dorchadas: (In America)
On a whim, I looked up my old student Erina on Facebook, figuring that I might be able to find her since I actually remember her last name--her parents got divorced halfway through the semester, and her name went from two kanji that were easy for me to write to one kanji that was impossible for me--and she popped up as the first result.

She's also memorable to me because when I did a lesson about music genres and played the song there under "I hear," she raised her hand after it was done and said, " please." I later found out she was in a punk band with some friends.

Most of her account is locked down or unused, as is proper, but it does say that she went on to school for graphic design and her profile picture has her sitting in kimono in a Japanese garden. Good for her.  photo la.gif

Miyajima: Thursday

2016-Jul-21, Thursday 22:53
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
After a delicious breakfast of broccoli, rice, pickles, hamburger, sweetened omelet, salted mackerel, burdock root, breaded fish paste (がんす, a local dish), tea, and pudding with caramel sauce (Hotel Active, for all your Hiroshima visits!), I went back to the room, got my suitcase, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I headed down to check out right on the dot of our requested 9 a.m. departure time. Then we walked out onto Aioi-dōri and set to wait for the streetcar.

Hiroshima's street cars are a local institution. They've been running since before the war--there's actually at least one car that's been in service since before the war and survived the bombing--and Hiroshima actually turned down proposals for a subway network in favor of an underground mall because, well, they already had the streets cars. I've spent uncounted hours of my life on them, what with my incredibly long commute to and from Suzugamine every day, and sitting on them was kind of like stepping back into the past.

I had forgotten the little chime they play when the car starts moving after a stop, though...

We rode the streetcar to the end, past the stop where I used to get off for work, though now renamed to 修大附属鈴峯前駅 (Shudaifuzoku-Suzugaminemae Eki) since the school combined with a boys' school due to low enrollment. Even the old ramen shop, おじいちゃんの作ったラーメン (Ojiichan no Tsukutta Ramen, "Grandpa-Made Ramen"), was still there, though we didn't have time to go.

Then at Miyajima-guchi, we took the ferry across to the island.

At high tide, too.

After dropping our luggage off in the coin lockers and showing our friends the asshole deer of Miyajima--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has a video of me leading a deer around using a wrapper from an ice cream cone, but it just looks like I'm using elf magic--we headed straight over to Itsukushima Shrine to take advantage of the high tide for some nice views. It was all set up like the aftermath of a festival, maybe Tanabata, with a floating stage. There was even a priest in the actual shrine conducting a ceremony, which I've never seen before. And that also means that I had no idea what the ceremony was for, either.

After we went through the shrine, everyone was pretty hungry and [ profile] xoDrVenture wanted oysters, so we stopped into the first restaurant we saw that was serving them. I got anago-don, fried conger eel over rice, because while I've made some effort to stick to kashrut during this trip, I'm willing to make an exception for Miyajima eel. And one of the waitresses wanted to touch my hair when we left and said it was soft.

After lunch we headed into the shōtengai to do some shopping and snacks in preparation for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I climbing the mountain. We bought a set of tea cups and a wooden case for putting matcha in, and I drank a "banana milk" (basically a smoothie). After heading down to the other end of the shōtengai, we walked back and went to the rope way stop. Originally it was going to be four climbers, but by the time we got there the group had been whittled down to just [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and me, so we dropped off our excess gear with the people going up the ropeway and took our first steps on the trail up Misen.

Mossy rocks, my favorite.

The climb up Misen isn't the hardest climb in the world. Most of it is worn stone steps like those shown in the picture, and even though the heat and humidity were brutal at sea level they weren't as bad under the tree canopy. Of course, we were climbing a mountain, so we were sweating buckets in any case.

We saw quite a few people coming down the mountain, and there was a work crew fixing one of streams that run underneath the steps in some places. There was also an old Japanese man who gave [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd his fan when he met her, saying that he no longer needed it since he was coming down the mountain. That occurred near the bottom, which I'm glad of because that fan came in pretty handy on the climb up. I'm not sure I've ever been as disgusting as when I reached the top, except for the last time I climbed Misen.

[ profile] tropicanaomega and [ profile] xoDrVenture were waiting for us at the railway station near the summit, another friend and [ profile] tastee_wheat having gone to make the climb to the top. I went over to buy some ice cream, only to have the woman working the food desk ask me in pretty good English if I had been at the kagura performance the previous night. I recognized her, since she had been there with an American guy and she said that she knew us because he talked to us. That was the basis of our interactions though, so I ordered my ice cream, ate it, then waited for everyone to assemble.

We took the rope way back down and then the shuttle to the Miyajima Seaside Hotel, where I've stayed with my parents before and where [ profile] aaron.hosek, who went ahead to Matsumoto, had arrived first and asked them to send the shuttle to us. We went to the hotel, checked in, and the showered to get slightly less utterly disgusting and changed into our yukata for dinner:

I'm a little surprised it actually fits.

Dinner was, of course, amazing:

This was about 60% of it.

We ate pretty much until near exploding, though slowly, which helped prevent any actual explosions. It was a little under two hours total for dinner, between the different courses, the talking, and the slow eating of many tiny portions, and was the best meal I've had yet in a trip full of great meals. When we were done, we all got dressed up in our yukata except for one of us who wanted a bit more opportunity to,rest and went down to the front desk to ask the shuttle to take us back near the shrine.

