Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Freaks me out

Last week I wrote and recorded the listening test for the first year students at Tokamachi. The students are taking this test right now. The test has to be done simultaneously across all nine forst year classes, so the school are broadcasting the test over the school's PA system. I may be in a completely different part of the school, but with all the windows open because of the heat, I can hear myself telling students about watching soccer after school. It's quite embarassing. Did I really write that passage? Could I speak any slower? Do I really sound like that on tape?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

You can live on rice and miso, right?

I was paid last Wednesday, but no sooner had the money gone into my account, than it was being sent off to other accounts.

First big purchase: My flight home in July. My brother David graduating and he wants me to be there so I'm going back. No 1 Travel have done really well again and got me a flight that's quite cheap for flying in July. It'll be good to go back during nice weather (I hope). I'm really looking forward to sitting in beer gardens!!

The other big purchase was my tickets for Summer Sonic. All the two day tickets were sold out, but they still had one day tickets for both Saturday and Sunday. I'll sort out where Im staying later, but I'm really excited about teh bands that are playing: Muse, Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, 65DaysOfStatic and, Metallica!! It's going to Rock with a capital RO!

So, three weeks away from my next payday, and already down to 2 man a week. Still, at least my summer is sorted!

My Inner Geek is very happy today

On the web I got news of The Spiderman 3 teaser trailer.

And, news on the live-action Transformers movie.

It's like being ten again!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tim Lovejoy - Cretin

Someone tell this feckwit that having a critical opinion about another person, from England or not, should NOT be illegal.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

One-nil bore draw

Dear England
Now really boys, this isn't fair. It's not easy to stay up and watch you play until 2am in the morning. Is it too much to ask for a little bit of entertainment on the pitch would keep me awake? I admit, a bit of drama and the odd scare or two can get the adrenaline pumping and stop my eyelids from feeling heavy, but I think you pushed drama to the limit in the match against Ecuador.

Yes, you did give me an amazing Beckham free-kick to wake up the neighbours with, but did we honestly deserve that? Shouldn't we have been peppering Ecuador's goal with shots instead of giving up the ball as soon as we started any attack? I've been reading teh SunSport pages. I thought England were a world-beating side, brimming with quality and flair. I thought we'd be treated to a masterclass of football whenever England played. The highlight of our spectating experience shouldn't making robot noises whenever we see Crouch warm-up.

Please tell me that the next match will be better,

New Photos

It's been a quiet weekend so I've had time to sort some photos from March and April. You can find them at the photos page, the new albums have a red square next to them.

Also, to make room for the new photos on my website, I've had to remove some of my older photos. My apologies to everyone at home who likes the pre-Japan photo sets. If you find yourself wanting to look at these sets, send me a mail and I can forward them to you. Maybe in the future I can buy more webspace and put the Barge Trip photos back on the web!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Zannen Deshita

It almost copuld have been. At one point, Japan were 1-0 up against Brazil, and Croatia were beating Australia. If Japan had got one more goal and held onto the win, 'The Miracle' could have happened and Japan would have qualified.

But alas, Kawaguchi could keep out all of the Brazialians shots and Ronaldo has now become Brazil's top scorer EVER in the World Cup.

As a double-blow to Tokamachi-jin footy fans, Australia managed a draw against Croatia, so the adopted nation, who trained for the last world cup up at Tokamachi's Belnatio Complex, has also been knocked out.

Should I try to persuade Tokamachi to support England, or would I be setting them up for another fall?

Crunch time

Had my nap, now i'm going to try to watch both the group e and group f matches
theres all to play for in group e with every team in with a chance to go thru. at the moment it looks like italy and ghana, but anything could happen in the next 15mins
group f, and japan need a small miracle to go thru: a win against brazil AND they need croatia to beat the aussies!
ganbarre nippon!

Start of the Rainy Season?

From when the snow started to melt, I've been taking my bike to school on the days at Tokamachi Koko. Ive been a bit worried this month, being the month that rainy season usually starts, that I'd get caught out and have to ride home in the rain. Today was that day, and as Sod's Law dictates, it was the one day that didn't pack my rain jacket.

Still, I was on my way home so it didn't really matter how wet I got. Besides, torrential rain can be quite refreshing!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

World Cup English Board

Of course, with it being the World Cup and all, I've made an English board for both my schools. It's pretty simple. I have a map showing the countries that are competing. A wall chart showing the matches and scores. And I have lots of extra bits such as previous World Cups, when and where the World Cup is held, Current top scorer. I also have a section comparing England and Japan. To decorate, I have loads of footballs filling the spaces between prints.

