風になりたい! Kaze ni naritai! 

A look at life in Japan through big, round, gaijin eyes. Relfections on life in Japan, America, from the faceless streets of Tokyo. Let's blogging!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Why I Want to Be a PC

So my mom said, "You wrote a great Japanese essay!" and I was proud of myself until I recognized she couldn't read it. So here's a 適当 (sort-of/good enough) translation of what I wrote to the bigwigs at the Council of Local Authorities on International Relations (hopefully my future employers). I'm not ashamed of posting it (except that in English it looks like pretty lousy writing--hopefully it sounds better in Japanese) because even if I don't get the job, I genuinely feel a debt to the JET Program for the chance I've had here in Japan, and this touches on that. As it is, I find out about the job around June 13th or so... so that's terrifying.

3 and a half years ago, just like now I was sitting in front of my desk, trying to write an important essay for my future. Back then, as a Senior in college I practically had my future mapped out. A few months before I had gotten an almost perfect score on the LSATs, so it was pretty obvious that I was going to be heading off to a top law school. Once I got through the gates of a famous school, everything would go smoothly from there. I would graduate and work for a big firm for a few years, before moving on to open a practice of my own in a place of my choosing. I'd make a heap of money and at the end I'd retire happily, I figured. My friends cheered and advised me along. "I studied as hard as I could, but I could never pull off a score like that," or "You get a score like that, you're set for life. You're on your way to being a big shot lawyer now." All I had to do to take the first step toward that future was to write a little essay, "Why Do You Want to Go to Law School." For an English major like me, that should have been no problem. Yet when I actually sat down in front of the computer, for some reason I couldn't type a thing. The words just wouldn't come. I realized, despite the nice LSAT score, I didn't really have a single reason of my own to go to law school. I made an important decision: I would not to go to law school.

Now, once again, I'm sitting in front of my computer, and I have to write an essay about why I want to become something. But this time, I'm not the least bit hesitant. I've got a whole mountain of reasons why I'd like to be a Program Coordinator for the JET Program.

The first reason I want to become a PC is because participating in the JET Program as an ALT [assistant language teacher] has helped me grow in many facets of my life.
By studying Japanese and seizing other opportunities, I've been able to know the extent of the cultural and linguistic gap between America and Japan. In attempting to bridge the two, I've developed my communication skills. The more I've allowed myself to come in contact with Japanese culture, the more I realized I had to learn. Of course I've learned a lot about Japan and Japanese people, but absorbing new experiences and information, I've learned about my own self too. The way I think about things, and the way I look at the world have changed. When I first came to Japan, I was completely overwhelmed and in love with all the fun amazing things I encountered. At the same time though, I was building up culture shock. It took me awhile to relax and actually get used to life here, so that I could try to make sense out of Japan with a calm heart and mind. As an ALT, I've been blessed with a chance to know more about another culture and to know more about myself. Unfortunately this time is coming to an end in just a few more months, but I would relish the chance to offer the same chance to other people as a JET Program Coordinator. I'd like to do what I can to help future partcipants have the same type of experience I have.

Because I'm serving here as an ALT, there might be some doubts about whether or not I can actually fill the duties of a PC. Certainly, former-CIR [coordinators for international relations, another JET Program position that has stricter requirements for placement] candidates are more used to the typical Japanese office enviroment than ALT candidates. I live in a small town and work at a small school, where I can be casual with the other staff members and students. If I were to become a PC, I know I would be in a very different working environment. However, unlike CIRs, I've made it this far after 3 years in Japan absorbing Japanese culture despite starting knowing next to nothing about Japanese life. I think there's a good chance that I would be able to adapt more quickly than a CIR candidate.