Itsukushima is lit up at night, but it wasn't as pretty as I remember it being this time. Or maybe it was just that even though the sun had gone down it was still incredibly sticky. We walked from the pier to the shrine, past it a little until the houses started and the streets started to remind us of Fatal Frame, and then back to the pier, where I successfully called the hotel to ask them to come pick us up. Back at the hotel a bunch of people went to the onsen, but I took advantage of the facilities in a different fashion--I took a bath in the huge bathtub, which was actually large enough for the water to cover my knees. When I started to feel a little cramped, I drained out the water, dried off, and went to bed.

Steps taken: 17538

Tea and sweet!

2016-Mar-27, Sunday 16:39
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is out of town this week visiting friends so there's no Darker than Black, but I still bring you a post about food!

The first session of the LARP I joined is coming up in a week. It's a game of Scion where I'm playing a descendant of the Japanese god Izanagi, alongside [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd playing a descendant of Izanami--we were looking for a pair of deities that had a pre-existing relationship and which we felt culturally competent to play--and it finally inspired me to pull the trigger and order some matcha, along with a 茶筅 (chasen, "tea whisk") and a 茶杓 (chashaku, tea scoop). I didn't order a 茶碗 (chawan, "tea bowl") because I thought we already had one. It turned out that we did, but it was given to us by a friend and is currently sitting in our display cabinet and I probably shouldn't use it until i know what I'm doing.

Well, the tea came today, so I unboxed it, made sure that everything was in good condition, did a bit of googling to figure out what the proper ratio of matcha to water was, and went to work.

Aesthetically, I get at best a D. If you google matcha, you'll notice that the example photos that aren't the raw powder all have a nice light green foam on the top, but despite my whisking I couldn't get it to foam at all. It might be because I didn't whip it enough or vigorously enough, since the bowl I picked was more for aesthetics than for ease of preparation. It might be because I didn't sift the matcha to break it up before I put it in, since if it's finer it dissolves easier and makes a better foam. Also, I found some matcha at the bottom of the bowl that hadn't been absorbed. Oops.

It terms of taste, though, it was just as good as I remember it being. Not as bitter as some of the matcha I had in Japan, which probably means that I added too much water (or too little matcha, depending on how you're counting). It was very smooth, though, and contrasted really well with the sweets I had with it. The only problem I ran into was at the bottom of the cup where there were clumps of matcha that I hadn't mixed in well enough, but that's a problem of preparation that I know how to fix. Getting the foam...hmm. That might take longer.

It's like when I did some calligraphy at the Suzugamine Culture Festival. I can write 祭 just fine, but I didn't have any of the flair that a real master 書道家 would bring to the art.

No calligraphy to look at, but we do have a makeshift 床の間.

I didn't have any 和菓子 (wagashi, "Japanese sweets") and I'm not even sure where to get any without going to Mitsuwa and buying them directly from a bakery--with a quick search, yeah, looks that that's what I have to do--but the Asian grocery store down the street has a yuca and shredded coconut dessert (apparently from Malaysia?) that isn't Japanese at all but has a much more similar character to 和菓子 than, say, dark chocolate would. I alternated between bites of yuca, sips of matcha, and looking out the window, and it reminded me of how every time we'd see a sign in a temple that said "Tea and sweet," [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I would stop for a cup. And now I can make my own.

The ears on top of the tea are pretty cute, too. But I should probably buy my own tea bowl.
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
Stop the fucking presses--I ate a meal that didn't have any meat at all in it!

Okay, that's not really as revolutionary as I just made it sound. For one thing, said meal still had eggs and cheese in it, so it's not like I was willing to revoke the slaughter of the fatted calf for even as long as it took to sit down for dinner. And second, it's not like I haven't had vegetarian, or even vegan, meals before. It's just that when I'm planning a meal, I start out by thinking what meat I'm going to include, and--more pertinently--every single curry I've eaten before now has had meat or fish in it. But this one still passed the test even without it.

Though, hopefully you don't hate eggs.
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Sick day!

2015-Mar-19, Thursday 20:25
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Warning: this post is a little First World whiny, if that bothers you.

I took a sick day today, the first since I got the flu when I was working at Suzugamine and had to take three days off. I know that conjures up bafflement from anyone reading this who's familiar with Japan's work culture, but that was when swine flu hit Japan and they took every precaution necessary, including shutting down the school for a few days to isolate everyone from everyone else. That's how I was able to do it. Anyway, I've had a cold since Monday, and today I just felt awful when I woke up. As I was lying in bed, shivering and sweating with all the covers on me, I thought, "You know, I should take the day off."

And it worked! I feel much better, I still managed to get all my steps in (just walking is fine when you're sick, and I didn't have a terrible fever or anything later), I studied Japanese, I played more Planescape Torment, and I drank a truly enormous amount of tea. The first world whining part only comes in because I don't have separate sick days, so I had to dip into my personal days that I was mostly using for vacation in order to cover today. But it's not like I'll have to cancel any days off, because I was already carrying a week over into the new year! So really I'm just annoyed for no reason.

I'm glad I feel better, though. Hopefully I still feel better tomorrow!  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)

When I worked at Suzugamine, my second-favorite day of the week was Wednesday. My favorite day was Monday, because I only had one class that day and having a free day early in the week made weekly lesson planning really easy, but my second-favorite day was Wednesday because I'd get lunch at school in order to reduce [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's workload. For ¥550, I'd get a heaping plate of カツカレー, with delicious fatty pork, savory sauce, and fluffy rice, and I'd devour the whole thing. I even ate the first couple plates with chopsticks until the cafeteria workers told me in somewhat confused tones that it was okay to use a spoon.
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ACEN 2014!

