水曜日, 3月 31, 2010

The Dregs of FY2009

Today is the last year of the fiscal year here in Japan, and what an interesting week I've had. For starters, my previous entry "Eating Flipper" was published online at: and subsequently linked to by a bunch of Japan-related blogoshperes which I never even knew existed. the result is over 900 people have looked at my article in the 3 short days it has been online, and while plenty have people have offered their often ridiculous two cents, no one has said anything insulting to me (with the exception of one self-righteous troll) and many people commented just to say I'd written well! :D

I'm all over the internet apparently. the manager who organized our Mazda Ekiden team (see previous posts) also just sent me this link from the Mazda's homepage ! My picture is toward the bottom; I'm the white guy with the Abe-Lincoln-chinstrap. :p

Also, last week, I got to translate letters from the governor to none other than Barack Obama and Gordon Brown! I won't get into what they said, but it wasn't anything top-secret. Still cool though, yeah? My boss was really worried because of the high-level addressees, but after I finished my translation, we went over it together (he speaks some English) and he agreed it was solid, not that I had any doubts. ;]

There have been a few farewell parties for people in our division getting transferred, and a party for Mr. Kadoya who got married, and the best thing to happen ever was, for the after-party, we went to Round1 (a 9-storied amusement center) and played ping-pong, billiards, darts, and BATTING CAGES! Sadly I don't have any photos from the batting cages, but it was awesome and I had been in forever! Good, clean fun.

Yesterday and the day before we rearranged everything in my Ken-cho office, but to be honest, the hardest bit was done on Monday, on my day off, but last night was the construction of a new wall in our office , seriously, so this was some of the madness involved in preparing:

They're showing you where the new wall now stands.

Mr. Teraguchi (My supervisor for the last year) hurrying to finish his work.

木曜日, 3月 25, 2010

Eating Flipper

Last weekend I ate dolphin. Wait! Where are you going? Let me explain. I did not set out to eat dolphin. I went to an international exchange barbeque, held by my friend in Osaka. The participants came from Japan, America and Australia. We all brought food and drinks for each other, and learned how to play cricket. We fired up the grill and started throwing on what we brought, and one of the Australians said, “I have a bit of dolphin in the cooler if you want to try.”
Here is where I feel the pressure. I love trying new food and I have never said no to a challenge. I keep a list in my head of animals I have and have not yet eaten, and dolphin is one of things, like whales, that I KNOW I shouldn’t eat, but… maybe just once. So that is exactly what I did. I tried the steak part and the skin part, once raw, once grilled, each.
While I ate Flipper, I found out more. The Aussie who brought it said he loved the stuff, and always ate it raw with soy sauce. He bought it from Taiji, the very subject of the new film “The Cove”, which the (far-too-biased-to-really-be-called) documentary condemns for their annual killing of literally tens of thousands of dolphins. It is also the main capture spot for dolphins used in shows and aquariums worldwide. I had seen previews and wanted to see the movie, but I already knew the gist of it. Dolphins are intelligent, majestic animals that should never be caged or killed for food. I love, respect, and admire dolphins, but just like dogs or cats, if I find myself in a place where they are eaten normally, I’m going to try a little.

We all continued to discuss the subject and the man who brought it talked about how he, as a foreigner, couldn’t find it at the stores there, but if his Japanese wife went in alone and asked for it, they would bring it out from behind the counter; this sounds very diabolical, but given the threat protesters and demonstrators could pose to the businesses who sell it out of simple indifference, I can understand why they would be careful. Why are there no Japanese protesters causing problems in Taiji? That is a larger and better question for someone who wants to research the topic.
When I came home from Osaka, I immediately watched “The Cove”. But much like actually eating dolphin, the experience was unimpressive. Sure, the movie made a few good points about mercury levels, pollution, and the over-fishing of whales and dolphins, but this movie was less about the killing of dolphins, and more about how difficult and dangerous it was for the crew to get in to Taiji, and record the killing of dolphins. Their goals were admirable, what they exposed was deplorable, but the whole movie screamed of their own egos.
Ultimately, I do not feel bad about eating dolphin, because I was not actively pursuing it, I didn’t pay for it, and I didn’t create any new demand for it. I got to find out what it tastes like, and that was enough for me. The taste, by the way, was similar to liver but with the texture of beef. The skin, mostly fat, was obviously chewy, oily, and not very good. Now that I have crossed that line I can say from experience, it is not worth trying. But I also know that if you are like me, you want to make that decision for yourself. In contrast, I also tried crocodile that day. It was delicious, like sword fish, and came from an animal that is decidedly stupid, ugly, and disagreeable. So I’d like to conclude by saying, save a dolphin, eat a croc.