What's more, I have previous experience doing a job similar to that of a JET Program PC. In college, I was a program coordinator for the DC Schools Program (DCSP), a volunteer tutoring program for immigrant children from non-English speaking households in urban Washington, DC. I started off as a tutor in the program through a Federal work study. After 2 years in DCSP, I had learned it's strong and weak points. I was always thinking about what could be done to make the program better. When I was a junior, one of the program coordinators left to do a study abroad. I successfully applied to serve in her place. Even though I wasn't able to do as much of the tutoring work I enjoyed, using my experience from the program I tried to improve DCSP for everyone. Once I became a coordinator for DCSP, I was able to view the program and it's complicated structure from a new perspective. It wasn't just about placing and delivering tutors: there were many facets of the program that required a lot of hard work. For instance, the matching, placement, and delivery of about 100 tutors for about 300 students had to be managed, fundraising events and activities had to be planned and organized, and tutor training and orientations had to be run smoothly. As a tutor, I could just focus on teaching, but as a coordinator I had to be conscious of the program's entire operations. As a coordinator I felt a responsability for DCSP, and in turn it became more important to me. It follows that if in a similar manner, I am able to become a JET PC, I'm sure my own JET experience will come to mean even more to me. DCSP is a much smaller scale operation than the JET, but I think there were a lot of similarities between the two programs. Just like before, I think I can make a smooth transition between the role of teacher and that of program coordinator.

Using my own experience as an ALT, I want to participate in the management of the JET Program for the sake of future ALTs. I'm very satisfied with my own JET experience. Still, it's because JET is a good program that I want to work to improve the few facets in which I wasn't satisfied. I especially have some concerns about orientations and training seminars.

Now as I look back at what I've written here, I think there's still a lot more I could write. However, I'm not sure that there are any more words of persuasion to describe my conviction. Simply put, there is a lot for me to learn if I can stay in Japan as a PC. In terms of my own personal growth and development, it would be fantastic for me to become a PC. The students I've been teaching here in Japan study and work hard for three years before graduating from middle school to the next stage of their lives. Just like them, I want to graduate and move on to a new challenge. As a PC, I would have a unique opportunity to take the next step in my own personal journey while being able to serve in turn my ALT "kohai" and the program that has given me so much.

[Note: In Japanese culture, it is the duty of older students/alumni, or "senpai," to provide good examples and leadership for their "kohai". The behavior of the kohai reflects on senpai and vice-versa. Eventually kohai become senpai in their own right, with all the same responsabilities toward their own kohai. This is one of the pillars of Japanese culture, and I'm hoping that will be a stirring argument for why I want to do this job.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Below is the 2 page essay I wrote in my application for the position I'm applying for as a program coordinator for the JET program. It's in Japanese, so my apologies to those of you who can't read it, or view the text. Since someone might be interested (hi mom!) I'll try to slap together an English translation and post it as a comment. Thank you Juri and Arise for all your help in making my easy breezy Japanese more, um, Japanesey. So...


私はALTをしているので、本当にPCの仕事が出来るだろうかと、疑問があるかもしれない。確かに、元CIRの方が既に日本のオフィスに慣れているだろう。私は今、田舎に住み、小さな学校に勤めている。他の先生方や生徒達とも仲良く、カジュアルで親しい環境にいると思う。もしPCになったら、かなり違う職場に入るだろう。しかしCIRとは違い、3年間費やして、ゼロからの状態で日本の文化を吸い込んだ私の方が、たぶん新しいシチュエーションに慣れるのが早いと思う。それに私は以前、JETプログラムのPCと似ている仕事をした事がある。それは、大学の「D.C. Schools Program」(下記はDCSP)という、ワシントンDCの英語を話さない国からの移民の子供たちに、英語を教えるボランティア・プログラムのプログラムコーディネーターである。最初は制度により、就学中に働ける仕事として、DCSPで家庭教師をしていた。そこで二年間働き続け、DCSPの長所がわかる様になった。その一方、自分の努力にも関わらず、プログラムのいくつかの弱点が見えた。いつも、どうしたらDCSPを改善出来るかについて考えていた。3年生の時、一人のプログラムコーディネーターが留学をしたので、私は応募し、代わりにその役に就いた。好きな家庭教師の仕事は少なくなったが、その経験を生かして、みんなのためにより良いDCSPを作ろうとした。実際にプログラムコーディネーターになると、新しい立場からDCSPの複雑な組織を知る事が出来た。家庭教師の配置のみならず、様々の場面で私の努力が必要だった。約100人の家庭教師と300人の生徒のために、活動や配置を管理したり、資金集めのイベントの計画を立てたり、教師トレーニングやオリエンテーションを担当した。教師は教えることに集中しているが、コーディネーターはプログラムの経営に関して意識しなければならない。プログラムに対しての責任感を感じ、DCSPが私にとって、もっと大事になった。もし同じようにJETプログラムのPCになれば、きっと自分のJETの経験が重要になるだろう。DCSPはJETより極めて小規模のプログラムだが、共通点もたくさんあると思う。あの時の様に、また教師からPCへのスムーズな変遷が出来ると思う。


