Sunday, July 26, 2009

Japan meets Harry Potter / Seeing movies in Japan

Last night I got to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Overall, I think it was a really good movie, but it was a poor adaptation of the book. I'm sure you guys aren't really interested in my review of the movie though, so I'll spare you that.

Going to the movies in Japan is an interesting experience. It's not something I get to do often though. The closest movie theater to us is a 10 minute (20 if we take non-express) train ride then a 880 yen taxi ride to get to. This is typical for Japan. Back at home, we have movie theaters in almost every town. Even really small towns will usually have a one screen theater. In Japan, this is not the case.

So along with the travel costs, the cost of a movie ticket here is ridiculously expensive. It's 1800 yen ($18) a ticket! Sometimes there are slight discounts, such as the last showing of a movie will be about 1200 yen. It's enough that I will NEVER complain about ticket prices at home again.

Concessions are about the same prices as they are back at home. You still pay too much for a small pop and popcorn.

Japan is also usually a few months behind when it comes to movie releases. For example, "X-Men Orgins: Woverine" FINALLY comes out here next month. This is very normal for Japan. However, sometimes we get lucky. Harry Potter came out at the exact same time here. (We were busy last weekend, so we had to wait a week to see it).

Seeing a movie here is almost a surreal experience. The Japanese politeness comes through even when watching a movie. Everyone is extremely quiet and attentive. No one laughs at funny parts, no one cries when it's sad, no one screams or yelps when something jumps out to scare you. There is no vocal reaction at all. There were plenty of funny parts in Harry Potter, and it felt odd to be in a crowded theater where Jonny and I were the ONLY people laughing. It's slightly uncomfortable.

However, there is very much a good side to this. Back at home, I can't stand when I'm in the theater and there's a group of chatty teenagers. They feel the need to talk and make obnoxious commentary during the film. I can't count how many times movies have been ruined for me because of this. In Japan, even the teenagers are overally polite during a movie. I love this.

Another interesting thing I noticed is how most of the people in the auidence stay in the theater until the movie is completely finished. This means sitting through the entire credits. Maybe they're waiting just in case something cool happens after the credits, like in "Iron Man"? I have no idea.

So because it's Harry Potter related, I want to share a couple videos. I posted one of these on Facebook, so you guys may have watched it already. There was a contest in Japan for the biggest Harry Potter fans to meet and interview people from the cast of the movie. Here are the videos from it. The two girls that won are adorablly awkward! Their reactions are priceless:

Dan Radcliff (Harry Potter):

Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley). This one includes some translation:

SOO cute!

To no one's suprise, Harry Potter is popular in Japan just like it is in the rest of the world. Many of my students are fans, which has been a great way to connect with them (because anyone that knows me knows that I'm a HUGE Potter geek). It makes it even better since I've been to Oxford and have seen places where the films were shot. I hope it gets many of them to travel or even study there someday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I decided it was about time to start taking video of my adventures in Japan. I took some back in May, but then I forgot about them. (If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a very forgetful person!) So now, before I forget about them again, here are the videos I've taken:

This is some footage from the Ikazaki kite festival. This was during the "kite fights". Anyone is allowed to participate. The kites have razors attached to the strings. The object it to try to use the razors from your kite to cut the strings on the other kites. It's actually pretty entertaining.

More from the kite fights

This is from our trip to Beppu. We went for our anniversary. Beppu is famous for onsen (hot springs). It also has a REALLY nice aquarium and a monkey park (see the videos after this). Here's some of video of the aquarium. My favorite part: the dolphins

This is the monkey park we went to (it's right accross from the aquarium). This one was pretty crazy. There are over 1000 monkeys at this place, and they all roam freely throughout the park. This video gives you an idea of how close you can get to these guys.

More footage from the monkey park. This was during feeding time. They sent a cart around throwing food from it. Here you can see all the monkeys chasing it. It was a little scary.

