Wednesday, 16 December 2009

PostHeaderIcon Earthquake hurrah

So... I was enjoying my cheeky break by playing some Xbox in my apartment. I could feel my arse moving very slightly. It kind of felt like I was dizzy after standing up too fast. I didn't really feel anything but checked anyway. Level 2-3 quake in Tano-Cho. Oh yeah. That's that box checked after I have alluded numerous others before. I hope it doesn't mean the big one is warming up to kill me. Then who would write this fantastic (US embassy sanctioned) blog?
Wednesday, 9 December 2009

PostHeaderIcon A gaijin and his skirt

Haud yer wheesht ya wee bawbags. A kilt ISNAE a sukaato... awright?

Look at me in my kilt everyone. I thought it was about time I wore my national dress since I stole... inherited... it from my dad in the summer. I had been teaching my junior high school students about Scottish customs, traditions and the like for the month of November. Surprisingly... haggis was particularly well received even when I explained what it involved. It seems that in a country where every part of an animal is eaten (I've often had chicken livers/ cartilage/heart as well as cow intestines/stomach) there was no problem with the concept. Indeed, some of the students even gave it an OIIISHHIIISOOOO rather than recoiling in horror. Indeed, they all remembered it when I told them the sgian dubh (small knife in the sock) was used for ceremonially slicing it up.

My plan was to conclude the Scottish lessons with the wearing of my kilt on St Andrew's Day. Instead... the students had an English test that week that nobody thought to tell me about. Nevertheless, I proudly walked to school on Monday morning in preparation for my fantastic internationalising. This began with me running late for school because it took me ages to put it on and I was scared I would ruin it by driving there. Therefore, I embarked on the ten minute walk to school. I was of course expecting a few extra stares than usual but as I passed the convenient store/train station car park I caused an accident. As I was crossing the road I noticed a woman was staring at me from inside her car. In doing so she slowly crashed into the car in front of her and narrowly avoided another man who was walking between the two cars. I completely ignored the drama because I was late for school and because I found it exceptionally amusing walking away to a chorus of GOOOMMEEEN NAAASAAAIIIiiiiii....

Internationalising the world with my sexy legs.

When I arrived at school I first saw the P.E coach who merely chuckled through the haze of his early morning smoke. He said I looked like Burevuhaato as I hastily made my way through the staff room gasps to get to my first class. As I walked up the hall towards the classroom I could see the row nearest the door and their reaction was priceless. Two of the girls screamed and one boy just looked at me in shock before shaking his head. The latter amused me because usually they like to show off to each other but that was a deeply personal moment for him alone. He did not look impressed throughout the class. Anyway, my half of the lesson went much better than expected for every grade. I explained all the usual stuff about the history, traditions... when it was worn... what each part meant. I tried to make a few Japanese connections by explaining the similarity to "family/clans", how a kilt was similar to a kimono, how traditionally men got a kilt at their coming of age (still a very important day in Japan) and even how there is a sakura tartan (cherry blossom tartan for the Japanese tourists). The girls in the class were embarrassed as usual and refused to go near me whilst the boys were obsessed about what was under my kilt. They taught me a few useful words.

I brought my hip flask full of lovely Islay single malt to explain what a sporran was for. I took a cheeky swig after my last class. What a rebel.

After I had left the shocked and smitten school in my wake... I headed to a local temple on the way home in an attempt to take some artistic photographs. I was hoping to achieve a blending of Scottish and Japanese history in a unique snapshot of mutual cultural appreciation. Instead, I panicked and trampled all over Japan with my massive boots. Indeed, not only did I take an awful picture with no flash... but I got covered in spider web and nearly fell backwards into a ditch. Also... I got another shout from some construction workers who were digging up the road at the bottom of the temple steps. I had previously passed them on the way there with a cheery wave and a konnichiwa and was greeted with facial reactions that words can't describe. Also, there was an old woman who didn't move from the moment I went up the temple and returned down the stairs. I don't think her brain could process what was going on.

Just awful

As I was about to leave the temple I noticed a pilgrim was walking towards me from the other entrance. It must have been my new found confidence in knowing that I looked completely ridiculous but I approached him because I wanted a photograph. Even as I was walking towards him I was preparing my Japanese explanation about cultures but before I could say a word he ran off. He actually ran behind a temple to get away from me. I tried shouting on him but he just waved his arms in a gesture that suggested "getawaygetawaygetaway". Congratulations pilgrim... you have set back my desire to reach out to Japanese people for another 3 months. On the way down the stairs I jumped over a concrete fence and probably flashed my arse.

Just buying some Muse tickets in rural Japan... as you do.

The rest of the day had similar reactions from all age groups. Some elementary school children ran towards me before changing their minds at the last minute and ran away screaming. Thus concluded my day of internationalising the rural folk of Kochi prefecture. I wonder if I'm possibly the first person in Kochi to wear a kilt? I'd like that. I like to think everyone who saw me on Monday ended up talking about me at their dinner table that evening. I'll leave you with some advise that I told my students today about how to pronounce kilt. I said it's called a kilt because if you say sukaato... I WILL KILL YOU! I'm a great ambassador for my country.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009

PostHeaderIcon A few shashins

I just had a really annoying situation where a town hall employee was poking his finger at a mistake I had made on a tax form. Baring in mind I would struggle to fill one of those out in English... I felt I made a decent effort as nobody was around to help. "I'm afraid this complicated kanji is above my level my good man. Could you please explain what they mean? Name? Address? My blood type? Oh... I see... you've decided to act irrationally impatient and run around finding someone who might be able to communicate with the useless foreigner... thanks".

Anyway, I thought I'd post some other pictures that I took yesterday... just because.

An English poster that I didn't make along with some advertising posters for Sports Day (woo..)

More English things that I didn't make... oh dear. We have KUSAI! and Dou iu imi? as well as the Japanese way to pronounce them. Itto sumeruzu! and Howatto do yu miin?

Here are some 13 year olds acting like 13 year olds. My guess is that this comedy skit was on television on Sunday night... it usually is. The kid in the middle is the bad boy of the grade but he's also one of my favourites. He teaches me bad Japanese words. He wanted to be called Jack Sparrow when I first taught him but now he hates it and I mock him with it.

Urgh a くさい sink in a 50 year old school. The drains have quite an odour sometimes.

I used to enjoy marking until I realised I was correcting the same words about 20-30 times. I took a better picture but I wrote my name closer to ハソター (Hasotaa) than ハンター(Hantaa). Can you tell the difference? Exactly!

Looking down from 3rd grade to 1st grade before lunch. They used to play the same school jingle on repeat whilst we were eating. One day I suggested we play a CD or something. They started to play classical music and it was wonderful. However, I now listen to the same 4 classical songs... argh.

Monday 7th December's school lunch. There is of course the standard bowl of rice and milk. Monday's small dish (always the worst) was a horrible pickle affair. The soup was a reasonably tasty vegetable/meat thing. On the whole I'd give it a solid 7/10.

This is a kimchi flavoured drink. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea. It is fermented cabbage covered in garlic. It was くさい!

PostHeaderIcon The feds are onto me


Just the US embassy checking me out. No big deal.
Sunday, 6 December 2009

PostHeaderIcon Different Japan: How to bake.

