Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week 5

Maybe it was because winter is here in full force (well, as full as it comes in Osaka) and it's been cold and cloudy, but it didn't feel like a super-great week this week.

Tuesday I met some friend for lunch at a small hidden-away tsukemen (a type of ramen) restaurant which turned out to be really good. I played video games with one of those friends for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening I met my girlfriend for date night at a yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurant. This place was a bit different as it was a grill-it-yourself place. Luckily no one gave themselves salmonella. However, unfortunately, the evening ended in a fairly big fight and we haven't really talked since (most likely the true reason the week wasn't so great.)

Wednesday I met another friend after lunch and we played card games all afternoon. In the evening I continued the James Bond marathon I've been putting on for myself.

The work week went by quickly enough. The high point being getting a shinning review from one of my immediate supervisors. These reviews being 90% of consideration for raises and placement for the next contract, this was a very good thing.

Friday night my Bond-a-thon advanced into the Rodger Moore years.

Saturday I met the same friend from Wednesday at a McDonald's uptown where we sat and played video games for a few hours in the evening.

Yesterday (Sunday) evening I had Burger King with some co-workers after work (it's becoming a Sunday tradition) before heading home and playing more card games with the same friend I played with on Wednesday.

Looking forward: I signed up for some overtime this Wednesday as well as the next so I've got a few weeks of short "weekends" but at the end of that there's a Saturday holiday and I'm using my remaining vacation days the following Sunday and Monday to give myself a much needed 5-day "Spring break".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 4

A pretty good week last week. I lounged around the house on Tuesday only venturing out briefly to do laundry and get burritos for lunch. Sadly my girlfriend was still recovering from a cold this week so date-night got pushed back from Tuesday to Friday night.

Wednesday was more exciting as I went to see my favorite band play in Kyoto. In the early afternoon I met up with some friends and we, in-turn, headed off to meet more friends in a town half-way to Kyoto. We had a nice late lunch of tako-yaki (squid balls) and dango (grilled rick cakes.) This was an excellent chance to try out my New Year's resolution of trying new things (and old things I once though disgusting.) Turns out I really like both tako-yaki and dango. Like herding cats it was a chore to get everyone out the door and headed to the show but somehow we made it to the station on time. In Kyoto we stopped at a convenience store and bought beer for the band (a tradition now) before heading to the venue. The set was great (as usual) and as there's a new album coming out soon we even got to hear some new material. After the show our group adjourned to a local izakaya (japanese pub) for drinks and food. I managed to catch the last train home and melted into my bed.

The work week went by without incident and was more of a framing device for non-work hours than anything else.

Friday night I tried my hand in the kitchen and made taco-rice (taco fixings over rice) for my girlfriend. I think it came out pretty good. I bought way too much ground beef and had an un-opened bag of tortilla chips so I made nachos for myself Saturday night.

Saturday and Sunday night were spent cleaning out old files at home (do I really need three year old gas bills?) and generally trying to get my apartment back into some form of organization.

We're heading into the cold part of the year here in Osaka (lows in the upper 20's (f)!) so it seems unlikely that I'll have any big adventures in the near future (there's certainly nothing on the calendar) but maybe something wonderful will present itself.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week 3

So, last Monday was Coming of Age Day here in Japan. I spent most of the day cleaning my apartment and catching up on movies I wanted to see. In the evening I met up with some friends for a few rounds of pool and a couple hours of karaoke.

Tuesday night my girlfriend came over, we ordered pizza, and a watched Slumdog Millionaire (a good flick.)

Wednesday was a bit of a wash as to getting things done, but I did manage to watch the first four James Bond movies in a row. I met up with the usual Wednesday night gang at the local watering hole in the evening for drinks and chatter.

Thursday was the start of my first full work week of the year. A week which went by fairly quickly. Nothing much to write home about there this week.

The big happening this week occurred on my way home Saturday night. As I walked towards my apartment after work all I saw were flashing lights for blocks in every direction. I had to pass a police/fire cordon to get into my building. I stopped to ask the officer what happened and found out that the owner of the flower shop down the street's house had caught fire. I walked by Sunday morning on the way to work to see that the whole building had been gutted.

Last (Sunday) night after work I invited a number of friends over for another games night which I think was a big success. Playing English based games (like Apples to Apples or Bananagrams) with English teachers is in turn difficult and terribly funny (when others dominate or make simple mistakes.)

Looking into next week I've got tickets to my favorite band (playing in Kyoto on Wednesday) and I'm pondering going to Osaka castle tomorrow if the weather's good. We'll see.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week 2

Last Monday afternoon I had mostly recovered from my New Years Eve exploits and decided to have people over to play some board games. We started around 3pm and went past midnight with a short break for pizza in the middle.

One thing learned from Monday's gaming session was that my folding table was a little too small to play some of my games. One of the friends who'd come over agreed to help me build a new table-top on Tuesday. I'd kind of been thinking of such a project for a while so I already had plans drawn up. After a quick trip to the hardware store the main construction took about four hours. At this point the glue between the surface and the frame needed time to dry so we went out to find fabric to cover the top. With great luck we found a fabric store that was 1.) open and 2.) going out of business with everything on sale. Back at my place we tacked the fabric to the top and gave it a test run... only to find out that the wood frame that holds the top stead on the table had warped and didn't fit correctly. In a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance moment we decided not to fix it right away and instead played some games on a slightly askew table-top. (I took a chisel to it the next day, it fits perfectly now.) During the building phase I got what I consider to be high praise from the friend who was helping when he noted that I'd engineered the heck out of this table top.

