2003 Archives

SF Road Trippin

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Don't ask me how, but I am traveling in N. Cal. with 4 family members, a family member's GF, and a dog. No one has gone crazy because we took 2 cars (this method is highly recommended!) and rotate its occupants frequently.

Today we visited Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it was bigger abd better than I remember it. My favorite fish of today was the wolf eel in the giant kelp tank. It decided to get some exercise and I felt a smug sense of satisfaction at hearing those around me trying to match it with it's informational plaquard as I, the uber-marinebionerd, was busy re-playing the experience of seeing the toothy yawn of a butchered sea wolf in the Northern Kyushu city of Hita resting atop a hill of ice cubes.
Anyhow the parents and Mika are heading home tomorrow and reservations and other preparations for New Years Eve have been taken care of. We are gonna rock in the 2004 in SF this year! Its good to be back in the States.

Omen Update

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I just stepped out the door to find myself in the middle of a raging blizzard, under a fluffy, cloudy blue sky. The road out front has become a slick, dangerous white line, but it is leading me home. A little more than one day to go...


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An earthquake just hit me right now. It was small and only rattled the house for about 10 seconds, and if I was asleep I would have never known.

I will take it as a good omen (hahaha, we shall see!). Less than 2 days until I leave Japan... California, warm weather, and possibly more earthquakes- here I come!


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At The Windmill

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Yesterday I went to visit the windmill at Ubuyama Bokujo (Farm) after work. The windmill stands alone, humming and whining in the wind, and becons people from all over Japan to drive up our country roads into my slice of BFE. When I tell people that I live in Ubuyama, I am always surprised to find how many people know of my village of less than 2000 people. They always either say "Ah, Ubuyama, the place with the windmill, right?" or "Ubuyama has very delicious water" and talk about how cool Kurokawa's onsens are (they really are the best I have ever been to). The windmill produces enough electricity to run the farm and is saving a lot on the energy bills, and I was curious whether more would be installed to power the rest of the village. No, they're just keeping the 1. Why? 1 is aesthetically pleasing. More than 1 constitutes an eyesore. Its too bad, I think. Our woods are all uniform trees of the same species, shape and heigth, the result of farming trees instead of managing an ecosystem, and I don't think that adding windmills to a couple of mountain peaks would have much of a derogatory impact on the view (ah sh*t, reverting to Envirotalk... quick! someone fire up the charcoal grill and Q me up a big cheap steak cut from rainforest cattle, served on a virgin white dioxin infused paper plate).

I was screwing around with my camera, and for about ten seconds, it reverted to a normal keitai camera. After I captured a beautiful sunset (over the Haunted Hotel), it switched back to "magic mode". Justin was right. My D251 is a MAGIC keitai camera.

The magic moment.

Ubuyama Windmill.

Taken seconds after the first pic.



The Hoikuen Experience

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I love teaching at hoikuen, especially during the holidays. All three that I visit are completely different in regards to individuals, groups, teachers, learning environment, kyushoku (school lunch), etc... Today I went to Ubuyama hoikuen, after not coming for the two previous weeks (they were practicing for their Christmas-kai, a sort of Christmas festival unique to hoikuens as far as I know). This place is sorta like the Apollo theatre in the sense that if I do not give a fantastically entertaining lesson with lots of new games (this is harder than it sounds, as some kids are quite smart, and others can not yet talk or walk), the kids will get out of their seats and cause a ruckus, leaving a trail of detritus in the wake of their innocent wrath. In one memorable case, a kid stood up, got an Evil Ash-grin on his face, and banzai-charged me, socking me with surprising power and speed in the nuts. Constructive criticism noted, and "rebuttal" presented after a painful 5 minute recovery in the fetal position (but to clarify, this was at Nambu Hoikuen). Interestingly enough, the teachers at this hoikuen don't really discipline the kids very much, so the stakes are high to put on a good performance. I know where they are coming from, and it pushes me to give 100 percent effort every day. A half day a week at Ubuyama hoikuen is enough for me, thank you very much. I can understand why some parents choose to put their kids on ridilin, although I think this is a huge failure of in our society on the parts of the parents as well as the educational and medical communities for recommending this drug liberally, in the majority of cases I have encountered. This is probably a reason why I love to frequently hand out candy in class.

It took me a few months to realise that although I was supposedly there to teach "English", my time is better spent engaging the students in activities and games as the primary focus with English playing a supporting role, while creating an environment that encourages interaction. So for over a year now, its been all about having fun and designing an interface to exchange ideas and develop a dialogue between information and education, and in no way forcing the kids to learn but rather helping them to explore their interests and engaging them.

Today I came (un)prepared and it worked perfectly. I find that my muse strikes me with the best hoikuen lessons while I am actively teaching the class. Everyone participated, payed attention, and even remembered almost all of the English that I taught (this is highly uncommon at this large hoikuen, as some kids can't speak Japanese yet), along with the gestures.

Ah, the Christmas lesson... No kids, its not all about a "special cake", its about presents, more specifically toys. But it is important to remember that if you recieve socks, you must let the relative who gave them to you know EXACTLY how you feel. That's right, a big uppercut to the crotchular area (your small hand sinks into the nether-regions, not unlike a phosphorescent blue Sting into Shelob's underbelly). Now that's the essence of cultural education.

Nah, what today's lesson was about was Chrismas greetings, symbols, and presents (candy and stickers). After I leave, I know my kids will forever remember the various American holidays. When someone mentions "Halloween", "Thanksgiving", "Christmas", or "The Fourth of July" to my kids, they will be hearing "CANDY and making toilet paper mummies", "Candy and Turkey", "candy and presents", and "candy and fireworks". And so I know that I have been a great ambassador for the United States through the JET Programme, and through sugar.

Another reason why I love teaching at the hoikuen: Kids love to ask me questions, and I feel obliged to enlighten them whenever possible, as I see fit. Today I was asked:

Hoikuen Kid: Adamu-sensei, unchi de Eigo wa nan desuka (how do you say shit in English)?
Me: Poo.
HK:Adamu-sensei, shikko de Eigo wa nan desuka (how do you say piss in English)?
Me: Pee.
HK:Adamu-sensei, chinko de Eigo wa nan desuka (how do you say penis in English)?
Me: (thinking...hmmm...these kids are damn good parrots when it comes to THIS English. Best to evade the question) Eh, henna shitsumon da. Betsu no sensei ni sonna shitsumon shite kudasai, wakatta (What? That's a strange question. Go ask a different teacher please, understand?)?
HK: Ok, Poo sensei (ah, I am truly proud of you Saki-chan)

The kids are so friggin cute, and they remind me of myself when I was their age. They really didn't want me to leave, and kept on telling me "Adamu dai-suki" (I really like Adam). Although touching, I wasn't going to be late for the Chugakko, and I continued on my way, bulldozing anyone who was getting between me and the exit. Next they tried their usual "swarming fireants" attack (yes they tried to bite me with their mandibles of death, but only got mouthfulls of denim), but they were no match for my tickle and retreat counter-maneuver. So they stole my sweater (which they first stretched out by trying to climb the mountain that is me in order to get a piggy-back ride, and now it can fit Justin perfectly... hmmm... someone is getting a sweater for Christmas this year) and hid it, refusing to tell me where it was. Hahaha! Stupid kids, don't you know that the best way to make an adult stay longer against their will is to steal their car keys and/or wallet?

In order to make sure that they remember that Christmas is not about a stupid cake, I left a pound of candy and a hundred stickers for the teachers to put in their construction paper stockings. I feel a sense of accomplishment somehow, knowing that I will not be around when the sugar rush sweeps over a classroom armed with lots of stickers.

As a fellow Boy Scout Sea Base instructor once told me "teaching kids is the best form of birth control". Words of wisdom that haunt me to this day. I think everyone should be required to take care of other peoples' children before they are allowed to reproduce. STDs are not scary enough to drive the "safe sex is not a bad idea" point and the "is having a kid right now a good idea" question home, but taking care of children, that'll make you think twice about bagging the wang (although with plan will frequently backfire on those estrogen-crazed-white-fanged women who hear the call of the wild).


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It really sucks having a broken keitai camera. Just last Saturday, I found a baby doll named "Po Po", and also some super funky old school japanese B movie ninja/samurai/detective posters. It was frusterating not to be able to document them. I think that I will either change over to AU or try and cash in my Docomo account points for new camera phone. Anyhow, below are some strange self portraits. Enjoy.




Atomic Karate Chop!

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The good 'ol G.I. Joe standard.

Remember, knowing is half the battle!


Mmmmm, it does go well with the chicken!
Delicious again Peter.

Demon Child

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Ubuyama's "Dream Bridge"

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Herbal Coffee

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Sunset As Seen On The Caldera

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Tips On Ear Popping

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I suspect I will be using one of these techniques on the long flight back.

TIP FOR ALL DIVERS: Practice clearing the night before the first dive of your trip, and immediately before your first dive. It will loosen "things" up.

Valsalva Maneuver: The most common ear-clearing technique, this maneuver involves holdnig the nose, closing the mouth and blowing gently. This raises the pressure in the pharynx, forcing air up the Eustacian tubes into the middle ear. Avoid forcefully performing this maneuver since it can damage the inner ear.
Toynbee Maneuver: Performed by holding the nose and swallowing simultaneously. The Eustacian tubes open momentarily, allowing air to enter the middle ear. This technique will also releive reverse squeezes.
Frenzel Maneuver: This atraumatic method of adding air to the middle ear is accomplished by closing the nose, mouth and glottis voluntarily, then driving the tongue backward, which acts as a piston to compress air into the nasal cavities and through the Eustacian tubes.
Yawn and Swallow: Thrusting the lower jaw forward and slightly opening the jaw, while keeping the lips pursed around the regulator and swallowing accomplish this maneuver.
Head Tilt: Many divers find that one ear clears more easily than the other. By tilting the head so the "bad" ear points upward, the stretchig of the Eustacian tube opening may make it easier to equalize.

I Love The Onsen

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I have been going quite frequently as of late. Today, I went with Joe and Azumi to an onsen in Kikuchi.
Its too bad that onsens will never catch on in America. Sitting in the sauna helps to sweat out a hangover, and to get rid of all the toxins. You can smell a night's worth of booze leaking out of the pores, and it feels great. Sitting under a column of pounding water really drives into stiff muscles. I am lucky to live in Kumamoto, because I enjoy going to the onsen.
I also love to switch between the hot baths (or rooms) and the ice cold pool. It feels great to be uncomfortably hot, after soaking up heat for a while, and then to plunge your whole body under the cold blue shock of spring water. The marine mamalian response immediately kicks in, slowing down the heart rate, shutting the eyes closed tight, and locking a hastily drawn breath into frozen lungs. Your senses are heightened, and after sitting in the pool for a while, it starts to feel like your skin has a polar bear-thick layer of blubber underneath. Then when you return to the hot tub, the heat pierces through your body like acupuncture needles. I like to do this several times, and by the end, I am buzzing, a purer and gentler energy than Lipovitan.
The only thing that I don't really enjoy doing is going into the electrically charged water. Some people enjoy sitting next to electrodes and getting a mild electrical shock, but it just feels like an unpleasant stim-flex machine. It is fun to see your dumbass friends see what it feels like to put body parts of their choosing close to the plates.

Good Day!

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I just finished an epic sandwitch, it's less than a week until I take off for the U.S.
and oh, by the way,

WE CAPTURED SADDAM HUSSEIN (according to the DNA tests, as of now)!!!

What a great Christmas bonus for our troops in Iraq!

Let's Enjoy Christmas Shopping

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music cues, a panicked, whiplash-inducing glance for the exit. sinking feeling of impending doom. hands stiffen, drop the can of corn nibblets and smack over ears with vice-grip of death. a futile gesture of resistance "Aaaaaaughhhhh!!! Make it stop! Must...get...away...from...Wham..."

Last Christmas I gave you my heart...

complete sense of pure unfiltered dread momentarily drowns out all sensory input and cognitive processes, auto-pilot violently, abruptly overrides manual control. interfacing, specifically and most importantly control of motor functions, is shanghaid, limited to only sensory input. bashing head against the steel extrusion of the shopping isle, chikkabwaayayayang-ing, a diving board, and canned Green Giant creamed-corn jumps down, a bludgeoning rain. this is strictly a base level reaction of the nervous system to a powerful stimulus

...And the very next day, you gave it away...

optic sensors spot the massive, carefully crafted ziggarut of bread down the lane, legs start building up speed toward the objective

...This year to save me from tears...

continuing to build up momentum... targeting system locks onto dead center of pyramid, dives in with hands tucked at side for optimal aerodynamics, flying vertical with face leading first. slightly distorted greyscale stock footage of a tomohawk missle, from its POV, converging on an iraqi bunker jacks into the optical feed and

...I'll give it to some one special...

tactile senses slice their way to the front of the line. face feels the soft give of opaque plastic bag and 5 fat slices of japanese white bread for 1/100th of a second, followed by the unexpected solid, unyeilding corner of the green ABS plastic milk bins, the hidden foundation, braced by the L intersection of the white-washed concrete wall and freshly waxed linoleum floor. the sizzling electric fuzzy hazed crunch of nose being coerced into the nasal cavity completely drowns out the bouncy thud of the body hitting the black and white checkered linoleum


all signals lost for an infinite, unending moment, drowning in an infinite crimson tempest of noise. slowly, easing back into control of the totaled hulk of wreckage... a wave breaks, an uncontrollable urge to go sing Wham at karaoke crashes over, and recedes just as quickly. adrenaline buzz burns away, but endorphins start to kick in... ah, Christmas in Japan has come again, the slightly muted, warm, salty, excruciating pain helps bring into focus the original objective of a visit to the supermarket: now where are those blasted chocolate-strawberry Hello Kitty Christmas cakes?

Screaming Trees

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I just wrote this for my village's newspaper. It will be interested to see what people think of it when I come back from Christmas break.

Americans are generally very impressed at the Japanese traditional arts and their complex sense of aesthetics (or they pretend to be in order to appear "cultured"). Many people marvel at how a simple tree can be transformed into a graceful, highly stylized caricature through tireless pruning, shaping, and nurturing. Ah, the bonsai tree lives a tragic life. It?s branches are endlessly broken and set, cut off and cast aside, and it?s roots are confined by a small vessel to keep it stunted as long as it lives. Can you imagine if someone constantly broke your arms and legs, or kept you in a small box (because they thought that it made you look beautiful) in order to make you look different from what you naturally should become? I think that bonsai is a beautiful form of art, and I have nothing against the practice. But what if trees can feel pain, and can suffer (which I don?t believe, after all trees and humans are completely different)? I think that they might choose death as a Christmas trees instead of life as a bonsai.
In America, the average family celebrates Christmas (Chaunakkah and Kwanzaa are for a whole different article). The tree is the most important symbol of Christmas because everyone has one in their house, and more importantly it serves as shelter for the presents. The tree is what everyone sits around on Christmas morning to open their gifts. The tree is where all of the torn wrapping paper, opened boxes, and Christmas cards sit waiting to be cleaned up. The scent of pine always reminds me of Christmas.
Usually, families go to pick out a Christmas tree from a Christmas tree farm or vendor. The characteristics of the Christmas trees are given much consideration, for example: is it the right height? Does it look good from every angle? Is it big (small) enough to fit all of the presents, or to make it look like there are a lot of presents, underneath? Is it too dry? Is it too expensive? Is it the right species of tree? Is that guy about to buy the Christmas tree that I want? These are just a few of the thoughts that we consider before making a decision. Once the decision is made, the defenseless tree is sawed down and carried home on top of the car (another good scenario to anthropomorphisize and ponder).
Inside the house, the tree is carefully groomed, placed in a stand with plenty of water, and then it is decorated. It can take up to a day to fully decorate a regular tree, in order to get it looking just right. Lights, ornaments, and streamers are hung with great care, and are constantly adjusted to make it look good from all angles (like ikebana). I feel a great sense of relief and satisfaction when we finish with the tree (or any other pain-in-the-ass activity).
So why do I think that trees would prefer to be Christmas trees instead of Bonsai? The Christmas tree dies quickly, so although its life is shorter its death is also less painful. The bonsai tree often lives a long life full of being cut, cracked, and deformed, while the Christmas tree is cut just once (and slowly dies of thirst). If you feel sad for the trees, then my suggestion is to buy a fake Christmas tree or bonsai. I don?t feel sad for the tree (because it is a tree!), but I still say ?thanks? to it for being an important part of my Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone, and have a happy New Year!


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There are two types of bioluminescence that I know of. One form is created by the mixing of the chemicals luciferin and luciferase. Animals such as fireflies and anglerfish either have organs that produce luciferin and luciferase (both internally and externally) or support colonies of bioluminescent bacteria who produce these chemicals in their bodies, living in symbiosis in special organs called photophores.
The other kind is called phosphorescence. Phytoplankton, specifically dinoflagellates, use phosphorous to construct their shells and when they strike eachother, their shells emit light. I wonder if this phenomena is related to sodium particle emissions (turning a pickle into a crackling yellowish green lamp, with a load of lethal electrical current running through it).
Okay, let's pretend we're not nerds and get on with the story.
Two weekends ago I took a trip down to Ashikita and shared a cabin on the coastline with some friends. During the course of the night, we decided to go for a swim in the calm waters of the channel. The night was cold, but there was no wind and water was not much colder than that of the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach.
After contemplating the serene beauty of the moonlight rippling off of the wavelets, I led the initial solo banzai charge into the black water and belly-flopped with a Ker-Smack! An electric blue donut lived and died in a flash, circling me. Thrashing around, I was surprised to see a myriad of tiny blue lights, the same color as blue glow sticks but about the size of a grain of sand, flashing with the chaos of water within my sphere of influence. Everyone quickly joined in the melee,and the tiny dinoflagellates collectively gave off enough light to clearly see eachother underlighted by a ghostly blue. I dove beneath, and breaststroked (the best stroke of all), astounded at watching the lights illuminate my hands, arms, and even air bubbles. Someone else did this afterward, and from above it looked unreal- a fully illuminated glow-stick person doing the breaststroke. After twenty minutes the cold finally started to set in, and it was time to return to warmth brought by beer and heat of the cabins.
The next morning was as spectacular. Ashikita is a really beautiful coastal town, and there is an onsen at the top of a hill that looks over the channel. The onsen has a large panel of glass that offers a spectacular view, and there was a group of about 10 seahawks dive bombing out in front, trying to rob eachother of whatever they were eating. So, as we soaked and let the deep heat cleanse us of our weariness and hangovers, we were further invigorated by a perfect sunny/partly cloudy day and our airborne entertainment.
Being in the mountains, I really miss the sea. All of the trips that I have been on to the coast have been great, not just good. I am ready for another beach vacation right about now, as I contemplate the congealed bottle of olive oil. This weekend, I think thats where I will spend it.