How to bake

I would just like to make this blog post to boast about my amazing skills in the Japanese kitchen. Nobody in Japan owns an oven. They do have these hybrid microwave/your child's first oven but they aren't very good. However, I heard you could "bake" things in the rice cooker. So I made a banana cake and it was absolutely amazing. I was preparing myself for some sort of aborted alien to appear but instead I made the best banana cake I've ever eaten. Ever. I'm fantastic.

Here's my.... loose recipe:

2 bananas that have gone a bit black (extra flavour)
3/4 cup of sugar
1 egg
1.5 cups of flour
1/5 cup of baking powder
Lashings and lashings of vanilla flavouring
Into a blender
Into a rice cooker
2-3 cycles of that and DA DA DAAAAAA


スバナナらしい

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

PostHeaderIcon My name is Craig. I come from Britain.


Greetings everyone. I was doing a cheeky bit of studying on the toilet today (as one does) and found myself revising some polite forms of Japanese... as can be seen above. The example sentence is イギリスから参りました。クレイグと申します。 There's not much to say about the Japanese itself but it's the first time I've ever seen my name クレイグ written in any kind of example. I got excited about this until I remembered that the example country was IGIRISU.

Igirisu is the collective name given to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all those numerous titles to mean Britain BUT.... BUT... it is also used when just referring to England. It's even worse than having all those ignorant Americans talking about "You guys over there in England" when they refer to Britain. The amount of times I have been forced to explain that "Yes, I am British but I'm also Scottish" to various nationalities can get infuriating. At least I can explain in English to the moronic masses but Japanese is actually designed to completely hinder all hope. It's bad enough that Japanese people are oblivious to the outside world never mind Scotland being so tiny it never stands against a chance against the Europa heavyweights of Furansu, Itaria and Doitsu in their tiny rice brains. Indeed, they barely have enough room in their mental world maps to include anywhere after Pari and Rondon. The only link I had with Japan/Scotland was when Shunsuke Nakamura played for Celtic. He's left and I'm stuck in Japan with only bloody "Sukotochi" whisky as a link to home. Basically, the insulting and infuriating reality is that Britain is England and England is Britain in Japanese.

Actually... I blame Japan for all of this. Do you know why Scotland doesn't have it's own kanji? Because all those centuries when we were an independent country, Japan was trying to figure out how to make bamboo appetising whilst they shut up their borders... stuck their fingers in their ears and went LA LA LA LA LA. When they finally opened their eyes and had a look at the rest of the world, Scotland were best buddies with England and reaping the benefits of empire (even though Scots nationalists don't like to admit it).

" Oh harro Amerika. Who is that biggu country over there? "
" Oh heya guys. Man I really love your guy's sushi. Those guys? That's a limey country called England "
" Oh sank you. See you Pearl Harbour bai bai "

The amount of times I need to repeat my name/country to Japanese people is ridiucolous. Sometimes I don't even bother with either and just sit in the corner sulking at all the independent nations in the room. If ever there was a reason to celebrate the proposed Scottish independence referendum (announced yesterday on St Andrew's Day) then it is surely to stop this disgusting use of Igirisu in Japan. Help me change the nationality on all my documents from Igirisu jin to Sukottorando jin. I might send this information to Alex Salmond... I'm sure he could use the help.

俺はクレイグだ。
スコットランド人だよ。

Alba gu bràth!
Friday, 27 November 2009

PostHeaderIcon Statue of Rivertea and 太股山県


The worst possible scenario at work has occurred in the last week or so. For those who may have read my blog in the past two years, you might be aware of my intense disliking of a certain "Katakana sensei". I thought my ordeal with her was over when she left these golden shores of Tano in spring to go study at University. However, I was in the middle of a "lesson arc" for my elementary classes when she decided to show up and take over so she can put into practice the fantastic education she has received. Her first classes went alright because I had taught the students the same lessons in the weeks leading up to it. I told her this and she ignored me. She then acted surprised when the students failed to learn something new she was teaching them. That's because her teaching method follows this pattern: Continuously chant the English until everyone loses the will to live before playing the most cliched of card games that every ALT uses as a last resort.

This week's set of classes proved to be no different. All excitement or creativity has been amputated in favour of the most mind-numbing and uninspiring structured class that I've come to expect from the Japanese process of... over-preparing and limiting any possibility of personal error. The problem is that sometimes it's better to loosen the constraints and let students be more creative and possibly think and learn from whatever mistakes they'd made. For instance, I'll teach the usual set question/answer with taught vocabulary but then ask the students to think of other examples. Usually, the grammar and pronunciation will be dreadful but I'll let it go because they've understood what they're saying and have put some personal thought into it.

This week consisted of reasons as to why the students wanted to go to another country or prefecture. Each one was linked with a specific reason that made it difficult to understand. For example, apparently myself and the students are meant to know what prefecture grapes, apples, peaches, crabs, potatoes "come" from. It was an absolute nightmare. It didn't help matters that she whipped out the kanji for them during the lesson and then asked me to read them off. I would make the comparison that it was the same as myself writing down Scottish towns and asking her to read them on the spot BUT the difference is that some of the kanji might as well have read "arse mountain prefecture" for all I knew. "I want to go to Futomomo Yama Ken! WHY? Because... I like orenji"

I managed to turn it into some welcomed comic relief but I couldn't help but think she did it on purpose to make me look like an idiot. Although I think she was upset that I knew the majority of them... because unlike her I've actually travelled to these magical lands where all the colourful fruits grow. The most enjoyable bits this week involved the class with countries. To begin with... she requested that I include Switzerland (...why?) in the collection of materials I had already made. I suggested that we could use Scotland (you know...where the foreigner in the room is from) or America or Australia or Nigeria... you know any of the other cards I made. Nope she wanted Switzerland. After the class she approached me and said (in Japanese) "It's really hard to say Switzerland". The next week she requested that I make some materials for Italy. After the class she complained that the flags of France and Italy are too similar and were confusing. This week she asked me in Japanese what the 自由の女神 was in English. I only knew that it was The Statue of Liberty because I had seen it on television once and was surprised that it was one of the few foreign things that had been given kanji. It is actually a nice translation and means Freedom's Goddess. She told me that it was too difficult. I told her that if she went to New York then she would need to use the English for it. She nodded in a way that meant she was ignoring me. So for the rest of the lesson we were all off to see the jiyu no megami in Nyu Yooku, Amerika.

So that about sums up my contribution to my job these days. I print off and laminate cards of various countries whilst failing to convince people that we should probably use English words during English class. I tend to stand in the corner of the classroom looking out the window and contemplating my existence whilst repeating words like a life size ipod. These days I tend to just go and play with the 1st grade and swing them all about the classroom until I make them so dizzy they fall on their arse and then laugh until they're almost in tears. Also, I can lie to them and tell them I'm really good at stuff that I'm not. The other day I juggled with two furry dice and was greeted with gasps and an applause. I then played the drums and they all said I was super talented. I then rolled my eyes into my skull, said I was a monster and picked up two screaming kids who I then told I was going to eat their ears first whilst their friends tried to save them by jabbing pokemon up my futomomo yama.
Thursday, 26 November 2009

PostHeaderIcon Mado


I don't why it is but every winter I am in Japan I tend to get sicker and sicker. This year I've had problems with colds, infru, ear infections, pulled muscles and other things that led me to diagnose myself on the internet. It turns out that I'm seven months pregnant. Personally, I'm still more willing to trust the internet than a Japanese doctor. I read an account (on facebook status updates) of another ALT in Kochi who told the doctor in Japanese about six times of a drug they were allergic too and it would kill them. The doctor then prescribed 4 different medications... two of which had the drug in it. Just saying like...

