Feb 28, 2007

You Know Who's Awesome? Harrison Ford. He's So Cool.

When I think of the "I'm making it up as I go along," I think of Harrison Ford. I can't remember if he was Han Solo when he said it, or if he was Indiana Jones, but that doesn't really matter. He said it- and he was all swaggery, badass, and ultimately successful when he did it. Sure, he might have said "uh" awkwardly into that microphone a few times, but even his "uhs" were awesome. And he might have been afraid of snakes, but that was mostly for contrast with all the big stuff he wasn't afraid of.
Be it stormtroopers, death stars, nazis, or Gary Oldman taking over his plane, the meta-character that is the idea of Harrison Ford could kick all of their asses in an easy, improvisational way, and then make out with Princess Leia later. He got banged up a bit, but even that was awesome- like a truck could drag him through the dirt and it would not stop him. He was just that awesome.
I have no special certification to teach English- I am most certainly "making it up as I go along." And, since part of me will always be a wide-eyed adolescent who wants to be Han Solo, having to pull cool stuff out of the aether always brings such a figure to mind.
I have a college degree and am a native speaker, such is the extent of my English expertise, and the extent of my company's requirments for this job. There is also a test and an interview process, but neither were all that challenging. So, when I first got here (and really, still) I was making up the teaching thing as I went along. Sure, I got pointers and some odd bits of training- but for the most part it was a very seat-of-the-pants affair. I hope my students didn't notice, but since that vast majority of them are what could be called "smart cookies," it would have been highly improbable to not notice my initial foibles.
Anyway, a bit of an autobiographical divergence...
My father is a teacher. He teaches literature, language, and American history to middle schoolers, and I have to admit that it's more than a little weird to have a job that's somewhat similar to my father's. Prior to his regular teaching gig, he taught English to Latino kids in Texas, a situation which I think oddly mirrors my own (though I'm not planning on making this a career).
My father, though, is good at what he does. Any sort of pere/fils issues that I've got with him aside, I've never heard anything from anyone (teacher or student) say that he was anything other than an excellent teacher. I've seen him in action a dozen or so times, and went to high school with plenty of his former students. Hell, even the students who didn't like him (and there are many) conceded that he's a great teacher. He's difficult to deal with, they say; he challenges his students, they say. But, they always, always add that he teaches well, that students leave his clas knowing more about the world than they used to. Event the former students who described him as an "asshole," "prick" or "dick" admitted as much, and I think that says a lot.
I do realize that the whole "going on a journey and comparing oneself to one's father" edges painfully close to Robert Bly territory, so I'm going to back off a bit from this topic before I develop the urge to chant wildly whilst nakedly beating bongo drums in celebration of masculine archetypes. No one wants that- least of all me. But, knowledge of my father's occupation does color my own experience as a teacher. A novice, untrained, making-it-up-he-goes-along teacher.
At this point, four months, I'm actually a fairly good teacher. I can get students to understand things, and I've found out how to communicate with very low level speakers. By no means can I claim Harrison Ford-ian levels of improvisational awesome, but my students like me, they learn, they sign up for more classes (much to my manager's delight) and stuff works. I've found out how to be smart and fun, even if I had to make it up as I went along.
I still can't help but feel that the first two months or so I was here, my students were getting royally ripped off. I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't know how to be a teacher, and I had no idea what worked and what didn't. I'd had a little bit of training before I left, but a controlled environment is nothing like an actual classroom where people expect to learn from you. Most teachers (such as my father) go to school for quite some time to learn how to do this.
Now, I feel like I've succeeded because I'm a pretty smart guy, but I'm not the only one in this industry. There are lots and lots of people here in Japan who work for eikaiwas, and I've met several of them. Many of them are awesome, and many of them are dumb as boxes of hair.
"Dear God- you teach English?" has been my reaction on more than one occasion. These people, it seems, couldn't make up anything as they went along. Maybe they magically become awesome speakers when they put on a suit and enter a classroom. Or maybe their students pay tons of money to listen to a calvacade of "ums" and "uhs" mumbling. One person did say "I just sort of talk at them," and my predecessor just chatted with his students (oftentimes in Japanese) rather than teaching real classes.
So, I wonder how many people are still gasping in this job- with classes that are the roughly the equivalent of Han Solo saying "Fine, we're all fine," on the Death Star. Classes where they utterly can't make it up as they go. Classes where Indy just gets shot instead of finding the Ark.
Probably a lot.
I pity their students.

