Monday, April 30, 2007

Mt. Jimba

Mt. Jimba is about 10km past Mt. Takao, which is all about 70km west of Tokyo. My Mapple Touring Atlas (road guide made for motorcycles) recommends the road that goes there. So I was off! But first, on the way there, a random gold temple looking thing...

That out of the way, drive for about 45 minutes into the mountain, hike another 30 minutes up about a million stairs, and you're there!

Famous white horse statue. Seriously, I've asked people about this mountain, and people who have never and probablly will never hike in their lives know about this statue. It kinda looks like a giant cock though...

Can you see Mt. Fuji? I can!

Oh, cmon.... A horse?!?!

What a great little peak. It can be reached by hiking from a number of places. There are a few stops on the Chuo train line you could hike from. It looks to be about 2 hours from Sagamiko station. Go to a tourist information place and get a "Hiking in Hachioji" guide. It's in English and has maps and info. There are lots of hot springs too in the area.

Mori Art Museum

I had written off the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi a while ago. It was pricey to get in, and it included admission to the panoramic 53rd floor of the Roppongi Hills building. So I assumed the museum was just kinda a gimmick to go along with the observatory.

I was totally wrong.

This was one amazing modern art museum. Sorry, no photos inside...

I think the whole place revolves around temporary exhibitions. So maybe it was just this one that was really good. The first part examined the use of smiles in Japanese art. It had 3000 year old excavated clay figures with goofy smiles. Then was smiles in religious imagery. Then funny lookin' animals.

The 2nd exhibit was all about humor in contemporary art. Different from the previous one which focused more on traditional type art. So this next one was all kinds of modern art. From photography to video installations to fake trees. There was a lot of "where's the punchline" art. This is the kind where you watch a video and keep waiting for something to happen, or for some sort of point to it to materialize. Most often there isn't a punchline. If you find yourself annoyed by this kind of art form, stop looking at the piece and look at the other people watching! It's god damn hilarious sometimes. You got your "art" people who are really into it. Your "seriously confused 80% of the population" people. Most children just think it's stupid. By watching them, instead of the art, perhaps they become the art. Duuude, thats deep....

The sheer amount of stuf to see was great. It took like 3 hours just to walk around and see the art. And maybe because it was all focussed on smiles and humor, it was really fucking positive!

After the museum, check out the view! It's pretty damn good. Lot's of Tokyo landmarks.

Rainbow Bridge and Fuji TV

The National Art Center Tokyo

I dunno, but this place just looks cool. I remember walking to the base of it one night.

Tokyo Midtown, an upscale department store type place.

The shadow from Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Tower.

Famous fucking omiyage! This is what omiyage is people. 90% of it is just sugar cookies or something based on red beans. Notice how they have the top 3 omiyage ranked. This is so you can determine if you want to rebel against Japanese society and buy the 2nd most famous gift, as opposed to the most famous. Don't even bother getting the 3rd most famous. People get fired, divorced, and murdered over that shit.

My friend Noriko and I made origami kites. You write your wish in them and then it will come true. Mine I wrote in Japanese. But my Japanese isn't too good, so it ended up saying "I go to beautiful." Noriko wished that all her future wishes will come true. Maybe we boh should have wished for some better wish-making skills.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ride to Hakone

Hakone is supposed to be this amazing area near Mt. Fuji with amazing roads for motorcycle riding and amazing views.

Not this past weekend.

Well the ride down was nice. Took the expressway as far as I could and then took some local backroads. One road had all sorts of motorcycle groups riding bikes on the curvy roads. Nothing beats the sound of riding with 5 other sport riders, all their engines screaming. Then I turned on too the route I had planned...

It was really nice, but the road was like 1/2 a lane wide. Up at the top it was still cold, so hanami was still going on. I got to ride through the sakura fubuki, which is something I really wanted to do, but didn't think I would have the chance. Imagine hundred of cherry trees, their blossoms raining down like a light snow. Now imagine flying through this on a motorcycle. The bike would kick up it's own little storm of blossoms from the ground behind it. Magical.

So I got down to Hakone, where I was supposed to meet a local who rides as well. I had trouble finding where he was, then it started to rain. He called and said they had closed the Hakone skyline to motorcycles because of the rain. Booooooo!

East was clear, so it was off to Enoshima and Kamakura. I followed a random bosozoku group for a little while. Bosozoku are kind like biker punks from the 60s. Imagine the rockers from Quadrophenia. But then mix in that funky Japanese je ne sais pas and you have bosozoku. I'll write more about them later. I want to photograph some of their bikes one of these days, they are really wild looking.

