The Memories of a Denver JET

Latest

Realization

You know, I sometimes feel like I’ve never grown out of my toddler years. Those were the years where the world obviously centered around me because there could be nothing out there better or more important than I was. Of course, I’m a bit more humbled now – I do realize there are billions of people on this planet, with far more billions of planets out there in that dark space called the universe. Regardless, when it comes to ideas, actions, and opinions, I can concentrate on my own because to me, I know they’re true. I can’t be held accountable for another person’s opinion, nor can I even remotely guess what he or she is thinking about any particular subject. So, unfortunately, this puts me in a position where I start believing my opinion (note definition: a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty; a personal view, attitude, or appraisal) to hold true for everyone. I mean this in the best way possible: just because I sincerely dislike someone, I know that does not necessarily mean others feel the same. I just automatically think that others also have noticed whatever bad peculiarities that one person may possess, e.g., talks too much, doesn’t work hard enough, is inconsistent with work, and whatever other nonsense. Then again, this holds true for self-observed good qualities as well.

So, on Wednesday, I went to a coworker’s place for some socializing and eating. Much eating of delicious food was done. Yes, very exciting. Alongside of the eating, we got onto the topic of various coworkers or bosses who we held some kind of opinion about. Being that I am never at any one school for very long, save the high school, I can’t see the “true” face of the coworkers I work alongside unless I get to know them outside of work as well. Being told that some of your favorite teachers are viewed in varying bad lights to others came as somewhat of a shock to me. For example, I don’t really have any teachers I genuinely dislike – their peculiarities annoy me, but that’s about it. Being told that they’re dislike by their students or that the staff doesn’t particularly like them as a whole kind of popped whatever bubble I’d been floating in. I don’t see this as a bad thing, but I feel like I get so wrapped up in whatever containment field I wrap around myself that I can’t see the obvious ugly or beautiful parts of different people. It’s nothing short of obvious, but I suppose if I never really socialized with the people around me, I’d never know jack about any of my coworkers.

This also makes me wonder about the socializing process in Japanese versus in English. The people I’ve met here in Japan and become friendly with, I wonder if I would have ever considered becoming friends with them if they spoke my native language back in the States. Would I have shoved them in a theoretical box and thus declared them to be a certain kind of person without actually getting to know them? When I have a conversation with people in the States in English, I know that if they don’t speak well, or if their words aren’t clear enough, or they show little to no respect whatsoever towards me with their speech, I’ll put them in the category of: “I never want to deal/become friends with this person.” When I speak the language well, I don’t focus so much on appearance but how they act/react when speaking or interacting with me. Background and lifestyle don’t matter as much initially – that comes after I’ve put them in the “I like this person” category.

In Japanese though, I feel like since I don’t know the language all that well, I have to judge based on appearance, actions, and the words I understand. However, I can’t hear a person speak and automatically register that, “Ah, this person wasn’t raised all that well,” or, “this person doesn’t have much of an education” or whatnot. I can’t automatically objectify them and say they fit into whatever category. Judging off of whatever I observe from my conversations or time with them, I can they kind of say, “Hey, this person’s nice. I like them.” or, “Hey, this person’s a dick. I don’t like them.” In a way, I’d like to say this is probably a better way to consider a person because this first impression takes days, months, or years to really fully form. I can’t snap my fingers with my two-second first impression and know precisely what I think of someone.

I love living overseas, but more than that, I love rediscovering how to be a [good] human being. I can’t rely on the skills I’ve developed in my own country to position people categorically – I have to go back to my roots of when I was a child and no one was inherently good or bad. They’re just who they are, no better, no worse.

Life and Children

Maybe I’m trying to be too serious lately. Whenever I think to write a blog post, I always want to make deep, insightful, and thoughtful. I take extra time to consider what I’m going to write, and then I just forget my train of thought, and don’t bother with making the post at all. So, let me switch tracks here.

