Tag Archives: pocky

How many licks

For as often as I’m emphatically told “we have four seasons in Japan” as though it is some sort of rare anomaly specific to this country, it’s sure hot today, the second of December, a month I have traditionally associated with the season of winter. By the time I made it up to school I think I even started to break a sweat, though it may merely have been because of the embarassment of running into a few kids on the steps who tried asking me bizarre questions like “handsome desu ne” and “singuru or melly,” which I assume are only removed one level from the stage of outright vulgarity due to their merely lacking the ability (or confidence) to deliver it. Perhaps this trio could learn something from last week’s electronic dictionary outburst, courtesy of the guy I now know literally only as “ecstasy kid” in my mind.

It’s exam week again, which means for the most part the children are cramming as much knowledge as they can into their creamy chocolate centers while trying to Tootsie Pop harden the exterior and prevent any of it from escaping. Most of them just seem really stressed, which I can understand. The real victims though are the teachers, one of whom told me he was at school until eight in the evening doing work on the test stuff. I told him to take a break, but I’m not sure how simple a process that is for the Japanese office worker (actually I am, and it is not). Those bearers of the 35-40 hour work week in the States rejoice: at least you (and I) are afforded the option to have a life.

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– Student “review” lessons coming through in the win department full sail ahead:
Ka-Ru is king of snacks!
I like Ka-Ru very much. I eat it everyday.
Ka-Ru is king of snacks because.
It is very delicious. This taste is oriental miracle!
It is very beautiful. This body looks like gold!
I think that Ka-Ru achieves God territory.
Thank you the creator for wonderful present.
Let’s eat Ka-Ru.
– One student telling me this movie was the “moungliest” she had ever seen, whatever being moungly is
– New “TIROL Cheetos+Chiroru”, which appear to be chocolate-covered Cheetos even though I have not opened up the package for a taste yet
– The day after Jessy puts in for a day off from school later this month to pick up Final Fantasy XIII for us, a commercial begins airing on Japanese TV in which a teacher announces to his students that he is going on a short vacation, because he’s been waiting for this game for three years
– One of my students being apparently oblivious to the real meaning of his red, yellow, and green pencil tin bearing an illustration of a giant marijuana leaf and the word “CANNABIS” in huge block letters
– Old cranky lady with a grey old-style Nintendo DS muscles past me to get on the train first, cuts to the right to go for a seat, then is cut in front of by another old cranky lady who takes the seat instead
– New Cookie flavor Kit-Kat is the greatest Kit-Kat I have ever eaten, and I think they know it because it’s only sold in tiny boxes of ten or so super-minisize Kit-kats instead of the larger bags that the other kinds come in, the punks
– One kid telling me “you are cool, you have girlfriend?” and me saying “maybe” and once the kid leaves my teacher saying in nice English “that bastard” and laughing maniacally

I had the most interesting Thanksgiving-evening meal in my relatively abbreviated history last Friday, aboard a cruise ship “Concerto” as part of the year-end office party (similarly to the Mid-Year conference, taking place decidedly at a time that is not exactly the end of the year). Between trips to the expansive Chinese buffet, as I sipped on Asahi Super Dry and hot cinnamon wine, one teacher reminded me that the American holiday was currently taking place. I had thought of it the day before, Thursday, in terms of the holidays coming with me to Japan as though they could have all just packed onto the plane, but this particular bit of information stuck around in my head. Holidays in the U.S. continue without me, whenever the hell they may please, even if that means that Thanksgiving is on my Friday, and steamed dumplings are my mashed potatoes.

As a sort of door-prize distribution system, we played bingo, with the first bingo-ers getting the better prizes. It turned out to be good Japanese practice for me, as all the numbers were obviously not spoken in my native language. I won late, pathetic, and took home a pair of fuzzy “high socks,” the packaging adorned with oddly phrased sentiments comparing their pastel rainbow color scheme to a warm melted candy. They became Jessy’s, after I threatened my teachers that I’d wear them to work.

