Friday, March 24, 2006

Train Sculls

"Train Sculls"
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
I'm not sure why, but there's something about teacher's and alcohol, especially when the teachers are somewhere like Japan. Perhaps it's the feeling of isolation that drives you to drink, or perhaps it's the yearning for like-minded company; people who intimately know the frustrations of someone who has to constantly navigate their way around a foreign country they may never fully understand. Or... maybe we just like to drink!

Since my last post several things have happened to me that have caused me some amusement. Firstly I am receiving love letters from one of my students! Fortunately her English ability is so low the love letters consist of sentences like "You smell good. What did you eat?" The downside is she is incredibly incredibly attractive (yes that’s a downside!) Hmmmm... What to do what to do what to do...

Of course I'm not going to DO anything, but it would be so much easier if she wasn't so damn attractive!

Then, the other day I managed to drop 10 yen on the escalator while I was fishing through my wallet for my train pass. 10 yen is the equivalent of about 10 cents... So what did I do? Nothing. It was only 10 yen. Let it fall down the gap and see if I care! Did the Japanese guy behind me let that happen though? Not on your life. It was perhaps one of the funniest things I've ever seen. One man holding up and entire escalator full of people while he valiantly tried to rescue my 10 yen from the abyss. To his credit and my amusement I got my 10 yen back. I'd like to see that kind of thing happen in Australia!!

Oh, and a couple of friends and I invented a new drinking game! I'm going to tentatively call it "Train Sculls". "Train Sculls" grew out of 3 of us standing on a platform freezing our asses off while waiting for a train. Eventually one of us cracked it and suggested we get some beers from the newspaper stand (yes the newspaper stand) and jump on the next train that happened to arrive. Public drinking not being illegal in Japan (although a little frowned upon on the train) we grabbed a few cans of beer and jumped on the next train which just happened to be going in the opposite direction to where we really wanted to be going! The rules were simple. Every time the train stopped we had to drink. Every time an old lady got on the train (every second passenger is an old lady) we had to drink. Every time a cute guy or girl got on the train (we were 2 guys and a girl so we had to go both ways) we had to drink.

Aaaaanyway, this took us into the heart of the Tokyo subway system several km’s underground before we ran out of beer and had to find our way back again. It was, to say the least, a fun experience!

And that, apart from all the photos I've been taking recently, is my life to date. Ok, so it might not be packed full of adventure and derring-do right now, but it is interesting. Well... for me at least!


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My images...

Girl in Black
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Once upon a time I used to love photography but, since coming to Japan, I've been guilty of merely pointing my camera at things with no regard for the image or composition.

However, I've recently started to get back into actual photography. Here's just one of my most recent images. If you'd like to see more you can find links to my photos on the right of this page or you can just click on the image.


Drunk in Japan

Drunk in Japan
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Since my trip to Nagano I’ve been trying not to spend too much money. Consequently my life has been pretty quiet of late...

I’ve been out drinking a few times with some Japanese mates, which is always fun, especially as they don’t know a lot of English and they always seem to end up paying for most of it, even if I insist.

Actually its interesting how gaijin (foreigners) ate treated in Japan. We can either be ignored completely or people can be extremely generous. Just recently I left a bar with my mates then, after seeing them off home, I went back in for another drink. Not having a lot of money on me I was keeping a close eye on my drink, however the bar staff kept topping it up. When I told them I was short on cash they told me not to worry about it because someone else in the bar was covering my tab!

Ok, so this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time but it certainly happens a lot more here than it does back home, and on those days it is great being a foreigner in Japan.


Nagano Sunset
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Nagano… A place world famous for skiing and snowboarding and I managed to fall down most of it. Ok, so maybe it was only one run, but I now know that run in detail. I should, seeing as I spent a lot of time sliding down it on my face and ass.

Actually, although I came away from my three day trip bearing some phenomenal injuries, it was one of the best trips I have ever had.

For three days my friend Jamie and I went up and down a mountain on a ski lift offering us some of the most amazing views, although our first day saw us mainly sitting at the bottom of a gentle incline wondering just how the hell we were supposed to stay standing up, while dreading the walk back to the top of our little slope just so we could tumble down it again.

By the end of day one we were sorer than we have ever been in our lives and Jamie was muttering something about having torn his sphincter!

Day two was significantly better. My friend Yusuke (who organized the whole thing for us) took us to the top of the run and spent some time teaching is just how NOT to fall over. This doesn’t mean we didn’t fall over at all, but we fell over a hell of a lot less. However I did manage to take one spectacular fall that left me wondering whether I’d cracked a rib or two. It’s now three weeks later and I’m still tender down one side! Seven hours and some amazing weather later Jamie and I found we could actually “snowboard” and I discovered I’d managed to get sunburned pretty much all over my face except for where my goggles had been. My chin has never been so red in all my life!

On our last day we woke up to a blanket of fog that didn’t lift all day. However, despite the multitude of aches and pains we now bore (including my possibly cracked ribs) we were determined to spend our last day on the run. By this stage we considered ourselves fully fledged snowboarders and had even resorted to saying things like “gnarly dude”. The run however was unforgiving. It had been packed down the night before and, as the snow never saw the sun, it was like boarding on ice. Each tumble was like falling on solid concrete. It was so bad that we nearly packed it in and went home, but sheer bloody mindedness saw us persevere.

There is nothing quite as frightening as sliding down a wall of ice at unknown speeds while not being able to see anything. At some stages the fog became so thick it was almost impossible to differentiate between the snow and the fog at all. Many times Jamie and I would begin at the top of one run only to find ourselves at the bottom of a completely different one.

The end of the trip saw us heading home exhilarated but completely knackered. That didn’t stop us from heading to the pub however. It’s amazing how a few rum and cokes can make you forget about cracked ribs and incredible sunburn.

A cold ride

Cold Ride
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Here’s a little something I noted down back in January:

Gaily humming along to “The Girl from Ipanema” coming from speakers hidden in the street above, while trying not to fall over the sludgy remains of yesterday’s snowfall, I can’t help but marvel at this place… Tokyo… The only city I have encountered where it can be snowing and you will still see girls in shorty shorts and pumps. It’s just… beautiful.

Of course it would help if most Japanese girls actually had asses to fill out those little shorty shorts but… you make do with what’s available.

Tokyo… Not so much a cultural melting pot as a mixed bag where everything tends to clash. I don’t say this in a bad way… I mean… If we were to compare Tokyo to, say fashion, then it could be said that Tokyo is the Socks and Sandals combination. From the outside they don’t quite seem to match, but Math teachers the world over will tell you that the socks and sandals combo provides not only comfort but freedom.

It’s also the only place I know where people ride their bikes to work in the snow.

My first Blog

Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Hi All, this is my first blog so bear with me.

Why am I doing this? Because I found that sending multiple emails back home just became a hassle. I would often wait until I felt I had enough interesting stories to tell then I couldn't be bothered actually writing it all. A bit pathetic for a guy who wants to be a writer I know!

So, now I have this blog. The challenge is keeping it up to date. Ok, I better go away and think about what to write.