Friday, May 27, 2005


For those interested, my graduation ceremony is at 9:40 AM on Wednesday, June 8th. Basically it will be Chiharu's graduation all over again, except with me. Honours First Class, BA in Integrated Studies in History (because I took too many language/Asian-content courses to get a real history degree :-P).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Return of Captain Cheap

Well, after receiving my JET guidebook, it turns out I'll need at least 20万円 to cover start-up costs, because I don't get paid for an entire month. When the pay comes, it will be great (about 30万円), so I don't have to worry, but the initial month will be interesting ...

I figure that after monthly living expenses in the Falls subtracted from my estimated gross pay, I will be left with 4万円 by the end of July. A 16万円 shortfall. Hmm. I already have 2万円 left over from the Japan trip, bringing my total up to 6万円. What else can I do?

I'll try and sell my furniture and things, return the Playstation (idiot!), and generally not go shopping or have fun this summer. I can handle that. If I can just pay my rent for the first month, I can survive like I did on exchange - on curry, rice, and noodles. 300円 a day in food? Don't tell me I can't do it!

So to everyone, be advised that Captain Cheap is back.

And Sahla Thai was closed for some reason on Victoria Day, so we ended up getting Indian curry. Not too bad. And my last outing for the summer, it was.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Star Wars and Sahla Thai

Back in Canada ... hurrah. Can't wait to get back to Japan, of course. But anyway, anyone who knows me knows that I say that every day, so I'll shut up about it.

This morning I went with Yukiho to see Star Wars, which was better than the first two and did manage to tie the two trilogies together ... but, of course, it left tons of questions that will be answered either online or in the DVD extended edition. Yukiho slept through most of it and didn't get the dialogue most of the time, and thus asked me many a question afterward, but considering I do the same thing in Japan when I see Japanese movies I cannot complain.

After seeing Star Wars (which was all we did, because being Victoria Day the Pen Centre was closed), we missed the bus and walked to the Glenridge stop, and from there rode to the terminal. Yukiho went back to the Falls to change and meet up with some friends from work, upon which they are going to Taki. I stayed on the bus and rode up to Brock, where I am currently killing time until my 8:15 appointment downtown with Charlene. Then we will eat glorious Thai food, view pictures of my trip to Japan, and watch Alejandro's video.

And then work tomorrow ... my graduation ceremony is also in two weeks. Should be fun. I hope they don't take back my student card or anything. I enjoy my discounts.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

カナダに帰ってきた and 岩手県?マジで!!!

Arrived back in Canada late (1am) last night after our flight's takeoff was delayed by about six hours. Since bus, train, and TTC service had stopped, I spent the night at Chris's house in Markham (thanks to the Charlton family) and partook of Chef Boyardee. This morning (Friday the 20th), I embarked upon the Markham GO train to Union Station and began my journey back to the Falls. I smugly compared the GO train, with its meandering pace and hornblowing to warn passers-by of its arrival, to an early twentieth-century car. Certainly not like the wonderful trains I am used to in Japan.

Speaking of which, I have been placed.

In Iwate.

In a town called Ichinoseki(一関).

Quite possibly as far from Aichi, my friends, my teachers, as I can get. My promises of "Don't worry, see you in two months!" are now null and void.

Sigh. I know I do this to myself - volunteer to do the work nobody else wants to do, go to the places nobody else wants to go, for the sake of niceness and helpfulness - but I didn't expect this. The poorest, most sparsely populated prefecture in Japan ... and I thought Seto was bad. At least Seto had Shinanodai Elementary School, with its jovial principal Katou, and my adorable princess Saori. Nagoya was right next door, with Megumi and Nut nearby for my days off.

Well, it's time to prepare and get ready to go to Iwate. Undoubtedly I will learn to like it. I just hope that happens soon.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Well, it's the morning of our last day in Japan. I'm here at the net cafe near the Nagoya Youth Hostel where it all started two weeks ago. Two whole weeks gone by ... it seems like it went in a flash. As usual, I don't want to go back, but considering I have a job waiting for me here in two months, and I don't have a visa until said employment begins, I suppose I can endure the Canadian summer while I await my return to Dai Nippon.

