Saturday, 30 August 2008

Kochi Revisited

On Wednesday afternoon, I visited the Tokawa chugakkou (junior high) to meet with the JTE there. I spent a bit more time there than I did at the chugakkou on Tuesday. The biggest thing for me right now is preparing my introduction for the schools I will be visiting over the next few weeks, including A3-size photos of New Zealand and my family.

Thursday was just a regular day spent in the office. I watched a whole lot of World of Warcraft-related clips at Michael's house that night while he played Metal Gear Solid 4 on his PS3.

Yesterday, Nakawaki-san took Candice and I into Kochi city. We got our re-entry permits from thte Immigration office before having lunch at Hirome ichiba (market). A re-entry permit is used for when you leave the country and need to get back in. I guess it just makes it easier for Immigration, but it sure cost a bit: 6,000 yen for three stamps, which I assume means you can re-enter Japan three times.

After lunch, we went to JAF, where we had our respective driver's licenses translated. While we waited for them to process them, we went to Aeon mall to do some kaimono (shopping). I got a small suitcase -- carry-on size -- for when I travel around. I also got a hot water urn (with electronic dispensing) and a few things from the hyaku-en (100 yen) store.

After we retrieved our licenses and got the documentation from JAF, we left Kochi city. We stopped at a furniture and general merchandise store not too far outside the city. I bought a new pillow, which was really nice to sleep on last night.

In K-town (Kubokawa), I picked up a loan phone to use while my keitai (cellphone) is being repaired. They say that it is not an LCD leak but looks like another problem. Whatever the issue, I just hope that they repair it free of charge, since it was a brand new phone and is obviously a manufacturing fault.

Nakawaki-san and I got back to the office in Taisho very late. It was raining. I made dinner after I got dropped home (carrying all my stuff from Kochi up to my apartment), and also baked a chocolate cake. I had to put it through my rice cooker twice. I'm not sure if there is a different setting for baking in it because I can't read the kanji, but just doing a standard cycle twice seemed to work. The cake tastes nice.

This afternoon, Michael, Candice, Laurel and I are will be going into Nakamura (Shimanto city). There is apparently a small festival tonight, with hanabi (fireworks). Apparently the fireworks display will be more intense than the one we had here last Sunday, so I am really looking forward to that!

On a somewhat sour note, my laptop is not expected to arrive until Monday the 8th, so I have to wait for more than a week until I will be able to go online at home. My Internet, however, will be connected this coming Monday, so I won't have to wait for that to get hooked up -- I just won't be able to use it for a week. :(


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Ayu Matsuri Fireworks Display

I uploaded the longest recording of Sunday's fireworks display to YouTube. You can view it below:

"In my town in Japan, we recently had a fish festival, called the Ayu Matsuri. At the end of the night, we all watched fireworks from the nearby bridge. This is the end of what was an amazing 20 min display of variegated colour accompanied by riotous sound that ricocheted off the surrounding hills like gunshots. I captured this on my phone."

I may put more movies up soon.


Phone and Schools

It turns out that my phone doesn't have a leaking LCD. However, in order to repair it, Docomo have to send it on somewhere else. I will not have a temporary phone until tomorrow, either, so will have been without a phone for three days.

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the Showa chugakkou (middle school) to meet with the JTE -- Japanese Teacher of English. We discussed lesson plans and my attending a school assembly next Thursday to introduce myself to the students.

I also visited the dentist yesterday and he replaced one of my two caps. It's quite uncomfortable today, but I think that is mostly because they got a bit rough near the end while polishing the new resin cap, so it has made my jaw and gums sore. I need to find out where to get painkillers around here.

Last night, Michael and I cooked okonomiyaki for dinner. We also wrote the dialogue for our intended short film for the upcoming film festival. It has yet to be translated, but we have a fair idea of a number of the Japanese phrases that we will use -- think: offensive and silly. I look forward to filming it!

Today, I have the same deal at the Tokawa chugakkou. I will discuss school resources, the textbooks and work to be covered, and a schedule of school events. The kominkan (Board of Education) have given me a van to drive around in. I will be using it to attend each school that I teach at. The chugakkou are regular, weekly attendances. Michael and I will be going to various shougakkou and the odd kindergarten throughout each month, rotating through most around this area.

Next week, it all starts!

I have paid for my laptop, so now now it's just a matter of time until I get it. I have to wait until next week to have my Internet connected though. I think this is happening on 1st September.

That's all for now. I am going to Kochi on Friday, as is Candice. We are going to sort out our re-entry permits, and I will be translating my Kiwi license at the JAF, in order to apply for my Japanese license. Might as well fit in a bit of kaimono (shopping) while I'm at it.

