Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Differences between Canadian and Japanese Schools カナダと日本の学校の違い

It’s amazing that I haven’t really gone into any depth on this subject before, but then again, I’m not out to change the way Canadian provinces educate their students. And I’d like to point out some myths about the Japanese school system while I’m at it.

This poster is for the Fifth All-Japan Elementary School Snowball Fight, which takes place in the neighboring prefecture. If I don’t have a meeting after lunch I usually go outside and do that with the kids, and become a target for everyone. Sure, I take a few snowballs in the face (didn’t anyone ever teach this kids that you DON’T aim for the head?), but all in all it’s great fun, just like I remember in Canada. Not at school, of course, because to whip a snowball at someone earned you an immediate trip to the principal’s office.

Another game that’s done all the time is dodgeball. One thing I’ve noticed is that since Japanese kids are more conditioned towards organization, they are able to start playing a game much quicker than I remember in Canada.

I went to a ramen shop near my house where the owner’s wife is Chinese. The whole interior is done in ‘Chinese’ style, mixed with Japanese elements. It’s great to see SOME place where China and Japan can get along all-friendly like. Plus I can go there for free Mandarin practice.

I had an enkai (read: excuse to drink party) where I had an exorcism (called a yakubarai,厄払い, lit. “bad luck get rid”) and I didn’t disappear like I thought. The food was all fish, as usual, but I had all the sashimi. Afterwards we went to a lounge, with hostesses (obviously) and I sang horrible karaoke. Thank God there was nobody else in the bar (for that is what it was, not as seedy as a hostess bar – these women have experience in pretending to be interested). Afterwards the women went out in the snow in their stockings and open heels to lead us to our taxis. Except for me, who biked home in the snow.

Calligraphy lessons in Japanese schools. It reads as ‘World Peace’.

Teaching the sixth graders job titles in English.

This is a “Nightmare Before Christmas” diorama thingy made by a sixth-grade girl. When you turn the metal handle, the pumpkins move. A work of pure genius.

Hot water kettles can be found in every office because at any given time someone is drinking tea, coffee, or making noodles. This one is awesome – the orange light lets you know exactly where the water is going to go.

One of the teachers is able to jump rope at super speeds, earning the jealousy of all students.

Let’s see, what else has happened? Went out last night to Paper Moon with some friends which was supposed to be about restarting the English classes but instead just turned into discussions over who was the stronger drinker. And a transvestite came in too, which was cool, except wow, your facial bone structure really doesn’t help you in your quest for femininity. Let’s pause for a moment here and look at the Japanese rendition of ‘transvestite’. In English it’s from the Latin roots ‘trans’, change, and ‘vestre’, clothes, according to Dictionary.com. Japanese? The most common is ‘New Half’, as in someone who has recently changed their sex except for the important bit. Since I hate katakana, I looked at the more scientific all-kanji word. It’s 服装倒錯者, or ‘clothes pervert person’. Talk about offensive. I suggest 交換服装者, change-clothes-person, or just 交服者.
他の出来事・・・昨日はまた紙月に友達と一緒に行った。なんかまた英会話教室を開始する為だったけどすぐ誰が一番酒強い話になった。そして、ニューハーフもバーに入った。凄くよかったけど、彼(彼女?)の顔の骨のせいで本当に女性っぽくなれないと思っている。ちょっと停止してこの事について考えよう。英語ならニューハーフは「transvestite」(ラテン語のtrans、交換、そしてvestre, 服装の元から)という。和製のカタカナ英語が嫌いので、もっと詳しい漢字熟語を調べた。日本語なら「服装倒錯者」という;すなわち「服の変態」。とっても面憎いと思う。自分の提案は「交換服装者」、それとも「交服者」。

I also got my credit card bill. When I first looked at it I thought I owed four thousand dollars and panicked for a while. Then I looked closely and found I had misread the numbers; it was just four hundred.

