Archive for category Klaxman
Today I met up with Klaxman, one of my old roommates for lunch. He is a retired game programmer turned English teacher who moved to Japan in 2006 and has been there ever since.
We went for lunch at an Italian restaurant that had taken over what used to be Cats Cafe. They didn’t serve ridiculously oversized desserts like their predecessors, but they did have some pretty good octopus spaghetti. Klaxman caught me up on all of the changes that NOVA has made over the past 10 years since their bankruptcy, and told me about an open source portable game system called Arduboy that he was making a game for.
After lunch we played a few games at the nearby game center before joining some of Klaxman’s friends at Radio City karaoke. I was happy to see that “Suck My Kiss” by Red Hot Chili Peppers was available to sing, but the crowd in the room was a little more Beatles so I decided to hold off on songs with rampant use of the word “motherfucker”. Karaoke is not a rock concert – some times you need to adjust your song choice for the audience.
It was fun to catch up and break my long karaoke dry spell.
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.
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.
When I learned that Azeroth and I were getting a new roommate in our company apartment in Numazu, I was also told that my new roommate was in his early 50s. This was a bit unusual because most conversational English teachers are in their early to mid 20s. Most of us travel overseas after finishing University to have an adventure before staring our real lives. There are some older teachers, but usually because they came to Japan and never left.
Azeroth and I are two guys who like staying up late, playing video games, and drinking beer. Worried that our new roommate might not be a good fit with the current culture at Ooka City Plaza, I decided to see what Google could tell me.
My new roommate is most likely an NFL kicker, or a retired classic video game programmer. Azeroth and I are both hoping for the second option.
On July 19 I had plans to hang out with my old roommate Klaxman. For those who haven’t read the cast of characters, Klaxman used to be a video game programmer for years, but retired and moved to Japan to teach English. Usually when I return to Japan we end up at a game center (Japanese name for arcade) playing games. This day was no different.
Before we headed off for some gaming, we went for lunch at the Cocochee Hotel on the north side of Numazu station. The hotel was a relatively new addition to the area, and featured two different restaurants. Thanks to Happyko’s recommendation, we went to the Japanese restaurant. The daily lunch specials included a few different options featuring Wagyu beef, which is beef from Japanese cows raised specifically for their fat content. I ordered the Kuroge Wagyu steak (pictured) and Klaxman ordered the Asuka Steak.
Some of the appetizers arrived for one of our orders. We couldn’t completely understand the waiter, so I happily claimed them for myself and started eating. A few minutes later the main courses arrived. Seeing the appetizer dishes in front of me, the waiter served me Klaxman’s food and gave him mine. Apparently the appetizers had belonged to Klaxman. A waitress came over to our table as we switched dishes and started apologizing. I apologized to her for misunderstanding the waiter. She apologized for the service. I apologized for my lack of Japanese ability. After about 3 solid minutes of apologies from all involved, we got to eat.
I have eaten beef in Canada, the US, Jamaica, Japan and Korea but the Wagyu beef on served on rice in my lunch was quite possibly the best beef I have ever eaten in my life. The steak was perfectly seasoned, cooked to about a medium and sliced into strips. It was so tender I likely could have cut it with a fork (if there were any forks in the restaurant). About half way through I had to remind myself that there was rice as well, and that I should pace myself on the steak. I would like to think that I have a fairly large vocabulary, but I don’t think I have the words necessary to describe how amazing the food was.
After lunch, we hung out at the restaurant for a bit and Klaxman showed off his new Intellivision game Match 5. Yes, you read that correctly. When not teaching English or studying Japanese, Klaxman spends his free time programming games for defunct gaming systems in machine code. The game is one of those simple to learn, difficult to master puzzle games that really make gaming fun. If Match 5 is ever released for mobile phones it will sell a billion copies. I also got to see a preview of an upcoming game project featuring different variations on Pong. My favourite was a kind of Space Pong where you have to maneuver the game board away from asteroids while playing Pong.
