Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not just a geek, but casual trainspotter too

A new prototype Shinkansen is being developed with air-brakes that look like ears. How long before teh special edition 'Mickey' versions start rolling out?

I'm waiting for the Mag-lev Shinkansen that I saw at the Aichi Expo in March.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Nagano ALT Soccer Tournament

The final soccer tournament of teh JET year was held in Sugadaira, Nagano; The same place I played my first tournament last year.

Again, it was a two day affair with matches on Saturday to decide the seedings for Sunday's knockout tournaments. And the weather for both days was gorgeous though we had to be careful not to get burned

Niigata was in a group with Gunma, Hachioji Wanderers, Gifu and Shizuoka. We drew against Gunma but won on penalties. The scored early in the game against Hachioji and cruised to a 4-0 victory. For the third match, I think we kind of took it for granted that we would win, relaxed too much and became lazy. No surprise that we lost that game. After our kick-up-the-arse we came back strongly against Shizuoka and won our final match. So, with eight points, we came fourth overall and progressed to the Trophy knockout tournament.

After onsen and dinner at the hotel we went to the traditional tournament party. It was a lot quieter than the party in October. I think the sun and heat had made a lot of people tired. Many stayed in their hotel rooms while those who went to the party (Niigata included) were still knackered from running around all day in teh sun. We got more genki as we drunk more beer; I think Joe and Ben had a breakdancing showdown at one point.

So, Sunday. First match was at 9am so Joe had us down at the pitch all suited and booted by 8.30am. We had been seeded against Nagano. Both teams played strongly but Toshi managed to score first for us. We kept trying to attack to extend our lead. Nagano kept pressing for teh equaliser, which they scored ten minutes in teh second half. Niigata kept pressing for teh second goal and two minutes from time, we scored it. A Nagano move was broken down on the right-hand side and teh ball played into our strikers. Nagano cleared for a throwing near the corner flag and Niigata attacked again. The ball was crossed in and Ben flung himself at teh ball infront of the goal. He managed to get something on the ball (head, shoulder, nipple?) and scored the winning goal! Niigata held on til the final whistle blew. Two wins away from a treble!

We had a long wait for the semi-final game, which was against Chiba. I think the wait might have affected our concentration. We started off strongly and so did Chiba and pretty soon they were having the best of it. We seemed to be chasing them at some points and Chiba had a number of shots that came close. At other times we dominated but couldn't turn our advantage into scoring oppertunities. Then Chiba scored and we chased the game but couldn't equalise. The final wistle blew and we were out of the tournament. We didn't play badly, but it just wasn't our day.

We were gutted. But we had the third/fourth place play-off to play; a chance to pick ourselves up and have a bit of fun.

We had to make a few changes, the biggest being that Pete had injured his leg and couln't play in goal. Instead, Joe picked up the gloves, put on his best Scottish accent and became the big man between the sticks. We also had Luke Derror up front with Ben while Tom played centre-back.

The play-off was against Miyagi who we'd played against in Tochigi. They're a good team, and they played the game with in the same spirit we where. It was great to be playing in a proper game with sucha relaxed atmosphere. I gave up worrying about defence and pushed forward a few times. Later I was subbed and Pete was brought on as a striker. I've never seen the guy moved so fast! A few minutes later, I came on as striker too. I tried to play the Wayne Rooney / in-the-hole role I played for Kawaji but I only had five minutes up front and most of that time we were defending. But it was fun being up there again for the first time in seven months. I managed to make some contribution. Pete and I ran in opposite directions, pulling teh defence apart as we played the ball through midfield. It came to Kazuki who had plenty of space to tee up a shot from range that sailed into the top corner. 1-0, whistle blows, Niigata wins!

So we came third and won a small trophy. We've decide that whoever wins MVP for teh tournament will get to keep the trophy. (So for those who havent voted, that's Martin aka 'Cloudy', spelt C-L-O-U-D-Y.)

So that's it for Niigata ALT FC this season. With Joe leaving Niigata this summer along with some JETs returning home we'll be having a new captain and a new team when next year's tournaments start in October.