Today's plan is to try and get souvenirs for the last of the people who requested them, although some have been slightly difficult to find. I'm meeting one of my friends at Kanayama, then going to the airport to meet up with Chris and Marc for 3. Should be OK, then. I have plenty of manga and a novel to read on the plane, with the help of my dictionary.

I met two elderly Australian women yesterday who got to the hostel with the help of a Japanese-speaking American (?) woman, who they had by chance met on the road. After she left, I took over and made sure they got some food. We went (with another American woman who had just gotten back from Central America and is in Japan to visit her friend Mike - what is with these people who arrive in a country without knowing a word of the language and expect to get around fine?) to a ramen shop, and I must admit that I ordered too much, but it will be my last bowl for quite some time. I then went with the American - Allison, I think her name was - to this very net cafe, then went to Sakae to walk around for an hour. We also by chance met up with the Tall Englishman, whose name I have forgotten but is very nice and also over two metres tall, which elicited comments of デカイ!! from passing pedestrians.

Our flight leaves at 6 and I don't particularly want to be on it, but perhaps I can get back to the Falls a bit earlier, resume my normal sleep pattern, and get back to work at Suisha ...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Yet another action-packed day today. In the morning, when Chris and Marc finally woke up, we went to the wonderful war shrine, Yasukuni. They're having an exhibition right now on the one hundredth anniversary of the Russo-Japanese War, which I would have liked to have seen if not for the fact that it cost about eight dollars. But we did get to see a Mitsubishi Zero through the glass. After that, we walked to the next station to try and get to that steel monstrosity, Tokyo Tower, which inspired every other city to destroy its skyline with hideous metal beasts (i.e. Nagoya, Kyoto). It, too, was about eight dollars to go to the top, so we had a nice view of the pylons holding it up before we walked on in search of Roppongi Hills.

Roppongi is the area of Tokyo known for its foreigner population and number of bars and nightclubs, where Japanese girls go to play for the night and foreign men who can't make it in their own country go to receive. After getting turned around and lost, as is our lot, we finally sighted the huge tower of Roppongi Hills, and had a good look at the building. We then spent nearly an hour attempting to get out and find the bus stop that would eventually enable us to get to Shibuya Station.

Taking the train from Shibuya we stopped at Shinjuku to find the giant Kinokuniya bookstore, which has about eight floors. Needless to say, it took us a while, as my memory of the area is more than a little bit fuzzy. After picking up some books for family and friends back home, we got back on the train to find dinner.

I wanted to take them to Yoshinoya, but after the usual fruitless wandering we decided on Matsuya, which is pretty much the same thing. I had pork and kimchi on rice, while Marc did almost the same thing but in a set, while Chris ordered steak. Then we headed back to the hostel for our usual rest and bath.




Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Busy day today. Got some money out of the post office ATM, then we headed out to Akihabara Electric Town in search of anime and electronics. Saw lots of nerds who will never get girlfriends! We also headed to Shibuya and Harajuku, to look at the shops in the Shibuya 109 Building, which is where all the girls who want to look like Hamasaki Ayumi/California girls get their clothes. Harajuku had the Beatles shop and lots of young people with fashions. We arrived back at the hostel at 8, ready for a bath and rest.

Monday, May 16, 2005


We got to Hiroshima about mid-morning yesterday. We didn't know that JR runs buses between the station and our hostel, so we bought a one-day pass and boarded a city bus for 新牛田町 instead of using our JR Passes. And when we got off, it turns out that the one-day pass is good only for the streetcar, not the buses!! Arrrrgh! Then, we failed to notice the signs leading to the hostel and walked in the hot sun for about fifteen minutes in the wrong direction. After turning around and finding the signs, we then realized that we had to walk up a mountain, which added another twenty minute walk to our day, this time uphill. When we finally dropped everything off we were hot, sweaty, tired, and hungry ...

