Friday, March 24, 2006

Adam and Sachi's New Place!!

This is where Adam lived for about two months (up until one week ago). Looking in from the entry, there is just enough room to squeeze through to the ladder that leads up to his bed. Sachi had a similar room up on the second floor of this building. Informally, these places are known as 'gaijin houses'. As the guy next door remarked, "It's like living in a jail cell."


At least the sinks were cool.


Adam and Sachi's new bedroom.


After a long day of touring Tokyo, Chae-an rides the train home.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pizza Party

Pizza parties should always be followed by a good game of Jenga (or Twister). Noo Noo gets the game rolling.


I'm not quite sure what's happening here.


Sunday, March 19, 2006


Korea's run came to an end today. Kelly wasn't terribly disappointed with the result of the latest Japan vs. Korea matchup (Korea made it further than most had predicted and were undefeated until the game today), but she thought it was dumb that they had to play each other three times during three different rounds of the same tournament. Maybe we just need more countries to participate so that the brackets fan out a bit more in future WBC Classics.

The Japanese finally found their stride today, and their bats came back to life. Uehara pitched really well, and the wind was completely taken out of team Korea's sails once pinch-hitter Fukudome roped that two-run dinger into the right-field stands. If it hadn't been for that rain delay in the middle of the 8th inning, I think Japan would have added a couple more runs to their total. Ichiro also played a great game.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006


They're still fuming here over that blown call the other night. I have no idea how well the press has been covering things back in the states, but just about everybody and her sister has added their two yen on this one.

After seeing the replay of the play at the plate, I recalled seeing a foreign face making the calls behind home during the Japan v. Korea game (played at Tokyo Dome) earlier this month. I think the argument that a third party ump should officiate during international games is definitely sound. Most of the Japanese officials that govern the game over here are years and years better than Davidson (the home plate umpire during the Japan v. America game), and it's very puzzling that they weren't invited to ref some of the games.

Well, justice may be served in the end. It looks like team USA is on the bubble in terms of qualification for the third round, and Japan might be able to squeak through despite being robbed a few nights ago. America is going to have to do a number on team Mexico in their last game of round two in order to qualify for the next round.

The upcoming Japan v. Korea game should be a good one!


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Old Pic

Background info, please, gents. I'm having a hard time remembering this one.


Monday, March 13, 2006

White Day

I have a lot of chocolate to buy before I head to school tomorrow. The 14th of March is White Day, and I will catch grief if I don't have some on hand for those who believe they deserve it.

On White Day, traditionally (?), men give women candy or flowers. It's very similar to Valentine's day back home. The difference over here is that only women give presents on February 14th over here. I have to make sure that I remember to give chocolate back to those who made a down-payment in February. My tactic is to hold on to all of those small gifts from a month ago, and then pass them on to other people.

I also need to get a bottle of perfume for my special someone. I have no idea when I'm going to have enough time to do that.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

After a big play in the endzone. Adam, Thatcher and Chris.


Koganei Park "Sports Festival"

Joe, Chris, and Alex. Crafting a clever play.


Koganei Park "Sports Festival"

The play didn't work. Thatcher chuckles after sacking the crap out of Alex. In his defense, Alex (who isn't from America, and therefore didn't grow up on a steady diet of NFL) didn't know that it is perfectly OK to put the QB on his back.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Koganei Park "Sports Festival"

Junko looking to keep Thatcher on first.


Koganei Park "Sports Festival"

Chris Pellegrini and Alex Oke on defense.


Koganei Park "Sports Festival"

Adam, Junko, and Alex. Nice batting stance.


Koganei Park "Sports Festival"

Adam is the backstop. Yong-nam heads for first following a line-drive up the middle. Junko reacts as Sachi knocks Alex over on her way to third.


Koganei Park "Sports Festival"

Sachi and Junko devise a new version of "rock, paper, scissors".



I got them filed today! It's the 11th of March, so I'm about four days ahead of when I usually file them. Nice nice!


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Leo Palace (15 minute walk from Seibu-Yagisawa station)

My wife and I having dinner in our old place. The camera is sitting on the fridge in the "kitchen" (pictured below). You can just barely see our bed in the lower left corner, and a ladder leading up to our modest loft on the right. This is a 1R (w/ loft) in Japanese lingo. We'd probably call it a studio apartment, but here it's a one room. Slightly larger would be a 1K, or one room plus a kitchen. We now live in a 2DK (two rooms plus a third room that is big enough to be considered a dining room and kitchen rolled into one).


