Random Photos From
cover of some book in the library.
supposed to take off my shoes, put on slippers that are way too small,
and step one step to the left to pee? I don't think so.
missing? A towel. Have you ever tried drying your wet hands with
guess you would be without the diaper.
face I drew blindfolded with kids giving me directions in English.
majestic view on the way to school.
is what you get when there are two sockets in a room and everything is
This is not really impressive. I've seen much worse.
Surprisingly tasty for sand.
60cm shoe made for someone at the big and tall shop in Gotanda, Tokyo.
Just noticed the 'smell killer' in the background.
Size 30cm is about a 12.5 in the US, so do the math.
name beside the 4th one up says "foreigners". I told him our name, but
he wrote that.
strange new fan. It had no blades and there was actually air coming
out of it.
example of my school lunch for a JHS in Japan. This would actually be
filling, but usually I get far less than this. Notice the soup is half
example of a bento on a day that we had no school lunch. Seems
but I could easily eat two. The brown things are full of rice and not
Tuesday, May 7, 2010
Ryan, I have good news. You only have two classes todayÖ..Exactly how
is that good news? Why on earth would you think I would want that?
Actually, that is exactly what the flyer said and thatís why I came to
Japan. It said ďDo you like sitting in teacherís rooms doing nothing
all day long? If so then consider coming to Japan to Teach English. We
only say your job is to teach English, but really itís to sit in our
teacherís rooms doing nothing. We have a special machine that uses
osmosis to pull out your English and implant it into the students, but
only when you are seated and thoroughly bored in the teacherís room.
That is also why we have limited internet access and restrict any
website that is remotely useful.Ē It sounded so exciting that I signed
up immediately and Iíve been enjoying all the teacherís rooms Iíve sat
in for years.
Following this rant, today I have 1 class even though 3
are on the schedule. Why is that? Because the students STILL have to
practice for the sports festival tomorrow. They donít really practice
the activities, just the ceremonial stuff and things like bowing in
perfect unison, entering and exiting in perfect unison, singing the
warm up song in perfect unison, etc. I actually have some things to do
and there are some kids here I like to see so itís not so terrible at
Konan. Plus I have a computer and can create prints or surf the web if
needed. At other schools students leave as early as 2pm (I leave
around 4:15) and I have no computer.
I was sitting at my desk writing out my expenses for the
next paycheck and I came to the mandatory car tax that comes every
May. Argh. I was wondering how much it would be and thought it was
either $340 or $430, hoping for the former. I couldnít remember and
had googled it and then I was just thinking, ďI wonder how much it
will be.Ē As I thought that the office lady brought me some mail that
included the car tax. Thatís strange and most likely a coincidence,
but if not Iím going to start thinking about the Swedish bikini team
giving me money and endless massages while Iím eating sushi on a
How to Get Rich in Japan.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
There are some jobs in Japan where you would make no money. One is
selling public trashcans since there are none. Another is selling or
repairing (washing machine) dryers or paper towel dispensers or home
insulation or central heating, etc. However, there are a few jobs where
youíd make a mint. One in particular is printing business cards. There
is a travel agent who comes to my school twice a week (sometimes once)
and passes out a business card to every teacher, thatís about 50 then
twice a week is 100 and thatís just at my school. He goes to about 10
other schools a week too. Man, Iíd like to be his printer. ďHey itís
me again, I need another 100,000 itís been another busy week.Ē
Another way is more for the government to earn money and a
butt-load of it. If they were to install cameras at every single
intersection in Japan and give tickets of $100 to people that run red
lights they would make $600-800 every single time the light changes
(during rush hour). Iím not even talking about people who are in the
middle of the intersection when the light changes from yellow to red.
Iím talking about the 3 cars that follow that car. Itís truly and
honestly ridiculous sometimes. I have been at that area where I should
stop, but it would involve slamming on the brakes so I ran it and was
maybe in the middle of the intersection when it changed and I felt bad
about that. But then I see up to THREE cars follow me. One maybe,
possibly, the second was pushing it really, the third one was flat out
stupid. So that would be about $300 per side ($600) PER LIGHT CHANGE.
The light changes what 40 times an hour? Seriously, that would
I have been busier than a hound dog chompiní on a junebug
today. I had 4 classes that each took preparation, then tonight I have
an Advanced English Conversation class for adults at the city hall,
and tomorrow I have 4 classes at Tadano. Also, that first line about
the hound dog sounded really country like, but I just made it up. Iíve
already prepared for the lesson tonight, but I might need to
over-prepare in case a lesson goes bad or runs short. For tomorrow the
lessons are vague so I donít know exactly what I should do. Perhaps I
will make something vague as well and review some things.