So I feel like death all warmed up for another approaching weekend of failed Japanese study. No doubt I'll end up sitting in my underwear, eating pizza and getting massacred playing teenage Americans on Xbox Live. After two years I finally got my stupid console connected to the internet. I have therefore spend the last week or two listening to the most ridiculous "smack talk" whilst playing football and shooting games. Every American on the internet sounds like the same person. The saturation of the word "faggot" is almost unbelievable. I have had the most fun in the world winding them up. It's like shooting babies in a barrel... stealing candy from fish. Except... my character is in the barrel and all the other fish are sniping me from 200 metres away. My Japanese test is coming up in about 9-10 days. I have failed miserably at my studying. There is just too much grammar and conjugations and exceptions and I don't care and I don't even speak anything that I learn and everyone is better than me and I failed last year too and oh dear. I should be studying right now.

I got really drunk on Wednesday evening. I haven't been drunk for ages... probably since my last few bouts of blog updates. It's possible I only write when I've got the moany comedowns of mid-week to deal with. An old JET friend came back to visit so we gaijin smashed an all you can drink affair at a Korean barbecue place and retired to my house for more drinking. I finished off a fair amount of lovely Bowmore single malt mmm mmm. I drink it with hot water and the lovely peat goes all the way down to my soul and back. I might have one for lunch. You know... to fight off the infru. I saw it on Japanese television. The Japanese man told that it would work.

Anyway... let me conclude with a reason as to why I might be ill all the time. Japanese homes are freezing in the colder months. They don't have any form of heating or insulation. The other morning I went to junior high school early to be part of the yearbook picture. I got a front row seat next to the principals. I don't know how I pulled that one off. Considering I had just woken up... bombed it down the 40 minute drive from the mountains and was wearing my torn converse and a lovely jumper. They made me put my hands on my knees... clenched... and told me to stop smiling. Anyway... back in the office I noticed that I was as cold as I'd ever been. It suddenly occurred to me that every window was open. I closed the one behind me and preceded to watch everyone complain that "Oh it's so cold. Oh isn't it just? Oh it's so cold? Whatever could be the reason?" I then told one of them that HEY MAYBE... MAYBE... we could close the windows?

Oh no no no. "We need to open the windows for fresh air. Fresh air is healthy."
Tuesday, 10 November 2009

PostHeaderIcon Good news

A few months before I came to Japan there was a greatly covered news story about a 22 year old English girl who was killed by some Japanese scumbag. She worked for a private English school and was murdered when she went to his home. Anyway, I played along with the initial dodgy banter from friends down the pub that I'd end up in a bath of sand as she did before forgetting about it. However, I was reading about her story last week again and I felt exceptionally angry and sorry for her. The killer managed to run past NINE Japanese policemen in his bare feet when they came to arrest him. He has been on the run for over two years and it is pretty obvious that his family had been funding him - he got half-caught after having a lot of plastic surgery done last month. I was feeling pretty disgusted by the half-arsed police job and the lack of scrutiny on the killer's family but he was caught in Osaka earlier today. Good stuff. I hope he rots in the jail.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon Milk Manga

Alright. So I took a photograph of the back of two milk cartons. It has the same 4 box style of the ones I showed my adult class. So here is my take on them with my limited Japanese (and especially the local dialect). You might need to click on the picture to see them.


Let's start with the one on the left. It appears the gran has a sore stomach in the first panel. I think the grandson has suggested she drink some delicious hot milk... obviously. Mmm mmm delicious Kochi milk. Wait a second? What's happened to her? Her skirt has blown off and she's about to wet herself? The grandson looks excited by this. Maybe he spiked her milk? The comic concludes with the grandfather waking up to find the bed wet. "Not again!" he says. Deary deary me. This story escalated very quickly from delicious milk to the reality of old age and its accompanying ailments.

Translation: The gran complains that recently she has been sleeping bad. The grandson then mentions that before going to sleep you should drink hotto miruku. I think he means hot milk. Then she replies with some gibberish about sitting. The grandson is excited because there's hot something and then hot underpants! I have no idea what shes says next so I looked it up. She's says "This is effective! or something. It is still uncertain at this point whether she has actually wet herself... that would be an effective way to get hot underwear. I think I was correct. Alright... the grandpa is pretty pleased with the hot underwear. Maybe he likes it. I think the punchline is that he can now sleep because the bedroom atmosphere/mood has become pleasant. Excellent stuff.

I'm so happy that we have a second comic to analysis and breakdown. Especially since the local dialect just throws about letters all over the place. Grandpa looks pretty pleased in the first panel. I think he's sleeping better because the wife is wetting herself. Maybe he has taken it upon himself to try this new milk creation himself and see what all the fuss is about. The grandson appears to be showing him how to drink. I think the Americans introduced it after the war so maybe he isn't aware of it yet. This is Kochi prefecture after all. We have a picture of a cow next. I guess the grandson is showing him where the milk comes from. He asks... what part of the cow is it? Do you squeeze the juices out the head? The head is always the most derishasu. Then the grandson laughs and proclaims "No! We squeeze it out the cow's nipples of course! That's completely natural!". I am suddenly disgusted with milk.

Translation: Alright the grandpa is giving some praise rubbish about the milk and cows being mostly local to Kochi or something. The kid is giving it some oishii. You should know that since I taught you it. Then he talks about two things involving the ground that I don't know. I have no idea what the picture of the cow is talking about. I think it mentions a four panel comic and something else about Kochi cows? The text on the udder says MILK BANZAI! which is just a celebratory cheer I guess. The punchline is a bit weak. I think オチチis meant to mean udder/breast and オチ actually means the punchline of the joke.

HAHAHA that was great stuff. I'm really glad I spent so much time on it. Goodbye.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon How to purposely fail a class

Good evening.

Tuesday night is when I teach my advanced adult class the wonders of the English language. I gave up trying to act like a real teacher as they are near enough fluent. Therefore I spend my hour an a half talking about the news, Scotland, Japan and history. Occasionally I will prepare something of interest with mixed results. As I was running late this afternoon I decided I would teach them some dark humour. I prepared the most simple explanation I could and showed them a web comic that I like. Considering it takes me a short time to process some on them myself... I knew it was going to confuse them in spectacular fashion. So for nothing more than my own enjoyment... I printed off some and sat with anticipated glee at the thought of watching old, countryside women stare vacantly at a cartoon depicting jokes about death and war. It was wonderful. Here are a selection of some of the less... crude.


"I don't understand. The doctor is pointing to the bee? Oh it is an eye test? In Japan, our eye tests are.... different. So bee is wrong? The doctor meant E? Did he say it wrong? Oh it's a mistake? Why didn't they check again before the operation?"



