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An Open letter to JPN

23rd September 2009.

sunny 21 °C

Its Monday afternoon, its quite a cloudy day, and the word is summer is over. Apparently summer didnt live up to the hype and come in full force, as is usually the case, maybe global warming maybe not, either way it wasnt as scorching as it was expected to be. I suppose the classic saying of "you dont know what you've got til its gone" might come into play here. I will tend to complain whatever the weather, i hope summer isnt over, because that only means one thing, a slow entrance into my worst season - Autumn...then falling deeper into a most probably cold and dark winter. When it was a REALLY hot day, i used to moan about it a lot. I dont do that anymore, but i know a lot of people who will pray for a hot day, then complain, and when it rains just complain again, no pleasing people with the weather it seems! I think even if you gave someone a weather-controller, like a channel changer but for weather. They would probably still be complaining, and constantly altering the weather because they cant work out which weather to stick with...it would be pretty cool though!

Japan is such an interesting country full of personality. However I dont think iv even scratched the surface of Tokyo let alone Japan! but then again they dont make it easy, what with Tokyo being named the most expensive city in the world, and Japan being the most expensive country iv been to.
I love travelling, but all the travelling iv done has been pretty much all in developed countries. Which isnt because i dont want to go to developing countries, if anything i think its more exciting to travel the poorer developing countries. This is whats strange, because countries are lumped into 'developed' and 'developing' even though, now theres different stagesl to what that means. This category divide is to do with education, literacy, life expectancy, GDP, and health care. Which makes sense because these things are essential and important. However, it always seems like the idea is for developing countries to strive to be like the developed, which should be true to an extent, but i think the bottom line is whether your mixed up in the hustle and bustle of jobs, bills and technology of the west, or part of the simple farms, animals and DIY of the poor nations, there will always be problems either way, theres no idyllic and utopian world. Part of life is dealing with all the issues and obstacles, its hard to imagine a world where everything fits into place and we shrug our shoulders and say, "no nothing to complain about or change!"
One of my best mates, is in Malawai at the moment, as part of his medical degree, he's writing blogs as well, which have proved really insightful. And Im sitting here, in a country which is the 2nd largest economy in the world. The world really is a capitalist world, it is a dog-eat-dog world no matter what anyone says. If it wasnt, then obviously the developed countries would use whatever money and resources they have to work together and stop any starvation and disease suffered by millions everyday. This obviously isnt the case. Money does really make the world go round, FACT. Nowadays money is the most important thing, if your reading, thinking, health and family are more important! Ask yourself why are you healthy and how is your family A ok etc, because of money!
Eeryones always trying to get better possessions and make a social statement by show-boating the things they own! In the west everyone is motivated by money, fuckin' hell some people will even kill for the right price. Then again peoples thurst for money makes for good entertainment on many of the reality shows put together these days, one of my favourites being 'Fear Factor'; amazing what people will eat for money, but id do that! Wat is money anyway...just paper...paper that has a certain picture on it that makes us, desperate and greedy. Paper that could rot in the rain, paper that we allow to dictate and run our lives. Crazy to think/realise that pieces of paper, make the world go round and drive people for better or worse.

Anyway...that was a bit of an opinionated ramble. I've been doing a lot of things recently. Something a lot of Shane teacher do is move apartment, it takes some longer than others, but it makes a lot of sense.
Shane have an agreement with an apartment company, which involves shane teachers paying more for rent compared with any other punters in the apartments...bills arent even included. It makes a lot of sense moving out, for the main reason of saving money. I dont know how long ill be here, but the plan is whenver i do go home (if i do i suppose) to have saved a stack of Yen, so im not in a position to have to get a job immediately. I've been pretty sensible with money so far, but i can save a hell of a lot more if i can pay less rent. I never thought id be living on my own, but living in my shane flat has its advantages.
Any mess is your mess, anything needing done or sorted is up to you, and of course the whole walking around naked thing ;) Its like my little bachelor pad. On top of that i do like my area, where i live, its quite quaint and quiet, and i like my local pub, and i have a two Y100 shops next to me, (60pence) which is ideally for living on a budget! However moving to a guesthouse or shared-house would mean paying less and meeting others, whether Japanese or foriegn. My shane flat is pretty small and sometimes especially when im bored feels a lot like a prison cell (think i mentioned that before).
I've got a few leads on moving out, at the moment but iv honestly been a bit lazy to get things moving.
It seems like a big upheavel and effort, but i should probably look into it.