Anyways, if you fancy making your own or want to add more info to your World Cup English Board, then feel free to download and print these files:

Short background bits about the World Cup
England and Japan news bits
Footballs to decorate

What did he say at half-time?

Personally I think put a lot of effort to watch the match last night and I was naive to think the England would return the favour. The match against Sweden, the last group match, kicked off at 4am Japan Time. So, when I got home lats night, I had a bit of dinner, did some chores and went to bed at 7pm. I woke at midnight in time to see the end of the Germany v Ecudaor match, the match that would determine who England would meet in teh second round. The England match was on cable so I had to watch it at Keiko's. I went round there when the Germany match finished and napped again until 3.30am. So far so good, plenty of sleep and me ready for the match with Keiko and Debs.

4am, kick-off. Bad start for England as Owen injured his knee in the first minute. Crouch came on, but England went on to play the predicted short-passing game. And played well. Rooney looked fearless, battling centre-halves twice his height. Lampard had shots from range. Hargreaves had a great first-half collecting clearances from Sweden to keep the pressure on. Joe Cole was working his socks off down the left trying to carve out chances for his team mates and eventually took a shot from distance that arced into the back of the net. England one-nil up, things looking a lot better than previous games.

Then the dreaded half-time, complete with Sven's team-talk came.

I don't know what he said, but the proud lions that went into the half-time dressing room returned as kittens. No confidence going forward. Scared when Sweden attacked. Inevitably Sweden scored, but that still didn't shake England back into action. Gerrard came on for a tired Rooney. Rooney's body language, as he crashed into the subs bench and tore off his boots, showed his frustration that his fitness prevented him from finishing the game and helping his team win. Gerrard would have sealed the game five minutes from time, after a simple header from a great Joe Cole cross, but a scared England defence let a long throw bounce between them for Larsson to toe home. 2-2, a point each and England somehow manage to top the group after poor displays in five match halves. Jammy gits.

Why, oh why must watching England be like this? Yes the media has been hyping up people's expectations but this time the team, on paper at least, look like they could actually live up to the "Unbeatable" image tub-thumped by the tabloids. And what do I find in reality? A bunch of clueless soapstars prancing about for 90 minutes until their post-match photo opportunities.

It has to get better, right?

My body says "Rest!!"

Woke up yesterday morning with a coldsore, so I'll be ugly for the next week. To be honest, Im not surprised that I have one. Over the past month I've been training hard for the two footy tournaments and played both. Couple that with weeks of broken sleep (thanks either to the trucks bombing past when my open windows or the stifling heat when the windows are closed) and you get a very tired Martin. I feel lucky I have no plans for this weekend so that I can rest and recover. I'll need somewhere quiet, so I best get out of my flat.

Any suggestions where to?

Monday, June 19, 2006

When is a truck not a truck?

This video got my inner child jumping up and down with excitement. And just as he was almost ready for bed too.

Released Nov 17th

Casino Royale, the new Bond flick. Something to look forward to while I'm waiting for the snow!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Japan v Croatia

I think Japan played the best I've ever seen them play even though they only got a point from the game. It leaves them with a mountain to climb if they are to get to the second round, so good luck Japan.

Football, Football, Football

There was the six goal thriller by Argentina on Friday evening (good to see my tip impressing. can they keep it up?). On Saturday and Sunday there was the Nagano ALT Soccer Tournament more on that when I sort the photos, but was my most enjoyable tournament even if we were unlucky to conceed the final through a crazy, deflected goal. This was all rounded off by the Japan vs Croatia match which had a public viewing in Tokamachi (I think Japan played the best I've ever seen them play). According to one of my teachers, the NHK cameras captured me and Erik cheering on Japan. It may get repeated during tonight's news so keep that video recorder on standby!

With exams round the corner and PTA meetings in the afternoon, my lessons today have been postponed. I'm sat in the office trying to write up lessons plans and prepare a listening test, but I can't help but think of the weekend's footy. I even added more things to my World Cup English Board to try and get it out of my system.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just watched the England match...

...and again I'm not impressed. We won 2-0 but I'm not convinced that we are the World's best team. Maybe another bunch of training can turn us round before the match against Sweden. Maybe.


