Archive for November, 2014

November 13, 2004 pt2 – First student party

This is a story that did not appear on my original blog, for reasons which will soon become apparent.

One of the teachers in Mishima NOVA was leaving to return to The US. When teachers leave, there is almost always a farewell party. There were signs up in the teacher’s room stating that the official farewell party was on Sunday November 14.

I was working the Saturday late shift with one of the experienced teachers, let’s call her Veronica. Veronica was a bit unusual because she was likely in her 50s, when most English teachers were in their early to mid 20s. She was easy enough to get along with, and therefore a fun person to be stuck on the Saturday late shift with.

Near the end of the shift, she asked if I was going to the farewell party after work. I pointed out the sign and asked if she meant after tomorrow’s shift. She explained that after work was the “unofficial” party that a few students might be attending.

One of the cardinal rules of NOVA is that teachers are not allowed to interact with students outside of the classroom. There are several reasons for this rule, but the main reason is to keep teachers from doing anything that would prevent students from wanting to buy more lessons. I don’t know if it was technically possible to get fired for meeting students outside of the classroom, but it was a great way to get a reprimand or not have your contract renewed.

Veronica told me not to worry because teachers and students in the area frequently hung out together, and it wasn’t a big deal as long as nobody openly talked about it in front of the supervisors. Since she was a more experienced teacher, I decided to stop worrying and agreed to go to the farewell party.

After work we left Mishima NOVA together and walked down the street towards one of the many izakayas in the area. The whole back room was reserved for the farewell party. I expected to see about 10 teachers and one or two students. When I got to the back, I found about 30 people in the room, with at least half of them being students from Mishima NOVA and some of the nearby branches.

Drinking pro tip: when you shop up late to a party, some people may feel the need to “catch up” to the level of drunkenness that everyone else is currently experiencing. Although a nice social gesture, this is a challenging thing to get right. It’s very easy to overshoot and end up finding yourself more drunk than the rest of the party in short order.

Since I am writing this 10 years later, and because I tried to “catch up”, I don’t remember all of the details of the evening. I do remember that it was a lot of fun, and it was great to interact with students outside of the classroom. I got to know some of the students better, and they got a chance to practice their English in a real world setting.

We all settled up the bill and left just before the last trains of the evening. Through the whole party, one of the female students was flirting with the departing teacher. On the group stumble back to Mishima station, she suggested that her apartment was too far, and maybe she would like to stay “somewhere” in Numazu. The departing teacher said “you can come back to my place, but we’re going to be f**king”.

Unsurprisingly, drunk English teachers are not known for their romantic skills.

Knowing that it would be an experience that both sides would have regretted the next day, some of the female teachers and other students made sure that the drunk flirty student got home safely. Azeroth and I enjoyed our long walk back to City Plaza together. It was a fun night, and the first of many nights out with students.

Note to readers: The legal drinking age in Japan is 20. I worked at a conversational English school, where most of my students were adults. If I ever write about one of my adventures hanging out with students, I am always referring to English students of legal drinking age.

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November 13, 2004 pt 1 – Plane ticket purchased

Today before work I went with The Penpal to a travel agency near Numazu station. She helped me to buy my plane ticket home for Christmas!

I am sure that someone at the Travel Agent could speak English, but it was very helpful to have a Japanese speaker with me. I was not surprised when the travel agent did not know where Winnipeg was. Knowing that the airport code was YWG saved me explaining the spelling in English or katakana.

When I left Canada for Japan, Air Canada had the best deal. This time, Northwest had the cheapest ticket. I will be flying from Tokyo to Winnipeg through Minneapolis, leaving December 20 and returning on January 5. I am very excited to be home for the holidays!

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November 12, 2004 – So much rain!

It rained like crazy today. Seriously, it was a crazy amount of rain.

Due to heavy rain volumes, the Tokaido line was experiencing delays. Tokaido is the busiest line of the whole Japan Rail network, running from Tokyo to Kobe. I was lucky to get to work on time, but on the way home I had to wait at Mishima station for half an hour. In a country where you can literally set your watch by the train schedule, a 30 minute delay is a huge deal.

At home I dried out and spent a bunch of time on the internet. Now that I can connect in my room without having to go to the internet cafe, the novelty of the internet has worn off.

In other news, I am buying a plane ticket tomorrow so I can go home for Christmas. Woohoo!

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November 10, 2004 – Ryoba

After work I went to a chain izakaya called Ryoba with Azeroth. They specialize in cheap sushi and 100 yen draft beer. The beer was nothing special, but the sushi is amazing, especially considering the price. I can understand why Numazu is known for its sushi.

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November 9, 2004 – Hard-off

Hard-Off - a used electronics store with a funny name

Hard-Off – a used electronics store with a funny name

Today I went to a used electronics store called “Hard Off“. Yes, the name makes me giggle.

The “hard” in “Hard Off” refers to electronics hardware. They sell used computers, game systems, TVs, stereos, and other electronics. They also have a good selection of software as well; CDs, video games, and movies. Fortunately someone in the marketing department realized that “Soft Off” or “Hard and Soft Off” would have sounded ridiculous.