Had someone asked me back in my high school years, or even in my uni days, if I would consider becoming a teacher and working with kids, I would’ve laughed in their face(s). What a ridiculous notion. I like kids, sure, but I most certainly don’t have the patience to be around them for several hours of a day. When I accepted the job for teaching English here in Japan, my goal was to simply have a job. Any full-time job would do. Even better that the full-time job I accepted would be in Japan – I’d be able to make contacts and use the job as a stepping stone for an actual profession of my choice. Of course, I’m still of the opinion that I need to concentrate my efforts on what I would prefer to do, like translating and interpretation, and working with people to accomplish a goal. Honestly though, I do somewhat enjoy my job. The kids are as they will be, as kids are all around the world: curious, sometimes insightful, interesting, horrendously dumb and retarded, but overall astounding and amazing people.

As of recently, as in for the past few months, I’ve been thinking I need to do something to make some friends outside of school and keep myself busy. I joined Taiko here, and I love the people I’ve met. However, once a week is a little lacking for me, so I wanted to put forth some effort into another sport or activity. After spending some time with two students I’m closest to, I decided to join their tennis “club”. I use quotes as there are only two people in the club now, excluding me. When I first joined, I realized just how badly I sucked. I sucked so badly. I don’t know how many balls I hit over the fence…utterly ridiculous.

My pride was kinda shot, so I joined a tennis school last week. I WILL IMPROVE, DAMN IT.

So, I went to that school once, and upon realizing that you don’t actually use your wrist to hit a solid ball, I was able to hit a ball straight. Over the net. Into the court area. It was a freaking miracle. My students frequently comment on my success, and then are soon to comment on what I suck at. Thanks kids.

One of these two students is full of confidence. She’s an incredibly smart kid who has a better English ability than most other kids in the school, but sometimes I wonder how she’s as…uh…flighty, as she is. She’s smart, but dumb? She has common sense, but isn’t quite there? Anyway, good kid. She’s fun to talk to, has a great personality, so much confidence that she’s full of herself, a boyfriend, and a decent future ahead of her.

The other student is lacking in confidence, but is amazing with people. She doesn’t smile as much as the former, but she’s a sweetheart, and excellent to discuss things with. She carefully considers her words before she says them, so as to not cause harm to the other party with whom she’s speaking. This girl isn’t as great at English, but she gets along just fine – a sports-y girl. Great personality, a boyfriend, a future, and a great smile (when she actually does so).

Thanks to these two kids, I’m pushing myself to get better at a sport I’ve never played up until now. I’m still not certain if it was a good idea to become a teacher, but I am grateful I am in Japan and am experiencing something so wonderful. Who cares whether I’m mature or not? I’ll just enjoy my life to the fullest possible.

Growing Up

Don’t let me be the first to tell you this is a difficult task to accomplish for perhaps anyone and everyone. With the influx of new JETs coming into the country and all their shiny faces over what adventures await them next, it makes me really think of what I’ve dealt with and overcome since I was a shiny, new, first-year JET. Exploring-wise, absolutely nothing, really. I’m not an adventurer – I have video games for that. Let’s see though…I’d like to think I’m starting to get to know the people around me a bit more. I want to make friends, so I’m branching out and joining different sports groups. I’ll focus on trying to get tennis down. Hah. I want to develop better relationships with my students as well, since I hardly ever see them. I want to lose weight so I can buy some better clothes here. I want to get better at Japanese to broaden my choices once JET is over. I want to do everything I can. I know I won’t be able to, but I’d definitely like to do what all is possible.

I was admonished by one of my JTEs because she believed the way I reprimanded a child was inappropriate. Instead of calling him out in front of the class, I should have spoke to him outside of class. Which of the Japanese boys is he so that I can do that? I can’t differentiate this kid from the other boys I don’t yet know. This is yet another reason I’d like to get to know my students better outside of class. Honestly, though, I disagree greatly with what my JTE said. She views these students as kids, whose hearts are fragile, whose moods can plummet or rise without warning, and whose pride is quite strong. The problem I got angry with the kid over is the fact that he addressed me by my first name, instead of by my last as I’ve requested. Honestly, I don’t even know why he knows my first name, or why he felt it appropriate to call me by. The JTE tells me I should treat him like a child and just gently admonish him. This is a high school student, who in three years time, will be off working or heading to university. In no way, in my opinion, is he a child. It’s also been three months since I’ve met this kid. There is no excuse for him not knowing my name by now, especially if all the elementary and junior high school students do. I will not treat him like a child, and I will not change my way of reprimand if he decides to be coy again. If Japanese schools are meant for learning and growing both, then I will force this kid to grow up and learn my name. I don’t care if he sees me once a week. Some elementary kids only see me for a couple of hours of the day, and they know what to call me. I’m sorry, JTE. I will not yield should this happen again. I also do not appreciate you believing I’m in need of counseling, simply because I’m emotional. I don’t know about Japan, but as an American, you’ve insulted me. As long as I can accomplish what I need to do, when I need to, as much as I need to, you’ve no right to call me childish or speak of my way of living. My life is private, and I will grow on my own without your butting in.