Feb 22, 2007

"...And then you will be just like Spawn."

I actually like ties.
I like them because they are uncessary, something that is woefully absent from most men's clothes. Most dude clothes are dull utilitarian affairs that offer little in the way of aesthetics or whatnot, but the tie is one of the few things that's just there to be there. It does nothing except adorn, and for that, I have an affection for it.
And, earlier this week, I forgot mine.
Rain is becoming more frequent here, and in the interest of keeping my suit pretty, I've begun to leave one at each school where I work. However, I still keep all my ties, shirts and black socks at home. So, I put them in my satchel and take them to work with me. On wednesday, I forgot to take my tie.
When I got to work, I proceeded to freak out.
"Oh, shit," I said, freaking out.
"What is it?" asked Hip-Hop.
"I forgot my tie."
"Oh shit," he said.
"Where can I buy one?" I had about a half an hour until my first class. I could work this. Hip-Hop directed me to a small mall-like structure nearby.
I rode as fast as I could to the small mall-like structure, and began to look around. I was heartened to see that it was full of clothes. Some of those clothes, I thought, were likely to be ties. I walked for a bit, found no ties, and eventually asked the saleslady in broken Japanese where the ties were.
She gave me a weird look. "Nai," she said. There were none.
Then I realiezed that the entire store, indeed, the entire mall-like structure, was nothing but women's clothing. It was wall-to-wall with skirts and scarves, but there was nary a piece of dude clothing to be found. I was a bit puzzled by this, and saw that I had to start class in ten minutes. I pedaled back.
Fortunately, my first class was with a somewhat batty college student, and I doubt that she noticed or cared that I was wearing a tie. After that, I had two kids' classes, and they could have also cared less. Nevertheless, I felt weirdly naked without it. Had any managers seen me without it, I would have probably had my head chewed off then and there.
When I was done rolling around with the kids and teaching them rudimetary phonics, I re-biked and made my way to the nearest 100 yen store.
A bit of an aside on 100 yen stores...
These things kick ass. Unlike dollar stores in the U.S., 100 yen shops have actual useful things. And not just cheap plastic crap. Useful stuff. Stuff like stationary and teapots, cleaning supplies and toys.
And ties. Not great ties, of course, but I was able to fine a rather servicable gray one which I wore for the rest of the day.
I was in somewhat of a funk about forgetting my tie. This fact that I was without it was a clear violation of the company's dress code and ideas of professionalism, and I was hating myself for being so daft as to forget something so basic. I tried to burn off my frustrations with a few rounds of Guilty Gear at a nearby arcade, but to no avail. When I got back, Hip-Hop tried to cheer me up, but I was too busy beating myself up for my transgression that he didn't help much.
Oh, latent Catholic guilt. So much fun.
The next day, the Dude Manager talked to me about the incident. I want to preface this description with the disclaimer that the Dude Manager actually does have quite the sense of sarcasm, which is unusual over here in Nihon. We also get on very well
"If you ever do that again," he said, "I will cut your dick off. And then I will cut your testicles off. And then I will shave off all your hair. And then you will be just like Spawn."
"What do you mean by 'spawn.'" I asked.
"From the comic book."
"Spawn the Todd McFarlane character?" I asked.
"Yes. Him."
I have no idea what the hell he was tryign to say with this. I still have no idea how castration and sudden lack of hair are at all analagous to selling one's soul in exchange for super powers. Maybe Japanese Spawn is different. Maybe instead of being some fearsome, gothic anti-hero, he's just a dickless, ball-less guy with no chest hair.
I assured the Dude Manager that any scorn he could lay upon me could not equal my own self-loathing.
"No," he said, "you are great. You are awesome. But don't make me cut your dick off." I went on to say that periodic self-loathing was sort of inicimal to my character, but I don't think it translated very well.
The cheap tie from the 100 yen shop is now at the school, and is valiantly serving as my Emergency Backup Tie. Also, I very much like leaving my suit at school. It reduces the amount of time in the day when I have to be a Hired Tongue, and now when I'm on my bike and riding through Okayama, I'm just me, not a suit. This is especially nice at night, after work. No longer do I just go home in order to change out of my suit. I linger, go different ways, explore things, and see stuff. Such wanderings might be worth a morning's tielessness.

