Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Goodbye Japan, hello California

My last week in Osaka was pretty fun. Saturday was my last day at work, and that night I went out with a bunch of mates to Shakey's for one last pizza binge, after which we met up with more people and went drinking in Nanba and Shinsaibashi. We went to the usual places (The Little Clover, Cinquecento) and then to Rock Rock, and finally karaoke with a 15-strong team. My mate, a JET from Kochi, had come up to visit as well and it was a great night.

On Monday I met up with my Spanish friend and he gave me some last-minute phrases and advice for Chile. I'm nowhere near the level I wanted to be at, but I haven't had enough time to practise speaking it. I'm planning to start taking classes as soon as I arrive in Chile though.

That night I went to Kobe and met some friends at the restaurant I often go to in Sannomiya. As usual the 店長 cooked us a great course of different dishes, and then we went to a bar and played poker until last train. 

I spent most of Tuesday clearing my apartment and doing odd jobs. Usually when you leave an apartment in Japan there are pretty strict rules and you have to clean the room really thoroughly, but when I was leaving this place the caretaker was really chilled and it was pretty easy to move out in the end; I managed to give away pretty much all my stuff to friends.  That night I went out for a final meal at a buffet restaurant with a friend in Umeda (they had trifle, which is the first time I've seen it in Japan) then carried my rucksack, suitcase and futon to my friend's house in Nakatsu. I stayed there on Tuesday night, woke up at 6am, threw out the futon and caught the train to Kansai Airport.  The whole place was really busy and some of us passengers were late boarding. Exchanging my yen to dollars took up a bit of valuable time.  I was flying with China Eastern Airlines so that first flight was only a couple of hours to Shanghai, then I transferred to my next flight to Los Angeles. I got hardly any sleep but enjoyed the food - for some reason I really like airline food...

I arrived at LAX at around 9 this morning (Wednesday) - basically the same time I set off from Japan. I had to kill a couple of hours in the airport while waiting for the shuttle bus so I talked with my family on Skype, then I boarded the Santa Barbara Airbus. I'm staying with relatives of my old roommate from Juso and I'm sat in their guest room right now looking out over the lush hills of Santa Barbara. We went to Habit Burger for lunch and the warm weather is a big change from the low temperatures of Osaka, and apparently this is colder than usual. I think I'm gonna have a lot of fun this week.

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cheesy

I have about ten days left in Osaka now. I taught my kids class in 関目高殿 for the last time on Thursday. Some days I enjoyed that job, but I learnt that teaching kids ain't my thing. When they didn't behave I couldn't be arsed with it and the place was pretty far from where I live. I had fun hanging out with the kids though. Japanese children are really clever with their humour. 

Last night I went to visit a family who I've known since my time in Kobe. I caught the train over to Sannomiya and then to their little suburb and we ate cheese fondue for tea. I had an epic hangover (maybe third worst of all time), but the cheese made me 元気 again.

This made a difference from the noodles and pasta I eat most days

Me and the dad always end up talking about 80s metal. He says none of his friends like it, and I'm in the same situation, so we just trade stories and favourite albums for ages. It's times like these when it sucks to be always changing where you live, because you don't know the next time you're gonna see these people. You find good mates and then you say goodbye and move on and then don't see them for ages, or maybe never again...

I was originally gonna visit those guys last Saturday but I lost my wallet that day, which sucked pretty hard. It had my debit card inside and some cash (about 15,000 yen). Speaking of money, I finally put the cash I've been saving up since I got here in my British bank account. I used the GoLloyds service and it worked out well. It took a while to register - the website says they'll send you the welcome pack within 7-10 days but it took over two weeks - but transferring the money was pretty easy. I went to my local Shinsei ATM and 振り込みed the money into the GoLloyds account and they transferred it to my British account the same day. I had to make the payment in three parts because it was a lot of cash, but GoLloyds put the money in my account in one payment, meaning I only paid about 2000 yen for the transfer, which is fairly cheap. When I was in Aomori I'd transferred money using the Post Office, as my bank account was with them, but this time I haven't been able to get a bank account. I tried at Mitsui Sumitomo and the Post Office but they said I needed to live in the country for at least six months, which is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard, even for bureaucracy-loving Japan. To be honest, someone told me Shinsei might have let me open an account but in the end I just decided to operate in cash instead.