A few weeks ago, i signed up for a (what i considered) Tokyo harbour booze cruise. I only knew a few people who had signed up, the fax for this was sent to all shane staff. When i got to the ferry terminal Tokyo was right in the centre of a typhoon. There was a grouping of Shane folk, of whom were all from various districts. We got our tickets and got on board. I didnt know what to expect, the boat was packed with hundreds of people, some sporting Yukata's and Kimono's (Japanese traditional dress), and everyone looking pretty excited. There was a stage in which singing and dancing took place, and after paying Y2,500 (£16) i was able to take in the unlimited supply of beer, the amazing stage shows, and of course the stunning nightime views of Tokyo...despite the typhoon doing its best to upset the occassion!
A few weeks ago, i also went to Tokyo Disney Sea, theres not a great deal to say about it, other than Disney is magical, for all ages! There wasnt anything fast or crazy or remotely adrenaline enducing, but there was some great shows. One show was a musical, i HATE musicals, but this was ok, and the weird thing was it was all in English! I was thinking the talking and singing must be confusing 95% of the audience! And the final show on the waterfront full of fountains and fireworks was spectacular. The only difference between Florida disney and Tokyo is they didnt have the characters walking about the street for photos and autographs, oh well, haha.
What else have i done...'a few weeks ago'? I went to a karate class. Im a huge fan of MMA (Mixed martial Arts) which is a sport that has been evolving for many years, which basically takes karate, muay-thai, boxing, wresting and Jiu-Jitsu and moulds them into one competition. I believe its very important to know a martial art. If you get involved in a martial art its great for personal discipline, great for learning self-defense and it also keeps you damn fit! If you've ever seen or heard of the UFC you'll know what im talking about, its currently the biggest MMA promotion. I had been learning karate for about 5years back home in Scotland, and a bit of MMA before i came to Japan. I thought it would be really cool, if i could say i've been to a karate class in the home of karate, JAPAN! It was at a University, there was a kids class and a adults class i got involved in both. It was much the same as back home, wasnt as disciplined as i imagined! It felt good to do some karate again. I found out the sensei taught Lyoto Machida (a current UFC champion) when he was young, living in Brazil, which is jaw-dropping i was, in awe, but you probably were not, ha! I've not been back since, because iv been busy and had to work 6day weeks, as shane is short on teachers. I might try n find an MMA class however.
Last friday i became a student and put myself in my students shoes! I took my first Japanese lesson.
It turned into a private lesson, even though next time it might not be. I have 30-40 vocabulary words or phrases i know, that are useful or polite, but still i think my Japanese is Zero. Although i have met some people who have been here 3 to 5 years and have just about no Japanese, so i guess it just depends how much effort you want to put in, because you can easily get around without any Japanese, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the culture its best to give it a go! I personally think if you stay longer than a year and dont learn, your lazy and its rude, but thats my opinion.
Japanese is one of those languages that i would look at and be completely baffled and dumbstruck by it.
However with anything, it only makes sense if you understand it. People are always put off and a bit wary of the unknown and anything foriegn, something they dont understand or doesnt seem normal to them, which is human nature i suppose. I really only wanted to get better at speaking and listening, so i could try and hold a conversation because, i've had some experience in situations, small and big, that have made me very FrUsTrAtEd due to the language barrier!!...
But i was told at my class, by my very friendly old Japanese teacher, that you have to do writing and reading aswell or not at all! Fair enough! Luckily my teacher spoke very good english, which made it a lot easier, where as in my case as a teacher not only do i not speak Japanese but i cant explain anything in japanese, which now i realise (for lower levels) it must be very difficult putting myself in my students shoes!
If you dont know, Japanese technically has 3 alphabets; Hiragana = Their own writing, Katakana = Any imported ideas or words are written in this, such as my name! and Kanji = the most weird looking and complicated, this is ancient Chinese writing that has been used for generations.
I started off pronouncing Hirigana, and writing it, which felt quite weird, but i think i was doin' well. My teacher praised me a lot, which i rekon he does that to every student but it made me see how important, praise is as it really makes you feel good and that your achieving something.
Language no matter what language is always evolving, just like anything. In the case of english, no one talks like in the Victorian or Shakespearian times anymore do they?...nowadays a collection of various short terms and slangs are taking the place of actually english, new words are being created, and words that had a certain meaning now have different meanings, eg. Americans saying "thats bad" or "that was sick" which is supposed to mean "really good/amazing". I dont have time to list other examples, but you know what i mean, slang is the new english, and if people are learning actual textbook english, maybe in the future it'll be harder to understand someone speaking very abbreviated, fluent and slang english!
Anyway...I've done my writing homework and im ready for another lesson. On the other hand, Japanese is a language that i rekon takes a loooonnnnngggg time to really get good at, and i've not decided yet how long im going to stay, but i think if i dont stay for longer than a year - learning the language intensely might prove pointless! So i dont know if its worth it yet, but im sure it wont all be for nothing.

