus to get to that other terminal. I stayed cool and just went through the motions. I found the bus, loaded ALL four of my bags onto it and sort of cradled them in my arms as I took a bus ride of unknown length. I remember the woman said “Terminal 2” so I just kept my eyes open for that. Luckily, the announcements on the bus also came in English. The bus ride was longer than I would have liked.

So the bus rolls up, I have less than 10 minutes until boarding, hope is gone. The whole ride I’m thinking what can I do? Someone is going to pick me up at the next airport and I have to contact them somehow AFTER getting a new flight. I could call them? I look at my phone - doesn't work in Japan. I’m in a bad place.

The moment the door opens I grab my larger bags, leaving my carry-on on the bus still so others can get out. As I turn to go back in to grab the bag this elderly man in a fishing hat, who was on my previous flight with his wife in a pink cowboy hat, has my bag and brings it to me. I thank him. Without saying anything else, he starts pushing one of my giant bags towards the door and I grab the rest. He points at a sign that says departures and motions towards the escalator. I sort of just follow him in awe.

He asks where I’m headed - I think. I show him my ticket, he flags down an employee and translates for me so I know where to go. He tells me but then starts pushing my bag again. What can I do, I follow. There is of course a line where I need to go but this elderly man is not having it. He flags down another woman, explains what I assume is the situation, and she takes me to front of the line. I’m sweaty and out of breathe but she smiled at me and told me "You'll make it, you have 5 minutes."

I thank the elderly old man in the fishing hat at least a million times, I believe I got through to him how thankful I was - at least I hope so. If not for him, a complete foreigner stranger, not even on the same flight as me, went through so much trouble just the help me is so unreal. I feel like I cashed in every bit of karma I've ever earned right there and then. If this is a sign of how the Japanese are, I made a wonderful decision. That man is and will always be my hero.

Being extremely touched doesn't get me to the flight though. I had 5 minutes to through security and make the plane. More running. There was no one else in the security line and the people working it were actually nice and didn't seem to hate their lives. It went quick. I followed to signs to my gate but boy was it far. I ran, rested on the moving platforms, then ran more. Dripping in sweat and smelling what I feel was fairly awful, I make it. I board the plane, sit at my window seat, and crank the air to max. I can’t believe I made it.

The flight from Tokyo to Nagoya was only about an hour. I was served a single strawberry candy which was delicious and screens came down that showed images of abandoned mines all across Japan for reasons unknown. Before you take off and when you land, the grounds crews wave all at once and then bow all at once. Pretty amazing. No longer stressed out, I finally go to the bathroom which I was too scared to do before based on time - which was actually the right decision, grab my bags, get greeted by the man meeting me at the airport, send my huge bags off to my future school, and meet the other two trainees who arrived at this time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

One Step Ahead of Darkness

Let’s face it, no where in my heart did I think I’d actually sleep last night. Granted, I only gave myself a 3 hour window to do so, yet here I am in Toronto with about two hours of sleep under my belt. I have the luxury of this darling five hour layover here but such is the way of savings. After the thirteen hour flight to Tokyo is where the true terror begins. In an hour and a half time I have to get off the giant airplane, navigate my way through the Japanese airport, find my bags (?), go through customs, return my bags to a belt (?), navigate to the domestic terminal, and board my plane to Nagoya. Easy… right? People will be waiting to pick me up in Nagoya which makes all the timing that much more critical.

That’s far away from now though. Let’s talk Toronto. Although I have been here once before, I’ve never been to the airport before. In the land of Toronto, Tim Horton is king. As a former New Englander, I understand the advertisement abuse that comes with coffee chains. I get it. Timmy boy may just be more prevalent than the double D’s here.

Something I’ve found to be alarming at YYZ, is Blondie. Yea, the musical artist. You know the song ‘The Tide is High?’ The one where Blondie constantly reminds us all that she will be our number one? Yea, that one. Well, I’ve heard it twice in the three hours I’ve been here so far. Once, forgivable. Twice, a crime. Three times? My own personal hell. For you Blondie lovers out there, I’m not hating on your girl - just questioning my sleepless sanity.

