Thousands of Miles from Home


A Collection of Thoughts

As I near the end of this exchange, I’m a little frustrated at my lack of time to blog the more mundane, or not instantly gratifying aspects of Japan. The weekends and parties sometime outshine the small things in life, which is in part what makes Japan the place it is for me. In order to combat this situation I find myself jotting down random snippets of text into a notebook, leaving me confused and questioning what was going through my mind when I originally wrote the comments. So let’s take a step back and review the last few weeks in no particular chronological order.

In addition to mentioning this numerous times before, I have now confirmed (with hard evidence) that hairdressers are the coolest category of wage-earning individuals in Japan. Neil, Jez, and I went out with Jez’s hairdresser Monday night in Okayama to a Jamaican restaurant. I believe he promised us “good food and pretty girls,” which is exactly what he delivered. There were about 9 of us at the restaurant, drinking Red Stripe and downing plates of Jerk Chicken (to an ever present Reggae beat in the background).

Speaking of popular Japanese music, The Ventures are huge in Japan. They must tour here almost every year, and my teacher at school even quoted one of their songs (not an actual lyric, but more the sound of the guitar riff) when trying to illustrate the use of sound effects in Japanese. In addition to The Ventures, my Rotary counselor really enjoys Elvis, enough that he can sing most of the lines by heart regardless of his inability to actually speak English. My history teacher at school also blew me away with a crazy rendition of “Clementine” when discussing the 1948 California Gold Rush.

Moving from music to food, the underlying theme of my Japanese exchange has been the preparation, viewing, and eventual consumption of a wide variety of edibles. Every night there are at least three television programs devoted entirely to food on basic cable. Often this manifests itself in the form of a challenge, such as one man who ate nothing but seaweed for a week while being followed around with a video camera. Last week’s contestants (the comedy group Untouchable, whom I randomly met in Tokyo Station) ate 8 days of salmon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Last week my home economics class consisted of the preparation of “the traditional Japanese lunch,” which I found mighty delicious. Jyagaimo (beef and potatoes with noodles), egg-drop soup, and mixed fruit with diakon all made appearances on the menu.

Also in the past few weeks, my addiction for Mahjong has grown to immense proportions. I usually play a few times a week with my host family and Ryosuke from next door (and more recently Neil and Aketa-san). One evening Neil and I played Mahjong with the owners (family friends) of a local café, Nalu, until the wee hours of the morning.

In school my class found a baby bat, and fed it chewing gum from the tip of a mechanical pencil. They weren’t really abusing it, and in fact the bat seemed to enjoy the gum, so I didn’t feel as if I should intervene and plead animal rights.

I taught my final adult English class at Otani-san juku this Sunday (English for adults, not porn stars). My students are great so I always have a fun time teaching, and after the lesson Shoko and her daughter Miyu came with the rest of the class to Jacasse, the Italian restaurant near the station.

Lastly, today was tournament day in Judo class. I didn’t get my ass completely kicked, but I somehow ended up being put into the heaviest weight class which means I was up against kids a lot taller and heavier than I am. In one match I completely ripped my opponents sleeve off his Judo gee which was slightly embarrassing on my part (each match was conducted one at a time, meaning everyone saw me commit the deed). Judo’s fun, but don’t look for me in the Olympics anytime soon.

13 days.


  • LOL great entry Ben!

    By mom, at 8:29 AM  

  • Jyagaimo just means potato. But maybe in a traditional Japanese lunch, the only way potato is served is with beef and noodles? I don't know.

    By Cinnacism, at 9:24 PM  

  • you're right, it's actually called niku-jyaga. or "delicious"

    By Benjamin, at 11:17 PM  

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