Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Asian Cup 2011

Last night was Japan vs. South Korea in the semi-final of the Asian Cup. It was a great game full of twists and turns, and Japan ended up beating their bitter rivals on penalties. They now face Australia in the final on Saturday, so everyone's gearing up for that. It's the equivalent of England reaching the final of the European Championships, and that would send the whole country into a frenzy back home. Excitement hasn't quite reached those levels here yet, but it's still good to be in a country where the national team is doing well at football. And while Australia will be favourites, it's definitely possible for Japan to sneak a victory. There's a meetup for all the Aomori Prefecture CIRs on Saturday night, which means I'm gonna be staying at an 温泉 (onsen, hot spring/hotel) in the middle of nowhere, but there should be a TV somewhere nearby.

In other news, I'm feeling rather smug about the fact that I managed to finally pay off my overdraft on my bank account back home. All the way through uni I was dipping in and out of my overdraft, and I graduated in the red. Money from relatives and my wages from Pizza Hut helped keep things at a reasonable level, but last Friday I transferred some money from my Japanese account, and it was enough to make sure I'm back safely in the black, and I shouldn't be plunging back into my overdraft again anytime soon. I'm not gonna lie, the wages on JET are a lot for what you do - I get paid more than some of my co-workers who have families to support. It's great though. Even though I've travelled a bit and had to buy quite a few expensive items since coming last August, my yen have been quietly piling up, and it's enabled me to send a whole months wages back to the UK. My sister told me they've been getting letters from the bank back home, saying my overdraft limit was about to be cut. I bet they were looking forward to drilling my account with various fees and charges, but, unlucky for them, I don't need my overdraft anymore.

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Monday, 17 January 2011

Goody Goody

I recently came across an ace vintage clothes shop in Aomori called Goody Goody. It's located in 新町 and I went in for the first time last week.

From the outside the place looks like a typical vintage shop; you'll find a lot of them in Japan, even more than back home, but the stock is usually fairly limited and the prices are often fairly high. There are even places which try to look like vintage shops but actually sell mainly new items. But Goody Goody is better than your average vintage shop. It has a strong 1950s American vibe - there's rock and roll playing on the speakers, old toys and decorations litter the walls and shelves and the stock is mostly 50s and 60s items. There were a few new items tucked in among the real vintage stuff, but the shop more than made up for it with a shelf full of obscure rock and roll compilation CDs for sale. Granted, LPs would have been even better, but the owner obviously likes this era and knows his stuff.

There was one guy behind the counter when I went in, and it seems he runs the place on his own. When I entered I wasn't greeted with the usual "いらっしゃいませ", as is customary in Japanese shops, but after speaking to the guy later I realised he was fairly shy. And there's also the fact that I'm a foreigner, so he probably just thought it best to keep quiet. After buying a shirt and a jacket I had a bit of a chat with him. At first he seemed apprehensive, asking if I could speak Japanese, and then when I explained I worked at the city hall he said he recognised me from the TV and radio. We talked a bit about the rockabilly scene in the UK, and I asked him if he'd been abroad, as he was obviously interested in foreign culture. He told me he wanted to, but couldn't speak English at all. I asked him where he got all his clothes and toys and ornaments from, and he said from a wholesaler in Tokyo, then he gave me his retro-style business card.

It's great to come across shops like this in Japan. When Japanese people go for a theme, they really go for it, even if, like this guy, they've never actually been to the country they seem to be in love with. But Goody Goody is still a great shop. While there isn't racks and racks of clothes, the stuff on offer is high quality, mostly actual vintage and the prices are reasonable. The guy obviously knows his stuff, as he told me a bit about the jacket as I was buying it. One of the benefits of not having piles of stock is that you know a bit more about each item it seems.

I'm sure I'll be going back at some point.

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

'77

If there's one film I wanna see right now, it's '77. Problem is, it's not been released yet. Here's the trailer to give you a taste of what the film's about:



The film was written and directed by Patrick Read Johnson and it's based on Johnson's life growing up in rural America. In the film, Pat wants to become a filmmaker, and inspired by the likes of Jaws and Star Wars he sets out to make his own movie.

