Tag Archives: nintendo ds

Must swim three times

I am surrounded by men, women, antsy kids, Jessy, and television screens in a multi-floor building as nice as a hotel. I’m near Shin-Kobe station, and on the third floor of this big place, where a man has hung a little plastic card around my neck that says Guest. In a tiny room adorned with what I can only classify as “exotic brick-a-brac” we watch the television screens together. It’s a live broadcast from an area near Mount Fuji. Highlights: man screams and shoots an arrow into a bush which is then lit on fire, man chops at the air with a sword to cleanse it from barriers to self-realization, old lady wearing little hat does hand motions while holding tiny sticks, which are then tossed into the fire. Together the people chant around me in a language I cannot understand, a situation I figure I should be more used to than I am by now. I am attending a special Buddhist service as a visiting member of the Shinnyo-en school, which literally means “Borderless Garden of Truth.” As believers we seek the awareness of the self through meditation and Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Am I a believer? What’s there to believe but that I am or am not? I figure in general it’s harder to not believe in stuff than it is to believe. After temple I buy a bag of chickpeas because we’re gonna make some hummus this week.

Japan is currently doing what it is it does, gearing up in much the same way as it did last year for the full arrival of fall. Though fall is technically officially here it’s still occasionally warm enough for people to get the wrong idea, and until the light scarves and jackets come out I hesitate to wave the flag. My true barometer is merely the appearance of special food products and fall-themed drinks, which haven’t really started popping up yet in any great numbers. I did spot new Cup Noodle flavors today, Beef Stew and Cream Stew, which I guess are kind of fall-y, but these seem to be some sort of microwave-requiring things which is just a bunch of crap. To be perfectly frank I myself am dreading the end of fall, which is slightly preventing me from enjoying it now: in the middle of December I’ll likely be embarking on a grueling couple-dozen hour journey across the ocean and back to the rolling plains of Iowa to spend the holidays, my first trip back to home soil since I arrived here. I am “not fond” of flying, which means it is my least favorite thing in the entire world except maybe getting stabbed.

Speaking of favorite things I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the root of my existential angst is not that I don’t have enough free time, but merely that I like too many things. My pesky nook e-reader has done precisely what I intended: made acquiring books so painless and reading so simple that it is my new default activity for my morning and evening commute. I read nine books in September, and the PSP and DS weep, because they want attention too. I will not even start in on the home activities, which command not only the time there but often the television. The result of all this is that I am forced to choose one of my hobbies at a time and I never get too far with any of them. It’s good to have options, I guess, but it means it just takes twice as long to do what I want. There is no point to these ramblings, just a sort of reminiscent defeatism: remember when you were 16, had no social life or significant obligations, had virtually nothing other to do than play games, and did so most veritably? If only I could go back in time and relive the same late November snow day for years and years.

Speaking of years, I ran the numbers the other day and figured out that since I’ve lived here for fourteen months and had the equivalent of about two months where I taught no classes, I’ve essentially taught twelve months of about fifteen classes a week. If you add it all up that comes to seven-hundred-and-eighty classes that I’ve taught now, which at least outnumbers the Nomadays, N-Sider articles, and every journal entry, poem, and story I’ve ever written, combined, in number (though just barely). What else have I even done 780 times this year? I’ve only woken up about 432 times. I suppose I’ve had at least 780 meals since arriving. Have I eaten popcorn 780 times in my life? Have I watched over 780 movies? Surely I’ve played over 780 video games since the age of ten or so.

At any rate I encourage you to run your own numbers, to become shockingly aware of the time we spend, without concrete markers, doing what it is we do.

Yet another thing that I’ve been doing lately is attending Japanese classes, which is enjoyable in that I am actually learning more concretely how to communicate with the people who literally surround me every single day. These skills also assist me with things like navigating the internet and securing exciting products from various websites, products which excitingly get to compete with everything else that I do for my attention.

There’s a bakery on the basement level of the Sogo department store and it’s called Donq, a name that you might expect to be the only Donq-sounding place of business in Kobe but in fact there are two others: Don Quihote (shortened colloquially to just Donki) and Bikkuri Donkey, a restaurant which literally translated means SURPRISE DONKEY. It is a hamburger steak restaurant, and scarily I enjoy eating there, perhaps because I enjoy the taste of donkey when I am expecting something that is not donkey. Anyway I have been enjoying going to Donq and buying baguettes lately, really delicious crispy-crusted bread with chewy, stretchy crumb. Last night after work I got one and had a big hunk of it eaten before I even finished walking home, then assembled a chicken breast sandwich with it and some mozzarella cheese, lettuce, and some Cookies’ barbecue sauce, a bottle of which I brought over here last year and which I still steadfastly am working at using up. I think it will take a lot of chicken sandwiches. The moral of this story is that I love Donq.

