Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More funny kid comments

An older kid, who speaks very well. We were reading some song lyrics for this lame ass song about the environment. This book is all about these kids and a rock star and a hot news reporter who stop pollution. Anyways...

Him: What does "mystifying" mean?
Me: Do you know the word "mystery"?
Him: Like Scooby Do?
I got a god damn Scooby Doo reference from one of my kids. It was a good day.

The book reads: "we humans say we care, but nature says we're lying"
After trying to explain it...
Him: So the trees and stuff are calling me a liar?
I guess, yeah, that's what the book is literally saying.

Japanese gyms don't like the handicapped!

I got the tour of the local gym. I thought it would be nice to start working out after work. On the list of people not aloud in the place:

  • No criminals
  • No drunks
  • No tattoos on the body
  • No mentally ill
Guess no gym for me. I kinda expected that tattoo thing, so it's not that big of a deal. But no mentally ill people?!? That's fucked up!

Monday, August 28, 2006

GRUTT Pass and Sunday at the Clubs

Operation "cheap Tokyo" is going as planned. Some people may know, I'm into museums. Almost every daytime journey to San Francisco would include a few hours at a museum. I got ino all of them free back home, so I had to figure out a good method out here. I found the GRUTT pass. Stands for Good Round Trip Tour or something. Whatever, it's REALLY cheap and it gets you into like 50 museums and zoos for 2 months. All I heard was "cheap" and "museums". My next 2 months are set now. ART, fuck yeah!

First things first, Tracy and I headed to Shinjuku to find the tourism center. Boom, free observatory on the 45th floor of the government building. Check out the views!

That's Meiji Shrine down there

Shinjuku is loud and electronic. We walked around before meeting up with friends at the Modern Art museum. The museum was... nice. It was like 99% Japanese modern art, so it was a good history of the movement in Japan. Japan has always been and still is pretty traditional with their art, so gotta go to another museum for that another time.

Big surprise, we were off to Roppongi. Drinks here, dinner there, clubs down the street. It was a little light on a Sunday night, but the club Vanilla did have a bunch of NBA players who were in town for the world championship game this week. LeBron James was one of them. The girls in our group were happy about that. We did the whole 4am stumble out of the club. Half the group had a ride to go hang out with some new friends of ours, but the other half (Me, Tracy, and Andy) were forced to do a drunk wander around the streets. We ended up at a nice bench, where Andy passed out and me and Tracy listened to Dave Attell on my mp3 player. No more all nighters for me for a few weeks, this shit takes it's toll.

English teachers, shaping the face of Japanese youth

Tokyo on the cheap

After Obon week and spending a grip of cash, it's time to start saving. Japan isn't anymore expensive than back home for normal everyday shit in most cases. But like back home, it's easy to eat out everyday, overspend on alcohol, and blow your budget on transportation. During the week, just cook for yourself as much as possible and you will be in the clear. I haven't started playing pachinko yet, so there really isn't any big money sink.

But it's the weekend where you gotta plan. On a "normal" day to Tokyo, you can spend 1500 on train fares, 2000 on an izakaya for lunch, another 1000 for some sort of tourism type entertainment (museums, attractions, w/e), another 3000 for dinner, and then easily 4000 for drinking or clubbing or whatever you get into at night. Tokyo is all about shopping, so throw in another whatever huge amount you can think of for that. I know that's only around $100 for a good time out, but it adds up if you do it every week. I'm on a mission to save a certain amount, at which point I will reward myself with a nice little 400cc motorcycle out here. But not until I hit my goal. Gotta think about the future here people!

So 2 weekends ago I headed into Tokyo and just did some street drinking. Beer is pretty cheap at the convini over here. So grab a tall one and hit the streets. There's always some random shit happening. We wandered all over and ended up at some bboy thing in Yoyogi park. We caught the tail end of it, ut it was tight none the less. Total price, about a thousand for some beer, and the rest ain't shit. We hit up the 100 yen sushi joint after that, and got filled up on toro for like 700. I crashed at Eric's place that night and met up with Tracy in Ikebukuru the next day. Free Toyota museum / showcase place. Free parks. Free whack shopping malls to wander around. Yeah, they had a Vegas themed Hello Kitty thing going on...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Movie Theaters... Japan Style

I met Carrisa, another foreign teacher living in Kawagoe. She works for a different school teaching English. Apparently she lives close to town and has never had the joy of seeing the signs warning of the Kawagoe Strangler. That's just me... out in the boonies of Kawagoe. Anyways...

