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Japan Scene 3: A multi-ethnic moment

The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out of Many One People‘, based on the population’s multiracial roots. Although there are exceptions the reality is that there is very little mixing of these “races”, most stay in their own little enclaves and the majority of us are of African descent.

Living in Japan now, there are lessons and experiences almost daily that allow personal growth, development and exposure to new things and ways of doing things. Not many people will openly admit that their views on the world are limited as these days many internet warriors live their life through Google and the fake lens of social media.

Between Lunch and Dinner

So here I was having a meal in that wasn’t quite lunch but not dinner either. Seated around the table was 5 people including myself representing a variety of ethnicities; Mexico, China, Europe, Japan, Jamaica, America, Africa. All of us with different skin shades, speaking 2-3 languages each. Here we were, sitting in an Italian restaurant on a small rural island, in Japan after working at, participating in and/or watching a sports festival for kids.

ethnicity – the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.

I couldn’t help but reflect on all the divisive occurrences all around the world now from North America, to Korea, to Myanmar, to Spain. In the end we really and truly are all the same but there are certain powers who would stand to lose a lot if we dare realized that.

[pole]

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Unicorn Gundam arrives in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront district

Its hard to believe that the life-sized RX-78 Gundam started to be built in Odaiba, Tokyo and was eventually completed 8 years ago. It stood for a while and was even upgraded with a light-saber and returning briefly for charity and seeing a counterfeit cousin setup in China. However, there is a new 19.7-meter TRANSFORMING Gundam in town – The Unicorn Gundam.

“I know that many people were waiting so long for this day to arrive. I was one of them,” Toshinobu Maeda, managing director of Tokyo Port Terminal Corp., which is in charge of the project, said at the media preview Saturday evening.

“The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are coming up in three years, and the waterfront area has been chosen as one of the sites for the games,” he said. “I expect this Unicorn Gundam . . . to become the source of further revitalization for the waterfront area.”

I own a Unicorn Gundam figure and loved the anime. I now live in Japan (albeit quite the distance from Tokyo) but you best believe a pilgrimage to this glorious statue is on the cards and when I do you will hear from screams anywhere you are in the world. Stay turned for my visit. If Japan’s engineers can make such a contraption can you imagine if they “really” tried to make a weaponized robot?

via – Japan Times

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Life without a Computer

Ok, I know, my phone is technically a computer, so is my PlayStation 4 but the “computer” I am been living without in a sense for the past few months is a personal computer. No more PC gaming, no more uploading videos to my youtube channel even though I have hours of footage stacking up and so much to share and say. No more podcast updates as I somehow left my mic back in Jamaica (my PS4 was apparently more important).

First World Problems?

I’ve been writing blog posts from my phone and checking then publishing in my free time at work. All this would have been avoided if that cheap laptop I tried to buy before moving to Japan didn’t arrive with a messed up screen. Having a faulty laptop arrive days before you move to the other side of the planet, might have been my first experience with “first world problems“. I paid taxes to import that mofo from America but now I’ll have to send the bastard back to Dell (I shouldn’t have bought a Dell) by first getting back to America! Kinda hard when you had a million and one things to do before the big move.

I also brought my First Order Tie Fighter to Japan but sadly not my cat

In the end, I left it in Jamaica and thanks to my bestest friend in the world got it back to Amazon via New York weeks after it was due to be returned but Amazon redeemed themselves by allowing me an extra month to return in. The refund arrived a week later and here I am now, PC-less in Japan (for 2 months and counting). I keep going from wanting to pick up a cheap PC tomorrow or waiting until December and get myself what I would never have imagined getting back in Jamaica – a gaming laptop.

Cheap Laptop or Gaming Laptop?

The small spaces and change in lifestyle that Japan has brought have given me a new understanding of multifunctional items that save space. I miss having a PC, I want to edit and share videos, I want to record more podcast episodes and most importantly stay up late at night browsing the web on something other than my Samsung Galaxy S7. What do you think I should do? Wait til December and buy a sick gaming laptop or spring for a cheap laptop naow! vote in the poll below – onegaishimasu!

 

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

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Samus Edition 3DS and Metroid: Samus Returns

Rewarding yourself for achieving things/goals is one of my favourite ways to motivate myself. My last reward to myself was a trip to New York when I finished undergrad studies. Fast forward almost a year and throw a list of things too numerous to mention I now live in Japan!