2014-May-19, Monday 21:38
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
Last weekend was ACEN, which I've been going for nine years at this point, though admittedly not consistently. My interests have changed at this point so that I'm not really all that into anime anymore and barely know what's coming out and what's popular, but ACEN is still a great place to catch up with friends that are scattered around the country (or just out of our non-car-owning transit radius) but meet up for a weekend. Several of the people I saw actually didn't even buy con badges, they just came for the company. Honestly I might be getting to that point myself based on the panel content, but I like wandering around the dealer's room too much to just give up on officially attending. The selection is often more interesting than you can find online, probably because there's a lack of IP lawyers standing around like hawks.

And now, the daily breakdown.

I took only a half-day off from work, because I didn't think that there would be much I wanted to see in the morning and because the AMA started it's summer half-day program on the day ACEN started, fortunately. I expected that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I would arrive at about the same time, but literally as she was walking out the door a student came in who needed immediate attention and she ended up staying much longer than she intended and not arriving at the hotel until around 5:45. Since I had assumed she would be coming around the same time as I did and because I didn't want to haul a lunchbag to and from the con and because I'm really cheap, I didn't have lunch with me and so I ended up mostly just lounging around the room Friday afternoon. I did wander down to the dealer's room and over to [ profile] redpikachu's booth (Natural Pop! Made with love) to buy another cute stuffed animal. Last time it was a frog, and this time it was a corgi, and when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd finally arrived I gave it to her, and, well:

So happy!

We both ate a ton of food, because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd hadn't gotten to eat lunch either with all the chaos at her school so we stuffed ourselves on apples, bananas, Syrian cheese, olives, almonds, homemade beef jerky, and dark chocolate. Then we went and met [personal profile] fiendishfanfares's husband, who had kindly offered to let us borrow his work laptop to give our panel on Saturday, for info about which see the Saturday section. Then we went back to our room again, powered up the laptop and transferred the presentation over, and ran through it once to make sure that we would be able to pull it off. Having done that successfully and confidently, we headed down to the AMV room.

Watching the AMV contest entries is somewhat of a tradition for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I, though it was most prevalent in 2005-2008, when we were attending multiple cons per year and could see AMVs riffing off of AMVs we had seen at previous cons (like this Azumanga Daioh AMV, made as a parody of this Evangelion AMV which aired six months previous). In 2012 ACEN didn't have any AMV Contest because of some leadership kerfuffle, and since we didn't attend in 2013, and since we hadn't gone from 2009-2011 at all due to the whole living in Japan thing, so I was curious what had become of it and...well, there was barely anything to it. I remember at Otakon they'd have the AMV Contest entry viewings in one of the auditoriums, but this year at ACEN it was in one of the small video rooms and there were never more than a couple dozen people in there at a time. We didn't even get a sheet with the AMVs listed to vote on them like I remember previously. I was glad I managed to identify a VNV Nation just by the style (it was Control, set to a racing anime called Redline), but otherwise the contest was kind of sad, and we only stayed for a bit because a friend had invited us to go to Anime Hell.

We headed over to the place where Anime Hell was supposed to play, but they weren't letting anyone stand in line yet, so we headed up to our room for a bit to wait for the signal. When we got a text, we immediately took the stairs down and walked over to the ballroom, followed the enormous line that had somehow sprung up in the last 15 minutes, and at the very moment that we reached the end of the line, staff announced that the line was closed. While standing off to the side and trying to decide what to do, we ran into [ profile] stephen_poon and some other people we knew, and after a brief chat, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, [ profile] stephen_poon, and I headed over to the Hyatt's lobby bar for a drink and a chat. We were there for maybe five minutes before they called last call, so after some conversation we headed over to Red Bar for a while.

After a lovely conversation about [ profile] stephen_poon's trip to Spain, and about Japan with another friend who had come to visit us in 2011, and then [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd said our farewells and headed off to Let's Play Oregon Trail, which we'd been to previously and had a lot of fun watching. It was about an hour in, and while the players this year had done better than last time (where the panicked players had forgotten to buy any weapons and were only able to hunt because the organizers took pity on them and let them buy a pistol), they still kept trying to hunt fast-moving birds with shotguns and not having much luck. After basically everyone starved to death within 30 miles of Independence, Missouri due to chronic incompetence, we succumbed to our tiredness, went back to the room, and slept.

We were planning to go to a panel on Chicago's Anime Scene, but we thought that it would be best if we didn't set an alarm, and we woke up just a bit too late to go, so instead we went down to the dealer's room again since [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had arrived too late on Friday to go before it closed. I had seen that Do Bats Eat Cats had a space in the Artists' Alley, and after seeing their jewelry at a store near us, and now that Japan paid us and we have money, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd wanted some new earrings.

After getting those, we looked around for a booth selling Japanese tableware to replace the ones we had that have broken over the year, but couldn't find anything. I had figured that somewhere would have chopsticks, or tea cups, or something, but no. The most we found some was kitschy anime mugs. I know we'll be able to get them at the Ginza Festival in August, but it would have been nice to do it now.

Then it was time for our presentation: "Seifuku and Bunkasai: Japanese Education in Anime," which was about the differences in our experience of the Japanese education system vs. how we've seen it portrayed in anime. You can download our slides here if you didn't or couldn't attend, and we have plenty of stories to tell if you want. It's always hard to judge these things, but I think it went well. A few people came up and thanked us afterward, including a guy who had just been shortlisted for JET and was leaving in July, who hadn't been sure he would learn anything in the panel and actually learned a lot, and a woman who asked us about Keion. Also, not many people left during the panel, which is a good sign.

