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Reigniting my Table Tennis flame

I played table tennis it high school, reluctantly at first as I wanted to do track and field but my asthma made me unable to manage the intense training. Table Tennis eventually grew into one of the highlights of my high school years and the sport I continued to participate into my early 20’s entering tournaments and such until unfortunately life just got too busy to continue. In recent weeks I have found a nice group to play table tennis with here on my rural island. I excitedly look forward to Thursday nights now as people from all age groups meet up for table tennis.

Silver Fox vs the Young Pup

I barely made it back from driving school recently to take part in a table tennis tournament that was the most fun I have had at a sporting event in years. The principal at one of my elementary schools knocked me out in the first round after I faced him with identical stats of one win and one loss. It came down to the wire and he was the crafty fox that outsmarted me the young pup.

table tennis

Table Tennis saved my imaginary six pack

Table Tennis and jogging has also allowed me to get my weight and fitness back under control after swelling up over the winter last year, especially in the midsection. Now I am considering investing in a racket and getting fully back on the table tennis wagon – maybe I can be champion next year?

Driving School and getting my Drivers Licence in Japan

Recently I went to a driving school in Japan to aid me in acquiring my driver’s license here. For most foreigners getting a driver’s license in Japan involves going to a licensing centre doing an interview then coming back for a driving test, written test and sometimes enduring a 2-hour lecture and video. The internet is littered with stories of foreigners having to go back multiple times in order to gain the right to drive on Japan’s roads.

For me, I had a drivers license but I literally got it a week before coming to Japan. To do the process I described earlier you had to have your license for 3 months prior to moving Japan so it turns out I was no different from a regular new driver in Japan. Finding a driving school that offered lessons in English was hard enough in my rural prefecture. When many could have easily done lessons after work or on weekends that was not an option for me.

Luckily I found a school and endured 15 days of a boot-camp-like experience to get the coveted piece of plastic. In hindsight I “kinda” understand why Japan is so mental when it comes to road safety – road users are generally courteous and law-abiding – a big difference from the wild west that is Jamaica’s roads.

The 3 paths to a drivers licence in Japan are:

  1. 1. If you are from Iceland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Australia, Holland, Canada, Korea, Greece, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, France, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg or Taiwan you just need to translate your license with the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), pay a small fee, endure some paperwork and the licence is yours.
  2. Not from a country listed above? Then if you have had your license for 3 or more months you can translate your licence, endure an interview mainly asking about how you got your license, when you got it, driving rules in your country etc, then pass a written then driving test before the license can be yours. I personally know people who have had to do the driving test more than five times to pass.
  3. If you are like me and had your less than 3 months or no license whatsoever then your options are driving school then learners license, more driving school then written test, a lecture then license! This process depending on the school you attend can be anywhere from a 2 and half week intensive boot-camp (that is what I did) to a 6 months process of checking off lectures and classes while doing the practical driving necessary.

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Things getting clearer the second time around

A few weeks ago I recognized that it has been one year since I have been living in Japan. I am amazed at how fast the time has flown by. What has been even more surprising in the weeks since is the repetition of many of the things I did when I first arrived. My first few weeks in Japan were a whirlwind of orientations, travelling, welcome dinners, meeting dozens of people, perpetual tiredness and suppressing the need to scream when you are one conversation or question or request away from either exploding into tiny pieces or drowning in it all.

One Year Later

One year later now I am no longer on edge, the sound of Japanese is no longer mostly gibberish, stepping out of my door is no longer has me suppressing my anxiety until I return home to fall asleep at 6pm. I’ve more or less gotten used to my routines, my responsibilities and I am very fortunate to have the persons here who do their best to ensure I am as comfortable as possible.

From Blur to Dreamlike state

Fast forward now a year later; I am redoing the lessons I did when I just arrived last year, I’ve met most of the new ALTs who have come to my prefecture this year, my house is now more homey, I can find my way around town, I have thwarted so many challenges than I can remember in the last year and I have have experienced all four seasons in Japan. Admittedly many things are still somewhat dreamlike but last year this time so much was just a blur that its good to know that after one revolution around the sun I am still able to make the best of this opportunity. Living in Japan is really a dream come true and I am getting more comfortable each day with my unique rural island town experience in Japan; so what if I don’t have a convenience store – I am surrounding my smiles, beautiful views I am already making an impact on the hearts and minds of my community.

Shore Trooper from Star Wars Rouge One

My figure collection expanded further recently when I acquired a 1/12 scale Shore Trooper model from Star Wars Rogue One. The figure was a gift from my pal Mike who is a fellow ALT on the JET program here in Shimane, Japan. I should have gotten it from my birthday in March but due to circumstances beyond my control I only got in in my clutches recently.

Blaster Action

Compared to me, Mike is a master figure builder as he not only built my shore trooper but also added amazing weathering and battle effects. My favourite of these effects being what seems like blaster burns on his helmet and arm. I usually build my figures as is with no retouching or weathering other than minor marker touches. I also haven’t built anything challenging in a while but I have a high-grade XXXG-OOWO Wing Gundam ZERO lined up to warm up on next.

Securing my home

Again I absolutely love my Shore Trooper gift. He will guard my genkan (house entrance in Japan) to ensure that all visitors know that my home is aligned with the Empire. With this figure I know have a figure in every room of my house in Japan. My favourite being my Tie Fighter in my living room and Yoko in my bedroom.

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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.