Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Karaoke Passout

This past Saturday I was supposed to go see my friend Judy and her friends compete in the Dragon Boat competition. The Dragon Boat race is an annual competition in Yamashita park where people race in traditional dragon boats from Hong Kong. More can be found out about it here (in English): http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090616ev.html

Or here (in Japanese): http://www.yokohama-dragon.com/

Since the race didn’t happen due to being rained out from the ever- encroaching typhoon (which I’m not sure has happened or not due to the lack of severe rain) everyone ended up meeting up at the karaoke place near Kibogaoka station. LUCKY! It was around 700en for around 3 hours. CHEAP! I’m super in love with this place. I took a short video of the fun. I had a blast! I love love love karaoke!

One of Judy’s friends sang a song called Secret Message and all of the characters were messed up on the screen too. We were dying. XD

After karaoke, we went to the house of Judy’s friend. Her husband made us this amazing meal. I felt like royalty. We met up with more people there too. I didn’t end up getting home until around midnight. Saturday was so amazing… so amazing I slept most of Sunday. :3

Yesterday, on my way home from work, I took a video of what I see on the train from Futamatagawa to Kibogaoka; just one stop. I had my phone pressed to the window to steady it, but most of the images are still blurry. I’m going to try and take the same video with my flip cam and see the difference in image quality.

And finally as a general update, here are some random images I’ve taken around town and a video in my apartment.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


After posting the last entry, I remembered that I never mentioned what my previous weekend was like. WELL- after going to the wrong train station to meet up with a fellow ALT, I ended up in Ebina for the first time. I arrived just at sunset and took some amazing pictures. Toho Cinemas is there, so I decided I'd see a movie. I settled on Black Swan. :D

Monday, May 23, 2011

Taiko sickness

Quite a lot happened last week. I got to see 2 taiko performances given by my JHS taiko club (that I’m a forever “new member” of) and I got sick. Though I have to say, for every new experience that I have, it seems I’m always behind my self-expectations. I was hoping I would know how to cook a lot of Japanese food, be fluent in katakana, and have some Japanese children’s books translated by this time in my mind but… I’ve been here over 2 months and I’m nowhere near completing any of those things (well the katakana thing is improving A LOT). I can now read a lot of foods and signs that I used to just look at puzzled. I am also learning where and when to purchase the cheapest foods in my area and what a good deal is (ie: getting a “loaf” of bread for under 100¥).

So back to the taiko thing- I recorded part of the ichinensei’s dance routine from my phone. I tried to record the encore performance that the sannensei’s did, but the file didn’t save properly. I was kinda bummed about that but I took 2 pictures also and a small video of what the little festival looked like too. I only stayed for about 2 hours, but I had fun and the students were glad to see me there.

The taiko performance happened on Sunday and on the Thursday before, after teaching passive tense to the sannensei’s, I got really nauseous and sick to my stomach. Around the same time, I started to get a headache and felt really clammy. I ended up leaving school early and sleeping the rest of the day. I went to work normal on Friday, but obviously wasn’t as energetic, drank a lot of water in between classes, and sat more than normal. After school Friday I slept and slept all day Saturday as well. I also loaded up on medicine for those 3 days. Tums and Tylenol Sinus. Yeah. I was feeling great! Actually by Sunday, I was feeling well enough to support my taiko club, but I’m glad I wasn’t asked to perform in any way. I would have probably vomited everywhere.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Apartment

This is actually the second video I've taken of my apartment, but the first I'm posting here. This was also a test to try out the camera function of my Android phone. I normally film with an old flip cam.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mix Tape

At school this week, the 3rd year teachers decided that one of the class activities should be to listen to the song "I Was Born to Love You" by Queen and have students fill in some missing words in the lyrics. Oddly enough, I'd never heard that song and was later told it is used in a ton of commercials in Japan.

Well... after having to listen to the song 10 times or so in one day I decided I should make a mix cd for the school. Oh, this idea also came into fruition because I played a past tense verb game of hot potato on Monday and the only english cd the 2nd year teacher had was of Disney songs... because everyone in America listens to Disney cds.... So this is the playlist I gave them. I took into consideration the "appropriateness" of the lyrics and if I could enjoy listening to the songs over and over again.

Class Mix
1. Middle of Nowhere / Hot Hot Heat
2. Annie Waits / Ben Folds
3. Soul Meets Body / Death Cab for Cutie
4. Truly Madly Deeply / Savage Garden
5. Stars / Barcelona
6. Relax, Take It Easy / Mika
7. Work / Jimmy Eat World
8. I Wish You Were Here / Incubus
9. Keep Fishin' / Weezer
10. The Only Exception / Paramore
11. On Love, On Life / Bayside
12. 'til We See The Shore / Seabird
13. Setting Up Sunday / Meg & Dia
14. Roll With It / Oasis
15. Slide / Goo Goo Dolls
16. Everything is Alright / Motion City Soundtrack

I gave the cd to the head JTE and I have a feeling he's going to be listening to it this weekend since the 3rd year students are going on their class trip to Kyoto from Sunday to Tuesday. This week should be interesting without having the 3rd year teachers around for the first half of it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tired. Hair cut. Percussion.