Top 8 Burgers:

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1. Chorizo Bacon Avocado Teriyaki Cheese Burger- home-made, thus perfection (note- there is NO chorizo in Kumamoto)
2. Double tri-tip cheese burger- eaten after bungee jumping with Kohei in the LBC. The juciest, most delicious pure-beef burger ever. EVER!!!
3. Double Kingburger with everything on it and all add-ons: cheese, bacon, chili, ranch dressing, and an egg. While eating one of these, you can actually feel yourself getting fatter- Fat Burger, Los Angeles
4. Masa's Deluxe- Masa's Diner, Kumamoto City.
5. Dick's Deluxe- This company is pretty cool because they help out their workers with their college tuition, according to Mika. Dick's Burgers, Seattle
6. Double Double with Cheese and Grilled Onions "animal style"- In-N-Out (btw, whoever is using the In-N-Out sign in Japan for the Joyfull clone restaraunts should be repeatedly kicked in the nuts, several times a day. Sick bastard!!!)
7. Tommy's cheeseburger with chili fries - Fountain Valley, Ca. Straight up arterial schlerosis.
8. Teriyaki avocado bacon cheese burger- Fuji Burger, Huntington Beach, Ca. This place reminds me of Hawaii, like the Loft, but more of that greasy authenticity.

My Kumamoto Big Kahuna Burger

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This burger was two huge patties of real beef (no pork, breadcrumbs, or any other bullshit),cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato, onion, lettuce, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup on a grilled bun. It was IMPOSSIBLE to take a real bite out of this burger, so I had to split it in half and eat it openfaced. It was one badass burger.

I had just about lost all hope of finding a good burger in Kumamoto City, until last Thursday. I went out with a couple of friends after our JET meeting to Masa's Diner. The diner kicked ass for several reasons:
1. Good food- the Super-Deluxe was too big for me to finish, and I was starving! In addition, they have locomoco, steak fries, onion rings, chili dogs, and many other truly American classics to try. Bonus for Heinz 57 in glass bottles at every table.
2. Beer from the WC
Good drinks- this place has Red Hook ESB and Steelhead(reminiscent of Sierra Nevada Ale) beer. It also has Dr. Pepper and Dad's rootbeer, both of which are hard to find in Kyushu.
3. Its big. It really is. There is room to walk around and to stretch after a gut-busting meal.
4. The staff. The owner, Masa, is really tall for a Japanese man, and he speaks English. This man knows good food. Also, the waitresses are cute, although they do not speak English.

So if you are in Kumamoto and you are tired of eating fish, raw horse, grilled pig intestine, lotus root stuffed with spicy mustard, nato, and all of that other stuff, drop in on Masa's and you will not be disappointed. (Tel 096-352-3118)
If you want good Mexican go to Plaza del Sol (they have real Mexican cooks who have the ganas to make excellent comida).

If you are in southern Aso, check out the Strong Boss. They make a decent burger, and other good food, but the real reason to go is for the atmosphere. Its a biker bar the way you would imagine one to be, in Disneyland. There are no fights and no drugs, and the patrons of the bar won't make you dance to "Tequila" on the table if you knock over their bikes (but they would probably kick your ass as you pointed to the "no fighting" sign).

But remember to enjoy the food that Kyushu is best at making:
Tonkotsu Ramen

D251 On Disability

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My keitai camera is now useless. Althought it can sense light, the picture is scrambled and the colors are only shades of black, white, purple, and green. It looks like a super-complex sideways histogram monitoring, in realtime, a system in flux. So I will be posting all of the remaining pictures later on this week, as a tribute to this camera. It was a great toy while it lasted...
I guess that I will now be limited to talking, emailing, browsing, keeping phone numbers, keeping a schedule, serving as a flashlight, and waking me up every morning. The modern keitai is truly a badass social swiss army knife.


(pic of Mark Fingerhut)

It seems that my camera works sorta well in dim lighting. It has been transmogrified into a night vision camera, but how I do not know... Strange.

Views On Education

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I think that education is fascinating. I always have. When I was in class with a burnt out teacher I often thought: I can do a better job than this! I can remember that I frequently got in trouble in science related classes, either for screwing around (usually with the bunsen burner or acids and bases) or not paying attention. Mr. Melstrom in sixth grade always tried to bust me for this by asking me questions the hardest and most technical questions about his lessons which I had stopped listening to, and he NEVER stumped me except when he asked me to parrot back what he had been lecturing us on when I was talking. This resulted in multiple detentions instead of meeting the challenge of stepping up the material of the class and re-engineering his ineffective teaching style. Yes, I often reflected on how I could be a better teacher than him when I sat, waiting for the hour after school doing nothing to pass. Well, now I get to test all of my theories every day at work. I am always thinking:
How can I help my kids think critically?
How can I teach them to try and see things from different perspectives?
How can I maintain their interest?
How can I work together with the JTE to accomplish both of our goals?
How can I help my kids to be creative and to express their honest opinions?
How can I make my kids confident?
What tools can I give my students so that they will be able to pursue what they want to learn about outside of class?
How can I develop them to their fullest potential?
How can we have fun together?
And the list goes on. I think about this every day, and I often gain inspiration outside of the classroom. I also do research on education and teaching methods in my free time. I am not the best teacher, but I am constantly trying to improve with the ultimate goal of helping my kids however I can. I am trying to be like every teacher that ever inspired me, like every teacher who made the extra effort for my class, like every teacher who made learning interesting and fun.
It makes me angry to hear other JETs complain that they have nothing to do at work, and that they are bored. What a f*cking cop out... All of these lazy gaijin can seem to do is to complain about the same old shit. They are letting down their kids bigtime. If they would take the time to set goals in class, make continued efforts to coordinate lessons with their JTEs (I know that this can be hard, but if you stop trying after someone or something discourages you, you are a quitter!!!), and constantly analyze the lessons that they had taught, trying to think of ways to bring out the full potential of their kids, then they would be helping everyone. God forbid you do some research on your own! Or spend your own money to invest in books, or rewards for students who do a wonderful job! Its time for you to start thinking about your kids. If you sit on your ass, little Hiro will become yet another apathetic English-fearing run of the mill Japanese student. Invest the time, and help these kids! If you can't do this do everyone a big favor and quit! After all, you must have at least some qualifications that can get you some money with some other job that better suits your needs!
That being said, to begin your repentance you can start playing games in class and put some thought into your lessons. Below are a few games and resources that I have compiled, to help you reform:

Interactive Classroom Games And Other Resources
The Heist
A lesson on directions is great because it is useful, and only takes minutes to review, lending itself to numerous interactive games. If the students ever go abroad, they will be able to find their way around in English speaking countries because they can understand directions, or maybe they will be able to help a lost gaijin find their way around in Japan. It can be reinforced with other games like scavenger hunts, or by making blindfolded students navigate through a course (to reach various waypoints) and timed.
English skills practiced: Giving and receiving directions, orientation and motor skills.
Equipment needed: A large map, a car magnet, and various other magnets of your choice, a set of smaller maps and directions for every student.
Directions: Break people into groups of three, or any group number divisible by three. One person is a robber, one is a witness, and one is the police officer. Have the police officer leave the room or close their eyes, and instruct the robber to pick a place to rob, and a place to hide with the witness watching. Once this is settled, place the cop car at the scene of the crime, and instuct the witness to give directions to the police officer leading to the hide out. Time how long it takes to complete this task, and have different teams compete against eachother. To make this more difficult, you can pick a place to stash the money, and a different safehouse for the robbers to hide in.

Gesture Racing Game
English skills practiced: Non-verbal communication (gestures), vocabulary review.
(To learn how gestures help in learning a foreign language, you can look here: http://www.medianet-ny.com/research.htm, and search Google for many other interesting studies.)
Directions: Divide your class into two or more teams and have them face the back of the classroom, form a single file line, and sit down. Then tell the first student from each group a word (such as monkey, chicken, and fish). After you say ?go? the student must convey the meaning of the word through gestures to the next student. The student at the end of the line fastest to give a correct answer scores a point for their team. After a match have the students switch places within the same team.

Kanji Drawing Lesson
English skills practiced: listening to directions, drawing, studying the English meaning of kanji
Materials: Paper and pencil
Directions: Teach your class shapes, adjectives, and directions such as:
Line, straight, curved, perpendicular, vertical, horizontal, square, rectangle, long, short, center, up, down, left, right, etc?
Draw a straight line, Draw a curved line, Make a Circle.
Use these directions and words, directing them to draw a kanji, for example:
Draw a vertical line. Draw a horizontal line through the middle of the vertical line. What number is this: It?s ten (ju).

Basketball Games (from The Ultimate Playground & Recess Game Book, by Guy Bailey, p. 38):
Around The World
English skills practiced: Geography, questions and answers, TPS, reading
Materials: Flags, World map (to match the flags to), basketball
Directions: The goal of this game is to make baskets from ten (or however many you want to use) spots in a semicircular pattern around the goal. I play this game using two or more teams using different baskets to compete against each other. The player chosen to shoot first shoots from spot #1 (at the base of the key). If the shot is good, he moves up to the next spot. If he misses, the next player then gets a turn at shooting. Play continues with each player shooting from the current spot.
The first team that first successfully makes all the shots wins.
In this lesson, you can teach about foreign cultures and customs very easily, while practicing questions and answers, or it can just be used to learn the names of different countries. Have the people get into a couple of groups (at different courts) and set up a key. At each spot, I place the flag of a foreign country. The whole team asks the shooter a question about the country (for example, What animal is from Australia?), and then the shooter must answer (example: A kangaroo.) before they can shoot.

English skills practiced: spelling, Total Physical Response(TPR) type learning, speaking
(to learn more about TPR, check this website: or Search Google for Total Physical Response)
Equipment needed: Basketball
Directions: This game is best played with groups ranging in size from 2 to 6 players, but can be played with more. The game begins when the first player takes a shot from anywhere on the court. If the ball goes in, the second player must make the same shot from the same spot. If the second shooter misses, then he is assigned a letter ?H?. If he makes it, no letter is given, and the third shooter must make the same shot. Whenever a shooter misses a shot, the next shooter gets a chance to make a shot which must be duplicated. As the players make and miss baskets, the opportunity of the first shot will pass quite frequently between all of the players. The letters H-O-R-S-E are assigned to players that miss shots that must be duplicated. Once a person gets all 5 letters they lose but I let them keep playing to maintain interest. You can substitute any word you like instead of ?HORSE? to review vocabulary.

Other resources to explore:
To find ANYTHING on the web do a Google search: http://www.google.com
Basketball Games were modified from: The Ultimate Playground & Recess Game Book, by Guy Bailey
Kip Cates? Global Issues in Language Education Newsletter. For a sample newsletter, contact him at kcates@fed.tottori-u.ac.jp
Innovative Approaches To Early Childhood Education (The Reggio Emilia Method)
I highly recommend researching Active Learning , if you want some excellent ideas on teaching techniques that are tried and true.

Break from the norm and be an inspiration to them, not another disappointment.

Finding Me

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It seems that a couple of years ago I did some class work while attending UCSB that ended up contributing to this website, but I don't remember doing anything special. I sure as hell know that Brian didn't either!
Holy crap, I don't remember compiling this!
I am also currently listed on this page.
But these pages are all way down the list on a Google search of "Adam Yoshida".
However, the second highest ranked page is none other than Justin's.

Survey Results

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In case you were curious, this is what I have been working hard on for the past few weeks in conceptualization, development, collection, processing, and articulation of my survey and the resulting feedback. I was chosen to give a presentation on the relationships between JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) and ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers), and to distribute the information to the other four presenters who are giving the same lecture at the same time as me this Thursday. I am pretty proud because this work is the result of my efforts, with a little help from my P.A., Brenna Dorrance.
I was happy to learn that most of the ALTs seem to be effectively teaching English, and that there was not too much bitching. Unfortunately the JTEs lived up to my expectations by not participating or by not stating what they really felt on the survey. Where does all of that pent up frustration go? Oh yeah, it goes to the Snack, and the next day your forget about it because you are being scolded by your wife for blowing all of your money on "pachinko"...
I am gonna put the smack down on everyone in my presentation, because everyone needs a solid kick to the pants.
The most common complaint by ALTs was that the JTEs teach us the lesson plans ten minutes before class we are frequently given only the time spent walking from the office to the classroom to come up with an idea to make the lesson interesting, so I am going to switch the tables by giving the JTEs the task of using actual pages from our boring textbooks and give them five minutes per group of four to come up with good ideas for a lesson to present in front of 70 something people. I will randomly pick some victims, to maintain an atmosphere of quiet terror (JTEs) and smug satisfaction (ALTs). Haha, I am giving the gift of empathy by making everyone suffer together!
But to bitch-slap the gaijin teachers, I have a different plan. A common JTE complaint is that they feel uncomfortable talking with foreigners in a non-native language like English, and that they want to talk more but don't know how. So, I am going to give a randomly picked gaijin who doesn't know too much Japanese, a problem such as:
"My kids are always giving me kanchos (a kancho, for ye who don't know, is a term describing some dirty kung-fu. Basically you clasp your hands and extend your index fingers, and ram them into someone's asshole. Kids generally like to do this to gaijin from nursery school and in some cases until middle school. I have even seen a co-worker do it to a waitress when he was really drunk. Many kids have suffered great pain learning that Adam don't play that! The Japanese can just be plain sick sometimes), and I usually don't mind, but I have hemmorhoids. How can I make them stop without resorting to the use of a baseball bat to mitigate this problem?" and I will instruct them to use only Japanese or gestures to convey this meaning to the room.
Hell, I figure if I have to work, so do the members of the audience! Hopefully this presentation will go off well, and I think it will because it is an interesting topic. I will know that I have done a good job if someone has a mental breakdown during my workshop, heh!

Anyways, if you like, take a look below to get a glimpse into the minds of a cross section of the JET community in Kumamoto, Japan.

ALT and JTE Relations: A Litmus Test (Survey Results):
16 ALTs from Kumamoto participated in this survey, and were allowed to pick more than one choice. A Japanese version of The same questionnaire was sent out to JTEs, but their contents are not covered here..

1.In your classroom, which choice best describes your relationship
with your JTE?
a. The JTE is the leader, who gives you orders to be followed. (8 votes)
b. We have a symbiotic relationship. Together we form Voltron! (6 votes)
c. You are in charge of the class, and the JTE plays the part of Robin to your Batman. (5 votes)
d. Other- The ALT is in charge of the classroom (2 votes)

1.1.How would you describe your ideal role as ALT in the classroom? What duties do you think that you should perform?
The ideal ALT should:
*Work in collaboration. Both should be jointly responsible for the planning, content, presentation, and assessment of a lesson. They should feel free to bounce ideas off of each other.
*Cooperate with the JTE in setting goals and discussing problems.
*Support the JTE in working toward collaborative goals, including repetition drills, grammar points, and key sentences, however mundane they may seem to us.
*Become friends with the students, and be energetic in class to motivate them.
*Share 50/50 responsibility for the class including but not limited to research and Prepare useful class materials, and make decisions together.
*Frequently use activities and games to make learning (English) fun.
*Help with correcting tests and homework, or any other class related activities, no matter how small.
*Try out new ideas in class, and not just rely on the textbook for teaching material.

1.2.How would you describe the ideal JTE? What should they do in order to make teaching English fun and effective?
The ideal JTE should:
*Help the ALT to know what is going on in the school, in class, in the lessons, and between the students, since it is difficult for ALTs to know everything that is happening..
*Use other sources than just the textbook to help teach grammar and other parts of the lesson.
*Enjoy teaching children, and use a variety of teaching methods that include aural, oral, written, viewing, hands on, and other interactive methods or activities.
*Not be afraid to make mistakes and to express their true feelings and opinions.
*not be scared of the ALT and not hesitate to talk to ALTs. Make an effort to communicate no matter what.
*Be a teammate who shares responsibility, and trust the ALT as a professional (but this trust must be earned).
*Be a person who is open to experimenting with new games and approaches to teaching the class.
*Play more games in class, and allow the ALT to introduce new games and ideas.
*Effectively teach useful or necessary lesson topics and grammar points.
*Help the ALT build stronger relationships with the kids, because they see the kids all the time.
*Reinforce what the ALT is teaching, and not looking out the window or looking bored when they are speaking (this should be reciprocated!).
*Be a person who is passionate about teaching and English, who inspires students through their actions, not just their words.
*Make time to discuss and prepare for the class on a regular basis, even if they are really busy, in order to make the lesson more effective, complete, and fun.
*Encourage students to use English as much as possible, and continues to challenge the students to their full potential.
*Hopefully be open to becoming a friend.
*Take a more active role in class, and not just watch.

1.3.Do you want a more active role, and how so?
Many people said they were fine with their roles in class already, but some common responses were:
I want to:
Plan, set goals, come up with unorthodox lessons, use more communicative activities, be allowed to do even ?mundane? tasks such as making copies or grading homework, experiment in class with new material and teaching methods or make modifications to the lessons.

1.4.As a team, what are you trying to accomplish in class (What are your ultimate goals and aspirations)?
Many people expressed that they didn?t feel part of a team, and that they were unable to develop goals as a consequence, but there were a number of suggestions:
As a team, our goal is to:
*To help students relax in class, get them moving around, and encouraging participation while having a good time.
*To get students to use English as much as possible and even when they are not in class.
*To have students who are not afraid to speak English, but better yet, to help students become confident speakers of English who are not afraid to make mistakes.
*To get through the material in time. To maintain the scheduled curriculum in order to get them into high school. To learn the textbook vocabulary and target sentences.
*Be able to get students to express their true opinions and feelings.
*To get them to enjoy English and develop a positive view of it.
*Getting the students interested in foreign culture and countries.
*To use English as a tool to consider everyday life situations through conversation and role-playing.
*To expose students minds to global issues, views, problems, and solutions.

2.How well do you get along with your JTE?
a. Stupendously, I want to marry him/her! (7 votes)
b. We have a good relationship. (16 votes)
c. O.K., things could be worse, but they could also be better. (10 votes)
d. Bad. I have trouble communicating with them. (3 votes)

2.1.How can your relationship be improved?
Some people said that their relationships are already really good. Here are some other comments:
*Communicating with each other (notice I didn?t say ?speaking English to each other?)
*Finding time to talk about goals for the class, to evaluate and plan lessons, and to improve the abilities of the students. Meeting face to face with each other more often.
*Actually team teaching, instead of one member teaching and the other watching.
*To have the JTE use the ALT as a resource of English information.
*To treat each other as professionals, with mutual respect and hopefully friendliness and understanding.
*To try to see things from the your partner?s perspective.

