New video: Change the Channel
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This video was made from I don't know how many hours of footage, and includes all sorts of random stuff I shot over the last 2 months or so. It starts in a spooky Tokyo restaurant, part of the "Alacatraz" chain of prison theme restaurants. My first ever video on the site was shot at Ghost Town in Hirosaki, an almost identical restaurant, except at Ghost Town the waiters don't pull customers out of their cages and sexually assault them with vibrating, flashing dildos. The rest of the movie bounces between Tokyo and Aomori and includes such things as my trip to Oman Falls, drinking in Onoe & Kuroishi, the Tsugaru-ben taikai and much, much more.
A guy named Christian sent me a link to a website for a famous Swedish comedian he thinks looks a lot like me. I've been compared in the past to James Spader, Waldo (Wally in Japan), Harry Potter, Bob Rae and Andy Dick enough times before, but this one is a first. Frankly I don't see the resemblance.
You can read about all the fun stuff I did this weekend by checking out Jenny's website since we were together for most of it. The one thing you won't see there however was probably the weekend highlight for me... my first snack bar! Now I've actually been to a few 'snacks' before, but only the cheap old lady variety. By that I mean that the prices are cheap, not the old ladies... however since most of them have probably been hostesses all their lives they probably were 'cheap' at some point. Actually cheap is not a word that should be used when talking about snack bars as they are normally quite expensive. You pay huge amounts of cash for crappy drinks, but what you really are paying for of course is the company of scantily clad young ladies. It's quite a strange thing for a westerner to understand, since we usually stuff money in panties in order to see them come off. Gavin took us to his favorite Kuroishi 'international' snack bar. It's international because the girls all come from other asian countries like China, Tailand or the Philippines. I was fortunate enough to be seated with a Chinese girl who actually spoke very good English. Hugh was on the other side of her and was so drunk that he kept speaking to her in Japanese even though I doubt she could understand him. She told me that she was actually a computer programmer, but couldn't find that kind of work in China because of the sexist attitudes in that business. I have no idea how much of what she told me was true or a line, but I think she probably prefered speaking English with a bunch of gaijin than pretending to speak Japanese with perverted salarymen.
Anyway, big thanks to Gavin for shouldering almost all of the bills Saturday night. You are a good man.
I found a really interesting series of interviews with Japanese hostess girls and mama-sans you can read that gives you the inside scoop of the biz. Check out parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 if you have the time.
My sexy new Japanese Drivers License
Ever since I first came here almost a year ago, I've been hearing all sorts of horror stories about the lengendary Aomori department of motor vehicles. While Japan has by far the best customer service in the world, their DMV's still strictly adhere to the rules of horrible service that all DMV's around the globe follow. Japan even takes it up a notch in ways that would make Patty and Selma proud. I've been in Japan long enough to be used to jumping through lots of hoops to do the simplest task, and the mounds of paper work associated with each hoop. Most of this is just the result of the Japanese obession with paper work and protocol, but I believe the DMV has a different motive. They don't want people (especially gaijin) to drive. I won't bore you with the details of all the papers I had to sign, and all the ID's and documents I had to provide or all the rip-off fees I had to pay in order to transfer my Canadian driver's license over to a Japanese one. I don't think I could even remember the whole process anyway. Suffice to say that without Melanie and my supervisor Chieko helping me out with this, there is no way in Hell I could have ever gotten this done. Melanie is an old pro at this and has dealt with the nit wits at the Aomori DMV enough times that she knows all their tricks. Some poor America sapp from Misawa was there at the same time as me and was turned away because of some minor infraction. Better luck next time soldier! I had to sit down with some cranky old woman and be interogated about my driving history. Well, not so much about my driving history really but my original driving test... the one I took 11 years ago! I was asked such easy to remember information as:
On what date did I get my first driver's license?
How many hours did I spend driving while on my learner's permit?
How many questions were on my written test?
How many minutes was my practical driving test?
I of course exagerated all my answers as I feared that if they sounded inadequate, then no license for me! I think I maybe had 15 questions on my written test, but I told her 50, etc.
Melanie later explained to me that every time she comes, the questions are completely different. The DMV jerks just want to trip you up so that they don't have to issue you a license. I don't know if this is the result of extreme laziness, racism or just a strong concern for the safety of motorists. Personally, I think it's mostly the first reason, with maybe a pinch of the second.
After two hours of sitting, waiting and watching Melanie fill out forms in Japanese I finally got my little piece of plastic (pictured above). Note the green highlighted section, which says something to the effect of "Beware, first time driver". I just love Japanese bureaucracy.
Francois has a pretty long new video up on his site detailing the adventures of our proud soccer team Aomori United. Check it out here.
Crazy weather today. It's boiling hot and very humid, but also there are really strong winds, and to top it off we've had two small earthquakes! In Tokyo apparently it's a record breaking 40 degrees Celcius. In Noheji it's been so hot that I haven't had to turn my heater on for days! I guess I had better start work on my survial bunker.
Todays wacky video from Japan is a guy who just can't stand losing to a girl at Janken (paper, rock, scissors). You can train for your next Janken match by playing this game.
A couple of grade 3 girls at one of my schools just asked me if I know any gaijin families in Aomori that would let them do a 'homestay' with them. The school doesn't have the budget to do a real homestay abroad, so I guess this was the next best thing they could think of. Well I don't really know any gaijin families in Aomori, and I doubt too many of the ones that are here would be up for that. After I tried to explain this to them, they suggested that they do a homestay with Jamie-sensei in Noheji! After pondering the idea of having a couple 18 year old girls living with me in my aparto for a while, I decided that maybe it wouldn't be the most appropriate thing for a teacher to do with his students. Once they graduate however...
I found this cute indy music video that I'm sure our Hirosaki friend Akiko can really relate to.
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