Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 12

Vending machines in Japan are incredibly popular.
They are everywhere.
If there's one thing you know about me, it's that I love a tasty beverage.
So I made it my mission to try one of every drink in Japanese vending machines.
I think I've already tried at least 5 (?)
I told my coworker about this, and he said I would need to buy about 50 drinks a day to try every drink in Japanese vending machines because there are so many hahaha.
I don't think that's the case, but regardless there are a lot.

And there is one drink I have seen but have to try:

This is kind of an inside joke between my girlfriend and I, but just watch the commercials and see why this was one drink I vowed to try when I get to Japan:
So I still have yet to try Qoo but when I do it will be momentous.

Pictures will follow.

So here are some strange things I have noticed lately:
This was a sign I noticed at the train station.
Apparently you can't bring poison, snakes, or giant smelly trash bags full of diapers?
Also note: everything in Japan is a cartoon.
Literally every thing has a mascot. 
Every store has a mascot; even towns have their own mascots apparently. 
Note: Even the bottle of poison has a frowny face.

This is a sign I just noticed near my house called Sexy Prison (with a flag of the Phillipines?)
I have no idea what that's about, but it sounds intense and confusing.
There are also a couple of hotels near my place, that my girlfriend pointed out, saying they were "Love Hotels."
I asked "How do you know?"
And she said how they look, with a uncreative design, and that they just looked trashy.
For those that don't know, or can't guess, Love Hotels are hotels where you can rent the rooms for the hour. 
If you want some "alone" time with your girlfriend or boyfriend....or if you're a prostitute. 

Also, we were walking around Warabi (the town where I lived last night) and we walked past one shop and I saw a Cigar Store Indian, and I immediately did a double take and saw it and thought "What the heck is THAT doing in Japan?"
We then realized it was a....MEXICAN FOOD RESTUARANT. 
A Mexican food restaurant named "Los Borrachos" (The Drunks) of all things hahaha!
We looked inside and they had a wall full of pictures of Japanese people in Sombreros, it was hilarious. 
We WILL try it out, and let you know our thoughts of Mexican food in Japan.

My last thought:

Sometimes it's real tough to live in a country where you are illiterate.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Excuse Me, How Do You Read This?

I am trying to track my progress in learning the Japanese Languages, and noticing first accomplishments I make.
Today I missed the train to work, so I had to look up new times to make sure I got to work on time.
I found one schedule that looked good, but I didn't recognize the kanji of the station.
So today was the first time I asked a stranger : すみませんこれわなんと読みますか。(excuse me, how do you read this?)
I felt so great when she responded "Ikebukuro."
It's little accomplishments like this you have to notice.
I started from ground zero in learning Japanese, and now I am in Japan having a small conversation with a stranger, it's actually pretty cool.

Here are some other things I noticed about Japan today:

They really do play Muzak in all the shopping malls, super markets, and book stores.
For those that don't know what Muzak is, it's basically elevator music.
Here's Urban dictionary definition:
"Muzak is background music played in stores, over phones on hold, etc. The term is also used to refer to various forms of popular music such as rock, pop, and rap, implying (correctly) that they are simplistic, crude, and lacking in artistic merit"
Here's an example of some Muzak you might here in a Japanese mall:

I was at a mall today and a Muzak version of Michelle Branch's "Everywhere" came on, followed by a Muzak version of "Game of Love" by Michelle Branch and Santana, followed by a Muzak version of "Walk Like An Egyptian" in the bookstore.

Also this is what I saw at the bookstore:

English Words in Fashion

I've noticed a habit in Japan where Japanese people love to wear clothing with English words on them. However, the English is sometimes shockingly incorrect and can make little to no sense at times.
I remember at the school I was working at with kids some little girl was wearing a shirt that said something similar to "If you like fun, then do it, and it is."
The next day some kid was wearing green pants that said something about a "female mosquito."

Now my eyes are open and I'm on the look out for these things. 
Just today I was on a train and I saw some girl wearing a hat that said "It is not given up smoking."
I wanted to take a picture, but I thought it would be extremely rude if I had gotten caught. 
On another train I saw some old man with a designer bag that said "Pure trash, design free ego."
Then I saw some other older guy wearing a shirt that I had no idea what the rest of the message was but some of the words I saw were "Arizona try pirit," and then there was a marijuana leaf at the bottom.


