Tuesday, 30 December 2008

PostHeaderIcon Elephants

Hello. My health has returned and Joey and I have been doing loads of stuff here. Yesterday we went on elephants, checked out some Buddha caves and drank some local whisky (Lao Lao) at a villiage. Today we got up and chilled by a river before visiting/swimming in a waterfall and kayaking a few miles down the river. Just between us... I had to do all the rowing. We're heading down to the capital tomorrow for New Year's Eve. Now we're off to this great restaurant to have Beerlao and dinner.
Sunday, 28 December 2008

PostHeaderIcon Luang Prabang

We arrived in a really nice town yesterday evening in northern Laos. It's a World Heritage site or something and looks very French whilst having Buddhist temples scattered about. It was a 6 hour drive through the mountains which were really beautiful during the day. Some parts looked like Scotland but others were just a lot more.... extreme. I liked the drive but the endless days of dying in Vang Vieng meant I was up last night being sick again. I started to get a bit down about it because the last 4 days have been miserable and I don't have the energy or motivation to do all the stuff here. Joey has been alright with it but I'm constantly feeling guilty that I'm buggering up the plans. That said... I don't think we're sure what kind of holiday we actually want. We keep alternating between backpacking and throwing away money whilst I've been pretty much sober and was disgusted with 18-30 English moron crowd that I saw in Vang Vieng. Yesterday we had a new plan to carry on north to China and make our way down to Hong Kong to catch the second part of our flight but the Visa looks impossible. Who knows what we'll do. It's still going well and I've tried to be positive but maybe I've been feeling a lot more sick than I've been letting on... which is saying something since I complain a lot. I'm going to go buy a new tshirt and a razor and then I'll probably pass out. Ill ill ill. Bye
Friday, 26 December 2008

PostHeaderIcon Merry Boxing Day


Hello. I had brutal food poisioning last night and feel a little fragile. This is the day after I got sun stroke and passed out at like 7pm. I'm always sick on Christmas boo woo woo. I think Joey is starting to resent me a little bit... he's going to attack me soon. Still, here's the view from our window the other day.
Sunday, 21 December 2008

PostHeaderIcon Bangkok

Hello. I've been in Thailand for 1-2 days now. Bangkok is interesting but it's nothing I haven't seen before in other countries to be honest. It is quite unusual/disgusting to see 50 year old fat men walking about with young Thai women though. I've been enjoying the amazing food that seems to be available on every street. That has been the highlight so far along with the nice, comfortable weather and variety of food/drink that a holiday offers. Bloody Japan and their dull and monotonous bloody crap.

Anyway, my mate Joey is in the room probably having a bit of an adverse reaction to all the food he's stuffed in his face today. We just met up with some girls from Kochi for dinner and we're off to Laos tomorrow afternoon. A 12 hour train ride through the night.... woohoo.

Cheerio
Monday, 8 December 2008

PostHeaderIcon Wakatta

Good evening blog. I'm in an alright mood today and can't be bothered going to bed just yet. I bought £7 worth of beef tonight and ate it all up with a nice Corona. Then I had a nice cup of tea with some Cadbury's chocolate. I'm like a king really. Recessions? Unemployment? Nah... I have steak and beer for my Monday night dinner. Cheers.

I began studying for my Japanese test held yesterday by getting drunk up in Umaji on Friday night. There was this chopstick game where you need to guess how many the other guy is holding... I didn't actually understand it. Anyway, they gave us free beer because we were foreign and then gave us massive bottles of sake to take away. I continued this trend on Saturday by moaning about being ill and watching Father Ted until returning home to study at about 9pm. I then woke up at 5am to drive Joey, Peter and I to Takamatsu for our tests. Kochi is too crap to get its own test centre so we had the joy of travelling really far just to fail miserably. We had to borrow Noah's car because our own ones might fall apart on the motorways. It was actually a really nice drive there and back. There was loads of snow on the mountains in the middle of Kochi and we saw the sunset on the return leg. I absolutely destroyed the kanji part of the test but stumbled miserably on the grammar (it's worth about half).

I was having lunch today at junior high school today and caught out some students giving me a bit of cheek in Japanese:

The conversation today went as follows:

Girl 1: This chicken is delicious!
Girl 2: I know I know!

Girl 1: Hanta ate all his school lunch for once!
Girl 3: Oh yeah! I think foreigners like chicken.

Me: chuckle chuckle

Girl 2: eeeeeeh did he just understand?
Girl 3: No! Hanta never understands!

Me: chuckle chuckle

Girl 2: He did he did!
Girl 3: Hanta... do you understand?

Me: Uh-uh

All: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhh

That last bit is the exact sound Japanese people make when they are mildy shocked at something. It's also the same reason I don't really watch the television here.

Anyway.... what else. Yes, my holiday is coming up very fast. I'm feeling a bit unprepared but I think it's going to be really good. I'm not actually that interested in the South Asian countries but I thought I might as well do it since I'm here. I just hope I can avoid middle aged sex tourists, getting shot in a Thai revolution and/or dying of malaria.... in a ditch.... covered in stereotypes and cliches of the country I'm in. Here's a random picture:

Thursday, 4 December 2008

PostHeaderIcon Study study study

Hello. I am studying very hard at work this morning. I should really be planning for school later today but I don't actually care. They've decided that they can't be bothered team teaching anymore so I've got to do all the old stuff I used to. Only now... I don't care and want to study Japanese for my weekend test.

Anyway, I decided to write this blog to complain about my 'supervisor' again. He isn't playing with his spinning tops at work today but he's still annoying me. He's been standing at the photocopier for about 2 minutes whilst it has been beeping incessantly. He hasn't even tried to push a button... he's just standing there looking like a lost child in the supermarket. He moves with the grace of a sweaty octopus trying to unhook a bra. Alright... I stole that from somewhere but it's so fitting that I can't get it out of my head every time that I look at him.

Supervisor indeed.... I'm pretty sure his mum still lays his clothes out on his bed. His only duties this month are to pass on two sheets of paper to Noah and I. We haven't got either of them yet and even if I asked him now he would pass out with confusion as to what I meant.

In other news... I managed to read this off a blackboard yesterday. 食料品工業. It means the food industry or something. Woohoo. Here's a picture of me at Miyajima to add some colour. It's the famous shinto tori gate out in the water. It was very nice.

Friday, 28 November 2008

PostHeaderIcon Danke

I just translated a letter from German into English for one of my adult students. Their daughter lives in Frankfurt so her fiance's mother sent her a thank you note. They think I'm amazing but I pretty much just used a dictionary for every third word. Still... it brought home to me how easy it is for a native English speaker to learn something like German or French. I could glance over the letter and get the basic idea of most of it. If someone presented me with the same letter in Japanese then it would take me all morning to get to that same level. I will never even begin to master Japanese. Anyway, here's the letter for you nosey lot:

Dear Junko,

Many, many thanks for all the nice things which Sachiko has given to me from you. When I opened them I felt as happy as a small child. Also, thank you for the exercise book. I can use it well. I will continue to study Japanese this autumn. I don't know much at the moment. Although I would like to practice what I have learned.

I hope you are well.

Greetings of love to you, your parents and your brother.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008

PostHeaderIcon Bloody Thailand

It looks like they're having a bit of political instability over there just now. Just in time for the airports to close and for me to get blown up in a revolution in about 3 weeks. I don't even want to go to Thailand but I need to fly to Bangkok so I can get up to Laos. Hopefully that'll work out or I'll lose lovely yen and will need to stay in Japan.

