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


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Home, home on the strange

Details, they can wait. You want to know what it was like to come back home? First, it was bewildering. Everything was bigger, people were louder (and statistically physically bigger as well), ethnic diversity exponentially increased, attitudes and cultures changed around me in a space of 14 hours. Instead of greeting me with a smile and a bow, I get a bored stair and almost no verbal response from the cashier when I go to buy a drink. Walking into Newark Airport this December is surely an experience I will never forget. After being disoriented the first night, I went through a quick "honeymoon stage:" two days of elation followed by a huge drop into confusion. Why did I leave, why did I come back? After about 5 days I was on an even keel again, once again acclimated to my home country. Do these symptoms sound familiar? They happened once before, and that's when I first found myself in Japan.

Culture shock, or in this case counter-culture shock, is real. I can say this having experienced it from both sides myself. I liken it to waking up every day to an alarm clock. When you look at the alarm clock's lights, making up its digital display, each is red, except one which is yellow. This repeats for a long time. Then one day, to your astonishment, all lights are yellow except one which is now red! Logically you can make sense out of it, but your brain has trouble reacting to this kind of immense change all at once. Take that feeling and times it by a zillion, and you have culture shock. Maybe that's why, (excluding safety and tradition) people used to live in the same towns their entire lives, live and die there as would their children and their children's children. The world has certainly changed since 1000 years before I was born.

Details, details. There is a lot to say. You word hungry blog-readers will be satisfied soon if you are interested in a detailed account of what I did with my Christmas Vacation. To summarize for the present, it was great. I've seen my hometown with new eyes, and can go back to Japan with much better perspective than I had. It was amazing seeing my friends and family after what felt like a very long absence. I missed authentic New York-style Pizza. Now the clock is ticking down, only mere days remain until I'll be thrown right back into the Tokyo Rat Race. I have a six-day work week to look forward to, starting 24 hours after I land. Should be fun. I'll make time to write too.

New Years Resolutions? Set higher goals for physical fitness, acquire some kind of extra work using Japanese with the credentials I think I'm getting from the test I think I passed (by the skin of my teeth).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Secrets of time

or should I say secrets and time? We live our lives based on the clock, yielding to father time's inexhaustible might. I now hold several secrets that would make for exquisite blogging material, yet can't let out the spoilers for fear of those who may read before Christmas. Looks like this post will be shrouded in mystery.

Remember that test, the one I was studying for for, oh I dunno about 6 months and stressing over for so long? I think I passed it. I have a hunch anyway, and if I failed it then it had to be by an obscenely minute margin. So I must have passed. Yes. Nothing to do but try to forget about it anyway, I won't get the results until mid-February. =/

I also need to send a letter in this week to make sure that the JLPT Association doesn't make out any certification to Benjamin. Le Roy Belcher. Yes, they put a period in my name. Yes, I probably accidentally made a mark when filling out the application form. Yes, it's a pain and a hassle, especially when I'm so busy! Packing, banging out a last week of work, blah blah grumble grumble...

4 days from now I'll be somewhere in the sky. That's a strangely reassuring thought. There's a new movie coming out which I may see when I'm back home called "Up in the Air" which deals with the idea of living in the surreal world of flying, where we are truly alone with ourselves and a hundred other strangers. People get really reflect during these kinds of travels, I for one have undoubtedly always enjoyed them. Sometimes more than when I get to the destination itself, but that won't be this time of course.

My bag is full of things that should make people I know smile. I bounce between vehement anti-capitalist and completely giving in to the beast, as I abstain from unnecessary shopping most of the year but fall into a vicious cycle during Christmas. And I like to give people presents, better to give than receive and all that stuff. It's more fun this year than any other, since I live in a place with tons of cool albeit expensive stuff, and I have the best paying job in the history of my life.

Oh and I'm getting my right thigh tattooed, probably take 5 or 6 hours. Ouch much? But dang it will be awesome in the end. Oh yes. The onsen's (hot springs) will be putting up my picture saying don't let this guy in under penalty of blank stares.

Bruce Belcher memorial fund is HAPPENING, attention NY people:

I hope for a good turnout to raise lots of money for the cause (you can learn more at and if facebook doesn't lie than there should be at least 40 people there. Hip hip hooray!

Maybe my last entry before I get back home.

Hello vacation.

Monday, December 7, 2009


"Nightflesh," the first song me and the band created together (along with my good friend Ian who helped formulate this little ditty) being performed live for the first time ever at Studio UEN, Nishi-Ogikubo. Big thanks to bands and friends who supported the show, if only this was every weekend:

Tokyo people: January 17th, Shindaita @ Shindaita fever, crazy show with a lot of awesome bands, mine included. Come out, say hi, admit to lurking on my blog when you're bored and hang out!


OPEN 15:30 / START 16:00
ADV ¥2500 (+1drink) / DOOR ¥2800 (+1drink)


Saturday, December 5, 2009

I forgot the dramatic countdown!

You know, like I did over a year ago when I was building up to leaving Japan:

Days remaining until departure: 8.

Or something like

Time left on until I reach the land of Gold and Hamburgers: 8.

