Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Oh, Thanksgiving. So, poor planning resulted in a small two-person fun-fest what was supposed to be a 4-5 person pot luck. To be honest, it was probably better off as a two-person fun-fest; mainly because the two of us couldn't cook very well. Nor did we have anything prepared 'til late at night, so if there were any other guests present, they'd probably be pretty pissed off.

So, my buddy John invited me and a few other ALTs to his place the weekend after Thanksgiving for some festivities. He ordered a hefty amount of turkey meat that we would cook (bake?) and we had planned to hit up the supermarket for ingredients for other Thanksgiving dishes: mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn-on-the-cob. The image in our minds was a grand feast.

Instead, we got a grand laugh.

First off, the turkey meat we had, while very little compared to a normal turkey, was still pretty damn huge for the two of us. He ordered enough meat for 5 people; heavy helpings each (so more like 8-10 people). So with just the two of us, we decided to use a little less than half of the meat. Well, with a big hunk of meat and no oven, how were we supposed to cook it? Oh, right, with the microwave.

So, the fascinating thing about Japanese microwaves is that they are part microwave and part oven. I don't really know how the oven part works; maybe just like any other oven? I imagine the microwave parts would get destroyed with that sort of heat. But apparently not, 'cause that's what it was designed to do. So yeah, we used the microwave as an oven. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, so we used our best judgment and thought things out. The turkey turned out well cooked; not burned, but a bit dry. But at least it wasn't raw. Objective completed!

At the supermarket, it was surprisingly difficult to find certain ingredients. Like corn. Eventually we found it...frozen... and not on the cob. John was disappointed. He was looking forward to it quite a bit. We bought the frozen corn anyway, but didn't end up eating it 'cause we were stuffed from the other dishes.

John made the mashed potatoes and I made the stuffing. And DAMN was it good! We didn't have any stock for the stuffing, so John suggested using the soup from a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. What a wonderful suggestion, 'cause it tasted damn awesome. I just wish I cut the bread cubes and celery bits a little smaller. The mashed potatoes turned out pretty well, too! But what didn't was the gravy.

We had never made gravy ourselves before, so we scoured the internet for some recipes. The main idea was to use the turkey runoff as the base for the gravy, add some salt and spices to flavor it, and add flour to thicken it up. Weeelllll, we added too much flour, so it basically tasted like uncooked pancake batter. So, after using some of the gravy for the turkey, we cooked the batter and made a "gravy pancake."

We also decided to make Yaki-Campbells. It's like Yakisoba, but instead of frying soba noodles, we fried the remaining contents of the can of chicken noodle soup. Nice. What a feast.

Word of the day: 感謝祭 「かんしゃさい」 "kanshasai," which means "Thanksgiving (Day)."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fall Leaves

The leaves in autumn
Fall ever so gracefully.
A beautiful sight.


So, the leaves have been gradually changing over the past month. It starts in northern Japan, and sweeps the country towards the south, like a shock wave. This means that the leaves changed color up here before Kyoto. That also means that I had the opportunity to see beautiful mountainside views of the leaves up here, then to travel down to Kyoto and see them again! So I did. I took so many pictures! I will post some up here for you all to enjoy. Actually, I went to three different sites. The first was after the Fall Festival, a few weeks ago. Then after that, (a week or two later), I went to Naruko with Shoe to check out the leaves there. Gorgeous. Then this past weekend, I went to Kyoto again! My girlfriend and I visited Arashi Yama (literally, "Storm Mountain") and saw the beautiful leaves, next to the beautiful river, with beautiful geisha tending to their clients. It was quite a beautiful weekend.

My girlfriend and I were both recovering from a cough/cold, so we couldn't do too much, but we still explored and did everything we could. Some fun activities include:

1) Going to a ninja themed restaurant!
2) Participating in tea ceremony!
3) Eating awesome delicious huge fresh sushi with an old college buddy!
4) Winning Evangelion figurines from an impossibly difficult UFO catcher with said buddy! (Actually he did all the work, haha.)
5) Watching a master flower arranger arrange flowers!
6) Watching a kyougen play! (old-style comedy play)
7) Watching a dance performed by two beautiful geiko!
8) Watching a bunraku (puppet) performance!

