Things that I have been doing, and the longest title for a blog post that may or may not also be about Japan (it totally is)

Hello once again you strange, wonderful and perhaps terrifying people. I trust that you are all well and enjoying the current disaster that is the state of our world. (except Japan which I love like a tiny animated ball of fluff that’s always smiling and telling excellent jokes and can do no wrong).

As this is kind of a Japan / travel blog I’ll talk a little about some travel and Japan things too. So Shizuoka, or Silent Hill if you go by the kanji, is the prefecture I currently call home. While I have explored to a reasonable extent all the cities within this prefecture there is one thing about Japan which makes it rather hard to grow tired of, and that is that they seem to hide everything up in the sky. Well, obviously not the literal sky but in tall buildings that in the UK would be nothing more than office blocks. This means that for a dirty immigrant like me (correction, expat) it’s very easy to forget to look up and find these hidden gems. I should add here that this goes double for big cities like Tokyo and it wasn’t until my recent return that I realized just how many shops I had missed when I first arrived. And it’s not just shops, but bars and restaurants lurk in nearly every possible space within these cities. You can even find super rare places to eat where you can dine with a native Japanese family, as long as you don’t mind them shouting at you in Japanese while you eat and generally having to help yourself to food. Two thumbs up though, would recommend.

Recently, tucked away in a reasonably public corner of Shizuoka city (okay so in this case I just walked past it a few times and didn’t really pay any attention to what it was) we discovered a honest real ale bar. Even better, it’s only 1200 yen for a pint which is like £8.50… Yea, maybe don’t convert the prices. Compared to regular beer at 800 yen a pint, the extra 400 is completely worth it because the beer is great and they have ten on tap, including an 8% one called Jubilation. It’s also the first place I’ve found cider in Japan, again good cider, which also makes me very happy. If you happen to be in the area you can find more about them here

In addition to all this beer drinking we had a day jaunt back to Tokyo, this time to enjoy the trains. Not in a strange nerd kind of way though (because we all know that having unusual hobbies makes you strange and an easy target for people to gauge their visualized self worth, but I digress) but because there is a yearly event called Tokyo Metro Mysteries . As the name kind of suggests you get to solve mysteries around the different train stations and nearby areas in Tokyo. The puzzles are fun, and solvable for both Japanese and English speakers and require a nice range of puzzle solving skills and processes. You also get to see some interesting places in Tokyo that you might not have gone to on a normal tour of the city, which is a nice plus.

That’s all from me this time, hopefully see you all again soon assuming a certain orange racist hasn’t blown up the world by then.


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.

A New Day, a New Park

So as today is my last day in Tokyo as a tourist I thought I would spend it relaxing in the sunshine in a park not too far from where I am staying. Looking on the map it has a museum in it for nature and science, which would normally very much be my thing but as it’s something called Sea Day here (where people celebrate the sea being an important part of island life and being thankful that sea gods have not yet reclaimed it. Okay the last bit might be a lie.) it is unfortunately closed.

Never mind though, I thought, just more time for relaxing in the park. So off I went, stopping briefly for yet more delicious food, before finding the entrance to the park hidden away on the other side of a train station. The park itself was lovely, of not a little concretey. There were spaces set aside for trees and things to grow while the rest was either astroturf or stone. I even wandered past the first buskers I’ve seen here in the form of a trio playing double bass and accordion while one sang. They were very pleasant to listen to and was a sort of jazz folk mix. 

Then of course I went to the zoo in the park. Excuse me? Yea. There is a zoo in this park. 

Not quite on my plans but too good to pass up, especially as entry was 600 yen. So instead of being lazy I just spent the day looking at a whole bunch of animals doing animal things. There is even a little section for native Japanese animals along side the usual selection of elephants and tigers, gorillas, pandas and armadillo. With a small animal section,  bird home and vivarium this isn’t even close to being one of those small petting zoos you sometimes find in a park corner. 

Look at the little guy just chilling out 
There was also this wonderful sign, which I’m assuming means this thing will bite your fingers off if you try and poke it. But is also looks a little bit like they are saying don’t force your hand down the mouths of animals, which is also good advise I guess.

If you don’t already follow me on instagram, and would like to see some more photos of secret Park zoo!! (as I’m sure it’s not called) then just search for Jragnarr and prepare for the onslaught of fluffy things. 

While unexpected it has certainly been a great way to end my week off, now I just have to get used to waking up before midday again. Okay so I guess I haven’t avoided being lazy altogether.