Carrisa is a big fan of comic book movies, as am I. I am reluctant to see them in theaters, since most of the time they are a colossal waste of money, but what the fuck, I'll check out a Japanese movie theater. We headed to Roppongi for the 1pm showing of Superman Returns.

First the good stuff. Most big theaters in Japan have a gift shop. This was kinda cool. All sorts of little craps to spend money on. I dunno, I thought it was a cool idea. I bought like 8 The Lakehouse posters to cover my room. Not really, but I could have...

More good points. You can buy beer and wine at the movie theaters. Never a bad thing.

You can get "super" seats if you want. They are about $30, but they are these massive recliners and the price includes a drink. I'd pop this for Lord of the Rings 4: Orcs on a Plane.

The bad points of movies in Japan are, well, its kinda pricey. $18 for a normal show. The other bad point, which is a total opinion vote, is that the audience is silent. I mean deathly silent. Like during the opening ads for Coke... silent. The previews... silent. During the movie, anytime something funny happens... silent. It's just kinda wired.

Anyways, Superman Returns was ok. Please don't ask me anything about it though, the credits are still rolling, and... silence.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm melting!

I don't own a scale, but Lacey does. So I weighed myself. After converting kilograms to pounds, I realized I have lost 20 lbs in the past 6 weeks. This is kinda absurd. Before coming to Japan I stopped eating refined sugar, ate more organic fruit, and had lost almost 40 lbs over the course of 4 months. So now, in less than 6 months, I have lost a quarter of my body weight. I guess I can blame it on the sauna like humidity and temperature of Japan. I still try to avoid refined sugar, although it's near impossible to do in Japan. I get candy and cookies shoved in my face all day long. If I go below 180 lbs though, then I'll be kinda scared. I weighed 180 in high school...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mt. Tateyama

It seemed like a good idea. Most of the people I trained for teaching with would all meet up during Obon week. We had a few days off, why not spend them together. Someone had suggested hiking in the Japanese Alps. Since I was already planning on hiking there on my own, I was so totally down. Down like a clown even.

I got there a day early and kicked it with Lacey, who's place we would be sleeping at in Toyama. Lacey has made a few friends in town, and we were invited to a barbecue. I got stuffed on yakitori, mabodofu (spicy tofu), and yakisoba. I have a new friend, though I don't remember his name. He had a big Japanese style tattoo down his arm, like me, so we became tattoo buddies. He spoke very little English, but he asked me if I like "Snow". I thought for a second, turned to him, and in unison we both started singing "Informer". It was super.

Anyways, hiking. Mt. Tateyama is one of the sacred mountains in Japan. For this we will call it Tateyama-san. To climb a sacred mountain can mean a lot to some, and nothing to others. It meant quite a bit to me I think.

The climb is difficult. A typical mountain path takes you about halfway up. Following this is a straight up climb to the top. Almost literally a "climb". My lankiness helped in this, and I was soon at the top. Yes, you are greeted by a massive gift shop and vending machines. I bought a patch to add to my collection. You can wait in a line and then go to a small shrine at the tip-top and watch a short shinto chant. The views were epic. All was good.

Continueing on, we walked along the ridges of the alps to the camp ground. It was a hard hike, much harder than the guidebooks we had read lead you to believe. The trail was not as well maintained as those back in the states. By the time we got to the camping area, most of the people I hiked with were pretty miserable. This was many people's first time ever hiking or camping. Roughing it, running into problems, and dealing with them as they come seems second nature to me, but I can see how this would be shitty for some. As a whole, we had greatly under prepared for this hike. No one had enough warm clothes. Many people didn't have sleeping bags. Myself, I hadn't had time to get a good sleeping mat, so I slept on rock. My sleeping bag was inherited from a former teacher (left in the apartment actually), so it didn't really fit or keep me warm. The tent I bought for $25 from the cheap store in Kawagoe worked ok, but it was kinda heavy compared to what I have back home.