It was definitely my most event-filled trip to Kyoto thus far. I will try to post pictures...somehow. Can't do it right now, 'cause this computer I'm using at work is just too old for that!

Word of the day: 美しい 「うつくしい」 "utsukushii," which means "beautiful."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ninja Post

I have lots of news! Well, not lots, actually. Just a little. And as per usual, I shall write things in reverse chronological order. And in a numbered outline format. 'Cause it's annoying. :-)

1) I got my reappointment contract today. It's due on February 4th, but my supervisor (Supes) asked that I decide by January 20th. Way to make a difficult decision even more difficult. >_<

2) I am in the Osaki City newspaper! Osaki is the large city north of me; it's not actually a "city" per se; more like a district or county. 'Cause there are many towns and an actual city in Osaki. But yeah, a photographer came one day after I was teaching the Kindergarten class, and the other teachers told me to join in the picture! So I did! I'll try to take a picture of it and post it up, if I can.

3) It is cold. Like, really cold. It was 3°C this morning. BRRRRR!!! It sucks. I miss insulation badly. My heaters heat really well, and I thought I got used to the smell, but I was wrong. Well, I should put it this way; when the heaters are running, it smells fine. But when the heaters are either starting or stopping, they ventilate themselves, so the fumes get all spread out. It's especially annoying when I turn off my bedroom heater before I go to sleep.

4) There are a bunch of games that have been released (or are coming out soon) that I really want to buy. But they're hard to get, 'cause I have to import them from the US. But that means I have to buy a PS3. And that also means I have to connect it to my SDTV. Which finally means I have to find the time to play it.

5) I have a hard enough time finding the motivation to study, let alone properly manage my schedule. Well, I've been keeping up with all of my normal responsibilities; just not studying Japanese. Maybe it's because of how the text book is set up? You know: really annoyingly.

6) So, my car broke down the other day. Well, not exactly. But over the past two or three weeks, it had been giving me a slight bit of trouble. It wouldn't start right away; I would turn the key, and the engine would chug a couple times before it started. It was a sign that I needed a new battery. So I asked my friends about it that weekend; how to go about getting a new battery, and possibly an oil change. I had a feeling the oil needed to be changed. Well, one day, I was driving towards a convenience store about 3 kilometers south. When I got to about 2.5, I noticed the car started acting funny; something felt weird. Well, when I pulled into the parking lot, the car was slowly choking, and finally it just DIED, two feet before I was completely in the spot. So, I put it in park, pulled the handbrake, and stepped outside. I had a feeling something was wrong with the oil. I don't know how I knew this, but I knew I had to check it. So I went inside, bought a towel to use as a rag, some work gloves, and some food (which was my original intent). I went back outside to my car, popped the hood, and began the procedures. When I checked the dipstick for the oil level, my heart dropped. There was barely enough oil to touch the dip stick, let alone the minimum level that should be in the car. So, I had to fill it up. Thankfully, my predecessor left a container of engine oil in the trunk, in case something like this should happen (Thank you!); I guess it was foreseen? Or it happened before? Anyway, I was trying to open the container. For about five minutes. No matter how I turned the cap, it wouldn't open. Finally, I mustered up the courage to ask a passersby. The guy was like, "Here, do this," and he touched the cap. With a *pop!* it magically opened. Feeling like an idiot, I thanked him and took it back. I emptied the container, and filled the oil up so that it was right in the middle of the appropriate level according to the dipstick. It really must have been foreseen. So, after letting the car run for a few minutes, the engine sounded normal again, and I drove safely home.

7) One day, I couldn't even start my car. "Dammit! Effin' battery!" I shouted. I stepped out of the car, bowed to a neighbor as he was throwing out the trash, and said, "My car won't..." I couldn't think of how to say it, so I went Filipino-style, "My car won't open." He asked, "Is it locked? Did you use your key?" And I was showing him that it wouldn't start. I demonstrated. We agreed that it was the battery. So, he waved to a guy in a truck that was driving by. They looked like old friends; the first guy told the truck guy what the problem was, so the truck guy drove off to find the jumper cables. Eventually, he came back, and my neighbor helped me get my car started. Having arrived at work a couple minutes late (I called as soon as I couldn't start my car), I explained the situation, and one of my JTE's called his mechanic to come in and change out the battery. That day. In the school parking lot. What nice guys! And what great service!

