The bloggings of an Upstate NY-born Tokyoite. Now with 20% more verbosity!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

100 blogs later.

There is so much to say but so few words to say it with. I have everything to tell the internet but nothing really at all to say. Some things are just incommunicable through written language, and I cite my recent experiences as one of those many things... I will however do my best to shed some light on the scene, reveal a fraction of the details that engulf me in this massive and overwhelming madhouse of Concrete and Money that they call Tokyo.

Current events.

I've been overcoming a bout of some kind of sickness lately, with all sorts of icky implications like headaches, lack of energy, diarrhea etc. - I stocked up on vitamin C today and am trying very hard to get myself better in the next couple days. Kevin is arriving in what I thought was 2 days but is actually TOMORROW upon me writing this post and double-checking the date. Considering the man will be crashing on my floor, I really have to clean up the joint and make the most of the room.

Thence comes the other reason that I wanteth to invigorate mine spirits! Me and Kevin are leaving for Hiroshima on a night bus Christmas night, duration 12 hours. Need I reiterate that this is incidentally my first Christmas away from home? It'll be good to have some company though, especially an old friend at that. Mine and Kevin's history is an interesting one, possibly a touch too much personal detail for public blogging, but I'll go ahead and bite the bullet and say a few things:

I remember specifically that we did not get along well when we were growing up. Our families knew each other and I recall an occasion or two where I was calling my mom from Kevin's place because I wanted to leave. I was an anti-social kid (in a way I still am) so I'm not blaming this one on Kevin. It goes without saying then that we have both changed drastically since we were, uh 8.

I believe me and Kevin first ran into each other again at the local YMCA. We would often get into conversations about various philosophical subjects, of which we're both highly interested. I ended up hanging out with his sister Naomi a bit as well, me and Kev traveling down to NYC to hang out with her back in August (That post doesn't feel like that long ago, but it seems a world away, if that makes any sense). Anyhow we began to party and hang out a bit, often perusing several of the Capital Region's local Indian lunch buffets. Kevin is a Medical student and looking to become a Doctor. He has talked about doing volunteer work in 3rd world countries, which I think is an overly lofty and virtuous goal, but quite admirable nonetheless. I really do wish him the best in his efforts. Kevin's sister Kara is also an old friend from my High School days, and is currently the mother of a beautiful little baby girl.

EDIT: While I was in the middle of writing this some interesting and, er, unexpected things happened. I just called Kevin to verify his flight information. Turns out I woke him up 45 minutes before he was supposed to be taking off! Long story short after a few confused communications back and forth is that he made the all too easy mistake of going out the night before, and slept through his alarm. This is pretty out of character for the guy since he is usually 100% on the ball, but regardless it's pretty hilarious I woke him up (and I'm sure he'll think so too in hindsight).

He unfortunately missed his connection as a result, and will be coming in 2 days later (and with several extra hours of layovers and such) while I am at work! My last day of work for the year is December 24th (I'm currently writing this on the 23rd, which is the Emperor's Birthday hence a national holiday), the same day Kevin is coming in. What this means is that the poor guy is going to be squatting somewhere in Shinjuku station, jetlagged and most likely bedraggled while I am at work, until around 10:30. Our overnight bus for Hiroshima leaves the next night too!!! I only hope everything goes smoothly this time around, as there have been a few big snowstorms rolling through the States this week.

Did I mention I sort of miss the snow, but mostly don't? It hit 69 degrees on Sunday, completely absurd! While my Mother and Father are dealing with 14 inches of snow and below freezing temperatures, here I am experiencing fall weather. It just doesn't feel like Winter here, so strange. Temperatures are dropping back down to the 40s this week though, and it should be colder where I'm going, so I bought a nice jacket!

Let's talk band stuff.

Things with F.I.D. are going quite spectacular. They are fun to play with, I'm getting into playing their songs, but most of all they are cool people, and finding people you can actually get along with and play music with is really half the battle. The whole language barrier thing is pretty hard, and considering that my Japanese is at if not below Kana's (bassist) English, we usually just talk through Makiko, who is 100% bilingual. I thanked her today for going through what must be a bit of a headache, translating things back and forth.

Nothing else in the world delivers quite like that immaculate feeling, the release of pent-up hostility through an instrument. One feels a connection with the other musicians. I remember a former band-mate of mine saying something along the lines of: "When you begin to use music as an outlet for your emotions, it becomes such an empowerment, such a drug." I'd say that's about right. And even better than playing someone else's compositions (even though I'll admit they're good) is getting to mess around with my own, which we did today too. It's one of the few things that fills me with genuine pride, possibly the only thing to have such an effect besides teaching. I can't wait to play some shows here in Grind country!

Interlude: My Christmas in Japan

Hooked on Phonetics

Snaring the attention of my Junior High class is much like trying to catch a shark with a toothpick. While blindfolded and a quadriplegic. Although a seemingly futile effort, I do my best to get the few (maybe 2, sometimes 3 out of 10) students who do listen to me to learn something. What is supposed to be a group activity of Pictionary - one of my favorite in-class activities - is reduced to only me, showing off my horrendously amusing and base drawing skills. I still have fun with it. Anyway, the point of this story is that 1 of the 2 boys in the class starting singing some Beatles song, and transitioned into "When You Wish Upon a Star" while I was drawing a picture to elicit Karaoke. I promptly invited him to come up and show the class, but he declined for some reason.

I had a class with a high school English teacher the other day - yes, I taught a man twice my age who has been teaching for easily 30x as long as me, because many Japanese teachers of the English language are far from fluent in the proper conversational nomenclature and grammatical points. His English was impressive but he still made some very common Japanese mistakes. We discussed problems with the Public Educational system in both our countries. When I asked how he felt about working with ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers, what I would have been if I had gotten accepted into JET last year) he laughed and responded with: "I feel sorry for them. They are supposed to teach conversation, but they have 50 minutes to work with 40 students." Reflecting on this, perhaps working for a private company isn't such a bad thing after all? In fact I like most aspects of my employment and even enjoy it most of the time, due to the fact that I have enjoyable conversations, meet interesting people from various walks of life and even can see a clear evidence of students improving due to my own suggested ideas, memory devices and corrections. And even better, in a good class, there are a lot of laughs.

It had been a while since I had seen one particular Japanese English teacher who works for my company, and she is always very outspoken.

"Hello!~" She said from across the room.

"Hi!" I responded.

"You're looking very fine!"

I repress a laugh. "Thanks, you too!"

