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Just when I thought I was a Japan-travel guru

I recently went to Tokyo. Travelling from my rural island via ferry and overnight bus. I really enjoyed myself in Tokyo but then it was time to return – so I started to make my way to Tokyo station to catch my night bus – while on the Yamanote Line I decide to double check my bus time to see if I can make a quick combini run before boarding. And that’s when I realised… I somehow read 7:08 PM as 8:07 PM – I had missed my night bus…

Expensive alternate route

I still arrived at Tokyo station and for at least an hour just stood there in a sea of commuters pondering what the hell I was going to do. In the end, I bought shinkansen tickets for the next day from Tokyo to Okayama then more trains and buses and a ferry back to my island… One day late.

Jamaican JET Program

I met up with half the group I travelled to Japan with on the JET Programme

OCD Traveler

Usually, when I travel within Japan I am crazy when it comes to my itinerary – I have things printed, reminders on my phone, Google calendar organized and point of interest pinned in Google Maps. This time though I thought I was a seasoned veteran – I’ve travelled around Japan on my own during Operation Visit Japan in 2011, I’ve made this Tokyo trip and back a couple times in the past year. I’ve done Hiroshima, Miyajima and more- who needs to be so OCD about plan right? I sure learnt my lesson.

Jamaican food Tokyo

Jamaican Food at a restaurant in Tokyo was like fuel to my soul

 

25+ Japanese words and phases Anime taught me

A few months ago I made a post called “Is learning Japanese with Anime, Manga and Video Games possible?” That post has proved quite popular so I decided to do a followup. I’ve watched a lot of anime over the years and although in recent times my consumption of anime has gone down significantly I recently thought about how many words and phrases I learned from anime. Many of my favourite anime are based on shonen manga like Naruto, Dragon Ball and Attack on Titan. So unsurprisingly the Japanese I learnt makes me sound like a manga action hero or villain. That doesn’t mean these words and phrases aren’t useful for enunciation, understanding conjugation and starting off your basic Japanese vocabulary.

許さない – simple enough means unforgivable or I won’t forgive you – many protagonists have screamed that at villains in anime. お前はだれですか?is a masculine tough guy way of asking who someone is. 死なない means to not die – pay attention to when you see or hear nai attached to a verb in Japanese it usually means to not do what the verb translates to. 助けてください again a popular phrase in anime screamed by anyone that needs saving. 強い means strong. I usually say 私は強いですよ! when teasing my elementary kids after defeating them in rock paper scissors or my JHS kids in Table Tennis. まさか is another popular one to show astonishment.

Family members are also important to know – お兄さん means older brother but あにき is a casual way of referring to an older male. The rest are easy enough but beware that some words for family members change if you are referring to your own family or another person’s family. 先ぱい and こうはい are also simple ones means senior and junior respectively. Many a princess has needed rescuing in anime 姫様- a trick I use to remember the kanji is its a combination of the woman and a character that looks like a crown. For prince, the kanji are child and king or the child of a king 王子.

気持ち悪い means everything from I have a bad feeling about this to that’s disgusting. Jitsu should be something all Naruto lovers are used to hearing, same with 戦い which means battle and 世界 which means world – also if you didnt notice ppl in Gundam and dragonball seem to say sekai a lot. 化け物 literally means transformed thing. Pay attention to that second kanji which is used when referring to many kinds of things like drinks being のみ物 and food being たべ物.

Every anime hero worth anything has screamed ぜたいにまもる at least once and feel free to scream あのさあ to casually try to get someones attention. すみません is to also used to get someone’s attention more formally as well as to say excuse me. 大丈夫’s 3 characters look so semetrical to my OCD brain and when put together means Are you okay. 神様 is yet another anime staple and means god and is as common as and old dude stroking his beard and saying なるほど. やめろ is the last thing anime bullies here before they get beaten up.

ばかやろう is offensive but is okay to be used with friends – if you have a friend that has never called you studpid you are not friends. なんだここに is what you say with a Yakuza-like voice when you want to impress the ladies. ほんとに was my favourite phrase when I just arrived in Japan and the teachers and students still tease me with it – with different inflections it can be a question or similar to Masaka.