The Weekly Review

So it’s the end of my first week here in Japan, which seemed like a good point to reflect on the general goings on and life so far in a different country. 

As you may have noticed I’ve only really had positive things to say about the experience so far. So in review, two thumbs up. Would do again.

Seriously though, it’s hard to find a downside to this place. Sure the room I’m staying in is as big as some people’s bathrooms back home, the streets are nearly always busy between 8:00 – 20:00 and on every other street corner on the main roads you will find someone trying to hand you a flier or sell something to you. But there is nothing bad about this. The room is completely functional for my needs and is in a great location for doing my week as a tourist before starting work. The streets are busy but for the most part people are always looking where they are going and I’ve not experienced much in the way of others pushing through crowds to get anywhere, while the people handing out fliers, well they are just doing their job. They are not pushy about it, and only briefly try to get your attention.

The streets are very clean here, not completely devoid of rubbish, but when you consider the population sizes it’s pretty impressive how little there is. The whole time here I’ve maybe seen one bit of gum on the floor and a handful of cigarette ends. You can find that and more in a square foot of Cardiff, never mind any other bigger cities in the UK. 

Cyclists are the only thing so far that I’m a bit mixed on. While it’s good that so many choose bikes over cars to get around the city, a lot of people also cycle at 100 miles per second and I’ve seen more than a few near misses between bikes and people. This includes one guy who was cycling down the wrong side of the road, but really didn’t seem to care. It could just be because everyone cycling seems really proficient at doing so, but when the place is as crowded as it is its a little scary at points. 

Next week I start my job as foreigner #6711098 teaching English in Japan, so expect this blog to be a little less adventurous and more ‘this is my work day!  This is my new home! Here is a dragon I found!’ But will otherwise still be updating as regularly as I can. 

Finally, because I promised Aaron I would after he asked for more pictures of anime girls, here is a short section on that; 

Are you happy now Aaron? Are you!?

Thank you once again to everyone who keeps reading this, I always knew I was pretty great, but it’s good to have the confirmation.

See you next week! じゃ、また!

The Adventure Continues (Day 5)

Today has possibly been the most exciting day of all. It’s actually hard to contain my excitement as I write this due to just how mind explodingly amazing it is…

Now that I feel you are sufficiently braced for my news; I bought an iron! And a teeny tiny ironing board upon which to iron. I know right. Mind blowing.

Having not worn a shirt for work since, well, ever, it was a bit of a novelty trying to iron several shirts for next week. This was not helped by the fact I had to do it on my bed (obviously with the board on between the iron and the bed, I’m not that crazy). It’s okay though it wasn’t all ironing today, I also ventured through Akihabara a little more on my way to make the big purchase.

My first stop was a weird corner shop style building spread over several floors, the first three or four had some pretty random assortments of household items and things you might want for cosplay (the act of dressing up like a character from something, I believe they need to be fictional for it to count) but then above all of this I found an arcade! A whole floor of game machines with just enough room for someone to walk behind between each row. It was loud and fantastic. I’ve never seen so many time crisis and street fighter variations in my life. I didn’t play any of them, cause a) I didn’t have any change with me and b) didn’t fancy getting beaten at a game by a ten year old.

After all this I was feeling a little hungry. And having mostly eaten noodles for the last four days I did cave and had a burger king. However, expunge from your minds the image of a sad, part cold burger that takes ten to twenty minutes to arrive once paid for. This is a whole different burger experience (Which yes, I will be trying to sell to them as a slogan later) It’s tasty and actually enjoyable to eat, so that was a pleasant surprise. 

Finally, once full of delicious burger I was ready to find my perfect iron. Prefect in this case meaning it didn’t cost a fortune and would fit in my bag when I finally moved into my home. As you can see from the title photo, I was successful!

Once the actual ironing was done I spoke to my parents for a bit, because the Internet is pretty cool like that and makes being on the over side of the world to most of your friends a whole lot easier when I can taunt them as they wake up.

I then ventured back to the British pub from two days ago for drinks and dinner. Mostly because that place is a lot of fun and partly because I can drink two liters of Cuba libres for less than a tenner during happy hour, although I did get a few odd looks when ordering. Anyway, if you happen to be reading this and also in Tokyo, that is where you will find me now!


A Day in the Park

Day 4 of Dave in Tokyo and once again I enjoyed use of the effective train system. While I couldn’t tell you if they were on time or not, as I’m not in a rush and just get on the next one to turn up that’s going in the right direction, they are regular, clean and cheap. Or at least cheap compared to other capital prices. I also love the pricing system. 