A non-native English speaker may fail fo find the humor in that discussion, but for the rest of us it's blatantly obvious. The usage of fine in regard to looks, especially saying "very fine," sounds like calling someone "handsome" or even "sexy." I explained this bit to my school boss and she laughed too, saying that Japanese are taught that fine and nice are perfect synonyms. Which, I suppose, they are on paper. Just another reason why, if anyone is still failing to grasp it, there is a huge market for native English speakers like me who want to teach proper conversational skills to Asians. I say Asians because I've had several Korean and Chinese students - even a Malaysian. Their languages, the sounds made in speech, the grammar, they just don't lend themselves well to the English language. But that's what makes it all so interesting.

Where I am, where I'm going

I don't think I can answer either of those properly. My living situation is pretty good. I'd sort of like a girlfriend. It's been over 2 years since I broke up with my last one, and while I've learned a lot from single life (and naturally it hasn't just been a 2 year dry spell, ahem) I would like someone with whom I could share my experiences. It seems that when I get tired of the old ladies pushing me onto trains, or the masses so saturated with people that full strides become impossible and brushing, bumping and knocking into strangers becomes an inevitability, all I can think is how much I want to get away from the throngs and tuck away in my own little world in my tiny apartment. Perhaps this is a misconstrued idea and I'd just like someone with whom I could to share the madness?

We shall see, time will tell, and other cliche' phrases like that. As you may gather I'm getting a little bogged down by this city life, it being my first time on my own and my first time in a city, and with the holidays things have become even crazier in Tokyo if that's possible. There are night-time illuminations, employees wearing santa hats and even live musicians at the local department store (see above picture). As for these frustrations I feel like some time outside of Tokyo is just what I need to recapture that spark, that magic and wonderment that was oozing out of everything when I first arrived. Granted it will be mighty busy and bustling where I'm going too (Hiroshima, Nara, especially Kyoto), but I'll have a travel companion and be on vacation seeing new sites, so it should be cool. Atomic bomb museums, famous temples, traditonal foods, all these things and more are right around the corner.

As for the New Year, well, it's just another year. January 1st is just another day. So just like I've done since I got here, I'll keep living day by day and doing my best to fight the good fight and grind my way through a life in Japan. I'll carve my niche, have my good days and bad, make new friends and so on. A Learning experience, travels, call it whatever you want. I'm just living and my location happened to change to some place more interesting...with notably cheaper comic books.

Thanks to everyone for all your support, I'll see you next year!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Christmas in Japan!

I saw this video and couldn't resist posting it here, funny stuff!

"I won't be home for Christmas
I lost my job and the money to fly
It was considered rude when I spewed my food
On the boss at the bonenkai (year-end party)"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dreams within dreams within dreams

It is without question the result of me reading too much Lovecraft lately, and possibly eating some unusually sweet foods, but I had the most bizarre dreams last night. Naturally it's hard to piece together even though I've been thinking about it since I woke up, but a mere 10 minutes certainly seems to do a lot to extinguish the the memories of dreams. I'll piece it together as best I can.

Something about a bronze ball that said "Love is Cthulhu and Cthulhu is Love." Innocent enough? I had a new apartment in what I knew to be the second layer of my dream world, where I was continually trying to break through to the mysterious fifth. I had a safe underneath my bunk bed (bunk bed?!) which held some precious item underneath the protection of plastic clothespins. At 3am the sun was out fully and I was sitting under a highway bridge with my friend Gabe, explaining to him that about my mission and that this could be the third step. Then a giant mardi gras parade broke out on the streets above and I slipped from what must have been the third back to the second layer, back into my room with the bunk bed. I kept getting these physically written tickets for noise complaints at strangely inopportune times. The rest of the dream was a struggle to try and maintain the ground I had already broken, but the urge to urinate is the last thing I remember upon waking up. So yea, I'm completely nutso!

In other news I'm getting sent to what could be my favorite school for pseudo-sub duty today: Shiki. It's a little place and is awfully quiet but the staff are so pleasant and I always have fun hanging out there. I'm hoping to get put there next year on my new contract, keeping my fingers crossed! Oh and it's only 15 minutes and one train ride away, which is pretty convenient compared to my average commute.

Winter's coming! But I can't feel a thing, and it isn't because my toes are numb this time! Nope, the weather here is much milder than New York has ever been even in its most subdued of winter seasons; It was in the mid-60s for the better part of this week, now moving down to mid-50s. We've had a few nights hit around 40 last week, but even when winter does come in full effect here I doubt it will be a big deal for me, a well-seasoned polar bear.

This brings me to things I don't miss about home, and how about a shot from the latest Noreaster (North Eastern Storm) that tore up New England but apparently missed NY, even though I've heard reports of some less-than-desirable weather there too:

Ice storms.

To finish off this segment I need to recount a story about when I visited my friend Rich in February of this year, which sure seems like a long time ago now. I was on my way through the windy mountain roads to the Castle de Hartshorn, doing my usual 40mph or so since I knew all the roads by this time. The sun had just set, and it had been raining quite a bit. I likewise hadn't noticed that as the roads gradually wound their way up into the mountains, so too did the temperature just decrease enough to create some incredibly dangerous sheets of black ice (ice so thin it can scantly be seen on pavement). I noticed the hard way, by almost losing control and skidding off the road around a fairly sharp corner! Lucky for me I slid my backwheel into an easy area to pull out of, but with at least 5 miles left to go it was not looking particularly good for me. I figured that continuing to go up was however safter than trying to turn around and go down in this kind of situation, so I continued with extreme caution. As I trucked along slowly the ice got thicker - the thickest in fact that I have probably ever seen on pavement in my entire life, looked like nearly an inch solid. Cars sat idling at the ends of their driveways, waiting for some kind of plow truck to salt the way. I pulled to the side for a minute to try and call Rich, but he didn't answer. Or maybe I didn't have a signal, I don't remember. After a minute I saw a pickup truck heading in the same direction as me, and decided it best to follow at a distance. If I went off the road at least someone would see it!

As our path wove on we continued to cruise at about 5-10mph, the ice not heeding in the slightest, and it seemed strange that this truck was heading in exactly the same direction as me, since Castle de Hartshorn is located in kind of an obscure area even for these mountain roads. Feeling safe enough I tried calling Rich quickly again, and upon his answering I started explaining my situation when he said: "You mean that hasn't been you behind us for the last 20 minutes?"

"Swallow all the planets, the profits of doom! Quarterly projections, the prophets of doom! A colleague, rabbi and a bishop walk into a bar, one says to the other: 'hey now brother we haven't gotten very far'" - Clutch

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Adventures in Englishing

Student: "Yesterday, I took a bus for one hour"

Me: "Hrrrm, for one hour? Maybe 'I was on the bus for one hour."

Student: "Oooh."

Me: "Why were you on the bus?"

Student: "Because it was cold."

Me: "Cold? OK, but why didn't you take the train?"

*Momentary silence*

Me: "Why were you on the bus? Was the train stopped?"

