Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Thursday, July 28, 2005





Wednesday, July 27, 2005




It's finally here!! Fuji Rock!! How excited are we??

Okay, my plan is to leave Toka around 2ish by train, so I'll get to Yazawa at 2.45 and to Fuji Rock by 3.45. I'll find somewhere to camp and read a book til Kate and Mel arrive with more tents from Niigata and Joetsu.

If I've managed to keep enough room around me, we'll make a big camp. If not, and we can find enough room elsewhere, I'll move my tent to be with you. If there's no room anywhere, we'll try either stacking the tents on top of mine or we'll just sleep ontop of each other in my tent (Fuji Orgy!!).

Finally, does everyone have everything they need? Read through the checklist I posted, just to make sure.

And bring booze. Lots of booze. (well, as much as you can carry)

Driving Licence Balls up

Well it looks like my supervisor was wrong and Debbie's was right.

I drove all the way to the Driving Licence Center in Nagaoka, showed them my documents and asked, in my best Japanese, "Can I change this for a Japanese Licence, please?". The guy was really patient and tried to explain that he couldn't go it here, it had to be done in Niigata and and that I also needed a translation of my licence. So the same process that Debs had to go through. Just brilliant.

I guess it's my own fault for not trying to sort this out earlier. If I had gone found this out last month, then I could have sorted out teh translation and things by now. But I didn't, I stuck my head in teh sand again and hoped it would go away.

Anyways, my Fuji Rock starts today so let's concentrate on having a wicked time eh?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Japanese DVLA

My international driving permit runs out on Monday so if I want to keep driving, I need to exchange my UK licence for a Japanese one. I'm not sure how easy this will be.

According to my supervisor, I need to turn up to a Driving Centre in Nagaoka with my UK license, my hanko, my passport, a photo and money for the fee. Easy enough, yeah? But, Debs is changing hers and, being British too, she should do it the same way. But her supervisor has told her that she needs to get her licence translated and then goto a centre in Niigata City with someone who can translate. A lot more complicated.

I guess the only way to find out how it's done is to give it both a try and see what happens. If Im lucky, I'll be able to keep driving. If Im unlucky, at least I can go to my supervisor, tell her that I tried and have her help me next time.

I'm going to try and do it this afternoon so I'll let you know how I get on.


My web hosting has a problem so no-one can see my site!! And since my mail server is at the same machine, I can't email anyone!! Maybe I should think about hosting on blogspot. At least that's reliable.

FUJI ROCK - Preamble

Okay fellers, it's nearly here!! So in the best last-minute tradition, here's some links to A) help you get prepared, B) get all excited, C) get so prepared and excited that think Christmas is coming (as well as yourself)

General Festival Info in English, including line up of artists

And someone helped me to translate a checklist of things to take:

Essential Personal

  • Gaijin Card/Passport (though you should be carrying these at all times anyway)

  • Copy of Insurance Card and Gaijin Card/Passport (just in case)

  • Ticket and/or wristbands

  • Sunscreen

  • Bag

  • Money

  • Water

  • Hat

  • Towel

  • Rainjacket

  • shoes you don't mind getting muddy/wet/destroyed

  • warm clothes

  • change of clothes (because you will get wet)


  • Leisure sheet

  • keitai

  • tissue paper

  • camera

  • rubbish bags

  • sunglasses

  • pen (doesn't say if this is for autographs or girls' phonenumbers)


  • Tent

  • Sleeping Bag

  • torch

  • landmark

  • lock for tent (never needed one before, but you never know)

Monday, July 25, 2005

End of Semester Enkai with Tsunan Koko

I guess I was lucky that Tsunan had their closing ceremony yesterday. It's a different day to Tokamachi so it meant I could attend both enkais.

Tsunan's enkai was a Greenpia Tsunan, a big ski resort up in the hills. We got off the bus, paid for our enkai and were told which table we should sit on. Again, I was on a table with no English teachers but, with the confidence I had from Friday's enkai, I wasn't so scared.

We were sat around small tables for a reason: it made teams for the game we would play once we were all drunk.

