Monday, December 15, 2008

Crazy Japanese candy

They look like harmless power ranger candies, but in reality one of them is evil. Basically, there are 6 candies inside with 5 being strawberry flavored and 1 being insanely hot and painful. I didn't know this at the time so I just popped one into my mouth. I offered one to my coworker like the sharing individual that I am and of course she got the hot one. She looked at me like I knew what I was doing and purposely gave her the hot one but I was totally clueless. Her mouth was burning for almost an hour she said. Apparently being generous isn't always a good idea.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween costume

I was an Otaku for my Halloween lesson at work. Basically, otaku means anyone that is nerdy and obsessed with something. The most common otaku in Japan is an anime/manga otaku. They generally wear jeans that are rolled up, have a mini back pack, a camera, big glasses and messy hair, a tightly tucked-in short sleeved collared shirt, running shoes, lots of acne, and all kinds of random accessories. I didn't exactly nail the costume this year, but there's always next year. I had fun and all of my students were really surprised since in Japan it's really only common to be either a witch, pirate, black cat or a vampire for Halloween.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Awesome restaurant

It's called Metropolis and the decorations are all vintage and absolutely amazing. You have to see them in person to really understand. There is only one option on the menu. $25 (2500 yen) for a five course meal and all you can drink alcohol and/or soda/fruit juice for 2 hours. The portions are small but tasty, and after 5 servings you feel pretty good. All you can drink is called "nomi-hodai" in Japanese, and is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to going out drinking with your friends.

Spiral building

If you like spiral stair cases then you will love this building. I think I'd probably feel sick by the time I got to the top, but it looks pretty cool. It definitely deserves style points! (downtown Kagoshima City)

The cutest frisbee player ever

I overthrew the frisbee during one of our matches on Sunday and it went way out of bounds. No big deal, we just grabbed another disc and kept playing. After the game was over, this little girl appeared and was holding my frisbee like a little Japanese angel. She is quite possibly the cutest, most emotionless, stoic little girl I've ever met. I think she might have magic powers too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm sorry mother nature!

They were big and ugly and multiplying... and I'm a bad person.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My October work outfit

My plan was to have a scary Halloween party, but the decorations are so cute and happy here. I think it's pretty much impossible!

Ninja aren't extinct

I was lucky enough to spot one in the wild!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Momotaro mochi

One of my students recently visted her family in a town called Okayama. The Japanese tale of Momotaro apparently originated from there, so she brought me some mochi (sweet, sticky rice paste balls) with the Momotaro characters on it. Below is a summarized story about the characters on the box of mochi.

Momotaro came to Earth inside a giant peach, which was found floating down a river by an old, childless woman who was washing clothes there. The woman and her husband discovered the child when they tried to open the peach to eat it. The child explained that he had been sent by heaven to be their son. The couple named him Momotaro, from momo (peach) and taro (eldest son in the family).

Years later, Momotaro left his parents for an island
called Onigashima to destroy the marauding oni (demons or orgres) that dwelt there. En route, Momotaro met and befriended a talking dog, monkey, and pheasant, who agreed to help him in his quest. At the island, Momotaro and his animal friends penetrated the demons' fort and beat the demons' leader, Ura, as well as his army, into surrendering. Momotaro returned home with his new friends, and his family lived comfortably from then on."

Russian roulette with sushi

Today after playing frisbee, a friend and I went out for some sushi. Neither of us can read Japanese characters and the menus had no pictures, so we decided to just point and order. It turns out our first selection was raw tuna (sashimi) and the second was some mystery fish meat on rice (sushi). We lucked out and got some very delicious food. Goes to show that you can survive in Japan by being brave and pointing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Music in Japan #1

Here are some pictures and video clips from a live show I went to last night. Both bands sung happy birthday to my friend and I, which was pretty flattering. At one point I also went up on stage and danced because they called me out of the audience and requested it. Actually, all three of us foreigners ended up on stage dancing at one point. I guess they either think we're cool or they just like seeing how stupid they can make us look. Either way, I'm not complaining. It was fun! The crazy singer with the red hat and huge fake sideburns is one of my frisbee teammates. I was sad because we missed the first 30 minutes of his band. I'll have to get more footage next time. He's hilarious!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

1st Birthday in Kanoya

When you have a birthday in Japan, everyone remembers what you like, and buys you some variation of it as a gift. First of all, I didn't expect any gifts or even advertise that my birthday was coming up... apparently my coworker was telling people. Many of my students know I like frogs, so for gifts I got a gumball frog on a chocolate cake, a frog cell phone accessory (everyone has little accessories hanging from their phones in Japan), frog stickers, a porcelain frog statue, a frog pen, a frog stuffed animal and a frog clothes pin. I feel pretty damn lucky right now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Video Log #2

I've eaten a lot of raw meat since I've been here, I just experienced my first typhoon, and I took a dance lesson. 4 or 5 boring minutes of me rambling and random video clips. Ta da!