'77 refers to 1977, the year when Star Wars was released and the year the film is set in. Pat is played by John Francis Daley, of Freaks and Geeks fame, and the film was produced by Gary Kurtz who produced American Graffiti, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, but there have been a few post-production problems that are holding the film back.

I remember first reading about '77 on the official Star Wars message boards a few years ago, and it seems the film was shot in 2007. There was even a premiere in 2008 at the Hamptons International Film Festival in New York. If you were to go to the website of Johnson's production company, Moonwatcher Inc., or the film's official website you'd think it was already released. But if you dig a little deeper, like on the IMDb message board for the film, you'll find a personal post from Johnson. Responding to claims that George Lucas was somehow holding the film back for legal reasons, Johnson says that film isn't finished yet and that it'll be released once post-production is finished. He says that the backers who put up money for certain aspects of post-production have pulled out, but once money comes through again the movie will get finished and released. But in the post, made in 2009, Johnson says he is confident '77 will see a release in 2010, and that date has obviously passed now.

Now there were some fairly big names involved in this film. While it is an indie film, it had the producer from Star Wars working on it, and Johnson has made movies before that have been released. I can understand Johnson wanting to take his time so that the film is as close to perfect as it can be, especially as it is based on his own life. But the amount of mystery surrounding the project and the length of time it's taking to get released is odd. And why was the film premiered if it wasn't ready yet?

It'd be great if the film gets a release eventually. Looks amazing from the trailer.

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Saturday, 8 January 2011

TV and radio appearances

So as promised, here are my 2 recent TV appearances. They were both on the local station, RAB. The first was by chance when I was out on a hiking trip to くろくま滝 (Kurokuma Waterfall), a famous waterfall near 白神山 (Mt. Shirakami).



The second was on a show called 江奈滋家の食卓. It’s a drama/comedy which focuses on environmental issues, and I was on to talk a bit about recycling in the UK. Recording was fun, and I got a lot of insight into how a TV show is made.



Also, my first radio interview was aired yesterday on a show called 一路青森 こちらカ・ケ・メ・ぐる隊 on FM Aomori. On Thursday the team of the show came to the city hall and recorded four 5 minute interviews which will be aired on their show every Friday during January. The show only started in November last year and was designed to help promote Aomori and its attractions now that the Shinkansen line is here. November's special guest was the mayor of Aomori, and December's was some head of tourism, and January is me. Tune in from 1pm every Friday to hear me. We talked about my background, and then what I thought of Aomori and its dialect. The kind of questions I get asked everyday by Japanese people basically. As I said previously, I should be receiving the shows on a CD at some point, so I'll put them online when I do.

It'd be great if I get more opportunities like this - radio is something I'm interested in and perhaps wouldn't mind doing after JET.

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Saturday, 1 January 2011

New place

So six days ago I moved house. I'd been wanting to move for a while as the last apartment was generally a terrible place to live. It was small and old, but my new place is a lot bigger and newer and I'm enjoying it a lot. The city hall put up a bit of a fuss about me moving, but, as a JET, if you want to move you're well within your rights to do so. The old place was good location-wise, as it was very close to the city hall, so I didn't have far to walk to work every morning. And while the new apartment is about 10 minutes down the road, it's still within easy walking distance of the city hall. It's also closer to the local コンビニ (convenience store).

I was planning to travel to Kansai to see some friends and spend New Year's in Osaka or Kobe, but the apartment move was decided at the last minute and disrupted any travel plans. I've had a great time in Aomori City though, being one of the few JETs to stay here over the break. It's been much better than the Christmas and New Year's I spent in Kobe two years ago. This year a couple of friends and I ate a big Christmas dinner at the local Tony Roma's, went to karaoke, then walked around the streets of Aomori singing more Christmas songs. The Aomori snow also added to the Christmas vibe. Then last night we went to an izakaya and to the local temple for New Year's Eve.

The winter break began on the 29th and it lasts until the 4th. It's the first extended break since I came in August, and it's useful as it'll give me time to unpack all my stuff, which is currently in boxes.

I recently received a couple of DVDs of my appearances on local TV, so I'll put them online at some point. I'm also gonna be appearing on the local radio station a couple of times this month. I don't know the details yet, but it'll be on a show about foreign cultures and travel, and I reckon I should be able to get a copy of that as well.

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