I’m Alive!

It’s been about two months and a half since I last updated this blog, but to be fair my laptop died on me and I have yet to buy a new one. As you can imagine, life without a laptop/computer in this day and age sucks a fat one, but they are REALLY expensive here and I will probably have to get a Mac since it seems really time-consuming to find a PC with an English OS. But on a brighter note, a lot of pretty cool stuff has happened since I last updated the blog. Let’s see…I have kind of joined a local amateur basketball team, I hit up Tokyo for a long-weekend, I got my ticket for my one-week New Years shenanigans in Osaka (the best city in Japan!), I got a car and I pretty much got the driving on the wrong side of the road and car thing down, the weather is pretty awesome right now, I’ve met a bunch of cool people, and I’ve gotten pretty damn good at cooking. These next two weeks also look pretty promising as I will be heading to the capital of my prefecture for a Halloween party at a pretty bad-ass looking club and I am set to go to Tokyo again on the first of November!

 OK! So let’s talk negatives. It’s been getting pretty cold recently and it’s only going to keep getting colder. The temperature now hovers around the 40-50F range but the real feel usually stands at the 30-40F range and that’s cold as tits for me! The insulation in the houses here is pretty non-existent, so the result is me being able to see my breath inside my house pretty much all day and having to wear a ton of sweaters, socks, beanies, etc. to stay warm. November will bring snow, although not enough to pile up, but I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the long, depressing winter ahead of me. Also, even though I think it’s pretty damn cold now, I am not using my heater for two reasons: One, I am trying to save some money, and two, I’m a BOSS. But, as soon as my toilet water and toothpaste start to freeze, I’m turning that bad boy on! The scenery and lovey-dovey nature is starting to look super damn pretty though!

Autumn colors of Aomori

Autumn colors of Aomori

 So now let me enlighten you all with some updates on the nightlife and scene ‘round here. There is NONE. Literally, there is absolutely ZERO nightlife in my town, so I usually head to a couple cities about 30 minutes to an hour from here on the weekends. There is only one nightclub around here and it seems pretty promising so far. Of course there’s a bunch of Japanese style bars, we call them izakayas here, and a few Western-style bars, but those are usually a hit-or-miss. Regardless, I feel like I pretty much know all the hot spots around here and I will be frequenting them quite often come winter. Because of my frequent outings, I feel like my Japanese has gotten pretty damn good and pretty damn quick. But I am only referring to conversational Japanese, because I have been severely slacking on the more textbooky reading and writing stuff. But yea, I usually just strike up conversations with randoms and they usually look pretty happy to talk to me and relieved when they realize I can speak some of their lingo, which I will refer to as Japango from now on.

Beer Alley (Mirokuyokocho)

Beer Alley (Mirokuyokocho)

OK, this is getting pretty damn long so I’m gonna let you all go. Also, I apologize for the lack of pictures, but yea, no laptop. Oh, and one more thing! If you’re reading this, I want to give a quick shout to my boy Danny who recently recovered from a terrible accident and let you know that you’re a BOSS bro! I miss ya’ man!

 Oh kay kay kay!

 David, out!

August Update – Three Weeks In

      So I’ve been in Japan a mere 3 weeks and it feels like I’ve been here for half a year! Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely been pretty good thus far. I’ve done and tried more new things in these three weeks than in years back home. I have so much to talk about but I will try to consolidate everything I remember as best I can.

      The flight was terrible! For some inexplicable reason, I cannot sleep on planes. The 16 hour flight consisted of watching 42, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Oblivion (again), and listening to music while I stared with utter hatred at all those sleeping around me! But, I made it to Tokyo safe and sound and as soon as I got to the hotel I showered and headed out to meet some friends. Jet-lagged and sleep deprived, I ate some shabu shabu (meat you boil yourself and stuff inside your mouth) and drank a couple brews.

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Shabu shabu daw!

I spent the rest of my time in Tokyo doing more of the same. Still in tourist mode and knowing I was moving to a small, isolated town in northern Japan, I pretty much refused to speak Japanese for the 3 days I was in Tokyo. I’d say David did good. After orientation, it was time once again to board a plane and head to Aomori, Japan. An hour later, I headed towards the arrivals area of Aomori Airport and saw two Japanese men holding a sign with my name on it. “Awwwww shiiieeee” I said to myself. “Time to whip out the Jap”! Four sentences and eight bows later, I was headed to my small town and making my best attempt at small talk with my boss and supervisor. One thing I’ve learned here, is that the local dialect is sooooo different from standard Jap. I have less problems with the younger folk, but the older people barely open their mouths when they talk, and it all sounds so slurred and incomprehensible to me! But, that’s kind of what I expected living in the country. The drive was nice and peaceful, and the scenery was beautiful.

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      So far, my co-workers have been amazingly kind and awesome to hang out with, even if they’re double my age and older. We’ve hit up snack bars, karaoke, awesome traditional Japanese restaurants called izakayas, and have had to introduce myself to at least 50 people. But, it’s all been good cultural exchange and all that. Oh yea, did I mention that I climbed a MOUNTAIN!? I trekked Mt. Hakkoda in central Aomori for about 6 hours, reaching the crazy-cold summit and heading back down exhausted as a mother! I’m really out of shape! The peak is about 1,600 meters which is a little under half of the height of Mt. Fuji. Maybe one day I will muster up the courage and take a shot at Mr. Fuji (that’s actually how they refer to mountains here in Japan, “Mr.[insert mountain name]).