Wednesday was the last day of my vacation and I enjoyed it by not leaving the house (thank you Dominoes) and watching movies all day.

Thursday was a blessedly easy first day back at work followed by a slightly hectic Friday wherein I had to do some running around at work. The upside to Friday's change-up was that I got to see one of my friends and after work we hit up the local McDonalds and shared the commute home.

Saturday's work couldn't pass quickly enough as I had plans to see my girlfriend that evening. tHis week we met at the grocery store where we bought ingredients for nabe (hot pot.) This was our first time seeing each-other this year so it was nice to catch up with New Years going ons.

Nothing too special yesterday (Sunday) though I did stop at my favorite burrito place on the way home.

Today is Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) so no "work" for me but I do have a lot of things that need to be done around the house so it looks like I'll be busy none the less.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week 1

It's only been 2012 for about a day and a half here but the end of 2011 had a lot to write about.

Last Monday was spent doing some light cleaning and resting up for some overtime on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday evening's shift was busy but I got to work with a couple friends so the time went by pretty quickly. Wednesday I was the only "native English teacher" at web school wich wasn't too bad, again, because I was pretty busy. I stopped off at my favorite little hole-in-the-wall bar on the way home and had a drink with some of the local guys and a nice Austrian couple who were in town for the winter holidays.

I spent the day Thursday buzzing with anticipation for the evening when I went over to the couple who set us up's house with my girlfriend for a belated Christmas dinner. We ordered a whole chicken from KFC and made stuffing and salad to go with it. We also made spring rolls, both in the traditional style and one of my own design stuffed with leftover chicken and mashed potatoes. After dinner we sat around and talked into the evening.

Last Friday was the one year anniversary of meeting my girlfriend and to celebrate we went out for yakiniku (Korean BBQ) with the same couple as the night before. We went to a reasonably priced yet somewhat famous place down the street. I was glad we'd made reservations as there was a line out the door when we arrived. Unfortunately the smoke vent above out table wasn't working and ll the smoke from the grill blew into my face on it's way to the next table over's vent. The meat was good and unlike last year no one seems to have gotten a horrible case of food poisoning this time. Following dinner we adjoined to a karaoke box for a few hours of singing. My girlfriend had to catch the last train down to her parent's house to help her brother move over the weekend so we called it an early night.

Saturday (New Year's Eve) one of my friends swung by midday in a rent-a-car and we went to pick up some other friends (the couple I'd eaten dinner with the past two nights.) Once we'd gotten everyone collected we headed down South to Wakayama. Aside from one little traffic jam it was a fairly smooth 4 hour trip to Shirahama (A beach-front community in Southern Wakayama famous for it's (imported) white sand beach.) Once in Shirahama we found one of the famous rock formations out in the ocean and snapped some pretty sunset pictures. In the first incident of the evening one of my friends slipped on some wet rocks and racked his back pretty hard. The next stop (after much driving around and discussing) was dinner. We found a cozy little roadside pizza place. While waiting for our order we were joined by another friend who had rode down after us on his motorcycle. After dinner we spent quite some time looking for a parking spot close to the beach. Car and bike safely stowed we went to look at the 'illumination' (Christmas lights) out on the sand. Chilled from walking around next to the ocean in the middle of the night in the winter we stopped off in a hot spring to warm ourselves. For being a town famous for it's hot springs we had a bit of trouble finding one that was in walking distance (as we really didn't want to move the car.) We settled in a cheap local one but had to go to the store and buy our own towels first. After all this it was still only 10 o'clock so we walked around a bit more looking for someplace to wait until the countdown started. We eventually found a nice cafe and chatted over warm drinks. Around 11:30 we went back to the car and got our traps and blankets and went back to the beach to wait for midnight. Finally at the end of the countdown we got to see the fireworks show that's we'd come all this way to see. All three minutes of it. A bit bummed out by the short show we went back to the car and dropped off our gear before heading over to a local shrine the cafe owner had told us about. The shrine was packed with people doing their hatsumode or first shrine visit of the year. We lined up and got some free mochi (rice cake) soup and even got to try our hands at pounding some mochi too. Things were going well, almost everyone had gotten their fortunes for the year (everyone in our party pulled "small luck") when one of my friends put her leg in a ditch she though was a step and took a huge spill onto the ground. Whimpering that her leg really hurt we had her sit still and called an ambulance to be safe. The paramedics came and checked her out and nothing seemed to be broken but they took her away to get some x-rays to be safe. Two friends went with her while I followed in the car and the other friend followed on his motocycle. Luckily the x-rays showed that nothing was in-fact broken. At this point we had a long conversation as to weather we'd stay out and wait for the first sunrise or call it a night and head back to Osaka. The consensus was that our beds were calling so we left out friend and his motorcycle behind (it was far too cold to ride at this point) and made the trek back North. After dropping friends off and finding a parking spot I got home and dropped into bed at about 5:30 in the morning.

Unfortunately the friend who banged her legs up was the same one who rented the car so it fell to me to get up and return said car in the morning. I did manage to get four hours of sleep in before I had to move thankfully. I stopped in the convenience store as I walked home from the rental place and bought some breakfast. It was fully daytime on the first at the is point so I decided not to go back to bed and to move forward with the day. Not that I did much other that watch movies and play video games though.

I still have a few days off this week but after last week's excitement I think I'll need them to recover. I got some new board games for Christmas so I'm having friends over this afternoon to try some of the out. Should be fun.

I hope everyone had a good "Year Of The Dragon." Happy New Year!