Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mrs. Three Hundred Rice Fields

This morning I thought a little about a woman I met about two years ago. Not sure why; I just do from time to time. It was one of my first days teaching at my visit school. At the time, I wasn't used to rude students and their antics, so it was a somewhat disheartening and rather draining day. That night I took a couple of trains, as I have for a long time now, and instead of walking home from the station, I took the bus. At that time I wasn't very familiar with the geography of my town, so I couldn't walk it. Anyway, I slumped onto the bench at the bus stop. There was an elderly woman sitting next to me. "You look tired!" she exclaimed, and handed me a little hard candy to suck on. Somewhat surprised, I accepted the losange. We talked for a few minutes while we waited for the bus. She was a retired teacher living in the same neighborhood as I was. She told me that she had a somewhat long and unusual name: 三百田 (Sanbyakuda)。Three hundred rice fields. On the bus we parted ways. She gave me her address on a piece of paper and told me that if I had any problems, I should let her know. That piece of paper is, unfortunately, long gone - carelessly misplaced and lost soon after receiving it.

A few days later, a red tupperware container appeared in my mailbox. On top was a small note - "Please eat this. - Sanbyakuda". Inside were about a million little dead fish mixed with seaweed or something. Now I'm not a very picky eater and am usually up for trying new thing, but the smell and appearance of this thing was just too much...I stuck it in the freezer for some reason (hoping it would turn into ice cream?) and then later that week, when no magic happened, I tossed it in the trash. 

That was the last I heard from Mrs. Sanbyakuda. Sometimes I wonder how she's doing, and I feel a little bad about throwing out her stinky little fish after she went to the trouble of tracking me down and preparing that for me, and about never trying to contact her. Though I remember her name, I don't really remember what she looks like - just another little old Japanese lady. Perhaps the saddest part is that I may have seen her or sat next to her at the bus stop since then, and I wouldn't even know...

Take me out to the (J) ball game

The other day I finally got to go to Koshien and watch a Hanshin Tigers game. I had previously been to a couple Yakult Swallows games in Tokyo, so I had the general idea about Japanese baseball, but I did encounter a couple new things. In this post I'll point out a few differences between American and Japanese baseball games. It may be the same sport, but spectating is pretty different here.

I was able to go to this game because one of the teachers at my base school is a big fan and invited some of the other teachers to come along with him, and he set up the tickets and everything. You rock, Mr. N!

Some lady teachers.

Guy teachers.
Oh, so that Tigers jacket (happi coat) I'm wearing was a gift by the guy sitting next to me in the picture. Man, people are so generous here...I hate it. I hate feeling obligated to get them back. It was all the worse because even though this teacher and I always smile and greet each other very nicely, we have never really talked. I think our first semi-conversation was  "Here, this coat is for you!" "Oh, wow, really? Crap, thanks!"

Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked. Where were we? Oh yes, interesting differences. One good one is that while there are dudes roaming around selling ice cream and stuff, there are also beer girls. They're usually high schoolers or college girls (actually we saw one of my students who graduated last year - bought a popcorn from her), and many of them lug around kegs, backpack style.

Also, the fans are really hardcore, but in a (mostly) positive way. Not like back in the States, where if you go to a Phillies game wearing a Braves hat you should be surprised if someone doesn't dump soda on your head. Fans bring flags and instruments and make up all kinds of chants. At this game there were drums and horns. The Hiroshima Carp fans were especially dapper - I guess only the hardest of the hardcore traveled from Hiroshima to watch them play.

They also have these bat-looking things called メガホン (megaphone) because, uh, that's basically what they are - little classic bat-shaped megaphones that you hit together to cheer with.

The cheering is kind of cool for a while, but it gets tiresome, for me anyway. Come the 7th inning I was pretty tired of cheering nonstop for each hitter until they got on base or struck out and it was time for the next cheer. There is pretty much no downtime from the cheering while your team is batting. Luckily the 7th inning was phallic balloon time.

