I have yet to figure out why I am here....the Japanese are also confused. Keep Your Socks Clean

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Time ages things.

Time came and went. Events occurred. Short story made shorter, this blog is dead and I'm continuing on a more personal connection with my friends on another site.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Worthy Adversary

There was a greater force set out against me. I could feel its raging desire to destroy my pride and every ounce of self-worth that I hold to my name. But tonight was to be special. I could feel it within my very essence. Tonight, history would be made.

After greeting each other upon meeting at our headquarters (Mister Donuts Restraunt in Takarazuka City), we prepared ourselves for a night of adventure. The journey started first with a trip to the Izakaiya, where too much Nihonshu was consumed. This was the first step of fate trying to strip me of what was rightfully mine, as I could sense motor skills gradually deteriorating. After our feast was finished, which consisted of much karage (think Japanese chicken-nuggets) falling victim to my chopsticks, we trekked across the street to our usual battlegrounds of Round 1... Japan's mega-chain arcade and gaming center.

It is here that me and my friends have fallen many times before to the defeat of the powerful UFO games.

Time and time again we have struggled against our opponent, endlessly popping in 100 yen coins (roughly a dollar) in an attempt to gain meager rewards. The prize in question this time? Candy. The bane of the hungry Gaijin. Yes, any one of us could have walked down the street and gained, without much trouble mind you, candy of a higher caliber, and undoubtedly at a fraction of the cost. But that is not good enough. We wanted THIS candy... and nothing in the world, except us running out of money, would stop us. Many times, my friends and I have waged war against this one machine, only to see defeat rear its ugly head. But tonight was going to be different, it was destiny.

I must remind you though, there was a great power at work here, a power that none of us understood. It is this power that I blame for gracing me with the generosity to donate a couple coins to one of my friends to play a different game with me. It was at this time, right before our journey home, that I decided to try once more at our ancient foe. It was also at this time that I stuck my hands in my pockets and saw that, subtracting train ticket cost, I was... not graced with wealth. Damn you generosity. This is your work at fault. Feeling the inner pains of being bested by my foe once again, and letting my friends down, as they were wishing for someone to draw them out of the depths of despair, we headed to the lockers to gather our belongings.

Then, as I inserted the key to open my clothes stash... like a shining beacon in the night, a 100 yen coin rolls out of the machine as it refunded my deposit. My eyes locked on to the coin, the possibilities of redemption lighting up within me. My eyes even stayed locked on the coin as it fell out of the locker's grasp down to the floor. Never leaving it for a second, my eyes traced its path as it quickly hit the ground and rolled away, ducking beneath a nearby arcade.

Once again, the greater force was against me. doing everything it could to prevent me from getting that coin. The speed of which the coin was travelling was near supernatural, and I knew that the chances of recovery were slim at most. But one glance upon the faces of my friends, and the hopes that I could see within their eyes, drove me to the ground. Let no embarrassment brook my path as I sent my hand spelunking underneath the arcade that claimed my coin of salvation. No Japanese person questioning why a Gaijin was crawling around on the floor beneath them would be listened too. No floor, tainted with the grudge of ages of never seeing the light within a poorly ventilated area, would forbid me from seeking my treasure.

I credit sheer determination in my conquest that eventually provided me with the fruits of my labor... the lost coin of salvation. It was then that I took this coin and presented it to our foe. Dropping it inside the coin slot was nothing short of a battle cry from me and my friends as the buttons on the UFO game lit up, signaling the start of my challenge.

I could feel it working against me. My sight was upon the plastic bucket full of chocolate... the same plastic bucket with the same chocolate I have been pursuing for months... but whatever it was against me, whatever creature was guiding my fate... I could not let it thwart me now.

The button was pressed. With antagonizing slowness, the crane jerked to life and began to drift.

When the crane's horizontal journey came to a stop, so did the breathe of my friends and I. The crane drifted back, torturing me mentally as it plodded along before creeping to a stop as I released the button.

It was the moment of destiny.

As the crane began its final descent, it was like the descent of angels from the sky. Never a more perfect strike has been made within the history of man-kind as my chocolaty prize was securely grasped. A blast of trumpets could be heard echoing throughout the world, heralding my victory as my prize rose from its grave of gravity to be dropped over a hatch awaiting my grasp. It was a beautiful sight that slowed time itself as it dropped from the clutches of the enemy to the waiting opening to be gathered by the rightful owners.

