Thursday, May 29, 2008
While waiting at the train station with my parents, an unusual event occurred. A blackout. Everything but the train station itself went completely dark. Me, being the nerd I am, decided to take some pictures to commemorate the moment. I don't think I've ever seen a family mart sign not turned on before. Also, I felt bad for the people trying to get through the main light in front of the station. Most Japanese people are bad enough drivers as it is. Add a non working light at a major intersection into the mix and, well, I'm sure you can imagine. Good thing a cop quickly appeared to direct traffic.

P.S: The day after the blackout I found out it was apparently caused by a snake messing with some power lines. Weird.

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posted by am at 11:58 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Local attractions....
I wanted to take my parents to see Mt. Fuji, but Sunday turned out to be just as cloudy as Saturday so I had to come up with something else. In my own town, the only real tourist attraction is the Fruits Park, but it’s not really all that exciting and we'd have to take a taxi to get to it. Instead, I decided we'd go somewhere I'd never been, but had always wanted to go to. The wine cave in Katsunuma. Basically you pay a fee, get a sippy cup, and then can drink all the wine you want with 150 different options available. Of course, my dad was all for this idea.

It was easier to get there than I thought. We just hopped on a train to Katsunuma and then took a taxi to the 'cave'. There is also a restaurant, hotel, shop, and BBQ place there as well. When we got out of the taxi, I wasn't exactly sure where to head and while we were standing around looking confused, a group of people who were sitting near this picnic type area called us over. Turns out they were a group of tennis players from Kanagawa and quite a few of them had decent English. They shared some wine and Costco cornbread with us and asked us the standard set of questions. 'Where are you from,' How long have you been in Japan,' Do you like Japanese food,' and the like. When they found out we were from Colorado two of them in particular were really excited as they used to import wheat from Denver to Japan. After a bit of chatting the tennis group headed out and we went to find some food.

We ate at the restaurant that was there. It was a fairly fancy and expensive place, but the view was really nice and the food was really good. A lot of meat options as well. After getting our fill it was off to taste some wine. While my dad and I are big wine fans, my mom isn't. I was a bit worried that she might not like it all that much, but she managed to find one wine in particular that she really liked. A sweet white that tasted more like juice than wine. Even I decided to pick up a bottle of it. She got two.

After that, it was back home for some rest and then we went to the local izakaya for dinner. My mom had been craving french fries and the izakaya has the best beer batter fries I've had since coming to Japan. They also have an excellent bacon wrapped tomato skewer. Yum!

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posted by am at 10:56 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Parents in Tokyo
On Saturday, I decided my parents could not visit Japan without seeing some of Tokyo, so we did. First stop was actually more of an errand for me. The point and shoot camera that I bought last year died on my during my Golden Week vacation. I thought all hope was lost in fixing it until I found the camera box I could have sworn I tossed in the trash hiding in my closet while pulling out gifts I'd been storing for my parents. Thank you parents! Anyway, the box contained my warranty papers so I decided I'd see if they could fix it for me. Thus, our first stop in Tokyo was the Yodabashi camera in Akihabara. We actually spent more time there than I thought we would. My mom found the touristy section and was looking at yukata to use as bathrobes and my dad wanted to pick up some new earphones. We also ate on the top floor of the building as well.

After our Yodabashi visit, we went to Asakusa. Sadly, on our way over it started to pour down rain. But I didn't want to go all the way to Tokyo and not have my parents see at least one temple, so no turning back for us. While wet, we still had a good time. My parents did a bunch of shopping for family and friends while I took a bunch of pictures (though not nearly as many as I would have if it hadn't been raining). When we got to the temple, they had the doors to the inner area closed, which sucked, and were also starting to shut down the fortune telling booth things. Luckily, we managed to get to one before they shut it down and my parents got their fortunes (normal for my mom, and good for my dad, in case you wanted to know). Given our poor luck with the weather, I decided to pass on getting my fortune least I be blamed for the downpour!

After that, it was a long train ride back to home sweet home.

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posted by am at 10:34 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
A visit from the folks
My parents come out to Japan to visit this past weekend. I still can't get over how cheap it is for them to get here and how retarded the whole 'kids over 23 can't get benefits' thing is. Only $300 round trip for the both of them. Guess it pays to have family in the airline industry!

They came into Kofu via bus on Thursday afternoon and we ate at a cafe in Kofu station while waiting for the next train to my station. They were both pretty tired so once at my place we laid out the futons and went to bed.

The next day I took a few hours vacation to sleep in and take them out to breakfast at my local bakery, Mont Marlow. I also took a ton of pictures of them using the vending machine outside the bakery. It was my dad's first, but definitely not last, time using a Japanese vending machine.