Samus looking fine on the cover of her special edition Nintendo 3DS

Samus looking fine on the cover of her special edition Nintendo 3DS

Moving to Japan was one thing but surviving the first few months is something else! So on the topic of rewards I took it upon myself to buy a Samus Edition New 3DS XL AND the new Metroid: Samus returns video game. I literally just unboxed the beast minutes before typing this blog post but I intend to do another post and maybe a video later about the game and the system so please look out for that.

Metroid: Samus Returns + Samus Edition Nintendo 3DS

I also wanted to share more deal meaningful info about the importance of self-love and rewards but I think if you read this far you should understand why it’s important to buy yourself nice things when you deserve it.

Metroid X Star Wars

Metroid X Star Wars – Samus could teach bounty hunters in Star Wars a thing or two

Metroid: Samus Returns

Metroid: Samus Returns is for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS

The back of the Samus Edition Nintendo 3DS is gold

First time booting her up!

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Japan Scene 2: Futsal x English Master

It was supposed to be a regular Thursday night futsal session. I’ve never been much of a football/soccer player outside of my inter-school league in high school but I willingly got connected to the futsal club on my island. Futsal now served two purposes for me. 1. To get exercise and 2. to socialize with the locals; on this small island everybody knows everybody and the futsal team was a mixture of teachers, construction workers, housewives, ferry workers and more.

So I arrive at the artificially lit multipurpose park arounf 7:25pm to see a much bigger crowd than usual. There was an aura of excitement in the air; I had no idea why at this point. I saw the usual faces but maybe 5 or so I was seeing for the first time. As usual I stood out like a raison in vanilla ice cream but by this time I was comfortable with my adopted futsal family. A cirlcle was then formed with a well-kitted out stranger in the middle.

kitted-out Stranger: hjgdjhdaf futsal fdgjhhg A-town adhjdf so happy to be here jhgdajh thank you hjsgdsjsg beautiful
Ben-san: The A-town futsal club welcomes you to dsjhdg dhdga jhgsd. Thank you for coming
kitted-out Stranger: Japan dsdhjg community sajhag ghjsdg poei ahdgf fuyt hjfgs fsdjhg fdsfhkj dadhgf life…

Struggling to understand

Of course I understood very few words and my brain was spazzing out trying to translate with my limited Japanese as by the time I figured one word I could almost never connect the context and as usual was struggling to understand. The way I would describe it is like I’m in a race with and in my brain and I am struggling to keep up and frustrated til I eventually give up and allow the words to wash over me as I smile and nob and clap/laugh when everyone else does.

English Master: Hey Kirk! I heard all about you at the office. I know you do not understand Japanese yet.
Me: eeehhhh?!?!?!?

English Master: Dont worry I will translate for you
Me: Wow your english is great. Thank you

A Jamaican, a Mexican and a Japanese share a hotel room and…

It was like a miniature version of my Todai-ji experience. Out of nowhere spouting from the face of your typical Japanese middle-aged man was the best English I have heard on the island so far. Needless to say I became stuck to him for most of the night. Through him I learnt that the captain of Japan`s futsal team was here on my small island playing futsal with our team! The English master who became my new friend was unbeleivable a JICA emplyee working in my town and responsible for various projects including getting such a high profile “star” to visit this far-flung island. I took some of the downtime to explain how JICA has done and continues to do great work in Jamaica.

As the night went on and futsal came to an end I was invited to a gettogether after where we packed 20+ people in a small room eating and drinking. I declined the drinking part as I had work the next day but the boys (and a few of the girls) went crazy including the futsal star. Over the hours I learned so much about the English Master, his family and how he loves Jamaica and Bob Marley because many years ago he shared a room with a mexican and a Jamaican while on a business training trip. Who would have thought that such a connection would be made ramdomly. Now I`ve been invited to 2 upcoming high profile events on my island featuring a delegation from Bhutan and another with a NHK executive. Even though I rode home in the cold darkness at 2am I went to bed quite excited about those upcoming experiences while dreading that I had to wake up for work in a few hours!