I did it. I overcame fate trying to stop me in every way possible from allowing me the one chance I desired to defeat the infamous UFO game. Never again will we shy away from the fluorescent stare of our rival as we cross its pass again. We will always proudly declare our victory over it to the new-comers to our gatherings, so they may spread the word of our legendary battle in pursuit of a greater candy. After months of trying, and thousands upon thousands of yen that will undoubtedly be pocketed by some rich Japanese salary man... "I" am victorious. For my valiant actions against the UFO's soulless ones, my friends bestowed upon me the title of "Eien no Eiyuu"... or "Eternity's Hero."

Now if you excuse me, I must go wash my hands from the filth of victory before I taste the rancid bitterness of my aged confection.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Long Time No See

It has been a fair while since I've gotton a word in. I blame many things for my absence; illness, laziness, and my sister visiting are the top three.

I can't think of any specific stories to throw out today (I'm sorry, think I'm staying here to long as things are starting to appear normal to me and not worth writing about), but instead will leave you with a selection of comments and quirks I've noticed lately.

-- America is a Technological God Compared to You

As I said before, my sister visited me for a week. I must say she is the most gullible person on the face of the planet when it comes to anything that deals outside of her daily routine.

As we are riding the bus back from the airport, and surrounded by skyscrapers and all the other signs of a modern city... we happen across this conversation.

Sister: "I just want to get a bath and go to bed, I'm tired after the plane ride."
Me: "You know their bath is outside right?"
Sister: "Really?"
Me: "Ya, its out back in front of where we park the car. It's a little embarrassing when someone parks while your taking a bath at night and you get the headlights on you."
Sister: "They can SEE you???"
Me: "Well there's a couple boards, planks really, that you can kinda position around to try to block off the view as best as you can."
Sister: "Are you lying?"
Me: "'Fraid not, just one of the things with living in such a culture like this. Also, watch out for the neighbors dog, he likes to try to jump in sometimes while your in there."

When she finally arrived at the house and saw how they have such amazing marvals as running water and electricity, I kindly reminded her to watch out for the dog as she entered the bathroom.

-- Japanese Haven't Developed Language Skills Yet

Again with my sister. She doesn't know a word of Japanese (besides Kancho, and that's one for you to google if you don't know what it is). This leads me to translating everything for her... and also leaves her to be the victim of all my opinions. Okaasan wanted to know a bit more about us growing up, so I went off onto a tangent about how she is incredibly spoiled and gets everything she wants.... you know, what every girl that is the baby of a family gets but will eternally deny. Of course I told my sister what I said when she asked, since she was wondering why I was pointing and referring to her alot.

The next day she expressed to me her opinion on how she didn't like me talking bad about her to my host family. I had to chuckle and just tell her that I was being sarcastic and that she doesn't need to worry at all about it. That's when she struck me with this one,

"They don't have sarcasm!"

Ok, if she tried to say understand sarcasm, I would have taken the meaning to be more of they don't understand my sarcasm... but after just blankly staring at her for second, I could tell she flat out believed that Japanese did not understand sarcasm at all.

So I'm guessing America invented sarcasm now, I'm taking credit for the home team with this one.

-- Mystery of the Toilet Seat

Japan is cold. And I'm talking like, I've thought bout skinning the neighbors cat to make mittens kinda cold. Reasoning behind this isn't necessarily the temperature. Kansai area, where I'm at, ain't that much worse then southern United States. It's the fact that almost no one here has central heating nor insulates there house. There have been times where I've been shivering so bad I could barely use my keyboard to type.

Japanese families usually crank on a space heater in one or two rooms of the house though to try to prevent themselves from dying or something. In a way, it creates the whole "family bonding" kinda atmosphere because if your not in that one room with the heater then your off getting frostbite.

So, combining the fact that your freezing unless in that one room, and the normal stereotype (and there is some truth behind this stereotype) that Japanese generally hate wasting time, I quite perplexed on one little detail.

You go into the bathroom, which usually has the window cracked resulting in what little insulation the drywall walls provide being replaced with frigid night air, and instantly dread the thought of dropping any kind of clothes to take care of your business. But their is one savior in the night, the self-heated toilet seat (also named the ShowerMaster 2000, no joke). I don't know how it knows to heat itself, or why its always ready at the time of use, but sure enough, its always there to keep your cheeks nice and warm even if you can't feel the rest of your body cause of the cold numbing it.

The reason I'm so complexed with this toilet seat is that it just seems totally contrary to what one would think follows the other norms in Japan. The angelic warmth of the seat only seems to prompt you to stay longer, wasting time in the bathroom which, as I imagine, would be disliked by others for various reasons. If your not rush rush with everything you do, then you just obviously need to work on doing things better.