Monday, May 23, 2005

Shocking Japanese TV Strikes Again!

I was just flipping through the channels after I arrived home from work, moving up toward the 6:00 BS World News Update (not a joke) on channel 15 (which you can't input on my remote, which is numbered 1-12), when the end of the lame show on channel 12 managed to stun me for a moment. It was an annoying kids' variety show called 「ぶちぬき」 [buchi-nuki] which means "Break-in!" or maybe "Blow out!" (my Japanese-English dictionary gave me lovely sentences explaining the for both meanings, including "To blow one's [or someone else's] brains out"). On Monday's at least the show has contestants arm wrestle foreigners wearing wrestling singlets for cash. I wish I was making this up. The one previous time I accidentally (er...) watched it, a 20 year old Japanese college student beat a pair of septagenarian American men (named "Animal" and "ZOO") who rode razor scooters around stage and couldn't speak Japanese, followed by an overweight black man called "Bear". The kid won about 100,000 yen, or about $1000 US.

To my dismay, during the approximately 2 and a half seconds I was on channel 12, one of the female "co-hosts", Megumi Yasu, screamed out a promo for her new soft porn DVD, "Bon Voyage," as the closing credits began to roll. (It's being released on Wednesday, in case you were wondering.) Now, call me a prude, or just naive, but no elementary school kids watching that show have any need to buy her crappy pin-up video. Sadly, who else but little kids could she have been promoting it to? No adult Japanese men with jobs are home when that show is on. No Japanese women could give a crap. Even junior high school students should probably still be at club activities. The only people watching that show were 8 year old boys, and me (for a split second!).
Clearly these pictures could be traumatizing to young boys! I mean, after all, I too was a victim. I had some important work I should be doing, but once I saw the horror unfolding with my very eyes, I had to sort through hundreds of images of Meme-chan(her nickname, apparently) just to find the most horrible ones for children to be exposed to! And there is only one possible explanation for this atrocity! The people promoting Ms. Yasu and her TV show are the same people who profit from the (incredibly creepy) Japanese porn industry! They have some sort of diabolicanl master plan to turn all the men in the country into perverts! In fact, clearly they have been at it for years, and it is working!

Well, I just hope (now that I have posted the pictures on my blog and could thus be held reprehinsible) that she is like, older than 12 in them, because it just wouldn't surprise me if she wasn't (she is 24 now, but as I've mentioned before, they start em young here in the グラビアアイドル[gravure idol] business. Oh and why do they call pin-up photography gravure in Japan? Gravure is some sort of photography using etched plates that have nothing to do with scantily clad 13-year-olds--so I don't see how any Japanese guy could be interested in it. I am pretty sure these are all pictures of her in her 20s...). Er, anyway, until next time, I'll be looking to keep our kids safe from smut and evil, so you keep from going buchi-nuki over Meme-chan. I'm talking to you, Paul.

