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Thursday, 24 August 2006
Car and Mobile Phone in Japan.
Next in our exciting series of "Mike Living in Japan" is the one-two punch of my car and my keitai (cell phone). First, my car. It's a special species of cars in Japan known as "kei" cars. Kei cars are essentially subcompact cars, that are engineered to fit within certain parameters set by the gov't such as of engine displacement, size, and horsepower.. If it qualifies, you can save a lot on insurance and inspections, not to mention savings on fuel. You can tell Kei cars apart from normal cars because they carry yellow license plates. There are kei trucks as well, although most Americans would have a tough time classifying them as such.

As for my car, it's a Mitsubishi Minica- they seem to be pretty common. I bought it off my predecessor, so I'm really not even sure what model year it is. It gets me from place to place though, and can actually be somewhat fun to drive being very small and nimble. It's got A/C as well. Just forget about acceleration and top speed. Anyway, some pics:

First, a side view. 2 doors, and a hatch back.

From the front. That's one bad machine.

Back view, see the yellow license plates?

Interior view- two adults can sit comfortably in the front, forget about the backseat. My knees are a little bit up into the steering wheel but not too bad.

Can you read the name on the tires? The Bridgestone "Sneaker". Cute.

Overall, a no-frills machine. Manual windows, probably no power steering, casette radio, no tach, no brights, about three wiper settings, no trip odometer, three gears. But for utility, it can't be beat. Easy to park as well.

Now for the cell phone. Japan has a well-deserved reputation for great cell phones, so I've been looking forward to getting another one for awhile. Unfortunately, I had to wait for my alien registration card so it took a little bit longer than I'd like. I stuck with au, which I used when I studied abroad, and by coincidence also got another Sony Ericcson phone, so it's very similar to the one I used previously. Even with this being the introductory model it's still far ahead of what you can find in the states.... music, movies, GPS, internet, you name it.

Closed view, you can see an LCD display and camera.

Opened up, unfortunately you can't see a lot of detail in this one.

Ridge Racer on a cell phone! This seems impressive, until you remember that the original Ridge Racer came out 13 years ago!!

Anyways, its pretty sweet, and you can ever put in a memory stick for even more capacity. Did I mention how much better the signal is as well?

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 8:57 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 15 August 2006
Apartment in Japan
Here are some pics of my apartment. It's basically over the garage on somebody's house. It's nothing fancy, but by Japanese standards fairly decent. It's relatively spacious, has two aircons, and was pretty much already furnished when I got here.You might be able to tell, but this was basically two smaller apartments joined up to make one decent-sized one. On to the pics.

First off is the "genkan". It is just an open space right now, I don't know if I will utilize it that much yet.

Now on to the dining room, its got a nice little table and a small closet for the clothes hanger.

Next is the TV room, this is genrally where I relax at.. Only 5 channels though!

My main kitchen/cooking area, with bathroom sink on the left.

Next to it, another kitchen area, pretty much just used for the fridge and to dry clothes.

Bedroom area- it's actually quite comfortable to sleep on.

That's the tour, pretty exciting, isn't it?

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:47 AM EDT
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Friday, 11 August 2006
Man, it's hot here. Hot, Hot, Hot. Sweating more than you've ever sweated in your life hot. Fortunately, there are A/Cs in my school office and car, as well as my apartment, but if you step outside, watch out. Case in point, Wednesday I went to my second school, Chitose Junior High school for the first time. They needed some extra players to help with the baseball club, so I said, sure, why not.

Bad idea.

First of all, I didn't have a hat. Or any sunscreen. With only a few small trees along the sides for shade. And the heat was relentless. No wind or breeze to break up the stifling humidity. So, we had a full warmup, and then a complete 7-inning game. Our team was worse, so we spent more time in the field, i.e. the sun. So there I am in left field, with only a short sleeve shirt, sweating my ass off. The results were almost gruesome, I was dehydrated and lobster red all over. I spent the whole night trying to cool off and grab whatever liquids I could. The next day, however I was ready with a cap and long-sleeved Under Armor (tm) shirts. So it was a little bit better.Anyways, I've got to be more careful.