After a break back to our room for lunch (more homemade beef jerky, apples, olives, nuts, and cheese), we went back down to the AMV room and parked in there while waiting on word from one of our friends, and then when we got a text and he was in the General Gaming room, we headed over there and played Once Upon a Time, about which you can read a review I wrote here. A few games of that finished, we went back to the dealer's room again because I wanted an 8-bit Legend of Zelda heart keychain, but while we couldn't find one of those, we found this set of magnets:

On the way back from the dealer's room to the Hyatt, we ran into [personal profile] fiendishfanfares and her family, and while we had missed her daughter's cosplay, we did get to see video of her doing a kamehameha as only a toddler can. Then it was back to the AMV room to catch the re-airing of the contest videos, and while this time the freestyle videos were playing instead of the drama ones, we didn't stay that long because we hadn't eaten lunch in favor of a very large brunch, and they hadn't even handed out a voting card for the AMVs.

Dinner was at the Hyatt's restaurant, which intially looked incredibly expensive for average food, except it turned out that they had a "teriyaki buffet" for $22 that, well:

I was pleasant surprised, considering how much of a hipster foodie snob I am. They also had a dessert bar with cheesecake, which is an excellent way to my heart.

After another brief rest in the room, we headed out to a succession of room parties that lasted the rest of the night, though with one nice interruption. A friend I met in elementary school and have talked to sporadically in the years since then messaged me to let me know that he'd be in Red Bar meeting with some people he knew, and having picked up that I was at ACEN based on my Facebook posts, he asked if we wanted to meet up for a drink.

And we did, and despite all the comments I make about being aloof and having trouble with small talk and blah blah blah, we had no trouble keeping a conversation going despite not really talking in depth since middle school. He also sold us on Wizard World, and while I'm not sure we're going to make it this year due to its proximity, though we might go for the day on Saturday, but we'll certainly try to get there in the future. I've been leery of going to comic conventions, just because I know so little about comics--I had to ask [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd who the Avengers were--but since so much of ACEN was us talking to friends, Wizard World or the various other cons in Chicago could easily be the same thing. And maybe I'd learn something and no longer be a comic Fake Geek Guy.

After a nice conversation and a following succession of room parties and meeting with friends, we elected to skip the rave and the various events happening late at night and went to bed at 12:30.

We woke up late and missed the panels we wanted to go to again, including one called "ACEN over 30," which I suspect was placed at 9:15 a.m. because all of us old-timers can't stay up raving until 5 a.m. like the kiddies can. But we slept past it, and after cleaning our room and checking out, we headed down to the dealer's room for one last look around and I managed to find an 8-bit heart keychain. Then we went back to the AMV room, found it was closed, and with nothing further to do and feeling pretty tired, we headed out to the Blue Line and went home.

I'm not sure I'm really the audience for ACEN anymore. I think in the last year we've watched...maybe a dozen episodes of anime, and quite possibly less, because I don't remember when we finished Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It's not that I dislike it or anything, it's just that there's so many things competing for my attention that it tends to fall into a lower tier. I didn't even attend any panels this year other than the one that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I presented.

Despite that, I'm probably going to still keep coming, because it's a great excuse to see people and catch up. Even if I'm not happily going to the various panels and dancing for hours, there's enough there to keep me interested. Maybe we'll even do more panels. I don't care about all the fan panels that take up a big chunk of the schedule, but living in Japan for years does give us a perspective that I suspect a lot of the attendees for ACEN wish they had.

Oh, and cosplay I liked:

Probably the most accurate Sephiroth I've ever seen. Ah, those early Playstation graphics.

Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite games, and this is one of my favorite cosplays.

I'm [personal profile] dorchadas and this is my favorite Mass Effect cosplay at ACEN.

I didn't actually see this guy, I just grabbed the photo from Twitter. But that's awesome.

Free time

2010-Apr-12, Monday 23:25
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Well, I haven't really posted about it before, but I have a lot more free time now due to being out of work. I wasn't actually told the reason for it (there were some hints), but on the Lang side it mostly seemed related to the distance. My boss was considering bringing me in part-time, but it would have cost my boss roughly ¥70,000 (about $750) a month in transportation fees to bring me into the city. It wasn't cost effective for her and I wouldn't have made enough on my end to bother with it, so working at Lang was out.

Suzugamine was a nice place to work, but as it turned out they simply didn't have the money to rehire me. Enrollment had dropped by almost 65% in the past 10 years, and it's getting low enough that the foreign teacher they have at Suzugamine Tandai ("junior college." Literally, "short college") doesn't have enough students for a full workload, so they're bringing him over to teach classes as well as getting more part time teachers with no experience. Apparently, that was specifically what the vice-principal was looking for. I expect that, since they're switching to team-teaching this year for all English conversation classes, they don't want foreign teachers who have their own ideas about teaching and therefore will screw up the JTE's perfect lesson plans. I may be being uncharitable, though.

I will miss the students, though. Here's hoping Ayumi and Sachiyo stop being so bored, and Mayumi does manage to become a translator, and Yuka goes on to become a child psychologist and Miwako a primary school teacher, and Masumi gets as good at English as she hopes, and all the others succeed. I may see them around Hiroshima here and then, but whether they'll want to chat is another question entirely.

I have talent!

