Friday, August 31, 2007


For a unique point of view on the life of a foreigner in Japan, take a look at this article. It's pretty funny, but some bits of it are uncomfortably close to the truth.
Gaijin Telepathy - Our co-workers and supervisors don't tell us anything. Literally. One day, I came into work at the ghetto school and found a straw hat and pair of garden gloves on my desk. OK. I sat in the teachers' room kind of waiting for an explanation, but one never came. Eventually I noticed it had become really quiet. I then noticed that I was the only one around. Odd. I went outside to find the whole school, teachers and students, picking weeds in the soccer and baseball fields. Ah, so that's what the garden hat and gloves were for! However, no one ever actually told me this.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007 JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank: Everything Else JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank

What the...?

p.s. Check out the comments of the Amazon listing. They're amazing.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Behind the Scenes, if your computer is of Japanese make

Just something odd that I spotted on the net a while back. Heck, I may have blogged about it before...

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Butt-Biting Bug

A few days ago, I posted about the NHK series "Minna no Uta" (Everyone's songs), and their new hit, おしりかじりむし (The Butt-Biting Bug).

Well, it looks like this song has become a HUGE hit in Japan, with people buying CDs, DVDs, and even ringtones of this song. I guess Japan has its very own "Crazy Frog" now.

Click the post title to read a Mainichi Shimbun article on the song.

English subtitled version here:

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Monday, August 27, 2007

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is coming

I took a look through some of the many books I've collected to help me study for the 日本語能力試験, and boy, am I in trouble....

The test is in December, and I've got a lot of studying to do. So, posts may be a bit short for a while.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Free is good. I like free.

I'm up to 20 songs (!) in that Coca-Cola/iTunes Music Store promotion.

The way it works is that when you buy certain sizes of any beverage with "Coca-Cola" in its name, you get a sticker with a 14-digit code on it. Enter this code in the web page, and you get a point towards a couple contests they're running, and a chance at a free song code for the iTMS. Coca-Cola says they're giving away 25,000 songs a day until the end of the month.

The prize for the first contest is a Coke-branded iPod Nano (10 winners), and you need 12 points for each entry. The other contest is for gift cards to the Japanese iTMS, worth 10 songs each (10,000 winners). I could use the iPod, maybe, but since I've already won 20 songs I'm not that interested in the other contest....


Saturday, August 25, 2007

New Student...

Had a new student today. He's a car dealership owner, he's the grand-uncle of one of our youngest students, and my supervisor was very paranoid of offending this guy.

He speaks very very little English; I don't think he's done any real study of the language since he graduated from college. He has traveled around the world, but he always goes with Japanese tour guides...

My supervisor cautioned me that I might have to speak Japanese to make sure that he understands what I'm teaching him. At the same time, I had to be careful not to offend him or treat him with disrespect, since we DEFINITELY want to retain this man's business. (Instead of signing up for a full year, he opted to pay for three months and then decide whether or not he will continue then.)

So, no pressure or anything....

My supervisor wasn't in today, but she actually text-messaged the boss, asking her to remind me AGAIN that I would probably have to speak Japanese. (To be fair, I don't think she was nagging. She was JUST THAT worried.)

As it turns out, I spent pretty much the entire lesson speaking Japanese. The man is very enthusiastic about speaking English, and asked me many interesting questions, such as 「ミネソタ」の意味は何だ? (What does "Minnesota" mean?) which led us into a side-discussion of the many places in Minnesota that have the Native American word for "Water" in them.

It was an...interesting class. I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to the next one, but he seemed happy with it. He also specifically said that he doesn't mind going very slowly at first, which relieves a bit of pressure on me, I think.

I hope, anyhow.

It could've been worse. My supervisor has one class that she suspects is made up of people with mob ties...


Friday, August 24, 2007

Lazy Friday

So, it seems the heat is letting up a little. I can actually survive without the air conditioner on for extended lengths of time. (My electric bill for this month is going to be frightening.)

The song I'm going to try to sing for the music contest is called 花(すべての人の心に花を). Originally sung by Kina Shokichi, the version I'm doing is by 普天間かおり. As soon as I work up a decent translation for the lyrics, I'll post more about it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My reading comprehension in Japanese is improving.

Well, I took another look at that postcard about のど自慢. As it turns out, they'll be taping the auditions, all six hours or so, and then using it as late night/early morning filler material.

In other words, I'm gonna be on TV no matter what, and all that's left to be decided is whether or not I'll be on during daylight hours.

Oh boy.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A short note on weather conditions

Well, it's not any cooler, but it has been raining off and on all day. Unfortunately, it's been thunderstorming for the past couple of hours, and the power's been flickering a only a short post that's mostly devoid of content today. Tomorrow, hopefully I'll remember to put something up about the song I'm going to audition with next month.