*Incredibly embarrassed laughter*

Student: "Not bus, basu!"

Me: "Hrm?"

*Student writes bath.*

*I burst out laughing as well for a good minute*

Me: "Well actually, that was proper grammar the first time then. Good job!"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Full immersion

Band practice went splendidly today. We managed to crank through 3 songs without too much trouble. It's my first time playing music with a group of people since the beginning of August, and that my friends is far too long. Also my first time in a grindcore band, but it suits my fast and chaotic playing style well. I was showing my bandmates a riff I wrote with several 1 1/2 step hammer-ons and they said it looked like a spider crawling up the fretboard. Compliment?! Let the record show however that I do have freakishly long, skinny fingers. Also known as piano hands.

Probably the funniest thing that happened today (besides the two native Japanese getting lost trying to find a place in Shinjuku and not the foreigner for once) was some random guy coming up to us and making some kind or request I couldn't understand. Makiko translated for me that the dude wanted to take my picture with a guitar (I had my guitar slung on my back at the time), to which I responded: "Sure! Is there money involved?" Unfortunately this story has a sad ending. No paycheck means no free foreigner photoshoot, sorry dude.

On the subject of translating of my two bandmates the singer Makiko speaks impecible English, while Kana the bassist has O.K. skills - definitely impressive for a non-native speaker but still enough to create some language barriers. Today was a lot of Makiko re-wording what I said in Japanese for Kana and vice versa, which by the end I'm sure made all of our heads hurt a bit! Me trying to understand what I can in Japanese is a fun challenege, and I do catch a fair bit but often I lose the conversations. Makiko was nice enough to say I'll be fluent in a year! I somehow doubt it, altough I will suredly be improved. After all was said and done I felt like a part of the band for the first time, which was nice.

Certain bands came up, old local favorites of mine Evixxion being one of them due to their sticker on my guitar. Mike Dikk if you oppose let me know, but I thought I should share Evixxion's Joy Division covers with the world, since I ripped them for my bandmates upon request. Oh and you should totally put up those unreleased 7 songs on the net dude. Or perhaps some mp3s of that 7" I totally own but is my old basement in NY, that'd be HIFFY.

Side note: I tried Japanese Wendy's today and it wasn't too bad, besides the Spicy Chicken Sandwich being 2/3 the size of the American version.

Another Side note: After talking about it in some lessons, I have discovered that most Japanese people have no idea of the regular traditions that coincide with Christmas in America: having a tree in your house, putting presents under said tree, drinking egg nog, carols, etc. etc. Here they just kick back, maybe exchange some gifts and drink a lot.....

Wait. Maybe it isn't that different from our Christmas after all then.

And in closing, for no particular reason, here's Gizmo:

"They're closing in, they're closing in. Day in, day out, day in, day out, day in, day out..." - Joy Division

"There's something missing, there's something missing, no I can't name it I can't place it...I've tried girls and jobs, all that's left is drugs and god" - End of a Year

Friday, December 5, 2008

Old dead white guys and me

Hawthorne, Lovecraft and Tempura.

Lately I've taken to reading a lot of Lovecraft and Hawthorne, and I can soon feel a stint of Poe coming on in their wake. What makes these dudes who lived and died 80-170 years ago so darn appealing to me? Maybe it's the fact that 2 of the 3 were native New Englanders. Maybe it's the dream-state obsession which I myself possess, and which Lovecraft even took to the extremes of speculating odious and cacophonic worlds apart from our mere existance on earth (and talking spacecats that lived on the moon). Maybe it's just my addiction to big words and good writing, but I'm a fan of classical American literature. Being a late bloomer I didn't really discover this until College, but what they made me read really struck my fancy in a way that I have felt at times is superior to fantastical fiction or contemporary writing styles.

Novels today... as much as I enjoy Bukowski and the trends he and some other dudes I can't name set, they are all straight-forward punch-whizz-bang stuff and often read like movie scripts. Delving into this post-post-post-post-post-posto-modern style can be fun at times, and even downright enjoyable, but it plays to a mind which can't sit back and take in 15-sentence paragraph of pure detail. Over the last few years I've really developed an appreciation for an artist who can paint a picture in my brain, or take me on a journey into somewhere far away. Sometimes I want a gritty, real pciture of life and all it's mundanities, sure - but sometimes I like to think about what it was like to be alive 400 years ago in an era of brutal religious persecution; or perhaps I long to experience ghastly supernatural horrors which would make those around me deem me mad; or maybe I even desire to fall through the spheres and experience a world strange and surreal in contrast to my own.

While the modern-day narratives of movies and video games do give the new generation a clever, even at times superior substitute - certainly more colorful than staring at a black and white page - they will always in my mind be second to the power of a good short story or novel. And while we're on the subject and though I'm like 9 months behind in saying this, Disney somehow didn't butcher Prince Caspian! They made it rich and lively in detail, and far superior to their first Narnia adaption which wasn't even that bad, besides its complete bloodlessness. Voyage of the Dawn Treader will be a visual cornucopia of Disney magic.

I got a Lord of the Rings audiobook with my name on it, but after I finish Harry Potter I might just switch gears to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or perhaps Salman Rushdie if I'm feeling adventurous enough. (I consume audiobooks by train, and words on paper at home) Upon completion of this post however I will probably dork out on Blue Dragon or Megaman 9, so I am at least a partial hypocrite with this whole BOOKS ARE SO MUCH BETTER thing.

In other Belcher-related news, I have my first band practice with F.I.D. this weekend (which if you've forgotten is the grindcore band I'm joining) so I am very excited for that. Also only 12 more working days until Christmas break! The suspense is killing me. Today in my Junior High class I was also asked my age by a 13-year-old kid whom I needed to show my I.D. to get him to believe I'm only 23. He also kept saying "YES WE CAN," impersonating Obama as the lesson was about "I can such-and-such" sentences.

Speaking of Christmas, my phone starting showing this screen:

I am enjoying my first Holiday season in relatively comfortable whether - it's been in the mid 50s to lower 60s for the past few weeks - and although temperatures will eventually drop some more, and although it might hit *gasp* freezing some time in January, this winter should be a veritable breeze compared to Upstate New York. Until we meet again, oh ye thespians in the melodrama of life!

