Yesterday I came home from work to find the small area in front of the door to my home covered in knee high snow, as it often is this time of year. What I normally do at this point is break out the shovel and carve a nice narrow path through the snow so that the mail man and my neighbors can access the building without suffering the indignity of wet ankles. The last few weeks whenever I leave for work in the morning I've noticed that my narrow path through the snow has been replaced by an unnecessarily large fully shovelled front. Have the snow fairies been coming in my sleep and clearing my front for me? Then I remembered that I actually share this entrance with one other person, an English teacher at my school (who won't teach with me presumably because he's scared of speaking to me, but that's another story). Every night around 9pm when he comes home from work he spends a good 30 minutes meticulously clearing every flake of snow off the ground in front of our building. Why??? Listen buddy, I don't need you reminding me of my own laziness!
Well when I came home yesterday and saw the front once again buried I decided I wasn't going to carve my usual 1.5 feet wide path. What I did next still puzzles me. Perhaps it was from reading Mehan's story about the Sapporo Snow Festival at work that day, or maybe it was just a product of frustration from living in Noheji for three winters, but for some reason I decided to roll up all the fresh snow on the ground and build a snowman! Since I hadn't made one since I was about 9 years old, my snowman making skills were a little rusty and the end result could probably win a prize for the world's ugliest snowman, or even scariest snowman.
So now I'm left wondering as to what will happen as a result of my defiant statement in snow. Will my snowman serve as a kind of snow scarecrow and discourage my neighbor's needless shoveling? Has any chance of him ever speaking to me be permanently destroyed? Will my creation inspire some kind of 'Scary Snowman Festival' in Noheji Town that will live on for generations to come? I suspect that in the end it will only serve as the first public indicator of my steady descent into snow induced madness. I guess only time will tell.
Just because I haven't posted any interesting articles in a while, here's a big long Newsweek article about how Japan and the West are becoming more and more like one another. Yeah I know, this topic's been done to death, but I thought this article does a pretty good job summarizing the whole "Is Japan losing its Japaneseness?" thing and might serve as a good read next time you're bored at work or need something to bring with you to Nihongo club. My two cents? Well if the Westernization of Japan leads to central heating and proper tasting Doritos then I'm all for it, so long as Koizumi keeps out all the riff-raff like me.
For Christmas I sent my brother Andrew the marvelous new book by wrestler/comedian and now author Hard Gay. Andrew can't read Japanese, but as luck would have it HG's book is made up entirely of photos and can be easily understood in just about any culture. Sadly I neglected to scan it and share it with all of you before sending it off to Canada, but fortunately fellow Aomori blogger Mehan didn't.
Today I read an interesting post on Watashi to Tokyo that I felt needed mentioning on Avoidinglife.com. It's about young Japanese "Hikikomori" who move to other countries in order to escape the presures of their own society. These "Sotokomori" take what money they have and live on the cheap in foreign countries where they can have complete privacy and focus most of their time on playing guitar, reading comic books, or whatever other hobbies they like to persue.
Of course I and many of my collegues in the JET Program are living proof that the same sort of phenomenon is quite common in the West as well. Before I left for Japan I was given a copy of the French movie Tanguy, where a 28 year old refuses to leave home much to the chagrin of his doting parents. In the end (and after many hijinx involving lawsuits and over the top slapstick humor) he moves to China and finds a good life for himself. The term "Sotokomori" seems to imply that this kind of life is somehow deviant and undesirable, but if you ask me it's a pretty good way to live! Of course my own happy little Sotokomori life will soon be torn away from me when I'm forcibly cast back into the real world come August 1st. The question is, when I do return will I be able to find a place for myself in Canadian society or will I lock myself in my old bed room at my parent's house and refuse to come out? Finding somewhere new to avoiding life just keeps sounding like a better option every day!
So the fancy new Xbox 360 was launched here a month or so ago, and despite sell outs in America it has already become a colossal failure in Japan, much like the original Xbox. Many people think that the failure of both Xboxes to find a market in Japan is due to Japanese xenophobic attitudes toward foreign made products. This article argues that this is far from the case. If you don't feel like reading it, here's my summation: The Xbox 360 needs pachinko, train simulators and girl dating simulation games before anyone over here will buy one.