"What's Vernon? Oh, is that the universe? Why is there many capital A? Oh it's a name? What's that? Oh he's burning to death? Is that funny? Snow? I don't understand? The astronaut is a snowflake now? I don't understand"



"Oh the colours are different? Why did the mother and child change? Oh they are different? One is a storybook? I don't understand. So what one is real? So the rabbits are bad? Oh YES YES! I understand! They ate the carrots!"


They were all very valid points of course. This is what happens when you are not in sync with the same language and culture. There is a cartoon on the milk cartons here written in the local dialect. All the old people love it. I'm always confused even when I try and translate it. One had a grandpa and grandson drinking the milk. Then they took off their clothes and started dancing.

Anyway, it was fun. Here is one I really wanted to use but didn't have the bottle despite it being the most relevant in the country of train.... accidents.


Monday, 19 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Infru

Infru

Japanese people can be annoyingly naive and cautious when it comes to rather common and mundane things. For example, whenever you participate in anything that might be slightly dangerous then you need to attend an hour or two of meetings to prepare. Then you need to stand about listening to an alpha male (like the chef below) state the obvious. When rafting, don't drown. When using the oven, don't stick your head in it. Don't run with knives when drunk. Don't drink anything from under the sink. It would remind me of being lectured as a child... if you know... I wasn't so young when I was first told such blatantly obvious safety advice that I can't even remember it now.

Moving on... it 'officially' changed seasons here about a month ago but only recently has the weather got comfortable enough to sleep with a cover. As usual, the changing colours of the leaves brings with it the arrival of the dreaded INFRU (shortening of influenza). Japanese people in my work have been harking on about infru for the past two autumns and winters. However, like back home, people catch the common cold rather than the flu. This means everyone spends a few weeks sniffling with blood shot eyes as they drink copious amounts of sickly, hot lemon from the convenient store. Indeed, I have found this the best medicine for the cold here as Japanese drugs are the most embarrassingly weak (and expensive) things I have ever come across. The reason for this is because foreign drugs are too strong for little, tiny Japanese people and their little weak, unique bodies to process. That's what they tell me anyway.

So the result is that half the country buy those white, surgical masks to stop themselves catching it and to stop spreading it. And because this is Japan, nobody in their right mind would think it normal to take a day off work when they're coughing up their brains in bed. Even if a Japanese person has the audacity to stay at home, recuperate and avoid infecting the office then they cannot take a sick day. That is not to say they don't exist but you need to be close to death in order to qualify for one of those. Indeed, your work will kindly take a days holiday on your behalf. I found this out in my first year when someone said I could just use a holiday day to go to the doctor to get my BROKEN LEG put in a cast.

This attitude to come into work no matter what is the opposite when schools are concerned. My first year class has about thirty students and six were off school today because of infru. This means that the WHOLE class has been given the rest of the week off. I don't know if this is to stop the spread or it is so some students don't fall behind in the curriculum. This meant that I had to listen to many, serious conversations regarding infru this morning in work. I can't explain how irritating it is when you're trying to concentrate on understanding Japanese and the conversation is peppered by bastardised English words. Especially when it is said in a tone that suggests the Tano students were at the centre of an outbreak of an evolved and deadly strain of swine fru.

Dear Japan. Infru is just the common cold. Everyone gets it at least once a year. This year's new infru is the same strain as always. If swine fru does go mental and starts to kill everyone then your nation doesn't stand a chance. Occasionally washing your hands with methanol gel will not save you. We will all die. So buy a hot lemon and get on with it.

Update: My school has been cancelled for the rest of the week because 10 students out of about 90 have been off sick.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Oishii

美味しい : Supa Derishasu

This is my gyoza. It IS delicious.

Greetings everyone. I've been finding it difficult trying to find something to write about recently. I don't feel as comfortable going on my usual rants about life because it turns out everyone I know reads this blog and then talks about it in... reality. Indeed, one of my friends asked me the question "Are you happy over there? You sound miserable when I read your blog." This came as a surprise because I thought I was being all dry and witty. I could almost imagine myself chain smoking on stage with a bottle of wine and giving an amusing yet concise social analysis of Japanese society. I failed to steer away from this opinion when I replied with "It's alright" and so the impression that I detest my life and I am only driven every morning by my hatred of Japanese people continues. This is far from the case and I've already deleted three drafts praising Japanese people in an attempt to convince everyone that I am not a miserable naysayer. However... I do not feel comfortable writing positive things... especially about Japan. I'll save that for optimistic Americans eyeing up a cheeky book deal about finding peace and bollocks in the land of the rising sun. Furthermore... I have found that I have no desire to write anything when I am happy and content. So there you go.

Nevertheless, I was handed a golden nugget of material yesterday when I was invited to make "pizza" with Japanese people in my town. It must be said that this is one of the rare times I have been invited to anything that didn't involve me giving up 7 hours on a Sunday. I was quite excited to be going along actually even though the schoolchildren I was expecting were replaced by housewives. I have nothing against them exactly... it's just... they're such irritating busy bodies who are always clogging up MY supermarket when I just want beer and crisps.

Anyway, things went along as I had anticipated. The guy teaching everyone was an old Japanese man who thought he was better than he was. He proved this by wearing his whole chef gear shebang that he probably ordered off the Internet. The housewives listened to him with great respect and then scuttled about doing things in an irritating manner. The ingredients were an embarrassment to anyone who had ever ventured out of the prefecture yet everyone went "ooohhh" and "aaaahhh" and got excited over the fact that the tomatoes were from my town. The pizza itself was made from rice flour which was the reason for the cooking class and my presence. I guess the prefecture is trying to promote the use of local produce or something.

The pizza base was fair enough but the sauce consisted of a poor man's tomato sauce out of a bottle. The toppings consisted of red pepper (no complaints), eggplant and some awful Japanese pickle that I always avoid. I was coping well until I was told that I wasn't spreading the tomato sauce on my base correctly by a housewife. I bit my tongue because she's an idiot and doesn't know any better. That's right old Japanese lady... you spread your tomato sauce on your rice pizza... whilst I'll pretend my first job wasn't making pizza or how I would make a pizza from scratch about once every two weeks. Oh yep... you must be right... I'm so sorry for not spreading my sauce right to the edge.... how stupid of me. Let us cover our delicacies with about five shavings of fake cheese and take them over to sensei for approval. I was just about surviving this pathetic excuse for a cooking lesson until I saw a woman drown my pizza in mayonnaise. She just wouldn't stop squeezing the bottle. I was watching her determined face as she unleashed MSG hell all over my hard work. The final step of this cultural-cuisine exchange was loading the mini-pizzas into the oven... of course they don't have ovens in Japan so we put them in a microwave. The whole lesson reminded me more of an advert for "Your Child's First Cooking Set" that you'd give your 7 year old child for Christmas. You know... those fake oven with the light bulbs.