(Oh, and seriously, what the heck? It was a kids show!)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Kids are Alright

The Kids are Alright
Originally uploaded by bonitsky.
I never realized how tiring it could be to actually be a teacher. Yesterday I had a day off and slept almost the entire day. My students bounced back a little quicker.
After a very successful school trip, the kiddies are all ready to be full-fledged Japanese tourists some day. They've learned all the important points: follow your tour guides, take group photos in front of monuments, go through disposable cameras galore, and of course--most importantly--ALWAYS TRAVEL IN HORDES!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

School Trip

School Trip

Greetings from Kyoto, where it always rains when I'm at the Golden Pavillion, Kinkakuji. After three days of running around with my students on guided tours, I'm just about ready to make a break...or to commit an act of guidicide.
Must hang on... just one more day... must not... must...PUT DOWN THIS KATANA

Monday, May 16, 2005

Busy Busy Busy

With Rocky and Tamami's wedding yesterday and my karate tournament today, it's been a busy weekend. I've got to be up in 4 hours to head on my 4 day school trip to Nara, Kyoto, and the Aichi World Expo with my san nensei (9th graders). Hopefully things will keep rolling smoothly: the wedding was a lot of fun and I won the tournament (my second 優勝 in three tournaments). I also won the 優秀賞 for an excellent performance amongst all the competitors at the tournament, so that was pretty frikking sweet.
I'm exhausted and I don't think I'm going to be getting a lot of rest this week so I'm gonna hit the hay. I promise pics from along the way and when I get back.

Saturday, May 14, 2005



Congratulations to Rocky and Tamami! Kekkon omedemtou!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Review: A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe

Recently I've been tinkering with new stuff on the sidebar of this blog. Mostly I've put up links, but I've added a few pictures and things too. On the one hand, it's getting a little cluttered. On the other hand I think there are a lot of interesting links and things that I want to share. It's tough to balance between the two, but please bear with me while I work things out without making my own template (which would solve my problems but take me awhile to get something that looked as good as what I have now).
Way down at the bottom of the sidebar, I've added a spot for me to share the books I'm reading and the music that's finding it's way into my playlist these days. For the most part, listening samples of the music is easy enough (if you're interested and can view Japanese websites on your browser). I'll try to post something about the books sometime shortly after I finish them. And since I finished A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe at the beginning of Golden Week, I suppose it's about time I got around to reviewing it.

I chose to read something by Oe because I saw that he was the only Japanese finalist for the inaugural Man Booker International Prize 2005. I later found out he also won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1994. Oe certainly is a challenging author, and probably well deserving of any accolades he was received, though I can't really judge from just one work. A Personal Matter is a quick read, but it is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. Once I got over the revulsion I felt for the protagonist/anti-hero, I realized that Oe's work is a contemplation on many complex and, well, personal issues.
A Personal Matter tells the story of a 27-year-old cram school teacher nicknamed "Bird," who dreams of escaping Japan to explore the wilds of Africa. When wife gives birth to a baby with a cranial defect that will render the child severely mentally handicapped-- if it survives at all--Bird's freedom and future are taken hostage by the grim prospect of raising the child. The plot is based on Oe's own life: his son was born with a similar defect. The story details Bird's spiral into despair and self-loathing over fathering his "monster baby". Running from the responsability for siring the deformed child, Bird seeks solace at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, and with a lover, Himiko, a college friend whose husband recently committed suicide. But when the baby continues to survive against all odds, with the support of his mother-in-law and the pediatrician in charge of the baby's care, they contrive to let the baby die of malnutrition.
For the most part, none of the characters are sympathetic. Any feeling the reader might have for Bird and his problems is negated when he repeatedly acts in a despicable and selfish manner. From the very beginning he's looking to flee his marriage and his fatherhood, and the birth of the deformed baby offers him a strange chance at liberation, even as it threatens to strangle his future. As the father of a "grotesque" child, Bird feels even less compelled than normal to follow the rules of society, and he's willing to throw away his job, his marriage, and his dignity in the few days after the birth. Yet he is also paralyzed into almost complete inaction at times: a slave to the inevitability of the child's death and it's consequences--and to his own guilt over his complicity in ending a life before it ever began. Meanwhile, Himiko, seeks a way out of boredom and lonliness for both of them, even at the cost of soiling her hands and every aspect of their respective lives in the blood of the child. Isolated and terrified after the loss of her husband, she is crawling and clawing through the darkest dregs of life in search of something to spark a new start. Afraid and ashamed, Bird willingly joins her in her endeavor, even though he repulses himself even more for involving her in his personal problem.
Looming behind Bird's dysfunction is the spectre of the "vegetable baby" with a bulging, malformed skull. The baby represents the cruelty of fate, dashed potential, and the impotence of free will. It's refusal to pass away quickly is not a triumphant survival, but a gross distortion of natural order. It's existence mindlessly pursues Bird through his thoughts and dreams, and drives him to the end of his own humanity. The key crisis of the book deals with whether Bird is capable of making a humanistic decision as it becomes apparent that the facilitating baby's death would require an increasing amount of complication and guilt.
As I found all the elements of the plot and characterization depressing and revolting, I can't say I particularly enjoyed reading A Personal Matter. Still, the questions it raised about individual freedom and responsability resonated with me. As I have arrived at my mid-20s, the critical question of my life is increasingly tied up in how the decisions I make about my life limit and direct the choices that will be available to me in the future. In that regard, Oe has written an excellent novel that connected with me thematically in spite of itself. I wouldn't recommend it if you are looking for a light read to pick up to read at the beach, but I would suggest checking it out if you don't mind being challenged about your ideas and beliefs concerning life, parenthood, and personal responsability.