I finally got my car last week, and since insuring it, have driven to Hakodate and back a couple of times now. Got to see two movies (After Earth and 風立ちぬ (The Wind Rises)). Surprisingly, both movies were about growing up and while understanding your circumstances and environment, pushing forward and living anyway. Meets today’s theme perfectly.

Tomorrow, I have my first tennis practice at a school in Hakodate. I’m rather excited to see how that goes. I have also reached my second year as of today. More growing up to do, I suppose.

Life

Hey there, been a while.

It’s been nearly a year since I came to this small town in the boonies that reminds me so much of the small town in the boonies in Kansas that I used to live in with my grandparents every summer. I ride my bike down roads here and there, looking at farming fields and whatnot, and feel like I’m back in the United States, reliving my childhood. My town has three convenience stores, and a small, little, corner grocery market where I can buy some necessities. We have two gas stations, one major road, and three schools in the town proper – two are out on the edge of the main town, in bordering towns that still fall under Shiriuchi jurisdiction. The nearest major grocery store is in the next town 15 minutes away via car or bus, 30-40 mins away by bicycle, and something over an hour away by foot. The nearest major city is about 40 mins away by car, 1.5 hours away by bus alone, and an hour or so away by train (with the 15 min bus ride to the station). It’s not all that convenient to live where I am, providing that I don’t have a working car. However, it’s not so inconvenient considering those options are still available for a day trip, and that I don’t have to spend the night to get in some decent shopping.

There’s a bell that chimes at 0700, 1200, and 1800 hours that helps people keep track of time. I sit in the staff room with the other teachers, listening to the shouts of the elementary school kids playing across the street as a gentle breeze flows in. I should be studying but I’m too lazy and don’t want to consider anything serious. Honestly, I don’t feel any different here than I feel like I would back in the States.

My point is, my life hasn’t really changed, and I feel like I’m right at home.

Oh sure, I walk down the street and see Japanese everywhere, but this is no different from walking around Dallas and seeing Korean signs all over the place. I hear Japanese on a daily basis, and at the time, it’s very difficult to dissect and understand, but when I recall the situation in my memory, it’s all in English. In other words, it feels like the languages are merging together, where with everyday conversations, I don’t feel like one language is any different than the other. I am merely having an interesting conversation with a coworker about something mundane, interesting, boring, exciting, or whatever other adjectives can describe it.

A home away from home experience. They’re building a new Tsuruha next to the Lawson in town. I ride my bike by it every day and think of how much more convenient life will be when I can choose from 10 different toilet paper brands instead of three. Sounds extremely exciting, yes. I remember when I was at home in Texas and found that they were building a second or third Wal-Mart in the area. Oh goody, think of how much easier life will be when I can simply drive two minutes to Wal-Mart instead of the 5-10 minutes to get to the one across town. Oh look, in 2015-6, we’ll have a Shinkansen to ride straight to Honshu and wherever, and it will only take an hour to get to Sapporo instead of the current 4. Miraculous. That’s kind of like when they finally build an additional highway so you don’t circle the entire metroplex but go straight through. My life is Japan is just a matter of how conveniently I can live, and how well I can do for myself with what little I may have. The only difference may be that I’m more proactive in Japan as it’s a different language, but that’s the only true difference.

