Tag Archives: 360

The middle of somewhere

This one is an irregular week, a classification of week which I endorse–often heartily. My next two days involve a “mid-year seminar” through the board of education (with generous lunch breaks and located much nearer to my apartment than my school is). The term is a bit confusing, “mid-year,” especially since I’ve only been here for three-and-a-half months, and I can’t help but wonder to which people this is the middle of anything except November or maybe one of the three school terms.

Accenting the affair is a purportedly delicious meal on the evening of the first day at somewhere called “Sky Buffet,” which I could know nothing of outside its name and still endorse, whatever ventures may be involved: it is a buffet, it is in the sky, it is a Sky Buffet. As a divine bonus, a sort of ethereal gift, Monday of next week is a national holiday, making it quite a stretch of time where Brandon doesn’t have to teach any school. The flip side is that were I still in the States I’d have the whole of next weekend unspoken for cause of Thanksgiving, which they most certainly don’t even know about, let alone celebrate, here. I drew a turkey on the board last week, and some of my students converted it into a type of egg-laying robot with lasers before asking if it was a chicken. It is fair to say I won’t be finding any turkey for my non-Thanksgiving. Jessy and I have decided to compromise in a somewhat acceptable way: I will boil some cute Japanese chicken, cobble together some kind of gravy and mix it together, throw down some homemade dumplings and stewed veggies, and try to find some decent beer. It will be a weekend feast that would only be made better if for some reason our apartment had a fireplace, and I will give thanks by raining delicious hellfire upon my kitchen and all those who enter (t)here.

I have finally become confident enough in my passive spatial awareness to permit myself to listen to music during my train-and-foot commutes to and from school without the fear that I’ll miss an audio announcement and thus, my stop. Doing so has allowed forgotten wisdom to re-envelop me: life’s a lot better with music in it. The bee’s knees of this week is an album from a totally relaxing one-man band ironically called Ohashi Trio, who sings in both Japanese and alarmingly good English with some really melodic pseudo-classical jazz type shit going on at the same time. I accidentally saw part of a video on some bizarre late-night Japanese music countdown last weekend, and sought out some samples on the Internets as soon as I could. The commute is exactly long enough one-way to allow me to listen to the entire album (his newest, called “A Bird”), and I plan on nabbing his previous effort “This is Music” posthaste. Just for kicks I might even hoof it to the Tower Records downtown and see if I can find actual copies and pay Real Money for these. Maybe.

The entertaining side-effect of music while I go is all the new soundtracks for the stuff I’m used to seeing in much the same ways every day. Different parts of different albums come up at points during my walk, which allows me to look at the scenery in fresh new ways. What’s the bridge with Eleanor Rigby? Shrine Cats to Heaven? The other day I even had an unexpected feeling of excitement upon briefly reconsidering my still incomplete Edmund story. Maybe now, having left Iowa and written one section, I can write another section having left Pennsylvania. I can feel it all gathering up back there in little bits again and I’m just left wondering when it will feel like moving its way on out. It took a few months after the last move. Maybe it’s about time.

I went to Osaka last weekend for my first Japanese gaming event, an unassuming little guy called the Games Japan Festa. Your interest in such material may be minor, but you can view the article at N-Sider here. The highlights of the trip: people dressed up in costumes like anime characters, a prize drawing in which I won stupid bookmarks instead of something awesome, and a post-show meal at an Indian restaurant where I made the mistake of assuming I was in Japan, ordering the curry “very spicy” and receiving the spiciest food I have ever eaten in my life (painful but delicious).

It’s getting really cold lately, such to the extent that I personally have actually mustered up a desire to go shopping for clothes, a relatively rare event. I need a few more sweaters, and it’s probably about time to replace my winter coat. Surely mother if you are reading this you are likely rejoicing, but know that I got a good 6+ years out of it, and your purchase was not a bad one (even if you would have had me toss it to the street years ago in favor of something new).

For the most part, Japanese clothes are great for me, because I am thin, and the clothes here kind of just assume that you are, with the largess of the European geneset being the exception rather than the rule, and no such thing as “XXL” found in any stores I’ve visted anyway. Clothing is “slim fit” almost by default, which works well for me, and the nice, well-tailored pants right off the store shelves make my old ones look like they may have been owned by one M.C. Hammer. The only problematic areas are in the shirt sleeves, which to be fair barely were long enough for my freak monkey arms back in the states yet certainly aren’t any longer here. Most dress-shirt sleeve ends rest a comfy two-and-a-half inches above my wrist, rendering necesssary a little cheating: when it was warmer I could just roll them up and tuck them, but it’s so cold now that to do so is both uncomfortable and draws light indirect criticism from my coworkers: “You must be cold! Aren’t you getting cold?!” The solution is sweaters, bigger sized to fit over the shirts, and with the beneficial side effect of longer, stretchier sleeves. Still, if I could grind a few inches out of these bones it would probably make my life a little easier, the only negative being the inevitable destruction of my basketball career.

