Archive for January, 2017

June 17, 2006 – A ticket home

Today was the first day of my short paid holiday! I made good use of my time by spending most of the day with The Penpal.

During the day, we went to the nearby travel agent to inquire about a plane ticket back to Canada in November. I have pretty much decided that I’m going in November, although I haven’t given any notice yet. My thought was that plane tickets are usually cheaper in advance, but the travel agent said that they weren’t currently selling tickets six months into the future. I’ll try again in a few months.

After the travel agent we had lunch together and spent the afternoon playing Final Fantasy 3 (aka Final Fantasy 6) on my computer by using a SNES emulator. I’m happy that we can both enjoy hanging out and playing games together.

** As someone who currently lives with a retired game programmer who made his living from video games, I do appreciate the fact that software piracy is a bad thing for creators. However, since I actually own a physical copy of this game (it’s stuck in a box in Canada) I don’t have any moral issues about playing it on an emulator in Japan.

In the evening after The Penpal left, I watched yet another terrible MST3K movie with my roommates. Tonight’s debacle was The Master Ninja, an American TV show that was edited together into a movie. It goes to show that adding ninjas doesn’t automatically make something good. However, beer always helps.

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June 16, 2006 – Last day before holiday

Today was my last day of work before my upcoming short holiday!

Recently Super Dave and I had been talking about our lack of travel in Japan. Traveling with other people is more fun than traveling solo, but with a small number of teachers in the area it’s hard to find someone with similar days off. Super Dave and I decided that we would each take a few shift swaps to get the same days off so we could travel to western Japan. I’m looking forward to it!

Current plans include the Ninja Museum, Osaka, and Kyoto.


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June 15, 2006 – Ethical dilemmas and Prince of Space

Today was pay day, the happiest day of the month! (Yes, we only get paid monthly)

In addition to my NOVA pay, I got a “bonus” in the form of free beer vouchers from one of the students. This student has been stuck in level for a while, and is trying hard to get promoted. The timing of his gift is not coincidental.

NOVA has a strict policy about teachers not accepting gifts from students. I tried to refuse in the classroom but he insisted on giving me the beer vouchers. After a brief ethical dilemma I decided to accept them because:

  1. He had given the same gift to a few other teachers that he liked
  2. I will share the beer with other teachers

I celebrated pay day and the soon to be shared gift by watching a terrible MST3K movie called “Prince of Space” with my roommates. The movie was a combination of two short Japanese movies from 1959 based on the TV show “Planet Prince”. For the American release, the two movies were edited together and dubbed into English by Italians. It’s not as bad as it sounds; it’s much worse. Check out a review on here!

Prince of Space!

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June 14, 2006 – Wrestling vs. World Cup

FIFA World Cup continues, much to the delight of most of my coworkers. My roommates (both Americans) and I decided to give World Cup another try after suffering through an incredibly boring England vs. Paraguay game the other night. Tonight’s game was Spain vs. Ukraine, which we did our best to watch until we learned that there was Japanese women’s wrestling on another channel. Not just any women’s wrestling: hardcore women’s wrestling!

Finding this new program led us to a choice:

  • Continue to watch 22 men mostly standing still pass a ball to each other while the crowd sang football songs
  • Watch two terrifying Japanese women stab each other in the head with forks and then beat up the ref who tried to stop them

It was an easy choice. Wrestling > World Cup

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June 10, 2006 – New house

Today I got to spend some time with The Penpal and see her parents’ new house. The new house is only a few houses away from their old house which is convenient for moving and nice because they already know the neighbourhood well. The new house is much more modern than the older one, and features lots of sliding windows and one room with a tatami floor. Very nice!

New life goal: own a house with a tatami room floor.

(2017 Author’s note) The Penpal’s parents are still in the newer house. I have stayed in the tatami mat room several times 🙂


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June 9, 2006 – World Cup is BORING

The FIFA World Cup is on now. Since we have a lot of British teachers, the World Cup is a regular topic of conversation in the teachers room. Tonight I was invited to watch my first ever World Cup game, England vs. Paraguay, with coworkers. It was BORING! SO VERY BORING!

I’m sure the soccer / football fans out there are warming up their fingers to type a blistering message about how a maple sucking puck slapper (Canadian) like me could never understand “The Beautiful Game”; this may be true. Soccer is a widely played game in Canada, but rarely at the professional level. I can appreciate how passionate people get about the game, especially when national pride is on the line, but the game we watched was simply not exciting soccer. At all. Even the most tea swilling, Union Jack wearing, fish and chips eating Brits in our group ended up apologizing and saying that the game wasn’t much fun to watch. They did keep telling me that World Cup is usually a lot more exciting.

