Thursday, August 23, 2007

Life as an Emergency Teacher

I have a couple posts to write one of these days, stuff about museums and beaches. But basically its been a lazy month.

I went back to Okayama for a week at my company's head office, then moved out to Maebashi, in Gunma prefecture. I'm there until September 8th. I am now an Emergency Teacher with my company. I fill in where I'm needed. Sometimes I might fill in if there is a problem, like someone taking off to go back to America in the middle of their contract, or, like in Maebashi, just for a month cause they couldn't find a new permanent teacher fast enough. So far the good points are more money and a chance for adventure. The bad points are that the kids aren't used to me and teaching has a much different feel to it.

Ummm... here's some pictures of food:

Kyushu style ramen at some place in Akihabara with a 45 minute wait outside.

Numazu-don. Sakura shrimp and local raw fish over rice in Numazu, Shizuoka prefecture.

Aji (horse mackerel) fish and chips with a jibiru (local beer)

Microbrew stout with stout ice cream.

Korean food of some kind.


Friday, August 03, 2007


Total distance travelled so far = 2865km


Fuji Rock is a music festival held annually in Niigata prefecture, about 2 hours north of Tokyo up in the mountains. 3 days of whatever is hot right now. But if you camp, it sort of becomes 5 days and 4 nights of good times. The headliners this year were:
  • The Chemical Brothers
  • The Cure
  • The Beastie Boys
There were a lot of other artists there, from hippie modern folk rock to funky laptop techno shit to so-cal emo punk to Japanese guys dressed like Aztecs. It was wonderful.

I don't feel like writing much though, so here's some photos...

My German friend's wrist. The other band is from some European festival from a couple weeks ago.

Special parking lot for the bikes right next to the entrance. Free refreshments for the 2 wheeled rockers!

View from my tent at night.

Camping during the day.

Dave, me, and Rie.

Weird white gangsta funk group Chromeo.


Fiddlers on a tightrope. I couldn't find his myspace page... sorry.

The drum circle people's part of the festival.

Mika was very colorful.

Me and this random Japanese guy jumped in the river. It was really cold. I thought he was going into shock. Seriously, the guy was shaking like he had just been given the biggest kancho of his life.

Peter Bjorn and John.

Recycling was in full effect at this place. It was amazing how clean everything was. It was seriously spotless at the site. Everyone would carry around garbage bags with them, and then separate at special recycling booths. These bags of plastic bottles are going to be recycled to make the official Fuji Rock jackets for 2008. Awesome! Without the help of countless environmentally minded young people, we wouldn't have the wonderful consumer products that we so desperately need.

Never too young to start damaging your eardrums.

Well that's it. My 3 week trip ended with me riding 200km home in pouring rain I grabbed my shit that I left in Kawagoe, parked the bike, and took the shinkansen to Okayama. My new job started the next day. Back to teaching the youth of this country awesome things, like "I like pizza" and "How's the weather? It's sunny!". Hooray.

Total distance on my 3 week tour of Japan = 3061km


Total distance travelled so far = 2697km

Arrived in Niigata to stay with Dave and Rie for a night or two. Niigata is probablly best known because it is a major port city.

Lots of boats. Niigata is a good place to catch a ferry up to Hokkaido if thats what you're into. There is also Sado island near, which is supposed to be nice, but I didn't have any more time. The campsite at Fuji Rock openned at noon the next day, and I wanted to get down there ASAP. Dave and Rie were coming to the last two days of the three day music festival, so I didn't feel bad saying goodbye to Niigata. At 11pm I set out on the few hundred kilometer trip ahead of me.

On the Road: Sendai to Niigata

Total distance travelled so far = 2366km

The weather cleared up and it was time to decide where to go. I had 2 days to get to Niigata. I was only about an hour from the Pacific Ocean, so I had to ride along it for a little while.

It was absolutely gorgeous. Perfect roads, views, and a complete lack of traffic made for a great ride. I saw some signs for some sort of blow hole at one point.

I don't know why there is a sumo wrestler statue. Some random Japanese dude tried to explain that he had salt in his other hand. When I pretended to throw salt, like they do in the sumo ring to purify it, he lost it. I guess I made his day or something with my random knowledge.

