A Travellerspoint blog

You know you've been in Japan too long when ... #65

sunny 8 °C

I was right in the middle of a beautiful dream, hand gliding across the snowy Alps of Europe.

I woke up.

It's 9:30am. A low rumbling had surrounded me. Was I still drunk or was the room spinning? The cupboard doors were banging. Clean glasses clanged together in the sink. My little Sumo, hanging from the light cord, swayed in my breeze-less room.

Earthquake !?!?!

I went back to sleep.

Posted by ImpBob36 04:53 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Goodbye Juso. Hello Juso.

The Move

sunny 7 °C

January. The 2nd of the 3 original people from my apartment had just informed me he had given notice to move. I would be the last and would soon have another new room mate. Someone else to break the house rules to; to worry about 3am movie noise in the paper-thin tiny apartment that I had called home for nearly a year.

It's time for me to go.

I started looking around on my days off. I dragged my Japanese friends around from real estate to real estate on weekends. Looking for something in the same area. I knew where I was, I knew how to go. The convenience of 3 major train-lines (Kyoto and Kobe within 45mins) and a short walk to Umeda seemed a lot to give. The bar was here. The restaurants were here. I was use to the ladies-of-the-night on the corners; I enjoyed watching the drunk business men sway down the streets; the shy couples darting in and out discretely from the love hotels.

I gave notice with a quick call to the apartment managers; I would have to be out by the end of February now.

For a month I peered into Japanese apartments. Some where 20 minutes for the station and big. Some had no storage space. Most were barely the size of my old bedroom in Oz and that was for the entire apartment.

As the deadline grew closer, I finally settled an a small place near the river and the daunting task of applying by completing Japanese paperwork settled in. There was so much money! Rent in advance, fire insurance, lock changing service, corporate body charges, electricity, gas, water. Japan also has a wonderful tradition of Key money. This tidy little sum came to around $800 and was basically a donation to the landlord - "thanks so much for allowing me to move in" money.

I raced out and signed up for internet as the paper work went through. What? 5 weeks wait?!!? My god!!!! I called friends every other night and dragged my laptop around Juso. Lets watch a movie, oh and can I check my email and update my system? Finally the wait was up. At 9am sharp, a telco arrived and tested the signal in my room. He tapped his device several times, never a good sign. After scratching his head, he asked me in Japanese if I understood his language. No, I replied with a sigh. He grabbed a sheet of paper and handed it to me.

We regret deeply that the terminus being in the build where our dutiful works was completing ....

It was a poor translation of something that I couldn't understand. I tried to call my Japanese friends, but they were all working. Eventually, I figured out that the signal had been turned off at the exchange and since it was locked, I'd have to arrange another appointment when access could be given. Finally my friend called back, came over and we started this process. She looked at me, the next appointment is in 2 weeks time. AARRRGGHHHH!!

The days were long. The nights were cold. How I occupied myself, I still cant recall. Somehow, the second wait period was over. The internet had arrived. I spend the next 10 hours, checking emails, surfing, chatting and playing games. Its good to be connected again.

Posted by ImpBob36 05:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Sumo

sunny 5 °C

It started in a Bar around 2am. The British girls, 2 wild young lasses from England, were drinking in [es] with me and through the drunken haze, the spontaneous notion of catching some tradition Japanese sport was born.

We had arranged to met at 12pm. I was left standing outside the department store, a cold breeze whipping my hair back and forth before I decided to call them.

Where the hell are you?

"Oh. Sorry. We just woke up. Come over" I headed back up the road. As the door was answered, a half dressed girl straining in the afternoon light answered the door. I waited in their living room and after an hour they were ready. We headed into Namba.

They grabbed my arm as we approached the convenience store to buy some drinks for the show. We weren't sure if they served alcohol or not but better to be drunk then sorry. I guess this sumo had the same idea.

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Large colourful banners lined the outside of the gymnasium where the event was being help; their brilliant display and soft wave in the breeze failed to be captured by my mobile phone camera as the light drifted from the day.

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People lined the street and entrance waiting for the sumo. As cars, van and taxi pulled up, people tussled to take photos of their heroes entering the stadium.

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A security guard at the ticket booth welcomed the chance to practise English and talk about his beloved sport as we debated our seating options. Finally we choose some towards the back, so that we could take in the stadium and could have seats. The seats towards the front we merely little squares on cushions and the prospect of 4 foreigners squeezing in, sitting crossed legged and drinking for the next 4 hours seemed a little awkward.