Don't ask 'cuz I don't know.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Posting has continued to be rather, well...lacking. One reason is that I'm currently planning something, so a fair amount of time and energy will go into it. I'll be telling you about it once it becomes a bit more concrete. 'Till then there are some things I want to post about - just need to find the time.

Monday, September 20, 2010


About 50 minutes ago I was in class, and right now the students are doing group project that involve them researching and presenting about foreign holidays. One group forgot to bring any research to class and so couldn't prepare. I ran downstairs to print out some information for them to use just during that period.

I noticed that a part of my slipper was coming off, so when I got to my desk I pulled out some scissors and hastily sliced it off. I also hastily sliced into my pinkie. The blood, it welled! I grabbed some tissues and compressed. After a couple minutes the bleeding slowed but wouldn't stop. Go to the nurse's room or go back to class? A teacher can't ditch class early! Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail, right? So I ran back to class, leaving some bloody tissues in the garbage. It was kind of cool - looked like one of those scenes where someone is fleeing the law and gets wounded, so they find refuge someplace and patch themselves up, and by the time the cops get there all they find are some bloody bandages.

Anyway, continued the last 30 minutes of class and then went to get patched up. Took like 5 minutes of pressure for the damn thing to stop leaking.

(Oh, and I wasn't able to print out info for the kids. I tried, but the printer was being an a**hole and telling me there was no paper when there totally was).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Itchy, er...there?

This is pretty goofy, but before you judge too harshly remember that in America we have had commercials with dudes singing about Viagra.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Goats and Guinea Pigs

Last weekend I was in one of those all-purpose stores (MaxValue, maybe?) in Saga with Yoshie and we happened to stroll by the pet section. I must say I was surprised by the selection. For some reason there was a goat hanging out there in a little fenced-off area. I felt bad for the little guy - barely any room to move around. And he didn't appear to be for sale. Just there to attract a crowd?

Also, they had guinea pigs, which I don't think I've ever seen before in Japan (though I must confess I don't frequent pet shops)! Not only that, but they had this strange but cute pig called a skinny guinea pig (of course katakanaized). Very odd, as the normal guinea pig was called a モルモット (sounds like marmot, but not to be confused with マーモット, which is actually "marmot").

As you can see, the "skinny guinea pig" was mostly bald, with some fur around its head and hind. Weird.

Of course there were no cats.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another thought on Japanese healthcare

...perhaps not the last of them.

By the way, here is an interesting article comparing our healthcare in the U.S. with that in Japan.

I actually talked about this with Joe a couple weeks ago, but weekend medical service in Japan is fairly limited. Joe recounted a story about his girlfriend's brother being really sick on a Sunday and the family going to the hospital and waiting for it to open.

This weekend I was in Saga and Yoshie wasn't feeling too hot. She said she'd go to the hospital the next day, and I suggested we go together that day. But no, it was a Sunday - the hospital was closed, she told me.

I understand that there are some emergency (ambulance) services and that facilities vary from place to place...but it just seems pretty shocking to me that there are hospitals that aren't open 24/7. If it's a matter of budget, how about cutting back an hour or so during the week? Sure, maybe a few less people with runny noses would be treated, but at least there would be some recourse for people who are sick or injured on Sundays...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Source: Wikipedia
That's なつかしい in the heading, meaning "nostalgic."

The "Recommended for You" section of my YouTube page recently suggested a piece from Katamari Damacy, an odd gem of a game released back in 2004. Actually, our own resident Shadow gave it to me as a gift. I believe it sat unopened for a few weeks (sorry, man) before I decided to give it a whirl, and boy was I glad I did.

Katamari Damacy is a, quite simply, a game that involves rolling up things into a ball. It's kind of like those games where you start off as a germ or a little fish, and as you eat more you get bigger and can eat bigger things. Except in this game you roll of things so you can roll up bigger things. And man, the things you can roll: coins, food, animals, people, eventually buildings, clouds, continents, worlds...I know it sounds strange, and it is. But it is damn fun.