How did we do? Actually we rallied from six runs down, but lost 7-6. I was 0-2 flyout and strike out, with a walk and a run.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:22 PM EDT
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Monday, 7 August 2006
Next Post
Had my speech at school, no big problems there actually. During the ceremony, an old lady who lived through the war gave a speech. I couldn't understand it entirely, but from what I could gather she didn't appreciate having to send off her friends to die (and remember, as bad as the fighting was for the Allies, the Japanese casualty rates were much, much higher). If you come to Japan, it's easy to tell who lived through the war, because they are so tiny. It's not hard to imagine what several years of starving and malnutrition will do to a person's body.

Afterwards, around school, I've been meeting some of the kids. Most of them so far are really great (of course, we'll see how it goes once class starts). They are really friendly and enthusiastic, although unfortunately their english level is just about zero. I was hoping for a little bit better comprehension to start with, but outside of "my name is" and "I like..." there's not a whole lot going on. I'm having to try pretty hard even in just basic conversion to convey words and ideas in english. Hopefully there will be some improvement over time, but we'll see.

Anyways, I've started on my first assignment, an introduction poster about the United States. If you had to break down US culture, history, and geography into one neat poster, what would you choose? So far, I've got a lot of famous landmarks, some notes about the US flag, etc. The political scientist in me wants to break down the US Constituion, Separations of powers, etc. but at the same time I don't want to put the kids to sleep. So I'll try to keep it somewhat interesting.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 8:38 AM EDT
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Friday, 4 August 2006
Greetings from Kyushu
Hello All, I've finally managed to get settled in my new home of Ono Town, Bungo Ono City, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. As I type this, I just had my first official full day at Ono Junior High, which is my base school where I'll work Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. I'm still recovering from today's heat and humidity, which is fierce in August on this southern island of Japan. As soon as I stepped off the plane at Oita Airport, I knew I was in trouble. Of course, this winter I'll be begging for warmth in my uninsulated apartment. Such is life in Japan.

Atlanta Orientation was great. The Hotel we stayed at, the Renaissance Concourse hotel, is serious luxury, and everyone was still in a pretty nice mood. The flight over was nice, in that it was uneventful, which is really all you can ask for. Tokyo Orientation was awful. I never thought I'd say this but I was so glad to leave Tokyo. It was just nonstop, mostly boring meetings, surrounded by many annoying other foreigners, jet lagged, hot and tired, in a suit and tie. Don't even get me started on the elevators, Keio Shinjuku Plaza is a nice hotel but they have about half the elevators they need to have.

As for where I'm staying, it is in fact quite rural, although not quite as much as I expected. I live in a quite mountainous region, well away from the coast. In fact, everywhere you look there are tree-covered mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. So, the scenery's great. But I could see how things could get boring fast. There's just not much to do around here, and everything's so spread out a car is absolutely necessary. Additionally, there aren't many folks my age- it's either young, old, or really old (this is Japan remember). So hopefully I can find some people my age here or figure out where to go on weekends. Don't want to go crazy from boredom.

Oh, how's this for fun. My first official duty will be giving a speech (some in Japanese, some in English) in a ceremony on August 6th. Do you remember what happened on that day in history? Oh yeah, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Talk about an awkward situation. But I'll but on my best diplomat face and try my hardest to make a good speech.

OK, that's enough typing for now... I'll post about my schools and apartment later!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 7:25 AM EDT
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Friday, 28 July 2006
JET Finally
Got back from the family beach trip, a little bit sunburned but overall a lot of fun. Leaving tomorrow for Atlanta, then on to Tokyo on Saturday. It's tough to be leaving the people and places that I love, but really there's nothing else I'd rather do than go to Japan right now. Hopefully it will be a fun and informative experience.

Later Peeps! And don't forget to email.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 1:27 AM EDT
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Sunday, 23 July 2006
Crazy Busy
Finshing up job, cleaning my room, buying suits, family trips, packing bags, passports, visas, doctors appointments, insurance, atm cards, omiyage, flights, socks, shoes, car... too much. I need a break.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:05 AM EDT
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Monday, 10 July 2006
All Dogs Go To Heaven
My dog, Kelsey, died today. We found her in the lake, in front of our neighbor's lawn. As best we can tell, she decided it was her time to go and went off to the lake to die. It's not a huge surprise that she passed. Her hearing, sight, and sense of smell had all been going for some time now, and she pretty much slept the entire day. Despite her health problems, no one was ready to see her go. It was tough on everyone, but as for myself, I've never been this close to a death before. It's been a real shock to my system, and I think I will have to re-evaulate the way I look at a lot of things.