Well, back to the Internet surfing. ;)


Monday, 25 August 2008

Ayu Matsuri

On Saturday, Michael and I went into Kochi city. I got a mouse, a gaming headset, some new sunglasses, and other bits and pieces. We stopped in K-town on the way home and had tea with Laurel, the CIR of the Kubokawa komen-kan (Board of Education). The rest of the evening involved YouTube and Turok on the PS3.

I attended a small AoG church in K-town on Sunday. Aside from the pastor and his wife, and me and Laurel, there was only one other person there! We had lunch with Candice -- okonomiyaki! -- and took a mid-afternoon, open carriage train to Taisho. The Ayu matsuri (festival) was happening just outside my town. Mark and Martin from nakamura had driven over this way to attend it, so there were six of us in total (Michael was already there).

The Ayu is a fish that swims in the Shimanto gawa (river). I tried one cooked on a stick, coated with salt. It was ok. We saw some taiko (Japanese drumming) and some yosakoi dancing (like at the matsuri in Kochi city the other weekend).

We spent a little time at Mikey's apartment and went back down to the river to wait for hanabi (fireworks). When it was dark, we went up onto the bridge. They shut down all the lights at 8.30pm and the display began. It was the most amazing fireworks display I have ever seen. The sound was richocheting off the surrounding hills like gunshots and the sky was lit up with explosions and sprinkles of colour. Near the end, some hanabi that were strung across the kawa (river) were let off and produced a golden waterfall of fire that was kirei (pretty).

I managed to capture a bit of the hanabi on my phone and other people took some movies and pictures. I have been unable to access what is on my micro-SD card for some reason, but when I have my laptop, I will upload the best i-motion movie to YouTube.

I have to go to K-town today to swap my phone. It has a leak in the LCD that has been spreading. It is definitely an OBF (out of box failure). I just hope that they will replace it due to its manufacturing fault as they would in New Zealand.

I have a meeting at the Showa chugakkou (middle school) and a dentist appointment tomorrow afternoon. Wednesday, I have a meeting at the Tokawa chugakkou. And on Thursday, I will be going into the city for some re-entry permits and to have my license translated for applying for a Japanese one.


Thursday, 21 August 2008

WTB Fish

Yesterday, my home phone was connected. I am unable to get Internet just yet, but will hopefully get through this afternoon to the ISP I will be going with, Purara (don't ask, I don't understand its name either), and will book a time when they can activate a connection. I will need a laptop to go on the net at home, anyway -- and as we all know, I still haven't got one.

I was also able to swap a few of my appliances for better ones: microwave, fridge, gas cooker (and a fish cooker thing), tv; and I finally got a vacuum cleaner. I also got a heated carpet which I've put away until Winter -- it will be incredibly welcome at that time.

I spent time after work cleaning out the fridge. After that, Michael had a birthday dinner at Yamagoya (Maiko's izakaya). He turned 25. The only other person there was a lady, Mika, whom I believe is a teacher at a school here in Taisho. She speaks English.

This morning, I will be going shopping in K-town. This afternoon I have been invited to go swimming in the river with a few people, but I will have to think about it, as I really don't feel like swimming.

Next week is the Ayu festival. Ayu is a type of fish that swims in the river here. I took a photo on the weekend of the little banners that have been set up around town -- but as I have been unable to upload any photos yet, I can't show them until such a time as I am able to.


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Search Continues

I continue to look for a suitable laptop. I believe that I have found the ideal one, but I still have to either find an appropriate retailer or somehow order online when I don't have my own credit card. :o

Mikey got back from his vacation in Fukuoka and brought me back omiyage (souvenir / gift) -- some tiger towels. I will put up a photo when I have my laptop and can sort through all of my Japan photos to date. XD

I went through a whole lot of questions with my supervisor yesterday, which clears up a few things and gives me more insight into what is happening or is supposed to be happening. This afternoon, a telephone company contractor is coming around to my place to activate the phone line. Unfortunately, I can't get a nintaweb connection until I have my laptop. :/

I'm meeting up with the ELT of the Showa chuugakkou (middle school) next Tuesday, and the ELT of the Tokawa one on Wednesday. And at some point next week I should be going into Kochi city to get re-entry permits, apply for my Japanese driver license and possibly get a laptop (if I haven't amazingly got one already by then).

It's Mikey's 25th birthday today, so a few of us will be going out for dinner to celebrate that. I'm thankful that tonight won't be as dreary as my last two evenings, where all I had to occupy me were Olympic events, nihongo no benkyousuru (Japanese study) and some Japanese drama. I look forward to having a laptop for those evenings that I don't have anywhere specific to be or anything interesting to do.

