Archive for June, 2016

February 28, 2006 – Hypnotize


I just picked up the new album “Hypnotize” by System of a Down and I can’t stop listening to it! SO COOL!!!

Foreign CDs are expensive in Japan, but still cheaper than CDs by Japanese artists, which makes absolutely no sense to me at all.


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January / February 2006 – Saved by Ringer Hut

Hello readers, this is a story which didn’t originally appear on my blog 10 years ago. I usually have no problem writing about my own misadventures, but I am often reluctant to write about somebody else’s. It’s a fun story, and since it’s been 10 years I have decided to write it up properly. I’m not sure the exact date that this happened, but it was likely in January or February 2006. Enjoy!

During the first few months of 2006, there were drinking related events happening even more often than usual. In order to spare my liver and my wallet, I decided to decline an invitation to a standard post work izakaya / karaoke / last train home event. Palmer stayed home too, while Azeroth was out with the other teachers. We were having a quiet night in, when just after midnight I received a phone call from Christopher Cross; he was trying get Azeroth home in a taxi, and had no idea where we lived.

Most of the NOVA teachers in the area lived in one apartment building just north of Numazu station. Azeroth, Palmer and I were the only ones in a company apartment in a different location. Our apartment was east of the station close to the Seiyu department store, and about a 15 minute walk from the other apartments.

I asked Christopher why they were in a taxi, and he told me that Azeroth was far too drunk to get to the train station. This was unusual, because Azeroth had an insanely high tolerance for alcohol, and could function under levels of intoxication that would have dropped the average person. For him to be in a taxi, he must have been REALLY drunk. We told Christopher to tell the driver that we lived near Kadoike Park, thinking this would solve the problem.

A few minutes later we got a new call from Christopher. Azeroth had barfed in the taxi, and had managed to catch most of it in a plastic bag. Apparently catching most of it wasn’t enough for the driver, who kicked them out on the side of the road. After debating with the driver briefly, Azeroth fell out of the taxi, hitting the ground pretty hard. The driver pulled away, leaving them in an unknown residential area somewhere in Numazu.

I’m writing this story in 2016, where this situation would be a minor problem. Chances are good that one or both of my friends would have a smart phone with GPS and map software. Christopher’s Japanese was not great, so he likely would have a translation app ready to assist. The problem is that this story took place in 2006, where their cell phones could only make phone calls, send text messages, and take really crappy pictures.

Although we found the situation funny (because we weren’t there), Palmer and I decided we would try to help as much as we could. The first order of business was to find out where Christopher and Azeroth were. There are virtually no street signs in Japan, and Christopher was unable to read any of the signs on utility poles that might give a hint of where they were. We got them to start walking towards the brightest light they could find, hoping it was a major street.

I pulled out my atlas of local street maps that I had purchased after getting a bicycle. When Christopher and Azeroth found a main street, I asked them to read any of the signs they could see. Azeroth could read Japanese, but he broke his glasses during his fall out of the taxi which didn’t help the situation. Christopher couldn’t read Japanese, but was able to read the one nearby sign that had English, the sign on fast food chain Ringer Hut.

Palmer’s computer was nearby. He pulled up the Ringer Hut website and found the Numazu locations. We guessed at a few likely places and looked them up in my street atlas, which also displayed major stores. Christopher noticed that there was a gas station near the Ringer Hut, which helped us identify their exact location in my atlas. They were in the north east corner of Numazu near a large park called “Kadoike”, which was not at all close to the small park called “Kadoike” across the street from our apartment. Dear Numazu – this is confusing!

Now that we knew were they were, the next step was getting home. Thanks to my atlas I found that they were only a few blocks away from a convenience store. It should have only taken a few minutes to walk, but Azeroth was in no condition to walk quickly (or in a straight line).

They called back when they arrived. Christopher wanted to get the staff to call for a taxi, but didn’t know how to say that in Japanese. While I was trying to come up with a good translation, Palmer suggested that he just go into the store, say “taxi” over and over, and point at his drunk friend. This was surprisingly effective, and is a good reminder that the best communication doesn’t always need a lot of words.

