Monday, June 30, 2014

Back in Japan!

 While I don't really write on this blog much anymore, I notice that it's got more page views than my latest blog, and so maybe I should leverage that fact by posting here again to let potential readers know about the new one. As it turns out, I'm back in Japan again! I actually enjoyed teaching here so much the first time in 2005-2008 that I signed up with JET again. This time, however, instead of being posted to senior high schools in urban Oita, I got sent to teach junior high in rural Okinawa, a different experience entirely.

 So, in order to occasionally flex the writing muscles and to fill in the spare hours, I started another blog - borderlessideas.blogspot - and have been writing pretty consistently. This one is a little different than the last though; while I do write about living here, I don't limit myself to writing about just that. I have many interests, and I find that I simply write more often when I have a variety of topics to cover, plus, I love editorial writing. My background is in Psychology and Sociology, I am keenly interested in science, and since working as a teacher in Japan last time I've worked in government, charities and private organizations, so that's some pretty fertile ground for a writer. I'm basically a student of humanity, and so you'll find articles about both Psychology and Sociology, as well as Politics, Education, Science, Futurism, Religion, Sexuality...and of course, daily life in Okinawa. I like to think there's a little there for everyone, so take a look, and tell a friend!

All the Best,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

So...yes, I'm still in Japan!

Oh my god, has it really been 3 months since I posted on here? Holy crap. I'm terrible. But then, that's why you like me. Well, let me update you on a few of the broad details, then later on I'll have to flesh things out with pictures and short entries, as usual.

So, since November...hmmm...well, first of all, I spent Christmas in Japan, as well as New Years. That was a big first, and pretty fun. I only stayed, of course, because I was too poor from my car accident to go home, which broke my heart, but I was also pleasantly surprised at how things turned out. More on that later. After the holidays, I finally did end up paying the rest of that car nonsense off, so that's all done now, and my debts are starting to shrink to manageable levels for the first time in like...ever. Big plus there, and a major factor in my perky mood of late. (This is me being perky.)

Big News item #2 is that I DID decide to recontract for a third, that's right, A THIRD year in Japan. I signed my papers back in January, and now I officially will be here for another year and a half, meaning my time is officially half done. This was partly a financial decision, due to you-know-what, but it is also due, for the most part, to the fact that I have made some great friends here, had some amazing times, and do, when all is said and done, enjoy Japan very much. I will however be coming back to Canada (according to my plan) just after my third year begins but just before the school year does, around the end of August. So, to all my friends and family, this means clear your calendars, because I'm saving my days off, and plan to come back for 3 WHOLE WEEKS!!! I hope to start in Kingston, and then go up to Ottawa for a while, so I can see everybody, and really suck up as much of the homeland as possible. God knows I miss my Tim Hortons and, well, the English language.

Aside from that, the news from this month was my big Hiroshima trip. Now that I have money to travel, I plan to do so somewhat extravagantly for the next little while, and aside from Hiroshima last weekend, I'll be hitting Korea to visit Claire (my sister) and Bryan (my cousin) in March. Then, for Golden Week (end of April holiday here), some friends and I are planning a big trip outside of Japan, but so far the destination is in the air. Probably somewhere cheap, but Hawaii, China or even Thailand again are not out of the question. As for the details from Hiroshima, I'll once again give you those (and a delightful photo) in a later post. One thing at a time.

So, that's that for now...I will indeed try harder to post on here more often, I promise (and yes, I know I always say that).

Sunday, November 26, 2006


So yesterday was the big day, after much anticipation. When I came to Asia, there were 2 things I wanted to do, as a martial artist - see live Muay Thai kickboxing in Thailand, and see live Sumo in the J-dot. I can finally say I've scratched both off my list.
I actually went to Fukuoka early, on Friday, and kicked around the city a bit with my friend and neighbor Christine, who's from Tenessee (I hope I spelled that right). We took a bus in around noon, hooked up with another pair of JETs, Tori and Shawn, and spent the day mostly shopping and getting happily lost around the Tenjin/Hakata area, right in the downtown core. Fukuoka is the biggest city in Kyushu, and there's no shortage of shopping, although that seemed to be the only main attraction as far as I could tell. We went to Canal City, a massive shopping complex built around a series of artificial canals, then hooked up with my Japanese friend Tak, and hit up a local Irish bar for a pint of Kilkenny to round off the night. Christina and I almost didn't get a hotel room, due to the fact that everybody was in town for Sumo, but managed to snag a small room at the last minute, saving us from the pleasure of spending the evening in a Karaoke room.
The next morning we went out and walked around until the rest of our group arrived on the 1:00 bus. From there, we went to the Sumo stadium, and after snapping a few close-ups of the Sumo wrestlers as they came into the building, we found our seats. The photo is of Christine, some Sumo wrestlers, and some random Japanese lady who jumped into the picture.
Inside, we found our seats were kind of far back, but we had a great view anyway. We got to see the junior division bouts, had a few beers, and after a few hours the senior division began. Not knowing anything about Sumo before signing up for this, I actually learned a lot this weekend, and gained a definite appreciation for the skill and training involved in the sport. Most of these guys dedicate themselves to it from the age of 15, and when 2 massive guys go slamming into each other, trying to throw each other out of a ring, it's quite the sight. Bouts can last anywhere from a second to a few minutes, and you win when you either toss your opponent out, or make them touch something other than their feet to the ground.
The fight of the night was without a doubt when the reigning champion (or yokozuna), Asashoryu, defended his title against the popular up-and-comer, Kotooshu. Kotooshu is a foreign fighter from Bulgaria, and gets a lot of press, but to the dismay of his fans he was defeated rather soundly, in about 10 seconds. The crowd, who you would expect to be reserved (Japanese usually are elsewhere, even in rock concerts I've noticed) went wild, and threw their seat cushions all over the area. All in all, it was definitely exciting, so even though 2 fat guys in thongs beating each other up may not be everyone's cup of tea, I highly recommend it, if you're ever lucky enough to be around when one of these events is on. It's Japanese culture at its best.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Zen Gardens

