Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Monday, May 29, 2006

Weekend of Footy

My legs are a bit sore today but I'm not surprised. Saturday I played in a tournament in Niigata, Sunday I played futsal with Tomida-sensei up in Kawanishi, and last night I was training down at the gym.

Saturday's tournament was good fun. It was at the new Friendship Center building, CrossPal, in Niigata which has a gym hall. Niigata ALT FC entered two teams; Tom was captain of "England '66" (who played in the white, Bulgaria kit) and Ryan was captain of "Brazil '70" (who played in samurai blue). There were eight teams split into two groups. Our teams were in different groups, so if we wanted to play against each other, we'd have to win our matches to reach teh semi-finals or the final. "England '66" started teh first match and managed to adapt their game to the small futsal pitch quickly; the opposing team being man-marked and closed down quickly, then breaking fast and passing our way up the pitch. The game was heading for a 1-1 draw until a corner was awarded to "England '66". Cam spotted me floating at the far post and flicked the corner over the box onto my head, where I knocked it down and scored. 2-1, "England '66 win the first match! In our second match, Tom went on the rampage and scored four goals. Two wins and looking stronger each match, we were certain to qualify for teh semi-finals, but one? The third game proved difficult. The opposing team interupted our play as much as they can, so we found it difficult to get into our rhythm. At last, we scored a goal, but the oppentents protested that the ball wasn't in play. Nil-nil at half-time, but the oppentents had teh luck in the second half scoring twice against our single goal. Second place in the group meant we were through to the second semi-final. If we were to avoid "Brazil '70" in the semi-final, they would also have to come second in their group, having to lose the final match after winning the first two matches. Going down 2-0 in the first half and it looked like they could be playing for zero points, but they pulled it back an won, coming top in group B.
So there was the showdown, "England '66" vs "Brazil '70" in the semi-final. It was a tense game, "England '66" scored first, but "Brazil '70" pulled one back. In the second half, "England '66" scored again. If we could hold onto the lead, a place in the final would be ours. And after what seemed like hours, the referee blew the whistle; "England '66" were through! After a small rest while the 3rd/4th playoff took place, and we where back on the pitch putting everything into the last game. We kept the other team contained and had some chances to break. Hiten managed to find acres of space in one break, wound back his leg and sent the ball crashing into teh net for the opener. The oppenents, Chinese students/teachers from Niigata Univ, didn't sit back and managed to score and equalizer just before half-time. In the second half, "England '66" domination paid off when Will scored the winner. The ref eventually blew fulltime and "England '66" where crowned champions of the inaugral, Crosspal International Cup!! Of course, the real winners were football and international relations!
(As a bonus, I got a text later on from Keiko saying that the tournament was mentioned in the evening edition of the Niigata Nippo. I managed to find a copy so we could publicise our fame at Kate's Birthday party)

Sunday, after waking up with frenchmen marching in my head (I though I never got hangovers) and having a bite to eat at Cappricosa, I took the bus back to Tokamachi and went to Kawanishi Sports Plaza to play futsal with Dr Tomida and his mates. I've played here loads of times before and it's always good fun. Usual format; fifteen or so players divided into three teams and play round-robin for three hours. The surprise this time was that one of my high school students had as come to join us. I was lucky that because she was good at English last year, I could remember her name. I never imagined that she liked to play footy. I'm sure I would have remembered if she had mentioned soccer as a hobby during lessons last year. She's a good player who's confident and has a wicked shot on her. I wonder if she is a member of a team somewhere. It's a shame she's a high school student otherwise I'd have asked her if she fancied join us in Nagano.
We don't keep score for these futsal sessions. Again, the real winners are football and, since I'm there, international relations.

And so to the gym on Monday. In an email, Tom suggested we try "The Cooper Test". Apparently you run for 15 minutes and measure how far you get. Wait 4-5 days then run for 15 minutes again to see if there's any improvement. Not sure what it has to do with barrels, but I managed 19 laps of the circuit at the gym last night. I'll try again on Friday or Saturday and see if I can do more.