Did you like the painting of me? Every time I see it I am taken by surprise and slightly freaked.
Also, I saw the kanji for 'slave' today and the first part of it has the kanji for woman in it: 奴隷
Tuesday, 25 November 2008

PostHeaderIcon Tano Town's Popular People

All foreigners have blue eyes remember

I was having a peek in the exhibition hall at work last week. As I walking along I noticed a painting that looked a little out of place amongst all the Japanese portraits. On closer inspection I realised it was actually of Noah and I. After laughing for ages I suddenly started to get creeped out by the possibility of some mad stalker. No worries... it turns out it was drawn by one of the nice local mothers who speaks English. The sign underneath it called us 人気者 or 'popular people'. It's so true. Noah's dodgy tache is my favourite.
Monday, 10 November 2008

PostHeaderIcon The last three months

I feel like I haven't really been updating my blog in my second year here. A lot of it is to do with the fact I don't have the internet at work now and I find a lot of my time taken up. Both of these are good things though so I'm not complaining. There is also an element of things repeating themselves so I have less wide-eyed enthusiasm to write about everything. I am still trying to figure out what I want to do next year but it's pretty hard. A third year in Japan looks really appealing some days but then I have bad weeks that make me think again. I had a really bad cold last Thursday and I was stuck at elementary school for hours. These annoying teachers just talked to me all day about really simple lessons and seemed to wonder why I didn't really care. One of them even said to me that I had "lost my genki power". Genki being the overused word for energy/health. That made me a bit sad but I (unusually) don't blame myself for that. I helped Noah with his Halloween party in Tano last week as well which was just as hectic as last year. It went well though and I think the kids do actually enjoy it.

Anyway, I thought I would quickly go over the last three months of my life. I've done an awful lot actually. One of the massive benefits of being on JET is that the money accumulates so easily. I have free rent, low bills, cheap/crappy car.... and it's pretty much tax free. It's actually a bit of an effort to try and spend it all... which I have achieved recently. Here's what have been doing:

August

Scotland: Back to the home country. Spending my time eating and trying to escape to the countryside away from Glasgow/East Kilbride.

Germany and France: 2 days in Berlin and 1 in Cologne. I basically ignored exhaustion by filling my days with vast sums of history/culture and then drinking amazing beer with strangers from around the globe (errr Manchester and Detroit). My favourite bits include sausages everywhere, the whole of East Berlin and dancing to terrible Eurotrash in some old factory/club.

Then there was a cheeky two days in Paris. I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as Berlin but it lived up to the cliche of being a beautiful city. I saw all the touristy things and that but my favourite bit was buying a really nice dinner and then walking about the streets after it. Also, I enjoy telling French people that I am Scottish and not English. My school French/German was pretty woeful and I kept trying to speak Japanese. I watched Amelie and Goodbye, Lenin when I came home and recognised all the places I had been. I think I want to study History in Berlin.

September/October

I went to see my two favourite bands (Radiohead and Sigur Ros) in Osaka over two weekends. Taking a plane of course... as you do. Despite being massive let downs... they were still excellent and show the extend of my financial freedom. Last weekend I went to Hiroshima and spent loads on booze, boats and other delicious events. We went to the famous red tori shine that sits out on the water. In between that have been weekends of things like barbeques, beach events, film festivals, English camps and other assorted cultural/drinking things.

December

I'm off to Thailand and Laos over Christmas and New Year with my friend Joey. That's about the extent of the plan so far. I think I need to get a tetanus jag. It's gonna be great.

So basically.... it's good to be young, free and have a fair bit of cash to mess about with. I'm always complaining about Japan and my job but I actually really like living here for the majority of the time. I feel a lot of what I do here makes up for the rather dull University life I had of being responsible and working away like an ejjit. I'll upload some pictures when later.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008

PostHeaderIcon Culture Day

"You mean you'd rather take advantage of your long weekend
and not spend it being surrounded by old people at a sports day?"
Wednesday, 29 October 2008

PostHeaderIcon Crunch

Everything is a crunch these days in the media. How are you affected by the CREDIT CRUNCH? Have you lost your house, job and family? Please get in contact and tell us your sad story. Today I've noticed that all the environmental people are trying to jump on this bandwaggon with some witty "Don't forget the CLIMATE CRUNCH". It seems people would rather add to the climate crunch to alleviate the pressure of the credit crunch. I'm going through my own crunch at the minute. The crunch being my beer belly stretching against the waistband of my work trousers. I've tried to pretend that my clothes are shrinking in the wash but we all know I'm in the CRUNCH.

Get tae crunch. Here's some Japaneasy stuff I've been doing:

Harvesting the rice with my 5th graders.

Lion Festival thingy down in Muroto

Muroto Camp. We were Team Yuzu (local citrus fruit). Our lion was called 二日酔い柚子or 'Hungover Yuzu'

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles night in Tano.

Sumo in Aki. These were the best wrestlers in the whole world. It did get a bit dull...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

PostHeaderIcon Weekend

Hello. I've had an exceptionally long and enjoyable weekend and I'm about to crash in bed. Anyway, I woke up this morning and in the midst of semi-drunk morning banter people started to talk about my blog. It made me paranoid and now I'm scared to write anything. Their names are David Ireland and Nishmita Bhamra.

Anyway... right... I was out drinking for the whole weekend. I went up to Osaka on Friday to see Sigur Ros. It was a massive let down like the Radiohead gig but I can't complain too much because the performances were solid. The Sigur Ros singer was actually pleading with the crowd at one point to do something. Yeah... so I drank from about 4pm-6am with a crowd of Irish JETs and then crashed in an internet cafe for a few hours. Then I flew back to Kochi... had a shower... and then went out drinking again for a Halloween party. I still managed to be in the last crowd because everyone else is boring and goes home at about 10pm in Japan.

Then today I met up with Noah and Joey and we went to the bowling/baseball and that was that. Cheers JET. I loves the money.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Fads

Japan is full of stupid people who believe what the television tells them. For example:

Host: Good evening. It's very cold recently, eh? Anyway, we have an EXPERT on the show tonight. Look how old and alpha male he is. Listen to him.

Expert: Good evening, Japan. I have come to the conclusion that washing your hair with orange juice will make you 10 years younger.

Result: Nobody can buy orange juice for 6 months.

The reality is that nobody can buy bananas now because of some new diet. Apparently eating a banana for breakfast is good for you. No kidding!!!!! It's a shame some of us thought of that last year and now can't buy them because a bunch of skinny sheep who think they're fat.

Good night.
Tuesday, 14 October 2008

PostHeaderIcon Part 2

Hello again. I thought I'd write a quick update regarding my redundancy from work... well... kind of. I've got the usual Tuesday night downer because it's dark, raining, work was frustrating and now I don't have enough time to eat before my English class tonight.

Noah and I just had a meeting with the annoying teacher which went alright I guess. Basically, they want to be the main teachers at elementary for practice or whatever. I think we both understand that and don't want to be childish about it. However, I kind of mentioned that I would have preferred a proper meeting last week rather than them just doing it. Furthermore... the two of us are getting fed up of doing nothing and getting little out our jobs. I think the most fitting thought is that we don't feel it's fair that they brought us over here and hardly use us. We signed up to JET and somehow we're made to feel guilty for doing less than others.

