A Travellerspoint blog

The Earthquake/Tsunami of 2011

My experience of the Quake from my facebook blog...

semi-overcast 10 °C

Earthquakes and Tsunami's...well...a Tsunami is not a Surfers dream. Its a.....what am i doing writing a brief Intro about Earthquakes and Tsunami's for?! Everyone knows what they are! One of Mother Natures most devastating weapons! (maybe emotions is better).

Its been 3 days since the Earthquake and Tsunami took Japan by mega shock and destroyed a great deal. Im still feeling aftershocks..some real some in my head. There could be another Quake who knows. I've been under my bed, wearing my shoes and curled in the foetal position with a packet of biscuits for the last 3days quivering!....thats not true.....i've not, how would that help? If i had known before i came to Japan that i'd be writing a blog about an Earthquake, would i have come....what kind of questions am i asking myself!? of course i couldnt have known that! People can't live life in constant fear of the "what if". If we did we'd never get anything done. We just have to get on with it. Keep going forward doing what we do and getting things done, taking on whatever comes our way. Disasters from minor to major can happen at anytime, we can do very little to be completely prepared for them, its just something that we all have to deal with.

Was the phrase "No news is good news" coined way back when amidst tradgic events it was extremely difficult to get news of any sort so the phrase was used in hope?...i dont know im just speculating. This is because despite being connected to sources of information all the news (as helpful as it may be) just worries people further, however we must be kept up to date whatever the situation. Its probably cheeky of me to have said this as its easy for me to say when i've not been directly affected by this natural disaster.

Japan sits right in the area of some major fault lines (cracks in the Earths surface resulting from the action of tectonic forces...even though i studied geography at University i won't bore/educate you with the geology of it all......what your saying i dont remember it all?...yeeeaaa probably true) which isn't good in terms of being prone to disasters, so for Japan a relatively small country, extremely densely populated and extremely vulnerable to events like this its a bad combination of factors.

I'll get straight to my account of Friday march 11th.

It was a standard friday for me in Tama Centre a suburban-ish area inbetween Tokyo and Yokohama. I was teaching (or guiding) a group of older women to English Stardom. It was at 2:50pm that one of the women started clutching the table and began to utter words of fear (in japanese of course, we hadn't covered fear in English yet). I thought this was nothing as a few time s before since i've been living in Japan i've felt these such tiny shakes that come to nothing. However this one went from a tiny shake and gradually got stronger and more violent. Should i have taught the phrase "Holy fucking shit"?!. We stood up and went to the reception area, where the receptionist was also starting to panic. This school is in a shopping centre on the 3rd floor, so we could open the door and see other staff and shoppers gathering in distress. When the Quake was in the middle of shaking the whole building wildly (much like a 5year old shaking their toys like a giant) i felt like these women were looking at me with a "what should we do" like expression. "Fucked if it know" i was thinking! Strangely i had a slight grin on my face while this was happening, maybe it was a mechanism to keep myself calm. I really hadn't a clue what to do, just wait til it was over i kept thinking. The building was shaking but i didn't see anything smash or break, only slight crumbles of the shitty board ceiling fall. and a few things fall off desks. Two things went through my head as it was happening. I was thinking if it all goes to shit im going to have great difficultly communicating and helping people. The receptionist didn't have a very good level of English at all and the old women were the lowest level i teach. Tama Centre isn't an area with many foriegners either and my level of Japanese although i try wasn't good enough to really communicate to a great degree especially in an emergency like this! The other thing i was thinking was do i have an extra contact lense case and glasses in my bag. I was thinking this because i feel my main weakness/disability in an emergency would be my eyesight. I'm -4.75 (short-sighted) which granted isn't a life altering disability compared to others but without my contacts or glasses i feel pretty disadvantaged. Luckily i did, and luckily i didnt need them.

After the Quake died down, it was all very eery people didnt know if they should return to working or not. The receptionist attempted to find information out via the internet on her phone. I tried to call my girfriend who was at the time working in Tokyo, however my phone didn't seem to work. I couldn't send texts or make calls. I thought it might be because my phones a total piece of shit, pre-paid sorry excuse for a phone at all! but nobody's phones seemed to work and soon it was clear that there was a reason for not phasing out pay phones, they finally were being used (much like a kid neglecting his toys to play Xbox only to see that break thus crawling back to his toys). The Queue for pay phones lengthened and lengthened. I hope it was prioritized for people calling people up north. Shortly after we found out where the Earthquake originated. We "only" felt the ripple effect of the Quake as it spread out from the epicentre. School wasn't cancelled (yet) but i presumed my next two classes of kids would most likely not turn up as the train lines would probably be down. However in the next two classes 1 kid turned up from each, which was quite an akward and still a bit shakey 1 to 1 lesson. In the first class it was a little girl and half way through the class an aftershock vibrated through the building and this little girl was under the table in the blink of an eye! Japan has always said its the most prepared country for an Earthquake (not one of this magnitude though) and Japanese children (and anyone i suppose) are well trained in the procedures of such an event, eg. "get the fuck under the table!".

Later that day about 7pm (i usually work til 9 on weekdays) i got word that all schools had been cancelled for the rest of the day and the weekend. So now i was going to attempt to get "home" back to my apartment in Japan that is....although i would have much rather been home in Scotland!. I walked out of the building and down the path to the train station. Already i could see a mile long queue outside (like they were queueing for....ehhh...who do the Japanese go crazy for?....Lady Gaga?...i dunno) and this had me thinking its gonna be a long night ahead. I came to find out the queue was for the taxi's and not for the train as the train's had stopped running completely. Earlier that day i was thinking its a beautiful day and spring is here so i only wore a hoodie and a scarf. Of course that evening i'd wished i had more clothes. I proceeded to join the queue (wishing i had a queue skip) and remembered i also forgot to bring my mp3 player DAMN. A very friendly young Japanese guy called called Toshi asked me if i needed any help while i was waiting. He was very friendly and spoke very good English. It turned out he lives in Chiba (east of Tokyo quite far) and he was stranded in Tama Centre. He came back to the line every so often, we chatted and he kept me up to date on the situation regarding transport. I ended up waiting for 4 1/2 hours in the cold for a taxi (which i knew would be pricey). While i waited i tried to contact others and also spoke to my mum briefly to tell her im ok. As i waited my phone started ringing, i picked it out my pocket and the number read "+61" which is an Australian code. I answered and could barely hear from the noise on the other line. It turned out it was my cousin who lives in Australia. It was surprising because we haven't spoken in a long time and we don't keep in touch but that made it all the more appreciated that he'd called! I didn't get any other calls from anyone outside Japan, but thats ok i wasn't expecting any, the facebook messages were good enough (which i couldn't read on my mobile because it doesn't have internet access). At the time i didn't realise how fast the incident had become global!

I have bad circulation in my hands (i sound like an OAP) [my mum also has bad circulation but im not blaming her]) and hanging around in the cold for such a long time waiting turned my hands corpse like. I was cold and shivering, but there was a girl ahead of me that looked like she was wearing less and had very high heels on, didn't seem to be complaining so i thought id just grin and bear it. On top of all this, only 1 taxi every 15-20minutes was turning up sometimes just taking a single person! Passing cars drove past this exceeding long queue in the frezing cold and just stared. You'd think/hope that in this situation drivers would do the decent thing and ask people where they were going and offer to give a lift but NO! Ridiculous! Not the done thing in Japan even in this scenario!...

Just as i got fairly near the front of the taxi queue, a station worker came and announced that the Odakyu train line was now up and running. I bolted it to the platform and managed to get home by about 1:30am. It was great to get back, get some food and most importantly get some warmth.

I just think i should say now the reality of it is i was more inconvenienced that friday. I was not directly affected and im in no position to be complaining or claiming i was in some kind of devastating turmoil or fight for my life because this was DEFINETELY NOT the case.

When i got home i watcrf the News on TV and came to understand the extent of the Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami's unbelievable destruction! It was surreal, hard to believe.

People in the Tokyo area have been very lucky. If the epicentre was nearer Tokyo i dread to think what the aftermath would have been like with such an Earthquake clocking in at 9.0 on the richter scale!

I heard a story of a 60 year old man found floating on a piece of roof and rescued. He'd been floating for 2days and his wife had been swept away. Its impossibly to grasp how fucking terrible that man's situation is and how his life as he knows it has been ripped apart before his eyes. I've seen terrible disasters on the news in my life both natural; 2004 Tsunami and unnatural; World Trade Centres 2001, but it feels a lot different actually being in the country where a disaster strikes. I've been able to keep track of news through BBC live streaming, and once on Japanese TV when they had it in English, but its difficult to really get the exact information needed, it keeps changing and i hear mixed things. Theres Nuclear reactors in Fukushima which are causing a problem and could cause an even bigger problem (radiation) but the news on that situation keeps changing and is unclear.