Feb 18, 2007

Extroversion Subroutine: ACTIVATE!

I have no idea whether or not I'm an introvert or an extrovert. I've taken all matter of tests (most of which are probably of dubious scientic value) that purport to tell you that sort of thing, and it seems that I've got an equal chance of ending up one or the other. One the various tests that offer some sort of gradiation or continuum, I'm ususally square in the middle.
But, there is defintiely a segment of my personality that 's defnitely extroverted, and lately I've had to let him out quite a bit.
This personality of mine does not, usually come out often. At the dysfunctional (but charming!) bookstore where I used to work, he'd only come out if I was in an exceptionally good mood. At parties, this guy usually only comes out if I'm having a good time, and occasionally I become exeptionally extroverted simply because of caprice or chance.
But, since I've moved here, and since I've started to learn a new language and work as a Hired Tongue, things have changed. I'm more extroverted now then I ever have been.
Being a teacher, I've found, one has to be extroverted. It seems that this is especially true for being an English teacher in Japan. My company likes to stress being "genki," a Japanese word that technically means "healthy" but has all manner of connotations regarding being vigorously alive and such.
In other words, I have to be enthusiastic about my classes- I have to make my students interested in the subject matter. In other words, I have to be fun.
I didn't really grasp this when i first got here. I assumed that because I had to wear a suit and adhere to the principals of kihondosa, that it meant that I had to be all stern and colorless. In fact, the suit is almost completely at odds with my persona as a teacher. While I'm called "-sensei" and such, and wear a tie, the fact of the matter is that I do my damndest to make things weird and funny. Doing stuff like roleplays or having students read "Jabberwocky." Stuff like that.
A while ago I got observed for a day by some enforcer guy from the head office, and I asked him if my jokes were unprofessional. "No," he said, "I think people laughing is great kihondosa?" "Really?" I said, somewhat surprised. "Really. That's what we want."
I've found though, that I've had to be extroverted not only to teach a language, but also to learn one.
I'm having lots and lots of fun with Japanese right now. I try to study for at least an hour a day, and speak it as much as I can with people around me. It's going great, actually- I can't believe that I counted myself as a bad language learner for so long. Anyway, the little Japanese that I can speak is pretty rudimentary. I imagine that I sort of speak like Bizzaro when I talk. For instance, this is what I said when I was buying a ticket to Osaka and couldn't remember the word for "ticket." (Which, I remebered later, is kippu.)
"Summimasen," I said, "Nihongo ga muzukashi dessu. Ashta, Okayama kare Osaka. Ashta ashta Osaka kare Okayama o kudasai." Also, there were hand gestures.
Which translates to: "Excuse me, Japanese is very difficult. Tomorrow, Okayama through Osaka. Tommorrow tommorow Osaka through Okayama please give me."
(You can laugh, Kori. It's okay.)
Anyway, I sounded like a total monkey while doing this, and the guy was probably thinking something like "bakka gaijin" or whatnot while I butchered his language in front of him. But, this does not bother me! I'm serious- I am enjoying speaking another language badly, and I'm improving it all the time.
But, to improve it, to speak Japanese well, I need to speak it badly first. For every time that I do something correctly, there are a dozen or so times when I sound nonsensical or bizzare. This is important to the learning process, though. I have a few students who are very reluctant to speak in class because they doubt their own abilities, or know that their English has some holes in it. They want to sound perfect on the first try. But, they will never sound perfect, or even good, unless they sound terrible first. I've told them that, and a few have listened, and profited from it.
Extroversion has also been a necessity for having any sort of life over here- When I came to Okayama, I had no friends here, knew no one, and had no idea how to go about remedying that. I've got something that is more or less like a social network now, but only because I've been willing to put myself out there with people in ways that I would never have done back home.
I still have my introverted side, of course. At this moment, for instance, I quite enjoy the fact that I'm by myself, writing, and drinking tea alone. If I don't have time like this, I go nuts. But, being in Japan both as a language teacher and language learner has grown my more social side considerably.
Now, I wonder how obnoxious I'll seem when I get back to the States.

