Hokkaido Inaka

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Racism in Japan


Interesting photo gallery of racist signs posted around Japan from a group bringing a law suit against the national government. From personal experience, these guys are spot on with this law suit; the blatant racism in this country is ridiculous. Fortunately for me, I'm not Russian and I speak decent Japanese, but even still I've been the recipient of more than a few racially(or at least that is how it seemed) motivated comments/rejections. I should point out, however, that like everything in Japan, the flip side is that Japan can be one of the most welcoming places I've ever been. Frustrating...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


These videos of Reggie Bush as a High School star are jaw-dropping. http://video.on.nytimes.com/ifr_main.jsp;jsessionid=atxHUKvPD1Q4?nsid=a3b9e5939:107def46e23:-14df&st=1133321980532&mp=FLV&cpf=false&fr=112905_103949_3b9e5939x107def46e23xw14de&rdm=215447.16237832195

Im not sure why, but on my mac at home I cant link internally, sorry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Oh Dan McTeague, you dissapoint me. With such a wonderful name, I expect more from you.

Angler Fish

So the 9th grade teachers and I are going out tomorrow night for a special meal of 鮟鱇鍋(pronounced ankou nabe, or in English, boiled angler fish). Apparently its a delicacy in Japan and Slovenia and with the price at about a hundred dollars a head I should hope so. I'm having a hard time believing I will be nibbiling on the fish with the luminescent fishing rod coming out of its forehead; the fish I used to stare at in my 9th grade bio textbook. To celebrate I think I will start a list of all the weird foods Ive consumed in Japan. Off the top of my head:

Raw Horse
Fish reproductive organs(really creamy)
Raw Hamburger
Raw Chicken
Fermented Soy Beans
Boild Cow Brain(in Cambodia)
Chicken Tail(the actual tail)
Pig snout
Sea urchin
Squid killed at the table
and now Angler Fish

Im sure I missed a bunch, but you get the idea.

In other news, the place in town that sold smoked beef rectum closed down recently before I had the chance to try some. Too bad...

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21, 2005

ipods for all

After an epic battle with sony and other media moguls in Japan, itunes Japan finally opened this fall, and with its opening Apple has begun selling ipods at 7/11. Now, that may seem strange but convienience stores are totally different and infinitely better than their depressing counterparts in the US--in fact 7/11 Japan recently tried to take over 7/11 America, a brilliant business move i thought, your loss. So now, along with paying all my bills, picking up a tasty rice ball, a fresh pair of socks, and a few CD/Rs I can grab a nano. You have no idea how dangerous this is. Considering the amount of times I have retured from the local watering holes only stop at 7/11 and make a bunch of unecessary purchases, I should have a new ipod video by next month.

Ipods(and for that matter all Apple products) are perfect for the Japanese consumer economy--they have an amazing rep AND they can be described as both cool and cute, the ultimate combo--and if the amount of ohhhs and ahhhs I get from my students when they look at my humble ipod are any indication, these things are going to sell like hot cakes. Watch out Sony. Buy Apple stock now.

Gold fronts in Higashi?

First dentist office/orthodontist opened in my town recently. These offices have been springing up all over hokkaido in the two years I've been living here, and it was only a matter of time until we got one in my humble town. Recently, the Japanese have caught the American obsession with having straight, white teeth and all these orthodontists have filled a growing demand for dental work. Perhaps we take it too far in the US(as some of my British friends say) but with the state of Japanese oral hygiene being what it is(esp in rural Hokkaido) I welcome this oral pioneer to Higashikagura and I hope he can help out some of my many snaggle-toothed students.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

change of plans

kurodake(black mountain) opens tomorrow. They just got a meter of snow in the last week. Saturday...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Not to make anyone jealous but...

the resorts have started opening

This little back country gem opens up in less than 2 weeks

The worst part is that its a whole 35 minutes from my apartment, and it can be so cold in the morning

So excited...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

English Competition

The other day I had the honor of judging the all Kamikawa Junior High English competition. A few gems:

"What? You are not a baseball robot; you are a home helper robot. You dont like baseball"
--Said by a scientist to his robot.

"Hi everyone. The ten million seller book is going to be screened by Spielberg. The movie we are introducing today is "U.F.O.- Unlucky Foolish Object." It's starring Mari Monroe. In the Year X the alien came to the earth. They got the wrong information and they took octopus for the human being. The alien fought with the octopus. At last both were cought by a human child whose father was a scientist!! What about the future? The movie will be showing from November 8th. We are looking forward to watching it. Now back to the studio"
--Entertainment report during a fake news show.