The only conclusion I can come out with this topic is that when Japanese people gotta go, they like to go in style. I've seen many things to support my hypothesis... toilets with remotes with dozens of buttons I'll never understand (nor am brave enough to test), singing toilets, and pretty much every other disturbingly creepy thing you can think of strapping onto a crapper and selling it for money. But in all actuality though, I think this is one of those quirky details that will permanently be lost to the other cultures of the world.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Alone in a Crowd

It's yet another perfect day in Japan and I find myself in the midst of hundreds of Japanese people in a park not far from my house. The occasion was one of the many sports festivals that Kazuki, my host-family little brother, finds himself involved in.

With a rough estimate of about 500 people there, things where really getting busy with all the games for the little kids they had going on... seeing as how this event was organized for young children of about ages of 8-13. I was being dragged around by Kazuki to all the different games they had going on, one of which was basically Russian Roulette that would pop a balloon in the gun when you where the unlucky gunman. I can honestly say that was the first time that shooting yourself in the head turned into a family activity. All in all, it wasn't such a bad time.

In one side of the park they had rigged up a massive stage for the announcers and a few local acts to entertain the people. One thing about different about Japan that you have to realize when compared to western society is that they really like their parks. The entire thing was rigged with a stereo system and loud speakers so that people in the entire quarter mile diameter area could easily hear what was being broadcasted.

After a few basic greetings and the normal dull political jabberings that school board leaders and the such like to dish out every time there is an audience around, the events started. With this particular festival, the local kids dance team was invited to perform.

The stage was stormed by little kids, ages probably 10-13, who all got in a dance stance to wait for the music. What happened next was probably one of the most disturbingly awesome things I've seen to date in this country.

From my personal experience of having a little sister... I tend to notice that kids around that age seem to like to watch alot of MTV to pick up on fashions and music. In Japan, this is especially true... in fact just about everything they know about the west is from stereotyped TV. The problem with that is, they just don't know exactly what they are watching half the time. Need proof? Heres a bit of the lyrics from the song they where dancing too.

You don't wanna party then your ass gotta go
Now you can ride to this motherf***r (uh)
Bounce to this motherf***r (uh)
Freak to this motherf***r (let's get it on)
Once again it's the darker nigga
Here to spark a nigga, break apart a nigga
But the dog is bigger, under stress
So unless you're wanting to bless to the chest
These slugs from his Smith and Wess REST!
Or the pump'll put a hurt on a nigga
DUMP SIX, motherf***r feed em dirt on a nigga
My hands stay dirty, cause I play dirty the mob way
You don't know? f**k it find out the hard way
Song - "Get it on the Floor" by DMX

Only in Japan can you see a bunch of little kids amatuer hip-hop dance to extremely offensive and racially incorrect music... followed up by hundreds of parents giving little golf-claps of appreciation while talking about how talented the kids on stage are because not a one of them in the entire park understood the lyrics.

God I love this country.

I'll leave yall with cut of the next song they performed too.

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk,
all that junk inside that trunk.

I'ma get get get get you drunk,
get you love drunk off my hump.

Whatcha gonna do with all that ass,
all that ass inside your jeans.

I'ma make make make make you scream,
make you scream make you scream.

Coz of my humps, my hump, my hump my hump
my hump, my hump my hump, my lovely lady lumps.
Song: "My Humps" by the Black Eyed Peas

Sunday, November 05, 2006

American Balls

(Italics means in Japanese)

"Hi... hey, hi."
This was coming from a random Japanese guy that started walking backwards in front of me as I walked down the aisles of my school festival. I was a little hesitant because I didn't think I knew the guy, but its sometimes so hard for me to remember faces in this country.

Me: "Um, hi?"

RJP (Random Japanese Person): "How are you?"

Me: "Ok..."

RJP: "Do you want to try my food?"

Me: "Ah... uh, no thanks."

See, here's how things go. In Japan, its very common for people to hawk their stuff at you. Standing in doorways yelling at you to come eat at their place, or just bellowing out for all to know what they are selling. This is no different at school festivals where club members turn into shop keepers for little booths that line the streets of the school. This guy, however, decided to take a more direct approach with the matter of street-side selling, kicking in with his Japanese High School English. Cause as everyone knows... if I'm not Japanese then I must be able to speak English, right?

RJP: "Please? They are super popular in America."

Me: "Really?"

RJP: "Ya, they are American Balls!."

At this point, I was floored. This isn't something one normally hears while walking down the street, especially in Japan. I took a look where the guy was pointing and, sure enough, there was a huge sign featuring bright colors, glitter, and, in the middle, huge katakana letters spelling out American Balls. It was obvious that some girls from whatever club this guy was supporting had spent alot of time decorating this potentially offensive sign.