Feb 14, 2007

Frumious, Vorpal, Snicker-Snack

I taught Jabberwocky today. I win at life.
Well, that was what it felt like at the time.
One of my private classes (the bright kid I mentioned in this post) had a textbook unit on deduction, all particulary with regards to deducing the meaning of new words by their context. For the lesson, I decided to junk the frankly boring textbook, and bring instead introduce him to one of the best poems in the English language.
At the beginning of class, I had him read the poem and I asked him "What do you think this poem is about?"
"I dunno," he said.
"What do you think a Jabberwocky is?"
"I dunno."
"Is it a good thing, or a bad thing."
"A bad thing?"
"What happens to it?"
"It dies."
"How does it die?"
"The guy cuts its head off."
"With what?"
"A sword."
"What kind of sword?"
"A vorpal sword."
"What does vorpal mean?"
"Very sharp."
BING! And that, ladies in gentlemen, is when everything clicked.
"How do you know that?"
"I dunno. It goes 'snicker-snack.'"
"What does 'snicker-snack' mean?"
He mimed grabbing a two-handed sword and swung it back and foth. "Snicker!" he said on the first swing, "snack!" on the follow through. "So," I said, "What's a Jabberwock?"
"It's a big monster like a dragon or something."
And then the kid went and ascribed meanings to all of Lewis Carroll's nonsense words. "That's what you need to do with real words," I told him, "find the meaning from the context."
We ended the class with the kid making up his own monser, and tentacled spacebeast called Gales that ate both planets and people. I aske him to make up words to describe it. "Gazzy" was in there, as was "knific," due to its bladed arms. You know the scene in Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams gets the kid to describe Walt Whitman's picture? I got to do that for real. it made me feel all teacher-y.
I was amazed, really, at how energized I was at teaching something that I really, really cared about. I know that everyone likes Jabberwocky, but I'm not going to let its popularity get in the way of it being one of favorite poems. The textbooks that we use are alright, but most of them are so dry that they make Strunk and White seem like party animals.
I do try to inject my own interersting spin on stuff into my classes (more on that later) but for the most part I don't really have any interesting primary sources to work with. After the class, I started wondering if it would be worth it to find easy to understand bits of poetry to tack up in my classroom or sometimes reference during classes.
Or would that be just really, really pretentious? I mean, lots of people come to my school just to improve their TOEIC or TOEFL scores, not to read bits of Dickinson and Coleridge. I'll have to mull this over.
So, are there any really, really easy to understand poems out there that I could make utilize? Thoughts? Suggestions?

In Which I Put My Libido in a Lockbox

I swear that I'm only going to post about this once. Really. I'm trying to have a more or less real blog here, not an angsty livejournal style screed, but I figure that Valentine's Day is the one day that I can get away with posting something like this.
Anyway, I'm going to try to keep this as non-wanktastic as possible.