I saw some guy with a cartoon of Snoop Dogg smoking, and the shirt said "Wake up, and start baking." 
I don't know about that one. 

Also there was this story I heard about a Japanese host of a children's show who got fired :

(Note the children with Nirvana T-shirts...I love this country and how it consumes culture)

Morning show Miburi TV is a children's dance program hosted by choreographer Sasuga Minami, who teaches new moves to children and wears a peculiar outfit with some very choice lingo. "Miburi" (身振り) means "gesture" in Japanese. The words on her outfit mean much more...Most baffling of all is that this doesn't look to be an outfit you can buy off the rack, but rather, it seems to have been created for the show. A costume that the show's host has worn several times since Miburi TV aired late last month."

Gaijin Nod

Everytime you see another white person in Japan it's like that scene in "Fight club" where people from Fight Club recognize other people from Fight Club and they just smile and knowingly nod at each other. This scene:

It's called the Gaijin Nod.
Gaijin in Japan means foreigner.
I actually never really experienced the Gaijin Nod, but one night after doing some karaoke in Ikebukuro I had the most amazing Gaijin Nod.
One dude walking by my went out of his way to make sure I knew he was looking at me holding my girlfriends hand, and he just smiled with both his eyes and his face the same time. That was actually my first Gaijin Nod.
Actually I haven't seen that many other foreigners in Japan. I think Japan boasts a 1% immigrant population, or something like that. I think I've literally seen 20- 25 foreigners in the week that I've been here.  And most of them are like the other people: they just pretend to ignore you and avoid eye contact.
But when you see another foreigner you notice, and I'm sure they notice you too.
When you do make a connection, and do a gaijin nod, it is like you are smiling at each other saying "Look at this magical secret place that the whole world is missing out on."

Friday, July 10, 2015

First Update

Well this is my first update of my life here in Japan!
Obviously, I made it. 
The overall travel time was 16 hours, I think. I started feeling sick the night before, so I just started chugging Theraflu and Dayquil and poppin' cold medication pills and spraying throat spray. 

But it was already too late. Plus I was packing for one year until about 2 or 3 in the morning, and I had to get up at 5 AM.
My family drove me to the airport and said goodbye to me. Both my mom and my dad said for me to look at their face for awhile because I would not be seeing their face for a year.
Even though I didn't express it that well I will miss them.
It was sad because I wanted to wave at them one last time, and when I turned around they had already turned around and started walking away. That was a really heavy feeling because I wanted to see them one last time, but I couldn't.
I am always so focused on the future, that is why it was so easy for me to go. Now at least I can be happy for the future when we will see each other again :)
I got to San Diego airport at 7 AM, and left around 9:30 to fly to LAX.
At the San Diego airport I saw these group of musicians with all their instruments. I had my ukulele in a hard guitar case with me (I was taking it as a carry-on) so we kind of had a mutual connection. We were on the same flight to LAX. I overheard them talking and they were saying they were playing at the Greek that night. After we landed in LAX we had to take a shuttle to the main airport, and the security lady asked "What band are you?" And the guy said "Toni Tony Tone."

Yes...that Toni Tone Tony. The same Toni Tony Tone from the early 90s, immortalized in Notorious BIG's verse in 112 feat Mase, Puff Daddy and Notorious BIG "Only You"...."Make you feel good like Toni Tony Tone..."

(at 0:45 in the video below):

So that was cool.
Then the 12 hour flight began.
I sat in the middle of an aisle seat, next to a teacher couple from Oakland, and a Japanese Businessman named Akira.
When I saw Akira come over, I tried to remember my New Years Resolution to "Live without Fear," and I thought this was a good as time as any to practice my Japanese.
He had a pillow, so I said "まくら" (makura) (pillow).
He said "You speak Japanese." Not as a question, but as a statement.
I really just slept the entire flight, and I tried to sleep on Japanese time, which is 16 hours ahead of California time. So I left July 3rd at 12 PM and got to Narita airport at 3:30 July 4th.
I actually fell asleep on the one teacher dude's shoulder once.
But I really had a fever the whole flight and was just sweating and sleeping.
If I wasn't sleeping I was listening to Japanese Survival Phrases podcasts. The only other option was literally the Disney Channel, because their movie systems were broken.
Later on in the flight, Akira gave me some candy. And this was my first experience of trying to figure out what Kanji was written.
Review for those that didn't know:
The Japanese have three writing systems:
Hiragana, where each "letter" means a certain sound.
For example: は = ha . く= ku. そ=so.
Katakana, is basically the same concept, but different letters. But the same sounds. And they are used for a lot of foreign words (English words).
テ= te.
レ= re.
ビ= bi.
So テレビ = terebi. (Televi = television)
Kanji is the most complicated writing system, and also the most commonly used. They are borrowed Chinese characters, with two pronunciations. Each symbol has an entire meaning.
Plus there are probably over 6,000 Kanji Letters.
The Japanese government determined 女よう(joyou Kanji= Everyday use Kanji), which is Kanji you should know because you will probably come into contact with it everyday in Japan.
That list is 2,000 characters long.

