Friday, August 29, 2008

Super Dry Task Force

The title does not refer to Asahi’s wonderfully refreshing biru (beer). Instead it represents the strangely humorous incident that just occurred merely moments ago.
Sitting here at my desk, a group of sensei (teachers) in the office began to mutter to one other. Within seconds they propped themselves out of their seats and hurried out of the office. I’m thinking, “Should I go with them?” Of course I should; so I did. Apparently, the windows in the hallway leading to the gymnasium were left open. Usually this wouldn’t pose a problem...but when it’s pouring rain 10 minutes prior to a student assembly, it’s a CATASTROPHE. These dedicated volunteers were concerned that their students would have to walk on a wet floor.
Upon arriving at the scene, I had to stop for a second and just laugh at what I saw. A handful of teachers in shirts and ties were squatting over the floor “waxing on, and waxing off” with their various rags and towels. Each minute a new volunteer would rush into the hallway with buckets and more drying devices in the forms of blankets and towels. They took the blankets and threw them on the floor so students wouldn’t get their indoor shoes wet thereby sacrificing the integrity of the floor.
Would this have happened in America? Nope. There would be one poor teacher concerned and trying to help, while others complain how ‘that’s the custodian’s job,” or “who cares.” It’s a team effort over here, and I like it. It’s a good feeling knowing you aren’t alone in your cause.
We mopped up pretty well, and I followed a group of little gents traveling back to the office. Words cannot describe how funny it is to see a group of five foot six Japanese businessmen march in the halls while their sneakers squeak to the heavens above. Remember, the Japanese adorn separate shoes indoors. This means, that you will often spy a man in a full suit wearing white tennis sneakers or even better: fluffy slippers!
When we all returned to the office, one of the English teachers pointed at me and said, “recruit.” This signified that I had volunteered my lazy American behind for the cause. Another teacher tried on his English and spattered, “Dry towels.” I smiled and at him and said “ahhh very good Eigo (English).”
The volunteers were exhausted and sweaty so they of course had to run to the sink area and make some tea! Let me just say that from what I’ve seen, Japanese teachers work very hard. However, I along with a few JETs feel that they don’t need to be staying until 7:00pm every day. The reason they remain at work until sundown is because every 10 minutes it’s time for tea, a quick nap at your desk, or a humorous 30-minute chat. I must learn to speak Japanese in order to partake in these ‘hilarious’ chats. I swear the Japanese laugh more at work than Americans do at a comedy club. No wonder they work so hard; they enjoy their day!
I hope you enjoyed yours!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tachi-Nebuta Episode 3

Tachi-Nebuta, as oppposed to Aomori-Nebuta, seemed to be more about the party than the floats. Which of course equated to a funtastic time!

Asahi Super-Dry is Super-Good.


Sebastian with his trademark COLOSSAL sized drink.


Catherine and Melanie enjoying the festivities.

. one, and I mean no one, enjoyed the festival like this guy.

Tachi-Nebuta Episode 2

Given the smaller size of the festival, the Tachi-Nebuta parade featured more local groups and eccentic local volunteers.

It wouldn`t be Nebuta without the big taiko drum!


Youthful musicians strut their stuff, as a glow-in-the-dark official watches over.


That`s one way to travel.


"It`s a bird!"

"It`s a plane!"

Nope, it`s "Ridiculous Bug Man"

Tachi-Nebuta Episode 1

Is there something behind me?
Goshogawara (yeah, it`s hard to pronounce), a small town an hour west of Aomori-Shi, plays host to a unique nebuta festival. Tachi-Nebuta boasts a handful of six-story plus floats. Goshogawara even has a museum that displays the awe-inspiring creations year-round.

Each year they retire one of the `big guys.`


I hope this year it`s this scary fella.


"Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum! "

Fireworks Finale

To conclude the epic Aomori-Nebuta, the floats are set on boats that pass by the ocean harbor with the night ending with a flurry of fireworks. I would have captured more photos if it wasn`t for the extremely high crap factor of my camera. Apologies!

A float on display in its storage tent near the harbor.


Mr. Awesome, Karen, and Bec taking a break from the festival goodies to strike a pose.


The crowd has gathered.


Post-game drinking participants: Helen, Bec, Canadian Steve, Michelle, and Dominic.

Chicken Power

"Why did the chicken taste so good?"



Behold the power of Japanese festival-style fried chicken. It`s so scrumptious that I had to dedicate this entire post to its magnificence!