"You speculate on the luxury of wearing out a whole existence in bed, like an oyster in its shell, content with the sluggish ecstacy of inaction, and drowsily conscious of nothing but delicious warmth, such as you now feel again. Ah! that idea has brought a hideous one in its train. You think how the dead are lying in their cold shrouds and narrow coffins..." - Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Haunted Mind

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bye Bye Bills

After watching my team go on a 4-0 run at the start of the season, things are looking mighty bleak after an embarassing loss to the 49ers, putting them at 6-6. They even missed a field goal shorter than an extra point, and granted it was rainy, but almost every aspect of the offense besides Marshawn Lynch looked sloppy. With all playoff hopes relatively crushed, all I have to say is "maybe next year." Because no matter how bad it gets, I'm still forever a Bills fan, in other words accustomed to crushing defeat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

"You make good mosh"

This last week was somewhat busy and very fun. Granted I've also been lazy about updating, but for the 10-20 hardcore followers I have on this thing needs fear not, I'm gonna keep this going even if posting gets sparse on occasion.

I found out that when I take my trip with Kevin next month, I get to meet up with Mami (the T.A. of my last semester of Japanese in college) in Hiroshima and Akira (also a good friend from college whom I gave the ridiculously big pizza leftovers from my job on the regular) in Kyoto/Nara. I am mega-excited for this trip, although it consists of collectively 24 hours of overnight bus trips, it should be well worth it. I'm also not planning on bringing Most Precious Lappy with me since I baby the thing, so I'll just make a giant post when I come back. December 25-January 4, couting down the days!

On Tuesdays I have an 80-minute class of roughly 3 regular members, with usually at least 1 substitute students and occasionally a model-lesson student. The latter is, as you may have guessed someone trying out the class to see if they like it, so there is a little extra pressure on yours truly to give a bangin' lesson. It's called "Advanced Media" and its the highest level class there is at my school, and frankly I love teaching it because I get to do things my way and I find it more challenging and rewarding. We talk about news stuff and I often explain very some big words and engage in some really good discussions. Last class was good but a bit stressful at the start because my book had "disappeared" (actually had been accidentally picked up by another teacher) so I was five minutes late even though I had a substitute student I never met before and a model-lesson student. I started off right away with explaining that I'd have to look on with the new student's book and said: "are you impressed yet?"

Students really seem to enjoy my sense of humor for the most part, which makes me happy, since I can be myself and I thrive best in that element. We talked about animal rights and other various moral dilemmas, such as life longevity and if machines could ever take over the world Terminator 2-style. Suffice it to say not only was the class good, but the new student enjoyed it and signed up for my class, which made me feel pretty elated at the end of the day.

Thursday was Turkey Day, and I celebrated by eating curry! Unfortunately Turkey is quite hard to find in Japan, although I heard of a palce caleld Fujimamas that offers American-style meals for relatively cheap, I didn't make it there. Oh well. It really is just another day of the year, and like I told a few other people my Mother cooked me a fantastic Thanksgiving-style meal right before I left home, so that was my T-day.

That night however had three firsts: I went out on a work-night, which I surprisingly hadn't done yet. I chalk this up to getting out at 9:30-10:00 and having to catch the last train by 12:45, but also because I'm lazy. I also went to Roppongi, famous meatmarket of Japan which was, as Ian so correctly and succinctly put it, a shithole. Nothing but tons of silly gaijin and dudes hassling you to come to this and that bar (Some guy even grabbed my arm which pisses me off A LOT). Some people like it but I could probably due with going there again some time never.

Now I know that all sounded very bitter and negative, but here's the upshot and 3rd first time event: the bar me and my friend Cristo went to was having a Grand Opening special of free drinks all night. Naturally it was packed beyond belief but somehow we managed to get in and worm our way to the bar. Getting noticed by the bartender was tricky and time consuming but I managed to get 6 frees which was nice. Bars aren't really my scene but I met some cool Filipinos and some dude from Miami there on vacation. There was a "fire show" (apparently the signature act of this particular chain: Wall Street Pub) and some girls dancing on the bar. The music was lame though. All I ever want to hear when I'm drinking beer is something in the vein of D.R.I. or Metallica. I had a pretty good time, regardless.

Friday I met up with Ian in Tachikawa before work - actually I had told him "I'll meet you at the station" so I spent 36 minutes pointlessly on a train to his home station and back - and got the package I've been waiting for from me mum: over 400 dvds and cds of mine, clothes, and lots of books. The only downside was that I had to lug a 42 pound box across 3 different trains during a pretty busy time. I did live to tell the tale, however.

Saturday night I saw Loyal to the Grave, Midgardsorm (who are fucking GREAT and are kind of like a Japanese-version of Irate) and some other bands in Shibuya. I really should have taken some pics but I was being lazy that night.

Some more cool white dudes

Sunday I saw my buddy Ian's band, Second Hearts, and they sounded umpteen-times better with him playing drums. It was a show full of heavy hardcore bands and people being drunken maniacs. Some guy jumped on my back while I was dancing, sending me into another guy who fell over and spilled his beer all over the stage. Everyone had a pretty fun time, and I think it was my friend Chris' first real "hardcore show." He liked it. The singer of every band stage-dove; And the best part of it all is when you stage-dive here, people actually try to hold you up. The Wall is definitely a sweet venue and I'll be sure to go there again some time soon. I took the mic for some band I didn't even know and was like "MOVE THIS PLACE, NEW YORK STYLE!!" Because I love doing mosh calls.

Today is just a Monday like any other (my Sunday if you've forgotten) and I took it easy. My ankle is still a bit sore from something I did to it last night. I've been enjoying my 360 which just came back from Microsoft, and between that and my personal library this place is feeling more and more like ye olde dungeon back home.

My over-the-top setup.

In other news I ate some really good Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki for breakfast. Yessiree. Oh, and one more thing that happened today: While I was sitting in my chair I felt a sudden slight but distinct shaking underneath me, and it must have been a really small tremor. I've never experienced an earthquake before and it was just weird. I certainly hope a full blown one never hits Tokyo, although the seismologists say we're long overdue!

My first Christmas away from the family is just around the corner, but I'm feeling pretty good about everything. I'm not too big on the holidays anyway but the Japanese sure are! Here is a glimpse of what it is looking like on my side of the world:

Downtown in Shibuya late on a Saturday night. Xmas stuff everywhere

The convenience store near my apartment.

My street. There's even a blinking Elmo-sign!

"However, I'm really fascinating to the letter, my English grammar gets better and better" - KRSONE

"She's half-way listenin', to what she thinks she knows. We're like children drifting in our parents clothes" - Mewithoutyou

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Only in Japan...

I left my apartment today to go to the gym when I saw a guy in a work uniform eyeing the building. I thought maybe he was trying to deliver a package or something, but shrugged it off and left. Two hours later I came back and...

There was a brand new vending machine installed outside the front door of my apartment building!

It's funny, because I had been thinking lately how I have to walk a whole 30 feet to get to a vending machine from my house and all.... o_0

On an unrelated note here's a few pictures I never posted from a trip to Akihabara a while back:

"Retro-Gaming" - There was a copy of Street Fighter 2 out front for all to play.

