My Life in Japan

About Me

Ikawa-cho Miyoshi-shi, Tokushima-ken, Japan
I was recently accepted by the JET program as an assistant English teacher in Japan for one year.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I'm back. I did it. I'm back in Japan, but not in the way you would think. Since I stopped updating this blog, I've moved to San Francisco, a city and county on the tip of a peninsula off the coast of America. Japan is no longer in Japan, and America is no longer America. All it took was one jog up the hill, the first time I've walked past that street in the almost year I have lived in this amazing house. The mist started to roll in, and there was a long narrow wooden staircase surrounded by vegetation that I ran and walked up. That's when Japan started to overtake America. America has already been overtaking Japan, slowly, over time. Then, I rediscovered the existence of this, which does exist, and it's effect on me is incontrovertible evidence that I am in Japan again. The thing about Japan is that it is not a geographical place. Geographical Japan was obliterated with the fall of the Empire. It's desire to identify as territorial succeeded in that Japan lost all of its geographical aspects and became an idea. The type of idea that Japan became is known as a way of life. This happened in America earlier, but in reverse. Think of how the Monroe Doctrine identifies with "I am not a racist". America used to be a way of life, but it became territory. As America changed from a way people escaped from harsh, unfavorable conditions into an imposing force that gradually influenced those global conditions, America stopped being an idea and became nothing but land. Japan, The only country founded on a single group of people's identity with land has turned into nothing but an idea. American, The only country founded on an idea now has no shred of it left and has become nothing but land. But luckily, I live at the tip of a peninsula that is off the coast of America. I don't know if I will continue to update this blog, but I should. For the past, my god, almost three years since I stopped posting, I have been stagnating; I literally took a break from life. We're talking sedentary, unenthused, uninspired, careless, without focus, without desire. I made several poor decisions and a few decent ones. I'm extremely happy in San Francisco, especially since I am, in a very definite sense, back in Japan.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Triple Movie Review: Japanese Theaters Edition

While I was in Japan, which is where I am for the next three and a half weeks, I saw a few movies in the theaters. A Japanese movie ticket is around 1800 yen, which is expensive compared to American theaters, but this weekend I got a discounted ticket for 1000 yen, and I actually felt like I was saving money. So what we are going to do here is talk about three movies that I saw, discuss how they are related to one another and what they can teach us about eachother and about movies as a whole. I will review them in the order that I saw them.

Here is the first movie I saw. It is called Green Zone. The movie is about Matt Damon knowing how bad the Iraq war is and deciding to do something about it. He gets caught in a struggle between the CIA and the special forces, who just want to kill this guy, the jack of clubs in the most wanted deck of cards of former Baath party members. The CIA thinks maybe they can get him to flip. Once this is set up, Matt Damon runs around for a half hour and the camera people have to try to keep him in the frame. Now, Paul Greengrass directed this movie, and he also directed the two Bourne Identity sequels, which also had Matt Damon playing himself, running around. Those movies were based on books, I think, and so was Green Zone, but Green Zone was based on a book called "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" which I think is just about journalists chilling at the secure international compound in Baghdad while the rest of the country is irradiated and burnt up and destroyed all around them. I want to read that book, maybe, but the plot from this movie is pretty original, I think. Spoiler alert, the good-intentioned Baghdad native who gives Matt Damon the random tip that the jack of clubs is hanging out nearby also runs for the last half hour of the movie, behind the cameraman, and caps the Baathist general in the head, before delivering this line, in arabic: "This is our country. You do not decide what happens here". It's tacky and brilliant, and then I realized that my eyes were so over stimulated and that suddently the storyboards went from shaking and fast cuts, back to darkness and the stability of tripods. So Green Zone was an exercise in keeping your eyes focused on a specific point. while people run around and shoot bullets at eachother. The timing of this movie is pathetic. It's as if the entire cast and crew took the 2005 premise that Bush lied us into a war of choice and pretended this was controversial or new or interesting, when it is really just depressing that Matt Damon as a lonely, free-spirited soldier, doesn't have enough resources to punch Donald Rumsfeld in the face, which would have been a worthy finale.