Christopher told the taxi driver to go to Seiyu, the giant Wal-mart owned department store at the end of our street. Palmer, who was in fantastic shape, jogged down the street to meet the taxi. I tried to keep up and ended up panting and cursing. We met the taxi in the parking lot, and got a chance to see the damage to Azeroth. He stumbled out of the cab, carrying a plastic bag containing some vomit and a badly bent pair of glasses. He was bleeding slightly from his head and forearm from when he fell out of the taxi. Despite all of this, he was smiling and seemed to be enjoying his evening.

We thanked Christopher and sent him on his way home for some much needed sleep. Palmer and I escorted Azeroth home, cleaned and bandaged his injuries, and gave him plenty of fluids before sending him to sleep. The next morning Azeroth was still slightly drunk. We told him the story and made sure he gave Christopher a call to express his gratitude for helping Azeroth get home.

I obviously missed out on a pretty good party the night before, but it was still fun to help my lost, drunk friends get home safely. Who says an evening in is always boring?

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February 27, 2006 – I hate garbage day

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I REALLY hate garbage day. Not just the regular pickup, but the big day where everything can be collected: plastic, glass, cans, old clothes, paper, and almost everything else that we are allowed to throw away.

Living with two other guys who rarely cook and who enjoy beer means lots of plastic and lots of cans. You can’t just drop stuff off, you have to sort everything by material, colour, and sometimes size. The volunteer garbage police supervise everything and don’t hesitate to let you know when you’re doing it wrong.

As stated in this previous post, we tried to send Palmer out as often as we could for garbage day. Even the strictest members of the volunteer garbage police are reluctant to tell the tall, muscular, bald Australian guy that he’s sorting his glass wrong.

I’m going to miss Palmer when he moves to Hokkaido because he’s a good guy. But I’ll also miss him because now Azeroth and I will suffer the wrath of the garbage police.

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February 26, 2006 – Rain delay

Today I worked at Fuji school to cover a shift swap. I was raining during the day, and absolutely pouring when I tried to leave.

The rain was so hard that my train home was delayed 30 minutes. Fuji serves just under 9000 passengers a day. Even with that relatively small number the platforms were absolutely packed. I can’t even imagine what a rain delays would do for a bigger station! Stupid rain.

2016 Bonus material

There were some train stations that I used regularly in my time in Japan. Fuji was the least busy of my regular stations. Numazu averages around 22,000 passengers a day, Kawasaki was about 164,000, and Shinjuku is somewhere near between 2-3 million daily.

No, that wasn’t a typo. Shinjuku station is bonkers.

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February 21, 2006 – Give an octopus

Learning a foreign language can be a daunting, intimidating task. I have sympathized with my students who have struggled to learn the many terrible irregularities in the English language, the whole time clinging to a belief that Japanese makes a lot more sense. That is until today’s Japanese lesson.

In my Japanese lesson I learned that “tako wo ageru” can mean both “fly a kite” and “give an octopus”. The difference is easy to spot when reading, but verbally they are the same.

Any language which can confuse these two very different concepts is not for the faint of heart. Seriously.


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February 19, 2006 – An early farewell to a roommate

Tonight was the official farewell party for my roommate Palmer. He is moving to Sapporo at the end of the month but we held the official farewell party tonight in order to accommodate other people which resulted in a larger turnout.

The evening followed the template of almost every other teacher leaving party: meet after work, go to an izakaya with a drink / food special, second party at karaoke. For tonight’s party, teachers and staff met at the garlic themed restaurant Ninikuya (literally garlic store). We all left a few hours later a bit drunk and smelling like garlic. Most of us moved on to Uta Club for karaoke. We didn’t book ahead (we rarely do), so our large group ended up being in a long, narrow room that had barely enough space for a table in the middle.

Sometime later into karaoke, sake was ordered. Getting into sake late into a night out is usually a bad idea. Tonight was no exception to that rule.