– My psychotic Japanese cat, who sometimes believes so fervently that the little stuffed mouse is stalking him that he’ll take one swat at it and run away so fast that his feet cannot provide enough traction to prevent him from sliding sideways into the wall like an out-of-control racecar
– A trip down memory lane at my soon-moving pal Jools’ place, during which I laid eyes upon 6+ years of gaming goodies, including but not limited to an unopened case of Cowboy Bebop gashapon figures, Morrigan and Lilith bookends (these came home with me), a variety of Japanese DS games, a couple Club Nintendo prizes from 2004, multiple variations of special peripheral controllers used to simulate shaking/strumming/beating/dancing, and a stack of Edge magazines that found their way into my apartment somehow
– My new favorite donburi place, where I can slide a bill into the machine, press two buttons, and be given an ice-cold draft beer and a big bowl of rice topped with thick slices of juicy fire-grilled skirt steak, lettuce, and spicy sauce for about nine bucks (you can also get grilled dark meat chicken or Korean beef)
– One of my teachers here at the night school, or more specifically the huge plastic bag full of green and red peppers and eggplant that he dumped out over next to the computer, which he grew on his farm and has extra of, and the resulting pile of vegetables, of which I am going to take, bring home, and nom
– A beverage I drank during a break, which said “hot cake flavor,” and was indeed a sweet, milky drink that tasted like a cross between drinking pancake syrup and cereal milk
– There’s a special red Nintendo DSi coming out for the Mario 25th anniversary, and the first I heard about it was seeing a video advertisement on the LCD screen mounted to the back of the cash register while I bought a melon soda at 7-11

I always manage to get through it all but I’m so tired today that I’ve almost fallen asleep at my desk twice. The bad news is that since it’s my late day I won’t even be teaching for another three hours, and I likely won’t be home for another six. Tapping my foot isn’t really doing it and I already ate my two string cheeses and drank my soda. I took a little stroll down the hall to the restroom too, just to see if I might snap out it. No luck! If I have the energy once I’m out of here, I am buying the nicest beer a handful of change will get me, and sucking it down as I breathe in the wind on the way to Kosoku-Nagata and home.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Man cannot have a pure mind who refuse gyoza

This will not be the first time in my life that I am separated from everyone I know–quite contrary! It is nearly an annual occurrence, and perhaps unchange would be more notable. To that end, for several of our closer friends, time in Japan is up at the end of July. I have consciously chosen not to fully analyze exactly how many Good Men And Women we’re losing to time’s weathering, but the count is at least everyone we usually hang out with, and at most all those plus fringe components of the various social circles. Mostly it’s people who have decided for one reason or another to leave the teaching program, some after a year, some because they’ve been here for a few already and have just had enough, some because they’ve been here a lot longer than that and it’s just time to go.

The upside, if there can possibly be one, is that we’re soon to be barraged by the new recruits, some of who may be cool people. The downside is that those new recruits are not yet our friends, and I really hate having to make friends! Another, smallish upside is that we are getting a bunch of everyone’s shit that they don’t want anymore (maybe a downside depending on exactly how much we take).

As a result of this madness I took it upon myself to financially bolster some pals of mine by buying their old breadmaker at a bargain rate. If I thought using the microwave in Japanese was a task, hoo baby. Actually, with only a little bit of guesswork we ended up pumping out a quite competent loaf the evening we got it, and Jessy took the experiment a little further the next day with a loaf a bit more dense. It’s really a pretty clever gadget! It even has what literally translates as “automatic yeast launch,” which drops your active dry yeast from a little blast pocket on an outer lid at the correct post-mixing time. There is also an auto-launch tray for raisins and nuts, which I have considered filling with cheese and herbs or pieces of frozen banana, just to see what happens. The only drawback of the breadmaker, which would have now already paid for itself if bread was twenty-five dollars a loaf, is its massive size. It’s too large to fit on the shelf where we keep our toaster oven and rice cooker, and so it has been relegated to pantry status, bottom shelf. It’s not that we don’t love you, breadmaker, it’s just that you are too big for Japan.

Curious Japanese derps of the week
– Being strangely intruded on by a slightly Asian-looking person handing out flyers on the bridge the other day switching to completely fluent English, cause she was an American from Seattle advertising their Christian gospel concert, which I absolutely did not attend even though I totally said I’d tell some people I know, which I didn’t
– New promotional video game tie-in beverage “Dragon Quest Syrupy Slime,” which I didn’t figure would actually be syrupy, but is
– A Foreign Buyer’s Club catalog given to me by a co-worker, from which I could order some of my favorite American foods: Kix cereal (one box, $11.00), Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli (one can, $4.00), Velveeta Shells and Cheese (one box, $6.00), and Beef Noodle Hamburger Helper (one box, $6.50)

– My delicious two-person evening self-prepared meal of twenty-four crispy, hot gyoza with a couple bowls of cold dashi-accompanied soumen noodles, total cost less than a can of Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli
– The rice ball that I bought for today, which I thought said mayonnaise and chicken, but actually seems to say mayonnaise and “shi-chikin,” which, now that I think about it, this being Japan, probably means “sea chicken,” which, now that I think about it, this being Japan, probably of course means it’s canned tuna in there
– It hasn’t stopped being rainy for like five fucking days and the only good thing you’d think is that hey at least it cools off the temperature outside since summer is so hot but no, all it does is make it more humid
That’s it for Curious Japanese derps of the week

I’m playing this video game lately called Dragon Quest IX and it’s all I can think about. I am sitting here at work twiddling my thumbs knowing that the game is right here on my Nintendo DS and I could be playing it if I didn’t happen to be working (irony: I am not working). It came out in Japan exactly a year ago and now that it is finally in English I feel both up to speed and out of touch with the game culture here. There is a mode in the game where if your system wirelessly sees anyone else who has set their Dragon Quest IX to be in “tag” mode you can get some treasure maps and stuff. But is there even anyone in Japan still playing a year later? I’m going to set off on an adventure to find out some time I think. Maybe trek over to Osaka and wander around large groups of the local youth. The benefit of me finding some people would be some virtual treasure maps and maybe an exciting N-Sider article. The drawback is that no matter what happens I am still a huge nerd.

Tagged , , , , ,