Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Choice Cuts from the English speaking J-web

During 2008 my use of the internet has become much more refined. I have taken up feeding my interest of all things Japan by becoming a J-blog addict of sorts. I read a lot of blogs about and related to Japan. I even have my own little blog about life in Japan! It has been a lot of fun reading J blogs and keeping one of my own going. There are so many good blogs out there that I always have something good to read. This creates a slight problem in deciding what is the cream of the crop. Well, as with all blogs there is usually something good about it that keep people coming back for more. Although, there are some blogs, that not only keep me coming back, but also make me check daily for a new post.

Everyone has their favorite J-blog. What one person finds to be crap someone else may think it is pure gold. There are some sites that I only visit when I am really hard up for something to read while others think that same site is great. With these ideas in mind I offer up what I think to be some of the best J-blogs on the net. I hope that you agree that these sites are very good and deserve positive mention.

Escape from New York

I read this blog on a regular basis. It is written by, and about, Benjamin L. Belcher`s adventures as he lives on his own for the first time far from home. He has some pretty good thoughts on many different things. He is also a teacher so he has a few funny stories to tell. Be sure to check out his blog posts about being in a Japanese rock band!

The one and only Neil Duckett has one of the best J-blogs on the net. He gives readers exactly what they want and then some. The very popular J-babe of the week is a always worth checking out every Friday. I am never disappointed by a visit to

I very good blog with plenty of photos. Mr. Kimball takes a lot of photos of Japan. A lot of them are really amazing. I can spend hours looking at the many posts offered by this site. Well, worth taking the time to check out.

Lets Japan

A often funny site which is always a good read. This site has provided me with lots of laughs and useful tidbits about Japan. Good place to learn about the ends and outs of Japanese culture. Lets Japan is also home to the very funny Monkey in The City series.

Tokyo Damage Report

This site goes way off the beaten path to provide a peak into the subcultures in Tokyo. From sex parties to underground punk shows Tokyo Damage Report will delight the freak inside of everyone. Also includes a very useful guide to the top underground spots in Tokyo.

Good blog about a varied range of Japan related topics. Usually has something good to read. The photo posts are really good.

Great social network site all about J-pop. Always full of news and information on all the top acts and upcoming artist as well. All styles of J-pop are represented with daily updates from users. Perfect site for those interested in J-pop.

The Long

The web home of Nick Ramsay. It seems that Nick is quickly becoming a major driving force in the development of the English speaking J-web. A regular on many of top J-blog and Japan related websites Nick dives head first into the J-web everyday. He is the creator of the every growing and highly popular Japan related social bookmark site.

7:10 to Tokyo

A great site from the mind of Billy West. The site itself is kind of like a webzine featuring articles written by J-bloggers. Anyone who wants to showcase some of their best work can submit an article. Some really good stuff appears at 7:10 so it is worth checking out from time to time.

Andy in Tokyo

Interesting look at Japanese culture and daily life in Japan. Always provides a good read.

Tokyo Filter

Another creation of Billy West. Tokyo Filter is a video site kind of like Youtube except all the videos are Japan related. Users can submit videos directly from their youtube account! So far good vids are appearing on site which adds promise of even better vids as the site grows.

The top social bookmarking site on the English speaking J-web. There is always something good to read. A lot of blogs and japan related sites show up daily. The community of users are a wonderful and interesting group of folks.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I`m off to see the Reds

So, on December the 30th I will leave Japan for a few days. I will be traveling to The People`s Republic of China; or Red China. I love to travel to others places in the world. I enjoy the adventure of being in a strange land. While, China has been on my travel list for years I still feel a slight fear of being in Red nation.

I know that many people consider China to be capitalist with a single party political system. What is shocking is that a lot of people I talk with seem to have no problem with such a system. I personally think that the Chinese system of government is a smack in the face of liberty. The government of China should be ashamed of some of the actions it has taken against its people. Sadly, considering that China is becoming a superpower it is highly unlikely that its government will have a chance of heart anytime soon. So, I am visiting China the understanding that I can have a great time but I am to never questioned the government while inside its borders. Usually, I would have a little problem with such an agreement but I really want to see some things in Beijing so I am biting the bullet and playing along.

With the golden rule in mind for visiting Beijing I have given some thought as to what I want to do and see. There are something which I know for sure I want to see.

The Great Wall Of China.
One of the only things a knew about China when growing up in the mountains of West Virginia was the great wall. We all heard the story of this giant wall the Chinese build a long time ago to keep out invaders. I have only seen pictures of it in books and internet sites. I still find it amazing that such a building project could have been constructed all those years ago. Back in those days slaves where still used to do most hard labor. It must have taken a lot of slaves to complete the great wall. Considering the way slaves must have been treated in those more uncivilized days I am willing to bet turnover rate for slaves was really high. I wonder why China never created a special monument to honor those who suffered so much during the building of the wall? Anyway, a round trip from Beijing to the wall and back is about one day. I will have to get up early to go to the wall. It should be well worth the effort.

The Forbidden City.
This is something big on my to do list. The Forbidden City has been a fascination of mine since I first read about its history in college. For many years it was the home of the Emperor and the political center of China. So many important political events in China`s history has happen at the Forbidden City. There days it is open to the public as it no longer is used for political means. It is a testament to the history of China. I am looking forward to seeing the large painting of Mao which is on display at the main entrance of the Forbidden City.

Tianaman Square
The modern political center of Beijing is Tianaman square. All of the major government buildings are located in this area. I have read that politicians address the people directly in the square itself or from a balcony overlooking the people. It must take a lot of `security forces` to protect the politicians during public speeches. Speaking of security forces Tianaman square also claims fame as being the site of one of the bloodest political resistence in the history of China. Most people have seen the tank man video which stands as a symbol of resisting oppressive governmets. I am sure that such a video has been banned by the great fire wall of China so most people in China have never seen tank man. Such an event in history makes me more edger to see Tianaman square.

Beijing Duck
I have wanted to try this for years! I have head that Beijing duck is a great meal. I have never eaten duck before. In fact, were I grew up duck hunting was not popular at all. We just did not look at ducks as food. My wife says it is really good but a bit greasy. I will have to eat the stuff first and make up my own mind. Any suggestions for the best way to eat duck?

There are a few others things I have on my list of things to do and see in Beijing but I always welcome and suggestions. I still do not know much about what new years activites are being planned in Beijing. Any information would be helpful.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tokyo Tornado

As 2008 winds down I must admit I am feeling kind of drained and worn down. It has been one of hell of a year for me. This year I have made a big change in my life. Getting married, moving to Tokyo, adjusting to a totality different culture, dealing with a insane job market has got my head kind of twisted up like a Tornado a little.

Pulling off this 180 has not been easy but I think I have fared good so far. Unlike a lot of people who move to the land of the raising sun, I came here simply because I was madly in love and totally sick of the events unfolding in my home nation. I traded the stress of being love sick and angry as hell with my government for the stress of city life and culture shock. I don`t know how much of an even trade it was but I am learning to expect the unexpected. 2008 has taken me to places I could have never imagined for my life. I started the year living in a socially and economically depressed part of America and ended the year living in the jewel city of Asia. If anyone would have told me such events would have unfolded in my life in 2008 I would called them crazy. Yet, here I am living in Tokyo feeling like I have been spinning around inside of a tornado for 12 months.

I have learned a lot about myself while going though, at times, emotionally painful process of adjusting to married life and culture shock at once. The biggest thing I have learned is that I have to maintain a certain amount of balance in my life or else things can get out of control real quick. Before moving to Tokyo I was the kind of person who would follow the god chaos to hell and back instead of resisting the urge to fuck-up everything around me. It was rare for me to stop and check myself. I lived a hardcore balls to wall existence which would drive most people straight to the nut house. Hell, back in the states some of my closest friends would question my own sanity from time to time. These days there is a hell of a lot more responsibility resting on my shoulders. I can`t always say fuck it and rock out with my cock out anymore. While I still have a damn good time I put much more effort in placing limits on myself. This is not to say that there are not times when I do let situations fall into a state of chaos just for the pure devilish pleasure of it. The difference now is that those moments of hellish glory are spaced out enough to keep my life in balance.

So, in short this year I have grown up a lot. The game totally changes when marriage factors into things. While, being married and living in one of the biggest cities in the world has worn me out a little overall it has been a great year. I have changed over the course of this year. Hell, my entire lifestyle has changed a lot over the past year. Actually, I have welcomed this 180 twist in my life. Mellowing out is not so bad.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Shopping for a X-Mas Gift in Tokyo 2008

So, it is that time of year when people start singing silly X-mas songs and stringing enough lights to be seen from the moon. Many people will be taking time out to remember the birth of our lord Jesus...wait a second this is Tokyo X-mas is not about Jesus!