Yong-nam doing something in the "kitchen". The kitchen was actually just some appliances lined up on the wall opposite the unit bathroom (pictured below) in the corridor leading to the front (and only) door.


Unit bath in our old place (Leo Palace). This one actually has a tub, so it is spacious compared to the toilet in my apartment in Masan, South Korea. Three S's? They can be done quickly, simultaneously even, in this bathroom.


Monday, March 06, 2006


At the end of last week I went to Ginza to find the Apple (MacIntosh) Megastore.

Two years ago I received a 40GB iPod (3rd generation) from my wife as a birthday present. In a moment of wisdom that came out of nowhere, I decided to plunk down $70 for the extended warranty.

After two years of constant use, the battery was nearly nonexistant (less than two hours of life per charge), and the screen was incredibly faded. I decided to bring my iPod in and see if they would at least replace the battery (which only lasted 8 hours on a full charge when I first got it).

The Apple shop in Ginza is beautiful, and the service was very good despite the large number of customers that were milling about.

To make a boring story short, they didn't replace the battery. They didn't do anything to my old iPod for that matter. They just gave me a new one. Nice nice!

So 30 minutes later I walked out of there with a brand new 40GB (3rd generation) iPod at no additional cost. This one's not under extended warranty, but I figure that $70 for a 40GB iPod is a pretty fair trade.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

From the Archives (Chris's Installment)

Dan already posted a fantastic photo from back in the day that was provided by Matt. It inspired me to awaken the scanner sitting next to my computer (it's actually part of an all-in-one setup), and all in the name of wishing Steve Schlesinger a happy birthday!!

Happy Birthday, Steve!!

Here's one from a few years ago. I don't have any good photos from high school with me in Japan. I'll bring some back the next time we head to the states. In the meantime, here's an old 4th of July pic (2000?). Pictured are (l to r) Travis, Steve, Lance, Aaron, Dan, and Ryan.


Korea vs. Japan (WBC Baseball)

Korea beat Japan 3-2 tonight in what many will term an upset. Carried by clutch defense, and some good base hits up the middle of the diamond, Korea was able to come from behind for a well-deserved win.

With the score 1-2 in Japan's favor, Lee Seung-yeop took Japan closer Ishii Hirotoshi yard with a man on. That proved to be the deciding swing as both teams brought on their MLB pitchers to stifle each other's late inning ambitions. Park Chan-ho closed it out on the mound for Korea, and Otsuka was pitching for the home team during the top of the ninth inning.

It will be interesting to see what the Japanese media says about this one tomorrow. In my eyes, Japan came ready to play, but just kept hitting the ball within reach of the Korean gloves.
Korea played very well, and should be able to make some noise in the states if they play the same way during the second round.

And you just had to love that small band of white and blue camped in the left field bleachers!


Saturday, March 04, 2006

When a Man Hits a Woman

Apparently it's OK for a man to hit a woman here in Japan. I just saw it again with my own two eyes out in front of the sushi restaurant across the street.

Lots of families have lunch at the sushi restaurant after visiting their deceased relative's tomb at the local cemetery. Saturdays and Sundays are busy days at the cemetery. As one family poured out of the restaurant, an argument erupted between a youngish looking woman (I live on the second floor across the street), and an older man. He had probably just had a few because his face was bright pink. I don't know if it was a father-daughter argument, or a quarrel between more distant family members. The outcome, however, was much easier to define.

The older guy punched a younger guy in the jaw (who was obviously on the woman's side of the equation), and then socked the woman in the side of the head. A lot of other family members (about 10) had gathered at this point, and they did an OK job of separating the beater and the beaten. But as I've learned to expect here in Japan, the old man was allowed to just walk away.

The woman had long since flipped out, and after a couple minutes of wrangling with other members of her family, she ran up the road after the guy who had dealt her the right hook. I could hear the makings of another quarrel about 100 meters up the road, but my bathroom window opens in an awkward way, so I wasn't able to see. The ladies who cut hair up at the beauty parlor probably witnessed an interesting performance.

