Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Making Friends Abroad: Samurai Running

I have been in Japan for 5 years and in Asia since 2002. During my time here, I've met a lot of really amazing people, but I have to admit, it has been difficult to meet fellow foreigners who share my enjoyment of running.  I know they are out there. I see foreign runners from time to time, but I don't feel comfortable stopping them while in mid-run.

I have had the good fortune of meeting some Japanese runners in my time here, but of course would like to met more. I often feel uncomfortable approaching local runners due to the fact that my Japanese language skills aren't very strong.

Last year, my friend Scott Brown, an elite masters runner based in Sakai, a suburb of Osaka suggested forming a running club. He suggested the name "Samurai Runners" and it would be a great way for foreign runners in this part of Japan to network, exchange advice and information about races as well as to socialize. A foreigner running club could give like-minded runners the chance to go for runs together an maybe even organize informal running events. The idea of local Japanese runners joining makes it an even more fun concept.

Earlier this morning I created the "Samurai Runners - Kobe" Facebook Page. Scott is making one for the Osaka area. Hopefully in time, this group can grown into a fun social group.

If you are in the Kansai area or anywhere else in Japan, you are MORE than welcome to join by "Liking" the page. I even plan to set up virtual running events as well as an opportunity for runners in Japan to do charity activities.

So, if you live in the Kansai area and want to join a new running group, LIKE the "Samurai Runners - Kobe." Also, if you are planning to travel to Japan on vacation or for business and want more information about running in the area, become a member.

More information about the Osaka "Samurai Runners" group will come soon!

You can also follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Second Baby Blues?

T-minus 6 days. That's the due date of my second child. If she comes then, I'll be home with my family during Golden Week. If she comes earlier, I may be racing to Kobe from work and hopefully will get to the hospital in time to see my new little daughter arrive. Hard to say though, I hear the second one comes quickly.

Amazing, the way that I feel. I've been through this before. My son was born nearly 3 years ago, but now I'm filled with nervous anxiety again. It feels like I'm becoming a father again for the first time. I'm assuming that emotions like this are common among parents about to have a second child.

Ah well...I'll keep you fine folks posted.

Until then, I'll just try to have fun and be silly with my family!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Running Around Kobe

I haven't been running much lately. If you at all follow my blog, you know I am a runner. I suppose lately I've been a non-practicing runner.

I have applied for Osaka Marathon 2013 and tomorrow will apply for Kobe Marathon 2013. Soooooo....I went for a run today!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Japanese Crime Fighters

I saw something pretty cool today. I suppose it was a cool thing because of the positive outcome. I saw something I've never seen during my entire 5 years living in Japan.

I saw a crime...

Now, the actual crime itself wasn't cool. Crime by default isn't cool. It was cool because I witnessed some
good Samaritans apprehend a potential criminal.

I was in a subway station in downtown Osaka today after purchasing some bookcases for my new classroom. Myself and a colleague had just put our boxes down in front of the entrance so I could buy a ticket.

I walked to the ticket machine and I could hear yelling of some sort in the distance. I could then see a man, in his late 20's running (not very quickly) while holding a woman's handbag. He was desperately rummaging through the bag as he ran. An elderly man was in chase yelling that the man was a thief!

Suddenly, a business man, in a suit lay chase. He was a fit looking guy in this late 30's. Within seconds he was behind the guy and tackled him from behind. As they got up another couple of men standing nearby grabbed hold of the suspected thief as well. Within minutes a policeman came, grabbed the guy and threw him up against the wall.

The man who did the tackle started to walk away and I intercepted him. I walked up, shook his hand, patted him on the back and thanked him. That put a huge smile on his face.

I wrote about this on Facebook shortly after I witnessed it. Some people asked I I helped capture the guy. I didn't. I didn't have to!

Felt pretty awesome seeing regular people doing good and making the world a enter place.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My train smells like ASS!

Nasty, Nasty Trains in Japan

So here's the deal. April 1st marked the new fiscal year in Japan. I live in Japan and recently changed jobs. I used to work relatively close to my house in Kobe and my commute was relatively painless. With the new fiscal year and the new job came a new commute. My new commute is a long one to the middle of Osaka and three train lines and about 90 minutes each way, I get from my house to work.