Did I mention that I wish I had a laptop?

NB. Do not come to Japan on the JET programme without one. I was a silly, lazy student who couldn't afford a laptop computer before I came, and now look at where I'm at. Not fun. Don't do it.



Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Blog Subscription

Now, you can subscribe to this blog. I added a subscription link to the top of the menu that allows you to receive the RSS feed of blog posts made here.


Monday, 18 August 2008

Free Lunch

There's no such thing, right? Well, so long as you're honest there isn't. When I bought my lunch today, the checkout operator didn't zap my obento (boxed lunch). I tend to get a sushi-type obento (three kim-bap type rolls, three egg ones and a large one of rice wrapped in something tasty) and one of just meat (today, it was small, rounded hamburger patties). It makes for a filling lunch that covers pretty much every food group. XD

I realised she hadn't charged me for those items after leaving the store and determined to go back to make amends after I'd eaten my healthy Japanese lunch. I wasn't sure how to say "no charge", so I decided to look up the verb "to pay", intending to say that I paid nothing for my lunch. I also looked up the ending for past tense, which I haven't covered quite yet in my text book -- I am going through it very slowly. I just started on lesson four, which covers past tense, but haven't got past the vocab list yet. :o

I gathered all of my gaijin courage on my way back to the office and stopped in at the food store. In my simple Japanese, I spoke to the lady who had served me. I told her that I had bought some food and that I had paid zero yen for it. She was surprised. I don't know what she said, but it was probably something like, "Are you sure?". I handed over the money that I owed, repeating that I had paid nothing and would she please accept it. I also brought the barcodes to make her job easy, and so she zapped them both and there were happy parties on both sides. ^^

It wasn't just the fact that I went back and paid for what amounted from a mistake; it was my using Japanese in a real situation that made me feel good. I am an honest person, and so it was a no brainer that I pay for my lunch. However, this has boosted my courage in speaking out and attempting to communicate more with the locals.

Incidentally, I exchanged a few words with my supervisor earlier, about going through a whole lot of questions. Remember that he speaks almost no English, so it is a good opportunity for me to flex my language skills whenever I talk to him. I asked if we could go through them after lunch, but he said he had a full schedule. We decided that we would go through everything tomorrow, upon my suggestion.

My Japanese language skills are still so simple. I hope that I will have more opportunities this week to attempt to express myself in various ways. I will continue working through my text book and trying to build more of a vocabulary.


I Come Bearing Omiyage

Not really. But I am back from quite a busy end of the week. Were I able to, I'd have posted an update over the weekend. Because as it is, I still have nothing to do at my apartment and so my weekend itself is barely worth mentioning.

On Wednesday, I went to K-town to get my pensioner booklet -- all workers in Japan automatically have a compulsory fee deducted towards their pension -- you can reclaim the first three years' worth back if you leave the country; my health insurance card -- the government of Japan pays 70% of health costs here; my keitai -- cellphone -- I got the latest Sharp, the SH906iTV -- unfortunately, I don't have my email set up or have an understanding yet of the contract I have signed into :/; and my alien registration card, which must be carried with me at all times whilst in Japan.

I stayed overnight at Candice's so that we could take the train to Kochi City in the morning. We wandered around Obiyamachi and had lunch at Hirome before the prefectural orientation started. It was good to see people again whom we hadn't seen since being in Tokyo.

Most people that were staying in the city were staying at the Kochi No. 1 Hotel. We all got checked in and then met in the foyer to go to a beer garden, for all you can eat and drink. I just saw it as paying towards other people's booze, because I sure didn't eat 3,400 yen worth of food. Either way, it was a good time.

After the beer garden, most of us went to a bar in Obiyamachi. It was a new environment for me. I went for conformity's sake. I managed to last until 12am when I decided that sitting around doing nothing wasn't enjoyable and I could make an inconspicuous exit -- which I did.

Friday was a long day. We covered everything from what to do in a distaster to things to do throughout our prefecture. There are a lot of places to visit here and there will be a lot of stuff happening over the next year. All in all, the biggest thing I took from the orientation was a list of questions to direct towards my supervisor and the schools that I will be teaching at.

After orientation, I grabbed one of the CIRs, Simon, and we walked towards the station, then turned East. My intention was to find a computer store. We asked in a music store for directions to the store I had heard about, and continued walking. Simon's Japanese is fluent and it amazed me each time he talked to a Japanese person. I want to be fluent one day!

