A former student. Good kid. Took to English like a duck to water. Well, I should say that he took to the ABC Song like a duck to water.
It’s been nine months since I left Japan. *insert more grousing about clerical error that kept me here this long* Given his age, he likely wouldn’t remember me if I were to return tomorrow. Few of the kids would, I figure. I’m not on their radar any more.
I have been an ESL cowboy long enough that the first batch of (miserable spoiled rich kid) sixth-graders that I taught would be in their mid-twenties by now. The first batch of pre-schoolers would be in high school. It hasn’t been long enough that first batch of expat assholes I met, nor my first bad boss, have died off. Hope always shines in my heart.
EXIF data claims this was taken with the Hipstamatic app. I toned it down in Photoshop because sometimes iPhone apps overdo it.
A real half-frame camera photographed by a fake half-frame camera.
Both of which I no longer own.
The Pen EE-2 got some mold on it and for the health and safety of my other cameras I had to take it behind the barn and shoot it. I would always tape the film’s box end to the camera because, at 72+ shots per roll of film, I’d always forget what I had in there looooong before I finished and developed the roll. Most of my favorite shots were taken with that camera though. Which is why I bought it’s digital descendent instead of another high end DSLR.
The character is Misshi Chan, the tourism mascot of Miyazaki City.
The iPhone was sold to a friend. Did you know Softbank carrier-locks the smartphones they sell you and are under no obligation to set you free? Add that to poor area coverage in Japan and you get a company that can go do one of the dozens of rude suggestions running through my mind right now as I think about them. The app was called Half Camera by Korean company B1VFX. Don’t bother looking them up. Their logo is all they have on their website “About" page. Twas a nice little diptych-making app though.
The photo was taken in Miayakonojo one late November near the Jusco. I know this because the leaves don’t fall there until late November.
I’m gonna write a few hundred words about cheap hotels in east Asia now!
Unless you’re loaded down with disposable income because you’re in a big corporation or in the JET Programme, your trips across the region will see you in a low cost business hotel of some sort. Short of going there and scoping them out ahead of time, there’s no way to know how they really are until you get there. It’s not like they’re going to have “Centipede free since April!” on the brochures.
All of the business hotels I’ve stayed in in Taiwan were lovely places. Costs there are generally pretty cheap as it is, but I was expecting these hole in the walls and wound up with a hotel room that would have made for an excellent apartment to rent. I could have held a party in the bathroom of the one in Taipei I stayed at.
Japanese business hotels are like looking at photos of someone as they age. They’re all the same more or less. But the age/ use of the hotel shows around the corners like the lines growing on your eyes.
The recently renovated JR Kyushu Hotel Kagoshima was the dashing youth, hip to the wifi the kids were into. All sleek and shiny with an eager to please staff. The hotel in Fukuoka from which I took this photo, Nishitetsu Grand Hotel, was like someone in their 30s or 40s: A lot of the roughness had been smoothed away leaving a responsible competence behind. The staff were lovely and super helpful.
The hotel I stayed in in Shinjuku before I left Japan was like the kind but doddering granny who offers you a butterscotch to suck on and can’t remember which grandkid you are. The staff accepted that I was there.
I found Korea to be really hit or miss. For the most part you will get a very spartan sleeping space with a lobby that looks more like the entrance to a hospital. You will also get business hotels that, despite the label on the brochure, charge by the hour and are more geared towards giving the local hookers a place to operate from. Those places aren’t always sleazy looking, though. Sometimes they can be quite nice. But since hotels tend to be clustered twenty to a block, they need to bring in the cash somehow.
Once I stayed in a Korean love motel in Seoul. It seemed pretty clean and spacious. And then I found the uncapped hypodermic needle on the ledge above the door. Unfortunately, it was around 2a.m. when I found it and I wasn’t going to have much luck finding a new spot to sleep. I set the alarm for shortly after dawn and left for the train back home without showering. I was afraid of what I’d find in the towel rack.
