Tuesday, October 28, 2003

So how familiar is everybody with the concept of "culture shock"?
I'm not too well versed but the basic premise is that for the first week, you shit yourself with apprehension and disorientation but after that, you start to be amazed by all of the interesting things about the host culture. You are constantly in awe of all manner of things, from the crazy little tricicyles that the grannies ride around on to the bizarre new language you find yourself surrounded by.
After that you start to become a little jaded and realize that everything is all rosy and that the place you are stuck in really sucks and is probably the worst place in the world despite the fact that it's really not that bad when you look at it objectively.

That's kind of what i'm dealing with right now. I'm even sick of mountains. Where i'm from, in the good country of Iowa, they have a nice, safe, flat place to build houses on. You can see the horizon. Chances are, i'm not going to be able to see the horizon for a long while, unless you call the ocean the horizon, which is totally different. I also miss corn. Rice paddies just don't have the same aesthetic. Also, i have to get used to working really late. The last class most nights ends at right around 9:15 or so, which is fine most of the time, but after a week like that it kind of wears on me.

I think it would be much better if i were able to speak japanese. It's strange though, after a day of bombardment with the language it just doesn't sink into my head, actually, i feel less motivated to learn japanese after a day of exposure to it. I think it probably just seems like a futile endeavor and i give up before i start.

Hopefully the upcoming trip to tokyo this weekend for the film festival will spice up my appreciaton for the country. More likely, i just need to better adapt myself and get used to the scene here.

Or, i could always just bail out, fly back to the US and live with my parents until i'm 40, maybe.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Hmm, lot's of beer posts. I guess i must be lonely.

