Geography Lesson

11/22/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

Last Saturday when I was having Thanksgiving dinner at the Raush family's home, there was a French girl at the table named Valerie. Valerie wasn't from France but from a French colony in the South Pacific called New Caledonia. I was never taught much about French colonies in the South Pacific back in my high school days, so I didn't know a thing about the place. I did a little research on New Caledonia that I thought I'd share with the rest of you, since most of you are probably as ignorant as I am.

Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was made a French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s has dissipated.


Total area: 19,060 sq km, land: 18,575 sq km, water: 485 sq km other words slightly smaller than New Jersey, but far less ugly I would imagine.

Coastline: 2,254 km
Climate: tropical, modified by southeast trade winds

Population: 213,679
Internet users: 60,000

Telephones lines: 52,000
Cell phones: 80,000

Ethnic groups: Melanesian 42.5%, European 37.1%, Wallisian 8.4%, Polynesian 3.8%, Indonesian 3.6%, Vietnamese 1.6%, other 3%
Languages: French (official), 33 Melanesian-Polynesian dialects

Economy: Has about 25% of the world's known nickel resources. Only a small amount of the land is suitable for cultivation, and food accounts for about 20% of imports. Receives $880 million annual subsidy from France.

Sounds like a nice place. I bet they have lots of cute French nickle mining babes like the one at the party. I wonder if they need any English teachers down there.

The 1.9 Million Dollar Kokeshi Doll Twins

11/21/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

This weekend I visited Kuroishi city near Hirosaki where there is an onsen (hot spring) that is also home to the Kokeshi doll museum. Probably about a thousand Kokeshi dolls from all over Tohoku can be found inside. You can also watch wood carvers make Kokeshi dolls as you peruse the gift shop. Kokeshi dolls are made only in the Tohoku region of Japan and the ones in Tsugaru are classified as "NURUYU" Kokeshi, whatever that means. While I was given a piece of paper with some English on it, information about the dolls was pretty lacking. The Nuruyu dolls were created by a famous Kokeshi artist named Mori Hidejirou. His signiture doll (pictured here), which I like to call "Jenny" after a former Hirosaki ALT by that name, can be found all over the museum. Giant 20 feet tall versions can also be found all over Kuroishi town and in front of the place. You can even buy sake at the local Justco department store that comes in a Jenny shaped bottle. The much more interesting attraction at the museum however was one that is rarely even mentioned in the literature about the place, that is the 1.9 million dollar gold and silver Kokeshi dolls.

After visiting the museum I was treated to a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner at the home of a English professor named Tony Raush that many Hirosaki ALT's are friends with. At the party I learned more about these mysterious Kokeshi from a former ALT who's been living in the area for 15 years. Apparently during more prosperous times, Kuroishi ordered up a solid gold kokeshi for ?100 million and a solid silver one for ?90 million as a means of promoting the area. The idea was that after displaying the dolls for a few years, during which time the price for gold and silver would presumably appreciate, Kuroishi intended to melt them down and sell them at a profit to help pay for various civic improvements. Unfortunately after 5 years the prices for these precious metals plummeted and the dolls still sit there to this day. The museum has absolutely no security from what I could tell and anyone can walk right up to the gold and silver idols and touch them (and presumably walk out with them too if they are strong enough). It's only a matter of time I think until some gangsters or hooligan teenagers get the idea to abscond with them. For information about other Japanese tourist attraction ideas gone wrong, check out this site.

No bowling for me

11/17/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

Real Teacher: "Jamie sensei, we are having bowling enkai next Thursday. Will you come?"

Jamie Sensei: "Sure, sounds like fun. Is it the same place as last year?"
Real Teacher: "Yes, it's at 3 p.m.. Teachers get the afternoon off because exams are in the morning"

Jamie Sensei: "Great!"
Real Teacher: "But you are not a teacher. You are ALT so you must use nenkyu, is it okay?"

Jamie Sensei: "What? Why?"
Real Teacher: "You can come if you are off duty only, because if you get in car accident..."

Jamie Sensei: "Yeah, yeah, I know the drill. I don't want to use nenkyu so I guess I won't go then."
Real Teacher: "You are not coming?"

Jamie Sensei: "No, but thanks for teasing... I mean inviting me... sort of."

I really don't understant why ALT's always get screwed out of time off that normal teachers get. This is exactly the same thing that happens every summer when teachers get a week off and I have to sit in the staff room all alone. If I really am "not a teacher" then I wish they would stop inviting me to those damn 8 a.m. staff meetings. I guess this is their little way of getting me back for doing nothing all day while they actually do work and junk.