Overall, she had a good, long, healthy life. She was pretty spoiled, and was able to a lot of fun stuff like go on trips with the family. Then, in the end, she decided to leave on her own terms, at her own choosing, with little suffering. If dogs must die, it's all you can ask for.

We buried her with her favorite toy in a nice spot, by some trees, an area popular with birds, plenty of plants. It's right by a window, so all we have to do is look outside and there she is.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:59 PM EDT
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Sunday, 2 July 2006
Diplomacy at its Finest

"Here was Bush, who didn't stop off at the Taj Mahal while in India, touring the home of a music star who died in his bathroom of heart disease and drug abuse in 1977.

Instead of walking down red carpets to review troops, Bush and Koizumi strode over green shag that lined the floors and ceiling of the den. Instead of elegant furniture and chandeliers, they posed for photos in a room decorated with white ceramic monkeys and wooden chairs with armrests carved in the shape of animal heads."

"Proposing a toast to "the further enhancement of Japan-U.S. relations," Koizumi said, "In the words of Elvis, "I want you, I need you, I love you.""

"He was elected to PM, he represents Japan. If he becomes a laughing stock then he makes his country a laughing stock, too."


Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:19 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 28 June 2006
Mike's Really Long Japan Trip Post
Was I really in Japan? It was so fast and I was so tired I don't even know if it was real. As I type this I'm sitting back home in the states, still trying to sort it all out.

Well, I really needed to go. Like, I had been waiting to go for so long it was really messing with my head. It was painful in a way, actually. As I was riding the train from Narita to Yokohama, looking at all the boxy houses and bright pachinko parlors along the way, all I could think of was, it's good to be back, finally. But of course it was all over too short. Good news is, I'll be heading back soon for JET. So that will make the wait a little bit easier.

Anyways, so yeah, on to the recap. Of course it was a long flight over, I didn't get much sleep (soon to be a common theme). I called Shingo from the airport, it was cool to finally be able to talk to the guy again. After some futile Japanese practice ordering my N'Ex ticket, I got a window seat and checked out the sights. When I arrived at Yokohama station, though, it was packed as hell and I still wasn't sure where to meet up with Shingo. So I'm standing around for about half an hour, thirsty, and when I finally decide to go get a drink, who is it but Mark McInnes pulling on my arm. Even better, he brought one of his school friends to drive us around. Which was a nice surprise.

After dropping my stuff off at Mark's, Shingo and I wandered around Yokohama, stopping at a Yoshinoya for some gyuuyakiniku don (mmm good). Then we found a bar/restaurant to watch the Japan/Australia game on a projection screen for the low price of 1200 yen- drink included. Let me tell you, soccer fans in Japan are quite enthusiastic about their team. It's too bad Japan blew the game, allowing three goals in the last 15 minutes. But it was cool to see everyone so excited. Of course, I was so tired from the flight I nearly passed out a couple of times, but hey, that's just a small detail.

I managed to sleep in for a little bit. Met up with Shingo and Yugo, and we went to Machida. The whole day, we were worried about being able to meet up with Sammy. No one was sure if he had cell phone #'s, or even what form of transport he was going to take to Yokohama. In other words, it could be a lot of fun. It kind of became a running joke. But sure enough, thanks to some planning and teamwork, we met him as soon as he stepped off the train. Of course.

Then, it was time to go to Chinatown for dinner, a move that I approved of. Somebody knew a good place to eat, which we checked out- and then the guy promptly told us to follow him. But to where? It was kind of strange following this guy through Chinatown. Turns out they needed to sit at a different building in the same restaurant, and it turns out the food was pretty decent.

So decent, in fact, I forgot I was going to meet Ayana at Yokohama station. Crap! So I hightailed it over there, and eventually we met up, but all that after a long day of work meant I don't think she was very happy with me. Anyways, we found a little cafe near the station, to meet and catch up on old times, but we really didn't have enough time to sit and talk. Of course, I forgot to get a picture.