I was getting dangerously close to going over my overdraft, and by transferring what I'd saved I'm pretty much back to 0. When I came to Osaka I had a bit of money in that account, but I've had to make various big payments, mainly for Chile (flights, insurance etc.), so I guess my six months here has basically paid for getting to Chile and a week in California. Other than that I haven't saved anything, but, overall, for six months that ain't too bad.

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Friday, 1 February 2013

Movin' Out

I've been working a lot since my last post even though I've been ill for the last few days, but I'm over it now, and the weather's turning warmer so I'm feeling great.

I'm ready to leave Japan, and it's starting to dawn on me that I'll be in Chile in about four weeks' time. Can't remember feeling this excited about something in a while, even coming back to Japan this time. At that point I was more looking forward to getting away from the situation back home. Recently I realised that I've never had a full-time job and my own place in the UK. The only times I've had that have been in Japan, and maybe if I had that I'd enjoy life back home a lot more.  Anyway, I don't want to set my expectations for Chile too high, but I'm looking forward to it. It should be a big change from life in Japan. Things are starting to get too predictable here. Work all week, go out at the weekend, spend too much money, be hungover on the Sunday, rinse and repeat.

I've been here for two and half years in total, and it's not a place I can stay long term. Towards the end of my stays in Japan I always get quite bitter and I think it's been sped up this time because of my job where I sit and talk to Japanese people about nothing (There are a few cool students though. This past week I taught a high school student who loves MxPx so we just talked about music the whole time.) Some people can deal with Japan and stay optimistic, some people can't. Obviously, the former will enjoy Japan much more 'cos they feel like they have a purpose here and possibly a long term future. It's never felt like that for me. I've always known I'll be moving on after a certain period of time because, while there are things that are great about this place, there are also things that I don't wanna put up with. When I chose Japanese as my major about seven years ago I was a completely different person. I was really excited to come the first time, and life was really stimulating and interesting every day. But this time I knew I wasn't gonna stay for long because I'd already started looking at jobs in South America before coming.  Who knows what Chile will be like. I've never lived in a country where I can't speak the language. I'm learning as much Spanish as I can but I'll still only be able to do a basic self-introduction by the time I arrive. 

My leaving night out is gonna be on the 16th, which is also my last day at work. I've always enjoyed going out in Shinsaibashi and Nanba. The nightlife is one of the reasons I wanted to come to Osaka, and those first two months I was here I was going out all the time and it was a lot of fun.

I've had some great times over these two and a half years in Japan, and now that I'm about to leave I'm starting to value the good things about this country. My year in Kobe was an absolute blast, and so was Aomori for the most part. Who knows if I'll be back? Like I said, at the end of my time in Japan I always get bitter, but then I always come back. 

The other day I got my masters certificate in the post. I couldn't attend the graduation ceremony in Sheffield, which took place on January 11th. All that work last year adds up to this piece of paper, and I'm not even using journalism now...

In other news, something a bit odd happened last week. My Japanese friend's mum had been saying she wanted to take me to a group she goes to every week, so we went on Sunday. She didn't tell me much about it, but that it was a group "where you learnt to be a better person". When we arrived she had to introduce me and paid for me to sign up, at which point I received a membership card. We went to a big hall full of people, like 500 or so. We sat down near the front and my name was called out and I was congratulated for joining. There was a lecture about treating your parents with respect and changing yourself to make others' lives easier, and there was also a picture of the founder in the corner and you had to bow to it every time you entered and left the hall. Everyone was dressed up smart and had beaming smiles on their faces, although I was in a t-shirt and jeans. People were talking about how they were all rude and inconsiderate before they joined, but how their life improved after they starting using good manners. It was a pretty random experience. Another scenario that could only take place in Japan.