When I go to work, I don’t feel like I’m actually doing a work. I go to class, I teach the kids, have meetings with the teachers, do everything I need to…and then I go home, cook dinner (maybe), play on my laptop, play some games, and then go to sleep after a shower. This doesn’t feel like work, and I can’t get into the mentality that it’s work and that I’ve responsibilities to take care of. I go to work, have fun, go home, have fun, and then go to sleep. I feel like I had more pressure in university when I was obviously poor (I’m still poor, but steady paychecks help), and taking tests all the time. Maybe being a JET doesn’t necessarily indicate that I’m an adult and living in the real world, but it feels as if it should. It doesn’t. I suppose I’m just going through the motions of life, without necessarily living, or maybe I’m always living, but because it’s normal, it doesn’t feel like anything particularly enriching or amazing. I’m not sure.

Sometimes, I wonder how life would be if I’d gotten a job at a Japanese company, and whether I’d be regretting my then current lifestyle or whether I’d once again simply be going through the motions. I don’t know. C’est la vie.

Past Five Months

Wow, has it really been that long since I last updated? Can scarcely believe it.

So, lots of things have happened since October.

  • November:
    • My high school here had their 50th anniversary, so got to go to that little party…thing.
  • December:
    • The Hokkaido JETs had their dumb, little mid-year conference all JETs were required to attend in Sapporo. Just to be clear, Hokkaido is rather large (far larger than it looks on a map) and it takes forever to get anywhere. Train routes are also not available throughout its entirety, and so some people in the east, and those over 6 hours driving distance usually must take a flight over to New Chitose Airport. For example, it takes me approximately five hours to get to Sapporo via train…and that’s on the fast ones. It’s also quite costly to travel anywhere on the northernmost island. It costs me around $120-160 at least for a round trip via train to Sapporo. Due to the unbelievable expense and the time it takes to get there, I’m not keen on ever traveling to Sapporo…especially for something that was hardly my choice. Oh well.
    • I spent my birthday with a couple of coworkers and a fellow ALT from Matsumae. It was a good day, short and sweet.
  • January:
    • For the last few days of December and the first six of January, I stayed in Osaka with my old host family. While it was fun to see everyone again, I immediately remember why I can’t live with anyone other than my mother, who knows my every quirk.
  • February:
    • The third-years had their final exams and no longer needed to come to school in order to prepare for university or whatever else without stress.
  • March:
    • The third-years at the high school had their graduation ceremony on 3/1/2013. Yearbooks were signed, and good-byes were said. I still seem them occasionally pop up at school though, just to see old teachers (it’s only been a couple of weeks!). The junior high school third-years had their graduation ceremony on 3/15/2013. There was a LOT of crying going on at that school…I felt rather awkward. The elementary schools are all due to have their graduation ceremonies on 3/18/2013. I definitely foresee a lot of crying at this upcoming event as well…

So, I’ll try to keep up with this blog again. I felt bad for not working on it, but I guess I got lazy. No big, right?

Any questions about my life here in Japan? Shoot me some questions in the comments area below!

 

Rides? Treats? Party? HECK YES.

Today, was awesome. I’m actually fairly surprised everything turned out as it did, considering how irritated I was feeling last night.

So, yeah, hm. The day started off normal enough – I awoke at around 6:30, like every weekday morning, finally got up at around 6:50 or so (it is cold outside my bed. Cold.) and got dressed enough that I wouldn’t freeze as I ate my daily intake of bread for breakfast. Got ready the rest of the way, brushing my teeth and hair, washing my face, putting on my suit and whatnot and was out the door by around 7:40. I thought it a better idea to walk my butt to school instead of relying on my friend to drive me with her, but as I’m walking down the street listening to my mp3 player, here comes along a different coworker, offering me a ride. Who was I to refuse? Of course my lazy butt jumped in. I’ll find a way to lose weight elsewhere.

I was really excited about today because the 12th grade reading class was supposed to bake some treats in accordance with recipes in their textbooks. One group was supposed to make Toll House cookies, another was assigned Red Velvet cupcakes, another for Ultimate Choco Chip cookies, and the last for butter cookies. I had nothing to do for the first period, and while my JTE and I were going to get stuff ready during second period, there really wasn’t anything to do, so we nixed that. Third period was testing the cute first years on giving directions – that was fun. They were so nervous but they tried incredibly hard. I tried not to be too strict with them, and enjoyed working with them.