I hope it'll be as fantastic as this year.

Tuesday's weather

Rain again. It stopped briefly just before I went to bed last night, but it was bucketing it down when I woke up. Been raining ever since. Im in the car today and I have my brolly so I am and will be a lot drier than yesterday.

With so much rain, it'd be nice to be able to enjoy it somehow. Are there any rain-specific sports I can take up?

Nooooooo! :'(

I know he wore atrocious ties and made bad puns, but I'm sad to hear that Richard Whitley has consonant-vowel-vowel-consonant

Rain Update 2

Still raining. Ten hours now. Ten minutes to bike home. Drenched.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Rain update

Still going strong. Non-stop for five and a half hours now.

Rainy Season Starts?

There has been a lot of talk about 'the Rainy Season' for the last few weeks in school, but so far we've had nothing but hot, sunny weather. The students ahve left their blazers at home, some teachers have abandoned wearing ties, all the windows in the school are open and everyone keeps saying "atsui desu" every five minutes.

But today the sun has given way to rain. It's not quite monsoon proportions but it's enough to get you wet if you walk out in it. So far it's been raining non-stop for the last two hours and the teachers reckon it won't stop and that this will be the first day of the rainy season. So probably not the best day to come to school on my bike then.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Soccer Geek

Just got back from a night out with the Tokamachi crew and started surfing teh net before bed. And I found this little gadget. I'm a bit miffed that they've used Megadrive joypads instead of teh traditional zipstick, but still, it is Sensi Soccer.

Buying this might prevent me from getting sunburnt this summer.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Earthquakes are still scary

This lunchtime we had an Earthquake in Tokamachi. I was at school, teaching a couple of third-years how to play chess, when it happened.

During the first rumblings I wasn't sure if it was the earthquake or teh wind that was rattling the windows. Soon after the ground begins to move noticabley, steadily getting stronger and everything around you vibrates and moves. All the time there's a worry that the earthquake will suddenly snap and instantly become violent, just like the big one did last October.

But we were lucky. After thirty seconds or so, the earthquake started to calm down and the ground slowly stopped moving. There was an after-shock a little while after, but not as big as the first. An announcement over the PA system by teh school office told us that the epicentre was near Ojiya and it measured around 5 on teh japanese earthquake scale. Not a massive one, but big enough to make you worry. Matsudai and Matsunoyama felt the quake stronger than in Tokamachi so I texted Annie. She replied that she was fine, though her apartment has been messed up a bit.

Still, at least it wasn't nearly as bad as the one last October.

My legs are killing me.

Today I drove up to Niigata to meet with teh boys of Niigata ALT FC for our final training session before the Nagano Tournament next weekend. It was a pretty light session, some work on control and shooting, but with temperatures at 31° C it was pretty tiring. I found it particularly hard because last night I trained with Kawaji FC for two hours and then went out on a big night out in Tokamachi, so I hadn't realy rested properly before today. With teh drive back from Niigata, my legs have become pretty stiff, so I've been stretching lots since I got back. I think this week I'll train hard til Thursday, avoid alchohol and coffee and try drink more water. I expect the weather in Nagano will be as hot was this weekend so keeping hydrated will be a big help.

Last night I stayed in Tokamachi. After training with Kawaji FC I meet Debs, Mel and Keiko in the Pool Bar. We played a few games of pool before Mel and Keiko got too tired and headed home. Debs and I played a bit of darts before heading to Nate's Mate's Bar for hip-hop night. The bar is quite small, but pretty friendly. When I walked in a lass came up to me straight away and asked if I remembered her. It took me a while, but then I remembered she was teh lass who turns up to watch Kawaji FC play. There havenlt been any matches since the earthquake so it's been ages since I've seen her. We used to talk when I was waiting on the sidelines.