However, the Japanese in the room didn't see anything wrong with this. The sensei had a chef's hat on after all and we were using very famous Japanese pickle as a topping. Once the the pizzas were cooked we all sat around the table getting ready to feast. The pizzas themselves were not totally vile but were only as good as you'd expect from such a woeful process. Still, the usual Japanese approach to eating then took place. This consists of everyone slurring out the word "Oishii So" in a salivating display of lust that can only be compared to that of a heroin addict getting their methadone. It translates as "That looks delicious". Then they all agree that it is indeed "Oishii" before they have even tasted it. The moment that mayonnaise soaked rice pizza touched their lips they all burst into an agreeable hum of delight. Then the focus of attention was on me as I eyed up my eggplant ridden dough and swallowed as I tried to pretend the mayonnaise was cheese. "Oishii?" they asked me as I nodded and replied "Oishii" without a second thought as I have been conditioned to do so for two years.



I'm not exactly sure what my main argument in this rant was. I only hate Japanese housewives a little bit. I don't exactly hate Japanese people enjoying food but my problem is that they are often dirty liars. I have never heard a Japanese person try/eat something and reply with anything other than oishii. This includes a reporter at a restaurant who was eating some sort of octopus brain. She was definitely trying to respond with approval but her face soon gave way to a startled realisation that she was about to vomit on live television. I'm sure they are all just trying to be as polite as possible but in doing so they have completely removed all meaning in one of their most common words. Therefore, if someone cooks me something in Japan and it is exceptionally good then I almost need to plead with them to understand that I am loving their cooking.

Of course, my relationship with oishii was once completely different. I first encountered her in my first few weeks in Japan. It was an instant way to communicate with people at a work party. I would wheel it out for every occasion and bask in the glory of cultural integration and my new found language abilities. However, time hasn't been too kind. Now, every time I turn on the television I am met by some fake Japanese chef who boasts that he once went to Paris. Of course... he just went on a package holiday but he's sure this is how you make a meal he had once. So he'll throw some garlic into a croissant and add some pickles to give it a unique Japanese flavour. Then the dim lassies who host the show will repeat the process of respect and awe and the oishii cycle will complete its course whilst hundreds of years of French cuisine has just been Nankinged.

My theory about the origins of oishii are as follows. These days the western world likes to go to pretentious sushi restaurants to try and out-impress their friends. (If you're one of them and reading this then you can score bonus points by saying oishii so to the Chinese chef.) Of course, Japanese food is popular for good reasons; it's tasty, healthy and a lot of effort does go into the presentation. Indeed, I like a lot of Japanese food and often make a lot myself. However, people tend to forget that the life of meat, fish, noodles and even rice was far from common for most Japanese people before the war. Even the old women who I teach tell me how their meals used to consist of pickles, roots and miso soup. If anyone has ever had a traditional Japanese meal then they'll realise that all of this is in the small side dishes that you leave because they taste like the bitter tears of failure. The reason that this oishii process developed was because everyone secretly knew that their food was awful. The way to cope with this was to lie to themselves that everything they had was delicious.

Indeed, I don't actually believe my point because they were probably working themselves to death and were near, constant starvation. Still, you've got to feel sorry for the old Japanese. Even the poorest of peasants in Europe could at least experience the delights of meat, bread and beer. Ahhh look at me stand on my Eurocentric platform and patronise the entire Japanese race throughout the whole of history. I cannot beat this.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

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The rice has been cut.

Hello. I am fully aware that I have not been updating my blog this 3rd JET year. It is a mixture of not wanting to, having no time and studying Japanese during any down time at work. I'll try and update it from now on for all my loving admirers around the globe. (I typed glove three times there).
Friday, 11 September 2009

PostHeaderIcon Friday afternoon

Friday afternoon is my favourite time of the week. I finish work at lunch. Here's what I've done so far:

Ate 5 sausages, 2 eggs and tea for lunch.
Watched youtube videos of past Scotland World Cup games. I am hurting from the Holland defeat.
Finished reading my book.
Went and bought a new bottle of gin, bottles of tonic and lemon.
Started to drink.
Put on The Supremes.
Cleaned my house.
Danced and sang for a bit.
Went for a 20 minute nap listening to David Bowie.
Started to study Japanese only to stop and realise I'd been slapping my cheek for 10 minutes to the rhythm of LCD Soundsystem

Off for dinner with old Japanese women. See ya later
Monday, 7 September 2009

PostHeaderIcon A New Year

How does one continue to survive in the Japanese countryside for a third year?


Importing endless amounts of sausages.

Seeevvveen sausages sizzling in the pan. One went pop and the other went get it up ye Japan.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009

PostHeaderIcon Sukotorando Scotland Scotia Caledonia Ecosse

So I have victoriously returned to the country of my birth and youth. I tricked my parents into thinking I was off to China. I haven't done much but sleep and binge on food. However, I did go for a lovely drive the other day. So I thought I would write it up since I probably won't update this for weeks.

I escaped the rain clouds of East Kilbride to head to... West Kilbride.

I was heading for Hunterston Castle which is where the Clan Hunter originate from. They used to be the royal guardians of the local forests on the mainland and the island of Arran (in the picture)

Here I am at the 'castle'. It was private property apparently and some upper class looking lad was shouting at me but I drove away. I took a wrong turn and ended up in the private grounds of the nuclear power plant next door.


Scotland Good: Football, bread, cheese, milk, lovely beers, newspapers, refreshing air, good water, lovely scenery when sunny

Scotland Bad: Schizophrenic weather makes it impossible to plan. Annoying English voices on television. Understanding (idiot) people. Greenock.
Thursday, 30 July 2009

PostHeaderIcon Cheerio

See ya later losers

That's me off on my holibags in a few hours. I'm looking forward to eating a whole peking duck to myself in Tokyo this evening. It's going to be great.

I met Alex yesterday at the airport and he seems pretty cool. We went to dinner down in Muroto with two new Aussies there too. It was nice to meet everyone but my mind is set on escaping the crushing heat of the August sun.

Bye forever
Monday, 27 July 2009

PostHeaderIcon Two Years

I didn't really have an appropriate picture to post with this entry.

Alright. So that's my second year in Japan over with and I've found myself stuck in the lethargic limbo that is the end of the JET schedule. My office is deserted and I have no work to do so I have found myself reminiscing over the past two years and of the friends who are leaving Kochi. This time last year I wrote a massive entry that gave a brief description over everything I did that year. I can't be arsed doing that this year for many reasons. I can't remember everything for a start but a lot of things were similar and also that I lost the "OH WOW JAPAN" attitude that most first year JETs bring with them to Narita airport. That isn't necessary a bad thing though and I have had a much more enjoyable time here in my second year. A lot of the little niggles and difficulties of life here have vanished or I've simply become used to them. The most concerning thing for a writer of such a bitter blog is my life here now feels totally normal and that I am now so accustomed to every day life here that I forget what it was like back home.

It's been a good year ranging from travelling around Japan and Asia to just getting drunk under my kotatsu with friends in the winter. I hate writing nice things about people but my group of friends this year have been excellent and I'll miss a lot of them. Also, a main reason for enjoying this year would be meeting my girlfriend who I don't really like writing about... mainly because it makes both of us feel ill. She's great though and puts up with all my rubbish. Although she makes me make all her food and she's the most clumsy person I've ever met.

The main differences affecting me next year will be the replacement of Noah with a new CIR called Alex. I'm surprisingly not that bothered about it considering he'll be my new neighbour and colleague for the next year. Noah is only off to Kochi City so I don't need to cry a river for him leaving. In saying that, I will miss Noah at work and I have greatly enjoyed our man-bitching over our desks for the past two years.

