Sunday, May 31, 2009


Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (or Tocho) was completed in 1991 with a final cost of $1 billion dollars (or 157 billion yen) in public funds. It was designed by Tange Kenzo, the same architect who designed the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Fuji Television Building, St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo. He was definitely influenced by le Corbusier in designing St. Mary's and the Hiroshima Museum, but the style of the Tocho, while distinctly linear and patterned, lacks the smooth and fluid movements that exist in the design of some of his other buildings.
Can you tell I'm a big Kenzo fan?!
I really enjoyed a lot of the details at the Tocho. The repeating "circuitry" pattern is visible throughout the building, from the exterior, to the elevator doors, and even the lighting!
It's really really awesome to see that kind of continuity in a design. I love it.

So I got to go to the top of the North tower, which, despite the rainy day, offered a nice view of the city. In the photo, it looks like Tokyo just fades off into the clouds...

I did a little exploring in & around Shinjuku. Looks like there is a 20 minute wait at Krispy Kreme... Meanwhile, back in the US, hundreds of Krispy Kremes are closing up shop.

It was a pretty good day for me despite the rain. I went back to Shibuya for a spell and hung out in the famous starbucks that overlooks the crossing. I wasn't lucky enough to get a seat, but I was lucky enough to meet some cool people who let me lean in on them to get some shots of those famous crosswalks. We talked about how easy it would be to see a million people in Shibuya. Just sit there for an hour and watch the crosswalks.

I want to apologize for not posting a whole lot as of late, I've been really busy at school and with life-related things. Basically no time for internet... except for the basics. Like checking e-mail, facebook and poupeegirl (it's so addicting!).
My life in Japan is so much more interesting than in the US. It keeps me pretty busy though!

more photos on facebook!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I forgot to do this last week. Sorry! I've also had a host of negative posts.. so I guess it's about time for some postitivity here.
Now for the things I love this week:

★ my Softbank 830SH PANTONE! Yes! I have a Pantone phone! The color, more specifically , is PANTONE 8143, which is one of those metallic pantones. Oh and the box matches, too. The colors are a little off in the photo because of the crappy lighting in my apartment... sorry.

★ 円円円 Getting PAID! - This week I'll get my first paycheck of my first real full-time job ever! how exciting is that?!

★ Speaking of getting paid - Shinsei bank offers their cash cards in 32 different colors! Mine is wine red cocktail; not quite pink and not quite purple. They won the Good Design Award for 05-06 from the Communication/Design Board. Much more exciting than the boring orange bank card that everyone I know in the US has!

家でやろう。 (do it at home.) I want to wallpaper my apartment with these.

TOKYO DAYS - all-day Tokyo metro passes! Not only an awesome money saver but an awesome name, too. I am going to start a band and call it TOKYO DAYS.

★ Getting mail from home. I got a package full of goodies last weekend from my Mom & Dad. It was full of U.S. goodies like microwave popcorn, peanut butter, hand sanitizer and my pink cardigan sweater.

★ speaking of purple colored things. Have I shared my purple teapot yet? If I have, I'll share it again, that's how much I love it. I bought it at a glassware/ceramics shop that is less than a block away from me. It's so cram-packed full of glasses and dishes that I felt like a...bull in a china shop, to use the expression. I love this teapot. I saw it sitting in a pile of terracota teapots. It looked so... lonely.. being the only purple teapot there! below is a photo of the window of the glassware shop. It really is amazing in there.

★ The blog post 10 Beautiful Japanese Fonts by nihongoup. I love Meiryo Gothic, I used it for this blog. I downloaded & installed Anzumoji.

THE PENS. Amazing. Just amazing. I'm so bummed that I can't watch the games here in Japan. I listen on, and sometimes before I leave in the morning, I can hear it on my itunes radio, but I have to go to school, so I don't usually find out who wins until I get back home.