Tokyo Tour Guide

11/15/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

My cousin Katharine and her boyfriend Andrew paid me a visit in Japan this week while enroute to begin their exciting new life in Vietnam. Friday I headed down to Tokyo by Shinkansen to meet the weary travelers and begin my weekend stint as a terribly unqualified Tokyo tour guide. The couple stayed in a really cool hotel in Ueno's bum town called The Andon Ryokan, while I stayed at its 'sister hotel' nearby called The New Koyo Hotel. I guess the Koyo is kind of its ugly sister cause the place was a real dive to say the least. I don't know what exactly was new about The New Koyo, because the place looked about a hundred years old, was dirty, ugly, noisy, freezing cold, and just all around horrible.

Anyway, the three of us hit all the usual sightseeing spots in Tokyo. Katharine and Andrew were most interested in eating authentic Japanese sushi and other traditional cuisine. To their surprise, it's much easier to find a McDonald's in Tokyo than an actual sushi restaurant... especially when I'm the tour guide and that's all I know how to find. As you can guess, I wasn't really the best choice as guide for authentic Japanese cuisine. Eventually we found a few sushi bars in the tourist trap areas of Asakusa and Akihabara, so they were happy. I'll save the rest of details about the weekend for when I post the rest of the photos. But since we're talking already about eating raw fish, I'll leave you with a link to the world famous Meguro Parasitological Museum which we tried but failed to find. Judging from the cute descriptions on the website and from my brother Andrew's personal accounts, it sounds like a cool place to check out. Maybe next time I guess. I also heard a rumor about a McDonald's museum in Tokyo somewhere. Now if only there was a McDonald's parasite museum!

This movie will bomb in Germany

11/12/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

Apparently a Baywatch movie is in the works, and David Hasselhoff isn't going to be involved! As a half-German, and proud Hasselhoffiac, you can bet that you won`t find me in line for this one. I`m now going to go and watch the greatest music video ever made as my own silent protest.

(In case you can't get the video to work, here are a bunch of still images from it. Pictures alone don't really do justice to the genius of this video. It truly is the strangest and most wonderful piece of art ever produced by man, and that's no exageration!)

New thing I learned about Japan today

11/11/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

Lately I haven't had much going on that I though was worthy of being written about on here, so I've decided to start adding short posts whenever I learn something new about Japan that is interesting to me. Today's post is about sneezing.
In English when we sneeze we say "Achoo!". In Japan, they say "Hackshon!". Also Marijuana is pronounced "Marifuana".

Sorry Everybody

11/10/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

I thought this site was kinda funny. It's a place for Americans to apologize to the world for electing George W. Bush: < a href=>

Update: This is pretty good too

Video Blogging

11/09/04 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts

As many of you know, this site is one of the most famous "Video Blogs" of all time. Back when I started this thing about a year ago, I was but one of at most 6 or 7 true video blogs on the web. Back then the majority of video blogs didn't actually have any videos, just nerds bitching about the possibility and problems of video blogging. The handful that did exist were presented just like text blogs, except instead of reading what some nerdy guy thought about something, now you could also see and hear what he looks like! There were also a handful of art-faggy interactive video blogs that featured various experimental videos. As you can see the term "video blog" (or Vlog, Vog, Vid Blog) has come to mean many different things. It also can refer to collaborative blogs like or Demand Media where people post links to random videos on the net that they feel are interesting.

What inspired me to create the kind of videos that I've been making over the past year were a new bread of video blogs lead by's Jacob Ludwick and's Justin Johnson. These guys weren't computer nerds playing with streaming video technology, but young semi-professional video producers using video blogging to improve their skills as film makers. Their videos are really well done and actually interesting, which can't really be said for the majority of video blogs. I don't think any of my videos are in their league, but I think my editing ability has improved a great deal over the past year. My goal with this site was simply to document my experience in Japan for my family, friends and for myself, while improving the shooting and editing skills I learned at Trailervision. I'm not looking to start any kind of video blogging revolution or even impress anyone. Still video blogging seems to be growing in popularity very fast, and now there are at least three Japan vid blogs that I know of including this one (Japan-Link, KevinInJapan), not counting Francois, Jacob and Hugh's videos. Today you can visit to find all sorts of different video blogs by dozens of people, and that's only a fraction of those that are out there.

So what does the future hold for year 2 of I'm not sure. I haven't been taking my camera around as much as I used to. I don't know if it's because I'm starting to get bored with the vid blogging, or if life in Japan just doesn't seem as interesting now as it used to. Maybe it's the fault of those darn first year JET's that just don't know how to party like last year's frat boy squad. I'm still sitting on tons of footage from last summer I need to edit, so until I do something with that I probably won't shoot too much new footage (unless something awesome happens of course). I also would like to start creating things that have wider appeal than my vid blogs or dumb JET related comics. I'm not sure exactly what that should be though.

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Avoiding life and teaching English in Noheji, Aomori, Japan


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