Hard off is about a 15-20 minute walk from Ooka City Plaza. I must have spent about two hours in the store, partly for shopping, partly for checking out all of the electronics that were never readily available in Canada. I resisted the urge to buy myself a WonderSwan, a classic Famicom (NES), or a laser disc player. I did end up getting a small wireless internet hub and a receiver.

The wireless hub attaches to the router in our apartment, and broadcasts a wifi signal. The receiver connects to my computer with a network cable. I can now connect to the internet from my room without running wires down the hallway. Unfortunately the layout of my room is a bit awkward and I don’t have a desk, so the computer setup is not ideal at the moment. However, I am just happy to be back online without having to go to internet cafes anymore.

If you are living in Japan temporarily, check out Hard Off. It’s a much better alternative than buying new stuff that you are just going to have to get rid of when you return home.

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November 8, 2004 – Earthquakes and Zombies


Today I got to spend some time with The Penpal. It looks like Monday might be our regular hangout day. I have the day off, and she stops by after work. We did some Japanese language practice and I learned some words to describe the taste of food.

After The Penpal left, I watched the new Dawn of the Dead with Palmer. I had some concerns about “fast” zombies and the fact that remakes are usually not as good as the original, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was also obviously filmed in Canada. In the background of one of the mall scenes was a KFC restaurant sporting the sign “PFK” which is the French name.

During the movie we felt two earthquakes. Palmer said that our building is modern and well designed. If we can feel a mild earthquake inside, it must be stronger outside. Not sure if that was reassuring at all.

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November 7, 2004 – BBQ in the park

After work I went to an impromptu BBQ in the park near my apartment. Palmer organized the BBQ, and invited some of his Japanese friends and NOVA teachers. When an Australian plans a BBQ, you know it’s going to be good.

Ooka park is conveniently located on the other side of the 7-11 across the street from Ooka City Plaza. Usually in Japan, any space with a tree and a bench can be called a park. Ooka Park actually has some grass, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and picnic tables. It would count as a park in Canada as well.

Palmer plays on a local recreational basketball team. One of his basketball teammates is named Yao, a half Ghanian, half Japanese man. Yao’s features are not Asian at all, except for the shape of his eyes. Since he was born and raised in Japan, he carries a Japanese passport and speaks the language fluently with a perfect local accent. People who don’t know him take a look at the tall, dark skinned man and assume he is a foreigner. He enjoys surprising people who can’t believe that he is a Japanese citizen.

Japan is a very homogenous society, but as international marriages continue to increase (slowly), there will be more Japanese people who don’t look “Japanese”. It should present some interesting challenges for Japanese society.

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November 5, 2004 – Japanese Lesson after work

The Penpal’s office is conveniently close to Mishima NOVA, my new branch. After work we met up near the station and practiced Japanese. I learned the verb ending “need to do”, which is incredibly useful.

In the Greater Tokyo area, most of the teachers don’t study Japanese because it is possible to get by without it. As you get away from the major cities, it seems like more teachers are actively studying Japanese. I am hoping that this will make it easier for me to study and improve my language skill.

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November 3, 2004 – First day at Mishima NOVA

Beware of purse snatchers - seen near Mishima station

Beware of purse snatchers – seen near Mishima station

Today was my first day at my new branch, Mishima NOVA. My new school only has a total of 8 teachers, which is a nice change from the 24 or so in Kawasaki NOVA. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed and organized, and there is already a much greater variety of students. I don’t expect to have Sundays full of four engineer lessons anymore!

The school is in a building directly across the street from the south exit of Mishima station. The classroom area is less claustrophobic than Kawasaki NOVA, and there are good sized Voice and NOVA Kids classrooms. The only complaints so far are that the teacher’s room is small and extremely narrow, the surrounding area doesn’t have a huge choice for food, and the washrooms only have squat toilets. I am very concerned about the squat toilets!

After work I went out for drinks and karaoke (again) with Azeroth and one of the branch managers. This was my second night in a row at Uta Club. Both Azeroth and the manager were very good singers, so I had to compensate by being very loud.

Karaoke rule number 1: If you can’t sing well, you should at least sing loudly while flailing your arms around 🙂

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November 2, 2004 – This karaoke looks familiar

I slept a lot during the daytime to catch up on my recently lack of sleep. I was planning on having a quiet evening at home, but Palmer invited me to go out with a few of his friends that were visiting. Realizing this would be a good way to get to know my new roommate better (and have beer), I agreed and we were on our way.

Our first stop was a small izakaya on the main street that runs by Seiyu. It was a small izakaya where Palmer and friends have been several times, so the service was really friendly. Notable on the menu was whale sashimi. Yes, raw whale meat was available for purchase. I was curious, but one order cost nearly 2000 yen.

Raw whale meat – controversial and possibly delicious

After beer and non-whale pub food, we went to a karaoke place called Uta Club which is conveniently located across from Numazu station’s south exit. Uta Club is popular because it is one of the cheapest karaoke places in Numazu. One hour of all you can drink karaoke costs 780 yen, and there is a special cheap price after midnight. After a short time, I realized that I was in the same place that The Penpal took me for my first karaoke experience in Japan.

From Numazu station to my new apartment is about a 15 minute walk. It seems much, much longer when you are full of cheap beer. I don’t know the way perfectly yet, so I am very happy that Palmer knew where he was going.

So far I have been in Numazu for two days and had two fun nights out. Hopefully this continues!

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