Boy's Room and Girl's Room signs.

Took the road into the mountains next. I saw on my map a campground with an onsen attached to it, so that seemed like a good enough destination.

The onsen was completely cozy. I went to a noodle shop in the sleepy little town next door and asked, "What do you recommend?" His reply... "The menu is over there." Haha, homeboy wasn't down with no stinky foreigners asking any questions in his shop I guess. I ordered some ramen, cause I could read that. Then, when I was waiting for my food, I saw a small sign in the corner that said Osusume... recommendations.

Osusumehinwa was one of the first phrases I learned. I means pretty much "What do you recommend." As long as you will eat anything, just say this in any small Japanese restaurant to get something good. Usually, the waitress is really happy to suggest something. But other times people get totally freaked out. They'll just start pointing to everything on the menu and trying to describe it. I think that if they pick something and it turns out to suck, that would be some sort of loss of face to them or the shop. Can't have any of that!


Total distance travelled so far = 2014km

Heidi let me crash at her cool pad in Sendai. Nice apartment, right in the same building as her school! I had to ride the bicycle 15 minutes, through a blizzard, uphill to my school each day. Heidi has to take an elevator.

Sendai is kinda like if Tokyo had a money shot that went a little wild and ended way up north. They have the same silly shit like gothic lolitas, big 400cc scooters, girls in high heels and stunner shades, and Louis Vuitton bag stores on every corner. But a short train ride in either direction gets you to some amazing spots. East is Matsushima, and west is Yamadera.

First day I went east. Heidi's coworker Kerin and I took the bike to one of the 3 most scenic spots in Japan. Yes, they have a top 3 scenic spots. Matsushima is a bay speckled with pine covered islands.

It's pretty stunning. But the ride out was pretty much a pain. Go - Stop - Go - Stop. I would have paid for the expressway, if there had been one.

Mmmmm... ox tounge steamed buns. No Flavor. And yes, you can get ox tongue omiyage. It's a nice shiny box with a massive smoked tongue inside.

You buy your steamed buns from a friendly character in blackface. Oh Japan... your cluelessness towards political correctness is so cute!

After a night drinking with the persian community of Sendai (don't ask), we set off to Yamadera the next day. Yamadera is a shrine with 1000 steps to get to the top. Awesome... I guess.

Hooray, this is gonna be fun!

Wow, there's some more.

Fuck this, how much further.


There was a blocked off nature trail along a river with some massive waterfalls along the way. We jumped the gate, which for all I know could have said "Tresspassers will be shot" and took the hike.

Good stuff. Didn't see one other person this whole time.

Just a toad.

OMG, I don't know what this is, but it was so fucking good. Got it at a senba shop, which are those rice crackers you see everywhere. I thought this was meat, but it was some sort of rice cracker derivative, seasoned and cooked somehow into the most awesome explosion of flavor ever. Holy fuck... I want one now. On the train home at one point, me and Kerin looked at each other, maybe 1 hour after eating these, and were just like, "delicious..." I don't think you understand. It tasted like meat, and was kind of sticky, and had this perfect texture. Let me check the train... it will only take me 7 and a half hours from where I am now to get there.

On the Road: Mito to Sendai via Bandai-san

Total distance travelled = 1822km

Next on the trip was some camping up near Bandai-san. I'd been told, "Everyone with a motorcycle should ride these roads once in their lifetime." Holy shit, how can I pass that up!

Yeah, the weather stunk. It was rainy and actually a little cold. I ended up sleeping at some remote hostel with no one there. There was a lot of waiting at rest stops for the rain to die down. The roads did in fact look to be epic... on a clear day.

Instead I took the expressway to Sendai.

Mmmmm... $10 peaches are hella good!

This family was on their way to Hokkaido. Mom, Dad, and 2 teenage brothers. The boys didn't seem too happy. Also, each of them had in big letters on their helmets BLOOD TYPE = xxx. How morbid. Of course, my helmet has tattoo shop stickers on it, so who do you think is gonna get medical help first?

Something about tunnels I'm assuming.

Thats it for my kind of boring 2 day trip from Mito to Sendai. It could have been filled with nice shots of mountains, curvy roads, and lakes. But it isn't. So ppppllllllffffttttttt.....