In Kamakura, went to the modern art museum there. It was... meh. Kinda expensive to get in, and not really much to see. All of it was either sculpture or impressionist. And I was the only person there when I went in.

And just for the randomness factor here's some pictures of food. Huevos Enchiladas from Oatmans Cafe in Kawagoe and some Okonomiyaki from Asakusa in Tokyo. Yum!

Check this out, the grave site of the last Shogun. Yanaka cemetary is full of really famous graves in Tokyo.

Free Japanese lesson for ya! If someone says Kussai, you should reply with, Kimi no hoga kussai daiyo. Get ready to run!

Here, Mika is letting us know that this giant golden statue, which is known as the golden poo, is very kussai.

A week from now is Golden Week. Trip to Osaka... or lazy time in Tokyo.... decisions to make I guess.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

New School Year Time

April means a new school year in Japan. The poor kids only get a week off before they start up again. In the summer they only get a month off. When I explain about summers in America, with 2 and a half months of lazy days and camp, they don't seem to believe me. Eduation for kids age 5 - 18 is serious shit here. School, followed by clubs, followed by cram school, followed by me! Homework is optional in my classes, cause that would be some sadist bullshit!

So the new year means new classes for me too. I lost a few, and gained a few new ones. Maybe I could say I lost a few bad ones and gained a few good ones. Here's my account...


