Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Freedom comes on Mondays, sometimes.

There have been a lot of things I have wanted to blog of late, such as how the camping went, thoughts about Christmas cards, Chinese food served by cute Chinese girls and chocolate fondue, and what it is like to be a stuffy Brit held captive by pirates on some tiny island in the Carribean. I just lately haven't had the time or motivation when I get around a computer. And today is looking to be no exception.

Today is the first of December. The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is on the fourth. That's pretty close. I wasn't feeling very confident until I went over to Jonny Lawless's place to study last night. He's doing the level one test this time around, the hardest. I'm doing level two. I've done some practice tests and been right under the passing line. Working through a bunch of the questions I got wrong in my grammar workbook, I think I've gotten some things straightened out. And when we went through his I was even able to get some of the questions right. (shock) Not many, mind you.

Anyway, today I did another practice test and passed! And the book I was using is said to be harder than the real test. Harder in the sense that you have to write out all the kanji, rather than multiple choice. But easier in the volume of reading being far far less. So maybe it balances out, but then the listening should put me over the top. So now I'm more confident. I'm still not going to ace the test, but I think I just might pass. (Or should that read 'hope?')

Yeah, so there are a few days left. I have Eikaiwa tonight, a friend's birthday tomorrow night (can you believe I'm going? I can't really, but tomorrow is tests again, so I have pretty much all day to study my heart out.), Saturday to fret, and Sunday is the test. I figure if I get all my fretting and worrying done on Saturday, then I'll be tired of it by Sunday and be able to just go at it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Shattered Expectations

Well, maybe not shattered exactly, but I was a little disappointed.
About what?
On Friday I went with my good friend Jonny Lawless (yes, it's his real name) to see the band FLOW (all caps in the manner of most Japanese bands) play at this little joint called the Jitterbug. FLOW is a reasonably popular band, so to get to see them in a small venue (smaller than the West End, for those of you back in Winnipeg) was really cool. The disappointment was directly connected to getting to see them so close up. Until now I thought they had to be a bunch of guys who had just turned 20, and still full of passionate idealism, given the lyrics to their songs. But much to my surprise, they all looked like they were in their late 20s, and the drummer looked like he was in his mid-thirties and part of a wholly different music scene altogether. The four guys in front were the colourful shirt-wearing, bleached or pink hair-ish, J-hip-hoppish sort, and the drummer was covered in tattoos and despite his bleached dreds might not have been out of place in metal band. So why am I disappointed? Because seeing them in a small venue like that it was impossible to deny the fact that they are a result of the corporate music machine. No wonder their recent album reminds me so much of ORANGE RANGE. Oh yeah, and incidentally, I hate SMAP in case anyone reading was beginning to suspect as much.

Keigo, the guy who did most of the talking never managed to look quite like he believed what he was saying. At all. Not like it's easy when you make the claim at the beginning of every show that whatever place you are at is the most energetic, best place to play a show. So what this means is that I will surely find myself unable to really like them any more. I won't be buying their most recent album (but it sucks anyway, so being corporate monkeys is unrelated) and I doubt I'll be buying any others of their albums either. Jon commented that it looked like the drummer was just put into the band by the company. They did manage to whip themselves up into a frenzy by the end, and they did perform my favorite songs, but really I'm gonna have to say I was disappointed. And what gives them the motivation to play music for a crowd that aside from a handful is practically a decade younger than them? Idol worship is so stupid. And it seems to happen in every country, too. Dumb.

On a side note, or a randomly firing connexion in my brain, I was disappointed when Deliriou5? came to Winnipeg as well, really disappointed. Mind you, they had long been over-hyped to me. "Their shows are awesome," "I travelled 14 hours to see them and it was so worth it," et ceter and so forth ad infinitum. But really, though they played a bunch of songs that had been in their repertoire for practically a decade, they played them EXACTLY like they were the CD playing. Now while that may say a lot for their tightness and deftness, it doesn't do a lot for those of us who expect live to be better than the album. And I really like(d?) Delirious, having most of their albums. So disappointment. And then what's with all the hype? Why does everyone get so in a huff when it's just a group of guys? As though stars were gods and not men.