There was no letting up, on Wednesday we got up and went right to Fuchinobe and the Obirin Campus. Just like old times, we caught the bus from the station, but unlike old times, the campus was totally transformed. There's a new giant building where you used to park the bikes, the old cafeteria is now an am/pm store, the chapel is gone, they rebuilt the bus stop and nurses building, and worst of all the soccer fields where we used to play are now closed off for future building. It was really quite a surprise seeing all of the differences.

Then it was over to the International office to meet up with Otsuka-san who was such a great help to us. It was cool to catch up, also we met Kanami for about half and hour before she left for Canada the next day. It was fun to talk about old times, unfortunately Kohji-san, another great Obirin guy wasn't there, though. There were also several current exchange students there; we hardly talked to them. It's hardly surprising though. Even when I was a student it was difficult to talk to former students, there's definitely a feeling of "they're in a different group" or something like that. Kind of strange, but an observation that I made.

The fun at Fuchinobe wasn't over yet. We went to Sakuranbo, a great little restaurant near school, and also Hard-Off, where I found some sweet used Famicom games. Oh yeah! That night, we saw Masa's band Brena ( at the Machida Playhouse. It was rockin.

We had planned to go to Tokyo proper, but there was so much other stuff to do that it just wasn't going to happen. So we're off again after a short night's sleep to Yokohama's Minato Mirai, a really cool futuristic part of town. We went up to the Landmark tower, the tallest building in Japan, and got some good pics. Back at ground level, we stopped at World Porters for some delicious Freshness Burger, mmm good.

While we were up in Landmark Tower, we happened to notice a blue tent and a green field next to the Akarenga warehouse. Sure enough, upon closer inspection it was a mini-soccer arena set up by Kirin beer for the World Cup! We'd get to play some soccer after all. It was maybe about the size of a basketball court? Anyways, Shingo, Sammy and I probably played there for an hour, it was really great, but eventually the attendant told use to leave. Next to the field was a Kirin tent with a lot of promotions, a shop, and a little museum set up inside. All in all, it was pretty cool and one of those little things that makes it nice to live in a place such as Yokohama.

Then off to Machida, where we met up with Shin, Taka, and Yugo, and here's where things get really fun. First, a trip to Yodobashi Camera, checking out all the toys and game softs. I couldn't help myself, I ended up getting New Super Mario Bros. for DS, along with a couple of other things. Then, yakiniku, which actually wasn't really that great but everyone was having a good time. Then, of course, karaoke was next, and this had been a long time coming. Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Motorhead, were some personal highlights but I know everyone had a rockin' good time.

Then some folks split up to go to Shibuya, but I elected to stick around for a little more karaoke. I don't remember much from here, except that I tried to do "Ch-Ch-Check it out" by Beastie Boys and failed miserably. After that it was too late to catch the train to Yokohama so we went to Shin's place in Fuchinobe. Now Shin is a nice guy and all but make no mistake he has one of the filthiest apartments I've ever seen. I don't think it's been cleaned in years. Literally. The funk coming from the fridge and bathroom was beyond description. Somehow, I managed to sleep while Shingo and Shin played Mahjongg until the wee hours of the morning.

It took a while, but the next day I met up with Sammy in Machida. It would be a real shame if I went to Tokyo without actually going into Tokyo, so we took the new Odakyu express to Shinjuku and went to the west side, checking out some game centers and shops. Next, tired of the crowds, we went to Ebisu, where after a 45-minute search we found another Freshness Burger. Then we went to Ebisu Beer Garden, but the museums were all closed, still we had a McFlurry (Makkufururii) and chilled out. Then back to Yokohama, where I had to take a shower and get my stuff packed for the return trip on Saturday

In a way, the biggest benefit to come out of the trip is peace of mind. I no longer feel the burning need to go back to Japan every five seconds. Like I said, after about two years, it starts to mess with your head. Still, I wish I could have stayed longer. But now I can look forward to JET, and other future trips to Tokyo, with a clear frame of mind.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:46 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006 8:17 AM EDT
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