That`s right, in Japan J.C. does not get any birthday wishes with people worshiping at his feet. In fact, most Japanese have very little idea as to why X-mas is celebrated in the first place. What they do know is that the gaijin seem to love the holiday and there is plenty of money to be made. Here in Tokyo X-mas is all about getting gifts and spending large sums of money to impress our loved ones. It would seem that the more money you spend the more love you can express. Store owners know this and usually go all out in a bid to attract customers. With that said I too jumped head first into the holiday shopping madness looking to buy the perfect gift for my honey.

I must admit that I have never bought her anything really expensive before. Now that I do have a little money to burn I thought this year I will buy her something really nice while I have the chance. Now just not any place in Tokyo will cut it when looking to get a kick-ass X-mas gift. The only place in Tokyo where I guy can get that perfect X-mas gift for a special gal is Ginza. This part of Tokyo is famous for its up scale shopping and great restaurants. All the big international high end shops are located in Ginza. As you can imagine I do not venture to Ginza very often. Yet, in my quest to buy something really nice I hopped on the Ginza line of the Tokyo Metro to buy that perfect holiday gift.

I was keen on only one shop for my purchase. Tiffany`s is the only store I could think which can impress even the highest maintenance gal in all of Japan. While my wife is not an extreme example of a high maintenance gal she is expecting something nice. She said that she would be happy with something around 20,00 yen but I know that amount of money will not buy something so good. I decided to go all out and buy something in the 80,000 yen plus range. I have the money right now to spend a little extra so I pulled no punches. I walked right into Tiffany`s looking for something great. Now, Tiffany`s is an expensive place usually reserved for people making some serious cash. As soon as I walked into the place I stuck out like a sore thumb. It is not everyday you see a guy wearing leather biker jacket, tight blue jeans, and black military boots shopping at Tiffany`s. I few of the store attendants looked at me with glaring eyes but I paid them no mind. I had enough money in my wallet to shop there and got to the business of picking out something nice.

They have a lot of really nice things at Tiffany`s. Some of the necklaces look like the kind of stuff royalty would be seen sporting. I felt a little guilty that I could not buy the gal one of those high end platinum necklaces. It would have been really cool to hand her something which cost several thousand US dollars. None the less they did have many things which I could afford. After looking around for a while I finally zeroed in on some nice gold necklaces with diamond charms. They were not extremely high priced but still rather expensive compared to what I am used to buying. The lady behind the counter was quick to start making the sales pitch. She was nice enough but it was obvious that she wanted me to buy something and get the hell out of there. I paid her attitude no mind and asked a few questions before shelling out the cash.

Walking out of Tiffany`s I felt good about what I bought. This is the best gift I have even gotten for my gal. I gave to her this evening and she loved it. When I told her how much it cost she almost cried. It made me feel so good to see her so happy. She stared at it for a long time and showered me with praise. This X-mas is turning out to be one of the best for us. We got a trip to Tokyo Disney Land planned on X-mas day and a trip to Beijing for new years. It`s X-mas in Japan!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Freelance Teaching in Tokyo--How in the hell am I gonna pull this one off?

Just like our flying sumo friend doing freelance in any profession takes some guts. Unlike working for a company, a freelancer never knows exactly how much money they will make each month. The big advantage to freelance is the freedom to create your own schedule and set your own prices. Although, there may be more leg work involved a freelancer can actually end up making more money than someone who is slaving away for a company day in and day out.

So, as I look at the job options in front of me freelancing seems to provide me with a way to bring home extra money, get a hell of a lot of teaching experience, and open up new doors of opportunity. The extra money is the biggest thing for me right now. The company I am currently working for has already cut almost everyone`s salary and future contracts looks to be even worse. If I can bring home a good amount of money from freelancing I will be able to ride out the current contract I am trapped in. Getting more teaching experience is a huge plus for me. I came to Japan with a degree in English but not teaching. I was able to score a job with my English degree but I have been learning the in an outs of teaching as a go along. Currently I am studying to get my TESOL which will be an advantage for me as I tread the rough waters of the Tokyo job market. The more experience I gain the better a teacher I will be and my resume will get an extra boost. I imagine that doing freelancing in the Tokyo area will open up doors for me which I never thought possible. If I get enough private students I may be able to avoid working for any company again and make all my money from freelancing alone. There is also the fact that I never know which student I am going to impress so much that they might offer me a job making some big money. Hell, with enough students I might be able to open up my own damn school.

With all the possible advantages of doing freelance work I still have the problem of having very little experience with the whole process. I did a little freelance journalist work back in the states but that was in a rural area with a much different daily pace. Tokyo is a huge fast paced city with a lot of people competing against me for work. I am not the only teacher out there looking to score money in the freelance game. I cannot just give standard lessons and expect to have students who come back time and time again. I have to have my own special method of teaching in order to set myself part from the pack. I am confident I can develop my own lessons plans. From what I have seen in the job market being able to develop, design, and plan your own lessons is a skill that a lot of employers love to see from a teacher. I have seen a few good paying jobs in which the employer required that the teacher be able to design and plan their own lessons.

I have been looking at some resources for teaching on the internet and there are some really good ones out there. Each student has a different speaking level which requires me to approach each lesson a little different. Beginners cannot be working on complex sentence structures and an advanced student does not need to be learning basic phrases and vocab. While it may be challenging to try and develop a basic lesson structure which can be modified to fit most students needs I feel that I am up to the task. The more I teach private students the more lessons I will have developed. Over time I will have a deep array of varied lessons to offer students.

While I write about my plans for doing freelance there is still the issue of actually attaining students. I have had a few fellow teachers give me some advice but they have been doing it for years. I on the other hand am entering the freelance game as a very new broom. One guy told me to put up ads at English book stores and wait for the offers to come rolling in. Another teacher said that craiglist is a good source to get the word out that you are offering private lessons. While I will give craiglist a shot I don`t think that putting up ads at book stores is going to be a big advantage for me. What I have done is sign up at a couple of teacher/student websites which connect teachers and students directly. The great thing about these sites is that are free to join and create a profile. The first one I signed up on is called They offer a very detailed profile set up and look to be a good source for attracting students. The other site I made a profile on is called They have a system which is a little different but it also seems to be effective in helping me gain some students. Although these sites have the ability to get me a good base of students to work with there is still nothing better than good old fashion word of mouth. This is were things set a little tricky. My current company has a policy which forbids teachers from using lessons to conduct business for personal gain. I do not want to get fired for such a thing, not because of the effect this may have on the company, but how it would effect my rep. in the teaching field. I think that the closer I come to the end of my contract or simply quitting to accept a position with another company, which ever comes first, I will quietly pass along my services to the students. I feel that I would get at least a few students from the place I am working now to start taking private lessons with me instead of dealing with the shit the company offers them as far as prices go. I could give them much better lessons outside of class with a fixed, stable, no non-sense pricing system.

So, this is what I am trying to do for the time being. I am going to give this whole freelancing teaching thing the old college try and see where is takes me. I still got a contract with my currently company until march 2009 so I will at least have a little base income coming in every month. The hardest part of this will be convincing my wife that this plan will work. She is a person who avoids risk at all cost. She likes the idea of me working for a company in which I get a salary each month. I will have to show her that I can do this and bring home a decent amount of money. Any advice on teaching freelance in Tokyo would help out a lot so suggestions would be appreciated. Also any advice on what to say to my wife would also help.

I am will swimming up stream in the this wild job market so as always wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hunt is On

Yes, the hunt is on. I am currently in the process of looking to change my job. The company I am currently working for is not, and will not, offer me what I want as far as money and career. There is also the fact that they really are not stable at all. I love the students but I have developed very little love for the company. At times it feels like I work for a sunken ship of a company whose only goal is to squeeze the last few drops of cash out of the whole mess. I really hate to feel that way but the writing on the wall is hard not to read.

So yeah, I am out there in the job market looking for something a little better and a whole hell of a lot more stable. At first, things looked pretty lean. I mean, a person has to check the job postings everyday to make sure nothing good passes by without submitting a resume. One day there is not much being offered but the next day companies come out of the woodwork offering some pretty decent positions. So far I am not seeing too much of a hiring freeze in the teaching field in Japan. Still, I am a little worried about the job market as the title wave of global financial meltdown hangs over Japan.

Speaking of financial matters I am sure I am going to be ok with money for at least the next several months. Things might get a little tight and my marriage is gonna get a little more stressful but I am pretty sure I can survive. I do not want my wife to get too mad and upset concerning money. I already know that some extra stress on the home front is already coming but I do not want it to get out of hand. I gotta be really nice and understanding of my wife in the coming months. It is gonna take some master skills of manhood to handle things. I have known her for a long time so I think I understand what makes her tick. As long as I am able to show and explain to her that everything is gonna be ok she will be fine in the end. A damn good X-mas present is going to help as well.