The game was a kind of egg and spoon relay race. Each team member had a big spoon, the first person had a tennis ball and they had to pass it to each member in turn. The person at the end would run to the end of the room, play janken with a teacher and when they won, run back and pass teh ball to the start. The second round used a volleyball, which was pretty difficult. My team came third (out of seven) so we missed out on the prizes :-(.

We moved onto the niji-kai around 9ish where we drank and ate some more. I talked to more teachers and got to know them a lot more. I think I may have promised to have one of them stay with me in England in teh future. I think I also agreed with teh vice-principal to give a speech in Japanese to the new students in September (when Tsunan starts to incorporate the local Junior High School) which should be interesting.

I got a taxi back with a couple of teachers who were heading to Tokamachi, which saved a lot of money.

The only bad thing about last night was coming home to find my website had been altered. I don't know who or how they did it, but it really annoyed me. Sorry for the ranting post. Maybe I should delete it.

Anyways, another great enkai and I can't wait to have more in the future.

Geek Rant

Some f***ing little shit decide to hack my site and replace it with some page for some shity search engine. Whoever it was, really, don't bother again. I get no more than 2000 hits a weeks, all from a loyal band of around 30 friends who won't be interested in using anything other than google, so just f*** off and leave me site alone.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Boredom breeds new blog

No lessons, no frantic preparation. Can't concentrate on Japanese study cos of the building noise. So what do does a geek like me do? Make a new blog of course!

Mini Adventures of Keitai-kun

If you're bored too, why not take a look and add a few comments?




Saturday, July 23, 2005

Big earthquake near Tokyo

In my flat this afternoon I felt a small earthquake. It felt different to the ones we usually have, this was kinda rolling and lazy. I messaged Erik. He thought it was lazy too and suggested it might have been far away. I turned on teh TV and NHK news was on showing CCTV footage of a junction in Tokyo, the camera shaking with teh earthquake. A map followed showing Tokyo Bay; a red cross marking teh epicentre in Chiba prefecture and a number '5' showing teh strength of teh earthquake on teh Japanese scale. More numbers surrounded the cross showing the strength of the earthquake in nearby areas. A national map showed that Niigata felt teh 'quake as a 2 on the Japanese scale. More details here.

I texted Debs, who was in Tokyo with Alice, and she replied saying they were both okay. There have been no reports of injuries or major damage, though Shinkansen have stopped breifly and Narita Airport has been suspended. Luckily Annies flight left a couple of hours earlier.

What with this here and bombings at home, I'm getting pretty stressed out. And this is supposed to be my holiday!

UPDATE: Article from Japan Times about this earthquake

Friday, July 22, 2005

School's Out...Teachers Party!

On Thursday I had my final lessons for the semester at Tokamachi Koko, which came as a big relief when I'd finished them. No frantic lesson planning for four weeks! To make things official, yesterday we had our closing ceremony and in teh evening the teachers had an enkai (drinking party).

It was at Rapport, the same place we had the Graduation Enkai. As I went in, I choose my seat through a lottery and found that I was sat on a table with no English Teachers. This has happened at a couple of enkais before and it always scares me. I immediatly think that I won't be able to talk to anyone, that my Japanese will be too bad for conversation.

But, as always, it turned out alright. I spoke in my broken Japanese and the teachers were patient with me and seemed to understand me. After an hour or so, people started movign around. I was going to move and talk to other teachers, but they came to me instead!

The enkai finished around 9, so four of us moved onto a karaoke bar for niji-kai (second party). We all sang except for one teacher who claimed that he was under doctors orders not to sing. Still, he was wearing a yukata so we let him off.

Enkais are great because it's the best opportunity I have to talk to teachers. Because it's out of school neither of us are busy so we can relax and just chat. I have another enkai on Monday with the teachers in Tsunan so I'm looking forward to that too.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Not A Dry Eye

Last night Debs, Erik, Keiko, Nate and I met Aimee and Annie at teh Log Cabin in Kawanishi for our last dinner together. It was a strange feeling to enjoy ourselves but know that this would be the last time we would all be together like this.

The Log Cabin was the best place for it too. We get on well with the couple the who run the restaurant because Keiona used to come and play here everyday. ANd the other customers are really friendly too.

