Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week 44

Another slow news week from Japan.

I spent some time last Wednesday preparing for this week's Halloween lessons at school. I dressed up for all the kids' lessons this week as I do every year. After shopping around, I didn't find anything new (at a reasonable price) so I ended up re-using last year's samurai outfit. The kids had a good time with the lessons and even the parents had a chuckle (mostly at the real Japanese-style wooden shoes that made me 4" taller and my samurai top-knot wig which made me another 2" taller)

I missed out on date night last week as my girlfriend came down with some sort of horrible plague (in her words) (looked like the flu to me.) In leu of going out I stopped by her place and dropped off a bag of Ley's (her favorite chips) and a bottle of water.

I'm looking forward to another three day weekend this week as Thursday is yet another national holiday. I'm not sure what I (hopefully we) will do for "Culture Day" but I'm sure one can find something refined and cultured somewhere in Osaka.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 43

This week just breezed by. No huge events; but a few, small, fun things.

First, I chickened out last Wednesday and didn't end up going to the police. I figure that: if whoever it is actually cuts my chain and "steals" (or moves) my bike I'll get the authorities involved. Anything less is probably not worth the time/effort it would end up taking trying to communicate what was going on. Also, as mentioned last week there's a video camera in the bike parking area so I have little fear that any perpetrator would go un-punished. (It's also just a $60 bike and I don't feel like buying a new chain that would be more expensive than the bike.)

Instead, on Wednesday afternoon I went out Halloween-costume shopping in Nipponbashi (the nerdy section of Osaka) with a friend. It was a fun chance to check out some of the costume shops there (places I usually ignore in favor of the game stores.) We didn't find anything that 1) would fit me or 2) was reasonably prices for "just Halloween". But it was nice to window-shop.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday whizzed by in a flurry of normal work. Saturday after work I had to attend a "school Halloween party" at my usual school. Despite "having to" go it turned out to be pretty fun. Some schools force you to "make the rounds" and you end up doing unpaid overtime 'teaching' but not this time. It was a fairly relaxed event and I think everyone had a good time. I dressed up in my "cos-play" (Japanese anime character costume) and though everyone liked it, no one knew who the character was.

Yesterday was another busy day teaching over the internet. We've recently lost two teachers at that school and everyone else ends up having to shoulder their work load (here during the busiest time of the year.) As a reward afterword (and just because I wanted a good burger) I went to Burger King with some friends after work.

Yesterday I also received a very nice letter from one of my regular students (' moms) saying that the student didn't really want to study English at first but, after taking my classes he really started to enjoy it. He recently went to Australia on vacation and had a chance to put our lessons into practice which he really appreciated it. Included with the letter were some koala clips (the small furry kind you see around) and a keychain. It was a small gesture on his part but put the biggest smile on my face all day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 42

Wow, I just can't seem to keep on schedule recently. I don't even have the excuse of being too busy or having too much to write about.

Again last "weekend" (Tue/Wed) I did next to nothing all weekend except hang out with friends and play videogames (not as bad as it sounds, at least I was "playing socially".)

My workweek seemed to stretch on forever this week with Monday (my "Friday") feeling particularly long as we were very busy. I think what made the time go even slower was that I didn't have a date night in the middle (usually Sat/Sun) to break it up, instead I saw my girlfriend yesterday (Tuesday) instead. (I also kinda though we were fighting all week, but as it turns out, yet again, it was all in my imagination.)

You may remember back in August (see the August 8 post) I was having some "issues" with someone in my apartment complex moving my bike. Well, until yesterday a simple bike chain fixed that problem. Now someone has taken a pair of wire cutters to the chain (cutting the plastic but leaving the steel core.) Moving my bike is annoying, damaging my chain is another story. There's a not-too-hidden camera in the bike parking area so today I have to call my landlord, get the video and go to the police. This should be an... interesting experience. One I'll do me best to update on on time next week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week 41

Another slightly delayed post today (but no where near as delayed as the post from two weeks ago.) I didn't have time to write this morning as I was out the door at the crack of dawn to go hiking but more on that later. Let's start where I left off last week...

Monday went by in a flash and led into a Tuesday/Wednesday "weekend" where I did next to nothing but play video games with friends and go out at night.

Another short work week this week and, as one might expect, it went by quickly.

Saturday night I went to see a few local bands play uptown with a friend for his birthday. It was a pretty good show with a mediocre band opening and one I"ve seen before for the second act that really rocked.

Yesterday evening I met up with my girlfriend and we made cheese-curry-nabe and vegged out to Japanese TV.

As mentioned earlier, I was out of the house by 8:00 this morning and headed to the "48 waterfalls of Akameguchi" in Mie prefecture with my girlfriend. Today's national holiday was "sports day" so we figured getting some exercise would be a good thing. After an hour and a half train ride we got off in the middle of nowhere and waited 40 minutes for a bus to take us to the base of the falls. From the base it was about a two hour hike up through a valley with sheer rock walls, following a many waterfall-ed river, to get to the end of the trail. When we couldn't go any further we stopped and ate the lunch boxes we bought in the village below before we headed back down. As is often the case, the hike back took only about 1/3 of the time it took going out. Both coming and going we had almost perfect hiking weather. It was sunny but cool and shady under the trees on the mountain. Back at the trail head we caught the bus back to the station and then hopped on a train back to Osaka (and managed to not get seats, having to stand for another hour and a half after walking 5 miles up and now hill. Excruciating.)

Back to a regular work week with nothing on the docket yet this week so we"ll just have to wait and see what opportunities present themselves.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 40

Ach, I was doing so well with updating weekly too, then to go and skip twice (almost three times) in a month! Oh well, back on track. Let's see where did I leave off...