Perhaps the postal deities heard my whining in the last entry, because Modern Warfare 2 arrived three days ahead of schedule last night. After telling Jessy she could not have the TV and to get bent, she fell asleep at eight o’clock and I stayed up for five hours playing it. The advent of the coming “mid-year seminar,” and its subsequent weekend and Monday holiday, are bold and fortuitous Winbringers which shall be filled, daintily, with as much game time as I can muster while still maintaining some illusion of daily human function. This morning, after I had just finished a match and begun to fry my traditional Wednesday breakfast gyoza, some Jehovah’s Witness people came to the door, perhaps because their beacon indicating virtual military combat went off, and said some things in Japanese. One lady spoke some English and I told her I was comfortable with my beliefs. Perhaps sensing that she didn’t have the language skills to deal with what was about to come next, she repeated my answer, to which I replied thanks for visiting me please have a nice day thank you! Then, bowing frequently like one of those water-sipping plastic cranes, I allowed my door to carry itself shut, the tiny visible slivers of the Witnesses’ cute winter mittens shrinking, shrinking, shrinking like the temperature.

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As American as rotten breakfast soybeans

This is my second Japanese sports day, but surely my first “traditional” one, which is to say, the sports day which is a product of an entire body of students at one of the most prestigious high schools in the prefecture:

J-pop blaring, multi-dozen hundred meter relays, shirtless boys holding each other up like men riding on horseback lunging for each other’s hats, groups of students charging to grab tug-of-war sticks and pull them back to their own sides, a ten-minute club march with every person clad in full kendo/swimming/mountain climbing/tennis playing gear, a fully coordinated short-skirt dance-team cheering to the High School Musical theme song and spelling the name of my school with their pompoms while the gymnastics team tumbles to-and-fro.  Ceremony, oh god the ceremony, opening, closing, awards… but barely a time mentioned, and less made of the competition than of the teamwork: together you are everything.  There is barely condition for what to make of the individual.  Would the boundaries that maintain our physical shapes break down and render us goo were we to disband?  It is hard to say, but I am erring on the side of “probably, I guess.”  The sights and sound dash asunder any concept of togetherness or unity I ever could have conceived of as a member of American public high school.

I ran in the 100m relay with a “teacher’s team” made up of those of us who still feel spry enough in our age to sprint around a track for the amusement of a thousand teenagers.  All I remember of my half-track jaunt was taking off with the baton, hoping I didn’t fall down, watching my shoes stomp off the ground as I rounded the outside of the track, and the doppler effect of young girls screaming eeeeyaaaAAAAaaa!!!, then handing the baton off again.  Today my legs hurt, but the (male) gym teacher has now gone from a predominant casual indifference at my presence to a recent summons of one of my English-speaking co-teachers so that she could translate his remarks about me: I am so cool, so handsome, and how do they handle the conventions of Jr., Sr., the third, the fourth, etc. in American naming procedures?

My cafeterian lunchtime chopstick proficiency literally shames some of the people I eat with, who occasionally make self-deprecating remarks about their failures with them when it comes to more wet bowls of donburi.  Someone said their mother used to tell them they weren’t Japanese enough cause they’d reach for a spoon (this clashes expectedly with the stereotypical genki gaijin dipshit advice doled out to everyone who is about to move to Japan with a prior support network: “better eat every single grain of rice or they’ll think you’re just another rude American!!!”).  As it turns out, many people from Japan are actually people and not merely just a peculiar object of broad foreign projection.  Yes, some of them walk while drinking and eat while walking or forget to leave the train when it’s gone out of service or pay with the wrong coin cause those fives and fifties can be iffy sometimes.

Independently I might turn to goo, but as a part of society, I am everything.

(Menial daily-lifery recent developments and valuable first-time-resident advice: we went to a store called Nitori (ニトリ) and bought a TV stand (delivered to our door two days later for 900 yen), a washing machine shelving unit, a coat rack, a kitchen rug, a small bedside table, a garbage can, a stewpot, a spaghetti jar, and new pot holders.  It cost like 8000 yen?  Do not go to IKEA.  It is utterly idiotic and the goods are cheaply made and overpriced.  Go to Nitori.  If you don’t, basically you are a jackass.)

Also:

– The TV from Hard-Off that I bought a couple weeks ago is still awesome and used goods in this country are officially amazing,
– Japanese 360 controllers work on American systems
– I made Mabo Tofu but really thick and spicy and chunky and put it on rice and called it Mabodon and it was some delicious stuff to chomp on
– There is an enormous Category 5 “Super Typhoon” headed right for us to make landfall in the next day or two

Sometimes around dinner time, or during strange unrelated parts of my life, I remember what Triscuits taste like, and realize that despite this country’s culinary delights, you can’t ignore the fact that there ain’t a fucking Triscuit around.

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