Its Monday (14th) afternoon now as i type this. Tokyo's train lines have been interrupted and routine life is definetely not normal. In Tokyo and the surrounding area today and possibly into the indefinite future there will be scheduled power outages to save as much electricity as possible. Yesterday Supermarkets were crowded as people were cleaning them out of food and water for supplies, shelves were empty it was like the apocalypse. It was an unbelievable sight! At least the developed world has access to these foods.

I don't have to work until Thursday but for me and many others thats not exactly a priority right now. Some people have started heading south, mainly to stay clear of radiation that could spread through the atmosphere. Some people have left and some people are considering leaving the country, at the same time as many other countries send humanitarian support to Japan.

Yesterday i tried to find out if i could give blood at a donation centre as many people will be needing blood in the aftermath. To my frustration i found out that due to BSE disease (mad cow) that affected the UK a long time ago, British people and anyone in the UK during that time cannot donate. I think this is ridiculous as i've donated blood a fair number of times when i lived back home.

I don't know what im going to do. Can people find solace in the fact that something this devastating is out of their control if it happens again?! I'll continue to use BBC and Twitter for any other useful information, and i'll weight up my options as time unfolds.

To everyone in the affected area, I truely can't understand what your must be going through as i have food, shelter and im safe. To everyone else in Japan, stay safe! 気をつけて. To everyone else Worldwide also stay safe but also think of what you have....this certainly makes you think anything can be torn apart in an instant...

This is not something i'll look back on and think i remember when i was involved in the Earthquake/Tsunami (they come hand in hand) of 2011 because as i said I have not been directly affected. IM OK! When i see the footage and pictures everyone else around the World is witnessing i just thank my lucky stars (where did that expression come from?) i'm not further north otherwise i for sure wouldn't be typing this...

Posted by RMS8 06:04 Archived in Japan Tagged japan tsunami event danger earthquake fukushima Comments (0)

Floatations Isolations and Interpretations

The tank....

I've always been interested in anything new and different whether it be doing Magic Mushroms in Amsterdam, Running with Bulls in Spain or being a Human guinea pig in a Research centre in Melbourne.

I've known about something called a Floatation Tank (also known as Sensory deprivation tank, Isolation tank or Rest tank) for quite sometime but never really looked into it. However over the last year I've been fairly regularly watching Joe Rogans (MMA commentator/Stand-up comic) Podcasts. He talks about all sorts of topics and subjects of discussion but the intrigue of the FT's (Floatation tank) mentions really got me interested. Joe Rogan happens to own a FT and has it in his basement.

The Floatation tank was invented by a man named John C. Lilly from the States. He was a Neuro-psychiatrist who was trying to test a Hypothesis that, If all stimuli are cut off to the brain then it would go to sleep. Essentially the Tank was designed to cut off your 5 Senses (Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch [i dont know why i listed them, you have no sense if you needed to know what they were])

and see the effect it had on the Brain.

Pretty facinating shit! I'll stop ranting on Scientific shit i dont know anything about and tell you in Ross's terms (forget Layman). The Tank is bigger than a bath, has a lid (kinda like a coffin for Yeti or bigfoot) and inside theres about 30cm of water and about 800 pounds of Epsom salt (and heres me thinking Epsom made printers) which makes the water very dense and buoyant (kinda like the dead sea). Tanks were originally used to test Sensory deprivation, but nowadays they are used for general relaxation in Spa's, stress relief and in other cases Meditation...

So I decided to harness the wonders of Google and see if Japan had kept up with Technology (not quite keeping up as the Tank was first developed in 1954) enough to have their Chopstick loving hands on such an item! This was not in a bid to become a hippie and start tapping into my Meditating self, but just because it was something curious and something i had to try out. My search found me 2 Tanks; 1 in Kyoto and 1 in a Japanese man by the name of Miyabe-san's apartment in Tokyo. Fortunately he wasn't guarding it for only his naked self (Yes you are supposed to be naked in the Tank...i hope they clean those things!) like something from Area 51. He runs a business allowing people to "travel without moving" and experience the wonders of the Tank. What a man of the community eh. So after firing him and email and eventually booking a slot for my girlfriend and I to lose our FT virginities, I was ready....well i wasnt exactly sure what for but it seemed like something worth telling.

I told many of my Students (adults only of course) of various levels of English in different levels of graded English. Most appeared interested at the very least but most likely had no clue what i was talking about (i dont think they do anyway [or anyone for that matter]). I was going to tell my kid students but i wasnt sure which order FT's came in, in the ciriculum; was it Colours, Animals, FT's or did FT's come before Animals?!

Then the day of Tankification came (last sunday) and after waking up slightly hungover (from some Drum n Bassing the night before) we got some food and made our way to Miyabe-san's crib. I think my girlfriend was as interested as me, I managed to get her to Bungee Jump and White water raft last year with no rebuttles. Didn't matter anyway she was being dragged along regardless (I feel i still have slight salesman persuasion skills from my Electricity/Vacuum selling days down under). It worked out that it wasnt far to get to from my girlfriends humble abode. Miyabe-san lives in a very old 1960's/Kyoto looking narrow street in an old apartment. We were greeted and came into his apartment (after taking our shoes off of course) and made our way to the Living room, where we sipped tea and i was quizzed about where I'd heard about the FT like it was some kind of secret club in which i had to prove my worth. Once he had explained a bit, i was to be first (not ladies first).

The FT was in his bathroom next to seperate rooms for his Shower and toilet. He told me he needed to relax me before i go in..what did he means? (i thought my MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] training was about to be called for) He put a padded weight on my head and made noises with various maraccas and mini-symbols around my ears. I have to admit i was about to crack up and tell him to stop having a laugh....but i didnt want to be rude and interupt the voodoo proceedings.

I was told soft music would be played through a microphone into the FT to let me know when my session was over (1-2hour sessions, mine being 1hr). After a quick Shower to clean myself I entered the FT (a place literally thousands of other naked people have been in) and promptly closed the door. It was pitch dark inside (considering i needed a 'nightlight' to sleep when i was younger, i think I've come a long way!), the water which was supposedly outer body temperature but...it wasn't quite so i could still feel it (thats one sense intact)...as well as the walls which i instantly reached around for (thats two senses intact...oh wait thats still just one). Once i lay down i immediately floated, to the point where i didn't have to use any muscles, not even my neck. It was like a waterbed but minus the bed...so just like water then, but really salty water...Epsom (printer) Salty!

My experience lasted 1 hour. During this hour i wasn't exactly sure what i was meant to be doing. I went through thinking stages but nothing deep or spiritual, more like what i wanted for dinner later. I went through sleep stages, at one point i thought i heard the soft music sounding to tell me i'd done my time and i woke up (from my 60% sleep) and i'd imagined it. Although once i was awake again, i wasn't sure how much time had elapsed (big word for me there). So my perception of time had gone, which meant i didnt know if i had time to attempt to sleep again or what to do. Sometime later after drifting off again, my ears brought the rest of my body to the attention of the soft music telling me to...GET OUT. I waved my arms around trying to find the exit (it wasnt highlighted above the door!) eventually finding it, pushing it open thus allowing light into the FT (i was free like a Chilean Miner!). I didn't get the experience i had hoped for (not even sure what that was) but it was definetely relaxing!

While i was sipping tea (again) waiting for my girlfriend to finish getting her float on, Miyabe-san and i got talkin'. Very interesting guy, think he's about...well at least 60. Our conversation led to DMT (a chemical produced in your brain during deep sleep responsible for dreams) then to Ayawaska (a mix of plant extracts to create a hullucinogen, drunk by tribes in the Amazonian region) all very trippy but mind blogging shit. Eventually he asked me to come and check out an invention of his. It was quite the opposite of the FT, this was more of an attack on the senses (namely sight and hearing). We went upstairs (which we had to go out of the house to do) and met his wife in a study. Next to this was a room filled only by a huge waterbed (just like the tank but he added the bed this time, sneaky bugger) and some light sheet on the ceiling. I pretty much lay on the waterbed for about 40minutes, with my eyes shut and was exposed to a barrage of Amazonian sounds he had composed as a 'mix-tape'. While this was being played a bunch of strobe lights flashed all around like some kind of rave and low vibrations shook under the waterbed. It was interesting, i was alert but strangely relaxed. I havent a clue what the purpose of it was...but had i known my girlfriend had been taken up to a (water)bed while i was in the FT, then i would have ran upstairs salty and naked which would have made for an extremely awkward/comedic and slightly perverse situation, ha!

Right so, Miyabe-san explained that usually the first time you dont get that great an experience because your just getting used to the FT. You have to give it 4-5 times. On that note becoming a member seemed to be compulsory (apparently for hygiene reasons) but this made it cheaper.

