Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My first concert in Japan

I had a concert today! Pretty awesome. Good times. Good songs.

David Cook's cover of Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby"
Mr. Big's "To Be With You"
Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here"

...followed by a mini-encore of "London Bridge," a fan favorite.

Word of the Day: ライブ 「らいぶ」 "raibu," or "live," as in a "live concert" or "live performance." A concert is typically referred to as a "live."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Break

Well, today is the first day of 春休み 「はるやすみ」 "haruyasumi" or "Spring Break." When us Westerners think of Spring Break, we imagine a week-long vacation in March (or April for high school, I guess?) where people like to travel and whatnot. Well, in Japan, Spring Break is actually between semesters. Or rather, it is between school years. Japan's semesters are split up into trimesters (didn't I explain this in a post last year or before?); from April - July, August - December, and January - March. The break between the first and second semester is actually longer than the break between school years. No idea why. Also, no idea why the school year is split up into three three trimesters with a different number of school days.

Something that is rather annoying is that "Spring Break" really isn't a break at all. Students still come to school for club activities. And all of the clubs are managed by the teachers, so they come, too (though sometimes external coaches are hired to assist with the training). Something I find pretty cool is that some of the kids who graduated come back and assist with the training during this time, too. I think it's for the sake of training the new Team Captains. A passing of the torch and showing of the ropes.

Anyway, back to the annoying part. So most if not all of the teachers show up to work. (The assistant teachers don't, though.) But there are no classes. So what the hell are all the teachers doing all day? Granted, there surely is work to be done; finishing up anything from the past school year like grading and such, or preparing for the upcoming school year. But in case you didn't know, there is kind of a running joke that all Japanese teachers seem to be in on; and that is the art of pretending to be busy. "Working." Us ALTs are masters at "working," though we aren't as good at hiding it. It becomes blatantly obvious when we laugh at a friend's facebook comment or a message on Skype. But that's okay. No one cares. 'Cause they're "working" via other methods.

Today, I brought my newly acquired acoustic guitar to school. I played a little bit to show a student a few chords, and a few hours later, students were asking me to play. Guess word got out. The guitar is great; I bought it from a friend for a very reasonable price. And he's an excellent guitarist, so I trust his judgment on having bought the guitar in the first place.

I intend to bring the guitar again tomorrow. I think the English Teacher and I will jam. I look forward to it. This is my way of turning the boredom of "Spring Break" into something productive!

Word of the Day: 退屈 「たいくつ」 "taikutsu," which means "boredom" or "tedium." It can be used to express one's boredom. A related word is 詰まらない 「つまらない」 "tsumaranai," which means "boring."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring is here! Or is it?

Yesterday was 春分の日, also known as the Vernal Equinox. It is the day that marks Spring as having officially arrived. (But in Japan, there was some other day earlier this year that supposedly signified that. I call BS.) For those of you in the US, today is the Vernal Equinox. According to my brother, it's "hot as balls" over there, whereas over here it is pretty damn cold. I woke up this morning to a couple inches of snow on the ground! An annoying surprise. Thankfully, the sun came out a bit and melted some of the snow. Hopefully it'll melt further; slush isn't very safe.

This weekend was pretty nice, pretty busy. I went to the movies on Saturday and saw Time (In Time?). It wasn't groundbreaking, or even great, but I enjoyed it. And it was interesting seeing Justin Timberlake in an almost-action-star role. The few scenes where he gets into a scuffle were cool; but they didn't make too much sense for the character. Why would someone like him be so skilled at taking out multiple guys with weapons? 'Cause he grew up in the ghetto? Eh, I don't buy it. But that's just me nit-picking; those scenes made the movie more exciting.

The movie had a theme of valuing time; not just as their form of currency (tangible value), but also how you make use of what little time you have left. The underlying theme was about class warfare; the 1% benefiting from the expense of the 99%, if you will. "For a few to be immortal, many must die." The movie really made me think about how I've been spending my time, and how I want to spend my time. This brings me to a new hobby:

I just bought an electric guitar! Actually, I got it a few months ago, but I haven't updated my blog in a while, so as far as you guys know, I just got it. It was mad cheap, so it doesn't have the best sound (same can be said with the amp), but it will do for now. I've been learning chords and some simple songs. Eventually, when I get better, I want to replace it with a higher-quality guitar. Perhaps I'll just pick up a decent acoustic guitar rather than replace my electric. That way, I'll have the option to switch between guitars as I switch between playing various genres of music.

Speaking of music, I went to a concert on Sunday! It was a benefit concert for Northeastern Japan. I got to see Monkey Majik perform 6 songs on stage! 5 of which I knew! Monkey Majik is a band based in Sendai (just an hour away!) whose four members are composed of two Japanese guys and two Canadian guys (brothers). One of the Canadian guys was once an ALT, just like I am. After he ended his English teaching job, he started Monkey Majik. After some changing of band members and the introduction of his brother, the band has risen to great success. At the concert, they were the first band to play after the opening act; they got great response (they're arguably one of the most popular musicians in the region).

After Monkey Majik was 西野カナ (Nishino Kana). She is an up and coming pop star; my students bought her album last year when it was released. Mad cute and really popular. Her songs were decent, but I hadn't listened to her before, so I can't say too much. Except that her backup dancers were hottttttt.

There was another guest after her. Naoto something. Some weird name. Really quirky guy. His facial hair/appearance really throws you off for what his personality and singing style would be; basically picture Brad Pitt's character from Fight Club singing like Justin Bieber. Just didn't make sense.

After him was Ai (stylized AI or A.I.), who is a quarter Italian, was born in LA. Really cool, and great artist. I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of what her genre of music was; her poster gave an impression of dance pop (like Koda Kumi), but it was actually hip-hop and R&B. Again, awesome backup dancers; but this time doing hip-hop rather than pop-style dancing.

The equinoxes are holidays in Japan. So, on my day off, I drove an hour and a half to visit a friend, with guitar in tow. He's got mad skill, so he showed me some sweet tricks and techniques that I will be trying out. It was really fun jamming with him, and I got a great idea for a music video project that I want him and another friend to help me with. We grabbed some ramen for lunch and some tapas with two more friends that night. It was too bad that we all have work today, otherwise we could have enjoyed the wine and drink selection. A little pricey, but definitely a good date spot. If only people didn't smoke in places where food was served.

Word of the Day: 異常気象 「いじょうきしょう」 "ijou kishou," which means "abnormal weather."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster

Hi everyone. It's been quite a while since I published anything on here. And at one point, I wanted to tell my earthquake story. I finally wrote it, and it will be published in a Kutztown newspaper this Thursday. You can read it online here.

Please take a moment of silence today, at 2:46 PM.

Word of the Day: 回復 「かいふく」 "kaifuku," which means "recovery."