So it’s the weekend. Today I cleaned the apartment, and hopefully I can study some languages. Whether that actually happens depends on how fast I watch Simpsons episodes. Thank you, Charlene! On a side note, it's Chinese New Year. Wish I was in Hangzhou.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Again with the lack of updates! また変更してないな!

Okay, I thought I would just let the video of my trip to Hong Kong tell the story, but seeming as it takes an hour of editing for one minute of finished product, and then wait a few days for Google Video to post it, I should write about something in the interim to entertain you, the seething mob.
香港で撮った動画を旅路の物語を教えると思っていたけど、完全された動画の一分ずつの編集は一時間ぐらい掛かるし、Google Videoに上載(じょうさい、アップロードする意味。中国語から)するまでにもっと待たなくちゃので、貴方達の騒然な暴徒の為に面白い記事を書こうと決めた。

I was late in writing my New Year cards, so I rushed down to the central post office on New Year’s Day to shove them in. On the way there I found this park, called Urashima Park (whether it really was part of the back of some island or the guy who owned the land was called Urashima or what is not for me to know).

Some gods of luck are here in statue form though.

At the post office, other people were throwing their late cards into the post, so I didn’t feel too bad.

This poster is at my bank. Recently in Japan there have been crimes where someone calls up an old lady and says ‘Hey, it’s me, I need money’ to swindle the victim by making them think their son/daughter is in trouble. This poster lists possible scams, clockwise from top right: “It’s me, it’s me!”, “This is the police, your son caused a traffic accident”, “Please don’t tell anyone”, “I had a baby”, and “Mom, can you be my guarantor?”

Last weekend or so I went out with Yuuko and Liz for lunch, and we saw this ominous-looking black cat on the vending machines in front of this restaurant.

This has got to be the best smoke alarm poster ever. Punk brother playing guitar and smoking cigarettes in his room gets blasted by his sister (I think). It gets double points from me because it can be interpreted as anti-smoking a little.

I don’t know if it’s an advertising campaign but these backpacks are being sold with angel wings. Cute, but ultimately deadly, wouldn’t you think?

As I was walking through the grocery store one day they were selling sausages. Real sausages! I couldn’t believe it. I bought two, cut them up and used them in my fried rice. Yum. Oh yeah, I brought some Guizhou Black Bean Chili Sauce back from HK so now all my food is deadly.

Everyone knows that Japan whitewashes its history in high school (sarcasm re textbook). If that’s true, then elementary school kids are indoctrinated to be pacifists. This float says “Protect Article 9”, which is the article of the Japanese Constitution that prohibits offensive armed forces.

Walking through the department store, I saw a random origami class. It’s nice to know that there are still things about Japan that can surprise me in a good way.

How about this PS2 game entitled “The Catfight”? The Japanese title is just “Legend of the Cat Women”. このPS2ゲームはいかが?分からなかったら女性が喧嘩すれば英語で「猫喧嘩」という表現がある。

As we can see from the back, it consists of bikini sprites fighting each other. 裏を見ると、このゲームはただビキニを着ているスプライトの喧嘩だとすぐ分かる。

And who says the Japanese don’t know anything but their own country? Here’s a poster exhorting people to see the World Cultural Sites at Pusan and Gyeongju in Korea.

Why does your stomach hurt? According to this poster found in an elementary school, perhaps it’s because your bowels have grown fists and are punching away.

I, of course, have grown progressively mad. This is me wearing my panda tie and Chinawear. I have a beard because it’s cold. Simple.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Human Rights Victory 人間権利の勝利

Everyone's favourite nut has done it again. Arudou Debito has won in a suit of racist remarks.
Read the MDN English article.


And so Japan takes another step closer to equality.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hong Kong Park 香港公園

I'm currently arguing with a Chinese guy who says I am ignorant of the fact that Canadians fought against the Japanese in Hong Kong.