So here's to two years of working with Noah and listening to the daily paranoia of his portion size at school lunch, his never-ending battles with mosquitoes, his coffee induced eye twitches, his embarrassment when we both wore red polo shirts at work, his dedication to the rotation policy between grades at playtime, the day he let a French stranger live with him but wouldn't share his last can of beer, when I shaved his head to the bone by accident, when he talked to our awkward supervisor about women in the darkness and seclusion of a temple, when I heard him screaming when birds flew into his house, his half hour battles selecting a movie to rent, the day we walked up the wrong path to a temple and I got dehydrated, the weekend we spent with 80 year old women and getting blind drunk in Takamatsu, the day he screamed in tormented fear at the impending crash of a truck 200 metres away driven by an old woman, his anger at me being praised for singing Japanese at his leaving party despite him singing the whole song perfectly, his look of disgust when I have doubts about Scottish independence, his maggot rice, his semi-successful pizza gyoza creation, his help when I broke my leg and for just generally being a good friend who dealt with all the bollocks at work in an environment that wasn't easy.

I think I need to go to the airport to meet the new Tanoite on Wednesday. I hope the car ride there isn't awkward because I used up all my Japanese conversation at the work party on Friday. I'm actually leaving for Tokyo on Thursday evening so I won't be around these parts for the whole of August to meet new people. I kind of feel like the average JET life is two years so I'm quite happy to have a long break whilst Alex and the new people settle themselves in. Meanwhile, I'll be off in Tokyo doing lots of exciting things before going off on holiday for another three weeks. It's great.
Thursday, 16 July 2009

PostHeaderIcon Stupid Gaijin: Unique Japan

Unique Japan

My supervisor just handed me this year's JET Journal. This waste of Japanese taxpayer's money is sent out to every JET. I don't know why they bother making a new one because the essays written are the same every year. They go along the lines of; Oh isn't Japan special and unique? Here's a funny story about buying chicken hearts instead of chicken breasts. Oh my old neighbour gave me some free pickles. I truly understand Japan after a visit to a temple with my friend. BLAH BLAH BLAAAAAAH

Here are some of my selected clippings from this year:

Fish Out of Water

" Every morning as I head to work, I give a polite bow to Ogura-san and tickle the toes of my four-year-old neighbor sticking out of a first story window in greeting. After two years, I feel very much at home in this community. It is funny to see myself so comfortable now - selecting the best bamboo shoots at the grocery store - because when I arrived, I was quite the fish out of water. "

Ah the very first paragraph of the journal sets the scene for every other essay. We've got the every day routine of the JET established and this is quickly followed by the important references to politeness, bowing and token Japanese neighbour-san. We have the imagery of a lost American... trying to find their way in a foreign land. Oh but everything is alright because they are now Japanised enough to select the best bamboo like an old Japanese granny. This entry isn't too bad I guess but here are the next two lines:

"Despite my smiles, my gills were breathing in a terrible oxygen. Eventually I learned to breath - and what a fresh air it turned out to be!"

Shut up... just shut up. Your metaphors are ridiculous and I hate you. I bet you stuff your face with Haggen-Dazz ice-cream from the convenient store. Bamboo shoots my face. Stop touching the neighbour's children.

Pieces of my Heart

"Why do you like Japan so much?" My usual response to that question was "Because I like the Japanese culture and Japanese is such a beautiful language." But after living in Japan for a few years and experiencing so much, I finally realized the answer to that question. Without further thinking, I told her, "It's because I like the hearts of Japanese people." I have to admit that I'm in love with the people. They are important pieces of my heart. Without them, I would never be who I am today and would never be complete."

Urgh URGH URRRGGH. This is the most sickening thing I have ever read. Doesn't she realise that Japanese people don't have hearts? They don't have souls either... they aren't real people for crying out loud. If you love Japan so much why don't you marry it eh? The last line sounds like one of those awful wedding vows that people say to each other. You would never be complete? What... is your life so miserable that you can't live without a Japanese person talking to you about food for hours on end? Conclusion: This American had a terrible childhood with no love. They sought shelter in Japanese anime and went on to study Japanese at University.

Urgh I've read through the rest of the journal but it's all just the same mince about destiny and understanding. There's mentions of the land of the rising sun, bowing, tea ceremony, sumo BLAH BLAH BLAH. All the foreigners who write this rubbish should be ashamed of themselves. It's all cliched crap so they can get their names in a book. I'd like to introduce them to some other Japanese culture... bloody seppuku. Choke on that you miserable cretins who enjoy life and like fish guts and Mount Fuji and Japanese television and their neighbour's homemade rice cakes. SHUT UP!

Here's my entry for guaranteed publication next year:

Every Grain is Sacred

"It was on my first night in Tokyo that I came across the delightful food the Japanese call gohan. I didn't know any Japanese so I pointed to what the businessman to my left was eating. I was presented with a glistening mound of rice in a magnificent ceramic vessel. I trembled with anticipation as I broke my first hashi and steadied my hand in preparation for the impending mouthful. However, I was shocked to find that I couldn't taste anything and I felt overcome with shame that I had failed to appreciate this unique Japanese food.

The man to my left must have noticed my self-disgust as he explained in broken English that only a Japanese can truly appreciate gohan. He said that each grain was believed to come from God himself and that one could only appreciate the subtle flavours after years of consumption. He said that a bowl of rice reminded the Japanese people of the summit of Mount Fuji. He said that together this was "Japanese spirit. Samurai soul". I came to realise that I would never truly appreciate this aspect of Japanese culture but during my year on JET I could come to understand and share the differences between our two countries!

Before I left the restaurant that evening I was presented with another shimmering gift. I asked what was in the cup in front of me and was told it was "very famous Japanese ocha". The businessman, who was now on his seventh cigarette, told me it was very healthy. He concluded that if gohan was the spirit of Japan then ocha was the lifeblood of the nation. I took a tentative sip of this alluring infusion and yer... it was just fucking green tea."

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My work are trying to convince me to donate blood in the van outside. I keep telling them "Oh no I can't because I'm a foreigner" but they're going "Oh no no it's fine 大丈夫 大丈夫". I think they're close to wheeling me outside in my chair.

I can't I can't I will scream. I have the bad blood from the mad cows in イギリス I will try to explain but they will laugh at me. You are only 外人... you are not 牛。 Mecha taihen
Wednesday, 15 July 2009

PostHeaderIcon Searches that landed on my blog

Hello. I'll write a proper entry tomorrow but for now I would like to share with you all the search engine entries that make strangers turn up here:

From Los Angeles: Watto izu rabu

I am quite proud of this one and it influenced me to start this entry. It's good to see that my mild mocking of katakana English has had such a profound effect on the internet. I like to think that a young Japanese girl moved to America and is disillusioned with foreign men. Thus she enters her broken English into google and ends up seeing my bearded mug staring at her.

From Miami: How good is stuff in Japan?

This is another favourite of mine that only appeared yesterday. I like to think of some pot head in Florida having an argument with his flatmate over "how good stuff is". I think this particular argument kicked off after they watched Karate Kid whilst eating cookie dough... I heard that's what those American types do. Bonus points: The search linked to my post about the abandoned restaurant in Muroto.

