Saturday, September 25, 2004

Yong-nam, Arata and Junko at the dinner table. Good food and way too much to drink for everyone involved. It's nice having an apartment big enough to have people over every once in a while. Posted by Hello


My cricket partner, Yong-nam, watching from the kitchen. Posted by Hello


How is it possible that we're losing? Posted by Hello


Arata tossing a spear. Posted by Hello


5 minute break. Too much sam-gyeop-sal, kim-bap, kimchi, soju and beer to deal with at one time! Posted by Hello


Junko and Arata during the darts game in the living room. Posted by Hello


Hiroshima 6--Yakult 3

The Swallows have been playing quite well as of late, but the result of this afternoon's game just shows you how even the teams in the Central league are this year. Chunichi is in first, but they haven't exactly been drilling everyone into the ground this season. They've just been slightly more consistent than the rest of the division.

Hiroshima and Yokohama, the two teams bringing up the rear this season, can take any of the other teams in the division down on any given night (as is evidenced by the fact that the Baystars are currently up 12 to 6 against the Giants at the ugly egg next to Suidobashi station.)

Hiroshima undid Yakult's momentum by holding the first three batters in our order hitless. It was a bit of a disappointment, it reduced us to 8 wins and 2 losses in our last 10 games, but hopefully we'll have our bats working again tomorrow evening. As long as the Giants don't wake up from the beating that they're currently enduring, we'll be able to hold on to sole possession of second place.


Furuta sent one yard, his first in a while, and many probably saw it as a bit of a celebratory blast. He finally got a couple more concessions from the owners as the voluntary leader of the players union, and the strike's damage has been limited to only one weekend of games. The Kintetsu-Orix merger will go ahead as planned, and a new team will be allowed to enter the league in order to bump the number of teams in the Pacific division back up to six. The new team will reportedly have first dibs on the players given up by the two teams that are being merged.

On a separate note: Furuta definitely deserves the league MVP honors this year! He's 39, has hit well above .320 all season, is a CATCHER!!, and marshalled a common voice from the players in order to pressure the owners into some concessions. As I said before, he volunteers as the spokesman for the player's union, and I've never seen a player get so much love from opposing fans every time he steps on the field.


Monday, September 20, 2004

Yakult 4, Hanshin 3

Shaky pitching (as usual) but we got the runs when we needed them. Iwamura is back in the starting lineup, but it's obvious that he's not able to get up to full speed. I think his leg is hurt. He hit a two run homer tonight--number 41 for him this year. Miyamoto also parked one in the bleachers in the bottom of the first.

I was informed by Tetsuya (and everyone else in section D) that the interview from last week was on TV yesterday. They said it was 30 or 40 seconds long. They must not have had very much else to go on if they didn't feel the need to whitle my interview down to about a 5 second clip. They probably had to put Japanese subtitles at the bottom of the page. This is what he's trying to say...

I've seen the Swallows win 5 games in a row. That's is far and away a record for me! Oops, I probably just jinxed the team by writing that.


Saturday, September 18, 2004

Teaching in Japan

Getting a job here as a teacher isn't easy. Correction: arriving here on a tourist visa and getting a job isn't easy. Or at least it wasn't as easy as getting a job in Korea was. Before landing a job in Korea I talked on the phone with another teacher at the school precisely twice before signing on the dotted line. That was back in 2000, and I was basically interviewing him--it was possible to get several job offers within a couple of days.

In Japan there's an over-saturation of native speakers of the English language. Most people suffering from the lack of an MA or PhD (plus publications!) end up going through the large, chain English schools. Shane, Aeon, Berlitz, Nova, Geos and ECC are some of the more prominent ones. Teaching conditions, and they vary from branch to branch, aren't that wonderful. Some chains have more stringent hiring policies, but a number of knuckleheads manage to infiltrate every system.

I have one of those Cambridge-issued CELTA TESOL teaching certificates (which, I might add, are not the easiest things to get ahold of). All that was good for was an extra 3,000 yen per month (US$30) and an extra long interview. They seemed to be concerned that I might not be willing to swallow their one-size-fits-all methodology, or follow instructions from my superiors. I was eventually given the job, and everything went well. I understand that it is much, much easier to get a job over here by going through one of their overseas hiring centers.

Many instructors more experienced and qualified than myself have had to go the 'eikaiwa' (English conversation school) route. I am of course speaking exclusively about the teaching scene in Tokyo. I have no knowledge, or stories, of the way that things work in slightly less urban areas of Japan. What I can say, however, is that you shouldn't come here looking for work unless you have A LOT of money with you. It took me exactly two weeks to secure a job offer. Some will be awarded one more quickly than I was. Others will not.

Aside from paying for food and housing, I had to head to Korea in order to get the visa nailed into my passport. I'm not sure that this is absolutely required, but I have been told that it's the quickest way to start work. All told, I started work about six weeks after first arriving in Japan. That's a long time to be on an unpaid vacation in the most expensive city in the world!


Babysitting 4

Ruka, Yasu and Michiko's daughter, has been spending time with us recently. She's about the same age that Miyu was when we first started hanging out. She's adorable, and she seems to be quite a bit different from Miyu in a number of areas. She seems a little tougher, and she eats a ton!

I hope to get Miyu to take some responsibility for Ruka's English education. It might be a good way to get Miyu to use English a bit more--if I can figure out how to do it. Ruka and Miyu get along really well. Ruka doesn't totally trust me yet, but that will come.