The next day we woke up and got out of there. At the end we were greeted with a natural spring. Ice cold water so rich with minerals that when you dipped you hands in, they felt like they had been coated with baby powder. I filled my water pouch with a few liters to take back to my fellow teachers at school for a present. You are supposed to always buy presents for people when you go away. It's this lame Japanese thing. Every area has special things to get. And it's all WAY overpriced. Tateyama had some milk chocolate covered almonds called "Kiss from a Star" or some shit. Like $10 for 4 little packets of candy almonds. I think me bringing my co workers water from the base of a sacred mountain is more thoughtful, but who knows. I may accidentally insult them. Fuck it, they're getting the water. And you are getting some photos. Enjoy:

Shrine at the top of Tateyama-san.

Monk who did the little ceremony at the shrine

Almost 10k feet. I love my hokey puck sized watch!


"I fell asleep amid the flowers

for a couple of hours

on a beautiful day"

Free water!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tokyo Adventure with Andy, Margaret, and Corrie

To kick off the weeklong vacation, Corrie made the trek down to the Tokyo area. Andy "Dice" and Margaret "Mags" and I met up with her.

We had a wander around the Imperial Palace first. Everything was closed, so it was pretty uneventful. We got some dinner at an Izakaya somewhere. We weren't lost, but we didn't really know where we were. We saw Tokyo Tower in the distance and decided to go to the top.Tokyo Tower is a big TV antenae that is a replica of the Eifel Tower in Paris. Halfway up was a viewing area slash club. I use the term "club" loosely. There was a DJ playing some slammin hits, like Christina Aguiera and Celine Dion. Luckily he stopped playing at some point. Good views, but they charge 800 yen to go up halfway, then another 600 yen to go to the very top. I know I'm being cheap, but it all adds up!

After the tower, we were planning on going to Mag or Dice's place to sleep and go to some shrines the next day. All well and good... but Roppongi was so close! I called up my buddy Eric and said we were near and that we required beer mixed with a dash of cheap clubs, and he was on it. We hit up a few random free places for some drinks, nothing spectacular, just beer and chats, then we went to Vanilla. Vanilla is a club. It's 3000 yen to get in, but if you ask the guy on the street, he'll give foreigners a 1000 coupon that also includes 2 free drinks. It was a crowded, but fun club with 3 dance areas. Techno, hip hop, and another techno area. We danced, the girls got groped by scummy guys, it was fun. We wandered out with the sun in our faces all a bit drunk at 5am.

I wore a tank top under my shirt this day, and it was really hot in Tokyo so I went sleeveless for a bit. I'm not one to show off my tattoos, but the weather forced it. I got a lot of comments, all positive, from all sorts of people. Old ladies, bouncers, random Gaijin and Nihonjin alike. Tattoo has always been very taboo in Japanese society. There is the stereotype that only yakuza have large colorful imagery on their bodies, but I really don't think people are dumb enough to think I am a yakuza or wanna-be yakuza. Actually, I have yet to hear any negative comment directed towards me about the tattoos, though most Japanese probablly wouldn't say anything to "save face." Oh, and I have my first "regret" about my tattoos! I can never wear short sleeve dress shirts to work, and its fucking humid up in Japan! Lolz omg wtf...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kid's say some funny shit

Random quotes and antics... enjoy.

2 brothers, talking in Japanese in my class:
  • Me - Talk in English guys...ENGLISH!
  • Older Brother - C'mere c'mere c'mere baby (beconning to his younger brother)
  • Younger Brother - No no no no (wagging his finger very coyly) no no... UNO! (we play a lot of UNO in this class)
So despite having a lot of knowledge, these kids only really know how to proposition hostess girls... and deny the advances of horny men. But wait...there's more:
  • Me - (I talk about Baseball with these kids at the end of class usually) OK guys, how many strikes in an out?
  • Them - 3!
  • Me - Good. How many balls in a walk
  • Older bro - How many balls does he have!
  • Younger - How many balls does she have!
  • Me - Class is over, go home
Playing radom learning games with a rather rambunctious young one today:
  • Me - Please don't ever grab my balls again
An "emo" older kid I teach:
  • Me - What did you do today?
  • Student - I dunno
  • Cmon, you had to have done something
  • I slept
  • Till 6pm ?!?!??
  • I read comics
  • Oh! Cool! Which ones?
  • I dunno
  • Cmon, just tell me one
  • I dunno
  • OK, what was the first one you read today
  • I dunno
  • What was the last one ou read then before class?
  • I didn't read any comics today
  • Oh...
5 years olds learning "We're going to the -------":
  • Me - OK, please repeat... Beach!
  • Them - Bitch!
  • Say it 3 times. Beach Beach Beach
  • Bitch Bitch Bitch!!!!
  • (I'm laughing now)
  • (louder) Bitch Bitch BITCH BITCH!!!! (now they are running around in circles yelling BITCH as loud as they can... and no one is the wiser)
Talking with a Japanese Teacher about a tough student I'm about to teach:
  • Me - How is he today?
  • Bad
  • Damn
  • But don't worry, He's scared of ghosts, and I told him if he hits you, says no, or doesn't go to class, ghosts will come and get him tonight
  • ...
In a class of older girls:
  • Me - What books do you like
  • 12 year old girl - Saw 2
  • Me - hunh?
  • 12 y.o. - Here (takes out a paperback of 'Saw II'. Yes, the movie about the serial killer who makes people dive into a pool of dirty syringes, cut off their own feet, and carve open other living people to find a key in that person's stomach)
  • Me - Ummm....