One of my many peculiarities is that I rate hotels by the view out the window. If I base my many stays on that alone, the above mentioned palace in Taipei would be the top since it directly faced the Taipei 101 building, giving me a fabulous scene both day and night. And while the parking lot view in the Comfort Inn near Toronto Pearson Airport didn’t help it’s case, the brick wall I had in Shinjuku “won”.
I was luckier than the bastards across the hall. Their windows opened up to the laundry room.
When you first get to Japan, the odds of you living in one of the big cities are low. You just have too much competition for the jobs in those places. And if you’re coming in on the money chariot known as the JET Programme, you don’t get to pick and choose your location either. Most folks have to work their way up to life in the big city.
So you’re going to be seeing a lot of scenery like this as you go about your day. It’s all very pretty and makes for nice photography, but it doesn’t take too long for you exhaust the locations around you and you realize that small town life in Japan is pretty much small town life where you came from.
Since I was in sub-tropical Miyazaki, I rarely had the benefit of snow changing the scenery up. Between that and the abundance of evergreen trees, February didn’t really look all that different from August. It didn’t take me long to start heading north during my winter vacations in the hopes of seeing some snow. I have a lot of pretty photos of Nagasaki after a blizzard… half of them died along with my external hard drive. But I still have the ones on film.
I’ve sunk into a haze of Chrono Trigger recently. And you’d think that would make me even more unmotivated to do other things, but you’d be wrong. Getting up and doing some treadmill to get the circulation back into my legs has become a daily activity for me again.
Plus, I’ve been drawing a bit more just to give my eyes something to look at other than a monitor.
It’s TV that really makes me lazy. With the 500 channel business that’s standard now, I can find something to keep me on the sofa from the time I get out of bed to the time I return to it. And I won’t lie: My belt has gotten a lot tighter in the three months since I’ve gotten back because of it.
Early iPhone shot. Probably the Hipstamatic app. I’m too busy fighting Lavos to look up the EXIF data…
This is a man sitting on top of a giant drum and playing it with very long sticks during the Okage Matsuri a couple of years back. I assume it happened at the start of this month like scheduled. It got cancelled one year due to a hoof and mouth outbreak. That was a pretty dull summer.
I always had a lot of trouble getting to the local festivals due to my Tuesday - Saturday/ 10am -7pm work schedule interfering with the strict Saturday evening scheduling they always had. Luckily the shrine was about ten minutes from my apartment so I could at least catch them rolling in the floats and some of the performances before the fireworks ended the show. But being an hour away from Miyazaki City, and ninety minutes away from Kagoshima, by train meant that I always missed out on what those cities had to offer.
Maybe one day when the stars align and the wallet is fat…
There’s a concept called “reverse culture shock” when people return to the land of their birth after being in parts foreign for a while.
You do pick up local habits even if you don’t mean to. Bowing while shaking hands. Pauses as you look for the best words to use. Pushing into the bus as other people are leaving and then the driver yelling at you to wait and everyone looks at you like you’re an asshole.
I did that after returning from Korea. No one waits there.
I’ve been back and forward enough now that I can flip my mental switches relatively quickly. And while I still bitch about the constant chill in the Canadian air, I don’t try to pay for bus after I ride it like they do in Japan. I also look both ways before crossing the street correctly. Left, then right, in Canada. Right, then left, in Japan.
To be honest, I’m a bit embarrassed by how quickly I slipped into my Canadian comfort zone. Like my Japanese comfort zone was nothing. And to be honest, it really was nothing. I’ve pointed out before: Take your boring life in North America* and translate it to Japanese. There isn’t much adjusting to be done. That’s part of the reason I have an urge to return to Korea. I’m never comfortable there due to the first world comforts going hand in hand with the third world personality.
Or maybe I felt that way about my time in Japan due to my having been an expat for seven years by the time I got there. YMMV.
I tell you this, though… I’d get a full body Brazilian wax in exchange for Japanese style bath tubs in every house here.
I think this was shot with the Camerabag App. But since I got rid of my iPhone, I have no way to confirm that.