It is in times like these that I call on a deep resolve that was ingrained in me from a young child. When you grow up poor you learn how to pull yourself up by your boot straps and keep striving. I guess I have picked-up some kind of Capricorn luck. My star sign is the house of logic and of earth. A very determined sign torn between logic and emotions. What this translates into is a person who is over obsessed with their self worth and sometimes spends way too much time second guessing themselves. I have to admit that I can stress myself out about things when I think about stuff too much. Anyway, sometimes luck comes my way at the last possible second. Just when I think all is lost something will happen that saves my ass. If I just keep pushing full steam ahead my effort is usually rewarded.

I have applied to several companies and already had one interview. I am waiting for a response from the company which interviewed me too so will know if I get a call back. Some of the jobs I applied for I am not expecting a response at all. Although, there are a few I am hopeful will contact me for sure. It is all about the waiting game at this point. I have been applying to companies and waiting for responses. This is the part of job hunting I hate the most. Although, it is all a part of the process in landing a new job. Once I start getting more interviews that whole ordeal will go by much faster.

Anyway, wish me luck out there in the fierce job market in Tokyo.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Love Tokyo?

Why love a city which can entice a star struck soul and transform them into a pure bastard? This is the million dollar question when pondering any good reason to love Tokyo. The jewel city of the far east can take from a person just as much as it gives. I have met people, not only in the flesh, but also on the net who have developed a right proper nasty attitude due to Tokyo`s overwhelming influence. Maybe they were a bastard of a person all along but I doubt this is the case in most situations. This city of ours does something to people which defies the laws of the `great escape` which many seek in the land of the raising sun. It does not transform everyone into a rotten bastard but it cannot be denied that many who come to Tokyo leave as a asshole action figure with hate-fu grip.

My transformation has went in the complete opposite direction of asshole ally. I came to Tokyo a proper bastard and now find myself mellowing out and becoming a slightly better human than when I arrived. I can be honest enough to admit that I came to Tokyo a hard drinking, fighting, swearing, stubborn, son of a bitch. Too many years of living in the bare bone coal fields of West Virginia had made a brutal keen greaser out of me. I was most likely the last person you wanted to deal with in a social situation. My bad behavior had become a thing of legend in the circles which I ran. Even though I had been making semi-regular trips to Tokyo for several years to spend time with my main love interest I kept becoming worse rather than better.

Yeah, I was becoming pretty bad at times. By the time I finally made the decision to make Tokyo my home I was ready for a change. If I had not made a change of scene and lifestyle I was gonna end up just as my grandmother predicted; either dead or in jail. I did manage to get myself a college degree somehow and I was, and still am, madly in love with my main gal. So, I moved to Tokyo and got myself hitched up with a Japanese gal I have known since I was nineteen. This change of scene and lifestyle has transformed me into a half-way decent person. Yet, this little extra history lesson still does not answer the question of why love Tokyo.

While I cannot answer the question at hand for everyone I know exactly why I love Tokyo. In fact there are many reasons why I love Tokyo. So many reasons that I cannot list them all. Although I can offer up a short list of some of the best reasons that I personally love this city.

1) Harajuku

One of the first places in Tokyo which I started hanging out on a regular basis is Harajuku. I quickly found that I can be exactly who I am without any worries of being judged for being a little different. It is in Harajuku that I made my first friend in this city. Tommy is his name and he took to me like white on rice as soon as we met. He accepted me from day one and I always have a good time with my friend from Vietnam.
Harajuku also caters to my personal taste in fashion. Yeah, I know I can dress a little campy sometimes but I have pretty much dressed the way I do for the majority of my life. I can find the best hair grease, music, jackets, or what ever I desire with ease. It is also very easy to just hang on the street and have a good time doing much of nothing.

2) Shibuya

A lot of people like Shibuya but for me it is a place I can always find a good bar to throw back a few cold brews. While I do not drink near as often as I used to, when I do get a taste for fine liquid poison Shibuya is usually where I head. There is also the fact that Shibuya has some of the best love hotels in the city which is fun to sneak off with my gal from time to time. I can wonder around Shibuya for hours on end and still find something new and interesting to get into.

3) Great Food

While growing up dirt poor a great meal was hard to come by sometimes. Many times I was happy just to have a warm belly full of food. Well, those days are long gone now that I live in Tokyo. I have found that I can enjoy any kind of food from all parts of the world in Tokyo. It is fun for me to explore all the different restaurants in Tokyo. I have found some really great places to stuff my face.

4) Live Music

This has proved to be a big plus for me. I have seen some great punk and Rock A` Billy bands in Tokyo. Hell, the all night Rock A` Billy parties are a real devil of a good time. I have seen some great bands I would have other wise never have even known about if I was not living in Tokyo. I don`t think I could see a band dressed in full clock work orange attire, including the long noise masks, anywhere else in the world.

5) The pure adventure of daily life

I have always said that if you turn over enough rocks you can find just about anything to match you desire in Tokyo. The stuff I have experience in just under a year in this city it a whole books worth of adventures. I have not even wrote about 1/10 of my adventures in Tokyo on this blog. Oh, the stories I could tell!
There is also the fact that everyday I see or experience something which keeps me on my toes. Around every corner a new surprise or off beat experience might be waiting for me. Each day when I leave my apartment is an adventure.

So, this is the best answer I can give with respect to `Why Love Tokyo.` This place is one hell of a city man! I mean some serious shit would have to go down for me to hate this place. If you have been transformed into a bitter bastard by Tokyo just know that while you are puking out hate I am out there having one hell of a good time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Warning! Contents Under Pressure

The pressure is finally starting to get to me a little. It usually takes a lot of shit thrown at me to see any cracks in the iron coat so to speak. I may be a little of an emotional person but I can take some heat when needed. Although, as of late the pressure in my life is starting to build to the boiling point. I am starting to feel like I am going to snap.

I really do not like this feeling at all. There has been way too much uncertainty in my life. Japan can be a really high pressure society. They can expect too much from people. It is as if they do not understand that no one is perfect. People will make mistakes everyday and there is no need to jump all over someone`s ass so much. With all the things going on in my life right now I feel like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. I am trying my best to handle this pressure but it is becoming harder and harder everyday. The stress coming from my personal life, job, money, language issues, and figuring out where I fit in the overall scope of things is taking its toll on me. I have got to find a release valve soon.

Maybe one of the reasons I am feeling a lot of pressure is that there are a lot of uptight people that I have to deal with everyday. You know the type, always having high expectations and never being happy with the results of your effort. I really want to tell some of them to fuck off but that would only make matters worse. It seems the harder I try to more upset they are with me. Japanese society can be really insane sometimes. I am trying to be a thoughtful person but I have my days when I just want to relax and not care so much. I cannot be perfect! I have been making progress in my forced self-improvement but it takes time to live up to some of the standards placed on me. I really do not want everything to fall apart but I am starting to struggle to keep the whole ordeal together.

My current game plan involves trying to make a person happy who seems to be all smiles one day and angry as a bull the next. The emotional roller coaster is gonna have to stop or I am going to start having some serious panic attacks. There is also the fact that I really want to change jobs and the job hunt is proving to be a mess all of its own.

I am confident that I will find a different job so I can tell my current company to go fuck themselves but it is gonna take time. I really do not like the people I am working for anymore. I love teaching but the people in management are not the kind of people I want to work for at all. They just fuck around too much with me. Not only that but the company itself is not stable. I cannot work an unstable company. Maybe if I was in my early 20`s I could work for this kind of company but I am getting close to 30 now so I need something more stable. I got a interview this Friday with a company that I would really like to work for on a long term basis. The job itself looks to be a lot of fun and the students would be great to teach. I got everything ready to go for the interview at this point so wish me luck.

Well, I do hope the pressure will let up soon. In the back of my head I feel that everything will be fine. I just got to be a little more keen about things in the coming months.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Roppongi Gathering

I must admit that I usually do not prefer Roppongi. From time to time I will venture to Roppongi but only when I am invited by someone or when there is no other real option. Although, I completely understand the attraction to Roppongi. Hell, a person can have a real good time in the area. There are a lot of friendly gals there who can provide a blurred evening of drinking and maybe more if you so desire. In Roppongi it is possible for a guy, or gal, to dive head first into just about any type of lustful pleasure one fancies. I just prefer something more underground and outside of the normal insanity that is the Tokyo nightlife. With that said this weekend I ended up partying in Roppongi due to an invite from my long time friend Fumika.