So with all this footy, I'm well and truly getting into the world cup spirit. If only I could have one of these then my preperations would be complete.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Enjoying more than just teaching at school

Today, I was invited by the JHS boys to play soccer after lunch. I had been lucky/lazy enough to leave my indoor trainers in the car, so I fished them out, put them on and headed to the gym. It was full of all the other JHS students either passing a soccer ball round or playing basket ball. I met with the soccer kids and we started playing a game. We had no pitch, rather the whole gym was in play, and two doors facing each other on the long sides of the gym became our goals; we would have to make sure we avoided the basketball players. It was great. The kids need to learn a bit more about positioning (they couldn't read my passes into space) and a bit more about defending (my 'shimmies'/arse shaking fooled them every time) but I think in a few years, Tsunan Chuto could have a good soccer team.

When lunch finished and the bell chimed, I headed back to the English Room. On my way out I met the Chuto English teachers who said that the students were going to play dodgeball in teh next period and would I like to join in? Well, sit at my desk for 50 minutes or meet the kids more and have a load of fun? So the tie came off, the trainers stayed on and I joined Team C for the dodgeball tournament!

Team C lost the first game by three points, but we picked ourselves up for the second game and won that by four points. This set us up for a tense final against team D; the winner would win the tournament. By this time, we had developed some good plays and in teh end we manged to edge out team D by two points. My team were presented with a certificate that will go up on the classroom wall.

It was really good fun and I think the students enjoyed it too. It was a great way to meet the students outside the classroom and I'm hoping I get invited again to play soccer at lunch or to play sports with the students.

Quick Trivia

Just a quick one before lunch.

On 24th May 1543 - Nicolaus Copernicus published proof of a sun-centered solar system. (It was also his birthday)

On 24th May 1930, Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly from England to Australia. (Amy Johnson is from Hull, don't you know)

On 24th May 1976, Britain and France started the trans-Atlantic Concorde service to Washington.

(more things that happened on 24th May)


I think I've restored my website back to how it was two days ago. I'm sure Ive forgotten something so you might find a missing picture, video or a strange link. If you find any problems then please tell me. Send me an email or leave a comment on any of my blog posts. Cheers.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Road to Recovery

Looks like teh blog data is safe, including the snow blog. I've uploaded the latest blog browser files so that's now back up to date. But I have lost all the photos I uploaded since November, so I'll be uploading them again tonight.

Actually the biggest effect this hardware faliure will have is on the future plans for my website. I was thinking of moving my blog from blogger to wordpress so I could host it on my webspace and add lots of extra jiggery-pokery (PHP, java-script) to intergrate more closely with my photos (allow the have each photo have comments; link photos and albums direct to blog entries and back again; etc). I can still do this migration, but I'll have to pay closer attention to backups and data recovery in case another hardware failure occurs.

Potential Web Disaster

Got a mail from my webhosting service to say they had a hardware failure last night and thought they were able to recover most of the data, some of the hosted websites have rolled back to a previous version. Looking at my pages, it seems my site has rolled back to November 2005!! That's six months worth of updates I have to restore.

The good thing is that the data for my blog is stored on so, fingers crossed, posting this entry will trigger blogger to restore the blog pages. The annoying thing is my photos. I posted a lot of photos since last November, and while I do have a backup on my laptop, uploading several thousand files is going to take hours!

I'll have to see how it develops.

Friday, May 19, 2006


On my way to Tokyo for the fourth time in six weeks. first was to see coldcut and hexstatic. next two times was to meet shaz and rebecca. this time, i'm off to see some sumo and the design festa. i should get some great photos which u'll get to see in a few months time (i get round to sorting them!)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Strange Footy Club Names

Ever wondered why some clubs have strange names like 'Villa', 'Hotspur' and 'Argyle'? Well, this page might help to explain them.

And let that be the end of it

Managed to nip out to the post office before lunch and pay my parking fine. Hopefully that'll be the end of that, though I am worried that they'll be a problem with my name. I think every possible permuation of "MARTIN E A MCCLOUD" was written on various bit of paper at the Police Station so I'm desperately hoping that they don't think each permutation is for a different person.