Korean street meat or just pets?
Since returning from my vacation to Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea with Kate I've been teaching only one lesson, over and over and over again entitled "Jamie and Kate's Excellent Adventure in Asia". The lesson was about as inspired as its title, but all my JTE's insisted on me doing it. It was actually interesting to see how some classes could find my vacation slideshow captivating while others couldn't possibly have looked more bored. One part of the show that usually perked up even the sleepiest of students was when I discussed the practice of eating dog meat. Many students were really shocked to learn that in Korea, Vietnam and other asian countries it's not too uncommon for people to eat dog. What surprised me was when one student admitted to the class that he had eaten dog meat himself. I thought at first that he might be joking, but he insisted he was serious and went on to describe the taste to everyone. Despite what Wikipedia would have you believe, I've since learned that apparently in nearby Rokkasho and Momoishi towns there are still quite a few dog meat lovers. Who knows, could the McInu-Filet be not too far off?
I saw a story on the news that appeared to be about a murder case in Noheji. I couldn't understand the story, so I tried Googling "Noheji" to see if I could find anything else out. Unfortunately I didn't find anything, but what I did discover by accident was much more interesting (to me at least). Seems that back in the 80's Noheji was quite the pro-wrestling town. Many legends of the squared circle have appeared here including Hulk Hogan and "Canada's Greatest Athlete" Iron Mike Sharpe! While I think that it's kind of neat that Hulk Hogan's been to Noheji, I really think it's incredible that Iron Mike set foot in my adoptive town. When I was a kid Iron Mike was my favorite "jobber" in the WWF. Jobber is wrestling jargon for a no-name wrestler who's job is to always lose to popular wrestlers. Most often jobbers are forgotten the instant their match ends, but with perhaps the exception of Barry O, there was no jobber more memorable than Iron Mike.
When I was a kid growing up every Sunday afternoon in my grandparent's basement I would sit and watch Iron Mike take on a big WWF star on Maple Leaf Wrestling and get totally destroyed. Mike didn't have much of a personality and wasn't very exciting but I really respected his tenacity. No matter how many times he lost, he always came back the next week and took another beating. I would have never guessed back then that when he wasn't getting beaten senseless in Toronto, Iron Mike was teaming with the Hulkster in Japan and actually winning matches. Their match on February 5th, 1984 would mark the first, but not last time a nobody from Toronto would come to Noheji and achieve instant stardom.
Apparently in Nara there's a rundown old theme park that is surprisingly familiar looking. While in Korea a few weeks ago Kate and I visited Lotte World, a mall/theme park which also seemed a little reminiscent of the Magic Kingdom. Lotte World however has got nothing on Nara Dreamland when it comes to ballsy and shameless theme park plagiarism. Just read this less than enthusiastic review or check out the park map at the official site and see for yourself what I mean. Sadly I probably will never get the chance to visit Dreamland as my time here in jolly old Japan will be coming to a close pretty soon. Amusement parks over here seem to be dying out at an increasing rate every year and sadly from the looks of it I doubt that I'll be back here in time to ride the "Screw Coaster" before it's gone. Themeparkreview.com also has a video tour of the park here, but just be warned that it contains some pretty annoying background music.
Here are some brochures from the 1960's when Dreamland was still new. It really gives you a good idea of just how great a knock-off this place was when it first opened:
Thailand also has a theme park called Dream World which has a lot in common with Disneyland, but doesn't follow Disney's blueprints quite as closely as Dreamland does.
There's a little more on the history of Dreamland and Tokyo Disneyland here. I'll post more interesting factoids as I learn them.
It looks like there was another Disneyland clone near Yokohama called Yokohama Dreamland, which sadly closed in 2002. It looks like it had quite a few Disney ride classics including its own Pirates of the Caribbean and Submarine Voyage. I have no idea what connection it has to Nara Dreamland if any (or if its the same park??)
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