Unrelated segue: I want a drum set. There’s not a goddamned place I’d be able to play it in my apartment without likely pissing someone off, and I’m trying to think around that. There’s also the matter of it being probably impossible for us to move it from the Hard-Off (where I’d buy it) to our apartment, which is much further away. Also I have never owned a drum set before. But that’s kinda why I want one. Alas, I feel this particular endeavor will likely end up on the Japanese cutting room floor with the surround-sound speakers, full-sized arcade cabinet, pinball machine, soda fountain, pool table, electronic dart board, and other weighty monoliths to the space-occupying excess that is totally possible in the U.S. and retardedly outlandish here. At least I can cradle my only occasionally obscene PVC action figures as I cry myself to sleep (dear future self: send money, i spent it all on lady ninjas and transforming secretaries and a black mage thx bye).

It’s almost an afterthought for me to consider mentioning such a thing in here, since I haven’t actually seen a game all season, but the Colts have won every one they’ve played so far, and all under the leadership of a new post-Dungy coach. I’m sure they’ll drop a game eventually, but it sure is nice to know they’re winning for now. I read Peter King’s Monday Morning QB (on Tuesday) and check Sunday scores on Monday night. It’s not exactly the same as strong beer, crispy pizza, and excited friends, but it works. Kinda.

On Saturday we’re going to our city’s enormous “Home’s Stadium” for the last J-League soccer game of the year (Vissel Kobe), on the goodwill dime of a can’t-attend fellow teacher of Jessy’s. If my longstanding axiom holds true–that sports which for me are unwatchable on TV (baseball, soccer, golf) become tolerable in person only while under the influence of alcohol (beer, whiskey, shochu)–then I anticipate becoming some kind of temporary soccer fan until Sunday morning.

For now the weapon of choice is Fanta Melon, and hours to go before I sleep, and hours to go before I sleep.

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Up and autumn

It’s feeling a lot like fall in Japan, which apparently means it’s time to roll out the seasonal goodies: rich cocoa flavored Pocky and chocolate-covered almonds, big signs proclaiming something I can’t read (but mostly they are fall-colored), FALL SALES!! (save 5% on this sandwich), Mushrooms In Stuff, and, at my school anyway, the cool winter uniforms and the quaint predisposition to chopping off the branches on all the schoolyard trees so there aren’t any leaves that need to be cleaned up? (An article I read a while back about some other town doing this same thing leads me to believe it’s not just isolated thinking, bizarre as it may be.) The street vendors are out selling their roasted chestnuts and I don’t in the slightest object to the aromas, all sugary on the crispy breeze as the hellfires of summer Japan finally seem to slink primarily away for the rest of the year.

What it also means is midterms for the kids, who I now routinely see cramming information into their gooey liquid centers while huddled about in any number of hallways or nooks, being explicitly forbidden to enter the teachers’ office lest they catch a glimpse of that forbidden fruit in the form of the fabled answer key. I personally have participated by way of lending my million-dollar pronunciation skills to audio recordings of strange dialogues in which I, Hiroshi, help a lost tourist find his way to a local shrine, and tell one man via telephone that I am interested in throwing a party for his brother, but could move it to Saturday if Friday is not good. These incidents eerily echo events that routinely occur in my normal daily life and the lives of many native English speakers that I know.

To follow up on something I referenced last time: we did indeed hold our “community dinner,” and after a variety of errors and frantic adaptation, I prepared platters of three specifically nontraditional sushi rolls. The first of these was the Hamburger Roll, with cheese sandwiched in-between pieces of meat, and surrounded with Mac-esque thousand island dressing, lettuce, pickles, and sesame seeds. Locating thousand island dressing was easier than I had planned, due to the peculiar propensity of producers to put in numerical form “1000 Island Dressing” on the bottles all squished in there between kanji I can’t read. The pickles, strangely, proved elusive. Though the standard Japanese box lunch will often contain a wide variety of pickled items so strange as to be confounding (try playing “Is This Fish Or Not” and enjoy being wrong), the familiar old “pickle,” in the form of one pickled cucumber, is difficult to find. Eventually I did, near the scant offerings of canned vegetables and the considerable offerings of canned fish (one of which I inexplicably purchased): a tiny, solitary jar of baby sweets for the bargain price of what I could buy a jar much larger for back in the States.