Then so arrived fourth period, the lovely period where the delicious, yummy treats would arrive. All the kids worked really hard on making the scrumptious food, though it did take the better part of an hour for them to figure out the English recipe and mix everything accordingly. I took pictures of all the students as they worked together and it was fun just seeing how into it they were. When the bell rang signaling that class was over, everyone worked to clean the dishes and as much as they could before eating their lunches for the lunch period.

During fifth period, my JTE used the remaining resources to make a chocolate cake (tasted effing awesome, I will say) and awesome cookies (I loved these). So today, I got to eat COOKIES, CUPCAKES, CAKE, and more COOKIES. EXCELLENT.

Even better, today was the day all the 11th graders came back from their school trip in Okinawa, Nara, and Kyoto. So, naturally, all the accompanying teachers brought back souvenir treats for the remaining teachers to eat. I GOT MORE SWEET STUFF. ZOMG. I also got a free banana from the coworker who took me to work this morning. BANANAS.

Sixth period was the other testing period for the second class of 10th graders. It was most amusing. One kid (I call him Kana-chan) could barely remember any of the English words for switching trains and getting a stranger to their destination properly, but he motioned wildly, did interesting stunts, and made a ton of hilarious shouts (This is ______! *gestures* It’s, yeah. Okay, it’s…OH YEEEEEAH!). So amusing. Most of the class turned around to watch and laugh at his antics, and there was no way I could keep a straight face. He was trying so hard…in such a hilarious manner. Absolutely wonderful.

After school was over, I got to reunite with Y, who came back from the school trip, and was so happy to see her that I hugged her. She laughed at me.

Z ended up telling me that I could indeed go with her to Hakodate, and I was most pleased (by pleased, I mean grinning crazily at her to indicate my happiness. She promptly ignored me and jokingly said she would leave without me.)

And nooooow, I am home, cleaning my house for the takoyaki party I’m having with some coworkers. I am stoked…except, I lost the ingredients list. Uh, oops.

Hm…

The title pretty much indicates how I feel about today.

Was woken up a number of times because of massive thunder cracks and rain through the night, but slept amazingly thanks to my new LED screen heater. :D I’m not quite sure what the LED screen is supposed to do, but…yep, slept great due to it. Was absolutely wonderful.

When I woke up, though, I was excited because it was still raining and raining = free ride to school via my friend. She’s a sweetheart, so I”m sure she’d take me no matter what the weather, but this makes me feel better about bumming a ride. Got to the junior  high A-OK, but realized I’d forgotten my indoor shoes and couldn’t play sports in the guest slippers the school provides. That was annoying – last week, I’d gotten to school about 5 minutes after classes began, so I was happy to get to school well in advance this time… I decided to walk over to the high school and get my shoes from there (much closer than my house), and so I left with my gaijin card and phone and trotted off to the high school. Of course, you know, it decided to start raining with me having forgotten my umbrella at the junior high. Hah, whatever. I took off my coat and covered my head with it and kept trotting along until my JTE pulls up next to the sidewalk with her vehicle, peering at me through the window. That was an lol moment, honestly. She was kind enough to drive me the rest of the way to the high school for me to pick up my shoes, and then drove me back to the junior high in time for the morning meeting. Considering how she had to venture back to the high school herself, I was really grateful she took the time to help me.

I had my classes with all the grade levels (7, 8, 9) and had a great time overall. I tried asking a simple (trick) question to the kids:

“If I have one pound of marshmallows and one pound of bricks, which one weighs the most?”

Of course, most said the bricks weighed more, some said the marshmallows… I got crazy answers of “ONE POUND!!!” and “…I don’t know, this is hard!”

I wrote 1kg = 1kg on the board even, and they were still saying the bricks weighed more. I just could not believe what I was hearing, and neither could the head teacher, apparently. I think our mouths were agape with most of the answers. Hilarious kids, hilarious.

I mean, the day was so great…the teacher even asked me to steal some kids’ pens and stuff to practice a “Whose ____ is this?” thing. She ASKED me to steal their stuff. I was totally overjoyed. Awesome day.