Well, we continued walking for a long time, wondering where this place was, when we decided to stop at a ramen restaurant. They told us that we had passed it by about half an hour! What n00bs we felt like. Anyway, we got a taxi back to the store and I ended up not being able to get a suitable laptop at the time. However, the clerk gave me a catalogue of Windows laptops, which I looked over later.

I felt bad about dragging Simon all over Kochi like that, but at least we both got some exercise. The taxi driver was also kind enough to stop the meter while we were inside the store and took us to the station after our little stop. I met Candice at the station and we took the express to K-town. I decided to stay over at her place again on Friday night and take the train home in the morning.

On Saturday morning, I wandered around K-town a bit. I got some drawing supplies from Ryubi and sat around at the station for a while until my train departed for Taisho.

After getting home, I cleaned my apartment and then just spent the rest of the day resting, watching tv and drawing.

Sunday was just as uneventful as Saturday. I really wish that I'd been able to get a laptop, but here I am on Monday morning, happy to be alive. ^^ I walked around on Sunday, having slept in (I didn't go to church because the train was too early -- I will try and get a ride in future, but Michael is still away on holiday in Fukuoka), and took some photos. I promise that I will put all of my photos up when I am able to.

I visited Maiko at the izakaya last night to pass some time. I also did a little more drawing, some Japanese study and watched more Olympics on tv. Usain Bolt is fast!

Now it's Monday. I need to get all of these questions answered by my supervisor, and I need to find out the prices of these laptops, then possibly order one so that I can go to Kochi and get it as soon as possible.

I hope that this week will be a lot more productive than the previous few slow days in the last two weeks.


Wednesday, 13 August 2008

K-town Express

Not much has been happening around here. I've mostly just kept myself busy with reading Flintlocke, playing around with some forums and posting to my Wowbrief blog, among other intaweb stuffz.

Today, I will be going to K-town to get my alien registration card, hopefully a keitai (cellphone) and will stay there tonight. We have our prefectural orientation tomorrow and Friday, so Candice and I will be getting a train from Kubokawa to Kochi city in the morning. Expect a report of sorts regarding orientation and my time spent in Kochi once I get back -- hopefully with a laptop.

My phone is going to be connected next week, on the 20th. I'm not sure if this includes Internet, but if I get my laptop this weekend, it had better.


Monday, 11 August 2008

Important Food Groups

As if to prove my point, it started spitting at lunchtime.

I forgot to mention earlier, that Michael dropped off some of Phil's stuff for me on Saturday morning. Some of it I can use, like the cheese grater and an extra pot. Also included were some food items, like more noodles and the all-important jar of Marmite!

My money still hasn't come through, so I still only have about 500 yen to my name. Why are international money transfers so frustrating. /sigh



The following are my observations from two weeks here, of similarites and differences between Japan and New Zealand. I have broken them down into things you should already know (the obvious), things you might know (the informed), things you may not know (the not so obvious), and quirks.

Things you should know
Japanese eat a lot of rice.
They use chopsticks to eat.
It is customary to remove footwear when entering an abode.

Things you might know
Japanese use hanko (personal stamps) in lieu of signatures.
Items in shops are taxed on top of the price shown -- the hyaku en (hundred yen) store puts a five percent surplus on items sold. This makes it the one hundred and five yen shop!

Things you may not know
Cars are divided into two types, yellow and white plates. Yellow plate cars have small engines and are more environmentally friendly and economic to run.
On offical forms, the date is given according to the current emperor. This year is the 20th year of the reign of Emperor Akihito, the 125th emperor of Japan who acceded the throne in 1989.

There is a daily chime here that goes off at 6am ("Get up!" Or in my case, "Haha, I have disturbed your much needed sleep. I hope that you are tired for the rest of the day because of this annoyingly loud and unnecessary noise so early in the morning."); at 12pm (lunch time, sure as clockwork); 5 or 6pm -- either it goes off at different times or I can't remember which time the early evening one is; and at 9pm -- for some weird reason ("We interrupt this programme to randomly chime! ding dong ding dong... ding dong ding dong.").

During Summer it gets dark really early. Japan does not have daylight savings, but it is still very early -- 7-7.30pm in the middle of Summer. The humidity is a given, but there is sudden, sporadic rain a lot of the time. I have learned to carry an umbrella on even the clearest of days.

The bug life here is amazing. The insects are huge: I've seen giant cockroaches, cicadas and hornets, and have heard that there are huge ants. At least the dragonflies are a normal size. I also saw a gigantic, brown spider (half the size of my palm). Mostly harmless, but I still wouldn't want to piss one off in the dark.