For beer.
Sunday was pretty spanking good weather and today just as great. I'm not sure what the rest of the year is like here, but fall is pretty nice weather-wise. I only wish that i were a professional vacationer or something like that so I could be outside enjoying it all the time. Saturday was clear and i saw snowcapped mountains for the first time. The change was striking, last week everything was green flecked with red and brown, but now the higher peaks have a snowy sheen. Ridiculous shit i tell you, ridiculous.
On this beautiful sunday i went out to the birthday party of this "life-er" in the gaijin scene here Eric. He's a world travelling kiwi with a penchant for motorcycles. Overall he's a really interesting guy. He's been here long enough to really understand the scene here in japan. He's one of the seemingly many westerners to marry a japanese woman. Of the 7 other guys at this party 4 of them had japanese wives. It was nice to meet people outside of the little Jet bubble. I really like jennfer's cohorts, but it's sometimes a bit too much like heading off to college again. Eric is a bit of a handyman and he's got a stable of 6 or so motorcycles and one giant sized roto-tiller. The man also makes some of the best homebrew i've ever had. Alf, this stuff really kicked (most) of our beers asses. Apparently he buys dry malt directly from Asahi (japan's budweiser) in 20 kilo bags, and since there's a flat rate for shipping of 2000 yen, he buys it 6 bags at a time or something. Oh yeah, he also grows his own hops. There is something awesome about the smell of hops. Maybe it reminds me of beer.
Our jet friend Shane and i are probably going to start some beer sometime soon, once we round up the necessary equipment.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Jennifer just got me to wondering if there are any fake travel blogs out there. I mean, it would be potentially very easy to fake it. I could be writing this from somewhere else, maybe Iowa or maybe Minnesota or wherever. I'm not, but how do i know other people aren't. Hmm, actually I don't care because i don't really read any of them except alf's blog (and often my own when i'm feeling self congratulatory). If you are a person with a fake blog who happens to be reading my blog which is not fake, please understand that I am cooler than you are.
The japanese word that i was first told means cool, kawaii actually is more like cute. It also functions kind of like cool, but more in the sense that Hello Kitty, who has no mouth, is cool. I suppose she really is, afterall, there has to be something rebellious and cool about you if there is a vibrator shaped in your image.
So, last night I had my first really good Japanese beer. Not only was this stuff good by Japanese standards, it was good by the standards of the world of beer. From what I can make out on the can it actually won some awards in a European contest of some kind. The beer is called Yona Yona and is made in Nagano prefecture somewhere. Here's the website
www.rakuten.co.jp/yonayona which is in Japanese, and is surprisingly humorous when you put the site through the babel-fish translator.
Probably the best standard beer is Sapporo or the sub company of Sapporo, Yebisu. The other pretty good beer that I had was the Yebisu Black, it was kind of a porter and it would be perfect with only a little light on the hops. A great website on beer is this one that I found while trying to find out more about YonaYona. www.beeradvocate.com. Ahh, beer, is there anything it can't do?
Anyway, this beer totally made my day. I had been working on saturday because the other fulltime teacher had a soccer tournament. The same tournament, in fact, that Jennifer was at, playing soccer of all things. Apparently her team sucked. Rightly so, they practiced only one time, but she scored 2 of their 3 total goals for the tournament. Finding the first truly delicious Japanese beer made me feel a little better about the day.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Japanes women, particularly girls make some pretty funny noises. This is particularly apparent in the "pretty" highschool girl set, but also post highshcool, there are some great sounds produced. There is giggling, which while stupid, i think is pretty standard across the world, i've been giggled at by groups of young women in the USA, Europe and now Japan. The really peculiar noise here is the one that they express surprise with. It sounds like kind of a "haruuuuuuhhh??" Think of maybe the pondering "hmmm" crossed with a dry-heave and you pretty much have it. I just have to think, "Do they really consider that a cute noise?" They must because they make it all the time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Today was, how shall i say, shitty. First, there was the major problem of me having to do my job. Today that entailed the instruction of 16 year old high-school girls at the private girl's school that my employer contracts out with. Too bad I HATE IT! Mostly the problem is that the students, despite studying the English language for the past 3 years at least, are still at an appallingly rudimentary level. Really people, how hard is it to grasp the concept "I like ___." Really, i am speaking about one class in particular, it is Joshko Girls School Homeroom 1-A. That's right you little toads, you know who you are.
It would be different if they at least tried to learn, but jesus, the litte blighters put their heads down on their desks and pretend I don't exist, a real blow to my ego for one, and straight up disrespectful for two. THen they proceeded to not understand the concept of counting off by 4s. I pointed at each girl and said 1, 2, 3, 4, not a difficult concept to grasp i think, and they sat there like zombies. At least the rotten 8 year-olds i teach would have at least started punching eachother or something.
Anyway, enough about them and more about the rest of my shitty day. Well, really, just the morning was shitty. I started out towards school on my bicycle, bundled up in the rainproof clothes necessary for the rain. Then, as I was heading up the street, I was swerving around another bicyclist when I misjudged the distance to a sign and clobbering my handlebar directly on the plastic of the sign which through me almost immediately to the ground. It sucked. My shoulder is pretty sore from where i must have hit the sign and my ass from where I definately hit the pavement. The stupid thing is that I wasn't even bleeding in any meaningful (read: getting out of work) manner. Stupid internal injuries. Whatever, I'm done with the day, the rest of it wasn't so bad.
Just a note: part of the rest of the day which wasn't so bad was hanging out with my boss Mr. Tomo Adachi, or Adachi-san Tomo if you're a Jap. He is a really great guy, and also one of the first Japanese people I've met with a discernable and really good sense of humor. He has been around the world and even worked as a teppanyaki chef in The Hague. Teppanyaki is the knife flipping style of cooking popular in America. Anyway, more on him later, but everyone would do as well to have a boss like Tomo.

Monday, October 20, 2003

So, i got some ninja socks the other day. They are strange but cool. I have finally realized my childhood dream of becoming a ninja turtle. The socks have the big toe separated from the little toe, which is cool, because my foot looks like a deer hoof when i have them on. Not only that, but i can make the peace sign when i take off my shoes. There are matching pairs of ninja shoes that i would dearly love to be able to wear, but they only make the damn things in tiny (relatively) shoe sizes. I'm gonna have to find a ninja footwear shop/big and tall store. Japanese men like to wear these things both out in the field when farming and also when they go snooping around in the woods mushroom hunting. It's a popular pasttime here, the mushroom hunting. Now is apparently the season for it and groups of about 5 men will go tromping through the woods in their ninja getup to sneak up on the wily matsutake mushroom which is nearly as expensive as the european truffle. I saw some in the store the other day and it was like 12000 yen for 3 medium sized nubs of mushroom. Apparently this is kind of a bad year for the wild mushrooms, however and they have been very rare.