I can’t tell you how exhausted I’ve been this week so far. Being an ALT is the first full time job I’ve ever had. I’m being childish when I say this, but I’m hating the responsibility of having to show up every day. With school, I could always take a sick day whenever I needed extra sleep or just really didn’t feel like going to class, those days are over. When I feel exhausted, I have to show up anyway. I haven’t been sleeping well. There have been earthquakes in the middle of the night and even without them occurring, I keep waking up 3-4 times a night. FRUSTRATING! I’m so tired, yet my body won’t relax.

On an unrelated note I’ve been here almost 2 months. That means 1 thing absolutely needed to be done. I needed a haircut. I finally got the nerve to go get my haircut on Monday. Needless to say, that was an adventure. I went to the place probably 50m from my apartment. It is literally the building next to the parking lot of my apartment complex. The lady didn’t speak English and sorta gave me a brand new cut when I just wanted a trim. It only cost me 1,000en though and the cut doesn’t look bad by any means…. So I can’t really complain. Lol. I was grateful that I didn’t walk out of there with a shaved head with how poor my Japanese is. XD

Yesterday, towards the end of school, I had nothing left to work on, so I decided I would find the drumming I could hear in the teacher’s lounge. On the other side of the school, another floor up, I found the percussion section of the brass band! They were excited I dropped by to see what they were working on and told me I had to play drums with them… so I did. They taught me the first part of a song they were working on. I botched it up pretty bad towards the end, but had a lot of fun. I tried explaining that I had only played drums once in my life back when I was 11 or so and it was just for fun. They didn’t care and insisted I try again. Lol. After I hopped off the drums, they told me I should play chimes too. This was really cool because I had never played chimes before. I played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and thanked them for the experience. Chimes are set up completely different than a piano. Upon leaving school yesterday, the rain started up again. It rained all through the night and was pouring this morning. I’m hoping it clears up soon.

I’m caught up again with the blog! Yay!

Golden Week


Oh god. So here I am behind in writing this thing. I really need to make sure I stay up to date with this otherwise you will continue to not hear from me for a week or so and then have a ridiculously long-winded post about the things I’ve been doing. I’m currently typing on a Japanese keyboard so forgive me if there are misplaced apostrophes, etc.

On that note, Golden week just passed. For those of you that don’t know, Golden week is a magical week where 3 holidays managed to land on the same week! Yay! That means I had Friday off and then the following Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I still had to work Monday and Friday, which was a pain, but that’s still better than having to work the whole week. During Golden week, I had plans to visit the zoo, Sankeien garden, Tokyo, and maybe go down to Enoshima to see the aquarium. Well, it rained on Tuesday and Thursday of Golden week. What a bummer.

Since I had Friday off, I went to the zoo. I figured I might beat out a lot of people in going because I figured some people would be traveling all day to their destination of choice (IE people from Kyoto visiting Yokohama). I’m not sure if I was right or not because Zoorasia was packed. I still had a lot of fun though. I was able to get very close to see a red panda and some tanukis; closest I’ve ever been.

Besides all of the cute animals, the zoo itself is cool. There is a huge natural area and the enclosures are quite large and nice for the animals. Zoorasia is a lot better than I’ve seen at most zoos at least.

On Monday night, I met up with Gwynnie and Jeff. They are both ALTs from Hamamatsu. I was really excited to meet them finally! I’ve been reading Gwynnie’s blog for almost a year now. I met them at Kannai station and we walked to China town from there.

We found the Seiryuu gate and Jeff was kind enough to take a picture of me with the Hello Kitty panda statue. It only took me 2 years to get that stupid picture. We bought bubble tea (mango) and Jeff and Gwynnie bought a fornicating panda sake set. I lol’d so hard. We also found a giant tea kettle.

On Tuesday, I moped around my area of town. It was rainy so I went to one of the local coffee shops and drew some pictures. The coffee wasn’t the best and neither was the cheesecake. I had fun though because the barrista was nice and they were playing old british music. Needless to say, I probably won’t be going back there. There is one other coffee shop locally owned in my area and it is attached to a book store. I will be checking that place out probably this weekend. On Wednesday, my couch arrived. Afterwards, I tried to make it to Sankeien, but there just wasn’t enough time. I decided I’d just go back to China Town. Back at Chukagai, I found the Genbu gate. All that’s left for me to see is the Byakko gate. I blame Fushigi Yugi for this obsession. I ate some delicious veggies and wandered back home.

On Thursday, I went up to Tokyo. I wanted to hang out with my friend Mat again, but my phone died and I was on the other side of town from him. I still feel kinda guilty about that; miscommunication and bad timing. This was my first time in Ueno in a really long time. I think the last time I was there was in 2006. I had been around the area (Asakasa, Nippori, Akiba), but not actually in Ueno; the park. The park was lively with street vendors and a lot of people hanging out and having fun. I was there to see 2 exhibits: Rembrandt and Tezuka.