There are loud train station announcements. I don't know why they have to announce so much information to the entire town every time one of the infrequent services runs through. I know that at Wellington station there are announcements all the time, but that's nine platforms and it's important for commuters to know these things. Here, it just seems over-embellished to the point of being ridiculous. "Hey, all you people that live on the other side of town from the station; I hope that you can hear this announcement about what the train guards had for breakfast today and what their lucky lottos numbers are, because here it comes!"

I'll keep my eyes and ears open for other Jap-quirks and the like. ^^


Yosakoi Festival

The Yosakoi festival happens once a year. I am not sure if it is specific to Kochi or if the festival is across all of Shikoku, or even all of Japan. What I do know is that it is happening right now in Kochi city. Both yesterday and today, various dance teams from all over Kochi-ken gathered in Kochi-shi to strut their stuff. I only saw a bit of it on tv yesterday afternoon, but here is what I understand about this part of the festival:

Teams practise a dance routine and prepare a float of sorts (a decorated truck that depicts their team and proudly displays its name), then they dance along a street in Kochi City, dressed in matching colourful, decorative costumes; some rather elaborate, with flowing sleeves and various accoutrements. The floats lead the way with musicians or music playing from them to lead the dancers in their routine. The coordinated and much-practised dances varied as much as the people who were part of the teams: from children through to elderly citizens, and even wheel-chair bound participants, performing well-timed moves and motion. The dancers held clackers -- apparently an important item in Yosakoi. The leaders often consisted of the front couple of rows, sometimes a few steps ahead of the rest of the pack. They often had other items or instruments and sometimes wore different costumes to the rest of the team.

All in all, it looked quite impressive. Everyone in each team put in a lot of effort to dress and make themselves up, as well as having put in a lot of time to practise their coordinated routines.

The festival will contine until Wednesday evening, when there will be hanabi (fireworks). I am not sure what the rest of Yosakoi consists of, as the two days of dancing appears to be such a major part, but I'm sure that the city will be a very lively, and festive, place.


Week Three: Starto!

Without a laptop, I am blind and deaf to the world when outside the office here. I'm just fortunate that I didn't go completely nuts over the weekend. I'm not sure I could survive another weekend without being plugged in. If I can't use a computer, there is nothing but television -- and Japanese tv isn't anything to get excited about.

On Friday night, I watched the opening ceremony of the XXIXth Olympiad - the 2008 Beijin Olympics. They went pretty hard out with fireworks and amazing displays of coordination, rhythm and Chinese-style music, dance and drawing. The ceremony started at 9pm. When the 204 countries started to come out, it took until 12.10am for New Zealand to appear. I watched till the end of the four hour ceremony, when the torch was lit after a runner went around the top of the entire stadium on a wire and ignited a fuse that brilliantly sparked the flame to life.

On Saturday, I walked around Taisho in the hot sun. I took a few photos both in town and out at the main road that runs past. Unfortunately, I ran out of space on my camera. I will have to work 0ut a way of getting the photos off my camera to somewhere. WTB laptop!

The rest of Saturday was tedious. I lazed around, watching the odd Olympic judo match on tv. I don't know how, but I got through the rest of the day. I watched a Japanese drama on tv, though I didn't understand any of the language, and more boring Olympics stuff.

Sunday was good. I went to a picnic with Maiko. There were a number of Filipino Roman Catholics that met up down at the river, and the priest from their parish, one Father Maher -- an old man from Chicago who has been in Japan for almost fifty years! We had a nice barbecue-style lunch and I went swimming in Shimanto-gawa.

Sunday night wasn't nearly as exciting. After a rather mundane evening of illegible tv and WoW-planning and designing, I guess I'd been thinking about the game too much, so I couldn't sleep. It was stiflingly hot, which really didn't help. I got up a few times to write a few guild- and WoW-related things. :o

I've been in Japan for two weeks. The hot weather should persist for another month at least. I get paid at the end of this week, but the question is whether I will have enough to but a decent laptop. I pray that I will have the means and opportunity to get one on Saturday!


Friday, 8 August 2008

Friday, Friday

On Wednesday night, I fell asleep after getting home. I guess the heat eventually gets to you. I later went to Maiko's izakaya -- I'm not even sure that's how you spell her name, but she is the Filipina lady that I met through Phil and Mikey the other night. She always forms friendships with ALTs, so I guess I'll be seeing a lot more of her during my time here. It was a good thing I went over there, because it is really boring at my apartment. Michael joined me a bit later but it was good to just sit there and chat. We both ate there, quite late. I was pretty full afterwards. I was invited by Maiko to attend a Cathloic church get-together (barbecue and swim) on Sunday, which should be fun, so I'm looking forward to that.