If you made it this far through this post, well, otsukaresama. There's other stuff to pull out of this book too, but that'll do it for here. After all, if I went back and deconstructed the novel from a generalist, rather than a personal perspective, I'd be well on my way to a good critical essay. This post is already too long. Plus I would feel compelled to edit. And try to get it published maybe.
Anyway... oh yeah. So this book continues the trend of me hating the protagonists of books written by Japanese authors other than Haruki Murakami. What's up with that? I'm interested enough in Oe that I'm going to tackle another of his other works when I get through my current reading backlog, though only if I happen to be a good mood. After reading this one, I spent almost a week balled up in the fetal position thinking about moving to a tropical island in the Carribean and selling beach mats for a living, which needless to say really threw off my job search.
I'm babbling. I should stick to posting pictures.

The Amazing ふとッチョバーガー(Futotcho Burger)

There are 2 reasons to go to Hokkaido (well, three if that's where you're gf is from), the northernmost and second biggest of the 4 main islands of Japan: food and nature. Unfortunately, in between skiing/snowboarding season and hiking/camping outdoor sport season are a few weeks of uninspiring grayness when the snow has melted but the trees still haven't put out their leaves. This time of year up there seems espeicially bleak when coming from already warm, green, summer-like Honshu.
That leaves eating, and Hokkaido is the one part of Japan where you can find a real meal that has things like potatoes and large slabs of beef. Just take a look at the burger this guy's got. That is by far the manliest [cooked] meal in the whole country. You don't see burgers like this on Honshu!

Originally uploaded by bonitsky.

OK, of course, raw horse sashimi (or better yet, bear sashimi--which I tried at Shabado, in Northern Hokkaido last summer) will put a little more hair on your chest than this, but still, it's a fairly imposing burger.
There's a beef patty with chili sauce, a fried pork cutlet, an egg, some lettuce, a spring roll, and some other goodness on there. It's a specialty of Lucky Pierrot's, a local burger chain (the only local burger chain I know in Japan) in Hakodate, at the southern tip of Hokkaido. They limit production to only 20 per day at each store. The Japanese name literally translates to the "you'll get fat burger".
Before he ordered this meal, I didn't know this guy, but the bond of brotherhood that sprung up between us over appreciation for real food will never fade. Moreover, after watching him down the burger and a side order of fries (to the utter embarrassment of his girlfriend), I'm filled with new hope for the future of Japanese people whom I heretofore had assumed would die out in a battle over designer handbags within a generation or two.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Hakodate RAMEN! (函館ラーメン)

Hakodate RAMEN!

Last night I flew to Sapporo and took an overnight train to Hakodate with Juri. And...well, I think it was snowing this morning. If the good people of Hokkaido didn't have the best ramen in all the land, I would be in dire straits. As it is, a healthy breakfast of Hakodate shio ramen from the honten of the famous ramen-ya Ajisai is almost enough to make me forget I was at the beach two days ago.

Thursday, May 05, 2005



There are no better ways to spend a day off than hiking... but the beach certainly is no worse!


Wednesday, May 04, 2005



The best way to spend a day off.