I believe one of the first lines of my speech at the high school Remembrance Day ceremony that I planned went something like "We must remember the Canadians who died of starvation under the Japanese in Hong Kong". Here is the statue of John Robert Osborn, who threw himself on a Japanese grenade so his comrades might live, at which I duly paid homage.

Horrible acting, but you get the idea.

The picture needs to be hosted here as proof because NTT is too stupid to automatically give me webspace, instead demanding I go through a lengthy signup and confirmation process.

BTW, sorry about the lack of updates. I've been spending my time editing video that I took in Hong Kong. As soon as Google Video finishes with it I'll put it up.
あまり更新しなくて失礼した。時間は香港で撮った動画を編集するのはやっぱりかかる。Google Videoに添付されるのは終わってから皆に見せられる。

Friday, January 13, 2006

Day One: Tokyo Departure and Hong Kong Arrival 一番目の日:東京出発と香港到着

After a morning of perusing the closed shops of morning Akihabara, I went to Tokyo Station and caught the Narita Express. After endless moving walkways I finally arrived at my gate and prepared to board the packed Dragon Air flight to Hong Kong. I sat next to an amazing woman, a teacher of Japanese at a Hong Kong middle school, who spoke English and Cantonese in addition to her native Japanese. We had quite the conversation about government and why Princess Masako suffers from neurosis, with my argument being the oppressive controlling influence of the Imperial Household Agency, while she disagreed, stating that the neurosis was caused mostly by the reduction of an independent, Harvard University-educated woman to a male baby machine. I accepted her argument as being correct.

Jamie met me at Hong Kong Airport and we took the MTR (Hong Kong’s subway) to Mei Foo, where her apartment is, on the Kowloon Peninsula. I got a tour of her apartment, and then we went to bed because she had to work the next day.

Videos will be posted in this entry as soon as I contact Alex.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Mei Foo 美孚

This is the area of Hong Kong that I'm staying in. Right next to the subway and bus terminal. So this is where all the Chinese words that enter Canada come from ... with all the haphazard romanization it's certainly easy to see why as kids we make fun of the 'ching-chong' language.

On the flight over I met an awesome Japanese woman who had been living in Hong Kong since forever, teaching Japanese to middle schools ... we had a great conversation and I'm very happy to have met her. If you read this, let's meet up sometime!

Jamie was kind enough to give me an Octopus Card, and kind of debit card that works pretty much everywhere. Just press against the panel and voila, you have paid and can ride the bus or pay for your double cheeseburger.

As Jamie had to work yesterday, I was on my own to explore Hong Kong. I took the bus and shot a lot of video. I copied down her phone number incorrectly, got lost trying to find an internet cafe to check her phone number, was accosted by an Indian telling me I was very lucky, and got change for the phone to dial the incorrect number again.
昨日、ジエメイが働かなくちゃならなかったから朕が一人で香港を探検した。バスに乗って動画を一杯撮った。ジエメイの携帯番号を間違えに書いた、番号を調 べる為にネット・カフェを探しながら迷っていた、朕がとても運が良いと変なインド人に言われた、そして間違え番号を掛ける為に硬貨をもらった。

How I got change was very interesting. I bought some food at McDonalds ($8, divide by 7 to get Canadian price), and got $2 back in change. So I asked the girl (the English-speaking guy who took my order had gone off) for two $1 coins. She then took my $2 coin and gave me ice cream. Good, but not what I needed. Spying the guy again, I attempted to explain what I wanted in English, but he thought I was asking for food that cost $1, which they didn't have. So I switched to Mandarin.
"你可以说中文吗?啊,对不起,普通话吗? "
And then he gave me the coins I needed. The lesson is, screw Cantonese, learn more Mandarin! But I did buy a Lonely Planet phrasebook just in case. And a notebook to write down pronunciations.
硬貨を貰うのは面白かった。マックで$8(7で分けたら日本円になる;8ドルは百円ちょっと)で二倍チーズ・バーガーを買って食べたが、二ドルの硬貨を 貰った。英語が分かる店員が他のレジに言ったので或る女性店員に「この2ドルの硬貨から1ドルの硬貨が二つ欲しいです」と説明してみた。彼女が朕のお金を 取ってアイス・クリームを上げた。いいけど欲しいものではなかった。英語の店員さんをまた見て頼んだけど、彼は朕が1ドルの値段な食べ物が欲しいと思って いた。それから北京語をやってみた通じた。それから欲しい硬貨を貰った。勉強した事は、広東語を無視して北京語に集中して!でも、「寂しい地球」という会 社の表現本を買った、そして看板で見る広東語のローマ字の発音を覚える為にノートも買った。