Miyu just turned three! She also graduated from diapers to big-girl underwear. I don't remember how long I wore diapers for, but I don't think it was three years. Yukiko says that children these days don't feel any rush to abandon them due to the fact that they're so comfortable. I guess most materials would probably be easier to deal with than the cloth diapers that many of us were subjected to.

As for her English, she is able to produce full sentences quite comfortably. She doesn't do it without prompting, but she is more confident than she used to be. Her listening comprehension is also quite strong now. She can handle most situations, although expressions involving 'probability' are sometimes a bit much for her to handle. We recently had an argument when I suggested that it 'might' rain soon. She went on and on about how it wasn't raining right then... I think she finally got the picture when I took her outside and she saw how dark the sky looked.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Karaoke in Tanashi. Originally intended to sing a duet, but someone pushed the wrong number. What language is that? Posted by Hello


Rick James, The Ramones, Dolly Parton...Dan knows 'em all. Posted by Hello


(l to r) Kiriko, my fiancee, Kelly, me and Dan. Posted by Hello


My good friend Kiriko and her boyfriend, Tadahiko (aka. Kanepyon). Posted by Hello


Dan playing the drums in Akihabara. Posted by Hello


Dan standing in front of the gate Posted by Hello


Waiting in line for supper at a monjayaki restaurant. Why am I always on the left, and Dan on the right? Posted by Hello


Dan and I heading down tourist lane in Asakusa. Posted by Hello


Green Tea ice cream. Yum! Posted by Hello


Swallows 8, Baystars 3

The Swallows swept the Baystars this week. That makes it four wins in a row for Yakult, and five out of the last six (we'll just forget about that nasty, lop-sided loss to the Giants at the dome last Saturday).

On a sour note, it appears as though Iwamura is injured. He pinch-hit last night, but he didn't start. Ramirez, on the other hand, continues to be a consistent bright spot for the club. He has hit home run after home run for the past month. It also appears that someone in the front office has lit a fire under Suzuki. This man is well-known as the laziest first-basemen in the world. This Wednesday he actually stole second base!

For some reason TV Asahi wanted to interview me before the game yesterday. I told them that I don't speak much Japanese, but they either didn't believe me or didn't care. They physically blocked my path to the stadium, and I ended up answering some questions about the strike and baseball in general. I wasn't able to say everything that I wanted to, but I got a few of my ideas across.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Elderly

Japan is a granny and gramps country. The aged are everywhere, and they enjoy the quiet life that can be found here on this set of islands. Earthquakes come and earthquakes go, and so do the old folks on bikes. No wonder they live for so long--they ride their bicycles until they're well into their 80's!

They don't get a whole lot of respect here from the young though. I recently went back to Korea for a short visit, and I noticed a huge difference in attitude. On the trains, for instance, the seats reserved for the elderly, injured or pregnant are usually filled with people at all times of the day here in Japan. Young people rarely think twice before popping a squat. In Korea, however, people will often stand rather than occupy a reserved seat, even if there doesn't happen to be anyone around who might need to sit down.

The influence that Confucianism has on Korean society is well documented, and this is just one reflection of it. Despite the amount of pride taken in the longevity of Japanese seniors, it is interesting to witness the indifference to their comfort that exists here within the younger populations.


Monday, September 06, 2004

Papa Kim and I before the pitcher arrived. Posted by Hello


Yong-ho, Mama, Yong-nam, Papa Kim and I having a post-karaoke drink. Posted by Hello


Papa Kim, Yong-nam, myself and Mama succumbing to cheap beer. Posted by Hello


Me and Mama Posted by Hello


Japan's 1st Baseball Strike

It appears that a work stoppage is about to doom the rest of the season here. The players are doing the right thing by sticking up for themselves. Something--no, MANY things--need to be done to get this league on track. The players have the overwhelming support of the fans in this country. Unlike the MLB strike back in the 90's, this strike isn't about the players' salaries. Well, at least not directly.

Due to some of the most inept business practices one can imagine (next to no interaction between the players and the fans, non-existent marketing, etc.), the majority of the ballclubs in this country are struggling to make ends meet. Most of the teams are thought of as advertising for the parent company, and little is done to attract new customers to the ballpark. A lot of the rules governing the way that baseball is presented to the public are also partly to blame for the current mess. Several parent companies are trying to find ways to dump their respective baseball teams, and one of the solutions that they've come up with is merging clubs.

The Orix Bluewave and the Kintetsu Buffaloes, both from the Pacific league, are preparing to do just that. Those two organizations are also planning to send 100 players and personnel packing without a second thought. This is one of the main reasons that the strike is now an issue. If the owners approve the merger, which they are expected to do later this week, then the strike will take effect this weekend. Inter-league play and equal television rights for all baseball teams could have helped avert this problem if they had been instituted a decade ago, but long-term business strategies do not seem to be part of the everyday thinking that goes on in the front offices of these struggling ballclubs.

I have tickets to the game on Sunday. It was supposed to be my first trip to Tokyo Dome. I guess I'll have to find something else to do that evening. J-League...? Nope. I'm not that desperate.


Sunday, September 05, 2004

Swallows in a Tailspin

We've just finished losing a whole mess of games to the two worst teams in the Central League. I don't know what's going on. It's really embarrassing.

With the strike looming, it may not matter all that much. However, it sure does hurt when your starting pitchers can't button down the first inning. In the last six games, if memory serves, we gave up two or more runs in the top of the first at least three times.

I'm planning on going to the Tokyo Dome for a game this Sunday. Hopefully we can clean up our act before then.