Why did Kirk jump off a mountain?

Thanks to the very nice people I work with and the many new friends I have made here in Japan, it is starting to become a country where I do all the things I normally wouldn’t get round to on my day off. It’s a lot of fun to wonder just where the hell will I find myself a few weeks from here because (within the boundaries of physics and finances) anything is possible.

This week we decided to go paragliding, because why not? After climbing a mountain last week and being forced to merely walk down after, it seemed quite fitting that this time I would get to run off the edge instead. As I had never done this before it was of course a tandem flight, which made it a lot more relaxing as I only had to worry about gravity and its desire to bring objects with mass back down towards the core of the planet. Stupid gravity.

Of course before I could jump off a mountain we had to get to the top, which turned out to be an equally exciting / enjoyable / terrifying experience (depending on which of us you asked). Upon a monorail a traction engine slowly pulled the ten of us, plus equipment, up the side of the mountain which at points felt close to being an almost vertical climb. Personally I thought it was a great time, but perhaps not for everyone as there are no belts to strap you in or anything either side of you for the ascent. Perfectly safe though, honest!

Now this is normally where I would describe the joys of slowly falling through the sky with another man strapped to your back speaking to you in broken English / Japanese. Fortunately though as part of the experience I have a video of the whole thing which is in fact online and can be found here

To summarize though, it was surprisingly relaxing and a hell of a lot of fun. If you get the chance I would strongly recommend giving it a go as even if you are scared of heights the decent is very controlled. In many ways it’s like being in a lift with no floor and you can fly really close to the side of a mountain. Just like a lift, right?

In other news typhoon season is well under way, with all of the worlds water falling from the skies in Japan, which makes for an interesting swim to and from work. Otherwise life is good and Japanese living is proving to be very enjoyable. I also started taking Japanese lessons, which proved to be an interesting experience being on the other side of the table but recognizing the teaching format. Again though, very good stuff and most helpful. Especially considering outside of the class most people here seem to only speak Japanese. Weird that.



Under the Sea

This week has been a good one for new things.

This is the first time I have been to a beach in Japan, the first time I have swam in the sea in Japan. This is the first time I have been snorkeling in Japan and the first time I have ever sung karaoke. (Because how could I not when in Japan.

So to bring some context into this whole situation; as Thursday was a national holiday here most of the people from my school decided it would be nice to spend the day at the beach. As a person who enjoys having fun I thought it would be good to go to, so I did. While the beach itself was more like fine shale than sand, the sea was beautiful and not too crowded with people.

An area was actually sectioned off for people to go swimming in, keeping us safe and away from boats and jet skis. While from the shore it didn’t actually look all that big a space, once we were in there and snorkeling it was clear that it was ample. I didn’t really know what to expect from the snorkeling, as we were so close to the shore I didn’t really expect fish to be all that interested in coming that close to land, let alone the many people splashing around. Fortunately I was delightfully wrong with my assumptions and managed to encounter small schools of fish at one point, as well as a few loners probably off to see what the humans were doing.

Actually as a slightly random aside I do wonder if fish ever see people in the water and think ‘oh dear, they’ve fallen in again. Best try and get them out.’ And this is why when people film nature documentaries fish will swim up to them.

Anyway, back on track…

There were neons, and zebra-fish, possibly even puffer fish and a whole bunch that I didn’t know the names of but were very colourful, including  a couple that were easily over a foot long. It was a very enjoyable experience and I managed not to accidentally drown when swallowing half the sea at one point. All in all, a good time.

Karaoke is a very different experience here from anything I have ever seen in the UK. For one you have a room for just you and your friends. There is also no song book, just a computer tablet that you can search for different songs and artists. The range of songs is probably what impressed and amused me the most though. From your karaoke classics and modern pop to some pretty obscure 80’s tracks and Norwegian death metal. Yea that’s right, there were tracks from Emperor and Dimmu Borgir on this thing, along with SOAD and Turisas. Naturally this meant that our playlist swung dramatically in direction nearly every other song. The consumption of large quantities of alcohol is also very traditional (I was told) and may have encouraged some of the more extreme song choices at points.

