Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

JLPT Revision

Conrad, you are a saviour. You sent a link to this Japanese Study page and, to be honest, it's the first study text about Japanese that actually makes total sense to me. It's been easily the best thing I could use for my revision. The most frustrating aspect of my study has been that I've never been able to summarise what I've learnt from different sources. Each text uses different terminology for teh same thing and it all gets rather confusing, eventhough I suspected that Japanese is fundamentally quite simple (if you don't agree, see how regular conjugations are in Japanese). This study page Conrad sent round has been exactly what I've been looking for and has been ideal for my revision.

It's style might not suit everyone, but I think it's worth a try if you're feeling lost with your revision.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Big Cup in Japan

I was talking to one of my teachers and she mentioned that the Toyota Cup was about to start in Japan. I got a bit confused when she said that teams from each continent would be playing; I thought it was just two teams, Liverpool and one other.

So I looked on the web and found out that the Toyota Cup is the World Club Cup. It is between two teams and this was teh tournament I was thinking about. This year, it has been superceded by the Club World Championship in which cub champions from Europe, South America, Oceania, Asia, Africa and Central and North America will compete. It starts on the 11th Dec for one week and reports will be posted on this Club World Championship Blog.

Footballer's Diary

Even though the Japanese footy season is drawing to a close (Albirex play their last home match this Saturday), I've been getting plenty of footy in. I still have my regukar Tuesday night session with Kawaji FC. I've also attended the Saturday night session when I've been in Tokamachi at the weekends. These sessions are great for keeping my stamina ticking over, but the best aspect is seeing how training is affecting my fitness. The most recent case in point was two weekends ago.

In the weekend, I trained with Kawaji on Saturday night, then headed up to Niigata for a training session with teh other ALTs. Ryan has been doing a lot of research into fitness training and he'd drawn up a fitness menu for the day. We started with a jog around the training pitch to warm up. Then we did sprints with reverse sprinting (surprisingly difficult). Mixed running next (jog, stride, sprint, jog) followed by boxer bastards (20 quick steps on teh spot, followed by ten squat jumps; repeat until chest explodes). Then the strangest of the lot; kangeroo jumps. Accordingto Ryan's research, to increase acceleration, you need to lengthen your leg muscles. The best way to do this is to jump, legs together, for a distance, then sprint, then jump, then sprint. I was a bit sceptical, but I had seen the basketball club students do something similar in teh corridrs at school so maybe there is something in it.

So, two training sessions in two days, I rested on teh Monday. On the Tuesday I went to Kawaji to train and within teh first couple of sprints I noticed a difference. I felt lighter and my legs felt, well, more springy. Either I'd lost a couple of kilos from last week, or this kangeroo stuff was having a positive effect. The same was true last night at Kawaji; a lighter feel and springy steps.

Another difference I noticed after last night was that my legs didn;t get as tired as they had done in previous sessions. I wonder how much this is to do with just footy training (last Wednesday I played in a futsal tournament for four hours) or whether this was to do with teh ten hoursof dancing I did at Electraglide last weekend. Either way, I feel my fitness is improving, bit by bit. Bring on Saitama!!

Snow update!!

The flakes are bigger and they're starting to lay on cars, shed roofs and parts of teh ground. Not enough to snowboard on yet, but it's a start!

Japanese Study - One week to San-kyuu test

This Sunday I will take the san-kyuu test. It is the third level of the Japanese Language Proficiency test. Over teh last few weeks I've been stressing that I will fail this exam. I've been really busy at work and working on building my fitness for Saitama, so much so that when Ive had the time to study, I've been too tired to do enough study to pass. I'm short of around a third of the kanji characters I need to know. Without a dictionary, my vocabulary is poor. Without notes, my grammar isn't much better. So, will I pass? Probably not.