Me: "Wha... what?"

RJP: "Ya, they are really popular in America, please buy them!"

Me: "But... after I go to the event.

RJP: "Please 100 yen each!" ($1)

Me: "Later..."

Besides the obvious mistaken innuendo behind "American Balls," I really wasn't surprised to have some random Japanese guy come up to me and start speaking English. In fact, it happens way to much for my liking. The day of the school festival was pretty bad in particular... as all these guys selling stuff think that if they say a handful of basic English words at me, that I'll instantly be persuaded to come to them because I don't have to worry about the horrors of trying to speak Japanese at a different shop.

When I got to Japan, I really wasn't insulted much by bits of English here and there, but its gotton to the point now that I just want to ignore them if they do. I'm here to learn Japanese, and I already do know some Japanese... but I can't prove this unless they speak to me in Japanese. If I wanted to have baby-English talked to me all the time, I woulda just taken a job at a pre-school or something in the states, not fly across the world and blowing my life savings in the process.

There's a few exceptions to all this. If its obvious I don't know a certain vocabulary that someone used when speaking Japanese, or they are asking for information from me, English is totally fine. But when I don't even have a chance to enter into a normal discussion because I'm seen as the outcast that doesn't understand anything from the start... then I get a little perturbed.

For example...
My host-mother (here by referred to as Okaasan), loves to show off her new American. Whenever we get a chance, she will tell everyone every embarrassing detail about me that she knows. Parties usually evolve this activity for an hour at least. When walking around shops and places where their are alot of people, Okaasan will also use as much English as she can when talking to me (which is only about a couple dozen words) to show off to those around her and seem "international."

Last week the host family and I went out for dinner. We sit down at the bar with the cooks right in front of us and Okaasan instantly starts in her English routine, which is usually so bad that I would have understood it alot earlier if she had just used Japanese."

Okaasan: "What... do you want.... to... eat?"

Me: "What?"

Okaasan: "What, food?"

Me: "Ah....what food is here." With me pointing at the Kanji menu that I couldn't read.

With that, the chef steps in, but the damage had already been done. Oblivious to any Japanese I had used, and registering only the English Okaasan was using, he takes it upon himself to introduce the menu.

Chef: "Jah - pa - neese Pan - ke- ki!" (Japanese Pancake)

At this point I just wanted to bash my head against the bar. I knew damned well that there is no "Japanese Pancake" restaurants in Japan. Here I am, trying to find out what food they are serving, and all I can get out of the staff is "Japanese Pancake." The word I was looking for was Okonomiyaki (click for picture) by the way.

Coincidently, this was also at the first time that I found out I knew enough Japanese to let someone know that I'm not particularly happy with them as I kinda set into Okaasan at that point.

Me: "Okaasan... this is Japan. You are Japanese, you speak Japanese. If I wanted to speak English, I can live in America. Now, everyone thinks I only speak English. Now what is the food called?"

I was honestly quite impressed with my ability to convey how I felt to her at the time. I don't think she spoke another word of English to the the whole night. I didn't say anything in a manner that was inappropriate, just was clearing up some things.

But honestly, I should have known in the long run I couldn't win this game. Its just not on home turf you know. Cause now to get back at me she ask me questions in Japanese that she knows I'll not understand when we are in a group of people. The only way I got to combat her is a keen sense of knowing if I should say yes or no, and a great performance act making it seem like I understood everything. But its really a war I'm bound to eventually loose due to collateral damage.

I did get one bit of payback upon Japanese society though. As I was putting my shoes on to leave a Yakiniku restaurant (and honestly, the fact that my family takes me to Yakiniku makes everything worth it), the waiter comes up to me and starts the usual routine.

Waiter: "Hi!"

Me: "Hi..."

Waiter: "Where are you from?"

Me: "Texas."

Waiter: "Ah, I've been to New York."

At this point I was trying to leave the restaurant but the guy was following me. So I kinda ended it unintentionally in a way I couldn't have been happier with. In an utterance that I swear sounded as if I I've been speaking Japanese since the day I was born, I told him, "Ah...I've never gone there."

The waiter was so dumbstruck by me speaking in Japanese that he just kinda stared at me for a second before giving a small wave and walking away. It really made my day, even if it made my jerk-factor alot higher.

On my behalf, I have to say I'm most always polite, even though I find it kinda annoying that Japanese people don't even try to speak Japanese to me most of the time. It's just my personal mission now to make Japanese people understand that foreigners aren't in Japan just to practice your English on. I swear one day I'm gonna tell one of them, "I'm Russian and don't know English, in fact I hate those American-Dogs and English makes me very angry!" (Proceed to destroy Japan)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

God, I love this country.

