Monday, June 26, 2006

Crazy Weekend in the Cave!

Well, this has been a completely hectic weekend packed with nothing but fun.
As I have very little time now, I'm only going to describe my Saturday for the moment.

On Saturday, I went spelunking into a somewhat touristy, but nonetheless interesting cave. My friends Jake, Erika, Ami, and Kenji all came along. Our first stop was the hyakuen (100 yen, like a dollar store) and bought flashlights and glowsticks. Then Kenji drove us way out into the country where this cave is, and we each paid 1200 yen to get in. Unfortunately, the cave was far too wet to bring my camera inside. The first half of the cave was very touristy, with stairs, platforms and interpretive signs. However, about third of a kilometer in, you come to the good stuff!

We waded in our sandals through freezing water while making our way up this stream. Lots of boulders, tunnels. There was one section that was about 15 meters where we were on our hands and knees in the water, crawling up this thing. Several times we had to pause, because our companion Jake, was uncomfortably wide for the journey, and struggled to pull himself through some squeezes.

After an hour and a half, we finished the cave, which was maybe a kilometer as one walks, though less as the bird flies. Anyways, it was a very good time. We never did get lost, but I don't think the cave was big enough for that anyways. It was definitely the WETTEST cave I've ever been in. All the caves in Arizona (fond memories of the Lava Tubes) I've been in were dry as a bone.

After this, we came across the most curious restaurant, which serves some kind of soba noodles. They serve cold noodles that slide down this long half pipe and you have to retrieve it as it comes floating down the stream of water. See pictures. Unfortunately, I don't recall what this was called at the moment, but I will be sure to ask. It was lots of fun.

Tomorrow, I hope to enthrall everyone with a description of the whimsical mountaintop shrine of Yamadera and my visit to the Nikka Whiskey Distillery

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All sorts of goodies

Hello everyone!

Not too much going on today. Today we Asst. English Teachers had a monthly meeting at the Board of Education. Which is usually very boring (and was this week as well). Apparently, the owners of my apartment complex changed. I had to go to a second meeting afterwards with the people in my apartment complex.

They gave us free towels and told us that our locks would be replaced with electronic number locks. They also said the location of our trash bin would change and they would add a parking space. Why telling us these 3 things would take over an hour is absolutely beyond my comprehension.

This evening I went to Baskin Robbins with my English Conversation Class students today and just got back. They really are a nice bunch of people.

Also, if anyone is interested, I've discovered the virtues of RyanAir, which is a discount air carrier in Europe, if anybody is heading to the continent. I managed to book a flight from Rome to Brussels for only about 114 Euros. Not bad in my book.

Anyways, since this was a slow day, filled with lots of obnoxious chores and nothing really special, I'll leave you all with another funny picture!!

Also, I'm looking for other ideas and suggestions for improving this blog, so if you have any ideas, you can write to me at or one of my other email adresses if you know them. You can also post a message on here. Also, if you are reading this regularly, let me know, so I can write stuff that you might find interesting.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Day in the Office

Here's something people might find amusing.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wedding Bells

No, I'm not getting married, but I DID go to a Bridal Fashion Show where I met this model here. I actually went there with some friends to see my friend Jen Mitten as the sole foreigner in the show. Astonishingly, Jen was too big to wear any of the western style bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses. So, she could only wear a kimono, which she described as "uncomfortable and hot."

I was a little surpised. It was a very good show, with good production values. Most of the models were professionals (with the exeption of Jen). Unfortunately, there was a very low turnout.

Only about 25 people came. I came with a group of about 6, leaving only 19 or so other people who came. It most certainly was not Paris or Milan, but it was a good time. I had fun playing with my camera.

Sushi Taisho

Yesterday Evening, I went out to dinner at a sushi place or sushiya. My friend Kame's parents owned the place. I figure just because I knew her, I got about 70-130 USD worth of sushi for free. (I did pay about 30 dollars US). It was a good evening, because her father, years ago, made sushi in New York City and lived there for a year. Had a lot of interesting things to say.

For anyone interested in learning about eating sushi in Japan, here is an informative video that a friend (Skilz) sent to me.

sushi video

You would laugh even harder if you knew what was true and what was nonsense.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Getting Warmer in Japan

Well, I've decided to add another student's blog to my little monkey house on the internet. If you are interested in learning Japanese, or reading about the lives of my students, this is a cool place to go. I think I'm going to get any student's web pages and see if they want to see.

Thursday, I started a new Japanese class in the nearby town of Motomiya Machi. I think it might be a little bit better. For one, they recently got a new teacher at my class in Koriyama, and she simply isn't as good a teacher. Also, the ratio of teachers to students in Motomiya is about 2 to 1, so I get a lot of extra attention and help. The only downside I see is that they focus more on grammar and reading than my other class. I'm hoping to focus almost exclusively on conversation. My new teacher wants me to learn a lot of new chinese characters, which I don't think is beneficial to me due to my plans of leaving Japan in a little more than a year.