From Louisianna: My life in Japam

Japam sounds like some sort of delicious ham. I hope there is something called Japam.

From Miami: Japanese men in their 40s complain too much

Another classic from Florida here. I like how there is not even a question being asked here. I like to think that the stoner from earlier found a Japanese man and tried asking him how good his stuff was. The man was then irritated because he was a fourth generation Korean. I don't remember making any post that would link that search to me. Japanese men in their 40s like drinking bitter canned coffee and smoking weak cigarettes. I complain more.

From Hamilton in my very own Scotland: Domo arigato mr roboto stupid jap

Good to see that the racism towards Japanese people spreads to all my fellow countrymen. I have no idea how such a search appeared by someone from Scotland. Did they see the music video for the song? Did they somehow blame a Japanese person for it? Were they shocked to see a Scottish flag on my blog? Stupid Jock!

From London: Cantona sardines in Japanese

This links to a post where I praised the genius of former Manchester United player Eric Cantona. I'm afraid I don't know the translation of his famous sardines quotes.

From Glasgow: Watermount Hotel

This is great. If you put this Glasgow hotel into google then my blog is about the 5th link on the list. All because I wrote Glasgow, Mount Fuji and Water in one post. Take that you dirty Scot.

From America: Shikoku teaching BAD not fun boring miserable

This one made me laugh for ages. I especially like the use of capitals for bad. Oh the rage that must be flowing from their time on this mountanious, isolated island of despair. I love Shikoku, it's great.

Depressed Americans: I hate my life in Japanese, Death and honor in Japanese and I would die for you in Japanese

Sorry lads... my Japanese is weak. I could order us some beers... might steer you away from all that death talk.

I get about 3 searches a day looking for "Irishman, Scotsman... Chineseman... Welshman"

I wrote one of these 'jokes' a few weeks back. I wish I made it funnier now... people might actually have used my joke.

My favourite this year was "popular people in Japan" which linked to this painting of Noah and I.

I noticed last year that a lot of people from South-East Asia (especially Bangkok) kept on searching for "Japanese whose". There was me thinking I was helping them with their Japanese studies. Then I noticed a few were searching for specific "Japanese office/nurse/police whose" and something clicked. Add an extra 'r' into those searches and you'll see what they were after. Sorry lads.

Honourable mention

Last year some poor American lad had typed this into google for some reason:

" jap girls are evil break heart slut depressed revenge "

I looked on google and my blog didn't appear until about the 27th page of the results. Did he sit there all day hoping to find someone with similar despair?

p.s Japanese people apparently love searching "stupid gaijin". I'll make some more for you Nihonjins out there.

-------------------

Update: Someone was looking for "Take That December Glasgow" yesterday and landed on this entry. Take That are a terrible boy band from the 90s that have recently reformed.
Tuesday, 7 July 2009

PostHeaderIcon Quicky


Alright. I have no free time to write anything of interest recently. Instead, here's a school lunch from last week. We have a roll with sweet red beans. Noodles and bowl of stuff... horrible bamboo/carrot salad thing and milk. All of which was served warm because it's 28 degrees and they hand me my lunch 15 minutes before the students eat.
Thursday, 25 June 2009

PostHeaderIcon Oops

I got a call from elementary this morning about my classes today. I kind of pretended to know what was being said. I know something is happening... I think it was the English room is booked out. Or it could be swine flu, aliens... school trips, ill teachers... I have no idea. I'm off to find out!
Monday, 22 June 2009

PostHeaderIcon I like sportsu. They make me happy.

The victorious Kochi Football Club of 2009

Good evening world. I just ate some deliciously greasy gyoza (dumplings) and I'm trying to waste time before I take a shower. I would take one now but it has got so unbearably humid recently that I want to wait as close to bed as possible. I had almost fooled myself into believing that the summer weather here wasn't as bad as I remembered but I was wrong WRONG!

Anyway, I thought I'd write a little bit about the two weekends of sport I had recently. First up was the mightly Kochi Football Club travelling in bright yellow to the swine flu infested island of Awaji (between Shikoku and Osaka). Once again we had a strong number of people who were up for a party and "don't know much about soccer". We all got drunker than planned on the Friday night but this didn't damage us too much for the three games on Saturday. We had a rough draw as we had to play two proper amateur teams back to back. First up was a team from Nagano or Nagoya called Shonai I think. We played so much better than I imagined and only lost 2-0 despite having various chances - Noah missed a sitter and I got one the wrong side of the post. Next up was the always champions of Real Osaka who beat as comfortably (6-0?) despite us playing our best football in the first half. We should have destroyed Wakayama in our last game but we seemed to fluff a few chances. I won us a penalty after the keeper took me out of the game and their defender decided to lie on top of the ball. I converted the penalty like I did last year... with the grace of a seagull diving into a trawler to steal a fish. They got a penalty in the last minute and the 1-1 draw meant we had a tougher game the next day.

That night we all got absolutely hammered in our hotel and then went to a snack bar where I drank Chinese 'fire water'. It is the worst drink I have ever tasted. The next day both the men and women's teams kicked off hungover or still drunk. I was a bit gone myself but sobered up and was determined to score again. I was running through on goal at full speed and about to smash the ball when this Japanese lad came in and got the ball off me at the last second. This resulted in me absolutely smashing my right leg off him and made me limp the rest of the week. I actually got the "kick shitted out of me" in every game.. especially by other Scottish people the gits. We lost the last game 3-1. We played well and I showed a few glimpses of my former glory but about a decade of casual playing and binge drinking has destroyed me.

We watched the women's team for the rest of the afternoon before heading back on the road. As usual... they always perform better than but still came last. The keeper was an American girl called Claudia and she was excellent. I think she even played on with a broken rib. My favourite bits of their games was my friend Michelle running into and flooring this tiny Japanese girl who didn't move out the way. Also, Naomi scored a belter of a goal and we all ran on the pitch and banged out drums to the KFC song. It was a good weekend full of good banter. Our half time shows involved music, dancing, song and chants that made us stand out even more than the neon shirts. Right... I've written too much.

The next weekend was the touch rugby tournament. I didn't have us much fun playing because my knee hurt and I was rubbish. However, we were actually pretty good and won the lower of 3 groups. Considering the overall winners were a selection of Kiwis from all over Japan we did pretty well. I got really drunk that night and became unusually sociable. The Mauris aren't actually that nice. I thought they'd be all friendly and that but instead I was probably lucky not to get punched when I was at their house party. Some Japanese woman started hitting and shouting at me too. Also, I met some Scottish people that I hadn't seen for 2 years so that was fun. We won a mug.

We had to wear masks to protect ourselves from the 'grumpyarseitis' of the other teams.

2009 Tokushima Touch Rugby Champions (3rd division)
Thursday, 18 June 2009

PostHeaderIcon 40 minutes left of Thursday

This last hour has been utter hell in the office. I'm exhausted and hate all the Japanese people here with their stupid... talking on the phone. I can't see past it. I think I'm going to die at my desk. I'll probably delete this tomorrow. ARRRRRGH
Sunday, 14 June 2009

PostHeaderIcon Good Japan: Abandoned Stuff

Haikyo - 廃墟 - Ruins

About a forty minute drive down the coast from my town is a place called Muroto. It's famous for deep sea water and whales. It is located on the west cape of Kochi on the island of Shikoku and will be totally destroyed when the predicted Nankai Earthquake/Tsunami hit.