It's a shame because I'm actually starting to really enjoy life here recently. However, I don't think I can cope with the continual pattern of my mood throughout the week. I can imagine many people would love to get paid to do nothing but it can become pretty soul destroying. It also destroys any motivation and I don't feel I am gaining anything from my work recently. I had an excellent weekend down in Muroto that I'll talk about later. It was basically a whole weekend of hanging out with interested school kids, University students and cool Japanese organisers. It was nice to get some sort of interaction and satisfaction out of being here for once. It's a shame. Anyway, I'm off to my eikaiwa now. I hope for their sake they don't bug me.
Thursday, 9 October 2008

PostHeaderIcon Why am I here?

This is a question that clouded over my mind for most of today. I've basically had all control in the elementary classes taken away from me in a really sly and sneaky manner. I never had a meeting or any discussion to set out the new classes but instead had planned lessons thrown back in my face at the last minute. I stood in class today and had over a years worth of teaching and rapport ripped from my hands. She actually explained to the kids that I was just there to help occasionally now. All in Japanese... thinking I didn’t know.

My main problem is that nobody told me... they just decided to toss my lesson plans and tell me to talk occasionally. This makes my job almost totally redundant. I had made my own schedule at elementary and had the kids answering and questioning the following in a about 2 hours of lessons.

What is your name? My name is....
How old are you? I am 11.
Where do you come from? I come from japan
What fruit/sport/animal do you like? I like....
Do you have any brothers or sisters? I have....

All with perfect pronunciation. Now they’re back to drilling stationery words and listening to the teacher going shiiiissaarruss shiiiiiisarruuusss rruuuraaaaarrr rruurrraaaarrr peeennnshhhil

Idiots. No wonder this country’s English ability is complete shit. Ironically... I have the Japanese ability to tell them exactly what I think of their interference. Sadly... I live in a country where all sort of expression and discussion is totally blanked in favour of bottling up all rage. It's not so much the control or being the 'main' teacher either. I'm just fed up feeling guilty about how little work I actually do. I'm trying to decide what approach to take but I might just give up. I'm really not that bothered when I think it through.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008

PostHeaderIcon Things I never learn

It's about 2pm and I'm just out the shower. I played football with my 4th grade about 20 minutes ago and I sweated so much that I want to cry. To put things in perspective:

It's about 26oC outside
It's the hottest time of the day
I was dressed in black

Then as I was leaving to go shower and enjoy my break. "Oh Craig... we have a meeting in 30 minutes". That was news to me of course. I've already had 3 classes worth of meetings... what more joys await when about 3 teachers will interfere in my exceptionally basic English class?
Tuesday, 30 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Farewell to Capitalism.

It's strange how fast the whole world is falling apart over all this economic and financial woe. I've tried reading up on it but I'm not totally sure what is going on. All I remember from my revolutionary youth (I'm a bitter and deluded 22 year old now) is that Marx said that Communism would win in the end... in some form or another. Nah... it's just another recession and period of woe, isn't it? All thanks to a bunch of rich, city boys playing with money and a bunch of idiots borrowing way beyond their means. Is that right?

I watched some of the heads of those massive financial banks begging Congress to give them a cheeky lend of $700 billion. They were very nonchalant about the whole thing in my opinion. "Oh... we need $700 billion now or the country is going to hell. Erm... you might get some of it back. I won't even accept an increase in my salary this year! That's how committed I am."

The worldwide news is really focused on America these days it seems. I watched the Presidential debate on Saturday morning with a hangover and I was not impressed by either of them. By that I mean... I've been a fan of Obama for ages but I expected him to be a bit more informed on some things. I wanted him to deliver a 'knockout' blow on McCain as the media would say. McCain on the other hand... he came off alright considering he went absolutely mental the week before by suspending his campaign. I've found his whole campaign to be completely disgusting. I saw a youtube video of an advert the Republicans ran which pretty much called Obama a paedophile. The thing he actually approved was aimed to let children differentiate between affection/pat on the back and something more sinister.

Furthermore... I'm not even an American and I am completely appalled at the appointment of Sarah Palin as his running mate. It's not that she is totally inexperienced in all aspects but she is borderline clueless on very important issues. There is something worrying when you feel more intelligent and know more about the world/government/economy than a woman who could be President of America. Let's not kid ourselves either... I'd stick a bet on McCain dying in his first term. It was such an obvious and embarrassing political move that there isn't much else to say about it. If America elects the pair of them then I'm pretty sure the rest of the world will probably give up on them. I've always hated it when people go "Yeah... bloody stupid/fat Americans" but if the country votes for 12 years of those cretins then.... well, it's a shame.

Some other things that annoy me about listening to this election campaign:

Why do Americans insist on calling their country the greatest? I have never heard any other nationality utter it with such confidence and arrogance... apart from those totalitarian ones. I almost feel embarrassed when I hear people saying it. Salute the flag... an apple for teacher... love freedom. I mean... massive inequality gaps, racial tensions and the best goddamn health care system the developed world has ever seen.

Why do Americans think that God loves their country the most? Alright... supposing God is sitting up their in the sky and he hands out the good times to his favourite people. Why would this be America? A country that is only about 230 years old? Who did God support before this? Did he make Europe fight over him for about a millennium and then get bored? Maybe it's because they back up his own hunting ground of Israel? That's a bit of a mess now so he switched?

Anyway, enough of that for now. British politics are a bit of a dull mess just now as well. Gordon Brown won't leave, Labour are collapsing and the Tories are going to win the next election by default. Then everyone will remember why we hated them so much and Scotland will vote in favour of independence. However, it will all go to crap due to another recession and everyone in will be eating raw potatoes in holes in the ground. Not me though. I'll stay in Japan and ride the gravy train whilst writing history books with my fluent Japanese skills. I'm actually enjoying studying these days but I'm so appalling at speaking that it can seem a bit worthless.

The weather here in Kochi recently has been messing with my head. This time last week it still felt like the summer and the temperature was kicking around 29oC or so. On Friday night I went to a party with University students outside and it was actually really cold. Ever since then it has been raining and the temperature has dropped to about 20oC. That kind of change takes months back home. It's even more relevant when you live in a house that imitates the exact same conditions as outside. I've went from using the air conditioner to actually getting a little bit cold. Still, it's a nice change but I'd have preferred a nice gradual entrance into Autumn.

I'm going to Osaka on Thursday to see Radiohead. It's going to be excellent. Cheerio.

p.s I love America. It's one helluva country. Actually, my dad really does love American politics but only because he watches too much West Wing.
Monday, 29 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Scotland: August 14th - September 1st

Hello. I've been back in Japan for just under a month now. Although time has gone fast in some regards... it still seems a lot longer than that. The memories of my summer holiday seem to have vanished as I return to the routine of my life here. Nevertheless, I'm going to try and write up about them despite my lack of desire and my seemingly new lack of confidence in writing blog updates.

I've already complained to most people about just how f**king long my journey to and from Glasgow was. I was awake for about 48 hours and ate more airplane meals and drank more coffee than I care to remember. I had terrible seating positions but I wouldn't have been able to sleep even if I wanted to. I think I was close to dying on the last few hours from Dubai to Glasgow. I was watching the plane's journey on the map and it took forever to fly over Turkey. I did have a moment of culture shock in Dubai airport as I was pushed around by a variety of arrogant nationalities and their fat, ugly children. The best moment was finding two entire stands of English newspapers... I almost cried with joy.

