Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Top Image: A Disclaimer

I don't care who you are or what your political stance is, but in the words of my favorite philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy, "I don't care who you are, that's funny right there."

Silver Week in Tokyo : A Pretty Jazzy Time

I had Monday through Wednesday off work for what is known in Japan as Silver Week last week. I chose to go to Tokyo with 4 friends from Niigata for a hodgepodge of good times. There is far too much to write about everything, so I will be giving some bulleted highlights and focusing on one bit of Japanese culture that I have already had some experience with: SUMO! First, the bullets.
• Pendulum and Prodigy Concert Sunday night. Maybe the best concert I have ever seen and certainly the loudest
• Asakusa Shrine and Meiji Shine (where I saw a beautiful Japanese wedding taking place)
• Ueno Zoo, Akihabara Electrical District, Roppongi Hills, Harajuku and Shibuya for shopping, and Ikebukoro’s Sunshine City
• Lots of other randomness including karaoke, dinner with Furman friends, and Denny’s at 4 am
Ok, the sumo. Prior to last week I have never seen live sumo before, but most of my Japanese friends and co-workers had not either. They only hold 6 sumo tournaments a year, but the wrestling goes on for 15 days at a time. The stadium was huge; something along the lines of a D-1 College Basketball Stadium. The ring is itself is not that large, unlike the wrestlers. There are 6 different skill levels in sumo that determines who fights who, but no weight classes. A sumo wrestler wins by forcing his opponent out of the ring or tossing him to the ground. If any part of his body other than his feet touches the ground, it’s over.
Now, everyone is fixed on how big these guys are, and yes there are some big, BIG boys out there, but if you look at them in relation to American football players, they’re about the same for the most part. These guys stare each other down, stomp around, throw salt (to purify the ring), and really know how to wrestle. One guy was facing a much bigger opponent and basically just let him charge right out of the ring. He barely touched him. I had a good laugh there. The grand champions, yokozuna, were really good. They hold these bouts till the end and everyone gets in to it. Ok, enough here. If you want any specific info on Sumo, Tokyo, or anything else that happened on my trip, feel free to email me. I know my blog readers are endlessly entertained by my digital scribblings, but I try not to test your patience.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Call the Fab 5, this place needs a makeover! I was walking upstairs on my way to class at one of my locals schools and found a glass case standing about 4 or so feet high with a light wooden frame sitting in the hallway. The case was by no means placed as to draw copious amounts of attention, but it was not hidden either. What was in the case you ask; a full sized stuffed deer! I have no idea who killed it, when, where, with what (being as it is nearly impossible to get a gun in Japan), or why they put it in the top floor of a school, but it was quite a shock. I began to wonder what other dead animals had been stuffed, mounted, and put on display at civic buildings around Sado. I’m not really an expert on this sort of thing, but I highly doubt that Bambi in glass case fits in with the idea of feng shui.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I knew my kids would be interesting, but I did not expect a blog-worthy article this soon. To begin, I had noticed that during one of my 6th grade classes 1 or 2 of the boys would randomly say “Do you like pants?” I thought nothing of it as we had been working with “I like” phrases and pants is an easy noun. Later, I was invited to play dodgeball with that class. Yeah…great start right? While trying my hardest to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge, I witnessed one of the boys hurl his melon shaped projectile at the closest unsuspecting classmate after violently yelling “DO YOU LIKE PANTS?” As an isolated incident that would be strange enough to warrant a blog entry, but it was not too long before nearly ever rubber ball that was chucked into the air was preceded by a rather violent clothing oriented question.
After carefully examining the event, I can only assume that the students have long pondered how they could express their undying affection for trousers in a foreign language whilst simultaneously taking part in a physical activity based on violence and degradation. Then I come along with a bag full of “I like” phrase and a dodgeball. Thanks to me they no longer have to wonder. Goal # 1 – Change a student’s life - Check!

My First Week!

My first week of school has passed, and I’m still alive. I have visited all of my 6 schools at least once now, so I have a decent picture of what I will be getting in to this year.
I learned that 2 of my elementary schools are being closed in April, when the Japanese school year starts, because they are too small; 18 and 24 kids total. So, as you can imagine I have very small classes. Most of my classes at other schools are about a dozen kids, but one of my small schools handed me a 1st and 2nd grade class of 2 kids and the other school gave me a 3rd and 4th grade class of 3 kids. This makes things interesting. I have to be very energetic and plan lots of activities because they fly through games. However, they are all really sweet. I eat school lunch with one class every time I visit, and they love that. I must say though, eating lunch off a tray, sipping milk from a carton made to look like a bird, and sitting in a desk designed for someone ½ my size does take me down a notch. The meal is generally quite delicious so it balances out. My pride and my stomach are at war daily around 12:15.
My co-workers find me quite entertaining. As is custom in a small town, they naturally ask if I have a wife/girlfriend. This information is hurriedly funneled into the gossip chain so that the local sewing circle can begin plotting which Japanese daughter they can set me up with. I am sure there will be a “Random Blind Date” blog entry in the future. (Insert awkward situation here)
I also got to witness Sado’s International Ironman and Half Ironman triathlon last weekend. I missed the registration by about a month so no tri for me this time. My friend Yuki (2nd picture), an auto-mechanic and Sado native, competes every year and generally does very well. This year he placed about 15th in the half Ironman and 4th place among Sado-ites. His first question after crossing the line was “Phillip, next year, we do?” Yeah, maybe…
Indeed, the most amazing site was the one pictured above; the smoking area just outside the finish line. No comment, EVER!