A thing of beauty

Today I took a trip to Kagoshima and played ultimate frisbee as usual. Along the way I ran across this gentleman and it made the whole trip worth while. The matching baby blue turtle neck and sweat pants bring a tear to my eye... and the rubber boots really tie the whole outfit together. The immaculate clothing is wonderfully accented by the weathered silver helmet and faded, pealing stickers, and the granny basket on the front of the yellow scooter is just so functional and feng shui. It's pretty much... perfection.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

There are some bad people here, but not many!

Here's what a "wanted" poster looks like in Japan. I'll have to take a bunch of pictures of the ones I've seen (though I've only seen three) and make a computer background out of them. Unfortunately I left my good camera in this really cool restaurant on Sunday night, so I can't post the pictures of the awesome decorations they had. Luckily, most people in Japan are very honest and I'm getting my camera back in two weeks. So I'm stuck with my terrible cell phone camera for now. I guess it's better than nothing though! I've heard numerous stories of people losing their wallets, cameras, and cell phones here, only to have them mailed to them or returned without anything missing. Hmmm... I hope this isn't a band poster! I'd feel like an idiot if it was, but at least I can claim that I can't read Japanese yet.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

BBQ and fireworks

Tonight I went to a BBQ in a park in Kanoya and ate yaki niku (Korean BBQed beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, scallops, and vegetables). It was delicious and we got to light off fireworks. It was a great combination!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunset and sunrise

Last night I went to a beach party in a town called Kokobu. It was great and very beautiful there. Afterwards a group of us went back to Kagoshima City, had some drinks, and sang karaoke for 4 hours straight. I saw both the sunset and sunrise at this point. I was so exhausted that I kept going in and out of consciousness during my trip home. I think I'm getting old!

Why cell phone coverage is so good in Japan

The country doesn't mind having hideous 300 foot tall towers in the middle of its big cities.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just sit back and relux

Here's some more beautiful English to appreciate! There's nothing like a bar that serves premium, healthy, alcoholic hormone drinks where you can relux, be happy, and have fun. I'll make sure to post something when I take my first sip of premium hormone. Until then you'll just have to imagine how amazing it must be!

Gambling or not? You decide

This is called a Pachinko or Pachislo parlor. They are everywhere and generally full of crazy old people throwing their money away for temporary entertainment. Since traditional gambling is illegal in Japan, the brilliant Japanese people found a way to get around the laws. Basically you put money into a slot machine or some sort of game and are rewarded with small metal balls when you win. There is no actual cash value for these balls inside the Pachinko parlor. It you go outside though, there is a booth or store that will buy the balls for cash, thus creating a loop hole and making gambling legal in Japan. Ta da!

And you thought gas was expensive in the US!

165 yen/liter = $7.50/gallon - Ouch! It makes me glad that I don't drive a car here. It also really puts things in perspective. The US shouldn't be complaining when every other country pays more for gas than they do. Now you know why Japanese cars are so fuel efficient.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Raw chicken with a side of gizzard

Last night after playing frisbee I was really hungry and ready to eat just about anything put in front of me. A few of us went out for food and drinks at a near by izakaya (Japenese style bar where they serve all types of interesting foods in small portions). One guy insisted on ordering the food for everyone, and the first thing that arrived at our table was raw chicken. Before moving to Japan I would have thought eating raw chicken was insane! Apparently, the standards of meat handling is so high in the area I live that they are confident in eating their chickens raw. The texture is very similar to raw fish and, when dipped in soy sauce, it actually tastes pretty decent. The next thing that arrived at our table looked like little chunks of steak (beef) on a stick. I quickly shoveled a couple into my mouth and immediately noticed a sort of awkward toughness. I didn't care at the moment because of my strong hunger pains, but later when I inquired about the origins of the meat I found out it was chicken gizzard (some sort of meaty digestive tract organ). Yum! Well, I'm still alive.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The longest walk of my life

Last night, after 2 hours of playing Ultimate frisbee, I watched The Dark Knight in Kagoshima City since it finally came out in Japan this week, and there isn't a movie theater in my small town. I caught the last ferry boat home, which left around 10:30pm, and I assumed there would be a bus to greet the last passengers of the night on the other side and take them home. Apparently my assumption was wrong.