2.2.How often do you talk with your JTE?
The answers ranged from never to all the time, but how often you talk with your JTE is a terrific indicator of the health of the relationship. As you would expect to find, those people who talk to their JTE on a frequent basis tend to have fewer problems and complaints.

2.3.How often do you go to their school? Does this affect your relationship?
More time spent with your co-teacher + more communication = a better relationship.

2.4.If you only visit a school once in a while, how do you get the most bang for your buck out of your seldom appearances?
This question did not apply to some people, and others had never thought about it at all.
You should:
*Make the lessons really fun and stimulating, to create motivation and an incentive for the students to learn and remember English.
*Keep the lessons focused on being as interactive as possible and stress speaking and other communication.
*Plan and produce huge lessons, since some people have a lot of free time to conceptualize, build, and implement them.
*Be friendly, don?t get upset about little things, and be understanding.

3. How would you describe your participation in class?
a. I am always doing something, whether it be observing the students, giving one on one help, or talking. (11 votes)
b. I do things occasionally, and feel useful most of the time. (5 votes)
c. I feel that I could be utilized more effectively, but am trying to think of how. (3 votes)
d. I am barely used at all, and when I do speak it is in the manner of a tape recorder. (3 votes)

3.1.How can you be better utilized? How can you improve your effectiveness in the classroom?
Give the ALT more time to help plan the lesson, and ask for their ideas in order to make the lesson special for the kids.
When the ALT is teaching focus the lessons on what they are the best at doing, which is usually speaking, providing fresh ideas, teaching about culture, etc?
Involve them in more collaboration in any activity, with the goal of helping the kids.
Let the ALT give directions in class without the JTE translating right away.

4. Which would best describe the level of Japanese/English used in your classroom?
a. We have created a classroom that immerses our students in English. Japanese is only used when necessary. (4 votes)
b. Japanese is used a little more than necessary, but English is used frequently and effectively. (10 votes)
c. Japanese is used in many unnecessary situations. English should be used much more. (7 votes)

4.1.What are some steps you have taken or that you think you can take to use English as much as possible in your class?
*Both teachers use English as much as possible, using Japanese only when it is really necessary, especially for every day conversation and classroom commands.
*Create an environment in which students are not afraid to make mistakes, and which helps them to gain confidence to express themselves. Get them to say when they don?t understand.
*Have the ALT explain everything in English, and only have the JTE explain in Japanese when all else fails, or because of other problems (such as time constraints, immediate danger, etc?).
*Speak to the kids inside and outside of class in English.
*Teach English through the contexts of foreign countries, cultures, and world issues.
*Play (appropriate) music during the class during non-active activities, such as reading or writing.
*Work together as a team.
*Focus on verbal practice as much as possible to get the kids talking.

5. How much planning and preparation do you do for your class?
a. All or almost all of it. (6 votes)
b. Some of it. I plan together with my JTE. (6 votes)
c. A little of it. My feedback and ideas are valued and considered by my JTE, but more for proof reading and supplementing a lesson than co-planning it. (3 votes)
d. None at all. (5 votes)

5.1.Do you want a more active role in lesson planning and teaching? (Note: many people said ?no?)
a. Yes, I want to actively design and orchestrate lesson plans. (1 votes)
b. I want to plan lessons more. (2 votes)
c. I want to teach more. (1 votes)
d. I want to have a more active role in planning and teaching. (3 votes)

6.Please check or describe some problems you have encountered with your JTE:
a. Like Ma Bell, I got the ill communication. You don?t talk to each other, other than what is absolutely necessary to accomplish the bare requirements. (3 votes)
b. My JTE doesn?t like me. (1 vote)
c. My JTE is scared of me. (2 votes)
d. My JTE tells me the lesson plan only seconds before we teach it. (8 votes)
e. My JTE give me too much work to do. (1 vote)
f. My JTE doesn?t give me too much work to do. (4 votes)
g. We have cultural misunderstandings. (4 votes)
h. I tell my JTE the lesson plan only seconds before we teach it (1 vote)

6.1.Please address any other problems or concerns with regard to your JTE/ALT relationship.
*The lessons should focus on challenging the students in order to help them develop their abilities to their fullest potential.
*The emphasis should stress more learning and less teaching. (Note: If you are interested in this method, please research ?Student Initiated Learning/Student Centered Learning?)
*Many students expect entertainment, games, cuddling from their ALT all the time- is this realistic?
*We don?t drink together enough (Best complaint, hands down!).
*Because the school I work at is so small, I am afraid that if I confront my JTE with our problems that my situation is likely to become very very bad.
*My JTEs don?t want any responsibility for class, and prefer to watch from the back of the class.
*My JTE doesn?t like ALTs (in general), and other JTEs don?t know how to use me in class.
*Don?t be over critical of small mistakes. Be understanding, and I will reciprocate.

7.Who plays the role of disciplinarian in the classroom when things
get out of hand?
a. We both do. We put the smack down tag-team style when necessary. (4 votes)
b. My JTE handles all of the discipline. I am more like the ?good cop?. (10 votes)
c. I handle almost all of the discipline. (1 vote)
d. My classroom is like a zoo. (5 vote)

8.What do you think of this? Who should discipline the students?
a. It is the job of the JTE only. I am just there to supplement English teaching.(6 vote)
b. It is both of our jobs. We should present a united front to face our challenges.(10 vote)
c. It is my job. My JTE doesn?t do it, so I feel that I must.
d. Students should not be confined by rules. Down with the Man! (only 1 vote!!!)

9.Please describe what has worked for you and your JTE in helping to motivate your students to study English.
a. What are effective methods that you use with or without your JTE in teaching English?
The most important is logical staging of lessons. Building on one topic or theme over a month or more to consolidate language points/ vocabulary.
Dividing the class into small groups and do pair work works well.
Making a fun environment by using silly topics and activities works well.
Discussing Pop-culture and teenage lifestyles in foreign countries or from their perspectives is a good way to get and hold the kids' attention.
Using games, repetition, using rewards or incentives is good for motivation.

b. What games/lessons/activities continue to work well in class?
Material should be changed frequently or it loses its appeal.
?smart mouth?, shiritori, JTE and ALT skits, bingo, team games, anything that involves competition, music, and time limits, Karuta, International material.
Everyday or exotic contexts such as detective games, newspaper interviews, shopping, directions, parties, etc?
Bulletin board with quizzes, passport point cards (stamped when the students speak English).
Class diaries. Two students take the diary each week and contribute something in words, with pictures optional. The ALT and JTE writes back each time.

c. Do you have any extracurricular activities that work well outside of class?
Eat lunch with the students and join in a sport or other extracurricular club, spend recess with them.
Visits by other ALTs.
Cooking classes.

d. What English songs do your students like to sing?
Abba (Dancing Queen), Beetles, Carpenters, John Lennon, Tatu, Biggie Smalls, 50 cent, Bob Marley

10.Finally, what are some things that you think should be more carefully covered in class? How can your goals be realized?
a. Vocabulary (4 votes)
b. Pronunciation/ Phonics (14 votes)
c. Gestures and Body Language (4 votes)
d. Slang/Informal English (4 votes)
e. Useful Everyday English (14 votes)
f. Reading (2 votes)
g. Writing (1 votes)
h. Drama (3 votes)
i. World Cultures/ Global Issues (7 votes)
j. Computers and the Internet (6 votes)
k. Grammar (1 vote)

Mayo Otaku

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Generally, I like Japanese food. I am down with basashi (horse sashimi), liver sashimi, all traditional food, almost all seafood (except for mutsugoro and kujira, which are the Japanese for mudskipper and whale), and have even developed a positive view of grilled hormone (intestines).
However, sometimes things can get a little out of hand in Japan. Some Japanese people do not seem to grasp the concept that mayonnaise is a condiment best used to make specific dishes. You use mayonnaise to make tuna/egg/macaroni salads. You use mayonnaise in sandwitches or hamburgers. You use mayonnaise as a base to make sauces and dressings. Mayonnaise should only be used in these contexts.
Now, I know that some Europeans and people that have been to Europe like to dip their French (er...Freedom) fries in mayonnaise. I personally do not like dipping my fries this way, because it is disgusting.
But the way that mayonaisse is used in Japan is truly filthy.
At my hoikuens, the teachers like to use plain mayo as their salad dressing. Nastiness.
How would you like a seafood pizza with octopus, shrimp, and clams? What could possibly make this worse?
Hmmmm... Is your white rice a little too plain? Why not just drown it in mayonnaise to give it some fatty goodness!
Wow! A hot dog baked into the bun! But whats that white stuff liberally drizzled on top and baked into it?
Mayonnaise doused omelet? Yes Brian, it does exist...

To be fair, Japanese use of mayonnaise can yield some delicious results, but finding complementary combinations between food and this particular condiment have been exhausted. Thats it. Stick to the tried and true recipies.

What do you think you are doing? Don't be creative with mayonnaise. Be creative with beer. Be creative with hot sauce or other sauces. Be creative by creating art. Be creative in how you express yourself. Don't be creative expressing yourself in mayonnaise... It is not bold, nor is it brave. It is stupid and obnoxious. No, not everything is relative, these words are the truth, so shut up already!

Living in Ubuyama can really be an inconvenience sometimes. If I were back at home on this Friday, I would be remembering the spectacular dinner that I had eaten yesterday, and would be helping myself to my third helping of leftover deep-fried turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, ham, salads (caesar, potato, macaroni, and maybe jello), mashed potatoes, chips and dip, vegetables, and a thick, rich gravy drowning everything.
Not that I can complain, though. I made a couple of Japanese friends panfried steaks and eggs topped with fried garlic, with grilled shiitake and onions in a redwine sauce, with rice and an italian salad! As it was the first time that they had eaten this stuff, it blew their minds (this is common when I cook, but it is usually either extremely good, or extremely bad- though this only happens on average two times a year). Not bad for a meal that took twenty minutes to prepare.
You may have been noticing that I have been talking an awful lot about food lately, and this reflects my state of mind. Japanese food is good, but during the holidays, I need to eat like an American! Yo, supersize that biznitch, and yes I will take the chocolate shake and an extra order of chicken strips and curly fries to start with... 22 days...

The Origins Of RocketBowl Saimin

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Nestled among my childhood memories of visiting Gardena and West L.A. is one of my Dad taking us to RocketBowl for a big, steaming bowl of Saimin. It is a simple soup that sort of bears a resemblance to ramen, but the noodles are wavy, and the broth is almost pho-ish, served with red ginger and green onions.
Along with waffle dogs, locomoco, various spam dishes, and plate lunches, I remember eating some good saimin on my last trip to Hawaii. Up until that point, I just assumed that Saimin was a hybrid food, the result of a fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and Hawaiian cooking, but I was wrong. I found out where Saimin (for all of you haolies and mainlanders, this is a noodle soup popular to Hawaii) originated: that place is Okinawa, and over there it is known as Okinawa Soba. Bringing things full circle, the Okinawans make their fried rice with Spam! Ah, those islanders, they know how to eat!

24 Days

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Until I am on my way back to California! Time is flying, but I want that Alerto's carne asada burrito now!
I wonder:

Will I have reverse culture shock when I get back?
Will Orange County smell foreign?
Will driving on the 405 seem like jumping to ludacris speed?
Will Justin or I drift onto the wrong side of the road?
Will watching television at home be more confusing than watching it in Japan?
Will I know of any of the current movies that are out?

Is the Seal Beach discount movie theatre still open?

How many friends or people I know will I randomly meet? How many of them have gotten married, have successful jobs, have recently gotten laid off or died?
How much will I spend at In n Out, Alertos, Pho 69, Tommy's, Jack in the Box, and all of the other places that I have been craving for over a year?

To what extent will English have changed? What words have faded from or been added to the lexicon? Will it sound "stupid"?

Does everyone now use a cellphone, as I have heard? How far behind are the phones compared to Japanese models?

What will the landscape of California look like? Is is all charred and brown, or has regrowth and regeneration started? What is it like having Arnold as the Governer? Are people still talking about him?

Will I feel more comfortable surrounded by strangers who speak English, or by strangers who speak Japanese? Will anyone tell me that my "English is really good!" and ask me why? Will anyone tell me that my Japanese is horrible and ask me why?

How fast does Brent's black Z go? How fast does my dad's Q and the Odessey go? How fast am I going in kilometers? How many pounds will I gain during the stay? How many will I lose immediately after coming back to Japan? How many of my kids will tell me that my face has become "really fat"?

These are just a few of the thoughts that come and go when I think about the trip. Time is zipping by, as work has been really busy, but I am ready. I am looking forward to wearing shorts and t shirts again, as I sit here typing, my fingers numbing from the cold.


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Yes, the temperature forecasts have once again plunged below 0 degrees (celcius), and the kotatsu is essentail to ward off frostbitten toes. I can see my breath in my house. But this is only the tip o the iceberg... I know that when I come back from Christmas break, I will need to start leaving my faucets running so that the pipes don't freeze this year. If my towel freezes again this year, I will post a pic of the stiff upside-down U, created from the towel freezing while hanging, that blew my mind last year. Once again, it is time for nabe, hot chocolate, tea, and anything hot.

Come to think of it, the nabe is astonishingly similar to butajiru, but the version that Justin taught to me adds:
kimchee base
chicken or pork

Try this stuff during a really cold night, and you will be thankful.

While I am posting recipies, here is another cold weather favorite:

Adam's French/Viet Beef Stew

This stew recipe is based on a beef stew that I had in Little Saigon while the Cruz and Yoshida parents met up for the first time in God knows how many years. My version kicks just as much ass!

Lots of spare ribs, like 2 or more pounds
2 Carrots, cubed
2 Potatoes, cubed
Daikon, cubed
Onions, cubed
1 can of tomatoes, whole
tomato paste (thanks for reminding me Justin)
Bullion cubes and water/ beef or chicken broth
Red, red wine
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, basil, your favorite spices

Side dishes:
Fraunch Bread, a baguette

Season the spareribs(I prefer using Lawry's seasoned salt and garlic salt) and brown them in the pan with olive oil.

Pour in about two cups of wine, using this to dissolve the residue of the crisped spareribs. Add the vegetables, seasonings, and broth and bring to a simmer.

Let sit for about three hours, occasionally stirring, and adding spices and herbs to taste. Also, add more wine or broth to taste.

By the end of the three hours, the stew should be a nice reddish brown, with fine golden globules of goodness (fat) dancing on the surface of the stew. If the stew is not thick enough, add a mixture of flour dissolved in water, or some other starch.

Serve on a generous portion of rice or dip your baguette into it, and throw some chopped cilantro on top.

This is the best way to enjoy spareribs if you don't have access to an oven. Enjoy.

Am I missing anything?

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Click here to find out what robot you really are

Which Trainspotting Character Are You?
Click here to find out what size you really are
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Eigth Level of Hell - the Malebolge!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Kindergarten Keikan

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Yoroku? Nashi! Musuko wakakata? Nashi! Yabakatta? So, Amerika! (American coffee the bandits explain, is ridiculously weak. Like a stolen piece of junk, it does not do anything for one).

Aitsu jibun o nani-sama da to omotte yagarun da? Taka ga eda hagi da ze. (Who the fuck does he think he is? He's nothing more than a two bit panty theif!)
Japanese complements of Peter Constantine

Today, I arrived at Hokubu Hoikuen (the Northern-Ubuyama pre-school), at 10:00, just as Nakano sensei discovered evidence of a breaking and entering. Someone had let themself in through the restroom window, leaving muddy footprints all over. All of the desk drawers were riffled through, but nothing was taken. The police were called and arrived at 11:00. They used an array of lights and dust to search for finger prints, and took an hour and a half to do a complete sweep. It would seem to be the same burglar who, last week on Monday, broke into Hokubu Sho (Northern-Ubuyama Elementary) and stole the kyoto-sensei's laptop and Fukuda sensei's digicam.
The search yeilded no leads.

The CSI dude on the right with nifty light, supervised by the Ichinomiya Police Seargeant. These dudes were total dicks when I tried to talk to them, but became friendly when the teachers told them I was a Nikkei Yonsei (4th gen. American).

Point of entry.

Inside close-up. The glass was punched out precisely next to the lock. This window is made of an opaque glass and thinner than the other windows.

Outside close-up. Obviously the theif used tools to open the window, as a finger could not safely pass through the hole. Like a monkey using a twig to snag ant larvae.

Footprint (next to my foot) outside the window. The robber has feet smaller than mine. Luckily for him, it was raining last night, and so any other footprints were washed away.

It is a sad thing, when robbers try to rob nursery schools. What was the guy thinking? Hmmmm... That place must hold gallons of milk and a fortune's worth of cookies, not to mention the juice and crayons! And just think of all the toys... After this heist, its straight up naptime. Jackpot!

About half a year ago, someone stole some shirts out of the Superintendent's car, so it seems that petty theft is becoming more prevalent in our small village. All I know is that I have a big, sharp cleaver a few feet from my bed. On a separate note, I have no problem in implementing my version of Hammurabi's code on anyone foolish enough to try and break into my house.

Empty Metaphor

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I found this description of the Cosmic Buddha floating in the ether:

The truth of the cosmic order, which is contained in the relationships between the Cosmic Buddha and all his manifestations, cannot be known verbally.

So why bother to use mere text to describe it? Does this make sense to anyone? Also, the Cosmic Buddha has an elite posse, clique, cadre, crew, or whatever you would like to call his group of fellow Buddhas. Where are the other Buddhas and their respective blogs?

In the Diamond World, the Cosmic Buddha (Dainichi Nyorai in Japanese), sits in the center of assemblies of Buddhas arranged in a three by three square.

Does the excerpt below mean that his other pad was in fact, a uterus, and his pals are puppies of the same litter? No, the words mean nothing because the relations of the Cosmic Buddha cannot be explained with words.

The other world, the Womb World (Taizokai in Japanese, Garbhadhatu in Sanskrit), was the world of physical phenomenon. In this mandala, the Dainichi Nyorai sits in the middle in relationship to all his physical manifestations ranged in several courts radiating outward from him.


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Kagura Oni

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Sexual Harassment Pandy

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Neko Bento

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The Oracle of Starbucks

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As far as I can tell this Oracle is 100 percent accurate.

Ka-Thunk... Ka-Thunk... Ka-Thunk...