Today's my day off, so I'm about to bike it to McDonald's and use another free Big Mac coupon that I got. Then I'll study Spanish for most of the day.

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Saturday, 19 January 2013

The past week

Monday was a national holiday and a day off so we made the most of it by going out on Sunday night in Osaka. On Monday we woke up late and went round my mate's brother's house to play Xbox, then in the evening I met up with one of my old professors from Kobe Uni. We went to a bar in Nishinomiya that had decent foreign beer.

I was having a better time than this photo lets on

The next two days I was working in Akashi, then Shinsaibashi. In a previous post I mentioned the 'Enjoy! 60 Second Service' that McDonald's is currently running, and in Akashi on Tuesday I went to McDonald's at lunch time to order three Chicken Crisps. They made two of them in time but couldn't make the third and so I got a free Big Mac coupon - pretty cool.

Friday was another rare day off and I met up with my Spanish-speaking friend to practise Spanish. After that we went back to his girlfriend's place and he cooked Mexican food and we stuffed ourselves with tacos.

Today was a long day in Umeda (10am-8pm) and I handed in my letter of resignation before finishing. During the past week I booked my tickets to California and Chile and my travel insurance. There's not too much paperwork that needs to be done before leaving for Chile, which is cool.  Everything's getting a bit more real now and I need to knuckle down with the Spanish. 

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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

SDLMAME and a light gun working on a MacBook Pro

A few weeks ago, for one reason or another, I got thinking about an arcade game called CarnEvil. I remember playing it at a bowling alley in Stafford when I was about 11 or so, and it left quite an impression. The game is set in a haunted amusement park and features a variety of horror-themed enemies, and I thought the whole freaky carnival vibe was great. I've never seen another CarnEvil machine since then, but the other day I did a bit of research and realised you can run the game using MAME. However, there was little information on getting MAME and CarnEvil working on a Mac...

I downloaded the CarnEvil ROM and chd. file and installed SDLMAME for Mac using this tutorial. There wasn't a lot of information on how to correctly position the ROM and chd. file within the SDLMAME folder to get it to work, but this is the setup that worked for me:


As you can see, the 'carnevil.zip' ROM file is in the ROM folder, then I created another folder inside the ROM folder called 'carnevil'. Inside that I put the 'carnevil.chd' file. I loaded up SDLMAME and was surprised to see that CarnEvil ran pretty much perfectly on my MacBook Pro. I couldn't play it as you basically need a light gun, but I could watch the intro and even keep inserting credits to see the game levels.  That wasn't enough though - I wanted to actually play the game, which would require a light gun. 

I did some research and there weren't that many options, but the Arcade Guns PC Light Gun seemed to be getting a lot of praise. There were reviews of it on YouTube and it was apparently pretty easy to set up and use. However, nowhere did it say it would work on Mac, so I emailed Eric at Arcade Guns and asked if it was likely to work. He replied that the guns work on Linux, and Mac OS X is also a Unix-based OS so there shouldn't be any problems. He said I wouldn't be able to configure the gun, as the configuration software only runs on Windows, but that he'd set the gun to 'Joystick Mode' before sending it out to me so it should be OK.

The gun came in the post within about a week and I waited till I had a bit of time as I anticipated it wasn't going to be simple. First I plugged in the gun and the IR sensor into my two USB ports, but according to the manual I should have been able to control the cursor with the gun straight away; this doesn't seem to be possible on my MacBook Pro, probably something to do with the trackpad being part of the internal hardware. Anyway, I loaded up SDLMAME and pointed the gun at the screen and found that there was some kind of interaction - moving the gun did affect the crosshair on-screen - but it was jumping out all over the place and not following my movements. This was a good sign though, as now I just had to calibrate the gun properly.

You get two manuals with the gun - the Arcade Guns user manual and the AimTrak setup guide. Following the instructions on page 4 of the setup guide I tried holding the trigger for five seconds on my desktop screen, as this should start the calibration process. This didn't work, but after trying different combinations of buttons I figured out that you hold the large button at the back of the gun for around five seconds. Reading the user manual now it does actually say that, but in the setup guide it says to hold the trigger. 