At a small venue like that we could have hung around and definitely met FLOW if we wanted to, but what's to say? I'll leave the empty words of praise to the fanatics, thanks.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Gus Van Sant double header

Eikaiwa movie night.
Oddly, only a few people ever come. This time it was three. We watched Good Will Hunting, which was potentially the best choice we have had so far in regards to overall enjoyment and things to say afterwards (if there is a second place, it is strangely held by A Knight's Tale). Taku-chan, who usually says the least after a movie because his English is the lowest in the advanced class, had a lot to say. He made a convincing comparison of Will, the main character, and Ultraman. He thought it was very much a guys' movie. The other two, both women, liked it well enough, though they found the story very simple. Having had rented Elephant at the same time, I had no idea that both were Gus Van Sant movies. When we got on to talking about how it was filmed, I threw on Elephant and turned the volume down. The pacing in Elephant made it okay to talk through and over a bit. Somehow after Good Will Hunting, Elephant's tense calmness, or perhaps its everday quality kind of caught everyone up. One of the women had to leave for work. Elephant is an excellent film, and though it's less than 90 minutes long and covers only the space of an afternoon in the life of a few students, you feel like you know what their entire year, or even whole high school life has been like. I would have suggested it for the evening in the first place, but it's hard to say, "Hey, let's watch a movie about a high school shooting," you know? However, it is filmed ever so well, and I imagine we could end up using most of the next class to continue talking about both movies.

The result of the double header was that we didn't finish until nearly midnight; I hope that it doesn't wreck the other two for whatever they had going on today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


mountainclimbing, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Most Embarrassing Moment

Ever so often you get asked "What is your most embarrassing moment?"

Usually I don't have an answer because I've somehow forgotten all my embarrassing moments. Yesterday I had an experience I don't think I'll be able to forget for the rest of my life. Saturday was PTA day, so we had school, but we got Monday off in exchange. In the morning after my shower, wearing my towel I put on my sweater first because my room was a little chilly. As I went to get my underwear from the line in the next room, I noticed that it was really sunny and warm looking outside. So I sat myself down on the balcony in the sun in a place that had no line of sight to any other house or apartment. Just me, the forest, and the sun. After a while I stopped caring if the towel fell open and just enjoyed the warm sunbathing in November. A rare thing. Suddenly, the old man who lives just over yonder appeared out of the forest right in front of me! I was so shocked that the only thing I could spit out was "konbanwa" [good evening]. Even though it was only eleven am. I think he was almost as embarrassed as I was. By now, I suppose that the rumour is flooding through the town that the Canadian is insane.

I'm so embarrassed.

Will I ever live this one down? Perhaps there's nothing left but to flee the country.


Friday, November 18, 2005

All that I hoped for and more!

sakamoto bento, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

Not that a photo could ever do justice to the flavour, but here you are.

The kara'age chicken was salty and spiced just right. There was sweet bamboo shoot. A daikon sumono salad and an octopus sumono mix. Deep fried potato salad ball. Cordon bleu spring roll! Tempura konnyaku and murasaki imo (purple potato), and other tasty veggies and meats besides! The pickled daikon is quality, and the umeboshi nicely salty if very red. And grapes for desert! The konnyaku block did not dissapoint either, by the way.

A promising weekend

It's Saturday, and I'm at school teaching Monday's schedule and trying to pretend that this doesn't cut into my weekend. Nevertheless, the weekend looks very promising. Here's why:

1. There is no school lunch on weekends or holidays, so at a day like this the staff "shinbokukai" fund pays for us to get bento (box?) lunches. Today's is from a bento shop in Sakamoto, the nearer area of our neighboring town of Katsuura. Out of the different places we order bentos from, Sakamoto is my current favorite. Their konnyaku is spicy, and everything is always tasty. Oh boy!