I knew when I came here that living abroad for a year meant a year without sex. I don't speak the language very well, there are a fairly small amount of women here who speak English, and to my great surprise I've found myself becoming picky about potential partners. So, I'm presently trying to grapple with an entirely new situation: Self-imposed celibacy. I did this to myself, and it's therefore my responsibility to make myself comfortable with the scenario.
So, I've actually been doing my damndest to kill my libido, and much to my surprise I seem to be succeeding. It's almost as if I've receded to some kind of pre-adolesence- the sort of pre-adolesence that I spent with a flashlight and a fantasy novel, or some kind of juvenile history or science book. Except now it's studying Japanese language and literature, and my asexualness is brought on by attitude and circumstance, not physiology. Because I cannot do anything to change my situation, the best thing to do really is to make peace with it. I know that sounds cheesy as hell, but it's true.
Now, the I know what some people might be thinking- "Aren't there are lots of girls in Japan who really, really want to fuck a gaijin?" I have two answers to that-
1- Maybe in Tokyo, where people have more regular contact with westerners there are girls like that. But I haven't me anyone matching that description in Okayama and
2- Even if I did meet a girl like that, I wouldn't be particularly interested in her. If you want to do someone purely because of their ethnic background, then I find that shallow and vaguely creepy. Not interested. Nora Ephron once said "In my sexual fantasies, no one ever wants me for my mind." Quite frankly, I think Ms. Ephron's sexual fantasies need a rewrite.
So, this brings me to a recap of something a weekend ago.
I was out dancing. Occasionally, with girls. Most of them I didn't know, most of them didn't speak english, and only a few of them I found all that interesting looking. They were all done up in the same high heels and same short skirts with the same hair. Mr. Ecuador was also there, and he was having a great time grinding his crotch into various (appreciative) feminine posteriors.
I, on the other hand, just sort of drank a few beers and chatted with another friend of mine who was there. I did occasionally dance, but never for very long, and it was mostly ironic.
Mr. Ecuador was sort of puzzled by all of this. "C'mon!" he'd say, "get out there! Look at that! Look at all that ass! That ass is for you!"
It was after these little motivational speeches that my ironic dancing would kick in. Not that there could have been any other kind of dancing- an iPod shuffle stuffed with the complete works of Journey, Tom Jones, and Steve Miller would have been more dancable than the arythimic collection of blips that was apparently supposed to be some sort of "remix."
Anyhow, I realize that I what I want isn't in Japan- Or at least not in or around Okayama.
I'm not going to find any smart, hip, geeky, girls with cool record collections who read interesting books. Ok, there are probably plenty of girls like that, but they probably don't speak English. Or, even if they do speak English, probably don't speak enough. Like I said- I've become picky.
After a night of very poor remixes and Mr. Ecaudor's little motivational speeches, I went home (alone) and read for about an hour before I went to bed, and was quite happy about it. After I got up, I read some more, studied Japanese, and ran a few errands before going out to dinner and karaoke with some friends.
It's weird being perfectly fine with impossible singleness. I remember high school angst and loneliness, feeling pathetic through almost all of sophomore year of college, and every so often having free-floating feelings of unformed lust. My past self, I think, would probably find the present me crazy, castrated, and irrational. I don't know if I'm becoming boring or more mature, but I find that doesn't bother me.

Now that I wrote that I'm waiting for the proverbial other shoe...