One of the lessons
for tomorrow irritates me. It is Ďdays of the weekí
and the reason it bugs me is I practice this with all my students each
lesson so they already know it. Iíve told the people that make the
schedule, but itís like a wind up toy hitting the wall. ďBut itís on
the scheduleÖ..yes I know, but they already know it and I cover it
every week so letís skip itÖ..But itís on the scheduleÖ..I see that
and understand, but they already know it so this lesson is
wastefulÖ..But itís on the scheduleÖ.Ē That conversation actually goes
on forever until I cave in. Fine, I will waste a lesson teaching them
something they already know. Then we can practice writing their names
in Japanese since they already know that as well.
I think my PC has straightened out a bit. I bought a Tune
Up program (well two by accident) and then I upgraded to the full
version for $29. It scans for Mal-ware and other garbage and has sped
it up already. Recently Iíve been getting the blue screen of death,
but a reboot would fix it. There have been other bugs as well, but
this program (these programs) seemed to have fixed that.
I said ďtheseĒ because I bought one program and they
charged me for 2. I complained and they kept saying ďitís a
pre-authorizationĒ and ignored the fact I had two serial numbers. So I
told them I was going to refute the charge with my credit card and
suddenly they refunded one. During that time I was sure they were
going to be stupid and reply with the same form letter I got three
times, which didnít even relate to my issue. So I went ahead and
bought a different program. Then they wised up and gave me the refund
for one, so now I have two programs on my computer, but I guess it
will be extra clean.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Why is it when a class of mine is cancelled for sports day, that class
just goes poof into the air, but when I have to cancel a class because
Iím not here it becomes a big issue about trying to reschedule? The
schedule got changed and classes got moved and I donít know what
happened, but I didnít know about two classes today. One I made a
quick plan for, the other Iím about to make up on the spot. The one I
had a plan for was the 1st grade in the elementary school.
We did some basic greetings and then I had them walk to me from the
back of the room and say ďgood morning, Iím _____Ē while wearing my
huge shoes. The principal came in and thought it was cute and the kids
I found a web page about Chinese grammar and I looked at
it briefly. Amazingly I could read it with minimal difficulty. I
already knew the characters in question and they meant the same as the
Japanese meanings. The lesson was about a particle for marking time
and place. It was similar to Japanese, but the sentence structure was
much easier. It seemed almost like English in a way.
I am trying to save money to fly back to the US this
summer, but tickets are killing me. The best I can find is around
$2,000 for a layover somewhere stupid and $2400 for a direct flight.
That is absurd and I would rather not spend the money now, but I need
to go back and I should have my 20th reunion around that
The class I am about to go to is the demon class, but I
think I beat them last week. I gave them a sheet with 5 boxes and then
the words ďcomputer gamesĒ. I told them if they were good each class
they would get a stamp and then when they made it to the end weíd play
my games. They were actually rather quiet the whole time. I wrote a
happy face, regular face, and a sad face on the board and said these
were my moods. If I erased the sad face there would be no stamp for
the week. It worked last week, letís see if it works this week.
For two grades in the JHS I am filming something with them.
Well now we are planning the stories, but soon we will be filming. One
will be like 24 and the other is a horror movie. Itís really boring
now, but we should start filming in two weeks. Next week I have a
monthly meeting at the BoE so no class. I think weíll be able to make
something decent in the end, but itís going slowly now.
Paid to Pursue my own Interests.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I went to Kozu today and had two classes 4th and 5th
periods. It wasnít as boring as I thought since 3rd period
was practice for their sports day so I had something to watch. Their
sports day is going to be interesting since there are 21 kids and they
must divide that into 2 teams of 10 & 11. Going to this school
sometimes is like an office day. I have nothing to do but sit there
and plan future lessons or think about things. I have no computer to
surf the web or type this so all I can do is write things down. I
really donít even plan that much for my lessons since the teacher for
the 5th & 6th grade (one class of 7 total)
insists we use a worthless textbook forced on schools by the ministry
of education. I truly despise it since it doesnít teach the kids
anything, but it means I donít have to prepare anything at all. I just
show up and press play on the CD player. When students clean the
school after lunch they play music. At Kozu they play some music that
makes me feel like I am in a 1920ís silent movie and then after that
they play something that makes me feel like I am on acid or dreaming.
Itís always weird cleaning to that music. Iíll try to record it
Something that came up while cleaning there was how
cleaning, like most things in Japan, is not about the end result i.e.
a clean school. Itís about the process and appearance of kids doing
their part. I was helping people sweep and when I clean, I make sure
things are clean. A teacher came by and said what I was doing was
unnecessary and had a student show me what to do. He just flopped a
broom around for a bit and everyone agreed that was better. I was
actually cleaning behind things and making sure everything was done
right. At some point in the day I had green tea and since it is served
at the boiling point, I had to let it cool for 30 minutes. I was
staring at it and noticed dust from the air had fallen into the drink.