2005 Sakura 特集 #10: Ridiculous Overkill Finale

Like the end of a 花火fireworks show, it's time to throw everything else left over out there and move on with my life. It's been a beautiful sakura season, but this 特集 has dragged on longer than the flowers actually stay in bloom.
Anyway I present the grand finale to the 2005 Sakura Special! Set to music no less! Well, lyrics at least...
Hope your bandwidth can handle it!
Click on the pictures for bigger versions (I think).

"さくら" by ケツメイシ

さくら舞い散る中に忘れた記憶と 君の声が戻ってくる
吹き止まない春の風 あの頃のままで
君が風に舞う髪かき分けた時の 淡い香り戻ってくる

ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ

ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ

ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ

Sakura XI

さくら散りだす 思い出す 意味なく
灯りだす あの頃また気になる
変わらない香り 景色 風
ここに立つと甦る こみ上げる記憶 読み返す
春風に舞う長い髪 たわいないことでまた騒いだり
思い出すは 僕 輝いた証だ
さくら散る頃 出会い別れ
それでも ここまだ変わらぬままで
咲かした芽 君離した手
いつしか別れ 交したね
あの頃 そして君呼び起こす

ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ


Sakura XVII

気づけばまたこの季節で 君との想い出に誘われ
心の扉たたいた でも手をすり抜け花びら
初めて分かった 俺若かった
此処だけは今も何故 運命(さだめ)のように香る風
暖かい陽の光がこぼれる 目を閉じればあの日に戻れる
いつしか君の面影は 消えてしまうよ 何処かへ
あの日以来 景色変わらない
さくらの下 響いた君の声 今はもう






ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ
ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ
ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ
ヒュルリーラ ヒュルリーラ

そっと僕の肩に 舞い落ちたひとひらの花びら
手に取り 目につむれば君が傍にいる

花びら舞い散る 記憶舞い戻る
花びら舞い散る 記憶舞い戻る
花びら舞い散る 記憶舞い戻る
花びら舞い散る 記憶舞い戻る
花びら舞い散る 記憶舞い戻る
花びら舞い散る 記憶舞い戻る

All photos originally uploaded by bonitsky.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

2005 Sakura 特集 #9 - What the hell?

Sakura XX
Originally uploaded by bonitsky.

Before I get to my rant, I wanted to answer a question about all the cherry blossom photos I've been posting. Oh,well, 2 questions. First, cherry blossoms are normally white and pink. The other colored pictures are me messing around with the settings on my camera (which is my cell phone). As for what's up with the sakura pictures in the first place: since I have about 10 million pictures of cherry blossoms, I thought I'd do a 特集. "Tokushuu" is the word for a special feature in a magazine, website or whatever. I wanted to share one of the things I love about living in Japan. Still, you can't talk about cherry blossoms every day. Thus I decided to write other stuff.

For the most part, the sakura are done blooming, except up on the mountainsides. Still, I have a few more pictures to post before I'm done. Safe to say, it's winding down. My mom likes the pictures though, so...

Now, speaking of pictures... Frikking what the hell is wrong with Japanese men? Seriously. What the hell? I'm just sitting here watching the ランク王国(RanKING), where they rank videos, games, comics, and a bunch of other random stuff every week (for instance, today they had specials where they interviewed young women in Shibuya about their favorite onigiri-rice balls). It's a good show, and the host is cute. But once again, it's made me totally furious.
Once every few months they rank new release アイドル写真集: Idol photo mags/books--basically soft porn photo collections. I don't know why. Anyway, EVERY FRIKKING TIME, half of the top 10 are photo books of girls aged 10-15.

JAPANESE GUYS, WHY ARE YOU SO PERVERTED? LITTLE GIRLS ARE NOT SEXY. I don't want to see a 12 year old girl in a bikini straddling a broomstick. You all need to die. JESUS! They aren't even pretty girls!

The ones with women in their 20s rolling around on the beach etc. can stay... but please wait til after you rank the top 10 cafe chains in Japan to drop those on me. Otherwise, I'm not really motivated to watch the whole show.

I feel a little better now. Frikking pervs!