Seeing the new classic games got us excited for the nearby game center. Like most Japanese game centers you had to enter through an impressive gauntlet of UFO catchers featuring everything from candy to plush toys to goldfish. Past the UFO catchers were the collectible card video games, medal games, regular arcade games, rhythm games and print club machines. We took some time to try out a bit of everything, except the print club machines. Two adult males going into a girly photo booth to make duckface pictures and draw on them afterwards in a game center full of high school kids would probably attract the police.
The highlight of the day was trying out Dark Escape 4D, a zombie shooting game. 3 of the D’s came from the screen courtesy of 3D glasses, and the 4th D was the moving seat and sudden bursts of air designed to scare the player. The guns feature heart rate sensors and will register any spikes in heart rate or removing your hands from the handles as a “panic attack”. The game cabinet featured very loud surround speakers for an immersive game experience. Dark Escape 4D was a lot of fun, although it did get a little predictable after a few minutes. Talk talk talk SURPRISE ZOMBIES!!! Don’t worry guys the coast is clear and ZOMBIES!!!! Hey, let’s climb into the air vent and OMG ZOMBIES IN FRONT OF YOU!!! Despite being predictable, it was a lot of fun, even for cynical jerks like me.
My day finished off with a trip to Don Kihote to pick up souvenirs. My gym buddy, Karate Junk is a big fan of rum. I was determined to find a bottle of Japanese rum to bring back home. Japan is known for sake and whiskey, but rum is no terribly popular nor easily available. After much searching and katakana reading practice, I was able to locate the one bottle of Japanese rum in the store’s expansive liquor section. Spoiler alert: it was pretty good.
If I could spend every day eating Wagyu beef and shooting 4D zombies, I would die a happy man.
My former roommate Klaxman was providing English lessons to a very friendly middle aged woman who I call Friendlyko. Friendlyko is also friends with The Wife and The Mother in Law. On July 12, Friendlyko was going to have some of her friends over at the house and we were invited. The catch is that everyone was expected to perform a song. I was specifically asked for a Canadian song.
Trying to think of a Canadian song is hard. There are so many famous singers and songwriters from Canada that picking just one is difficult. Plus, I wanted to think of something that would really capture Canada, instead of just being a good song written by a Canadian. After considering offerings from Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, The Tragically Hip, Anne Murray, Paul Anka, Our Lady Peace, David Usher, The Arrogant Worms, The Guess Who, April Wine, Loverboy, Fucked Up, Grimes, The Besnard Lakes, Feist, and of course Nickleback (sarcasm on the last one) I ended up with only one logical choice – the most Canadian Man ever – Stompin’ Tom Connors. My song had to be The Hockey Song.
For those unfamiliar with Stompin’ Tom (aka everyone outside of Canada), he was a fiercely patriotic Canadian singer and songwriter who wrote songs about Canada and all things Canadian. He got his nickname from the habit of stomping his cowboy boot to keep time with his guitar playing. Many small towns and historical events in Canada have a Stompin’ Tom song written about them. The Hockey Song is easily Stompin’ Tom’s most recognizable song and is commonly played at hockey games at all levels throughout the country.
In the time leading up to my trip I didn’t have a lot of free time to prepare or practice. While in Japan, I downloaded the song from ITunes and got a free app that removes vocals from songs. I totally forgot to find the lyrics ahead of time. In the minutes leading up to my performance, I was searching for lyrics on Klaxman’s outdated cell phone.
I was up last after seeing other people play the shamisen, sing acapella, play traditional Japanese music on the ukelele, and demonstrate hula dancing. A crowd of about 12 Japanese ladies ranging in ages from mid 30s to early 90s stared at me expectantly. With the help of The Wife I was able to give a little intro on Stompin’ Tom Canada’s love of hockey. I also taught everyone a very basic translation of the chorus of the song and got them to practice so they could sing along. Then came the actual performance, which went fairly well and got a polite round of applause.
A lot of people come to Japan and have fantastic adventures. However, I doubt that many people can say that they got some 90 year old Japanese women to sing along with The Hockey Song. I will hold on to that accomplishment for the rest of my life.