We pigged out on tofu salad, spare ribs and garlic potatoes before we gave Aimee and Annie our going away pressies. We'd got them some pretty things from the kimono shop near my school and they really liked them.

A table next to us left and gave us a bottle of sake, so we each made a toast to Aimee and Annie. It all got really emotional.

And that was it, dinner over and the last time all of us will be together. It's going to be strange in Tokamachi now because I won't be able to see two of my mates as easily as I have been able to. But I'll have to accept it, make sure I stay in touch and look forward to seeing them again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Feel the Love (for the sideburns!)

I did a den-gon game with my Tokamachi first years for our "How do you get to school?" lesson. So you tell the students on the front row something like "I go to school by bicycle, it takes 15 minutes" and they whisper it to the person behind, who whispers it to the person behind them and so one until the message reaches the person at the back. That person then writes down the message on paper, runs to the front and puts the paper on the board. Simple stuff, but it keeps them entertained. Anyways, I got a surprise in one round when I checked the papers and found these two:

The Japanese says "Martin, RaBiYu" and "Martin, RaAAByoU", which, if you sound it out says "Martin, Love You". Which is really sweet. I love the little pictures too with accurate sidies.

And that's not all. In one of yesterday's lessons at Tsunan, a kid from the class stood up, said "Martin, Thankyou" and gave me a hug and this letter:

All the class have written something to me in English. I was almost filling up. This class is really quiet and I'm never sure if they're quietly interested or just bored. For them to say "Your games were fun!" and "Thankyou for talking to me friendly" made me feel like all the term's work was worth something.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Barbeque, Beer, Beach-camping, Birthday, Beer, Boogie, Bandit, Bank Holiday

With Monday as a bank holiday, this weekend was always going to be a big one.

First up, post-Japanese lesson drinks. I had gone to my new, regular japanese lesson with Debs and her friend from hoem Alice. She's over in Japan for a brief holiday between graduating and starting her new job. We all went for drinks after at Yamette and Kumakichi to show her what Tokamachi was like.

Saturday was the big ALT Sayonara in Kashiwazaki. The end of teh JET year is just around the corner so this was an oppertunity to say goodbye to our friends one last time. A bar near Kashiwasaki beach was booked, a BBQ prepared and every JET in Niigata invited. Some turned up in teh early afternoon to have fun on teh beach. My infamous faffing, combined with Debbie's tent hunting, meant that we arrived just before teh BBQ began. But the summer is just starting so we'll hit the beach one day.

The BBQ started, burgers and bangers were scoffed, drinks were flowing and pretty soon we were up dancingin the bar. Before we knew it, it was getting late and I was falling asleep in one of teh hammocks upstairs at teh bar. It was time to pitch my tent on the beach at 3am. In the pitch black. Managed to do it, so well that I ended up putting Debbie's tent up too.

With four people in my tent, it got pretty hot and we woke pretty soon after sunrise. It was about 8am but really hot. I hope the weather is cooler for Fuji Rock. We packed up our tents, dodged the parking attendent and headed to Gusto to have breakkie and drink as much Melon Soda Fanta as possible. It was a good day.

I slept most of the day but woke late in the afternoon to finish Debbie's birthday present. Debs has been having a bit of trouble when she goes out in Tokamachi. Since she's always out drinking with either Erik or myself, people have started assuming that she's seeing one of us. So, to get teh message across to potential Japanese suitors, I made her this t-shirt:

It says "I don't like white men (westerners)..." "so please treat me to a drink".

The party started at 7pm at the Beer Garden in Tokamachi. The covers have been taken off and you get a great view of the mountains around Tokamachi. When everyone turned up, we had kampai and set to work drinking the four massive towers of beer that came with the nomihodai. After Debs had said "hi" to all 25 guests, we sang Happy Birthday and let off party poppers. It ended with a big round of applause from everyone in the Beer Garden, which was really sweet especially since it turned Debs red with embarassment!

At last orders, we left to go to Kumakichi. Not it's around this time I start to forget what happened. Like Erik, I'd chugged some beers under pressure from other Japanese drinkers and they were starting to have an affect on me. For an hour or two I spent my time trying to stay awake dancing or outside sleeping teh beer off. I was fussed over recommended to do a tactical chunder, but I didn't want too. By teh time I came back to some level of soberness I found that Noriko and Mary were both passing out, Someone had given Debs cake for her birthday and that Erik and Alice had been victims of a robber. I really must stop over indulging in nomihodais. I miss all teh exciting stuff.