Tastes like chicken.


They just love watching a predator devour his prey.


Special thanks to Bec for providing this monumental morsel.

Aomori-Nebuta Episode 4

I never pass up multi-colored ice cream for ¥100 ($1). Then again it hasn`t happened before.


It`s not always about the fighting; there`s nature too.

"..and another one."

- Notorious B.I.G.


Truly a beautiful sight! Come and visit me next August and behold the spectacle that is Aomori-Nebuta.

Aomori-Nebuta Episode 3

Each float is accompanied by its own group of dancers...and DRUMMERS!


There are dozens of floats. Throughout the week-long festival they rotate floats to provide a unique experience each night.


Lions, and tigers, and samurai.


This float promotes Tokyo`s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Aomori-Nebuta Episode 2

Even Japan can`t escape a corporate invasion.

The floats are highly detailed, and can take up to a year to construct.


Festival food is fun, even though you may not know what you`re putting in your mouth.


It`s hard to imagine that the floats are made of paper.

Aomori-Nebuta Episode 1

"And we'll all float on, ok"

- Modest Mouse


Wednesday, August 6th 2008

I was lucky enough to arrive in Aomori-shi on the final day of the Aomori-Nebuta parade. It`s touted as one of Japan`s biggest festivals, and the thousands of spectators lining the streets asserted that notion. Having just arrived I was still pleasantly shocked to find myself as only one among two `white people` at the festival. Awesome!


Nebuta floats are pushed and carried by dozens of volunteers. Using one central wheel, float transporters often spin the dazzling float in circles.


Local students perform their instruments.


Many of the floats feature Japanese mythological figures and tell a story.


The floats are stored in giant tents near the bay harbor.

Festival Time

“When it’s time to party we will always party hard”
-modern rocker Andrew W.K.


A crowd gathers in anticipation of the Aomori-Nebuta parade.

As an American, I cherished holiday celebrations, parades, and festivals. Thankfully, the Japanese are no different in their pursuit of celebratory enjoyment. In fact, the Nihonjin (Japanese) take it to the next level. In order to commemorate their heritage and to attract tourists, most towns feature unique annual matsuri (festivals). The area I reside in, Aomori-ken, which is decimated by harsh and snowy winters, embraces spring and summer as festival season. For example, in Hirosaki, there is the Cherry Blossom festival featuring the visual splendor of over 2,600 Sakura trees amidst the ancient Hirosaki Castle. In neighboring Akita-Ken there’s the Omagari Firworks competition where pyrotechnic teams compete for superiority. Dozens of festivals devoted to tuna, garlic, and several other staple agricultural products provide people with an excuse for a relaxing, guilt-free drunken holiday.


No festival is complete without port-a-potties.

What does a Japanese festival entail? Usually a parade, carnival-esque food vendors, and public drinking complete the matsuri experience. It is perfectly legal and encouraged for you to BYOB (bring your own booze) or purchase some curious liquids from local vendors or nearby vending machines. Just don’t hop on in a car or on a bike, as Japan boasts a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for both drivers and bikers. Typically, a festival will conclude with a fireworks display for as long as fifty years, or it just feels that way.


Vendors offer tasty treats.

Captain`s Log: Japanese vendors are much cuter than American carnies.


A festival food classic: dried squid.

Captain`s Log: Dried squid blows.

Aomori-ken as a whole though is most famous for ‘Nebuta,” a festival celebrated in various Aomori-ken townships throughout the summer. The highlight of these festivals are nightly parades where volunteers carry illuminated hand-crafted and painted paper floats, rhythmically bang on taiko drums (, and/or wear special festival garments while shouting “rastafari rastafari (?).” The Aomori Nebuta Festival official site provides a plethora of information and photos. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough to have savored the powerful beauty of both the Aomori and Tachi Nebuta festivals. Consequently, I look forward to many more! For more information on Japanese festivals, just do what I did dummy, and google it! Or check out, the Wikipedia article.