However, one thing I will never tolerate is outright, hurtful bullying. I hate that crap. Makes me sick to my stomach. I unfortunately witnessed that today, as one kid held onto another kid’s legs and constantly smashed his foot into the other kid’s genitals. The other kid may have said he was fine, but the expression on his face didn’t look like someone who was fine – it seemed more like someone who was used to the pain and pushed it to the back of his mind.

Seeing that happen irritated me so much, I was completely wound up for my later classes and couldn’t fully concentrate. I did make a point to tell the teacher after all was said and done, but…you know, I never thought I’d ever experience that kind of situation. I’ve read about it, but to actually see it is something else entirely. The teacher had no idea it was occurring at all, and the two kids were immediately confronted about it after school…however, ugh. No. Never again.

On the flip side, one student did come up to me, saying she wished I could be at the junior high every day. That was nice of her to say. I also ate my school lunch with the students for the first time ever at that school, which was also somewhat rewarding. I had a bunch of kids lining up to talk to me in the hallways, and I was just happy to be where I was. The kids are doing their best to learn what English they can, and nothing makes me happier than seeing their faces when they’ve realized they’ve done something right and have actually learned. I love that. I want to see more of that.

I was also called “stubborn” by a friend who is just as stubborn as I am, but has the gall to say she’s not stubborn in the least. The nerve.

Welp, that was my day.

Junior High School Festival

So, the junior high had their school festival today. I ended up arriving a couple hours after it began since I decided to do some chores beforehand.

I arrived initially to an empty looking school, and I actually stared at the sign outside for a long time, wondering if I’d somehow gotten the date/time wrong. Nah, everyone was just in the gym watching the class presentations. I got there as the third years were doing their random dances and magic tricks. I wish I could post up some pictures, but to protect my students identities, that is not an option.

Over the day, there were several performances – singing, dancing…awards were given, and fun was had. It was interesting to see all the students participate together like that. In a way, after seeing all the fun they had together, I can see why graduation ceremonies are complete with crying and sadness everywhere. The memories they make at these events, events that they’ve spent countless days practicing with each other, are memories will last for years to come. I think that had I participated in such a thing in my youth, having only my specific class members to depend on instead of being so independent within several different classes, I would have greatly cherished memories conceived back then.

Growing up, it had been mostly about the grades, and making myself stand out enough where I would have a decent future. I wonder…had school been more stressed on getting along with my classmates as opposed to simply learning to understand myself and how I fit into the world around me, would I have wanted to stay in contact with those I grew up with? In any case, I very much enjoyed seeing all my students smile and laugh so much. Tradition is a good thing to adhere to every now and then – gives foundation for the upcoming future.

In other news, I have several students who shy away from me just because they’re generally shy. I guess it’s mean to always say, “You don’t like me, huh?” or, “Why do you dislike me?” to them, but you know what? In their vehement desire to make their position clear that they do, in fact, like me, they stand firm and tell me their exact feelings. They stop running away or back away from me after that, too. Mean though it may seem, they definitely seemed to learn from it and now tend to usually greet me with a smile. I think I just enjoy teasing them a ton though. Makes my day so much better. Heh.

However, there is a point where teasing can be destructive, I suppose. One girl I’ve teased like that for the past few weeks (I only see these kids one day a week) seemed to take my words to heart. I felt bad and eventually admitted, “Nah. I really do like you. You’re a good kid,” and her face completely lit up. I’m not kidding. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone’s face just light up like that before. Her eyes were glittery and shiny…made me think of those girls that appear on anime (Japanese cartoons). Craziness, that. She just looked so happy, and even admitted to that a couple of times. She’s still a little upset that I only call her by her last name though. lol… Yeah, well, kid, your last name is the only part I ever remember…sorry.

I’ll try not to tease these kids too, too much. Have to admit though, it’s waaaaaay fun, honestly.

Oh, made a new friend my age, too. I love this town. :D

Lateness

Everything today had a somewhat late start and end to it.