So this is a traditional Zen garden, just because I haven't shown one yet and no blog of Japan would be complete without one. This one is in Nakatsu, a city in the north of Oita prefecture. I went there to visit LeeSean one week last March and found this little gem in a Zen temple near his house. Japan is positively full of this type of garden, because, as many might already know, the Japanese take their gardening very seriously. It, like many aspects of life in Japan, has been raised to the level of a fine art. Many houses have intricate gardens in their front yard, and what they lack in space, they make up for in sheer beauty. The purpose behind this is twofold: firstly, the act of tending for the garden brings peace, tranquility and a connection to nature. Secondly, gazing upon such a garden can quickly bring calm and enhance one's experience during meditation. They truly do capture the essence of Japan - disciplined beauty. I only hope the picture can do it justice.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Accident Update

For those of you who are interested, or who have been following the car drama, there have been some developments. Surprisingly, mostly for the good this time!
Last week, I was called into the office of the head of the Oita Board of Education, for a meeting over this whole debacle. I went with my vice-principal, who has been pretty helpful and patient throughout this whole thing, even though we have a pretty hard time chatting, what with her speaking no English and me speaking only elementary Japanese. Luckily, the BOE guy does speak English, and translated everything.
First, they had to give me a warning about driving in Japan. This was pretty much expected on my part, and despite the fact that I've already been through enough hassle about this, I was pretty good about not letting my annoyance show.
Then, they proceeded to casually mention the following stupendously amazing fact: the other woman, who was threatening to financially ruin me by making me cover her hospital payments up front, decided out of the blue, a week ago, to take care of them herself. No one had mentioned this to me, so I was flabbergasted for a second, and then had to really restrain myself from jumping up and down. This pretty much solves my financial problems, after December anyway. I still have a few payments to make on the car, but they're manageable.
The only other glitch that has arisen from this mess (like I needed another) is that I now have to go to driving school. Feel free to laugh, because it is completely ridiculous. Also, to someone who has driven for 11 years with a previously perfect driving record, and who has obviously learned his lesson from this ordeal, this is the most insulting thing they could have possibly pushed on me at this point. ESPECIALLY since I have to pay a pretty hefty sum just for the *priviledge* of wasting a day being lectured. Oh yes, and I have to use a vacation day for this as well. I am fighting the urge to kill. Afterwards, at least, the whole ordeal should be over and done with.
So anyway, despite the financial reprieve, I still won't be making it home for Christmas, which is really a bitch. My plans, as they stand now, are to go to Korea for Christmas instead. It's closer, cheaper, and both my cousin and sister will be there. Should be fun, even though I do miss the Canada crowd so, SO MUCH! I just hope between now and then there will be no invasions from the North, because lemme tell ya, nothing ruins Christmas faster than a lunatic with nukes and a million-man army.
The possibility of me coming home for Golden Week (late April) is now in the air too - I hold out hope my cash flow will allow for it. Otherwise, I'll probably hang around Asia a little while longer, and see you all next August, when I plan to say goodbye to Japan.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Fab Four

So I've mentioned my friends on here before, but since the last picture I posted of Victoria met with her disapproval, I have been ordered to post another. Also, this one has Mark in it, who I spoke about but have never shown. Here is a picture taken on the first leg of our tour in Thailand, as we wandered through Bangkok. From left to right it's Victoria, me, LeeSean and Mark. Vic is the crazy-fun girl from the UK, LeeSean (from Arizona) has been mentioned a thousand times on here and was my closest friend the first year of my stay, and Mark, a fellow Canadian, is also a fellow martial artist and a really nice guy. They've all left Japan now, but we'll always have Thailand! Soon I'll try to post a few pics of my new crop of friends, but these guys will always have a special place in my heart for helping to make my first year here one of the best I could have ever hoped for. (Cue sappy sentimental music, fade to black.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Best Swimmin' Hole in Kyushu...

Ok, so I admit it - I've been lazy lately. To make up for it I'm doing 3 posts today. This shot is from about two months ago, when LeeSean, Tash, a few other friends and I went to a waterfall near Ajimu. It's up in the mountains about a half-hour to the west, and under the waterfall (which falls a spectacular 150 feet, the highest in Kyushu) there's a pool, as you can see. Much to the amusement of the locals, we stripped down to our trunks and dove in to beat the heat, which in July and August is like Calcutta, with about 200% humidity. This was one of the prettiest spots I've seen around here.

Temples, Temples and more Temples

Well, if you haven't heard enough about Nara already, let me fill in a bit more about my trip there in August. A while back I posted a picture with the giant Buddha, but wasn't able to show you the equally impressive temple (Todaiji) that it sits in. I just happened to have a spiffy shot of it that was begging to be published, so here it is. It was MASSIVE!

Beppu's Famous Hot Springs

So I live in a town called Beppu, which is in Oita prefecture, on the eastern side of the southern island of Kyushu. It's claim to fame is its many hot springs (or onsen). It has so many, in fact, that I believe it holds the worldwide record for the most in one place. There's some you can take a dip in (usually one in every neighborhood here) and then there are some that are too hot to go bathing in but are still damned impressive, like the one in the picture. This was taken last year at about this time, and this particular hot spring is just up the hill from my house. It's called Umijigoku, or the "Sea Hell", because of it's color.