Sunday, July 28, 2013

Backlog Poast 2013

So young readers, I have finally entered my summer vacation.  And so comes the pressure to catch up on my blog from the curious few.  I see my last post was as far back as May.  With good reason though – unfortunately not a whole lot has happened since then; or so it would seem…

Before I begin though, I’d like to express how happy I am with how much cooler this summer has been (knock on wood) than last year’s.  Enjoy this photo out the back of my apartment:


Anyways, later in May, a minor incident occurred.  Some friends and I went to a restaurant which subsequently caught fire in a small way.  We had to wait around a long time for the police to take a report from us and another young guy who’d been about to interview for a part-time job there.  I talk to him a bit in the parking lot as we watched way too many firefighters pretend to look busy.


Later again in May I made it to the Spring Design Festa in Tokyo, but I’ll include those photos in a separate post.  Ah, ok, have a teaser:


After that I was pretty busy with school and hadn’t many chances to take exciting photos for a while.  A few interesting things did happen though.  The school’s Nature Classroom week allowed me to have a bit more fun at work spending time with the kids building things and doing stuff instead of teaching.  Just like last year, the 7th grader girls and I built the biggest and most useful stuff for the school (some huge shelves for their classrooms).  However, I’m not the kinda guy to be whipping out a camera/phone all the time to take photos, so all I have of that is a picture of my nice quiet lunch break in the park one day:


Another minor event was the old folks’ club cookout.  I prodded the other ALTs into coming, and so they came.  Of course, as usual, it seems that everyone but me is terrible with directions even with the aid of satnav/GPS… but eventually they made it.


Anyways of course, this time of year brings with it student teachers to the school.  This year not one, but three lovely young ladies had returned to their hometown junior high to get some practical teaching experience.  I don’t know why they liked me so much…




Anyways, uh, June and July were then pretty busy but fortunately not too hot.  I had a lot of work to do translating speeches and things for the bigwigs involved in the exchange program with the middle school in California.  And of course lots of work when they actually came too.

There’s one thing I don’t know if I’ve blogged about much before but it’s the forced unpaid overtime here.  Teachers especially are incredibly expected to do it all the time.  Working in this country is all about seeing who can suffer the most, but you probably already know that.


(people involved in the educational system suffering)IMG_2135

(they haven’t slept for 3 days in order to practice this piece)  (also the stage is a cargo truck)

Haha, they probably actually got enough sleep, but seriously these people.  I always try and make sure I get time to enjoy the flowers at least:


I’ll continue later on, but really, nothing incredibly exciting is going on in my personal life on the grand scale of things.  Maybe if I get into more of a daily blog groove you’ll get a better picture of things around here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Oh Yeah Stone

So there is a type of stone around here called Oya Ishi.  You can see it everywhere – in garden/yard walls, barn/warehouse buildings on most farms, even railroad stations and as a component of modern buildings.  It is especially found in my favorite building by my favorite architect – Frank Lloyd Wright’s old Imperial Hotel.  Which, by the way, has just been released as part of the Lego Architecture series (DO WANT).


Anyways, the stone has a lovely warm kind of quality to it that you just can’t find in normal masonry or concrete.  Some typical buildings made of it here:


So I finally got round to going to see where the stone came from…



The interior of the old mine was hugely vast, and creepy:


Yes, I take photos of other folks’ children on my trips:


This old electric double chainsaw was used to cut blocks of Oh Yeah Stone:


And outside:


In the small museum shop, there’s a relief rescued from part of the old Imperial Hotel.  Some woman with an extemely well-dressed little boy was admiring it.


Oh and to get to the Oh Yeah Stone place and back, it was about a 70km round trip from Moka – not bad at all, and mostly perfect weather (bit-o-wind, but mostly my fault for not getting started earlier in the morning).

Anyways the big news in Moka is the new Q-Roku-Kan, or nine-six building.  It houses an old steam locomotive that had previously been rotting in Igashira Park.  They cleaned it up a bit and put an air compressor in the tender.  It compresses enough air to push through the pistons and roll the engine out of the building, then back inside.  It’s kinda goofy, like groundhog day, or whack-a-mole, but I can think of sillier tourist attractions.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Ok, so, some of this stuff is about a month old.  It wasn’t a super eventful month aside from the end of the school year and the beginning of the school year; both including – of course- boring formal ceremonies (but also some enjoyable semi-formal staff parties).

First, here’s some pieces of cake some kids made in groups in their home ec class.  One of them had a weird texture to it that nobody could guess what it was.  Eventually we found out they used cream cheese in their cake batter.  It was good though.


One weekend I took a long-ish ride of around 70 or 80km round trip on my road bike to see a spot on the big Naka River where a certain film had been filmed.  On the way there I found a small mysterious park:


It had these mysterious little islands in the forest connected with the occasional bridge and ornamented with the occasional tiny shrine.  I think it would be a great place to tell spooky stories in the summertime.

Anyways I continued onward through some lovely countryside and made it to the river.  First I rode out across a very tall bridge, then back and up Kamakura Mountain – a pretty steep hill-climb, but…


…the view was worth it.  Here’s the view from the bridge and some other shots:


It was pretty cool to go to the places from the movie The Taste of Tea.  It’s definitely one of my favorite Japanese films, and I only recently found out that it’d been filmed so close to where I am.


I took a different route on the way back, and it had a lot more automobile and truck traffic and wasn’t nearly as pleasant as the first half but oh well. 


Later I took the she-beast to see the views (by car).  I think it pleased her.


Now for a few random photos from my local area with minimal explanation.



Above: a typical building in my neighborhood.

Below: some scenes from a historic pottery-making compound in nearby Mashiko.


A couple scenes from Utsunomiya, where, for the first time in a loooong time, I actually won some little plushy animal characters from a UFO crane game.  I was pretty excited about that, and I rarely get excited.


And lastly – Amuricuh!!  This is a massive hamburger from a tiny but very American restaurant in nearby Kugeta (technically part of Moka).  It was called Cow-Town and it had an old license plate from Ohio and Texas on the wall (amidst plenty of other Amurican paraphernalia.