Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Tokyo - After Story 3

Continued from Tokyo - After Story. [ read first ]
And Tokyo - After Story 2. [ read second ]

Monday morning dawned bright and crisp, which eventually denigrated into blustering winds and rain by the evening. I thought I had learned my umbrella lesson, but choosing to leave my umbrella in Kochi, with the intent to buy one in Tokyo, proved to be foolish in the end.

The three of us -- me, Mikey and Joe -- went downtown to have breakfast at an American-style cafe. Mmm, bagels. We took the subway* to Akihabara, the electronic and gaming capital of Tokyo. Electronics, gaming and porn. Lots of porn. :x More on that later.

We spent most of the day in Tokyo's renowned electronics central, gaping at the abundance of technology, dodging pornography (and not just hentai: cartoon porn -- my subconsciously-filtered peripheral vision registered various degrees of this incessant swill) and pumping 100-yen pieces into arcade game machines. Street Fighter IV is pretty darn awesome. Joe got his butt handed to him by a Japanese businessman, but it was all part of the fun. These Japanese are born with control sticks in their hands and kung-fu-like reflexes at their fingertips.

I bought a Nintendo DSi, along with some dictionary software, an English version of Final Fantasy III (yes!) and a carry case. Joe and Mikey made their own videogame-type purchases throughout this oh-so-nerdy day.

There was one store that we entered that had one floor of videogames -- and six floors of R18 content. Suffice to say after looking at the floor plan outside the shop, we were astonished. There was even a basement level labelled R18, which meant that the games floor was sandwiched between all this lurid content. We continued on our way, no (or at least, very little) harm done.

Yes, Akihabara has a reputation for its amount of videogames and technological goodness. But it also has its dangers in the form of seductive temptation, best avoided where possible. You have been warned.

We went to Asakusa around mid-afternoon -- when the temperature had dropped even more and we were all wishing we had brought at least our jackets. The temple that we eventually found (after one wrong stop, exit and re-entry at the subway) was very cool -- especially with its abundance of various stalls leading to the temple proper. Lots of merchandise, different foods and many people wandering up and down. The market atmosphere was both palatable and a refreshing change from the buzzing and whirring that comprised the greater part of our adventurous day.

Dumping our procured goods at the hotel, we took off for downtown Ginza** in the cold precipitation. Our goal: Freshness Burger. My friend Yuichi had recommended it to me. And now, I am recommending that you avoid it. Freshness Burger -- nay, all Japanese burgers, are terrible. I haven't dared try McDonalds here, but from what I can tell, the Japanese have embraced something Western that they just don't understand. That people go to these places to eat amazes me, but then, maybe when it comes to Western food they are content to settle for mediocre, tasteless crap.

Matt, please send me Burger Fuel. Thanks. :p

So, after imbibing the average mush that was Freshness Burger (ok, so the onion rings were better than a slap to the face with a wet salmon, but even those could have been improved in multiple ways), we leapt back out into the cold, wet night and limped back to the hotel. Ya, t'was a long, footsore day of sights, sounds and dodging-of-porn that will be remembered, and cherished, for many years to come.

It might be cold back here in Kochi but I have a heater, I'm in a familiar environment, and I have our Kyoto trip this coming weekend to look forward to. I would go into detail about our return trip from Tokyo, but it would be extra words -- and who wants to read those? o.O

Palace Hotel > Taxi > Monorail > Haneda airport > Kochi airport > ATM outside Hirome Ichiba (Obiyamachi) > Masala Indian restaurant > Yamada Denki > Starbucks > driiiivin' hoooome. XD

Christmas is in two days. In the meantime, I need to recover from our Tokyo ordeal. And I'm not just talking about the dance that was ducking and diving between rows of porn amidst retro Nintendo systems. We are all weary and would appreciate our respective beauty sleeps.