But sinking into a hole, convinced I'll fail, isn't going to solve anything. Besides, passing this test wasn't the main objective when I applied to take the san-kyuu test. In the summer I realised that my Japanese study had dropped to almost nothing. I would open books, look and think "what's the point? I can get by with what I already know". (I don't think the high temperatures helped either). Then word spread about the the JLPT test. "Maybe", I thought, "if I had a goal, something to work towards, then I could have motivation to start studying again". So I applied for the test with the primary reason to give myself motivation to study again.

So has it worked? Well, I'm still not studying as much as I'd like to, but I'm studying longer and more regularly than I was in Summer. So, in that sense, I've already passed on my own terms. I don't think I will pass, and to be honest, any notion of passing san-kyuu came as a result of applying in September and thinking i had a lifetime before the test on 4th December. I should have forseen my trip to England in September and the daily 9 hours at school all take up a significant amount of time.

I'll study this week, maybe even step it up to cramming, and take the test. If I pass fantastic. If I fail, no worries. I've already got what I wanted (a study routine) so as long as I can keep that up, I'll be a winner.

Weather Report - Snow is coming!!

Pretty much everyone I talk to, and myself, are eagerly awaiting snow to fall in Niigata. Last year, snow didn't fall until 21st December, but the locals have been saying that last year's snow was late. How late I could never work out (different answers from different people) so ever since the autun colors dulled, I've been expecting snow.

We've had a couple of teasers. Two weekends ago, there was a lot of sleet for a couple of days and I also saw a few cars with snow on their roofs; so I guess snow was falling in higher regions. Last week I played a footsal tournament in Kawanishi and on the way up I could see the mountains nea Muikamachi. They were almost white! And on the way to Tokyo last weekend, the coach drove through Yazawa and I could see snow on mountains there and melted snow in the paddy fields and road gutters. So the snow is nearly here.

Last night we had hail and a massive thunderstorm. I though nothing of it until I set off for work this morning. I opened my door and saw snow falling!! I stood for a good few minutes smiling and daydreaming of snowboarding this weekend after the Japanese Test on Sunday. On the drive to Tsunan, the snow changed from snow to rain to snow to sleet back to snow. In Tsunan it is definately snow. I remembered what I was told last year; a big storm usually precedes the first snow of the season. I reckon teh thunder and lightning last night would qualify as a big storm! So this is it, the first big snow of the year!!

So we'll have this for a bit, then it'll stop for a week, then it'll snow for three months. Where did I put my board?

Another Big Catch Up

One thing I've found with Japan; blink and three weeks go by. It's ridiculous how fast time seems to go in this country. I'm not sure if it's because I'm genuinely busy all the time or if the whole living-in-another-country thing warps my perception of time.

Whatever the reason, I'm behind on my blog (again) so I'll make an effort today to try and catch up. What this space.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Weekend is nearly here!!!!

After what has seemed like weeks and weeks of late night at school, the Tokyo weekend is finally here!! Tonight is Electraglide, the massive dance/electronica all-nighter at Makahare Messe. Coldcut are playing and Underworld are headlining. I'm so excited, though I feel like I've had to earn the right to go. I've had weeks of last minute meetings resulting in new lessons plans needing to be made late into the night. I'm sure that these could have been avoided with a bit more communication between me and the teachers, but hey, what can you do? Anyway, bottomline is that everything urgent is done and I can concentrate on enjoying myself this weekend.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You know winter is here when...

...they finally put the heaters on at school. The temperature has dropped really low over teh last week or two. The gas stoves came out of storage at both Tsunan and Tokamachi but we hadn't been allowed to use them until the indoor temperature drops below a certain, undisclosed level. Lessons on Monday at Tokamachi were difficult because the students were more interested in trying to keep warm than remember English that could be useful at the doctors. Today in Tsunan, the students were gratful to do their interview tests because it meant they could sit in the small but slightly warmer teachers room for a couple of minutes.
Since I can't leave and go home to my kerosene heater, for the last few hours I've been making lots of coffee and putting serious thought into making a suit out of Kairo pads. But no I dont need to. At Tsunan, we've been given the go ahead to put on the stoves!! Heat at last!!

