8.27.2006

I'm excited about this



From my keitai to your eyes.

Road Trip

On Wednesday and Thursday of this past week some of us decided to use our summer work leave and take a short trip to Hiroshima. The plan was to go see New Zealand play in the World Basketball Championships or something. So Donna, Ed, (both Kiwis), Rebecca and I set out on an adventure. We added in a side trip to swim in the river at Hikimi Gorge just for fun.

Getting to Hikimi Gorge proved to be our first problem. On the map things seemed fairly cut and dry, however once we got in the area roadsigns told us that there were in fact at least four different "Hikimi Gorges" and we had no idea which one we wanted.

On our search for "the" Hikimi Gorge we stopped at a little tourist trap. It had things like a gift shop, putt-putt, and giant wooden maze. It also had the Hikimi Mystery House, which was buckets of fun. There are pictures of it along with the entire trip over at my Flickr photostream. Essentially the idea is, you have yourself a crooked house and you experience all the strange optical phenomena that a crooked house presents. It doesn't sound too exciting, but let me assure you, it was awesome. I have video, but I spent all day yesterday trying to rotate it 90 degrees because I shot it with the camera on its side. You wouldn't think that would be too hard but aparently I either have to buy Quicktime Pro, another video editing program, or suck it up and post a crooked video. At least it would be in the spirit of Ye Olde Mysterye Howse.

Anyway, after we escaped the magnetic lure of the Mystery House, we finally made it to the Gorge we were looking for. We spent a little time there hanging out in the water, but it was cold and we were hungry, so we decided to set off for Hiroshima. Let me preface this by saying that had we gone the "correct" way we would have been there in an hour and a half to two hours. We went the "wrong" way. We started up some crazy ass one-lane mountain road and never looked back, mostly because we couldn't, there wasn't much room on the road.

The road led us up the mountain, down into a valley, up a mountain again, and down again before we even reached Hiroshima Prefecture, then we were still about 2 hours from the city. The one lane death trap was terrifying at best, with "watch for falling rocks" signs everywhere and bits of road crumbling off into oblivion. We turned one corner to find a bolder barring our path. I had to jump out and roll it out of the way. Aside from the general terror invovled, it was a very beautiful drive, but it was hard to enjoy when you're starving and running out of gas.

Eventually we made it to Hiroshima...hours since we first left Hamada: eight. We were starved, and Rebecca had been talking up this Indian place so we gave it a try. It was heaven! Some of the best Indian food I've ever had. The rest of the night was dancing and listening to New Zealand pop music. We couldn't find a real hotel room because of the basketball games, so we ended up in a skeezy love hotel for about 5 hours of sleep.

The next day was pretty uneventful, we were only able to secure one ticket to the game as it was technically sold out, so Ed atteneded and the rest of us went off to find some mall. Eventually we found it and it was some mall, let me tell you. This thing was gigantic. We goofed off in the arcade, took some puricuras (photo booth pictures), and did some book shopping. I also experienced my first Freshness Burger. Freshness Burger is this fast food burger joint which makes its burgers fresh to order. The signature burger has a patty, some mayo, some "hot sauce" (aka the Rochester kind, not Tabasco) and a giant slice of tomato! It's freaking delicious and I can't wait to eat there again.

Anyway, that's more or less that. I made it home in one piece, a little tired but no less worse for wear.

On Friday I went in to my school in the morning to talk to my JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English). It was cool because I got to just wonder around school and meet a lot of the kids, who are there for club activities and sports day preparation. Kids hang out at school in the summer in Japan, there's no such thing as summer camp.

I met three really genki girls who love to speak English. They spent about a half an hour grilling me about all kinds of stuff. I'm glad to see that there are some students who are excited, as some of the kids just stared at me blankly, blushed and hid, or ran away entirely.

Today I'm off for 3 days to the capital of Shimane, Matsue, for JET Orientation. See you all later.

8.22.2006

My Favorite Things About Japan - 狸(tanuki)

The first in what I hope will be a recurring addition to my blog, a segment I like to call "My Favorite Things About Japan."

The first thing is the tanuki, or raccoon dog.



