Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sports Day Practise

After-school on Mondays I usually run English Club at Tokamachi Koko. This week though, the students will be arriving late because they are practising their dance routines for sports day.

From what I can gather, sports day is a massive event in High Schools. The students of Tokamachi Koko has been divided into eight teams, so one class from each year is part of each team and each team is designated a colour. The selections have been displayed on this board for the last few weeks:

The teams have sports events to compete in, which each teams specialist has been training. They also have a dancing contest and this is what is being practiced today. Every flat area around teh school has been taken up by students; the front of the school, the reserve carpark, even the roofs!

As I type and can hear stomping above from dancing students. I'm sure the roof will hold; a few hundred students can never be heavier than three metres of snow. Can they?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Donichi, mo hitotsu onegaishimasu

Another Monday, another fun-packed weekend. So I'd be grateful for another weekend to recover from the last.

This was the final weekend for Neil in Japan, who returns to teh UK on Thursday. So, of course, we had to give him a good send off. First off, a night out in Takada starting with a nomihodai at Funai. As always, we fully abused teh system and drank way more than the cost of the nomihodai. The food was good too and Im pretty sure Kiwi Dave ate his body weight in Cheesy Potato.

After we were done in Funai, we crawled upstairs to PTA for a massive Karaoke session. I can;t remember all the tunes we sang, but I'm pretty sure we had some Rick Astley and Elvis in teh "Bye-Bye-Neil Mega-mix.

We finished around 1ish and a couple of taxis later we were back at Mel's place to sleep it all off.

We woke bright and early around 9ish and headed out for a greasy breakfast at Gusto. We went our seperate ways afterwards; Neil and Annie to Miyoko, Debs and Rowan to Niigata via Nagaoka, Mel to the baseball and I got the train back to Tokamachi and set too about preparing leaving pressies for Neil.

I had a few ideas, the best one being a T-shirt that summed up Neil's time in Japan. I'd been thinking of a slogan for the last couple of days and decided on one about onigiri. I had T-shirt printer paper and hunted down a T-shirt. On my travels I found another pressie for Neil in Musashi; a lightbaton as used by the people at roadworks.

So back at my flat, I set to and made this T-shirt:

Ryan made it to my place around 6.30 and we headed into Tokamachi for Neil's second night out. It was at the Beer Garden above Rapporto. They were having a sukiyaki tabehodai with nomihodai; all you can eat and drink from 3,500 yen, perfect!

We had some food and beer and I gave Neil his pressies. He loved the T-shirt but he and Ryan couldn't stop playing with the light-baton. Job done, ne?

We paced ourselves with the beer until last orders when we ordered more beer and shochu. Bad mistake as I was to find out an hour later.

So, onto Assh to drink more and play darts, but the walk there took some time. Neil wanted to use his light baton and he couldn't resist ducking into Video One and practising his Japanese for one last time.

Assh was busy so we had to wait to play darts. This was bad for me because the extra shochu was kicking in and I started getting dozey. Things from here get a bit hazy. At some point Keiko arrived direct from Disneyland and she had brought Omiyage. I remember the staff at Assh were a bit annoyed about this for some reason. I don't think I got to play darts. After we went to Ark for more drinks. Again, I was a fair bit dozey. Then we got taxis home; Neil and Annie to Erik's, Ryan to mine and Keiko walked home.

The following morning I again woke without a pounding hangover, just mild embarassment for falling asleep at the bars. Ryan left to go play footy at the Big Swan with Joe. I decided to stay in Tokamachi and join Kawaji FC for two and a half hours of footsal at Kawanishi Sports Plaza.

The Sports Plaza is tucked away high up in the mountains behind Kawanishi; so tucked away I couldn;t get signal on my phone (the horror!). We had three team of six and played a massive round-robin, so ten-twelve minutes of footy with fivesix minutes rest in between. I played mainly up front and on the wings so I could practise taking on people and shooting; the two parts of my game that desperatly need improving. My thinking is that if I can build confidence taking on people when playing with Kawaji, and keep that confidence when playing for Niigata ALT FC, then I'll be a better player. I guess we'll find out in teh Nagano tournament next month.

So, after two nights of heavy drinking and a big session of footsal, I could do with another weekend to sleep and recover.

When the chicken crossed the road

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Interesting article on learning Japanese

I was surfing the net this afternoon and found this interesting article giving some tips on learning Japanese.