Despite the questionable music choices, YYZ has been treating me well. My current set up borderlines on god tier. I’m going to attempt to add a photo to this post to show it. My phone and laptop are charging, I have a marble table to work on, the internet, a bar in eye view, and a complimentary iPad and credit card reader which allows me to order drinks without moving and have them delivered right to me. Isthisreallife? Best five hour layover or BEST five hour layover? I’m so tired.

My proficiency at people watching has made me start questioning my integrity. I’m going to chalk it up to being extremely tired, but maybe I’m a terrible person? Nah, probably not. It is entertaining though. That's all.

The title of this entry is actually pretty neat concept someone mentioned to me. Since I left right at sun rise, have this long layover, am traveling far west, and arrive at 6:00 PM (Saturday) - it’s like I’m running from the darkness. During this day(s) of traveling, it's going to be like I’m one step ahead of the night the entire way. It’s just one of those things to think about when you have all the time in the world to think.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Last Day In America (dramatic)

Numerous people has asked (threatened) me to start a blog about my adventures of living and teaching in Japan. Despite the strong armed advice about the topic, I was planning on doing it anyways. So yea, here it is. Due to the contract I’ve signed and a few other reasons, there is to be a whole bunch of vagueness in certain areas but thus is life. While this is the first post and I leave tomorrow, I won’t be in my apartment until May 17th - I think. So, I’ll be very reliant on free wifi until then for a post #2.

The very title of the blog comes from one seriously hardcore think tanking session during my going away party at my previous job. During the later, less sober, hours of the night - someone dropped the “Japandrew” bomb. It basically writes itself. It’s one of those cases of a suggestion being so perfectly bad that it just has to be so. Certain car wrecks you just can't turn away from; the title and this blog will be two of them.

So why Japan? It may be a bit of a juvenile answer but “why not?” I’ve never had a solidified answer to this question other than some sort of mystical and cliche calling. As someone who has never left North America, doesn’t speak Japanese, and doesn’t like seafood - the opposite side of the world seemed like the perfect place to move. The juxtaposition between the honorable work culture to tentacle porn just seems like a place I wouldn’t be able to say no to. On a more serious note, the environment, geography, culture, festivals, people, food, games - you name it - are all pretty damn enticing.

My good friend said it the best, “You always play things safe, this will be different and good for you.” Sometimes those who know you the best end up knowing you better than yourself. It sometimes takes that sort of obvious bluntness to really see the ‘forest between the trees.’ I have a problem of being too logical. While that may sound good, it really can be quite a headache. If you spend too much time puzzling out illogical or foolish ideas - you’re going to end up being, well, predictable. So f@#$ it. With a masters in education, no teaching job in America, and no overpowering roots - dare I say that this isn’t even that illogical. There I go, I’ve done it again. Since I’ve chosen teaching as my career, this will get the ball rolling. It’s definitely out of the ye old safe zone though, and that’s what’s important.

Saying my farewells to friends a week ago and saying farewell to family now is a pretty horrific experience I don’t wish on anyone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the most touching and tear jerking experiences imaginable. I’m not ashamed to say I cried nearly every time getting in my car after a personal goodbye and for half of the drive out of Florida on my way to Massachusetts. So many of my friends changed their Facebook profile pictures to an old photo of them with me that I had people messaging me making sure I didn’t die. Others performed what another friend called “eulogize the living,” where they poured their hearts out to me, talked about certain memories, or the long history of our friendship. I’m not sure if you can become dehydrated from tears, but if so, I had to be close. I'm drinking lots of water.

I will miss all of you savages. Part of this blog will be for my own hubris, for my “future Japanese babies that will love looking back on it one day” (quoted by my sister-in-law but thought by everyone - this will be a future post in its own), and for the people I care about to actually keep up with my awe, descent into madness, confusion, amusement, wonderment, beauty, and tentacle porn obsession (kidding, as of now). My phone number will be disconnected soon so the best way to get a hold of me will be Facebook, email, and Skype - if you need any of those, message me.

There is definitely something surreal about writing this my last night in America for at least a year. Getting rid/donating the majority of everything you own and handing over your car keys to someone else is unreal. My nightmare right now is my luggage and weight restrictions. Once they are taken care of tomorrow morning, I’ll be able to switch to what should be on my mind - Japan and teaching. I’m too stressed to even be sad right now.