Couple of recent happenings:

  1. I’ve posted up my meager purikura collection here. For the uninitiated, purikura (short for print club) is like the next generation of photo booths. They’re pretty big, often have swings or benches or stuff to sit on, sometimes have multiple cameras at multiple angles, and often are located next to places that will rent you costumes to take pictures in. On top of this, once you’ve taken your pictures, you go around to the back of the booth, where there’s a primitive photoshop-like touchscreen program running, and you can spruce up your photos with all manner of hearts, rainbows, and whatever your heart desires. However, the damn things go really fast and it’s kind of difficult to determine what’s going on, as each purikura booth is a different experience. So what you’re seeing on my flickr feed is the work of some incredibly sloppy guesswork by a bunch of unprepared foreigners. Purikura are really popular in Japan, and I could definitely see them catching on with the Myspace crowd over in the US.
  2. I had my last class ever with my 3rd year students last Wednesday (they’re graduating soon). I’d been preparing for it for a couple weeks, having them write up skits, me correct them, and then they present them. It… didn’t go great. Nobody memorized their lines, nobody dressed up (although some groups did a puppet show), and nobody understood the other groups’ skits. Nobody made copies of any of the skits, so several groups were SOL when the one person with their script was absent. It’s mystifying. It’s like they’d never done a skit before in their lives (which isn’t true; I asked). It’s honestly a bit depressing that the skits were so terrible, because it just illustrates how low their English level is. I’ve worked my heart out on getting them to be better, but they just aren’t picking up. I realize I was never exactly your typical student, but after 3 years of studying French in middle school, I was really comfortable speaking it and doing skits. I got really excited to do so in college, and have fond memories of my cracked-out ninja-versus-pirate skits. Nothing like that here.The best skits were probably:
    • The “God quest” fantasy skit, put together by some of the biggest slackers in the entire school, which regularly featured them stopping and singing the Final Fantasy victory jingle in unison. It basically had five terribly-named people try to find Satan to kill him, only to have God show up and kill Satan with “God power” which is “stronger than Satan power.”
    • The Momotaro parody skit, which took place after the main Momotaro story. In the real story, he befriended a pheasant, a dog, and a monkey on his quest by giving them a food called Kibidango. Together they traveled to a demon island, killed the demons, and took back the money the demons had stolen. This skit took place after they’d killed the demons. They open a chest and out pops Gamera. Momotaro asks Gamera to join him, and offers him some food… namely, the dog, the pheasant, and the monkey. They object, of course, and Momotaro kills the dog. Then the pheasant transforms into Spiderman, kills Momotaro, and EATS HIM. The monkey takes advantage of this and kills the pheasant/Spiderman, leaving only him and Gamera. Then a bomb falls on them. Only the monkey survives. Because he has a “special power.” You see, “monkey is very strong.”
    • The all-boy skirt-chaser skit, filled with 3-word sentences and beginner English, which has 3 young men meet two comely young lasses. After some talk of trying to figure out something fun to do, they decide to go to a hotel. Upon entering the hotel and getting into the bath, they realize the two women are actually men. It was stupid, but the kids had a lot of fun acting it out… and it may have been the only skit the rest of the class actually understood.

    All this said, I’ll miss the little buggers. They’re good kids. I gave them my email address, and told them to write… which none of them have done.