Tomorrow, I can do anything I like -- and that includes sleeping until lunch-time. Tonight, I just need to find enough warmth to keep me alive until tomorrow. >.<



* Cultural Note: Don't enter the carriage that has a large pink sign reading "Women only". Two large Americans and a scruffy-haired Kiwi boy don't fit in well. At least we weren't hissed, or woman-handled, off the train. >.> So yeah, apparently Japan has such a problem with sexual harassment on the subway that there are special, women-only carriages reserved on some trains. Why does Japan have this problem? Go to Akihabara. See the porn. Understand.

** Observation Note: Tokyo boasts an abundance of gorgeous Japanese girls. Perhaps my unavoidable secludedness will change next year and I will eventually find a girlfriend around these parts. One can always hope -- and ask his readers if they know anyone who knows someone who knows a cute, single girl in the Shimanto-cho area -- and if that cute, single girl could then be passed this handsome, witty, humble writer's contact details.

One can only try, ne. A Japanese girlfriend is just what I need for friendly language exchange. ;)

Tokyo - After Story 2

Continued from Tokyo - After Story. [ read first ]

Eventually, the three of us made it to our hotel in Ginza*, central Tokyo: the Palace Hotel. It is situated right by the Imperial Palace and within walking distance of downtown Ginza and Otemachi station -- a station that connects with quite a few others (four different lines).

We went into Ginza to explore for a bit and had ramen for dinner. We wandered around a bit more after eating. The festive lights make the place look pretty amazing.

That's another thing people may not know about Japan. They have embraced the festivity of Christmas. Kids love getting gifts and everyone loves Christmas trees, Santa hats and lit-up Christmas displays. It's not overlooked in the sense that it is a festival and everyone gets into it, but there are differences. Telling the Christmas story is important for people to understand why we celebrate it, and that there is more to it than pretty lights and a festive air.

On Sunday morning, I met up with a friend of mine whom I had never met. We have known each other for around nine years, having met on the Internet. He is now based in Yokohama (US Navy boy), and we had both wanted to come to Japan for a long time.

We spent the day going to different places via the subway and just chilling out in Tokyo. After some time in Shibuya, where I bought some new earphones for my MP3 player, we went to Kaminacho station and walked to the Tokyo Tower. Its 50th Anniversary is this year, and there was a giant "50" on each of two sides of the tower, about halfway up -- the other two sides each displayed a large, multi-coloured "Tokyo".

Wow. Tokyo Tower is pretty amazing at night. I'll try and get some edited pictures from Zach when he has had the time to sort through all of his snapping from that day. Seeing the city from the observation deck was also pretty amazing.

After checking out the city from atop the monstrous, Eiffel-like structure, we headed to Roppongi for dinner at an American spare ribs restaurant. Roppongi is known for both its overwhelming gaijin (foreigner) presence and its seedy underbelly. At least, that's how I see all of the immorality awash in both that area and nearby Shibuya. Night clubs and entertainment of various forms beckon many a military man (and, no doubt, woman).

And that was Saturday. Zach and I parted ways at Tokyo central station -- or maybe it was the next one up. Either way, I got back to the hotel without any hassle -- despite my lack of directional and navigational skills.

Go to Part Three


* Historical note: 'Ginza' means 'silver mint', as that was the central economic function in this area of Tokyo until the 17th Century, when a devastating fire forced the surrounding area to be rebuilt.

Tokyo - After Story

It has been about a week since my last pathetic attempt at a blog entry. The Christmas season coupled with the amount of time I spend playing World of Warcraft and everything in-between -- including that thing called school -- have all added to the lack of motivation to acquire the time necessary to produce more frequent blog entries.

Once a week may cut it for some but I've let myself lapse into a terribly casual attitude when it comes to the literary pastimes of both reading and writing. If I wanted to be serious about writing -- and not just with regard to blog entries -- then I would write more than a simple diary entry every day and would focus on not only improving my writing skills but pursuing other ventures that required written submission.