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Ah, as long as we're on the subject of the good 'ol days, here is another memorable episode about roommate torture methods practiced and refined in the Sabado Tarde apartment. One day Steve went to soccer, and so we (which was usually me and Brian) seized an opportunity to pick on him. We
1. took all of his underwear, save one pair
2. soaked it in water
3. put it in the freezer
4. put a note that read "got underwear" in his empty drawer
5. waited
After two hours he came back exhausted. But instead of taking a shower, he went to go get something out of the freezer. His underwear, by now frozen into a solid cube, fell from the freezer with a THUD! Nothing needed to be said. He knew who did it, and he threw the frozen underwear at us. That mofo hurt, as it was pretty much a chunk of ice. But it was worth it! Steve took a shower, and threw his underwear in the dryer. He got more and more angry, and we laughed more and more, as the block went ka-thunk... ka-thunk... ka-thunk in the dryer. He should've been greatful that I had remembered to save him one pair of underwear, but for some reason he didn't find this act to be redeeming in the least. People can be so ungreatful!

As a post script, shizzolating this post yielded a decent re-write:

Ka-Thunk, know what I'm sayin'? .. Ka-Thunk, know what I'm sayin'? .. Ka-Thunk, know what I'm sayin'? ..

Ah, as long as we're on da subject of da gravy 'ol days, here is another memorable episode 'bout roommate torture methods practiced 'n refined in da Sabado Tarde apartment, know what I'm sayin'? One day Steve went soccer, 'n so we (which wuz usually me 'n Brian) seized an opportunity pick on tha dude's ass, know what I'm sayin'? We
1. took izzall of tha dude's underwear, save one pair
2. soaked that shiznit in H-2-Izzo
3. put that shiznit in da freezer
4. put a note that read "gots underwear" in tha dude's empty drawer
5. waited
After two hours tha dude came back exhausted, know what I'm sayin'? But instead of taking a shower, tha dude went go get something out of da freezer n' shit. His underwear, by now frozen into a solid cube, fell from da freezer wit a THUD! Nothing needed be be like, know what I'm sayin'? Tha dude knew who did that shiznit, 'n tha dude threw da frozen underwear at us." That mofo hurt, as that shiznit wuz pretty much a chunk of ice." But that shiznit wuz worth that shiznit! Steve took a shower, 'n threw tha dude's underwear in da dryer, know what I'm sayin'? Tha dude gots mo' 'n mo' angry, 'n we laughed mo' 'n mo', as da block went ka-thunk n' shit. .. ka-thunk, know what I'm sayin'? .. ka-thunk in da dryer." Tha dude should've been greatful that I had remembered save tha dude's ass one pair of underwear, but fo' some reason tha dude didn't find this act be redeeming in da least, know what I'm sayin'? Peeps can be so ungreatful!

My Japanese Teacher of English (JTE), Sato sensei, asks me to come up with stories that relate to the textbook often 5 minutes before we start class. This can be quite challenging because the text is super boring and whenever anyone looks at it you can literally see the glaze build up in their eyes.
Brian's comment made me remember this lesson, and I still feel the roadrash burning my face.
It was like this: The weather was perfect, so of course I had a midterm in an Anthropology course. While biking toward class, I saw Chris, so I pulled up next to him. He got this crazed look in his eyes, and it was understood that we would start racing. What ensued was not mutually understood. We got going at a pretty good speed, when I notice he is veering toward me and POW! He friggin side kicks me, and the next thing I knew I was sprawled out on the bike path in front of the Anthropology building, fellow bikers going around some poor jackass on the tarmac. Roadkill. But it was OK because luckily the right side of my face bore the full impact of the crash. Seeing red, I ignored his apologies, shook off the mental haze, and biked to class. Fucking Ben Hur motherfucker ass shit bitch! Ooooh, I would get payback! I was a minute late, and everyone looked at me, or rather they gawked at my abraised face, as I slipped into a vacant seat. I finished the test, and afterwards I went to the restroom to assess the damage. I had asphalt and dried black blood lodged in my scrapes, which I cleaned out at the apartment with lots of Q-tips and of course, hydrogen peroxide. It was only after I finished my 4 years at UCSB it dawned on me. Bikes are just not for some people, and by "some people" I mean "me".
My story blended seamlessly with that of the textbook, and the students actually paid attention and understood my English. Now if only I had a story to match every one of the the textbook's.

Best Drives In Kyushu

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1. Roppo Road(Miyazaki prefecture): This road was worth the hour and a half it took me to get there. It had everything. The drive started with a steep and windy climb, nothing especially spectacular as it climbed to the ridge of the mountains. Then as it started to traverse, the left side fell away in a steep drop. The white guardrails were badly mangled in places, and in other areas completely lacking. I would not be surprised to look over the edges and see twisted wreckage hundreds of meters down. The drive had plenty of gentle and not so gentle ridges, sharp turns, spectacular views, picnic areas, maps, wildlife, and obstacles. There were landslides and boulders on the road, which were fun to slalom around and reminded me of the Initial D episode in which Takumi successfully beats the "panda" Trueno on the guy's home course. Also, there was very very little traffic on this stretch by shooting the narrowed course right alongside. I must've only seen three trucks and three cars, and I never got stuck behind any slow drivers. I only got to drive this awesome road for an hour because I only had half a day off, and so I need to come back to fully experience it. Also, I found out where I can go snowboaring in Miyazaki, but most likely won't.

2. The Milk Road (North Aso Prefecture). This road is my favorite, but sits in the no. 2 spot because it gets too much traffic during the summer and fall. Tempermental, dangerous, and oftentimes solitary, this road never fails to surprise me. I know the turns very well, and so I can push my car to the limit, slingshotting out of the tight curves and getting from here to there in a breeze, if the traffic is light. It can be very dangerous because people like to park behind blind corners and stick out far into the narrow road, sheets of rain coming down so fast that windshield wipers have little effects and the resulting deep rivers flowing across the road causing you to hydroplane, the road freezes and is periodically covered with snow and ice, racers like to practice up there, some truck drivers like to drive the maximum limit and beyond, clouds drag across the ridge resulting in a thick fast moving fog that can cut visibility to 5 feet and can be very disorienting after several minutes, and the wealth of animals that like to dart out in front of your car including tanuki, rabbit, weasel, fox, and even dogs and cats.

3. The continuation of the Milk Road into Kikuchi Gorge (Kikuchi-Gun). Mountainous, running parallel, high above the river, and filled with dense folliage. Kikuchi Gorge is one of the most beautiful areas throughout Kyushu, and so the nature park draws bigtime traffic during holidays and weekends. Still a nice drive, especially in Fall when the leaves show their most vibrant colors.

4. The Kagoshima Expressway. Fast, straight, few cops and cameras: narcotic. After being deprived of speed, driving on the Kago Xpress can be dangerous.

5. The Ibusuki Skyline. Like the Aso Skyline (Milk Road), the Ibusuki Skyline offers a badass view of some stunning scenery and has some great twists and turns. Unlike Aso, it is well paved, used by many during the whole year, and costs money to drive. Still, it is worth the trip and the 800 or so yen. Seeing Kaimondake silouhetted against a red sky melts away any pent-up stress.

6. Nameless Road leading to Ubuyama's "Dream Bridge" (North Aso). This road is
a. new
b. wide
c. curvy
d. uphill, downhill, and level in places
e. unused
f. has "Danger: Cows" signs posted
It is a short drive, but is really really fun.

These are the Top 5 for now, but I will continue to post as I remember old favorites or discover new ones.

An Unanticipated Free Day

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I woke up this morning, short on time. Slapped some gel in the 'fro, pulled on a shirt and some slacks, and ran to school with the imprint of my pillow case's hem stitching running the entire length of my face. Ah, 8:00, Safe!
What's that?
No one is here, save Sakae Sensei? Lets look at today's schedule...
Hmmmm... yasumi (free day)? It happened again... "Um, do we have work today?"
"No, its a free day. Oh, didn't someone tell you?"

Wow, a free day. It didn't matter that no one told me about it, as I have become used to being out of the loop, and even expect it. Luckily this time it was a good surprise, other than the "Oh, by the way, we need you to work this Saturday, even though you told us of your snowboarding trip a month in advance" type.

So I hopped in the Civic, popped in the Underworld, and drove South into Miyazaki. There I found the best driving road I have yet driven in Japan.
I also found a cool temple, learned about Miyazaki's history, and happened upon an unspoiled waterfall. I dunno why but the every local waterfall that I know of has been tampered with to some degree, whether it be constructing a manmade reservoir below it, building a viewing platform right in front, or adding some other items that take away from the natural beauty of it. THis waterfall could only be viewed from a distance, a very very far distance, from the top of a cliff.

Miyazaki city boasts a beautiful beach that was constructed indoors, with a bright blue cloud dotted sky painted inside the dome, pristine white sand, and a wave machine that provides perfect curls for only their staff of pros to ride. Everything looks so realistic, which is really stupid because there is a perfect beach complete with waves, sand, and a perfect climate 5 minutes away from the indoor one, which charges about 4000 yen (bout 40 bucks) for admission. More amazing, people actually go to this place even when the weather is great outside.


When I first needed a haircut, I first thought "Hmmmm... It should be pretty easy to get a good haircut in Japan, seeing as these people cut hair just like mine on an every day basis". It sounded like a sure thing. So I went into a barbershop in downtown Kumamoto, where the barbers are used to giving other styles of cut other than "bowl".
What a dumbass! It was my own damn fault. If I had taken a look around, I would have noticed that everyone has bleached shaggy haircuts. Or shaved heads. Or dreadlocks (cool, but too high maintainance, and would take me too long to grow out my hair). Or a bowl cut. Or a bad comb over. Or a salaryman doo. Or they simply have their mother/wife/girlfriend/daughter cut it.
So I walked in with my Japanese-English dictionary and made crude specifications for my haircut. This turned out as a crew cut, despite my protests during the sesh, and took about one hour to complete, costing 4000 yen.
And even after bringing pictures for the "stylists" to look at, they couldn't reproduce them, and I gave myself better haricuts using some clippers and two mirrors. What should I have done?
The answer, as I discovered, is to ask the recommendation of the "stylist", after showing them the picture. This is like a pat on the back, and makes them feel good. By asking for their expert opinion, their training and wisdom is validated, putting them the state of mind that you want them in while giving you a cut. And that is how I got the haircut I wanted from someone other than myself over here. However, be advised. I tried that same thing in Thailand and got a bad haircut. Hey, 50/50 is infinetely better than 100 percent pure disappointment.

Pig Soup

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Was the heinous name that was used by one of the teachers to describe lunch. Nah, what butajiru (to be clear, this is similar to dangojiru, but tastes better in my opinion. A dango is a dumpling for all of you people who want to know.) really translates is something more like miso stew with pork. This stuff so good after a 10K run that I ate 3 bowls of it, and still want more.
It is also really easy to make. I will run you through it.
1. Chop all of the following into bite size portions:
Fresh Shiitake mushrooms (dry Shiitake tastes rank compared to the fresh shit!), daikon (giant Japanese radish), carrots, yamaimo (Japanese Mountain Potato. If I may digress, the texture of this potato when grated into a mush is just nasty. This is not passing judgement, it is the unfiltered truth. And to those of you who happen to like this texture: you are all a bunch of sick people who must've delighted in swallowing those big nasty loogies you would cough up when you had a cold. However, when you cook it, it firms up like a proper potatoe and has a citrusy tang to it), thinly sliced pork, hakusui (a bitter-ish form of napa, or japanese cabbage), tofu (bean curd. Damn, calling it bean curd really makes it sound like nasty shit!), konyaku (a jelly-like japanese substance that is opaque, looks purplish-grey, and has black specks. Not really necessary, but adds authenticity), and mochi (rice cakes). Some like to add kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) or satsuma imo (sweet potato), but I think that these ingredients meddle with the texture and flavor of the soup.
2. Make some miso soup. Light miso is best used to bring out the natural flavors of the shiznit. Bring to a boil.
3. Add the ingredients in the proporions which you like the best. I like to add everything in equal proportions, but do whatever you like. Simmer down (control your temper, simmer down, the battle's gettin hotta).
4. After about 30 minutes, pour yourself a bowl. Add finely chopped green onions to top it off, and you have yourself some propah Inaka Ryouri.

Optional: If you were Justin (and you just might be) you would probably add kimchee or kimchee base to make it spicier. If you were my Dad, you would put some protein powder in it. Then you would try deep frying it so that the oil that you used to deep fry the turkey would not "go to waste".

If you don't like pork, you can add chicken, and while it still tastes good, I think it tastes the absolute best with pork. I bet that some of the people out here have added rabbit, bear, wild boar, and the local venemous snake to make, respectively, usagijiru, kumajiru, inoshishijiru, and mamushijiru. I bet they all taste pretty good.

To be fully appreciated, butajiru should be eaten on bitter cold evenings in the mountains in one's straw hut during a blizzard, only after successfully fending off wild bears and wolves with nothing but the crazed look in your eyes, followed by some green tea ice cream for dessert.

Mountain Tanuki

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Unlike the racoon dogs that live on Justin's island, ours have a diffr'n set 'o priorities.


We like awr Tawnookeys cuz theyyur wild boozers and bring their own sake jugs with them, nawt 'cause they add more sausage to the hootenanny.

Not Helpin' The Cause

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I just know that this animation was made with a couple of geeky E.S. majors (is this repetitive?) from UCSB. Funny, I now feel like eating some milkfed veal stuffed with foiegras.

In a related note,maybe I don't need to go to Korea, maybe I only need to go to Panda Express to eat dog.

Oolong Sky

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Shanghai was a great place, but the smog was thick, thicker than that of L.A., reminiscent of the muddy contents of the erlenmeyer flask that my high school chemistry teacher used to demonstrate how particles stay suspended in colloids (like jello or anything that you add to an agar/water mixture). Anyhow, this pic was snapped from the D251 from the window of our aging Boeing 737, despite the soul-less warnings of the multilingual flight attendants. You can actually see the inversion layer (the clear blue part) smashing down all of that CO, CO2, NOX, ozone, hydrocarbons, and all of that other shit onto the city. There is one cool thing about thick dense brown smog in the cityscape- it filters the light, creating bad-ass blood-red sunsets, like the stylized umeboshi depicted on the Japanese flag.
Speaking of which, why do Japanese people think of the Sun as being either red or orange in color, and the moon as yellow? When you look at the sun, it is a burning brightness that is best described most of the time as white or yellow. The moon, is clearly white! I think this is a good example of a cultural nam-shub of Japan.

Back to the mountains

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Well, everyone is fine- no one got the bends or nitrogen narcosis or even stung by a jellyfish. There wasn't really any opportunity to get hurt, and you really didn't need to even be in good shape to participate. I shoulda known that the dive would be a joke, but it just didn't occur to me.
Can you believe that I spent three days in Okinawa and NEVER got to go to the beach. I saw it from a distance a couple of times, emerald green waters with coral breaking the calm surface. The weather was perfect, with beautiful clouds and a gentle breeze. Nah, instead I spent my time shopping for omiyage, drinking, and eating Japanese food.
Don't get me wrong, I am very greatful that I got to hang out with the firemen of Ubuyama, but it wasn't what I expected.
So diving was like this: We had 3 hours dedicated on the schedule. The first hour was a crash super-simplified course in the dangers of touching stonefish, sea snakes, sea urchins, jellyfish, and other marine animals. Next was an easy explanation of the regulator and the mask (talk about tanks, BCs, wetsuits, depth and pressure meter, and other equipment was completely omitted). All of this took about an hour. Next we went to the dive spot. We were seperated into 3 groups of 4, and my group went last.
I knew the spot that we hit up (Manza Beach) was a great place because I had a long talk with a local Marine and an Okinawan girl who had just come back from a dive. We talked at length (as the others were getting basic training, which took up about 45 minutes) about diving, marine invertibrates, and Okinawan culture. This turned out to be the highlight of the dive, as I got educated about feeding habits of predatory sea snails, good and bad dive spots, Yoneguni, and spearfishing on the islands (the local fishermen hate it when they see you doing it) and other cool places (such as hunting for stripers in the Colorado River)..
So I finally got in the water with my group, and it took everyone about 10 minutes to put on fins and masks. They practiced breathing under water with the respirator, clearing the mask of water, and clearing the respirator of water, and swimming which took another 30 minutes. Then we got to follow behind the instructor for another 10. We only swam at most 30 meters in no more than 20 feet of water at the very deepest.
During this whole time I was itching to go explore and find a real sea snake but had to stay with the group. Still, I was astounded by the level of biodiversity in the small pocket of water which we were confined to. I saw more species of fish, snails, and coral in ten minutes of exploration than I have in snorkeling around Oita, Amakusa, Ashikita, Saga, Kagoshima, Awaji-shima, and other various spots around Honshu cumulatively.
So now that I have a taste of Okinawa, I need to go back to actually experience it the real way. Next time I will pig out on American food, get a bitchin' tan while relaxing on the beach, and go diving for real! I will not go to snack bars or spend more than 30 minutes shopping for omiyage.

Ah, to be on an all expenses paid vacation (excluding ichi mon for something and incidentals, but hey its pretty darn cheap) with the men of the Ubuyama Shobodan (Fire Brigade, or as we Americans say Fire Department).
Right now we are in Naha, and as you can probably guess, I am in an internet cafe. Just before this we went out for a phat teppanyaki dinner complete with some excellent grilled shrimp (shrimp stew, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp sandwitch, barbecued shrimp, shrimp ice-cream, shrimp jello...), rare steak (I thought they only knew how to do well done in this country), vegetables, dessert, and beer. Okinawa is famous for a bitter melon know as Goya- it is bitter as hell, and only tastes O.K. with other food (like eggs and bacon) to mask it.


Rare tenderloin- bloody steak tastes like heaven after all you've had for the past six months has been well done kwakisurpiniku. Oops...What I meant to say was well done kwakisurpipiku.


This is the head of the giant shrimp. The teppan chick used two steel spatulas to squish it criss-cross style, and then used what looked like a concrete spreading tool to mash it into a "cracker" (read, well done shrimp brains, eyes, antannae, carapace, and other parts of the head which I now do not come to mind). It was actually pretty good if you were not thinking about brains while you ate it, but was still good even though I was indeed thinking about them.
This was followed up with pig intestine soup (hormone miso shiru) and sweet beans soaked in black sugar syrup topped with shaved ice.
Honestly, the whole dinner kicked major ass, and the 5000 yen tab was picked up for me! Makes the intestine soup that much more memorable.

Anyhow, after dinner, the guys (all married with kids) decided to go out to a snack bar (basically a place where you pay for young girls to talk to you. The good ones are pros at feigning interest in whatever you say and laughing at jokes that are not at all funny. What a shitty job!). I was offered the option of paying 4000 yen for all you can drink for 50 minutes with the girls, but graciously declined. Why should I pay money to have a conversation with someone who sees it as work? Why do people pay money to have one sided conversations? What do they get out of it? Many of them opt for "special treatment" later on, so why not just cut to the chase and save the pillow talk with someone who isn't really listening? I am really curious, but I don't think that I will ask anyone these questions on this particular trip.