Upon arrival at 11:30pm, I found out that there were no more buses for the night and the next bus would come in around 7 or 8 hours. I wasn't aware of this at the time, but I live about 35kilometers (22miles) from the ferry port. The taxi driver offered to drive me home for 10,000 yen ($100US) but I only had 5,000. I called a couple students to see if any of them could give me a ride (at this point it was almost midnight) but they were either all asleep, drunk, or their phones were turned off. I was contemplating sleeping at the (now almost pitch black) ferry port but I kept hearing these crazy insects crawling around, so there was no way that was going to happen.

I decided to walk home, having no idea at the time how far it really was. I figured, "Hmm... maybe a 2 or 3 hour walk (10 miles), which would suck, but I'm young right?! Hell, let's do this, it'll be an adventure!" I guess my late night math wasn't too sharp since it usually takes a bus 1 hour to take me home.

Over the first two hours I came across a few convenience stores and picked up some water and food. With my broken Japanese I found out from one of the clerks that I still had a long way to go. He laughed when I told him I was walking home. He probably thought I was insane. I continued walking and dodged numerous massive spider webs and spiders, swatted at some flying beetles, saw a stray kitten, and watched a massive, flying beautiful white/yellow butterfly's wing get destroyed by the rain. It was so big I thought it was a bird at first. Thunder and lightning was constantly going off in the distance and the rain poured on me numerous times throughout my journey.

After about 3 hours, the flat, beach side land gave way to steep hills. I walked for another hour through these pitch black, roads in the hills, using my cell phone as a flash light and the ring tones as a source of music. I even made up lyrics and was singing to the ring tones. It was both peaceful and terrifying. I was pretty scared and lonely at that point.

After about 4 hours my feet and legs were killing me. I got lost twice in the hills and luckily ran across an old lady who had just parked her motorcycle in her front yard around 4:45am. She pointed me in the right direction. About an hour later I saw an illuminated Christian cross, a McDonald's sign and some mid summer Christmas lights that gave me hope that I was getting closer.

After about 5 1/2 hours I saw a building with a painting of a family walking on a metal door and a building that said "You can do it!" on the front, and I got new found motivation, knowing the end couldn't be far away. The morning light began to illuminate and I started to take pictures of what I was seeing.

After 6 hours I finally arrived home. My legs were completely cramped and limping up the steps to my apartment. I had made it 35 kilometers (22 miles) in 6 hours. I never felt so happy to sit down in my entire life. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and went to bed. It feels like a dream now that I think about it.

Morning light

My legs may have been cramping and I was only about 1 kilometer from home at this point, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture these colors. It was my reward in a way.

Frisbee playing location

This is where I play frisbee on Sundays. It's in Kagoshima City, so it takes me about about 2.5 hours to get there, but so far it has been worth while. The shopping area is called Dolphin Port and is generally full of friendly people on the weekends. The builders were kind enough to install a big public grass area and a lot of water fountains where little children play when it's warm out. You can't ask for a better setting. It's right on the ocean and overlooks the awesome volcano, Sakurajima. It's easy to get caught up in the frisbee match and forget to appreciate the surreal environment.

A few Kagoshima City streets

This is the big city I go to on my days off. It takes about 2 hours to get there since I live in quite an isolated town. There are tons of people walking on the streets in the shopping areas, but I took these in a very quiet part of town. The shopping districts are insane. I'll take some pictures of them next time. I still haven't really explored this city much, but as soon as the heat calms down I plan to walk down every street I can and into every store that looks interesting. At this point, that's basically every store I see. Of course I will take pictures when those days come.

Interesting car

There are many interesting cars in Japan. I want to take pictures of all of them, but this one in particular really stood out. It was light pink, the shape was really futuristic and I had never heard of the manufacture. It's still a mystery.