Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Friday, December 30, 2005

Cloudy's Asian Tour: Back in Bangkok

We've left Koh Phi hi and are now in Bangkok. We took a ferry, two buses and the overnight train to get here this morning. The train was really funny. We each had our own seat which changed into a sleeping berth. But they came round and changed all the seats at about 7pm! Way too early! So we went to the restaurant car for dinner and found that it had been decorated with tinsel and lights for teh new year. Our waitress was really funny and she put on some songs and gave us a microphone to sing Karaoke after we'd eaten.

We left a couple of hours later and went to bed. I slept really well on the train, but I woke to find that I'd been bitten loads of times by the mosquitos :-(. About half and hour before bangkok, the guard came round to wake us up and change teh beds back to seats. He thenm collected all the sheets and piled them up on my seat!! So I had no seat and had to sit on a box next to Nick!

When we got to Bangkok we took a tuk-tuk to our hotel, checked in and had a shower. Today Nick and I have been seeing some of the sights. We went to the National Museum and learnt about the history of Thailand. Then we went to Wat Poh to see the Reclining Budda Statue. After we wandered around Chinatown before coming back to our hotel to have food nearby.

Tonight we'll take it easy and go to teh cinema. Tomorrow we'll have a big New Years party somewhere before we go to Cambodia!

Monday, December 26, 2005

On Phi Phi!!!

After hours and hours of travel (two planes, two trains, a bus and a ferry) we all made it to Phi Phi island on the 23rd.

After teh Tsunami last year, most of Phi-phi seems to be okay. There are lots of shops and hotels and bars still open. But there is one area, teh part that was worst affected, that is still a wasteland. Today they put a stage here and had a memorial service. It was really well done.

Today there was an air of sadness, but the other days it's been really good. people are getting on with things, rebuilding thier lives and trying to make a living.

We've had a few lazy days at teh start, but today we started doing stuff. I went for a massage yesterday, which was so relaxing, and today i went kayaking around teh island. Very tiring, but the island is so beautiful with so many little caves. I caught the sun quite a bit so I'm quite red at teh moment :-s

Tommorrow I'm booked in to go climbing :-D and the day after we'll go to phi-phi ley to see where the movie "the Beach" was filmed.

Then on teh 29th, we leave and head to Bangkok for new years eve. This is turning out to be a great holiday!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Just a quick one before I leave for Thailand and Cambodia.

First I'd like to apologise to all my friends, both at home and in Japan, because I haven't written and sent any Christmas cards this year. I honestly don't know where my time went. I thought I'd have plenty of time after the exam on the 3rd, but I didn't (maybe it was all that snow shovelling). I'm really sorry and promise to be better next year.

So, I haven't put my Christmas wishes in a Christmas card, and I've left my greetings so late that the only option I have is to wish you all

A Very Merry Christmas
A Happy New Year

See you in the new year,


PS Did I tell you the snow came to Tokamachi a few weeks ago? Have look at
my new Snow Blog.

Just before the holidays

After coming home in September, and the trip back in February, a visit home this Christmas is a bit too much. So, I'm heading off to Thailand and Cambodia for the winter vacation. I have to catch a flight at 9.30, check in two ours earlier, so I've come by shinkansen to Ikebukaro, Tokyo and I'm staying now until the Narita Express starts running. I'm staying in a Manga Kissa, basically a glorified cyber in a Manga Kissa, basically a glorified cyber cafe with seperate booths and massive easy chairs in each booth. For 1,200 yen(6 quid), I can stay here in my booth for six hours, soit's up to me whether I sleep of surf the net. To be honest, I'm a bit tired and I need to get the Narita Express at 6am so I think I'll kick back and snooze for and hour or two.

Night night

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Two hours from Tsunan to Tokamachi? I should have walked!!

When I left school yesterday I, as did the other teachers, found that my car under two foot of snow. I set to work with my handy brush/squeegy, feeling lucky that I remembered to bring my snowboarding gloves, and in half an hour the car was freed from the snow (note to self, when you park at school in future, reverse into the space so you can use the more powerful forward gears to drive over snow).