The other reason why I didn't go just to drink and to hang with the boys is because we are diving tomorrow. Now, I'm not a professional, but diving is a very demanding and dangerous sport. These guys live in the mountains and are not really good at swimming or marine sports. Most of them are in relatively good shape from farming, but daikon picking skillz do not carry over to functioning under water. I am worried that these guys who have been drinking since 8 O'clock this morning are gonna be dehydrated tomorrow. Physical exertion and a hangover might prove to be a problem. Hopefully the dive master will be experienced and competent.

Anyhow, I am snapping away with the digicam and hopefully I will have some good ones to show when I return. Wish me luck.


Diced Burglar With Wu Shu Sauce

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While reading Angry Asian Man's blog, I ran across this story. It really reminds me of Free Satpal Ram on ADF's Rafi's Revenge album. It is probably a bad idea to have a knife fight with an acupuncturist, especially the one known as "The Doctor." I think that he should be honored for taking care of the situation and sending a clear message. Don't FUCK with The Doctor, or he will shank your ass!

Halloween Pix

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Japanese Pumpkins are much harder than American ones. I ended up slicing through my thumbnail making this Jack-O-Lantern, but its all good. All everyone was asking was "so, when do we eat it?" and when I told them that we don't eat jack o lanterns after we carve them, they replied "Hmmmm... I think that I will eat it tomorrow.".




Gave out about 20 bucks worth of candy this year. Its funny how well my students remember their English lessons when candy is at stake.


China actually had good beer! Tiger, Tsingtao, and even some microbrews to boot! This .5 litre bottle cost something like 60 cents. However, drinks in the clubs and bars had prices comparable to those in Japan.

I wish I had more time in Shanghai. One full day and two days of travel to and from there were just not enough (we did have two full nights, though).

Things that didn't surprise me about Shanghai:
It's dirty. Most places smell like piss, that rotting essence of real Asian Markets and Chinatown, and cigarettes. Everyone hawks monster loogies and spit them out all over the place. At the end of the day I got black boogers of monster proportions.
McDonalds and KFCs were as abundant as in every other foreign country I have visited.
Many people spoke English, but appreciated the effort I went through to speak the little (read: aside from food, I know four words) Chinese that I could. It was like France in this respect, except the Chinese were forgiving if I spoke English.
There were many poor people begging on the street. It is so hard to ignore someone in distress, especially if they take their kids with them, and especially if those kids have congenital defects. Gives whole new meaning to the cliche "there are children starving in China, so eat your f**king broccoli muthafucka".
The Chinese merchants are ruthless and cunning when it comes to maximizing profit. I talked down a "legitimate" DVD set from 600 yuan to 100 (about 12 bucks), and I knew I was paying a little too much. Still, it does LOOK legit, and it cost very little. These people will physically detain you to keep you in their shop, and they are excellent actors.

Surprising things about Shanghai:
Chinese people think that I am Chinese, and they expect me to speak Chinese like a Chinese person.
It was hard to find good Chinese food, and easy to find good foreign foods.
I didn't hear anyone say "gweilo" and point as we passed (I understand why they didn't when I alone passed).
I ran into a lot of very nice Chinese people. I was expecting everyone to be rude, pushy, and loud but this turned out to be kinda wrong.
There were very few foreigners in China. Most that I saw during the day were between the ages of 50 to 70 and had European accents.
The city is HUGE, and there are more sky scrapers in one city than I ever imagined. And they continue being built at an astonishing rate.
The MagLev train is already complete. The bullet train is officially obsolete.
100% of the taxis and about 80 percent of the cars on the road are VWs. I was expecting Japanese cars, DaeWoos, or Hyundais to be crowding the streets, but this was not the case. VW is definetely making bank in Shanghai.
The smog is worse than LA. If breathing in LA for one day is equivilent to smoking a pack of cigs, then I smoked about four packs in Shanghai for the 48 hours I was there.

One day in Shanghai was a great time. Even though the time I had was way too short, I sort of prefer trips that I feel are too short. It means that I had a great time and wasn't dissapointed, tired out, disillusioned, or fed up. Sometimes not enough is better than too much.


Well, tomorrow I am off to Shanghai! Got some cheap tix, so I gots to go. After reading about the Taxi service in Shanghai, I have been trying to polish up on my Chinese, but have since given up. But if we go eat Dim Sum I have a reasonable chance of being understood!

So, you want anything? Lemme know! SARS, penis of endangered animal, mail order bride, Polex watches... Don't say I didn't ask.

I promise plenty of pics when I get back...

Jedi Mind Trick

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Yo check this story from the Independent out!

I can think of some other possible scenarios in which memory can be morphed. For example, if something really bad happens to someone you didn't really like (violent rape, murdered, amputated limb, paralysis, cancer of the rectum, etc...), especially if they are unjustly killed, you are more likely to think less harshly of them. After something really bad happens, I think sympathy fucks with the mind, and can amplify the good things that a bad person has done.

So now that I am aware of this, it is time to introduce a new standard operating procedure to shield myself from committing unjust actions based on an altered memory. If a person that I don't like ends up having their colon removed, I will continue to dislike them as much as I had been. After all, if I can stop my memory from morphing, then it is my duty to take action against it. And if that person should cause me further reason to dislike them to a certain level, then I shall apply a kung-fu death grip on their colostomy bag and squeeze! On second thought, a colostomy bag is a fate horrible enough (damn! I succombed to pitying mine enemy even in this fictional scenario).

The Brothers Yoshida

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I demand a cut of the profits for using the sacred family name!


Can these guys rock as hard as the band's name implies?

.....Is the conclusion you would most likely infer from the past 6 comments posted (which I have since deleted).

IP address:
Author: Viagra
Email Address: amir11@hotbox.com
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I suspect that this is payback for posting the previous entry by the person who bears a resemblance to the picture, or the very person whose picture is posted...

Damn! Its enough to get 10 spams a day that promise to "enhance your penis size" or to help you "gain several inches" or that will "set your libido on fire". If this was indeed posted by someone trying to make a profit, you are a sorry worthless bastard. Post comments on your own site... I am sure Boner Blog could be a big success. That being said, you are NOT WELCOME to post your ads here (especially if you don't ask you rude bastard! In the words of the immortal Ash: What were you, born in a barn?).

So I urge you, don't buy Viagra over the net from these bastards: Instead, why don't you support the Mexican economy and obtain it for a fraction of the cost while eating beef (most likely dog, cat, or rat if you really want to think about it) tacos, while you sip on a dos equis or corona in TJ. While you're at it, why not buy some M1000s, hammocks, and old school bottles of Fanta immersed in ice cold Montezuma's Revenge laden cooler carts... And just give that damn kid a buck for his 10 boxes of Chicle so that he will stop following you, in his squeaky voice calling "Meester, meester!". Don't forget to take pictures in front of the donkey that is literally painted black and white to look like a zeebra, and while were on the subject of donkeys...

Anyhow, switching gears, I heard this joke from a sick mofo from Saga-ken who almost got kicked off of the JET Programme from committing a felony during Summer Vacation:
Q. What do you get when you stick a knife in a baby? (If you are a sensitive person, if you are already uncomfortable with the question, if you are not allowed to read mature material on the web, or if you find such jokes distasteful you probably shouldn't click below)

As Requested By Steve

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We post, you decide: Does this look like the CP Dizzle? In the words of Mr. Steven Tsuda:

I pulled this one from monster.com. It's either Dempsey as a cross dresser, or Dempsey as a rock star for halloween.


By the way Dempsey, what ever happened to http://www.luckyirish.net?

Its About Friggin Time!

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Hahahahaha! As of today, I have a working ISDN connection! Thats right, now I can connect from home for a fixed rate instead of paying 100 bucks per month just for the phone bill! Why am I excited about ISDN? Do you know what it feels like to have to read the newspaper while a simple email takes 5 minutes to load? You would be starved for bandwidth too if all you could get for a whole year was 56k.That being said, when is ADSL gonna arrive in my sparsely populated village? I know its gonna come right after I leave, because it wouldn't make sense any other way.

...but I found another earthworm crawling around on the tile. Watching it inch around between the cracks as I took a shower last night made me nautious, and made me wonder; Where do they come from? How can they get into my bathroom? Are there latent annelid eggs spawning from the grout? Do my students sneak into my bathroom and plant them there? My guess is that they crawl up the drains, or that there is some small undetected crack that leads inside. About 4 months ago I found a millipede in my bath. I ignored it, and it died, and had a huge clutch of babies, which hatched. I found baby millipedes crawling all over the place for the following months, and stopped counting after 20. My advice: kill the mother and the eggs and save yourself the trouble of killing a lot of tiny monsters! Hahaha, the shiitake growing in my Sabado Tarde apartment shower no longer seems SO disgusting (It was a huge sucker!).

Caffeine Withdrawl

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This weekend I went up with Matt to visit with Lawton and Gi up in Fukuoka. Lawton is now known as "Rawton" because I know that his kids pronounce his name as "Rawton sensei" when they ask him what he thinks about the recent "Carifornia Erections".

Anyways, we met up with a bunch of friends and aquaintances and went out to Tenjin and Hakata (the happenin' night spots in Fukuoka that accept foreigners and aren't prohibitively expensive), and went somewhere where I had up until that point never had visited nor had any intention of visiting. That's right, we went to the Happy Cock (previously the Crazy Cock). Now there are two of those clubs downtown. The name pretty much sums it up.

The Happy Cocks are a good place to go if you fit the following profile:
*you are a Marine on shore leave.
*you are a Japanese girl (or boy, for all I know) looking to hook up with a Marine.
*you are an obvious (Caucasian or Black, or a really loud Asian) gaijin looking to get some action.
*you don't mind the bartender mixing you a long island with only two different kinds of liquor and Coke.
*you are a person who enjoys the company of Marines when they are hunting for tail and drinking (meaning, you are probably a Marine or a girl looking for one).

Basically, this is Fukuoka's version of a Roppongi bar (like GasPanic).

Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate everything that the Marines are doing and have done to protect our country and its interests, but they tend to be dicks towards anyone that they are not trying to get in the sack, especially when they are drunk.
A while ago, we went to a different club in Tenjin called "Vibe", where a good portion of the Fukuoka hip-hop community often hangs out. This night it was full of Marines and high school aged girls. Anyways, I was halfway into drainin the lizard when I hear a loud knock at the door. "Get the FUCK out of there! My friend needs to use the restroom!". So I opened the door to see what their problem was. Two big mean-looking guys were holding up their friend, and said "I'm sorry but our friend has to puke"(It was shocking to hear them use the word "sorry" because I was expecting to get punched in the face). "I understand, go for it." I said, and waited for them to finish.
He planted his hands onto the urine-soaked tiles, and hey made him puke. He washed his hands, regained his balance, and shook my hand. They all apologized once again and thanked me, inviting me to sit with them. We went over to their table and joined their group. One of them made the following observation:
"You know what? You look like Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park!" so for the rest of the night I was known as "Mike" or "Shinoda". I became their best friend for the night after they found out that I was from California (not just some Japanese guy who spoke great English!). My money was no good, because they insisted on buying me free drinks all night long. They even introduced me to the group of (ugly, underaged) girls they were chatting up, and wanted me to share in their love hotel adventures (but I wasn't quite THAT drunk). I met these guys right before they were deployed into Iraq, and hope that they are all safe right now. Marines can be great guys when you get to know them, although sometimes they are best avoided.

This weekend, I was talking with another Marine who said this to me:
Marine: "So what (nationality) are you?"
Me: "I'm American"
Marine: "Hey, I feel really sorry for what we did to your people during World War II".
Me: "Yeah, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible, but I am American like you. OUR people did it."
Marine: "I know, but I'm sorry for what my country did to your country. That shit ain't right".
Me: "Uh, I'm gonna go get another beer."
Sometimes the meaning doesn't stick to your words no matter how many times you repeat them, and by the time it reaches someone else, all it is is noise devoid of a signal. At times like this it is best to drink more beer. Then it may SEEM like it is making sense, or at least you will forget about the whole deal.

Anyhow, after driving about 10 hours over the weekend, and lacking sleep (partially due to some loud snoring, partially to the Lipovitan, partially to staying out until 5 in the morning, partially to sleeping on linoleum, etc...) I looked like the guy on the can.


Except my red eyes were barely cracked open. Thank God for Audioslave, on all of those long solitary drives back home.

Strange Sleeping Habits

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Gi with Matt's dirty sock on face (placed there by self).


Matt with Matt's dirty sock on face (placed there by self).


Truly disturbing.

A Free Day At Oita's Sculpture Park

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Yesterday I got to hitch along with the Middle School's fieldtrip to go look at pieces of artwork produced in Oita-ken. After watching a 30 minute video about some old dead Japanese dude of whom the premises were named after, we looked at his sculptures of people, monkeys, and cats (there were so many that Taro naturally came to mind) and took a short tour around the museum that was built in his honor. Then the kids were given a large 1.5x2 foot piece of paper and instructed to spend the next five hours painting anything that they wanted to in the vast grounds of the park surrounding the museum. This place was a nicely balanced microcosm, complete with mini-forest, a lawn with mini-rolling hills, a mini-mountain with a panaramic view, a mini-lake, and a mini-stream. The only thing that was missing, much to my dissapointment, were mini-people (but I guess that JHS students will do in a pinch). Anyways, scattered throughout the crafted landscape were sculptures created by students of Oita University. They ranged wildly in their degree of abstractness, size, and how they looked relative to the site upon which they came to spend the rest of their existance.

I asked the teachers what they were going to do during the whole day, and they all said "ah, I have to work" or something in that vein. To translate this I had to use tried and true refined scientific methods. I broke out my linguistic bunsen burner, along with the graduated cylinder, titration set, beakers of various girth, and Erlenmeyer flask to set about distilling the scant traces of hidden true meaning from the words that actually spewed forth from their maws. After processing the raw input and passing it through filters and amplifiers, the following was yielded: "I am going to shoot the breeze with all of the other teachers (and occasionally a student) while sitting in the shade of the gazeebo, drinking tea and smoking many cigarettes, keeping a loose eye on the kids to make sure that they don't commit any felonies, and eventually spend the rest of the time sleeping, texting on the mobile telephone, or when the boredom becomes too overpowering, breaking out the easil and paintbrush to show these kids what watercolor painting is all about." I chose to hike around, take pictures of the art, sketch stuff, and to read a couple more chapters of Quicksilver . All in all, not a bad day at the office.


Mental Block: This piece is the physical incarnation of my brain and its functions when I try too hard to have an honest conversation with most of the Japanese teachers with whom I work. I think that they experience something similar when I forget to mask what I really mean behind a couple of layers of opaque implication while at the same time slapping on some polite Japanese to give it a nice shiny gleen. Perhaps a precision expertly timed "bitchslap" can make them understand where mere words fail! Actions speak louder than words.


This frog was chillin' in a piece of "Art". The sculpture looked more like a giant kiln or old fashioned oven, made from adobe, but apparently it was a hit with the judges. However, unlike a lot of art out there it seems to have fulfilled more of a purpose than just sitting there as a lump of aesthetically pleasing dead weight (although most likely unintentionally). It is now a nice castle for a very small frog, so that he can look down upon all the other lesser frogs that make their homes under the rotting logs, in the pond, or huddled under the leaf litter! Bow down!


Over the day I completed this sketch with a student, doing a little at a time. it looks better from up close (you just have to take my word for it). Brought back countless memories of sketching stuff in class, throughout my career as a student. I remeber thinking "maybe one day these scribbles on my college ruled notebook paper will be worth some serious money...". Hahahahaha!


Mini-stream with mini-islands and probably some mini-giardia and mini-chollera.


Remains Of A Dream: This piece looks to be a Semi (Cicada) between the larval and adult stages, lying on it's back on top of a leaf. In my opinion, this Kafkaesque piece should have won the competition. What won instead? A long metal chrome tube painted red inside the bore, tied with steel cable to a chunk of granite upon which it rested! Uh, I think the judges had their berets on a little too tight during the competition.

Blackboard Impressionisms

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The whiteboard is over-rated. Back in the day, we learned on chalkboards, and we liked it. Chalk has many more merits than the erasable marker. First of all, chalk (AKA CaCO3 as the nerds like to say) is environmentally benign and there is no shortage of it. Also, sniffing chalk will not give you a buzz (trust me, Chris Dempsey has tried this)- it will only give you milky looking snot and make you sneeze . Also, there is nothing in the classroom that lends itself to harmless fun as a fully loaded blackboard eraser. In addition, chalk can be used to write graffiti anywhere there are bricks or concrete, which is pretty much everywhere in a regular school, and if you get caught taggin' they oftentimes don't care since its isn't permanent. Lastly, the blackboard was a rare, useful, effective instrument, efficient in its every use. When a teacher was pissed off, and could take no more noise from a crazed class- thats when she formed her right hand into a claw, bringing her talons of wrath chinking down and then screaching across the murky blackish green void.


Anyhow, I now teach mostly using blackboards now that I am in Japan. Last week I drew this portrait of this student, and I think it came out rather well. I am yet to use my fingernails to get attention, but now that I remembered it I am bound to use this dreaded technique in the future (you think your Wu-Tang Style can defeat me!?!).


Gubernatorial Thoughts

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I want Arnold to win. Yeah, he is probably a big powerful chauvenistic guy who gropes people, but many men and women of action are. Look at James Bond, the Kennedys(the DKs and Jello Biafra rule!), Nina from 24, Face (from the A-Team), and powerful monarchs of past like Henry the 8th. Its all part of the job.

California has many problems to deal with right now, and I fell that Schwartzanegger will take them out like he took out the drug dealers in Commando, the evil sorcerers and their hordes in Conan, and the expectations for his future movies like he did with Last Action Hero. The point is that I expect him to dive into the problems like he has in the movies. Either we will be totally screwed, or if he gets it right then we will vanquish all of our enemies and rule as kings over the West Coast!

So using manliness as the sole deciding factor of whom I wish to rule California, I have to side with The Terminator. If I were a secretary I think that I would bust out the whoop ass on Grey (or is it Gray) Davis if he threw a stapler at me. If Arnold threw his stapler at me, I would run away as fast as I could.

On another note: I like saying the word gubernatorial. Gubernatorial gubernatorial gubernatorial. I think when I teach my kids "American" (read, the superior form of) football, they will learn One Gubernatorial Two Gubernatorial Three Gubernatorial instead of "Alligator" or "Missisippi". That way they can discuss the gubernatorial "erection" with their english speaking friends!