I posted this on my stupid links section (to the right), but I wanted to cast even more attention to it. This story has GOT to be read. And honestly, I don't find it even that unusual after living here... but man I woulda given my left kidney to see this.

A man, his turtle, and the police officer.

An elderly man seen pulling a turtle by a string along a street here bit a policeman responding to an alert Friday evening, leaving the officer with slight injuries, police said.

Tomiyasu Matsuhashi, 70, a carpenter living in Saiwai-ku, Kawasaki, is accused of obstructing the officer from performing his official duties. Police are questioning him also on suspicion of violating the law banning cruelty to animals.

He denied the allegations during questioning. "I never bit the officer," he was quoted as telling investigators.

At about 5:50 p.m. a passer-by spotted Matsuhashi pulling a turtle by a string along a street in the Nisshincho district of Kawasaki-ku, and reported the incident to a nearby police box saying it might constitute animal abuse.

A 26-year-old officer rushed to the scene and questioned Matsuhashi. The old man then kicked the turtle saying, "Turtles never die, even if they are run over by a 1-ton car," investigators said. He then bit the officer, who suffered injuries to his left wrist that are expected to take a week to heal.

Matsuhashi had punched a hole in the turtle's shell and connected it by a piece of string to the collar of his pet dog. (Mainichi)

Having a bad day on top of a rough week

You know, you just can't win them all really. I first want to apologize for not writing in a while, I've had a rough week with little sleep, and today topped it off (hopefully) with a hell of a day.
But first, a little bit of leading up to that.

The last two days I've tried to recuperate from my lack of sleep from the last week (more on that later when I get into all-night-karaoke experiences) by sleeping a ton. So I get home from classes at 3 PM Monday and just crash. I wake up only for dinner and after that, hit the sack again. Just one problem with this... I woke up at about 10:30 feeling as if I should be doing something. Well I couldn't very well go running around Japan this late because of last trains striking soon and all, so I just sat around doing nothing much until I passed out again at 4 AM.

I had some weird lingering hope that even though I was awake till the wee hours of the morning, that I would be refreshed by time I woke up due to the numerous hours of napping I did before. Ya, lot of good hopeful wishing is. So here I am dragging my half dead body to Tuesday classes... my longest day which last from 8 AM till 7:00. During this time I am one of the lucky people to have my name posted on the study abroad students message board in front of the office. Seems I'm lucky enough to have some problem that the office needs to discuss with me. It had to wait for the next day though (today) as the advisor that wanted to talk to me was in a meeting.

I couldn't even get my train ride home in peace as my sensei from my last class followed me into the train and wanted to chat. Normally this wouldn't be such a bad thing, but this guy is seriously, seriously weird. Whenever he talks (in English) he holds any "U" sound for like 4 seconds. But you know, this doesn't bother me, as I butcher Japanese in every way possible I can understand this. The point that really throws me off is how on the first day of class he told us all about his special study of eunuchs (click here if you need definition) and torture devices in Chinese history. Lets just put it this way... you don't want to see this guy's basement, OK?

I crashed early again that night, at a more reasonable time of 10:30. I figured this was still enough time to get plenty of sleep, feel rejuvenated, and wake up and do my homework and get on with my day. I have really got to quit being so optimistic in my personal plans.

It was about that time that my bad day started. I woke up just late enough to screw myself over. Nothing feels worse to me then to have to run around just after waking up which is exactly what I had to do, grabbing a world record quick shower before diving into my Japanese homework. I don't even get peace of mind while walking/riding (train) to school as I have a text book in front of me the whole time trying to memorize kanji for an upcoming quiz in the next few minutes. Not paying attention while you walk because your face is in a book isn't the best of ideas in Japan either, let me tell you... because cars seem to like to try to pass within a few inches of you on all the super narrow streets. Reading at the same time really kills your reflexes.

So I make it to class, manage to not get killed nor fail my kanji quiz, but then receive my quiz results back from a previous assignment. This is when my day really turned sour. I knew everything on that quiz. The teacher knew that I knew everything on that quiz. Everything was answered in a way that anyone could see that I knew the answers to everything on that quiz. But due to a few spelling errors only, and errors that were only due to having to hurry on a timed assignment, I practically failed the thing. I brought this to attention of the teacher only to have a big argument with her over her grading policy. Its a total punk way to grade something, but trying to argue a point like that with some lady that barely speaks English and me who barely speaks Japanese... you ain't getting nowhere fast. So instead I just remained the typical brat student the rest of the class, using higher level grammar to answer all her example questions then the grammar I was supposed to use. Not really justice but I felt slightly better.

