Jason Porath

has a website, i guess

Month: October 2006


This post is going to be a little sensitive, so in a few days, I’ll probably put it behind a password lock. I’m probably going to set the password to my middle name, spelled in reverse. If you don’t know it, email me and I’ll send it to you. Also, as a precaution, I’m translating every name in the blog. If they’re in Japanese, they become their english equivalent (Hiroshima –> Wide Island), and if they’re English, they get Japanized (Jason -> Jeison). Alright, with that said, on to the meat of the post.

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The indescribable awesomeness of my kids

So I gave my 3rd-grade elective class an in-class assignment to write a paragraph or two about a fictional trip that they took, using the textbook as an example. I gave them each different places, some of them normal (Osaka, London, Sydney), and some of them weird (Howl`s Moving Castle, Neverland, the moon). Three kids came out swinging with some incredibly weird paragraphs.

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Masters of Fashion

So, I’ve mentioned Eimi in the blog before. Eimi is the trauma survivor JET who’s out looking for new and spectacular ways to get herself killed every weekend, preferably ones that will take as many of us out at one time as possible. Basically, her job is to get us into trouble; suffice it to say, she’s quite the model worker.

In fact, it is due to Eimi’s diligent craziness that we’re now friends with Yuusuke, our friendly neighborhood yakuza. This is the story of how we all met.
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It’s been a whirlwind weekend, and at this point I can barely talk. Three consecutive karaoke-filled days — especially considering the way I sing (“scream” is probably a better verb) — will do that to you. So let’s cover it from the top.

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I Heart Ibaraki

Whew, another busy weekend come and gone. So, first order of business: I updated my flickr feed with more pictures. I updated to a paid account, so I am making sets of photos, for easier perusal. There’s plenty of pics that don’t fit in the sets, though, so check it out.

So I mentioned last time that we were having some weather problems. I believe my phrasing was something along the lines of “I f-ing hate typhoons.” Well, the weather really put the screws to the festival I’d been working on for the past three weeks, cancelling it entirely on Saturday, and pushing everything to Sunday. It was lots of fun (look at the photos!), but more on that in a bit. First, Saturday.

Given a magical extra day of freedom, I decided to go into Tokyo to get a haircut, do a bit of shopping, get a halloween costume, and whatnot. Well, this all went well at first — I decided to splurge and go to a real hair stylist, as the other Ryugasaki JETs were doing. While the price (6000 yen) was a bit steep, it did include a very relaxing scalp massage, with the added bonus of being able to talk to the stylist in English. He really liked my hair, saying it was very soft and that I could be a hair model (to which my friend Ananda, currently working as a hair model in Tokyo, chortled, “I told you so!”).

However, for all the pros, there was one major con: I walked out of there with a haircut that was half “Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber”, and half “Plastic He-Man Action Figure.” It was pretty terrible. I have one picture, which I grudgingly will put online, that you all may have a good laugh. I got the gel out of my hair and it looks normal now, but I spent a good 8 hours with bangs. Shudder.

After that, I spent some time hanging with Ananda, wandering about Shibuya. We went to a store called Condomania, which was pretty much what we expected. We also managed to find a 5-story tall Sega arcade, which had not a single DDR machine.
We were supposed to meet up with either of two groups of friends, both of whom proved to be insanely difficult to get in touch with (one girl apparently drunkenly dropped her phone in a toilet). In the end, I barely made it back on the last train to Ryugasaki, because trains were getting cancelled left and right due to the gale-force winds. All in all, kind of a crap day.

Next day was sunny, so we headed up to the the Daisuki Ibaraki (“I Love Ibaraki”) festival. The JETs descended there in force, manning around half the international booths. I was running the America booth, which was 3 times larger than any of the other booths. Tragically, our consulate seemed to have about 1/3rd the stuff to send to us as the other countries, so our booth looked a touch anemic. Lots of flags. We looked very patriotic, although none of us really are. Being the American with the best Japanese skills, I ended up fielding a lot of the visitors, all of whom ended up talking about travel across Asia. In the end, it was a great time, I saw lots of awesome street performers, had some delicious food, and I got to square dance in front of a lot of confused Japanese people.

Monday was a Japanese holiday commemorating sports. In honor of this, we decided to climb a mountain and hang glide off the top of it. We planned it out, got rides arranged, made reservations, and promptly scrapped the entire idea upon stepping outside into post-typhoon winds. I planned stuff for my classes instead, and drew some Halloween monsters to teach my kids, playing to the Hallmark conception of the holiday. I think they came out pretty well:

I wanted to try and teach a bit about the origins of Halloween, but considering how difficult it was to explain the concept of Paganism to the co-teacher who’d been studying English for 16 years, I decided to skip explaining it to first-graders.

More later.

Typhoons suck.

So we’ve been having some out-of-season weather. Specifically, two typhoons hit simultaneously last night, causing a shit-ton of rain to hit nearly all of Japan. They ended up stopping the trains in several places, and I had to play operator for several of my non-Japanese-speaking friends, who were stranded at terminals. They kept giving me to random Japanese people to ask what was going on — all of whom, to their credit, were incredibly friendly. All that said, it was still kind of nerve wracking.

Oh yeah, and because of the typhoons, the festival was cancelled for Saturday. Maybe Sunday too, unknown as of yet. Suck.