The current Prime Minister, Taro Aso a.k.a. "Cool Old Dude" is very popular amongst the nerdy crowd.

That's all for today. I'll keep you posted on whether or not a canned coffee vending machine appears on my roof or in my room any time in the near future.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One of the most popular movies in Japan this summer

was Detroit Metal City:

The intro roughly translates as: "I wanted to create a nice pop band, but my current band is..."

There is apparently also an American adapation in the works. There is also a series of comics and anime of the same name, which are both hilarious and awesome. I would call it Japan's equivalent to Metalocalypse.

Troy, NY

With all the fuss I make about the 20+ year-old musical sub-genre affectionately known as troycore, I thought I would give everyone some valuable insight into the city behind the name. The original home of Uncle Sam, it is coined rather accurately in the first video I have linked today as "the city that modernization forgot." From the boarded-up buildings and the various bums meandering the streets downtown, to the unflattering nickname of "troylets" for its citizens and the rumors that there's "something in the water," it seems not exactly the friendliest place upon first glance. However I have known many stand-up individuals who call this place home, amazing bands who were birthed here - Stigmata, Burning Human and Dying Breed, just to name a few - and it's a city rich in history and it's own bizarre underbelly of subculture.

To start off this video tour de force, a hilarious mockumentary on the sights to see in lovely Troy, NY:

Deserving more than just an honorable mention, stand-up individual and all around cool dude Mike V. owned and operated the Hudson Duster, an amazing and ultimately weird little hole in the wall venue. With a regrettably short lifespan of only 3 or 4 years, it closed down due to some unfortunate circumstances. I remember being upset at the news, not only because it was such a rad place, but because this was merely weeks before my 21st birthday. I had been waiting to tackle the "Brick by Brick Burger," a huge houseburger that could win the buyer a free pitcher of beer if completely consumed. Sadly, I never got to attempt this feat.

The Hudson Duster was one of my favorite venues ever, second only to Valentiens which is still thankfully running to this day. Being a mere 14 feet wide and sort of a narrow hall with a second-story stage, it housed many awesome shows in its hayday. Inevitably the loose regulations and allowance of completely and total chaos in such a small area played part in its downfall although I think we all knew it was too good to last forever. I remember some great shows, such as the Brick by Brick and Save Yourself show which is highlighted below, and a last-minute Walls of Jericho and Bury Your Dead gig due to a huge snow-storm which stopped the bands from making their Buffalo date (this was of course before both bands turned into almost completely unlistenable crap, in my humble opinion). I saw people moshed into fireplaces, kids jump off of bars, dive off of pool tables, and so many things that made it incredibly dangerous by undeniably awesome at the same time. Here is the best video I could find that really captures just how nuts this place could get, big props to the creator of it:

R.I.P. The Hudson Duster, the only venue I've ever known run by hardcore for hardcore.

And lastly, just for laughs:

Troy is full of individualistic citizens whom hold firmly to their freedoms.

It's not where I grew up, but it's just a short drive away. Troy has been and always will be an historic city, but much like the rest of Upstate New York, it is most likely doomed to relative obscurity. Here's hoping for a new wave of insanely talented musicians

Modern troycore bands of note:

Brick by Brick

Murderer's Row

Last Call

P.S. I don't take credit for any of these pictures or videos, I just wanted to compile them for those curious. I highly recommend checking out all the bands I mentioned, because even 6000+ miles from home I'm still representing Upstate!

P.S.S. Stigmata and Burning Human are playing with my old band Damnation Alley back home in a next week, and I expect all my friends reading this who are going to mosh in my absence. Thanks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Philosophical quest

Disclaimer: Philosophical ramblings. I'm full aware of how ironic a post this is after my Xbox rant.


I believe that every man or woman on this earth who has the ability to think beyond the most intrinsic needs of food, water and shelter has to grapple with their own philosophical quest. Even people who hate the idea of philosophy do. So do hardcore religious fanatics, staunch atheists, school principals and bus drivers. No matter what you've been taught, you question it inevitably. No matter what you believe, you have trouble believing it at times. Freedom is a wonderful yet simultaneously stifling thing when we have so many directions to go in the world that we stand still, horrified.

I think that a fear of thinking about why we're here, what we're doing and where we're going is why some people love their jobs. It's also why some people love their hobbies, their dogs, their kids, their books, their wardrobe, their games, their computers, their room, their social life, their late night television dramas, their loud music, their crowded bars and their camping trips. The modern world is such a confounded place, full of voices telling us where to go for ulterior motives, full of new diets to try and new items to buy. When does owning the product equate to the joy you got in anticipating it? When is enough actually enough?

I think about things like this a lot; I'm sure many of us do. I see myself trapped in an endless cycle of consumerism, but feel reliant upon it and helpless to stop it. I love philosophical ideas but can't stand reading dry, technically worded documents about things that no living person can ever know - I'd rather read a good work of fiction. I'm a self-acknowledged hypocrite but I can't help thinking about how the world goes round and round with or without me. I think about how if there's such an overpopulation problem already, wouldn't it be better if I never procreate anyway? I think about the future and the past that lead me here, how no one will know of me or remember me in 100 years time. If you had to choose immortality or an early death, which would it be? If you had to give up all your earthly possessions and move Sudan or get skin cancer, which would it be? If you could kill 1 to save 100, would you do it?

So many questions and conundrums in life. I feel a stirring inside of me a never-ending struggle: The hedonistic and primitive instincts of fucking and feeding versus the weight of the wonders and woes of the modern world. Aesthetics and synthetics. There aren't enough words to encapsulate life, to wrap it up neatly, put it on a page and succinctly explain it. That's why I keep writing.

"From pissed off to pissed on
mostly dead to died
quote found on the full moon
but it left with the tide" - End of a Year

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MORDOR (warning: sheer, unadulterated video game nerd content inside)

There once was a gaming console called the XBOX 360. This system was the Playstation 2 of its generation, coming out with all the latest and coolest games, the best graphics and cutting edge on-line play. The ease of this global network of gamers made being a computer expert with all the latest overpriced digital rendering software that would be obselete in 3 months a necessity for internet gaming no more. Gone were the days of "oh my computer can't run this" or "I left AIM on so my game crashed" or "my system randomly lags because I haven't reformatted my hard-drive in the last 2 weeks." It was a simple time when people who just enjoyed casually playing games could share their joy together, without excessive hassle. There were also numerous live updates, downloadable content for renewed vigor in games you loved, even $5-10 arcade games that were cheap and fun. Sounded like a perfect system, right?

Not quite perfect.

When the light was green it was all gravy. But as time passed, load times got longer and the fan got louder, something had to give. I owned a launch-model 360, the original which has an estimated 60% chance of dying at some point in time - dem's not good odds. Of course it had to happen 2 months after I moved to Japan, making things far more inconvenient. Why, you may ask?

