Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years in Japan (Osho-gatsu)

During the last week of classes before winter vacation, one assignment for the first year students was explaining Japanese New year traditions in a paragraph. Here are some things the students taught me.

Some things people do on New Year's Eve:
Clean the whole house and decorate with "simekazari". On the front door, people put "okazari" which is like a straw decoration.

Eat osechi which are traditional foods which all have meanings when you eat them.There's a box called "jubako" which has Koromame, or sweetened black soybeans symbolizing working very hard. Kurikinton is a chestnut which symbolizes financial fortune. Kobumaki is said to give happiness.

Childen are given money by parents and other relatives. This money is called otoshidama. The cute little envelopes that you put the money in are called Pochi-bukuro.
There are these decorations with two mochis stacked on top of each other with a mikan (tangerine) on top. On New Years day, a soup with radish is made with it called Ozouni. Eating mochi is said to give a long life. Also, eating soba is very popular for New Years. I like soba.
There is a game they play called "Hogoita" which is like badmitton, and the loser has to paint their face.
They send special happy new year postcards, nenga-jo, to all their friends.
"Akemashite omedeto" means happy new year or congratulations to the opening of the year.
There are special TV shows on new years eve. One popular one is called Kouhaku Utagassen which is like American Idol in the sense that it is a singing contest show.
2007 is the year of the boar, or eto.
Watch the first sunrise of the year, and say "goraiko banzai" which means congratulations on the first sunrise.

New Year's Day
Many people go to a shrine and make wishes to have a happy year. Some things they do at the shrine are throw coins into the box (osaisen), clap, pray, ring a bell. They pick a fortune called an omikuji.

There is a little marathon run that some people participate in.

Funny how much i learn from teaching, ay?

To all the beauty in this world....

I wish to see it all.

Welcoming beginnings.....

I can feel it.

How to have a new year

Forget about last year, and make amends with it.

It is a New Year

Let us celebrate beginnings.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Takayama means high mountain. My buddy, Racheal, had mentioned this place, and as it seemed lovely located close in Gifu prefecture at a pretty high elevation, but it still had not snowed after Christmas. Here are some pictures of the Hida-Takayama "old town" that has a little replica of what houses and life was like in Japan during the 1600's or so.

This is what the inside of the houses were like. The little fire pit in the middle has a name that i forgot. This is where they'd cook their meals and keep warm.

Here is one of the houses. The roof is made of straw and mud and moss.
This is the lake.
Here is another of those indoor fire pits. They smell rather nice.
Here is a little placard that gives some information on one of the houses.
These are what the mountain trees look like here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bon-Enkai or T's Christmas night

My Christmas was spent in the following ways:
Talking on the phone to my family while listening to them open their gifts.
Talking on the phone to my Gabby while trying not to miss the inland empire.
Opening my packages that I had saved for that day.
Cooking Xmas cookies, banana bread, stuffing and a whole chicken
Last minute cleaning before my big trip
Joining in a big dinner with all the teachers and staff from school
Trying a new hot drink, Sho-chu mixed with green tea
Taxi Ride home in the rain

A small Japanese garden at night
Shimada-koko no sensei
My din-din of crablegs, sashimi, beef with veggies, etc.
Sho-chu is very strong.
The Izakaya where the afterparty went. After a certain point of drunkenness, my photos usually end, which is too bad because I haven't any pics of funnest part of the night. Oh well.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Piggy's gonna talk about food again........

CC Lemon: 50 lemons' worth of Vitamin C in every can.

Pizza-LA: Open up with your smile.

Why would I buy, and then eat a chip masquerading as a Dorito, which is flavored with ebi* and mayo? I did it for YOU. Yes, folks, in the spirit of Christmas, I am going to liken myself to Jesus Christ, who if lived in the 21st century, would certainly eat this disgusting chip as a way to abolish the world's terrible food sins. If you see this, it tastes like what I imagine dried chum to taste like. Dried chum topped with mayonaise. If you're not feeling pukey yet, sit tight, I'm sure to find more of these things for you. Love ya, Toby

*ebi means shrimp

PS. CC Lemon tastes like carbonated lemonade, similar to a Squirt, but sourer. I prefer sourer to more sour. Shut up, prospective bookish types on guard with their red pen. It's not like I'm an English teacher or anything!!!!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sukimono....or things i like

I like ramen. I like C.C. Lemon. I like nice people.
I like people who cook ramen and serve with a chilled CC Lemon.
I like to eat ramen while I order CC Lemon and watch nice people.
I like to drink CC Lemon while telling nice people about delicious ramen.