So i now have a members card and am free to return pending an agreed upon slot. I don't think i can fully make an assessment of FT's as if the first time thing is true then i should give it another 3 chances before making my judgement (of what again...i dont know...but a judgement of something).

I though this was worth writing about as it was a strange day that ended eating Yakitori (assorted meat) in an Izakaya (casual Restaurant) wondering (hoping) if i was still in the tank.

If you've not heard of FT's you have now, and maybe they might become more mainstream and recognised in the future.

I casually find Phycology interesting I've read Derren Browns 'Trick of the Mind' and im currently reading Richard Wisemans 'Quirkology' (and for someone who previously only read pop-up or coloruing books this is BIG). My mind can just about handle these types of books and they are an interesting read on human nature.

I once opened fortune cookie about 7 years ago while i was in the States (i think it was a fortune cookie if i remember rightly) and it read "Short Attention Span Prevents me from being Productive. Socialise in Short Bursts and seek Variety in order to Prevent Boredom". I thought this summed me up back then and even today i think it really has me down to a T. Doesn't sound like a fortune though, but a pretty good definition...

Posted by RMS8 07:51 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Seems like Yesterday...

December 14th 2009.

snow 2 °C

Im back, for another installment of my less than mediocre, blog-tarded pieces of writing! Blogging has become something of a struggle, due to the fact, that im not a fish out of water anymore, and I've been routinely busy, which means theres not a lot of material, to merit a blog entry.
It's strange how true it is, that time flies when your having fun, and draggggs when your not. Its all relative i suppose and dependant on the situation. So many things in the past seem both like they happened ages ago and at the same time...i remember them like they happened yesterday. It's also strange how some insignificant moments in life, you remember so clearly for no apparent reason.
My Japanese working-holiday has flown by so fast! It seems like yesterday I was waiting to be collected and taken into the mix, jet-lagged in Narita airport. At the same time, it also feels like so long ago. It also feels like yesterday I was happily playing as a 5year old in the sandpit with ice-cream covering my face and front....ok maybe not quite yesterday, but the point is, your a child one day, not really having a clue whats what and before you know it, the 'sand' is time slipping away and the 'pit' is the hustle and bustle of adult life that you cant escape from....the ice-cream? thats probably your money, that you try and nurse by 'licking' round the edges of the bank you keep it nestled in, whilst it drips and fritters away, on useless supposeded neccessities and pointless pleasures! Time is definetely a perspective of each individual.It's amazing how much time I've spent standing, sitting or sleeping on trains since I've been here. I barely spent anytime back home on trains, so it seems im making up for lost train time now! Tokyoites must spend half their lives on trains! Luckily it doesnt bother me as much as i thought it might!
I've listened to people refer to a year or 3 years when talking about future plans like there seconds, "Oh ill go here and do this for a few years then go and do that for a year or so".
A year is a long period of time in my opinion, a month also seems like a long time away, but to other people its like tomorrow. Even though these periods of time, I class as a long time, when you are enjoying things and/or keeping busy, days seem like minutes and months seem like days.
Is life too short?? Maybe....I dont know. Its a great question. Sometimes I get frustrated because I suddenly have a strong desire to start something new. Do a sport, see a new Country, generally be somewhere im not and doing something else. I've come to the realisation, I cant do everything. Some people go through life not really knowing what to do or what they think they should be doing. Some people do the same thing time after time year in and out. There should be an in between, but its difficult to secure. I still dont know what im doing, what i should be doing, or what i will be doing, or why?!...but I try not to let it slow me down, after all NOW is the best the one and only point in time to change direction if you feel thats the way to go. It's a gift...thats why they call it the present!

So...how have i been keeping busy? In a routine, thats how, a routine Im enjoying for the time being. I recently had my appraisal, which is a meeting you have with your boss after 7/8months of being with the company. It was standard chit chat about this and that. I realise now how people can hang around in Japan with the company for a long time and not realise. Teaching English in Japan, is an extremely well paid job now I think about it! Although if the World was a School, Japan would be a desceptively friendly bully who, you like, but beats you up and takes your money every now and then. I dont think in pounds anymore, it doesnt do anyone any good converting currencies, im Yen yen yen now.
Time goes so fast, they just get on with it, and before you know it your a resident....well not quite. Who knows, before i know it, i could be more sushi than man and writing blogs in にほんご!
Japanese people claim not to be big into holiday celebrations which the Western world is all over, however they go all out for decorations thats for sure! In October, everywhere was littered with ghosts and ghouls and pumpkins for Halloween. Now since Mid-November...Christmas decorations are taking up every shopping centre and street corner.As for Halloween, they might not go trick or treating, but they they take the gold medal for decorations. I went out to a club for Halloween, which was extremely well attended and obviously well expensive! I went dressed as Gizmo the Gremlin, which was a pyjama type suit i bought, so no DIY done on the costume there. I met my 2 mates Shaun and Mike, in Tokyo before we went to the club.
They met me dressed as the Grim Reaper and a 'gay Pirate'.....ok just a Pirate. Now i've said before about gaijin's sticking out like sore thumbs...but when 3 gaijins traverse the Tokyo subway system, dressed as a Gremlin, the Grim Reaper and a Pirate....the stares from passing Tokyoites, were so intense they nearly burned through my fur! On the other hand i was loving the brief celebrity esq. status. I wish I had brought my camera that night, the club was packed out with some insanely good costumes. I took a few photo's of me posing as a Gremlin yesterday, see picture below.
Since last blogging, I've also moved apartment. I now live a mear 10 minutes walk from my Shane apartment, and I now have flatmates, who are my Halloween accomplices. I thought I'd miss my wee box/prison apartment which was seriously rent-diculous!!....but im happy to say i dont! Now with lower rent, an Xbox and flatmates, I cant complain.
In Japan, you know what season it is. In Scotland, its really hard to tell what season it is, because it snows in March, the sun rarely shines and it rains damn near everyday. In Japan, as time goes by each season slightly overlaps then takes over quite nicely. It just feels like yesterday, I was in the midst of Summer, sweating my way to work, and dreaming about a land full of airconditioners and Ice-cream. Now i sit here, wrapped up in my Gremlin pyjama's praying to the Heater god, to gently roast me like a leg of lamb. I also wake up to my wailing alarm, telling me its time to wake up from my cocoon/womb of warmth as im curled up in the foetal position, and take on the day! Still, home is more than likely colder.
So december...every december, I wonder...where did the year go, (not in a "I wasted that one" kinda way), it always just seems like yesterday, I was waking up on January 1st very hungover, to the start of a New Year, and in the blink of an eye im looking forward to making the upcoming New Years Eve a messy entrance into the next year!
Shane has end of year Christmas parties for most of its Schools. These parties are for Teachers, Students and Receptionists to have a social Evening together. It's a great idea especially for students to speak English in a social environment where they're not paying to speak it! On the other hand its harder to understand a Teacher speaking English when he's drunkenly abusing it with, slang and slur!
My 1st Christmas party was at Tsurukawa School, a school which I've been moved to from my Previous Thursday School; Kyodo, due to the fact that i wasnt getting enough hours at that school. The Tsurukawa party was well attended, with food and drink a plenty, and only one of my students there so, I was free to make a tit of myself which i usually do whether intentional or not!
My Next party is next week, at Tama Plaza school, my Saturday school, should be a good one. Then after that....16 days no SHANE. Which despite enjoying the job, has been greatly antisipated!
I mentioned my routine, which has been as such for last 2 months. Im not usually not a person who likes routine, but my current routine leading up to the Christmas holiay has been a comfortable enjoyable one. It consists of work, work, learning Japanese, socialising locally, playing Xbox and doing my new MMA class.
I've been over my Japanese lessons at the community centre before. Which are extremely cheap and good value, but I suppose, what else do retired old Japanese people have to do with themselves??...ok some of them are climbing Mountains, so...they ones that dont then. I think, I've progressed slightly, I used to look over my notes and do some revision, but i've been so busy lately, that has been pushed to the sidelines, which isnt a big problem as im only studying casually...for the time being. Im also using whatever Japanese I learn whenever I can, in a constant effort to prove to the locals and Japanese people i know (and my students) that im giving their language a shot and making an effort. I think some people I know who have been studying Japanese, are going down the same path as Japanese people do with English in Japanese school...which is perfecting the writing and reading, as their confidence with speaking is lacking.
Teaching is still going smoothly, sometimes schedules and schools change, but I just adapt and keep up how im doing things because it seems to be working. I still dont call myself a ''Teacher'', however I think im giving my students both adults and kids both an entertaining and educational, challenging lesson, for the most part.
My MMA class, which i found, unfortunately is a private class. Which before I started sounded a bit strange, to have a one to one Martial Arts lesson. However its been great, especially because I've missed exercising and punching some pads etc. Its quite a train journey away from where I live, and its (when I do the conversion) a lot more expensive than I thought I would be willing to pay, but fuck it, Im in Japan. My instructor, is a current fighter, who's actually fought some big names in MMA, he fortunately speaks pretty good english. Here's his profile and credentials ; http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Kiuma-Kunioku-864 .