After that ordeal I was up for another. The meeting with the office advisor I told you about? Ya, apparently my host mother had a conversation with some school official and totally blew some stuff out of proportion. Her complaint? I'm not eating vegetables... which is an utterly wrong in every way possible. In Texas, I almost never ate any vegetables. Now, I'm eating various ones everyday ranging from pumpkin to raw cabbage, but obviously its not enough for my host-mother for one reason... I hate onions. My host-mothers problem? She wants to put onions in everything. So for the last month I've been here she's been skimping out on the onions for the family meals, even though I've told her repeatedly that I don't want her to make anything special. Here's how the situation turns out:

If she doesn't put onions in her food, she gripes how she's getting all malnutritioned or something and how her cooking menu is so narrow without them.

If she puts onions in the food she fears that I won't be able to eat it. Now, by Japanese standards, if I don't practically stuff myself at dinner, then I'm not eating enough (these people eat alot) and I'm not healthy... and it is her fault I'm not healthy and she thinks I'm gonna starve to death if I skimp a little on one meal, and that I'm gonna hate her for letting me go hungry even though I've promised her up and down ten times I'm not hungry... and, well, get the idea yet?

Either way, its a lose - lose situation for me which landed me in the school office having a discussion about how compatible I am with my host family. I think I passed it off as my host-mom just worries endlessly about it and things are really fine. I've never really been hungry since I got to this country, cause as I said, these people eat alot, and they eat often.

I did get a good chuckle though when they (the school advisors) asked me if there was any other problems with her worrying, as in she's nagging me too much about certain details and telling me what to do all the time. The thing I found funny was when I explained that when I stay in my family house in Texas, I can't usually get away from my parents telling me nonstop to do every little thing like brush my teeth, take a shower, go to bed, and on and on. Not that I need too, just they never broke the habit from when I was little... or went to highschool... or went to college and moved out. So, with explaining why my days seem "nag-less" now, they also had a good chuckle (from disbelief mainly, and my parents don't believe they do it either).

The rest of the school day passed pretty uneventful until I got home. There I had one more surprise for me. My host-father decided to spend his day breaking the computer for the third time now. This time he really messed it up too, as in Windows XP was gone. So I spent the next hour or so sitting in front of his computer trying to install a Japanese version of Windows which I really can't read at all. Not how I wanted to spend my afternoon at all.

As soon as I figured I was done though he had one more small request. He wanted to put in a hard-drive into his computer he had bought. I thought this would be no problem honestly, but everything in Japan is small and efficient. The people, the cars, the streets, the clothes... everything is small, and according to them efficient. This, unfortunately, also implies to computers, as I had to gut the entire machine before I could slide the hard-drive in. Of course, with my luck today, I broke the fan in the process. So now the computer thinks there is no internal fan and shuts down after 2 seconds of being turned on. Another several hours of working on that and I finally got it recognizing the fan again, only to have a nice dinner layered with onions. Eat onions or endlessly be complained too, tough situation.

So now I'm finally on a small break, typing up this here editorial...wondering when the host-family's computer is going to catch fire. And trust me, with the way things have been going, it will.

One good thing that came out of this though is that, presuming the computer continues working and doesn't' catch fire, I'll be getting to go out and eat Yakiniku this weekend. Since I probably saved them a couple hundred dollars worth of computer service and repair work, I think me eating a couple hundred dollars of prime Japanese beef is acceptable right?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Me? Worry?

So it was only a few minutes ago that the news started being spammed by talk of North Korea again. It seems that they went ahead detonated a nuke besides protest of just about every major country on this side of the world.

"The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to the our military and people," KCNA said. I find this statement very intriguing cause basically proves the government there tells you what makes you happy. I'm pretty sure that food, clean water, and a place to live woulda made alot more people happy then blowing something up.

But enough jabberin' about that. The thing that interest me the most is I have already been asked if I wanted to go back to America because of this new threat. Japanese people have striven over the years to make themselves so peace orientated that they, in my opinion, get shaken up easily.

This is the way I see it... I'm from the U.S. of A. We get threatened every day with bombs and threats by numerous countries. Its almost just a part of life now. Anyone can turn on the TV at any part of the day and go to some news channel and watch people burning the U.S. flag along with effigies of Bush or America's Allies. Its what people do when they get upset at their present situation in life... they blame. They don't know why their economy is in the pits, they don't know why they don't have great international influence... so they start blaming and accusing those that do. Its been the way of life since society's beginning. Of course though, this means that the U.S. gets a whole lot of fingers pointed at it. Not trying to sound pompous, but people around the world recognize the states for its power, and that's why we get crap handed to us by dozens of countries every day. It's for that reason that I'm not even considering leaving Japan... you can't just give in people's crazy threats and demands.