I've been spending a lot of time on a very crowded train this week and I've come to realize a few things:

1. The direction a train goes in can mean a lot to a poor ole commuter. I'm taking the same train I have for the last few years, but this time it's heading in a different direction. Last year, it was heading towards some small cities and wasn't very crowded. This year it's heading the Japan's third largest city, Osaka and its a freakin cattle call! Bloody packed with commuters.

2. The second thing I've come to notice had to do with number one. The trains are bloody packed with "salarymen" ( non-descript, black suit wearing office workers). They are so crowded that they lead to the next few observations I've had.

3. They stink! The trains simply smell bad. Pack a small metal box with hundreds of people and there is a very dynamic array of aromas. You can smell body odour, last night's (or this morning's) alcohol, garlic, pickles, farts and more!

4. They are HOT! Too many people combined with no understanding of climate control cause excessive suffering. Japanese trains kick the heat on near the end of winter and don't turn it off til spring has ended and summer has arrived. It really makes no sense and my advice is to not even attempt to figure it out. There is no answer!

My conclusion is:

Trains used to commute in the city are not fun. It's not a deep conclusion, but it's all I got!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Learning Japanese and English at the same time

Late last year and earlier this year I began writing about raising my son to be a bilingual child. His first language, Japanese, was progressing quickly and his English was coming along as well.

Fast forward ahead to April 2013 and my son is now 2 years 8 months old. Naturally, both languages have been progressing rapidly and his ability to communicate with others and express himself has grown by leaps and bounds. He can speak to his mother and Japanese adults/children in full, yet simple sentences. He is also able to understand most of what he hears.

Having entered the world of the Terrible Two's so his favorite phrases in both Japanese and English are, "I don't want to" and "I can't."

In English, his basic vocabulary continues to grow quickly. His language bank of nouns, verbs and adjectives is expanding, but he can struggle when it comes to putting them together. Sometimes his storytelling sessions are very easy to understand while at other times it's more of a challenge for me to fully comprehend.

I think one of the most interesting recent aspects of his language development has been his language switching. He now seems to have made the distinction in his mind that he speaks Japanese to Mommy (who is Japanese) and English to Daddy (moi...a Canadian dude). My wife often speaks English to him and even a few months ago he would reply to her in English, but now he won't. He only speaks to my wife in Japanese no matter what language she uses with him. On top of that, he even seems somewhat annoyed when she does speak to him in English. I'm assuming that people out there in a similar family makeup have had similar experiences.

We're continuing to give him the opportunity to watch lots of English TV and movies which have helped. He definitely learns from watching Cars, Toy Story (1,2 and 3), Finding Nemo and others and it's obviously helping his listening skills as well.

His English progress may start to slow over the next two months though. He will be attending Japanese day care leading up to the time my wife has our second child and for about a month afterwards. That coupled with my longer working/commuting hours with my new job means he'll be exposed to almost no English on a daily basis until June.

I'm sure he'll be fine, but I have to admit that I'm somewhat stressed about his upcoming "lack of English."

I'll let you know how things go in upcoming posts.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Minoh Waterfall and Katsuoji Temple

Last Friday I met up with my friend John to do some hiking north of Osaka. He was visiting from the U.S. and wanted to show me the Minoh Waterfall and the very beautiful Katsuoji Temple.

We hiked most of the day through the forest and days later, my legs are still screaming in pain!

Hope you like some of the pictures I took that day. Katsuoji Temple is well know for its Daruma. These small figures are meant to give people good luck and help their wishes come true.

I'm back and mobile....in Osaka

Long time, no see!

I'm alive and doing well and still in Japan of course. I've long been neglecting this blog for far too long. Things have changed as of today and maybe I'll be able to share with you more often.

As of today, I now work in Osaka, Japan. I still live in Kobe with my family, but now have a much longer and more uncomfortable commute everyday. I've just downloaded the Blogger app and will try to write posts while I travel everyday.

I'll continue to focus on my son's bilingual upbringing and share things we're doing in my house to make sure his English language skills grow while submersed in a Japanese world!