Archive for May, 2017

August 5, 2006 – Broken remote karaoke

After work I went out for some karaoke and drinks with Koalako and her friends in Numazu.

Usually when I go out for karaoke, I’m with at least a few English teachers. Tonight I was the only non-Japanese person in my group, and possibly in the whole building as well. Koalako is functionally bilingual but her friends weren’t so it was a good chance to practice my Japanese. We had a lot of fun and I wasn’t completely awful at singing.

On our way out, the karaoke remote had an unfortunate accident on the stairs to the front counter. We apologized to the staff and Koalako attempted to reassemble the remote for the staff. They acted like it wasn’t their first time to see a remote bounce down the stairs.

Seriously though, who puts a bunch of stairs in a place where people are drinking?

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August 2, 2006 – Friends

I worked an early shift today and got to spend my evening with The Penpal. We ordered pizza and watched Friends. Believe it or not, there is a lot of material to cover on both topics, so I’m breaking this up into two posts.

As an English teacher, students are often asking me what they can do to improve their English. One of the things I recommend is watching TV in English, and I specifically recommended watching Friends.

I was a fan of Friends back in Canada. It’s a fun show and it was always easy to find reruns on almost any channel. For those who have been living in a cave, Friends is a show about 6 friends who live in New York City. All of the action takes place in only a few main locations, and the stories mainly revolve around relationships, family, and jobs.

In addition to being a fun show, Friends is a great tool for learning conversational English. The characters speak the kind of English that many students want to learn when they go to a conversational English school. The language is casual without being overloaded by slang, the conversation is about things that people actually talk about (the aforementioned relationships, family, jobs), and there is a lot of movement and physical humour to help provide context to the spoken language.

English students in Japan can all find something to relate to in the characters in Friends. Overbearing parents? Check. Working an office job that your friends don’t understand? Check. Divorced parent? Check. Apartment life in a big city? Check. While not everyone has a pet duck or an evil twin sister, there still are at least a few things in the characters that everyone can identify with.

As one final advantage of the show, Friends is easy to find. Reruns are shown on TV and the DVDs are easily available to buy or rent. The DVDs come with audio and subtitles in both English and Japanese. I’ve been encouraging students to watch in English with English subtitles if possible, and only to use the Japanese subtitles if they had trouble understanding something.

What’s not to understand?

I know a few students have taken my advice so far, and I have been enjoying rewatching the show with The Penpal as a fun way to practice her English before she moves to Canada. That’s when we’re going to graduate to The Simpsons!

 

 

 

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August 2, 2006 – Pizza!

I worked an early shift today and got to spend my evening with The Penpal. We ordered pizza and watched Friends. Believe it or not, there is a lot of material to cover on both topics, so I’m breaking this up into two posts.

Living in Winnipeg you are never short of options for pizza delivery; the market is competitive and prices are low. Pizza delivery in Japan is harder to come across. The best option in Numazu is the country’s largest chain, Pizza-La. The pizza is much more expensive than back home, but the quality is great and the range of toppings is impressive. Also, they deliver the pizza on a cool motorcycle / scooter thing, perfect for narrow Japanese roads.

Screen shot of a Pizza-La English menu – it’s free advertising so please don’t sue!

A rough translation of the price would be 100 yen to the dollar, so a large Sweet & Sour Chicken with Tatar Sauce would be about $35 delivered. Usually we order the Italiana, which is even more delicious than it looks.

Although there are a lot of interesting variations involving different sauces and toppings that all look delicious, I usually end up getting something pretty familiar. When I am paying $30+ for a pizza I want to make sure that I’m going to like it!

One important note: in Japan corn is considered to be a normal pizza topping. I am an open minded person who loves trying new foods, but I will never, EVER order a pizza with corn on it. It’s just wrong.

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July 31, 2006 – Happy to have the day off

After two days of celebrating my birthday, I’m very happy to have the day off today.

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July 30, 2006 – Double birthday party at Numazu Festival

Today was a fantastic day!

I got to spend the day with The Penpal, which was a lot of fun. In the evening her parents took us out for dinner. After parting ways with the family, I met up with most of the local NOVA teachers and staff for a double birthday party for myself and Dom. Numazu summer festival was in its second day so we headed out for fireworks and street beer. The staff were kind enough to get me a happy birthday senbe cracker.