For example, today I went to Shibuya (the other side of Tokyo, go me!) and to get here cost me ¥170 or £1.30ish. Now when I want to return, guess how much I’ll pay? That’s right! Exactly the same amount. Not ¥300 for a single and ¥340 for a return. Nope, each journey costs exactly the same amount because it is the freaking same journey. Not that I’m at all angry about the illogical pricing of return and single tickets in the UK. But seriously guys, sort yourselves out.

Anyway…. I came to Shibuya today mostly to go to the park. Yoyogi Park specifically, so of course it decided to rain all day. That being said I have an umbrella and short of a tsunami (Which yes, I’m aware could be something that actually happens here) I’m willing to get out and see new places while I can. I’m pleased to say that as always it was totally worth it. It’s massive and full of trees and the sounds of corvids, while the only sign you are still in a city is the very tips of the tallest buildings around just poking up over the foliage.

The rain has actually made it pleasantly cool to just wander around, while the sounds of fountains everywhere are very relaxing indeed. 

Deep in the other side of the park is a Shinto Shrine (I don’t have any photos of the shrine itself sorry as it is still in active use and it seemed a little rude to take photos of people praying). Although they are currently rebuilding the main entrance after it was destroyed by a fire, it is magnificent while demure, one of the grandest buildings I’ve seen since being here yet fitting into the surrounding woodland perfectly with its own wooden construction. It does help that the woods are also spectacular here and are the perfect setting for such a hidden treasure. There is also a pair of married trees inside the shrine, which according to the notice next to them are a symbol of happiness in marriage, the two growing tall and old together.

To give you an idea of the shine though, here is one of the entrances:

I also found godzilla today, though he is smaller than I remember and apparently trapped inside a building. So I guess that’s a good thing for as long as that holds. 

You also might have noticed that I have realised I can add pictures into the body of the blog too. So um, yea…

Awkward sign of the day; Stumptown – Boots and reconstruction (I’m guessing this is a shoeshop and cobblers rather than some sort of bionic leg shop)

London Day 3

Surprise, I’ve been here the whole time and just used Google earth for all the photos…

Okay, maybe not. So day 3 of Tokyo has been another successful day of using the trains (so far at least) and I have managed to get myself to the central station, which appropriately has signs outside saying Tokyo Station City, because it is freaking huge. This place puts London Victoria to shame (and you don’t have to pay for the toilets, and they are still cleaner here). There is an entire shopping center beneath the whole thing with more restaurants here than I’ve seen in my entire last two days of walking around.

After an exciting trip to a shopping mall which was part book shop, part dining hall and part opticians (I’m not too sure why, but hey) where I made a grand purchase of one whole envelope before heading back to the relative serenity of Akihabara. In fact the station is so huge that on my return I managed to find a whole other section of shops I missed the first time around, including a little pokemon place. I would genuinely not be surprised if they had an issue with tourists having panic attacks in that station as the options on how to get entirely lost and surrounded by people on both sides are many and easy to fall into. However being the super adaptable person that I am (and not having to ask someone this time) I once again managed to use the train for a whole two stops without getting lost (yay, go me!) I found myself tempted to see what the Japanese version of a British pub was like, remembering that I had passed one near the station yesterday called the Hub.

 It’s actually probably the best version of a British pub I’ve seen outside of Britain (the beer and spirit selection was actually pretty close to a couple of locals back home with a few Japanese extras) the food options were a little more Japanese based, with octopus pizza and squid ink being the first item you turn to on the menu. The drink options are good though, with various cocktail and happyhour options on the drinks menu and the staff, as always, were very friendly. Of course being the radical that I am I opted for the Japanese beer, Kirin, which is a reasonable draft larger and had a very British side of shrimp to go with it. Okay, maybe I missed the point of going to a British themed pub, but hey I had fun anyway. 

I shall be returning to my room soon as we will be attempting to record our first ever edition of the podcast with me in a different country to everyone else, so that’s going to be a bit different.

Things that I have enjoyed discovering today;

The literal translation of ice cream appears to be soft custard.

There is something proudly advertising itself as ‘style free beer’ which either means it’s just a regular beer or alcohol free. Not sure which yet.

Culture shock of the day;

Seriously there are so many people in Tokyo central and I didn’t even go during peek hours. It’s worth a look but you really do need to brace yourselves if you are not a big fan of overly crowded places. Good for the experience though.