The Walker is not a very colorful movie, but it is also about looking at a moving picture for two hours. You may know it by it's American, and extremely inferior title, "The Book of Eli", which I luckily was not aware of, since "Za Wookaa" is vague and gets the general premise across pretty fast, while "The Book of Eli" simply reveals the entire plot. It's a dystopian, post-apocalyptic barren earth, and Denzel Washington has to walk West, because he just has to. On his way he meets Mila Kunis, who belongs in every movie, and Gary Oldman as the bad guy, which also belongs in every movie. We start out with Denzel at the very center of the Denzel Washington Hat, Glasses, Facial Hair Trifecta and gradually move outwards. Now my own personal theory is that Denzel Washington saw Children of Men, and said to himself, "Wow, I wish I was in that movie, but what could I do for it that would make it better? It had everything...washed out totally gray scenery, futuristic devastation, digitally reconstructed action scenes that are meant to look like single takes..." And then it dawned on him, probably around the time that someone e-mailed him the same Venn diagram I just linked to. "Ah, yes! I can give Children of Men an ending, because it really didn't have one, right? They just kind of sat on that boat and that was it". Well, this is what some people think made Children of Men so cool, was the fact that they wound up rootless, floating, with an uncertain future. But Denzel, who is also credited as the producer, had this exact same situation happen, followed by a cut where I told myself "movie could just end right now and it would be Children of Men". But Spoiler Alert, it goes a little further, just far enough to get hatless, sans-glasses, clean shaven Denzel Washington onto the screen for a few moments. And that was what made this movie special and interesting; One man's cosmetic journey outward from the Venn diagram that once captured every facet of his appearance. The Walker also was emotionally moving, at one part, exactly half way through the film, where I actually cared about the characters, which Green Zone and Predators did not have. The Walker spends all of its emotional energy in this one beautiful shot, which was probably the only way to do so.

you are going to have to fogive me but after a half hour of searching around I have not been able to find the Japanese poster for the movie Predators. It looks just like this one but with Japanese writing. Okay so here we are, our third movie about look at a screen and focusing your eyeballs to discern an image. What do I mean? The first 45 minutes of Predators take place in a beautiful jungle. It's soft green and very wonderful and easy to look at. The characters all walk around and get to know eachother and try to figure out what is going on. But then around half way through the movie someone says "uh oh we need Laurence Fishburne to be in this movie now" so he finds them and brings them back to his very dark, ugly space ship, and we go from lush exteriors to lightless, cramped interiors. Just as your eyes are about to readjust to this new less enjoyable setting, Topher Grace starts to light an unnecessary number of bright blue white road flares directly in front of the camera, so that total darkness goes to blinding light in one second, and make the entire audience squint and recoil. Really it was awful. He lit up like five flares for no reason! after that is a calming sword fight in a night time grass place, but then the characters go back to the predators' little nighttime village of gore and trophies, where fires are constantly burning and it is less easy to look at. The original Predator, with Arnold Sschwarzenegger, took place exclusively in the jungle and it didn't get dark until much later. One interesting part was that the previews are misleading, maybe intentionally. This never happens in the movie! There are only three predators, not a bunch. In the original Alien, there was one alien, and in Aliens, the sequel, there were hundreds, right!? Well in the original Predator there was 1, and in this official sequel, there are about 4, not more like this picture implies. At the end if a slight twist, a little bigger than Green Zone's twist but nowhere near as big as The Walker's, which had the biggest twist ever that everyone should have seen coming. There is a predator versus predator fight and Adrien Brody does his best Arnold impression and decapitates the biggest one, and then says "Let's get off this f***king planet". What happens after this moment is not so much a twist as a hilarious homage to the series, and a stunning revelation that action movies are, in fact, comedies, since everything works out at the end, according to the classical Greek definition of comedy. The good guys always win what meaningless victories they can eke out, and the movie knows this, and it knows that we as the audience will never be able to.
All of these movies get three stars (***) for being full of violence, hard to look at, and comedies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What I have been up to

Been a while, blog,
So I better let you know what's up. Well I took a blog break because my sister and girlfriend came to hang out, and I got distracted. Oh, we did so much stuff. Here, look at the pictures of things that we did.

Liz and I went to Kochi castle, which might be one of the only castles in Japan that has the original castle building and the original gate. We got a private English tour by a forestry ranger government employee / tourguide volunteer named Yoshi, which was wonderful. He took this picture, and it will go down as the best picture ever taken in history.

close up of me and Kochi-Jo with me giving the traditional "thumbs up" gesture, indicating that I approve of Kochi-Jo.

We played pachinko, for the first time, a Japanese pasttime of gambling and gang-influenced profitability. I wasted 1000 yen on 250 little silver balls which disappeared very quickly. My hearing was forever damaged. But I learned a little something. Which is to never play pachinko ever again.

