Aug. 23rd, 2008 02:18 pm
homodachi: (Default)
I spent my first few weeks in Portland interviewing for rooms to rent in shared houses. I really liked the two girls I met at a 3-bedroom townhouse off the lightrail line, so if everything goes well I'll have a key and a lease by the end of today.

After a visit to IKEA to buy a bed yesterday, I stopped by a bar downtown to watch the Olympics. I had a big zippered totebag with me, sans laptop but filled with my iphone, gameboy, electronic dictionary, wallet, and passport.

There weren't a lot of people sitting at the bar. I had my tote hanging off one of the arms of my barstool when two girls stepped up to the bar in the space next to me, on the side my bag was on. I'd just asked the waitress to close out my tab, and she brought me a credit slip to sign and returned my credit card. I reached for my bag, bringing it into my lap, and pulled out my wallet to put my credit card away. I was doing so many things at once that I only vaguely recognized that my bag was unzipped already, with a tangle of my headphone cords hanging out. I absentmindedly made a cursory inspection—everything expensive was still in there, and my wallet was in my hand. This all happened within the space of 30 seconds, so I didn't give it much thought.

The girls swung around from my left side to my right and sat in the two stools next to me. One of them put her bag on the counter. It was a fake Chanel in my favorite shade of pink. "That's a great bag," I told her.

"There ain't nothin' in it," she drawled, smiling. From the outer appearance it indeed looked like it was nearly empty, but what a weird thing to say! "I don't keep nothin' in it," she continued. Okaaay, I thought, in that way you do when someone says something that could potentially trap you in a boring conversation.

Having paid, I left and walked home, at which point it dawned on me: the first girl was the sakura: there to distract me while her friend reached into my bag. I checked my bag again: I was lucky that it was so deep—you'd have to be in up to your elbow to get anything of value, and I'm sure the headphones, newspaper, notebooks, and all the other crap toploaded into my bag didn't help them. Still, the case to my $450 electronic dictionary was completely unzipped, and I probably would have lost it if it hadn't been stuck to the inside of the case with adhesive tape.

The empty Chanel bag is interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if they immediately transferred what they pickpocketed into it: if the owner complains that they stole her ipod, they could easily say that it was theirs. It would be the owner's word against theirs, and they would be the ones with the goods in hand.

I'm glad I didn't lose anything but it's a little depressing. I know better than to leave my purse on a table while I refill my coffee, but pickpocketing? That's something that only happens in Europe, or if in America, only in the olden days.

Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye out for those two. I would love to catch them in the act!
homodachi: (Default)
I finished moving from Japan to Portland about a week ago.

There is already a perfect treatise on how packing really means throwing tons of shit away, and it was my constant solace as I hauled box after box downstairs to the dumpster. I easily sold/threw away 90% of my belongings. 90%! Four large suitcases... times ten! Now throw away 36 of them. That is how I spent the end of July.

If my dear friend Melanie hadn't helped me, I doubt I would have made it. As it was, I threw away my last trash bag minutes before running to make the bus to the airport. My realtor, thinking he would pick up the keys and wave goodbye as I trotted off into the sunset, ended up helping me haul my suitcases to the bus stop himself. Needless to say, we were both running.

About a week before my move, a friend of mine asked me what I thought about Amazon's Kindle. I shrugged. Hadn't given it much thought, I said. Most of the stuff I read is on the internet. (And to be honest, I probably read two books in the last year; a fact that I have never confessed to anyone but myself before now. Nobody wants to admit to not taking part in the noble pastime of reading for pleasure, but as entertainment, I find it scarcely different from watching TV.)

That isn't to say that I didn't buy any books though! My shelves, teeming with half- and quarter-read management philosophy, recipes I've never cooked, patterns I've never knit, kanji I've never studied! Fiction that I enjoyed and saved because it was a good read and I might want to read it again! Might! For someone who scarcely reads I sure had a lot of books! And another confession (that I'm sure all my friends noticed but were too polite to comment on): my bookshelf has always been an overfilled mess. I moved into my apartment intending to spend some weekend arranging it just so, and one year later its state was unchanged.

