PictureBlurry picture of me!
    Hot dang, it's been an up and down couple of weeks, that's for true.I guess I'll start with the sakura pictures I got over a month ago.I took bunches, but I wasn't able to find them for a while, so I thought they were deleted. Then, miraculously, I found them again! What a happy day that was. I actually went two days in a row to Tsuragajo. On the Sunday that I went, it was freaking snowing all over the sakura! I took some pictures of that too, but that's not what y'all are interested in (unless you ask nicely ^-^). So, needless to say, I wasn't that satisfied, and I went again the next day (a Monday). The weather was better, but it was as New Englandy as you can ever imagine. It was sunny, then raining, then sunny, then cloudy, then raining, and on and on. Rinse and repeat. In the bouts of nice weather I did manage to catch some good pictures, and followed that up with some public drinking with a few other foreigners.


 
 
    I had written an entry about my "before-sakura adventures" yesterday, and it was a pretty light-hearted, fun little post. By the time I had finished, however, I had learned of the attacks at yesterday's Boston Marathon. For those who know me, I'm from a small town in New Hampshire, just about an hour from Boston. When I think about going to the city, Boston is the place I imagine, and though I pronounce my r's and almost never say "wicked," I've always regarded myself proudly as a New Englander.
    I've been to Boston countless times and walked the freedom trail, visited the museums and aquariums on multiple occasions, explored around the North End and Chinatown, been on a few cruises out in the harbor, and I have known a few people who ran in the Boston Marathon at some point.I didn't live there, and I didn't realize it until just recently, but I consider Boston to be "my" city. Nobody in Japan knows what New Hampshire is, so my answer to the question "Where are you from?" is always "near Boston."
    I had a lot to say about this, but who would've guessed that someone else would beat me to it and say it a lot better than I probably would have. Patton Oswalt, a comedian, pretty much put to words what I was going to write and posted it on facebook. He wrote,
Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."
    I'm not sure what I else I can really add to that, so I'll just offer my condolences to the victims and families, and those affected by yesterday's tragedy. We're all here to support you.
    On another note, I'm including the post I had written yesterday, unedited and unchanged. Just click on "read more" to see the whole thing. Enjoy.

 
 
     So this American movie just made it over here to Japan last weekend, and I took my day off today to head to Koriyama to see it. I had heard good things about it, and I wasn't disappointed. I'll state first that I did watch the Japanese dub, so what I will talk about disregards the voice talents.
     Most of it really seemed to work, and I was really impressed with especially the visual style. Characters seemed to move and match the game genre they were supposed to parody. The music was pretty good and matched the atmosphere as well. Even the short before the film really impressed me, and they didn't even talk. The only thing that seemed really out of place was the romance they threw in there. That seemed kind of forced to me.
     So that's what I thought of the movie, but this post is more to show that I was actually pretty glad I watched the Japanese dub. I mean, I would have loved to hear the original voices (Maurice Lamarshe and Jim Cummings, among a few other really talented voice actors, were in there!), but it felt awfully good to be able to listen and catch most of the story without aid! Learning a language sometimes feels like you're going nowhere (we call that a plateau), but this movie turned out to be a great motivator. "You DO know some things!" it seemed to shout at me. Aggressively. It was kind of a jerk about it.
     But I'm getting off the topic now, and I've said what needed saying. Happy April Fool's day and Easter everyone, and keep a look out for my Cherry Blossom update! They're coming soon!!
 
 
     Greetings everyone! I'm on a bus heading to Fukushima today, and on the way, I reread an article I found a while ago. It's a blogger writing about monolingualism in Australia, and he makes some points that are relevant to America and other English-speaking countries. I like how he compares the attitude many English speakers have with a type of imperialism. Anyway, here's the link:

http://blogs.crikey.com.au/fullysic/2011/12/13/too-monolingual-for-our-own-good/?wpmp_tp=0

     I've previously looked (very quickly, and I know it's Wikipedia!) and it turns out that America, as a nation, has no official language. Seriously.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_United_States
Not even English. Some states have made it the official language, but many others haven't. I used to fall into the same boat with the "if they're going to live here, they should speak our language" people, but being in a place where almost no one speaks English has been eye opening, and so has learning another language.
    I guess I'm just writing this one to make a few more people aware because I think a lot of the reason Americans are so monolingual is the attitude. Heck, maybe allowing citizens who don't speak English would actually be a good way to encourage bilingualism, but I sure am not a politician. Just a thought. Have a great weekend everyone!
 