I love listening to thunderstorms!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Japan: The Nation of Rule #34

Rule #34 of the internet, in case you don't know: If you can imagine it, somewhere there is porn of it.

If you click the title, you'll find an article from the Mainichi Shimbun ("Daily Newspaper") detailing a 24-hour charity telethon for AIDS research, run by a Japanese satellite "Adults only" network. Gah.

That's a bit weird, even for Japan.

(both links are safe for work, by the way.)

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Monday, August 20, 2007

NHK news slowly enters the 21st century

So, there was an accident at Naha Airport this morning. A China Airlines Boeing 737-800 burst into flames while it was taxiing towards the international terminal at the airport in Okinawa. Fortunately, all the passengers and crew were able to evacuate the plane before it exploded.

Now, in the past, when NHK covered accidents like this, they relied on foam-core dioramas and plastic models to give an overview of the situation. During coverage of a nightclub fire in Kagoshima City, back when I first came to Japan, they actually used a miniature camera to negotiate the "halls" of their foam-core building model.

Today, on the 7:00 news, they actually relied exclusively on a CG animation of the situation, complete with smoke and flames on the appropriate portion of their CG jet. They even applied a correct China Airlines livery texture on the plane model!

On the 9:00 news, they've apparently had time to construct the usual physical model, but they also made extensive use of the CG from before, including improved, realistic flame graphics.

Now, if only they could get their morning and daytime shows to use on-screen graphics instead of text placards with bits to be revealed covered by sticky tape...

(N.B. If the title has three dots next to it, it's a link)


Sunday, August 19, 2007

YouTube - Fast Film

Anna sent me a link to this a while back. It's a bizarre combination of classic films, modern films...and origami.

The perils of random net surfing

In my travels around the internet ( my copious amounts of spare time), I sometimes like to look for interesting pictures for use as a desktop background.

Recently, I found my way to a fairly good image board site. It's got areas for photography, anime and manga, and lots of other stuff.

Unfortunately, it also has a lot of...what Asuka and Rei are complaining about, here.


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Nope, still irrational

I'm still in shock over the whole Nodo Jiman thing. I should be studying. I should be studying the song that I'm supposed to sing. I'll start that tomorrow, right after calligraphy class.


The way the show works is this: There's an application period where aspiring amateur singers send in postcards with the appropriate information. Name, address, age, song, and why you want to sing that song. After the application period is up, the powers that be choose 200 applicants to come in the Saturday before the broadcast, to audition. From what I can tell from this postcard, applicants must bring a recording of the song with them.

Then, from 12:15 to 6:30 or thereabouts, the applicants audition, and a panel of judges choose 20 who will actually appear on the television show the next day.

On the day of the show, the twenty contestants march in, and do their thing. The typical contestant only gets to sing maybe one verse/chorus of their song, after which the chimes are rung. If they ring a rising whole step, the contestant is out. A few words of condolence, and the next contestant goes.

If they play a couple of arpeggios followed by a rising major 3rd and then a descending half step, then the contestant is a finalist.

After all the contestants have gone, a couple of guest singers perform while the judges make their final decision. Then, the winner is announced, and everyone goes home...

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Holy $#{%

...was my reaction when I got the mail this morning, before I went to work.

Remember that television show I mentioned a while back? The one called のど自慢, the amateur singing show?

And the fact that I sent in my postcard, to try to get on this show? And how I thought that I might have sent it too late?


It wasn't sent too late.

In about a month, I'll be one of about 200 people vying for 20 spots on this show, which will be broadcast live (!) the next day.

What the hell am I thinking?!?

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Friday, August 17, 2007


There's a segment on NHK Educational called "Minna no Uta." It's a short filler they use in between shows, and it consists of animated clips set to children's songs old and new. Not long ago, Utada Hikaru did a cute little song for this show, entitled, "ぼくはクマ" (I am a bear).

Right now they're showing a double-length version of Minna no Uta (5 min. instead of 2) that purportedly plays one of the most popular songs, along with a little background information about the production.

The song's name is "おしりかじり虫."

That translates to "The bug that bites your ass."

I really don't understand Japanese culture, sometimes....


Thursday, August 16, 2007

What is culture shock?

Culture shock is the stress and confusion caused by the little differences.

For example:

Today at work I commented to one of my co-workers that in America, when little kids draw the sun in the sky, they usually color it yellow. This actually freaked her out for a few minutes.

(Japanese kids usually color the sun red.)

She was less freaked out by the whole snowman thing, though.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's a little better

Well, today it only hit 34.7 degrees...That's only 95 or so out there in gaikokuland.