Tuesday (the 20th), in addition to packing for my trip to Tokyo, I fit in some time to play video games with one of my friends. And, in what would be come a theme for the next few days, I went to bed fairly early.

I decided quite a while ago that I'd try to go to Tokyo Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of "Silver Week" this year. That in mind I'd been keeping a close eye on typhoon 15 which was scheduled to make land-fall right along my travel route on Wednesday. Fortunately the weather held long enough in the morning that I could get to the station without getting too wet. I rode the subway up to Shin-Osaka station, bought some souvenirs, and caught the 8:27 Nozomi Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. It was exciting riding a high-speed train through the heart of a typhoon. The train goes so fast the windows don't get wet and you can see the wall of water falling outside. I arrived at Tokyo station at 11:03 just as they were announcing that all Shinkansen services had been halted due to heavy rain. At this point the local trains were still running and it wasn't raining too hard in Tokyo to I made my way over to my old university to meet with some of my old professors (the main goal of this trip.) I met the one professor that I'd been e-mailing and we had a nice long chat over a delicious sushi lunch. Unfortunately afternoon classes were canceled (due to bad weather) so none of the other teachers came in. I also missed out on a chance to meet my two kohai (juniors) from W.M.U. as students were all told to go home early. I would have stayed and talked more but the university building itself closed down early with rumors that the local trains would stop running soon. Not wanting to get stuck too far from my hotel I made a dash over to Shibuya and checked in at my favorite capsule hotel. At this point it was still only 3 in the afternoon and, not wanting to roam too far I walked around Shibuya in the pouring down rain looking for something to do. I quickly settled on singing karaoke for a few hours (as it was both cheap and got me out of the rain for a few hours.) After singing I headed over to the local Burger King and had dinner. Shortly after dinner the rain let up and I wandered around a bit more. It was still reall windy and there were a lot of trees down along the main street including one that crushed the back half of a taxi. There were several crews of guys with chainsaws working quickly to clear the streets. Shortly before 8:00 I returned to my hotel, had a leisurely bath in the big Japanese-style bath there, and spent some time in a massage chair in the "relaxation room" planning the next day's adventure before turning in for the night at 10:30.

Thursday morning I got a reasonably early start and kicked my day off with some delicious Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Having ingested my fat and sugar allotment for the year I started to walk from Shibuya to Shinjuku (about 2 miles.) Along the way I stopped at the Meiji-jingu shrine and paid my respects. In Shinjuku I went to the top of the Tokyo Metro Govt. Building (one of my favorite places in Japan) and surveyed the Tokyo landcape. The post-typhoon calm had set in at the weather was almost perfect (except for Mt. Fuji which was hidden by it's quintessential cloud formation.) While I was taking pictures I was approached by no less than four people wanting to practice their English and ask where I was from (I don't get that too much in Osaka, it was kinda fun.) Departing from Shinjuku I took the cross-town train over to Akihabara (my favorite place in Japan.) In an amazing show of self restraint I managed not to buy anything and was satisfied to window shop before stopping for a late lunch at McD's. After lunch I walked up to Ueno Park (about a mile away.) In Ueno I decided that I'd never been to the Ueno Zoo (one of Japan's most famous) and went in. The Ueno Zoo's really proud that they have two pandas and let you know it. There are panda flags, posters, toys, marketing everywhere. Overall it's a fairly nice zoo (for an innercity zoo) and, although it has less animals, looks a lot nicer than the Tennoji Zoo here in Osaka. While I was touring the zoo it started to rain again and with the zoo closing at 4:00 I ducked into another karaoke place and waited for the rain to stop. It got to be a bit late and with the rain showing no signs of stopping I decided to walk the last leg of my excursion huddled under my umbrella. I walked from Ueno to Asakusa (another mile or so.) In Asakusa I snapped some pictures of the famous big lantern there before having a quick dinner at McD's (I'm not proud, but it's cheap and easy.) Finally I took the Ginza subway line from one end (Asakusa) to the other (Shibuya) and checked back into my hotel. Repeating the previous night's routine I again was in bed by 10:30 again. I was dog tired and although I only walked about 4 miles between destinations, I walked countless more around those places and my feet were killing me.

Originally I had planned to go see my old apartments in Shimotakaido (university) and Fujisawa (Nova) before heading back to Osaka but I changed my mind Thursday night and decided to check out Yokohama instead. There's a really convenient train line that goes from Shibuya directly to Yokohama and ends in China-town so that's where I started my day on Friday. I walked from China-town, along the waterfront, to Landmark Tower (another of my favorite places.) I arrived 5 minutes before they opened and got to ride the first elevator of the day to the top. As with the previous day the weather was fantastic (except, again, for Mt. Fuji.) Satisfied with what I'd seen in the Tokyo area I made my way back to Osaka arriving home around 3:30. I spent the rest of the evening recuperating.

The next work week was a short but busy one. After three days back it was Tuesday again before I knew it. I spent Tuesday doing chores and getting my hair cut. Wednesday I helped a friend move from up-ton into my neighborhood which was fun.

This past week's work week was normal length (5 days) but was nicely broken up with a date on Friday night (Mmmm Hawaiian burgers) and going to see my favorite band play on Saturday night. It was the band's last show of a tour so we had a big after party outside the venue which was a lot of fun. Last (Sunday) night I hosed another "game night" at my apartment which I think everyone enjoyed. Oh, aslo, last Friday was the first time I saw my high school students since before August so it was great to catch up with them and play some of the games I brought back from the States over the summer with them.

Phew, that's a lot of catching up. Anyways, looking foreword, there's nothing on the schedule for this "weekend" but next Monday I have another day off (hurray for three-day weekends in the fall!) so I may try to make plans with my girlfriend next weekend. Here's to hoping I remember to update next week.