When I got home, I read the first volume of the Love Hina manga. I watched some of the anime a long time ago, and it is still funny. I can relate to the main character in a sense -- aside from the failing to get into university part. :p

I spent Thursday online at the office. Michael and I went back out to Towa. I got to meet the few staff at the Board of Education there. We then went back to the chugakkou in Tokawa so I could meet the teachers properly, and we had a look around the school.

Back at the office, I posted to my old blog and created a new one -- mostly for fun and because there won't be much to do here until school starts. I've been playing around a bit with styles today on my new blog and hopefully will get some links and such up soon. It's a work in progress.

Thursday night was uneventful. I went home later than usual to cook some rice for tea. How thrilling. I also finished volume two of Love Hina -- poor Keitaro, he has never had a girlfriend. Wait, that's me too. :p Perhaps Japan provides my chance to change that. Manga characters are exaggerated, but there is often an essence of truth in their lives. Sif get punched for six by a girl though. Crazy psychos...

I did some Japanese study for a while and went to bed early. There really is nothing to do in my apartment while I have neither DVD player nor laptop computer.

I spent this morning adding to Wowbrief. Now that lunch has come and passed I have but to continue adding to my new blog and wait for the end of the day to roll around -- to lead into a pretty boring weekend. What am I supposed to do tomorrow? I don't have anything but Japanese textbooks. Oh well, bring on Sunday. :)


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Shinai vs Katana

So I went to kendo the other night. I watched it for a while again, but it's all just the same. No one lost a limb or anything, but then, shinai aren't known for their sharpness and ability to cut. Now, the Muramasa; that's a blade that not only cuts but has a style of its own. What I did achieve while there was to read through the second volume of Toriyama's Dragonball manga. I never did watch or read the original Dragonball series. Ah, the days of Dragonball Z. Natsukashi!

After kendo, Michael and I ate in K-town (see: Kubokawa) before going to his place in Taisho to watch good ol' YouTube.

Yesterday, we went to the Kubokawa branch of my bank so I could try and sort out a money transfer from my New Zealand bank account to my Japanese one. I eventually ended up faxing a form that my bank had me download. Even though communication was difficult, going to K-town wasn't a complete waste of time, as I was able to better understand the process of an international money transfer and get on the right track to applying for one. However, I have yet to hear from any of the parties involved as to the commencement, process or completion of said international money transfer.

I intended also to get a hanko (personalised stamp that often takes the place of a penned signature) holder, but my stamp is the wrong size for the holders that were available. Perhaps I will get one some other time -- or even replace my hanko with one of the small, rounded ones that such holders... hold.

At the end of the day, Michael and I cooked dinner at his house again and proceeded to watch a rather lengthy routine by one Christopher Titus, a comedian that had his own tv series for a time. He also helped me get back on track with my Japanese study (Michael, not Titus...). The course that all JETs have the option of applying for will not start until October or November, so until then I will do my own study from the textbook and workbook that I acquired for that Japanese paper in my final trimester at Vic.

After returning home last night, I read a book titled Japanese Made Funny: Gaijin Bloops in Nihongo, that belongs to Michael. I found a few (if not many) of the situations rather unbelievable, but Japanese really can be a twisted language. Fancy making the words for cute (kawaii) and frightening (kowai) so close in pronunciation. Kowai, indeed :o

Detailing today so far will bring this blog up to date.

This morning, Michael and I visited four schools where I will be teaching. I have one day a week at each of the two chugakkou (junior high or middle schools) in Tohwa (one in Showa and one in Tokawa, the two villages that make up Tohwa town). No one is entirely sure what is happening with the distribution of ALTs to the local shogakkou (elementary or primary schools), but last year, my predecessor Philip visited each of the two in Tohwa once a month.

It was nice to meet some of the teachers -- despite it being Summer holidays, not only were a lot of teachers at the schools, but even students were there. The Japanese sure like their extra-curricular activities.

So here I am in the office, having read up as much a I can on both GameSpy and the official site about Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Having completed this blog entry, it is now 4.30pm and time to log ou- erm, clock out!


Monday, 4 August 2008

Explore Japan

I had a lot of time today to practise katakana. Now that I can read it, I need to find some resources to continue practising and improve my overall reading skills.

The day is not yet over, but I am kinda sick of practising Japanese characters and am starting to get sick of reading other stuff that I have. I finished booklet that I received at orientation, titled "Explore Japan". At the back, it links to a website that I thought people would find to be quite interesting:

Check out Web Japan. And for kids aged 10-14, there's also Kidsweb.