2010-Feb-28, Sunday 22:43
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
At least, some people think so.

Tonight was the Yae-Nishi Neighborhood Talent Show, winter edition. I was originally supposed to perform an act in the summer talent show when they held it six months ago, but at that time I had caught a cold and wasn't able to sing. This time, I had no such excuse, so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I did Scarborough Fair as a duet (with her on guitar) and then I sang Skibbereen alone. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd also did a retelling of Momotarou's story in English and Japanese with the Wednesday night children's class (she read the Japanese, they read the English). Her students translated it into Hiroshima's local dialect, so all the old women in the audience got a kick out of her reading it. The rest of the acts were the standard fair--karaoke, hula dancing, traditional Japanese dancing, shamisen playing, and kagura. Basically, the same as last time. Still fun, though, and I certainly didn't do as badly as I was afraid I would.

On the work front, bad news--it turns out that Suzugamine isn't renewing its contract with Lang, so I won't be there full time starting next school year. I was initially worried it was because of my performance, but I think it's simple economics--the number of applicants to Suzugamine has fallen by almost 60% in the past 10 years (from over 1000 to down to around 400), which doesn't leave quite as much money for things like a foreign English teacher. They're going to ask the Japanese teachers to take on the primary duty for teaching the spoken English classes (which they'll hate--this year was supposed to be team teaching, but they pitched a fit and so I taught most of them alone) and have part-timers come in to help with the classes. This means that the teachers will have to plan all the lessons, explain them to the part time teachers (possibly multiple times per week, if different part-time teachers come), and then do most of the teaching. I don't expect anything good will come of it as regards the students' education, but...well, there's nothing I can do, really.

I talked with Yoshimi-sensei about it, and she told me that the younger teachers all have pretty crappy employment conditions--one year contracts that can be cut if the school doesn't get any enrollment, not many benefits, they have to teach homerooms, and so on. Meanwhile, the older teachers rake in fat paychecks for doing fuck all. No wonder Yoshimi-sensei and Arishima-sensei live with their parents. I imagine they aren't paid enough to live on their own. She and the librarian told me that it might actually be good, because I should go to a school where they're more kind (like Chiyoda, say). Next time I'll probably give her my e-mail address in case she wants to keep practicing English. She told me she kind of looks up to me, because she wants to move to America and teach gymnastics there, but her grandparents and parents want her to stay in Japan, marry a Japanese man and have babies, and keep saying that foreign countries are far too unsafe and she'll get killed if she moves. Then again, I have been asked how many guns I own more than once, so it seems that American media is doing its job. Yippie-kay-yay, motherfucker.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
So last weekend was Suzugamine's bounenkai (忘年会, "year-forgetting gathering"), and they really went all-out. It was held at a ritzy hotel in Hiroshima down by the beach (with its own attached minimall, restaurant, reflecting pool inside with koi it in, the works) and a troupe of kagura performers came out from Shimane-ken (the next prefecture over) to perform dinner theater for us. After the beginning part, where we received candy from a guy dressed as an oni (and where I got my own personal handful of candy), the performers came out and started to do a performance of Yamata no Orochi (if you've played Okami, you don't need to click that link). This is the most popular kagura play of all, but I had never seen it performed before because it's quite complex to stage. Each of the heads is played by a separate actor, and there's a 15-20 minute sequence that involves them all twining in and around each other to make interesting shapes. It was really neat, and probably the best part of dinner as all the people at my table couldn't speak English and the range of topics we could talk about in Japanese was a bit limited. I did get asked if I ate sashimi, which was a bit odd considering that they had just seen me eat a big plate of it. I assume they were just trying to make conversation and picking a topic they figured I would actually understand.

Also, the main course was kobe beef, so that was cool.

One thing I've noticed that's different from Western European/North American countries here is that people's names have immediately obvious meanings. For example, there are people named things like Honor and Beauty (Masami), A Thousand Pictures of Beauty (Chiemi), A Thousand Springs (Chiharu), Second Son (Jiro), Summer's Child (Natsuko), Courage (Yuuki), Great Protector (Daisuke) and so on. Last names include Mountaintop (Yamasaki), Base of the Mountain (Yamamoto), Pond and Rice Field (Ikeda), Bamboo Field (Takeda), Main Rice Field (Honda), Eastern Mountain (Higashiyama), Western Village (Nishimura), and so on. These mostly came about the same way English family name for commoners did. As you can see, they picked some nearby notable geological feature or landmark. I just find it interesting because if you tried to do something similar in America, most people would think the name was ridiculous (with a few notable exceptions, like "Autumn"), even most of our names do have meaning, just not in English.

Random thoughts.

Wow. I'm slacking

2009-Nov-24, Tuesday 22:40
dorchadas: (Iocaine Powder)
I haven't written an LJ entry in over a month. To think that I used to write multiple entries a day.

The Suzugamine Culture Festival went really well. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd showed up and we went around and looked at the room displays, which were mostly about the trips that the different classes of students had taken (Etajima, Okinawa, and one class went to Bangladesh). The kanji writing went okay--I think that while my kanji was technically correct, it lacked artistry. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me that the old men in the audience with her were saying stuff like "ええ、祭?すごい!" (Wow, "matsuri"? That's amazing!"), so I impressed some people at least.