Like all summer festivals in Japan, Numazu festival saw the main streets lined with small stalls selling food, drinks, and toys for the kids. One of the stalls sold a giant inflatable cola can with straps so you could wear it like a backpack. After a few drinks I thought that this would be a fun souvenir. I wore it around for the rest of the evening, which led to random people sneaking up to try to hit it or sumo wrestle with me. I am definitely not built to be a sumo wrestler!

After fireworks we went to the new karaoke place across from Numazu station. It was a big chain karaoke that also had a comic cafe, internet, and movie rental rooms. It wasn’t as cheap as Uta Club, our usual karaoke place, but it did have a free ice cream bar!

Usually karaoke ends a night out, but instead we all stumbled down the street to Farao cocktail bar for some delicious but totally unnecessary cocktails. Usually the bartender is impeccably dressed in a suit that would put James Bond to shame, but tonight he was dressed for the festival in a yukata. I think we ended up getting friend pricing that we used to get when my roommate Palmer was still living in the area. Farao cocktails are delicious and incredibly strong.

At some point I ended up stuck in a drunk conversation with one of the local students; a single mother who had a reputation for “interacting” with some of the other teachers. Being happily engaged, I tried my best to get out of the conversation, using the secret “help me out” signals that I learned in my fraternity days. The signal was passed down from one generation of frat boy to another, and I had used it with great success on a night out in Winnipeg.

Since none of my coworkers had been in my fraternity (or went to my University or had grown up in Canada), the signal unsurprisingly had no effect at all. Eventually one of the other single teachers walked by. I grabbed him and brought him into the conversation before excusing myself and making a graceful exit.

After another cocktail I walked home slowly to finish off my long, full day of fun and adventure. Today was likely one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever had!

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July 29, 2006 – Walking in a yukata is HARD

Happy Birthday to me! As part of my birthday present, my roommate Klaxman switched his early shift for my late shift so I was able to go to Numazu summer festival with The Penpal. I went to her house after work, and her family helped me to get dressed in my new yukata which we had bought a few days earlier.  Overall it was comfortable, but the bottom of my robe was fairly tight around my legs.

I’m not a tall person, so I usually have a long stride in order to walk quickly. The bottom of my yukata prevented me from taking big steps, which took a lot of practice to get used to. Things got more difficult when I put on my geta; thong sandals with wooden blocks on the bottom.

The combination of the yukata and geta slowed me down quite a bit. Stairs were a very unfriendly sight for my restricted legs and awkward wooden sandals. When crossing the street to get to the train station I held on to the railing tight to avoid rolling an ankle or tumbling down the stairs and wiping out the rest of the people like a pale bowling ball.

We survived the train ride and walk into Numazu’s overcrowded downtown area, and watched an amazing fireworks show surrounded by tens of thousands of people, most of whom were also wearing yukatas. If you ever have a chance, see fireworks in Japan; they blow away anything I have seen from back home, with the exception of Canada Day fireworks in tiny Wabigoon, Ontario, a town that seems to spend their entire budget every year on airborne explosives. Numazu’s fireworks are launched from either side of a central bridge, offering great views from downtown and along the riverside, and amazing views if you are lucky enough to be on the bridge.

It was a very cool experience to see Numazu festival in traditional Japanese clothing. When I first moved away from Canada to teach English, I wanted to experience Japanese culture. Thanks to my wonderful fiancee and her family I have been able to participate in things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I left Winnipeg behind.

Although I had a fun evening, I was very, VERY happy to get back into my comfortable jeans and flat, safe shoes.

 

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July 26, 2006 – Yukata shopping

Today I worked an early shift. When I was done, The Penpal’s family took me out for dinner followed by yukata shopping.

I’m often confused by the differences between a “kimono” and a “yukata”. Usually I have heard the term yukata refer to a less formal robe like garment. I have worn yukatas before while staying in hotels, but I don’t have my own. My birthday and Numazu summer festival are coming up shortly, so the Penpal’s parents decided to get me a yukata for my birthday.

Buying a yukata was a lot like buying a suit; someone takes your measurements and then gives you a lot of different options including colour, fit, accesories, and price. We ended up with a fairly simple yukata set, complete with magnetic obi (so I don’t have to tie it) and geta; traditional Japanese wooden sandals. I expect that I am going to fall a few times using those.

Yukata shopping with my finacee and future in-laws really made me feel like part of the family.

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