I was greeted at Glasgow airport with a miserable little arrivals building.. After travelling around the world in all these brand spanking places, Glasgow was kind of embarrassing. There were about 300 people crammed into one tiny corridor, one side was an escalator that wasn't working and the other people were waiting to get their passports checked by about 3 people. I was then questioned by a female police officer just at the final door:

Her: Excuse me. Can I ask you a few questions?
Me: Of course.
Her: Where have you come from?
Me: Errr.... Dubai.... well Japan... via... Dubai
Her: Can I ask why you've come to Scotland?
Me: Err a holiday I guess but... I like... live... here... I'm Scottish..
Her: I see. Can I ask why you were in Japan?
Me: Well... I kind of.... erm work there.
Her: What do you do?
Me: I guess I'm an English teacher
Her: Thank you. Enjoy your holiday.

Then I met my with my parents and my mum reacted exactly like I expected she would. The first evening really messed up my mind to be honest. I don't know how much of it was a lack of sleep but I struggled to merge these different lives in my head. The main thing was that it didn't seem strange to be home and at points I kept trying to think of things in Japan to remember that I had been away for a year. That vanished after a good night's sleep and I got back to things without any other weird mental problems.

Things that I did notice were how luxurious my wee semi-detached house appeared to me. Lying in the bath and relaxing was amazing. The water, towels and clothes were so soft and comfy as well that I don't feel even slightly embarrassed admitting it. Also, I enjoyed being able to buy lots of newspapers and being able to do things over the phone etc where I could talk in my own language with ease. I think it was the wettest August since records began but the weather was amazing since I had just come from the height of the Japanese summer. A surprising thing that struck me was just how annoying adverts in your own language can be. I wanted to strangle just about every overly pronounced Scottish accent on the radio. Also, it took me a few days to adjust to the food and at first a lot of it just tasted like the fatty crap that it is. However, I soon grew to love fry-ups, crisps, Irn-Bru and beer that isn't Asahi or Kirin.

I spent my first weekend in Fife with my mum and dad. This was a really nice time as we just relaxed and went to St Andrews for the day. The days that followed that were really miserable and depressing in retrospect. All my family and friends were at work and I went to useless doctor and dental appointments. The last year I lived in East Kilbride proper was a bit depressing and it felt like I had slotted back into that era and I didn't like it one bit. So... I quickly planned an extensive trip across Europe the following week that I'll write about later. Things in Scotland picked up again when my little brother came back from America after teaching football for a few months. Looking back at our childhood... I was the football mad athletic one whilst he was chubby, ejjit kid with a vivid imagination. Now things have reversed nooooooooooooo. I went to the football with him and my dad, had a family reunion thing in my house, went to Edinburgh for the festival... that was about that.

It was really nice to see everyone in my family but I don't really think I talked about Japan much at all. It was definitely more different for me as I'd been doing all this stuff for a year whilst they just hadn't seen me for a few months more than usual. Also, I kind of regret not seeing some friends when I was back. My time was tight and I took a rather selfish approach to my schedule. It was hard to meet up with people as they've moved all over the country and have jobs now. Still, occasionally I had to explain to people that I couldn't just swing around for the weekend because I had about two of them in Scotland over two years.

I spent the last day in Scotland at a music festival by a loch/castle a few hours up the road. I was kind of hoping it would be a nice summer's day and I could chill with my brother with a few beers. Instead, it absolutely poured down with rain and the two of us spent about 5 hours kicking about being wet, muddy and miserable. We did see a few decent bands whilst waiting on Sigur Ros but it was pretty dreich (Scots for wet/dismal). However, the sun did come out right at the end of the day and Sigur Ros were absolutely amazing. It just about salvaged the day but the pair of us were knackered from travelling and a lack of sleep. I felt a bit sorry forcing all the invites on my brother but it was a good last day. After only another few hours sleep I got up the next day and set off on my journey around the world again. It wasn't as hard a journey coming back and I felt (worryingly) at ease being back in Japan. I was glad to see my family and the whole trip proved to be an important separator between the years in Japan. Good old Scotland.

PostHeaderIcon Scotland: Pictures

This guy has a flag for every country in the world so my mum got him to put up Japan.

Crail harbour in Fife.

The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral.

I like this one. That's seagulls in the background.

With the parents.

I would love this right now. That's a "roll un square soosauge"

I would have been average height a few centuries ago.

The erm... Edinburgh Festival

Fitbaw' = Pie and a Bovril

Forced smiles no doubt.

The sun comes out at last.

I washed these and now use them as my 'indoor' shoes at school.

Sigur Ros. Excellent.
Friday, 19 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Cogito, ergo sum

僕はあなたがよくケーキを食べると思います

After studying Japanese at a snail’s pace for over a year, I’ve finally figured how to say “I think…”. The above sentence doesn’t translate very well (if it’s even correct) but it kind of means “I think you’re a big fatty who eats cake all the time”. This new addition to my language arsenal may prove valuable in the next few months and makes me wonder if I was even thinking at all last year.

I still don’t have the internet at work and I am scared to ask because it will turn into this massive thing probably. Also, I’m putting it off because it benefits my Japanese study because there is absolutely nothing else to do. My next few weekends are being hijacked by sports days. This means that English class is a casualty to the numerous hours of practice that are required in pursuit of perfection. Actually, my next 6 weekends are pretty much decided without me realising it. I’ve got an English camp in Muroto coming up in which I give up a 3 day weekend to earn about £5 instead of going to a sake festival in Hiroshima. After that I have some fun things because I managed to buy myself a Radiohead and Sigur Ros ticket last night in the convenient store at the normal price. That was an unbelievably hard challenge in which three members of Lawson’s staff also failed miserably in trying to help me. I have a big sumo event coming up in October too and then it should be the weekend of Halloween and a big party in the city. The time is really going a lot faster this year.

What were my other short term goals? Oh yeah, I might go looking for a couch tomorrow but I’m doubting myself over it because I don’t know how to arrange everything. Also, I would rather spend all my money on travel, food and booze. I’ve got about £40 just now but I get paid tomorrow. Good old JET with their vast sums of yen for very little work in a world that is in economic woe. I managed to kill all my ants as well. Although… I did have a bird fly into my apartment yesterday. I wasn’t actually that surprised because two had flown into Noah’s last week.

It was a holiday on Monday so I spent most of the weekend eating and drinking around my half of the prefecture. We had a big karaoke night in Aki on the Friday in which everyone drank too much. I rudely discovered that a sandwich covered in mustard is horrible hangover food. Joey and Naomi (new Irish girl) spent the Saturday night at my house where we drank and chilled with a film. On the Sunday we went up for a tour of Umaji in the mountains. It was raining on the Monday so we chilled in David’s house in Yasuda where we ate pizza and played Monopoly. I totally destroyed the three of them in 20 minutes or something.

It’s strange that I’m writing about playing board games on a rainy day when I still haven’t mentioned my holiday back home. I guess it is easier to write blog entries about the present and future rather than needing to focus on your memory. I’ll write them up eventually but it might break my brain as I’m just getting used to my life here again. Yeah… old Japan ain’t so bad. I’m constantly searching for motivation and a sense of accomplishment here but I can’t deny that I have an excellent gig lined up on paper. Especially now that the world economy is turning to crap and all I have is a history degree. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about what I want to do next year because now is actually a good time to decide if I wanted to apply to anything. I’m not ruling out a third year on JET and will probably think it over for the next few months. I feel a sense of urgency and anxiety to figure out what I want to do in life but then I remember that I’m only 22 and I am in no rush at all. Indeed, if it wasn’t for… what I think is a healthy desire to continue to move on and achieve other goals…then it would make sense to stay here. However, I then remember that I am writing this at my desk near the end of a long day where I have done very little. Still… I managed to buy my tickets. Yatta.