*Living in Tokyo/ Toronto/ Taipei/ Seoul/ Dubai/ NYC/ Rio/ etc… don’t count. Big cities are different planets entirely and don’t really represent the nation they’re in.
When in Rome, do as the Romans. You’ll doubtlessly hear this if you decide to embark on The Path of the Expat.
You may come across some expats who take this to heart. They’ll be the ones you’ll hate because they will both be more successful than you, as well as being the first one to throw you to the wolves if a conflict arises between you and your boss. You’ll also come across expats who will reply, “Fuck that. And Fuck you for suggesting it. I’m American/ Canadian/ English/ Australian/ South African/ Irish/ Kiwi, by fuck! We don’t adapt. You adapt to us. “
If you’re in a nation like Korea where the economy (and to be honest: their national security as well) depends upon keeping foreigners happy and spending their money, you can easily get away with the second attitude. I knew folks who had been in Korea for near two decades who never learned a thing in the language beyond ordering beer. But they always threw a lot of money around in seeking their pleasures and that was good enough to allow them to get away with it.
Japan almost requires the first attitude. You can get away with being an outsider who won’t integrate to a degree, but only if you’re sufficiently entertaining while you do it. Weird because you’re suffering from depression? Fuck you. Suck it up, whitey. Weird because you like dressing up like Hello Kitty? You’ll be on TV within a week and have a vast internet following. If you don’t see being a weirdo as an option, you’ll be forced to do what you can to adopt Japanese ways or be an outcast. They don’t need to keep your foreign ass happy and they aren’t going to let you get away with not speaking Japanese.
My advice? Adopt the local culture until your comfort zone gets invaded. Let the drunken old fuck cut ahead of you in line. But when he tries to force you to go splits on the local whorehouse, put that shit in it’s place.
It’s been about two months since I got back to Canada and my memories of Japan are pretty much like this photo now. I don’t know if that’s middle age or the numbing, timeless-cuz-there’s-no-jobs, sitting around waiting for a doctor to tell me if I need surgery or not, effect of living in rural Nova Scotia.
Let’s talk about the greatest weakness of digital photography: The death of your data.
My external hard drive died two weeks ago. (UPDATE: About 70% of the images were rescued.) This came at the exact same time as I was on the verge of flying back to Japan to strangle the entire corporate structure of my previous place of employment… I tell yah, Japan is pretty good to work in for the most part. But once you’re gone you can fuck off and die as far as they’re concerned… So the death of the hard drive was the shit icing on the shit cake.
My iPhone visiting Brick City was the shit ice cream piled on top of it.
See, photography is only as good as the medium you store the images on. And while film might have a century before the souls escape from it, digital is gone with the next hardware failure.
This happens to my comic files a lot too. I’m generally a nomad. I go where the ESL Edutainment jobs are. Things get shaken, smacked, and lost when you go from nation to nation. And since most non-moving storage devices like memory sticks and DVDs don’t have nearly enough storage capacity needed for today’s high rez imaging they’re not an option. For the most part I can live with my lack of saving things properly, but sometimes I’d like to blog about something and without a decent image to go with it none of you will care.
Long story short: Buy two or three external hard drives and make copies on all of them. Even the terabyte ones are affordable. If you don’t, you’ll be like me and only have what you’ve littered around the web.
It can happen to youuuuuuuu~
This is the subway in Fukuoka. It looks like the app was Hipstamatic. Forget which station I was pulling into here so I’m going to say it’s Akasaka just because it’s fun to say. Try it.
Testing out the Tumblr/ Flickr link. I can’t see any problems arising unless I try to stick an “e” in where it belongs.
I view this image as evergreen.
I may or may not have mentioned: My external hard drive died last week. (UPDATE: Half of the files were recovered) It was holding my digital images from Japan. I might be able to pay someone to pull the data off of it. But until then, all I have are my remaining films and what’s on Flickr.
My fault for not double backing it all up and leaving it on one device.
My music was all on there too. If my old iPod goes, I’ll be forced into piracy. That would be shameful.