It would be great if a lot more happened around here than currently does, but since I am not actively involved in any extra-curricular activities, the days and weeks slip by without any interesting anecdotes springing up. I hope to change that next year. Say, that could be one of my New Year's resolutions! --More on that in a future entry--

Picking up where I left off -- exciting content inclusive -- I am halfway through my Christmas break. This break will be broken by having to work this coming Christmas day, but so far it has been more of an adventure than the mundane existence thus far in Kochi. Yet another thing that must be changed in this coming year.

World of Warcraft, television series and anime aside, I'm going to delve into the past week of my life here in Japan and expose all of the readers of this blog to more than simply: 'I went to school and assisted the language teacher in three classes of regular, uneventful exposition'.

Wednesday saw me teaching at Iejigawa shougakkou. A shougakkou is primary school level, remember. The kids were all together and we had fun playing Christmas games in the gym.

I have been struggling through my Japanese study in my free time. Thursdays are a good time to do this, as Mizobuchi sensei is always happy to help me to understand Japanese more and to learn a bit more about kanji, if not kanji characters themselves.

I say struggle, because the language study is going very slowly and is incredibly frustrating just about every time I do a module. I find it incredibly difficult to not only retain what I learn, but to grasp what I am learning in such a way that it makes sense and I will be able to apply it to anything but the few examples given.

I finished the second book of this CLAIR course, did the test and posted it away. Book three arrived that same day and I did Monday's module on Friday, to try and stay on top of it all. I don't intend to do much, if any Japanese study while on holiday -- and while in Tokyo this weekend, I didn't because I hadn't even taken my book with me.

On Friday, I taught three classes at Wakaigawa shougakkou. Once again, I did Christmas things with the kids: cutting out and colouring in snowflakes (Winter and Christmas are synonomous in the Northern Hemisphere); and playing a game where the kids were blindfolded (using my Santa hatTM) and had to draw a Christmas picture -- from a selection of my A4 Christmas cards: Santa, a reindeer and a snowman (yuki-daruma, in Japanese).

After work, I packed my stuff and Michael and I drove to Kochi to stay in a hotel overnight. We both went to bed reasonably early, in preparation for our morning flight.

We flew up to Tokyo. We took a shuttle bus from Haneda (the domestic airport) to Narita, to meet Michael's brother, Joseph. We had to wait for a long time. At Kochi airport we actually met another ALT from our greater area, Kalan, and we had lunch with him at Narita, since we were on the same flight to Haneda.

Go to Part Two.


Monday, 15 December 2008

Closer to Christmas

I continue to study Japanese.

My mage reached level 80: Wowbrief.

Last Wednesday, we practised a Christmas story play and some songs in English, Japanese and Korean.

On Friday, we went to Piya old folks' home in Okitsu, just past Kubokawa. We performed the play we had practised and sang Christmas songs. I dressed up as Santa and we all gave out small packages of snacks.

I am behind a little on my anime watching: Naruto and Bleach. I can catch up some time before the weekend.

On Saturday, we attended a children's Christmas festival here in Taisho. We sang Christmas songs with them and performed the Nativity play again.

Michael and I -- well, me, really -- edited his Hanatori festival footage and uploaded it to Youtube. We had dinner at Yamagoya.

Lazy day yesterday. And no school today. ;)


Thursday, 4 December 2008

Winter Cometh

So it's December.

It's getting colder.

School... is normal.

We -- Candice, Laurel, Nare, Michael, Laurel's Pastor, and I -- are going to an Old Folks' home next week. We will be singing Christmas songs and will relay the Christmas story to them in a short drama. I have one line, as the innkeeper, which shouldn't be too hard to memorise. It's mostly "gomen-nasai" (I'm sorry) and stuff like that.

So Christmas is getting closer. There are a few events like this visiting the old peeps, such as enkai (work parties) and kids' events. I'll be sure to mention things more specifically as they happen throughout this month.

My Japanese study continues. I do each module each weekday, so have been keeping up. It does go over my head at times and I forget a lot of what I practise, but maybe one day things will make sense. I'm sure there will be times that certain things will come back to me unexpectedly.