Well, for those who don't know, due to the huge amount of complaints (and possibly even some lawsuits) that Micrsoft received, they announced they were 2007 extending the warranties of all consoles to 3 years. I personally know several people who've been through 2 or 3, and it's not at all uncommon. MS has literally lost millions of dollars fixing their own consoles due to poor beta testing and some serious design and material faults not considered before the initial release.
If you are at all curious about the extent of 360 blunders (they have even been sued over their discs scratching too easily), I recommend this succinct Wikipedia article.

Despite all this, the 360 still remains the "next generation" system to have, in my opinion. (I'm totally leaving the Wii out of this one, because while it an awesome console in its own right and of course much more stable, it is lacking in HD and graphical abilities) Why not the PS3? Two simple reasons: game selection and friends. As for games, some of the few video game franchises I follow have exclusive 360-only titles, such as Tales of Vesperia or Beautiful Katamari. While it's true that there are many dual releases between the PS3 and 360, I'm actually not interested in the majority of the First Person Shooters that come out (save the Orange Box), but prefer RPGs and other more unique games.

And of course there's the simple fact that, in America at least, the 360 pwns the PS3 in popularity by a hefty margin. Things may be slowly moving in Sony's favor, but by the by if you want to play on-line with some of your buddies back home you to have MS's hardware. There seem to be more diehard PS3 fans in Japan, and perhaps since Blue-Ray won the format wars PS3's ability to play BR movies will eventually lead to a popularity shift, but for now this is the way things are.

Anyway that's enough about console or format wars - I've probably already lost more than half my regular readers on this post - but bear with me here. This 360 that broke is also one that I cracked open laborously and modified, the upside being that I can play games on backup discs, the downside being that I am at risk of being banned from Xbox Live if I play on-line, and my console is no longer covered under warranty. A fair trade-off in my opinion. Sadly after many fun hours with this toy it broke, and although I'm currently looking at some super top-secret underground solutions to get it fixed, that is pretty up in the air.

So I bought another console! A legitimate one that I bought the game Blue Dragon for because Akira Toriyama is a God among men when it comes to character design, and I enjoy old-school RPGs (and they're long). Long story short I had it shipped to a friend on a military base to save on shipping costs, and on the day I gleefully brought it home I plugged it in and saw, to my horror:


That's right folks, apparently it was damaged in shipping, because this sucker was broken on reception. The real kicker here is that I signed up for insurance, but to file a claim I'd need access to a USPS location, which I don't have since I don't live on a military base. The whole thing was turning into a ridiculous headache - all I wanted was to play a stupid game! And if it was possible to get the console fixed here I didn't want to bear teh slings and arrows of having to send it back. So, I did what any logical gamer would do: called Microsoft.

After trying to communicate over the phone with little success, I was told in Japanese to e-mail customer support if I wanted support in English. So I did, and thankfully the 3 year warranty extension on all consoles was announced in Japan too, so I'm sending out my console to get fixed today! This means soon I can play on-line with my friends, enjoy these new games and hopefully leave behind the evil eye of Mordor forever. I'm seirously considering getting a PS3 in a year or 2, when they've dropped in price a bit and have more good games on the roster.

This concludes my uber-nerd post. Until we meet again!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

3 months later.

Can I actually believe I've lived in this country for three months? What is time and where does it go? Why did Microsoft have to make their 360s so damned breakable?

"We're all here with questions, left unanswered" - Guns Up!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I work hard for the money

So I can blow it on stuff like this:

I spent 700 yen at a UFO catcher (or as we call them back home crane machines) getting this sucker out. These things are so addicting that I usually stay away from them, BUT chopper with a dragonball sent my dork-senses into a frenzy. He now hangs proudly above my television screen.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We have a saying in my family: eat.

Even if it isn't actually said by anyone but me, the fact remains that I come from a family of eaters. We love food and life itself, but especially the food part. I always have and always will eat quite a lot. That is just another reason that Japan is great: the diverse selection. I had Indian curry with all-you-can-eat Naan yesterday and tried something called bibin which was a surprisingly good combination of kimchi (korean spiced cabbage), pork, seaweed, rice and ginger, with a cold egg on top last night. Both delicious!

I have come to find that even the canned tunafish is better over here.

On the subject of food, I talked about Thanksgiving in my Jr. High class today. Even though they are usually pretty uninterested (I even heard one girl say "I'm SOOO tired" in Japanese), I attempted a warm-up exercise of asking what Americans eat for thanksgiving. The only actual answers I got were turkey and fried chicken (har har) and I'm not sure that they understood what mashed potatoes were.

I was in a rotten mood yesterday which seemed to stick with me overnight, so naturally I wasn't feeling very motivated today. My funtastic kids class seemed to pacify me of this grief however, as I got to play my weekly games of pictionary and "shoot the basket." I know not all kids classes can be this fun (or well-behaved) but I'm sort of hoping for more kids' classes next year. They are very enjoyable and hands-on, a great break from what can become a rather tedious human-tape-recorder shtick at times.

Everything is becoming pretty habitual, from catching the same trains at the same times eeach respective day (bear in mind I work at 4 different schools each week) to buying bread or milk every couple of days at the store. I always drag my Japanese textbook along with me, and lately have taken to either studying on the longer train-rides, playing Final Fantasy 4, or listening to music or audiobooks. I've never lived on my own before - much less in a big city - and besides a few hickups here or there I'd say things are going rather smoothly. I think too much time in the concrete jungle can seriously embitter some people, and I understand this now much better than fore. At times, It feels like you are surrounded by nothing but strangers, and the people that do know you only do so for the sake of the almighty, yen. Today the only people I saw who I knew were my students and the Japanese staff at work (quite a friendly bunch on the whole), and this kind of "isolation" can really get to anyone if you're not careful. Despite my periodical reclusive tendencies, I do value human companionship (and I miss you blowholes back in the 518). I'm grateful to have made some good friends in such a short period of time here, and am excited to go to Ian's place this weekend for some BBQ! (yes, and to pick up my 360)

I dropped my guitar off at BIG BOSS in Ochanomizu on the way to work the other day, as it had a few dead frets and needed repairs. Ochanomizu (literally "tea water") has a main street full of guitar shops, it's pretty damn cool. I can't wait to get my baby back and get to practicing these FID songs and writing more. Speaking of music, my former band-mate Justin started doing some Elliot Smith-style acoustic songs, and I think they are really good. Check out Justin Joseph.

I am also greatly anticipating Kevin's arrival next month and a Japan-tour via bus (the cheapest way possible) to Hiroshima, Kyoto and Nara! (that'll be 20-some hours of transport too, by the way) Should be a time to remember.

