Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Girl Beautiful Yes Wow!

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She's mine, so go get your own. Haha. Anyway, I can't imagine how I got so lucky?

She's such a dream to me!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


UltraMan has arrived!!!

In America we have Superman, and about a billion other superheroes. In Japan, they have one with the fame and pop-culture savy as his American counterpart. One is all they need. It's Ultraman! A superhero from another world who defends Earth from all kinds of evil space aliens and monsters.

This poster is for the new museum display in Hiroshima city that is showcasing the past 20 years of Ultraman's television series. The display includes the real props and statues of all the incarnations of Ultraman. Hiroshima always gets interesting things like this, as it is Japans new 'art' hub. Coupled with the push for multiculral events, Hiroshima attracts many tourists every year. Recently the World Basketball Championships were held in Hiroshima City. Spain won, for those who aren't keeping their eye on the ball. But who cares about sports when you've got Ultraman!?

Ultraman has three forms, a super strong, a super fast, and a half-and-half mode. There are also more encarnations of the character throughout the years. This is Ultraman-Nexus. There is something like 100 variations of the character.


Midori Sensei

Many of the Japanese teachers in this valley are part-time. Especially the "English" teachers. It seems that people who actually can speak 'English' with any fluency are in high demand, since most the homeroom English teachers have a minimum or basic English comprehension. That's where my job becomes important.

However, for the schools that don't have me every day they hire subsidiary, or part time help. Midori, the woman above, is one of these part time helpers. However, she doesn't make enough money teaching part time English in the government school system, so four days out of the week she holds and "English Conversation" class at a small language school. So far I've met five Japanese women who are fluent in English and need to do this type of work on the side just to make normal wages. Midori is an interesting woman, and I enjoy meeting the new people.

Tuesday night English!

My other job. Other than teaching at eleven schools, and doing saturday language conversation classes as a way to meet new people, I also teach a tuesday night language class. As you can see, it is dominated by ladies in their late forties and fifties. They are all kindly housewives, most of them with children near my age. They keep themselves busy, and a few of them have become like serogate mothers too me, even going as far to make house calls when I'm sick.

Some high school girls who get in 'extra' English study after regular school.

The man on the far left (in the blue shirt) is 73 years old. He loves to study English! And he is the most energetic and genki person I've ever met.

Sporty Evening

Sporty Evening

We had a nice sunset which lit up the sky as we played our evening sports. I joined my Middle schools track team as sort of an assistant coach. It's tiring, but I get to practice and get back into shape. Plus the kids think it's neat that I am doing things with them away from the classroom.

Some afterschool basketball practice

Some volley ball, or "bally" as the Japanese say.

Kumulous spread

Some soccer (football for those who know better).

A little ball.

A little track.

Ooh, purdy.

Random Japan Pics, and Mothra?

In with the new, out with the old.

It was high time I bought myself a new camera. Actually, it's the first and only camera I've ever bought. All my old camera's were outdated hand-me-downs. They all worked fine, but there's a real sense of ownership and pride when you work hard and then treat yourself to something fun. I am the anti-Buddha apparently, but heck, there's things we ought to do, and there's things we can do for others, and last but not least there's things we can do for ourselves. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Because I like blogging so much, I thought you would all enjoy a little higher resolution and much better quality photo spread, and so, I bought a new digital camera. It's a Canon IXY 1000. The 1000 stands for 10.0 megapixels, and it has the most high definition brilliant LCD screen I've ever seen. You know when you can make a Japanese person gasp over a new technology then your ahead of the curve. And I've had fun taking many pictures to share with you all. I hope you all continue to join my Japan adventure as I continue to play with my new toy and share with you Japan in high resolution!

It's ALIVE!!!

I thought it was a bird, or a plane, but no! It was a giant yellow moth. It's Mothra! I had better be on the lookout for Godzilla. Anyway, I thought this was one of the most interesting moths I have ever seen. Its wings are folded up, but when it flies it litterally looks the size of a bird. This thing would be my brothers worst nightmare, as he has a slight phobia of moths.

Need a break? Have a Crunky bar!

Speaking of the odd and bizarre... check out the name of this delicious candy bar. It's called "Crunky." I laugh everytime, because it just sounds funny. Basically it's the same as a Mr. Goodbar or Nestle Crunch back in the states.