That's all for now! I'll post more when I make them! (and I'll try not to forget next time!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Students Say the Awesome-est Things: part 2

My students are such little punks sometimes! Take today's class for example:

I was teaching my 2nd year (8th graders) junior high students. The kids were given a homework assignment they'll be expected to do over summer break. I went over to a few kids and expressed some sympathy. No one likes homework over break, especially summer break. The conversation went something like this:

me: aww...summer homework?

student 1: yes :(

student 2: yes :(

me: That's too bad

student 1: *points at the teacher and says a word in Japanese I don't recognize*

me: eh?

student 2: *says the word slower for me* sai - a - ku - da

student 1: (in Japanese) Go tell her she is "saiakuda"!

me: (in Japanese) I don't understand

student 1: *gets the "I'm up to no good" grin on his face* "saiakuda" mean...."good".

student 2: *also grinning* It mean "very good".

student 1: yes! "very good!"

me: *repeating the word to see if it helps me remember it*

student 1: (in Japanese) yes! Now go tell her she is "saiakuda!"

*Both of the kids pull the teacher over and say that I have something to tell her*

student 1 and 2: (in Japanese) say it! say it!

*the teacher looks at me waiting*

me: umm...they want me to say a Japanese word to you, but I don't know what it means

*the teacher rolls her eyes at the students then walks away*

Right after this, I grabbed my electronic dictionary to look up the word. Basically, the kids wanted me to tell the teacher she is "the worst". I'm actually surprised they didn't try something more insulting. Still, it would have gotten me in trouble had I been naive enough to follow them.

Little punks. I love them.

Monday, July 13, 2009

the interesting flavors of Japan

In Japan, you can find a lot of names you're familiar with: Coke, Pepsi, Pringles, Doritos, Kit Kat, etc.

However, Japan likes to add their own little twist to things. As the seasons change, they come up with new flavors of things we know and love. For example, the latest creation from Pepsi:

Pepsi Shiso!

Shiso is a kind of mint leaf. It's used mostly in Korean food. It's a very strong flavor and not something you'd think, "now that would make a refreshing drink!" However, this isn't too surprising that Pepsi went for it anyway. Apparently last summer, there was a cucumber flavor.

So I tried Pepsi Shiso a few weeks ago. In my opinion, it's really nasty. I didn't care for it at all. However, Jonny liked it and so did a few friends of mine. So maybe it's just me.

We're also seeing some new flavors of Kit Kat this summer. The latest is "Ramune" (a Japanese soda) and "lemon vineger". I've tried both of them recently. The lemon vineger wasn't as horrible as I expected. Still, chocolate and lemon aren't exactly flavors I'd put together. The Ramune flavor, on the other hand, was really disgusting. But again, Jonny liked it, and so did my friend Simon.

I'll post about new flavors and products when I find them!


It is hot in Japan right now.

The usual response I get to this is, "yeah, it's hot here in Michigan too!"

No. No, it's not.

Some parts of America are this hot. Ever been to Florida during the summer? That's about what it's like right now. It's nasty humid every day. The buildings have no insulation, so you can't escape the humidity. The air is so thick you're practically swimming in it.

I'm still working right now. In Japan, their summer break doesn't start until mid July. I don't have a car, so I have to walk or bike to all of my schools. By the time I make it to work, I'm drenched in sweat. To make things worse, none of my schools have air conditioning. At most, sometimes the staff room has air conditioning. Sadly, they almost never turn it on.

My poor students can't concentrate at all. They'll fan themselves with their books until they give up and pass out at their desks. No one should be expected to learn anything under these conditions. Let these kids go on break already!

When I'm not at work, I go into hibernation mode. Jonny and I mostly stay at home under the air conditioning. I've also grown a love for ice cold showers.

Next summer, Jonny and I are either taking a trip home or way up north in Hokkaido!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Japanese music

My current favorite song to sing at karaoke:

I usually get pretty fun reactions from the Japanese people around me when I choose this song. They're usually shocked that I know who this guy is. Sometimes they squeal because they're also big fans. ^_^

For my friends back at home that I sent CD's to: this is Gackt. Like I said, he's really pretty.

Happy (belated) Tanabata!

I just learned about this, but yesterday was "Tanabata" (star festival) in Japan. I tend to not realize there's a holiday if I don't get time off of work. But anyway, here's the story of Tanabata:

Orihime (Weaving Princess), daughter of the Tentei (Sky King, or the universe itself), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa ( Milky Way, lit. "heavenly river"). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi ( Cow Herder Star) (also referred to as Kengyuu) ) who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.

