Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Monday, October 24, 2005

Marking the anniversary

'Niigata marks one year since big quake' from The Japan Times. And the ground marks the anniversary by giving Ojiya three small reminders:

Sunday, October 23, 2005

One year on

Today, a few minutes ago in fact, is one year since the Big Earthquake. I really wasn't sure how I would react to this morbid anniversary. From about 5.30pm, I'd been slowly worrying that something might happen, that somehow the ground would have a memory and shake itself again one more time in honour of last year's hissy fit. I took some action, I decided to take a walk to Seven-Eleven to buy some milk. I thought doing something familiar at the time the earthquake struck last year, then I could forget the fear. If I could walk down the street without the sound of glass breaking and people screaming, then everything would be alright. As it turned out, all I could think about as I was walking under my umbrella was "we were so lucky it wasn't raining last year".

I got back with my milk and all of a sudden started crying. I stopped as quickly as I started, but it made me realise that the Earthquake has affected me more than I've allowed myself to realise. Maybe I should go over the photos from last year and face up to what happened to me. And if it scares me too much, well, I've got milk so I can always make a nice cup of tea. I couldn't do that last year so I should be grateful.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Half-way to Electraglide

Finally pulled my finger out and ordered my Tokyo Electraglide ticket. It was dead easy. I followed the link from the Metropolis website to this English Language order form, entered my address details and clinked confirm. All I need to do now is furikomi the money to their account and they'll send them out to me. Easy. All that's left is to book my bus down. I'm planning on staying at Electraglide all night, then checking into a Manga-kissa or capsule hotel on the Saturday morning for a bit of sleep before wandering round Tokyo for the day.

So, who's coming with me? Come on, you know you want to!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Shinpai wa arimasen"

Felt more earthquake rumblings tonight. It was long and lazy, so another big quake a long way away. I looked on TV and found the familiar area listings flashing up at the top of the current NHK. The list shows how strong teh quake felt in the different cities in Niigata. Tokamachi was a listed as a one, the rest of Niigata-ken no more than a three.

At 9pm, the national news came on and they showed a map; a big cross in the Pacific Ocean of the east coast near Chiba. A M6.3, striking at 20.44 JST, but mainland Japan felt it as no more than a 5.5. There was the usual clips of swaying newsrooms and wobbly CCTV cameras during the quake. I also picked up a new phrase that was repeated several times by the newscasters: "Shinpai wa arimasen" or [No need to worry]

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Albirex at the Big Swan this Saturday

I was looking at the Albirex schedule and noticed that they have a game at teh Big Swan this Saturday. They're playing against Tokyo Verdy and kick off is 2pm. If you'd like to go with me, please post a comment or send me a mail and we'll sort something out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Walken's next starring role??

I found out about this site a month or so ago, but kept quite about it because I was never too sure it was real. I mean, a well respected person like Christopher Walken running for president and, dare I say, actually getting elected? it'd be too good to be true wouldn't it? Not only a bit of a liberal, but a fecking cool president too.

I let Erik in on the news today and had a look over the site again. It's still there and the full campaign platform has been released. It still sounds too good to be true, but if something like this could really happen, then there might be hope for us yet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

One less distraction

With temepratures down to around 18 degrees and the leaves slowly turning orange, the summer's over. I keep wishing it was snowing already so I could hit the slopes everyday when I'm free. But, on the way into school I saw a poster for snowboarding and skiing at Greenpis Tsunan and it said that the season would run from 17th December until next April. So I guess, there will be no snow until mid-December so I can forget about wishing for it and concentrate on my san-kyu study. There's hope for my Japanese yet.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Bank Holiday Weekend

It's a three day weekend and after all my travelling around the last few weeks (Mt Fuji, England and back, Nagano) I decided to take things easy and stay in Tokamachi this weekend.

I planned to study on Saturday, but ended up tidying my flat for most of the day (ultimate procratination technique eh?). I did get out of the house and went to footy practise with Kawaji FC in the evening before going round to Keiko's to watch the England vs Austria match.

There was a surprise on Sunday in town. Honcho (main High Street) was filled with a massive parade for Risshoko Sekai; a branch of Buddhism that was started by a guy that came from Tokamachi. Every year, 69 Chapters from different Japanese towns come to Tokamachi and have a massive parade for this guy. The founder has died, but his son still continues the religion. Every Chapter can do whatever they like in teh parade resulting in a massive parade with loads of interesting costumes and dances.

There's also a market where each Chapter brings a food from their area to sell.

I got another surprise when I got back home. Behind my apartment are loads of paddy fields. While I was in England, the rice was harvested and the fields are now empty. When I pulled up to my house, I heard music from a tent and the sound of children. I looked and I saw this:

The kids where running through wet paddy field trying to find prizes hidden in the mud! Their parents were cheering them on from the sidelines too.

In my flat I sorted some photos from my trip home (there are so many) before goingto Joetsu to watch "Charlie and teh Chocolate Factory" (good film, lots of fun!). I went to Russ's after to drink wine and watch "The Princess Bride" with Russ, Erik and Debs. I woke on Russ's couch this morning.

Today was "Health and Sports Day", so Keiko and I went to Greenpia Tsunan to find things to do. Greepia is a ski resort in the winter, but when there isn't snow it offers lots of sporting and leisure activities. There was a JHS soccer competiton taking place on the sports pitches. There was a go-kart track, pitch-and-putt golf, a driving range and, my favourite of the day, rollerluge!!! Okay I had to wear a red helmet that made me look like a big kid, but hurtling down a concrete race track on a plastic tray was loads of fun!!