A nice old town called Joge. The tea shop I tried was over 300 years old!!!

Joge is really an old and traditional looking Japanese town. I would have had more pictures but it turned dark so fast and I wasn't prepared for how interesting of a town it was going to be. Joge is about 30 minutes by car from where I live. I'll return shortly and take some high quality pics, so stay tuned!

Next to a Shinto temple I found Lord Vishnu? Wait a second, what? Hinduism is also in Japan? Interesting.

As I was hiking through the forest of my favorite Shinto shrine, I stumbled across a statue of the Hindu God Vishnu. Which was interesting to say the least. It would be the equivilant to a Muslim mosk having a ten foot tall statue of the Holy Mother Mary from Christianity. It doesn't make much sense, but nobody seems to care much either way. I love Hinduism for the stories. Of all the worlds religions they have many very fantastic and original stories. I giggled after I met Vishnu in the forest. Something about how peaceful everything is here in Japan added with the harmony and respect for other cultures and beliefs. The rest of the world could take a lesson of etiquette in social grace and cultural tollerance from the Japanese.

Yet at the same time, I'm perfectly happy respecting Japan's cultures and customs too, after all it is there country. And as such, when in Rome...

If I have a strong bias against a particular event or custom, then I typically will avoid those situations, such as the affinity for social drinking. Since I don't drink, I will normally and politely back out. Yet if its a mandatory drinking party, for business functions and such, then I just eat some food and drink cola or orange juice. I know it sounds like I'm a little anti-social, but that's hardly the case. Social gatherings and drinking parties are in abundance over here. There's one every weekend, so skipping three or four at a time is perfectly socialbe, since you still will experience many other events.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why there are no Janitors in Japan, and how do the schools stay so clean?

More pics of my students. If you notice this girl inf front... she's a special kind of kid. I don't like playing favorites, but if I had to choose... "Smiley" is what I call her. She laughs histerically at everything, and nothing, for no reason. She also has a habbit of appearing out of knowhere just in time to get in on the 'picture taking' action. In class she likes to make funny faces at me to try and distract my teaching. Sometimes I stop just to make a face back at her, and her reactions are priceless. She literally falls out of her desk laughing so hard. I've never seen such a happy girl before... thus the nickname.

Hey! It's picture time! Can you sense the excitement?!

Clean the school time! Ever wonder why Japanese schools don't have janitors? This is why.

Cleaning can be fun, especially when that crazy guy runs around with his camera taking pictures of mundane everyday stuff.

Smile! The girls really get embarassed when you take a picture of them holding garbage. It ruins their 'cute image'. Hahaha, click!

Teachers clean too!

Team work! It's the Japanese way, everyday.

We even have one of those floor bubble making machines. A floor polisher waxer bubble thingy-majig... or something. Slip and slide time! Wooo-hoo!

Say 'Cheese'!

Koji pops in to say 'Yo'.

Cleaning is fun! Now lets study English! I'll be the really happy looking white guy. Why? Because learning English is that fun! Really.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My Students and Invasion of the Sweet Potato!

Big Potato!

Heck, the Japanese do smile!

One of my biggest culture adjustments was the serious 'appearance' of the Japanese people. Unlike America I didn't get the nonchallant nods or the smiles in Japan that I am accustomed to. HOWEVER, that was just a perception I had from living in the city. Out here in the INAKA 田舎 (which means country-side)people seem much more friendly and easy going. In fact the country folk are so friendly they bring me vegetables, offer to take me on family trips, and stop me in the store to talk about everything they can think of.

Sweet Potato Pie!

I think you'll notice that Japanese people do smile! Especially in these pictures where all my GENKI 元気 (happy/energetic) students are having fun picking sweet potatoes out of the ground. It was a fun school outing after a week of stressful tests. My 1st and 2nd graders had fun, got dirty, and now we have to figure out what to do with two wheelbarrows full of sweet potatoes!

Is it a flute?

Me being my goofball self. I call it my Sweet Potato Charisma! What? It works like a charm!

Strike a pose!

After the potato hunting we came back to school and met with the rest of the classes for a choir practices. Here are some of my third grade students being too cool for school.

Junior High school is fun!

Just hanging out with some of the men.