I actually looked forward to an evening in Roppongi due to some extra emotional baggage I have been carrying around lately. I know that going to Roppongi means that I do not have to give a rats ass about much of anything. I can just let go and enjoy myself. At night the area can have such a heavy mix of sexual energy and drunken marry making that people tend to slip into full balls to the wall party mode. While this can lead to some pretty shitty situations at times there is also a huge fun factor involved.

Anyway, one of Fumika`s friends was throwing a little private party at a place called Heartland up until around nine pm. It was my first time to go to a private party in Tokyo. It was not all that bad. The crowd was mostly cool and Fumika was totally stoked to see me. She has got a high energy personality which always makes her fun to be around. By the way guys Fumika is looking for a boyfriend so if anyone is interested I can introduce you to her. She is not into the playboy type. She wants a serious boyfriend. She is fun, outgoing, and a very loving gal. Well, enough of playing match maker.

As the night progressed I got more and more attention from a lot of the gals there. I really do not see why. There was many gaijin men there to choose from. Most of those gals could have their pick of the pack so I found it odd that so many of them were all about trying to get me. I think that most of them were fully aware that I was with someone. I guess I am not used to the vibe in Roppongi. I guess this happens all the time to just about any decent looking guy hanging in one of the many clubs in the area. These gals can be pretty aggressive sometime. It really is a 180 from what I am used to out of gals in Tokyo. I mean, I know that in Tokyo people tend to get real friendly after a few drinks but some of the gals I came across at this party were all ready to strip down naked and submit to all kinds of twisted sexual acts. It is in these situations I say to myself `damn I wish I was single.` None the less the attention did make me feel good.

As the night wore on Fumika kept feeding me drinks and I got rather drunk. I don`t really remember getting home. Lucky for me I have a very caring gal who helped me all the way home. She even helped to provide me with a decent manner in which to throw my guts up all the way home. Overall, it was a fun night. I may go to Roppongi again in the future. I think the gal really likes the place. She does have more fun when she has some people to hang out with besides just me. I might try to set up a little meet up on my own in an attempt to provide her with some fun and play match maker for Fumika.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Teaching Is Not So Bad After All

When I got all settled in Tokyo I knew that I was going into the teaching field. I thought that it would be a chance to get my feet wet in the job market in Tokyo. I also needed a steady paycheck. The need to eat hits a guy real quick. Not to mention that marriage requires me to bring home and bacon. Hell, I like working as much as I can. Work makes me feel good and gives me a sense that I achieved something each day. Although, I did not see myself becoming a teacher I have grown to enjoy the job. While it is not my habit or pleasure to give much of anything to society willingly, I do feel that I am giving a part of myself to a society which expects so little of me. The question in my head is why have I grown to enjoy a profession which is against my nature and why am I good at it?

The image of a teacher in my head has always been someone who spent too much time thinking and not enough time doing. My grandmother used to have the same opinion of me but that was because I thought about what I did before I did it. The cowboy attitude never got correctly beat into my head. For me, teachers have always been the type of authority figure who could red tape and cheat me in and out of trouble rather than having the ability to shape my understanding of the world. Dishing out a long day of never ending beer bongs of information straight to the head was my image of the role of a teacher. Now, that the tables have turned and I am the provider of never ending beer bongs of information I find that I actually enjoy the role.

I think that the reason I enjoy teaching is that I get to share what I know with others. By default I possess a master knowledge of spoken English. Being able to break down how sentences are constructed and showing people how to speak `like the gaijin do` is rewarding on some basic level that I struggle to find the words to express. I get this strange connection with students during lessons which I have not felt before. There are these odd moments of unspoken `wow we understand each other` that is pure in its simplicity. There must be this desire brewing up from inside of me which not only wants to be understood when speaking but also considers it a personal challenge when people can`t understand.

The job itself has challenged me and somehow my brain has taken this as a personal challenge and insult if I cannot teach effectively. I have read all the blogs bashing English teachers in Japan. Some of them are really nasty and mean spirited. None the less, I take no pleasure in knowing there is a group of people out there who consider my profession to be a joke. What drives me nuts is the fact that while there are people trash talking I am experiencing the pure joy of two people sharing a moment of effective communication and understanding. Considering that effective communication and understand can be hard to come by these days I am surprised that people would trash talk about two humans sharing such a rare experience.

So, as my mind pukes out muses about why teaching is not so bad it would seem that my job involves me in many things everyday. I give something to society(which is not done on purpose), I share pure moments of understanding with fellow humans, I make my wife proud of me, I smash the idea that English teachers in Japan are all drunk dumb asses, and I find some personal reward (which I still cannot express effectively) all in one day. Well, that is not so bad at the end of the day.

It is still weird for me to think about where I started and where I am now. Hell, a poor punk kid from West Virginia ends up married and teaching English in Japan. Damn! Now is that some shit or what?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The End of The First Year at the Beginning of The End of the Old Year

As December starts two endings and one beginning are taking place. The end of 2008 is at the heels of the world. Another year is passing by just as fast as the last. The ground shook, many people died for no good reason, the price of tea in China is still anyone`s guess, The US government is still crazy as hell, women still do not trust men, men still think that women are too emotional, sex stills feels great and smoking is still legal. Yes, it would seem that 2008 was just like all the preceding years. The end to another year passed-out on the wild ride that is human history. As the year ends so does my first year in Japan; kind of. By the end of December I will have been in Tokyo for 11 straight months. The one time I have left Tokyo was a four day holiday to my gal`s home town for golden week. The end of 2008 also marks the start of my first full year in Japan. So, as the changing of the guard from the old year to the new takes place, yet again I find myself at a cross road about to play host to a cluster fuck collision of time-space bullets trains.

With all the endings and beginnings happening in December I have almost forgotten the fact that soon the weather will be very unpleasant. The winter season has been easy on Tokyo but I can feel that such mercy is coming to a close. Snow fall has already been reported in some of the mountain regions and Mt. Fuji is already fully covered with snow. The evil chill of winter is lurking over Tokyo waiting for the right moment to rain down ice, snow, and murderous cold temperatures. I have experienced winter in Tokyo before but for limited lengths of time. I wonder what kind of effect it will have on my body. I have already had two nasty bouts of the flu but as of late I have been feeling great. The commute to work is gonna become a little more interesting. I am going to have to avoid setting, or standing, next to anyone who is sick. Hell, I have even considered wearing one of those hospital masks the Japanese are so found of these days. Being sick in this city is no fun at all. It really runs my daily energy down lower than the daily rat race does.

Anyway, as December is the time to celebrate the end of one year and the birth of a new I have started setting up a few things for the early part of the month. On the fourth I am planning to go to the Loft in Shinjuku to see the band Lucky 13. I have not been to the Loft in a while so I am looking forward to the event. Also, one of my friends from college is having a private party at a pub or something. She has invited the gal and me for an evening of sucking an open bar dry and all around merry making.

As the X-mas season is now in full swing I have been thinking of how to celebrate this holiday. As I am not a Christian I feel no religious connection to the season. My lack of a spiritual connection to X-mas is actually a bonus for me as the Japanese also have no `special` feeling for this holiday. I will be spared all the `We love you Jesus` stuff and everyone acting as if they are so religious and love the lord. This X-mas it looks as if I will be at Tokyo Disney Land. This was not my idea nor decision. It appears that the gal has taken over full planning rights for X-mas. I had the thought of eating a great dinner at an upscale restaurant but that was a no go because we did that for Thanksgiving. Yes, Micky will be my buddy on X-mas. All the insane happiness that is Tokyo Disney Land will be mine to enjoy. Well, it will not be so bad because the gal wants to eat at the Pirates restaurant at Disney. The place does actually have some good dishes so at least I will eat good.

So, here I am living in Tokyo in December of 2008. Like every month is should be interesting. I am sure that a few unexpected surprises will occur. Some will be welcomed and others not so welcomed. My work load is gonna be an up and down roller coaster ride this month. I am losing faith in management but I feel that they may have lost faith in themselves a long time ago. None the less my need to eat keeps me coming back time and time again.

My deepest and last thought at this late hour is if I will be able to get my hands on a fine jug of Eggnog in Tokyo.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Out and About

Keeping with the traditions from the old country I found a way to celebrate Thanksgiving. No Thanksgiving is complete without a fine turkey dinner. Seeing that Japan does not celebrate the holiday, there are not a lot of seasonal events to attend. Watching an American Football game is all but out of the question; unless I want to track down a pub that shows replays. None the less, I was able to book dinner at a nice restaurant called Beacon.

