Friday, October 31, 2003

The Game that is Destroying my Free Time
Yet MORE proof that Rob is beyond help

Some background:

After about six months in-country, I bought myself a PlayStation 2, both to play some of these nifty anime DVDs that I had bought but couldn't understand, and to play the occasional game. Now, the balance has shifted, as video games are somewhat easier to understand than Japanese movies, as long as I stay away from the RPGs.

I haven't been buying many games lately, though, due to the fact that most of the games released here will also be released in the U.S., and if I really wanted to enjoy them, I'd wait until I got home to buy them. Along with a U.S. PS2. (darned region coding...) Of course, odds are that by the time I get home, I won't have the free cash to buy that kind of stuff anyway.

But, this game caught my eye. It's Chou-jikuu Yousai Macross (Super Dimension Fortress Macross), based on the anime of the same name. Y'all might remember it as the first part of the late '80s cartoon Robotech. Because in the U.S., Macross was heavily edited and re-worked to become Robotech, this game will most likely never be released in the states. Besides, a different Robotech PS2 game came out in the states last year.

So, I bought it. And, I've wasted hours each night for the past week playing it. It doesn't help that Bandai put clips of the show, with the original voice actors, in the game. It also doesn't help that I remember enough of the plot to wax nostalgic even as I'm in the middle of missions (Hey! I remember when this happened!)

I'd say more, but I think I've made my case. I'm beyond help. (^_^;

Monday, October 27, 2003

Well, a while ago I rashly promised that I would try to post something everyday. Life took a few sharp twists and turns around then, as life so often does.

Let's see.

Since the last time I posted, we had our Town Sports Day. Most towns have them, I think. There's even a prefectural level one, although the Kagoshima sports day is this week and lasts for three days. I don't have to go to that one.

I also got to go on an excursion with the ichi-nen-sei from Higashiichiki Junior High. We went down south, to a place called Agri-land, in Ei-cho. Nice view -- here, look:

That vague shadow in the left background is Kaimon dake, often called "The Fujisan of Satsuma" (Satsuma being the old name for Kagoshima Prefecture). Someday, I'll climb to the top of Mount Kaimon.

Yah, right.

It was tiring enough to climb up to this observation deck, on a much shorter hill. Before I started up, I noticed that there was a road spiraling up to the top, where the "road train" took people up. Screw that, I thought, there's a perfectly good stairway going up. Besides, the train only ran once an hour, and didn't stay up at the top for very long.

So, I made the climb on foot. At the top of the hill is a three-story observation point, made of concrete (of course.) The door appeared to be locked, so I asked one of the groundskeeper ladies (they came up by van) if I could go up. They were somewhat surprised, but they opened the door for me.

After I got up to the top, the three ladies followed me up. They commented on the fact that in all the years they had worked there, they had never bothered to climb to the top of the observation deck.

Anyway, like I said, the place where we were was called Agri-Land, short for agriculture land, I guess. There is a farm or two in the picture, that's true, but it's not part of this park. The golf course a bit further out, though. . . .

Yesterday, I went to the neighboring town of Ijuin, where they were having a festival called "Myoenji Mairi." This can be loosely translated as "Journeying to the Myoen temple to pray." The festival is based on an old tradition, where the local daimyo, the head of the Shimazu clan, traveled to Myoenji once a year. In honor of this, visitors to this festival are supposed to walk from wherever they are to Ijuin. (I wimped out and went by train.) The neighboring towns each put together an official delegation, dressed in samurai armor, to make the trip. Elementary schoolers also often go, in cardboard and yarn versions of the same armor.

(sorry about the picture quality; I took these shots with my cell phone)

Nowadays, this ceremonial shrine visit festival also has a stage where various acts perform, both traditional Japanese music styles (like taiko), and more modern ones (there was a very good brass band there last year, which I specifically remember because they played the Backdraft/Iron Chef theme music). And, the grounds in front of the temple are used for a sports tournament. Teams of people from various towns, and student teams from various high schools, compete in such Japanese sports as Kendo, Sumo, and Kyudo.

While I was there, I ran into a couple of JET Programme friends. One of them, Scott, began telling me how he had earlier that day hit upon the idea that I could be the next great American sumo wrestler, following in the footsteps of Akebono and Konishiki (both of whom are from Hawaii). He went on to describe how he and Ellen (the other ALT I ran into) both knew people that could get me started in the local sumo organization, and then he could be my manager, and we'd move into the national --

Alas, I had to burst his bubble. I told him that, even before I had come to Japan, someone else had the exact same idea, and thus had dibs on the manager position. (I hope you're laughing, Mr. Hodge. . . I sure thought it was funny!)