Feb 7, 2007

A Jaunt Through Dirty Kansai

"They're not sending you on the shinkansen?"
"No, the email says they want me to go by bus." I was not thrilled by taking the bus.
"We always go to Osaka by shinkansen," said the Lady Manager, "I'll get you a ticket."
I was told by the company's head office to come to Osaka for two days for training. My summons had said that I was to travel by bus, which would maybe take about two hours. The Lady Manager, however, would have none of it. She got on the phone, talked to someone for about thirty seconds, and hung up.
"Ok," she said, "you can take the shinkansen."
"That's it?" I asked, marvelling at the brevity of her phonecall.
"Yeah," she gave me an envelope of money, "go get a ticket."
I was thrilled. "You are the wind beneath my wings," I said, accepting the envelope.
"Arigato goziimasu."
"Oh. You're welcome."
I was actually looking forward to training. Prior to coming to Japan to teach, I did have a few days of training in Vancouver, and my coworkers have been helping me out, but for the most part "on the job training" is the best sort of thing to describe this position. I was not only glad to get away from teaching for two days, but I also welcomed the opportunity to learn a few things, and actually see Osaka. Tuesday, I got on the Shinkansen and zipped to Japan's third largest city in an easy forty five minutes. I transferred at the subway, found the head office, and the training began.
The teacher trainer was the same guy who picked me up at Kansai International Airport, a guy whom I'll refer to here as the Fat Guy. The Fat Guy is actually a pretty cool dude, and defintely knows the ropes of teaching. I believe that "his shit is tight" is the appropriate idiomatic phrase to describe his pedagogical prowess. So, that was productive, and I won't bore you with details of teaching how to. I will say, that I learned less what to do, than how to do things, which was actually far more useful than it might sound.
After the first day of training, the Fat Guy took us out for dinner, and informed us that the company was paying, which was nice. He also informed us that the place we went to was nomihodai, i.e., "all you can drink," and he entreated us to imbibe as much as we cared to.
Osaka is known for its food, and the place we ate at was no exception- I have no idea what any of it was called, but there was this highly tasty fried tofu, some very tasty ground up raw fish with chives, lovely noodle soup, and some fairly perfectly cooked chicken. 'Twas delicious. There was also a seemingly endless supply of Asahi beer coming towards the table.
(Funny side note- Some people get horny when they're drunk. Others get angry. Still others get tired. It seemed that we got geeky. I got into a spirited conversation with one of my coworkers about whether The Punisher is a sociopath or not [he isn't] and it occured to me that I wouldn't really do that with strangers while sober. I believe the other side of the table was arguing about video games.)
You can probably see where this is going. This is another one of those "I drink a lot" posts. We were probably overdue for one.
Towards the end of dinner, this drunk Japanese guy leaned over towards our table, and started saying some stuff in completely slurred Nihongo. He was almost immediately grabbed by his friend who had this panicked look on his face, and said "so sorry, so sorry. He is drunk." The drunk guy continued to talk at us, a table full of foreigners, even as his friend forcibly dragged him away with more and more "so sorrys."
"What the hell did he say," I asked the Fat Guy.
"I have no idea, probably something like, 'Oh, look! Foreigners!'"
We proceeded to go to two more bars, and soon I realized that it was two thirty in the morning, we are all quite drunk, and we needed to be out of the hotel by ten and at training by twelve. For some reason, I took it upon myself to be everyone's mom and remind them of this. I drank a few pints of water, got myself as sober as possible, and attempted to round up my drunken coworkers. The phrase "herding cats" comes to mind.
I could have gone back by myself if I was so inclined, but, for some godunknown reason I felt like I had some sort of duty to get my stupid-drunk coworkers back to our accomadations. That, and we were also the only people remaining in the place, and it seemed that the bartenders were a bit eager to go home. At about three fifteen a great, writing mass of booze-soaked gaijin wriggled from the establishment, and we proceeded to go on to the hotel. While walking, I noticed something- graffiti. Lots and lots of graffiti. It was an intensely welcome sight, actually. There's almost none here in Okayama, so seeing various walls despoiled with illegible tags, some in English, some in Kanji, some in Hiragana, was lovely to see. It was a mark of civilization and urbanness that I'd forgotten about.
Meanwhile, a clutch of my coworkers decided that they were going to break off in search of another place that was open. At this point, I decided that I really didn't care what happened to them, and if they passed out drunk in a gutter or fell asleep on a filthy park bench that was their business. The rest of us returned to the hotel, and I slept for about five hours.