Japan still seems like the safest place i have ever been. No one really seems suspect or dangerous or on-edge with you. Its so passive, and everyones overly polite (the bowing will never get old!). But...c'mon theyre human, there has to be some crime!? The only evidence of crime i've seen is in the Metropolis magazine, which is a english magazine for people living in Japan. Theres always horror facts in that about, some Japanese man, who was found to have some heads in his basement, or somebody who axed his landlord. Which are stories on the major crime end of the scale. I've not seen any petty crime, but I've been told by my student that old men steal things from supermarkets and conveniences stores, because its hard for old people to live. That'd be pretty funny to witness!
What also amuses me a lot, is video games and comics. Most people back home associate these things with kids, or people ages 18 and under...Not in Japan! When im on the train, i never fail to see business men reading a chunky animae (comic) book, or button-bashing viciously away at their PSP or Nintendo DS, fantasy game! I was told by somebody (cant remember who) that the birth rate in Japan has dropped, which is probably a good thing due to the size, density and current population, but the reason for the drop is that boys and men are becoming less interested in talking to and mingling with the opposite sex and focusing more on the fantasy world of dragons and superheros!...hard to believe the way some of these girls dress! ;)
Tokyo is so big, that most people who have driving lisenses are paper drivers, meaning they dont have a car. It doesnt make sense to have a car in Tokyo though, trains are the best and cheapest way to get around. The 2nd most popular form of transport besides trains, is definetely bikes, old people love bikes especially, and sometimes they come out of nowhere! Some women look like they're danger biking, as they have one kid on their back and one in the front basket as they weave their way between the road and pavement dodging anything in their way...crazy. Tokyoites i rekon spend about 1/2 their lives on trains at least!..and more time cycling than walking!
Banks also have a bit of a strange system. First of all, you can choose between using your signature to prove your ID, or using a 'hanko' which is a small stamp, which seems stupid as if someones steals your hanko they can use it...no one can forge your signature though. The bank will pretty much charge you to use it whenever, even your own bank, and ATM's usually shut at 11pm...madness!
Technology amazes, me still...i thought id mention. When will it end, it was said about 100 years ago that everything that needs to be invented has been, yet here we are in the 21st Century, making all kinds of gizmo's and gadgets! Skype amazes me, i was 'skyping' my friends recently who have just moved into a flat in London. It was a video call which felt like i was right there, and i got a tour of their new house. 8,000 miles away and it felt like i was in the flat. I wonder when it'll end, or where it'll go. My parents always say, "if so and so 'relative' was alive today they wouldnt believe the world of today". I keep thinking i wonder what life will be like when im about 70/80years old (if i make it) and how things will have moved forward or indeed taken a step backwards, who knows! Im sure Japan will having something to do with, anything weird and whacky and gadgety anyway...

I think, i might leave blogs for a few months. I had previously pondered on the idea of firing them out thick and fast, but i think they've gotten worse as they've gone on, or they've past their peak. Therefore, im going to let things blog related lie for a goood while, and maybe have 1 or 2 more blogs, before the end of 2009. Hope everyones well, who reads this, if your not reading this i dont hope your well, but you wont know that cause your not reading anyway.

Take care going into Autumn, wherever you are, and go with the flow :)

Posted by RMS8 07:54 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan travel strange job english asia teaching

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