On the way back to the car, I also saw two goats who I guess where just there for kids to feed and pet.

When i went across, teh billy goat started walking into me with it's head down, not so much trying to butt me away but I think wanting to play. When it got bored, it tried to eat my clothes, so I don't think the kids did a good job of feeding them.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Back to JST

I guess you know when you're over jetlag when your natural body craving kick in at the right local time. It's just gone 5pm on a Saturday afternoon and I instinctively loaded up BBC Sport to check the full time results. Thing is, it's international week so there are no Premiership or Championship games this weekend. Even worse, England is eight hours behind, so even if theyre were games, they wouldn't have been played yet.

At least I can enjoy a 'full-time' cup of tea though.

Friday, October 07, 2005

My first Barber shave

Anyone who's seen me recently would probably agree that I needed a haircut. So this afternoon I went to my usual barber at Kom. I had my usual japanese practise while he cut. He asked about wheather he should cut the bottom of my sideburns. I said "Later, shave" dropping the subject as Japanese people do. In Japanese, the subject of a sentence is usually implied by the context and I thought by saying teh shaving would be done later that I would have implied that I will shave. The Barber interpreted so that he would shave me later, after the haircut.

I didnt realise teh misunderstanding until after the haircut and he reclined the seat and set about applying shaving foam to my face. "Fair enough" I thought, "what harm could this do?" The shave was good but I was a bit scared when he shaved my neck. I wasn't scared of him but scared that I would panic, jerk my head away and cut myself on the blade. I thought he'd finished once he applied a hot towel to my freshly shaven face, but then he started applying shaving cream to my forehead. I felt the blade shave my hairline and around my eyebrows! What the Feck!!! And then he shaved between my eyebrows!! Arggh!

When I looked in the mirror, I was clean-shaven with tidy eyebrows. I should stress teh word 'eyebrows' since he'd made my monobrow into two!! At least my sideburns were still intact.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

First week at school after England Trip

I've been back in Japan for a week after my trip home. I was expecting to be busy trying to catch up with missed lessons and lessons for next week. But with exams coming up at Tokamachi and a Marathon at Tsunan, I only had five lessons this week. The first was for Miyazaki-sensei's class on Monday and we used the restaurant lesson plan we did for his other class before my holiday.
I used the rest of Monday I prepared for my "England special" lesson for two classes in Tsunan. It was basically a listening exercise so I could talk about England and then give out plenty of fun-size Mars Bars as prizes for correct answers. I think it worked pretty well, but I'd be flattering myself to think it had nothing to do with the free chocolate.
Tsunan had arranged a marathon (well, 10k run) for it students on Tuesday afternoon, but rain had postponed it until Wednesday. Instead I spent teh afternoon preparing for Wednesday's classes (telephone's with a first year group, and iilnesses with the third years). The lessons went okay and then it was time to start preparing for the Marathon.

Lunch was early, there was an opening ceremony at 12.30 then teh students lined-up in the sports field ready for the start of teh race. The girls went first, then the boys fifteen minutes after.

They pelted down teh sports field, round the track and out the gate. I saw tham an hour or so later, red-faced and out of breath. They were all recovered and in their uniforms in time for the closing ceremony. The fastest ten girls and the fastest ten boys where awarded certificates.

In the evening there was a post-marathin enkai. I wasn;t too sure if I'd be able to stay awake enough, but I like enkais with the Tsunan teachers so I went along. It was in a nice rykoken/onsen place next to the Shinano river. There was plenty of beer and the principal also ordered a couple of bottle of really good red wine (he has a thing for wine). I didn't go to the ni-jikai and one of teh teachers gave me a lift back to Tokamachi. I was asleep by ten and when I woke on Thursday, I felt much better than I had all week. Maybe the jetlag was easing off?

On Thursday at Tokamachi I found out that after the exams the first years will go on a hike in the local mountains. The hike is 20km and will take place next Friday. I'm goign to go on it too! It should be pretty interesting to see some hidden gems of Tokamachi.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And another

Liz has made a new blog too, 'Call Me Liz and These My Ramblings'.

Two new Blogs

I've updated the links to other blogs and the blog browser to include two new blogs; one from Angela, a second year JET and one from Kristi, a new Niigata JET.

So now you'll have to take an even longer tea-break.

"..and it's good night from him"

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Back to School

First day back in school today. The English teachers seem to be really pleased to see me and are eager to ask me about my trip back to England. The other teachers are acting as normal; either saying "Ohiyo gosaimasu" (good morning) or ignoring me. The students are happy to see me back. For the second period I got collared into doing an off-the-timetable lesson for Miyazaki`s 1-8 class. I missed their lesson while I was away so this was a chance to do the Restaurant lesson plan before the mid-term exams start on Friday. The jet lag and the weekend's soccer tournament meant I wasn't as genki as I could be, but the lesson went well. The dengon game was pretty funny. A few times the message was forgotten so the students resorted to drawing whatever they liked. For example:
While most students drew "four strawberry ice-creams", one student drew a panda.

And while students drew "two pizza slices", three students drew a frog, a hippo and two cartoon characters (Doraemon and Anpanman).

It's great that they can be creative instead of switching off.

**Snow Blog**

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