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Japan Scene 1: New Teacher x Ferry Rendezvous

Rural communities the world over have a distinct charm; the people are usually friendlier, more close-knit and very curious. These attributes certainly apply to the rural island community I reside in now in Japan. My short time here has already been punctuated by astute exchanges that offer community integration opportunities as well as lessons about language, culture, life and many other topics. This new “Japan Scenes” series is my attempt to document a fraction of these exchanges that I hope will be as interesting to my blog readers as they were to me.

I spend a lot of time of ferries lately…

My immediate community is an island of its own but the extended community includes 2 other islands close by. I had already visited one of the other 2 islands but the third and smallest one had eluded me until this faithful day. The plan was to pick up some items from a colleague in the evening after work so I made my way to the port and waited on the next ferry to arrive. I look very different from everyone so unsurprisingly someone recognized me.

River-man: K-sensei, how are you?!?!?
Me: I am fine! (I did not remember his name but his face was familiar)
River-man: Where are you headed today?
Me: To C-island! I need to pick something up from a friend and head back before it gets too dark
River-man: I am headed there too for a meeting

The ferry soon arrives and we get on and 20 minutes later we are at our destination port. I proceed to summon the help of Google Maps as I try to follow the landmarks given in the instructions on how to find my friend’s home.

River-man: Will you be walking?
Me: Yes (while showing him my destination on my phone)
River-man: I’m headed in that direction, plus its 25 minutes by foot so join me in my car!
Me: Really? Thank you!
River-man: I’ll be returning on the 9pm ferry so meet me at X place at X time and We can travel back together!

We proceeded to share information about each other as I learned that he is from this island but works on my island. I also finally learned (I hope) his name, about his family and important work he does. This is the example of community integration opportunities I spoke of early. In a few conversations, I put a name to a familiar face, had an opportunity to use (and hopefully improve) my terrible Japanese and learned that this unassuming man was quite important in my community and was very proud of the work he does.

Oki Islands View

Oki Islands View

The quest to find River-man

+2 hours and it was time to leave C-village and head back to my island base. By this time it was pitch-black outside. Armed with Google Maps I set off to find the meeting spot. A few minutes later I arrive at what I think its the meeting spot but its dark and I am unsure if I am in the right place. I peek into the school next door and notice the lights on in the office so I walk toward the light hoping that there was someone there. Surprisingly there was someone there; a young Japanese man in his early twenties.

Me: Good evening. Excuse me, I am so sorry. Do you know River-man?
Young Teacher-man: River-man? Yes I do! Are you looking for him?
Me: Yes! We are supposed to meet in 30 minutes to catch the ferry back home together.
Young Teacher-man: Do not worry I think I know where he is! follow me.

After few minutes of quick walking and multiple flights of stairs, we arrive on the 3rd floor of what must be the biggest building on the island. However, it seemed empty and eerie my imaginative mind started to think that this is how horror movies start and any minute the lights would go out and then slowly come on and I would find Young Teacher-man missing! Thankfully it didn’t happen and after a few minutes of checking, we retreated back to the school staff room as Young Teacher-man rustled through files and tried calling River-man’s cell phone… multiple tries and no answer.

Young Teacher-man: It will be ok. I know the ferry timetable. If I don’t get him in time I will drive you to the port to catch the ferry.
Me: Really? Thank you!
Young Teacher-man: Where are you from?
Me: I am from Jamaica.
Young Teacher-man: Really?!!?!? (A wide-eyed look on his face) Bolto Bolto Bolto!…

The number one conversation starter

Japanese level up?

We proceeded to talk about many topics including how he is a new teacher who only started teaching four months ago and his love of basketball. He fired off the usual questions I have been getting; how tall are you? Why did you come to Japan? How old are you? How long did it take to travel from Jamaica to these tiny islands? How fast can you run the 100m? We then did a second check of River-man at the same building (thankfully taking the elevator this time). There in the silence, we heard voices and together realised that a group of people were having a meeting in an ajoining room. We sat and waited and in less than five minutes the meeting was over and River-man appeared from behind a closed door.

River-man: I am so sorry, I could not answer my phone!
Me: There is no problem. Young Teacher-man kept my company and I made a new friend.
Young Teacher-man: It was my pleasure River-man.
Me: Thank you Young Teacher-man!

River-man and I travelled to the port together exchanging more information as I cringed internally while using my mixture of simple English and broken Japanese. Luckily he understood most of our exchanges (I hope) and soon we were back at home port waving good-bye as he hopped onto his scooter as I wrestled with my bicycle. I memorable evening indeed.