The other rolls proved easier, as I had already obtained the tricky necessities for each one: the parmesan cheese for a sauteed crab/mushroom/parm roll, and the peanut butter in a modern-day retelling of the legend of the ants on their log–banana, raisins, and peanut butter all squished inside a roll and slightly frozen.

This banana roll was apparently the far and away hit among the visitors to our apartment, even though every piece of every roll was gone by the time the herd left my house–I will take their second- and third-hand word for it: I was either too drunk or too distracted to actually try any of them outside of the mistakes I made during preparation. At any rate I have no desire to smell as much nori (translator’s note: seaweed) wrapping as I did in the timespan of the few hours it took me to prepare sushi rolls for twenty-two twenty-somethings.

But all this is rather boring in the scheme of things, when considering the following: we were the recipients of a grandmother-sent enormous box of macaroni and cheese dinners the other day, something like a dozen, which was such a comforting sight that we immediately prepared a box of spirals having just finished eating supper no less than a couple of hours prior. Some particular commendation is in order when considering the massive expenses one must incur to send such cheap goods such a long way–tangibly grateful, we will savor every noodle with the American appreciation of expensive imported two-dollar ramen packets, rare Kewpie mayo, and now-unavoidable Pocky, from the other side of the coin.

Daily life ebbs strangely from level to chaotic–I’m past the point of being able to say that things will “eventually settle down,” because this is my three months so far, and I’ve never not had much to do. I even find myself occasionally joyful at missing the fast train and being stuck on the slower, local one: here are a few more minutes to play a game on my DS. Sometimes I’ll even get off at the stop and just sit on a chair like I’m waiting for another train, but I totally am not, and just need to kill another evil video shrimp or two.

There are elements of the flitting simplicity of this life that I have come to love, even as I see the ever-creeping threats of continual business or permanence changing them just like the season: enough forks and spoons to get by, but more show up somehow, always, with furniture, real lighters instead of stove-fired chopsticks for candles, more paper goods, with stockpiled food, with a paycheck and electronics and little toys and tangible knowledge and Internet access and saran wrap and cleaning supplies and extra towels and a case of canned coffee. The tiny array of elements that had to be so artfully managed upon arrival pulse outside the borders of their numbers to ones that only make sense to me as “enough not to worry about them” anymore. It’s a blessing and a curse, as micromanagement has always been rather tiresome, but keeps one’s mind off the lazy time-sucks of the world in favor of the more difficult and rewarding ones–in a world without conveniences we would all surely seek to damn our chores, but in one with too many the allures to be gobbled up by them persist in strange ways! I continually seek to stave off these laze-bringing impulses by committing myself to certain enjoyable and fulfilling pursuits: the preparation of homecooked meals, the writing in this very Nomaday, the rare contributions to the video game website, concerted efforts in lesson conception, occasional cultural pilgrimages, fighting the peculiar desire to go the same, functional way home or to work every day or to buy the same thing from the konbini. They work, but some of them only in so much as that they make me a trifle uncomfortable, which I suppose is what I am usually after, as a means to new comforts, anyway. Still on the list: get some more Japanese clothes, buy some kind of musical instrument, study this language regularly, make udon from scratch, etc.

And despite the come and go and to and fro, or maybe because of it, yet and yet, life seems happier, at least, with so many of the desires of even a year-ish ago mainly realized: it’s not hard to remember what things were like last October as separately we decided to put together applications and put things into storage, to see if we might move to a new apartment or a new country. Ironically the one that seemed so much easier back then is difficult to imagine anymore, as the place we now live relentlessly marches towards becoming our home.

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