It was pretty cool seeing her again. Along with playing footy with Kawji, it makes another piece of the Japan I had before the earthquake. So things are slowly getting back to 'normal'.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Soccer; just a game played by Commies and fairies in short pants"

Found this story on the Guardian Footy Pages which has an interesting quote by an American sports writer in the 70's.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Get yer brolly ready

Well, I thought I'd have a nap, and slept for two hours this afternoon. I blame the heat.

But this could change very soon. When I woke I had a text from Keiko. She was warning me that the news had said rainy season will hit Niigata-ken very soon. From what I hear, this means precipitation of biblical proportions; all day and all night, non-stop for days and days. From other sources, rainy season means there's a big shower at least once a day for a couple of weeks or so. I guess I'll find out who been telling porkies pretty soon.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sudoku addict

I have a problem. I've developed a sudoku addiction.

I guess it all started a few weeks ago. I listen to BBC radio over the internet, inparticular topical comedy shows like "It's Been a Bad Week" and "The Now Show". Around election time they made jokes about a new craze in Britain's newspapers; Sudoku. It's a kind of number puzzle that apparently came from Japan. I haven't seen any number puzzles in Japanese newspapers so I discounted the origins as a cheap attempt to give some puzzle credibility and left it at that.

That was until last week when I read pixelsurgeon and saw a link to SudokuSolution, which is a blog that posts the solutions to the Guardian's sudoku puzzles. It had a link to the Guardian's online sudoku puzzles and that was when I should have stopped.

But I didn't. I found a puzzle, copied out the grid and before I knew it I was solving the puzzle. I hadn't read any hint or tips of how to solve a sudoku puzzle, just the basic instructions:

place the numbers from 1 to 9 in each row, in each column and each 3x3 box.

After twenty minutes, I had finished Number 20 (Easy) and went back to lesson planning.

Then the weekend came and I found out Kate had an entire book of sudoku puzzles that she had been given at Christmas. So we set about trying to solve one together. I also had an internet connection at The Keio Plaza so I was able to get more puzzles. This week at work I've had a puzzle just incase I get bored. I even did one before I went to bed last night. The thing is, sudoku totally appeals to me; there's a certain elegance about sudoku, the puzzles each have a solution so they can always be solved, you can stop and start working on a puzzle as needed and it's all symbols instead of words which suits my way of thinking. I can't stop working on a puzzle when I start one and can stop thinking about teh next one when I have completed it. I must be addicted.

And here's me thinking I'm not quite as much of a geek as I thought I was.

Sweaty Sweaty

Just got back from school for the day. I was hot from cycling back home up teh hill and the last thing I wanted was to walk into a roasting hot flat. But that's what happened. Teh flat has NO insulation, so it was freezing in winter and now collects heat. Today a teacher told me that yesterday was the hottest day of teh year, with a temperature around 30 degrees. So that was why last night the air conditioning in my flat went on for teh first time. If last year is anything to go by, it'll probably stay on until September and I'll have a huge electricity bill.

I had one lesson today. It was with the student teacher who it taking Miyazaki-sensei's classes. We did the Directions lesson which worked well when we did last time. Today it wasn't quite as successful; I'm not sure if it was the heat affecting teh students or myself or it was first period lethergy. Still, we got through everything and, to be honest, I'm not really there to teach, just make English 'real'. That's the main thing I took from the Recontracting Conference. The students have other English lessons where they are taught English. My lessons are for the students to practice what they learnt in front of a native English-speaker and to have fun with English. I think today though, the class wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I hoped they would be which is why I'm a little disappointed.

After the class I had a little meeting with my supervisor. Apparently the Board or Education is offering to renew some things in my apartment, namely the fridge, dining table, washing machine, rice cooker and cabinet for dishes. Now, except for the the cabinet which lost it's front in the earthquake, everything in my kitchen is fine; the fridge keeps things cool, the rice coooker makes rice, the washing machine (with Cloudy Upgrade) washes, the dining table doesn't eat all my food. So I asked for a new cabinet. I also asked about stuff in my front room. The large storage unit is still on its side since I think its too dangerous to stand up properly. I wasked about that and my supervisor will see if the BoE will change it for a proper low storage unit. The sofa is my problem. It was bought by a previous ALT and handed down to me. What I do with it is up to me, but chances are I'll have to pay to get it removed. Might be worth it for the extra space it would give in it's absence.