It’s unfortunate that some of the best parties are farewell parties.

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February 16, 2006 – Blue light

I got some exciting news from The Penpal today: her parents had given approval for our engagement!

She told me that it was a big discussion, so she and her parents had decided to talk about it a little each day. It was a big decision for them because The Penpal is their only child, and they were concerned about her living half way around the world. The fact that I am going to be the first non-Japanese person in the entire family tree came up as well.

I did have a few people on my side through this process. The first was the Penpal’s uncle and aunt who had lived in the US for a few years. They did a lot to help calm worries about how The Penpal would be treated living in another country married to a non-Japanese person. Another person who had my back was The Penpal’s grandmother, who I had met once. Apparently I made a good first impression, and her opinion carries a lot of weight.

Note to my readers: always do your best to be respectful to people. This may just help you out some day!

Ultimately it would have been The Penpal’s decision whether or not to marry me even if her family did not agree. However, it is much easier having the family give their blessing than for us to do things on our own. I am a very happy man today!

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February 15, 2006 – The classiest place I have ever gotten drunk

Tonight we welcomed a new teacher to the Numazu / Fuji / Mishima area. He had arrived in the morning from New Zealand, so he was already tired when we started the party. He went home early, and the rest of us continued enjoying the evening in his honour.

Instead of hitting up one of our usual izakayas or karaoke rooms, we went to a small cocktail bar named Farao. The few staff were all wearing white tuxedos and the bartender can make pretty much any cocktail that you can imagine. Watching them make drinks is a treat – I asked for a martini and enjoyed watching them chip away at a crystal clear block of ice with shiny silver tools. The ice and premium alcohols were combined into a shiny silver shaker and expertly mixed before being poured into the nicest martini glass I had ever seen. They weren’t just creating a strong drink, they were creating art.

My roommate Palmer is friends with the owner so all of the teachers got discounts. We took full advantage of this situation and enjoyed a few more drinks than we would have at full price. Farao is the classiest place I have ever gotten drunk!

Also, martinis are strong!!

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February 13, 2006 – The Waiting Game

It has been one week since I proposed to my girlfriend, The Penpal. The proposal was sudden, so we hadn’t consulted with her parents first. She asked for some time to sell them on the idea, and suggested talking to them by herself would be easier.

It turns out that her parents were more than a little surprised by the idea. Her mom is doing okay with it, but her dad is providing some resistance. The idea of an international marriage is not always appealing to parents.

The Penpal asked me to give it some more time. I really hope they come around!


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February 9, 2006 – Never leave your beer unattended

After work I went out for some beer with Palmer, Azeroth, and Christopher Cross at our favourite izakaya.

For the past few months, Christopher Cross and I have become very competitive at chugging beer. I can’t drink a lot of beer, but I am able to pound them back pretty quickly when needed. This is a skill I acquired during my fraternity days in Canada, and that I have been practicing in Japan. Usually I am one of the fastest, but young Christopher managed to beat me more often than not.

We decided to order a round of beer for the next stage in our never ending competition. Coincidentally, we both had to go to the washroom at the same time, right after we had placed our order.

One of the many cool things about Ryoba is the urinals; they look like barrels cut diagonally, and they are filled with ice cubes. There is something strangely satisfying about trying to melt as many ice cubes as you can while using them. Please note: we did not attempt to compete with each other at this.

We returned to the table to find our beer had arrived, although it looked uncharacteristically foamy. Having already enjoyed a few beverages, we decided to ignore this and start the countdown for our race.

One, two, three, SALT!!!

We pounded back our beers in a few seconds each, and then did our best not to undrink them just as quickly. The foaming was caused by the soy sauce that Azeroth and Palmer had added to each of our beers while we were away. Soy sauce infused beer is NOT good.

Christopher and I decided that the best way to get the salty taste out of our mouths was to order another round of refreshing beer, which we guarded very carefully.

Never leave your beer unattended!

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