Nothing overly crazy has been going on. One of my JTEs (Japanese co-teacher) is, for one reason or another, gone every Friday this month, which means I have no classes on any Friday this month. Very strange. Even if I’m here, they cancel class. I guess they take the “assistant” in Assistant Language Teacher very seriously.

I found out a bunch of my students like Linkin Park, but only knew three of their songs, so I burned them a CD and gave it to them on the condition that they do their best at English. When they were like, “I don’t know, that’s awfully hard,” I downgraded it to, “Just don’t fall asleep in class.” They were so thankful they played it at lunch. Over the intercoms. For the entire school.
I put up a ton of pictures, including of my apartment and various oddities, on my flickr feed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jashugan/

Gotta run to Tokyo, getting a haircut and buying a halloween costume today!

Michael Jason

So apparently my name is very difficult for Japanese people to understand. For starters, they don’t generally hear it right. Probably around 5% of my elementary schoolers (used to be around 20%) thought my name was Jackson. A stubborn 3 percent persist in calling me Jackson-sensei, or even Michael Jackson-sensei, and upon occasion, Michael Jason-sensei, repeatedly. More on these kids in a minute.
The real problem, however, lies in the fact that the only Jason that Japanese people have ever heard of is the one from the Friday the 13th movies. I’ve met random Japanese people who, upon hearing my name, take a couple steps back and nervously make chainsaw-revving motions with a questioning look on their face. Truth be told, I think their minds sort of subconsciously gravitate towards something else. Hence, Jackson.

Now, the kids that are calling me Michael Jason are the only problem kids I’ve had so far. Of the approximately 1000 students I teach, 99.9% are wonderful, upbeat, good-hearted kids. It’s just these three 5th-graders at my elementary school who are a little overly hyper.

They first got my attention after their school’s undoukai. They see me walking home and yell, “Jackson-sensei!” and starts walking along with me. As I’m talking to them, they start making fun of my Japanese, which is fine, because at this point, I’ve taken to speaking quickly with a lot of mistakes rather than slowly and correctly. It’s usually understandable, if broken. But all this is fine, fairly normal; as I’ve learned, kids don’t have a ton of tact.

They next ask me if I like Baba-sensei, their unfortunately-named teacher. Baba-sensei is around 28, pretty nice, very good at judo, and has a name that is also slang for “hag” or “bullshit.” Even translated, her family name means something like “Horseplace,” which isn’t super-glamorous. Anyway, I just pull the whole, “Wait, which one’s Baba-sensei?” and they give up on that line of thinking.

But I keep walking and they keep following me, and soon we’re at my apartment. And these kids aren’t leaving. They want to come inside, which I won’t do, on principle. It’s really cluttered, uninteresting, and has a faint smell of mold I’m trying to get rid of. They interpret my resistance to mean I have a girlfriend up there. Possibly two or three.

So they start assailing my apartment. For fifteen minutes. These kids really stop at nothing, hiding in the garbage, pretending to leave around 5 times, crawling up the stairs, etc. They just won’t leave. I just stand there and stop talking to them, and eventually they take off, and I get my shower. All this is fine.

And then today one of them kanchoed me.

For the uninitiated, kancho is like the Japanese wedgie. It basically is a two-handed poke up someone’s rear. It didn’t hurt so much as surprised me, that someone was poking my ass. So I put my arm around the kid and pulled him close, with my arm around his neck, and leaned sideways to lift him an inch or two off the ground. I told him, “Dame desu yo” (“that is forbidden”), and let him back down. I don’t think that’s going to deter him. If he does it again, I’m going to completely shift my speech patterns into yakuza territory, rolling my Rs and yelling a lot, and start threatening his life.

Later in class, the same kid insisted on calling me Michael Jason, after I told him my name was Jason. So I told him, since I have a new name, he does too. His new name is Baka-chan. All the other kids in the class started calling him that. I told him once he starts calling me Jason, he can have his old name back. Kind of a Spirited Away dealie.

Tids and bits

Okay, I have internet finally, but it’s late and I can’t write much. So I’ll make this brief.

  1. One of my junior high second-year kids made this Ultraman-style bracelet and made me wear it all class. It was kind of fun.
  2. I will never be able to escape this movie, even five years after I worked on it.
  3. Japanese people are cannibals.
  4. Japanese teachers are clinically insane.
  5. Dance Dance Revolution exists nowhere in Japan anymore. When I ask the kids about it, they look at me like I’m asking where the nearest Pac-Man arcade machine is.
  6. And yet, Dragon Ball Z is still inexplicably popular. This anime was old when I was watching it, when I was in junior high school. I don’t get it.
  7. Lilo and Stitch is crazy popular here. Huge crowds of high school boys have pink Stitch dolls attached to their backpacks.
  8. I made this neat map to help my students practice giving directions. For those wondering, Danro means “fireplace” in Japanese, so the “Danro” line means the fireplace line, or rather, teleporting from fireplace to fireplace. The Burrow is the name of the Weasleys’ house, and the small numbers by the rail lines are the platform numbers. I know 9 3/4 is correct for King’s Cross outbound, but I made up 2 4/5 for inbound. Also, I think they got to the Shrieking Shack through the whomping willow, which is off from Hogwarts, but I’ll let that slide.
  9. This is awesome.
  10. As is this.

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