僕は僕が人を食べないと思います = I don’t think I eat people.
僕は僕が魚を聞くないと思います = I don’t think I listen to fish.
僕は僕がすばらしいと思います = I think I’m wonderful.
Wednesday, 17 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon I can't sleep

Hello. It's 1am and I can't sleep. My floor is covered in stones from the beach and I've stupidly got them into the bed with me. I am currently looking into buying Sigur Ros and Radiohead tickets for a stupid amount each. Actually... it's almost liberating being able to spend all that money if I want. They are my two favourite bands so I dont care. However, I have no idea how to work the Japanese auction site and no idea how the payment will be made since there are no bloody credit cards in Japan. The annoying thing is I have actually went out of my way about twice for each gig and have failed miserably at numerous steps along the way. I'm also building myself to ask someone in my work to connect me to the internet and/or printer so you know... I can do parts of my job and errrr update my blog.

Oyasumi nasai
Tuesday, 9 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Objective: Couch


I bought a new laptop when I went home because my other one died. It’s great and everything but now I’m stuck at work without the internet and my printer connection. I tried to crack into the wireless network but I’ve got no chance and I’m putting off having to ask someone. Anyway, I’m only writing this because I have an hour of work left and can’t do anything else at all. Well, I have my adult class tonight but I’m just going to make them write something whilst I go get a coffee.

I’ve been back just under a week now and I’ve found it a little difficult to slot back into my life here. It feels more normal now but for the first few days I was a bit of a confused and jet lagged mess. I still hate the weather as well and can’t wait until it turns cooler despite it being nice and sunny all the time. I think the contrast in a year has been quite apparent when I’ve been out for dinner with the new foreigners in the area. They’re really energetic and have yet to be brought down to earth by the odd bouts of frustration, isolation and the general mundane of everyday life. I was like that last year but now I’ve got one eye on what I want to do after JET and what I want to get out of the next year. I’ve decided that I like teaching when I rarely do but the continuous, long days of doing little at my desk slowly destroy all motivation. I did have two good days at the junior high school and the other staff and pupils seemed pleased to see me again. I’ve even got a few extra classes with the students with learning difficulties who are actually better at English than the majority of those in their year.

I have an awful lot to write up on about my trip home to Scotland. Also, I spent a few days travelling about Germany and France and have about 150 pictures to upload. I’ll do that when I can be bothered.

My current short term goals are as follows:

Successfully buy a Sigur Ros ticket on Saturday morning. This will be harder than it sounds.

Have my adult class translate a ‘Muji’ catalogue so I can try and order a couch. I cannot sit on the floor any longer. Also, I want to buy some bed sheets that aren’t meant for bloody futons.

For about the 3rd time this year... I’m going to start exercising more. I’ve actually decided to walk a lot more each day rather than going for the odd run. It’s much more enjoyable.

Stop ants from getting into my box of cereal.
Thursday, 4 September 2008

PostHeaderIcon Back in Japan

Hello. I got back in Japan about two nights ago after another enjoyable and sleepless journey across the world. I had a right hassle trying to find a hotel in Osaka which was a bit of a joke. For about the third time that week I had somebody look me up and down whilst judging my worth for their establishment. This time it was for some fancy hotel that was actually really crap and not that expensive. I just wanted to go to sleep so I didn't really care. They made some porter guy take my case which I always really hate so I struck up some weak Japanese banter which he seemed to like. The rich folk in these places always treat the staff like scum. Anyway, I eventually got back in my house last night and went straight out for dinner. Then I went into work... where I lasted about an hour before bailing out of there and heading to the elementary school to read my book. I've managed to go through about 300 pages of 'Glue' by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) in about one day. I'm really enjoying it but it also means ah want tae type like this ye ken?

I'm really pretty exhausted at the moment. I'm glad the weekend is coming up because I've been travelling all over the place in the last week and a bit. I'm on a bit of a downer now that I'm back here but I'll leave it until after the weekend to see how I'm feeling. Do you remember when you were a kid and you went on an amazing summer holiday? Then those long summer nights came to an end and you were back at school. And after that first period it felt like you'd never been away from the place? Well.... it feels exactly like that. One week you're sightseeing around Europe and the next you're watching the guy next to you whip off his socks and clip his toenails over a bin.
Monday, 18 August 2008

PostHeaderIcon Tourist

Hello. I'll write a proper update of my endless journey home (I didn't sleep for about 2 days) later. I spent the weekend in Fife with my family and have found myself a bit bored at home today. I thought I'd go a drive to somewhere in my home town. I checked wikitravel to help plan my day. Here's the link
Wednesday, 13 August 2008

PostHeaderIcon From Kansai Airport

Alright everyone?
Its nearly 11pm and my flight to Dubai is about to take off. That last about 8 hours.... then I have a 2 hour wait and then another 8 hour flight to Glasgow. I left my house at half 9 this morning and Ive hardly eaten. The departure lounge has offered me beer and a doughnut. Deary me deary me indeed. Hopefully I will fall asleep on a plane for the first time in my life or I may actually die.

Ive been taking video blog entries. It`s very exciting. Although I look very fat, pale and sweaty in every video. Anyway... home in.... 22 hours!
Tuesday, 5 August 2008

PostHeaderIcon My awkward supervisor

Good evening.

I'm just after politely forcing my supervisor out of my house. I finished work at about 5:40pm and went to the supermarket to buy dinner. I was in the middle of eating it when I heard a knock at my door. It's usually my neighbour Noah so I just opened it without really thinking. Anyway, it turns out it was my supervisor who asked if it was a good time whilst walking in. Even at the door I gave a bit of an "Hmmm not really. I'm eating dinner" but the hint was not taken. He then came in and pulled out a chessboard (he caught me playing it at work). I tried to be polite at the start and said all of the following in Japanese:

Hmmm I'm eating dinner
Hmmm I have English class at 7pm so this is my free time
Hmmm I'm very tired

The hints were not really taken. I then pretty much gave up and stood in silence for a bit.... occasionally saying "Oh yeah this is my house eh?".... "Oh I'm so tired eh?". I tried in vain to remember "This is not a good time" in Japanese but most people (especially Japanese) would take hint at the slightest "Uuuuhh"

Yep. He means well but just delivers awkward pain to my door.
Monday, 4 August 2008

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: A Mother's Lullaby

This is taken from a New Horizon textbook which I use to teach 3rd grade at junior high school:

By a road near the city of Hiroshima, a very big, old tree stands. Through the years, it has seen many things. One summer night the tree heard a lullaby. A mother was singing to her little girl under the tree. They looked really happy. And the song sounded very sweet. Then the tree remembered something sad. "Yes, it was some sixty years ago. I heard a lullaby that night, too."

On the morning of that day, a big bomb fell on the city of Hiroshima. A great many people lost their lives, and many others were injured. They had burns all over their bodies. Some of them were moving very slowly. I was very sad when I saw those people. It was a very hot day. Some of the people fell down beside me. They could not even stand. I said to them, "Come and rest in my shade. You'll be all right soon."

Night came. Some people were already dead. Then I heard a weak voice. It was a lullaby. A young girl was singing to a little boy. "Mommy! Mommy!" the boy cried. "Don't cry," the girl said. "Mommy is here." Then she began to sing again. She was also weak, but she tried to be a mother to the poor little boy. She held him in her arms like his real mother.