Until I feel the urge to post again folks!

"Ice-age heat wave, can't complain.
If the world's at large, why should I remain?
Walked away to another plan.
Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand." - Modest Mouse

"I drank a river to forget
To forget about the coming storm
The curtains are down
The lights are off
And the doors are closed
I think about this life I've known
And I hope this time
I won't let it go

Will you catch me when I run
Will you stop me when I'm done
When the day is through
all I want to do is slow down." - Ignite

Monday, November 10, 2008

Act first, think later.

While not my philosophy, when I'm in a rush I sometimes suffer from this unfortunate ailment; My body sometimes acts quicker than my mind. And so, on what would have been an ordinary Saturday morning, I found myself locked out of my apartment, full suit on and bag in hand with no key, no wallet, no money. Sometimes I amaze even myself - maybe I just have a subconscious need to give my blog readers something interesting to look at?

So naturally I started panicking a little. Dayn, my upstairs neighbor and good friend has a spare key, but he had left for work already. I tried calling around to see who if anyone wasn't at work that I could bum 500 yen from for the train, but to no avail. I felt like such an idiot, but there was no time to be sulky about the situation, so I did the thing that I feared most: I called my job for help.

After responding incredulously to my situation, the guy said he would call me back in ten minutes. I looked out the window, wishing I knew more people in this town, or kept a spare bill in my work bag or anything, when a neighbor I have never met before walked past me to attend to his laundry. A lightbulb went off in my head. I swallowed whatever pride I had left and addressed the guy nervously in my best polite Japanese, fully aware of how rude it was to ask for 1000 yen ($10) from a stranger no matter what country you live in. I stumbled over my words and he seemed confused, until he said in English: "You need money?"

And so I was miraculously saved by the kindness of a neighbor. I was also saved from making one of my superiors take a 45-minute train ride just to lend me 5 bucks, which is an experience that i'm sure we are both better without. I promised I would pay him back tomorrow and sprinted out the door faster than I have ever ran in dress shoes. When I got to the station (usually an 8 minute walk, I cut it down to about 3) my train was already pulling in. I would have caught it on a normal day, except my Passmo card (swipe card) was in my wallet back at the apartment, and I had to print out a ticket from the machine. This meant another 8 minutes of waiting to see if I could somehow squeeze not getting to work late and salvaging what had been a trainwreck of a morning. Everything did work out though, and despite how much I stressed about my stupid mistake I was really grateful my neighbor (whose name I still don't know) was willing to help me out. I wonder if the same situation would have played out much differently in New York? Perhaps.

I was at a school I had never been to before doing a "sub duty a.k.a. twiddle your thumbs for 6 hours" shift, and it turned out the staff were very cool. It was a smaller school than the busy places I'm used to working at so I was actually able to talk to the staff, not just watch them working franticly and feel slightly guilty about my veritable hours with nothing to do. The school manager was a riot though, she kept commenting on the Japanese I was studying and asked me how to say Mendoukusai in English, a phrase that literally means "troublesome." Of course no one actually has "troublesome" in their vernacular anymore, so I suggested "what a drag" or "what a pain" on the vague recollection of an anime character who had that word as his catchprase.

After work Dayn was back at teh building and therefore unlocked the gates to the small room I call home, and made a move to Shinjuku where I was to meet Makiko the singer of FID! I found out a few things that night, firstly that if you walk out the wrong exit in Shinjuku station, re-enter and try to cut across to the other side without bording/coming from a train, they will charge you a 130 yen entrance fee. Highway robbery! But going around the station is like a mile walk and rather confusing, as opposed to 1/4 of a mile going through the meat of it, so what's another 130 yen anyway.

Secondly, Makiko is just as awesome as the rest of FID. She speaks great English so we were able to communicate with ease, and talked about everything from Neglect to their shows abroad to musical ideas to Mucopus etc. etc. That last one being that FID played with Mucopus, a death metal band from my area in NY that features the current singer of Skinless, in the Czech Republic at a grindocre festival. As it turned out I also booked one of Mucopus' first shows when I was like 16 and lost around $200 to a touring death metal band from Texas due to a low turn out.

It's a small world.

At any rate we got along great and we are all really pumped to write songs and practice soon. Things are a bit on hold because (as I may have mentioned before) the drummer is currently with child, but we should be able to start having real practices and playing shows in the Spring. Until then, it will be practicing to a pre-recorded drum track. Should be interesting. I've already got loads of ideas for writing anyway. I have to go get my guitar fixed at a shop some time this week though, I've got a few dead frets. (dead frets are when you get a buzzing sound on the fretboard) I also need to invest in proper strings since this band tunes to B.

And that's it, today has actually been incredibly uneventful and I am totally OK with that. I could have seen Melt Banana but the ATMs are closed on Sundays so no go for me. My sore throat is still coming and going a bit so I need to take it easy anyhow. Para el post de grande finale, here are 3 variations of curry-based foods I have made in the last few weeks + 1 Italiano. All delicious:

Curry Udon - Udon are those big fat noodles. It's cheap, easy and delicious!

Eating spaghetti in my underwear makes me feel like a man.

Simple instant curry, rice and veggies.

Todays meal: Tomato-curry with broccoli, carrots, red peppers, beef and a potato cake.

"M! A! D! We live in a MAD world. So they call this progression, feels like world regression" - Stigmata

"Welcome to the new dark ages, yea I hope you're livin right these are the new dark ages, and the world might end tonight" - Bad Religion

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My brain is trickling out my left ear

It's amazing how a solid workout in the morning followed by a full day's teaching can leave me utterly and completely drained. Even bringing a good amount of food with me to school - a sandwich, 2 or 3 pieces of fruit, nuts, chips etc. - the sheer amount of mental energy I expend to give 100% at my lessons really takes it out of me. By the end of the day I feel like taking part in activities that require little to no hard thinking, like reading, watching TV or mindlessly surfing the internet (and that last one happens more often than I would like to admit). But all in all I am happy, I work hard but it's worth it when I see students trying their best as well. Although on occasion I have to teach students that are just goofing off, killing old "lesson points" they had lying around or just not giving it 100%, so I gauge accordingly.

But the peeves are really minimal. I feel that my work situation is top notch considering my education level and my age, and also the fact that I am for now where I want to be. Not a week goes by without some surreal moment of: "Hey, I'm really in Japan. Wow." I've got the ball rolling on one or two musical projects, and I get to do pretty fun stuff every weekend. Yea, life is pretty good. And so is this instant Curry Udon stuff I've made for the second time this week. UMAI~~ (YUM!)