So, I dont actually have any set in stone plans for the Holidays other than to get intoxicated in variously locations. Im sure it'll be a good one and i'll do what I can to make sure of that. From January my days off will change from monday/tuesday to the popular sunday/monday combo, which is great. However I was looking forward to escaping my six, 5 year old kids i teach on a sunday. However the kicker is that, im being moved to a kindergarten school on tuesday to teach a whole bunch more little bastards....I mean tykes....no I dont i mean bastards.
At my appraisal, there was discussion of my contract and its possible renual. Which at the moment, im not definite on but pretty sure of at the same time.I thought I was passed my indecisiveness, until this little nugget of a decision. Crunch time isnt 'til the end of February, which seems like a long time away, but before i know it it'll feel like yesterday! So I gotta think through my Plan A,B....and C, and work out a future game plan!

I'll let this blog lie now, and let it gather dust as I sign out for 2009. I hope everyone who reads this, has a fantastic Christmas and an even better New Year. I dont have any resolutions, because theres no point! Lets hope 2010 brings new exciting things, after all...in some films in the 80's depicting the world nowadays, we should now be getting around in hovercars, having a Robot serve us beer and having sex with hollograms...

Posted by RMS8 08:00 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan travel strange job english asia teaching Comments (0)

An Interview with a Gaijin

October 15th 2009.

semi-overcast 17 °C

Its now been a month since i last blogged. With everything in life, in order to keep things fresh you have to mix it up every now and then, to keep them interesting and exciting, be it relationships, work, jobs, hobbies, fashion or appearance, life in general really, otherwise they will wither and become boring.
Blogs arent any different. So...in an attempt to make this blog at least a semi decent read, i've put an interview slant on it. A Japanese friend who studies english at University, is researching life in Japan as a gaijin, and i was asked to be interviewed as a particpant in the survey. Some of the questions are strangely worded however it made it funny at the time, and i tried to answer what i made of it.

NOTE: The questions are worded the same but my answers in this blog, are in my usual blog style and are only about 10% similar to my taped answers to the interview. For obvious reasons of making my blog slightly strange and amusing, and keeping the other one as serious and non-rambling as i can manage.

How long have you been in Japan?

Its been 6months now, and its gone verrryy fast. Which is definetely a good thing. Not that i want it to whizz by, but i'd rather keep busy and have time soar like an eagle, than time slug along like a...snail.

What is your goal or objective in Japan?

I like the wording of this question, it makes it sound like, I've been sent here on a convert mission and must complete my objectives before i can leave! Maybe i should pretend i am! Well...I've extrapolated from this simply "why am i here". To make it simple, i'd say "to have a new experience".
To be honest i've never had a concrete answer to any phylisophically open "why" question. I've never really been sure of why i do what i do since i can remember! From running through a lecture hall naked to being a human lab-rat to teaching english. Believe me i'd love to know if theres something i could be good at and at the same time enjoy...but until i find out if and what it is, i'll continue to mix it up and surprise myself and see what tickles my fancy and floats my boat.

Please tell me about your Parents native country?

Why this question wasn't ''your native country'' i dont know. Anyway...Scotland, a country rich in history and heritage. Sterotypically known for ginger beards, kilts an animal called a haggis and a 'mythical monster'. However, the modern day truth is, knife crime, drugs and fatty foods dominate our culture.
Traditionally associated with the movie braveheart, now however trainspotting is more suitable. Scots are most importantly globally known for being very friendly!

What caused you to be interested in Japan?

I dont really know. I hadn't done anything Japanese before coming to Japan besides doing Karate for many years, watching Takeshi's Castle and watching a movie called Battle royale, about some school kids who are forced to kill each other. Im not sure i'd even used chopsticks before. I suppose it boiled down to having secured the job. Japan has always appealed though, it has always looked curiously facinating...and a bit strange. Which i've come to find out it is! So...i guess i fit right in.

Were there any gap between what you had imagined and what you are now experiencing in Japan?

I'll keep this one short n' sweet. Not really, i always knew Japan was a country rich in culture and rich in tradition and at the same time fast-paced and modern. Thats what i expected thats what i got, and there wasnt any hard-to-take culture shock.

When did you feel like "Im a foriegner!" in Japan, recently?

Yes all the time. Even gaijins that have been here for many years and like to consider themselves Japanese and will refuse to acknowledge other gaijins as they try and blend in...they will always be Gaijin. Thats what its all about. Theres two sides to this interesting coin. On one side, sticking out like a sore thumb and being the black sheep is great, being stared at by inconspicuous eyes, makes me feel good that theres a reason to glance in my direction. However sometimes, Im thinking "SO WHAT im a GAIJIN!, now stop fuckin' lookin!".

Have you felt homesick? How about now? Why do you feel that way?

This question, jumps to the conclusion your homesick, ha. Well....in all my time traveling i've never really been homesick, i've been seasick and verbally-sick and sick from drinking, but not as the defintion of homesick goes. Dont get me wrong, I do miss friends n' family. but thats not the same is it? As in I dont miss the place, just the people. I'd say homesick means im sick of home, thats why im here and not there! Its always better to be scottish when your not in scotland. What does 'home' really mean anyway? hometown? literal house? home country or city?. Home never really changes anyway, people do.

Are there any Japanese customs you disliked before but now you are fine with?what changed your attitude?

Japanese customs continue to amuse me. I think the bowing and constant politeness is the most notable custom. The bowing is a greeting and a thankyou, and it depends on who the person is as to how far the bow goes. The politeness, is basically, entering shops, banks, any public establishment and getting acknowledged like your the lucky 1,000,000th customer! The apprecation for you just being under their roof, (even if your wasting time or window shopping) treating you with genuine respect and joy is very clear. They really take pride in their work, and resonate a strangely happy-smiley vibe throughout.
This bowing custom, i was a bit uncomfortable with to begin with, i didnt think i was "bow worthy", but now im so used to it, i dont recognise it as anything to take notice of. It would be cool to see bowing catch on back home, however i cant picture it. Because of this i think ill feel really unappreciated when entering a shop back home next time i enter one.
Also, as I've been told by some of my 'salarymen' students, a lot of business decisions are made while out drinking, this i could get used to!...although im not 'salaryman' material, which is just aswell because this is the only plus point to the tiresome salaryman routine.

Have you ever had any quarrels with Japanese? What was the reason for the quarrel? How did you solve it?

I'd say the Japanese are amongst the most unconfrontational and passive folk i've met.
Not only have i never had an argument with a Japanese person (that i can recall) but its pretty difficult if i wanted to, the language barrier makes it tough enough.

Have you ever joined any activity such as voluteer work or club activity in Japan? If you have do you feel you have changed in any way?

Im currently taking Japanese lessons once a week. Giving it my best shot, because i rekon you either do it and give it a good shot or dont do it at all. It is pretty tough and im not exactly mr natural at picking up new languages! I've also been to 2 karate lessons, however hadnt had much time to go back. Although i dont think i will, as i'd quite like to find an MMA class to get involved in, and finding one with a English speaking teacher might prove tricky, as the karate sensei didnt speak any english, but i managed.
Im always trying to find something, anything fun or worth doing to get involved in.However the awkward hours with Shane, and the size of Tokyo usually mean getting involved in a regular something, will be extremely difficult, even the Shane football team, which i was trying to join. Im not going to be doing any voluteer work here, its too expensive in Japan as it is, and i've not changed in any way so far, ha.

Considering the Younger generation, do you feel their are any differences between your culture and Japanese in ideas, behavious or morals?

YES! A resounding yes. I dont think the way British kids are brought up and act is anything similar to Japanese kids, depsite the fact western pop-culture is spreading. I dont think Japanese children have a lot of time to just 'play' and be a kid. Theres not a lot of teenage rebellion in Japan, at least i dont get that impression. I've touched upon these differences in previous blogs, but generally, i dont get the impression theres many similarities. I think a good idea would be a reality show, where a british teenager who doesnt speak any Japanese swops places with a Japanese teenager who doesnt speak any english, and see how the fit into the schooling system and social scene.

What is your favourite word in Japanese?

This is a tough one, with my arsenal of vocabulary and my amusement for the language, who knows!
Su-mi-ma-sen is the word used most often, which kinda means, excuse me, sorry, im in your way, and an acknowledgement all rolled into one. If i had to choose a favourite word, id go with Go-ke-bo-re, which means cockroach, i think its a really funny word for something disgusting. It sounds like a theme park ride, or a new kids sweet. Sadly its not, but it was funny once i had cover in a school. and my housewife student went kraazzzee when she saw a go-ke-bo-re across the room scuttling up the wall! Halarious!

What did you learn about your culture and yourself while living in Japan?