Dozey Sven

You know how dipy he can be, don't you? Well, he's done it again! He's only gone and named the England World Cup squad but forgot to add my name hasn't he? Silly Billy!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Subtle punishment for parking offences?

I tried to pay my parking fine at the post office yesterday. I went there straight after work but was told that the counter I needed to use closes at 4pm, everyday. With my lunches taken up with eating with the JHS or running tests for the SHS san-nen seis, when am I supposed to pay it? I really hope I don't forget to do it on Friday afternoon. Maybe I should try sneaking out during my quiet period tomorrow.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mothers Day - Take Two

Today is 'Haha no Hi', not a holiday about laughter but Mothers Day. For the last month or so, shops in Japan have been selling lots of pretty things for people to buy for their mums. I sent a card and a parcel to my mum and nanna this week, so they'll get to have Mother's Day twice. Aren't I a good son/grandson?

Snowboarding Season over

Today I had my last snowboarding session for this season. It was at Okutadami, where I started the season so there was a nice circularity to it. The weather was a little colder than it had been recently, so the snow was a little faster and icier than other Spring sessions. I met Ben, Amy and Chuck at the slope and we spent the morning riding around and the afternoon trying to break ourselves in the skate park. The award for worst crash of the day will go either to me (landing shoulder and face first from a kicker) or to Chuck (bashing his elbox on the trapezium box). Still, we both walked away from our respective injuries and were able to drive home.

So that's the end of my season. 28 sessions in five months (would have been more if I hadn't gone to Thailand, Cambodia and England). It's been a great season and I feel I've improved a lot. I've gone from simple riding to doing flat tricks and ride fakey. I'm now happy on deep powder or sheer ice. I have the confidence to take on halfpipes, kickers and boardercross. I'll admit I'm not brilliant (yet), but it's a massive step up from last season.

I can't wait to see what I can learn to do next season. In the meantime, I'm seriously considering buying a skateboard to practise those switches and ollies over summer!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Stupid Boy

Today I was issued with a 15,000yen (£75) fine because I parked illegally in Niigata during April. The space I parked was fine, but the car was facing oncoming traffic which, in Japan, is a no-no. The completely strict application of the rules is quite annoying. The ticket was given at 1.35am. The road I parked in is very a quiet residential road. The car was unlikely to be bothering anybody except insomniac traffic wardens. But, I broke the rules so, naughty driver gets slapped wrists, a lighter wallet and two points taken off his license. And I'm not going to moan about how it would be different back home because I know that traffic wardens in the UK are just as meticulous, if not more so.

So anyone reading, please learn from my experience; don't park facing oncoming traffic unless you fancy giving 75 quid away.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Niigata ALT FC 2005 vs Niigata ALT FC 2006?

Last night Japan started playing in the Kirin Cup, a pre-World Cup warm-up tournament. The forst match was against Bulgaria. It was and interesting match made all the more surreal because of the strips used by each team. Compare Bulgaria's white strip with Niigata ALT FC 2005 and Japan's blue strip with
Niigata ALT FC 2006

Funny coincidence, eh?

(click here for the match report)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

One Month to the World Cup!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

You know Summer's just arrived when...

1) You're too hot in your jumper at school (but you can't take it off because to save time this morning, you only iron the collar and cuffs of your shirt).

2) Half the boys in your classes are sat with their jackets off and you're feeling jealous (see number 1)

3) You get home from work and your flat is hotter than it is outside for the first time in six months.

4) Your ten minutes post-school nap takes an hour.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

End of the Snow Blog

The last bits of snow that could be seen from my front door have melted, so that signals the end of The Snow Blog. The last snowfall was on Friday 7th April and it's taken about a month since then for all the snow to melt.

So I guess thats the almost the end of boarding for this year. Nozawa Onsen closes today (I was going to go but it was raining) and the only other resorts open nearby are Okutadami (until 14th May) and Kagura (until 28th May). Still, I can't complain about having five months of boarding.

All I need is something to keep me busy until next December. Ryan did mention something about running around a field with 21 other blokes. What was that called again?

**Snow Blog**

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