What do I think of the Kindle? I think it's fucking genius. DRM? Copy protection? WHO CARES! Before this move I was so angsty about DRM, certain it would seal the American public's corporate sellout, but now! Now if you can reduce my possessions by even a fraction you can DRM it all you want. I don't care if the file deletes itself in six months if you can just rid me of these damn OBJECTS! The same goes for DVDs—I was grateful that I'd decided to get most of my TV shows via iTunes instead of buying boxsets. Nothing to ship, no objects to feel attached to: at $1.99 an episode you could delete my archive tomorrow and I wouldn't be too torn up about it. Because really, how many times am I going to watch that old episode of Lost?

Why are we still reading paper books? The main reason I hear is that people prefer reading a book to reading off a screen. Be that as it may (though I think the technology will get there soon), I think the issue is more about possessions. I bought them; they're my stuff. We assign great value to books, probably more than their cover price, because they're full of information, because they make us feel. They're apparently so valuable that the post office even offers discounted shipping for books. But isn't this value more perceived than real? Or rather, isn't it the content of books that we value, rather than the objects themselves? Can't we please divorce the data from the format?

Standing in my apartment, staring at my ridiculous stacks of books—that heaviest of baggage—I started doing some math. How much would it cost to ship them home? More to the point, how many of them would I even read again (less than ten percent), or read again more than once (maybe one percent)? Add up the cover prices and it would surely be cheaper to buy them new than to send them home, even with Japan Post's discount book-rate. I swore then and there to never buy another book. I will become an avid patron of the library! Tachi-yomi, here I come!

In the end though, I did end up shipping some books home, forcing myself to keep it to one box. What can I say? I love them.


Jun. 12th, 2008 10:31 pm
homodachi: (Default)

Leading the Ouendan, originally uploaded by TAMAGO SENBEI!!.

I've been going to a few Orix Buffaloes games with Mr. [livejournal.com profile] bblue23 lately. If you look at the stands in the far background of this photo, I think you can get an idea of their general popularity in Osaka, where the Hanshin Tigers rule. But attending a stadium game without having to deal with crowds suits me fine.

This shot was taken from the unreserved seating section of the stands yesterday, squarely in the middle of the hardcore fans' cheering section. Whenever the Buffaloes are at bat, we stand up, and chant/cheer for the players at bat under the direction of the ouendan leader. Each player has their own song, and thanks to Mr. [livejournal.com profile] bblue23's printout of the lyrics, I've managed to mostly memorize exactly three of them. "Shouting out the cheers is such a great way to let off steam," he told me, and I couldn't agree more.

We went again tonight, although I was a bit nervous: it was ¥200 beer night, and a crowd of drunk sports fans was the last thing I wanted to deal with. Not to worry, he said: "Everyone in this section is completely focused on cheering. You won't see many people drinking," and true enough, I counted only one.

homodachi: (Default)

originally uploaded by TAMAGO SENBEI!!.

Took a break from work today to make umeshu, checking another item off the list of things I want to do before I leave Japan. (Whether I'll be able to taste it or not before I leave is another matter!) More pics here.
homodachi: (Default)

bodhisattva, originally uploaded by TAMAGO SENBEI!!.

My mom and a friend are here in Japan, and we've been doing a bit of sightseeing. In the past few days we've gone to Arashiyama and Ginkaku-ji, which are turning out to be two of the best places I've visited in Japan. (Why did it take me so long to get there? XD)

Anyway, I'm getting started with flickr, so if you have an account, let me know so I can add you.

([livejournal.com profile] vulpes, you might like the totally creepy inari shrine we saw in Arashiyama. The story is in the comments.)
homodachi: (Default)
I invited myself over to [livejournal.com profile] malifact's house this weekend to attend Tagata Jinja's annual Honen Matsuri.

more pictures )



Nov. 17th, 2007 10:19 am
homodachi: (Default)
"Ohhhhhhhhhh! Auntie Anne's!"

My coworker raced over to buy a pretzel. We were in the US on business, and had taken the afternoon off to go to a mall. Having grown up overseas, she was just as delighted as I was to revisit the brands that hadn't made it to Japan yet.

Watching the lone woman behind the counter in action was like seeing a video in slow-mo. Surly and unresponsive, she made zero eye contact throughout the cash transaction, after which she sluggishly dropped the pretzel into the bag, then shook the can of flavor powder into the bag itself. Two shakes. I was shocked.

