Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wow, it's Setsubun! 節分

It's been almost a week since my previous blog. Simply put, I'm damn busy. It's coming close to the end of the Japanese school year, I'm putting together final student assessments, student portfolios and making a graduation DVD. Also, I have my Japanese class and my running schedule to attempt to keep up with.

Today I went for a run and hunkered down for the afternoon to edit some videos for my You Tube channel as well as work on some collaboration videos. Hopefully, very soon, there will be some very cool things happening with my channel.

It's almost February, and it's almost time for Setsubun. Setsubun is another Japanese festival that has to do with ridding the world of evil and bringing in the new, so to speak.

In Japan, Setsubun (節分) is the day before the beginning of each season. The name literally means "seasonal division", but usually the term refers to the spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun (立春) celebrated yearly on February 3 as part of the Spring Festival (春祭, haru matsuri?). In its association with the Lunar New Year, Spring Setsubun can be thought of (and was previously thought of) as a sort of New Year's Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This special ritual is called mamemaki (豆撒き, lit. bean scattering). Wikipedia

Here's my video about my Setsubun preparations.

Wow, it's Setsubun! 節分

Here's the video I made about last week's 10km road race I ran on Rokko Island.

Is He Running Again?

Original here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kobe City Marathon and Snow!

Wow! We actually had snow today. Snow in Kobe, Japan! It was a surprise, but not much longer after it fell, it was all gone. Of course, I was thankful for that since I ran a 10k road race this morning. I ran the Kobe City Marathon. It was held on Rokko Island and turned out to be a sunny and beautiful day.

To be honest, I haven't really been training this month. between my bout with Norovirus, vacation and laziness, I haven't been running as much as usual. I figured that my time would be slow today. I was gunning for a 55 minute fish, but was pleased with my 52 minute time. Last month I ran a 10k in under 50 minutes.

Next run on the books is the Port Island Half Marathon. That one is on February 8th. The awesome thing about that one is the fact that the start line is about a 10 minute walk from my apartment!

Outside my apartment at about 8am this morning. the snow didn't last long.

Another view of the snow on Port Island. Within 2 hours, it was sunny and warm and there was no snow to be found.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Learning English with Obama

Another weekend is upon us and things in Kobe just got a little chillier. No plans this weekend aside for tomorrow's race. I'm running in the Kobe Marathon. Actually, I'm not sure why the call it a "marathon" since the longest distance is 10km. I'll be running in the "Kobe 10km Road Race"...I think that's a more appropriate term. It's on Rokko Island, which is relatively close to me. No super early rise and shine in order to get to this run! Awesome.

So,I was just reading on Japan Today that Barack Obama's speeches are now the "in thing" in Japan for English language learners.

Japanese learn English using Obama speeches

Saturday 24th January, 06:29 AM JST


Aspiring English speakers in Japan have made President Barack Obama’s book of speeches and accompanying CD a national best-seller.

In Aichi, central Japan, a Buddhist monk has reportedly been playing the president’s speeches during his temple service. And dozens of students in an English-language class in Tokyo have been memorizing his 2004 Democratic Convention speech to improve their understanding and pronunciation.

“Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely,” the students at Kaplan Japan school recited together Friday.

“The Speeches of Barack Obama” has sold 420,000 copies since its release on Nov 20—an “unprecedented huge hit” for an English-language text, according to publisher Asahi Press. Read More...

Once upon a time, in a Land far far away, I was an English teacher. Not one of those "unqualified" ones that Korean folks enjoy demonizing, but a "qualified" one. I also made a few videos on my You Tube channel about teaching ESL in Korea. To this very day, a few of them remain my most popular vid, even though the production quality bites and they're filled with vocal fillers....lots of "ums and ahs"!

I probably receive at least a dozen emails and twenty comments a week from people who are interested in moving to South Korea to be language teachers. Because of this continued interest in my ESL vids, I've decided to make a new advice series. These aren't about teaching though. They are about living in South Korea and I suppose they can also be applicable to living in Japan as well.

I am no longer a language teacher in Korea (I live in Japan) and am not a language teacher here either, so I really know little about the ESL market in Japan.

Here's my latest vid. It's all about the pitfalls of trying to get a haircut in Korea.

A haircut in Korea or Japan...

See original here.

Oh yeah....cheers to cheap beer!

Asahi says cheers to cheap beer

Saturday 24th January, 04:27 AM JST


Asahi Breweries Ltd said Friday it expected a sharp rise in sales of low-malt beer as recession-hit consumers drown their sorrows with cheap suds.

Japan taxes beer based on malt content, meaning lower prices at the cash register for low-malt beer or beer-like drinks made of beans, corn or other produce. Read More...

This "low malt" beer is an "acquired" taste, but it does fit the pocket book more. I drink it myself from time to time. Tastes like a crappy lite beer. Expect Coors Lite when you open a can!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama, Inaugurations and Sake

It's another week and it's a great day/evening. Barack Obama will be inaugurated in about 2 hours and will become the new President of the United States. I realize this has nothing to do with Kevin and life in Japan, but who cares, it's the most important news period. It begins at 12:30am Japan Standard Time. I just hope I'll still be awake when it begins. Man oh man, I'm a happy camper. I'm so happy to see him come into office.

I did go on that sake brewery tour I talked about. Here's a video I made of the occasion.