★And of course. THE PENSBLOG. Best game recaps ever.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pittsburgh Pole...ka

So... my principal and my English coordinator urged me to decorate my classroom (which is actually a HUGE multi-purpose room) I only have one bulletin board in the room, and it's currently occupied with the Months, Weather, and Seasons, for easy reference. I also have one wall decorated with a world map and flags & information of some English-speaking countries. However, this leaves me with these large concrete poles in my room that are really just blank canvasses waiting to be decorated!! I found some pre-made posters of Opposites (big, small, long, short, etc.) to put on one of them, but the other... I was having a lot of trouble with. So I decided to make it 'The Pittsburgh Pole."
Yes. I was feeling a little homesick when I made this.
So I thought of some words for the kids to learn like... Sports, Football (which the kids confuse with rugby...weird), Baseball (it's insanely popular in Japan.. but the Pirates... ugh... don't even get me started...), and (of course!) Hockey, featuring Sidney (Bing!) Crosby. I also included a photo of a Primanti Bros. Sandwich with the heading "Sandwich," which is definitely a word that the kids know. Rivers and Bridges are also some easy words. I added "Neighborhoods" and "Steel" just in case I have some prodigies...
I just wanted to share this little collage I made. I took special care in the font and the color choices (of course black & gold). The font I used was Arial Rounded Bold. I guess in the case of teaching English to elementary school aged kids in Japan, they don't really learn to read at all. They just learn to speak English. If they happen to recognize a word or two, that's great. I just like to use fonts that are clear and easy to read. Nothing crazy like.. (shudder) Curlz MT or Ravie. Augh. I disdain those fonts with a passion. I guess some people think they're cute and they used them on some of the older flashcards at this school. Why the heck would you ever use a hard-to-read font on an language learning material?! Arial, helvetica, times new roman, verdana, even. Just keep it simple.

So. Yep. This is what I get to do at work. How's THAT for internationalization?!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

sticking out like a sore thumb

here I am sticking out like a sore thumb 2 years ago in DotonboriIt's a curse and a blessing. I know that I will just never get used to it. Sometimes it's nice to be noticed, but at the same time it's nice to have privacy, especially when it comes to the location of your domicile, or where you do your normal everyday things like grocery shopping.
It's just something you take for granted in a place like the U.S., where everyone is different, and unless it's Jennifer Aniston or George Clooney, most people really couldn't give a rat's behind about where you live or what you buy. I guess there are always exceptions, you know, like stalkers and other types who can't resist invading your privacy and harassing you.
I guess when it comes to my daily life here, I could go for a little anonymity sometimes.
For example, one of the faculty at one of my schools (we'll call her x-sensei) likes to keep her eyes peeled for me around town. Not only this, but x-sensei likes to inform me every week that she saw me doing this or that with person A or person B. She then interrogates me. "Where were you going?" "What were you doing?" "Who was that?" "Was that your boyfriend?" I honestly think that she is trying to be friendly and strike up a conversation, but this constant haranguing becomes tiresome every week.
Also, x-sensei fails to realize that just because she has seen a white girl running about town doesn't necessarily mean it was me. There are other ALTs living in the area, too.
Some of my close Japanese friends have confided that a lot of people are just super curious about me because I look so different from everyone else (i.e. not Asian).
There's an added layer of curiosity due to the fact that I am a foreign woman. Let's remember here people, that women's lib. was not very big in Japan. To be フェミニスト (feminist) is to be associated with all the negative historical aspects of being コミュニスト (communist). Which is a very strange association, I know. It has a lot to do with the fact that in Japanese, the words have a similar pronunciation. Despite this fact, life as a single young foreign woman in Japan is a significantly different experience than being a single young foreign man.
People will whistle at you on the street. They will flirt with you. You will get hit on by men who are at least twice your age. People will try to drunkenly grab at you. If you encounter any kind of sexual misconduct and report it, you have a 90% chance that nothing at all will be done to solve your problem. 90% of the time you will be at fault for being "so cute" or just plain foreign.

It is best to know your surroundings, have your wits about you, and to not allow any kind of vulnerability occur.
I'm always paranoid that someone is following me. When you stick out like a sore thumb it's easy to get this way. I proceed with extra caution so that people do not follow me home.
There have been some unfortunate incidents in the past with some other foreign women working here. When I lived here two years ago, a British woman who was teaching English in Tokyo was murdered. Her killer is still at large. Supposedly he was last spotted in the Phillipines, but I don't believe any of that B.S.