"To be the best greeter, it is important to experience a lot of impressions and be moved. The impressions will flood from you mouth naturally. The words will be able to move another one again.
--From a speech entitled "The importance of Greeting".

The final two are from an "alternative ending Snow White" in which Snow White, instead of being put to sleep by the witches spell and then woken by the handsome prince, is turned into a "horse-face girl", joins forces with the mirror, rejects the prince, beats the queen with a stick and marries a doctor...

Dwarf 1: Snow White, get up!

Dwarf 2: We need help

Dwarf 3: I'll run fast!

Dwarf 1: Your legs are too short.

Dwarf 3: Your legs are the same.

Dwarf 1: Ah yes, but my legs are sexier!!


Snow White: Ouch, my head hurts. Did I drink too much sake again?


Snow White: (to doctor) You are my hero. Will you marry me?

Prince: But he is old and ugly!!!

Doctor: What?....sorry I'm deaf.


D: Yes!!!! It is my lucky day!!!

(Queen arrives)

Queen: (to prince) How about me?

P: Oh no!!

Q: Who is the most beautiful lady in the land?

Everyone: Snow White

Q: No, I am!!! Kiss me!!

P: NoOOOOOOOOOOooooooOOOOO!!!!(sic)

Narrator: The End

I also enjoyed spirited renditions of "Sk8ter Boy", "Hello, Goodbye", "Sugar Baby Love", and "Yesterday Once More" by The Carpenters. For all this I was given 50 dollars for my "troubles"; is it any wonder why Ive stayed for three years.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Here are some pictures to help explain what I was talking about in my previous post. I promise some lighter material in my next update.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Killing Fields

I visited the Killing Fields shortly after arriving in Phnom Penh on Christmas day last December. Due to some foolish behavior in Vietnam, our trip had been delayed and thus we found ourselves trying to fit everything we wanted to do in the capital into 24 hours. We rushed to the Killing Fields with our "trusty" cab driver/guide/hotel finder/money exchanger/master of outdated British humor Sunny late in the afternoon, hoping to get there before it closed. I had gotten it into my head that the Killing Fields would be a place where one could at least attempt to understand the tragedy of the Khmer Rouge and learn about the many thousands of people who died there. Instead I was met with an empty lot, adjacent to rice paddies, with deep depressions in the ground where they had excavated some of the mass graves. Next the depressions a wooden sign would simply tell you, in Cambodian, English and Japanese who was buried there. For example, 55 women 25 children Beheaded. I should also mention that because it was so late in the afternoon the Killing Fields were, according to the guide book anyway, closed and we were the only ones walking around(I guess with the exception of the people who were working on a giant traditional and very colorful Cambodian boat for some festival, and of course the begging group of children who finally left when we each gave them a few dollars--they have a powerful angle, you couldn't imagine the awkward feeling of standing next to giant mass grave of children and having these kids, no more than 10 years old, constantly hassling you for money, laughing and teasing each other, promising to go away and leave you to whatever your doing there if you fork over the doe).

So the three of us, alone on Christmas, walked around this historic site that felt like someone's back yard in stunned silence. Afterward we all were at a loss for words, but also in a little bit of disbelief over what we just saw and how normal the place seemed. With the exception of the depressions left by the excavated graves and the occasional bit of clothing or human bone sticking out of the ground--yes, the excavation didn't remove every body and new remains appear as the earth erodes and the paths are worn down by tourist--the place offered very little evidence and nearly no context of what happened. I left the Killing Fields knowing no more about the genocide than I did before I arrived.

So then, I felt very ambivalent a upon reading about the purchase of the site by a Japanese company(since for some reason I cant link within the text, so here is the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/international/asia/06cambodia.html?hp). On one level I was disappointed by my visit to the Killing Fields, and its strange to admit, but I think my disappointment stemmed from how unmoved I was by the place. If this company does what I would expect it to do and cleans up the area of trash, keeps out the begging children and gives more information to the visitors I wonder if it will be offering a more "valuable" experience? I guess if the purpose of making places like the Killing Fields and Auschwitz into memorials is to teach and remind people of the tragedy in order to prevent future tragedies, then it would seem that more effort and money would go along way at the site. That said, the lack of more "traditional" context that I think people expect from a place as infamous as the Killing Fields offers an equally valuable lesson: its a mistake to look at genocide and crimes against humanity as something other, outside our experience. Before they were used to bury thousands of slaughtered Cambodians(among more than a few foreign journalists) the Killing Fields were just that, fields. This fact was hauntingly clear in the Killing Fields I visited and made me and my two friends very uncomfortable, as it should have. I wonder if, with the addition of more context and money, that immediate experience of familiarity will be lost.