Those bastards! They killed Kenny!
No they didn't but they did open my mail and made it really obvious. The top of the envelope was roughly ripped open, stuffed into a plastic bag containing a note that said basically "uh, we opened your letter"- duh! I couldn't tell this from the disgustingly violated state in which it was received. And all it contained were a letter and some pics.
I understand that the post office has concerns about delivering drugs, explosives, chemical, and biological weapons, but I still don't like the way they opened my letter. They could have steamed it open and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference, or they could've used a letter opener, but no- some guy used his hooked index finger to eviscerate my letter! I hope you got a bad papercut, and that it gets infected with gas gangrene, forcing you to use a letter opener like a civilized sneak in the future!

On a different note, I scared my students into using English today. My 2nd year JHS students refuse to verbally answer questions in class, so I forced them to change their ways. I explained that we were going to debate why I should or shouldn't give them more homework, everyone against me and Mr. Sato. This worked much better than I anticipated, and almost everyone came up with a counter-point to every point I could think up. They also displayed their potential for creative and critical thinking, which I have rarely encountered at school. The points that they brought up were actually very good, and they questioned the validity of some of my points! The debate went up until the last minute, and I had them scared, because we were tied. I argued the last point for their team, and they enjoyed a victory. If you make the stakes higher, they will step their game up a notch!
Also I believe this worked by putting things into perspective. It is a bit embarassing when you first start to speak in front of any group of people, but being assigned more mind-dulling work is a worse fate. I think this approach has many applications for others as well. For example, if you drop a group of rich self-centered Newport Beach kids into the heart of South Central at nighttime, they will work together and solve problems instead of throwing a fit and demanding that they deserve a new BMW instead of the old Mercedes that was handed down to them. If you stick a middle-class obese systems administrator in Guatemala, eating too much food will not be a problem anymore, nor will not having the time to exercise as they slave in the banana plantations to earn enough food to keep them alive for the day. The opportunities are endless, and at the end of the day you have real solid results.


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This is my 1989 Civic Hatchback "Formula". I bought it for a mere 70.000 yen from Harvey, while other people got ripped off by their evil predecessors. Its sorta funny because my teachers always insist that he should have given me the car for free, since it is so old (maybe they will hook me up when shakken rolls around) but it was worth it.


This weekend, I felt the urge to restore it to a state of quasi-cleanliness, and so spent four hours doing so. For the past year, I washed my car two times. As a result, there was moss growing on my car (this is all part of the Japanese aesthetic philosophy, in no part due to laziness). It really doesnt matter if I wash it because it rains all the time and gets dirty very quickly. Before I even considered doing exterior "restoration", the interior needed some major work. Months worth of trash had accumulated inside, and so I donned my hazmat suit, and extracted partially eaten moldy food, long lost reciepts from various places, Joyfull Powerpuff Girls adorned drink bar coupons, long lost email and phone numbers on small wadded up pieces of paper, and about 500 yen in assorted change. Also, I have never vacuumed my car. So I started from the bottom up. Years worth of dust and gravel were pounded from the mats (it took thirty minutes just to smack the dust out of them), and vacuumed from all of the upholstery. Then, I wiped down the whole car with cleaning solution (I had driven through a construction site doing donuts with the windows DOWN, so a thick layer of cement dust had settled onto and into everything, including yours truly. It smelled like I was making concrete after I finished). Next, I organized and bound the wires for the sound system, making everything nice and neat. After that, I was able to move on to the exterior. I washed it down with a potent mixture of hot water, soap, and lemon juice and let it sit in. The lemon juice ate away much of the oxidation and made the car smell like lemonheads. So now my car is in prime condition, probably for the first time since the first ALT who owned it bought it.


The Civic is a great car. It handles well on the windy roads, accelerates acceptably fast enough (I can take some turns faster than the racers, because I don't care if my fenders drag on the asphalt!), can hold its own in the snow, and I have come to completely rely on it. If I didn`t have this car, I would surely have gone insane and probably would have hurt or killed myself or the others around me! I use a car way more over here than I ever did in California. A good public transportation center is one of the things bundled into the meaning of "Japan" as a concept, but clearly this notion is only true in some areas.

As a result, I have put in a Kenwood Sub and mids (compliments of Justin, and thus in some part due to Tatsuya- thanks bro!), a new CD head unit, and some tweeters. I daresay that I have the best sounding system in Kumamoto of all of the JETs, which I put together (with some help) by myself. I spent about an hour on tweaking the system this weekend, and as a result, it sounds much better!

I also have Justin's radar detector set up, and it has on a couple of occasions probably saved me from getting pulled over. Those Japanese cops find the best hiding places, no doubt inspired by playing countless rounds of kakurembo as children with foreign ALTs such as myself. Am I helping to raise some future facist cop, honing his skills? Or am I helping to raise those who will be pursued by the fascist cop, enabling him to perform crucial evasive actions?

If you haven't guessed, I really like my car. This makes me sad because I will probably get rid of it when its due for it's next inspection. But for now, I am happy, and will try to keep it in its present state for as long as I can (not lapse into laziness again).

My Little Hanami

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The mountain cherry tree in front of the Hokubu nursery school is in bloom again! Though the blossoms are rather few, it brought back the heavenly atmosphere of the many many cherry blossom viewing parties that we had thoughout March and April. I will take this as a good omen for the quickly approaching winter.
Got to chill with the geezers yesterday, because it was "Old People Appreciation Day" in Japan (But... She's so old!). Shout outs to Mom, Dad, Kohei, all the uncles and aunts, and Justin! Its funny to see how the grandparents and grandchildren bear strong resemblances. Looking down at the faces of kindergarteners and up at the geriatric crew, you know what each one will look like 60 or 70 years later! I predict I will look like Susumu Yoshida.

The Haunted Hotel

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There is an old abandoned uncompleted golf resort in my town, located right next to another swank expensive resort. This place used to be special to me, when me and Harvey were the only ones who knew of its existance.

The first time I visited the hotel was in late September of 2002. Harvey had told me that the resort was an idea conceived during the peak of the bubble economy. A local entrepreneur pitched the project, including the creation of a full golf course and luxury hotel, to his fellow villagers. They all chipped in a fixed portion of their income and watched their guarenteed cash cow coming closer to completion with every passing day. The hotel was almost complete, and the earth moving equipment had pushed around the earth to accomodate a world-class golf course- there was every indication that from this point on, the cash would come a flowin, and everyone would be rollin in brand new luxury cars, soaking in champagne filled furos, etc... And then the bubble burst! The major capital that had been seeing the project through was suddenly cut off. Only a little more money had to be raised, but this proved impossible. No one had any money to invest, and if they did, they were very reluctant to do anything other than stash it away.
The project failed and the entrepreneur felt a heavy burden. He must have felt like the spectre in "The Rime of the Aincent Mariner" carrying a decaying albatross around his neck. There was only one way to lessen the dishonor that he had brought to his family and ancestors. And so he committed seppuku (so I was told). For those of you unfamiliar with this ceremony, it involves thrusting a knife into your stomach and slicing across from one side to the other. The longer cut you make, the more shame is erased. Pain through purification.
Anyhow, I made my first trip to this place alone close to dusk. I walked around, acutely aware of the total silence, broken occasionally by the buzzing of flies and the scurrying of frightened animals. The place was straight out of a Steven King novel, and I spent an hour exploring the three levels of floors and the clutter packed basement. I remember finding a balcony where I got reception, and calling Justin. It was a truly creepy experience, and he was shocked that I had gone in by myself. The more I described the eerie deja vu vibe mixed with the feeling of being watched, the less I wanted to stay in the hotel. I hung up, and tried to find my way out. The fading light of the late afternoon, filtered through the prisms of broken windows, through the stirred up dust, making richly hued beams of gold. Dusk would come soon.
I stepped up the pace and retraced my steps, or tried to. I had explored so many places that I had forgotten where I had started. The hallway that had come from the lobby spit me out at another hallway. The stairway that led to back to another exit took me to where I had just been. This was really creepy. I had a strong urge to run away, to get out as fast as possible, but I fought this. Ah, there it was, the unmistakable rotten mattress that led to the stairs ascending to the lobby. I dashed forward into the darkness and disturbed a couple of bats who flew almost directly into my face! That way was not going to work. Finally I worked out my orientation and got out of the hotel. Walking down the eroded road to my car, I had the feeling I was being watched from one of the many darkened windows (like Scooby Doo and the gang in any given adventure).
Over the course of time, I have taken many friends to share in the experience. They often are scared or at least unsettled, at the spooky environment. Soon, word got around and now everyone knows of this place. About six months ago I took a bunch of friends on a weekend and we ran into another group that had come to check it out. So the place has lost its charm. Its still a pretty fun place to go once in a long while. My friends like to go and kick down locked doors (there are no more of those now...), break glass, and smash anything that they can. However, visiting the site is done for a whole new reason than when I started.
What was mine has become everyones'. People always feel the need assert their braveness, to illustrate the size of their testicles. "That place isn't so bad", "The only thing I'm concerned about is the bats", "I was expecting it to be scarrier", etc... These people have also never gone in by themselves, and even if they had, they're not going to have the same surreal experience that I had. They can't. On my first visit, the place was unexplored by gaijin- a virgin chunk of wonder. Now, it is merely another curious place to visit in Aso.

I do know of other crazy abandoned places near my pad, but I think I will keep their locations to myself. One of them is the ruins of a partially burnt down love hotel. Again, I visited this place alone, and had a similar experience. Inside the pitch black rooms is old furniture and dusty relics from a time not too long ago. The beds are still made in some of the rooms, and there is a strange object that looks like a cross between massage and torture equipment (you can bet it was used to facilitate doing "the nasty" in various locations). I have not been back, and plan on keeping it that way, preserving the memory for only myself. It's mine!!!

Anyhow, the Aso JETs want to have a halloween party at the hotel (thats right, its gotten that well known). I had thought about doing so when I first visited, but its a really bad idea. If they do have it there, I predict disaster in some form.


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The word loaf has many usages and its meanings are dependent upon the context in which it is used in. "Loaf" is most commonly used hand in hand with "bread". and is sometimes used as a verb (my boss is good at loafing), adjective (a loaf of whole wheat, what a loafer) and noun (I'll take a loaf and a bottle of Lucky Charcoal Filtered Vodka please!).
"Loaf" often elicits a pavlovian effect on those who hear it, commonly making stomachs grumble. However, the expression "I'm going to pinch a loaf" makes normal people wrinkle their noses and verbally express their disgust. Equating the act of defecation with baking is so vile, that it never fails to be at least somewhat funny everytime I hear it.
Which leads me to a question: can certain types of feces be considered "loaves"? I think so. A loaf can be defined as "stuff compressed or formed into a solid column-like form, through the processes of baking or squishing that stuff together". After all, cold cuts are sliced from loaves of various nitrite injected proteins(think olive loaf). And, you gotta admit, the french baguette, fruit cake(vile in its own right), and other types of bread, tend to resemble our excrement. It is not uncommon for my brother to proudly describe what he flushes, and he can probably recollect his favorite noteworthy specimens. He might even have a photo album.
This picture though, put together two words that I just never expected to see together. Now, after being in Japan for a year, I have aquired a taste for many animal parts that are not commonly eaten in the States(chicken gristle, gizzard, hormone, stewed tendons and ligaments, etc...), among them tongue. But for some reason, when you add almost any bodily part with the word "loaf" it is transformed into something that is instantly disgusting. Here, why don't you try: Think of a random body part (say, for example, skin) and add the word "loaf". And presto! Mmmmmmm.... skin loaf! What a fun word! And who says learning English is no fun?!?

Hiking Kuju

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This is an insect that was found at the peak of Mount Kuju. It was about the size of a large grape, and has the general morphology of a tick. It moved very slowly and didn't seem bothered at all when picked up. As there were no visible animals at the top of the mountain other than people, their pets, and insects, and sparse vegetation, I am guessing that this monster tick eats volcanic rocks and dirt.


I hiked up the mountain with one of my elementary schools and their families on Saturday. The hike started at eight and ended at three. The sun was shining in the open blue sky, and a constant cold breeze chilled the sweat on my brow. It was such a nice day that there must have been about one thousand visitors hiking the trail on that day alone.My students went at their own pace, and so I was forced to climb from our check in point up to the top three times by three different groups! As soon as I descended (from the last rest point), newly arrived students would demand that I accompany them again!
Anyhow, this is my second "expedition" up Mount Kuju- the first one was much harder to complete, as I took a longer and steeper trail during deep winter in the snow- yes, it was dangerous, but a hike isn't worth doing if it doesn't have some elements of danger. The fact that if you break your leg, then you will either have to suck it up and crawl down, or freeze to death all alone, makes hiking more interesting!
Kuju is the tallest mountain in Kyushu (I think, maybe it's Neko-Dake), and is still volcanically active. The smell of "Io" (or sulphur) permeates the air up there, and the landscapes are fantastically varied and scaled. Truly a magnificent hike if you happen to be in the area! As soon as I get my ISDN connection up and running I will post a bunch of pix.

Ojisan udedokei

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This is my good ol Seiko Professional dive watch, which was given to me on my 15th birthday by Kohei. At 15, it looked ridiculous on my scrawny teenage wrist, but now, 9 years later, that has been upgraded to "slightly too large". This thing is a tank, more a bludgeon than a timepiece. It can withstand great pressures, safely able to dive down as far as 200 metres without danger of implosion. This is my new watch of choice while teaching at my hoikuens and shogakkos, as even they won't be able to harm it.

Another One Bites The Dust

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Yes, I have sent yet another cherished watch to the junk pile... The Wenger was with me for many adventures and accompanied me on my various travels. It has been diving in Catalina, helped me to teach sailing in Newport, plummetted off of the Circus Circus bungee platform, and has kept me on track for this past year in Japan (among many other things). It was a faced paced round of Duck-duck-goose that finally did it in. I dove for the vacant spot left by the goose, and BOOM, the band broke.

This is not the first time that a watch of mine has died a violent death. When I was living on Picasso Avenue, I lost my Spider-Man watch (limited edition Fossil) in a similar incident. A group of us had just come back from a party on D.P. to our pad, and noticed that Diane was missing. She was last seen drunk, and talking to a couple of guys, so we were obligated to go retrieve her before she got herself into trouble! Me, Steve, Brian, and Chris jumped on our bikes and took off toward the coast. I decided that going down the ramp would only take away more precious time, so decided to jump the curb, between two cars, and join the convoy on the street.

My bike came down in an ungainly angle, and the impact between my front tire and the pavement catapulted me down over the handle bars face first. The impact was a hard smackdown, that I can only describe as "black". With great effort I pushed myself up and uttered the words that would be used to mock me for the following months "I broke my watch!", oblivious to my own state. It was completely smashed beyond any hope of repair. Bits and pieces of the obliterated face reflected the dim yellow glow of the streetlights, the braided leather band snapped in the same place. My bloodied jeans were frayed threadbare at the points of impact, a testament to the power of friction.
The sting of roadrash over my face, right hand, arm, shoulder, hip, and knees accompanied he realization that I was bleeding, and my chest hurt. I limped inside, and Brian took off to find Diane. They returned immediately.
I went to the bathroom and pulled out the good 'ol hydrogen peroxide and cotton swabs. It took 30 minutes to sterilize all of the wounds and to scrape all of the small rocks and grit out. Everytime I applied the peroxide, it really hurt, so much that I would scream out in pain. This was followed EVERY TIME by waves of laughter, followed by insincere statements like "I'm sorry but its really funny", or "we're not laughing at you!" followed by more laughter. What good friends huh, laughing and making fun of my agony!
For the next couple of weeks I looked like the recipient of a good thrashing. Slowly, my wounds scabbed up, the scabs peeled off, the pink new skin got tanned, and I recovered. However, for months my chest still ached, and Brian and Chris took potshots, jabbing me in the ribs whenever an opportunity arose. My father visited some time later, and after inspecting the pain, he told me that I had broken my rib. Of course once they found out, this made the bastards laugh even more.
Moral of the story: Not only is BUIing (Biking under the influence) against the law, but it can be very painful physically and psychologically. But after a fall, you must get back up and ride again! With practice and perserverence, one can learn to BUI in a safe and controlled manner, maybe.
Well, its time to get a new watch. I can only hope that the next one will fare better than its predecessors...

A Google Search yielded this page. Like natto in Japan, British children are fed this stuff at an early age, so they aquire the taste after rigorous feeding regimens. Natto is typically served as a condiment to rice, as Marmite generally tops toast (the most popular carbohydrate eaten with every meal in said countries).
In the Marmite page, this is a suggestion of a possible use for this particular "savoury spread":
...Marmite is very effective as a topical ointment in the treatment of haemorrhoids.
And I'll leave it at that...


Yesterday was a free day. The birds were singing, there were "Ferris Bueller clouds" in the bright blue sky, and a gentle breeze, and so of course I got sick the day before and had to stay at home. But this turned out to be a productive day nonetheless. My place was really messy, so I spent most of the day sorting, organizing, and tossing stuff in the garbage. As I was going through, discarding things in the kitchen that had grown a layer of grey mold (everything- I am not even exagerating) I found this jar of Marmite. Contains various vitamins, 100 percent vegetarian, yeast extract... this looks like something that my father would recommend to treat you for whatever might be ailing you at the moment.

So I unscrewed the grimy yellow cap, and was treated to a whiff of stuff that smelled like a mix of Kyolic (fermented garlic infusion of nastiness), vinegar, and Karo syrup. It was thicker than honey, and had the color of spoiled chocolate pudding. Surprisingly (maybe not really), no mold had grown on this. Even if it had, this stuff could not be any nastier that it was in its natural state.

I know Brits eat some strange stuff. Steve's Toad in the Hole and other lard filled dishes are proof of this. I mean, are you supposed to find pubes in this dish traditionally, or was that just a special treat created in honor of Pete? Anyways, what did Harvey (my predecessor) use this stuff for? Since it was in the kitchen, I can only assume he ate or drank it in some form. I was thinking, are you obligated to eat disgusting things if you are a vegetarian? I think if I were vegetarian, I would opt not to eat Marmite, even if it made me a pseudo-vegetarian, and all the other vegetarians looked down on me (while enjoying a heaping tablespoon full of stinky goodness). I find the other argument, that it contains vitamins, not sufficient to get me to put this stuff in my mouth. I prefer my vitamin fortified Froot Loops and Kix thank you very much!
Has anyone eaten this stuff? If so I am curious to know:
1. Why?
2. How?
3. Would you ever do it again?
4. Is this stuff big in the U.K.?
5. Is it traditionally served with pubes?

