a good weekend, and other stories

Yesterday I was teaching elementary school, and we were going over things in the classroom. When introducing new words, I usually try and give them the first sound as a hint. Usually someone in the class has heard the word before, and they get to look smart. So I was pointing at a desk, and saying "de"... "des"... "deeeesssss". Suddenly, a child shouts out "DEATH BEAM!!!".

No child, you don't sit at a death-beam all day long. School might be more interesting if that were true though.

***

This weekend I went to the Sumo Tournament in Tokyo. I'd seen sumo on TV before, but frankly wasn't that impressed. I mean on TV it's pretty boring, so I was expecting the same from the real deal. I was pleasantly surprised that I was totally wrong. Sumo is awesome.

The tournament is actually a 2 week affair, and we all attended the second-to-last day. The schedule online was slightly wrong, so we ended up at the arena about an hour before anything started. The upshot of this was wandering around, and watching the novice sumo wrestlers arrive. It was interesting seeing one get off the public bus, and thinking about his morning pre-game routine. Odd.

The morning of the tournament is all novice wrestlers so, while tickets sold to the tournament are good for the entire day, many people choose to skip the morning portion. This means that all the seats on the bottom level are open and free, so many of us spent the morning in the most expensive seats the Sumo Kaikan had to offer. It was really cool being so close to the action.

I won't bother going into the ins and outs of a sumo match, but I was really surprised at how fast the matches were. The advanced wrestlers played up the match, playing a much more psychological game. The actual fighting though was usually over within 30 seconds. No bouts, no points. First guy out of the ring, or to fall down loses. The other part that was fun, was watching the sheer terror in the faces of people with good seats as they realized a 300lb man was hurtling directly towards them. Even the judges got smashed one or two times.

All in all, sumo was amazing. I'm really happy I went and am excited to go again.

***
Sunday I had a really fun day. I went out with a friend of a friend towards Asakusa and Ueno. We spent the day looking at the temples, the Asahi Golden Poo Building and finishing up at Ueno zoo. It was a really good time. I was nervous it would be horrible and un-fun, since I didn't know her so well. In reality though it was really fun. Had it been a date, it would have been an unusually good one. I'm looking forward to hanging out with her again.

Ueno Zoo was amazing for the price. It was only like 600 yen, and the had a huge variety of animals. I even got to see Ling-Ling the famous Panda, live and in the flesh. I hadn't really thought of it, but I guess the last time I'd been to the zoo was probably about 10 years ago... and that was to the Santa Barbara zoo. The last 'world class' zoo I'd been to was probably one of the many we went to in Australia. If you're ever in need of wasting some time in Tokyo, check out Ueno zoo. It's cheap, easy to get to and takes up a lot of time; a combination that occurs so rarely in Tokyo.

***
Yesterday morning marked the first day that I got up to find that my house was below zero. My wall clock/thermometer usually lists low temperatures (2's and 3's), but never in my house has it been so cold. It was horrible. It was only made worse by the fact that it was Monday and I was tired. So tired was I, that after elementary school I took a 3 hour nap under my kotatsu in my awesome chair. I seem to be all caught up now though.

Speaking of that chair, I don't think I've talked much about it. Shane and I, looking for something to do went over to the mall in Takasaki one afternoon. We went into Muji and they had these chairs that looked sort of like a cross between an ottoman and a beanbag. I sat in one, and the moment my butt touched fabric I was in love. It's the best chair ever. It just absorbs you, but at the same time it's multi functional. If you want to sit up straight, you can. If you want to sleep in it, you can! It's amazing. I love my chair.

monkeys

So, remember a few months ago when we sent students home early because of bears? Well, this morning we were warned in our staff meeting about monkeys.

As usual I was doing my best to pay attention, but only really getting about half of what was going on. Then I thought I heard our vice-principal say something about 'saru'. Then she went on, talking about how they're fast and you have to be careful. I really couldn't believe me ears, I mean... monkey attacks? Who gets attacked by a monkey?! (Besides Amanda) Even more though, who gets attacked by a monkey in Kurabuchi?

I had to confirm with my English teacher that I had indeed understood correctly what was said. So yeah, if you don't hear from me: it was the monkeys.

be prepared

Stolen from Kamara.

RULES:
1. Put Your iTunes, Windows Media Player, MP3 Player, or whatever on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write down the name of the song no matter how silly it sounds!
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.

If someone says, "Is this okay?" You say?
The Promised Land - Nobuo Uematsu

How would you describe yourself?
"Without a Song" - Frank Sinatra (how sad!)

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Several Ways to Die Trying - Dashboard Confessional

How do you feel today?
Carmen Sandiego - Rockapella

What is your life's purpose?
The Creeper - We are Scientists (Shut up Ly)

What is your motto?
As Parias Desertas - Morlenbaum^2

What do your friends think of you?
Tomorrow - Me First and the Gimme Gimme's

What do you think of your parents?
The Heart of Saturday Night - Tom Waits (Hmmm)

What do you think about very often?
Caleidoscpo - Onda Vaselina

What is 2 + 2?
The Runaway - Something Corporate

What do you think of your best friend?
Big and Bad - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

What do you think of the person you like?
Total Job - The Faint

What is your life story?
Hemisphere - Various

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Abacadabra - Alizee

What do you think of when you see the person you like?
Fishing with Django - Frank Vignola (Hahaha, mildly suggestive in this context, ne?)