It's OK to be curious. However, staring and gossiping is just plain rude. Curiosity can turn into obsession... which can be dangerous.
Am I afraid of living in Japan? A country with one of the lowest crime rates (well... we can dispute this in another post) in the world? Maybe the fact that I'm so far away from familiar setting is what makes me uncomfortable. In theory I shouldn't be afraid, but man, when people are watching your every move its hard not to get wierded out.

Sometimes I like to stare back or if I'm having a particularly bad day, I flip them the bird. Or I'll ask just as uncomfortable questions.

How about you? Have you guys had bad experiences? Do tell!

Friday, May 15, 2009

pshhh... you don't need to read kanji...

Koizumi says, "you don't need to be able to read kanji to be the prime minister of Japan!" which is a joke aimed at current PM Aso, who has made some mistakes while reading kanji...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ohh Mondays...

School was, as per the usual, awesome yesterday. We have a new teacher who is there to support the Spanish and Portuguese speaking students & their parents (of which there are a handful at my schools). I got to speak some Spanish with her (albeit I am very rusty) which was really cool! Sometimes I feel like it's fate. I majored in Japanese - so I get to live & work in Japan. I minored in Spanish - I get to speak Spanish w/ some of my students & a coworker. How cool is that?! You're damn right it's cool!

So... I come home and I opened my fridge to find... basically nothing for dinner. So I decided to hit up Fressay - my local supermarket. As I was browsing the fish cases... I came across this.
鯨(くじら)= Whale.
Please note the little cartoon whale on the label.
So... I didn't really know what to do. I've never been very keen on the whole idea of killing whales, especially since they are so endangered. I knew that this happened in Japan... but it just never hit me until I saw the meat neatly packaged up with a shiso leaf in my grocery store fish aisle...
It made me kind of sad.
There is the added fact that the whole whaling industry that occurs in the waters surrounding Japan is controversial. Who knows what disputed waters that whale might have been swimming in? Poor guy. The political controversy just makes me feel even worse.
It's very similar to how I feel about eating Basashi (raw horsemeat). Sometimes Basashi will come from protected Mustangs who are caught in the United States, sold to the highest bidder, and slaughtered for thier meat. There was a protected species act for wild Mustangs in the U.S. that had been lifted (I'm not sure what its current status is) but people were violating it all the time with the sale of these poached horses. Whats worse is that people in Japan were willing to pay for the meat of these questionably acquired animals.
It isn't a question of what type of animal and whether or not it's cute and/or endagered, it's really the dirty politics behind getting the meat is that is upsetting to me.
So I came home sans whale meat (thank goodness) to another lovely surprise waiting for me in the bathroom:

Augh. This asshole (who unfortnately is NOT on the endangered species list) was just chilling out on my wall next to the toilet. We battled it out for a good ten minutes. I ended up squashing him and taking his paper-towel wrapped corpse out to the parking lot where it received another good squash. Just to be sure.
It scared the hell out of me when I went in the bathroom. I must have screamed bloody murder when I saw that two-inch cockroach relaxing on the wall. My neighbors must think I'm crazy.
Oh well. Maybe I am.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I actually went to Bannaji Temple (or dainichi-sama... which is apparently what people call it) for the first time on my way home from school one day. I also visited the same day that I went to Ashikaga Gakko - since it was Showa day there was a whole lot more going on. They had this crazy puppet fortune teller that was cool. It gave me my love fortune... which turned out to be not spectacular, but not terrible, either. I tried to take a video of it w/ my cell phone, but I hadn't quite figured out how to take better-quality videos, so please excuse the poor quality:

There were a ton of people hanging around the temple, so I found it a little difficult to get some good shots sans...human beings.
There is a small pagoda on the grounds, whose form is very similar to the Indian stupa, not a big ol' pagoda like your stereotypical one at Toji in Kyoto.
There is a koi pond & garden which was nice, but there were these junior high school boys who were in my photos. Oh well, I guess they just added to the ambiance. Bordering the garden is an interesting belltower that has these sides that curve upwards toward a interlocking tie beam roof structure that surrounds the actual bell.
Next to the main hall there's another big hall that has red beams and white clay walls. Behind it are a storehouse, a tiny shinto shrine, and bigger shrine (to what, I don't know) which was painted a bright red (looks like its fading now).
So.. according to the brochure Bannaji temple was founded by Ashikaga Yoshikane about 400 years ago, which would be the Kamakura Period, AKA the Ashikaga period, which was when the Ashikaga bakufu ran the show. There's a nice little family tree at the end of the brochure that shows you the Ashikaga clan.

