Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My name is your dad.

For all you Blackwoodphiles out there (I’m sure I still have fans, right?). I’ve put a rather extensive update to my bebo account. Last Thursday I uploaded about 170 pictures of my trip around South East Asia last Christmas. It was a mammoth task, uploading five pictures at a time, but I completed it in one night. I hope you all take a look at them and enjoy them. Just remember, the time that you spend looking at my photos now is time you won’t spend watching slideshows when I get back to KDY and Aberdoom. And please, please comment.

In other news, Crabu-Sama has started a blog. And it’s in English! After two years of avoiding this crustacean menace on the streets of Gifu, you can now keep yourself up to date on his movements via the interweb. Maybe it will be useful to you, maybe not. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Crabu-Sama’s work, he’s essentially a giant crab that has been killing and maiming more or less at random for about 90 years. This blog, written by the beast himself provides some insight into his comings, goings, and butcherings. It can be found at
Please everybody add him as a friend.

Also, this Saturday Kaki and I are off to Okinawa to reward ourselves for surviving another dour winter in cold buildings made of slabs. We are visiting Miyako-jima, an island which has a reputation for harbouring the worst drunks Japan has to offer. I hope to see if this is true. I expect to be eating a lot of swine and turning impossibly red, swimming in the ocean and attempting to instruct Kaki further in the art of not sinking like a stone to the bottom of any body of water you happen to find yourself in. Just kidding, she’s getting much better. Every time we go swimming now, I’m at least 60% sure that she isn’t going to take on water. I am, after all, in the Business of Education, at least for now.

I have hit a small snag though, my fabled Union Jack swimmies shrunk a bit in the wash, and I now have trouble pulling them up past my ample buttocks. So, at the weekend I decided to go and buy another pair. Unfortunately, it turns out that nowhere stocks them right now, because it isn’t swimming season yet. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I would say that right now it’s not yet quite warm enough for a dip in the sea, but surely, with the abundance of indoor heated swimming pools, swimming is an all-year round activity? Am I right? Do you mean to tell me that swimming shorts can only be bought from June to August every year? What if I go off the diving board wrong at the municipal pool in January, and end up dangling from my grotesquely stretched swimmies? I’d be fucked, that’s what I’d be. I mean, what if I sit down to fast and bust a hole in them? Do you mean to say I can’t replace them until it’s the official swimming season? Is this the whole of Japan or is it just the malls near me that are fucked up?

This sort of links in to something that really gets on my nerves about Japan. However, other people have told me how much they love the same phenomenon so there you go. But anyway, my particular problem is the fact that everything has its own particular season. Japan is a country that is extremely proud of its four distinct seasons (some people to the extent that they don’t believe spring and autumn exist in other countries) and has some very important traditions that rely on seasons. Cherry blossom viewing or Hanami parties, for instance can only take place for one week in springtime when the cherry blossoms are blooming. This of course is a beautiful tradition. But there are other things that I don’t think need to be seasonal, take fruit for instance. Japan doesn’t import much fruit, and relies largely on domestic stock which costs a bomb, and is largely seasonal. This means that you will eat persimmons in autumn and oranges in winter, because that’s when they are plentiful. What if I want to do this in summer? You can’t, or at any rate you can’t without paying through the nose. There are even seasonal menus in restaurants. For instance, what would happen if I wanted a summer vegetable curry from Coco Ichibanya in February? OK, not that I ever would while there is still a manly beef katsu curry on offer, but what if? Answer: I couldn’t do it. I would ask, and the waiter would smile benevolently and think “Silly foreigner! February isn’t for summer vegetables!” Well get this asshole, buy the vegetables from somewhere it is summer or just freeze the motherfuckers in July. We have the technology. In Japan, beer gardens close on pretty much the first of September. It doesn’t matter if it’s roasting and people are still thirsty, it’s just what is done. It’s what they call “atarimae”. I’ve heard it translated as “common sense” but it really means doing things in the manner that they have always been done and sticking to routine at all costs.

I know, I know I’m moaning. And I love Japan really. I should let it be known that I’m letting the whines out here so I am able to remain positive and not cripple my students, teachers and innocent passersby who invoke my ire. Thank you for your patience.