Finally, we have the days of the week – 日 月 火 水 木 金 土 – if you remember nothing else from this post please remember these 7 – you can thank me later. Was this post helpful? Please vote in the poll below and leave any comments and questions as well.

One Year Living in Japan

It’s now officially one year since I plopped off that plane in Tokyo excited about moving to Japan. I have blogged and spoken about it countless times about how moving to Japan had been a longtime goal of mine so I won’t go over that. Instead, I will be quickly talking about my experiences in Japan so far and how it has changed me on a personal level.

One Japaniversary

First I cannot believe its been one year already. It feels like I landed and was so overwhelmed and disoriented then by the time I got to my senses I was freezing my ass off in Winter, sick most of Spring, enduring what felt like a month of rain, now burning up in the Summer them boom! one year Japaniversary. My 1st year in Japan and indeed my Japan experience so far is very different from what I thought it would be – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If I could talk to myself from a year ago I would tell myself to calm down and adjust but not lower your expectations. Rural island Japan-life is a special type of Japan experience but after a year of experiences here I don’t think I would want to change my placement.

One Year ago to the day I was at the JET Program Orientation in Tokyo

Grateful for all the assistance received

I am fortunate to have a good group of people around me that have helped me survive this first year -and I have to remind myself that just surviving sometimes is a victory. My coworkers are awesome, my supervisor is awesome, my neighbours are awesome and most of all the kids I teach are awesome. During my roughest periods, it is the kids that kept me grounded and focused on remembering why I am here. I remember arriving and during my 1st few classes I was so clueless – the kids were not warmed up to me yet and man did I struggle in those early weeks. However, after a while, I could feel the tide change and I started to improve day by day to now the kids are excited about English class and my co-Teachers trust me to plan activities and value my input.

Miscommunication

I worked for 15 years before coming to Japan – so I wasn’t a young 23ish-year-old fresh out of college like most participants on the JET program. My biggest challenge continues to be navigating this society and being so depended on others for almost everything when I was so independent back in Jamaica for a very long time. The language and communicating is still quite hard and recently the biggest source of frustrations is when I am misunderstood which means I have to struggle to get what I really wanted or just live with the miscommunication and learn from the experience. I never dreamed that simple things like finding baking powder at a store or getting a tooth filled could cause such a spike in my anxiety levels.

Hard to link with friends in Japan

Also, before coming to Japan I had a lot of friends that live here from all nationalities and walks of life. Most I have met via my blog or from my previous visit to Japan. However, due to my location, I have been unable to see any of these friends since I have been here because with my rural island commute just getting to the mainland and the perfect logistics and timing to return etc is so frustrating. So when I do get holidays or long weekends I am either super tired and stay close to home or travel to the nearest city on the mainland which is still another 3-4-5-6 hours from big cities like Osaka, Hiroshima etc – Tokyo is a flight or a overnight bus away so expectly traveling for me ain’t cheap and none of my friends seems willing or able to meet me half way.

damn paparazzi

Onwards to Year 2

Overall though I am happy with my first year. My maturity has really helped me adjust to the challenges here. My experiences before Japan has helped me in my job and my impact in my community is amplified because it is so small and close-knit. Cheers to my 1st year in Japan and lets see what kind of experiences year 2 has in store.

Pokemon Legend Red (レッド) Nendoroid

Remember my recent trip to Hiroshima and the Pokemon Centre there? Well, there was a particular figure I was hunting and it was disappointing not to find it. however, I managed to acquire it by other means and in this video, I show my new Nendoroid figure!

Generation 1 Pokemon

I won’t stop saying that generation one Pokemon are the best Pokemon. They have awesome designs, many have interesting backstories and helped to make Pokemon the cultural phenomenon that it is now. The original Pokemon games have probably zapped hundreds of hours of my life when I was a young teen. Link cable battles are a highlight of my school days as we arranged tournaments and battled for bragging rights.

The star of those games was not Ash like in the anime, it was Red who as an 11-year old set off from Pallet Town on a Pokemon journey that would make him a legend. Professor Oak gave him and his rival the choice of three Pokemon; the fire type Pokémon Charmander, the water type Squirtle or the grass type Pokémon Bulbasaur; and as they say the rest is history.