8) Kyoto soon. :-)

Word of the day: 面倒くさい 「めんどうくさい」 "mendou-kusai," which means "troublesome" or "annoying." I added the hyphen because it is actually a root word, mendou, which itself means "an annoyance" or "a troublesome (thing)," and "kusai," which means "reeks of". "Kusai" can be used to say, "smelly" or "stinky." Like, "Gross, man, that stinks! くさい!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Remember, Remember

So, it's November. I won't be the guy who posts the Guy Fawkes Night rhyme here because he thinks it's cool just 'cause he saw it in V for Vendetta. No. Not me. Instead, I'll link it here. And for the sake of battling ignorance, I want to point out that it is a national holiday in Great Britain because Guy Fawkes (and his crew) FAILED. Just keep that in mind next time you're cosplaying as V. :-)

So, speaking of cosplaying, I wish I had some sort of costume for Halloween. I mean, I dressed up as this on Halloween night, but I couldn't go trick-or-treating with it, haha.

The night before, I was invited to a dinner/drinking party (nomihodai) with a friend I met through JET and her friends who live in Sendai. It was nice meeting and greeting a new crew, but I felt completely underdressed. She failed to tell me that it was a costume party until I was on the bus! Oh well. I had my new hat on me, so I just said I was Michael Jackson. If I had a vest, I could have gone as Daichi Miura! Oh well...

Speaking of which, I'm trying to learn this song and the corresponding dance for the next time I do karaoke. It's called "The Answer."

And speaking of dancing, a new gaming peripheral for the Xbox 360 was released called the Kinect. It's a pretty remarkable piece of hardware. It's basically a camera with three separate lenses (or rather, three separate cameras), with the technology to track your every movement and apply them to the game. So essentially, the Kinect takes the best parts of the Nintendo Wii controller and the Sony Playstation Eye and puts them together. No need to hold anything (like the Wiimote) because it uses a camera (like the Eye), but the player's movements and actions control the game like a normal hand-held controller. For example, if you're playing a tennis game, just swing your arm as if you were holding a tennis racket, and the game will register the swing. Badabing, no more need for a controller! Now clearly, this sort of setup only allows for very specific types of games, but the possibilities are nigh endless. Just no fighting games...or RPGs... But yeah, check out this sweet dance video, courtesy of Justin from The Rumble Pack!

So these past two weeks have been pretty standard fare. The usual schedule; nothing really crazy. A lady from the Community Center came to me today to discuss a little of the eikaiwa; but it hasn't been decided yet when it's actually going to start. She just mentioned some things like holiday activities.

Oh, another thing I wanted to mention was that today was the last day of Judo for my students. I was sad to hear that because I wanted to join my 3rd Year Homeroom 1 class for one of their classes. I had actually helped a couple times before by showing them how to roll properly. Well, the 3-1 class had their final Judo practice last Friday. So I was invited to the final Judo class for the whole school. It was today, with the 3rd Year Homeroom 2 class. Ohhh boy was that fun!

I had matches with three students, two of whom are taller than me, and the other is my height. One of the kids is actually the tallest person in the school; probably the entire town! So, I used his height to my advantage and did my favorite throw: morote seoinage, which is an over-the-shoulder throw. That technique won me the match. Against the first kid, I used an ogoshi, in which I throw the opponent over my hip by grabbing his neck with my arm and pulling him over. Against the third kid, the one who was my height (maybe shorter), I did a similar throw, but instead of having my arm around his neck, it was around his back (under his arm, rather than over it). Again, it won me the match. What was amusing was watching them struggle trying to throw me for the first 60 seconds. I let them waste energy. :-) The only problem with all of this is that afterward, my lower back was sore from all of the twisting and using muscles that haven't been used in so long!

Lastly, I'll mention that my next post will be about the Aki Matsuri this past Sunday and the subsequent scenery-viewing. I'll post some nice pictures. ^_^

Anyway, time to hit the sack.

Word of the day: 踊る 「おどる」 "odoru," which means "to dance." Well, it means "I/he/she/you/it/they dance(s)". 踊り 「おどり」 "odori" is "a dance."