So I could get into calibration mode, but this takes a long time to get right, and as I said, you can't control the cursor on my Mac using the gun, so even after you think you've calibrated the gun you can't tell until you load SDLMAME and check - basically the gun is only active in SDLMAME but can't control the cursor on your desktop. 

What works best for me is sitting about four or five feet away and turning off all the lights so the room is dark, but even then sometimes it doesn't work right - you end up with an erratic crosshair, or one that doesn't travel to certain parts of the screen. I got it calibrated pretty nice the other day and I haven't changed it since then. 

However, the first time I got it calibrated pretty good I noticed it still wasn't perfect. I realised the cursor was centring on the vertical and horizontal axes too easily. Basically it got stuck in the middle of the screen. I emailed Eric and he knew what was up - you just need to set 'deadzone' in MAME to '0'. As I open SDLMAME up from Terminal I just type './mame64 -jdz 0' every time now and that does the trick ('jdz' controls the 'deadzone' setting). 

So now the crosshair was responding well to my movement and most of the hard work was out of the way. Next was to configure the controls for CarnEvil


Above is how I've set up my controls. To assign the gun as an input you need to change 'Lightgun X Analog' to 'Joy 1 A0 Ultimarc'. You do this by moving the gun from left to right across the screen very steadily. You then set 'Lightgun Y Analog' to 'Joy 1 A0 Ultimarc' by moving the gun from the top of the screen to the bottom. 'P1 Button 1' is your trigger and 'P1 Button 2' is your reload, which I've set to the large button at the back of the gun (originally CarnEvil was off-screen reload).

As you can see, pressing 6 on my setup enters 'Service Mode', and you have to enter this menu to calibrate the gun once again in CarnEvil  I haven't got any keys assigned to for Player 2 anymore, but in CarnEvil's calibration mode you need to calibrate both guns to complete the process and save the settings. I only have one gun but you need to make CarnEvil think you're calibrating both guns. You can assign any buttons to Player 2 and complete the whole calibration process, but then just turn off Player 2 after you're done.

I can't think of any other problems I encountered. I was surprised that the whole thing works this well to be honest - the light gun is a great little piece of technology. There's so many variables, especially when this wasn't intended for Macs, but it works and it's a lot of fun. The only thing that would be better is two guns so that two people can play. Eric was really helpful so if you have any problems you can email him through the Arcade Guns website. 

Finally, I've put a couple of videos of me using the gun up on YouTube to show that it can be done. First a quick explanation, and then some footage of me playing Jurassic Park:



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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Wii U

I'm now back at work after our week off, which flew by way too fast. On the last day of the break a few of us went round a mate's house, drank wine and played Wii U. It's only just been released but this guy's girlfriend had already bought one, and it's a lot of fun. We played a game called Nintendo Land, which is a collection of Nintendo-themed minigames. The Wii U has a special controller, which is basically a handheld screen, and one player can use this while the other players use standard Wii controllers. This allows for games such as Luigi's Ghost Mansion on Nintendo Land: the player with the screen is a ghost and can see everything on the screen. The other players are armed with only a torch and don't know where the ghost is but have to avoid being captured. They can only see him if they shine their torch on him, often when it's already too late. Mario Chase is a lot of fun as well. 

The Wii U is so far removed from the consoles I grew up playing, but Nintendo still rely on all the old franchises I know, so the Wii U still has that Nintendo magic. If it had come out a few years ago I probably would have been all over it, but I barely even realised it had been released. Nintendo and video games was a big part of my growing up, and probably the main reason I came to Japan, but these days I don't pay any attention to it.

Now that I'm back at work I've started my almost daily visits to McDonald's. I'm still a big fan of the 'Chicken Crisp'. I buy three, which comes to 300 yen, and it makes for a cheap, filling meal. Ironically, when we got our wages on Thursday there was a 500 yen McDonald's gift card in the pay packet as our 'New Year bonus'.