People started to head home but I was on my second wind and followed the hardcore drinkers to Lupin. Debs didn't last too long and was curled up on the sofas pretty quickly. Nate disappered and was replaced by the guys from Kumakichi. We drank for a bit and learned that they;ve nicknamed me 'Wolverine'. I don't know if I should be flattered or offended! I also spoke to Alice about travelling, since she's done a lot and I'm interested in travelling after Japan.

When we saw it was getting light outside, we thought it best to leave. I walked home and was in bed around 5.30am. And as Mondya was a Bank Holiday, I spent the day sleeping. I managed to rouse myself to go climbing for a bit and then to Matsudai for Katsu with Annie (she leaves this week :'( ).

I think with people leaving over teh next few weeks and people arriving, we'll be having a fair few weekends like this over summer.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Eeeeee! New Toy!!

My camera developed a bit of a fault in Nagano; the falsh would no longer works. I thought abotu what I should do, repair it or replace it. If I repaired it, I wouldnt have a camera for teh up coming Sayonara weekend. If I replaced it, could I afford it?

So I've been looking around for the last week, first checking out Yamada and Shinden to see what was available and how much, then spodding online to work out which was best.

Last night, I went and bought this little baby in blue. (specs in English. I've yet to try it out properly, but here's the first pic in the field my outside my flat.
I'll give it a proper run out at the Sayonara Party this weekend.

In the meantime, what should I do with my old camera? Im thinking I should get it repaired, but then what?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Opps! Trip to Musashi I think.

Was washing my shirts this afternoon and I heard an unusual sound from the bathroom. I looked and I found this:

Maybe I should have used a thicker hose.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What to give

One of my teachers will start maternity leave on Monday so her last day is tomorrow. She reckons she might not come back for a year or so. Does anyone have any ideas for something I could give her as a goodbye/good luck present?

Can I take that back

Just had my third lesson for the day. Usually this class are pretty good but I noticed this week the students had moved seats from before. The result? All the slackers were in one corner chatting making things difficult for the lesson to work properly (this was the same lesson plan that worked for one class this morning).

On a brighter note, at lunch one of my third came to the English room and annouced he wants to "master English in six months". He asked me how I was so good at English. I told him it was because I'd lived in England all my life before Japan, I had been surrounded by English all the time, just like he is surrounded by Japanese here. The look of realisation on his face meant he hadn't thought of that. He looked a bit down, but I told him that the secretto learning another language is practice, and that he could come and talk to me anytime he likes. He brightened up and then told me the reason he wants to learn English; he wants to travel for two months around Europe. He's really stoked about it. Should give us something to talk about when he comes to practice English.

Ups and downs eh?

Forgot how good teaching could be

I had my first classes for two or three weeks today. I was dreading the prospect of teaching, especially since I've been feeling very lethargic towards prepartion recently, but the classes went really well.

I think I was lucky because each class I taught are classes that are always pleased to see me and are pretty genki. And now the exams are over, the students are more relaxed and more enthusiastic than before.

I have another lesson this afternoon. I hope that one goes well too.

Scarey Kanji

As part of the recent "Tokamachi Renaissance" (a.k.a. "spending more time in my Town, with my Town"), last night I went to a shodo, or Japanese Calligraphy, class. I found out about the class when my teacher found out about the Japanese Language classes at the Community Centre. When I turned up, Yanagi-san, the guy at the front desk, took me too the classroom and introduced me. I think the teacher was a bit worried when I turned up because he could speak no English. I was pertrified. But he started speaking to me slowly and clearly so I could understand and that relaxed me a lot.

He was worried that I might find kanji and shodo a bit difficult so he asked me to watch the other students first. Then he lent me a brush and showed me how to write the kanji for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 properly. He made it look so easy, so I was confident I could do it when I tried. I didn;t think my first attempt was to bad, but then he showed me, little by little, where I needed to improve; this part needs to be squarer, this stroke needs to rise, this needs to fall. I definately need a lot of practise before I can go onto the more difficult kanji.