But most of all, i like nice people who give me a can of CC Lemon and ramen.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Back to the Shizzzle

Well last weekend I lost my keitai. My cell phone. It is a bit of a worry now that I've gone back to Club Etti, where I'm pretty sure I lost it, and found no luck. Ya, i know. However, my lil buddy, Kate, helped with my search and we found a pretty cool little place to eat sushi. All the thanks goes to Shizeki, though, who is Kate's fave teacher at her school. He's the one who recommended the place. He's one dude who's food opinion I will always respect ever since he took us Shimada kids to eat the best soba I've had thus far.

This sushi place was very fun because you can order via touch screen TVs, or pick something up off the moving trays, all at an affordable price. I can't wait to bring mom here when she comes. I think she'll like it. I came to a new problem since i have learned to post videos. Now my videos are too big to upload. Stupid stupid.

Earlier this week, I totally complained about not taking proper photos of Xmas--Japan style. And I didn't do very well again tonight, however I did find a few things. Maybe I was just preoccupied with my celly. Hai Douzo. If you are wondering about the Hai Douzos, you should stop cuz apparently it means anything you want it to mean. So fuckin' Hai Douzo and shut up. Just kidding, my precious invisibles.

And I liked these kids who were playing in the station. Jouzu, i'd say.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Click pic for larger.

Click for Larger

Merry Christmas!


Click for larger.

If you can't see, click for a larger picture. You knows I ain't no professional.

When hearts attack! by Toby

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Merry Christmas!

When hearts attack! by Toby


Monday, December 11, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

When I wake up, in my makeup

Seriously, Christmas in 15 days? I'm about 6 chocolates behind in my advent calendar. Okay, 4 now. My neighbor, Hiromi, gave it to me. Sweet, huh? Anyway, I am amazed at how fast everything seems to be going. Does this mean that I really am old? My dad told me that time gets faster and faster. If it could be demonstrated mathematically, it would look much like an exponential graph like X to the power of y+1. X is the way time feels to you while Y is yr age.

I believe him. Although, the thing I've known ever since childhood is that time moves slow when you are awaiting something wonderful, or serving out a sentence of some kind. Like when you're sent to yr room and unable to leave until "i say so". Or working some tediously boring job like data entry at an insurance firm waiting to come to Japan. For these causes, time moves like the turtle I saw in the road that one day. Which totally just shows I'm loving where I'm at. But now, it's already x-mas season. It's gonna be 2008. We'll be in the year where I turn 28. Fuck.

I apologize to myself for forgeting my camera last night. I happened to end up in Shizuoka for a Xmas party. A 6000 yen Xmas party. Which is actually not as hideous as it sounds because I've spent more on drunken benders in the past. Anyway, the real reason I wanted to have my camera in Shizuoka was to photograph the Christmas season expressed in lights. The city really becomes much more beautiful when there are lights everywhere. Also, I hear Christmas musik everywhere. Though, that's not always a good thing since sometimes it sounds like the christmas rendition of elevator techno, which is my umbrella term for that fast, repetitive high pitched, sounds like it was made by my Casio. Whatever. I just wanted to show you that the signs of the season are everywhere, yet they don't celebrate Christmas day, so i've been told.

Took the morning train home. 5:15. Rode my bike okaylike. Got too hot this morning with my blanket. Did my thing where I overviewed my night to check if I did anything too idiotic. No, was pretty PG-13, though I did reach my loud, obnoxious level where I become a little harrassing....not too bad, though. Upon the overview, laughed again at what I was laughing at while leaving the club all the way back to Shimada. I won't bother telling the story, as you just had to be there.

Today, i'm wondering if I should wash my face before dragging it into the public sphere. I'd like to rent a couple movies and just chill proppa this beautiful Sunday. I don't feel as shitty as I should, but still just wanna watch movies. Wish I could vacation for one of these hungover TV days at Vernon Terrace 2003. When I woke up, and my friends lived in the same place and already began breakfast, while putting in Old School as background noise. Having fun with these kinda new friends really makes me miss my old friends. God, i miss you like crazy.
Gonna rent Old School. Yep.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