 
    I know, it's ridiculous! But I finally got an internet connection at my place, and I can finally give you those pictures me and my lovely lady friend took waaay back in December/January. Remember me mentioning those? I thought not, but here they are anyway!
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At an arcade in Akihabara. Yes, six floors. I'll translate: 6-3F, Video Games. 2-1F, UFO Catcher. B1F, Large Scale Video Games.
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And after Tokyo, we hit Kyoto! This was at the station when we arrived.
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One of our many temple adventures in Kyoto. We tended to just walk around Kyoto and turn into whatever shrines and temples we came across. And there were loads.
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Takoyaki at an Izakaya in Ueno
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And this was a Studio Ghibli store at the Skytree. Anyone not into Japanese culture, Ghibli is like Japan's Disney...you know, right after Disney.
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I wish I could give you some better quality, but I really don't like carrying a camera around. This was at Yasaka Shrine for New Years in Kyoto.
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Big old temple very nearby our hotel.
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We tried to get a good shot of the famous intersection in front of Shibuya station, but all it was rainy, we were inside the station to take the pick, we were using an iPod touch, and it turned out like this.
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The imperial Palace at Kyoto. When we visited here, you folks on the East coast in America were just entering the New Year.
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Tokyo Skytree! This was the clearest shot of the tower we could get, unfortunately.
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That's me jammed into a seat on one of the buses that took us to our hotel. It was only ten or fifteen minutes, but I swear I still have a crick in my back from the ride. :)
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A kimono displayed at a bridal shop we passed every day. That thing's ornate as balls!
    So there ya go! I do have many, many more pictures, but not only would you be forced to stay here all day looking at them, I'd probably have to spend the next week just putting 'em up here, so I'm saving myself a bit of trouble and only posting a few of the pictures for now.
    Besides, it's been about two months, and I've moved on to doing some other things. I've been snowboarding almost every week since the beginning of February at a number of different mountains. I knew there were a lot of mountains near Aizu, but the amount of ski resorts within a one hour drive is just crazy! In fact, I went boarding yesterday. The day started out a little rainy, but pretty soon it turned to snow and I was enjoying myself quite a bit. I spent a good portion of the time on my backside, but even soaking wet, it was a hell of a time.
    And on that note, I'll take my leave and clean this friggen apartment up! It's not that bad, but I'm sure if my mother or my girlfriend was here, I wouldn't be typing this right now. Have a great day, week, month, and year everyone! Only a short time before spring and the cherry blossoms, so look out for my update on that!
 
 
Alright, I meant to post the pictures from my Tokyo and Kyoto trip, but this app on my phone for this website is giving me a little trouble. It insists I have no pictures on my iPhone, when I know for sure that's baloney. Tasty, but nevertheless annoying baloney. I'm working on getting real Internet, so as soon as possible, I'll try to post those pictures. On the upside, I had fun and got to spend the whole time with a pretty lady. I'm sad she had to leave, but the two weeks she was here were fabulous. No one else McGuyver's a cake out of pancakes and ice cream for me, that's for sure.
So yeah, a little bit more wait, but on to my japaneseyness. Hit a bit of a snag after not using much Japanese for a few weeks, and I'm trying to get back into it. I gave a student some advice today based on what I'm dealing, so it kind of worked out, but I feel the advice can work for lots of things that people usually put off; get into a routine/habit. Took me long enough to catch on, but now I'm trying to form good habits for Japanese learning. I'll let you know how it goes.
Again, short update just to fill all the peoples in, but I'm working on the pictures! Thanks everyone! Hope you're starting your new year right!
 
 
    Hello internets and merry Christmas eve! This will be my first Christmas in Japan and my first Christmas away from my family. I hope everyone is doing well and makes a little time for their family (scratch that, a lot of time). I've really wanted to rent the Charlie Brown Christmas from Tsutaya, but other people keep beating me to it! It doesn't feel like Christmas eve at all, since I've barely heard any Christmas carols or seen any Christmas TV specials or anything. New years is the big family holiday here, so I guess I have to settle for the 28th to the 2nd being my Christmas time, when I get to rescue a pretty girl from the airport and take her to Tokyo and Kyoto!
    But let's move on to my...less than stellar attention to this website. I have a couple new pictures from a few of my excursions to different places over the past few months... Wow, it's really been that long? I'm surprised anyone puts up with me. I always have the intention of posting stuff, and then I don't. I feel like if I don't have a significant amount to write or it's not particularly relevant and interesting, I don't write. Sorry y'all. On the upside, I should take many pictures while I'm in Tokyo and Kyoto for the new years season, so it shouldn't be too long until my next update! After that...well, we'll see how it goes.
    Oh yeah, and it's almost 2013! The world's not over, by the way. I don't think I've made a new years resolution for years, but this year, all of my students have been making new years resolution cards for the English goals. I'm a language student too, so I'm gonna join them and try to achieve me language learning goals this year! Here are my goals for 2013 (in no certain order):

    1 - pass the JLPT 3 in June/July
    2 - have AT LEAST one 5-minute conversation in Japanese per day
    3 - read/listen to ONLY Japanese news and weather
    4 - learn 10 new vocabulary words and phrases a day and use them