"Mommy," the boy was still crying. "Be a good boy," said the girl. "You'll be all right." She held the boy more tightly and began to sing again. After a while the boy stopped crying and quietly died. But the little mother did not stop singing. It was a sad lullaby. The girl's voice became weaker and weaker. Morning came and the sun rose, but the girl never moved again.

Did I mention that this is one of the first few lessons all newly arriving JETs will have to teach? Welcome to Japan!
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon One Year

I arrived at Narita airport in Tokyo exactly one year ago today. After a sleepless 20 hour journey starting from Edinburgh airport I walked off the plane and was immediately greeted with "Mista Hanta? I'm afraid your cases have not arrived." That was a bit of a kick in the teeth considering I had paid about £200 extra because my cases weighed a whole 27kg (7kg over the limit). Also, the British Midlands woman stole my debit card details and bought mobile phones and booze with them. That was a good start to my life in old 日本.

After a few jet-lagged days in Tokyo I was sent in the direction of my small town in one of the most rural prefectures in Japan. It was unbearably hot and I had to wear my suit whilst meeting people from my office. I had lunch at an Indian restaurant with three Japanese people and some American I didn't know called Noah. I remember being lost in the conversation immediately and I really didn't want to eat a curry. Even then it dawned on me that my life for the next year would be interesting if not a bit of a struggle. So, how has it been? Well, for starters... I now love nothing more than ordering the Larka set at that restaurant and stuffing my face. Here's a small breakdown of the rest of the year:

August: Everything was very interesting and exciting to begin with as is usually the case. I had moved away from home and was ready to adapt to this new culture etc. I got to meet lots of Japanese people and made friends with the other foreigners. There were summer festivals and I had time to study Japanese before school started. All bright eyed as you'd expect. Although it was unbelievably hot and I didn't really know what to do.


My first day at work with my first supervisor. Typhoon waves in the background.
Releasing balloons at the 7th inning whilst watching baseball in Aki.


September/October: These were some of the more enjoyable months of my time here. The weather started to turn really nice around this time and I was feeling a lot more settled in the town. I had lots of parties and barbecues around my house and lots of visits to the city. It was still pretty exciting to be living in Japan. I was nervous for my first few classes at school but by this time I was already into the swing of things. We had a pretty decent Halloween party in town too.


Playing frisbee on a very sunny, October day. Posing with the Aki guys at Halloween.

November: This was a good month too as I went on some long weekend trips around the rest of Japan. I had a great time visiting Tokyo one weekend and then visiting Matsuyama and Hiroshima the following weekend. It was still lovely weather and I actually studied Japanese a lot during this time.


An army of people crashing after a night out in the city. Messing about in Hiroshima.

December: Along with the weather, things began to cool down a bit in December. I remember the month really relying on a Christmas/New Year break at the end of it. I did have a few good nights out in the city. I remember waking up one morning in the fancy clothes I had worn for a film festival and not really knowing where I was. I ended up at some friendly Americans apartment and spent 2 hours hiding under the table trying to shake off the worst hangover of my life. I do kind of miss those big drinking nights out in the city. I had an okay Christmas up in the mountains and a had a nice meal at a nice cafe/restaurant on the cliffs. I spent New Year travelling around Osaka and Kyoto. I quite liked visiting touristy places on my own before meeting up with a Japanese friend and the some foreigners from Kochi. Kyoto was a really excellent city and I'd like to go back to see more. I'm not the biggest fan of Osaka ever since that trip though.


Downing pints and belting out karaoke with Andrew in Tokyo.

January/February
: These two months were pretty miserable. I broke my leg playing football at the start of January just as the weather and misery were already starting to kick in. Indeed, the break was symbolic for my change in mentality and life here that still lingers occasionally. Everyday was a bit of a hassle and it wasn't unusual for me to be starving at weekends because I couldn't be arsed to go out in the rain to buy food. Although I did get pretty damn good at Pro Evolution Soccer on my Xbox360 and I ate my weight in Oreo cookies. Looking back on it, I think I coped with the situation pretty well. I never missed a day of work and I still managed to teach my classes with a smile of my face. This was probably important in a country with a "get on with it" attitude. If I really wanted to extort some sympathy then I could describe how I spent my 22nd birthday. I hobbled about in the cold, showering in the pitch black because the light bulb had blown, spent 12 hours in work teaching at school and at my adult class. Eventually I went home and had toast for dinner.

March/April: These months were also miserable but with little reason because my leg had healed. I figured out that breaking my leg had actually postponed my expected period of culture shock by about 6-8 week because I blamed everything on it. Then I realised that everything was still woe and work/life was just as dull and dire as it had been. It didn't help that all my friends spent their time doing this musical practice at weekends and I hardly really socialised with anyone for a long period. I did have a trip to Tokushima that was rubbish on paper but was an appreciated break from the four walls of my apartment. Japanese study was exceptionally bad during these four months. Also, I enjoyed growing a really bad beard during this time as seen above.


Just chilling with my twin Mike Miyagi in Tokushima. Group photograph at top of the city hill.

May/June/July: Things began to pick up again during the past three months but there was also an element of life turning a bit mundane. Nah... they were good months where I became more sociable and upped my game at teaching a little bit. We had a successful day camp in town. I had another fun weekend in Tokyo. I had an unusual but somewhat enjoyable weekend trip with some Japanese old ladies. The football tournament in Awaji was one of the better weekends of the year as well. Despite being a bit ill this month I've really come to appreciate living here again and I am looking forward to next year. I've really relaxed and mellowed out in the past few weeks and my holiday home should be really beneficial.


Good old Aki karaoke in May. Sayonara Party in Kochi City with the Muroto guys.

My apologies for the long entry but it was something I forced myself to write since I have lived halfway across the world for a year now. Last night I went to the Indian restaurant again for dinner with my friend Andrew. We chewed the fat about.... the moon, video games, going home on holiday and how hard I was to understand when we first met. On the way home I stopped the car to admire a thunderstorm out on the ocean. I listened to Sigur Ros on my iPod whilst watching these lightning strikes light up the pounding waves. It was great and made me all philosophical and what have you about living here. Here's to another year of blogging about my ups and (mostly) downs. Cheers. I'll upload some cheeky pictures others have taken during the course of the year.
Monday, 28 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon Good Japan: Festivals

Festivals

It's about time I gave Japan a good old slap on the back for something. In my previous post I mentioned I had been to two different festivals last week. I already mentioned that I like the atmosphere of walking around the narrow, old streets of a small town. A lot of the stalls sell food/drink that is similar to village fairs in Britain and carnivals in America. The sickly sweet aroma of Anpanman cakes being baked replaces that of candy floss and popcorn. There is also a number of games which children can play in order to win a Nintendo Wii or something similar. The women of all ages wear their traditional gear as they walk around drinking 2 litres worth of coke out of a plastic carton. The streets become すし詰め ('packed like sushi', a similar Japanese idiom I learned the other day) which greatly contributes to the already crippling heat and humidity. Despite this... the usually empty and dull streets become alive with people of all ages. Families and friends fill tables and drink lots of beer and eat lots of noodles and grilled meats. It is this community aspect that I enjoy watching from afar and with a hint of envy that there was never such an event in my neighbourhood back home.

Some negative aspects are that everything closes up shop at 9pm. There is also a hint of mundane organisation that plagues all Japanese events and the non-traditional bands onstage usually suck beyond belief. Still.... good job Japan.