I cant recall how i answered this question as a taped response. However to be honest, not a great deal.
Just that, cultures are different. Not better or worse, just different. Travel broadens the mind, and its always fun to see how other humans go about their day not too far out my own back yard!

Do you consider yourself to be acculturated/assimilated?

I didnt actually know acculturated was a word, but apparently it means do i feel like im one of the Japanese now. Assimilated is just about fitting in. I dont and never will consider myself to be acculturated. It takes 8 years before you can apply for residency, and even if i stayed for that long plus I dont think i'd want to consider myself Japanese, but a foriegner that lives in Japan, i dont think i can ever really be Japanese. Assimilated however, well im working on it, i've not dyed my hair black yet or bought a PSP, but im trying to immerse myself in the culture as much as i can while im here. Sometimes you really want to blend in and not stick out, however at the same time sometimes, its cool to be the odd one out.

Would you live in Japan forever?

This is not a question that can be answered after only 6months. I really dont know, but...story of my life, i never know! Im enjoying life in Tokyo thus far, and will cross whatever decision-bridges that need crossing when the time comes. Its definetely a country i love, and would recommend. But... i definetely dont know right now, it obviously entirely depends on how things take shape and pan out.....

Posted by RMS8 07:58 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan travel strange job english asia teaching interview Comments (0)

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 Comments (0)

Learning my Lesson 2: Attack of the Students

8th September 2009.

sunny 22 °C

I think its always a good idea to play some inspiring music whilst writing blogs, creative juicies flowing n' all, y'know. Right now "Radio One's Drum n bass show with Fabio and Grooverider" will be taking me through this entry. Highly recommend radio one's dnb show, obviously if your into that kinda thing, if not, give it a try...you might like it ;)

I might start spawning blogs more regularly....which might include mini-blogs, blogs about life, blogs about other travelling experiences from years back, and of course blogs about all things Japanish. If i do i'll try and keep the standard up, which shouldnt be too hard because i've not set the bar very high to begin with! Dunno if i will do this however, its just an idea in my head because I think iv got a lot to write about, although it might just be sensible to stick with Tokyotastic blogs, as writing about the past now might be pointless, should just write about the here and now.

I thought i'd use this entry to talk more about my life as a "teacher". So consider this a sequel to my previous "Learning my lesson" blog! I'll try and dissect my job with Shane, to give you a better insight in to what a typical week invovles, and for those of you reading who might be lost in life, offer a non-advertising-company esq perspective on it and try and encourage you to do it if your thinking about it! You might be thinking, "c'mon you teach, what is there to say!" Well....you are well and truely wrong. Even though i wasnt sure what exactly my job would entail or any of the fine details, its definetely not what i though it would be like...but in a good way!

Theres a lot of other words to describe a Shane English teacher; advisor, taskmaster, counsellor, interogator, friend, entertainer, mentor, guide, trainer, mysterious-alien....and generally source of knowledge and answers. Right so if your thinking i teach 30 odd kids in a huge classroom on a 9-4 basis and its exactly like a school you couldnt be further from the truth. Its more like....you know when you go to the GP's and you check in at the receptionist's and wait in the waiting room, reading a magazine, and then the doctor calls your name for you to be seen next??...well its exactly like that! A teacher will have kids and adults on their schedule, and when its your 'appointment' you will be called upon, so to speak. When you come in instead of the doctor saying "what seems to be the problem?", and the answer being "backache" or "dihorrea", the problem is speaking english, and the solution isnt a few pills to take twice daily, its a few books and some conversation to absorb once weekly!

Shane schools, are dotted all over, and can appear on high streets, up tall buildings, or in shopping centres. You cant miss them because of the huge British flag. Theres usually between 1-3 teachers in a given school, and a shane teacher works at up to 5 schools. Work on a week day starts at 1pm and can go on til 9pm entirely depends on the schedule. Weekends, (if you work weekends) can start at 10 and finish about 5pm (i finished at 2.30pm today), again depends on your schedule. As i mentioned before, students come in all shapes and size's, ages and abilities, its that diverse variety that keeps it interesting, i think.
The categories of Students are as follows. Regular students: These are the students that you teach obviously regularly, these are the students its essential to get to know, and hopefully like, because you see them every week! They can come in groups or as private. The majority of my regulars i enjoy seeing and teaching, there is of course a few expections.
Floating students: This only applies to adult learners, who either cannot manage a regular day because of other committments or they just want to rotate English teachers and keep it fresh. Floating students can be interesting, and if they like you will come back to you (im talking like theyre cats or dogs or something! haha, i might aswell say if give them a treat they'll curl up to you!), on the other hand, sometimes they can put a spanner in the works in you schedule and cut any preparation time you thought you had.
Make-up students: This can be kids or adults, basically it means if a student cant make their regular day and time, but dont want to fall behind, they pick another day and are lumped with whatever teacher is on the day they picked. Most teachers i know dont like make-up lessons, me included. They, just like floating, can mess up your day, on top of the you dont know the students, theyre not your regular students and sometimes you just dont care!
O2O students: These are students who are wanting to pile in as much study as possible and usually come more than once as week, theyre looking to study intensively as they may be going travelling soon, or make a presentation in English.
Demo lessons (Taiken): These are free 20minute lessons, in which someone can book a time come in and see if they want to sign up. In that 20 minutes your meant to talk for 10, asking progressively more difficult questions and gauge their level, and the 2nd 10, your take a quiz sheet for them to attempt depending on what level you thought they were. I enjoy demo lessons, you actually get commission on them if they sign up, not a lot mind you but still an insentive, its also good that im the one making the call on what level they are!

Ok...so kids. Kids i said before i wasnt looking forward to. However now, i dont mind. The majority of them are well behaved, know whos runnin' the show and know not to fuck around. There are a variety of books for kids depending on age and level. Some are fast learners some really struggle, and of course most of them fit somewhere in the middle. I wont go into naming the books that they use, because lets face it, its not gonna mean anything to you! but i will say teachers seem to like some books over others. Theres some books i like working out of and others i think are a load of crap!
Usually kids are asked a few questions before they come in the classroom, the two main ones being "Whats your name?" and "How old are you?" classics, haha. However you can add whatever you like in, such as recently taught material questions.
My least favourite kids class is five, four year olds on sundays, not just because if ive had a few too many drinks on a saturday night, 5 screaming kids isnt the best hangover cure, but because its an hour lesson, and its really difficult to hold their attention for that long, their parents shouldnt be expecting miracles. But its best to start learning as early as possible apparently! The bottom line i suppose is, if you can answer whats your name and how old are you, then your on the path to english speaking stardom!
It is sometimes not clear to see the results of my efforts to teach as greatly as i would like as 95% of kids, have already been in lessons for years before i stepped in to make my mark. There is one kid though, i have him for 30minutes on a saturday, hes never been exposed to english before and never had a lesson...until me. So in this case, its good and and much clearly to see the results of my efforts, as im the only english influence on him, and hes actually a fast learner!
I enjoy teaching Junior high schoolers (12-15) because theyre at that age where theyre still young enough to throw a ball around and play games, but they like to chill out and are not running around mental. The kids can make you laugh sometimes, and its funny watching them learn and speak and pronounce things. Granted some of them have no clue why theyre there, and why this strange gaijin cant understand them, but maybe when theyre all grown up, and communicating in english in a business or social sense, they might remember a certain whacky scottish fella' as having an influence on their learning...
It must be difficult growing up in Japan, adults backhome always used to tell me when i was young, "enjoy being young while you can" which you only really understand when you enter the real-world and can look back! and in my eyes, i had a pretty dam good childhood. However in Japan, the kids are moulded by their parents and society into workers with skills and potential. Which is done in every country you might be thinking, but in Japan, kids go to school, and then go to after school clubs and then english lessons and then cram school in the summer...i get the impression, theres a lot of pressure to perform and genuniely a lot of stress for these kids, and not enough actual being a kid time!
I want to make sure im actually teaching kids something, but at the same time its important remembering what its like to be a kid, (weve all been there) and just have some fun, and not to make it feel so much like school.