Most of my students who came up to us used it as an opportunity to tell [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd how cute she was or how white her skin was, which she gets everywhere, so that's nothing new. The only memorable part was when one student, who I will call Saki (for that is her name--咲, meaning "blossom"), followed up "You are cute" with "外国人になりたい" ("I want to be a foreigner"). That was a bit odd, though it's certainly a good story to tell the other teachers at Suzugamine. Having pale skin is huge in Japan--a lot of Japanese people tan really easily. You can tell especially with any of the students on the tennis or baseball teams. They tend to have very dark skin anywhere not under their uniform and pretty pale skin otherwise. Do not point this out to them.

Some of the teachers at Suzugamine kind of make me feel unwelcome, but just today I was talking with Yoshimi-sensei, one of the teachers I tutor in English, and she told me that they don't say hello to her either. In fact, she knew instantly who I was talking about without having to describe them, and said it was mostly the same teachers she didn't like when she was a student there, and now she says they haven't changed. The whole thing came about when she and the librarian (we meet in the library) asked me if I felt like I knew what was going on, and I said that sometimes I didn't but I didn't blame too many people. After all, there's a morning meeting every day where they explain what's going in, right? It's not their fault I don't speak super-formal Japanese enough to really understand it all. But she related an incident where she put up a poster and then got yelled at about how that was forbidden, and that other teachers too often don't tell you to do something and then get annoyed when you don't do it. Then we bitched a bit about teachers who wouldn't update their styles ("I've taught this way for 30 years! It worked then, it works now!"), and I taught them "The more things change, the more they stay the same," though not in the original French.

Last weekend was the first time since Tōkyō that I've been to karaoke. It was actually a lot more fun that it was then (because of the smaller number of people), and much more fun than in America. Unlike the "sing in front of the whole bar" way it's done in America, Japanese karaoke parlours have dozens of small private rooms that you rent out. You can order food and drink using the in-room phone that's sent up. They also have songs I actually want to sing, like Within Temptation's What Have You Done, Nightwish's Amaranth, and the ever popular Never Gonna Give You Up. Sadly, I did not manage to press the "pre-empt order" button for the last song. Anyway, I've learned that I need to go to karaoke more often because it's a ton of fun.

I've been spending time hacking the Cthulhutech system, specifically the psychic bits. I wrote a lot of extra powers (detailed here) and also deleted some of the extraneous rolls and the tendency for powers to cost an enormous amount. It's a good system at base, but it requires some changes to really work well. Then again, for the game I'm running, I have so little interaction with the system that I could probably run it using conflict-based resolution in Risus and not suffer a significant amount (Kily: Psychic 2, Therapist 5, Judo 2).

I may be becoming an actual RPG freelancer due to the aforementioned system hacks as well. More info maybe, depending on A) whether it happens at all or B) the terms of the inevitable non-disclosure agreement.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
And now, time for another update. They're rare because my life is a lot of sameness, so I save it until I have interesting things to report.

I got into a big discussion about health care with a libertarian acquaintance on Facebook. It went on for around two weeks, hit 70-something posts, and only ended because of his passive-aggressive status sniping and complaining that my posts were too long so he was only going to respond in person now (and then posting a Ron Paul interview on my wall the next day). His arguments were the usual libertarian idiocy--I can basically summarize them with, "Free market invisible hand free market rational actor free market government fails at everything free market income tax is theft RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRON PAUL!" and give you a good idea. There's a subsidiary discussion on my Facebook wall if anyone wants to read that for a more in-depth analysis.

The best comment was 'sociology has no impact on the market.' I'm a bit curious about this, because I thought he lived on Earth, but clearly he's from the Perfect Robot Future where frail meatbag weakness has been replaced with pure, flawless, metallic logic.

Suzugamine's cultural festival is next week. I've been asked to do some calligraphy at the festival, and I'm finding it more difficult than I thought I would. I'm going to write (matsuri, 'festival'), and that's not a problem. The problem is in public Japanese calligraphy, the way one writes the character is just as important as technical proficiency. So if I just draw straight lines with minimal flourish and get it perfect, it's still not a good performance. That's proving a bit difficult for me. I practice again on Wednesday.

Last weekend was the fall festival in Chiyoda. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I thought there would be food stands and so on around, but we went all over the place and didn't find them. We eventually went to the Arima (our local neighborhood) community center and found out that that's where everyone had gone. There were the traditional kagura performances, including one comedy version of "Tamamo-no-Mae" where the warriors had hard hats and the monk, when Tamamo-no-Mae transformed into a fox and tried to eat him, pulled out a gun and shot her. We also had oden, which was actually good this time. My previous experience with it was last year, but it was only lukewarm when I had it and oden is designed to be served hot.

On the geek-RP front, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is finally running a game for me. It's a dark fantasy game using nWoD as system and reference material (using this thread, written by John Snead, one of the freelancers for White Wolf, as the basis and expanding from there), drawing on Vampire Hunter D, Claymore, and so on for inspiration. It's pretty awesome to actually get to play in a face-to-face game after spending literally years just running. I even used Campaign Cartographer to make a map of the campaign area, though it lacks a lot of detail (because we're going to fill it in in play).

Scribblenauts is fun, and the Large Hadron Collider is hax. That is all.
dorchadas: (Slime)
As promised, here are some of the rules that Suzugamine students sign up for when they attend:

  • Obviously, they have to wear uniforms. It's all mandated--skirts, shirts, shoes (two kinds) and even official socks with the school seal of them. Winter and summer versions of the uniform. And yes, some of them do hike their skirt up to Revolutionary Girl Utena levels even though it's an all-girls school. There's also an official schoolbag, and an official sportsbag if you're on a team. The main place for individuality is in the choice of pencilcase, folders, and the charms/stuffed animals they hang off their bags.