This brings me to a little aside:
Who was the sorry bastard who discovered which mushrooms were poisonous. Did troops of fungophiles just put whatever they found into their mouths until some of them dropped dead? "Hmm, well Yoshihara-san bit it, Kawasaki-san, Kobayashi-san, you guys alright? Sweet, put those ones that you ate on the good list." It just seems lika ballsy sort of proposition to be a mushroom taste-tester. But hey, this is the country that brought us mugu.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

here is a bit of editoral comment from my esteemed friend and predecessor in all things cool Matt Healy
a nice start on the blog. keep it up, bub. a small editorial bit, the
disposable chopsticks are called "waribashi," "wari" being the verb
stem of "waru" (plain form, nonpast) or "warimasu" (formal, non-past) which is
the intransitive of "to separate." "Bashi" is "hashi"--chopsticks--except
that the ha becomes ba when preceded by certain sound combinations, not in
any systematic way of course.

Apparently the real chopsticks are called ohashi. As i mentioned, i don't really know japanese. Luckily, i'm paid only to speak english.

Anyway, i'm making pizza today. Jennifer and i just got a M-oaster oven. That would be a microave oven with real oven capabilities, as a toaster oven does. The thing is almost too big for the small-ass space in which we live, but i plan on utilizing it regularly. With luck there may be some hiking in order today, but that is not certain since the sun sets pretty early now.

It seems like every weekend we've been able to get out of town a little bit. This is awesome, because the surrounding countryside is fabulous. Maybe people who come from mountainous country would be less impressed, but on tuesday i spent about an hour and a half cycling up a mountain pass that took me about 15 minutes to go down. There is something pretty scary about accelerating from 0 to around 50mph in 1 switchback. Thanks only to my superb bicycle handling skills and nerves of steel i didn't crash and die on the treacherous roads. Also, i stopped several times to avoid melting my brakes. I'm sure that it wasn't really that freaky, but chist, i'm from IOWA.
I assure you that sooner or later i'll be posting some pictures. also, i've had a suggestion from doug to put in a comments box, that would be cool, but i don't know how yet.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Shit, my first post eaten already.

Anyway, it was about the japanese chopstick tree.
The japanese go through a phenomenal amount of cheap shitty chopsticks called ohashi, which is the specific word for the throwaway kind. THe real chopsticks have a different name which I can't remember, mostly because i don't know Japanese yet. Anyway, they deforest the equivalent of maybe Yellowstone each year for these shitty chopsticks. But, apparently this is perfectly ok, as a sushi chef master told some friends of mine here, because the tree from which the chopsticks are made is useful for nothing else. This tree can only possibly be used for making chopsticks, so don't be shy, eat all you want and don't worry about environmental reprocussions, it is the tree's sole puropose to make chopsticks for us to use and then discard.

Ahh, the inagural post on my new blog site. I suppose that i should explain the meaning of the temporary title, Kentu-don. They have Kentucky Fried Chicken here. Cool, right, if nothing else i can fatten myself up on fried chicken. Well here, apparently the cool kids don't say KFC like we do back home, they call it Kentu, because its the japanese word for Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are also these things called Don-buri which are kind of huge take out bowls of rice topped with fried shit and then they have an egg cracked over them resulting in something kind of like fried rice, but bigger. So the amazing folks who innovate all of the innovations up at KFC decided to whip up some KFC don-buris, hence the fabulous Kentu-don. Another cool thing about KFC here is that every store has this fiberglass replica of the real Colonel Sanders with real fake spectacles! Apparently they wheel him in every night so the kids don't steal his glasses.