Adults, oh the joys of adults as i mentioned in Learning my lesson the first installment. Usually on weekdays you will have an afternoon class, which is retired people, who are doing it as a time filler and as a hobby. I have 6 advanced adults, a middle aged couple, and 3 old women (all groups), on weds, thurs and fridays. All very interesting classes. Good thing is its a relaxed chilled atmosphere to learning, and the goal is just to learn a little and have them talk about theyre day to day activities than a goal aiming to pile through the nitty-gritty and put all the pieces of english together in a intense fashion.
The Majority of my regulars i get on with, and most of them are private students.
Students that stick out would be. Masahito. A 60yr old man, who has some mental health issues, and takes pills regularly for this, his wife died 12yrs ago and he talks about her a lot. He's pre-intermediate level, private student, and it can be quite unusual and trippy talking to him because he comes out with such random badly put together sentences, that leave you left bewildered. He sometimes writes a diary, in which its always a tale of woe, where he speaks of his sadness and depression and how he misses his dead wife! so it can make it hard correcting grammar, in what is near enough a suicide note. Ok ok, im exaggerating a bit, but its more of a counselling lesson than teaching, and when i ask him a question it takes a while for him to answer, nice friendly old man though!
Some businessmen, can be very interesting but the books they use can be bloody boring! Some girls can be absolutely gorgeous, but thats another conversation all together ;)
My 6 advanced students, are all very talkative, so much so you forget that english isnt their 1st language as they blabber to each other in english which is the main objective in groups to have student to student interaction and not have them looking at you all the time. They always have something new topics to debate, which makes for a relaxed interesting class.

My week, i currently work wednesdays to sundays, with monday and tuesdays off. It works out well.
I cant complain right now, which is pretty good. I live in Kanagawa (not sure if i mentioned that before) i work in Tamagawa district (pretty sure i mentioned that) i live like 40minutes on train outside central Tokyo, which works out well, its still built up where i live but you can get to the countryside, beach and city all in 1hour easily. I work in 4 schools, Shinyurigaoka, Kyodo, Tama-centre (twice) and Tama-plaza.
Sometimes if when teachers leave or for some other reason, you are put on a 'cover day' so you will be working 6day weeks sometimes, which sucks, this involves getting to schools out the way that you dont know and teaching student you've never met, but i suppose that was the case on my first day!
Also, the ever changing schedules, can be good and bad. Sometimes it works out with decent breaks to get food or prep in between lessons. Sometimes it works out with huge breaks where you get bored and end up spending yen on something useless.Or barely any breaks where they just pile in students one after the next! The schools have pretty good resources despite the fact some of them have taken a beating by kids. Resouces are like inflatables, balls, sticky balls, blocks, magnetic letters, big dice, puppets, the whiteboard, colour pens, and flashcards. Flashcards are different sized cards, with all sorts of pictures and/or words on them relevant to what your trying to teach.
Altogether iv got 42 regular students in my week, plus any other randoms thrown in throughout.
I've got a boss and an assistant boss, both of whom i get on with really well. Iv had 3 observations, which is to assess my progress as a teacher. All of them i think went well. Its strange that a month into teaching i was thrown into parents observation for kids classes, which was out of order, but i coped well, i didnt give a shit the parents were watching though, because i dont know them...Im of the opinion, the more i know someone the LESS i want them in my class observing me, thats why i dont like my bosses watching, ha! I still dont consider myself a "teacher" by any stretch of the word...but im doing my best to fit the bill!...

Ok. I hope iv remembered everything i was wanting to mention in this blog, thats it for the learning my lesson sequel. I will be writing another blog non-teaching related but still Japan centred next week, so stay tuned.
If you've got this far...your either really bored or your an idiot and have just wasted your valueable time!..............

Posted by RMS8 07:51 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan travel strange job english asia teaching Comments (0)

Jobs down Under, and our calling?!

28 August 2009.

sunny 30 °C

I do enjoy this writing blogs malarky, I didnt think I'd like writing so much, even if no one ends up reading I still like writing. Im not much of a writer, and even though my blogs are grammatically crap and a disgrace to the english language and most of the time, make little sense and dont have a clear point....I dont care!
Japan, is still great, still loving it out here. At the moment there really isnt anything majorly worth blogging, Im just in a bit of a routine right now. Its still very vibrant and interesting, and everyday theres something that makes me smile or makes me ask questions in my head (I talk to myself in my head all the time anyway). So for this blog I wont be going into spewing asian info.
I will be talking about Jobs, more specifically my many (some strange) jobs in Australia.

In my previous blog, I had mentioned I didnt have quite the time I was hoping for down under!
I had mentioned this was partly due to expectations. There were a few other factors. One of them which i felt was impacted on my enjoyment a lot was money.
Money of course makes the world go round, and in a developed country like Australia money driven like the rest, your gonna need $$$ to get by, and a lot of them!
Now Hindsight is a great thing, of course. Looking back I clearly didnt go to Australia with neeeaarrllly enough dosh! This I quickly realised shortly after arriving in Sydney!
The Majority of fellow travellers I met, had just been working their arses off back home, wherever home was to come out here, with the top priority being Enjoyment, and working only being a break glass in emergency situation. I had just finished University when I came to Oz and shortly before Oz, i was in Spain for 2weeks, and i didnt have a pot of gold. Some people come out to Oz, on a tourist visa and just travel the east coast on a bus for 3months and live it large!...maybe i shouldave done this!
Anyway...I didnt and once i got down under, the top priority was Work, and that i needed an income ASAP.
Im not just going to go through all the Jobs I had in Oz, in the hopes that if you read this, or are planning to go to Oz, you can get the grim reality of job hunting down under, and take it into consideration before your trip. I know there are some people Ive met who seem to land it luckily over and over, but I dont fall into this category. Also, i wanna mention, i think jobs for backpackers in Australia, is like the Polish in the UK. As in Aussies will get first pick at jobs and we'll get the dreggs, eg. whatevers left over, which usually turns out to be fruit picking and commission only type jobs.

Job 1: Meat Factory. Duration: 2days
Two weeks into getting to Oz, I asked 2 english mates id made, if they wanted to find a job and start work ASAP. We found the meat factory (make jokes if you want!) job through an agency in Sydney. Who told us to go to Biloela, Queensland, where our new job was waiting.
We flew to Rockhampton a town in Queensland, which has an airport, as Shitty Bilo (as the locals called it) or Fucking-Bilo-cunting-ela as i called it, had only 1500 population and didnt have an airport.
We had to get a bus from Rocky (as the local called it) to Bilo. Our accomdation in Bilo was cheap, and for obvious reasons it was a fucked up shed, in which mostly Koreans stayed in. Our plan, was to work in the factory for 2months+ then head to Brissy to blow out financial load, at Xmas time! This plan was crippled after day 1.
On day1 we joined the Koreans on the bus at 5am to the factory, we were all still 1/2 asleep and dreading the job. We met out boss who was a typical country-aussie with accent to prove it. He seemed decent. They were assigning departments for the newbies, as we signed our forms! We were praying we werent going to be placed in the slaughter house, slitting cows throats.....luckily we werent! We got placed in proccessing and packaging. Which at the time we thought as great. But once we got kitted out in our jump suits, hair net, ear muffs and gloves and entered the warehouse we changed out minds.
We got told what to do in 2mins flat. Take boxes off conveyer belts and stack them on pallets according to their code. The shift was 6am-3pm with one 1/2 hour break. The boxes weighed an average of 16kg and I genuinely had a back problems from home, in which Id previously seen a physio, thus the continual heavy lifting didnt do my back any good! It was freezing in the factory and very noisy, so you couldnt talk or even listen to music. Our work collegues were either Koreans who didnt speak english or Bilo locals who spoke with a very country aussie accent and had never left Bilo let alone Australia.
We packed it in. After 3days stranded in Bilo, we left for Brisbane.

Job 2: Energy Australia Marketer. Duration 6weeks
I was living in a hostel for 2months in Brisbane, in the west end, a place called 'The valley'. I was on my own and needed a job. A lot of travellers in the hostel seemed to work for various electricity companies, as door to door salespeople. After playing pool with a couple of canadians, I was persuaded to join the cult. I got a job with Energy Australia. Energy Australia seemed like a pretty reputable company. I was lured in by, a) desperation and b) the prospect and assurance of shit loads of money in easily reachable commission targets. My first 3weeks had a base pay plus any commission i got ontop. The people i worked with were a good bunch. Each day we'd head out to a designated suburb of Brisbane, with the intent of basically annoying people, and mind-fucking them into changing their electricity retailer. It was like a paper round, except the "paper" was an electricity bill company, and you were convincing people they must change to our "paper"!
There was huge competition between electcity retail companies in Brissy, and this wasnt always good, as some areas we 'hit' rival companies had previously been and done their converting, so we had to plan our attacks carefully. All in all, it was an interesting job giving me my first insight into the world of sales!...and all the scheming sales techniques which are employed, which can actually be used in day to day life to get your way. You get all kinds of people, all kinds of houses, all kinds of suburbs and all kinds of responses to your 'pitch'. Lets just say iv had doors slammed in my face, a dog set on me, abuse shouted at me. Then advice to get another job, people who will sign if you just give them a pen, and people who welcome you like a stray-cat. I was asked in for dinner by a family, it was a big house with a pool, they gave me a 3 course meal and I told them all about myself in return, good deal i think. I shared a few beers with others too. The job eventually wore on me, when it became commission only and the numerous door slamming in the boiling heat, did my head in frankly!