Some of my students

Japanese love to pose for pictures. They will automatically flash a "peace" sign up for you if they see you coming with a camera. The girls are funny, because half the time they run up to you wanting to pose for a picture and the other half run away in shy retreat. The guys always want to pose with me, but typically ignore the camera otherwise. Anyway, hope you enjoy the pics of my kids. Now that I have bought a new digital camera you will be getting many more high resolution pics! Enjoy!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Shout out to my Peeps!

Your new nickname will be: Peepee Le Fritz!

Temple information center with lion gaurdian statue.

I've just been informed that my humble little Blog detailing my Japan adventures has just been picked up by North Toole County High School in Montana as an "Applied English" project to track international and literary events. So I'd like to say a quick 'hello' to you Montana folks and thanks for visiting!

I'd also like to shout out to my Middle East viewers, who happen to be regulars here. Yes, they are Muslim, but unlike how the TV propaganda makes them sound -they are NOT all terrorists. Most of them are kind, intelligent, and carrying people and are all very dear to me. It's the uneducated ones which make the whole bunch look bad. Anyway, to my Muslim pen-pals, thanks for your continued support and regular postings.

How, why, what's this Blog?

My riverside apartment and the Japanese mountain scape.

This could be considered my proverbial mission statement, however, I've outlined the details in past Blogs, so there's a lot to catch up on if you feel the excessive compulsive desire to do so.

This Blog started as an assignment in on of my University English classes. Because of the nature of the professors grading, the Blog actually determined whether you passed the class or not... so disciplined updates were mandatory. The goal was to open a class wide discourse so that we could all share homework assignments, work on class projects, organize school events, and create a dialogue with others about the 'big' topics we were studying in class.

After a year of Blogging for school I started increasing my Blog time to read other potentially high quality Blogs. Needless to say Blogging started eating up my time because I have way too many interests. If I wasn't reading a new Blog I was posting on mine. After I graduated with a degree in English Literature and another in Japanese Cultural Studies I decided to shift my focus of this particular Blog to a more refined topical matter. I chose my adventures in Japan as the main focus. Although, from time to time you may see something else of interest slip in here.

Old Kozan

The name of the Blog comes from the Muffin Man children's fable, but the idea was given to me during my first Japan experience in 2003. As it happened the night security guard at the international dormitory in Kumamoto, Japan suddenly stopped my friend and I from going out for the evening. At first we thought we might be in trouble or that one of our perpetually drunken roommates may have gotten deported (do to prior drunken behavior). Of course nobody ever got deported but there was that one incident. To make a long story short; my alcohol addicted roommates got in a tiff with the Yakuza, for those that don’t know the Yakuza are the Japanese Mafia, and he managed to smart off to the wrong dude and ended up passed out in a different city five hours away. Stripped of everything he had except his life and boxer briefs. Needless to say, he was lucky. Probably traded the rest of his already lacking pride & dignity for what little luck fate would barter, because that’s one small step to getting a lot of pain you don’t want. And all because he let a simple beverage dictate his life? It’s a freakin’ beverage! A drink. I mean seriously, some people have to get it under control.

Just a note to all you out there, drinking to drunkenness is the dumbest thing you can do in a foreign country. Not only do you make a fool of yourself, a mockery of your country, and embarrassment to all those who are trying to take the spotlight off their 'minority' status and fit in with a new culture... but you risk facing the strict laws of any such country. In Japan's case misbehaving and facing criminal charges as a foreign alien means just one thing, exportation. Yes, they are strict. While drinking is a big part of the 'social' element of the Japanese culture, being a foreigner means 'all eyes' are on you. You tend to be watched more strictly and heck, it is their Island after all, so if they don't like you they just get rid of you. (For the record I don’t drink alcohol. The way I see it is alcohol is a drug and drinking is for people with no hobbies who can’t find something better to do with their lives. As for the “It’s a ‘social’ thing” excuse, well, I’m more sociable than ninety percent of the people I know and I’ve never had a problem making friends. Being liked for the wrong reasons won’t help you personally, and a beverage isn’t going to fix the worlds problems. Alcohol may dim that social anxiety, but the truth is it doesn’t cure it. That takes pure will power and learning to deal with life in a mature and responsible way, even the hard parts. It’s just sad how many people have to use that crutch, because they’re wasting valuable time, and it’s just pathetic and sad. Hey, we don’t live forever. In the entirety of the universe our lives flash by like within a millisecond. Which is why I’m also anti-abortion (pro-life), anti-smoking, and heck anti-suicide in general.)