Oh well, just over an hour to go. I might go watch kendo again tonight, but just watching practice doesn't thrill me that much. If only there were a ninja school nearby :o


First Weekend

My first full weekend in Japan, and first weekend in Shimanto-cho began as all weekends in Summer begin: it was hot. Mikey, the other ALT in my town, and I went to Kubokawa-cho to pick up Candice, the third ALT in our area. The three of us drove into Kochi City for the day. We went to the market for lunch and had a look around, stopping in at a bookstore to take a look.

We went to Kochi Castle. Apparently there are quite a few Japanese castles scattered around the place. This one appears to be in the middle of the city. It's a bit of a walk up the steps that surround the citadel, but even in the humid heat it is well worth the exertion and exercise. After paying to get inside the building, we had a look at all the displays, some of which were actual artifacts from the time of the ruling lord, Yamauchi.

Upon reaching the top of Kochi-jo, we were met with a spectacular view of the entire city. I had taken multiple photos around the castle and decided that to best capture what we were seeing, I would take a short video of the surrounds as seen from the peak. When I am able to upload said photos and movie, I will link to them.

After sweating our way back down to the street, Michael showed us an anime store. Candice wasn't interested, but I found it to be one of the most amazing shops I've been in, to date. It was decorated with anime posters and was chock full of OSTs, DVDs, magazines and graphic novels (manga). At least I know where to shop for my brother for Christmas. XD

We made our way back to the car and left that area of Kochi city. We drove to the local mall and spent some time looking around there. I bought a pair of much needed shorts. We left for Shimanto town after we had had a good look around the mall.

After dropping Candice off in Kubokawa, Mikey and I picked up some things at the supermarket, and drove back to his place in Taisho. We cooked up some spaghetti and watched a movie, Hot Fuzz. I went home after that.

Sunday was nice and hot, but I wasn't able to enjoy it. I woke up with a migraine, so my intentions to go to the AoG in Kubokawa resulted in failure. I spent an agonising day in bed as each second seemed to draw out in excruciating pain and discomfort.

I was finally able to get up in the evening to clean the bathroom. Michael dropped around to see how I was and since I needed some fresh air, we went back to his place to chill for a bit. We watched The Angry Videogame Nerd and Ask a Ninja podcasts before I walked through the fresh (but hot) air back home.

Weekend one over. Week one begins.


Friday, 1 August 2008

Upon Arrival

The plane roared down the runway, rattling and rumbling as it picked up speed. The flesh-filled monstrosity launched gracefully into the air, defying gravity as it rose above the city and angled away towards the Land of the Rising Sun -- the Japan Journey had begun.

Sunday through... well, till now, really, has been a pretty busy period. We had to get up at 5.30 on Sunday morning to get to the airport and leave on our 8.30am flight. One of my fellow Kiwis had managed to secure himself a seat by the Emergency Exit, so once the seatbelt lights had gone off, I promptly joined him, not once looking back at my former cramped location. Also, watching four movies will give you a headache :o

We landed without further ado, and proceeded to make our way to the trans-terminal shuttle at Narita airport. After clearing customs, the 24 of us made our way to the baggage claim and were directed by JET helpers sporting yellow t-shirts towards our JET check-in. After removing my suit from my large suitcase and sending it on to Kochi-ken, I gathered with everyone else to wait for our bus. We travelled for about an hour and a half to the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjyuku, Tokyo. The sunset was amazing, and we were also graced with a lighting storm, flashes lighting up the sky as if to announce the arrival of 1,082 JETs from around the world.

Some of us -- most of us, most likely -- went out into Shinjyuku when we had the chance. Eleven of us took the subway to Shibuya (three stops away on the JR Yaminote line), then we split in two. Six of us walked around a bit (it took ages to find our way out of the subway station to the street!). We had meals at a small ramen restaurant that required us to get small tickets from a vending machine, after looking at the menu outside and choosing our preference by number. The service was incredibly fast, and the food -- my food, at least -- was great.

I was sharing a room with two of my fellow Kiwis: Mark and Tim J. Mark is now based in Shimanto City, which is about an hour from here. Tim J is in Yamaguchi-ken. Monday was our first day of orientation. Any meetings or workshops
were considered to be business meetings, so we were required to wear our suits. We had the introduction ceremony and our first bout of information fired at us after breakfast. Imagine: 1,000 people sitting in a room, wearing suits, in 30 degree heat. I'm not sure there is an air conditioning unit on this planet that can counter that!