Job 2: Flood light shiner. duration 1hour.
This is interesting but doesnt involve a lot of explanation. On my first day in a hostel in sweltering north eastern town of Cairns, I was already in desperation for work. I was offered a job on the first day, sadly i was just for the night. It was at the local AJ Hacket bungee jump site. The Queensland Tourism board was meeting there to discuss, well its obvious, tourism in queensland. All i was to do was to shine a light on anyone who decided to jump, from the top as it was dark, $50, not bad.

Job 4: Cleaner in hostel. duration: 1 week.
This job also doesnt involve a lot of explanation. Basically the hostel i stayed at over xmas, in Cairns told me if i cleaned from 7am-11am I could get free food and accomodation. It was shit and boring, but worth it. I eventually got canned from the job, supposedly i wasnt putting in enough effort, or enthusiasm I was told my some prick who ran the place, they had found some fat kid who was excited to be my replacement.

Job 5: Laundry in hostel. duration 1 week.
This job, has the same story as the previous hostel job. Enough said. However the hostel i folded bed sheets in, I ended up staying in for 6 months!...

Job 6: Kirby Home Maintenance salesman. duration: 2 months.
I've recieved a lot of stick from mates i met in Oz from this job and deservedly so! As i said before theres a lot of commission only type jobs floating about down under, luring people in with promises of big bucks if you sell sell sell, and making it out like this is easy. I told myself after selling electrcity that I would never go back to any sort of commission pressure sales job. However times were bad. And this was the only thing i could find. I'll just state for the record now, you might be asking why didnt you go work in a bar? Well...at the beginning i didnt want to as i had done this back home for a long time and didnt want to do it again, then when i changed my mind, i couldnt be bothered doing the course you need to do in order to work in a bar! Also, why didnt you go fruit picking? fruit picking sounds harmless and innocent, but people do it for the 2nd year visa which i wasnt fussed about, on top of that the numerous stories from fruit pickers about how shit it was, put me off even more.
So anyway...the vacuum selling job, sounds ridiculous, yes, your right. For the 1st half, i was knocking on peoples doors asking them if they wanted a free clean to their home, which translated in sales speak means, if you give us your permission and phone number, we will hassle you into letting us enter your house and make you buy an overpriced vacuum!!! It was soul destroying and depressing!
After that, Joe an arrogant aussie who was head of demonstrations, took me under his wing. And trained me to do the demonsatrations of the machine. Basically, I had to come to your house, pretend to be your friend and understand your problems put on a fake smile, and show you a machine in all its glory, and the magic it performs. I would talk a lot of technical nonsense in order to confuse you, and then use the machine on your house and accuse you of not keeping a clean house! You know those adverts, where they say "look how easy the dirt comes out" "all this could be yours!". that was me :(
If i couldnt get the sale, id text Joe from behind my back, who would storm the place, and pretty much call them idiots for not taking such an amazing deal, then plead as he gradually cut the price and gave a "special price" which of course he never gives to anyone else, its just between you and me ;), until the "special price" as been cut so much that the potential commission for us makes it almost not worth it.
In my last 2weeks, Thahn a vietnamese man who I became mates with, who'd worked for megan who was Joes wife and in charge for a long time. He had an argument with Joe who was a arsehole. and left, to try and sell the machines by himself. I had recently quit, he convinced me and Gudio a dutch traveller, to join him in a last ditch attempt to make it work. We got lots of appointment and I sold 3 machines. It didnt last long, and took a nose dive, and we went our seperate ways, but for that 2 weeks we were, having fun. Selling these overpriced machines, is comparable to Will Smiths character in the film; The Pursuit of Happyness, where he has a medical scanner of some sort, and is desperately trying to sell it.

"Job" 7: Human Lab Rat. duration 4days.
This job, i put in quotation marks, as you cant really call it a job perse, however I met some people who made a decent attempt to make it one! When i was in Brisbane i met a fellow traveller who im still friends with, who told me of a magically medical centre south of Melbourne and you can go there take drugs and get paid a lot of money for this, I of course was taken in by this story. He gave me the phone number. Of course now living in Melbourne, I naturally gave them a call. Did my screening to make sure i was healthy enough to be popping drugs still in trial, and then signed on the dotted line, right below the part in bold which read, 'THERE IS A CHANCE OF DEATH IN THIS EXPERIMENT'. Although to be fair it says that for all the experiments. Needless to say, friends id made at the All Nations hostel tried to tell me i was an idiot for this, depsite having a lack of funds. And also, my parents werent best pleased when learning my decision to do this. Now, when you think about it, when you go to a pharmacy for some headache pills or if your doctor prescribes you some drugs for whatever reason. The only reason you have them in your possession is because numerous animals have died, and a selection of human volunteers around the globe have taken part in trials to make sure, there is as little negative effects from take Drug X. So, I suppose i was doing my part for science, at least thats what i kept telling myself!
I was in testing a drug, which was meant to stop smokers lungs becoming inflamed, but you needed to be a non-smoker to take part. Basically when smokers smoke their lungs become inflamed and white blood cells come to try and heal the body, but most of the time too many of them come which causes adverse effects, and this drug is supposed to stop so many of them coming. You'd think smokers could just live with it or stop god damn smoking!
Anyway, i was in a group with some aussies and some travellers. We had a canulla which is a constant needle, in our arm for the duration of the test. One morning one, we were all woken up, and at exact times told to pop some pills. We could only eat at exact times, and the rest of the time we played pool, Xbox and surfed the internet. In the afternoon of day1, we were called back to bed, as we were given a shot of adrenaline, which was pretty intense. The shot irritates the skin, so much so your skin bubbles up and becomes turgid for a while. Once in your sytem, it takes a minute, before your heart is pounding out your chest and you want to go running or lift the bed you've been forced to lie on like a wild animal.
During the test, the nurse would regularly come up to me as i was concentrating on Xbox gaming and ask "Mr Sampson" "How are you feeling?" "Are you experiencing any side effects?" to which id jokingly reply "Apart from the tail. No". Anyway, experiment finished, and sadly there was no side-effects for me or anyone else. $1500 richer though, and my friends in the hostels suddenly all wanted a piece of the medical action.

Job 8: Pipe stacker. duration. 3days.
My friend who i met at the beginning in Sydney, had got me involved in a cash-in-hand job, in dandenong, he found in his hostel. We got picked up from his hostel and taken to a warehouse in the sticks, where we were told that Pipes of all sizes were to be stacked and taped together and moved about. These pipes were like those swiss dolls, theres a big one, then a doll inside that one, and so on.
We had to seperate them. It was laborious work. But we had a laugh i spose. When the boss left, we'd piss around in the Forklift, pulling crazy turns and generally being idiots.

Job 9/10: People Co Agency; 2 Jobs. duration: 6weeks.
I signed up with an agency, called People co in south melbourne, as recommended by 2 friends in All Nations hostel. This company got me work fairly fast which is a dam site better than can be said for a lot of other agencies in Australia! The first job, last 3days and it was just a data input job in Melbourne for Hertz car rentals, whom you've no doubt heard of.
The 2nd job, was in Port Melbourne for a company called Coronet who made clothes for other companies. They were going of business everyone had been made redundant. It was a job i managed to score for just over 5weeks. So i was pleased. Everyone who worked there was nice to me. The job was simply putting tags on different items of clothing and boxing and sealing them, then stacking them on pallets. And towards the end it was going through the place and finding out what needs kept and what needs chucked! It paid well i spose, $23 an hour, for doing monkeys work thats not toooo bad.

So thats my list, of my jobs i was involved in down under. It is certainly a random selection, and with Camp Counsellor in the states, Running of bulls festival (in spain) campsite hand, and now teaching english plus some normal jobs at home in Scotland, it has shaped my CV into a whacky, indecisive mess!
My point to all this is that...
I rekon when your growing up, teachers (the ones who care) in school are pushing you in all subjects, and encouraging you that University is the only way forward, and parents are always pushing their kids, and getting them into extra curicular activities to see what if anything their kids excell at, and if theres a chance theyre kid will make big bucks so they can live a relaxed retirement. Also, i think its hard for parents, as when parents get together, a lot of them love to talk about their kids and what their doing blah blah etc. Because of this it turns into a subtle competition as to whos kid is doing the best, parents love to boast about their children! Even though a parents love is unconditional, parents can get dissappointed but not say it, if theyre children arent shaping up the way they hoped. This is all only my opinion...