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Post-launch Log

One week in and what a transition! A month ago I was sitting at my desk as a government drone toiling away at increasingly less challenging tasks, today I am waking up to the sounds of rural island life in Japan.

My supervisor, predecessor and yours truly!

I really bonded with my batch of fellow Jamaicans headed to Japan. The seperation after having our local orientation, sharing tips while getting ready together, basic Japanese classes, the journey to Japan and Tokyo orientation was rough for me but we continue to support each other and I really hope our group sticks together.

The Usain Bolt craze is alive in my town

Post-Tokyo Orientation things have gotten real!

  • Setting up bank account
  • Getting my permanent Japan phone number
  • Meeting BOE Staff in my area
  • Checking out the local spots
  • Getting to know my neighbours
  • Being the new attraction in town
  • Learning how to get around with no sense of direction

Some of my new Jamaican family in Japan

I can honestly say I am well taken care of and very happy at the moment. I’m riding this positive wave at the moment while being grateful that I have the support for when the honeymoon is over.

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Pre-launch Log

I’m sitting here in the darkness tired; the last few weeks have been a blur and almost nothing has happened or felt like I imagined it would. I’ve quit my job, packed my life into 2 suitcases, wrapped up or streamlined my financial affairs, spent more money in the last few weeks than I would like to admit, gone to many an sendoff event, met some amazing new people and I could go on and on. I thought writing a book which culminates in this very event would make it easier.

My close friends will know that the journey that I am about to embark on is not by chance, it’s a carefully orchestrated plan, sprung from the mind of a perpetual planner (Remember the goal of Operation Visit Japan?). Many won’t know of the setbacks, my frustrations, my fears, the times I was very close to allowing myself to fail. 

What’s my reward? A whole lot of the unexpected, on an island in the middle of the sea of Japan. It’s much better than it sounds (I promise), but I sure am a big rustling bag of emotions, and it’s been that way since that fateful call. It all culminates this weekend, but I cannot complain, I could never be more prepared and excited. Join me on this new adventure, I plan share as much of it as possible with YOU.

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Wonder Woman is Awesome

The movie on the lips of every professional and armchair critic right now is Wonder Woman. I saw it on opening night here in Jamaica after successfully avoiding spoilers including the later trailers. Well, how was the movie? One word…Awesome! 

Without spoiling anything let’s just say that Wonder Woman avoided most of the mistakes that the steaming pile of garbage called Batman V Superman made. The movie is engaging, action-packed the casting was excellent and that late movie plot twist was worth my spoiler embargo.

CGI Light Show

The last third if the movie turned into one big CGI light show that may be too much for some and awesome for others. For me, it was a tad over the top but didn’t take away from the emotional feast that was the first two-thirds of the movie.

Go see Wonder Woman and enjoy the laughs, the fights, the clay babies and the Amazonian eye candy.

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Kingston to Ama-cho

So there I was sitting in the barber chair trimming my mini fro when the phone rings. It’s the Japanese Embassy! I’m congratulated told to get a pen as my new home will soon be in Shimane. Shimane? Hmm never heard of it but I’m so excited I jump out the chair to weird looks from the other patrons in the barbershop. “Shimane is your prefecture and Ama-cho is your contracting organisation”, said a friendly voice on the phone, sounds cool enough.

Googling Shimane

I finish my cut and excitedly grab my phone to Google Shimane; it’s on the mainland? Cool? Next to Tottori and Hiroshima prefectures? Nice! Now, where is Ama-cho? I can’t find it! After a few minutes, my heart pounding out of my chest, I decided to Google Ama-cho instead. Is it on an island? Or is it an island? Is it part of a group of islands? It’s not on the mainland! Cue panic attack.

Absorbing the interwebs

Fast forward a few days and dozens of hours of research and I have found out almost everything I can about Ama-cho there is to know without actually visiting via videos, blog posts, AJET, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sources. How do I feel now? Much less panicked to be honest. I knew the JET program would be a new and interesting adventure so basically nothing has changed and at least my experience will be quite unique.

My new home, come late July 2017 will be Japan, Shimane, Oki Islands, Nakanoshima, Ama Town. Stay tuned for more info and join me as I exchange culture and assist in teaching English… In JAPAN.

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