Archive for April, 2015
Happy birthday to my wonderful mother, who is allegedly 49 and holding.
Some blog highlights about my mom:
- June 27, 2004 – My family arrives in Japan
- July 4, 2004 – Meeting of the families
- July 5, 2004 – Pachinko and passports
- July 6, 2004 – Ginza and Sensoji in the heat
- October 23, 2004 – Massive Earthquake
Today I went to Shizuoka City to sign my new contract. I am officially NOVA property for another year.
Shizuoka City is the capital city of Shizuoka Prefecture. It located roughly in the middle of the prefecture, and is the second largest city. The population is around 700,000 plus, which puts it at a similar size to Winnipeg. However when compared to Winnipeg, Shizuoka is much more dense and much warmer.
Shizuoka Station is served by Tokaido line and the Shinkansen. From Numazu it took me just under an hour to get to the station. From the station, I followed a detailed map to navigate my way through a maze of underground malls before returning to the surface to find my way though a busy commercial area. Fortunately I was able to find the main NOVA branch without getting lost.
While signing my contract, I had a good conversation with the area manager, who is actually really easy to talk to and get along with. Unlike many of the teachers who pass through the conversation schools, the area manager was a lifer who had settled in with wife, kids, and a house. We discussed the area, the job, and living in Japan.
I returned to Numazu after signing my contract, and in the evening I watched “Office Space” with Azeroth and Palmer. Office Space was written and directed by Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis and Butthead. Being a huge fan of B&B, I saw it in theatres when it first came out. It was funny, but I didn’t really appreciate it at the time. To really understand the movie, you need to work for a large company at some point in your life.
After experiences working for some large companies in Canada and the largest English conversation school in Japan, I can now fully enjoy Office Space. Azeroth, Palmer and I laughed our asses off.
Tonight was another fun night out with Azeroth and friends.
Azeroth was friends with Koalako, one of the students at Mishima NOVA. I had taught her many times before, and she was always a fun person to talk to. Koalako lives in Atami, a nearby city built on the side of a mountain on the ocean. Atami is a terrible place to try to ride a bicycle, but a great place to see fireworks, and is famous for its many hot springs.
I met up with Azeroth, Koalako, and Koalako’s friend (that Azeroth was interested in) in Mishima. I was just finishing work and they had already had a few drinks. We all got on Tokaido line for the 12 minute ride east to Atami. In Atami, we drank beer while walking down the steep roads towards the waterfront. Azeroth, being the classy guy that he is, stopped to pee on the side of the mountain while the ladies and I were watching the fireworks. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
We caught the end of a fantastic firework show, with colours reflecting off the ocean. After the show was done, Koalako got a call from her parents. They had never met anyone from outside of Japan before, so they invited us to have some beer and snacks at their local pub. Azeroth and I are not known to turn down beer, so we were on our way.
The pub was a traditional “snack” style izakaya. The room itself was small, with several tables facing a long bar counter. In total there was probably seating for 25-30 people maximum. It was a small mom and pop bar that catered to a small group of regular customers from the area. The atmosphere was cozy and friendly, especially because we were the guests of some regulars.
Koalako’s parents were very friendly and outgoing. They greeted us and then started ordering an impressive display of izakaya food and beer. All of the beer was in one litre bottles. The women at the table took turns filling up our small glasses every time there was any space in them. Azeroth and I didn’t pour any of our own drinks. When you are drinking from small glasses that are instantly refilled, it is very easy to lost track of how much you have consumed. Naturally, this led to only one possible outcome: karaoke.
Mama-san (the female owner) brought over the microphones and the song list. There were only about 8 English songs in the whole book. The selection would have made Canadian AM radio proud; Elvis, Paul Anka, Ritchie Valens, and for some reason, Celine f**king Dion. Since we were being treated to our beer and food, Azeroth and I did our best to entertain our hosts. My Elvis and Paul Anka were passable (despite not knowing the songs well), but my version of “My Heart with Go On” was epically awful. Azeroth was laughing the whole time at making the Canadian guy sing Celine Dion. However, he did bail me out half way through the song as we turned it into an over the top duet.
After more beer than I can count and some good karaoke thanks to Koalako and parents, we noticed that it was getting dangerously close to the last train of the evening. Koalako’s father was worried that we would get lost walking to the station, so he got mama-san to call us a taxi to get us to the station. We thanked our hosts for the fun evening, and protested as Koalako’s father made sure to pay the taxi driver in advance as we were leaving. Koalako’s father is great!
The train ride home seemed about 6 times as long as the ride there, and the walk back to our apartment took forever, owing mainly to the fact that we were unable to walk in a straight line. The evening was a lot of fun, but I am not looking forward to the next morning.
(2015 Update) This is a greatly expanded version of my post from 10 years ago. I added in a lot of detail and mentioned that Koalako was a student, something that I smartly omitted the first time around. I ran into Koalako’s father when I was visiting Japan in 2013, and found that he was still as friendly and outgoing as ever.
Information which should come as no surprise to anyone: after work I went out with coworkers for beer and karaoke. Some people might be concerned that beer and karaoke would get repetitive after a while. Do not be alarmed: there are always different places to drink the beer, and different types of beer to drink. There are also different places to do karaoke, and always different songs to sing.
Rest assured my dear readers: I don’t always drink beer at the same place and then sing the same songs at the same place with the same people. There is some variety.
After work I went out for cheap beer and sushi with coworkers. (Yes, like almost every other night).
Tonight there was a huge crowd of older ladies in Ryuu. Usually the izakaya is filled with English teachers and salarymen. Tonight we were surrounded on all sides by obasans. It was a bit of a different dynamic, but the power of beer and sushi still allowed us to have a good time.
My roommate Palmer seriously sprained his ankle while playing basketball a few days ago. Since he is not very mobile, he, Azeroth and I all decided to hang out and watch some TV over beers at the apartment. Somehow this turned into a cultural sports exchange.
Palmer is a huge fan of Australian Rules Football, which is a “get the ball over a line” team game that looks like a mix of American football, rugby, and soccer. Palmer showed us a DVD of the 2004 Grand Final game between Palmer’s favourite team, The Port Adelaide Power, against the Brisbane Lions. It was my first time sitting to watch a full game of Aussie Rules, and it was a lot of fun! Aussie rules is a fast paced exciting game, and easy to understand for first timers.
In exchange, I pulled out my Don Cherry 16 DVD and introduced Palmer to the world of hockey. For those unaware, Don Cherry is very outspoken former hockey player and coach, who provides colour commentary between periods on Hockey Night in Canada. He also releases a DVD every year featuring the best hockey highlights from the previous season. Don Cherry DVDs have been my regular Christmas present from my mom for the past 6 or 7 years.
Palmer was impressed with the speed, violence, and skill of hockey. I was just happy to have someone to watch Don Cherry with.
Expand your horizons – get out there and watch another country’s popular sport. It’s a great way to learn about another culture, and a good excuse to have a beer.
Yesterday the staff informed me that my teacher contract expired at the end of the day. Today, an emergency call to the area manager confirmed that we were wrong; my contract and more importantly my work visa expire in May, not April. I have another month to sort out my contract before I will be kicked out of the country.
Important dates to know: contract expiry, visa expiry, passport expiry.