Then it was off to work for me. When I got back home, we went out for some hoto at the local hoto place. Hoto is something everyone who comes to visit me must try as it’s the dish my area is famous for. Tastes really good to. My parents enjoyed the hoto place and the lady who owns the restaurant took her picture with them and gave them some gifts. They only downside to the whole thing was that we were sitting on the tatami and my parents aren't quite used to eating while sitting on the floor. Thus there were a few leg cramps going around, but they managed to survive!

After dinner we headed over to LRiver, a popular bar in my town. Especially for us foreigners! I already knew a group of people who be coming as a friend was holding her birthday party there that night. We got there a bit early but as people started showing up, I began to introduce my parents to my friends. And after a while, karaoke started up. Best part of the evening was these two drunken Japanese guys who took a liking to my dad. First, these guys were kind of strange to begin with. Normally, when a big group of the local ALTs show up, we scare away all the Japanese people. It normally takes less than 30min for them to pack up their things and go. These guys however, bucked the trend and rather than leaving actually started talking with us. The horror! They really seemed to like my dad in particular. Started off by calling his scary and by the end of the night were calling him sempai. I should also point out that they were fairly toasted.

We ended up staying way later than I thought we would and had to catch a taxi home. Not too bad for a first full day in Japan!

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posted by am at 10:13 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Placed in Yamanashi?
A little birdie told me that most of the new JETs will be getting their placements in the next few days or so. If you happen to be a new JET placed in Yamanashi and find my blog while frantically searching for information on the prefecture, I would just like to say hi and would recommend that you check out the YETI website. It will help you get in touch with pretty much all the JETs in the Yamanashi area. You can find a link to it in the links column. If you happen to be place in Yamanashishi specifically, contact me because I will know who your pred is. You might even be my neighbor!

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posted by am at 9:43 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, May 19, 2008
My second Japanese film

Day 2 in Tokyo started with a movie. I did alright watching, L, change the world, with no subtitles so I decided to try another Japanese movie. I went to see Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni at the Sunshine Cinema in Ikebukuro (movie poster pic brought to you by my new camera!). It's sort of a horror/suspense/mystery movie based on a visual novel, turned manga, turned anime. The movie itself was only so-so. I felt it could have been done better, but I'm glad I saw it. I also I think I did a decent job of following what was happening and feel that my Japanese is slowly, but surely, improving. Thank god. I'm already on the lookout for another Japanese movie that I might be able to watch subtitle-less.

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posted by am at 12:13 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Sumo! Sumo! Sumo!
Went to a Sumo tournament on Saturday of last week with a group of fellow JETs. The plan was to all ride the train together and arrive at the area at around 11:30. However, I wanted to stop by Fujima Camera and pick up a new DSLR and thus took an earlier train. I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D40 with a 18-55 II lens. After picking up the camera, I met up with everyone outside the stadium around noon.

Sumo seems a lot like baseball to me. A lot of waiting with a little bit of action thrown in every now and then. So yeah, sumo was a little bit boring, but I did get to do quite a bit of picture taking with my new camera which made me very happy. I even ran out of battery power at one point, but managed to find an outlet and recharge it. I also picked up a sumo bento lunch while I was there and enjoyed eating bento and drinking sake while watching sumo. You can't get much more Japanese than that.

An interesting note about sumo. The tournament goes on all day, but all the matches in the beginning are low level and very few people show up to see them. The good matches start around 3 in the afternoon. That is when all the famous sumo wrestlers start their matches. It's also when all the TV cameras start filming and when most of the spectators start showing up. While there was pretty much no one in the arena when we arrived, by the last match, the place was packed!

After that, most everyone headed back home, but I wanted to make a weekend out of it and headed to my hotel to check in. I booked a dorm style room at the Sacral Hotel and when I went to drop off my stuff, a nice older Japanese woman was already there. She actually lives in Houston, but was in Japan visiting family and, while we were talking, the news started showing coverage of the sumo matches I had just seen! After our chat, I went to check out the Tokyo Dome, home of the Giants baseball team, grabbed some dinner, and then headed back to the hotel for a good nights rest.

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posted by am at 11:56 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Haven't updated in a while......which always means trouble. I have about 20 or so posts in draft form that I will be working on, including posts detailing my friend Heather's visit and my Golden Week trip. Be on the lookout for them. Until then, I figured I would post and let everyone know I'm still alive! In fact, I'm having quite the wonderful day! Lunch was decent and all eatable, I played dodge ball with some of my students during lunch, and just finished up 5 classes that went strikingly well. In all truth and honesty, I might even be a bit *too* pleased with my life right now. Any day that isn't a great day feels like a bit of a let down. Ha!
posted by am at 11:35 PM | Permalink | 1 comments