After being kindly instructed by the receptionist that we could use our JR passes, we headed back down the mountain and boarded a JR bus to the bus centre. There, we decided to use our streetcar passes, since they had cost us 600円 anyway, and were kind of more convenient than the JR buses which hardly ever ran inside the city. First, I found us a building that only housed okonomiyaki restaurants. It was the first time in two years that I had had Hiroshima's wonderfully cheesy okonomiyaki, all fried up and yummy ... a little expensive, but considering we only eat one real meal per day I defy anyone to say it wasn't worth it.

We then went to the Atomic Bomb Dome and Museum, and then took the streetcar to Miyajima which was at the end of the line ... a long, long ways away. On the way there, though, there was a drunken old man swinging from the hand rings ... who screamed at the conductor about how when the streetcar turned a corner, he swung around. I should have offered to toss him off like we were on the TTC - the poor guy looked thoroughly confused about why he was being accosted by this old man. I think Chris got it on tape.

We left for Tokyo this morning, and since even on the Shinkansen it's about five hours from one end of Japan to the other, today was designated as a 'travel/rest' day. We had some yakiniku for dinner, which surprised some people when the final price was totalled, but did we ever eat a lot. We'll go to the post office tomorrow and take out some money from our bank accounts to make up for a few shortfalls, although I think I'm going to come out of this trip with some money still left in my pocket.

When I was in Osaka, I also picked up a birthday present for my dad. I won't be able to give it to him until my graduation ceremony in June, but oh well. It should be better than last time because I got one that has English.

Friday, May 13, 2005



We went to lots of places with Mayu, like Osaka Castle, which we didn't enter because we didn't want to pay the entrance fee. The hostel we're staying in now, the Osaka Youth Hostel, is amazing. It's better than most Canadian hotels, I would think. Families and couples can also stay here, it seems, and unlike the Nagoya or Kyoto hostels I wouldn't mind bringing my family here.

Yesterday we were in Nara, which was great. We took lots of pictures (of course), of the Daibutsu in Toudaiji, and the surrounding shrines. We also went as far up the mountain as we could, and found ourselves in the deer park at the summit. We looked for a way to get out, eventually finding the trail and coming to the park exit, which we jumped over and calmly walked away from.

We also stayed in a very nice hostel yesterday in Nara. The assistant manager, who runs the place during the day, was so friendly to us because she said we reminded her of her children. We are going to make a book of leaves and give them to her in the fall, to thank her for her kindness.

We've gone out of our way to be kind to the older Japanese people we've met - and there are many of them. Today we found a group of women who were caught in the rain in Osaka Castle Gardens, so we gave them our umbrellas and walked with them to the station. Fortunately, when it came time to split up, as we were going in different directions, the rain stopped and we were able to retrieve our umbrellas. If it hadn't stopped, I'm sure we would have all just given them our umbrellas and happily continued on our way without them.

Tomorrow we're meeting Mayu at 11 and going out to Umeda, where there should be a camera/electronics shop. Marc wants to buy a better camera, and Chris wants to buy a dictionary. Instead, of course, he's blowing his dictionary money on a schoolgirl uniform for his girlfriend. Talk about stupid. He should have gotten the miko outfit.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Today we went to Seto to see the elementary school that I volunteered at two years ago. We brought some souvenirs, especially a stupid hat (like the ones that we wear on Canada Day) for the principal. He really liked it. I also gave him a Canadian flag and handed out stickers to the kids. The high point of the day was when I met Saori, who is now in the fourth grade. When I met her when she was in second grade, she pretty much attached herself to me and I showered her with attention, of course. So, when I met her today ...