  • Wearing the uniform outside of school is encouraged (this is actually a rule). This is because in Japan, a school uniform is considered formal clothing, and you can wear one where you'd wear a suit/nice dress in America (assuming you're high-school age, anyway).

  • Hair cannot be colored, dyed, permed, styled, curled, braided, be-ribboned, or above the top of the head. Any student who naturally has brown or curly hair is required to file a "curly hair report" with the school office, otherwise "there may be difficulties." I am not making this up. The only permitted hairstyles are loose, ponytail, or pigtails. Pigtails are pretty common among high-school students, though when they hit college or their twenties they all switch to dying their hair blond. Kind of like America, actually, though Japanese hair means it turns out more a honey-brown color.

鶴姫伝説 was your standard Japanese love story. Boy, girl, boy meets girl, girl receives a vision from a goddess tellling her to take up the sword to defend her village, boy and girl fall in love, boy is killed delivering a message to a rival daimyo, girl hears from best friend who is now daimyo's servant that he gets blind drunk all the time, girl dresses in boy's armor and leads an army to defeat rival daimyo, girl ascends bodily into heaven leaving her armor behind. You know, typical. More seriously, I thought it was pretty neat, though I'm sure there were subtleties of the story that I didn't really understand. It was also a musical, which caught me by surprise.

The band in my current music is pretty neat. It's Finnish folk metal--you can get a good example of one of their songs is Ryyppäjäiset. It's instrumental, but you can get a nice summary of their musical style. Makes me want to play Unreal World again.

Tomorrow is the Suzugamine Sports Festival. That should be fun.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Yesterday, I went to dinner at Lal’s (an Indian restaurant) in the city like I usually do on Wednesdays. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd teaches the children’s class in Chiyoda on Wednesdays and can’t be around to pick me up from the station, so rather than walk home, I stay a little later and eat in the city. Anyway, this time, I went in right as they were opening and sat down. The server came over, gave me the special speed menu, then put a hand on it again and asked, "’いつもでいいですか?" Itsumo de ii desu ka?, or roughly, "Is the usual okay?" I said it was, and had dinner a few minutes later. It's nice to be recognized.

One of my students tried to kiss me yesterday. Fortunately, it was a joke.

Here's the story. I gave them a speaking test yesterday, and when it was done, there was only 10 minutes of class left, so I gave them free time. So they said, "Thank you!" and then they said "I love you!" and then one girl said "kiss me!" to which I rolled my eyes and responded with "No." I thought that was the end, until a group of them tried to get me to take my hair out of the ponytail. I managed to hold them off by trying to get them to ask me in English, but Hamasaki-san (the girl who introduced herself as Hamasaki Ayumi) ran up to try to show me what they wanted and reached for my hair. While fending her off, I turned a bit and ended up with my face a few inches away from her, after which she said, "Kiss me." They're clearly reading too much shoujo manga.

I finally took my hair down for a bit after they asked in English. They asked me to do it again, and I told them that I might do it next time if they were quiet and listened. We'll see if that actually works. I suspect it won't, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Tomorrow the school is going to a performance of 鶴姫伝説 Tsuru-hime Densetsu, or "Legend of the Crane Princess." I think I get to go as well, but my only confirmation is an offhand comment from one of the teachers I tutor and a note that there's no morning meeting tomorrow, so I'd better check. Hopefully I'll be able to follow the story.

Next entry: I tell you some of Suzugamine's rules.
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
I'm never sure what my students are going to understand. Today, for example.

Me: "Okay, we'll finish a little early."
Them: *blank stare*
Me: (I know they know finish...) "You know finish? End?"
Them: *blank stare*
Me: "Stop?"
Them: *blank stare*
Me: "ちょっと早く終わります。"
Them: Oooooooh.
Me: *facepalm*

The reason I'm facepalming is they know what finish means--I ask them if they're done with a worksheet or a dialogue in English and they can answer just fine. Maybe "early" shut their brains down.

RP-related nerdery )
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
After the saga of getting my bank account (chronicled by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd in this post), I expected to have a bit more difficulty getting my cash card. But nope--it was essentially painless. I took my form in, added an extra number where I needed to, stamped it, picked a PIN number ("secureeto nunbaa") and then off I went. It should be here in 2 to 5 days, and then I can finally get paid for my job.

We went to Softbank to resolve the phone thing, and it did turn out to be a mistake. For whatever reason, Visa stopped accepting the charges from Softbank, which meant that my bill hadn't been paid in two months. So we went to the store, paid the bill, confirmed that it was fine to pay with cash from now on (which is no problem for me, since that way I can avoid being mugged by the exchange rate anyway), and then 20 minutes later it was working again. Simple. I also need to stop downloading $0.99 games on my iPhone. Some of them are okay, some of them are good, but with most of them it's obvious why they're only $0.99. What I really want is an iPhone port of Final Fantasy 1. That'd be amazing.

I'm currently on vacation from school. Normally, Japanese school teachers have to go in year round, even when the students are gone, despite not having anything to do. However, in some respects I'm treated more like a part-time teacher, so I get the time off. It'll be a nice break, I think.

I've been playing a heavily-modded Morrowind lately. To give you an idea of what I've done to this game, the base game is maybe 1.2 gigs with both expansions installed. My installation is 4 gigs with all the extra content, files, textures, etc. I've added into it. I've probably put another ~80 hours of gameplay into it on top of what it already had. And all this without having tried Oblivion. Of course, I have a backlog of games to play, but I just beat Final Fantasy IV on the DS so I'm at least working on them slowly. Now to beat Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and start up Phantom Hourglass...