So...this candy that Akira gave me.
First I read the Katakana which is ミルク。
ミ= mi
ル= ru (lu)
ク= ku.
ミルク= Miluku (Milk.)
の means "of."
But it took me awhile to figure out what the Kanji character was. And then I remembered that 金 (kin), means "Gold, or money, or fortune."
So this candy roughly translates to "Milk of Gold", or "golden milk."
And it was delicious おいしい。

I landed in Japan, met my girlfriend, and was actually in shock at how beautiful she was. I remembered her being beautiful, but seeing her after 2 months, she looked so shockingly beautiful than what I remember. We were both kind of just in shock to see each other in person after so long.

Riding back on the train, I was in the haze of a fever and I just remember watching these Japanese advertisements and just thinking "What the heck am I watching?"
This was the actual commercial I saw that really got me asking that question:

Here's another example of advertisements in Japan:

As I was riding back from the airport in train, I was looking outside and I experienced the first time I felt that I was in a different world.
Most of the houses and apartments I saw in that area (not really rural bot not really urban either) had that distinct Japanese architecture. The roofs are curved in a certain way, very similar to how temples are designed:
I love Japanese architecture, so I thought it was so cool.
Then we got to Warabi Station, near where I live and I experienced another cultural shock:
Apparently Tommy Lee Jones is the face of a Coffee company here, too
We got lost in the rain trying to find my apartment, which looks like this:
I chose my apartment because I love the design. It's like funky, modern art deco, vaporwave. 
The biggest culture shock I have felt to date is that my room is literally just a bed, a desk, and a refrigerator. And an A/C unit, with a remote control, all of Kanji characters I cannot read and which my girlfriend had to explain to me. The shock was not the size of the room (it's actually relatively big compared to other places I have lived), but that there was no drawers or a closet or anything. 
My girlfriend told me this is not how all Japanese live, it is just my living situation, which is a cheap share-house, mostly for international people and students, and people like me, who are doing internships or something. 

Since I had a fever and the jet lag had caught up to me, my girlfriend took care of me, and I just slept that night.
The next day we walked around town, which was cool because there was a festival, and it was so cool to see all the people and of course people singing Japanese karaoke. 

The first restaurant I actually went to in Japan...was a French restaurant hahaha!

But later on we went to Sushi and it was おいしい (delicious). That was my first authentic Japanese cuisine and it was so freakin' good.
I had heard stories of sushi chefs being pretty intense, and if they felt disrespected or if they felt like you did not like their food they would yell at you and kick you out. So I tried to be as respectful as possible to the chef in front of us. He was actually really cool. I could tell he wanted to speak to me, but he didn't really know English. He asked me where I was from, but I think that was the extent of his English.
My girlfriend tried to encourage me to try to speak to him in Japanese. So she told me how to say "Excuse me, may I take your picture?" in Japanese, and he said "Me?"
Then he smiled and I took his picture. Later I told him "Thank you for the food, it was delicious." 
He was really cool actually. 

The next day we went down to Shibuya in the rain to my Internship offices to sign some paper work, and so I could become familiar the hour commute I would be taking to work on the trains. 
This is what a train map in Japan looks like:

Yeah, a little confusing. 