At lunchtime McDonald's have recently started doing this thing where if you don't receive your order in under 60 seconds you get a free item from the menu. They even get an hourglass out and set if off to prove it. Most McDonald's here always seem really busy, but apparently profits have been falling, so I guess they've always got to think of new ways to attract customers.

Speaking of fast food, after work on Tuesday a friend took me to a pizza place in Shinsaibashi. It's called I Love Pizza and everything is 500 yen. Unless you go to Shakey's, pizza in this country is ridiculously expensive, so 500 yen is pretty decent. And the pizza at I Love Pizza isn't crappy Japanese-style stuff either - it actually looks and tastes like it was made in a traditional pizza oven (I forgot to check whether it actually is). The interior is kinda ghetto, as the seats are made from beer kegs, and it's kinda cramped inside. I had the four cheese pizza and it was OK - it had some kind of sweet syrup on, which I wasn't a fan of - but I'd definitely go back and try again. The size of the pizza is small but so is the price, and there's gotta be something else on the menu that would suit me.

I've been studying Spanish a lot in my spare time lately, and I've been planning for Chile and a short stay in California as well. The date for my first orientation in Chile has just been announced (March 2nd), so it's not long till I go now. Need to book my flights soon. Might do that this weekend. We have Monday off, so it's another long weekend.

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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year

I'm on a week-long break at the moment. It started on Saturday and it feels great to finally have some time to chill.

On Saturday me and a couple of mates went to Hankyu Nishinomiya Gardens and spent the day as mallrats. We messed around with the toys in the toy shop, played the pianos in the music shop and ate some great food. We ate gelato at MILKISSIMO where they had loads of cool flavours. One of the best things about food in Japan is the crazy flavours they have, and I always take time to try the wacky stuff. I had the apple pie, chocolate orange and fresh corn flavours and they were all good - the fresh corn one had real corn in it. For tea we went to a place called Sasebo Burger. It was 980 yen for one of their hamburgers, but it was a really good size and tasted great. Definitely wanna go there again.

Before tucking in

In the evening we headed back to Umeda to meet a couple more people and did all-you-can-drink at an izakaya. The service was pretty slow, as is usually the case with all-you-can-drink, probably intentionally so, but we kept the staff on their toes and made sure to get our money's worth. Then we went to Shinsaibashi and ended up at a couple of our regular spots before heading back to Juso.

The next day we went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at a cinema in Umeda. I've never watched a LotR film all the way through - I once tried, got bored and stopped watching - but I enjoyed The Hobbit a lot, so I'm gonna give LotR another shot. It was good to hear loads of British accents in the film, especially northern ones. Those kind of things stand out when you live in a foreign country.

On the 31st my friend invited me to her family's place in Kobe. Her extended family was there and we went out to a restaurant to eat shabu-shabu and chankonabe. I don't often get the chance but it's always good to get away from your own place and have a taste of Japanese family life. It's also one of the first times since coming to Kansai that I've had to use a lot of Japanese, as most of the family didn't speak English. One of my friend's cousins is ten years old and it somehow transpired that his dad wanted me to cut this kid's hair in the same style as mine. So when we got back to their place after dinner I shaved this ten-year-old's head while the family watched the Kōhaku Uta Gassen. He seemed happy with it, and when we were leaving I waved to him and he patted his head back. Was pretty funny.

At night we returned to Osaka and I went out to meet some friends in Nanba. These ended up being the same group of friends that I'd hung out with last New Year's Eve at a house party in Sheffield - it was then that I started to think about coming back to Japan. We hit the usual bars, which are getting a bit tiresome to be honest, but we did the countdown, danced to disco music and had a good time until around 8am the next day.  On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day the streets of Osaka were strangely empty. I've never seen the place so quiet, and it makes a good change because I'm not a big fan of the busyness of Osaka.