Monday, May 07, 2007


(Pictured: the Genbaku dome; the floating torii at Miyajima at sunset; General Kuroki)
Good day to you, friends. It has been a while since I have updated you on my progress. Last week was Golden Week, the special week that people are allowed to go on holiday if they take vacation time. We have two long weekends, separated by two days of work, and if you can get those two days off, you can have a whole week to go wherever you want. This is really the best Japan has to offer, holiday-wise, the country where teachers have to stay in school all summer despite a distinct lack of work and people are too ashamed of looking like they aren’t gambarre-ing to ask for a day off. And even if they did they wouldn’t know what to use it for. None of my students, or even teachers did anything with their time. They think that traveling anywhere further away than Nagoya is hugely risky and expensive. So effectively we live in a state without vacations. What do I care? I’m leaving in two months. Then I can get a job where I’m not just pretending to work half the time, or go back to uni and do a qualification in a subject I’m interested in. But I digress:

I, David L. Blackwood, unlike the majority of my compatriots, do know how to have a good holiday. I estimate that I have seen more of the country than many Japanese have. And now I have added two new prefectures to my list of conquests: Hiroshima and Ishikawa. Now I will tell you about my delightful holiday.

I took a trip to Hiroshima, famous for having been the site of the first ever nuclear strike on a civilian population, and of course seafood. On the first day I took a trip out to the island of Miyajima, with its famous floating torii gate. The weather was clement and I took a long walk around the island which was very peaceful and had many secluded nooks and crannies away from the tourists where a body could enjoy solitude and listen to the many noises of nature. It was enough to make me feel a renewal of enjoyment of Japan. It was low tide when I arrived, so I walked out and examined the trunks of the gate. Its sides were pitted with barnacles and it loomed a bit. Later at high tide I observed that it was still looming except that I felt better now that there was a body of water between me and it. How I hate being loomed at. I took some photographs of the gate and enjoyed a light snack and a beer before getting back on the ferry. On my return to Hiroshima I went to find my capsule hotel. For those of you unaware of what a capsule hotel is, it’s a hotel where they put you in a sci-fi looking capsule which is stacked on top of other capsules. They are generally very small and cheap and no good at all for those with claustrophobia. In any case, it’s nearly possible to have a comfortable night in them. I went out for dinner with a book to read and somehow ended up getting entirely pissed on my own. This left me slightly ill-equipped to perform the important duties I had to perform the next day, notably my visit to the A-Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Museum. The dome itself is strange, like looking through some kind of lens at the past, untouched as it has been since 1945. The cracked concrete and the skeletal bubble of the roof give it a haunted look, and in the tidy, orderly city of Hiroshima it seems as out of place as if Dracula’s castle were somehow transported to the centre of Manhattan. After that I went to the Cenotaph, the Children’s Memorial and the Museum. The Memorials are a bit underwhelming – tiny, modern, hard to connect with the mass slaughter that went on 60 years ago - except the one that is underneath the ground with a 360 degree view of the devastation and fountain in the shape of a clock permanently frozen at 8:15 in memory of those who died begging for water. They also had a database of the victims there where people could look for their deceased relatives, which I played with for a while, discovering that not only Japanese, but Koreans, Chinese and American POWs where amongst the casualties. In the Peace Memorial Museum I was able to observe artifacts from that time, such as stopped watches, burned clothes and melted glass. I saw the stone steps which have a person’s shadow burned onto them, as well as some macabre pictures of horribly burned people. Very sobering. Slept long that night but kept worrying that when I awoke I would have somehow gone back in time to 1945 and be forced to find my way out of the conflagration to come. I think I would have run through the streets trying to explain in my bad Japanese to people and yelling あぶないよ! The next day I decided to take a trip to a different time period altogether and went to Hiroshima castle (not the original, obviously) where I learned about samurai, Japanese history and looked at ornate weapons and armour. I even was allowed to wear a suit of armour and ran around like a child with behavioural issues scaring old women.

Following that me and a few like minded individuals took a trip up the coast of Ishikawa-ken where we camped and barbequed and hung out. It was quite a fine drive, up through the remote fishing villages and past the recently earthquake-damaged Wajima. Highlights were Kaki and Shiloh being attacked by a hawk, and later being terrified of any bird-type noise that came from the treeline, the pleasant scenery on the drive along the coast, and generally socialising around the barbeque. Anyway, if anything else interesting happens I’ll be sure to update. I am aware this post is not funny. This is because it is a Monday and I am at work on the first day after my holiday and I do not feel funny. I am a broken man.