What will you dance to at your wedding?
Blistered Heart - Badly Drawn Boy (My poor wife, or poor me?)

What will they play at your funeral?
Notte Bastarda - Nek (Even if you don't speak Italian, you can figure this one isn't complimentary)

What is your hobby/interest?
Virgina Avenue - Tom Waits

What is your biggest fear?
Mockin'bird - Tom Waits

What is your biggest secret?
Mission - Dispatch

What do you think of your friends?
Cheek to Cheek - Eva Cassidy

What will you post this as?
Be Prepared - Lion King Soundtrack

still kickin'

As I mentioned before, Japan has many 3 day weekends. This weekend was one of them, which was great. As it was Ethan's birthday, he came up for his first visit to Tokyo since orientation and first visit to my house ever. He brought with him his entourage of Okayama JETs, and we had a great time. Saturday, while the weather proved to not be the best, was host to my first BBQ. Most people I've hung out with up until this point have never been to my house. In fact, only 2 people had... and among those only one had been more than once. So, it was overdue. Especially given the consideration that my house is built for parties.

It was good. After it stopped snowing (brrr) the night cleared up well and we were able to barbecue without trouble. Lots of food. Oh. So. Much. Food. I was picking things up at the grocery store, when Ethan et al insisted we needed 3 times more than I was buying. The end result is after a weekend of eating chicken at almost every meal I still have 9 breasts. This isn't to mention the many beers and bottles of wine, chips and other things left over. I think I'll need to have another event to eat it all. Actually, that's not a bad idea...

Sunday we went up to Haruna Jinja, which thanks to the recent snow was even more awesome than usual. It was really cold though, and the drive somewhat treacherous. Post that we went up to the lake, which was an even more slippery drive but equally pretty and cold.

Monday we went to Tokyo, and to TGI Friday's for Ethan's birthday. TGI Friday's is a strange place in Japan. You walk in and it's like walking in to a little America. The wait-staff all speak English, the menu is in English and the food is 100% American style. Sometimes even worse. Ethan and I were both persuaded by the awesomeness guaranteed by the "Cheesy Bacon Cheeseburger". First though you need to understand the difference between the mozzarella sticks at Friday's Japan and in the US. In the US they are like fingers of cheese; cylindrical and longish. Here they aren't, they're more like a fried cheese patty. Each one is like 3 US style cheese fingers smashed into a square of fried goodness. Taste is about the same. The Cheesy Bacon Cheese burger is a burger with one of those on top. They don't stop there though... you get around 3 strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles AND just because they love you: another slice of cheese melted on top of the fried cheese patty. It's epic. The fact that the meat patty itself is 200g of all-beef (Japan seems to like to mix pork and beef in 'ground beef') only makes it even better. Or is it worse?

In any case, Ethan totally wussed out and couldn't finish his. I did, barely... and it probably wasn't wise. The table over from us held a cute Japanese couple, and they were sharing one. That's how crazy it was. Mmm... but it was delicious. Sadly the caloric content isn't listed.

At some point during the evening the topic of Maid Cafes came up. For those not familiar, it's a cafe where the entire wait staff is dressed as.. you got it: maids! When you walk out of the station in Akihabara (the geek capital of Tokyo) you're always greeted by at least 1 or 2 promoting their shops. Ethan decided it was something we had to do. We wandered around for a bit looking, and after finding we didn't want to wait in line for one of the more popular ones ended up at a smaller, off the beaten path one. It was nice, I guess. It was standard cafe fare, served by maids. They'll do cute things like put caramel on your coffee in the shape of a heart, but in honesty communication was somewhat difficult. The ones you wait in line for looked like people were having fun though. There were maid stage shows, maids playing rock-paper-scissors with customers... you name it. Very, very strange.

Finally got back to my house around 1 a.m. Just in time to go to bed to get up for school the next morning.

wrap up

The past week I've spent traveling Japan. It actually all worked out really well, especially considering how little planning took place. Shane and I set up shop in Okayama at Ethan's apartment (sans Ethan). Took in the sites there, and used the marvelous and awesome Seishun 18 Kippu that provides unlimited local rail rides for 5 days. It's an awesome deal, and I wish that it was something that was constantly available! The effective cost per day is around $20. Even on the day we used it to go to Tokyo and back it saved us at least $30 each. One of these days I'll travel all of Japan on it. Even so, we did some damage.

We hit up (in geographical order, west to east... not chronological)
- Hiroshima: cold, it was snowing. Everything was closed thanks to New Years
- Kurashiki: much the same as when I went with Ethan near Thanksgiving, but earlier in the day so we got to walk around some more
- Okayama: same as with Ethan
- Himeji: Himeji castle was amazing, a must see for Japan.
- Kyoto: So.Many.Temples.

Of course there's a lot more to the story than that.

So now I'm back in the groove of things. School has started back up, my Japanese lessons have (or are) starting back up this week. The only thing that isn't that's in my normal busy routine is Kendo. It'll be nice to have a couple of free nights this week though.

Even better though, this weekend is a three-day weekend! Yay! I love Japan and it's plentiful 3 day weekends. It feels like there is at least one a month.