No, not really. The real reason my apartment is shaking is that pre-rainy season gales are here and they're doing the Big Bad Wolf impression. I'll let you know if the huffing and puffing blows my house in.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I Love the Students, now not so sure about the Teachers

We had Sports Day at Tsunan Koko today. The weather was good, the students were genki and it was a great day. I love the way the students are so enthusiastic about all the events.

Afterwards, around 5pm, I was making my way back to the English room to finish up and I got talking to one of the teachers. They asked if I knew about the enkai that was going to start in an hour. I said no. They asked what would my reply be if I was invited. I thought then asked about the venue and the cost. Taking this in, I played the all-purpose "Sorry, I already have something planned" line. I also mentioned that I'd feel awkward going having being asked just an hour before it started. "How so?" asked the teacher, so I explained that in my mind, if I was wanted at the enkai, I'd have been asked well in advance. So, being asked so late would make me feel unwelcome. The teacher tried to explain that not being asked earlier might mean that the list used by the organiser wasn't complete but the damage had been done. I said to the teacher that I hoped they enjoyed teh enkai and carried on to the English room.

By the time I got there, I'd wound myself up and got quite angry. "They forgot me?" "Don't I walk around teh school photocopying and printing enough to remind them that I still come every Tuesday and Wednesday?" "If there was a list, shouldn't the teachers I work with have noticed that my name wasn't on it?" "Why didn't they talk about an enkai when we chat?" "Am I not part of the school anymore?"

On the drive home, the voice of reason tried desperately to look for less sinister reasons; there are a lot of teachers (well eighteen) so on name could get lost, maybe they thought you wouldn't be visiting today, maybe they didn;t realise how much you liked enkais. But still, the feeling of abandonment remained. I find the worst feeling in Japan is the feeling of being an outsider, that you're surrounded by many things that are not your own and you feel no part of it. This enkai business has really brought this feeling back. I thought I was getting on with the teachers. I thought I was working hard and showing I was someone you could trust. I thought that speaking more, especially to the non-English teachers, would improve relations. Does the enkai snub mean that I was wrong?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

And while I was distracted by the World Cup...

...this happens with City. I'm off to cry I my miso soup.

Official Club Statement

It is with great disappointment that I have to announce that Peter Taylor is leaving Hull City to become the manager of Crystal Palace, a club which he played for in the past and with which he has had a long and close affiliation.

On behalf of everyone associated with Hull City I should like to wish Peter every success in his new role. Peter Taylor will go down in the history of Hull City as one of if not the most successful ever manager of Hull City. The unique achievement of back-to-back promotions is a legacy for this Football Club, which Peter can be extremely proud of. He leaves Hull City in a much stronger position both financially and most importantly from a playing point of view. He took over when the Tigers languished near the foot of the former third division and leaves with the club now firmly established in the Championship and with a good young squad of players.

On behalf of everyone connected with Hull City I would like to express our sincere thanks for the success Peter has achieved over the last four years, and wish him every success in his new challenge at Crystal Palace.

We shall now look to recruit a replacement for Peter Taylor very promptly and we aim to have a new manager in position within the next ten to fourteen days.

Finally I should like to thank Simon Jordan, the Crystal Palace Chairman, for the professional manner in which he has conducted the negotiations for Peter Taylor's services.

Adam Pearson
Hull City AFC Chairman

'Month of Footy' gets off to a great start!

June is my month of footy: The world cup takes place and I'm playing in two footy tournaments.

On Friday, the world cup started and I was heading down to Kobe for my first footy tournament of the month. I went in Ben's car and it took about six and half hours from Joetsu. At one of the stops on the way we managed to catch a bit of the opening ceremony: green pitch turning red, liederhosen with thigh-slapping, and perhaps most disturbingly, grown men humping large, gold bells! Maybe that's where all the blond hair comes from.

We were in the car when the first match started and Keiko sent me text updates when goals were scored, so six in all. Six goals in the first game? Could the World cup be that exciting?

Well, after we'd won the tournament during the day, we found a place in Kobe to see the England match in the evening. Before the match, we saw the highlights of the first days games. Every match looked really exciting; lots of great goals and every team giving their all into the game. Surely England could continue the trend? Well, for twenty minutes they did, then they lost their way LIKE THEY DO IN EVERY MATCH!! So annoying, but three points so a good results even if it was frustrating. We saw some of the Sweden v Trinidad Tobago too which was a great match too. Couldn't believe it ended goaless.

