blogging about tv.

14 04 2008

In case you ever wondered what watching Japanese TV was like, let me take you through the last bit of channel surfing I just did.

I started watching something innocuous—a game show where they have a giant screen in front of the contestants projecting their “opponents:” a giant shackled wooly mammoth, a panda armed with nunchucks, and a T-Rex that shoots sword-wielding fireballs.  And the questions?  Well, things like, reading really difficult kanji and translating REALLY easy English words.  I think ALTs all over the country let out collective sighs when the conestant couldn’t translate the word 銀行 (ginkou, “bank”), but instead just said “I think so too” over and over.  At least I won’t feel so bad about not making English professors out of these kids.

Then I caught a few minutes of a show where famous male actors went on dates with unknowing regulars and acted like total assholes until the women broke up with them in a fantastic shower of spilled drinks, thrown purses and slaps.

Next there was a show where women stopped other random women on the street and told them what was wrong with their outfits.  No makeovers, no free shopping sprees—just what was wrong.

Then there was this other game show where the contestants were on a treadmill, and every question another contestant answered, the non-answerers’ treadmills’ speed would increase.  Well, until they couldn’t take it and fell on their face.

Now the members of SMAP (J-Pop phenom) have cooked for young ice skating superstar Mao Asada, and in return have been put on a machine that spins at the same speed she spins during her triples.  There’s a lot of screaming, but no vomit yet.  I’m watching and waiting.  Oh wait.  Now they’re hiding in fear trying to play against Japan’s Olympic table tennis superstar, Ai Fukuhara.  They’ve also managed to offend her coach by nicknaming him nikuman (“meat dumpling”).

But the winner for the night?  An hour-long program (well, I couldn’t honestly watch for more than a few seconds between other channels) about EAR CLEANING.  Proper tools.  Proper technique.  Frequency.  Depth.  Unassisted or assisted by your wife.  For an hour.  WTF?

I usually live these days not thinking about where I am, but night like this remind me that I am totally in Japan.  Totally.


the real phoenix

5 01 2008

Even after reading up on Hiroshima, I still expected it to be a shadow of a city. And the prevalence of JET stories of terrifying interviews with questions like, “What would you do if a student blamed you, as an American, for the atomic bombing in Hiroshima?” had also made me worry that the citizens are still angry and hostile towards Americans. It’s not like that at all. The city thrives, and while there probably are some survivors, or relatives thereof, who are still angry, in general the city chooses to present itself to the world as a symbol for peace and regrowth.
Read on, there are pictures too!

something about kyoto and tokyo

31 12 2007

You can read to no end about all the places I visited during winter vacation. Go on google or wikitravel or just about any other website and you’re bound to stumble upon account after account of what each temple, shrine and festival is like. If you’re looking for that information, not to be rude, go somewhere else.

I started to write about all these places, and even about my impressions of them, but it was really boring, to be honest. Boring to write, boring to read, boring to think about. I’m not a talented enough writer to truly capture even the most fascinating places Zach and I visited. My pictures can only go so far. So. If you really want to know details about a place, your best bet is to read other people’s works, or even better, visit them yourself. If you want to know about the thoughts they inspired in me, this is your cup of tea. Or maybe a pot of tea. I’m wordy.
Read on, there are pictures too!

a visitor

26 12 2007

There’s something about riding on a train that reminds me of a zoo. You only get these quick little glimpses of life between the backs of buildings. Kids playing soccer in a park; people walking their dogs; shop owners peddling their wares. And in the train are a bunch of people who are entirely unaware of the world outside themselves. Virtually everyone is talking, or writing, or playing on their cell phone. I read an article about the internet/connectivity obsession of the youth in Japan (and honestly, America too) and how the more engaged people are with their connected life, the more isolated they are from the world. Even now, I’m sitting on a train writing, but I’m essentially connected—I’m sharing my thoughts with you, aren’t I? I don’t feel particularly isolated, but since all this writing is so introspective, I suppose, de facto, I am.

I forgot about how different life is in a city compared to the inaka. I had the same sudden realization (and subsequently forgot it) when I arrived in Tokyo to head home for my sister’s wedding. All of a sudden instead of 6,000 people in my entire town, there are that many people in one city block. The weirdest thing about it though is that the people here are just as lonely as those of us that are hours from a large city. How does that make sense? Why can people feel alone when they’re in a crowded room? (I admittedly stole that from someone’s away message, which means it’s probably from a song.)

My thoughts immediately jump to Lost in Translation again: the idea that people are generally unable to convey all their feelings and thoughts. How do you translate yourself in a way that other people understand? How can other people translate themselves so that you understand?

I think that’s enough introspection for now. My head hurts.

Find out what else hurts…AND pictures!

clearing the docket

18 12 2007

If I don’t publish this now, this chapter of life in Japan will become nothing except notes in my computer. In less than two days, my same-name friend from home will be arriving, so I’m hoping there will be wackamamy stories aplenty after that starts.

A lot has happened since I last wrote. I’ve written several half-assed attempts at summarizing all of the goings-on, but they’ve all become outdated. To save space, I’ll just make a list of things major events:

1. I finished my translation for the G-8 press tour and ate a lot of free food at it.
2. I went snowboarding for a weekend in Niseko on my brand new board. I ate a lot of overpriced, but tasty food. I also ate AMAZING pizza.
3. I made tacos and ate them.
4. I made latkes and ate them.
5. I took the level 4 JLPT (and probably passed), and wasn’t allowed to leave the building to buy lunch. I was very hungry and ate an entire 7-11’s worth of food then ran 16 miles.

I’ve been eating so much lately; I honestly think that 80% of my expenditures are food. I remember my times of training for the Philly marathon fondly, when I had my free, all-you-can-eat pass to the dining halls. Now I’m spending a lot of money to barely keep up with my metabolic needs. And yes, they are needs not wants. For every mile I run, I should eat an additional 100 calories. I run about 50 miles a week. You do the math.

More about things other than food, and pictures


14 11 2007

It smells like propane heaters everywhere, which must mean winter (or propane) is in the air. There are snow-capped mountains in my backyard. Having never actually been so close to them real life, I spent a good chunk of my Saturday wandering towards them; only stopping when I was lost.

On to more observations of life: of all the places you could be a visiting team, Japan would most definitely be the worst. Well, except if you were a team of Jews in Iran or something like that. The homogeneity of Japan is even reflected in sports. In the World Volleyball Championship arenas, it’s been ridiculous. The cheering is literally incessant. And it’s not a raucous hullabaloo. It’s organized. Nippon! (clap! clap!) Nippon! (clap! clap!) They’ll never jeer the opponent, but the contrast between the cheering after Japan scores and the absolute silence when the opponent does is jarring. Tonight, it’s Japan vs. America. There will be lots of silence. The end.

Read on, there are pictures!

going home

1 11 2007

This will be long. And that is an actual prediction, not one of my usual tack-on-a-disclaimer-after-I-finish-writing introductions (although with the amount of time this ended up taking me to write and edit, it doesn’t really matter). I suppose it makes sense to be lengthy given the weight of my first trip home, but it still surprises me the extent to which spending only five days in America so radically changed my thoughts on my experiences abroad.

Before I actually write anything substantial, I want to note that I’m sitting at JFK and there’s a woman plucking and shaving her face in the waiting area. I thought it was awkward when my bosses cut their toenails in the office, but this really takes the cake.
1829 more words…