Zou No Zou

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Still trying to figure out how to make an "o" with a straight accent line over it (indicating a long o sound). The addition of a "u" to the end of the "o" will just have to make do for now.

Ride On!

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I have tried to ride many different things down many different steep areas around Japan. Snowboarding in the local hills, mountain boarding on Mount Aso and the Ubuyama Bokujo, cardboard down Kikka-machi's huge steep astroturf hill, homebase down the long roller-slide in Kyokushi, Taro's longboard down a jinja, et cetera. But this was the most fun I've had recently.

At English camp, I tried riding a sled down a really steep grass hill, and had many good rides. My students saw this and tried their luck at it. All of the boys couldn't do it, and felt really bad because this girl could nail it from her very first run.


If you ever get the chance to ride sleds down steep grass hills, keep in mind that it is even more fun to wear zoris, and the key to successful jumping is looking good in the air (extra bonus for a good wipeout).

In English, "inaka" means "country". I live in the cho-inaka (or uber-boonies, for you non Japanese speakers).
My village is so inaka that the local restaraunt doesn't even make shrimp tempura. Nonetheless, this tempura kicked some major ass! It was every type of vegetable and mushroom tempura conceivable piled into a huge mountain of oily goodness (I am still trying to decide if this would be considered a healthy meal or not), and I was unable to finish all of it! Is this the equivalent of country style biscuits and gravy? The Japanese still have much to learn in the ways of fattening and unhealthy foods.

Crikey, Thats A Big Sheila!

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What kind of savage beast could possibly do this type of damage to my forearm???


You are probably picturing this, the mighty T-Rex, in your head! But no, this creature is much more cunning and dangerous.

She is so dangerous that they keep her behind a reinforced set of iron bars, and use modified supercharged cattleprods to keep her at bay! This is what bit me, and she has since the last chomp, tried to bite me a couple more times!


However, no beast can match up to the raging fury that lurks within my little sister. I have a scar on my cheek created from when I was 5 years old. She bit down and refused to let go even after drawing blood, a testament to her feral temper.

Beer + Horses + Drunk People = Fun

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On my way driving to an English Camp on Saturday morning, I was surprised to hear Japanese drums. As I came around a curve, a saw a frightened horse bulldozing his handlers into the heavy traffic. He was clearly terrified by the streaming cars, the dancing participants, and the throbbing drums. I learned that they were preparing for the "Drunken Horse Festival" that I had missed last year, and that the main event would be on Monday.

I spent the three day weekend working with the same 5th and 6th graders that I taught during the summer. It was great to see them want to use their English, and I think this batch has great potential. I taught Kaho-chan to do the proper Kung Foo pose while uttering "Tiger-style" in traditional Wu-Tang Clan style (Method Man would surely approve).


Anyhow, yesterday I decided to fight my mind paralyzing fatigue, so that I could witness the ensuing mayhem. From what I've heard, this festival was started in order to honor the horses of Kumamoto for the role that they played in a smashing victory on the Korean Peninsula (yet another reason why Koreans hate Japanese).

It didn't seem like the horses really liked the honor that was bestowed on them. I met up with a bunch of friends and co-workers, and we watched the latter half of the 65 or so horses and thousands of hapi-clad paraders dance, stumble, and thrash around spasmodically to the sounds of drums and loud hoarse chanting of the various MCs (one per horse).

Horses and people alike lacked the equilibrium needed to avoid collisions. The horses were completely freaked, bucking on several occasions. I saw one horse charge to the side of a really small street packed past capacity. He swung around in an unsteady arc, and without warning smashed into the trapped crowd with several rapid kicks! Unbelievably, no one was injured.


About ten minutes later, I saw an ambulance streak by headed in the same direcion...
The parade was amazing and I stayed for three hours. I was rockin' to the beat and rewarded with beer on many occasions (that I had to give away, since I had to drive home).


How was this matsuri started anyways? I can imagine a bunch of Kumamoto men saying: You know what we should do? Lets throw a party and watch what happens when we get the horses sloshed! I bet my horse can drink more than yours! etc.


I have found the best, most fun matsuri are the ones that blend danger, alcohol, and a riotous crowd in the proper measure. This matsuri ranks among the best that I have encountered so far.


My Puppy Is Cuter Than Mika's

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Heh heh... Fire!

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Rules Of Engagement

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Tiny exploring hands. This is my concise description of what a Hoikuen (nursery school) is. I no longer keep anything on me when I visit because my kids are all pickpockets of varying skills. The mob technique is employed every time I go, with two kids clamping onto each leg, while two apiece grab onto my arms, and everyone else huddles around me. Sometimes the more motivated ones bring chairs or anything else they can step on (i.e. each other) to jump onto my back. Its a collective effort to make me plummet to the Earth, much like the exploits of groups of primitive Neanderthals working as a team to bring down a mighty mammoth! There is no holds barred in this dystopic island of the beasts.

I have developed a set of rules to follow to increase the chance of survival:

1. Cover your crotch and anal region at ALL times. The boys especially used to love socking me full force in the nuts at unexpected times. I put a stop to this immediately by applying my Vulcan Death Grip, so now it has almost ceased to be a problem. However, the kancho (shoving fingers up your butt) remains a problem. They ALWAYS try this at some point during the day, even if I make them sorry they did it. What is it about these kids? Don't their parents teach them that you shouldn't touch certain things??? I have even seen adults engage in this behavior (one older man tried to kancho a hostess who was serving us drinks)!

2. Don't fall to the ground. Two words sum it up: Dog pile. With 30 plus kids at a time, death by suffocation is not so far fetched a possibility (is this proper English???).

3. Don't duck down to check on the status of a crying child. This seems heartless, but unless you think something is really wrong, chances is that this is just a clever, irresistable ruse. Survey the situation standing completely erect. If you don't understand this, refer to #2.

4. If you push the kids on the swings, demand reciprocation. This gives you a chance to rest, and its fun to see them try so hard and get absolutely nowhere (hahaha!!!). Really, though, find a good place to avoid detection and rest when you need it.

5. Wear stuff that you wouldn't mind wearing if you were to go wrassle yerself some hogs. Stuff gets stretched out, torn, and really really dirty. Boogers, dirt, food, and many other disgusting forms of contamination will bombard you from the time you arrive until you make it to your car.

6. Bring stuff to bribe them with. When reason fails, use their greed to get them to do what you want! Dealing with a pack of hoikuen kids is probably the same as dealing with the Mongol hordes. Show no fear, and promise them rewards if they cooperate.

7. Think carefully before you do something for anyone. If you do it for one of them, you probably will have to do it for all of them.

8. Think carefully before you talk. They are brilliant at parroting when they want to, so only proper English should be spoken. If rule #1 is forgotten, this can be quite challenging.


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I remember.

Almost exactly two years ago my family had a REALLY BAD DAY. My Mom busted into my room early in the morning hysterically screaming about terrorists blowing up the World Trade Center. Immediately we all got up and started watching the reports roll in, showing unbelievably horrifying footage. The same thing must have been happening all over America. How could things be worse...

From a few months before my Dad had been complaining about severe stomach cramps, and he believed it to be caused by stress. Everything he tried seemed to have little effect on easing the pains, which worsened with the passing of time. Refusing to go see a doctor, his last efforts were directed toward seeking out Chinese herbalists that might be able to treat his excruciating pain (if you know my Dad, you know he would rather recieve a swift kick in the nuts, rather than admit to feeling something as trivial as pain!).

I could tell things were wrong because the night before, he walked in the door with his pants down and unbuttoned, leaning on the bannister, saying "Hi Ad", all the while fighting to keep up the appearance of control and strength. Although he was in great pain, he didn't lash out in anger to vent it. He maintained control of himself to the very very last second (sort of like how he likes to wait past closing time to make his way to the register, only after the Costco employees start getting pissed off about it).

Flash back to the morning of 9/11, at about 9:00 in the morning. From the television, we are summoned upstairs by Mom calling "Adam, Merin, get up here!". My Dad uttered words that chilled me to the soul, the words I never expected to ever hear him say: "Take me to the hospital!". As he said this my father looked like a dying man. His face was jaundiced, eyes bulged out and bloodshot, jaws clamped down fulll force, sweat pouring out of him. He refused to let us summon an ambulance stating "Its going to take too long to get here!".

So we got him into the QX-4 and I hauled full throttle to Fountain Valley Hospital. The whole time he was screaming "Oh F**k, I want you to SHOOT ME!" and other really frightening things of the same vein. We took him to the emergency entrance, and he tried to quickly and accurately explain his condition to the medical personnel.

M.P.: I'm going tell me where the pain is, Mr?
Dad: DR. Yoshida. The pain is in the LOWER LEFT QUADRANT! I think I need about 20 c.c.s of.....
M.P.: Take it easy sir! Folks(to us), we're going to need you to fill out the proper paperwork and wait over there (the small waiting room).

Luckily, my father lived. It turns out that his gallbladder had exploded and turned gangrenous (I'm guessing that this would be due to gas gangrene, the worst of all types of gangrene I think) almost killing him. In other words, it was ROTTEN! I can't imagine what that would be like: In degrees of pain, it must have been past excruciating.

9/11 was a bad, bad day. But I, unlike almost all other Americans, was slightly relieved at the end of the day. My father was finally getting proper medical treatment, and was in stable condition. I slept that night, and it wasn't until the coming of the following days that the magnitude of the attacks finally kicked me in the head.

What Does This Mean???

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Engrish Lessons!

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Lessons are proceeding better than I had expected. I have tweaked my lessons to up the game time, to introduce a more broad range of cultural content, and reinforce past lessons. This is the culmination of years of observation, cognition, and experimentation: As Hannibal says "I love it when a plan comes together!".

Last night during a private eikaiwa (english conversation class) I learned that Kikuko (the secretary at Yamaga Shogakko) was able to use some English that I taught her four months before. Some of the lessons I have been making deal with trouble shooting in other countries, including: how to protect yourself from scams, what to say in difficult situations, how to find the best places (to eat, shop, party, etc...), how to get around and ask directions, how to give vague answers to dangerous questions, how to get the best prices on stuff, and the use of slang and idioms to name a few.

Kikuko went to Vietnam two weeks ago, and had a chance to use what I taught her. The maid tried to make her sign a charge sheet stating that she would pay for a TV set that was broken when she was away from her hotel room. Kikuko read the statement, and realized that the maid was trying to pull a fast one, so she busted out with: "I want to talk to your manager!".

The maid's bluff called, she quickly said "I'm sorry, there's no problem, let me talk to my manager and I will take care of this" and she was not charged or bothered about it again! I can tell you this much- MY eikaiwa students will not be taken advantage of like your run of the mill Nihonjin! Try and take advantage of them will earn you a "Crazy Fool(in the words of the all mighty B.A. Baracus)! What are you trying to pull? Do you think I'm stupid?!? Whats your name? I want to talk to your boss!".

Ah, thats what teaching is all about!

Over Hill, Over Dale

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Yesterday was confused. First it was really hot without any blue sky. Then the clouds blitzed in and it poured heavily. Then the sun came out and it still poured heavily. Sporadic battalions of clouds made up of light and dark divisions scrambled across the blue expanse, all the while allowing the sunlight to filter through like the nausea-inducing replica paintings of Thomas Kinkade. I could've kicked myself in the nuts for not bringing my new digicam, so I had to capture this frame with my Docomo D251i instead.

This pic was taken at El Patio Ranch on the way to Ichinomiya. The five posts silhouetted in the foreground act as masts to the ragged American flags that fly during rain or snow. This probably would be a dramatically patriotic picture had I remembered to bring along the QV-R4! Lesson learned.


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My chugakko kids wear these scrubs every day while serving lunch. C'mon guys, its just food! I think that hairnets and gloves suffice for everyday food service. I guess that if I had to wear surgical scrubs while putting lunch trays on my friends desks every day, I might just become obsessive about sanitizing everything to the point of being paranoid in many unnecessary situations. No wonder my co-workers were so freaked out about SARS and would not yield to reason: they were conditioned since they were born to over-react in normal everyday situations. I must admit that it was fun coughing and sneezing when everyone asked "do you feel alright?" after I came back from Thai! Its good to give people a good scare once and a while- brushes the dust off of the ol' fight or flight reaction.

Summertime and the livin's EZ

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The one on the left is Ken, and on the right we have Natsuki.
Ken is blasting the camera with an Ultraman energy beam, and Natsuki is ready to put the smack down on anyone who wants beef. Natchan already has a small beer belly, placing him way ahead of his peers.


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When people hear that I get to work at 3 hoikuens every week, they generally say either "Awwwww, they must be so cute" or "Wow, that sounds cool". Well these two statements are true, but babies are really disgusting things.

They piss all over the tatami, they smell like feces at times, they drool whether excited or comatose, have food caked in their hair, face, clothes, and whatever else they come into contact with, they will put their hands anywhere, they put anything they can into their mouths, and they perpetually have big boogers creeping out of their tiny noses.

Its not like my kids are not well taken care of. After lunch they are cleaned, but it seems like all effort is in vain. In no time, they are once again filthy. Hahaha, my home no longer seems so messy anymore!

Negative View

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When browsing your keitai display, you usually look perpendicularly from a 90 degree angle, straight on. However, if you look from about a 15 degree angle, the screens colors will invert. Looking at an inverted picture this way will, of course, turn the colors back to normal.

This reminds me of a favorite technique of inverting pictures in high school photography class. After exposing a photo and washing it in the developing solution, if you once again expose it with plain light for a short period of time, it will create an image similar to the negative.

This is 4 year old Akari-chan of Hokubu Hoikuen. The children in this part of Ubuyama can climb trees like no other children I have encountered, but only when they are really young.


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I was watching the Discovery Channel a couple of nights ago, about this New Zealand marine scientist and his quest to capture architeuthis (the giant squid).

Dr O'Shea came up with the brilliant idea to go after larval architeuthis instead of adults. I found this to be disappointing, after all, there is nothing giant about a baby giant squid. I have always thought that to capture a giant squid, you would have to prepare for battle. Harpoons, modified high voltage cattle prods, and noxious chemical weapons turned out to be quite unnecessary. No danger, no thrashing tentacles of death, no gnashing razor sharp beak, no giant unblinking eyes... Nonetheless it was an exciting documentary.

First, his team had to screen through the vast archives of specimens of larval squid to identify the never before seen target species. After that was done he proceeded to net larvae of known giant squid breeding areas, refining the tecnique until he captured seven live specimens in one expedition. Unfortunately stage three, the rearing of a giant squid by means of aquaculture, did not happen because none of the larvae survived the trip to port.

However, O'Shea's team made breakthroughs in keeping other species of deep water squid alive and thriving for unprecedented lenghths of time. This is indeed exciting news, and the possibility of seeing fully grown architeuthis in aquariums no longer seems so impossible!

I want a giant squid in my fish tank! Can you imagine? Hours of fun experimenting what a giant squid will and will not eat! And of course, watching the epic battle unfold when you put a Sperm whale and a giant squid in the same tank!

Shifting Gears

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Today I decided to change my lessons in all of my classes, increasing the duration and range of games played. I have decided that not all games need to be ones that involve practicing English, as long as they serve the purpose of motivating the students to develop their language, cognition, social, motor, and various other skills that will be of use in the future. This ties into my plan to create an educational environment which will encourage creative and critical thinking, with the ultimate goal of providing my kids with the tools to learn on their own, and to motivate themselves independently of the curriculum based education.

I am quite happy with most of my shogakko lessons, and the kids still have a spark in their eyes and WANT to learn more English. The Hoikuen kids also like English lessons, but they forget everything rapidly, and many of them can't yet speak Japanese!

I think the best thing I can do for my kids is to support them in enjoying their childhood experiences. I believe that with positive associations, my kids will turn out better in the long run if I concentrate on important areas and cut down on unnecessary educational activities. This is my way of upping the quality and shifting away from the quantity of things that I teach. They will have plenty of time to vegetate and to perfect their techniques to deal with rote, mind-rotting work when they reach Chugakko.

As for Chugakko, the best I can do (since we have to stick to the text and do boring drills to prepare for the outdated entrance exams) is to concentrate on the students whose interests in English and foreign cultures have not completely collapsed, and to hopefully make a small difference. It is discouraging to note that with the jump from Hoikuen to Shogakko and from Shogakko to Chugakko, the rate at which the students pick up English dramatically decreases. This in itself is not necessarily bad, but the plunge in morale as Chugakko progresses is indeed a sad, sad thing to witness.

There is hope at the end of the tunnel, though. After teaching high schoolers this summer, I found many of them to be highly enthusiastic and hungry to learn English. This is also true of many college students who I have met. I know that my kids have the potential to become truly engaged in the pursuit of real education, and hope that that potential comes to fruition. This years work is indeed cut out for me. I will do my best.

When JRR Tolkien created the Middle Earth universe, he was tapping into an aincent lore of European origin, exploring the struggle between the eternal clash of good and evil. I know that, like me, Beowulf must have made a big impression on Tolkien.
The worlds of Beowulf and Middle Earth have several things in common: rings of power and other objects infused with might and power, a force of great evil threatening to wipe out the forces of good, the great unbalance of power in favor of evil, heroes and villians with great and godlike powers, themes of reincarnation, and similar names. Also introduced, in the Silmarillion are elements of Norse/Olimpian pantheons, gods, and legends.
Tolkien started from the ground up, creating a foundation for Middle Earth. He explained the mechanics of creation, and how things in this world were governed. This, like any good mythology, gave meaning for existance and tied everything together, so that the readers would not have to fill in any huge gaps. It is also remarkable to note that he created maps and even made new languages, presumably from his extensive experiences at college.

He also tended to be a bit of a recluse, seldom appearing in public or giving interviews. Who would blame him? The stories are so rich, they seem to be written for Tolkien himself. His world of fantasy is so complete, why emerge from it to deal with mere man when he could kick it with Tom Bombadil and the elves.

I had often wondered how a production of LOTR would take place, as the stories are so long, and full of nuances. I imagined that someone would make an Anime series (not like the cartoon version of the series that was made in the 70s), as this media is more versatile than conventional films. However, back in college, I was delighted to hear that Peter Jackson started work on LOTR. However, I had my reservations. How could he expect to match the scope of the world of Tolkien: he couldn`t. How closely would he stick to the books: small changes obviously had to be made to cram one book into a time limit of three hours, this was to be expected. Could the films possibly live up to my preconception of Middle Earth? Nope.

I prepared myself to be dissapointed. It was not possible for the movies to make the Wraiths as evil and terrifying as I imagined them on many dark nights, reading by flashlight. Gandalf and Shadowfax could'nt be as badass as I pictured them, even with all of the special effects available. As much as I wanted to watch the movies, I hoped that they wouldn't ruin the images and experiences that I had created in my head after completing the series.