The other matches I've seen have been fantastic. I think this might be the most exciting World Cup I've seen. But with all this excitment, there has been some heartache. I went to Daboru last night to see the Japan vs Austrailia match. As I predicted (to anyone who asked), it was a tense game. Daboru was full of Japanese fans who cheered on their team all the way through the match. I really felt for them as Cahill break their hearts in the last eight minutes. Daboru was silent for a long time after the whistle, but the internal reflections passed and with a round of 'zan-nen' and 'shoganai', match analysis started and some optimism crept back into Daboru.

Here's hoping the World Cup can sustain it's bright start (unlike England did) and inspire Niigata ALT FC to a vitory in Nagano this weekend!

Flight booked for July

My brother is graduating during the last week in July. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, I've finally booked my flight home! It been a bit difficult what with my schools changing in August and the BoE's need for SHS ALTs to run seminars during teh summer, but it's finally sorted.

I'm a bit annoyed about the cost. The basic flight with Thai Airlines costs 130,000 yen (£650), which I thought was reasonable considering I was flying peak season. What I didn't expect was an extra 35,000 yen(£175) in taxes and 'fuel surcharges'. The Fuel Surcharge is actually twice as much as it was is February. A note was attached to my reservation email explaining the reasons behind the higher surcharge. Care to guess? Yep, it's the old "rising price of oil" excuse, which to me is 'business speak' for "we'd like more money off you, so we're inventing a surcharge so we can blame someone else and look like a caring company forced to do something bad instead of the money grabbing b@stards we really are".

I wonder if it is possible to consume 175 quid's worth of beer and snacks in a twelve hour flight?

New Combini coming to Toka

a couple of weeks ago, the Orange Heart combini (convenience store) down the road closed and work started to re-fit the interior. When I passed today, I saw that the new owners are turning it into a Lawsons! "Big wows" I hear you sarcasticly think. But, your see, Tokamachi is a one franchise town. We have stacks of 7-Elevens (well, five if you include the one in Nakasato) and a Daily Yamazki hidden in the back streets somewhere, but that's all. It be nice to have a bit more variety and also, combinis have these magic, internet-connected photocopiers that allow you to buy and print tickets for allsorts of events (sports events, cinema, museums, concerts etc). By having a Lawsons, we also get another ticket vendor in town. Which reminds me, I should book my SummerSonic Tickets before they all sell out (I think all the 2 day tickets have gone already, damn!)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Janken taking over the world?

I've just read online that a Judge has Ordered'Rock-Paper-Scissors' To Settle Dispute. And here's me thinking Janken (the name of 'rock-paper-scissors' in Japan) was only used by indecisive students.

I hope they don't use 'Bart Simpson Tactics'

Thursday, June 08, 2006

World Cup Kick's Off Month of Football

The World Cup starts today, kicking off my month of footy. One massive tournament to watch on TV (cue many early mornings, bleary-eyed watching matches live at 4am) and two 'local' tournaments to play in (one in Kobe this weekend, on in Nagano next weekend).
In Japan, Germany vs Costa Rica will kick off at 10pm, usually an ideal time to watch the match 1am, quite late, but not too late to stay up for. Unfortunatly I'll be in a car heading to Kobe. I don't know if we will be able to tune the car radio to a sports channel, but we can certainly try. Plan B is to rack up an obscene phone bill by reading the Guardian's minute-by-minute report on my keitai. Plan C would be to have Keiko send updates as she watches SkyPerfect at home. Plan Z, read the papers tomorrow.

But by travelling tonight, we can get to Kobe and have a bit of sleep before tomorrow's events; wake up, hammer every team and win tournament, find izakaiya with big screen, celebrate today's trophy, cheer on England. I'm really looking forward to this weekend and this month too.

Not even the American kit blatently ripping off the 'Escape to Victory' kit can put a dampner on things.

My Mum's psychic

Last week I had run out of tea, run out of biscuits and finished reading 'The DaVinci Code', then on Friday I got a parcel from my mum. How suprised was I when I found tea, custard creams and a new book inside the parcel! Ta mum, you're magic!

From August, I will be teaching at...