So I have to say, although it can be a little expensive if you buy a lot of drinks from the place itself it was certainly an excellent way to finish a very fun day. Considering karaoke is a very typical way for people to hang out after work I would recommend trying it as soon as possible, especially if you are a bit shy about this sort of thing, as it will help you realize no one cares how bad you are (if you are bad) and it’s a lot more about no one really giving a crap and having fun.

Another Day Older

So as many of you probably already know, I turned 31 on Thursday. While maybe not as exciting as turning 21, or as monumental as 50 it was still a fun year marker. After all, I now live in Japan and have a bunch of new friends out here so it was a very different experience from any of my other birthdays.

Once again I am forced to announce that the people I work with are just lovely. Having known me for a whole two weeks they bought me a cake for my birthday, and then we went to a bar for food after finishing work for the day. They really didn’t need to do this, and even though I’m not really a big birthday person I really appreciated the effort they went to.

The day after I visited another friend in Zama, where we spent the day walking around a nature park and became slightly confused by the myriad of pathways. Fortunately as they were all giant circles in one form or another we were not forced to build a rudimentary camp and survive off the local wildlife when we could no longer escape.

There will also be many photos of this wonderful place just as soon as I have wifi for my phone again. Unfortunately my tourist sim card has run out so I need to sort out a more long term solution, but now that I have a bank account all is possible, so you can expect a mid week update on this post with all the pictures once it’s done.

Forests are very interesting places.

We feature them in so many of our stories and typically they are rather magical places, homes to a great variety of creatures and fictional beings. They are also very polarized places in our collective minds. Either they are wondrous and contain the secret to defeating evil kings, sometimes loaded up with magical items or just sage advise from mystical beings. At other  times they are evil dark places, holding only death an misfortune beneath their haunted leaves. Princesses are poisoned, killed or lost in them. Wicked creatures lead travelers off the safety of the path to become lost forever, while others are homes to powerful but evil magicians who are a little too trigger happy on the curse front.

And I can really see both points of view. During the day time it was a wonderful place to be, full of life and joy. The sunshine filtering through the trees and dancing across the floor as they moved in the wind. There were some really wonderfully bizarre creatures too, easily mistaken for something not of our world for its weirdness. Then when it slowly became darker the trees blocked out what little sunlight remained entirely, the birdsong would echo ominously around the woodland and without clearly marked paths it would have been very easy to get lost there.

This leads me to the conclusion that a lot of our fairy tales were probably written about the same places just at different times of the day, which really goes a long way to show you how important perspective can be when you form an impression of something. Now it feels like I have accidentally stumbled into some sort of morality story, but I suppose worse things have happened from a tangent.

First Day of Work

It is done! I have taught the English to people by myself. People have intentionally paid for lessons with me and I think they enjoyed it / learned some new things. 

It was really good fun and my manager seemed really positive about my work so I’m very happy about that. It’s very different from what I am used to as a work day, with very set times for everything to happen in and only ten minutes in between to check for any additional students or even new lessons if it was previously blank. So that is a little terrifying at first because it does mean I may have to plan a whole lesson in 5 minutes.

Fortunately though the formula for the lessons makes it possible, and the more I do it the more familiar with each lesson I will become and that will certainly help.

So my experience is still overwhelmingly positive, and life is great. Suck it brexit, you can’t touch me now! (He says, inviting the worst possible outcome of being summoned back to the UK when we leave the world)

A New Home

Operation moving into new home was a glorious success. After navigating a couple of train changes I arrived in Fuji around ten pm where I managed to meet a few members of the branch team who I will be working with over the next year.

As it was rather dark I could only admire how big my apartment is compared to where I had been staying in Tokyo (Which while perfectly sufficient for my needs and in a great location, was on the small side) and also compared to what people had been saying online. 

Sure it only has one room, with a kitchen, washing and laundry area sort of bolted on to the side, but it’s a good sized room with plenty of storage solutions for the things I’ve brought with me and the many future purchases that are likely to happen. I also have a book shelf again, which makes me feel happy because I’m sleeping in a home with books again. This stuff is important!