Englishanese: Round 4

This chapter of `Englishanese` takes a look at the wonderful and useful world of Japanese products.
Nihon (Japan) doesn`t mess around when it comes to drying off wet hands. This bada$$ piece of machinery is a powerful technology-laden beast. Simply place your hands within its crevice, and let the intense blowing begin. I`ve made many a Japanese person wait patiently as I gloriously abuse its magnificence. They should make one for the whole body!
Phone Charger Locker
Is your phone suffering? Need a quick charge? No worries mate, there`s the `phone charger locker.` This nifty device was at a local shopping center. Simply hook up your phone for a charge and safely lock it up. I`m sure these contraptions will invade America soon, if they haven`t already.
Banana Protector
The `greatest` thing since slice bread has arrived. A ¥100 ($1) plastic giant banana that protects your edible banana from the harsh abusive nature of the real world. Needless to say, I haven`t purchased this useful and stupid piece of $hit. But, if you want me to send you one, I will. I may even throw a banana in there for ya!
Dressing Room
Okay, I admit this may not be too useful. Regardless, say konnichiwa (hello) to the standard yofukuya (clothing store) dressing room. So what`s behind the curtain? A naked Japanese person changing.


In America, if you were in public - let’s say a shopping plaza parking lot - it wouldn’t be shocking to have a stranger approach you and say hello. You may grab your keys or put out a dirty look because you’re an a$$hole, but you’d understand at some point in time.
Well in Japan, it’s different. They just don’t say ‘konnichiwa.’ In fact, they utter so many mannerly gestures, I swear that I must have lent them money. These vocal welcoming gestures though are all in Nihongo (Japanese). However, there is a group that opens its heart to say “Hello.”
But it’s not the little children; they adorably stare and smile. It’s not the women; they’re afraid or mentally self-inducing their privates to your gaijin (foreigner) appearance. It’s not the old folks either; they’re too busy turning their back to you, or fetching some free vegetables as a welcoming present. Night and day I tell ya. Instead it’s the adolescents. Boys to be precise.
Out of the shadows will emerge a boy spattering his best rendition of “Hello.” Sometimes they even throw in a “How are you?” Before I can answer, they’ve already chuckled 50 miles away with their friends. So at first I’m thinking, ‘oh that’s nice, they’re practicing their English.” But then I said to myself, “wait a minute……..those f****ers are making fun of me.” Just like I would have done if I saw a Mexican ride into town on his lawn mower. Yep, I’m a foreigner, and little bastards make fun of me. And...I LOVE IT! Someone has to be the target for adolescent humor, and I’m more than happy to lace up the converse for the cause!

The Resting Room

Many have walked by it. They just weren’t aware. How could they not know? They had no clue. But there was something. Something behind the door. Maybe you too have walked past its spectacle. You wouldn’t have known the treasure just steps ahead.
You see, in my school…there is a place. A special place. A place where every living creature should relish in at least once in his, her, or its existence. This mecca of a place is a room. It is a room where you can relax. It is a room where you can rest. It is a room where you can catch some ZZZs. You can f***ing SLEEP WHILE ON THE CLOCK! Yes my friends, our old buddy Steve does not lie.
What do they call such a heavenly escape? They call it the ‘Resting Room.’ The Japanese realize that teachers work hard, so they installed a room where one can rest up in order to perform better on the job. Do I think American schools should have one? Hmmm….NOPE. Many American teachers don’t work hard enough to deserve it, plus given the USA’s ‘it’s your fault’ and ‘responsibility what?’ mentalities, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. One day America, one day. I hope it comes soon!
I`m amazed at how adding a little ‘ing’ to a room can spice up a place. I haven’t taken advantage of it yet, but friends, it’s going to happen. And when it does, I’ll let you know…after my precious nap of course. Paid to sleep. I’m sorry; I just can’t stop this post. I’m just so freakin’ amazed. YES!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Englishanese: Round 3

I need a partner!

Colonel San

Shockingly, KFC appears to be the #2 American fast food chain, behind #1 McDonalds, in Japan. The Japs be lovin their fried chikin!


While browsing through the aisles of `Don Quixote,`I spied two fat boys practicing their vibro action. I smiled, then snuck behind a stack of books to peer at them with erotic amusement. `Don Quixote` is like a Wal-Mart in that it has everything you need...but like a `Spencer`s Gifts` in that all of the products are uselessly hip. Much fun!


That is the title of this wonderfully odd journal.

Englishanese: Round 2

No...this is not a tribute to the Miami Hurricanes. But this grocery store does offer a tantalizing hot dog on a stick.

I wonder how many Japanese are proud of their traditional membership in Memphis. Shit, that reminds me, I need to renew mine.

Umm, where in America are these fruity colored milkshakes?

This is here simply to prove that `Mr. Children` is the gnarliest band name ever.