Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring is coming... and with it, CHANGES ( and a shameless photo dump)

Lots of THINGS have been happening recently. There was a big goodbye party for us ECC teachers in Utsunomiya, and I've gotta admit- I had a blast. There were also some other moments that might have been relevant. Like how I MOVED TO TOKYO. No big deal. It's just MOTHER-FREAKING TOKYO. But more on that later.
Also, I'M ENROLLED IN GRAD SCHOOL. But I might have mentioned that.

ALSO! Through sheer luck and brilliant timing, I have somehow nailed down the best possible schedule for next year. Oh yeah, and I got a pretty awesome raise. So everything's coming up Vivian, professionally and educationally speaking at least. Back on the Canadian home front, there's a storm brewing... but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Here are a crap load of pictures in no discernible order!

The strangely creepy yet adorable flower-child mascot of Utsunomiya
He payed 700 yen for that damn can of pringles.
Would you like a little Creap in your coffee...? This is a coffee creamer- aptly named.
Spiral staircase to nowhere...
Preview of a new apartment :)
It's somewhere around here...
hahaha.... gross...
the cherry blossoms are back...
The umbrella parade at rush hour in Shimbashi.

And now, a shamelessly disorganized dump of the pictures from the goodbye party in Utsunomiya...

 Also, I was organizing some old flash cards at work and found these gems:

So... which is it, guys?
 That horse looks a little too keen...
And the car goes... clickety clickety clack?!?!?!

And finally, a blue sky. Which is long overdue. Spring took her sweet time this year, and she's finally arrived. I'm ready to bust out the sandals and put away the winter coat, but I won't hold my breath just yet.

東京まで, おやすみ!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Things I've Learned In Japan, Part Five (バカ 外人)

If there's anything that Japan has taught in me in the past year- it's that I'm totally stupid and ignorant.
And if I weren't so politically correct, I would probably just admit that I was a COMPLETE RETARD when I first arrived (and still continue to act as such on a regular basis). But that would be inappropriate.

But that's the first step, right? Admitting you have a problem? Right? Guys...???

Now I am the (somewhat reluctant) host of some of the weirdest facts on the planet. FOR EXAMPLE;

Hikikomori; The 2030 Problem

Most of the world has no idea what this is. This concept is known as Japan's year 2030 problem, as in it won't be a serious problem until the year 2030. And at the risk of sounding too melodramatic, I'm just gonna come out and tell you.
Have you ever spent a couple days at a time holed up in your room just avoiding the world? How about a week? A year? 10 years?

That's a Hikikomori. Someone who has become so reclusive and psychologically confined that they can no longer handle the daily stress of going outside. In Western culture, we sometimes call them 'shut-ins.' Now, I have to admit that ON OCCASION my bedroom has looked like this... but my natural curiosity ends up getting the better of me and I force myself to venture outside (also, I like to shower). These guys (they're usually guys) seek extreme forms of isolation due to a combination of parental coddling and societal rejection. The traditional Japanese way of dealing with things is to just laisez-faire (let it be); so the Hikikomori are just left to figure out their own sh*t. Until it's way, WAY, WAAAYYY too late. And that's when people get killed. For serious.

One guy just under a year ago (site is filled with NSFW ads) KILLED HIS BROTHERS FOR BEING TOLD TO GET A JOB. He was a 45 year old who had never worked a day in his life.
Another BASICALLY KEPT HIS DEAD MOTHER IN THE FREEZER. Just so he could collect her pension to buy more robot figurines over the internet. The list** of Hikikomori going ape-sh*t psychotic are endless... and it's only gonna get worse. Which is why it's known as the 2030 problem. It's estimated that almost 1 million people in Japan are Hikikomori, with an average age of 30. Not to sound overly cruel, but all parasites need a host. And it's estimated that in 18 years the hosts (read: parents funding the isolation) will start to die off. And then everyone goes crazy and starts killing people. Or so that's what they say....

This is essentially organized speed dating- on, well, speed. 

This one had to be explained to me a couple times, because I (still) don't quite understand the concept. Apparently, you and a group of your most eligible friends dress up and saunter around town for the night, hitting specific bars and restaurants that other eligible people have agreed to go to. But of course, when you apply any concept in Japan, you have to account for the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE that may or may not attend. So in Utsunomiya (a little town of 900,000), once a month, a couple thousand coiffed 20-somethings mingle in and around all the best bars in town. It's quite the sight. Japanese people are becoming known to have absolutely no social life outside of work, so when they party- THEY PARTY. 

On a more personal note, I'm going back to school. But not just any kind of school- I'm...


Apparently there's this thing you can do to get into grad school if you were a total lazy a$$ in university. If you studied everything last minute and put the minimal amount of effort into crossing the under-graduate finish line, then there's a solution out there just for you! Matriculating is basically test-driving graduate school. You pay a (totally reasonable) amount of money to apply for graduate courses at a local university. And if you can actually apply yourself and get above a B average, then you can be admitted into the school to complete your graduate degree. Now I realize that it doesn't sound like the fairest way to obtain your higher-level education... but I'm all about the short-cut. If I can get the piece of paper that says I can teach kids (which I already do for a living) JUST A LITTLE FASTER AND EASIER, then I'm all for it. As I've said before- I don't like waiting. So, there just so happens to be one of these prized universities in Tokyo- and I'm all over it like white on rice. 

That being said, here are some pictures of nothing in particular

Have you ever seen something so Japanglish?? They're all English menu items, but they've been put in Katakana to seem more Japanese. I mean, what's Japanese about a cheeseburger???
So I've been making a desperate attempt to learn Kanji recently- and since it has FASCINATING aspects, similar to getting a root canal, I'm trying to put an interesting spin on it. Here's me playing with sugar packets at a coffee shop, and SIMULTANEOUSLY LEARNING.

 There are apparently 17 different ways you can say 日. Goddamn, I hate Kanji.

And that's it, folks! See ya later!

** Psychos, Psychos, and more Psychos.