I had actually been looking forward to a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner. It has been a while since I eat an American style dinner. I like all the different kinds of food Tokyo offers but sometimes I want a good old American meal. I can only eat so many rice balls and lunch boxes until my body begs for something closer to home.

My gal has not had Thanksgiving dinner in several years so she was excited as me. She confessed that she had missed eating a nice American holiday dinner. Although, I remember the last time she cooked Thanksgiving dinner we had baby octopus as a featured side dish. This year there will no cooking at home. I guess the fast paced Tokyo lifestyle has rubbed off on both of us because the thought of cooking Thanksgiving dinner sent chills up our spines. There was no question that eating out for Thanksgiving dinner was the only option which would sit well with both of us.

The evening got off to a rough start. Our reservation was not until 8:30 pm so I decided to wait until around 4:45 pm to get ready. This did not sit well with the gal who got off work around 5:00 pm. She wanted to hang out in central for a while before we had dinner. She never likes to wait on anyone. When it comes to waiting on me there is no room for mistake or no extra time to wait on me. She got a little upset and talked a little shit but she got over it soon enough.

We made it to Shibuya about 7:30 pm. Seeing that we had some time to kill we made our way to a First(Fucking) Kitchen for some coffee. The coffee at this chain fast food joint is almost as bad as McDonald`s. On a cold night in Tokyo the quality of the coffee takes a back seat to the over powering desire for warm energy giving liquid. This also gave me a chance to get the gal in a happy holiday mood. Conversation and funny off color comments are always the perfect way to get M.K. all smiles and up for an enjoyable evening. Over the years, I have learned how to handle this female. It takes a lot of throwing my pride out the window and being a mellow fellow to cheer her up.

After the both of us were just as happy as a pair of coons on trash day, we made our way over to Beacons. The place really was a step above what I am used to experiencing. I felt a little out of place in such a classy joint. The people working there all spoke very good English; which was a big surprise to me. Whenever I go out I make sure to remember my very rough Japanese so I can order. Self embarrassment was not needed as the staff spoke in Japanese to my gal and in English to me. The place had a real post-modern urban feel. The gal was just all shit and giggles that I took her to a decent place. It is always nice when the gal is pleased with the choice of venue.

I am not really a wine drinker(this changed as of 2010) but it appeared that ordering wine was a must for this dinner. The gal was all about ordering an entire bottle of 2000 vintage. Not my style, at the time, but it made her happy so I went with the flow. I never know how to react to the wine guy. They always act as if I am about to have to best drink in the world. They hold the wine bottle like a baby. You would think that they made the stuff themselves.

The dinner itself was amazing for the most part. A full five course dinner complete with all the fixings. I had duck liver for the first time. I must say it was really good. It melts in your month. The only thing I did not like about the duck liver is that it was served with a thick soup that was just a little too sweet.Although, we both got a damn large amount of turkey. I was expecting maybe a few slices but they brought out something like seven or eight large sized pieces of turkey each! It was prime turkey as well. The stuffing left much to be desired. It was just too sweet. They had a apple sauce theme going though out the meal which was not working at all. In fact, I have never seen someone add apple sauce to turkey stuffing. Overall, the meal was very good and I got stuffed.

Everything went down very good. This is the first Thanksgiving in years that something crazy did not happen. I spent a wonderful evening with the gal and eat a great dinner. No one got hit with a beer bottle or any other DYI weapon. Another reason to like Tokyo: Can have Thanksgiving dinner with no one doing anything crazy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Friendship Key to Maintaining `Balance` in Tokyo

Recently, I hung out with my pal Hamed. I have known him for a few months now. We met though work and have kept in contact. It is always fun to hang out with Hamed because he is kind of on the same vibe as me. We think alike on many things which makes it easy for me to talk to him. This most recent adventure with Hamed has got me thinking about how important it is to have a few friends in Tokyo.

I have read on several blogs the topic of finding or maintaining emotional and social balance a problem for a lot of people adjusting to life in Tokyo. I have almost been in Tokyo for a year, and while I do not feel that I am an expert about life in Tokyo, I can say that you have got to have at least one running mate. Living in Tokyo can be a very lonely and depressing experience for some people. This city has got a way of crushing people under its massive weight of emotional and social pressure. If you are not Japanese this pressure can be enough to send someone into a deep hole of hate and jadedness.

Now there a lot of people who have a large cycle of `friends` yet still find themselves just as unhappy as before. I think that some people get stuck in the `a lot of people know me but no one knows who I am` kind of situation. It seems that there is a focus on who you know rather than what you know in Tokyo. Social networking is the name of the game so many people end up knowing a lot of people and think that they have friends. The reality is that almost all of those people who say they are a friend are actually out to get some type of benefit. In order to have a true friend and maintain balance a person has got to separate friends from those who you just social network with at times. With that said there are some people I social network with who I would not mind moving over to the friend list; that is a topic for another day.

I guess what I like about Hamed is that I have never had a social networking relationship with him. While we did meet because we came up though the same company together I have never felt that Hamed was a point of contact for business or other wise. From the first time I met Hamed it has been very easy to talk to him. Too often I feel some pressure or stress with people I just social network. I have never felt that pressure with Hamed. We always seem to have a good time together and never have any disagreements.

So, a few days back I met up with Hamed for a few drinks and good old hanging out. I really enjoy just hanging out with people. This works best for me because the god of chaos is always watching and waiting to punish me for making plans which are too structured. When planning to hang out with a friends in Tokyo I keep a few ideas as to what to do in my head but I do not write anything in stone. This half-ass method of planning adds some adventure to hanging in Tokyo. I like the idea of never exactly knowing what is gonna happen. I kept the same method in West Virginia which usually led to some strange experiences. I think that now days leaving the details to be worked-out as I go along keeps things fresh for me and adds value to the hang out experience.

My half-ass plan for hanging with Hamed involved meeting up at Shibuya station. While, this was completed with little trouble things quickly ventured off into a totality different direction. The idea struck me to venture over to Harajuku and check out a few things. We made our way over to Harajuku by way of Yoyogi park. It actually did not take long at all to walk to Harajuku. I am always surprised by how close Shibuya and Harajuku are to each other.

I took Hamed to a shop called `Love Me Tender.` It is a Elvis tribute and `50 retro store. You can buy just about any kind of Rock A` Billy CD. The shop also offers vintage outfits and plenty of Elvis stuff. One of the things which gives Love Me Tender its charm is the Elvis statue out front. You get greeted by the king himself at Love Me Tender. Sadly, the shop will be closing its doors forever on Jan. 16,2009. I got word from Jack(who runs another 50`s retro shop) there are two send off parties going down for Love Me Tender. If I find out more I will share the info.

I also dragged Hamed to Jim Sin/Yellow House. This place has been in Harajuku forever. It claims to be the first punk rock shop in Tokyo but I am not so sure about that fact. Anyway, I go to this place from time to time. They have got a great selection of biker jackets, pants, and shirts.

After returning to Shibuya we headed over to this Irish pub for a few drinks during happy hour. It was a nice place but the beer prices were a little high to say to least. It did provide us a chance to just hang and chat. It has been a long while since I had a conversation with a fellow native speaker of English. It has become to real treat for me to talk to someone who can understand every word I say with no problem.

We ended the night smoking spice in an internet cafe. It seems that every person I have shown spice to has gotten hooked. The fun part for me is showing people how to get their hands on this odd little herb. Head shops in Tokyo do not use adverts much and tend to stay low key. Unless someone shows you where they are at it can take some exploring to find one.

So, having a decent drinking buddy and running mate is a very important part of keeping personal balance in Tokyo. When I lived in the country side in the states it was easy to live a more reclusive lifestyle and be happy. In Tokyo the daily grind is much more stressful. It is a must to have someone to blow off steam with.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why are there so many Unhappy People in Tokyo?

As many of you may know I was not raised in a city. In fact, I have spent the majority of my life living in mountains. Furthermore, my cultural background is rooted in the American south. These simple, yet very important facts, may be a huge factor in my lack of understanding as to why there appears to be so many unhappy people living in Tokyo.

I have had my experiences with city life in America. I lived in Norfolk,VA for a summer and spent some decent amount of time in St. Louis, Mo. I even made a trip to NYC and Vegas as well. For several years I was making regular trips to Tokyo to spend time with the love of my life M.K. Although, now a days living in Tokyo is my first experience with daily life in a city. I have been living within the walls of Tokyo for almost a full ten months. I have only left Tokyo once in these past ten months and that was only to go to M.K.`s home city for golden week. Anyway, for ten months I have been learning about city life in Japan of all places. I assume that all cities have similar up and downs. There are days when the heart of a city is bright and full of hope and other days when a city can be a open gate to hell. What really gets me is that I see and come in contact with so many unhappy people in Tokyo.