This incident (12:50pm) was similar to the last time I saw a man punch a woman in that the woman was treated as the criminal.


Friday, March 03, 2006

English Teaching in Japan: Grim Forecast

This article was published very recently in the Independent Online Edition (Career Advice).

Shane Inwood: Thinking of teaching in Japan? Don't bother
Published: 02 March 2006

Do you fancy a stint teaching English in the land of the rising yen? Heard a few good things about it from that girl who works for the record label? You know; the one with the really cool tattoo you talked to when you and your workmates went to that trendy sushi place after the end-of-work do.

Bad news, I'm afraid. While you were mucking around finishing up that TEFL qualification or BA, the party ended in Japan. You should have got here sooner, because it used to be a blast.

I can't think of any other work abroad that paid so well, gave on-the-job training, accommodation and a visa, and had such amazing nightlife. Don't get me wrong; expat life in Japan is still mental, but nowadays it's a kind of fruit picking/ backpacker mental rather than the Skybar-champagne-happy-hour mental it used to be. And a few years ago, we never thought it would end.

"But wait!" I hear you cry, "The Japanese economy is doing splendidly, the Nikkei is up one billion per cent, and what about the guy from The Last Samurai who won the Oscar? Japan is back! Surely?"

Surely, yes - if you're Ken Watanabe, or have just sold out a public share offering for an internet anime studio. But every time I'm out in town for a few beers, the stories circulate like second-hand smoke through the bars. I hear about the pair of teachers who just got fired from a well-known college after 15 years of service. The very seniority and experience that put them into a higher pay-bracket also put them first on to the chopping block.

Another of the college's veteran teachers returned from rehabilitation in England after a stroke and found he'd been replaced. The rumour is that the college didn't want a teacher with a stick because it wasn't good for their image.

I guess the two other companies he worked for felt the same; they fired him too. As a "part-time" teacher he was ineligible for health or unemployment insurance. Meanwhile, all their other part-time teachers returned from holidays to letters notifying them that their salaries had been cut mid-contract.

People mutter about the 120 teachers from Osaka and Kanagawa prefectures who have been replaced with "dispatch teachers" employed through middlemen, so the schools don't have to pay them salaries during the long holidays. And what about the NCB English school that went out of business altogether?

There are a lot of long-term expats here, with wives and children, who are suddenly very nervous. Everyone is fighting for a share of work that is vanishing like the polar bears.
Most people, when they first arrive, work at a place like Nova, probably the biggest employer of native English teachers in the world. By dint of their overseas recruiting programme, NO-VAcation (as we called it when I worked there) is the first employer for many arriving in Japan.

But even this has changed. Recently, after a long struggle with the local General Union, it was forced to provide its full-time teachers with health, pension and unemployment benefits.
So it immediately reclassified all its new teachers as "part-time" and cut their hours and salaries to below the minimum full-time bracket to avoid paying the benefits. You are not allowed to do overtime any more because that would push you into the full-time bracket and make you eligible for the benefits.

Finally, the very thing responsible for the Japanese economic recovery, the soft yen, works its magic as well. So if you come over, your standard Nova salary of £1,600 a month five years ago has been magically reduced to £1,100 a month now. And remember: Japan ranks near the top of cost-of-living charts. Other language schools, such as Berlitz, also perform such contortions. English schools are, of course, businesses.

Years of recession, 750,000 fewer school-age children each year, and the end of the Japanese love-affair with English have combined to cause a slew of company collapses and a degradation of conditions so severe that my Japanese vegetable-delivery-truck-driving friend now gets about the same salary as a new teacher.

So if you still want to come over, by all means do. But do it for the experience of checking out Japan, not for the money. There isn't much here any more. And don't start undercutting everyone else advertising for private students. And don't... Oh well, I'm just bitter, I guess. I got a pay cut and can't complain, in case I get labelled as troublesome and replaced by someone cheaper. You, perhaps.

The writer is an English teacher, writer and musician based in Osaka


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No Photos Today

I have a couple of pics that I would like to post, but Blogger rejected all of my ideas. I don't know what the deal is.

I found an old email from my friend, Lance, detailing how Vermont was rated the most intelligent state in the union last year. It is now obvious that my current absence from said state has helped propel it to the front of the pack (I'm not so sharp).

Here's the article that my buddy, Lance, forwarded to me.