The Kairo body suit might be useful for boarding though.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Addicted to Jack

As a bit of encouragement to study, I started renting Season VI of 24. The idea was that I'd study then reward myself with an episode of 24. The idea would have been great if I had a bit more willpower.
The cliffhangers had me begging for more, and it wasn't long before I was skipping study to watch two episodes in one sitting. BAD MARTIN!!

But, finally, I'm free. I just watched the last episode of season IV (pretty damn good it was too) so there's no more distraction.

Well, not until next year(potential spoiler; only click if you've watched season IV or are not interested in 24)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

New home for my new pets

When I got home I tried to find something better than a plastic bag to put Albi and Rex into. I found this teapot which I thought was pretty cool:
It was round, held water and the fishes colour looked great against the blue of the teapot. But, the teapot was pretty small. And it had no filter or anything. So I went to Musashi (Japanese B&Q) and bought a new tank:

The new tank looks pretty bare and plain compared to the teapot, but Albi and Rex will have more room so I think it'll be better for them. I bought some food too and added that to the water but they haven't eaten yet. Maybe the shocks from today have made them loose their appetite.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Meet Albi and Rex!!!

At the school festival, one of my students came up to me and said "Martin, ageru". SHe had given me a plastic bag filled with water and two goldfish. I asked why and she said it was a present and ran off before I could say no thankyou.

Thing is, I'm useless with plants, how am I supposed to look after two fish? I managed to drop them twice; the worse of saw the fish and water spill all over the carpark from the roof of my car. Those two accidents aside, at the moment they look healthy. I've found an old glass teapot and put them in there with some bottled water (to avoid chlorine poisoning from 'fresh' tap water). I'm going to head to Musashi soon to find a proper tank and some food for them.

Does anyone have any tips on how I should look after them?

Preview of Tomorrow's Roadtrip

Today was Tsunan's school festival and I had been invited to go by loads of the students. They've been working hard and have been really excited about today so I didn;t wnat to let them down. The drive to Tsunan takes me south down Route 117, the first stage of tomorrow's roadtrip. I took this photo on the way. Looks like I'll be seeing the colours at just the right time!

Bye bye smug photo

It's been there for a year and the joke was wearing thin. Yep, the photo that was at the fromt of my site (click here) has now been replaced with this montage.

Much less embarrasing I'm sure you'll agree.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Weather reports and weekend plans

It's pretty much autumn here now that the trees have changed colour. To be honest, it feels like they've changed a lot later than last year. It's now almost two weeks into November and the drive to Tsunan is now orange. Last year, it was orange when Helen and I went on our Nagano roadtrip, around the 1st of Nov. I thought I was just imagining that the weather was late, especially since I only have two observations to judge it one, but the Japan Times front page has a picture of the first snow in Sapporo (Japan's most northern, major city); reportedly 13 days late.

This late weather is quite lucky for me. I've been so busy since coming back from England that I haven't been able to get away, like Erik did to Nikko (blogged here and here). This weekend I can't make practise in Niigata because one of my schools has a school festival and I've been begged by the students to come and see it. So, that gives me a free sunday to head back down to Nagano and see the trees along the 117 again. I want to try somewhere different, having been to Obuse and Nagano twice, so I've been swotting up with my Lonely Planet guide. I'm going to head north of Nagano and to take in Togakushi temple, via Yudanaka to see the monkey onsen. If I have time in the afternoon, I could make it to Tsugaike Natural(sic) Park to see the sunset on the autumn leaves. Might even take some photos of the autumn trees this year.

Iki masu!!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The big catch up

Like it's been said, I haven't updated my site in a long while. Why? Well I've been more than a little busy since I come back from England. Always that blogging paradox eh? - When things are quiet, you're desperate for interesting things to happen so you can write about them, but when things do get interesting, you're too busy to blog them.

Give us a week and see if I can't catch up.

The most disappointing moment

Some of you might think that the most disppointing moment is when you come to my site and find that I haven't updated my blog (modest? moi?). Well, you'd be wrong. It's actually when you've made a nice pot of tea and you open the fridge to find you have no milk left.

**Snow Blog**

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