Me? Well....I never cared about going to University, but i managed to sneak my way to a degree. I was never sure of what i wanted to do when i grew up, i knew the usuals of 'footballer' and 'astronaut' were a bit unrealistical! A lot of my friends i think, knew what they wanted to do, and for some of them it seems to have become reality. I still am not totally sure what it is I want to end up doing, but as i trundle through life and learn more about things and what I like, im starting to get some clues.
Right now my teaching job in Japan, i can say is definetely the first thing iv done that i genuinely enjoy, and I feel like im doing something worthwhile. As i said in previous blogs, English is the chosen global language to communicate in, and for me to be able to help and influence someones progress in mastering this sometimes strange and tricky language, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside....ok but seriously it makes me feel pretty good!
However, is teaching what i want to pursue, who the hell knows!? Not me, well not yet anyway. My main passion in life has always been travelling, iv always been very interested in the world and other cultures...now im thinking, i want to find some sort of loop hole in the travel industry i can exploit to my advantage...when i find that loop hole i dont know how or when or even what itll be, but i definetely want to have travel/traveling play an integral part in my life.

Right ill round this shit up now. Im going on a cruise round Tokyo harbour on sunday, which should be pretty scenic. Other than that, if i think i need to blog something, believe me it'll be done, but there really isnt anything right now, funny or interesting or important from this side of the world.

Posted by RMS8 07:48 Archived in Australia Tagged australia work life money jobs problems Comments (0)

Kyoto, Osaka, Nightbuses...and Mini-earth...tremours

17 August 2009.

sunny 41 °C

Well my Obon (Japanese summer holiday) which has been short, expensive, hot, sweaty...but good fun and well worth it!

Part of the reason my Australia trip didnt go as well or work out how I wanted it to, is because of expectations. Expectations plays a huge part in life. Before something happens whatever that may be, its difficult not to have any expectations of it. Now as I mention i believe my expectations i had of Australia definetely played a part on my enjoyment of the trip. There has always been a lot of hype about Australia and i had been looking forward to it, so I conjured all sorts of fantastical ideas of how my trip would go and what i would do etc. There was other things that contributed to the fact that it wasnt the trip I'd hoped for, so Id say expectations were 30% of it. Dont get me wrong, I had fun down under, there were some good times, I visited some amazing places, but on the whole it wasnt at all how i imagined it to be, but then again thats life.
Now once i had booked and sorted myself to go to Japan, I had already heard the touristy hype of Japan as the hugely cultural country it is and Id heard the huge hype and talk of teaching english in Japan/Asia, and hadnt really heard any bad news on the subject! Although I made sure i didnt spark my mind off on a high expectation mental vision of how it will all play out. Which was great, i went to Japan with basically not expectations and so far its worked wonders!
Now, it's the same sorta thing with the greatly hyped and highly renouned city of Kyoto. Kyoto is always said to be the city in Japan that has most preserved the countries hertiage, ancient culture and architecture. I hadnt seen any pictures of the city itself, although i had seen pictures of Ancient Japan. So before I went i believed Kyoto city to be sprawled with all kinds of Japanese style buidlings and covered in Japanese culture.
When we arrived in Kyoto (I was angry/tired/sweaty) I was gravely dissappointed. Due to my expectation, my high-anticipation of Kyoto was dropped as i immediately stepped off the bus. The city, was like a ghost town, the buildings were very run down and some quite derrilict, and there was evidence of westerisation on every corner. However my opinion of Kyoto began to change, and you should never just a book by its cover, or a city by a few normal looking buildings and convenience stores.
We checked into our hostel when we got there, and might I say it felt damn good being back inside a hostel! I spent an extensive period of time living out mostly dingey hostels, in Australia. Hostels have their up's and down's, but once you get out of living in hostels after a long time, its like being released from prison (not thats iv been released from prison ;) ) however as with the prison some ex-cons/ex-hostelites find it hard to live on the "outside", its always a matter of time before they find themselves back inside, whether that be in prison or in a hostel, theres no rehad or conselling or hostelites, no help to get them on their feet and in the real world. Sounds a bit much...but believe me some 35+ yr olds who iv met who live out hostels need help!
Back to feeling "damn good". The hostel was as it should be and im always rating hostels, on price, cleanliness, location, facilities and social atmosphere. And the Sparkling Dolphin Inn seemed to fair not badly all round!
I was saying before about Up's and down's in Hostels, ill briefly clear up what I believe those mainly to be. Up's come under = 1) Meeting people from all over the world/all walks of life who are travelling 2) Finding somewhere cheap rather than a hotel, so you can spend your travelling money on better things 3) Cultural mixing, and learning to mix/live with strangers. If you can do this sharing a flat/apartment with mates will be a breeze! (as i have friends who complain about this).
Downs come under = 1) Living in a hostel for a long time sometimes, especially if your working also, you just want some downtime, and coming back to a booming dingey hostel is the last thing you want, after a stressful day!
2) Everythings in competition, its a dog-eat-dog hostel-world, as far as internet access, tv lounge, plates/cutlery, floor space etc.
3) You get prettty much NO PRIVACY! best privacy you can hope for is in the shower!
All that said, it was nice to be back in a hostel, knowing in the back of your mind you have a homely apartment in Tokyo to go back to.

Ok...so i digress. Kyoto's many Temples sprawl dotted across the city. And looking at the map of them is like looking at where the attractions are located in a theme park map, systematically planning your attack. We saw 4 Temples. All in all AMAZING.
1st Temple, To-ji temple; now i dont have any background information or history on the temples, so if you wanna know that shit look it up yourself!!
To-ji temple was pretty interesting it was the tallest one, and was stacked high, with one Japanese hut on top of another.
2nd Temple, Ginkaku-ji temple; This temple was soooo beautiful and felt very traditionally Japanese (however that feels), it was iddillyic, and made for picturesque postcard like photos! Iv seen pictures of this temple in winter and it looks even more beautiful!
3rd Temple, Kinkauji temple; this temple, is probably the most famous, and its Golden Pavillion can be found in many tourist books. The Golden Pavillion is the only attraction here, big golden temple, sitting on a lake, certainly drew a crowd!
4th Temple, Kiyomizu temple; this temple took the longest to reach, however it was very very interesting, and was quite high up thus providing a great view.

Iv seen 5 temples in Japan now, the 1st one being in central Tokyo. I dont know if it would be fair to say "Once you've seen one Temple you've seen them all" because, they are similar in some respects, but very different in others. Kyoto turned out to be a worthwhile trip overall, despite my expectations...and I even spotted a much acclaimed Geisha Girl at night!

On the final day, we (me and my mate Liam who was teacher training in LDN with me) woke up hungover. We didnt have any plans to do anything but watch the endless stream of films on the only English channel in the air-conditioned hostel. However "doing nothing" isnt as easy as it sounds, someone will undoubtedly start making conversation which will lead to "doing something", which in this case was a day trip to Japans second largest city, Osaka. It was only Y540 (£3.50) one way, so when in Rome as they say. Osaka was much like Tokyo exept with less skyscrapers. Its streets still overrun with people in a rush and its subway still as confusing as a plate of spaghetti!
We went to the port and went on what was claiming to be the worlds biggest ferris wheel! it was ok.
Later we got the subway to where the famous Osaka castle is, it also had a very Ancient Japanese feel to it. We didnt pay to go in though.

The Nightbus. I'll start by saying, travelling in Japan is extremely expensive, the best ways to travel are the Shinkansen (Bullet train) and Plane, however these are not cheap! Those who cant afford them, are left with the local train or bus choice. A Japanese girl I know managed to get us a dirt cheap Nightbus tickets on the internet, Y7,300 (£42) return, which is cheap believe me. We were unsure where the bus was leaving from in Shinjuku (central TKY) as the ticket didnt say. so it took us a long time to find out. As a result of this running around, by the time we were boarding it looked like we'd been swimming in a pool of our own sweat!...on top of that the bus had shit air-conditioning, and had about 5 unnessesary stops, in which they turned on the lights like on an operation table, to wake everyone up! It was a grueling 8 1/2 hours! I have to say, iv slept sweaty before, iv slept rough; at 3 airports and outside a train station, but the bus was as bad as i thought it was. I did some mental prep for the bus back, luckily it wasnt even half as bad, and had great air-con and i slept pretty well considering!

Lat thing i feel i need to mention. Is Earthquakes! Theres the saying "be careful what you wish for" this might be true for me. I've been wishing for an earthquake (not a huge devastating one obviously) since I got to Japan. Last week there was 2. The first one you could call a tremor, as it was just a little shakey.
The 2nd one was when my mate who was teaching in Osaka left. I thought i need a decent nights sleep. However i was woken up about 4.55am, to the whole apartment block shaking, at first because i was still 1/2 asleep, i thought i was still dreaming, then i woke up to the fact it was an earthquake! I stood up and thought, what I should do, before i decided what to do it ended and i went back to bed.
Japan is apparently overdue a devastating Quake. Lets hope i doesnt come.

Well....Im back teaching (if i can call what i do that) on wednesday, and will be in an attempt to knuckled down get in a routine and save some Yen!
Thats it for another installment of Japanorama. Stay tuned bitches :)


Posted by RMS8 07:33 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo kyoto osaka japan travel strange job english asia earthquake teaching nightbus Comments (0)

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