And the soundtrack really floored me. Weird, like the gameplay, but also well-done and very catchy. In fact, I just hunted it down and bought it on Amazon Japan. Wow, what a consumer whore I am. I am a product of my environment! Damn you, YouTube!

Let's Enjoy Japanese: Guilt and loathing and grammar

For those times that you feel really bad about something, like for example getting into a fight with your girlfriend about something stupid, really upsetting her, and feeling like an asshat afterwards, I give you a few words and expressions useful expressions and a grammar note.


First off, "guilty." A good word to remember here is やましい。(疚しい)
As in やましい気持ちあるから寝れなかった。(I feel guilty so I couldn't sleep)

Second, to beat yourself up (over something): 自分を責める

Next, to hate yourself. I think this is more in the sense of really regretting something you did or are doing, not actual self-loathing. 自分(のこと)が嫌だ。 OR 自分(のこと)が嫌い

As far as my grammar tip, I think it's worth noting that a very easy mistake to make in the early (even to mid) stages of learning a foreign language is to try and translate expressions exactly as they would be in your native tongue. Sometimes they will be the same, but often not. Feeling guilty is a good example of this. Whereas one might be tempted to look up the words for "to feel" and "guilty" and stick'em together, that wouldn't work in Japanese. Well, you might be understood, but you wouldn't sound very smart saying something like やましい感じてる。Instead we use 気持ち (feeling) or 心 (heart) to express that we literally have guilty feelings or a guilty heart. Worth noting in your studies!

More on Japanese Healthcare

The other day Joe and I were talking about the pro's and con's of American and Japanese healthcare. I think we came to the conclusion that it really varies from person to person depending on their individual experiences and level of coverage. For example, if I were currently in the States and uncovered (as I am), I probably wouldn't be too happy right now.

For my part, my experiences with Japanese healthcare haven't been bad. My chief complaints are that things often take time and running around (though I guess that's often the case in the States, as well) and that most doctors here are specialists. Back home since most doctors (GP's anyway) learn a smattering of everything, you can see your family doctor for most things, and if he can't handle it he will usually refer you. I readily acknowledge the fact that I'm no expert, of course - that's just my impression based upon my experiences and having a doctor in the family.

In my most recent case, this bump on the back of my neck got red and painful last week, so I called a dermatology clinic, but was told they were very sorry that I didn't have a referral. Thus I wound up going to my local 内科 (internal medicine) clinic. I had been there before, so I thought I knew what to expect. Last time the doctor had seen me for 2 minutes, not even looked at my problem because it was out of his realm, and promptly written me a referral and charged about 2000 yen for it. Well, at least it was speedy. This time I expected a referral, but instead he prescribed me some antibiotics and told me to come back in a few days if they didn't work. They didn't - I developed a fever on Sunday. Took off work and went back on Monday and procured a referral to a general surgeon.

The surgeon was a welcome surprise, an interesting character. He looks to be in his 60's, which probably means he's actually like 90. He got his medical degree in Milwaukee, so his English was more than passable. The office was kind of run down - looks like business is slow these days. Anyway, he wasted no time in telling me he needed to lance the sucker. Needled me with a local, then lit a cigarette and shot the shit for a few minutes. Both amusing and disconcerting to have him standing next to me smoking while waiting for my neck to go numb.

Well, I survived anyway. Have to go back every day for the next few days to have my bandage and gauze changed. If anything goes horribly awry, I'll be sure to report.

Monday, September 6, 2010

More than you wanted to know

Things just keep getting in the way of writing! A couple months ago I got this cyst on the back of my neck. Last week it abscessed, so on Friday I got some medicine, which didn't cut it...so today I went to a a surgeon and had it lanced. Ouch. So I just haven't really physically been feeling much like writing, but I'll try to get back into the swing of thing soon.