I woke up at 6:45 to eat breakfast, and be ready for the 8:00 or so bus I was to take with my friend, an ALT in Matsumae. By 7:20 or so, I was ready to start my day fully, having dressed, eaten, and gotten my backpack packed and everything. A few minutes later, I received a message from him saying he’d barely missed the 7:23 bus and would try to make the next one bound for Kikonai as soon as he could. Of course, the next one didn’t leave for another hour and a half, which left me with absolutely nothing to do but buzz around my house for another couple of hours until his bus reached my stop at around ten or so. I decided playing some more Heavy Rain on my PS3 was in order.

Two hours later, I’m rushing out the door,  20 minutes before the bus was due to arrive. I don’t know why I was in such a hurry – I leave a minute away from the station by bike. A solid minute. I’m not kidding.

I made it there in plenty of time, of course, so I parked my bike and stood around like some weirdo. I didn’t want to look like a complete idiot, so I popped around here and there and took some pictures of the area around me. With that, twenty minutes passed quickly and before I knew it, the bus was coming around the corner, and I hopped on as soon as it pulled around.

A view from near the bus station

The street leading away from the bus station

The site with the bus station and its depot.

The road leading down towards my house.

On the bus,  I met up with my friend M and we rode it all the way over to Kikonai. We missed one train, and had to settle for another one coming approximately half an hour after. We bought our tickets (they didn’t have the regular train running, so we had to take a high-speed one that cost us 1,310 yen each. We also didn’t notice the time was completely different on the board as opposed to the one we’d bought tickets for) and then walked out of the waiting room and talked about our maybe future in our towns. I personally want to stay all five years in Shiriuchi – definitely long enough to see the Shinkansen built and connected to Hokkaido in 2015. It would be wonderful to be able to just jump on that thing and make traveling even easier.

The train lines at Kikonai Station

The buses from the second floor of Kikonai Station

A large area the staircase leads up to

The hallway from the staircase leading to the ticket machines and counters

After talking for a while, it was finally time to head to our train, so we went downstairs and waited for another five minutes before getting on the train. M and I had unreserved seats, but got on at the wrong car and had to file through trying to find the right one. We found empty seats, sat down, and got ready for our hour-long ride. Upon finally reaching Hakodate, our first matter of business was finding something to snack on. We walked down the street looking for something and came up on a KFC. Neither of us had eaten at a Japanese KFC before. Did it taste better, worse, or the same as the ones in our own countries? I think it tasted way better, personally.

I got a chicken filet set. Came with a medium drink (I chose oolong tea) and a small fry.

After eating, we bumbled around for a bit before finding a shopping center to get M a shirt. It was simple enough – he was slow to choose exactly what he wanted, but I think the presence of myself and the shopkeeper kind of pressured him into picking something. Only took him 15 minutes for one thing.

We left the building after he bought his shirt and concentrated on our main focus of the day: Round 1. For those unaware of this amazing place, it’s basically a building filled to the brim with amusing things to do: karaoke, bowling, a sports center, video games, UFO catchers, medallion games… However, we were in downtown Hakodate, and it was at the border of the stupid city. We walked all the way back to the bus terminal station, got directions, then walked back allllllll the way past KFC to a road we’d gotten lost at long before and right on past. The bus came approximately 5 minutes after we finally got there and we got on, ready to hit our happy destination. It was a ten minute bus ride there, and we still had to walk a bit of a distance to reach the actual building itself.

Once inside, we both went straight up to the 5th floor and lined up for the sports area. This floor is filled with different activities, all done indoors. We played table tennis, soccer, basketball, and some video games. After 90 minutes of fun, we headed up towards the cursed bull – the thing that manages to toss us off onto the foam pads surrounding it every time. M took his turn first, and was thrown within a minute. I didn’t last much longer afterward. We glared at our accursed enemy and left the sports center, paying for time there. Afterwards, we played one round each of UFO catching, and then switched over to the medallion games. I’m not sure why both he and I enjoy playing the latter so much – nothing good comes out of it except the lightening of our wallets. Well, it was a fun experience overall.