I love that that dude just decided to take a nap on that bench.
More Photos on Facebook!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

love, love, love

So. I've decided to do a 'Things I Love Thursday' post much like Gala Darling, except that mine will be a few things related to my life here in Japan; thus - 好きなこと木曜日. I think I'll also contrast this w/ a weekly post about something that drives me nuts - but more on that later. Now for things I love this week!

Tochigi Strawberries - They come in perfect little rows in their packaging and they are quite possibly the best strawberries I have encountered thus far in my existence.

Claire's - Yes! There is Claire's in Japan! I bought these doughnut earrings there! They express my love not only for doughnuts but also for all things that doughnuts represent. Like Mr. Donut, or the Simpsons.

The ADORABLE packaging on the Frito-Lay cheese balls. Come on Frito-Lay. You need to have cute packages like this in the U.S.!! Please?!

Poupeégirl - My new obsession. Thank you, Taryn. It's a fashion community. When you upload photos of your real-life fashion items, you get ribbons and fashion items for your doll (which, btw is poupeé in French). You also get ribbons for commenting on other people's items. It's super cute and I love making outfits for my poupeé.

Lastly, I received little presents from my students at school last week. A photo of Matsujun (the drama star) and these little Pokemon stickers w/ a note that says 「これあげるよ」. I felt so loved!

So how about you? What do you love?!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I was walking home from the train station on Sunday night at around 9:30. I had just gotten back from hanging out in Tokyo w/ Taryn (which I will blog about later). I was along the main drag, in a well-lit area, not too far away from my apartment. Two people on bikes, a man and a woman, who looked to be in their late 30s or early 40s were riding behind me. I stepped to the left, thinking that they would pass me on the right.
The man rode up directly beside me and shouted in a heavily Japanese-accented English: "WHERE ARE YOU GOING?", startling me. Before I could form any type of intelligible retort in Japanese, he and his female accomplice had already passed me. She had said something to him, but inaudible to me, as they continued on their way down a side street.
So... I was freaked out by this incident and took an indirect, alternate route home.
It makes me feel only slightly safer knowing that I live close to a police box. I always have this horrible feeling that the fact that I am a foreign woman will always be used against me if there would ever be any kind of... trouble (but that's just my own personal hangup).
Just because you know HOW to say something in English (or any language for that matter), doesn't mean you should say it all the time, because one of those times may just be extremely inappropriate. You will scare the shit out of a well-meaning foreign woman who is teaching your children English. That is all.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Ashikaga Gakko is apparently the oldest school in Japan! Right here in my city! Holla! I went on Showa day, when, unfortunately, everyone and their brother felt the need to get out and about.

According to the pamphlet, present records can't really support any theories prior to the year 1410, so there is dispute as to when the school was actually founded. So here are 4 theoretical dates:
1. The Ashikaga school is a remnant of the Kokugaku school that originated in the Nara period
2. The Ashikaga school was founded in the year 832 by Lord Ono-no (tee hee what a silly name) Takamura.
3.The school was founded in 1249 by Lord Ashikaga Yoshikane (who also founded nearby Bannaji temple)
4. The school was opened in 1439 by Lord Uesugi Norizane, Deputy Shogun of Eastern Japan.

The school taught Confucianism of the Han and Tang dynasties and also the I-Ching. Next to the school, there is a Confucian Shrine (that actually looks more like a small temple, complete with a butsudan-style roof and shibi on the top roofline) with a bronze seated Confucius inside.
You can gaze out of the Hojo and have a nice think while looking at the pond & garden in the front or the smaller pool in the back. There is also a library on the grounds, that comes complete with 12,000 separate volumes, including the Song Dynasty edition of the 5 Classics of Confucianism. Talk about classics. The library isn't called 'Toshokan' though. Its name literally means "Treasury of Chinese Books."

I don't want to re-type the entire brochure onto my blog, but it really is a neat place to visit and learn a little about Chinese influence on Japanese culture. I would like to go back when there aren't so many people there!

More photos on the Facebook!