There was a lot and I almost didnít drink it, but then I figured eh
On the way to school I had the greatest experience ever in
regards to Japanese people running red lights. I was approaching a
light and it turned yellow so I foolishly slowed and stopped at the
line as it turned right. A car behind me had planned to run the light
and assumed I would as well so when I stopped he was in a conundrum.
Rather that do the logical thing of stopping, he lurched into the
passing lane and then passed me, well after the light was completely
red. I was actually secret hoping for a non-injury causing accident so
I could tell the police ďwell it wasnít his fault because running red
lights is ok in Japan rightÖĒ
Every year or 2 or 3 the teachers (and business employees)
change positions. Teachers will change schools and employees will
rotate positions. I understand why they do this, but at the same time
I completely hate it. The benefit is that when you move up in the
ranks you have a vast network of experience and colleagues to use.
Principals have been at maybe a dozen schools and have worked with
hundreds of people. Everyone knows all the people at the board of
education. So why do I hate it?
All the gained knowledge at a school resets every year.
When someone figures out how to wiggle a plug to get a projector to
work or how to slide a door to get it unstuck, all that goes down the
drain and we re-invent the wheel. Anytime I had some agreement with a
vice principal or the person in charge of English or my schedule, I
have to completely re-explain and re-build that relationship each
year. Sometimes a bad teacher will leave and a good one will come in,
but at the same time sometimes a great teacher will leave and a new
unsure teacher will come in and bring the train to a screeching halt.
I partially understand it, but completely hate it. I know foreigners
who deal with Japanese companies hate it too. When they have an
agreement or deal going on and then April comes around and the person
changes (usually without giving notice to anyone) everything must
Without trying to sound too rude (ruder than normal) Japan
is just noisy. When I go into a restaurant all the clerks YELL
ďwelcome to the storeĒ in Japanese. YELL IT. When kids come into the
teacherís room they announce loudly ďMy name is _____, Iím here to
see_____Ē. I find it rather disturbing, but they donít in Japan.
Trucks ride by neighborhoods BLARING election announcements or selling
things. There are three chimes a day announcing it is now 6am, noon,
and 6pm (we have clocks thank you). When itís the end of the term all
26 of us foreign English teachers are supposed to barge into the BoE
and tell the main guy ďwe safely finished this termĒ. HE KNOWS THAT.
Why do we all have to disrupt everyone by telling him that? Because
thatís whatís important in Japan. Itís not a disruption, itís polite.
That is SOOOOO hard for me to get used to.
Dear Japan, it is now 2010. PLEASE CATCH UP.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I AM LIVID.
I made a video for a class and played it yesterday at Konan. It worked
fine even though my computer there is 8 years old. Then today I
brought it to Tadano Elementary and asked to play it in class and they
had to search around for a PC that would play a DVD.
Did they have to search for a computer to render HD video ? No, that
would be an understandable problem. Did they have to search for a
computer to record audio? No, that would be an understandable problem.
Did they have to search for a computer to compute the expanding speed
of the universe? Again, no that would make sense. They had to search
for a laptop computer that would
UNREAL. This is 2010 Japan, please catch up. Why are we
still using computers from pre-2000? Those are literal dinosaurs.
Finally they found an old clunker that actually took 7 minutes to play
the DVD. Fine, I will use it. So then I get to the computer room and
start the lesson after having tested the laptop and now it wonít
connect to the projector. Crap!!! So I try to swap it over to the
teacherís computer which will SURELY play it. But, again we are still
in Japan where nothing makes any logical sense in any way shape or
form. The computer would not play the DVD. I spent the whole class
fighting with them, but neither would work and the class was a
Japan, this is 2010. Please allot more than pocket change
for education. Having computers that wonít play DVDs at a school is
truly embarrassing. I mean these are DVDs, NOT BLUE RAY. That would be
understandable. DVDs have been around since 1995, that is 15 years,
and you still have computers in schools that canít play DVDs. That
isÖthere are no words to express how lame that is. If you werenít
aware, some educational material is available on DVDs, but I guess you
wouldnít know because that would make sense.
So Busy, butÖ
Friday, May 28, 2010
I have been sooooo busy lately, but I love it. It makes me manage time
better, it makes the day go by faster, and it makes me feel
productive. Last year I had about 2 classes per week at Konan, but
this year I have 4-5 on Tuesday and 3-4 on Friday. Man it is great
being this busy. Iím extra busy now because I have an adult
conversation class on Tuesdays that requires a ton of planning and I
am also working with the skit contest students, the speech contest
students (at two schools) and then planning full loads at another
elementary school. It sounds like I am being sarcastic, but I actually
love being busy and not sitting around. Granted I got a lot of
programming done last year, but thatís not what my job is.