  • The cute little 5 year old girl who beats on the boy in the class. I mean like slapping him and kicking him. The thing was, he loved it. They had this great top/bottom relationship going. They even looked the parts. Her, tiny and cute, with an evil smile and laugh. Him, same age but about twice as big, kinda oafy. She was the one who coined the term, "Chin chin baka sensei." Stupid penis teacher. Then she cried on the last day cause she was sad that she wouldn't see me anymore. I'll miss these 2.
  • My junior high class. They were so great. They would try to speak English, so instead of focussing on the lame textbook, we'd chat a lot. 3 girls and 1 boy. This is the class where we were talking about books we read for fun. One girl, 11 years old, pulls out Saw 2, the paperback. The boy and girls would flirt, and little Kentaro has some game. I'm really gonna miss this class.
  • I won't type his name. Let's just call him spoiled, angry, devil child. He's gone from my class.
  • 2 seperate bilingual students. Just when I was teaching one of them blackjack betting techniques too...
  • The class of 3 four year olds were super cute, but had the attention span of a shoe. One time a few weeks ago in this class, one kid came into class and immediately fell asleep. I mean passed out, deep r.e.m. cycle sleep. Just passed out while I'm singing head, shoulders, knees, and toes or something. Eventually mom just came and took him home for a lap. Shorty was comatose!
  • Special present class. If I didn't make some sort of anti-japanese language game with a "special present" to offer at the end of class, they would be out of control and wouldn't speak any English. So I'd have them tattle on each other every time one of them spoke Japanese. We'd add up points and I'd give the winner something at the end. But I ran out of cool shit after like 2 weeks. I refuse to buy stuff with my own money, so I'd give them brochures for museums and used pens. Good class.
  • Where do I start with this one. Let's call him Jimmy, though that's not his name. One day he started asking me off color questions, like if I "play sex" and things like that. I didn't answer these questions about my sex life, penis size, frequency of love hotel visits, etc... but I didn't really stop him either. It was funny to me. He taught me things like boins are big boobs. And ero hon are erotic books. I learned these cause I had no idea what he was saying, and would write things down to ask the Japanese staff later. I can't do him justice on the blog, but his stories are always a riot when we are hanging out at the izakaya in Tokyo or somewhere. On his last day, an assignment was to write a letter about your likes and dislikes. Let me quote his, which I kept. Bold are what he wrote. "I don't like Brian. I'd rather play kill Brian. I like to kill Brian wrestle and have race. I go to love hotel. My favorite subject is SEX. I like play SEX, too. I do my home SEX. Then I play in bed."
  • The horrible junior high class. They would just sit staring at me blankly for 50 minutes. They wouldn't speak any word unless I said it first. This was also my last class of the day. So after what was a pretty good load of classes, I'd have the class that drained all my energy. This usually led to me drinking more than I should have when meeting up with friends.
  • I have a new junior high class, but they seem kinda boring.
  • I have a new class of 5 year olds who rock! They laugh at all my stupid joke faces and shit that I am always doing. And my dancing. This is key to mutual enjoyment in my classes. Brian sensei ain't to chipper at around 6:30pm, but adorable kids laughing at me putting stuffed animals on my head, or getting excited that I am entertaining the idea of eating a soccer ball which I am calling ice cream... well thats better than an extra hot quad tall mocha valencia! Yeah, I use caffine as a stimulant to get through the day.
  • A new smart kid who is solo in one class. These are always good, cause I always seem to accomplish something. Yes, I have plenty of classes where I don't get much learning out.
  • A crazy 3 boy, 3 girl 9 year old class. I had them play boys vs. girls beer pong. They started off shy, but by the end they were getting into it. If you think I actually gave my kids beer, you are an idiot. It was sake.
  • Super cute baby class!!!
  • Some older kids who I haven't figured out yet. Maybe good, maybe bad.
  • An awesome 8 or 9 year old class. One kid is really smart at the English. He asked me, "Do you like poo poo?" When I gave him the look that he had to ask something else, he replied, "I know I'm bad... but I'm so good." This class is gonna be hilarious. **Update** He punched me in the balls, like hard and shit, then asked me what was wrong.
  • Tracy's friday girls. They were Tracy's favorite class. They are just goofy teenage girls. I think they are part of the "cool crowd". They swear a lot in Japanese. Good way to end the day.
  • 6 month old baby! I just roll balls around and sing for 30 minutes. If baby smiles at the ugly gaijin, I feel satisfied.
  • High school kids! They are 15. I can actually almost hold an educated conversation with someone. Hooray.
  • 10-7! I'm off an hour earlier on Saturday. But I have to go in at 10. I'm in at 11:30 every other day. This may all seem late compared to a 9-5 job, but it's hard to get up 90 minutes earlier than normal just one day a week.
The Same:
  • I'm happy to say "luva luva pink" is still here. This is the class with 2 boys who are always hugging on each other and grabbing each other's junk. One day I asked what color crayon they wanted, and they both shouted "luva luva pink!" So luva luva pink got 2 more boys a couple months ago and I thought that was the end of it. But no. Now it's 4 6 year old boys rolling around in a giant kancho ball, grabbing each other's balls and asses every chance they get. I'm serious, they absolutely are crazy about grabbing on each other. And they don't even attempt to go for me, which is great. Cause Brian sensei will put frisky kids in the sleeper hold if need be.
  • Emo girl who speaks near perfect English. I always go and steal cakes and snacks from the breakroom for us in this class. I'm in the shit with some of the staff about eating more than my fair share of cakes and what not, but I'll write about that another day.
  • The cute 3 year old who runs to hug me the second she gets to school. She's now with the 3 year old who thinks he is Buzz Lightyear. I tried to teach him to write the sideways 8 to represent infinity, from "to infinity and beyond". It didn't work.
  • Oh god. It's a time of transitions. Kids who used to play and color on the floor now have to sit at tables. So far that's been ok. But the kids who have been tied to their moms and now need to leave them for 45 minutes... That shit is gonna be whack. I'll have to hit up the caffine before this one.
  • Cute baby who looks like an alien
  • Smart girl who is obbsessed with cute, small dogs.
So thats it, my new life teaching. Much much much better I think (so far). I have 5 less classes a week overall, but that may change soon. I have more classes where we sit at tables, and less where I need to be on the floor. I have less bilungual kids, but more medium-high level students. I still have a bunch of babies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kamakura and the Ghibli Museum

Finally made it down to Kamakura. I'd been trying to get down there for a while. It's less than 2 hours away on the train, but plans just kept falling through. Anyways, I went there finally.

Kamakura's got temples. Despite Japan being full of temples and shrines, I actually went to one that I consider the best one I've been to so far. Hase is on a hill, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Nice garden, budha statue, blah blah, but check out some of the weird stuff.

This is normal. You buy these little wood things and write wishes and what not on them. They are at every temple. But I found this gem...

I had my Japanese friend translate, it was just a couple teenagers saying they hope they will be together 4-evar type of crap. But what the fuck is up with the cat showing it's little butthole? My Japanese friend didn't find this weird.

There were thousands of tiny statues in this one area. It was really surreal. Some of them had little hats on. How cute! Oh wait, each statue represents a miscarriage.

If the miscarriage statues got you a little down, don't go up the steps! There are larger statues for kids who died. This one, the kid was in a car accident.

