Friday 12 July 2013

To Be A Millionaire

When I was a young child, I had a fascination with money. For a few reasons. First, it was something to collect. Don’t ask me why, there’s just a part of my brain that likes to collect things and put them into neat little piles. Slight OCD maybe. Second, it was something to count. Seriously, I really liked counting. Before maths got all “theoremy” on me, it was my best friend at school. WOW that sounded way nerdier than I meant it to! I’m just trying to say it was my favourite subject, okay? So when I was small I actually got a kick out of adding up the money that I’d saved.

...alright that's still pretty darn nerdy.

Friday 5 July 2013

Work Hard, Play Hard

The Japanese are known internationally for being very diligent workers. Straight faced, buttoned up, rigid. They get the job done, is the impression. They take their responsibilities very seriously and they are not on speaking terms with frivolous distractions like humour. They are, amongst stereotypes, the Germans of the East.

Friday 28 June 2013

On Being A Fraud

I’m not exactly an adherent to all things Ireland. I despise our deeply embedded culture of alcoholism, I’m not proud of our State’s relationship with the Church, and I’ve never embraced education of the Irish language. I don’t listen to Traditional music, I grew up with an unexplainable hatred of Michael Flatley, and I feel unclean just walking past Carroll’s, the infamous peddler of tacky “Irish” souvenirs. I never even learned the rules of any of the Gaelic games. Yet I love my country. For all it’s flaws, for all it’s culture that I fail to identify with, I’m proud of where I’m from.

Now, a strange thing happens to a person living away from home.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Why I'm Here

The JET Programme is a teaching position. JET after all, stands for Japanese Exchange and Teaching. But what exactly it is that we’re teaching can easily get murky. We work in English departments, so it would seem straightforward enough to say that we teach our mother tongue to the youth of Japan. And while this is true (and desperately needed. Next to North Korea, Japan ranks lowest in English proficiency in Asia. Next to North Korea), this doesn’t quite paint the whole picture.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Becoming the Monster

When I got off the airplane to find myself standing in the oppressive early morning humidity of a Tokyo summer almost 17 months ago, I came equipped with “Hello”, “Please be good to me”, “Where is the toilet”, and about 2 dozen or so other essential phrases. I’ve never learned a language to any real proficiency, but I came with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. After all, if I can't learn a language while living in the country that speaks it, there's not much hope for me. And so I set out on my journey of linguistic self-betterment.

Friday 27 July 2012

Operation Make A Plan

So I did it! I made it! One year in Japan, now officially under my belt. One year since I arrived into the Tokyo heat and ventured forth to unknown lands of Yamagata. It`s been a heck of year. And now would be the perfect time to do a retrospective.

Except that I`m not going to. I ain`t got time to sit around and talk about the past. Tomorrow I`m off to China for a three week solo trip around the sunny South-East. At least, that`s where I think I`m going… I haven`t exactly planned very much yet. So what better way to kill two jobs with one blog post than to write an update about my plan, as I make my plan! It`s foolproof!

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Force of Nature

In March, I decided to take a short road trip from my home on the west coast of northern Japan to the east coast. Over there lies Sendai, the Tohoku region’s main city. If that name sounds somehow familiar, it became newsworthy last year when its industrialised port was slammed by a tsunami, providing the world with images of black smoke billowing from a blazing petroleum refinery.

Monday 12 March 2012

Before and After

It looks like Spring is peeking its head around the corner in this part of the world, and though I really enjoyed the winter here I’m looking forward to being able to spend more time outdoors. I only started renting a car for myself at the very end of autumn, so before then I had got around entirely by bicycle or on foot. The car has been truly indispensable over the past few snow-buried months, but compared to the bike I found it a little... claustrophobic? I’d gotten used to just bounding out the door with a backpack on and heading off anywhere, stopping wherever I wanted. The car is just less elegant. It’s a lot more confining in terms of to what extent you can explore. Which, after all, is one of the main reasons I came here.