So it's 2013, and people have asked me what my resolution is. I don't usually make them cos I'm a pretty motivated person and if I want to do something I'll do it anyway. If I had to make one though it'd be to study Spanish. I've only got a couple of months left here before moving to Chile, so I need to learn quickly. I need to book flights, buy insurance etc. as well.

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Monday, 31 December 2012

Christmas Day and Power Rangers

I was working at our Shinsaibashi school on the 25th, and when I finished me and another teacher decided to go and grab a couple of drinks.  The same as always, Christmas Day in Japan had passed with little fanfare so we wanted to try and bring ourselves a bit of Christmas cheer, and as we're both poor, we decided on Saizeriya, mainly for their 100 yen glasses of wine.  We ordered a bit of food as well and chatted nostalgically. We're both British and always enjoy a chinwag about the good old days. Mighty Max, Power Rangers etc.

I've been reading about Power Rangers quite a bit lately after a podcast I listen to had an interview with Bulk and Skull.  On the podcast they talked about a lot of the backstage stuff that went on during the filming of the show, and Bulk mentioned his interesting theory about how Japan's popular culture is so wacky because of the atomic bombs dropped on it during the Second World War.

When I was a kid, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was pretty much my favourite thing. I wasn't really allowed to watch it by my parents because of its violent content, but that made me love it even more. I had the figures, the comics, and I remember my friend had the game for the Mega Drive - a Power Rangers beat 'em up was literally the best game when you were a kid in the 90s.

Thinking back, Power Rangers may have helped shape a lot of my interests and tendencies. Maybe Power Rangers is one of the reasons I'm so interested in American culture, blazing, overdriven rock music (the theme was my favourite song as a kid, and I remember it being released on cassette), and maybe even my interest in Japan came from Power Rangers somehow. Back then no kid knew that a lot of the show's footage was taken from Super Sentai, but it's pretty much common knowledge now. I read recently that the US version of the show was so popular that its creator, Haim Saban commissioned the Japanese production company to make even more footage especially for use in the US show. Also, one of my most vivid childhood memories is Jason, Zach and Trini leaving the show during the second series - I was distraught. Recently I read that they were written out because they demanded wages which the studio wasn't prepared to pay... 

Power Rangers is a phenomenon that's still going strong to this day, and so is Super Sentai - I often see promotions and advertisements for the show here in Japan - but Mighty Morphin was the first and best series of the whole franchise and one of the greatest things about growing up in the 90s. 

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Monday, 24 December 2012

Countdown to Christmas

It's been a good last few days. Friday and Saturday were pretty intense as I worked two full days in Akashi, but Saturday night we went for a few beers in Juso then Umeda. We were planning to go to a mate's house party in the day on Sunday, so we scheduled band practice for Sunday morning. That was probably a bad idea cos it took a while for some members of the band to recover from the night before, and we only practised for about an hour in the end. After practice I went home and slept, and then in the evening we went to Shinsaibashi as our friend who works at a bar was selling homemade sausages. The sausages came in the form of hot dogs with onion and pepper relish, and it was the probably the best thing I've eaten since coming to Japan. After the sausages we continued to drink in Shinsaibashi and headed home around five. I'd ridden my bike there, so we got a taxi back and I put my bike in the boot. It didn't quite fit but the taxi driver was fine with it.

Tonight I went for dinner at my friend's parents' house. The family is Japanese but they put on a massive Christmas feast, including roast chicken, Kobe beef steak and a British style pudding with custard. I ate and drank a lot - at one point I had four different drinks on the table - and then we went to karaoke. It was a really great night. This is the one time of the year when I want to go home and enjoy the Christmas season, but tonight's feast was a really good way to celebrate Christmas in Japan. it's important to have something to celebrate at the end of the year, and to have a time when everyone takes stock and stops to appreciate family and friends. As I said in the last post, in Japan Christmas isn't usually that much of a big deal; yeah, they have New Year but it's not quite as big of an occasion as Christmas in the UK. 

I guess it's times like this when I think about all my mates, and how I can't see the vast majority of them this Christmas. With the kind of life I lead I'm always changing my residence and circumstances, and while it's fun I'm constantly making new friends and then moving away from them. At some point in the future I wouldn't mind a bit more stability in that regard.