We took a ropeway car to the top of a mountain near my house and walked up a bunch of steps to get to this beautiful wooden structure. It is the front of a shrine, or a Buddhist temple, I can never tell. I think it's a shrine and the Buddhist part was off to the left. This was cool and there were weird big masks underneath the top part.

We walked to the top of an mountain, up 800 steps to take this photo at the shrine of the god of boats. They had a mirror so we snapped ourselves in it, then walked back down and counted the steps.

We even walked across kazura-bashi, which is a vine bridge in a desolate valley like an hour away from my house. Maybe you can see in this photo how those thin wooden planks are connected by vines and there is nothing between them, so you could easily drop a flip flip through into the river below if you are not careful. They key is to not look down but how else would you know where to put your feet? Just hold onto the side of the vine railing. They rebuild it every three years. This was the scariest part of my time here.

but we made it!

Sammy and I went to two baseball games in Osaka. We saw the Orix Buffaloes beat the Yokohama Bay Stars twice, 7-1 and 7-2. I ate this giant hot dog, which had ketchup, mustard, salsa, and mayo. It was really good.

We went to Nara to see the biggest buddha sculpture in the world, which is made out of metal,and this is me in front of one of his wooden demon protectors, i think. The building is also the largest wooden structure in the world, but it used to be much bigger, before it burned down and they rebuilt it.

My sister and I pretended to be little demon protector statues and do their poses in our matchins shirts at the top of that mountain with the ropeway. By now I hope you have realized that these photos are out of order. I didn't take any of these, I relied on Liz and Sammy to be the Souzas and Liebowitzes.

we all ate as much tasty food as possible, including sushi. Tuna, Eel, and Bacon with Mayo sushi are all represented in this photograph. Enjoy looking at it and wishing you were eating them with green tea, soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.
Folks, those are all the pics I feel like searching out and posting right now. If you feel like it, there is a chance that my first installment of my new blog new games journalism is up. But you should really only click over to that if you are interested in reading about my experiences as I play videogames and try to learn about life from it. This might not be the last post of My Life in Japan if I get any special requests to talk about stuff you want me to talk about. Also if you want something from Japan when I get back home in three and a half weeks you gotta tell me and try to be as specific as possible.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Eventually I am going to make another post. I just don't feel like it right now. It will be the last post of my year in Japan. Sorry to keep you waiting. Great!

Monday, May 24, 2010

have you had your mind blown by a blog recently?

oh my blog,
that was my 100th post. that makes this my one hundred first. this is the dawn of a new era for blogging. i hope you are prepared for the last post about my trip to hiroshima. the last 15 pictures are uploading. let's really do this.

so hiroshima has 2 world heritage sites. the atomic bomb dome, and the miyajima shrine. it is magical and scenic, this shrine. take one of those streetcars for like an hour and change all the way to the last stop in the south. basically the whole thing is a huge tourist trap and an excellent excuse to build and incredibly long local streetcar line.

this is the boat i got on. in about 10 minutes it took me to miyajima island, which is redundant because jima means island.

here is one of the other boats. as you can see, full of tourists. i saw the most foreign people this day.

oh you can see the red gate in the water, and a jetskier on the left. supposedly at low tide you can walk out to it, but that was not the case when i was there. this is from the boat!

one thing about miyajima is there are tons of raggedy domesticated wild deer walking around, who are not supposed to be fed but are regardless.

this woman was posing for a deer photo and i took my own. oh guh right now one of my teachers is on the phone with my official boss who i met once at the board of education about getting me a plane ticket home on july 28th. it is a huge hassle for everyone, and it is the transcendent return of my feeling that they have never done this before, even though its been going on for generations.

ok this thing. i am not sure i know how to talk about this thing. it is like a fluffy pancake, maybe with an egg, rolled up on a stick, and covered with sauces and mayo and other japanese things. i did not eat one here, i had one in another spot later in the day. i am still not sure that i have totally recovered.

three oysters for 500 yen. this place had the longest line, because the woman was the oldest, and because every other place sold 2 oysters for 400 yen.

check out the world heritage quality on that gate in the water.

oh wow another gate, but this one is mad out of rocks, and there are two lions also.

there was a little spot where guys in triangle hats let you use a triangle hat and take you in a long canoe style boat through the gate, as a special blessing or something of undoubtedly great luck, for like 1500 yen, a bargain, if you are insane.

and there they go through the gate. this photo is zoomed in quite a bit.