Back on the positive, there was some more weird shit here, like a massive thing filled with money that you have to turn in circles, a cave that was only 4 feet high, and lots of hawks flying around. For sure hit this one up if you have a chance. Bring a picnic and there are tables overlooking the ocean.

The sunset out at the beach.

There's a big ol Daibutsu in Kamakura that is famous I guess. It was nothing like the random 100 foot tall ones I found in the midle of nowhere, but it's more famous, so it must be better. Better omiyage too I think.

These photos are the first HDR photos I attempted. HDR is a fancy computer type thing with digital photos and what not. You take lots of photos at different exposures blah blah blah you can make some crazy shots. I'll spend a day figuring this out sooner or later. Just search for HDR on flckr and you'll see what I'm talking about.

We also saw some horse festival. We were walking and saw a massive crowd waiting. We asked and it was for horseback archery or something. So we waited to check it out. And waited. And waited.

The dude on horseback rode and fired an arrow. No, not at the guy holding the target. So, yeah, we waited 2 hours to see some horses running around. I got to play around with my camera's manual settings, but only had a couple decent artsy type shots. I like this one!

Ghibli Museum

I went to the Ghibli Museum on monday with Branda. We both had interviews and this place was nearby. This is dedicated to all those Hayao Myazaki animes like Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro. It was all surreal inside. All sorts of strange staircases, rooms all done up with animation stuff, and cuteness in every corner. Sorry! No photos allowed inside!

So you are supposed to reserve tickets to get in months in advance. But if you are a silly foreigner, you just go across the street to the convini store and they will sell you some. Hooray for my skin color!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Parasite Museum

Yeah, Tokyo has a lot of museums. Seriously, there are at least 10 good modern focussed art museums. There are all sorts of science museums. There are also a lot of little ones like the button museum and the Yebisu beer museum. And this one... the parasite museum. Located in Meguro, it's 2 floors devoted to parasites of all shapes and sizes. Mostly human parasites too. With photos. Oh, god, the photos. Sweet jesus, I''ll never go to Africa.

This one lives in your liver I think.

Don't worry, there's enough for everyone.

A common one in Japan has something to do with babie eating poop.

Meguro has a great "river" to walk along. Not really a river so much as a stinky concrete canal, but it's there none the less.

Lots of cherry blossoms. They were all falling off in the gusts of wind. I learned the word for this, sakura fubuki. It means cherry blossom storm. I also learned that korosu means, I'll kill you. My knowledge of Japanese is growing, though maybe not in any way that will ever come into use...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hanami Time

For a couple weeks a year, the cherry blossoms... blossom. It's called hanami. Hana means nose, and mi means look at. So something about looking at noses. I think it's always hanami on the train I ride, cause me and my big honker be gettin some crazy stares sometimes. Anyways, here's some hanami pictures to ...mi.

A few of us ate at the famous Hawaiian sumo wrestler Koshiniki's restaraunt. The Koshiniki burger is... big.

Hooray for health food!

I got a total of about 8 hours of sleep the whole weekend. It was whack. Spent Saturday at a sayonara party for a friend. We were at some little club in Shibuya, but then people wanted to move... to Roppongi. So I broke my boycott on Roppongi. Fuck! As always, it was dirty, the music was lame, and the drinks were watered down. But it was with some friends so it's ok. The next day I was up early to check out some art at the new National Art Center of Tokyo. The place has a great facade.

I never drink caffine after 2pm, cause it affects my sleep. But I figured it wouldn't matter since I only got 3 hours of sleep the night before. I went to this little random cafe in Meguro and got some special house latte. It was almost black. I don't know what the hell it was, but it was crazy good. Really thick, and there was this layer of grit at the bottom. When I ordered it, the counter girl spouted some long japanese line that ended with daijobu. Daijobu means ok, so I just did the easy thing and repeated, daijobu... ok. The point of my long coffee description is that this thing fucked me up. Later that night at like 2am I had been lying awake for hours trying to sleep. I woke up and rearranged my bedroom and took a bubble bath. Then I watched a movie and finished reading Haunted. I blame this on the coffee.

What a great weekend, despite the lack of sleep. I added a few restaraunts to my list of funky back alley places to go. Hippy thai curry place, Singapore spot, evil coffee dive, massive sumo burger joint, famous takoyaki stand.

In a few weeks I'll know my immediate future's fate. Interview coming up for the emergency teacher position.