After we had walked a good distance away, my coworker said, thoughtfully, "you know the girl who served us? What did you think of her?"

"Well... she didn't seem to have any motivation at all, and I wouldn't want to eat anything from that store. And seeing that kind of attitude makes me really worried about my country, and makes me wonder if I really want to live here again." I paused. "What did you think?"

"I think that if she were my employee, I would fire her," she said, matter-of-factly.

"Well sure, but there might not be anyone else who wants this job."

She shrugged. "Then I would make the job more attractive."

"How would you do that?"

She thought for a bit. "First, I would make sure that I was completely enjoying my own work."

from [livejournal.com profile] shmivejournal:
Have you ever had a dream about someone, and when you woke up you found that you had changed your opinion about them completely, even though absolutely no facts had changed?
Great stuff in the comments.
homodachi: (Default)
One of Matt's literary translations was featured on Boing Boing today.
Who recommended it to BB? Oh, just William Gibson.

Congrats Matt!
homodachi: (Default)
Revealed during my latest interpreting stint:

the words "humble" and "patient" are literally not in my vocabulary.
homodachi: (Default)
On a recent business trip to Kyushu, the local manager took us out for dinner. It was FABULOUS! Kyushu has the bestest, freshest seafood ever.

And then he ordered the eyeball.

I guess this is the part of the fish that nobody wants, but they managed to season up that fishhead into a local delicacy.

It's a tuna, by the way.

The white ring around the eye is the cartilage that keeps it in the socket.

After we finished picking all the flesh off the face (delicious!), they decided it was time to eat the eyeball.

not for sensitive viewers )

I also got to ride in a hovercraft! It was just like a GI Joe commerical!
homodachi: (Default)
I just spent all day interpreting at a conference.

My interpreting went straight to the headsets of the people who needed to hear the proceedings in English. I really like interpreting this way, because if I make a little mistake, nobody really notices and it doesn't hurt anything.

However, with so many bilingual Japanese people at my company, there was an entire room of observers watching the conference on video, with (my) English interpreting as the soundtrack. -_-

One of the elites commented to me that I have made some amazing progress. This guy has seen me make some pretty dumb mistakes.

I guess it's easy to look good at interpreting when:
  1. you get all the presentation scripts and powerpoints beforehand
  2. you take the time to translate them all (in this case, 3 out of 4 weekends in February -_-)
  3. the presenters follow the script exactly
I just said thank you.
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I came into work on Saturday last weekend.

I went to work today, which is also a Saturday, and was joined by three of my coworkers.

You know what's nice? Walking out of work at eight and meeting old friends for dinner. And having one of my coworkers drop in as well, merging the work-friends and friends-friends worlds.

I'm going in to work tomorrow too, but first I'm going to meet a friend for board games over breakfast.

If only my weekdays were like this. ♥
homodachi: (Default)

Happy New Year!

2007 is the year of the wild boar. I don't usually pay attention to the annual changeover of the animals of the Chinese zodiac—they appear on the new year's cards that everyone sends each other in Japan, and that's about it.

But wild boars are different. They roam the residential neighborhoods of Kobe, where the streets start curving uphill into Mt. Rokko. They poke through trash bags on garbage day, and walk the streets single-file, obeying traffic signals—at least according to one of my students.

The first time I saw one was in my second week of living in Japan. I was invited to the home of one of my co-teachers for dinner, and on the walk back to the station, one of my dining companions pointed it out to me. A mother with a litter of little piglets trotting down the street at night.

Another time, a few years ago, I was walking towards Konan University to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and standing in one of the rivers that flow down from the mountain, were three full-grown inoshishi. In retrospect, I should have taken a photo (many of the other test-takers did), but I remember that I was in a rather surly mood that morning. I had spent the previous night angrily stuffing my face with chicken skewers and beer at the local yakitori joint, after having taken a practice test for level 2 and failing by a good five percent. But that day, although I didn't know it until two months later, I passed.

I don't attribute seeing the wild boars to my success, but I do regard them as lucky. And more than that, they have a strong association with Japan for me. It's a little thing, but having the inoshishi as the emblem of 2007 feels like there's just that much more potential this year. I have only one resolution: 2007 will be a year of me asking for exactly what I want, because I'm taking this one by the tusks, baby.