The whole experience reminded me of the episode of The Simpsons where a major international soccer game is played in Springfield and everyone gets bored after about 30 seconds. Unlike Springfield, we didn’t have a riot.

At least I got a chance to hang out and drink a few beers while eating some really good spicy miso potato chips. Yum!

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May 2006 – Door to door sales

This story happened sometime in 2006, but I can’t remember the exact date, so I’m putting it in May.

Being an English speaking gaijin has its advantages when it comes to salespeople. I always answer the phone in English, so telemarketers quickly hang up. Door to door sales people usually take one look at me, apologize, and then proceed to the next apartment. However, one day I got a very persistent guy who was up for a challenge.

I was getting ready for work when I got a knock on the door. I greeted the well dressed young man who started asking about our stove. I had no idea that he was a salesman, instead thinking he was someone from our apartment building. I brought him in and took him to the kitchen, apologizing for our usual mess in broken Japanese.

He started telling me something about the range hood over the stove, pulling out the filter and showing me how dirty it was. I still believed that he was someone from our apartment building who heard about how poorly Azeroth and I took care of house cleaning. I understood about 50% of what he was saying, so I agreed that the filter was in fact dirty.

At this point he pulled out a catalog of fancy looking filters and filter systems. I suddenly realized two things:

  1. This was a salesman
  2. There is a surprising amount of variety in the world of air filters

Before he could start getting fully into his sales pitch, I tried my best to communicate that I was a NOVA teacher, this was a company apartment, NOVA could spend money on the apartment but I couldn’t. What I lacked in vocabulary I made up for in hand gestures. Eventually he understood and apologized as he started to leave. I also apologized for the confusion, and he apologized for not being able to speak English. I then apologized for not being able to speak Japanese better. It was a ridiculous situation.

I told Azeroth about this later over beer. He stated that answering the door in English and “forgetting” Japanese was one of the best ways to get rid of salespeople quickly. He also said that he rarely answers the door when he’s not expecting someone, which completely solves the problem as well. I made a mental note to never leave home without keys or my cell phone.

What I really want to know is: does anyone in any country actually buy things from door to door salespeople?

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May 21, 2006 – Farmer tan

The Penpal and I met up with some of her friends and we spend a beautiful sunny day at Izu Mito Sea Paradise, which is always fun. I have been a few times before and you can read about them here and here. The friends brought along their young daughter, hoping she’d pick up some English from a real live gaijin. After a few years in Japan I’m getting used to the fact that I am a bit of a novelty to most kids, and have actually started enjoying the experience.

While we were driving, I had the window down and rested my arm on the door. In the short time that we were driving there and back I got a wicked sunburn on my left forearm. I am a very pale person, and the sun is NOT my friend.


(2016 note from the author) Holy crap I was skinny back then!! I’m still pale as a ghost, but I at least have a bicep now.

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May 19, 2006 – So much rain

So much rain. So very much rain.


There was no rain when I left for work today, but it was absolutely pouring when my shift was over. I didn’t have an umbrella with me, but an umbrella likely wouldn’t have been much help anyway. I decided to just bike home as quickly as possible. Fun fact: Japanese people give you some very strange looks when they see you riding a bike home with no umbrella in a downpour.

By the time I got home all of my clothes were soaked right down to my underwear. I was actually able to pour water out of my shoes!

Rain is serious business in Japan.

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Happy New Year 2017!

Greetings and Happy New Year! If you are reading this I hope you had a fun and exciting new year with friends or family.

Now that the train wreck known as 2016 is behind us, I’m looking forward to a better year. As a rule I don’t make new year’s resolutions, because they are typically forgotten within the first few months. However, here are some things I will be trying to accomplish in 2017:

  1. Be a good father and husband – doing both of these things involves hard work, trial and error, and a lot of patience (on their part and mine). I’m going to try hard to always put family first.
  2. Finish off my travel blog – as of the time I am writing this post, my Japan adventures are stuck in mid 2006. I’d like to finish off the story within 2017.
  3. Record a song – for the past few years, I have been slowly learning how to play the bass guitar while jamming with friends. We actually have a few song ideas that are decent, and I’d like to get a good recording of at least one of them this year.
  4. Find time for the gym – I don’t always like going to the gym, but I love the way it makes me feel and look. I’m hoping that with a healthy family and continuing to get used to my new job that I can once again get back in the habit of hitting the gym a few times a week.

Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope your 2017 is infinitely better than 2016. Take care of yourselves and each other!


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