So, this afternoon. I have leaving-party Enkai for the student teacher tonight at 6pm so again I can't do too much that'll make me tired for that. I rented 'Dark Star' from Tsutaya so I might watch that. Or I might catch up with blog entries and photos. or I could nap again. Decisions decisions.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Haircut and Japanese Practice

I had a nap, complete with a weird dream about going the long way round a circular hotel. When I woke I remembered that I needed to go for a haircut (sidies too bushy). I tried to go on Wednesday, but Kom was busy and it was near closing. I arranged to go yesterday but forgot so today is the only time I can get a haircut before Tokyo.

I walked down, through the rice fields behind my house. Only a couple of months ago these fields were two metres deep in snow. Two weeks ago they were filled with water and became these massive, horizontal mirrors of teh landscape. Now they are each sprouting hundreds of young, green rice plants. It's amazing how quickly the landscape changes around here.

Had the same haircut as usual, along with the standard forty minutes of Japanese practice. I took my dictionary this time to look up the odd word and stop our conversation becoming mime. It's good practice. My listening is always better than my speaking but I'm gettign there bit by bit.

On the way back I walked past a yakiniku restaurant I noticed a few months ago. I've been too shy up til now, but I really should go in sometime and introduce myself to more of the neighbourhood.

So, what to do with an hour before evening class?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Limbo State

Well, I've finished my Hig School lessons for the week, but I have evening class lessons at Tokamachi Koko tonight. They start at 5.50pm so I need to be thinking of going there arpund 5.30pm. Which gives me four hours to kill.

But what exactly can I do in four hours? I've already booked my ticket for Tokyo, had my dinner and checked my emails. I can't really go climbing or to the gym becaue I need to be awake instead fo tired for tonight's lesson. I can't relax enough to get stuck into any painting or other projects. Maybe I should spend the time washing and doing other chores before teh weekend. Maybe I'll just take a nap.

Oh, I don't know!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"Ain't no party like an S Club Party!"

As I was writing up my blog for today, I've been watching some TV and I've just seen snipets of S Club 7 used for an English Teaching Programme. Surreal as feck ne?

Oh, the Spoddness!

For a few weeks there have been little things wrong with my laptop, such as the search utility not working and the wireless LAN never working. So I decided last night to back-up all my files and rebuild the laptop from the restore partition. And with the Tokyo Re-contracting Conference coming up, I'm hoping to use the wireless network at the Keio Plaza Hotel.

The rebuild went well, though it took longer than I thought, and was ready enough to take into school this morning. Didn't I get a surprise when I turned it on at school and found that it had found a wireless network and was asking if I wanted to connect to it! I mean, for a start, for there to be a wireless network at school was pretty cool, but for it to be in range if the English room, well, that was fantastic! I connected to the network with no problems and was soon reading up on England's friendly victory over Columbia. Once I had Outlook and MSN Messenger reconfigured I was talking to JETs around Niigata at work too. Admittidly, the wi-fi signal was pretty weak so it cut out every ten minutes or so, but still I had 1MB/sec internet on my laptop so I couldn't really complain.

But I think staying up late to finish the rebuild might have had an effect on my climbing tonight. I started off well, but quickly got tired and frustrated. Still, it was good to go. One of the climbers, Haruki, was teaching his nephew, Ryo, how to climb. Later the rest of Ryo's familys arrived and I got talking to his sister, who goes to Muikamachi Junior High, and his father, Nagumo. We chatted between climbs and it turns out Nagumo and Haruki are both into sports cars, each owning a Sports 70 and a Porsche respectivley. Apparently they like to drive out to Gunma, take onsen and eat soba. Nice way to spend a Saturday I reckon. We exchanged cards so hopefully we'll keep in touch.

**Snow Blog**

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