I hope your new year is full of love, happiness, and satisfaction. Mine will be.
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Hey kids,

Just to let you know, I'm off to Taiwan for the weekend. I didn't want any of you noticing my continued lack of updates and thinking that I was still living out my usual existence in Japan! Au contraire! I am EN VACANCES, baby.

I'm flying China Air (or Air China or whatever) not by choice—I hear you sniggering, [livejournal.com profile] malifact!—so include me in your prayers plz

As usual, I have a few ideas for entries rolling around, so as soon as November hits I should be back in the saddle. In the meantime, I've been posting some of the juicier stuff friends-only, so if you want a piece of that action, you know what to do.

...and the de-friending starts... now
(the first rule of blog club: you do not make light of actions that irritate your friends & readers)

Booty Call

Aug. 5th, 2006 02:08 pm
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After a month of spending nearly every weekend either working or taking red-eye flights overseas, I found myself toying with the idea of calling up an ex to "hang out."

My cellphone, however, having sensed these self-destructive thoughts, sacrficed itself so that I would have no means to get together with someone who would ultimately make me feel bad about myself.

Or, you know, maybe I just got drunk and lost it.

Anyway, I am now toting a new model with the holy grail of predictive text input in English and an address book backup service, so I will only have to make the following request to you once:

PEOPLE IN JAPAN: I have lost all my address book entries, but my email address and phone number on the new phone are the same, so I would really appreciate it if you would send me a message with your contact info.

If you don't have my contact info, send yours to homodachi@livejournal.com and I'll hook you up!
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My new apartment is wonderful. I never, ever feel like the walls are closing in on me; on the contrary, sometimes just glancing over at my "system kitchen" causes me to involuntarily sigh with contentment. I live in a nice residential neighborhood with trees and a minimum of street traffic, and I live near a major station, so ALL the trains stop there. It is awesome.

Except for one thing. My building is made of wood, and I can hear every word my upstairs neighbors say. I can even hear their cellphones...vibrating. This was all pretty easy to ignore once I got used to it, until the soccer world cup. They were up until 1am on a Sunday night having a viewing party for Japan's first match. I was pretty polite about asking them to please be quiet... four times... (don't get me wrong, I daydream about revenge, but anything I did to them they could easily do back to me), and finally they went to bed a half-hour later. Grr.

Japan's playing again tonight, and I've been angsting over it all week. Should I stay over at a friend's house? (but it's Sunday night! and anyway that would validate their behavior!) or maybe just plan on having a late night and take that time to do some laundry?

I just got home a half hour into the game, and was delighted to find that they weren't home at all -- probably watching the game at a friend's house.

Maybe I should bake them a cake to reward their good behavior.
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I just sat down at the tonkatsu place on the 8th floor of the Yodobashi Camera building across from Osaka station. The waitress took one panicked look at me and rushed to the back room, from which she produced a rumpled printout of an English menu. Apparently there's a special exclusively for foreign diners.

Update: stopped by in summer 2008—they have a boring new English menu.
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A brief update:

March was every bit the nightmare I expected it to be: something went wrong every single day, but I managed to plow through finding an apartment, finding someone to take over my job, updating my visa, and moving, and made it all work.

I thought I was free and clear on the 31st -- until I caught a cold three days before my new job was about to start. Not going to work really wasn't an option, so I hung in there for the first week and got better by Friday! ...Until I got food poisoning that night, and spent this weekend alternating between visiting the hospital and moaning while clutching my stomach at home. Do you know how wretched it is to clean up your own vomit? DO YOU!?! Surely, other people's puke is infinitely grosser, but cleaning up your own as a single adult really reminds you of how alone you are in the world. I want my mommy.

Anyway, my job is great, my coworkers are fabulous, and I hope they'll forgive me for taking a day off on the first day of my second week.

I don't have net access at home until later this week, when hopefully I'll have some stories to share that do not involve bodily functions.

Sorry for the whining!
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Giving up on a guy who doesn't seem interested, chatting up random guys to make up for it, then receiving the cutest string of emails ever from the first guy. Lead me on, baby, I don't mind! ♥