So if stating the obvious is a way of Japanese communication, then perhaps I can build up more confidence by saying what I see. Or at least give the illusion I know more Japanese than I do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Dozey Get!

I came back from work tonight and, feeling a bit tired, decided to have a quick nap. I woke an hour and a half later at 7.45, which meant it was too late to go climbing :-(

I'm not sure why I'm so tired. I haven;t been teaching this wee because of exams so work has been quite easy. Maybe I've been overdoing it with the footy recently; two sessions with Kawaji FC and one with Niigata ALT FC in the last four days. And Ive been spodding away at my new look website so I haven'e slept as much as I should have.

I should have an early night tonight.

Gadgets galore

It's been a slow day at the office and one of my teachers found news about teh E3 Expo where Sony and Nintendo have been showcasing their new consoles.

First up, Nintendo have a new revamped version of the Gameboy Advance, the Gameboy Micro. This version really is tiny, about the same size of your average mobile phone.

Nintendo have also released news of their new console, the Nintendo Revolution. It looks pretty cool and is packed with stacks of new technology, including USB ports, Wi-Fi, ethernet, slot CD drive and SD memory slots. It will also play Gamecube games as well as allowing owners to download games from Nintendo's 20 year back catalog.

Sony have released info on the new Playstation, the imaginatively titled Playstation 3. It looks pretty cool and, like Nintendo's new machine, is stacked witgh loads of new technology including USB ports, three enternet ports (internal hub?), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and slot BR-ROM drive. There are no PS controller ports on the machine, and looking at the press releases it seems that teh new controllers will can be connected via USB and Wi-Fi. You'll be able to use your PSP as a controller too. Think of teh gaming possibilities of having your own private screen while playing a game?

I'm more excited about these new machines than previous generations. These machines may be promising "to revolutionise video-gaming", just as previoud generation, but I feel that the technology has matured enough to for this next generation actually could deliver this promise. That's pretty exciting. And I'll be in Japan when these machines are released so I can be first in the queue to find out!!

And if all this wasn;t geeky enough, I come home and find out about this land walker via the Japan Times.

It's like the future is round the corner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Lesson-free Tsunan

Tsunan have mid-term exams so I had no lessons today. Spent the morning preparing for next week and archiving this years worksheets. Spent the afternoon chatting about and sorting my photos for the last two months. The teachers were particularly impressed with the snow festival and kimono festival in Tokamachi and Niigata ALT FC's victory in Tochigi. All these sets, and more, have been uploaded to my website, along with the new look. Hope everyone likes it. A student also came to the office after the exams and lent me the J-Pop CDs she promised me last week. I've promised to return the favour and burn a CD of English music for her, though I'm not exactly sure what Im going to choose. If anyone has any suggestions please add them to the comments below.

I stopped at Jam on the way home. The Autozam Carol is due for shakken (Japanese MOT) so I have to take it in and use a courtesy car until Thursday. I pointed out the flat tyre and explained the problem I had with the horn. The guy kind of gave a "Oo, that'll cost you" intake-of-breath-through-his-teeth so I'll have to look up the Japanese for "I don't get paid til Friday, will next week be okay?"

The replacement car is pretty smart. It's teh automatic version of Neil's car with electric windows and wing mirrors, central locking and warning chime if you open the door with your headlights on; so no chance of me draining the battery on this car. It also has a radio that works too, well it picks up one station, so I think I'll be driving round to the sounds of Nagano FM for a little while and see if I can pick up any new Japanese.

Right, time to head to Kawaji Elementry School and have soccer practice. Hopefully I should see a lot more people than on Saturday.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Run of Bad Luck

And just to really remind me that it is Friday the Thirteenth, my car develops a flat tyre this afternoon. Just brilliant. Luckily it happened on Honcho as I was turning a corner rather than tonning it on teh expressway. And changing the tyre wasn't too difficult, even if teh bolts had tried their best to rust in place. The main problem now is that the spare wheel is little better than a pram wheel, look:

And also the tracking is fecked, so the car veers to one side like a shopping trolley. So even if I had the money for Niigata this weekend, I wouldn't feel safe driving up in my car as it is now.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Financially Fecked Again

So I made my vauge plan for the weekend; head up to Niigata tommorrow, meet up with Kate, maybe see Albirex, go drinking Saturday night, play footy in Nagaoka on Sunday. No its getting near the end of the month, a month where I paid for my Fuji Rock ticket and started saving for September. So money is getting tight, but I have just enough to cover bills until payday and go to Niigata too. That was until my supervisor asked me to go to the bank with her.