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Our tickets came with a simple booklet outlining the history of the sport from in roots 8 AD, through the variation of the day and Emperors whims to the noble modern art. It talked of the sand/clay mix of the dohyƍ and the rice string bales or tawara which formed the ring of combat built new for every tournament

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Soon the matches begin. Large men entered the ring, grabbed a handful of salt and tossed it across the ring. Often, they would approach the shikiri-sen, the two centred white lines marking their starting point face-off, squatting in preparation before backing off for another handful of salt. It was difficult to tell wether this was a tactic used to throw their opponents, a friendly pre-match mind game or the chance to show their respect for the game and rituals it entailed. These near starts often went on 6 or 7 times before both of them would finally bow, squat and collide with a massive force, hands wildly slapping each other. In Sumo, the loser is the first one to touch the ground, or move beyond the ring and the battles were almost always over within 10 seconds. A respectful bow is given by both participants before the next contenders enter.

As the day progressed, the more talented and higher ranked the wrestlers were; as were the more empty wine and beer bottles at our feet. The day finally ended, and after a quick sweep through the souvenir shops, we staggered out into the fresh night air and head for some traditional food from our own cultures; after the alcohol McDonalds never tasted so good.

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Posted by ImpBob36 05:08 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

The Difficulties of Teaching English

#87

sunny 8 °C

A couple of weeks ago, my class was learning vocab for describing people - Tall, short; freckles, bald, ponytail, mascular etc. I assigned them homework at the end of the class to bring some photos of family or friends and we could take turns describing them. I figured it was a nice way of personalising the task and granted the opportunity of asking lots of follow-up questions; next week we would discuss personalities.

So, Student A brought in some nice photos of co-workers and his family.
"He's tall and has brown hair."
"She's short, has black hair and blue earrings"

Student B brings in some photos he took at a recent car show. Bikini clad women stationed at booths, drapping themselves across cars. Heres a close-up of the material on her top, a shot of her woman-ly curves and another zoom in of her backside. He sat with a devilish grin.

So my group class had a test today. They were given a Japanese instruction sheet informing them that for the duration of said test I couldn't help them with grammar or pronunciation.

Moments before they began, I handed them a topic card each and instructed them to talk for at least 10 minutes; use the cards as a conversation guide and ask follow-up questions of your partner. One of card requested the student ask about others favourite possessions. He quickly asked me to define this word and I described it as favourite items or things. I commented, maybe for him, it was the photos he showed the other week.

The stop-watch was set, my pencil sharpened, the marking sheet poised and ready to capture comments of the session.

Remember, I can't help you. Are you ready? Begin.

Student B: What's your favourite POSITION?

10 minutes is a long time to stiffle a laugh. I'm sure I caused myself some serious damage.

Posted by ImpBob36 03:10 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Winter Hibernation

semi-overcast -2 °C

As temperatures hovered around low single digits, the wind chill drove the cold home even further. I shuffled off to class each day looking more like a giant white beachball wearing a tie. I wore lay upon lay upon layer of clothes, scarfs, gloves and cap.

I walked the scenic route to work, it took an extra 10 minutes but it spared me the wind tunnels created by the high risers that reached into the clouded sky and pulled the frigid air down.
The tree lines roads that had been a blaze of colour now held the skeletal corpses of trees; their naked branches rasping together like the fingers of icy Death.

X-mas had been quiet and subdued. Unlike the smell of sunscreen and beach, sausages roasting on a beer-washed hotplate; Osaka was filled with a damp mould and dirty puddles. Bikinied blonde babes with dazzling smiles were now sullen sombre Suits with frosted breath.

School was closed for the holiday season. Most of the foreigners had returned home or travelled to Asia. I spend X-mas in the bar, watching horrible talk shows (if you don't believe how bad they can be, check out TV in Japan).

By New Years, the crowded had returned to Juso. Back to the bar and I counted down the last of 2006 with friends from Japan, America, Canada, China and Australia. Around 4am, some of us managed to remember how to walk. We headed down to a local temple and after a small donation, gave a silent prayer to the gods and ancestors, and received a mysterious fortune. After realising that I couldn't read Japanese when I was drunk either, my friend translated a typically vague yearly fortune. General happiness, bad year for pets, good for love, don't be in a hurry to move.

Lets see what 2007 has to bring.

Posted by ImpBob36 04:14 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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