Akaoka Festival. It got a lot more crowded up the street.

A typical selection of stalls. They sell the same old rubbish but the kids love them.

Trying to scoop up goldfish with some paper. I thought about giving it a go.

PostHeaderIcon I left Scotland one year ago

It appears I lost interest in updating my blog after being fairly productive with it. If there is a large gap in posts then it usually means I'm pretty content and have nothing to complain about or... I'm really miserable and don't want to complain too much. I'm pleased to say that I have been in a fairly good mood recently and was off work for a few days. It was probably my second longest period off work to date actually despite me only taking about 3 days holiday thanks to a public holiday and some half days on Friday. I used all my saved up hours from my English class too so I still have about 18 days of holiday next year even after my 3 weeks trip home. Old Craigy boy played a blinder with his holiday days.

However, I was feeling pretty unwell for the first half of July. I can honestly say that I've been more ill and injured in Japan than in the rest of my life combined. It was a strange one this time around though. I had a dodgy stomach for a few days which was replaced by being lethargic as hell. I spent most of that time sitting under my air conditioner and watching films. I then went deaf in one ear for a few days before that disappeared last week just as I was considering a hospital visit. I like to think that my dislike of Japanese hospital visits forced my body to fix itself.

must have finished work on July 17th and spent most of that weekend hanging out with my friend Andrew. That consisted of playing video games and going to a festival in a small town called Akaoka. There was a famous painter from the town called Ekin and his interesting and disturbing paintings were on candle lit display around the streets:

An Ekin painting: Death, blood, samurai, katanas and general weirdness.

He was sent into exile due to his said part in some political plot. His feelings of injustice are said to be represented in these paintings. That's a bird stealing a baby by the way. It's one of the tamer paintings.

His characters always have these creepy eyes. This guy was just sitting there whilst a samurai butchered everyone else in the room. I like his work.

I do enjoy the atmosphere of the Japanese summer festivals despite getting a bit bored of them after a few hours. I like the ones in the small towns because there is an element of community that I have (sadly) never experienced in Britain. I think lots of the younger people come home for them too and hang out with their family and all their old friends. I went two nights in a row and met some other JETs on the second evening. My friend Sarah from England is leaving this year so I went to say goodbye to her. It sounds a bit harsh but I'm not that bothered about a lot of the people leaving this year apart from two or three. I liked and got on with a lot of the leaving but some lived just too far away to form anything more than good acquaintances. A lot of the people nearer me had already settled in here so I didn't see them as much either.

I think there should be some new people arriving in the area next week or the week after. I'm the only person in the east coast that isn't leaving or won't be on holiday when they arrive. I signed up to this 'big brother/sister' thing that was made to help them settle in and that. It is a lot to take in when you arrive and a lot of people here are placed out in the countryside. So hopefully I can be of some help in the first week or two if they have any problems. I never really expected to be hanging out with the other foreigners as much but it's just something that happens. There are very few young Japanese people and it can be hard to communicate even if both parties are good at the language. Sometimes you just need to have fun with people with the same language and a similar culture. Plus, you're still interacting with people from around the world.

I went to another festival last Tuesday with my other English friend, David. This time it was a Shinto shrine festival and it had some performance acts with fighting dragons and all that. It was hosted by one of my eikaiwa students who also teaches/taught Japanese to some JETs. She is really kind as well as being fluent in English. We were both welcomed into her home for dinner and that was a nice, friendly experience. Also, she really helped me out last week when I had to go for an interview to get a Japanese driving license. That's a bit of a pain in itself but I'm lucky I don't need to sit a test like the Americans. Although my sympathy is somewhat diluted when I realise their driving test at home consists of driving around the neighbourhood. Baring in mind that the rest of us had to pay a fortune to drive about streets with broken glass in Pollockshaws (crappy area in Glasgow). Anyway, I need to go back in 2 weeks which means I won't be able to drive for a week as my international license expires in a few days. After that bought us lunch and we visited a paper museum which was a lot more interesting than it sounds. Most of my 'holiday' was actually doing boring paperwork stuff like that. I had to pay about £600 so I can drive my car next year as well. The woman that helped me with that was nice too and it was a lot easier than I expected. So yeah... bit of a boring week off but there you go.

I left home a year ago today actually. It doesn't seem that long ago when I think of the day I left Scotland but when I think of arriving in Japan then it does seem pretty long ago. I'm not actually that desperate to go home on my holiday just yet. I still feel like I need to go home for a mental and physical break but I'm glad I decided to stay here for a second year as well. I'm even getting used to the heat and humidity. Always a bonus.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon I type loud because I am important

The guy that sits next to me in work can be a bit irritating at times. He does nothing wrong though and it's me that has the problem. I get annoyed at the way he answers and speaks on the phone... at his own work... in his own language... in his own country. However, I've decided that he is at fault over the way he types on his computer. I'm typing fast at the moment but you don't see me smashing every, individual key. Also, I don't inhale and exhale with a sigh of despair every minute to show just how hard I am working. Recently I've noticed that when he has no work to do he will pick up a newspaper and every so slyly glance over to my computer to see what I'm up to. Just because I'm playing sudoko or reading every single news article available doesn't mean I'm not working hard my good man.

Anyway, I managed to last until 11am this morning until I put on my headphones to block out the smashing. I can still hear him despite listening to the rather loud 'Queens of the Stone Age'. I woke up late again this morning and I finally figured out why this keeps happening. My right ear has been completely blocked for three days and it is honestly hard to hear. It turns out I sleep on my left side and therefore covering up the only ear I can hear with. Yes, I am complaining about hearing and not hearing.

I've started to plan for my trip home to Scotland in August. Since coming to Japan I've realised that I hardly ever left Glasgow in the 4 years I was there at University. This was mainly due to having no money, working for the whole of the summer and wanting to escape to somewhere sunny instead. However, I've come to realise that Scotland is actually a pretty rocking country for visiting and I'm looking forward to being a tourist. Japan is great and everything but after a year there are only so many shrines and temples you can visit before getting really bored. Of course, this is just a realisation after spending a year away from home yet constantly being asked/telling people about it. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do yet. I'm thinking I might go to the Edinburgh Festival for a few days then hire a car and drive about the Highlands. I fancy visiting some of the islands too... possibly all the whisky ones in the west. There are loads of history sites that I studied and want to visit as well.

I'm really looking forward to the weather as well which might sound strange to any Scottish people reading this. The weather in Scotland is pretty terrible but as long as I don't need to live through it (especially the endless winter) then it's all good. The prospect of a drizzly/breezy August sounds great. Ahhh I can't wait to breathe in that fresh air and admire the mountains/lochs och aye och aye.

Anyway, I'll write something better about Japan and all that when I can be bothered. Possibly something positive.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon I'm unprofessional

My alarm clock didn't go off this morning but I managed to wake up naturally at 8:07am. I usually need to be in work by 8:15am so I threw on some clothes and drank a pint of water. They've only just put on the air conditioning so when I first arrived it was stuffy as hell and I wanted to die. Once I had done the usual morning meeting stuff I made a cheeky exit back to my apartment where I showered and ate breakfast. I then came back to work 25 minutes later and nobody had noticed or really cared.

This reveals many things about my life:

1) A lack of supervision/direction/work means I can do stuff like this without feeling guilty.
2) As long as I turn up to work at 8:15am and clean the office at 5:30pm then nobody knows or cares what I do in between.
3) Living 30 seconds from your office has great advantages.