2. I am going to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tonight

3. I am going to see it with seven other people. Perhaps we'll go out to a Gusto (if you're not in Japan, think Perkins) afterwards? I hate seeing movies alone. I like to talk all about it afterwards. I like to have people to whisper to a few times in the course of the movie. I like to have people around me whose reactions I can sense and share the experience with.

4. I have licorice (red twizzlers!) from Canada to consume at the movie. It's been my custom for a long long time in Canada to take twizzlers to a movie, and theatre films just don't seem the same without it. And no, I'm not the kind to buy beer at the theatre, though you can do that here.

5. On sunday we are playing another freeform game! Perhaps you recall me writing about it a year or so ago? Last time was an old west theme and I was the half brained deputy, but this time it's pirates and I'm the stuff British governor of Jamaica. Go Sir Percival Stanforth! My inspiration will be John Cleese. Your majesty is like unto a stream of bat's piss.

6. Monday is a day off in return for working today, and I will clean my apartment and wash the dishes for the first time in probably six weeks.

7. Tuesday is school but that night Brian is having a birthday party and we are going for a Viking dinner and following it with chocolate fondue!

8. Wednesday is a national holiday, and I am going hiking! It's been so long since I have had any real physical activity. Judo has been cancelled because the teacher got injured, and I wonder if it will ever get going again. Tom didn't seem all that keen at our last class...

9. Thursday is eikaiwa movie night at my place, and we will probably watch Good Will Hunting. I like eikaiwa movie night. It means people come and visit me at my apartment. It motivates me to clean, too, which is good, and it gives me ample notice to actually do said cleaning.

10. Friday may be school like Thursday and Tuesday, but that night I am going to see one of my favorite Japanese bands, FLOW, perform live! Yes!

11. Camping weekend!

Then all the fun comes crashing down because I have the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) the following weekend, and you know that I won't have studied enough...

That was more than this weekend, but this weekend is the beginning of a chain of crazy fun events. It's like Christmas!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

SHOCK! I am shock!

I just did a game with the grade three elementary class to reinforce giving directions. Left, right, forward, back, et cetera. They get blindfolded and their team directs them around the class to the target on the board with the toy hammer in their hand. There were a couple minutes left so I got Hamada-sensei to give it a try. He is the same age as me and he's the temporary replacement for the teacher gone on long term sick leave. It was once the blindfold went on that the shock occurred. Those grade three boys were like sharks smelling blood. I have never seen so many kanchos and dick grabs directed at a single person in such a short time. It was fearsome. And because he had the hammer in hand he only had effectively one hand to defend with. I guess it's a testament to the Japanese "ganbaru" and "shikata ga nai" spirit that he just kept following my directions and didn't take off the mask to effectively stop the kids. This should be of some comfort for all the foreigners who think that they are the only teachers who ever get kancho'd. (O_o)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Christmas Confusion

So presents are half of the stuff that I need to sort out way in advance of Xmas. The other half is just what the heck I'll do for xmas. The last two years I have gone and spent the new year's holiday at my friend Atsushi's family's place. It's been the best possible thing I could imagine doing because aside from the fact that we're good friends, he's a friend from home. True that he's from here, but I met him and got to know him in Winnipeg, so as far as Japan goes, he's from Winnipeg to me.

And of course you want to spend the holidays with someone from home.

This year, however, his grandfather died in the spring. That means that they will be spending New Year's this year, "Frugally and without celebration." Taking that into consideration I can understand that they wouldn't really want a visitor around at that time.
It could be really strange for them as a family, too, and the visitor could add undue tension.

And I'm not going to come back to Canada, either.
1. I don't want to lose the $1000 of savings
2. I'll be back just a few (9 or 10) months later
3. My family visited this year already, as did Tom.

Downsides of this decision:
1. I won't see my brother at all, who I really have no communication with throughout the year.
2. Phil Miners (and maybe Dan Mutch?) will be around, and who knows when my next chance to see them will be...
3. This could mean a cold lonely holiday in my apartment. Or at school?

Seeing as how I have gotten behind (read: lazy) on the whole renewing the passport thing, any travel out of country is probably improbable. So I'll be in Japan one way or the other, and given that the whole country shuts down over the New Year's holiday, any travel in the country is probably just a dumb idea unless it's to visit someone I know.