The Rembrandt exhibit was amazing. I was able to see the same etchings printed on various papers side by side for the first time in my life. The etchings had been distributed around the globe and are in various collections. Having been to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and seeing a good portion of these pieces before you would think that the exhibit wouldn’t be as fascinating, but being able to see these pieces together was amazing. There were also pieces from the Louvre and various museums in France and Britain alongside some private collections in New York. This was one of the best Rembrandt exhibits I had ever been to. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, so here are some pictures of the outside of the museum.

The Tezuka exhibit was not nearly as awesome and I also wasn’t allowed to take pictures. Having been to another Tezuka exhibit in 2009, this one didn’t hold up to the last one. The exhibit was on Buddhist art and featured works of Tezuka’s comic Buddha. The exhibit was small, but was very interesting and after having studied Buddhist art history, it was cool to see works from Pakistan and Afghanistan in real life. There were also various statues and sculptures from around Japan.

After the museums, I went to Akiba to try and find this maid cafe Sara (bffl. XD) told me about. The cafe I was searching for was staffed by men dressed as women. SO! I thought I found it. I ended up going to a cafe called Mai:lish. Now, if that doesn't sound like the right place... Anyway, it turns out all of the staff were women and the place is well-known from being in an anime series called Stein's Gate, which I've never heard of. So that was the 3rd maid cafe I've been to (@home cafe, Cos-cha, Mai:lish).

After Akiba, I met up with my friend Matt (not Mat who I mentioned before) who lives in Hadano and is also an ALT with Interac. After some frustration about trying to find him and his friends, we met up briefly and discussed how things have been going. It’s interesting to hear just how different our experiences here have been. I think it’s mostly due to the fact he is a man and he’s living in a small city.

Friday I worked and Saturday I cleaned my apartment, bought groceries and chatted with a friend who just graduated from my college. Congrats Ringling 2011! YOU DID IT! Saturday was crappy cause it rained all day and I thought I was going to do laundry. On Sunday, I was able to finish cleaning my apartment and do laundry. I left my laundry out to dry and made my way up to Shimokitazawa to see my old dorm manager/ friend and his wife. It was the first time I had seen them since 2009. They just moved from Osaka up to Shimokitazawa and were having a sort of house warming party. It was a lot of fun seeing them again. We had coffee and donuts and Miyuki cooked some amazing food. I have to get her recipes. OMG. SO GOOD. :D

I found that I really like Shimokitazawa. There are a ton of indie shops and cool people with really laid back mentalities. It reminded me a lot of Boston. Hopefully I will be hanging out with Justin and Miyuki more often ‘cause going up there was a lot of fun. Shimokitazawa concluded my golden week. I may not have made it to Sankeien and Enoshima, but I still had a lot of fun and met some awesome people.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Only Exception

"And I've always lived like this
keeping a comfortable distance.
And up until now I've sworn to myself
that I'm content with loneliness.

Because none of it was ever worth the risk."


So I have to state that I haven’t been completely honest here. For the most part this blog has been about the fun things I’ve been doing and even though I’m having problems in my every day life, I’ve tried to maintain a genki attitude towards the whole experience thus far. However, as of recently (the past week or so), I’ve felt really defeated mentally. There has only been one person who has invited me out to do anything and I feel like I botched that friendship this past Friday.

For those that know me well, you know that I don’t drink. I haven’t had alcohol since I was 15 when I decided to go straight edge. There have been numerous times and places where people have tried to convince me that I should drink, but I’ve never felt comfortable relying on a substance to make me feel better. On Friday I broke edge on accident. I was asked to go hang out with a group of ALTs at a bar that night. I ordered the La France drink, but didn’t know that there was a soft drink and alcoholic version with the same name. They gave me the alcoholic version. I took one drink and had a feeling there was alcohol in it. I was so tired that I didn’t even think about spitting it out. I handed it over to someone else and they confirmed it was the alcoholic version. I felt completely demoralized. After 8 years this is how I broke edge… on accident? I figured one day I would just go crazy due to my own convictions and start chain smoking and become a raging alcoholic… not this.

I still feel like shit about that night, which ended awkwardly with myself sort of getting ditched. I think I will always feel shitty about that night, but it made me realize something really important about myself. I realized that I have an almost endless supply of barriers I use to guard myself against people. I honestly don’t know how my friends from Ringling managed to get through those barriers, but it made me think of a lot of things. A lot of people feel like they need to know why I make the decisions I do: why I don’t drink, smoke, etc. Why I turn to art and music to control my actions to maintain some sort of mental stability. If I don’t absolve some of these barriers then I’m going to end up alone, like I am now… but at the same time… I have a lot of baggage. I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’m beginning here by writing this journal entry, as vague as it may seem.

I have a lot of growing to do.