It's the last week of school and I taught the last of my classes yesterday. This means I have literally nothing to do until the start of September. Do be do be do do. I think we have curry rice for school lunch today. Usually this is cause for celebration but the elementary classes are so hot that they make me feel faint. I can moan about the weather if I want so shut up. Time to play some sudoku.

Update: Lunch was surprisingly good today. There was a nice breeze in the classroom and I had curry rice, fried chicken, my favourite crappy salad and apple jelly. It was an absolute feast of epic proportions.

My right ear is now totally blocked and I can't really hear out it. Three times today I've been in conversations where I can't make out what people are saying to me. If it lasts another day then I'll need to make a dreaded trip to the hospital.

My friend Joey just swung by to drop off his hamsters. I can't really be bothered but he's off to India for about 3-4 weeks. In fact, I might even meet up with him in Osaka the night he comes back and the day before I leave.
Monday, 14 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon I hate the Japanese summer

Good evening.

I think I bored myself with my last blog post. I've not got much more to say because I'd just complain about how ill I am and how I hate every single day of this season. Guess how many mosquito bits I have on one toe? That's right... on one TOE I have three bloody bites.

Guess how I've been entertaining myself tonight? All my thousand of pounds worth of technology? Nah... sudoku. I've been playing away like a madman and I'm actually looking forward to work tomorrow because I can play as much as I want.

I spent about £70 on a frisbee tournament this weekend up in Osaka which I didn't attend because I was still ill. Instead I watched about half a dozen films that I 'acquired' off the internet. I watched the twin films about Iwo Jima which were directed by Clint Eastwood. 'Flags of our Fathers' was crap and rolled out the same old yanky doodle rubbish. The second one, 'Letters From Iwo Jima' was from the Japanese perspective and was much better. I might ask my eikaiwa if they've seen them... get a bit of awkward conversation flowing.

What else?
Yer... I'm the only foeigner in town now because my friend Noah naffed off back home to America on holiday. I'm dead jealous actually as I would really like to leave for mine right now. Also, I passed my JET Beginner's Language Course! Wooo..... nah it's not impressive and I did all the tests in one week. I somehow got forced into signing up for the next course because I didn't want to explain to my supervisor in Japanese that I didn't want to do it. I need to get a driving license this week too... it's so much fun not understanding anything.

I'm aff tae my bed. Goodnight
Wednesday, 9 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon Different Japan: The Sun

The Sun



What colour is the sun? Yellow? Orange? Somewhere in between? I don't feel we really have a 'set' colour for it in the West but they certainly do in Japan. Here's a hint:

Yer... it's red of course. Just like the Japanese flag. Don't ever make the mistake of referring to the colour of the sun as anything other than red to a Japanese person. Especially a bunch of high school students who will tear you apart for your Western stupidity. The sun is red in Japan.

The official name for Japan's flag is the Nisshoki (日章旗) or 'Sun Flag' but it is often called the Hinomaru (日の丸) or 'Sun Disc'. It translates as that into English anyway but the kanji mean a few things. I suppose this is as good a time as any to explain my limited knowledge of them a bit. The first kanji is 日and this represents: the sun, sunshine, day and is the counter for days. It's not too difficult and it is a simple kanji that you will find in many other ones. However, like all kanji, it can be read in many ways such as 'hi' on it's own. This changes slightly if it is read with something else like 日本 which is the kanji for Japan... which reads as 'ni-hon'. Also, it is used much like 1st, 2nd 3rd and 4th are used for English dates. Today is the 9th so that is 九日or 'kokonoka'. It is read as 'ka' for these first few dates and 'nichi' in dates past the 10th. So next week will be 十六日 or 'ju (10) roku (6) nichi'.

The kanji in the 'Sun Disc' consist of 日+の+丸. The first one is the sun and is read as 'hi'. The second one is not a kanji character but a Japanese hiragana character that always reads as 'no'. It is used to show possession in this particular case much like an apostrophe would be used in English. Therefore, the first two characters read as 'hino' and can be read as Sun's.... I guess. The last one has just one reading of 'mura' and can mean: circle, full (day/month), perfection and purity. Therefore, we have hi+no+maru which I guess can mean Sun's Circle, Full Sun or Sun's Purity.... maybe... I really don't know. I'm not sure where the 'disc' comes into it as everything I've read said 丸 just mean circle. However... there is another widely used kanji that means circle 円. This is also read as 'maru' when it is referring to a circle BUT it is also read as 'en' and is the Japanese kanji for Yen or ¥. I'm not sure why the 'y' is dropped in Japan. There used to be a hiragana character for 'ye' but it vanished after WW2 I think when the laguage was revised a bit.

Deary me... I'm blabbering on a little bit. Anyway, my main point was the use of 丸 instead of 円 in reference to disc or circle. It could be the case that they do actually represent different meanings of the shape. However, I was wondering (and like it to be so) if it was more the case that the other also contains the meanings of perfection and purity? I'd put a cheeky bet that this was the case but I'm also incredibly out my depth when I talk about kanji. That was really the point I was trying to reach with all that kanji muttering. I quite like the Japanese flag despite it occasionally being accused because of its associtation with WW2. I like it because its quite unique comapred to others in the world and it is very relevant to the history of the country's name.

Nevertheless, I have one more small mention to do with the sun. I've already mentioned in this post and others that the Japanese name for their country is Nihon*. H
ave you ever wondered why Japan is often referred to as the 'Land of the Rising Sun'? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. There is no surprise that it is another reference to the kanji of 日本. I'm more used to reading the second kanji as 'book' because that is used more often in everyday life. However, it also means origin, source, base or root. So in English it can be read as 'Origin of the Sun'. This name and kanji were actually given by some Chinese bloke in the 7th century in reference to the fact that the sun rose in Japan first because it was further East. Personally, I find it all very cool. When I first came here I asked someone (4 years of Japanese study/1 year study abroad) what the kanji in the name meant. At first I was wondering why sun and book were together in the name. They weren't really interested for some reason. Although they mentioned that it also meant root and so I asked again if that was all linked to the rising sun thing. Surprisngly... they didn't really care. It confused me because I wondered how someone could have an interest in the country and language yet not wonder about the history behind it? It's the most interesting thing about.

I only intended to mention the bit about the colour of the sun being red but it evolved into a bit of a messy and possibly incorrect post. There is one more thing that makes me laugh: Japanese women are terrified of the sun. They'll do anything to protect themselves from it such as carrying umbrellas, wearing white silk gloves up to their elbows and wearing the most ridiculous shaped hats I've ever seen. I think they're scared that they'll get a bit of a tan and look Chinese...

Also, you do get some cracking sunsets here. The picture at the top right is the 'Daruma sunset' that occurs in my prefecture in the Winter. Ocean currents/change in temperature give the illusion of the sun with a neck as the light is refracted. Even tonight the sky was looking excellent from behind the mountains. I've only witnessed one Japanese sunrise and that was last week when I got up early to watch the football. In the summer it rises at about 4am but it gets dark at about 7pm. I kind of miss the lingering sun and the late nights of a Scottish summer... and there's never any of this bloody humidity back home.

*I recently read (in my book about the British Empire) the reason why the rest of world calls it Japan. The Portuguese traders somehow got the name of Japan from one or two areas of China who use the same kanji but read it differently. They referred to the country as Jipangu, Cipangu, Zipangu and so forth. Here is a great map I found on wikipedia that shows one of these names. It was made in 1492 and completely misses out the Americas because Columbus was just discovering them.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.

Shashins