And if just different kanji wasn't enough, The teacher also showed me the different styles of shodo, each style writing kanji in fewer strokes so they can be written quicker. You can see these faster styles on many shop signs around Japan.

I was hoping the class would teach me more kanji, but it's started with the simple ones and progress much later. I don't know if I'll go to the next class or use teh time to practise kanji on my own. I might buy some brushes and practise at home before I decide.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Restauranteurs setting the World to rights

Here's an interesting article on teh Japan Times website: " No war apology, no food, China cafe tells Japanese "

And before you think this kind of thing could only happen in Asia, check out Pizzeria Owner Snubs Tourists, Is Jailed

"The Force is Strong With This One"

Yes, I finally got to see Star Wars Episode III last night. And my my, didn't I enjoy it!! It's got spaceships, it's got wookies, it's got references to the original trilogy and, of course, it's got lightsaber duels by the bucketload! I'm not saying it's a fantastic film but it's certainly made me feel like a kid again which, to be honest, is what I've been looking for in vain in Episodes I and II.

The film does sometimes get bogged down with some hammy dialogue and endless sweeping CGI scene-setters, but it does what everyone was expecting; it answers the questions the original trilogy throws up. How did the Empire start? How were the Jedi's wiped-out? How did Anakin become Vader? Along with the answers are lots of echos from the original trilogy which helps to tie the six films together.

All in all, there were plenty references to keep my Inner Geek happy and enough action to keep the Big Kid in me on teh edge of my seat.

And I think normal people will enjoy it too. I went to see Star Wars with Debs, Annie, Keiko and Erik and they all said that they enjoyed it and I'm sure they weren't just being polite.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Language Rollercoster

Over the weekend, eventhough I knew my friends were safe and that things were getting back to normal in London, I still felt shaken about the bombings. But that's not to say I didn't try to have a normal weekend.

Friday night is now Japanese Language Class night. This week, Debbie came with me to the class. We did a writing and speaking introduction exercise, which was good for us to getto know teh other students, and some grammer on how to say "I don't need to ....". We both enjoyed the class and agreed that, even though it's difficult, it's goingto be great for our Japanese. I certainly I felt a lot more confident about my Japanese.

After we went to Yammane to play pool while we waited for Erik and Sally to arrive after their enkai. When they arrived, we saw they had brought some teachers with them for a ni-ji kai. We played some darts and headed onto Kumakichi for more drinks. Somehow, I ended up next to the IT advisor and we tried to talk. It was a bit frustrating because he mumbled and spoke quietly, so I couldn't hear him properly half the time. And when I spoke, he couldn't get what I was trying to say. I know I can't speak perfect Japanese, but usually people can work out what I'm trying to say from the broken fragments. But with this guy, it wasn't happening. I could feel my earlier optomism drain away.

On Saturday it was Mel's birthday so Debs, Annie and I headed out to Joestu to celebrate with Mel, Tiff, Lindsey and Carrie at a beach party. The venue was a big wooden hut with a stage on one side and the other side opening out onto the beach; so you could dance your arse off or go and chill. Nice idea. I was surprised to bump into the girl from footy again. I chatted to her for a bit in Japanese, which she seemed to understand, before heading off to dance again. I wonder where I'll bump into her next.

On the Sunday, I found out that there had been bomb scares in Birmingham and didn't feel like doing much at all that day. I decided, since i was in Joetsu and near the cinema, to go see a movie. Batman didn't start until gone 6 so I opted for War of the Worlds. I must say, I was very impressed by the movie. Of course there have been some changes to the novel but the movie has a similar spirit and it carries it across in a believable way avoiding the usual disaster movie cliches.

When I got home, set about making scones for my English Club Tea Party. As I was making them, I got a call from some Japanese guy. He spoke really quickly so it was difficult to work out what he was after. And he refused to slow down when I asked or repeat himself eventhough he could hear I was having difficulty understanding him. When I explained that my Japanese wasn;t too good, he replied "Hai, so desu" <"Yes, it is isn't it?">. He hung up soon afterwards too, cheeky bastard. So that really made me feel useless.

