Chinese Food

05/29/06 | by silverso | Categories: Photos, McDonald's

Enjoying a 'Spicy Whopper' and fries in Shanghai.

I mentioned a few weeks ago in this post that the Forbidden City in Beijing is actually home to a small Starbucks coffee shop. While there was no McDonald's or KFC along side it yet, they weren't too hard to find outside its foreboding red walls. In fact, western fast food options in China are just as good if not better than they are in Japan. Here are some of the other chains Kate and I spotted in Beijing and Shanghai:

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Ilse and John Explore Aomori

05/25/06 | by silverso | Categories: Photos, Pro-Wrestling

Last week, my wonderful parents stopped by Noheji after a grueling month long tour of Asia and I had the pleasure of showing them around the joint.

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I Will Play With Sakura 2006

05/09/06 | by silverso | Categories: Photos

This is my third spring in Japan, but only my first time ever to see the much hyped Hirosaki Sakura Matsuri. Actually, that's technically untrue as I did in fact go once last year, but it turned out to be more of a barren branch festival.

Well I'm pleased to report however that this year the festival actually lived up to the hype, and the park was really quite impressive looking. While I'm glad to have finally seen the trees in full bloom, I'm not sure if it was worth the cost to my health. Ever since last weekend my throat has been killing me, likely the result of some kind of cherry blossom allergy I never knew I had. Unfortunately, Noheji High School is surrounded in cherry trees as well so it looks like I'm going to have to endure this torture for some time to come.

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Mission Accomplished!

05/08/06 | by silverso | Categories: Trains

I know many of you have been following my quest to find the legendary Noheji->Shichinohe railbus for many months with bated breath. Well thanks to KS clueing me into 'I Will Play with a Railbus 2006' I am very happy to report that I have succeeded in finding and riding the railbus! One quest down. One to go.

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The MOS Walker

05/08/06 | by silverso | Categories: McDonald's

This has to be one of the most brilliant innovations in fast food to come along in the last 30 years! A cup lid with a deep dent for fry storage allowing you to carry both food and drink in one hand. So simple, yet so ingenious. I wish I could meet the person at MOS Burger responsible and shake his or her hand.

I can't help but wonder why a Japanese fast food company would come out with such a thing in a country where walking and eating at once is taboo. Could this be some kind of secret ploy to start of a new revolution in Japanese culture? I hope so, but sadly I fear that the MOS Walker will most likely be overlooked and lost to the ages.

The Forbidden Starbucks

05/05/06 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts


Tadaima! Just got back from a nice trip to Communist China with Kate. As you can see from the above photo, there really isn't much that is Communist about China anymore other than that whole no right to vote stuff. Actually the Starbucks in the Forbidden City was closed the day we were there, and I get the feeling from this article that it might not be openning again anytime soon*. Still, the very fact that it exists at all speaks volumes about what is going on in China these days. In fact I hear that they're openning a TGI Fridays in the Maosoleum next week.

Anyway, I'm back in Japan but still on vacation so don't expect any updates for a little while longer. Happy Golden Week y'all!

*Update: My parents visited Beijing a couple of weeks after I did and they told me that the Starbucks was open for business the day they were there.

Bubbleman 2

04/20/06 | by silverso | Categories: Links and Articles


Do the koncho! Doot doot doot dee doot doot do doot do...

So I was watching TV the other day and a commercial for a new drink called Bubbleman 2 came on. It was your standard Mr. Sparklesque Japanese CM, and I didn't really notice anything out of the ordinary about it. My TV watching companion however (who would prefer to remain nameless) insisted that they saw a cartoon character doing something very inappropriate. Now I know that the Japanese aren't quite as puritanical as my North American brethren, what with the abundance of AV shacks along every country road and the availability of Ringu-Ringu in local grocery stores, but still this sounded like a bit much. Well I kept a watchful eye for the commercial, and sure enough later that night it came on again, and this time I saw it too! I couldn't believe my eyes, but it appeared as if the third Bubbleman cartoon character on the left was beating his own pleasure scepter with a drum stick! Well I decided to get to the bottom of this and tracked down the Bubbleman 2 website. There I learned that I had simply mistaken the Bubbleman Brothers Band's drummer's instrument for his member:

When placed between his big round green knees, you can see how anyone could have become confused by the sight of his hypersonic twanger. Don't believe me? Well, if you have a Windows PC with Media Player, then you can just go here and see for yourself what I mean.