On the subject of the whole Eikaiwa (English Conversation) Industry here, I'm sure there are plenty who think their job is a complete joke. They got in with X company, they are in Japan, they will skirt by and get to experience the holy grail of disorienting First World countries for a year and go back home. Well, not me. My original plan was to stay for at least two years, and so far I feel fairly confident that I'm sticking to it. Not to mention I like teaching, and actually aspire towards it as a not only viable but ideal career option in some way, shape or form. So maybe not this particular way, shape or form, but this is good experience and at the very least a start.

Ah well whatever. Another day another dollar as they say, I keep my nose clean and try to save save save before the vacation in December. Winter is coming, and I can hardly wait. Until next time my faithful and beloved readers.

"The author looms above his page
and thinks it strange that at his age
he can not find the proper words
to describe his only world.
One would think that in a life
where no two snowflakes are alike
one would have a brilliant rhyme
for each and every bit of time." - Clutch

Monday, November 3, 2008

From spooky stuff to Santa-san / Grinding a Culture Fest

Just like in the States, the end of Halloween marks the beginning of the "Christmas season," where gleeful images of red and green that say "money = love" abound in the subways and on the streets. It really kicked in yesterday while I was sitting at Matsuya, a popular "fast food" joint that sells an awesome beef and onion rice bowl with miso soup for 380 yen. I heard Jingle Bells, and it hit me.

While I could go into the whole sphere of how I have gotten the occasional bouts of homesickness, and how it is a bit odd having my first Christmas away from my family, I have much more enthralling matters to discuss today. Like when I was at the Hub (an English-themed bar) last night and some guy kept chanting "Yankees suck!" after I told him I was from New York. I was at the bar with my future band-mate Kanako, but let me back up- no wait, before I even back up, let me go off on an extreme tangent that you've no doubt come to expect from my erratic writing style:

Japanese people and their reactions to foreigners speaking Japanese.

As my flatmate Dayn so notably pointed out to me the other day, Japanese people tend to react one of two ways when you exhibit any kind of speaking ability:

1) They say "Wow, that's amazing!" even if you only utter one word improperly. This kind of over-reaction is incredibly common, and while I do love being complimented on my speaking skills, let's not kid ourselves here: I've scarcely studied more than 2 years, and I have a long way to go. I would rather be corrected than given blind praise.

2) They stare at you blankly, perhaps feigning comprehension or in total disbelief, even if you use perfect grammar. I haven't gotten this reaction so much, but it does happen. Why you may ask? I really can't wrap my head around, but despite their immense fascination with English, some Japanese are not comfortable with the idea of foreigners speaking their language, especially older folks. Talk about a paradox.

So we have a dichotomy of innacurate reactions. Perhaps a good reflection on the indirect nature of the Japanese, and their tendency to avoid stating things directly? (For example: "your grammar is sucks?" or "Don't you dare speak my language you non-Japanese heathen?")

So on Sunday I worked overtime in Kawagoe, since it's close to me and I could use the cash. I've heard that it's a nice area, and there are some parts that look like Edo-era Japan, although I didn't have time to explore at all:

Just outside the station.

During my second to last lesson I started hearing some annoying voice on a loudspeaker outside, and sure enough on my way out of work I see one of those political trucks hanging out outside the station:

I'd vote for him.

All day I was looking forward to meeting the band I was going to try out for, the previously all-female grindcore act F.I.D. - or Flagitious Idiosyncracy in the Dilapidation. For obvious reasons, they refer to themselves as FID. Thanks again to Grizloch for telling me about them! They've played Maryland Death Fest in the States and even in the Czech Republic before, not to mention they're pretty damn good, so I was really excited about the possibility of joining a band with such prospects. I've also always wanted to play in a grind band, but the scene back home was lacking in this genre to say the least.

Unfortunately the singer who speaks great English was sick, so I met up with the bass player and the drummer, who speak good english and to little, respectively. For the most part though we were able to communicate between Japanese and English, and talked about stuff. Nothing is set in stone yet but things are looking good, we should be getting together to practice in the next few weeks, and I'll be working on writing stuff and learning their songs and all that.

Monday, I woke up hung over from the previous nights' drinking bout with the aforementioned bass player, and felt like doing something on my day off. It was also National Culture Day in Japan, where all colleges host Culture Fests on their campuses. I ended up meeting my Aussie friend Chris in Waseda, a university-town to check out the goings on. Things were inhumanly crowded by the end of the day, but here's an idea of what we went down:

Mother Africa in a can.

Between the signs and the throngs of people, it wasn't too hard to find.

First stop was the Art-section of the culture fest.

While it was pretty cool to see the exhibit, we were really just looking for the food stands the whole time.

Oh yes.

Chris and I decided to prove in the drawing room that gaijin can be good artists too - note the picture in the top was probably done by a 9-year-old.

Engrish or clever advertising against Anorexia?

The still life section. They handed us surveys, which we politely handed back and said "Muzukashi Yomemasen" ("too hard to read")

This lady was serving tea with jam!

This area of the festival was deceptively not crowded, and we soon discovered why - there were different areas of the 10k+ student campus housing the food stands, dancing and musical events. When we got there, things started to get tight, between the throngs of people on holiday and the various student club-run food stands all screaming to buy their stuff. In fact, two incredibly hyper dudes got in mine and Chris's face about their amazing yakisoba (fried buckwheat noodles) so we caved in and had that.

It was my first time, and it was really good!

Other foods I ate that day were gyoza (dumplings) and kind of potato cakes. There were also chocolate-covered bananas, pork wraps, okonomiyaki (a kind of pancake) - just about anything you could think of.

Not the most convincing Chopper costume I've ever seen.


It's hard to see, but his jacket says PHILADELPIA!!!!!!

What was everyone waiting for? (there were also hundreds of other people in queued-off sections just across the street)

"The Waseda Collection," a beauty pagent which lost our interest fairly quickly.

I don't have any more pictures, but around this time things started to get insanely packed, my upset stomach was catching up with me, and I thought it a good time to bail. This got me thinking about one of the things I do really miss from home - space. Unless one is in his or her own apartment, getting any kind of privacy seems damn near impossible. In public, the definition of ones' "bubble" or personal space is completely null and void here. People often bump, collide, push, etc. In fact, while boarding the train to leave Waseda, I was pushed onto the train by the throng behind me and almost rammed into 2 small children. Then a girl's oversized purse hit me in the balls.

So yea, I miss space.

The rest of the day was a quiet one, and I think I'll start drinking green tea instead of coffee, since I'm feeling a soreness in my throat on and off, and my job does require a fair bit of talking. And to finish, let me say I got my first celebrity comparison from Kanako of FID: "you look like Bruce Willis." HAH!

P.S. I used the word throng 3 times in this entry.

"I've got music and I've got friends, both always by my side. Convictions instilled in me, this is what keeps me alive" - Terror