But yesterday my confidence got a boost again. I was asked to the school office to check my Tokyo travel expenses. The guy in the office asked me questions about my travel plans and I was able to understand him and answer him all on my own. I was even happier that an English teacher on the other side of the room and the guy decided to ask me first rather than defaulting automatically to asking me through the JTE.

And my scones were a success at the English Club Tea Party too. Double bonus.

New Blog Browser tool

I've been spoddy and created a Blog Browser tool. Click this button:

Launch Blog Browser

and a little bar that appears at the top of a new browser window. It has a list of all the blogs I know about. Click the arrows to go to the previous or next blog. Select from teh list to go directly to that blog. And if you have a blog that isn't listed, there's a link on the right of the bar so you can email me and tell me about it. Handy eh?

Let me know what you think and if I could improve it.

Magic Psychic Postal Sevice

Over the weekend, I tried to distract myself from teh chaos in London by looking forward to the plans I have this summer. My summer will be neatly bracketed between Fuji Rock (29th July) and Matt & Charlotte's Wedding (24th September), but, I realised, I still don;t have tickets/invitations for either!!

So imagine my surprise when I return home from school tonight and find a letter from England in the postbox containing my Watto Wedding Golden Ticket, AND, whilst reading the Durham hotel info, a courier knocks on my door and asks me to sign for my Fuji Rock Ticket!! Absolutely Fantastic!!

Do you think if I start thinking about pork pies and pickled onions my home-food cravings could be satisfied?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Terrorism in London

Four bombs exploded in London yesterday during the morning rush-hour. Three of the bombs exploded on tube trains, and the fourth half an hour later on a bus packed with commuters. The BBC has more details on this, as does the Guardian and probably every other newsagency.

Having lived in London before coming to Japan, I've been well aware of the increased concern that a terrorist attack such as this would occur. Emergency services have been training for an event like this though I think everyone, myself included, was hoping that they'd never have to put it into practice.

But, even with this awareness, I'm in a state of shock and disbelief. If it was a single bomb, like in Ealing in 2001, I could probably cope with it by writing it off as a random event. But FOUR, in a planned attack on both the Tube and THEN the buses, it becomes difficult to comprehend.

Throughout it all, I've been very grateful for the internet. When I found out about the bombs I was on my way to Joetsu, miles away from my PC. But I was able to use my mobile and email three of my mates in London whose addresses I had in my phone. I got a reply from them quickly to say that everyone was okay. I don't think I've ever been so grateful for an email.

I rang home to make sure none of my family had gone to London (unlikely, but I had to check). Everyone was safe and my brother relayed some info he was getting from the news on TV.

I headed back in Tokamachi and stopped at Debs' flat. Her mates were fine too but we were both feeling uneasy about the bombings. We tried to find out as much as we could from the internet and from the Japanese evening news on NHK, which is broadcast in both Japanese and English. Watching the TV scared me even more. I was seeing places in London that I regularly went to turned into emergency sites. Edgware Road was where I would get teh bus back to Kilburn after footy or a night out. I used to change tubes, from Circle line to Piccadilly line, at Kings Cross whenever I went climbing. It's also where I get teh train back to Hull. Liverpool Street is the rendevous before a night out on Brick Lane. Of course I was rarely at these places during the morning rush hour, but with the amount of time I had spent at these places they had become familiar and safe. These attacks are making me question that safety.

This morning I'm still shocked. I learned that the current official death toll is 38, with around 700 people injured. All I can think about is London. It's a problem because at school the students are happy about the Ball Game Tournament and I'm finding their cheery hello's really annoying. Don't they know that the place where I lived for five years has been bombed??? Well, of course they don't, they're only students and have more important things to think about than some foreign city they may never visit. And even of they did know, what could they do about it now?

Listening to the radio this morning (again, via internet) I think a lot of Londoners are taking a similar view. From interviews and emails that were sent into the radio programme, the concensus seems to be "The bombs have happened, but we must get on with our lives. If we don't, then the terrorists win." A very stubborn attitude, but a very British attitude.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ball-skills Big Meeting

Or "Kyogi Taikai". Exams at Tokamachi finished yesterday so while the teachers are busy marking papers the students are having a Ball-Game tournament. Today we have volleyball and badminton (I know, it uses a shuttlecock) and tomorrow is basketball and table tennis. Each class submits a girls team, boys team and mixed team and they play in a knockout tournament against the other classes. So, the two girl teams play against each other, as do the boys and teh mixed, and teh class wins the most out of teh three matches goes through to the next stage.