This nuclear test by North Korea is no more then their way of starting up trouble with their neighbors. Basically, gorillas seeing who can beat their chest harder. I also don't have a doubt in my mind that North Korea will, with their now even more inflated ego, be making demands upon Japan/U.S.A. with the backing of their new toy. When North Korea finds themselves without imports and exports to and from Japan and the U.S.A., they are going to hurt. That will probably be a major hit in their international pocketbook. But why should we (and "we" for me is both Japan and America) sit their and calmly do business with those that defy every treaty and anti-nuclear association that we put in front of them?

The detonating of the nuke is something, but the interesting part is going to be how North Korea reacts to new economic sanctions against them, as well as their neighboring countries increasing their defenses. If its anything like last time, they'll declare it all an aggressive act of war against them that is punishable by nuclear death. Doubt me? That's exactly what they said when a few measly economic sanctions were put against them after they shot a bunch of missiles at Japan and Hawaii a few months back (check early post). Unless they can build up their military and weapon stocks with their neighbors giving them full support and ignoring their defenses... North Korea will never be happy, regardless if their government says they are happy or not.

Picture by Mainichinews. South Koreans Protest the nuclear test.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pink Ninja Strikes!

So I got the chance to hand out my "Omiyage" or souvenirs to my host family. I'm way past due on giving them out, I realize I should have taken care of it the night I moved in... but had a small complication.

I had brought with me about 2 dozen bandanas with the classic Texas embroidery design on them. I figured since Japanese people use hankerchiefs all the time, along with them loving cowboys and this being an historical cowboy item... that it would be a great present. But what I didn't know is that the same exact print of bandana was sold it just about every clothing shop in this country that hankerchiefs can be found in. Go figure, I really should have guessed when they have more people here that wear cowboy boots then in Texas. So in efforts of not seeming overly cheap and uncreative by giving them heavily mass produced items as a gift the first day here... I waited 2 weeks when they already know I'm overly cheap and uncreative and presented the gifts tonight.

In that 2 week time though I learned something about the Japanese culture. They love free crap. Whatever it is, if you give it to them, they'll love you for it. This was no exception. They jumped on them faster then I could react. And I have to give a shout out for Obaachan in demanding the best colors for herself. If you know what you want, go for it right? Unfortunately this also had a kick-back effect with Nami, the host family sister who I presented two nicely colored bandanas that matched her clothing... as her's were quickly nabbed by other family members.

After I let everyone pick/demand a few colored bandanas that they wanted, I was left with a pretty slim selection of bright pink ones that no one wanted.

Whats a guy gonna do with a bundle of pink bandanas? If you guessed dress up in stupid disguises and start demeaning the history of the country your in... then you guessed right cause that's exactly what I did.

With that, I give you the birth of the Pink Ninja.


Instead of getting offended, which probably was well within their rights at the time, they instead joined in with "kowai" (scary). I even had the chance to jump out and scare Obaachan who had stepped out of the house in the time that I crafted my clever disguise.

Bearing my now legendary Chicken Ramen (world famous instant ramen~) emblem on the for head, no one knows quite what to think of the Pink Ninja. Could he be serving up a nice cup of noodles, or a can of whoop ass? Should you be afraid of him because of his way of the forbidden martial arts, or scared of him for his way of the San Francisco parade marcher. No one knows, and that's what adds to the mystery of the Pink Ninja.

Unfortunately for me though, I didn't know the repercussions of my actions as the Pink Ninja. It seems that now that I have equipped myself with an available costume, I'm now obligated to dress up like this for some costume march coming up next month. I have to actually go outside, in the day, and walk through the street.... dressed up as a pink ninja. My life just seriously took a turn for worse.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Family

My new family here in Japan is something else to say the least. I have to say... probably a mix between the Brady bunch and the Partridge family, and Japanese of course. They are a musical family... which is alot more awkward experiencing then saying. They continuously try to get me to sing English songs to see if they know the words (I don't know the words to any songs really so I sang the ABC's when they forced me to sing something), and almost all of them is a professional at some aspect of music.

Okaasan -

Okaasan (mother) is probably my main communication point into the family... not to say the best. She tries to speak English half the time but usually just messes a sentence up so bad that I would have had alot better chance to understand it if she used Japanese. At other times she just speaks Japanese so fast that there's no way in hell I could understand and gives me this blank stare when I don't answer. I do give her credit for trying though, and she does talk alot to me without ever seeming to get too frustrated, so it all works out in the end.