We were then intending to go to an electronics store to get a PSP for M, but the closest station was approximately fifteen minutes away at Nanaehama Station. Unfortunately for us, after roaming around to find it, we found that not only were there not that many trains going through the station that we were at, but we also only had an hour to do anything with before we needed to head back to Kikonai in order to catch the last bus to our towns. We sat down tiredly, wondering what to do for the entire hour. I suggested getting some food, which then made us wonder what kind to eat. Another suggestion sent us searching our GPSs in our phones, which led us to the conclusion that there was not much around in the area for us to eat quickly enough and get back in time. Determined though, we left the station and sped down the road to find a ramen shop. The first one we found was closed and the second was much, much further down the street. We went anyway, got a seat and had ordered within 10 minutes. With approximately 45 minutes left, we had plenty of time to sit around, eat, and then make it back in time for the last train. Or, so we thought.

The ramen took them 25 minutes to cook. Ordinarily, this would be fine, but considering how pressed for time we both were, both of us were fidgeting a bit. We paid for our meals in advance and slurped down our noodles within 10 minutes. As soon as we were ready to go though, a downpour of rain erupted. It was completely sudden, considering how the skies were sunny and mostly clear 20 minutes before. We stared out at the rain and then at our watches, concluding one thing: we had to make a run for it.

Our run started off well enough through the onslaught of pouring ran until my wallet and glasses fell out of my bag and landed on the wet sidewalk. Wow, that sucked. I was then done with running and just decided to walk instead. In the rain. Getting soaked.

And wouldn’t you know it? As soon as we were 2 minutes away from the station, the rain stopped. Completely stopped. We were soaked and feeling rushed, yet the rain decided to stop. It could’ve, you know, never started in the first place. That would’ve been awesome. Thanks, Mother Nature.

When we finally got onto the train, we had an hour’s journey ahead of us, though it was mostly filled with the both of us looking out the window at the random rain pourings. Oh, and we talked about our childhood and how we lived on the old anime like Tenchi Muyo!, DBZ, Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop and etc on the Toonami block. Hah, good times.

We arrived at Kikonai with no problems and quickly jumped onto the awaiting last bus to start our jaunt home. Just when we’d gotten settled, one of my high school students pops up on the bus. That was a pleasant surprise. She, M, and I spoke for a bit in random English-Japanese gibberish before I got off first at my stop.

I’d say that was the glorious end to a fulfilling day, except I decided to be responsible, plan ahead, and buy my breakfast at night instead of rushing to hit the convenience store in the morning on my way to work. I put my backpack in the house, and set off on my bike to the convenience store. I was concerned because the wind was blowing mysteriously as if it were getting ready to rain in Shiriuchi. I pushed down on the peddle hard, sped down the road getting ready to take the hill near my house…when I ran into this stupid, crappy spiderweb. It felt like wires rubbing against me, and broke apart as I dashed through, leaving me with that crap all over me. Disgusting.

Best thing here: made it back from the store just before the rain hit. Good day. Except for the spiderweb. What the heck was wrong with that spider? Building a web across the entire freaking road…Geez.

Nature…Oh, You!

So, when I first got to Shiriuchi, I was informed that there were a number of bears in the area, though most stayed to the mountains. However, some have a tendency to, you know, go crawling around amidst civilization…like the one today.

Day was going great. Went to the junior high, and even had a good time there. Walked over to the high school in the rain…that was fun too. Spent a majority of my time there before it was time to go home around 19:30 or so. A little bit earlier, though, we heard an announcement of a bear sighting at around 18:00-30 or so. Oh, great, a bear. Where was it located? Oh, at the river. You know, maybe half a block away from the high school. Oh, awesome.

So, getting ready to go home, and my coworker says she’ll go pull up the car and that I wait at the entrance. All right, I could do that. Once I finished changing my shoes though and got out of the building, there she was, standing there with a shaky grin.

“It’s kind of scary, so how about we walk to the car together?”

I thought she was just afraid of the dark or something, so I laughed, but then she said she heard the bear roar. Suddenly, it wasn’t so funny.

We walked next to one another up to the car and got in. She flashed her brights through the forest area adjacent to the parking lot and we noticed there were no bears in sight. Yay. It was otherwise calm ride home, but…that’s worth remembering.