I saw a bit of teh badminton, but the real excitement was on teh volleyball courts. When I watched we had the homeroom classes of two English teachers going head to head! The rivalry was friendly though, so no sparks flying.

The volleyball final took place around 1.15pm. It was between two third year classes, 3-1 and 3-4, both of which have homeroom teachers that Ilike a lot. I stayed neutral and enjoyed teh match. Class 3-1 won and was their reward they had a chance to play against the teachers. And me! This morning I was asked if I'd like to play. Luckily, I had my spare footy kit in my car (you never know when you might have a game) so I was able to play.

Apparently, the winnig students playing against teh teachers was a new idea for this year. The teachers don't have a team, just one teacher who thought it would be a good idea and managed to enough support. Needless to say, playing against the newly crowned best team in the school, the teachers team were beaten. We gave it a good go though, keeping within ten points of teh kids. It was great playing with teh teachers infront of teh students. It's was one of those moments where you feel like a real part of the school, not just some tolerated, lay-about idiot who talks funny.

Definately something to add to the list of Japan highlights.

Feck Me!!! Would you Ham and Cheese it?

Monday, July 04, 2005

My first Independence Day

Yesterday was the 4th July so Aimee had a barbeque at her house and all the Americans in Tokamachi, plus me and Debs, were invited to celebrate Independence Day. So, as per American tradition, we sat around drinking, chatting and eating lots of freshly cooked meat. When the food had all gone, Erik announced it was time to "blow shit up" as he handed round sparklers to everyone and set about lighting the big pack of roman candles he'd bought.

It struck me that we Brits have a similar celebration; on 5th Novemeber for Guy Fawkes night. Only difference I guess is the lack of a bonfire, the freezing cold and rememberace for a botched attempt to blow up parliament.

I wonder if any other countries have similar excuses for fireworks and barbeques.

G8 Starts in Edinburgh

The G8 summit starts in Gleneagles, Edinburgh this week. There seems to be a lot of good intentions for these talks, helping Africa and what to do about climate change, but I'm waiting to see what the eight countries can decide. I'm not impressed to hear that Bush will dismiss any agreements that are similar to the Kyoto agreement because "The Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy". Talk about being short-sighted.

But it looks like the nations could agree to drop Africa's debt, which would be amazing if it could happen. Anyone who thinks otherwise should have a look at this photo diary of a Tanzanian villager.

UPDATE: Can't get to Edinburgh to protest? Sign this online petition.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Tokamachi in interesting place shocker!!

The last week has been pretty tiring. After all the training, footy and sun in Nagano I got a coldsore on Tuesday. Coldsores are annoying enough but it was made worse by having to do interview tests at Tsunan on Tuesday and Wednesday. This meant that 140 students each had a two minutes to stare at the ugly thing on my top lip. Luckily some of them managed to ignore the distraction and score maximum points.

The easiest way to get rid of a cold sore is to eat well and sleep, which is what I did all last week. Come teh weekend, coldsore on it's way out, it was time to find something interesting to do in Tokamachi.

After spending Friday afternoon sleeping, I woke and ate in time to go for my first Japanese Language class. These classes run every Friday but I never knew about them until Tokuma-sensei rang the City Hall. She made the call after I had moaned that I wanted be doing something Japanese in my spare time but I don't know how to find out.

I went to the class on my own and was really nervious, but the people there were really friendly and made me feel welcome. There were four teachers and about nine students. The lesson was done entirely in Japanese, so I felt a lot like on of my students. The topic was tanabata, the star festival that is taking place in Tokamachi at the moment. The legend goes that there are two stars, a prince and princess, on either side of the milky way. On 7th July the two stars will align and the prince and princess will 'meet' briefly before being seperated until the next time; a kind of long-distance relationship on an astronimical scale). We made decorations and wrote wishes, which we hung on bamboo brahces outside the class, and sang songs about the prince and princess.