Monday 27 February 2012

Photographic Memories

Phew! Okay, bit of a hiatus, but we’re back. Busy before the Christmas break, busy after the Christmas break... but things have calmed down now, so let’s kick off the new year (while it’s still... wait, February!? Oh man...) with a post, shall we?

Before I hopped on a plane to Vancouver to eat stupid amounts of food with my brother and sister, I left behind the snowy mountains of Tsuruoka for the skyscrapers of Tokyo. I’d been there before in July for the JET orientation, and I’d had a good time taking in the city with some of my fellow Irish. But at heart, I am a massive loner and I enjoy few things more than traipsing around somewhere entirely unfamiliar, exploring it by myself. At orientation, after a meeting with the Irish Embassy staff (in an Irish pub. Keepin’ it classy lads) I took a detour on my way back to the hotel. It ended up being the best 3 hours I spent in the city.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

On Swans and Contracts

Back in the end of Autumn, my supervisor asked me if I had seen the swans that arrived from Russia. They migrate here from Siberia for the winter. I asked him what they were like, and he proceeded to describe a swan. So I asked him how they differed from the swans that already lived in the nearby park, which have been there since I had first arrived in the height of summer.

They are actually also Russian swans. One winter, a pair of swans were injured and come spring they weren’t able to fly back to their home in Siberia. So they had to stay behind in Tsuruoka and rest until they could take to the air again. That was some years ago now, but the swans have yet to leave.

“Maybe they’re lazy!”, observed my supervisor.

“Maybe they don’t want to go back to Russia?”, I replied.

That made him laugh. Who would?

But maybe they just stayed a while, and found that they liked it. I mean, there’s an awful lot to like here. Maybe they thought they’d stay a little longer. Lazy or not, maybe these swans had the right idea...

I officially re-contracted today. I’ll be staying in Japan for another year.

Friday 9 December 2011

Cultural Education

Each year, my school (probably just like every other school in Japan) commemorates the day it was founded. The School Foundation Day. Recently, we celebrated the school’s 91st foundation day. In Japan, this means speeches.

In the morning, along with all the other teachers, I donned my snazzy black suit, carefully adjusted my silk tie and casually brushed the dust off my... white trainers? Yup, formal footwear optional. I opted for trainers, thank you very much. Probably because everybody is expected to change from outdoor shoes to indoor shoes pretty regularly, the attitude to the actual style of the footwear itself is very relaxed. I could have worn slippers if I’d wanted to. As long as I had a tie.

Monday 14 November 2011

Hiking Like A Boss

For whatever reason, writing this update was really difficult. Not that I hit an emotional point or anything, just that every time I sat down to try and type it up, I didn’t know what way I wanted to do it. I could either do it written, using words and whatnot, or do it as a slideshow, using pictures I’ve taken. Then again, I could do both. Write up a few nice sentences, then show you the pictures. Or, if it doesn’t detract too much from the descriptive writing, pepper the entire post with photos as they are called for.

Wednesday 28 September 2011


First day at Kamo

Kamo Suisan Koukou. Read: Kamo fisheries high school.

I arrive in the door and struggle to change my shoes, practically dripping with sweat and out of breath. I was doing fine until things took a turn for the uphill ten minutes from the school. After that, there was nothing anyone could do. I’d been frantically trying to remember my speech on my way, the same one I’d given at my main school a week before. It’s okay, I can read from my script if I need to.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Grade Curve

I’ve been meaning to put this up for a while now. Before I took over from the ALT who was here before me, the students had been asked to draw a picture of what they thought I looked like.

Some of these kids did an okay job.
Some of these kids have a bright future ahead of them.
Some of these kids have E.S. frickin’ P.

Saturday 24 September 2011

...and thy name is Typhoon

This weekend I was supposed to be climbing a mountain. The very same mountain that had almost gotten me killed several weeks ago. It’s name is Mount Chōkai, but that is irrelevant. It is the highest mountain in the prefecture and right now, it is my Matterhorn.