  3. For my elective class, I decided to have a multimedia extravaganza day, where I showed them music videos, short films, and clips of TV shows, and asked them questions on what was going on, or, in the case of the music videos, to fill in missing words on lyric worksheets I provided. I showed them Here Comes Dr. Tran, which, yes, is -ahem- kind of coarse, but they didn’t know that. They enjoyed some of the music I played for them, but by far the biggest hit was I’m A Cucumber, starring Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z. They asked me to play it like twenty times. Much fun.
  4. Last weekend, I went to my friend Fil’s wedding reception. I’d met his bride Akie once before, and the two of them hadn’t made much of an impression on me at that time, but holy hell, at their wedding reception, they were one of the cutest couples I’d ever seen. I mean, hell, I’m not one to get misty-eyed at those sort of things, but… seeing them together was honestly touching. I have seen way, way, way more broken relationships than working ones, and theirs really seems like it’ll work out long-term. It was like suddenly running into a friend you haven’t seen in years, seeing that not everything and everyone is so irreparably fucked up. Really, a wonderful get-together.
  5. The day after that, I went to the prefectural capitol, Mito, for hanami — that is, flower-watching. In this case, the plum trees were starting to blossom, so Mito’s nationally-famous park, Kairakoen, was the place to be. I went with Yukiko and Amy, and met up with a whole truckload of gaijin. Probably the highlight was Amy winning a fake gun in a shooting contest (she’s from Arizona and her family is stocked with felons, of course she’s a crackshot with a gun), and our pacifist friend Nick turning into a trigger-happy madman on account of it. We were also being stalked by some creepy old guy who just decided to sit on our blanket and watch us the entire time. He was talking to himself. We couldn’t get him to leave. No pictures of him; didn’t want to set him off.
  6. After leaving Mito, we ran into a large group of yankii on the road. Yankii are like… japanese biker gangs that don’t follow any of Japan’s rules, but slathers themselves in bright colors, antiquated kanji, and patriotic symbols. Basically, Poor yellow trash. Amy derives her entire wardrobe based off of yankii style. We threw the horns at them. They threw horns back at us. It was awesome. Video later.
  7. On our way back home, we stopped by this store nearby me that had a giant fake Moai head outside. Turns out that there is this HUGE otaku palace like… 10 minutes away by bike, and I never knew about it. I was able to find a mint-condition Virtual Boy for the equivalent of $25 USD. We also went upstairs to the scary porn section, where we found… this. Yeah. Good times had by all!
  8. This weekend, I went to a new hair salon that opened up right next to me. They were offering haircuts for 1000 yen, which is like… $8.50 right now. They cut my hair in 15 minutes. It was scary at first, she was just grabbing big bunches of hair and cutting indiscriminately, without measuring… but it’s really a pretty great haircut. And then she gave me a box of tissues, for being a good customer. I estimate the box of tissues at around $3.00. Meaning it was a $5.50 haircut. Woo!
  9. So, some of you may know of my love for Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, which I’ve actually had since before coming to Japan. This game, which puts you in the shoes of a wandering gang of male cheerleaders who aid the people of Japan with their problems, is murderously difficult. I’d never been able to beat the damn thing, until yesterday. I was doing laundry, playing it at the laundromat, and on my thirtieth time through the last level (where you lead the entire population of Earth in a unified cheer to deflect an oncoming meteor with your fighting spirit), I finally got to the end. Wooo~! The credits start rolling, and–I get a tap on the shoulder.Yes, it’s the laundromat owner again. She’s standing right next to me, holding out a big bag of beans. Our conversation:Her: “Please… eat it with your family.”
    Me: “{Oh! Thank you. You’re so generous!}” (Japanese)
    Her: “Please.. enjoy. It is Japanese… mame. (beans)”
    Me: “Oh, thank you! How very nice! You’re so generous!”
    Her: “You must… hmm… to make. You boiru. Boiru… 何とか、ボイルは英語で何といいますか?”
    Me: “Boil. {Boiru is boil in English.}”
    Her: “Oh! Yes. Or… you can use… ah… you put.. abura (oil)… in… ”
    Me: “Fry?”
    Her: “Hm… no. It’s… a.. you know ?”
    Me: “No… *look it up in dictionary* It’s not in my dictionary.”
    Her: “Ah… maybe… ?”
    Me: “*looks it up* …fry.”
    Her: “Oh! Really? Yes.”
    Me: “Thank you.”
    Her: “Please.. fry.”
    Me: “{I’ll try to do that.}”
    Her: “{Your Japanese is so good! You even know how to say that? I’m so surprised!}”
    Me: “{Oh, thank you, it’s nothing.}”
    Her: “{No, really it’s very good, better than any foreigner I’ve ever met! You must be a genius!}”
    Me: “{Thank you, no, I’m really not very good.}”

    Finally she leaves, after about thirty more obsequious “thank you”s. I look down…

    …and I’ve missed the entire ending. GAH!

    But hell, I got a bag of beans.