I got to meet a lot of people including the guy who works at the front desk. He came up to the class to speak with me and to introduce me to another class full of young people (a rare breed in Tokamachi). They invited me to a summer camp with them, but it's the same weekend as the Sayonara Party in Kashiwazaki. Which should I go to??

On Saturday Luke came down. He had a tennis tournament in Yazawa on Saturday and a footy match in Tokamachi on Sunday so, instead of going all the way to Shibata and back, he stayed at mine. On Saturday afternoon we went up into the hills to go hiking. We tried to find the trail that Erik took last week but instead we found a road-side billboard. It had a map showing a trail around 'Nabu no Mori' (Nabu Forest) so we headed for that. The trail started near a some ski-lifts so we parked up and followed the signs. It took us through lots of trees and lead us to an old shed like building with stones arranged in rows in front of it. I'm not sure what it was but it looked pretty sacred. After taking photos we made our way back to the car and we noticed that the ski-lift cabins had 'Joetsu Kokusai' signs on them. We were stood on the spot were Joetsu Kokusai crosses from one side of the mountain to the other! It seemed strange to think that come winter, the road and barriers will be covered in metres of snow with people skiing on top!

We drove back to my flat, showered then walked into town to see the tanabata festival. Eki Dori was packed with people, especially lots of cute kids in yukata! We met with Keiko, Juichi and Hiroko and wandered around the stalls. Some were run by artists from a Tokyo University. One was proposing an idea for cladding the arcade on Eki Dori in Kimono fabric to celebrate Tokamachi's kimono industry. There was a student selling t-shirts and another who sold little animals made out of nuts and screws. I bought a glider from a local artist for his'Go Flight' idea.

After we went for beers and met with Erik, Debs, Satoko and Noriko before heading home just before 1am. We managed to catch a bit of Live8 over BBC Radio when we got in but no coverage on Japanese TV .

Sunday morning I drove Luke to the Tokamachi Track and Field Stadium for his footy match with Shibara. Joe and Tomo were also playing but they had driven down Sunday morning. I stayed to watch the match and Shibara won 4-0, Tomo getting teh first goal.

I left Luke, Joe and Tomo after the match and headed home. I thought about teh weekend and was surprised that Luke and I managed to do stuff without resorting to staying in and playing Winning Eleven 8. Tokamachi really hasn't got much going for it apart lots of restaurants and izakiyas. But then, if you look outside the high street, it does have the mountains around it. I'm sure there are lots of trails to be found so maybe it's worth hanging around at the weekends and trying to find them.

And if anyone wants to join me, let me know!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8

I've just started listening to the Live 8 concerts in Hyde Park via BBC Radio over the net. Why? Well, it because I can;t find any coverage of the concerts on Japanese TV. I;ve gone through all the channels more tha once, just in case it was on an ad break, and there's nothing.

But at least teh BBC is there to provide me with some coverage. I have access to all the radio channels which are covering the concerts. I also have access to the news pages too. Looking around I found this article. It says that the Live 8 concerts started in Tokyo with acts including Rise, Bjork, McFly and Good Charlotte. But it also says "Some 10,000 fans attended, although the arena was only half full." I'm both surprised and not surprised to hear this. I'm sur[rised because I thought the gig would be packed out. But then not surprised because Ive not seen any kind of promotion for Live 8 at all in Japan. It;s only because I've been listening to BBC Radio over teh internet that I;ve known abotu teh event. There's been no posters, no magazine campaigns, no TV ads, no nothing.

To be honest, this disappoints me. I thought Japan was compasionate enough to recoginise and promote ideas such as Live 8 and "Make Poverty History". From my point of view, Japan seems happy to ignore these issues. This upsets me and I feel like I should do something about it. Maybe I should be more assertive in lessons and introduce global issues.

It might be the only way my students will get to know about Africa, Debt and the inbalance between Developed and Developing nations.

UPDATE: Just found this article on teh Japan Times website. Apparently the Japan concert was a last minute addition to Live 8. Still, if it had been advertised more so people knew about it maybe it wouldn't have been such an anti-climax.

**Snow Blog**

Blog Browser

Current JETs Ex-JETs Mates

Powered by Blogger

Who Links Here