When hearts attack! by toby

If you can't see, click for a larger picture. You knows I ain't no professional.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I love boys. And most of all, these boys. I first noticed the divide between boys and girls, men and women, when during my first weeks at school. Actually, during my first week in Japan, when a group of us got in trouble for the mixing of the two during onsen.
But I didn't fully catch on until the day the kids were allowed to choose their own seating arrangement in class. I arranged the chairs into a circle for a class where the students had to give mini presentations. It was amazing to see how half of the class sat on one side, boys, and the other half on the other, girls. And their were 2 empty seats between the two groups.
"Whaaaaat?" was what went on inside my head. See, in Japanese society, the two genders work very differently than they do in many other western places. Men sit and work with men, and women with women. Very simple.
And though this is the standard practice among all age groups, it still confuses me when I go to group functions, and I always end up chilling with the guys. Even tonight at our Nomikai after the hike, I conformed to the rule that we should sit where our elders expect us to sit. The teachers all motioned me to sit at the other head of the table where I was two tables away from where all the women sat. I wondered why I wasn't put with them, but didn't argue since I tend to prefer to sit with the guys anyway. I mean, I seem to get along with Japanese males much better, for some reason.
The thing is, though, that the boys and girls learn this behavior very early in life, and it is a bit surprising to see the degrees of intimacy that similar genders share here.

The baseball team is highly exclusive, as they do not sit, walk with, or even really chat with others who are not the baseball team.
Even the boys can be very intimate with each other, and it is not seen in any way strange.
I mean, they even hold hands with each other. Seriously, isn't it cute?
It is a very friendly atmosphere despite the divide.
I mean, isn't it cute?
Do you see how these boys are pretending to kiss each other?

Finally feelin it......

Leaving the classroom is the funnest part of teaching in Japan. Today the Ichi nensei took a field trip to Yui, a center point on the coast of the Suruga bay that would probably be terrorized by tsunamis when the big Tokai earthquake strikes. We hiked on the famous trail that used to be one of the most taken routes from Tokyo, or Edo, down south. Supposedly, the beach did not exist during this time and only appeared until the last gigantic Tokai earthquake pushed the landmass upward and made some beach below the beautiful mountainous terrain on which we hiked. Apparently there are signs that explain all of this throughout the hike, however, I was not informed until the Nomikai hours later. Because remember folks, I cannot read.
Today acted as the transformation that I knew would come eventually. I am speaking about the actual desire to bond. I already knew that the kids are pretty cool, and they were alright with me. I mean, they talk to me enough but it wasn't until we had this chance to spend a whole day together where I actually felt it was appropriate to speak my broken Japanese to them. Upon hearing me, and laughing at me countless times during our hike, I noticed that they ignored their usual fears of speaking English, and actually responding to my Japanese questions in my own language. I had two particularly exciting dorky English teacher moments where I felt accomplished in my job.
The first was when I was walking with a group of boys who found it halarious to make ordinary things be pretend objects in the forest. For example, we walked past this big long pipe, and one boy said, "Oh, Toby, a snake!!! Be careful!!!" I pretended to be frightened and run away, and so the game continued. "Oh, these are traditional Japanese they pointed to the Mikan trees." "Oh, do you want a cherry?" as they handed me small poisonous berries. Of course, I pretended to eat them, and they pretended to be concerned.
My second favorite part of the hike was when a group of girls started pointing to objects and naming them in English. "Bird, flower, worm, mountain, river, mirror...." I replied after each word, "tori, hana, mimizu, yama, gawa, kagami" but when they knew a word, and I didn't, I asked them how to say it, and tried to remember. That is how I learned mimizu and words for the day.
I was happy to finally see the beach, which I haven't done while in Japan, not even from the train. As a huge lover of the sea, I spent our 30 minutes by the beach just watching the waves and pretending I could see the California coast.

There were many things to see on our hike, and one of them was this cemetary.
I like when the kids know how to represent.
The baseball team tends to congregate outside of the team teaching room on the 4th floor, and I often see them eating lunch as I leave 3rd period. My greeting is always the same, "Hello baseball team". "Hello, Toby".
The thing that amazes me about school is that the kids really seem to like their senseis. Here is one of my favorite senseis to work with mostly because he is pretty witty and likes to talk to me with slang. I always appreciate when people greet me with "What's up?"
over the edge
These were the girls that played the "Let's name that object" game with me. They also did a little song performance, and I will import it once my internet speed gets a little faster.
I find the kids to be amazingly communal. I loved watching their lunchtime mannerisms. Each one of them brought snacks like Poki sticks, cookies, those crunchy french fry things, chips....and passed it around and greatly thanked each other after the snack made its rounds. They are so cute.
And last but not least, I found it incredibly special to see this group of boys walking hand in hand with each other. I see the girls doing it all the time, but this was just too adorable not to post.