On this day, people (mostly young children) write wishes on pieces of paper. They take the wishes and attach them to bamboo. It is said that when the two lovers meet, your wish will be granted.

I was told that they have a bigger festival for this next month. I'm not sure why, but at least I have another chance to make a wish!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Students say the Awesome-est things!

Recently, I did a few lessons about shopping. This was for 3rd years (9th graders) in Junior High School. For the lesson, we had the students make up skits. We taught them the standard phrases like, "how much is this?", "may I help you?", "that's too expensive", "it's a gift, can you wrap it for me?", etc. Here are some of my favorites that the kids came up with (I include spelling and grammar errors, but this time there weren't many):

Clerk: May I help you?
M Yes I'm looking for a jaket.
C: What size?
M Medium, please
C: How about this one?
M It looks good. How much is this jacket?
C: It's 300 dollars
M Oh, it's too cheap. Could you show me another one?
C: How about this one? It's 5000 dollars
M Very nice. I'll take it.
C: No no no no. It's mine

K: Excuse me. How much is this cap?
Clerk: It's 95000 dollars.
K: Oh, it's too cheap. Could you show me another one?
C: How about this one? It's a little expensive. 150000 dollars
K: Very nice. I'll take it. It's a gift. Could you wrap it, please.
C: It is no good. Go home, please.

-May I help you?
-How much is space?
-What? You are crazy
-So how much is rocket?
-It's 50000 dollars.
-Oh, it's too cheap. Could you show me more special one?
-How about this one? It's 100000 dollars.
-Very nice. I'll take it.

And my very favorite one...
Clerk: May I help you?
S: Yes. I'm looking for a windmill.
C: How about this one?
S: It looks too small. Do you have a larger one?
C: Well, how about this one?
S: It looks very good. How much is this windmill?
C: It's three million dollars.
S: Very nice. I'll take it. It's a gift. Could you wrap it, please?
C: Sure. Please wait a minute.

Blogging in Japan - important things to know

As I start this back up, I have to make readers aware of a few things.

Just like back in America, blogging in Japan is something you have to be careful about. Often, you won't be reading how I really feel about my work situation. Because this blog is public, any one of my co-workers can stumble upon it. Many foreigners coming over here to work have gotten in trouble for this. Maybe they thought they'd be safe since they write in English? I'm not sure. This is definitely a situation I want to avoid. Because of this, all my posts relating to work will probably all be positive or give you little information. If you wish to know more about my work situation, feel free to send me a private message sometime.

The other thing you won't see in here is pictures/videos of my schools and students. CLAIR (Council of Local Authorities and International Relations) makes it very clear that we are NEVER to do this. I get constant email reminders that I should never have photos of my students online, and I should never show the inside of the schools. (Of course, if I get permission from their parents, then it's OK). It makes me a little sad because I'd love to show you all how adorable these kids are how different the schools can look from American schools. However, these kids have a right to privacy, and I respect that.

If you're ever planning to start a public blog while working in Japan, be sure to keep these things in mind.

So now that we're clear on all of this, let's blogging!

Once more...with feeling!

I'm attempting to resurrect this blog. I'm going to give this one more try. If it doesn't work this time around, then I'll delete it and move on.

So here's why I've only posted in here once then abandoned it:

When we got here, it took us 3 months to get internet in our apartment! Normally, it doesn't take THIS long. I'm still not exactly sure what happened except that some information got lost in translation. By the time Novemeber hit (when we got our internet), I kind of forgot about this thing.

The other reason is that I currently have a private blog I post in (no, I'm not giving you the link to it). Because I post in that, I didn't really think about updating this blog at all.

But now I want to give this another shot. I really like the idea of friends, family, and even random people just interested in life in Japan being able to read what I'm up to. Maybe I can even get Jonny to write some thoughts as well.

I'll start off slow with maybe 1-2 posts a week. If I post more, then even better.

Also, feel free to leave some comments bugging me to update if I'm not. If I actually know people are reading this, it will give me more motivation to post more.