Sometimes these unhappy people tell me why they are so unhappy with life in Tokyo. Other times they do not say a word to me. I can see their unhappiness in their eyes. The kind of unhappiness I see and hear is not the normal kind of things that most people in Tokyo do not like. These people have a deep unhappiness which cannot be fixed with a few kind words or a long soft hug. The mass unhappiness I see in Tokyo has a much more deeper reason. I am coming to the conclusion that it is a cultural problem which is causing many people to feel so damn unhappy.

From what I have gathered though talking to many Japanese people is that Tokyo is ripe for a major cultural shift in thinking. A lot of Japanese I have talked seem to be in favor of a more libertarian kind of cultural progress. They seem to be fed up with all the tight cultural rules and lack of free will within their society. The common complaint I hear is, `I do not feel that I can fully express myself.` Maybe this feeling of not being able to fully express ones self is the root of the mass unhappiness in Tokyo among Japanese people.

While I am not Japanese and was not raised in their culture I can see and understand the complaint of not being able to fully express ones self. Of course, a person can buy just about anything and anyone for the right price in Tokyo but can a person also buy happiness. It appears that some people in Tokyo believe that they can in fact buy happiness. Maybe they feel that if they buy enough expensive items they can attain some kind of happiness. Also, it appears that there is a focus on power as having the ability to give happiness. There is also the factor of working yourself to the bone which must cause many to feel unhappy.

The cultural values which were ingrained into my head are in direct conflict with such values as greed, power, and not expressing ones self openly and freely. With all the short comings my parents possessed they at least understood that money and power will not give a person happiness. So, as many in Tokyo case the all mighty quest for wealth they also live very empty lives devoid of true happiness.

 What can be done to address this often not talked about social ill in Tokyo? I honestly feel that a little love can go a long way. I love Tokyo and all the off beat things it offers. It may take the gaijin living in Tokyo to help many, but not all, Japanese living in the city to relax and understand what is really important in life. We are all human after all. A start for a cure to the unhappiness that many residents in Tokyo experience could be some random love. How about buying a beer at a bar for someone who do not know. Maybe smiling at a person on the train with a grim expression in their face. At least it would a start.

I hold no faith that random acts of kindness will be the cure all for the unhappiness felt by many people, gaijin and Japanese alike, living in Tokyo but it would be a state. Think about it for a minute. I am a greaser from West Virginia and I am willing to give it a go. Hell, it might be fun in the end. At the very least it would put a smile on your face. I enjoy feeling good and smiling and I am sure that most people would also agree. In short if people in Tokyo would spread a little love to each other there might be a few less unhappy people walking around.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Get the Gun Boy! It is Thanksgiving Time.

In the haze of holiday shopping and retail insanity American`s little November tradition is nothing more than a blip on the radar in Tokyo. Thanksgiving used to mean something a long time ago. People used to sit around the family dinner table, eat turkey, and talk about what they are thankful for. My family tried this when I was a lot younger but it always ended up in dad throwing a beer bottle at me, my mother throwing her plate at my dad, and my sister laughing her ass off while calling us all stupid. Those were the good old days indeed. Now, I am a full fledged adult living out my life in Tokyo. While no one will have a beer bottle thrown at them this year, I hope, I have been reflecting on past Thanksgivings and looking to the near future as to how I am going to celebrate this time honored tradition in Tokyo.

I have experienced some odd Thanksgivings in the past. For some reason Thanksgiving leads me down a road of ruin almost every year. A few of those past odd Thanksgivings will always stick out in my mind.

The most fun Thanksgiving I have had so far was the first one after my parents split. It was just dad and I trying to figure out what to do on a cold West Virginia day. We did manage to cook a turkey. Although, we cooked it a little too long and it was a little dry. We had a lot of good laughs talking about what we were not thankful for while eating the bird. After stuffing out faces we drank a few shots of Jack and walked into town. We ended up at some bar gambling on a few football games and getting drunk.

The other Thanksgiving that really sticks out on my mind was the year I found myself in a small apartment in St. Louis with two gals from India. They had no idea how to cook a turkey. The older one of the pair was hell bent on having a turkey for Thanksgiving. They look to me as if I was the expert. These two gals both had the ability to breath fire at a moments notice. I did not want to get burned from giving wrong directions as to how to cook a turkey. I called my grandmother and she walked them though the entire process. What was interesting about eating a turkey with these two gals was that they insisted on having curry soup and way too much wine along with the bird. It was a weird night if Hindu music, nakedness, wine drinking, and fuzzy memories.

So, this year I will have Thanksgiving in Tokyo for the first time. What the hell I am supposed to do? The Japanese have no tradition, as far as I am aware, of Thanksgiving. It seems that the holiday itself is only mentioned in English mags and news letters. After reading the Metropolis I have found that there are several places offering a Thanksgiving meal to us gaijin who desire some turkey with all the trimmings. After getting the thumbs up from the gal I have decided on a place called Beacon in the Omotesando area of Shibuya-ku. The gal will reserve us a spot tomorrow I assume. I hope we get a spot because for 8,500 yen I can enjoy a damn good Thanksgiving dinner in a nice restaurant.

This year`s Thanksgiving is looking to be 100% clear of any trouble or oddness. I say this now but I am sure that the god of chaos is watching me and plotting a proper punishment. I have faith that Thanksgiving is going to be fun and relaxing. I end with a question for everyone living in Japan. What are you planning to do for Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Hope it Makes You Feel Better

I really should not even be writing this right now. I should just forget about it but something inside of me just will not let it slide. Someone has actually taken the time to go though my little blog and talk as much shit as they could muster.

I don`t understand why they took the time to do this but they seemed to have really enjoyed themselves. Maybe they had a bad day at work or something. It could be that some gal broke up with them. Hell, I don`t know what drives people to rip on someone but this person tore into me. I have met some major assholes in my day. I have met people who their own mother could not stand to be in the same room with them. I have never been able to understand these people very well. What I do understand is that I really do not like these type of people. I am sure that there is a special place in hell for these types because the devil cannot even stand them.

It appears that this person is upset over my spelling. Ok. I know that I really should put more effort into copy editing my blog. I guess it is laziness on my part. I take an easy going stance to this blog in the first place. I got more important things to focus on than this blog. Sometimes when I leave a comment on other blogs I may not check to make sure I did not make a spelling error by accident. No big deal in my mind but I guess one person, or maybe several people, have taken offense.

Hell, I don`t know what to say to this person(or persons). I will not say sorry that is for sure. They have decided to be an ass and that is their business. I kind of knew that someone would talk some major shit eventually. The internet is full of people who really enjoy tearing others down. I wonder if they are like this in real life. They must be hard to deal with that is for sure. I have no desire to know this person or people like he or she. They just bum me out and make me feel bad.

Well, they must of had a good time attacking me. I hope it made them feel better. I will just keep on living my life. I got a beautiful wife and a half way decent job. I live in a nice apartment and enjoy my life to the fullest. These things may be too simple for some people but it is enough for me. As for the spelling errors on my blog I will have to make it a point of going back and correcting those errors I have made sometime in the near future. It will give me something to do in my down time. For those of you who enjoy giving me hate I wish you nothing but happiness in your life. If you hate this blog so much just stop reading it. Just remember that no one is forcing you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The World Best and Most Depressing Train System

Tokyo has one of the most detailed and efficient train systems in the world. A person would be hard pressed to find a place in Tokyo which cannot be easily reached by train. The trains are very clean, well kept, and most importantly on time. Sadly, a ride on a train in Tokyo is also one of the most depressing experiences in the city.

When I was just making trips to Tokyo I did not notice the ice cold vibe of the train system. Now that I live in Tokyo the daily cold shoulder the trains offer is like a brick to the face. Too often when ever I step foot on a train in Tokyo I feel like I am either attending a funeral or being rushed off to a hot war zone. Most people maintain such a grim expression on their face that if the train made a stop at hell station the devil would opt to wait for the next one.

My daily commute to and from work is never made any more pleasant by the atmosphere on the train. In the morning the trains are filled with men dressed in the most bland colors one could choose for a suit. They all look like they are off to serve a wicked corporate master who long ago claimed their soul. There is not one inch of happiness in these people. I cannot tell which they hate most; themselves or the job they are about to slave away at for countless hours. They have the ability to even lower the lighting on the train. The trains in Tokyo have very bright lights but if I stand up and look at all the people somehow the lights seem to dim. Everything inside the train seems to take on a blue&gray tint. It is like I have walked into a David Lynch movie. Any second I expect one of the salary men to look me right in the eyes and say, `I am the devil. I have come for your soul.`

The evening commute gets a little better but only on the Yamanote line. The Yamanote line does come alive with colors and sound in the evening hours. Still, there is this strange feeling that I just cannot shake. Some people talk but for the most part a silence as if the Emperor just died over powers the senses. On trains in Tokyo it can get so silent in fact that you can hear the light snoring sounds of people sleeping. It is a common sight to get on the train and see nothing but people dead silent with their heads down trying to avoid having any contact with other humans. While sometimes a gang of loud school girls or a small group of happy drunks break the silence, usually a sad bunch of people ride inside of a speeding hunk of metal without saving a word to each other.