It also looks like the time I'll be leaving Japan next fall could cause me to miss up to three weddings. Boo-urns.

Maybe I should look into borrowing a ps2 for the vacation... at least that way I'd cease to notice the passage of time. And maybe even get some way backlogged gaming done.

Anybody have a ps2 I could borrow for the holidays?
Or games I should play? Or just suggestions for games I ought to play? I go for the rpgs mostly, maybe I should give ffX a second chance, hoping the japanese voice acting is good... or perhaps ico or a metal gear game. Really, I haven't played any ps2 games at all.

Return of the (Elderly) King

So apparrently the old man king in last year's musicall was liked well enough last year that they have asked me back this year. They said they'll write a part in for an old man just so they can have me act as an old man, as long as I'm willing. How could I refuse?

So cute I just had to blog it (Moé's b-note today)

mo`e nov 14, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

I like Chrithmas <3<3<3
Because, impression is good!!
When go to town song is Chrith
mas song fart alter.
Town ornament is -> Bell•Santa•
Chrithmas tree ''' etc.
^ It's very cute and preaty <3

Do you like

My hous is every year do ornament.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hyperactive Sleep Deprivation

So I just had my two friday morning classes of third and first years, and the classes went fantabulously. That weird nervous hypertension that comes out when I get wickedly tired did indeed work to my advantage. It turned me into that gleeful singing dancing constantly moving funny voice speaking mock-superjet that I sometimes wish I always was. Aside from the fact that you can die from it, there are some positive sides to sleep deprivation. After I got back to my desk I marked the b-notes as quick as possible in case I fall asleep randomly at some point and forget altogether. Same goes for my prep for tonights eikaiwa class: I'm ready. My next class today is in the sixth period, and it's watching Mr Bean with the special ed kid, so it would be good if I found some shuteye between now and then. Three preps and a lunch hour. I also need to go to the post office and the bank. Maybe best to do that now before I fall asleep and rob myself of the chance.

Last night while I was wrapping presents I watched The Matrix three times. I don't think that is doing much to help the state of my mind.

A moment ago I was awoken by a student saying a gentle, "Good morning," who then asked if there were any other teachers in the office. Feigning consciousness and taking advantage of the percieved language barrier some of the kids still oddly feel exists, I looked around the office dumbly. It was pretty obvious that I was the only "teacher" here, even through my sleep clouded eyes. I asked him if I couldn't help him and he asked a question I didn't know anything about. Thankfully another teacher came in and he asked her and she said yes. Apparrently there is a box of scrap papers he wanted to raid the papers from.

Having a hard time keeping my eyes open. It's time to go for a drive. That always used to wake me up in uni. To the post office!

Out of Shape

So last night I did my first all nighter since the spring and I am really feeling it today. Though I gotta say I kinda feel at home. The whole mix of feelings and the specific feel of this kind of weariness makes me feel like I am right back in university again. The morning shower and the particular feel of weary heat, the cat-naps that sneak up and take advantage of a free moment. The feeling of waking from one of those cat-naps and having no idea where you are or what just happened. Fighting to stay conscious while talking to someone or listening to a conversation. It's only 8:40. My back is sore with the unrested weariness of sitting of the floor working all night. I am filled with the satisfaction of a job complete and creativity exercised. I still have that last step lying ahead, but this time it is not the printers', but rather the post office. Oh yes, the thing I stayed up all night doing was wrapping Christmas presents. I also made 5 cds, and their covers. Well, cut and pasted their covers. Oops! Classtime!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Weekendo Haiku

Crashing at Ellie's
and watching Kikujiro
a long drive was sav'd

We went to Iya Valley
Camping and onsens and fire

The leaves all ablaze
a multitude of colour
red yellow and green

There was hot competition
Fires and embers set ablaze

Cooking on a grill
quesadilla dinner
a fine barbeque

Drunk people and fireworks
Thank God for the riverside

Rory drank a lot
on breaking a fence for fire
he climb'd on the roof

Elliot put him to bed
Thus easing Chris's nerves

Enjoying hot coals
we sat and we chatted long
the rain came at two

Sunday brought more rain and cold
None wanting to scale mountains

Onsen salt sauna
with Joe Jordan and Ellie
Catan was settled

Three hour drive to the city
Church then settlers at Gusto

The weekend was fun
but because it was raining
we didn't "haiku."