More about Disney Sea.

I was tired last night. I feel bad for short changing the magic-ness that is Disney Sea. So I will write more.

We left Kawagoe at 6:30am. 1.5 hours later we were near Chiba, at Disneyland. I think I had only got 30 minutes of sleep, and Tracy didn't sleep at all. It's hard enough to sleep in hot, humid weather on a tiny, lumpy futon on the floor.... add in that you are all excited about Disney and sleep aint gonna happen. It doesn't matter though. I've reverted to my college days self. I'm able to pull all-nighters again. I get to sleep in until 10:30 usually. I drink more beer than I have in many many months.

Be sure to bring an extra 400 yen to Disneyland...cause they charge to use the fucking monorail. No comment.

So Disney Sea is... you guessed it... a water themed park. But it's not a water park. Don't get confused. There aren't water slides and crap. It's an authentic amusement park. Don't pack a bathing suit. Although, if you come to Japan, you should really bring your own board shorts or bikini from home. Japanese fashion is... questionable. Not that I have a great fashion sense... but I know too much lace and shiny things when I see it. Anyways...

The entrance area is mostly shops and restaraunts. Not really any fun rides. The food here is pretty good. They had all sorts of places with food you'd get back home. No over use of mayonaise...and absolutely no naato. Good job Walt.

Port Discovery has the Auqatopia. You might get wet. Tracy got soaked, and I got nothing. It was funny. The ride is on magnetic tracks underground, and it takes you on a random course. It was a fun little thing. Next in the area was Storm Rider. It was...special. Think Star Tours with about a fourth of the budget. Basically, its a simulation where you fly into a storm, and things go haywire. Then you get tossed around in the wind before somehow making it back to base. You get squirted with water, too.

Lost River Delta is an Amazon style place. Indiana Jones and Ragin Spirits are the 2 rides there. Both kick much ass. Indy is the same as back home pretty much, except the "Harrison Ford" animitronic guy looks like younger less American. And he yells in Japanese... duh. Raging Spirits is a coaster with a loop. I almost didn't get to ride...cause I'm too tall.

Arabian Coast is a whole Aladin themed area. I think I was a little delusional from lack of sleep, cause I don't remember too much about this place. I went o the rides and saw the show, but it was kinda uneventful.

Mermaid Lagoon is kinda a kiddy / drug user area. You go inside into this underground ocean land. It's colorful and loud and wonderful.

Mysterious Island is the shiznit. Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea are the rides. Journey was my favorite ride at the park. You descend down, through crystal caverns and mushroom forests, reach a monster, then shoot out. If you are tired from walking around and all that, this ride will wake you up.

The shows were actually pretty good. I expected too much Japanese language for any enjoyment, but this was not the case. The big show at night was... kinda odd. We thought it would be like Phantasmic in LA... not the case. It was a musical story about the love between water and fire. So think fountains... kinda like a cheap Bellagio in Vegas... and a big mechanical fire machine. They would shoot at each other with their water or fire powers... I guess this was supossed to be sexual or something. This went on for about 30 minutes.

All in all, there weren't any lines. Average wait was like 15 minutes for a ride. The food was good. I had a fried cod sandwich and the Cape Cod Cookoff or somewhere, and a New York deli sandwich for dinner. There were plenty of fine dining places too. It was a good day. That is all for now.