Unfortunately, due to the recent Typhoon, the climb was called off, to be rescheduled for next month. I say unfortunately, but really... it was a blessing in disguise. I have been short on sleep recently for reasons that I most certainly will not go into here and a weekend spent trudging my way through wind and rain up a mountain pass may not have been the best prescription. So my action packed “Autumnal Equinox” national holiday was now left decidedly devoid of distractions and diversions. What this means for you lovely people is that you get a couple of blog updates, complete with alluring, amusing (an let’s accept it, asinine) alliteration! And additional assonance!

Friday 9 September 2011

Quiet Weekend

A bit of down time was in order. I’d been getting ready for my first classes, studying this new language and I needed to prepare for my introduction speech to the school on Monday, which was to be in Japanese. This weekend I would only be making an appearance at a local festival where some new friends would be performing with their Taiko drumming group. Afterwards there was to be some kind of party with food which I had already committed to. Other than that, I had two days to myself. Two days where I would hole up in my apartment and just relax and get a bit of last minute work done. A nice, comfortable, quiet weekend.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Free Living

Up at 6am. Get dressed, get psyched, get on my bike. Today, I’m cycling to Haguro.

I’m up early to try and beat the heat. Midday can be a killer in August, the hottest month of the year. And all I’ve got to protect me is my baseball cap. But I don’t need anything else, because I’ve got a bike. It has been at least 6 years since I’ve had a bike, and I didn’t even realised I missed it until I got back on the seat. This bike has become a part of me since I have arrived here. It’s how I get to work, how I go shopping, how I go to the bank and the post office, how I explore my new home and now, how I work out. I grab a bottle of electro-whatsits (the appetisingly named Pocari Sweat) from the first vending machine I meet, check my map one last time and then push off.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Fishy Fishy Fishy Fish

It wouldn’t be truthful of me to say that I’m a big fish eater. My mum would never forgive me if I led you to believe that there has been some kind of omission in my childhood diet, this is not the case. I’ve just never really made an effort to regularly put it on the menu. That... has dramatically changed. In the first three weeks that i’ve been here, I have eaten a whole lot of fish, and fish related products.

“How much fish (and fish related products)?”, I hear you ask. Here's a selection.

Monday 22 August 2011

Sibling Magic

So I have a pretty good relationship with my brother and sister. It's not because "we're family", or that I try really hard or anything. It's because they're awesome. In less than 24 hours from setting up my blog and uploading my first post, between the two of them this was born.

Colinsan®, Corinsan® and schoolgirls® are registered trademarks. All merchandising, licensing and film rights reserved.

I love them both very much. But not enough to share royalties.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Lights at night

For weeks now, the medium term weather forecast for my region is, without fail, day after day of lightning storms. I would like to say right now, that I have not seen so much as a spark since arriving here. The weather is warm, humid and occasionally cloud free. Today was one such day, and my sunburnt skin is testament to that.

I have searched for better weather forecasts, looked for other users with this same issue online, I have asked the people here if they’re having the same forecast problems and I have gotten nowhere. It’s reached the point where I no longer consult my online weather app anymore.

Signing On

If it's all the same to you, I would like to open my blog with a welcome and a disclaimer.

Firstly, hello. Thanks for reading my blog.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to take a moment to apologise in advance for the posts that will follow over the next year or so. I have no clear format in mind for this blog, no update schedule, and no fixed writing style. Sometimes my posts may be brief, diary-like entries accompanied by a (incredibly amateur) photo and sometimes they may be closer in style to a short story, or a poem, or pretty much whatever else I’m in the mood for at the time. There may be long stretches where I neglect to write anything at all. Although I’ll try to keep my writing accessible to everyone, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to resist including the occasional in-joke or reference that only one or two of my readers may get. In short, this blog will almost certainly be a messy, unreadable, stagnant corner of the internet.

Still there?
Then let's do this thing.