Clearly my mental image of Bubbleman throbing his organ was no accident, but was by Suntory's design. Just look at the second "outtake" where the middle Bubbleman's bright red codpiece bumps into the camera if you're not yet convinced. Time to file another one under "Only in Japan".

I Will Play With a Railbus 2006

04/13/06 | by silverso | Categories: Links and Articles, Trains


You all had better book your flights and make your hotel reservations for Shichinohe town soon! May 5th is creeping up on us, and as I'm sure you're already aware that is the date of Shichinohe's big two-day railbus festival called "I Will Play With a Railbus 2006". I wrote before about my quest to find the old retired Noheji railbus a few times before, and thanks to the help of reader and train-fan KS I may soon get my chance. Unlike 'Operation Bear Watch' which seems to be going nowhere, it appears that 'Operation Railbus Watch' may actually bear some fruit.

From what I can tell, Friday May 5th is for taking pictures of the rail bus while May 6th is for riding. For the price of 300 yen + some kind of membership fee, you can ride the rail bus about 850 metres and get a close up look how the driver shifts gears. Railbus related souvenirs are also for sale at the event. Good stuff!

Okay, I admit it. Maybe "I Will Play With a Railbus 2006" isn't the most exciting thing one can do over the Golden Week holiday, but at least it's something, which is more than nothing, which is what's going on around these parts most of the year.

Be Strong & Straight

04/11/06 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts, Photos

April means the start of the new school year, and it also means that it's teacher transfer time. I had to deal with the transfer of my wonderful supervisor Mariko in my first year. In year two I lost her replacement Chieko when the school decided to reduce the number of English teachers by one, leaving her with no job. Chieko was replaced by my old friend Kaori who fortunately is continuing on as my supervisor again this year. Sadly though I was forced to deal with another loss in the Noheji High School English department when my collegue and Go coach Kaizuka sensei retired after 37 years on the job.

I can't imagine what it must have felt like for him to leave after working the same job for 37 years. My paltry three years as a JET is already the longest that I've ever stayed in the same job. Unlike many teachers his age, he wasn't the least bit relunctant to speak with the weird foreigner in the office and we got to know one another quite well over the years.

During my first year he would sometimes approach me at 3:45 just as I was about to head home and invite me to sit and chat with him. At first I found these requests a little annoying as I didn't wish to spend any more time at the office than I was required to. We would most often talk about the history of Aomori, the types of fish you can find here, classical guitar, poetry, teaching, major league baseball and lots of school gossip. Since I know very little about any of these subjects, he did most of the talking. Over time however, I came to really enjoy our chats and now that he's gone it makes me sad to think that we won't have any more. Well, we'll have at least one more I guess as he has promised to come to my farewell party in a few months.

For his farewell address to the student body he surprised me when he asked all the students to repeat after him "Be Strong and Straight". I asked him later what that was about and he told me it was a line from the movie 'Shane'. Apparently before the cowboy Shane is forced to leave town at the end of the film, he gives that same advice to a small boy. I thought his choice was spot on, since out of everyone I have met in my life, I think Kaizuka sensei probably would have made the best movie cowboy. He is one of the kindest people I've ever met, and seemed to never have a single bad thing to say about anyone.

Here are some photos from the farewell festivities:

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New 360-kph bullet train ready for trial operations

04/07/06 | by silverso | Categories: Links and Articles, Trains


SENDAI -- The prototype of the next-generation bullet train designed to travel at 360 kilometers per hour has been brought to Sendai for trial operations, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) said.

Six "FASTECH 360Z" carriages were transported to Sendai on freighters from train factories in Kobe and other areas. They were transferred to trailers at the Port of Sendai and brought to a bullet train depot in Sendai.

FASTECH 360Z will begin trial operations on the Tohoku, Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen lines in April.

(Read more here)

How do you like them apples France? While I won't be in Japan long enough to take a ride on one of these bad boys, I will get my chance to ride the real fastest train in the world when I visit Shanghai in a few weeks.

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Avoiding life and teaching English in Noheji, Aomori, Japan


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