I have some major faults with the two movies out so far, but I thought that The Fellowship of the Ring was done reasonably well. The major beef I have with this movie is that they made Arwen, a minor character who plays the most important role during The Return of the King. The scene where she carries Frodo across the river, drawing the wraiths into a booby trap? Never happened.
And what will become of Eowyn, with whom Strider first develops an affection for? Looks like she will not have to choose Faramir afterall.
Interesting parts also missing from the first film include the visit to Tom Bombadil's hippie co-op, and how the Hobbits escape from the Barrow Wights. Although, yes, I understand there is only so much that can be crammed into the space of three hours. I know, but I still think you shouldn't undertake a classic of such magnitude if you can not portray it in a suitable fashion. Still, I must admit I liked the movie overall and was excited to watch the second movie.

The second movie was a disaster. I don't even want to talk about it and have no need to ever see it again. Heck, I don't even want to talk about the BS that was pulled in that movie. Now that the bar has been lowered, I expect to be at least a little more satisfied with the Return of the King, but at this point, I would rather see the final installment of the Matrix.

Well, at least the books remain. This medium is still and I think, will always be more powerful than movies could ever be. The world of Middle Earth is a personal place, and reading your way through it allows you to personalize it. The creative liberties that Peter Jackson took violated this. I know that the movie execs wanted to capture the demographic pie slice that loves Titanic and Disney movies. He did bring in the money, but the bottom line is that he sold out making sure that the films would safely be as commercially successful as possible.

Grease Monkey

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Today, I went to the local Mobile (we have three gas stations in my town of under 2000 people, go figure...) to get my tire (thats "tyre" for any confused Brits who may be reading) fixed and to get an oil change. As I stepped out of my car, the proprietor exclaimed "Eh, Saru da!" and pointed to the roof of the garage. The monkey proceeded to jump off the roof, go to a tree and start eating its cherry-like fruit.

All of the people inside the Mobile came out to get a good look (as monkeys are rare around here- I didn't know that they were around!!!). The monkey then decided to climb up to the second story of the house, and the doors were open, so the okasan ran up to close them (Out of the blue, without precedent, she started to speak perfect English to me today... He (you could tell it was a he because of the massive nut sack staring you in the face) looked really hungry, and I didn't want to get too close in case he turned evil and started to attack. I will take my chances with Mamushi any day to a pissed off hungry monkey.

Anyways, my oil was changed and my tire was fixed in a record thirty minutes, even with the mechanic taking time to watch the monkey. And he hooked me up- 5000 yen for labor, oil filter, 3.5 liters of oil, and labor!
I hope the monkey finds enough to eat around here, because food is kind of scarce in the surrounding wilderness.

What Is A Higothai?

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This is a higothai.

Recently, I have been driven to give more thought to our family's genealogy. I have a pretty good picture of my Father's side of the family, and have had the great privilege to meet many of them. They are almost always hospitable to the point of me feeling guilty about taking them up on it, and tend to be chill and down to earth. Also, there are many, many, many of them. This is probably also true of my Mother's side of the family too, after all, she is the first of six children. Dad is the youngest of seven. Fertility is not a problem in our family.

Anyways, I took a solo trip down to Kagoshima about two months ago, because I'd never been there. In the old days, the Shimazu clan ruled Kagoshima, holding sway through out the whole of Higo (Kyushu) and parts of Honshu. Anyhow, supposedly, after the Satsuma rebellion, the Shimazu clan fell from power and many of them fled to other parts of Japan. Other than the general history of the clan, I have no idea about my ancestors from southern Kyushu.
Walking around Kagoshima, I really felt at home as if I belonged here. The atmosphere was lively, yet kick-back. Seeing the remains of the castle, reading the words of the former lords, looking at statues of heroes I had never heard of; all of this made a big impression on me. It would be nice to meet relatives from around here, and to find out more about the past.

As I walked the ancient grounds of Kagoshima City, I wondered if the people I passed were related to me in some way: Did they have blood in common with me? Were they the descendents of the vassals or masters of my ancestors? Did that guy selling fish have a Great-great-great-great-great grandfather who sold fish to my Great-great-great-great-great grandfather?

I hope I find the answers to some of my questions, and I invite anyone interested in helping to join in! If one of my unknown relatives or someone with whom I have some secret relationship with is reading this, lets get in touch and help each other!

Justin, Mika, Merin- lets get this organized and find out about the unknown part of our family.

The Last Meal

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You have NO idea how good this tasted after eating only burgers from Mos, Mac, Freshness, and occasionally Lotteria for over 8 months! I would have paid 20 bucks for this awesome set: Double Whopper with cheese, Large fries, Large Drink! What is the first thing I am going to do when I get home? I will make a circuit of In N Out, followed by Alertos, then dash over to Tommy's, followed by Claim Jumper and Islands. Then I will visit J&J's house of subs, the Indian place next to J&J's, Rally burger, Fuji burger, Arby's, and Rubio's. In the early morning hours I will go to Jack in the Box, of course!
No wonder Japanese are so skinny- they have no real good burger joints...

How To Catch A Wookie

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This pic was taken in Bangkok, in a Lotus Supermarket. For some reason, this reminds me of the piece of meat hanging from the forest canopy in the scene from Return of the Jedi, when Chewie triggers the net booby trap.

I love the supermarkets in Thai. They?re like the supermarkets in Little Saigon, but cleaner and with a larger selection of weird stuff to look at. My only request: get rid of that nasty durian! It smells like rotting carcass!

Presque Vu

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In the early winter, I decided to go on a trip to China with Joe and, but SARS made me back out, and their BOE's forbade them to go. I checked out the facts about SARS and decided to go on a trip to Thailand with my Jus and Nam, despite the (negligible, from my POV) risks.

During this time, it was a real pain trying to leave Japan to go anywhere, as everyone (meaning Japanese people) was afraid of SARS. Luckily, I won the battle with my BOE and slipped out of the country. I needed this. Japan was really getting to me, especially after the long winter spent in my uninsulated house, layered under no less than 3 garments at any given time to keep from freezing to death.

As soon as I stepped on the airplane, I felt good. Things were gonna change, I could feel it. I noticed that one of the stewardesses was really nice, and we started to chat in the back of the plane. After we had been talking for a while she started asking really specific questions like "what part of Orange County are you from exactly", and "do you know (fill in the blank)". Finally, she asked me "are you Merin's older brother?". It turns out that Kaori (the stewardess) was an old friend of Merin's from OCC. I know that I look like Merin, but this blew me away and it felt really weird to have met someone that I didn't know but sort of did. Anyhow, I snapped this shot (to the ire of the other attendants who told me that cell phones are to be kept OFF during the duration of the flight, thank you very much!), and it still brings back that strange feeling every time I see it.

At the end of my trip, I randomly met a teacher from Kaset Sart University, whom I had become friends with during a previous exchange program 6 months earlier. He was seeing off another friend at the airport, and we just so happened to meet just before I stepped on the plane. When you meet people unexpectedly in different countries, it can feel like the hand of destiny has pushed you together. This was indeed a strange way to start/end a trip.


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Located only 40 minutes away from my pad is this waterfall. There is a hidden ladder you can climb to access the fogotten campsite, complete with pitfalls, rusty danger signs, and the stench of rotting carcass (no joke). Brought back memories of Stand By Me.


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Taken from the Milk Road, on the crest of the largest caldera in the world. In addition, this area boasts some of the best driving to be had in Japan, good clean air, and breath taking views.

Taro's Meat Mobile

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Heh heh... I said Meat

For my birthday, Justin flew me up to Osaka to go see ADF in concert!!! They rocked the house, but I missed the lyrical barrage of Deeter. Anyways, the concert kicked major ass and it was one of the best concerts I've been to in Japan!

This also happened to be prime time for cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami), so we bought a lot of frozen meat(that kicked major ass!) for really cheap, got the other provisions together, and had a hanami party in the rain overlooking the Tenri Dam. It was friggin? cold, and there were no cherry blossoms up here, but it was good times. Playing with hanabi, eating awesome food, hanging out with good people- Yes, and it ended with a large bag of assorted fireworks (helicopters, ladyfingers, bottle rockets, roses, etc...) being tossed in the bonfire, chasing the unwary from the warmth. It?s never officially a crazy time in Nara unless someone almost dies from the irresponsible usage of fireworks.

Fireball, Tiger Uppercut!

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This is a picture from the famous Fire Festival (hifuri shinji) at Aso Shrine which took place in late March, on a rainy evening. The modest grounds of the temple were crowded past the limits of safety, and the monks handed out bales of hay to anyone wishing to set these on fire and to join in on the melee. No instructions were given, it was more of a "do as you please" atmosphere. The festival transformed the temple grounds into hell with spent straw bails skewed over the premises, burning bright and emitting as much smoke as heat. More and more people spun fireballs, adding to the intensity. Some whirled theirs too close to each other, and cinders shot out as overlapping ellipses came into phase, exploding like the Death Star.

There was one very enthusiastic Japanese girl who loved swinging the fireballs. She swung them in wild trajectories with great enthusiasm, to the horror of people standing 5 feet from her. Usually when others were swinging a bale and the rope burned through, the fireball would quickly fall to the ground and roll maybe a few feet. With this girl, though, the burning bales would arc through the air, as if lobbed by an Olimpiad hammer thrower. Luckily, the first nine times ended without incident, they just scared the bejesus out of anyone close to her. The tenth time, the rope snapped, and the fireball pounded into a guy not 5 feet away from her. Upon impact, the burning hay bursted from the bundle, fully enveloping the cringing man in fire, smoke, and cinders. Luckily for him, the fireball dissipated quickly and he walked away (albeit, with a slight twitch). If I go next year, I know who NOT to stand next to! Thank goodness for the shrine that Japan is not as litigious a society as the good ol? U.S. of A., or else there would be no festivals that I would really want to go to.


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Don't Fuck with this snake!!! I have had three encounters with this snake so far, with two of them in my town. This pic was taken in the Northern part of Ubuyama, where they are said to be common. Often seen infused in sake, the mamushi is said to give you "special powers" and to be a "genki drink". Translation: it gives you a really big BONER. This is gross but not as gross as what the Chinese will eat, drink, snort, smoke, or otherwise utilize a wider and more disgusting range of "natural remedies".

Anyhow, I tried to catch my first mamushi four years ago while at a flower park with T-bone in Nara. The small dark snake was just too fast for me, and Taro stopped me from jumping Irwin style into the bushes. Just a month ago, again I tried to catch a snake I saw, this time in front of my house. Armed with my broom, I pinned it down and grabbed the tail, but it freed its head from the broom and started back at my hand. I let it go and it got away. Afterwards I went back to English Camp, and during a hike with my kids, I noticed that this warning sign (In English this time) was the same one I tried to catch just an hour earlier.

Supposedly, people eat Mamushi around here. One of my greatest hopes is to go to a school barbecue and have one of the OG farmer parents pull out a live snake, dress it, throw it on the grill, and say "Adamu sensei, tabete mite onegaishimasu". I'm down with eating the good ol? fashioned country cuisine!

Nippon's Very Own Davy Crockett

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I went to visit my friend Kei last February up in Kita-Kyushu, and got to meet his family. They're great people, nice and hospitable to an extreme (even in Japanese standards). Kei's grandfather is the dude in the picture. He speaks english because he piloted in the U.S. during the 50's and now enjoys shooting stuff in his retirement years. On his head a Davy Crockett style cap made of Japanese Racoon-Dog (Tanuki). Other varmints he has plugged with his 20 gauge include kiji (pheasant), inoshishi (wild boar), and kitsune (fox). Miyahara Ojichan may look like a nice old man, but he knows how to handle the steel.

Monkey Igloo

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My kids at Hokubu Shogakko made this at the end of winter, when the snow was melting, and it was a blistering 7 degrees C during the day. It felt warmer inside of this dome than my house (and this is not hyperbole, unfortunately). Thank god for summer! Right now its nice and cool up here and everyone else is stuck sweating it out all over most of Japan. Gotta learn to cherish the moments. Then again, there are no bugs during the winter months, and none of that insidious mold!

Monkey Art

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This picture was made by a former hoikuen student named Tatsuyoshi. Notice the badass romaji. and the badass fro on the hungry dude. Ta-kun knows whats up!

Incriminating Evidence

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Mom, Dad, Mika, concerned friends... Merin is an alcoholic. Please support her in this desperate hour! Merin, we are behind you 100 percent.

J-Fro (Atomu Version 0.1)

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Is it me or does Justin bear an uncanny resemblance to Astro Boy?

Upside-Down Winter Fro (post hibiki)

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After Going to the Kuju Skiing "Resort" (which is like calling my fish tank an aquarium), my fro was encrusted by a blizzard that came out of nowhere! This kicked major ass because:

1. The entrenched youth forming a wall with 7 layers of strata to block all who dared to board, while looking good sitting down on the slopes, in their brand new way-too-expensive gear, sending emails via the newest keitais, were all scared away by this blessed tempest. It blew hard and deposited a nice layer of powder to cover the icy slush and my hair.
2. The ride kicked major ass after the storm dumped powder on the slope (I would say slopes, but that would be an utter lie). The run was only about 50 meters for the "advanced" half (that?s right, there are only two lifts that make up one run) and I could do it with my eyes closed, making it down in ten seconds. The blizzard was SO thick that it was like riding with my eyes closed.
3. It is nice to be only one of the few quasi-real boarders on the mountain (and I use this word lightly) being blasted by snowflakes. The feelings of a numb face, and the shock of chewing an Altoid and then inhaling the air in sub-artic conditions...

If you want to go boarding in Kyushu, I have a word of advice: save your money. Go mountain boarding instead, or head up to Northern Japan.

Righteous Fro

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Why get a hair cut? I have been in Japan for over a year now, and it seems that all the hair stylists know is how to give me a bad one. There was one exception, but they didn't cut the sides short enough, and my hair went wild shortly after. Screw it. Its time for my fro to go back to its natural state.

What is it with bad haircuts in this country anyways?

And So It Starts...Again (sigh!)

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Summer break is officially over and classes resume today, so it is back to the same routine. The teachers forgot to tell me to come to the opening ceremony, and as I heard everyone singing the official Ubuyama Chugakko song, I was happy to be left out so that I could read about the discovery of a new order of insect in National Geographic (much more interesting than listening to meaningless speeches). Being invisible has its advantages after all!

Sonic Reverberations

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Sunday has always been a big disappointment to me. Technically, it is a free day, to be used as a typical day off, but the day after takes away from the magic.

That being said, This Saturday is not so bad. Right now I am in my house up on the mountain not really doing anything, and it feels good! The breeze is sweeping through the open windows, and though I can not call it "refreshing" it still is a billion times better than being in the hot and humid environment of the city..

Feelin? pretty good right now. I just ran my 5th hash yesterday. I am proud to say that I came in with the front of the pack, after not exercising at all for over three weeks! I am feeling the burn of residual lactic acid, though.

The race this time was in southern Aso, and for once it was a beautiful day with no rain! Props to Ben for putting it on, and to everyone who showed up.

So yesterday, I was immortalized and given the name "Sonic" because of my righteous fro! I truly have sukebe hair, which seems to grow at the same rate as the grass of Kyushu during the Summer. Anyways, this nickname is not new at all. I was first called Sonic when the Sega Genesis, the badass 16 bit console of the day, was at its zenith of popularity. Then I grew out my hair and had it parted down the middle, losing the nickname until college rolled around. The nickname periodically has resurfaced, with everyone who bestows it on me believing themselves to be original in drawing a parallel between my hair and that of the Blue hedgehog. That being said, it is time to make a decision. I will either allow my mane to grow, allowing it to thrive past the point of any semblance of control, or take the scissors to it.

Sonic also happens to be the name of a really cool dog that lived with Justin about 10 years ago. Sonic is blended into my earlier impressions of Japan. Sonic ran faster than the wind, chasing bottle rockets (and I swear, almost catching them) through the rice paddies of Nara-Ken. Watching Sonic tear through the rice stalks was like watching a turbo-charged alien snake-worm in Tremors rip through the desert sands, but more fast and agile.


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Words. Pictures. Hypertext. We post, you decide:

Finally, after months of nail-biting anticipation, and our hopes of the much hyped Typepad being dashed, we are up and running on... Movable Type! The layout on MT looks sleek and I need to read through the manual when I am on the punchcard.

Although MT's capabilities far surpass those of Blogger, the layout seems more intuitive and makes me want to learn everything about it. Props to J for finally getting this thing up and running. Just wanted to put down some verbage and make my mark on the section known now as the "Higo Blog".

I can't wait to see what will become of this: Finally a way to chronicle my misadventures, but mostly I'm doing this so that I can remember the experiences that might otherwise be forgotten. In college, many pranks were pulled on unsuspecting roommates but I can't remember all of them. Had I written them down, this would not have been the case.

On Chris Dempsey's 21st birthday, we (being Brian and I) pulled an awesome joke on Chris and Steve, who shared a room in our Picasso apartment in Isla Vista. I got about 10 cubic feet of foam peanuts, and when they were outside enjoying the keg of Sierra Nevada, we dumped the foam in the room, turned on two huge K-Mart box fans to produce a sustained peanut flurry, and locked the door of our room to foil any attempts at retribution.

Unfortunately, Chris was in a particularly foul mood (because his girlfriend of the time decided his Birthday was a GOOD TIME to break up with him- that's just cold-hearted now).

When Steve saw the room, he was drunk, and after punching us a couple of times, he congratulated us on a well-executed prank (you know what's up man). When Chris saw it, he was drunk, but he didn't take it very well. He kicked down our door, saturated our mattresses with 5 gallons of Arrowhead water, all the while as we watched, in disbelief, unable to do anything.

Chris' rampage might have been an equally good prank, but he did it with the look of a crazed wombat with no intention of anything other than lashing out in hatred. The next day he was still pissed, and I think he still hasn't fully recovered from the incident. If you ask him, our prank still is not funny. It was just a case of us being assholes, as usual (I accept that I am an asshole on occasion, but this was a brilliant joke).

It is experiences like this that I wish to more fully document, for no reason other than recording things that I find to be interesting, of concern, or at least noteworthy.

Everybody and their mom is blogging now, but what I hope to do is to surpass the quality of content, planning, and execution of my portion of the greatness that is the C0sm1c13uDdh4 page. Experiments will be carried out, with some destined for greatness and others for utter and complete failure, but just bear with me. I am not a flight risk, nor am I Raed. But you will see a schooner- if you look hard enough at these two asterisks ( * *) for a suitable length of time.