About Me

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I'm an American living in Japan for three years while my wife is on assignment here. (Three years has come and gone so I should probably say three years and counting.)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Off to Nagano (Part one)

Marcia and I have a wonderful local bar that we frequent called Laser Rush. It's been run for the last 25 years by a delightful couple: Ryo from Japan and his wife Pauline from Scotland. Every year for the last 8 years they have organized 1, and sometimes 2, ski trips to Nagano. They hire a bus, arrange accommodations and ski rentals and expertly see to every detail to make the trip as carefree as possible for their patrons. They charge just enough money to cover their expenses and therefore the trip is really inexpensive. Like I said, they are wonderful people! They start signing people up in December and as soon as the bus is filled, the list is closed. If you don't sign up early, you miss the bus, literally.

We have been invited to do this trip every year since we have been here and this is the first year that our schedules allowed us to go. The trip was scheduled a little later this year (Feb 7 & 8). The previous years, we were still in the States celebrating the Christmas holidays. We were told to meet at Laser Rush at 5:30 AM Sunday morning. Yikes!

Bleary eyed, we arrived at Laser Rush, greeted by a boisterous, cheerful crowd ready to go skiing. Some of the good cheer being fueled by early morning beers or various other drinks. One person had come directly from partying the night before. Marcia and I consider ourselves hardy folk, but beer at 5:30 in the morning was beyond our limits of "starting early". I guess we are getting old.

We merrily, some more merrier than others, trudged with our bags to the bus.

This is what a bus looks like at 5:30 in the morning.
Beer, other drinks and soda were provided on the bus. Nope. Still not ready. The bus trip was long, over 4 hours, but uneventful. We stopped for breakfast along the way and, of course, made a few unscheduled stops for the beer drinkers. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

For those of us who had not yet started drinking, our spirits were lifted as we got into snow country. Those who had already been lifting spirits, of course, were already quite cheerful. By the way, this is Mt. Fuji in the background.

We arrived at our lodging: two very nice pensiones (guest houses) right next to each other. This is the one we stayed in...

I can't seem to find a picture of the other pensiones, but it was similar to this one and right next door. We had private rooms with a common bathroom. Quite comfortable. We dumped our bags,changed into our ski gear and by 12:30 we were at the ski resort renting skis and by 1:00 we were on the slopes.

The weather was absolutely perfect. Not too cold. Blue skies......

and the skiing conditions were fantastic!

Of course, we had a little base camp where we could get refreshments as needed.

So, we had a wonderful afternoon of skiing. Then back to our lodging for a hot soak in an onsen (hot bath) and we were ready for the evening. Ryo, remember he's the owner of the bar, had a plan for us. Before we could go to dinner we had to learn two Beatles songs that we were going to sing as a surprise for a couple (who was staying in the other pensione) who had recently been engaged. Each group would have dinner at their own pensione and then our group would go over to the engaged couple's pension and wow them with our songs. With Ryo as bandleader.....

and two guitars for accommpaniment we plunged into "And I love Her" and then "She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)". Maybe it was the beer, but I thought we sounded pretty good. Okay, it probably was the beer. Mmmmmm, alright! It was the beer. Regardless, we had a very fun hour or so of chatting and rehearsing

and then off to dinner to fortify ourselves for our singing debut.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Dinner, our debut, Super Bowl and skiing shenanigans.

Ja mata,


Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm a Crappy Blogger

Okay I've been busy. I procrastinate. I'm lazy. I've got a million excuses. The truth is I'm a crappy blogger. I think of things that I would like to blog about and then....Zing 3 months go by and I still haven't blogged. Here's where I should be saying......."Well, it's a new year and this year I will do better!" That's what I should be saying. In reality, I don't see things changing. I'm an old fart who is stuck in his ways. Anyhow, saw this t-shirt in a local department store and it cracked me up. Not sure what it means, but it is a perfect example of "Engrish" (English translated from a different language).

The picture is the head and neck of a guitar with a guy tuning it. The writing is:

Anything has not remained any longer
To going out
dimension in the new world in the future
From the rooftop in the apartment
the excrement of me in Brooklyn"

What? I got no idea what that means. It may be so filled with angst and meaning that it's just too deep for me. Who knows?

My life is scattered right now and going in many directions. One more excuse for why I haven't blogged. I'm hoping to wrestle it into some kind of order in the near future. I feel like that scene in the movie "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" where Mel Gibson is sent out into the desert tied to a horse facing backwards and wearing a giant papier-mached head.

It took me half an hour to find this photograph! Then I couldn't download it so I had to take a picture of it with my phone and send it to myself and then send it to my blog. This may be why I don't blog more often. But the fact that I was able to do this at all is pretty amazing from a technological standpoint. I digress.