see? and they kept going. this is not the best view of the gate.

if you want the best view, you will have to wait on this line and pay 300 yen to enter the actual shrine and face the gate from the central point on the beach. see what i said about tourist trap action? i was not kidding around. i did not wait on this line because it was hot and i did not want to spend that 300 yen when i could have bought a grape drink with real little cubes of grapes and aloe in it.

also this building was there!

here is the view of the gate from behind the shrine.

and here is another shot in a similar spot.

did i tell you there were a ton of people there? it was packed. also the nicest day ever.

and the last gate photo, i think. you can make this one your computer desktop wallpaper image, i give you permission. but only this one.

oh here are the people in the shrine itself lining up to wait their turn for the most picturesque photo of the special red gate.

okay so it was packed, and mostly everyone was buying little snacks and souvenirs. this island is famous for its maple leaf shaped red bean filled cake things, called momiji manjuu or mimoji manju, or something. but the thing is that most of the little souvenir shops had their own independent robotic assembly lines of manjuu going at full speed!

this is another little automated assembly line, behind glass in a souvenir shop. still kind of upset about how souvenir is spelled.

behind one shop was a beautiful garden with a little koi pond. i really liked this situation.

you can also buy little gates, and they have a little gate size to fit every little gate size preference.

this little side street is where most of the people and shops were.

and there was a police station too. have you seen these guys? please call the japanese police. the guy on the bottom right has been on the run for a while. he killed some people in tokushima i think i heard. the japanese police only very recently started a program of giving rewards for tips that lead to the arrests of these bad guys, and since then they have only gotten one tip and paid out one reward to a few people after they caught that younger guy who killed an english girl.

then i wanted to buy some oysterys from this lady, because oysters from this island are also famous.

they were THIS big and pretty good! steamed in the shell with some soy sauce squirted in afterwards.

on display was the biggest wooden rice paddle i had ever seen. thing was totally huge. so big you could not ever hope to use it. i threw 5 yen in a wooden box in front and prayed to the giant paddle thing.

then i had a bowl of rice and pork cutlet and went back to the boat, which was through this station. those fish flags are because it was around the childrens' day holiday.

and then i wound up back at the peace park. here are two really creepy statue memorials of kids and a guy with a bird, by the river.

close up of the dome building. it is being supported internally so that it stays in its post bombing state for eternity.

warning: there are some serious dome pictures coming up. pure dome photography is taking place right now.

okay there are a few more later so hold on.

just kidding. here is one more because i know you haven't had enough yet.

back at in front of the museum, peace park proper. on the right you can see the little eternal flame burning on top of that weird platform thing.

and to my surprise they had put out giant paper cranes on this part of the grass!

for a fee you could design you own candle holder with your own personal messages about peace and have it placed on this official flower festival white candle holder thing. i think they lit them all up at night.

and then i got this pic of the statue of the mother with her children in front of the flower mountain with a bowl fire on top. actually this statue is insane and ridiculous for a tone of reasons. for one thing it is called "statue of mother and child in the storm" which might be a result of a bad translation because she clearly has a baby and a kid grabbing onto her, but there are no plurals in japanese. that and her arms are gigantic and her hands are bigger than her head.

and then the flower festival was in full swing. there were people as far as the eye could see all the way down the peace boulevard. a festival in japan is when all the little items vendors are spaced out perfectly so business interference is at a minimum.

one of those vendors is the traditional grab a little goldfish with a cheap paper net that breaks instantly game.

i just like this photo with the clock. i have no idea what those signs say or what those people are selling.

haha but i do know what is going on here. it's super mario, and kids are running around and jumping inside. maybe you can see. i think i just realized i am in japan for the first time.

then i went and had my last okonomiyaki meal. oh it was really good. it is so complicated to make, there were about 4 guys making it for a whole restaurant and i have no idea how they keep track. you can see the process taking place here. oh but in this place i looked around and didn't see any mayo tubes and nobody was using mayo so i was like "hm this place is obviously too good for mayo" so i went without.

final product, with scallions, after a few bites.

here is a weird elevated brick park area where young people were gathering at night.

and the dome, at night. i warned you! yes there is a reason why you are not supposed to go to the dome at night: it is incredibly spooky! well that is it. those are all of the photos i have from hiroshima. i still have to charge up my camera battery again. i hope you liked it. i am taking 3 days off work and having a 5 day weekend with liz starting tomorrow. she gets here tonight! so soon. i can't wait, i am losing it entirely.