As for Friday, I ate yakiniku ("grilled meat" that you cook yourself at the table) with my friend Jake and his girlfriend Junko. Yaki Niku is the best thing since sliced bread.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

8th Grader with a Business Card

Sorry I haven't updated in awhile, but at the moment, I'm extrordinarily busy.

I was at my larger school yesterday and was talking with a kid. Anyways, he mentioned in the conversation that he had a business card. Being a long-time business card collector (don't ask), my immediate thought was "I want one!" I have business cards from bosses, my Dad's bosses and clients, family, friends, pastors, and many other aquaintances. But I've never gotten a card from a STUDENT!

My second thought was, "Hey, what kind of 8th grader has his own business card?!" I knew that business cards (meishi) are far more common here in Japan, but sheesh. The Japanese even have their own etiquitte for handling and presenting meishi. But this was just funny.

Seriously though, the kid's name is Hikaru Endou, and he is extremely cool. He is one of a handful of students who earnestly desire and try to speak English. He's pretty good at it too.

Anyways, the card had a blog on it as well, which I will link to when I have a spare moment.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My English Conversation Class

Tonight I had the pleasure of teaching my weekly Eikaiwa, or English conversation class. I have about 15 students and once a week I teach them different ways of speaking or asking questions in English, and provide an atmosphere where they can use the English that they know.

My oldest student is 70 years old, while my youngest is 9. I'm enjoying it more than my classes in school, largely because they are more interested in learning English. I'm also finding most of the people in the class are very eager to learn, which makes teaching them that much easier and more fun

After the class, I went out for ice cream with a couple of them, and one of them is a volunteer in some kind of halfway house. Another man is retired and teaches about the history of Koriyama and the area around where I live.

I'm discovering that people often lead very simple lives here in Japan. People also don't say a whole lot, and its refreshing to speak to people who have lots to say.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Letter from Hazuki

Well, I heard from Hazuki, who was one of my best students during my first year in Koriyama.
She's a first year High School Student now, at one of the best High School's in my city. I met her from Mihota Chugakko last year, when she was in 8th and 9th grade.

A while ago I had met her mother at the sushi store, and gave her my email. I am a little suprised to hear back from her. I'll have to give her the address to this blog, and she can post comments and talk to people here.

So I invited her to Asaka Reimei's International Day Festival, which is a big event in July. My friend Jake and I have agreed to teach an American Cooking Class. Out of the kindness of our hearts, Jake and I plan on sharing the rich culinary heritage of the United States (Rice Krispy Treats).

Hiking in Sukagawa

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Mie drove me South of our city of Koriyama, into the mountains. We revisited a place we had been before, but had quickly left due to a rainstorm. Fortunately, the sky and temperature shined on us yesterday, and we were able to do some hiking. We went up this mountain trail, where we found a spring, and an endless number of ferns.
I tried to photograph some, and this is my first effort. I have a few with the ferns mixed in with the forest, but this will have to do for starters.

Anyways, my friend and I returned back to my place, where she taught me how to make Yaki-Soba (fried noodles). Most of the time we spent just joking around though. She's trying to learn English from me, and I'm trying to learn Japanese from her. So we occasionally hang out.

I also heard from my friend Brenden today, and we will be planning a trip to Korea together this fall. I've also been busy reading up on Italy, and trying to decide what to do with my time there. I heard from my cousin Allen Dyer, who suggested Sicily, which I'm going to see if I can fit into my plans. If any of you have been to Italy, and have some suggestions (besides the Colluseum and the Vatican) don't be afraid to let me know.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Yesterday evening with Paipin

Yesterday Evening, I went out with Paipin, who is the sole Chinese guy in my weekly Thursday night Japanese as a Second Language Class. He's only been here in Japan for about 1 year, but his Japanese is already better than mine. I suppose it doesn't help that I'm stuck at school all day listening to people speak and practice english with (or at) me.
Anyways we went out to Kaiten Sushi, which for all you American types is sushi on tiny plates circling around a conveyor belt. Its like the luggage pick up circle at the airport, where the bags go round and round (except with sushi). Its actually kind of amusing at first, but one quickly grows accustomed to such things. I'll include a picture sometime.

We talked about many things, but mostly about the class we share and the challenges learning Japanese and what we think about this country.

I also met the mother there of two former students of mine. They wanted my email, but I have yet to hear back from them. The mother told me there was a problem sending the mail, and asked for the address again. If I hear from them again, I'll give them the address of this site. She'll be writing from a cell phone, as people here don't typically have home computers with internet connections. At least, they don't seem to be quite as common as they are State-side.