Posts Tagged Shizuoka
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.
Today I went to Numazu and hung out with The Penpal and Williams. I really love the change in scenery when leaving the greater Tokyo area and getting into Shizuoka. Mt. Fuji was snow covered and looked spectacular.
The first stop of the day was Izu Mito Sea Paradise, a marine park just south of Numazu along the coast. Sea Paradise has tanks with a great selection of fish and other underwater life. They also have a dolphin show, which is much like a dolphin show just about anywhere else in the world.
After Sea Paradise, we went to a beach along the coastline where people were practicing various water sports. For the first time ever I saw someone kiteboarding. Imagine someone on a small surfboard holding on to two handles connected to a large parachute like kite. Unfortunately for the man, he wiped out and his kite started blowing away. None of the onlookers at the beach stopped to help.
Following the beach, we went 10 pin bowling and then spent some time in a game center. I specifically mention that the bowling was 10 pin because bowling in Canada is typically 5 pin. I prefer 10 pin, except for the time it takes to find a ball the right weight with proper holes.
In the game centre I played a Dance Dance Revolution clone (badly) and tried a very strange train simulator game. You can’t drive off the tracks, but you lose points for being late to the next station or for giving the passengers a rough ride. I was very fast but I actually had a passenger fall out when I opened the doors at top speed.
It’s always good to get away from the Greater Tokyo area for a while, and I had a fun day with The Penpal and Williams. Fortunately the train driver on the way home was much better than I had been on the train simulator.
(partial rewrite of original post for detail)
Rewrite of original post
Today I went to visit The Penpal in Numazu. From Noborito it was a 2 hour train ride; first a train on Odakyu line to Odawara and then switching to Tokaido line to Numazu station. Compared to Kawasaki, Numazu is a beautiful city. Numazu is on the ocean and the skyline is full of mountains. I wonder if NOVA Numazu needs a new teacher?
I met The Penpal and one of her students who likes to be called Williams (his name is Akira). Together we went to Goyotei Memorial Park. This used to be one of the Emperor’s houses in the Meiji, Taisho and Showa era. The house stopped being used in 1969 and became a museum in 1970. US President Grant visited the Emperor at this house. It was very cool to see.
We went for lunch at a trendy restaurant where I tried to explain the many uses of the work “fuck”. Normally it isn’t polite to explain “fuck” and all of its variations in a restaurant, but this is Japan and I am an English teacher. After our lunch we went to karaoke. This was my first time with Japanese style karaoke, which is usually in a small private room instead of on a stage in front of strangers. I absolutely rocked on Monkees songs and Bohemian Rhapsody, but totally sucked many others. I really need singing lessons! After Karaoke we drove around and went to a massive sushi restaurant. I love sushi!
This was the day that started my love of karaoke. To say that I sung Bohemian Rhapsody well would likely be very generous.
After two weeks of a fantastic vacation, it was (unfortunately) time to return to Canada. The Wife and I had spent the previous day packing and finishing our souvenir shopping. On the morning of the 21st, everything was ready to go.
The Wife and I each had one large suitcase, one backpack, and shared a box with extra stuff that would have put the suitcases over their weight limit. The challenge was getting all of these objects and 4 people to the airport in a Toyota Vitz hatchback. The Vitz is the Japanese version of the Echo, and is not exactly a cargo vehicle. Despite our epic Tetris skills, there was no way that everything and everyone was going to fit in the car at the same time. We ended up sending the ladies by train from Ooka to Numazu, and the men loaded the car and drove to the station.
For the trip from Numazu to Narita Airport we opted for the airport bus instead of the train. I prefer trains myself, but the bus is much more convenient when transporting large bags. As the poor driver tried to load our heavy bags into the bus, we said our good-byes to The In-Laws and Happyko, who had come to see us off. The In-Laws, being Japanese seniors, are not usually very huggy people. I am Canadian, so I gave the Mother in Law a nice big hug before getting on the bus. I do know my limits, and was pleased with a nice handshake from The Father in Law, which is about as touchy feely as he ever gets. We boarded the bus and waved out the window as everyone tried to pretend not to be sad.
The airport bus does present some different scenery than the train. We took the Tomei Expressway to the Greater Tokyo Area, then went right though the center of the city, passing through Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi, close to the Imperial Palace, near Skytree then eastwards through Chiba. I did get some good pics from the train that I posted on my Tumblr here.