木曜日, 3月 18, 2010

This is madness?

THIS IS SPARTA! Oh wait, no. It's madness.
My office at the ken-cho erupted today after the announcement of the annual transfers. It's such a bizarre system. Every year, people who have worked in the same office for more than two or three years get transferred or changed to different duties. I guess it's good cross training and keeps everyone from getting too comfy and complacent, but you'd think the people who have been working for 20+ years would be used to the annual ritual. They are not.
My current supervisor is being moved to a new division, but luckily, like last year with him, my new supervisor is someone already in our office. We're also getting someone new who apparently is fluent in English and someone else who i know, but for some reason my boss says he's not allowed to announce (even quietly in my ear) who it is yet.
This year really is going crazy with change though. Even the office itself that I work in is changing! They are adding a new wall that will make where I currently sit part of the room next door! The door i sit by will also go to the other room, BUT the cool thing is, my group is being moved to the OTHER side of the newly-smaller office so I'll be right by the OTHER door which will become the ONLY door to my office. You follow?
This all happens April 1st btw. That's right; only two weeks for everyone who is being transferred out to finish their work for the fiscal year, clean out their desk and move to their new desk where someone else just did the same thing. The vibe in the air is similar to an anthill that's been kicked over. But I am addict for change, so I am looking forward to the havoc. Also, I get to have a second go at having a first-year supervisor. This means I won't have much help, but it also means I'll be able to make more independent decisions like this year and my supervisor will be more of someone who enables my direction rather than setting it for me. Yay for POWER! :P

土曜日, 3月 13, 2010

Ahhh! My Legs!

So last Sunday was the Mazda Ekiden (relay race). I may have mentioned before that our goal was do better than last year (67th place) and we DID it! it was cool clear day, but there was a bitter cold wind blowing in my face the whole way, but everyone of our 6 members said they were able to pass a few of the competition, bettering our position one leg at a time! The Mazda Ekiden is divided into two divisions, Community - like our team, and Company - for bragging rights around the Mazda plant I guess. Community is actually HARDER because lots of university track teams use the Ekiden as practice and devour the top 10 places or so. This year our score was 39th out of 160 teams though, meaning we got into the 75th percentile, and to cement that our overall score of 85th out of a total of a combined 338 teams!
After that, just like last year, the plan was to go eat at a yakiniku restaurant (like bbq'ing indoors and sitting down for those who don't know, it comes from Korea actually...) and we trudged over, exhausted, ready to eat! We sat down, order drinks that took forever to get there, and had a toast, and just started eating our first pieces of seasoned, thin sliced cow's tongue, when the waitress came to our table and announced, "There's a fire, we need everyone to leave. Please take your things with you and go"! Sure enough, the smoke intake at "table 2", as the servers kept saying, was blazing like a scene from Backdraft! They were doing every retarded thing to put it out (except use fire retardant), but they did put it out rather quickly. The manager then announced that they had to call the fire department anyway, so please leave, don't worry about the bill...which would be awesome if we had eaten a full meal, but we really only get enough to make us MORE HUNGRY! After checking about 4 more place and waking 40 minutes (after a race...) we did find a great place and it cost less than the first, and the service was very prompt, so it all worked out. Just you don't get the wrong impression, Yakiniku has been around a looong time and all the older Japanese guys I was with remarked that that had been the first time they'd seen ANY kind of restaurant fire, so it's not a common thing!
Since then, I've been running a couple times, and to touch rugby practice, so my legs feel like daggers, but hopefully they'll heal up big and strong :P
I went to the Oyster festival on Ondo and I also ran into one of my favorite teachers from my first year teaching, a P.E. teacher named Mr. Hirai. He was helping direct parking at a nearby elementary school, so we got to chat and catch up. Great times!