Sake Time

In this video, myself, my wife Mai and Patrick (aka, KansaiPJ) had an awsome time. See the original here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Sake Weekend

It's been a little while since I've written something. It was my first full wek back at work since my nasty stomach virus. I'm finally feeling better and ready for the weekend.

This is a weekend dedicated to all things sake! Mai and I are going to visit the Nada Sake Brewery district of Kobe. Kobe has a long history of producing some of the best sake (Nihonshu 日本酒)in Japan. In the Nada area of Kobe (also the area where I take my Japanese class), there are several functional sake breweries that offer free tours and samples. I realize that most will be in Japanese only and I'll probably understand little, but the free sake samples at the end of each tour will make everything better. The Hakutsuru Sake Brewery is supposed to have most of it's information in English so I'll be looking forward to that one maybe more than others. We'll also be meeting our good friend and my fellow You Tube vlogger KansaiPJ. I'm sure we'll generate a lot of great footage from this little adventure!

So, long story short; going to drink some sake tomorrow and will make several vlogs about it. Be sure to check things out here. I'll definitely post them right here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's snowing so I suppose it's Winter

The "Winter Light" weather, as I like to call it, in the Kansai region threw me for a loop yesterday afternoon when I looked out of my living room window and actually saw snow falling. That's right, snow! Now I realize that many regions of Japan have been battered with high snow falls and snow storms already in the past few weeks, but Kobe sees none of that. The average daytime temperatures here hover around 10C and I honestly scoffed at the idea of seeing snow this Winter. Mind you, my wife tells me that this is an unusual Winter in Kansai and normally it is colder. She also tells me that near the end of this month and February will be fairly chilly.

So, to see snow falling yesterday was actually, kind of cool. The ground is far to warm so none of it accumulated, but I could see that it was building up in the trees on the top of Mt. Rokko.

Again, this afternoon as I took the train to Sannomiya, the gray snow filled clouds rolled over Mt. Rokko and started dumping a small amount of the white stuff on Kobe. It again melted quickly. We're certainly not getting bitch-slapped by Mother Nature like the good folks up in Hokkaido are, but some slight signs of Winter have finally appeared.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Being Sick Sucks

Wednesday night after my Japanese class I was suddenly struck by some sort of stomach virus. After a very rocky night I had to experience a Japanese hospital for the first time yesterday morning. I'm on a lot of meds and not feeling very good at all. I'm missing another day of work and looks as if my long weekend plans are scrapped.

Hopefully I'll be able to get out on Monday and get some film footage of Seijin shiki 成人式 "Coming of Age" day in Japan. That's the reason for the long weekend. On that day 20 year olds around the country celebrate their passage into adulthood.

I came across this video today and thought it was pretty damn funny. I'll never have the lack of shame to be able to do this. Also, if I ever attempted anything like this, my wife would probably kill me!!

Dave Eastgate vs Scott Gregory - GAIJIN STREET SUMO

This was filmed in Dotonbori, in Osaka. See the original here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back to Work

The New Year has come and gone. Things are back to normal in a sense. Yesterday was my first day back at school and I was a little frazzled. It wasn't tough to get up early, but it was tough to get up early and get my backside out of the door in time. Then, once I arrived at the train station it was glorious to see that the trains were more than an hour late. Yep, found out on the news later that someone killed themselves in Osaka by laying across the JR tracks. So, I did get to work, but it just took a little longer than usual.

The kids were cool and really excited to see each other. It was a pretty good first day of my final term of my first year teaching in Japan.

Here's a little peek at what some of my classroom looks like.

I finally got motivated and edited some footage I had from the trip Mai and I took this past summer to Hiroshima and Miyajima.

Miyajima and the Sleepy Monkey

See original here.

Oh yeah, I thought this was cool. Japan vlogger, "Marlogum" recently came down to Kobe from Nagoya and we spent some time hanging out. I I was a tour guide for the afternoon and showed him and his wife around town. Here's the video:

the kanadian in kobe(that's me btw!)

see original...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year Finished

The Japanese New Year (Oshogatsu 正月) has come and gone. It was my first New Year in Japan and it was definitely an interesting one. On New Years Eve, I went hiking on Mt. Ikoma 生駒山 in Osaka with a new friend, Andrew. He's been in Japan for quite some time and a seasoned Mt. Ikoma veteran. He showed me a really good hike. We started on the Osaka side of the mountain and came down the other side in Nara Prefecture.

New Years day saw me visiting Nishinomiya Shrine 西宮神社 in the city of Nishinomiya. We went there to for Hatsumode 初詣. Hatsumode is the first visit of the year to the shrine for Japanese people. Many go there after midnight on January 1st and if not, they go during the daytime on the 1st. People offer money to the shrine, pray and often get their fortune.

Here's a quick little unedited video of my Hatsumode trip to Nishinomiya Shrine on the afternoon of January 1st.

Hatsumode 初詣 Nishinomiya Shrine

Here's another very cool perspective on Hatsumode. Elevencolors, a Japanese based vlogger, who lives in Tokyo went to Hatsumode at the Meiji Shrine 明治神宮 in downtown Tokyo after midnight on New Years. He stood in line for hours. The crowds here are HUGE!

初詣 ~ Hatsumode

So, my holidays are about to come to an end. 3 weeks of blissful "not working" are about to all fall apart on Monday morning as I head back to school. My first New Year in Japan was a wonderful learning experience and a great chance to learn about my new family and their culture. All very cool stuff...well, not about having to go back to work!