Later we went to McDonald's, which in Japan are apparently really nice.
This one was two stories tall and packed, which actually I think is pretty common. We went upstairs to eat and there actually was a McDonald's Coffee shop upstairs. 
I told my girlfriend that I wanted to practice Japanese with people where we would speak for half the time in English, and half the time in Japanese. 
And she challenged me and said "Why not right now?" And I thought, "Yeah, why not right now."
So we tried to have a whole conversation in Japanese. It was really fun, but also really challenging. It eventually ended in me wanting to pull my hair out in frustration, trying to figure out the words.
Which brings me to the topic of my internship:

I am interning working full time as an unpaid assistant teaching English to little Japanese children (who are literally the cutest kids I've ever seen). 
It's so cool to be able to see their progress. Little kids are so flexible in their brains, so learning languages is actually really easy for them. But we do challenge them.
The teachers ask me to challenge them by asking them questions. I can see them struggle as their trying to piece together their sentences in their minds before asking me. Sometimes they look like they want to pull out their hair and I feel their pain, because I am trying to learn another language too. 
In fact, my Japanese is probably at the same level as their level of English (maybe worse, because mine is really basic). 

But basically I just play all day. The first day of work did not feel like work. I thought "Wow, I am just supposed to run and jump, and dance and draw pictures, and cut out arts and crafts with little Japanese children? This is awesome!" It is so extremely fun, and everyone I work with is so great. 
They really care about the children, but they also have fun. It is so cool.
Basically, since I have less responsibility than the teachers I just have to be an entertaining comedian for them, which is really easy for little children. I just make sound effects and goofy faces. 
So in other words, that's pretty easy. 
In fact, when I had a Skype interview with the boss I dressed in a nice suit and was prepared to answer boring interview questions like my qualifications and skills. 
Instead he asked me "Do you know how to play guitar? Do you like to draw? Do you like to dance?"
And I was like "Uh.....yeah!"

"Work" is great. I love all the children, they are so great too. I have so many stories, but I forget them all right now. One time this little girl was there with her mother, because if she is away from her mother she usually cries. She took a liking to me and wanted to be around me all day. Towards the end I kneeled down to say goodbye to her and she touched my chin and felt the stubble and just started laughing. She kept on reaching back to touch my facial hair and laugh, because I don't know if she's ever felt something like that before. There is a picture out there of her basically sticking her hand on my mouth, touching my facial hair. It was so cute and precious.
One time also, I asked the children if they knew what color my eyes were and they said "Green!" I asked them if they wanted to look at my eyes and they all leaned forward with wide eyes and said "Ooohhh!" because I don't know if they'd ever seen green eyes in person either. 

Also one time, one kid from one of the older classes asked me what my favorite anime was.
I had to be honest with him so I said "To be honest...I don't really like anime." 
And all the kids went "WHATTTTT???!!!!!" 
To them that is unheard of hahaha.

Also the kids throw out Japanese words here and there and I can actually learn from them too!
So that's cool.

My commute to work is like this:
5-10 minute walk to the train station.
Ride 1 train (5-10 minutes.)
Get on another train (5- 10 minutes.)
Then walk 10 minutes underground to the subway to take a 20 minute ride to work.
Then a 10 minute walk to work.
Roughly it's an hour.

It's not that bad actually, but the second train I ride is notoriously famous for being crowded. It wasn't until the second day I think that I experienced the actually first packed train ride, famous in Japan rush hours. 
It was somewhat like this. It was a little shocking, but it was more just something different that I just accepted. I think the Japanese, they don't like it, but they just accept it. 

The next restaurant my girlfriend and I went to was actually an Indian/ Thai food restaurant and it was so good we both wanted to cry. 

I was actually able to ask the waiter in Japanese for more water. He then asked me something that I didn't understand and I just went blank in confusion. 
Later when he came back I said "すみません、にほんごではなしません" (I'm sorry, I don't speak Japanese). He replied and said "No you're Japanese is good."
Later I paid and thanked him for the food. It was so good, and they were playing some banging Bhangra Reggaeton on the TV too. was my type of place. 

Another thing that my girlfriend and I did is join a gym, so that we could use the pool and spa, because we both love swimming. 
One of the crew members who signed us up, had to take me to show me how the men's locker room worked. When we started he looked at me and said in Japanese "Do you understand a little Japanese?" And I said "a little."
Then he took me on a five minute tour of how everything worked. 
I understood about 5% of it. Hahahaha. 

Also, only from what I've experienced, it is true what they say about Japanese toilets. 
Everyone I've seen looks like an R2-D2 future toilet with many buttons. 
And the first time I sat down on a heated toilet seat, what a glorious feeling it was. 
Really how have other countries not joined in on this fad?