Is Oblivion worth playing? Or, I guess a better question is, how is Oblivion compared to Morrowind? I know about some things (Daggerfall-style fast travel, no levitation/teleporting, Radiant AI, bandits in full daedric), and I know about mods to fix some of the problems I'd have with it, but I'm curious about the opinion of anyone who has played it.

My parents are coming at the end of the week, then off to Kyoto (again) and Nara. That'll be fun, I hope. ^_^

Update time

2009-Jul-06, Monday 15:17
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I haven't been updating a lot lately, mainly because working full time and commuting two hours each way to get to my job takes a lot out of me. I've had a short vacation now, though, so I'm going to update with whats been going on. Let's see...

Well, first of all, the reason I had a vacation is because one of the students at Suzugamine came down with swine flu. A neighboring school had a group of students go to Hawai'i, and when they came back, they played a baseball game against Suzugamine. A few days later, both our student and theirs came down with swine flu. Our student lived in the dorms, so they postponed tests and shut the whole school down for a few days. The other teachers had to come in, but I didn't. Partially because I get treated a bit like a part-time teacher by the school--when I have nothing to do, I don't actually have to be there.

Chiyoda High School's cultural festival was a couple weeks ago. People here seem pretty surprised when I tell them that there isn't really anything like a cultural festival in America. I mean, elementary schools have fun fairs, but those aren't really the same thing. Anyway, it was pretty neat. The class homerooms rooms were all decorated in different themes (Egypt, space, a haunted house, etc.), and all the various clubs had displays. The manga club had a bunch of drawings, the tea ceremony club did tea ceremonies, the kagura club performed, and so on. It was a lot of fun, though I imagine it would get boring after a while since they're the same every year.

My phone stopped working a few days ago. As near as I can tell, Softbank stopped billing my credit card for it last month without informing me (or, at least, without informing me in English). I have no idea why. I can still get calls or texts in, but nothing goes out and I have no internet connection. We're going to try to get it fixed later today, in the same trip where we go to add my name to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's bank account like I should have asked them to do 11 months ago .

School is still going well. Slow sometimes, but good. The students are getting more used to me, though it can be difficult to communicate sometimes. Some of them want to learn but are bad at languages, some of them want to learn and are pretty good at it, most of them are just taking English because the government says they have to. The usual story. Lesson planning is kind of fun, but can be tedious. It's especially annoying with my Wednesday classes, because Wednesdays kept being used for different activities, so the Wednesday classes were about a month behind. Blarg.

That's all for now.

So tired...

2009-Apr-29, Wednesday 22:14
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
So, my new job is interesting.

First of all, it's a 45 minute bus ride from Chiyoda to Hiroshima (I take the 6:19 a.m. bus). Then, once I get there, I have to wait 10 minutes for the appropriate streetcar to arrive. Once that comes, I take that and arrive at Suzugamine at 7:50, and have to wait until 8:20 for work to actually begin. I can't take the next bus (the 6:43 one) because if it's even a single minute late, I miss the next streetcar and then miss the morning teacher's meeting, which is very, very bad.

Originally, I was told that it was all going to be team teaching with a Japanese English Teacher, much the same way that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's job is. When I went in for the explanatory meeting, I was told that it would be mostly middle school students with some high school (a direct quote), and team teaching except for one test-prep class which I would be teaching myself. Okay, I thought, not a problem. Then on the first day when I went in to work, it turned out that I was actually going to be teaching 12 out of 15 classes by myself. All 12 of those classes are high schoolers.

So, yeah, the job description was a total pack of lies. Some people here may be thinking, "But Dorchadas, you teach at an all-girls high school in Japan! You're living the otaku[1] dream!" Yes, I am surrounded every day by dozens of Japanese schoolgirls. But I'm far more worried about having to plan all the lessons myself. It's especially ironic because Tetsui-san at Lang said I should come here because I didn't have much teaching experience and working with a Japanese English Teacher would help me learn them. Ha. Fat chance. So far, it's worked out okay because I've been able to look over the lesson plans of the guy who taught here before I did for inspiration. We'll see how well it goes in a month or so.

The girls...vary. Some of them are quite studious and willing to work hard and try to understand (the students in the aforementioned test-prep class). Some of them couldn't give a damn about English and use English Conversation class as an excuse to catch up on whose boyfriend is sleeping with whom now. One student introduced herself to me as Hamasaki Ayumi; much to my annoyance, her plan actually had some moderate success because it got me to remember her real name. My job is to make them care about English. Well...easier said than done, true. Some of them will never care. Some of them don't need me to help them care. It's the group in the middle that I have to reach out to.

It is a matter of great universal cruelty that during the time when it's easiest to learn a new language (until age 11-13 or so), you don't give a damn about doing it. You only really care when you're much older and it gets a lot harder.

Anyway, it's bed time. I have to get up at 5:20 a.m. again.

[1]: Do not actually use otaku to a Japanese person. Unlike in America, where it means, "an anime fan," the original meaning is closer to "unhealthily obsessed fanatic." It can also be a polite way to refer to someone else's house, as in "otaku e maitte mo yoroshii de gozaimasu ka?" which is something like, "Would it possibly be okay for me to please come to your house?" Note that no one under thirty actually talks like that ever.


dorchadas: (Default)

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