At the end of May I finally found out where I will be teaching next year. The budget for the Board of Education (BoE) has be cut severely this year meaning it has to reduce the number of ALTs it employs in August. This affects all the senior high schools and SHS ALTs in Niigata prefecture.
How it affects me is that my base school and visit schools will change. From August, Tsunan Chuto will be my base school. I will also visit Tsunan Koko, Tokamachi Sogo Koko and Kawanishi Koko. This means, from August, I will no longer be Tokamachi Koko's ALT. I'm a bit upset by this because I've been there for two years and I like the students and the teachers. I knew I would have to say goodbye to them at some point, but I though that I would have another year to write my goodbye speech.
But, shoganai (it can't be helped), so I need to start preparing for leaving Tokamachi Koko. One of the things I feel I should do is organise my materials so the new ALT will have a good resource for lessons. In April I wrote an annual plan for both my first year and third year classes, so I'll expand on those adding more details and copies of the hadouts used. I'll make a copy for myself too so I can have a resource for my new schools.
At the moment, the ALT for my two new schools (Tokamachi Sogo Koko and Kawanishi Koko) is Debbie. From what she's been telling me, it sounds like teaching her students will be great. I also met some of her students at Toka Sogo's Culture Day last year and they're really genki. I think I'll need a different style of teaching for the new schools so I hope I can work it out before I have to leave next year.

And with the change of base schools, allsorts of other things will be changing too; supervisor, working schedule, admin routines. It's going to be an interesting August.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Day After Sports Day

The day after sports day is definatly the worst time to teach. I had two classes today, first years and third years, and both classes were so tired after yesterday's sports day. The genky activities I'd planned didnt go down well. The students were all day dreaming about yesterday's events too, so trying to keep their attention was difficult too.
I was tired too but, lucky for me, today is my Friday so I have teh afternoon off. This does mean that I'll be at Tsunan all day tomorrow, but I get a chance to rest properly before that. I should probably catch up on sorting photos too, especially since I filled my half gig card yesterday!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sports Day!!!

Tomorrow will be Tokamachi Koko's sports day. This will actuallu be my first sports day because last year I had to go to Tokyo for the Re-Contractors Conference :-(

I almost missed this year's Sports Day because Wednesday is my day at Tsunan Koko. But I had a word with the teachers at all three schools last week and with a bit of shuffling, I can go to Tokamachi tomorrow, and Tsunan on Friday instead (and my afternoon off on Thursday).

I'm getting quite excited. I've been allocated a team, the Orange Team, so I'll be wearing my City top! The Orange Team is made up of 1-5 class (the genkiest in the first year) and 3-5 (over half my third-year class are in 3-5). There is also 2-8, but I don't have classes them this year so I don't know what they'll be like, but I'll know them cos I taught them last year.

So, all day outside, running around getting to know my students more. Best not forget the sun-cream.

The Heart of Hull

Hull's local paper, The Hull Daily Mail, has just launched a photo competition, The heart of Hull. Basically, take a photo that best captures what Hull means to you. Unfortunatly, the closing date is June 19th, so I can't take any new photos of Hull. But I do have ones I took before I left, so maybe I could submit on of those.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More about Illegal parking

For those who haven't been warned by people who can read the Japanese newspapers, a new crackdown on illegal parking started yesterday, 1st June, and Niigata is one of the prefectures included. (Japan Times has caught up today and written a report)

Basically, a private company now patrols Japan's streets. If they see car illegally parked, the car is reported and photographed IMMEDIATELY. The driver is informed using a sticker applied to the car.

Looks like those driving in Japan need to be more vigilant when parking, unless you like giving a man and a half away.

"Moses, Moses"

Need something funny to perk you up after a bitch of a day at work? Why not try this:
10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Quiet afternoon down the park?

Some of my friends are taking part in the Cancer Research Race For Life on Saturday 8th July around Regents Park, London. Running for 5km shouldn't be too hard for my friends or the other participants but then, I think London is a city of sprinters, not long-distance runners. Londners get lots of practise; sprinting for the tube just as the doors close; sprinting for that empty seat as you get on; sprinting for last orders at 10:50pm (or have the new licensing laws kicked in?).

I've good reports that my friends have been training hard and preparing well. I'm sure Matt and James, who have both ran the London Marathon, have been giving them lots of good advice.

It's all for charity, so if anyone is feeling generous, you can donate towards my friends fund-raising online. The links I have are for Joanne, Rachel and Sarah.

And for the runners, good luck this weekend!!

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