In Tokyo people work their ass off from sun up to sun down so I expect there are a lot of tired people riding the train just trying to reach the comfort of their homes. Although, I refuse to accept this as an excuse to get on the train and behave as if the world and everything in it is dark and ugly. The vibe on trains in Tokyo must to be a factor to the high suicide rate. It is bad enough that many people are over worked and underpaid. After a long work day they have to get on a train that sends a message to them saying, `Your right. The world sucks, people are mean and cold, and your life sucks as well. Why don`t you just get off the train and toss yourself into the next one that comes by.`

Maybe it would be good for Tokyo if people lightened up a little on the train. Smile at each other once and a while. Say hello or ask how the person besides you is feeling today. Give your set to the old lady struggling to stand up. Do something other than have a grim look on your face and a fuck you attitude whenever anyone looks at you. Please! This dark train attitude is only making people more depressed than they already feel each and everyday. Maybe the free hugs people should get on the train and start hugging people. Just start hugging people while saying a I love you to everyone. Hell, it might actually work.

Anyway, train behavior in Tokyo can be pretty depressing sometimes. This still does not stop me from loving living in Tokyo. I would just like to see the train experience be a bit more of a happy one.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Confession of a Southerner in Tokyo

I never thought in a million years that I would be living in Tokyo. The likely hood of a guy like myself living in the far east is the same as the Chicago Cubs winning the world series. In some twist of fate here I am living in Tokyo, Japan. I used to think that am not suppose to end up living on the other side of the planet. After careful thought I have realized that my life has always been leaning in the direction of Asia in some shape or form. When I look back on my life I can see how Asia has always been apart of my life. All the way back to the early days. Nick Ramsay from recently tagged me in a post requesting to know more about me. I have had it on my mind to write a little tell-all about how I ended up living in Tokyo. Nick has finally inspired me to write this post. Well, here is my confession.

Born to Lose

I was born in West Virginia, USA. It is the poorest state in the union. I had the luck to be raised in McDowell County which is the poorest county in the poorest state in the union. Yes, I was born with two strikes against me. My father was a coal miner in a long line of coal mining, hard working, hard drinking men. My mother was the gentle native American type. My mother`s mother was full blood native American. This odd couple gave birth to me on January 5th 1980 deep in the mountains of West Virginia in a town called Welch. My parents loved Rock n` Roll which only fueled my rebellious nature from a very young age. My mother had Asian blood as my grandmother often said. My grandmother never really liked my mother and blamed my her for what she said was, `a very odd boy who spends too much time thinking and not enough time doing.`

Divorce Greasers and a Girl from Korea

As time went on tensions between the family factions lead to a lot of stress on my parents. This was made even worse when my dad had to stop working due to having an extra nerve on his heart. After going under the knife to `fix` his heart dad was never the same. This drinking and lack of a decent job lead to constant violence in the home. My mother finally had enough and packed her bags and left; taking my sister with her. So, dad and I were left on our own. Soon after my father and I started to refer to each other my our first names. We were no longer father and son. We were drinking buddies!

Due to the shock of dealing with divorce I became a misfit of sorts. I fell into a crowd of other teenage misfits and greaser types. I took an interest in playing football and building muscle cars. This is how I met a girl named Soon-Ei. She was from Korea and a greaser like myself. Her father`s company bought a controlling interest in a chemical factory in up-state West Virginia. Apparently, he hated his daughter and sent her to live with a redneck family in McDowell County while he attended to business in Charleston,WV. I first met her in shop class and we soon became hot and heavy for each other. This did not set well with most of the other kids in high school. I got labeled as the `weird kid who is sleeping with the yellow girl.` I did not care so much about what the others said because she was nice to me and a lot of fun to hang out with. Although, my relationship with her did get me into a lot of fights. A lot of guys in school liked to sexually harass her because she was very beautiful and not white. She took shop class with me and we build several kick-ass muscle cars together. We were even able to help show several rednecks in shop class the value of accepting people who look different. We got voted sexist couple at vocational school our senior year.

Sadly, after high school her father got transferred back to Korea so we parted ways. I lost contact with her. My relationship with her was my first taste of Asia(no pun intended). Little did I know it would not be my last.

College: Radio, Acid, and Japanese college girls

So off to college I went in the summer of 1999. My uncle bubba decided that the best thing for me was to go to college. Despite his name bubba is actually a real smart guy. He has a masters in Education and Engineering. He was always understanding of me and at times took me under his wing. He was the only person in my family who kind of let me be myself. He never gave me shit for anything. Well, he helped me though the process of getting accepted to Concord University. CU is a small university located in the mountain town of Athens, WV. My entire family was very proud of the fact I was actually going to college. I remember my grandmother saying, `Wow! The damn boy is actually doing something. Well, at least he is not in prison.`

When I first stepped foot on the grounds of CU I knew that I could never again live in McDowell County. College was my only way out of that redneck hell hole. They cursed me with a thick southern draw but they were not going to drag me under. I decided to major in journalism and minor in human personality. Seem like a perfect choice to me.

My friends in college were a few hippies, some metal heads, a crazy Russian and a gang of Japanese college girls. An odd bunch to run with but I have been odd my entire life. I had a few duties in college above and beyond attending class. I did the Friday night shift for the college radio station. I also earned a spot on the college news paper staff and later served as the A&E editor. These extra duties earned me a little attention on campus. It was weird but after a while I got used to people coming up to me and saying, `Are you the guy who does the radio on Friday night?`

Anyway, the hippies kept me pretty high in my free time. Hell, most of the time. It was hard to keep up with them. There was this one hippie guy named George Jones(just like the country singer). He had a thing for Asian religion and smoking lots of pot. I spent a lot of time with him in college and learned a lot from him.

It was also in college that I met the love of my life. Makiko Kono has been apart of my life since I was 19 years old. I met her while playing basketball during my first summer semester in college. Our story is way too long to tell here but lets just say that we have been connected at the hip from the time me met. The only reason I met her was because of this crazy as hell Harajuku gal attending Concord. She was the first person I met in college. I ended up usually having a gang of Japanese gals hanging around me way too often. I guess they took a liking to me because I was nice to them and helped them out whenever I could. You can image the oddness of being Japanese and attending college in West Virginia. My first apartment was with MK and a friend of hers. They really got me interested in Japanese culture. I think that was the jumping point which has led me to living in Tokyo today.

It is also worth noting that during my college years I experimented with LSD. I learned a lot form Acid. It really opened up my mind to new ways of thinking. I have my tales about tripping on LSD but I will not share them here. If you want to hear a few good Acid stories from me you are just going to have to meet me in person.

OK Things have Gotten Out of Control; Bye Bye America Hello Japan

For a few years after college I really did not know what to do with myself. I spent about a third of my time traveling to Japan to see MK. During these years I watched American turn into a real shit place to live. Don`t get me wrong I love my country but the damn government is acting like a pack of boot licking Nazi`s. With the Empire going insane and people behaving really weird I was finally fed up. On a winter trip to see MK we finally decided to get married. This was not an easy choice for me. I left everything and everyone I knew behind forever to come and live with MK in Tokyo.

So, here I am in Tokyo Japan. My southern ass is living in a place with has been calling my name long before I could hear its screams. I guess it will be many years before I return to America. I like it here overall. It is always interesting.

Ok Nick, and rest of the world, now you know a little bit more about me and how I ended up living in Japan. Maybe a few more people will understand me a little better. Although there will be those who will use this post as fuel for attacking me. I will just have to laugh at the assholes and thank those who find my willingness to share my little story interesting.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Eating Burgers and Hanging with Tommy the Painter

I don`t always write about my adventures with Tommy. I have written about hanging with Tommy a few times in the past but most of my adventures with him I usually keep to myself. I decided that maybe I should write about running around with Tommy more often. He is after all the first friend I made in Tokyo. Actually, he was one of the first people to even talk to me. In Tokyo I have found that it is rare for people to talk to someone they do not know. Tommy is different. He is friendly and always enjoys meeting new people. Although, this Thursday I had a dual motivation for heading into central Tokyo.