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     On to the next thing on the list: the festival. So the area around where I live, Kamikita, has an annual festival where people take it upon themselves to build parade floats and choreograph songs and drum patterns (takes about 6 months of preparations) and then walk around the town for maybe two hours or so. The parade route is filled with people on the side of the streets watching all the different floats go by. Sometimes, a spectator will run and give a donation to the head parade dude. And the whole thing is a competition, I found out, and my team, Asahi-cho was the victor last year. Anyway, I was asked to participate as the flag holder front-and-center! I’m still in say “yes” to everything mode so of course I agreed. It was pretty awesome, despite sweating balls under my traditional Japanese yukata (dress thingy) and having half of my feet stick out because the little sandals weren’t big enough. I felt like an animal in the zoo. As I walked at a pace of about one step every 5 seconds, the locals gasped, laughed, pointed, took pictures, threw garbage (ok that last one is not true), but I embraced my role as the float leader and waved at old ladies and little kids alike, usually evoking a giggle and a face turn. And my team better win! The only one with a foreigner! But overall, it was pretty sweet to take part in the local traditions and festivities.

yeayea

       After the festival, I met up with some other foreigners in a city called Misawa where the U.S. has an Air Force base. God I love that city! I played pool, drank American craft beer, Rouge Black Stout I think it was, and met a bunch of cool people. Oh! And I ate an amazing burrito! Can’t wait to go back. Alright, I’m tired of writing and I’m getting hungry, but hopefully whoever reads this can get a sense of what I’m doing ova hea’! Till next time, ja ne!

The Day is Fast Approaching

Today, I finally decided to create my own personal blog dedicated to detailing various aspects of this next step in my life that is moving to Japan. Just a month away, I am set to board a plane headed to Tokyo, Japan, to begin my work in Aomori Prefecture. Since it is quite possible that I won’t be returning to the U.S. during the period of my appointment, I want to keep in touch with both friends and family back home through this blog and through the sharing of all my experiences, both good and bad. I hope to keep everyone who’s reading this blog posted by sharing photos, videos, and written blog entries once in a while.

I would like to start off, this being my first entry and all, by giving you a more detailed rundown of where exactly in Japan I will be living and what my situation looks like. I will be moving to Aomori prefecture. I guess it can be said that the term ‘prefecture’ is a close equivalent to the term ‘state’ here in the U.S. Anyway, Aomori is located on the northernmost tip of Honshu Island, the main island of Japan.

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As you can see, it is somewhat far from the metropolis that is Tokyo, but because Japan is a relatively small island nation, it only takes an hour by plane, 3 by bullet train, and 9 by bus (think Miami to Tallahassee).

Quick geography lesson: Japan has 47 total prefectures.

Notable Aomori-related rankings:

  • Ranked 31st in total population with about 1.3 million (Florida has 20 million people)
  • Ranked 38th in total prefectural income (One of the poorest prefectures)
  • Ranked 6th in alcohol consumption (Heavy-drinkers!)

So anyway, you get the idea! This is no Tokyo, and is actually regarded by many urbanites as a rural and country prefecture. That being said, Aomori prefecture itself has several large cities, three come to mind, with many things to see and do. Of course there is the capital Aomori city, which boasts some wonderful museums and lots of touristy stuff:

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We then have Hirosaki, a college city with its iconic Hirosaki Castle:

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And finally, Hachinohe. This is the second largest city in Aomori, second only to Aomori City, and is luckily only about an hour away from where I will be living. It is home to an island plagued, or blessed (depending on how you look at it), with a ton of seagulls!

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And my small town, Tohoku, with a population of just 20,000 (1/3rd of Homestead’s)!!

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-__- … But in all seriousness, the small size of my town made up mostly of rice fields and hot springs, is a definite plus for the purpose of my job. I look forward to helping internationalize and educate the local populace and kids, as well as living in a small community where everyone will know who I am and where I will possibly even meet the mayor and other government officials!

One of the toughest things for me will no doubt be the vast difference in temperature. Aomori is probably around the same latitude as places like New York and Spain (40 degrees North) but suffers from 70-80% humidity year round, resulting in extremely heavy snowfall that lasts from late November to early/mid April. Also, Japan lacks the comfort of central heating, and therefore winters can be extremely tough for Westerners not accustomed to the inside of their homes being equally, if not colder, than outside. That being said, the sheer quantity of snowfall also makes for some amazing winter sports and activities. Take a look at what awaits me come winter:

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So all in all, I’m pretty stoked about where I will be living. Not only will I be moving to another country, but I will be moving to a place vastly different from Miami, rural and cold. Go big or go home right?!

Next time I update, it will probably be in late August or early September once I get my internet set up over there. I will have a lot more to add by then regarding my town and my life. Until then, I hope to see most of my friends one last time before I’m gone. I’ll leave you guys with a quote from a great poet, Mr. West:

“What she order, fish filet?”

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