Anyway, I lasted about a week with the two-posts-a-day thing. Although I could still re-format something and back date it, meh. I have noticed that two posts a day pushes posts off the front page quite rapidly, and if you're not a "regular reader," several posts could drop away without you ever noticing them.

(This of course presumes that I have "regular readers," of course. (^_^))

For the time being, I'm gonna throttle back a bit. One post a day for sure, perhaps two.


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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm melting

Today's high temperature was 38.6˚C.

Once again, that was

38.6˚ Centigrade
That translates to

101.48˚ Fahrenheit

It's too hot for me to come up with a wittier post


Monday, August 13, 2007

Pointless Wastes of Time

Sometimes, I think that I want to buy a new video game...then I recall that there are several games of which I am technically still in the middle...

Final Fantasy II (GBA)
Final Fantasy III (DS)
Final Fantasy IV (GBA) (close to done)
Final Fantasy V (GBA) (actually, I haven't started this one yet)
Final Fantasy VII (PS) (In Japanese, no less)
Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
Final Fantasy XII (PS2) (also in Japanese)
(I sense a theme here)

Sonic Rush (DS)
Castlevania (PS2)
Puzzle Quest (DS)
StarCraft (PC)

Yeesh. I think I might just stick with books for my fresh new entertainment needs. Well, that and DVD rentals of course.

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The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

Today, I took a drive to the Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography.

Mr. Ueda's style of photography is generally monochromatic shots of pre-arranged subjects in stark landscapes such as beaches and sand dunes.

Many of his photos come off as a bit surreal, but still interesting. The first picture to bring him acclaim was "Four Postures of the Girl." A closer look:

The museum itself was built in that late-80's to mid-90's "Concrete Monolith" style. Huge grey slab-walls, with lots of disused walkways and steps, with the occasional reflecting pool. (This building was designed by the same architect who designed the "Symphony Gardens" building in Sakaiminato City, if you've ever seen it.) (Come to think of it, of my regular readers only Scott knows what I'm talking about...)

That's Mount Daisen in the distance, capped by clouds. (Sorry about the picture quality; there's only so much you can do with a cell-phone camera behind a picture window.)

One of the interesting things about this museum is the audio/visual room. In this little theater, they show a fifteen minute overview of camera technology and the career of Mr. Ueda. But, before they start, a shutter opens up above the screen, and you realize that you're sitting in what may very well be the largest camera obscura in the world. A seven meter wide image of Mount Daisen is projected on the back wall by a lens unit made up of five lenses, the largest of which is about two feet across. (focal distance: 8.4 meters, F-stop 32)

The museum's English pamphlet has this interesting paragraph:

Surrounded by a flood of visual images, people have become desensitized to the power of photographs. Too often people look only at what the visual image shows; they do not look beyond the image for a deeper meaning. Is what the photograph shows or what the photographer tries to inspire the only way to see the images?

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Sunday, August 12, 2007


What do you do in your spare time?

As for me, I'm learning to write with a brush. Supposedly, it will help me understand Japanese more easily. That's the hope, anyway.

But so far....


More Technical Difficulties

I'm having some problems with Blogger not being able to log into the FTP server, or something like that. So, although I'll be writing those two posts a day that I promised last week, they might not always go up on the blog in a timely fashion.

Oh well.

I got paid last Friday. Tomorrow I get the fun task of withdrawing several ten-thousands of yen and immediately turning it over to the government.

Annual taxes in Japan are paid in four installments bi-monthly, starting at the end of June. This year's taxes for some incomprehensible reason are exactly double last year's. Threw my budget all out of whack, dammit.


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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Favorite quotes of the week

...from various internet fora.

(Hey, I said two posts a day; I didn't say two deep and meaningful posts a day!)

1. "We've thoroughly destroyed those arguments; please be embarrassed to bring them up further."

2. "To put it more succinctly: The Second Law of Thermodynamics is not a metaphor, dammit!"

I could go for a good steak right about now.

I had lunch at a local "family restaurant" today. THe place was called "Tomato & Onion", and I had the privilege of having a 7 ounce steak, Aussie beef, for about 15 bucks.

On the upside, it was RARE. A couple of my students (adults) who had recently traveled to Las Vegas were very surprised and somewhat annoyed that they couldn't get a truly rare steak in the States. After all, this is the country where raw fish is ubiquitous, and raw chicken is not unheard of.


Friday, August 10, 2007

On the Marketing of Coke Zero

Here in Japan, Coca-Cola Zero is being markedted as a diet cola for MEN. I don't know if the regular Diet Coke had some sort of "girly" stigma or what, but all the ads for Coke Zero have been like this.