Spent some time in Buffalo over the holidays. It was freakin' cold! But the snow was beautiful

and I got to do a little bit of skiing

and visit Stephen and Chrissy (my son and his girlfriend)

and friends.

Marcia's thinking about trading me in on a taller model.

Had some quality time with the family.

Had a wonderful Christmas and

New Year

So, all-in-all, a great trip.

あけましておめでとうございます!(Happy New Year)

Ja mata,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Not?

Had a little extra time so thought I'd try my hand at origami. So far, the crane is the only thing that I can do completely from memory. My friend Chigusa taught me this.

I think Marcia is going to get tired of seeing birds all over the house as I practice my new craft, so I have started to string them together.

Does the excitement ever end?

Ja mata,


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Back From Okazaki

My self-enforced exile from Yokohama has ended. I have finished my 4 weeks of Japanese language study in Okazaki. My lonely solitude of tirelessly studying with no breaks, my near monastic existence has come to an end. I'll share a few photographs chronicling my sacrifices to the Japanese language.

My lonely existence.

This is the main building for students preparing for university study.

This was the building for students working on basic language skills. (Me) I was in this building from 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday.

These are my 3 favorite teachers.

Here are a few pics of fellow students and examples of my lonely existence.

This is actually a good friend of mine from Tokyo who happened to be in Nagoya (a city near Okazaki).

The campus pub. Zig Zag

My going away party at a local izakaya. (Japanese pub/bar)

My going away speech to teachers and students.

Okay, if you made it through all of the pictures, you might be saying, "That doesn't look that lonely to me!" Okay, you got me. I may have exaggerated the monastic lifestyle a little bit. I did discover that although my quest to acquire the Japanese language has been difficult (I seem to be language challenged), my ability to meet and make new friends still seems to be intact.

I have not been in a campus environment for a very long time. I found the experience to be exhilarating, exhausting, demanding, and fun. For learning language skills, the time was way too short, but 4 weeks away from my life in Yokohama and Marcia was about my limit. I would, however, go back again if I had the chance.

ja mata,


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Short and Dirty. Sunday Afternoon in Okazaki.

I'm talking about a short and not very well thought out blog. Not about myself!

I still haven't talked about Marcia's and my trip back to East Aurora in late July and I'm going to keep you waiting a little longer. Like I said, this blog will be short and dirty. As some of you know, after returning to Japan I had planned on taking an intensive 4 week language course in a small town about a six hour drive from Yokohama. Well.............I did it! I'm now living in a one room apartment in the student village and have been thrown into the fray of full time study.

What was I thinking?
First of all, I haven't been in a classroom situation for more years than I can count. Secondly, I've been dropped into an ongoing class, so I have some catching up to do. AND thirdly, (is that even a word?) What the hell do I think I'm doing!!!

I arrived Wednesday and got my apartment, moved in (dumped my stuff on the bed) and headed out to rent a bicycle.

This is a very typical style of bike for Japan. It has three speeds and can carry a lot of stuff in the basket. Plus it looks cool. Right?

With my new means of transportation, I went shopping at the 100 yen store. I bought 1 each of a knife, fork, spoon, plate and glass. The apartment came equipped with 1 frying pan, 1 pot, a tea kettle and a rice cooker. Luckily, being a guy, this is all I need. Less to wash, etc. I then did a little grocery shopping including a couple of beers, which I felt I had earned.

This is where I'll spend most of my time when I'm in my apartment.
The rest of the room is filled with my bed. You might say, "Well, at least he has a television." That's true, of course, all of the channels are in Japanese. I'm already desperate enough to watch Japanese game shows, which is truly pathetic.

Thursday I took a 2 1/2 hour written placement exam and then had an interview. Oh, did I mention, everything here is done in Japanese? Admissions, bike rental, placement test, interview, directions, instructions, do's and don't's, etc. By Thursday night, my head was spinning and I was freaking out about starting class on Friday and wondering at what level I would be placed.

Friday, my first day of class, was pretty intense. Luckily, it's only a half day on Friday or I think that my brain might have exploded. I must have made some really lucky guesses on the test, because I'm in a class that is really going to test my abilities.

Anyhow, I've spent most of the weekend doing homework and trying to get up to speed on material that has already been covered. Writing this blog is my break before I dive back into the books.

Okazaki, which is where I'll call home for a month, has a population of 870,000 but is considered very rural. I have to agree with the rural designation. It's quite a change from Yokohama and Tokyo.

Okay, this might be a slight exaggeration.

Back to the books.

Ja mata,