Nendoroid Figures

I’m a fan on Nendoroid figures and have owned a couple over the years – one of my favourite being the character L from Deathnote. They are cute, affordable and most importantly durable. So when I saw Red’s Nendoroid complete with starter pokemon, I couldn’t resist picking it up especially with the resurgence of nostalgia for the original Pokemon games from Pokémon Go and upcoming remakes for the Nintendo Switch.

The figure comes with all original starter pokemon which interestingly are my favourite part of the package. They are all detailed and even cuter than I remember them. Red is also looking quite detailed with 3 different faceplates and accessories like a backpack, masterball and Pokedex.

What are some of your favourite video games, cartoons, anime, TV programs, movies or toys from your childhood? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Detroit: Become Human

Detroit: Become Human is a very polarizing game. People either really like it or really dislike it. The game is written and directed by David Cage – himself a polarizing figure in the video game industry and published by Quantic Dreams exclusively for the PlayStation 4. I am in the camp that likes Detroit: Become Human. I have followed its development over the years and preordered the game. Personally, the sci-fi and story elements appealed to me and it was one of my most anticipated games of 2018.

About Detroit: Become Human

Detroit: Become Human is a third-person adventure game where you play as three different androids which may or may not have overlapping stories depending on how you play. There is Markus; who starts the game as the caretaker android for a rich artist. Then there is Kara a housekeeper android with an abusive owner tasked with taking care of a young girl. Finally, you have my favourite of the three Conner – A police android thrust upon a wonky lieutenant and together they aim to figure out why some androids have started to become “deviant”.

Real actors and choices

Part of the appeal of Detroit: Become Human is the use of real actors in many of the roles. Characters can also die mid story and the game adjusts and continues with the characters you have remaining. The outcome of many missions and scenes really matter and your choices can have a drastic effect on how the story unfolds in a more meaningful way than other developers like Bioware promised in their games.

Markus, Kara and Conner

At many points during the story I was really drawn in felt connected to the characters but there are also some jarring moments of poor writing or just cliché interactions that left me equally frustrated. In my first play through, I played Marcus as violent and ruthless, Conner as an obedient robot sticking to his tasks but I, unfortunately, lost Kara in a shady mansion when she inadvertently ate a shotgun blast. In my second play through, I played Markus as peaceful and charismatic, Conner as the perfect police partner and managed to Keep Kara alive to the end. It resulted in two very different experiences and endings.

Detroit: Become Human isn’t for everyone but check it out if the narrative interests you especially sci-fi stories about potentially rising up to overthrow humans is something that interests you – We have to be as prepared as possible for when Skynet eventually comes online.

Learn Kanji over time to level-up your Japanese

Kanji are characters adopted from Chinese for writing Japanese. Together with Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana make up the Japanese writing system. In the beginning its really difficult to wrap your head around such a system especially coming from the western alphabet, however in time it will start to make sense. Kanji range from simple characters that are just one or a few strokes to complicated monstrosities that even native Japanese have trouble writing and remembering. Again I am no guru of the Japanese language but it makes sense to start with the easier characters and work yourself up doesn’t it?

Kanji Breakthrough

Kanji is a hurdle that seems insurmountable to many learners of Japanese – including myself. The breakthrough for me was understanding that even native Japanese speakers learn the basic 2000 or so characters over a decade from elementary school onwards so why try to cram them in my head quickly and then get discouraged when I don’t remember? Take heart in knowing that many Japanese people have trouble remembering Kanji and learning them is a lifelong process – there are literally tens of thousands of them. There are a few hundred that are frequently used and when you start being exposed to reading and writing kanji naturally it will be easy to start recognizing those characters so prioritize learning them.