Or perhaps

Time left on this weird-ass island in 2009: 194.6 hours

Shucks. Well I'm heading home a week from tomorrow for a much needed Christmas vacation, and regardless of the lack of suspenseful blog buildup, it's been a real life climb to say the least. JLPT2 tomorrow. No way I'm ready, but I'm as ready as I can be. I learned a lot in 10 months, time to put it to the test! 発展できるぞ hatten dekiruzo (Time to strut my stuff/show 'em what I got)

I should be studying RIGHT NOW. And I'm getting up at 7am tomorrow, not looking forward to that. I've heard all kinds of impractical theories in regards to passing from my Japanese friends: wearing a "lucky mask" (whatever that may be), carrying this study/luck/pass charm my teacher gave me on the day of the test, or even eating a かつ katsu (pork cutlet) sandwich because pork cutlet and win have the same pronunciation in Japanese.

Me, I don't believe in luck. I believe in the undeniable power of the self.

And after the test, It's a end of year nabe (delicious stewed pot of goodness) celebration with my friend in F.I.D.! In Japan the end of the year party, or 忘年会 bounenkai is all about drinking your troubles away. The characters literally mean "forget-year-party." Also going to be a busy weekend, Monday is my last lesson of the year, and I've decided to meet my Chinese teacher on top of it since we haven't met in over a month due to this JLPT nonsense.

Ok, times up!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Into the void

You ever seen the movie Spaceballs? The part where Rick Moranis (a.k.a. Darth Helmet) says "Light Speed is too slow." And they crank this switch from light speed, to ridiculous speed, to ludicrous speed. That's how I feel right now. There shouldn't be stars flying by me at all angles, there should be streaks of plaid to do justice to the absurdity of the world around me.

People talk about the love/hate cycle expatriates experience in foreign countries. I've talked about this before, but I swear some switch in my brain is flipping between love and hate and it's gradually built up to the point of happening several times a day:

I love Japan.
I hate Japan.
I think Japanese people are cute and adorable.
I want to throw said people out of the nearest window because of their overwhelming indirectness and insincere politeness.
I love your Osaka-sense of humor.
Unless I have a piece of broccoli the size of Utah sticking out of my teeth, you have no good reason to stare so hard at me.
Your food is delicious and most of your women aren't obese here, awesome!
Texting and riding a bicycle while holding an umbrella with your two children while none of you wear helmets on a busy street might just be a teeny weeny tiny bit STUPID don't you think?

And so on.

This is all do to the insanity I willingly put myself into, and I love it. Keeps things interesting. Speaking of insanity, first show with the band/first show in Tokyo happened last Sunday. I know I haven't posted pictures here in ages, but I'm on my last legs tonight and don't feel like sorting through them and posting them. They'll be on the band site soon enough, and let's just say they are pretty righteous. I got to see grindcore legend Kurupino with her frog-puppet doing a solo S&M-style set with only a tom drum, a symbol and a mic stand. You really had to be there. Million Dollar Boys are also the best Tokyo band you never heard of, and the co-headlining band almost stole the show from us... well, they did in terms of streaking and ridiculousness anyway. CxPxSx donned their masks, make-up, underwear and little else and played a lewd set in the vein of "bad luck 13 riot extravaganza." I saw the soundguy grab the singer by the throat after he started hanging off of the lighting equipment, other than that it was just a lot of good clean fun.... well, as clean as it can get with a bunch of crazy Japanese grind-heads taking off their clothes and running into people while playing their instruments. One of my students even came out to see my band (the one I saw play in Shibuya last weekend) and he said the set was "pretty awesome."

All in all it was 大成功 "Daiseiko" - a great success. My fingers felt stiff at first but after the first few songs I knew the energy and high of the live show once again, such as I hadn't experienced for over a year... and what an addiction it is. I couldn't have pictured it going much better, except that my guitar got knocked out of tune for a bit. Might consider changing string brand/type, or going back to using 7-string sets on a 6 string guitar (since I play in B anyway).

The next day I took 4 hours of Japanese lessons (cramming my groups and privates together because I was busy with job training later in the week), which as you can imagine is pretty tiresome. I feel good though, and ready to put to kick this stupid test in the ass and bury it in the past. I'm obsessing about it way too much, I know, but as of writing this it's only about 60 hours away!! I should be studying right now... which is what I will go to, but first...

I taught my private students after class and doing some serious xmas shopping for my friends back home, and got this really cool, giant, most likely genetically-modified apple from Fukushima (north of Tokyo), along with a Fukushima-specific Chopper keychain. Pretty cool. I also discovered - since these ladies are completely Dog/Disney-obsessed - that Lady and the tramp is called ワンワンの物語 "wan wan no monogatari" in Japanese, the literal equivalent of "The Bark Bark story." Who knew?

Now I really have to hit the kanji book. Until I go to bed. I'm not even bringing my D.S. with me on the train until this thing is over with. Now if only I could pry myself away from this laptop!! Make it 3 days from now already!

Oh, and thanks to the people who responded to the last post, I really appreciate your feedback!

"I am extraordinary, I am I am"
- Blacklisted

"We've all been tricked into loving some fool, not a person alive who hasn't wasted time"
- End of a Year