    I'll edit these if I feel they can be expanded, but let me talk about why I chose these particular goals. 1) Passing the JLPT is the least important of those included, and I really don't think a test can accurately assess language prowess. This is more to encourage my students to do their best since many of them are taking the TOEIC and Eiken tests for various reasons. It's also the most easily measured with either a pass or fail. 2) This is what I consider the most important goal, and the time constraint is a bit arbitrary. My aim with this goal is more to get me out o my shell by talking to and meeting more people in Japanese. And it should be more than once a day, but having some number should motivate me to be more forward in instances when I normally wouldn't be. 3)+4) These two are really pretty similar to most language students' goals, and I think they're pretty self explanatory.
    And that's it! I'd love to hear feedback from anyone with ideas on other goals, especially those who have experience with or can speak other languages. I've also included some pictures of Aizu covered in snow! Again, thanks for reading, everyone, and have a great Christmas and new year! 良いお年を!
 
 
    So it's been a while. Yo everyone. I've been pretty busy la... Nah, screw that, it's just making excuses. I'm just the definition of procrastination. I mean, I went to a place called Oyakuen last weekend, which is an old herb garden that belonged to the Aizu lords for years, got a bunch of sweet pictures, and then didn't post them anywhere. What's up with that? So the first pictures are from Oyakuen.
    Strangely enough, I didn't mean to go to an old, historic-y type place at all that day. I was just looking for a nice park so I could get out of the apartment for a while. I've just got a way of picking 'em pretty good I guess. Oh, and on the way, I passed by some shrines and stuff, and I couldn't pass them up. (^-^)
    THIS weekend, I was pretty busy. I went to Sendai and some of the towns nearby with one of my students on Sunday, and we checked out some of the places that were damaged pretty heavily by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as some historic buddhist temples. It was kind of eerie standing where there used to be a whole town. Shinchi-machi (the last place we went) looked at first sight like it was just an empty plain, but as we drove by, we could see all the foundations of houses and remnants of roads that were leftover after the cleanup.
    The only building that was still standing was an old elementary school, but the damage was pretty obvious. You'll see it in the pictures. I don't even have any family in Japan, but it was very eye opening and a bit depressing.
    Today, I met with a friend from my volleyball group and a friend of his and we checked out places all around Aizu. The first was Kitakata, which is famous for having the best ramen in Japan. I agree. Everything was amazing, and the whole bowl was devoured in minutes. Best ramen I've ever eaten in my life. And I loved ramen BEFORE today.
    Then we went to some places near Inawashiro, a small town very near Aizu that is home to Japan's second largest lake (as far as I was told). It was a great day, though I didn't really take any pictures. You'll just have to believe that it was super awesome cool.
    And that's all I've got for now. I'd promise a speedy update, I already know what would come of that, so I'll save you the disappointment. See? I'm such a nice guy. But until next time, じゃね~!
 
 
Well, here's the last update of the vacation. Tomorrow, it's back to work! That's why today, I climbed Mt. Bandai, and what a day it turned out to be. I kinda played it by ear on this one, and depending on how you look at it...nah, it could've gone better, however you see it. (^-^)
I got to the station without a problem, but the mountain turned out to be quite a ways from the station, so I had to take a taxi, which turned out to be much more than I expected; so much that I didn't have enough to pay for a ride back to the station. So, after hiking for about 3 and a half hours, I ended up having to walk back to the train station. About 15 km, by my estimates. On top of that, the top of the mountain (that wasn't meant to be a pun, I'm just naturally hilarious I guess) was stuck in the clouds, so I never got a good view from the top. But all in all, I still had a pretty good time. And guess what? I got some pictures and junk! For reals. But I've gotta get some sleep, so I'm gone! じゃね~。
 
 
またこんちゃみんなさん!So vacation hasn't been quite as I planned, but I've still been able to do a lot. After my first day of vacation, I had a bit of a rest and recover day, followed by a beach barbecue at lake Inawashiro! It was a great time, though I didn't take many pictures. Just a couple. But the day was full of beach volleyball and awesome barbecue food, and ended with a bonfire and fireworks. Not bad at all, I'd say.
And the following day (Sunday) not much happened until about 6:00 when I went to play more volleyball, have dinner, and play darts until a ridiculously late hour. I didn't get back to my apartment until about 5:30 in the early morn, and subsequently passed out upon collapsing on my futon. Again, not many pictures. I'm not a very good photographer. Or blogger for that matter, I don't give you people as much as you deserve!
Today, I managed to visit a few shrines/temples after I deemed the weather a bit too questionable for a hike up Mt. Bandai. I'm thinking tmw. Anyway, I did manage to go grocery shopping and do laundry as well. What a bore, right? Those pictures from the temples and shrines (which I DID take!) are included in the post for you! I wish I could have gone to a couple more, but I'll find some more time while I'm here, I know it!
And tomorrow is my last. Vacation day! So I have to climb Mt. Bandai tomorrow, no putting it off. And as far as pictures...I'll do my best. Talk to you tmw Internet bros and brodettes. またねぇ!