Today's plan is to finish exporting video files to my HD and go to the Hong Kong Museum of History, then meet Jamie and around 8:30 in Times Square.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Opium for All! 皆へ阿片を上げる!

I'm leaving in about 45 minutes to catch my bus to Tokyo ... and then, it's off to Hong Kong! Also, stuff was on sale at the nearby computer store so I got a DVD-video camera relatively cheap. Perhaps I will post last night's yakiniku party someday.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hatsumoude at Haishiwa 初詣@配志和

Happy New Year 2006 (Western Calendar), Heisei 18 (Japanese Standard), 2666 (Japanese Imperial, defunct)!

I went to Haishiwa, a rather large shrine about 10 minutes away by bike (downhill) for my hatsumoude, First Prayer of the New Year. Compared to my first time going to a shrine at New Year's in Shizuoka, the streets were empty. So was the shrine. This picture is of the lantern at the entrance to the stairs leading up.

I reached the top of the hill at around 11:45 and there were only maybe 20 people there. After standing around for a bit like an idiot, I struck up a converstation with an old man to pass the time. I find that the really old ones often have their own personality and are not afraid to express what they think. We talked about the giant trees at the shrine, how not many people come anymore, whether or not the table holding the New Year's arrows was going to tip over, the Japanese custom of everyone following two religions at once, and what religion is like in Other Countries.
11時45分ぐらい坂の頂に着いたが20人ぐらいしか居なかった。時間を過ごす為にお爺 さんと話し始めた。なんか年上の日本人は個人的な性格あるし自分の 考えは遠慮なくて言うと思う。神社の巨杉とか少ない人数とか福屋が置いてある台が落ちるかどうかについて話した。そして、日本人が二つの宗教(神仏)を従 う習慣の事と他国の宗教についても話した。

Two girls had also climbed all the way up the stairs. I attempted conversation with them like with the old guys but all I got was nervous giggles.

Buying some talismans, I used The Cheesiest Line in the Book - "Oh, excuse me, I'd like to prove to my friends that I met a real miko - may I take your picture?" to get this. Cute, isn't she!

Nobody I knew was there, so I went back down the stairs. I noticed that a LOT of women were wearing short skirts and boots. Hello?!?! It's frikkin' middle of winter midnight freezing! Fashion slaves. The signs may say 'Welcome Spring', but ever since the Meiji Government changed the calendar the new year no longer occurs when it is warm.
神社で知り合いは居なかった のでまた階段を下げた。でも、なんかブーツと短いスカートを履いている女性達を一杯見た!もしもし??冬の真ん中の夜半の凛々 しさ感じない??流行奴隷。「迎春」が書いてあるかもしれないけど、明治政府が暦を変えて新年はもう暖かい季節に起こらないよ。

There was a Nichiren Buddhist temple a few minutes away so I went to check it out. Not too many people there either. Still, it was cool to hear the chant of the sutras being read.

The stores are all set for the New Year's Day sales ...

This morning I got a nengajo from the Suzuki family. Sweet! I feel horrible because I didn't get my in-Japan ones sent out on time ... I will mail them today.

Oh and my ISP is an idiot. To use your 10MB (only!!) of free webspace you have to register and then they process your application, which takes days. What the hell!!!!

And here's my banner for the New Year.