Saturday, November 05, 2005


dinner, originally uploaded by irodoramatic burnorama.

sitting around the fire

Friday, November 04, 2005

iya valley camping again

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Windfall Persimmons

This is the first time I've seen the tree right beside my apartment bear palatable persimmons. Two years ago worms, last year many typhoons; no wonder fruit is often so expensive here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Recently I have been sleeping a lot. And that's because recently I have been really headachy. I rarely get headaches, and when I do it's usually from a diet or sleep anomaly. So I've been trying to get some extra sleep to make it go away.

My shoulders and neck have been really sore lately too. I have to suspect that's the cause of the headaches. What could lead to this tension? Well, Awa Odori could have been a factor. Or perhaps I have been spending too much time at my desk working on my computer blogging. It makes me miss one of the aspects of life back home: massages. My family, or maybe just my dad, is obsessed with massages. There are often massages exchanged or just given when watching late night talk shows, there are massage devices around to be used when nobody else is handy, and we even have a family masseuse that everyone goes to from time to time.

But here in Japan I haven't the slightest clue who to ask for a random massage. Despite the fact that I think I could give a really good massage in exchange. Maybe it's not so shocking though. This is a country where acceptable touch standards are way different. Handshakes are a novelty, not an everyday thing. Though it's supposed to be changing, most couples still show little to no affection in public. On the flipside, junior high kids seem way less reserved or limited in the kinds of physical contact they do. Elementary kids will gladly shove their two index fingers up your but if you so much as turn your back on them. The standards for acceptable touch are different from back home. So in that respect I can hardly expect to be exchanging massages with my Japanese friends, and I have to wonder if my fellow expats aren't conforming to these cultural rules.

Though it's not like I was exchanging massages with hundreds of people back home either. Though I happily would have.

Touch is strange in that way. Some people are naturally bent towards touching the people they talk to and in general being very physical. But for probably the bulk of Candadians, touch is more intimate than other communication. It's not as though we are a hug or kiss salutation culture, now is it?
Maybe I should just move to France.

Does anyone want to swap massages?

Sleepless in Naruto

So right now it's 2:48 am on Wednesday night and I am unable to sleep. Also, I am lying on the spare futon in the spare room at Brian and Christine's place in Naruto. I'm not hooked up to the internet at the moment, but I'll backdate the post when I next get a chance.

So what am I doing at B&C's at three am on a Wednesday night? Well, I was shopping. Not here, but in Kitajima looking for something to get for my brother and dad for xmas. Im finding it really difficult. After a largely fruitless hour or so I sat back down in my car to try to figure out where to go next. It was about seven pm and I was a bit frustrated because it occurred to me that just about any place to buy gifts would be closing. Boooo-urns. I reclined my seat to give it some thought.

It was suddenly a little cold in the car, and the windows were a little foggy. I had fallen asleep. For four hours. I guess teaching at the elementary really took it out of me today– I already wrote about that on my j-blog, so if you can't read japanese, tough beans.

Anyway, it's an hour drive back from kitajima to kamikatsu, and it felt like I had pretty much wasted the evening. Hoping to drag some good from the waste I called up Brian and Xine to see if they wouldn't be up for some late night settlers board gaming, given that tomorrow is a holiday.

I suppose you can figure most of the rest out for yourself. But why not just drive home and sleep in my own cozy bed? Well, B&C are going up to Takamatsu tomorrow to do their xmas shopping, and I'm gonna tag along to see if I have any greater inspiration while I'm there. Maybe I'll find something nice.

In the meantime, it would be sweet if I could fall asleep, so that I can do tomorrow on more than just the four hours of parking lot sleep I had earlier...