At the airport easily found the Air Canada check-in. It was the most crowded and disorganized check-in area in the entire airport. We were able to identify at least 4 separate lines with no dividers between them: one line for one line for the self serve check-in machines, one line for the baggage drop, one line for “check-in assistance” and one VIP check-in line. We had checked-in online the day before, but didn’t have a printer to print boarding passes, so none of the lines applied to our situation. Every employee we asked directed us to a different line. Finally we just got into the bag drop line and hoped they could figure it out. In the entire crowd, nobody really knew where they were supposed to be. This led to a lot of multilingual “which line is this” conversations. Just when we got to the “front”, we saw a sign informing us that our luggage cart was not allowed. Faced with the thought of one of us managing all the bags while the other returned the cart to the correct place, we decided to just abandon it next to the throng of people.
Around this time, Air Canada realized that there were about 4 VIP check in staff with nothing to do, and about 150 people lined up for the regular people check-in area. We were taken over to the VIP area and everything was finally figured out. We do appreciate the gesture, but it should have been done about 15 minutes earlier. It should be impossible for any company to be that disorganized in Japan.
When we boarded the plane we found ourselves surrounded by what we assume were Junior High school students or possibly High School students from Japan on their way to Canada. Apparently the only Japanese speaking flight attendant was working business class, leaving the English speaking attendants to try to convince the students to turn off their electronic devices and take out their headphones using only English and hand gestures. Trying to get a teenager to turn off their electronic devices is a challenge even without a language barrier.
As we started our long taxi to the runway, The Wife and I quickly realized that most of the students had never flown before. One of the students was even asking if we were flying yet after 15 minutes of waiting in line on the ground. We prepared ourselves for what would be a hilarious takeoff. The students did not disappoint, sounding more like they were on a roller coaster than an airplane as we gathered speed and left the ground. As an experienced flier, I can understand that people are nervous on their first flight. But the mass of students seemed to feed off each other’s nervousness.
During the flight, I watched Wreck It Ralph (for the second time), The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Sunset Boulevard. Like the flight to Japan, we were served something that slightly resembled food, if it had been prepared by an alien race whose only knowledge of Earth food came from the pictures in old magazine ads.
The flight was very smooth until the start of our descent into Calgary. We hit our first pocket of turbulence, which started a wave of minor screams from the students. Every bounce and every dip was accompanied by a “WAAAAAH!” from the entire back of the plane. I finally gave up all pretense of not laughing at their expense when I put my hands in the air and said “whee!” during some of the bigger bumps. When you have been sitting in a tube for 10 hours you need to make your own fun.
Other than a plane full of novice fliers, the best part about returning to Canada from Japan is the time travel. We left Narita airport at 5:00pm on July 21, and landed in Winnipeg at 4:55pm on July 21. Yes, we actually arrived 5 minutes before we left, no Delorean required. The concept is fun, but the experience really does mess up your internal clock for several days afterwards. I politely request that Hollywood build the concept of jet lag into future time travel films.
Our 2 week trip to Japan was fantastic. We got to spend a lot of time with family and friends, and had a few adventures along the way. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. It was good to get away, but it’s always great to be back in your own bed again, especially when that means you get to sleep next to your awesome wife for the second time in 2 weeks. There really is no place like home.
My in laws like to make plans for us when we come back to visit. The plan for the day was to go to Numazu port to see the View-o tsunami gate, go to a historical agriculture museum, then go to a public bath and get naked with strangers.
Numazu is a port city with a large fishing industry. View-o is a gate built at the entrance to the Numazu port area. In the event of a tsunami, the gate will lower to protect the port area and its businesses. You can ride an elevator to the top and get some fantastic pictures of the port area, Izu and Mt. Fuji. Due to the incredible heat, everything was hazy and Fuji was not visible.
The port area has narrow streets full of fish shops and restaurants. Himono, sun dried fish, can be seen (and occasionally smelled) all around the area. We ate lunch in a small restaurant that we chose based on the lunch special. They offered a dish called “Numazu Don” which had 2 kinds of fish and tiny shrimp on top of rice. Numazu Don is served with miso soup. I ordered deep fried tiny shrimp with miso sauce over rice, served with miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles. We stuffed ourselves for about ¥1000 per person. For anyone who says eating in Japan is too expensive – you are eating in the wrong places.