It's officially my week off for Obon week. Going hiking and camping in the Japanese Alps with friends from my school. Peace-

Tokyo Disney Sea!!!

Disneyland in Los Angeles is to Tokyo Disneyland what California Adventure Park is to Disney Sea.

The Disneyland in Tokyo is a replica of the one in LA, so I don't really feel a super need to go there. But Disney Sea is it's own entity.

It's late and I don't feel creative, so I'll just post some pics...

First time I have ever had to get my height checked...for being too tall.

Hooray! I made it by about a centimeter. I thought maybe my head would get chopped off or something fun... but no. It just meant that the harness didn't fit right and thus fucked up my back and neck. Double hooray!


Yes... it costs about 2 bucks to ride the monorail...


Me and Tracy on a random coaster. The yelled at me for using a camera. Not sure why. Does it steal the souls of the poor ride attendants?

July 31st - Kawagoe Summer Festival

Japan loves festivals.

And fireworks.

And Yukatas.

So I bought a Yukata. You probablly know what a Kimono is. A Yukata is a more casual style Kimono made out of cotton. Mostly for summer fun things. I don't really have a good picture of me in my Yukata, but it was pretty sexy I must say.

The festival in Kawagoe was kinda a laid back one. Taiko drums, random music here and there, food all over, some dudes with historic guns... it was a good time.

Some sort of historic procession. The guy in back was nice and talked to me.

Being a gaijin means you get dragged into shit like this. Tracy and I had to play the Taiko drums in front of a crowd.

The streets were lined with beautiful paper lanterns.


Looks like I finally have internet. I had my dad ship over a spare wireless router I had lying around, so now I'm stealing internet from my neighbor. After some of my leet compter haxor skillz, everything was up and running. Anyways... Hooray.

I can now post about what I've been up to. Basically, the week is devoted to work. It's not that my job is ultra hard or anything, its just that the hours require you to give up your day. Here's my typical Tuesday - Saturday schedule:

  • 9:00am - Alarm goes off, I hit snooze every 5 minutes until my next alarm goes off
  • 9:30am - Repeat
  • 10:00am - Repeat
  • 10:30am - Get up!!! You're gonna be late. I sleep like absolute shit here. I'm not down with the 1 inch futon sitting on the floor. I think I could easily get up at 8:30 or so if I didn't wake up about 3 times every night.
  • 10:40am - I'm dressed and out the door. I keep a giant pitcher of coffee and milk in the fridge, so I guzzle some of that for breakfast. Sometimes I eat a piece of toast. Very rare.
  • 10:50am - If I hit all the lights on the ride to work it takes 10 minutes. Everyone in Japan rides on the sidewalk. Except me. I ride in the road. I may get seriously injured. I don't think the "share the road" concept applies in Japan
  • 11:00am - Usually a baby class for 40 minutes.
  • Break time - On all days but Saturday I have a fairly long break before more classes. Like 2-3 hours. I'll get lunch, read, kick it with Tracy... I mean I spend all that time preparing for my next class...
  • 3:00pm - Random classes for the next 5 hours. All levels. Some are great. Some suck balls. Most are just so-so.
  • 8:00pm - Leave work. I go straight home. I'd love to find a nice little bar where I could hang out, but I can't. Japanese drink at Izakayas, which are kinda drink / food places. More for hangin with a group of friends then just random chilling.
  • 9:00pm - After I get home, shower, start dinner, its usually around 9pm. Channel 1 News at 9 time! 1 hour of news in English. It's local news though, so it's usually just people complaining about the weather. And then the last 2 minutes talks about the fact that the whole Middle East is a war zone.
  • 10:00pm - 1:00am - Various acts of chilling. Beer is usually consumed with dinner. Often I watch a movie. Or go to the store. I wish I could say that there are crazy antics that go along with the crazy signs in my area... but it's just normal out here.
  • 1:00am - 4:00am - Usually toss and turn on my crappy futon. Seriously... it fucking sucks. I actually have a sore vertebrae. Just one... but it's sore like nothing else. I will find a real bed...soon.
Thats my daily life. Kinda slow going, but I make money and am living near Tokyo, so altogether its a good life. Even if I wanted to do something at night, the trains in Japan stop running at midnight, so I couldn't go anywhere far. Thats what weekends are for anyways.