Okaasan is also a expert piano player and teachers singing lessons. I've entered into some unwritten contract where I get to learn to play the piano a bit in exchange for English lessons, but the way that others acted as if I just made the worse decision of my life, I'm beginning to wonder if it was a good move or not.

At times she gets a bit fanatical. And its hard to fully understand her approach. Out of the blue, I got talk the other day about never bringing girls to my room. I said I understood, an answer that I've come to favor into in the past weeks as a way to express that I understand the Japanese (wakarimashita). But then she went off on some speel as if I said I didn't understand at all and begin telling me again, this time slower. Again, I say I understand. Then she starts over like a broken record, this time adding in hand gestures and demonstrating as if I was an idiot. "Wakarimashita." She continued going over these details of never having a girl in my room over and over again until I could do nothing but put my head on the table and sigh. What made it worse is Obaachan (grandma) was sitting at the table and laughing at me the whole time.

As I said though, she does try, and is always accommodating. Great person all around, though I wish the same thing upon her as I do my real mother, to stop worrying all the time. Its a universal bad habit I guess.

Otousan -

Otousan (father) is a great guy. He's a hard worker, commuting to Kyoto everyday (about hour long train ride one way), so I don't get to see him as much as the others. If he didn't have to work so much and have a family to worry about, I bet we could be best friends because we have so much in common. He's an avid video game player which really shocked me, with a big interest in flight simulators (its kind of weird to watch a Japanese guy play a game where he's an American fighter pilot shooting down Japanese planes). He also talks to me about alot of different anime and its not uncommon for me to walk in a room to find him watching some cartoon or something. As I've seen to notice with a few Japanese guys, he has a gun obsession too. I guess its the whole desire the things you can't have kinda situation as in Japan, its illegal to own a gun. To get around this, he's bought high powered plastic pellet pistols. These things are designed like a real gun, but only launch plastic BB's and junk. The thing that got me thinking "why..." is when he bought a laser sight for one of his guns. Now this sight is designed for a real gun, and cost a ton of money. I have pointless collections too, but I just can't understand a laser sight for a BB pistol.

Otousan is also a pro guitar player. He specializes in old rock for the most part and has said he would teach me if I want. If I get the time I might take him up on it because I have a guitar but don't know how to play. Along with his guitar skills though he also plays a wicked banjo. And he's really good too... good enough to play the "Dueling Banjos" song and all. I never would have guessed in my life that I would meet a Banjo playing Japanese guy some day.

Obaachan -

Obaachan (granny) is quite a character. I can't really understand her Japanese at all, but I can usually get the idea of what she's trying to say cause she's always laughing at me. Giving me some god awful food or something seems to be her favorite hobby as it cracks her up every time.

Obaachan was an unexpected family member in the house when I moved in. She lives next door, but basically does everything but sleep in the house I'm living in. She's nice though and quite a character at times. She's also the families self proclaimed alcoholic. Every night she's cracking open a few Asahi's with dinner.

As if the family wasn't already bursting with creative talents... Obaachan gives lessons on traditional Japanese kimono making. The tatami room (I don't know exactly what the room is called, but its the traditional room that seems to be in every Japanese house that uses tatami mats and has a shrine) also features her latest creations on mannequins.

Kazuki -

Kazuki is the little brother of the family. I honestly don't know what to make of the kid sometimes. About the only English he knows is "Oh my god" and "Nice to meet you." He uses "oh my god" at the right time, though way to much... but he just can't seem to place "Nice to meet you" right. For example, I accidently spilled a drink one night and he gets a cloth to clean it up, with each pass of the cloth he mutters out "nice to meet you, nice to meet you." Kinda like a weird form of "wax on, wax off" from the Karate Kid movie.

One of his favorite things to do it seems is to get his friends and bring them to me so he can make them hold there hand up to mine. It kinda amazes them for some reason that my hand is like 3 times as big as theirs. I'm pretty sure they believe it to be because I'm a big foreigner, but I think its mainly for the fact that he's just 11 years old.

This family is quite eccentric, but they are all good people really. Their is also a daughter in the family, but I haven't met her yet because she's studying abroad. From everything I've been told, she's supposed to know good English and will translate for me when she gets back... though when Okaasan tells me that, I wonder because I'm supposed to be speaking Japanese. I honestly feel like I'm here to give English lessons to Okaasan sometimes, as well be "her American gaijin" to show off to all her friends, but I don't mind honestly. All is well that ends well right?