"Hey ... were you here two years ago?"
"Yeah. I volunteered here."
At this point she grabbed my arm and wrapped it around her, and promptly knelt down to give her a hug. In response to this, I proudly picked her up and held my wonderful Saori. Oh sure, the guys make fun of me, but I absolutely loved this girl from the day I met her. With the Suzukis and everyone it feels like I've been away from Japan for only a week or two, but with Saori, it felt like I had been away for a hundred years. I can't wait to come back to Japan in August for the express purpose of visiting her and the other students at Shinanodai. I told her that I'd be back in three months, and that I would come just for her. I want to give her special stuff from Canada like tons of chocolate but hey, that would be unfair to the other students.

We also went to the bank today, and oh how I loathe Japanese banks. The Bank of Nagoya, despite its big sign saying FOREIGN EXCHANGE, were utterly bewildered when we asked to change over Canadian-dollar traveller's cheques into yen. And the JR office lady told me that my pass was only good for trains and highway buses, not city buses. Which, since I carefully read the English and Japanese instructions, is utterly incorrect. Still a long way to go ...

We go back to Nagoya now and meet Chris' cousins. Then, tomorrow it's off to Kyoto.

Monday, May 09, 2005


Well, second full day in Japan begins today. We went to the Expo yesterday, and it was great. Then we went to the Suzuki house for a party with all the kids that I used to teach English to every week. Chris and Marc really like them. Now they understand why I've wanted to come back here for so long, they say (hah). Today's plan is to go to Osu and then go to Sakae to meet up with Megumi. We're also going to Akiyo's mom's restaurant sometime for possibly free okonomiyaki. Hurrah!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Off we go

Yawn. Never going to Travelex to exchange money again, after they took the yen I ordered and sold it, meaning when we arrived to change our money over there wasn't enough. Just after six a.m. in Markham - we'll be on our way shortly to catch our 10:30 flight. Sleepy time!

Off we gooooooo!


Mark should be here to pick me up in about an hour ... not long now! That exchange place had bloody better have my money ready too, else we'll have to do it in downtown Toronto ... not looking forward to that! Going to drop off the Playstation to Lisa so she can have fun with FFX for two weeks ... other than that, not much to do. I've got a few souvenirs for people in Japan ... hmm, I hope I haven't forgotten anything.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Busy Day

Today was an extremely busy day. I woke up at 7 and went to St. Catherines to drop off my final essay, then came back to the Falls and went to the bank to cash the cheques to exchange to yen. But because they're personal cheques, there's a five-day holding period - and I need the money by Wednesday! Damn damn damn!

Then I went home, showered, and went for a helicopter ride. I thought Chris was itching to go to Toronto, so I skipped the lunch afterwards and by a few strokes of luck got driven back to St. C by my restaurant owner (the nicest guy) around 2. Buuuut, we didn't actually get on the road until like 4! So of course we hit Toronto rush hour and didn't get the rail pass - no big deal because we can do it tomorrow, but dammit I was expecting to be home tonight, so I could sleep early and get the apartment clean tomorrow morning before we leave for Japan.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


All righty, here we go with the first blog entry. The main reason I'm going to (attempt to) keep a blog is to let my family and friends know what the hell I'm up to when I'm in Japan, for my vacation (which starts in 5 days! whoo!) and for the JET Programme (which starts in August - double whoo!).

I have, in the past few days, foolishly bought a PS2, because it was on sale, used. And I really, really want to get back into the Final Fantasy games. If I modify it at P-Mall then I can play Japanese games too when I take it over.

And my last essay is still not done. Six pages to go, but I doubt I'll make it. The thing is, it's gotten to the point where I just don't care anymore - I want to graduate!

And, for when my Chinese friends inevitably enquire as to why I chose "Blog of Imperial Japan" as my title, my response will be a) I like the way the traditional rendering of 國 looks, b) my major's history - of course I'm going to be interested in such things, and c) up until the annexation of Korea, I think the Japanese Empire was a rather cool place to be, with the exception of the First Sino-Japanese War.

Today's plan: get dressed, tell people I have a blog so they no longer think I'm dead, finish this damn essay, go to work.