The journey back to Tokamachi was as slow as I'd expected; The temperature had dropped so even the parts of the road with waterjets were a little icey so I was taking my time to make sure i didn't have an accident. What I didn't expect was some idiot driver deciding that teh safest way to drive in the dark on an icey road was to tailgate me all teh way to Tokamachi. I couldnt believe what I saw in my rear mirror (or rather what I couldn;t see at times; the headlights). I tried all I could think of to get the Idiot to back off; slowing down more than necesary, tapping my brake lights twice as a warning flash, pulling over as much as I could (not that much) to let the Idiot pass. But nothing. The Idiot still stayed there, headlights bobbing in and out of vision. I don;t know what was worse; the distraction that kept me from concentrating on where I was going, or the idea that if I braked the Idiot would slam into the back of my car.
After an hour, I made it home. When I pulled over, I glared as much as a I could to the Idiot, but I think the misty, snowy side windows might have taken the edge off the gesture.

And my reward for making it back safely? Why, another half hour's worth of snow-shovelling to clear a way to my garage, of course!

Just focus on the snowboarding.

Monday, December 12, 2005


It's been snowing non-stop in Tsunan all day today. The men in the offices next to teh school where having a pretty tough time keeping their carpark clear when I arrived this morning. The drive here was a little scarey. Most parts of R117 have snow-clearing water jets, all except a couple of sections just before Nakasato. Here the snow has turned to ice, which is scarey enough, but the ice has big ridges made from when trucks with chains use the road. When my poor little kei-car goes over these ridges, it bumps and slides around; not what you want to happen when massive 20-tonne trucks are coming the other way.

Still, I made it in safely and I hope I continue to do so until the Spring.

New photos

At long last, I've freed up some webspace and been able to upload some new photos. You can find them from the 'photos' tab above (new one's listed with a red square).

There's more to come (Fuji Rock, Mt Fuji, England) so I'll get round to those soon (I hope!)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

While you're waiting for a new quiz....

I'm sorting out another photo quiz for Monday. In the meantime, you could try the 'Fake or Foto' quiz. There are ten pictures and you have to guess whether they are photos or computer-generated. Post the results of your first attempt in the comments, then I'll tell you what I got.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Eyes Have It

Quick contest for those who have nothing better to do. Here are four eyes:

Can you guess who the owner of each eye is? (Hint: each owner is a Niigata-ken ALT.)

Please put your guesses in the comments.

World Cup 2006 - England have been seeded

England vae been named as one of teh top eight seeds for next year's World Cup. This means that we will avoid playing Germany (hosts), Brazil (current holders), Argentina, Mexico, Italy, Spain and France in the group stage, so the overpaid darlings have no excuse if they fail to get to the second round.

Who knows, with a decent start, England might be able to go on to win it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

First Tokamachi Snow hits the news

The Mainichi Daily News has reported that Tokamachi has had 18cm of snow today.

But I missed most of it. I'm in Mastumoto in Nagano prefecture, ready for my Japanese Proficiency Test tomorrow and it has NO snow what so ever. Pity for them eh?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Snow and Persimmons

I saw this tree across the road from my house. I love the orange of the persimmons and the black of the tree bark in the snow. Snow makes everything look so beautiful.

Yuki ga futteru!!

Woke up this morning, and it had been snowing all night!! It still is! So, this is the first snow, it'll stop, thaw a little, then the serious stuff comes! Then the snowboarding!!!

New blogs from other ALTs

I've added some more links to my sidebar and Blog Browser.

Everyone seems to be writing about some really cool stuff so I'm feeling a little bit jealous. I've been doing fun things too, just haven't found the time to write it all up, honest!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Another JLPT revsion resource - Kanji

Last night I found these downloadable Kanji Revision Sheets (for Excel). Pretty useful and the san-kyu sheet has made me feel a bit more confident about the 200-odd kanji I'll need to know for the test.

Daily Weather Report

I was woken this morning not by the sound of my alarm, but by the sound of two, massive thunderclaps. The rumble afterwards shook my flat, like someone banging a 40-foot taiko drum outside my apartment.

So, at the moment, there is a lot of rain in Tokamachi. The weather forcasts say that this will become snow at the weekend. Snowboarding next week? Fingers crossed, eh?

**Snow Blog**

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