So I wandered the festival for a few hours, taking in the sights, eating a lot of greasy food, making the discovery that the Satellite corporation also makes Japanese-style Porta-Johns, and so forth. When the time came to return home, I once again didn't even attempt the walk, but went home by taxi. (Most of the people who walk to the festival return home by bus, I think.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Posting from school again.

Tired, a little depressed. It's been raining all day, one of those autumn drizzles that brings about a sense of melancholy. (I had to explain that word to a teacher today.)

Noticed a few days ago that it is getting close to TEN YEARS since I have been out on a date. Something else that brings out a sense of melancholy.

Yah, I'm whining again.


Monday, October 13, 2003

Whoops. So much for the posting everyday thing....

It's been a busy weekend. Yesterday was my friend Jamie's birthday, and Ricky (former Kagoshima ALT) flew down from Saitama for the weekend. For some strange reason, the party was at MY place.

I cooked spring rolls. (Mom's secret recipe!)
Soong (Higashiichiki CIR (er, Coordinator for International Relations)) cooked a couple of Korean dishes.
Jamie came with the makings for Lokumades (I don't know how to spell it).
Zer (Kagoshima City ALT) came with some pad Thai.
Ellen showed up with a cake.
Ricky brought snacks and drinks.
Doug stopped at the store on the way in and bought six liters of beverages.
Soong's boyfriend Shinji brought more beverages.

We had waaaaaay too much food. Almost all of it was spicy. (And, after having some of the spicy food, pretty much everything tasted spicy.) But, it was all sooooo good.

One nice thing about throwing a party in Japan is that you don't have to worry about everybody having somewhere to sit. Everyone sits on the floor!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I'll post this now, and explain it more later, when I'm more awake:

Today, I went to Miyama (beautiful mountain) Elementary School. I didn't do any teaching, though. Instead, I got to make pottery with the sixth graders. It was a lot of fun, even though I'm no good at it at all. In previous years, I always made a bowl, and it always dried in such a way as to have numerous cracks and gaps. (Someone at the office made a deadpan comment about how I couldn't use them for soup....) I have no idea how this year's efforts (I made a pretty simple cup) will turn out, but it's always fun.

Well, except for lunchtime. The smell of clay was strong enough to make everything taste a little like dirt. I hope it was the smell, anyways; I did make a point of washing my hands repeatedly before lunch.

Oh, by the way, I'm going to make an effort to post something or other every day. I'm not sure if I'm repeating myself, though. If, dear readers, you wish to comment on anything I've posted, as always you can reach me at ratendido (at) mac (dot) com.




Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A Correction:

There are still three- and four-car trains going through Higashiichiki Station. What I should have said is that some trains are now going to be two-car, one-man (driver only) trains.

And, as long as I've been here, after about 8:30 in the evening, there isn't anyone working at the station, and we give our tickets to the conductor as we leave the platform. Now, if I come home on a "one man" train, it's a bit more complicated, that's all.

Sorry, just felt the need to clarify. . . .



[Cue up the song "Linus & Lucy" -- Rob pauses to do the happy dance]


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I`m posting this from school, which means that I`m using a Japanese keyboard, which means that the punctuation will be a little messed up. Not only do Japanese keyboards have extra keys (for example, the kana-to-kanji keys), but a few commonly used punctuation are not where you expect them to be. For example, the apostrophe can be found to the right of the "P" key, which is also where the @ mark is. Quote marks can be found on the "2" key. It`s a challenge. I am now going to switch to American touch-typing mode, just to see what comes out.

Next weekend, my friend Jamie is having a birthday. She:s decided to have a party -- at my place, for some reason. She just up and started sending e-mail to people, saying, *party at Rob:s!* Truth be told, I was actually sitting there at the time she started sending these e-mails out, so I could:ve stopped her if I really wanted to. Time to find Mom:s secret recipe for egg-rolls!

Monday, October 06, 2003

Okay, I'm going to try to put a picture here. This is me with the third-year (9th grade) students, and their teachers, at Kamiichiki Junior High School.

The signs say "Kamiichiki Chuugakkou Taiiku Taikai," which translates to Kamiichiki Junior High Sports Meet.

In the Japanese school year, there are four major events. These are the Entrance Ceremony (for the new students) in April, the Sports Day in late September or October, the Culture Festival (talent show) in November, and Graduation in March. I've been privileged to observe, and occasionally take part in, these events for the past few years. I've been somewhat ambivalent about them so far this year, because it's the last time I'll be going through them.

Recently I found out that I won't be able to go to the Culture Festivals, due to the schools scheduling them on the same day that I have to go to the JET mid-year conference. I'm trying to get around this somehow. I was kind of hoping to participate this year.... In any case, it's not looking too good right now. Despite the fact that I'd much rather watch a talent show than go to a boring business meeting, my supervisors are saying that it's more important that I go to the conference. Hmmmm.