So there I was, standing along with my roommate, petrified that we were going to get some kind of bad news when... instead of bad news we got a most curious inquiry. The night guard, a peppy little sixty year old, asked us, "Do you know the muffin man?"

Needless to say my roommate and I shared a few awkward glances and once the revelation hit us so did the levity. We couldn't stop laughing for at least a week. It was such a profound question, and one that stuck with me ever since, hence the name of this Blog.

Topics of Interest

Rice, up close and personal.

Of course I maintain two other Blogs, three Blogs total. As I started to shift my focus and finally hone in on what I wanted to write about I found my writing became more dedicated. Which is to say that I kept that focus and often times found myself scratching my head with the things I wanted to say but couldn't because it would ruin the tone or style of the writing and what my Blog was about. In the past I found my random interests actually threw people and it was hard to build a steady readership, mainly I had something for everyone but everyone didn't like every flavor I was throwing at them. Basically I was losing interest because of my many interests. The easiest solution was tightening the focus and picking something specific to write about. Swirly Muffins Blog :Do You Know the Muffin Man? is the final verdict of what is most important to me in my life right now.

Yet for those times when I need to get something off of my chest, such as political or religious things, or personal things, I keep two other Blogs open for sharing my thoughts and discussion. However, that said, time is limited. So it's a wonder that those Blogs even exist. They tend to get updated rarely, maybe once every three months, whereas my main Blog here will get updated almost every other week.

I hope you all continue to stick around and experience the Japan experience through the window of the World Wide Web. If you ever decide to journey to Japan I can give you some pointers. Also, don't feel bashful, posting comments is okay but please follow Netiquette. My biggest rules are no flaming, no cussing, no inappropriate comments, and since it is my Blog I am the final judge and jury on what flies and what doesn't. If you feel like leaving a positive criticism or a motivational compliment, those are always welcome. And person grievances can be sent to me direct via email, which you will find a link to on my profile page.

Thanks, and please continue to enjoy the wonderful world of Japan through my eyes! And for Toole County High School, have a great school year!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fashion in Japan and the Wisdom of my T-shirt!

"You cannot be creative without first imitating." How wise indeed. Don't you just love the inside the colar writing? Useless, but looks cool on display.

It's the anime chick, and you know me and anime chicks... I can't resist a good shirt with a cartoon babe on it. The shirt I wanted didn't come in my size. There is a whole series with this girl on them drawn in various sexy and alluring poses, however most the time the shirts aren't in my size, but this was also a nice shirt so I picked it up.

So weird gothic/static/punck rock angel wings which roughly form a heart shape. Interestingly aesthetic, and so I picked it up too. Of the bunch this is my favorite article of clothing I got. Goes great under a stylish jacket.

Sayaka like the flowery pattern shirts, and I always try to find a LL (2XL) because the regular Large cut doesn't even fit my broad shoulders. Last time I tried on a LARGE in Japan I almost busted every seem. Needless to say I'm a big American with a big frame. Which means I'm not a scrawny as wire frame doll like most Japanese guys.

I constantly feel like the Incredible Hulk. Every shirt I try on which says it is my size, and normally the sleeve length and colar are correct, but they didn't account for muscle mass and my chest sticks out just far enough that I can't get the buttons to button up. But then I guess that's the price I pay for being so darn sexy.

I love shirts too much and always neglect to buy pants, so I made it a new rule that for every 3 shirts I buy I have to get pants regardless of if I need them or not. At least I'll never go pantless again!

So after buying seven shirts, three pants, a jogging suit, a neck tie, a new belt, and 4 pairs of under shirts I felt like a satisfied shopper, expecially since I was shopping at Shimamura, which is equivilant to a ROSS wholesale store in America. Brand name stuff for cheap because of minor flaws or sizes nobody can wear... except for big American's like me... and I'm small for an American, just big in Japan I guess.

All this and more for under a $120 dollars? You bet! And I'll do it again too. Quality affordable style is rare to come by, and I'm glad my small town actually has a place that sells my size.