I'm working over the next four days, including tomorrow, but next week I have the whole week off. I'm trying to save money, so I don't have any trips or anything planned, but I want to study a lot of Spanish. There's also quite a few TV shows I want to work my way through. In fact, lately there's so much art I want to consume. TV shows, movies, music, podcasts... Maybe too much. There's not enough time in the day, so it's good to have a big block of free time. With the internet we have access to pretty much anything we want to watch/listen to these days. It's crazy if you think about it.  There's also too many things I want to pursue/learn about. I'm a pretty inquisitive person, so it's hard to narrow down my interests and focus on the important things. 

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas in Japan

Saturday was my school's Christmas party. Me and my (ex-)housemate were asked by the boss to dress up as Playboy bunnies - apparently it's a yearly tradition. We obliged, but I think most of the students were freaked out more than anything. After the party we went around Osaka still dressed as bunnies and had a pretty good night. Surprisingly, no decent photos have surfaced on Facebook yet...

I say my ex-housemate as he's now moved out into his girlfriend's place just across town.

Practice for my Ramones cover band on Sunday went well, and now we have just about enough songs to start planning for a gig.

I just finished reading Dave Mustaine of Megadeth's autobiography - Mustaine: A Life in Metal. It's a good read as he has a pretty interesting life story, eventually finding faith as a Christian. But it didn't really match up to Slash's autobiography, which I'd read just before. Slash's was much more well written, and his stories were more extreme, so it was pretty hard to top. And more importantly, he wrote a lot about the development of Guns N' Roses' songs and albums. I was looking forward to something similar and learning about the writing of Megadeth's albums, but for some reason Mustaine didn't spend much time on this, and I think the book suffers as a whole for it. Next up I have Lemmy's and David Lee Roth's autobiographies to read. Reading these books makes me wanna start writing music again...

My transcript for my journalism masters came in the post today. I finally got to see all the grades I got for each module. It's funny how I spent so much time and energy studying for this and now I've basically forgotten about that whole year of my life and I'm not using my journalism skills now in any way. Part of that is probably because I'm in a different country, and my lives in Japan and the UK always seem quite disconnected. I was having a chat today actually with a co-worker who has a degree in journalism and he feels exactly the same way as me - he lost interest in journalism as he isn't prepared to kiss ass and climb the ladder as a journalist. 

These days at work I talk a lot about Christmas with the students, and I've learnt a lot about Japanese people's attitude towards Christmas. I don't know why they celebrate it to be honest. In fact, most of the older people in Japan don't really get behind Christmas as they don't view it a Japanese tradition, which it isn't. From what I can tell Christmas only really started to get popular here around the 1970s, and around this time KFC launched a big campaign which has left them forever associated with Christmas in Japan. It kinda makes sense - we eat turkey and they eat chicken - but it seems that any fast food will do these days, as a couple of students have said they always eat pizza on the 25th. Some other families seem to eat traditional Japanese dishes, such as nabe, but that kinda defeats the point of Christmas, as it's meant to be something special and different from the rest of the year. There's a big run-up with Christmas decorations and music everywhere, and every shop offering some kind of Christmas campaign, but then everyone works on the actual day and it feels like a letdown... Most Japanese people seem a bit confused by the whole thing to be honest, and none of them know the nativity story. 

Even New Year, which obviously has a much longer tradition in Japan, doesn't seem to be that special to the Japanese people. Basically all my students tell me they don't like osechi, the traditional New Years food, but they still eat it. I once ate it though, and it was probably the worst meal I've ever eaten, but I assumed Japanese people would enjoy it. I think Japanese people just don't really like holidays or special days - they have nothing else during the rest of the year, whereas we have Pancake Day, Easter,  Bonfire Night etc.

By the way, Japan just had a general election, in which the slightly more conservative party beat the the slightly less conservative party. It was a foregone conclusion though, so no-one really batted an eyelid about the whole thing.

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