We were all moving very slowly in the heat and after the massive lunch, so we skipped the museum and went directly to the public baths. At this point I started getting a bit nervous. I had been to a small public bath before at a Capsule Hotel in Tokyo, and an Onsen at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) so I was familiar with the concept and the rules. However, I had never been to a big neighbourhood public bath before. In the time since living in Japan, my Japanese had gotten quite rusty. Also, The Wife, who is fluently bilingual, would be in the women’s section while I would be with my father in law who speaks no English and about 20 other naked Japanese guys.
When I am nervous or stressed out, my typical defense mechanism is to make jokes. When The Wife handed me the small privacy towel I told her in Japanese that she had made a mistake. She asked why, and I told her the towel was much too big.
I now present Barniferous’s 10 Easy Steps to being a Gaijin men using a public bath in Japan:
- Go into the locker area, find an empty locker and stash everything except your privacy towel. Yes, everything. You will end up with a small towel in front of your naughty bits and your pasty white butt will be fully exposed (substitute other butt colours as appropriate for you).
- Wish you had a beer or three first.
- Follow your naked 73 year old father in law into the washing area. Sit on the bucket and thoroughly wash yourself everywhere. You are about to sit in hot water with other naked dudes, so make sure you are clean and not soapy.
- Choose a nice indoor bath to start. Put your privacy towel on your head and slowly lower yourself into the 40 degree water. At this point you will realize how many nerve endings you have in your nether regions and how sensitive they are to heat. Understand how a boiled lobster feels.
- Don’t get confused – just because you are seeing a room full of Wangs does not mean you are suddenly in China.
- Move to the outdoor tub and then consider the wisdom of your decision to sit in very hot water while it is very hot outside. Awkwardly talk to your father in law until you run out of Japanese.
- When you start to feel faint, and you will, go to the cold water station and pour icy cold water on your feet. Resist the urge to scream like a girl.
- Sit in one more tub of incredibly hot water, because you didn’t travel half way around the world to only sit in two tubs of incredibly hot water. Try to ignore the fact that you are the only non-Japanese person in the place. Also try to ignore the many, many penises.
- After cooking yourself for a sufficient time, go to the washing area and wash yourself again.
- Return to the locker, get dressed, then go have a nice cold beer, you earned it. Nurse the beer because your wife and mother in law will be another hour.
Another one of the important characters in my upcoming adventures is The Penpal.
In my second last year of University I took an elective Japanese language course. I liked it so much that I wanted to continue with another Japanese course in my final year of school. My biggest concern was losing my language abilities in the 4 months between semesters. Winnipeg has a very small Japanese community, so I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to find language partners in person. Faced with a challenge, I turned to the internet for assistance.
Searching for foreign language exchange partners brings you to a wide array of websites – some legit language exchange sites, many more for finding foreign spouses. I would promote the website that I used, but it has now been replaced with a straight up dating website.
I signed up for an account and created a profile explaining that I was looking for someone to practice Japanese with. In my profile I specifically mentioned that I was a big fan of Radiohead, Pixies, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and the Beatles. In short order I ended up with penpals from Japan, Korea and the Philippines. One of my Japanese penpals decided to write to me because she shared the same taste in music. She was about the same age as me, and lived in a city called Numazu in Shizuoka prefecture. Like many other Japanese people, she had studied English in school but didn’t have a lot of opportunity to practice in daily life. Out of all of the penpals I got on the website, she and I had the most in common and wrote each other weekly in English and Japanese.
One of the highlights of our email exchanges was when I made a mix CD to send to her. The CD included Queens of the Stone Age, Moist, Our Lady Peace, Frank Black and other music that I was into at the time. Out of the CD, she particularly liked Moist and Our Lady Peace (go Canadian bands!). Not having a CD burner, she responded with a mix cassette. Her cassette included Shiina Ringo, UA, Love Psychedelico and Number Girl. I had never heard of any of them before, but quickly became a fan.
To be clear – I was not looking for a girlfriend. I already had one of those (The Ex). She also had a boyfriend at the time. We were both honestly looking for a language partner, and we both ended up finding a friend. From here forward I will refer to this person as “The Penpal”.