Fuji itself is just beautiful. Mountains are all around the city/ town (I’m not too sure how it’s actually classified)  and there are some rice fields and vegetable gardens just randomly located about. 

There are also a number of rivers running through here from the mountains which means there are streams running along side nearly every road. Like I said, this place is beautiful and amazing. I feel very lucky to have been placed here by the company. All hail the mysterious company.

With a bit of help from different people I now know how to use the washing machine with water, while before the best I could manage was the tumbling action plus washing powder. I also know where to go now to register myself as a dirty foreigner who has come over here and stolen someone’s job as an English teacher. Sorry, I mean expat. So I’ll be doing that on Monday in order to avoid the delights of deportation.

There is also this amazing shop called c spot that looks like a garden center from the outside, but on a whim of exploration I ventured inside and discovered that it is infact the place of all things! From beds to clothes and furniture, household goods and sporting items and even food! Best bit is it is a ten minute walk from my house. Basically my life is sorted here, you guys should all come to fuji because it’s freaking amazing.

Only real downside is there is a train track next door to my flat and when I say next door I mean this;

And that’s the distance from the back door to the track. On the flip side though I seem to sleep through the noise if there is any at night, so I’m not too worried.

So once again it’s an overwhelmingly positive review of my day. It’s almost like I’m enjoying myself. 

Training Day 2; Now With More Training

As the title suggests, this was indeed day two of my training. Still going pretty well although we actually had to give our first (supervised) lessons today. While slightly terrifying it was a good experience as a) the feedback was constructive and useful and b) it showed that even if they don’t completely understand you, just being friendly and engaging will get you a long way while c) It’s actually really really hard to completely screw it up. Like I think you would actually either need to try or have a panic attack and freeze for it to be genuinely awful as a lesson.

Out of my sample group of one (although we did listen to other lessons too) the students seem eager to learn and are friendly. Which makes sense as it is their time and money they are spending. 

The people I am training with a good too, as when we are outside of work while also being a social point we share what limited Japanese we have too and sort of learn as we go, jumping in if we can help the others out when stuck.

While still very early days I think this is the sort of work I could really get into. While the lesson books give you a focus to work around they do encourage creativity and give a reasonable amount of freedom of style around a loose formula to follow. 

Anyway, that’s me for today. Currently on a train back home before I start the same thing tomorrow. Although hopefully this time I won’t be woken up by another earthquake. 

Training Day 1

No, not a sequel to that film. That being said I would be okay with my life story being played out on screen by a rather confused looking Denzel Washington.

Today was the first day of training for my new job, and to be fair it was no where near as terrifying as being asked to teach English to a bunch of strangers could be. The lesson materials we have to work through for each class are pretty simple and very easy to use, so most of the training was based around methods of how best to interact with students and get the most out of the materials for everyone involved.

It also turns out that today was the second earthquake I’ve experienced since being here. On Tuesday I thought the building was moving a little due to strong winds. Turns out it was an earthquake and we had another today. It’s a interesting experience feeling the building move, but in a good way as you know they have been designed to do exactly that. 

The people I’m training with are a nice bunch too (although I have to say that as they might see this) and although it’s job training it’s also quite light hearted and fun where possible too. 

What I would say from day one of training (and thus clearly an expert already) is that if you are thinking about doing the teaching English thing, then as long as the company provides you with a good stock of teaching materials it really doesn’t have to be at all daunting, aside from moving country and living in a place entirely different to your own home where no one speaks your language and the food is weird and trains run on time and everyone is polite. But other than all of those terrifying things, I’d certainty say I have no regrets so far and I’m looking forwards to day two.

Unfortunately other than earthquakes and managing to not get fired before day one of actual work, I don’t really have much more to report. 

Interesting sign of the day though is a follow on from a previous sign. After spotting adverts for Lumine – the Bargain and assuming it was a singer, today on the side of the train station I found Lumine – the kitchen. Are these just interesting choices of album names, or does the word Lumine translate differently from something else? The mystery continues.