I can't really sleep in the light, no matter how little I've slept the night before. When the sun woke me up, I could feel the exhaustion of little sleep and an aching, dry hangover creep over me. As hangovers go, it wasn't that bad. It's the sort that merely blurr things, cause some slight discomfort. Sartre-style naseau wasn't in the picture, but things definitely weren't optimal inside my skull. Checkout time, for some reason, was ten.
I stepped alone from the hotel, and into Osaka. I had two hours on my own in the city. I got my bearings and began to explore. The roads were thick with people, far more than Okayama's ever are and the stores and businesses seemed to piled on top of each other. I walked past shops and restaurants, gambling places, sex shops and game arcades. I crossed the river, and saw that each side was girded with cranes, industrial deritritus, and overhanging architechtural oddities. I found myself wishing that I'd brought my camera.
The light and crowds of the city stung me through my hangover, which gradually receded. I sat in a coffee place for a bit, and picked up again, and headed into a more business/fashion oriented area. Salarymen with dull suits moved about in indistiguishable packes, puctuated by younger people in more outlandish clothes. At about ten to twelve, I went back to the company offices.
My coworkers were universally silent and woozy, hungover and tired all. The Fat Guy jaunted in and asked with far too big a smile, "How is everyone today?"
"Mrrr." said us.
"I feel great!" said the Fat Guy, "I was up at seven, had a jog, hit the gym, ate some breakfast! Now, we've got a lot of stuff to cover today..." I could tell that he was chiding us. He'd probably drank more than anyone else in the room, and I doubt, given his proportions that he "has jogs" or "hits gyms" with any frequency. "You're all a bunch of lightweights," was his message.
With the help of coffee, we eventually perked up, but soon the training was somewhat disrupted by the annoyingly loud sounds of Japanese opera and bombastic speechifying blaring from the street below. Speaker trucks. We thought that they would go away fairly quickly, but their obnoxious broadcast just kept up. I found out why when we broke for lunch- the South Korean embassy was nearby, and they were intent on harrasment.
At lunch, I wanted to see this for myself. The enormous sheet of the South Korean flag waved in the breez behind the thirty or so cops. It's actually quite a nice flag, the Korean banner. The yin-yang and pictographs are pleasantly eye-catching, I think. The blue cop uniforms matched the yin-yang's blue half nicely, as if someone had arrayed them for a photo shoot.
The police had arrayed a series of brutal looking tire-busting/crowd impeding metal constructs in the lane closest to the embassy, and a rather ominous looking police van loomed in front of the main entrance.
The calvacade of black vehicles was headed up by a single car, painted black and bedecked with gold and red calligraphy. I could see a woman driving and an old man yelling into the microphone. The noise was far louder than the car's speakers would suggest, and his words bellowed against the crowd, embassy, police and into alleyways and offices. Behind the car were a series of trucks, painted likewise and also arrayed with speakers, following. Only one was actually broadcasting, and it blared out an histrionic brass-heavy fanfare that beat underneath the old man's words. People on the street stopped what they were doing, watching the black vehicles, watching the police, wondering if anything ugly would happen.
I asked one of my Japanese-speaking coworkers what was coming out of that speaker, and he explained to me that they were a radical right wing political group from Hokkaido who, among other things, want Japan to retake the Kuril Islands from Russia. When I told Hip-Hop about this later, he surprised my by saying, "Those aren't even Japanese. They really belong to the Ainu." I thought this was an interestingly enlightened position, for some reason.
The meeting was over, and I made my way to the subway station, which was teeming with people. When I got on the train, I was followed by a group of thug-wannabe looking boys. They type of guys who had seen a few rap videos and were trying their damndest to look hard and intimidating in their down jackets, knit caps, and baggy pants. All of them were visibly proud of their fashion achievements, and they were followed by a gang of girls who appeared all seemed to have crawled out of a Gwen Stefani video.
Anyway, I thought this was great- being on a messy train with a bunch of thug wannabes was something that definitely brought back memories of the states. So, the guys and girls are clustered in two different groups, and one the girls (wearing a big shit-eating grin) surreptitiously goes behind one of the guys, steeples her forefingers, and jams him in the ass. The hard-looking thug wannabe proceeded to let out a little high-pitched "meep!" as his posterior was violated, and everyone around him exploded in laughter. It was hilarious.
I left the subway and the hilarious ass-thugs at Shin Osaka station, and found a shinkansen for Okayama. I lingered a bit in the station, browsed at a few shops, bought some cookies to bring for my coworkers, and eventually got on the bullet train.
I've decided that I need to return to Osaka. Not only that, but I need to do this sort of thing more often, i.e., get out of Okayama. There's a fair amount of Japan, and I aim to see it.