So, this Thursday I venture out into central Tokyo looking to get into something. I decided to try out this new shop in Omotesando which only sells the McDonald`s Quarter Pounder with cheese. I found out about it from Neil at I must give him credit and a big thanks for both finding and sharing this place with the rest of the world. It was a real trip for sure. It is set up to look more like a night club than a fast food place. Painted in all black the place is not as welcoming as a regular McDonald`s. The menu is very simple and straight forward. You get too options to choose from; Double Quarter Pounder with cheese set for 600 yen or Quarter Pounder with cheese set for 500 yen. Well, I just went with the Quarter Pounder with cheese set because McDonald`s really is bad to be eating in the first place. I have to say it was damn good! I have not had a Quarter Pounder since I left the states almost eight months ago. It was as good as I remember. So, if you want to try an odd place for lunch give this one a try for sure.

After getting myself all bloated off of a big nasty burger I needed to walk around a little. It is so easy to go on a little walkabout in Tokyo. There seems to be an endless amount of sides streets and back alleys to explore. I headed into the back section of Harajuku. I do not often go that deep into Harajuku but from time to time I like to see what is going on around there. It is usually not all that crowed in the back section of Harajuku. Most people stick to Takashita street, the bridge at Yoyogi park, or the main side streets across from Takashita. The far end of Harajuku offers some really nice coffee shops along with some mid-scale fashion shops to explore.

The only thing out of the way I saw on my little walkabout was this odd little man pacing up and down the street with a compass and a writing pad. He kept walking and staring at his compass. Ever so often he would stop to write something on his writing pad. I have no idea what the hell he was doing but he seemed to be enjoying himself. He was going at it hardcore. I was wondering when a sparse car would come by and crash right into him? I also wondered if he even cared if a car hit him? Maybe he was trying to map out something. In my twisted thought process I stood around watching him making up little explanations for his strange actions. The craziest one I came up with was that he was trying to decode a special message giving to him by aliens so he could join them in space. After about 10 minutes or so the entertainment factor of watching the compass guy wore off and I made my way to the bridge at Yoyogi to see if Tommy was hanging around.

Sure enough as soon as I stepped foot on the bridge there was Tommy with a smile and a big hug. Now Tommy is a keen type of guy so he started talking at the speed of light about what has been going on since the last time me met. He usually does this until I start talking at the speed of light eventually leading to both running out of things to report on. He always has some interesting news to report about Yoyogi and Harajuku. The weekend festivals and the cops are two of his favorite topics. He is the expert when it comes to knowing the movements and behavior of the fuzz in Yoyogi park and Harajuku. I enjoy listening to him talk about what the cops have been up to as of late.

After helping him store this paintings in a locker in the subway we walked over to Shibuya for a little while. Tommy was hungry so we stopped at one of the many great curry shops he knows about. I think he might know about every good curry shop in Tokyo. Every place he has taken me to or suggested offered damn good curry at a great price. If you want to eat good curry in Tokyo just ask Tommy. Anyway, we went into this place and he ordered a chicken soup curry. I did not order anything but he was nice enough to order an extra side of rice and share some of his curry with me. It was really tasty curry!

After eating he wanted to show me a `better place` to buy that odd little, and 100% legal, herb we enjoy called spice. The usual head shop to buy the stuff is really expensive so Tommy found another head shop with much lower prices. He got a big packet of the stuff for only 3,000 yen; the other place charges over 7,000 yen for the same amount. After buying it we went back to Yoyogi park to hang out. Along the way he bought some beers. There is nothing like hanging out in Yoyogi park after dark drinking.

We went to an area in Yoyogi park over looking the pond. It was a nice view even though it was pitch dark. So, we sat there drinking some beer, smoking spice, and listening to some music from Vietnam provided by a little tape player. We talked a lot about life in Tokyo. We are both in agreement that a person cannot be normal and live in Tokyo. People who try to live normal in Tokyo end up going half crazy. I think this is very true in many ways. I believe that most people in Tokyo do stuff that they do not tell most people about. Just go to Shinjuku for proof.

It was a good evening but I could not hang out with Tommy all night. I had to go home and attend to my gal. She has been feeling a little under the weather as of late and needs me to make her feel better. Good thing I actually enjoy being at home attending to her or it would drive me nuts!

As always I look forward to hanging out with Tommy again soon. I never know exactly what we are gonna get into.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Balzac Brings `The Terror` to the Earthdom

This past Monday I want to see one of my favorite Japanese punk bands; Balzac! In the world of Japanese punk Balzac are legends in their own right. The band takes a heavy influence from the American band The Misfits. Balzac has taken what The Misfits started with the idea of `Horror Punk` and taken it to a much more dark and twisted place. Often, when people ask me who is Balzac I say they are the Japanese Misfits. Although, Balzac is much more than just a Japanese take on the classic sound and image of an American punk icon.

My venture into the dark heart of Balzac started with a bee line from work. I did not have time to change out of my suit and tie. I knew that I was going to stand out like a sore thumb walking into an underground punk bar but I did not care. The chance to see Balzac cannot be passed up no matter how I am dressed. I was mindful enough to wear a black suit and tie so I would not look too out of place. The train ride to Shin-Okobo was, to my surprise, very short. It only took me seven minutes to get to Shin-Okobo once I got to Ikebukuro. This gave me time to relax a little bit and get my wits about me before entering the Earthdom.

There were plenty of punks hanging around on the streets. This is usual for an evening when a good punk band is playing at the Earthdom. They like to hang out in the many sides streets drinking and picking up gals. Balzac brings out the more twisted punks from the underground punk scene in Tokyo. I do not see the more dark side of Tokyo punks so often. In fact, I had not seen any live shows in months! My working schedule has kept me from having the chance to get out to a show. Being off on Thursdays and Friday is not good for someone who likes going to punks shows in Tokyo. A lot of the best shows go down on the weekends, but Balzac played a very rare Monday show on a national holiday.

I entered the Earthdom about an half an hour before the the show started. The crowd was still lean as few people had an interest in seeing the opening act. I must admit that only reason I was there was to see Balzac and not some other band. Although, there must always be an opening act to get the crowd all warmed up for the main event. The first band was not too bad actually. They rocked as hard as they could. I think that front man was a little drunk. He fell over twice and slurred this words just a little too much.

About half way though the opening act`s set I kind of lost interest and headed into the bar area to chill for a while. I have always really liked the bar area at the Earthdom. Its got this relaxed vibe that is unlike any other rock bar I have been to in Tokyo. Even the bar area of the Shinjuku Loft does not have the same kind of relaxed vibe that the Earthdom bar offers. People lounge around on couches which should have been thrown away a long time ago. Casual conversation can easily be had and most people just do their own thing.

While I was having a good time hanging at the bar it soon came time for the mighty Balzac to take the stage. I had not seen Balzac play in several years so I was really excited to see them play again. The last time I saw them play live was at a music fest at Tokyo speed way a few years back. Kiss was the headliner and Balzac was playing on a second stage. It was a damn fine experience but I had never seen Balzac play a small underground place before. I found myself a semi-safe spot to the side of `the pit` and soon enough Balzac took the stage.

The kids went crazy as soon as Balzac played the first note. Fans of the band are known to be hardcore loyal. In their eyes there is no band other than Balzac. Many fans dressed up in classic Balzac Skull&Bones jump suits. The gals at the show love the guys who go all out for the kings of Japanese Horror punk. If you want to make a Horror punk gal wet in Tokyo just wear a Balzac jump suit and she is all yours.

The front man started things out with the classic Balzac megaphone bit. He sang into a megaphone which was blood stained and had Balzac plastered on the side. It provides for an interesting sound live. The small venue also made the sound of the band much more intense(I still am having trouble hearing very well). They really go crazy live as compared to just listening to a CD. In the studio Balzac likes to experiment with tech-o beats and samples which makes their albums a musical adventure. Balzac live is a horse of a different color. They go balls out wild with a sound so intense it defies all similarities to punk rock. One might mistake them as hardcore rather than Horror punk. Their loyal fans seem to love every minute.

The one song I was really happy they played was `The Day the Earth Caught Fire.` This song was covered by none other than The Misfits as part of a split album with Balzac a few years back. It is a great Horror punk song! The fans at the Earthdom went crazy for the song and for good reason.

It was a great performance by Balzac and one I will not soon forget. They pulled out all the stops and gave everyone a great show. They even did too encores just because the fans demanded it! Most bands will not even do one encore much less too! Balzac will be playing around the Tokyo area for a while so if you can go to a show I really suggest checking them out. If you like intense Horror punk you will love Balzac live.

I must say sorry for not getting any photos. The crowd was just too wild for me to get any decent pics to share. You will just have to go too this band for yourself.