Monday, October 25, 2004

Quakes and dogs

You may or may not have heard, but there was a series of big earthquakes in
Niigata prefecture on Saturday, which caused a lot of damage, as well as a
handful of deaths. Luckily we didn't really feel anything in Fukui - it was
only when I got home and turned on the news that I found out that it had
happened. A shinkansen train (bullet train) was derailed at 200kph, but
miraculously no one was hurt. The train tracks have seismographs at 20 km
intervals which detect if there is an earthquake and automatically shut off
the electricity, but the train was travelling over the epicentre of the
quake at the time, so the power couldn't be shut off quickly enough. What
most interested me though, was the fact that this is the first time a
shinkansen train has been derailed. Ever. And the trains have been running
since 1964. What the hell would Japanese people think of British trains, or
"cages of death" as they're otherwise known?

Anyway, apart from the earthquake drama, it's been a pretty funky weekend. I
did karaoke on Friday, and treated my fellow JETs to a rendition of "That's
what I go to school for" by Busted, complete with well-timed leaps in the
"rocking out" style. I never realised quite how filthy the lyrics to that
song are. And strangely appropriate considering the levels of behind doors
shagging done by the JET community and Japanese teachers.

I also played on probably my favourite Japanese arcade game so far - I've
attached a picture below. Yes, that's right, you have to walk a dog. Genius.

The idea is that you have to keep your dog happy by walking as fast as you
can on a conveyer belt - the faster you walk, the happier the dog is. As
you're strolling down the street with your virtual dog you have to use the
lead to steer him/her towards potential points of interest, such as bits of
food or flowers. Unfortunately, it didn't simulate your dog trying to shag
the legs of passers-by, or shit in the middle of the high street, but I'm
sure that's something they'll keep in mind for the sequel.

Unfortunately my dog was a little unhappy with me - although I let him chase
after a cat, I got him run over three times. Anyway who says I deliberately
tried to steer him under that truck is lying.

Anyway, I have to go and teach some English grammar, sayoonara!

Me, walking the virtual dog. Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 17, 2004

A regrettable turn of events

There's been an incident. On Sunday, 17th October Mr Samuel Baldwin and I
were engaged in a friendly bout of frisbee throwing on Mikata beach. Then,
disaster. As he was lining up his umpteenth throw of the disc that day, Mr
Samuel Baldwin made a grievous error: in his excitement he mistook me, a
human being, for the Sea of Japan, and proceeded to lob the frisbee into the
arms of old father Neptune. Not being one to give up an expensive piece of
plastic so easily I waded in after it, managing to retrieve the errant disc.
But Neptune had other plans. In a wanton act of revenge he commanded the
waves to rise up and dash upon my brow, leaving me soaked to the skin. With
sand in my pants too.

Unfortunately my mobile phone was in my pocket at the time. And now it's


Mikata Beach - beautiful, but deadly. Posted by Hello

Myself, Lewis, pre-incident. Posted by Hello

Mr Samuel Baldwin points to the spot where he lobbed my innocent frisbee into the cold embrace of the sea. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Movies, games and videos

I took my first trip to the arcade on Saturday.

Most of you are probably thinking "Is this the same
Lewis? Has he really been in Japan for over two months and has yet to visit an arcade?". Well, yes, it took me a while, but I finally got around to sampling the Japanese arcade experience. And it was mental.

For a start it was called Joyland. Secondly, there were no in-bred children wearing Kappa jackets. And thirdly it had some of the most bizarre games I've ever seen. By far the best was Drummania, which is a giant pink cabinet with a set of touch sensitive drums - to get an impression of how popular it is, I should tell you that the one I played was the ELEVENTH version. The idea is that you can choose from a list of rather brilliant bubbly J-pop tunes and drum along to the on-screen instructions. It's brilliant fun, and the bonus is that you feel slightly less stupid than when playing those dancing games. I've attached a photo of a Japanese guy playing on it who was amazingly good. He was playing the game on extreme level, and he's obviously memorised every track. He even brought his own drum sticks. I wasn't sure whether to be impressed or to feel slightly embarrassed for him...

By far the strangest thing there was the eight player football game though. I couldn't quite work out how you were supposed to play it - as far as I could tell it was based on stat battles between cards that the players brought along themselves and put into the machine. A bit like a cross between Top Trumps and Match of the Day.

The best bit of the arcade was the Sega "Relax Mission", which was, quite simply, a massage chair. Just in case you need to unwind after a heavy bout of drumming.

And now, the weather... Is it me or has the world weather been going a bit mental lately? Japan has had NINE typhoons this year. That's the most typhoons to hit the country in one year since records began. The last one arrived this weekend, and was the strongest one since 1951, but luckily it veered east at the last minute and hit Tokyo. Well, lucky for me anyway, not particularly lucky for the people in Tokyo.

A rather random result of this is that Fukui has had the highest number of bear attacks ever. The numerous typhoons have knocked all the fruit and nuts off the trees, so the bears are coming down from the hills to look for food in towns. It's got to the point where the local government is issuing primary school children with bells for their walk to and from school, in order to scare away bears. They even cancelled the Katsuyama sports festival this weekend due to the risk of bear attacks. It all seems a little absurd to me - the black bears here only grow to about a metre long at most. Having said that, I wouldn't want to wake up in the night to find one rooting through my refrigerator.

And finally, I watched Love Actually with a load of Americans on Sunday, which was interesting. I had great fun trying to explain to them what Basildon was...

Beatmania - This guy was playing it on the extreme setting. He was playing so fast that I honestly believe that he can see into the future. Posted by Hello

The eight player football game. I have absolutely no idea how you play this. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sports are not my friend

I played in a football tournament at the weekend. Yes, you read that correctly, I played in a football tournament. It was the eastern leg of the Assistant Language Teachers Japan tournament - so there were teams from around 24 prefectures. And what's more, the Fukui team came fifth, thanks in part to some sterling right back defending from yours truly. We made it through to the knockout stages, but we were eventually beaten by the champions, who looked like professionals. Well, when I say they looked like professionals I mean they'd bothered to get some T-shirts with their names on printed up.

Then on Wednesday I took part in the school marathon. It wasn't quite a marathon (thank God), but it was still 10kilometres, and it nearly killed me. Now I have blisters the size of golf balls and a comedy limp. I'm meant to be taking part in an Ultimate demonstration as part of "Health and Recreation Day" on Monday, but now its likely to be more of a falling over demonstration. I'm loving these brilliant national holidays by the way - it seems like the Japanese will make up any excuse for a day off - a few weeks ago it was "Respect for the Aged Day" and before that we had a day off for the "Autumnal Equinox". Apparently that last one has some sort of religious significance, but when I called up my supervisor to ask what it was she didn't have a clue.

Anyway, I have to go and teach kids about poetry, so
I'll see you later, Lew.

The non-stop football and drinking was too much for some... Posted by Hello