On’yomi vs Kun’yomi

The aspect of Kanji that I am currently battling with is the multiple readings for each character. Most characters have two or more readings divided into On’yomi and Kun’yomi. If a Kanji has another Kanji attached to it you almost always use the On’yomi reading. If Kanji is standing on its own or has hiragana attached to it then usually its the Kun’yomi reading. Again in my experience its the Kun’yomi or Japanese readings that are troublesome. However, in time and with practice you start to see a method to the kanji madness. Check out this link to Tofugu that explains On’yomi and Kun’yomi is more detail that I could ever hope to so check it out!

volcano kanji

Fire + Mountain = Volcano

For example two easier kanji are 火 and 山. On their own, I remember them as fire and mountain with the pronunciations “Hi” and “Yama”. Put them together though and you get the world for Volcano but the pronunciations are completely different with “Hi” becoming “Ka” and “Yama” becoming “Zan” or “Kazan” – the Japanese word for Volcano. Learning Kanji and thus Japanese is about understanding these relationships and making that mental connection for yourself or with help from an app, books a teacher, instead of just strictly remembering readings or pronunciations for characters as we do with the English Alphabet. So for example, if you take the “Fire” character and you see it, in other words, it starts to make sense such as Mars (火星) Fire Star, Tuesday (火曜日) Fire Day and Fireworks (花火) Flower Fire and when you see it in other kanji such as Autumn (秋).

Study Kanji in related batches

So in concluding my last piece of advice is to start with the simple kanji and learn them in related batches such as Days of the week, 1 to 10, cardinal points, seasons, weather, body parts etc Afterwords start understanding how and why readings change as Kanji are placed beside each other or smashed together to become radicals and make more complicated characters. Good luck! unlike Hiragana and Katakana – Kanji learning is a never-ending process.

easy kanji

Before starting on Kanji I recommend starting with Hiragana and Katakana.

Japan Scene 6: Air Traffic Controller

A few weeks ago I attended a yard sale-style event put on by the boarders at the High School on my island. The aim was to sell-off stuff and raise funds. There were books, clothes, crafts and chocolate. One booth even had currency from counties all over the world. I took the opportunity to pick up a 50 Thai baht note and support my milk chocolate addiction. The real memorable encounter though was with an elderly Japanese man who I continuously noted was staring at me and my friend I came with. I’m used to the staring when I go to the mainland but being stared at on my tiny island was not normal as everyone should be aware of my presence by now. Maybe it was my super tall African-American pal? I soon found out why he was staring when he walked over to nervously say hi to us.

Retired ATC: Hehehello, my name is ____. Where are you from?
Me: I am from Jamaica. How are you?
Retired ATC: I am fine. JAMAICA?!?!? Wow. Why Did you come to this island?
Me: Yes, I Teach English at the Junior High School.
Retired ATC: Thank you for coming to our rural island. I am a retired Air Traffic Controller…

50 baht

Picked up a 50 Baht note featuring the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Japan Explorer

He proceeded to speak to us more relaxed and excitedly about his time working all over Japan at various airports from Tokyo to Osaka and many smaller obscure airports. I went from feeling uncomfortable as I was being stared at to having an enlightening conversation with an elderly man who was so excited to speak English to foreigners.

Aggretsuko – Aggressive Retsuko is helping me learn Japanese

I haven’t watched regular TV at home in months. Most of my TV time is split between video games and Netflix. I am a huge sci-fi buff and I have been inhaling everything from Star Trek Discovery to Annihilation to the Lost in Space remake. However, there is a new non-Scifi love it town – her name is Retsuko and she is bae.

Frustrated with her thankless office job, Retsuko the Red Panda copes with her daily struggles by belting out death metal karaoke after work.

Aggressive Retsuko

Japan has a big problem balancing work, family and leisure time. It’s not unheard of for office workers, teachers etc to spend 80+ hours a week at work – hardly taking time off – even national holidays. Aggretsuko or aggressive Retsuko delves into this, albeit not directly but also mixes in various characters you would usually find in the workplace such as the rumour spreading office worker, the terrible boss and the ass kissing new recruit just to name a few. The writing is so good and the humour hits home most of the time often in unpredictable ways.

Studying Japanese

I started to watch Aggretsuko mainly to study Japanese – it has everyday relate-able dialogue that I can follow at my level in short episodes. I still use the subtitles but it feels good to understand more than half the words spoken even though my understanding and translation is a little different from the subtitles at times the gist is usually the same.

Check out Aggretsuko if you like cute characters and real-life situations with a comedic twist. I have a few episodes left to devour and I am already anticipating future seasons and injuring my wallet when more merchandises become available.