It's interesting to note that the first shipments of Coke Zero sold out within days around here, and some stores had to wait over a month for more of the 1.5 liter size. Some stores are still waiting.

As for me, I don't care which kind of fizzy diet cola I drink, as long as it's a Coca-Cola product. Right now, Coke has partnered with Apple to give away 25,000 free song downloads from the iTunes Music Store. Considering the amount of cola I drink, it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that I've already won 10 songs.




So the Sakaiminato High School baseball team made it to the National High School Baseball Tournament ("Summer Kōshien") this year. Their first game was on TV today, and the whole city pretty much ground to a halt for a couple of hours today. Many students and parents traveled to Kōshien Stadium in Nishinomiya. It was cool to see so many people from here on national TV. Here in Japan, high school baseball rivals the professional leagues in popularity.

Alas, the Sakai High School pitchers (they used three of them) had a lot of control problems. The home team went down to defeat, 14-1.

While watching the game during my lunch break, my co-workers were amused/bemused by my annoyed shouting at the TV...


Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Y'see that big drawing of a 車椅子, pal?"

One thing I've noticed now that I can drive here in Japan is that newer commercial buildings seem to be required to have handicapped accessible parking. However, it also seems that there is no law or rule in place to reserve said parking for handicapped people. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen people blithely drive into the handicapped parking, jump out of their car and dash into the store. Their cars are usually still there when I'm leaving.

My boss has noticed this too, and for some reason (possibly the couple years she spent living in California), this really pisses her off. She's even confronted people about it.

Usually, when the topic comes up in conversation at work, it usually leads to a rant session about how many young people in Japan don't seem to give a damn about things. The example I often cite is seeing kids sitting in the parking lot of the local convenience store, eating bento and drinking can coffee, and then just leaving their bags and cans sitting on the ground, not five meters away from the big garbage/recycling containers next to the store entrance.

Not all Japanese youth are like this, but the ones who are are extremely noticeable.


Technical difficulties

My attempt at posting at a consistent rate may be stymied by odd technical problems. It seems that Blogger has problems uploading to Sometimes, posts upload with no problem. Other times, the upload hangs, and there's no way (from blogger) to abort and retry...


On owning a six year old laptop

One of the annoying things about my computer is that when I type on a website that uses java/flash/whatever extensively, there is serious lag between my typing speed and how quickly the text appears onscreen. So, i find that I can't watch the screen while I'm typing, because the discrepancy between what I'm typing and what I'm seeing on the screen seriously throws me off. This of course leads to a lot of annoying typos...

A couple of months ago, I noticed that the screen of my computer is not as bright as it should be. It turns out that the earliest versions of the white iBooks had a design flaw that led to the power cable to the backlights to eventually be severed. Also, I had had this issue repaired (under warranty) something like five years ago. Naturally, Apple no longer services this model of computer.

So, I'm sitting here typing into an iBook that's hooked up to a cheap external monitor...that I can't look at while I'm typing, anyway.



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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sign of impending mental collapse #3715

For some reason, I have the urge to embarrass myself on national TV.

I mentioned in a previous post the Japanese TV series のど自慢 (nodo jiman, something like "throat pride"(?!)), which is a weekly amateur singing contest that's produced in a different city or town every week. Well, they're swinging back through Tottori in a couple months, and I sent off my application postcard last Thursday.

However, there's a fair chance that I didn't send it off in time. The show's website (which is in Japanese, so I won't link it) stated that the application deadline was Friday, August 3rd. I (naturally) assumed that this meant that postcards had to be postmarked by Friday, 8/3. Not so, apparently; my boss (who had volunteered to write up the application for me) said that the postcard had to arrive at the NHK studios by Friday. In my defense, I asked her to help me with this two weeks ago, but for some reason she had assumed that the due date was the 9th.

So, last Thursday night my boss and I filled out the application as fast as we could, and then I had to run it over to the post office, where we had missed the last mailbox collection...but I was able to get it in at the after-hours assistance window.

I'll know one way or another in a couple weeks.

Man, what am I thinking?



Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Let's see if this works.

Well, back at the beginning of 2007, I made two resolutions. The first was to stop drinking regular Coca-Cola -- too much sugar was giving me the fits. The other was to post on this blog more often.

As of now, with the year more than half-over, I can happily report that stopping the Coca-Cola has turned out to be no problem. (With the acceptable substitution of Coke Zero and Diet Coke, though.) However, the posting on the blog thing is more of a hit and miss thing, sadly.

So, today marks the beginning of an experiment. From today, Wednesday 8th August, I promise to post at least twice a day for as long as I can.

Here's hoping I last longer than a week.


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