Let There Be Light!

by Sep 5, 20010 comments

Congratulations, you’ve found the web page devoted to my life in Japan. I’m sure some of you are wondering what gave me the hubristic idea that anyone would be even remotely interested the daily happenings of my life.

Well, it’s like this; you guys made me do it.

Prior to my trip over the Land o’ Ninjas (you thought I was going to say Land o’ th’ Rising Sun, didn’t you?) friends, family and co-workers were all asking me tons of questions about my future in Japan. The one I heard most was, “Why do you want to go to Japan???” I don’t think I ever gave the answer that I really wanted to. The reason being that it’s not really something I can explain; it’s not any one or two or even twenty things that prompted me to uproot my life and move it to such a remote and foreign environment. It’s the thousands of fascinating and puzzling minutiae that make up each day which is the real reason I’m over here. It’s the ATMs that close shortly after 7pm, it’s the beer vending machines on every other corner(yes Dad, you read that right), it’s the fact that all Japanese people are blown away by the fact I can use chopsticks, and yes, it’s even the Hair Flaps.

I couldn’t even begin to convey all the random stuff that comprises even a single day in my life over here, but I’m going to try anyway. For this reason, I’m starting this web page. To have something that I can update on a regular basis to bring you the latest breaking, up-to-the-minute random epiphanies I’m having about Japan, the world and life, as they come to me.

All of this is in, what is sure to be, a vain attempt in answering the question, “Why do you want to go to Japan?”

As far as format of the site and whatnot, I’m still playing with things, so if anyone ever gets a good idea for a direction I could take things in, has any constructive or destructive criticism to offer, or if you need some advice on what kind of sandwich to fix tonight, feel free to drop me a line. That goes for content as well; if you have a question about Japan, or if there’s something you just HAVE to know about, by all means, tell me and I’ll do my best to feature something here. (No promises though. Remember, this place puzzles me as much as anyone, so I’m not guaranteeing satisfaction).

One last thing. I’m planning on including pictures with as many entries as I possibly can. At this point, I’m still gathering images using my friend’s camera (since I don’t have my own yet), so it’s slow going at the moment. I promise that by next entry, I’ll have some beautiful snaps for you to feast yer eyes on.

And with that said, this baby is ready to rock and roll. Let’s get it on!!


So yesterday was my first day at a Japanese Junior High School. I must have missed the point at which I was plucked up and dropped into the middle of an anime show, but I’m convinced that it must have happened. I swear I’m living in an episode of Ranma 1/2. The hallways, classrooms, sneaker boxes, teacher’s room,everything is exactly as promised in any given anime I’ve ever seen. There was even some weird Kendo-guy slicing trees in half with his wooden sword. Weird. (I really hope Rich and JC are reading this.)

I didn’t do a whole lot on the first day, except get pulled into class, not once, but twice to do the Self Introduction presentation that I had just told the teachers 10 minutes before, wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow. So I cut it short to my name and where I was from and told the class there would be more tomorrow. I’m starting to see trends in Japanese thinking already.

Lesson 1: “Yes I understand.” = “I neither understand nor care. See you in class, gaijin-san.”

To be fair, the students were all so hyped to see me (or hyped to see a new foreigner, I should say) that I can understand why the teachers wanted me to drop by. Seriously, I walk through the halls and I feel like all of N Sync rolled into one – girls just scream as I pass by (Yes, they actually scream. I’m not making this up.) and guys trip over themselves just to shake my hand and say, “Harro.” I actually get paid for this.

So later on, I’m sitting in the teacher’s office and the bell for class rings. Before I know it students are scrambling everywhere, pulling brooms and window cleaner out of God knows where and all begin cleaning the school. I step out of the teacher’s room to see what’s going on and almost get plowed down by three students running down the hall, pushing wet rags across the ground the floor.

This is called Souji (‘cleaning’) and it’s a daily occurrence in both Jr. High and High Schools over here, which when you think about it, is a great way to keep a school clean. Who’s going to muck the place up when they know that they’re going to be the ones to clean it up later. Brilliant. The only unsettling part about the whole thing is that while all this cleaning is going on, a muzak rendition of ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ was playing over the school loudspeakers. Creepy stuff.

That was only the beginning of my musical day in Fukuma. Later on in the office a cel-phone went off, but the teacher it belonged to was in class. Of course the phone had a musical ringtone and whoever it was who was calling was content to let the thing ring for eternity, so those of us in the office got treated to a rousing rendition ofWaltz of the Flowers from a lonely cel-phone. That was also a little creepy.

A little while after that, I started to hear singing coming from one of the classrooms. It was hard to tell at first what it was, since it was pretty much an eerie echo from where I was, so I stepped into the hall for a moment and what do I hear but a group of students singing, “Harro, Goodbye” by the Beatles. Creepy and blasphemous.

As if that weren’t enough, I went to the local book store after school to pick up some glue for my Self Intro presentation. You know, a book store. Lots of books, some school supplies and overall, fairly quiet, right? Not in Japan. In Japan you get blind sided by the autopiano suddenly blasting the theme to Mickey Mouse Club in your unsuspecting ear. So very wrong.

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