Most people are probably familiar with this hilarious and elusive beast through it's inclusion in Super Mario Bros. 3. I just think they look goofy as all hell. You can find stylized statues of them outside of all Japanese-style pubs or "izakaya." Just look for the horrifying little monster with giant testicles.

A bowl of soba noodle soup served with miso and bits of tempura fry is known as "tanukisoba." Also the tanuki are famed for their "belly drumming," though I'm not entirely sure if this is true.

And that's the tanuki in a nutshell. Stay tuned for more.

8.21.2006

Busy Weekend

First order of business, here is a photo tour of my apartment. This one is for Jamie who requested it.

I really love my apartment, it's giant compared to what I was used to in New York. For this reason I'm trying to make it the party spot, but this could prove to be a difficulty because it's about 20 minutes from everyone else in Hamada. That being said, I did get the JET crew out on Friday evening for yakiniku and scary movies. Well, we actually ended up watching Wet Hot Am Sum and Night of the Living Dead...so one scary movie and one not. There are some pics of us yaki-ing stuff up on Flickr.

On Saturday I was invited by nearby JETs Lena and Leif to go to the cinema in Hiroshima, however when we got there we couldn't figure out where the cinema was. We ended up looking at guitars in a couple music stores because both Leif and I want to buy one, but no purchases were made. We walked back to the car and decided to go in a record store we'd seen when we parked. That's how we discovered punk rock in Hiroshima.

The record store (Dig Underground Music Base, or DUMB for short) was a sweet cafe-bar/pop punk record store. The patrons and the staff were all really friendly and helpful. We asked if there was a rock show that night, and as luck would have it there was one in about an hour. So we spent an hour browsing records and making friends with the shopkeeper, Yohei (aka Nasu Ramone). He plays drums for the pop punk outfit 早朝ピストンズ (Souchou Pistons), which means something like "Early Morning Pistons." He gave me a free copy of their EP, so I pointed him at the free Konami Code and HvsD mp3s on the internet. He seemed to really like the KC, as did one of the other guys in the store.

The music selection in the store was really great, they had all kinds of cool bands like the Independants, the Methadones, the Falcon, Pink Razors, Teenage Bottle Rocket, etc. They even had the Soophie Nun Squad/Abe Froman split. I was glad to see Plan-it X bands in there so I made sure to talk up TMLE with Yohei as well.

After we promised to come back to Hiroshima in a couple of weeks to see the Pistons play, we left for the rock show. It was a strange bill at this place called "Sumatra Tiger." There were 3 punk bands, a reggae band, and the headliner was a famous Japanese boogiewoogie pianist. Go figure.

My favorite band of the night was sEX少女逮 (sEXshoujotai). They were onstage when we walked in and their energy level was amazing for an opening act. Their name, loosely translated, is something along the lines of sEX Persued Young Girl, or something. Whatever the case, they were great. Here is a video of them going crazy. There are pics from the show up on Flickr.

After the show we went to a pub to watch the opening soccer matches of the season. I was pumped when Sheff U almost stuck it to Liverpool. I guess even drawing them is a slap in the face.

Later we went to a sweet dance party called All That Mods. The DJ spins 60s soul and mod rock and stuff. Ben would have died because it was a room full of cute Japanese mod chicks. He played "Little Bitch," I enjoyed myself in a huge way.

We slept at this ex-JET Liam's place and headed back for Shimane early this morning. After a lunch of awesome brick oven pizza at this sweet little organic restaurant, I parted ways with Lena and Leif and returned to Kanagi to shower and nap.

So there you have it, it was an action-packed weekend. Hope yours went just as well as mine...talk to you soon!

8.17.2006

I'm not dead - I'll reply to your emails soon

Hello everyone. I'm not dead or anything...but I just got internet in my place tonight. So, woo!

There's a lot that can be said about my first two and a half weeks in Japan, but you'll have to trust me when I say it's been very busy and a lot of fun. Maybe I'll recount it all at a later date. As of now you'll have to settle for some bullet points:

* Japan is hot
* my job is very, very easy (I haven't started teaching though)
* the food is amazing
* Japanese people looove to drink
* I've met tons of nice people

I think my next post will be a tour of my apartment in pictures...watch for Flickr updates.

See you next time.