The hotel rooms for next month Re-contracting Conference have to be paid by Wednesday. For some reason, prefectoral ALTS (all the Senior High School ALTS) have to pay the hotel from their bank account. But, the Board of Education will deposit beforehand money in each of our accounts to cover the cost.

However, somewhere along the line the paperwork for me was delayed, which delays the deposit from the BoE which means I have to pay for my Tokyo hotel. Today. All two thousand yen of it.

My supervisor did say that I didn't have to pay it today, I could pay it on Monday. Nice decision to make; pay for a hotel now and see if I can afford the weekend, or party at the weekend and struggle to pay on Monday.

So, I'm 2,000 yen lighter and my weekend plans are in tatters. Feckin brilliant.

Monday, May 02, 2005

My own May Day

No content with having three bank holidays this week (it's Golden Week in Japan), I decide to take the other days, Monday and Friday, off too and have a week's holiday. I have no plans for this week, other than seeing the Kimono festival tomorrow, so for the first time in a long while,I can totally relax without having to worry about lesson plans or travel plans.

So what did I do today? Well, I woke up around 10ish without the sound of election campaigns (voting day was yesterday, the guy in green who spoke outside my apartment on Friday has been elected as the new mayor of Tokamachi). I had a shower, ate some breakfast and did a few chores.

In teh afternoon I went climbing, which felt weird because I was there on my own; no-one else there to give me tips or shout "gamba, gamba!" I'm getting better at the overhangs, so maybe next week I can finish one. After that I went to Komeri and bought so hose and things for an idea I had.

One of the strangest things about Japan has been washing machines. I'm in a country that has more than it's fair share of decent kitchen gadgets, but for some reason they insist on using cold water in their single tub washing machines. As a consequence all my shirts have developed sweat stains. Every other ALT I talk to has teh same problem. This winter, Ive been able to get away with wearing a jumper which neatly hids the armpits, but now teh weather is getting warmer, it'll no longer be an option. So, what to do?

Well, first off, I tried soaking my shirts in wash powder and hot water overnight. Th epatches faded a little, but not enough. If only there was a way to get hot water into the washing machine, then the shirts would wash properly. And there is a way.
The washing machine takes its water through a hose from a cold tap on teh wall. If i could plug the hose into a hot water tap, then the washing machine would fill with hot water and hey presto! a decent wash.

And I'm proud to say, I've managed to do it. WIth some hose, a laundry hose connector and a couple of wingnut hose clamps, I was able to fill my washing machine with hot water. And the shirts came out a lot better than when they went in, so job done.

I wonder what other DIY I can do while I'm on holiday.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Start of Golden Week

So, I escaped the Politicians of Tokamachi and headed to Niigata. The drive up was easy enough. On teh Friday night Kate took us to Hallelujah, a small restaurant whose walls are filled with rack upon rack of vinyls and CDs. Apparently, as well as knowing a thing or too about cooking, the owner is a bit if a music fanatic.

On Saturday we hunted down an art gallery in Niigata. The first choice was closed but Tourist Information recommended the "Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum" in the Toki Misse building. Having lived in London, I was surprised to have to pay to enter, but it's not a bad little gallery. The art is mainly by Japanese artists from late nineteenth century to modern day. There are some works by foreign artists, including a piece by Monet. I sketched and bought postcards of a few of paintings that caught my eye.

Toki Misse is a tall building in the dockland area of Niigata. There's an observation floor at the top and I sketched teh view of Sado island from there.

Today we took a walk down the beach to Niigata Aquarium. I had been here during the Hull/Niigata exchange and, though we didn't have enough time to make going in worthwhile, I was surprised that the area around the aqauarium was exactly the same as it had been twelve years ago. It brought back loads of memories of that time, which was really cool. I'm going to try day trip here sometime and see if I can remember anything else.

Later this the afternoon I headed back to Tokamachi. Deb's family are over in Japan for a quick visit so Debs had organised a dinner at Naru. It was nice meeting them, but strange to hear Debs slip into her brummie accent more often than normal. They'd only been in Japan for three days but already they're impressed with everything they've seen. Tomorrow they're off to Fuji before coming back for the Kimono Festival on Tuesday, so Debs is working her car as hard as I did mine when my brothers were here.

So, a nice relaxing start to the holiday, and I still have a week to go!

**Snow Blog**

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