There are a few sights to see down there including a famous temple, statues, wedded rock things and the like. However, the best thing there is an abandoned restaurant at the top of the cape. I did a little bit of research (I stuck ruins+kochi+muroto into google in Japanese) and found other people who had gone there. Apparently it is called the 'New Muroto Sky Rest'. My guess is that it went under when the bubble burst here about two decades ago. I found a website ages ago that was full of pictures of abandoned hotels, restaurants and theme parks throughout Japan and that was the reason for most of them going bust. Indeed, an hour away in Noichi there is a fake castle on a hillside that used to be an amusement park.

Anyway, I have visited the restaurant a few times (I went up the spiral staircase in crutches once) but have always forgotten to take my camera. My camera failed to capture what I saw with my eyes but at least you'll get the idea. I think there are going to be a lot more of these structures reclaimed by nature in years to come... especially in Shikoku. Although it is more likely to be old schools now that the population is aging.

Fortress Muroto. A missing set from Battle Royale.

This must have been the main enkai/entertainment room because there was a stage and lots of sodden tatami mats. The coffee sign says スカイレスト (Sky Rest), 食事 (meal) and 喫茶(tea drinking/house)

The kitchen in the adajacent restaurant has deteriotrated quite a bit. This is the hobs of the main cookers. The restaurant looks remarkly small when it's empty.

Every time I go here I always want to have a quick pee but I'm scared a spider will jump at me and I won't have time to run away. Also, the desire to smash a urinal is quite hard to overcome.

Such wonderful views of the cape. This was taken in the exceptionally small and narrow staircase (1 of 3). The white statue is the monk who invented hiragana/katakana and the 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku. I couldn't tell you his name.

The Sky Rest comes with its very own infinity pool. The last time I went there the water was a rancid green. It's fun to throw things into it. Also, you can see this part of the roof because a whole wall has collapsed.

Each staircase has one of these horned beasts at the top of it. You can't climb up the towers because rust has eaten away at them. I like how the vines have managed to reach the top and are pulling it back into the Shikoku wilderness.
You know... most things built in 1960s Britain resemble this. The only difference is they are still used as schools, libraries and offices.


Here is a good website with some stuff from around Japan. It's in Japanese but the pictures are interesting enough.
Friday, 12 June 2009

PostHeaderIcon Seouled myself

I guess I have put off talking about my trip to Korea for long enough. I probably should have written it when I got back about 5 weeks ago because now I can't remember that much about it. Although I did spend a lot of the time drunk so that could have contributed to my memory loss.

Before we even left Kansai airport I was being coerced into drinking white wine. Now, this is obviously too feminine a drink for me to consume... what with my rugged beard and all. However, I appreciate the silky ease of it as it pours down into my belly. Still, there is the increasingly difficult task of tilting the glass to a ridiculous angle the more you drink. My main point is I spent most of my time in Korea drinking wine. Mainly because their beer is atrocious and I liked to finish off the bottle for breakfast. What? I was on my holidays.

Also, I became addicted to the breaking news of swine flu and was excited to be scanned by a heat camera at Seoul airport. Naomi pointed out on the bus to the city that they drove on the right hand side of the road. I confirmed this observation by pretending to drive and acknowledged that this was correct. That evening we went out for some Korean barbecue and had the strange sensation of not knowing how to communicate. I began to speak in Japanese before remembering where I was and continued in sheepish English. Of course, it turns out that the majority of Korean people that I interacted with were outstanding at English. Japan and all their English teachers (ahem) should be ashamed of themselves. Also, during the trip a lot of Korean people started speaking to us both in Japanese. I think it is because we both have slanty eyes or it could have been the Japanesey way we conducted ourselves at the dinner table.

I never did quite get over the hurdle of communication. Mainly because Korea is almost exactly like Japan on the surface. The only difference I could detect (apart from the obvious language/writing) was that Korea had a lot more western chains of delicious food and that Koreans had a more determined look on their face. I say that because Japanese people tend to wander about like a child whose just walked into Disneyland for the first time. It really is a very similar country though. If you were to show pictures of Seoul and Tokyo then I doubt you could really tell them apart. They're just very clean, busy, modern East Asian cities. A lot of the traditional culture of food, temples, dress is all very similar. Even modern stuff like the television format is almost identical if you ignore the language difference. It's amusing because the two countries detest each other and each nationality would punch me if I compared the two. I guess it's like comparing Spain and France. Europeans could talk endlessly on how different these countries are but a tourist from Japan would probably see all the similarities.

So yeah we went to some stuff in Seoul like the imperial palace/gardens, up Seoul Tower which was alright and a 'teddy bear' museum that I thought was appalling. There isn't much to see in Korea outside of Seoul apart from the demilitarised zone and Gyeongju (the old cultural capital). Our plans to go there were scuppered when it became apparent that the 'Golden Week' holidays occurred at the exact same time in Korea. See... they're exactly the same. So their version of the bullet train (KMZ) that leaves every 15 minutes was booked out the whole day. We had to pay a lot more for hotels too but it wasn't too big a deal. Anyway, we got there the next day and looked about all the sites and that. Some of it was alright and some of it was pretty disappointing. We saw the oldest observatory in Asia and I could have probably built one myself in about two days. Listen... I'm boring myself here. We saw more stuff there and then got drunk again in Seoul and went home. The end.

Thoughts on Korea

Korea is probably on par with Japan in my opinion but with a lot less to do and slightly less significant. Korean people seem to have a bit more of an edge (common sense) to them. I think I prefer Japan if only because I'm scared Koreans would punch me (2 years compulsory military service) if I said hello to their missus. Furthermore, they're are too many braindead American military walking around for my liking.

There national dish is fermented cabbage and I think it's boring and rubbish. It doesn't help that they serve you up about 15 small dishes of it when you have a Korean meal. They use metal chopsticks as well... they're horrible. It's probably that reason why we spent our time eating proper steaks - what is wrong with you Japan? Also, their cans of juice are amazing. They're all small, slim and the perfect amount. Their shops also stock Twix.

Korean people are just as stupid as Japanese people. They have a really annoying habit of dressing up in matching clothes. Young couples will wear some designer brand and one of them will have the exact same top but the colours reversed. Families will wear the exact same t-shirt when they were out sightseeing... maybe so the kids don't get lost? They look like idiots.

The most annoying and vanity driven cultural difference I have ever noticed belongs to Korean people. They are all obsessed with taking photographs of themself or their nearest and dearest. You see young women taking about 20 pictures on their mobile phone from different angles and lovestruck guys attacking their girlfriends with a camera that resembles a telescope. The worst is their complete lack of courtesy and I often found myself stopped on a busy path whislt a father configured his camera for the perfect shot. I think it is essential that the world is aware of this.

It's my mum's birthday today. Happy birthday mum.

I took this outside a toilet you know. Above the urinal said "I can see you".

Gyeongju mounds. Like 'Kinder Surprise' but with dead emperors inside.

Another temple in Asia? What a lovely surprise.

I'm happy. Also, I don't really like 'The Strokes'

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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