The next two days were filled with workshops of our choice, a prefectural meeting, and other keynote speeches. After I went to the AJET Information Fair at lunchtime on Monday -- having been handed a load of stuff -- I carried one of the fans I had received to every meeting. I believe that that, along with my trusty bottle of water, was what kept me alive. Suffice to say, most of what I attended was informative, if not well presented and entertaining. My favourite two workshops from the five that we had over ther two days, would have to be Driving in Japan and Understanding J-Pop.

Monday night was our prefectural night out. I got to meet most of the 28 people who are now ALTs in my prefecture of Kochi. I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone, or even to learn many people's names, but we did have a great time at karaoke and then at an Irish bar, where I met a Danish guy on holiday in Japan, with whom I chatted for ages.

Tuesday night was our NZ Embassy reception. I had the chance to talk to a couple of Japanese guys that work for a government branch -- foreign affairs, I think -- which was probably the most interesting part of my evening.

Wednesday came around pretty quickly, but all in all orientation was an intense time of information and material gathering. Even now I haven't had a chance to sort through everything.

On Wednesday, as some of us waited in the main hall in our prefectural groups -- everyone was leaving at different times for the airport, so there were about five or six groups in the hall at one time -- we had the chance to talk with each other more, in anticipation of heading out to our respective towns and cities. Matt Douglas, our prefectural advisor, whom I had shared ichiraku ramen with on our way back from downtown Shinjyuku early Tuesday morning, handed me a list for writing my email. I looked at the name above mine and felt my breath catch in my throat. It was the name and email address of my online friend Cammy (Charlotte), whom I've known for about eight years. I'd lost msn contact with her -- even though she uses the same email address -- and now here she was, not only doing JET at the same time as me, but going to the same prefecture -- she is in Shimanto City, which is not too far south.

Now that is something worth writing about. We used to talk a lot on msn after both writing for the same gaming ezine back in 2000/2001, and so I used to consider her to be one of my closest online friends. Imagine meeting a long time friend for the first time, completely inadvertently. The probability (and surprise!) is just astounding. I hope that we can meet up from time to time over this next year of teaching here in Kochi-ken; just as I hope that I will be able to meet up with some of the other JETs that are as new to this prefecture as I am, and with whom I exchanged some words over our orientation period in Shinjyuku.

Candice is the other new JET for Shimanto Town, but she is living in Kubokawa: about 15 mins away from my smaller town of Taisho. Kubokawa is slightly closer to Kochi City, but we are still a good hour and a half or so from there; maybe more. After flying into Kochi City, we were met by a Japanese guy from the Shimanto-cho Board of Education, which is based in Kubokawa and is Candice's new place of work. With him were Emily, Candice's predecessor, and Michael, the other JET for this area, who also lives in Taisho.

We went first to the Kubokawa office to meet the staff there. Michael and I drove to Taisho so I could meet the people in my own office. I promise to put up some photos of Taisho and the Board of Education when I have had the chance to take some. I actually walked around town today in the scorching sun, but only remembered my camera afterwards.

Since arriving here, I've been back to Kubokawa three times. We had some paperwork to sort out -- setting up a bank account, looking at keitai (cellphones), and applying for foreigner cards, which are compulsory but will take about two weeks to finalise. I've eaten out a few times and bought most necessities for my tiny apartment (which I also promise to take a couple of photos of some time).

Last night, I met my predecessor, Phil. We talked a bit, both at the izukaya (bar-type food place) where we ate dinner, and when he got back to his car outside the BoE offices. He dropped off a few bits and pieces for me earlier today, including a much needed rice cooker and some bowls and tea-towels.

My initial experience here has been great. Coming into this place with a positive attitude has really helped. It may be industrially isolated (mind you, there is both a lumber mill and a sake brewery here!), but it is peaceful (if a little hot and sticky) and the people are friendly.

Now all that remains is calling forth the dra- wait, wrong script. I do still have quite a few things to get, but I need to sort out a monetary transfer between my New Zealand bank account and my Japanese one before I can spend much more money. I may be checking out Michael's kendo class tonight as a matter of interest, and we are going into Kochi City tomorrow, which will be pretty cool.

Right now, there isn't much to do at all in the office. I have no immediate preparations to take care of in terms of the school term starting. I have things to sort out in my apartment still, and I need to get a bit more organised in terms of flash cards and my nihongo textbook to improve my language skills. But I do have plenty of time to get this all organised and sorted. Tosa-ben, the local dialect, could prove to be a hindrance to my Japanese language learning, as it is apparently quite distinct and difficult to learn; but I refuse to let that dissuade me from absorbing the language and being as immersed in the culture as I can be.

Well, back to twiddling my thumbs :p