Fun With Wara

02/22/06 | by silverso | Categories: Photos

Two happy rope twisters.

A couple of weeks ago Kate and I drove up to Kashiwa Jusco to see a wara exhibition put on by Sorcha's boyfriend Yusuke and his wara club. Other than knowing that straw from rice stalks would somehow be involved we didn't really know what to expect.

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Angkor What?

02/21/06 | by silverso | Categories: Photos

On Boxing Day Kate and I were scheduled to take off for Cambodia, but our plans suddenly were put in jeopardy the night before when without warning Kate developed a nasty flu. I was feeling a little sick myself, but I was still in much better shape than Kate. Cambodia isn't exactly known for its modern medical facilities, so we weren't sure if going ahead with the trip was a wise idea. Well fortunately my brave traveling companion somehow found the strength to get out of bed and onto the plane, and now you can all enjoy these photos:

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Let's Aomori #29

02/21/06 | by silverso | Categories: Comics

McDonald's Sued Again

02/20/06 | by silverso | Categories: McDonald's


Soup Nazi: "You think you can get soup? Please, you're wasting everybody's time"

Elaine: "Oh I don't need soup. I can make my own soup... Your secret's out Soup Nazi! No more soup for you. NEXT!"

This story has been all over the news lately, so I figured it deserved a mention here. So now yet another one of McDonald's secret ingredients in their delicious artificial fry flavor is out in the open. A few years ago it was revealed that McDonald's was using beef tallow extract in their cooking oil, much to the shock and horror of the millions of vegetarians that eat at McDonald's. Now a new lawsuit has revealed that they also have been using dairy and wheat in their artificial flavoring. If these lawsuits continue then soon anyone will be able to make fries that taste the same as the ones at McDonald's. Please vegetarians and people with dangerous food allergies, stop eating at McDonald's! You're just going to ruin it for the rest of us.

Chicken Soup for the Seoul

02/17/06 | by silverso | Categories: Photos

Prepare to be blown away by the most exciting vacation photos ever! Just look at how excited my students were to see them.

So for months now people have been harassing me about posting some photos from my trip with Kate to Vietnam over the Christmas break. Well, as you may remember my IXY camera's LCD self-destructed right before we left so I was forced to travel with my bulky camcorder instead. As a result I didn't actually take very many photos on this trip. Once I returned all the teachers I work with wanted me to show the students pictures from my exotic vacation. Great idea! There's nothing teenagers love more than vacation slide shows. So I threw together a PowerPoint out of what few photos I had, and a few more that I nabbed off of Kate and my cousin Katharine. As you can see from the photo above, my students didn't seem too enthralled by the results. Well despite what my focus group might have thought, I've decided to go ahead and share my vacation photos with you all. Hopefully the attention span of my readers is somewhat longer than those of Japanese teenagers.

Now that you've been warned, lets take a look at our first destination Seoul, Korea...

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The History of Purikura

02/16/06 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts, Links and Articles


Some JETs are addicted to cigarettes, others to booze and probably even a few to illegal drugs. While I don't suffer from any of those vices, I have developed a few other expensive addictions since coming to Japan. One of those addictions that I'm finally ready to admit to today is purikura; a Japanization of the words "print" and "club". In case you're still in the dark, purikura are photo booths that produce tiny stickers you can then share with your friends. While their parents are out blowing their future college funds on pachinko, teenagers in Japan (especially girls) spend their free time blowing what little money they have on purikura stickers. I don't think there's a girl in any of the classes I teach that doesn't have a purikura book in or on her desk. That's why these days Jamie Sensei never goes to class unless he's armed with Jamie Sensei purikura to hand out to the good girls and boys that do their homework or participate in class. Thank God my school has a color copier.

I've seen a print club machine once before back home in Toronto, but it was pretty small and basic in its functions. In little old Noheji town you'll find at least three purikura machines, while hundreds more are scattered about Aomori Prefecture's many shopping malls and video arcades. I noticed they were quite common in Korea as well, and even poor communist Vietnam had them:

So why haven't they made it big in Canada or America yet? I think it's probably just a matter of time until they do, but for the sake of my financial security I almost hope that day doesn't come for quite some time. Of course when I return home I will surely miss purikura, so what to do? I figure that I have enough money saved up now that I could probably buy and ship to Canada a print club machine or two for my own personal use. Heck, I could even put them in a mall or arcade and start raking in some serious loonies and twonies. The question is, could I live with myself if my actions were to unleash the same plague upon the Canadian teenage populace and education system that Japan has had to endure for the past ten years? I think I probably could. I'm really more concerned about what my English teacher brother might do to me in retaliation.

Anyway, this post is titled The History of Purikura because I found this interesting article on that very subject. In it you'll learn how purikura got started, what role the geezer boy band SMAP played in popularizing it, and also about several rare spin-off machines I've never seen such as "Stamp Club" and "Aroma Club".

To conclude I'd like to give you some personal print club tips. If you're a guy, don't go to a print club arcade without a girl with you. Most places have rules against unaccompanied men hanging around the machines, and even if they don't you'll still look like some lolita obsessed creep if you're alone. Try to plan your poses ahead of time, and if possible study the charts attached to the machine and decide what stamps and backgrounds you want to use before you start. Some of the fancier new machines like "Funky High" have cool extras like a stage that raises and lowers, or a fan to blow your hair dramatically. Once you are done you can input your email address and have your photos sent to your cell phone or computer right from the machine. I still haven't quite figured this function out since I can't read Japanese. Don't bother with Daiso's print club machines. They might only be 100 yen, but the images are seriously over exposed to the point where you will only look like two floating eyes and some hair. Okay, so now that you know what to do "Lets Purikura!".

Ika Resuraa: The Calamari Wrestler

02/14/06 | by silverso | Categories: Pro-Wrestling


I can't thank Kate enough for uncovering what could quite possibly be the greatest movie ever made. Of course I can't say for certain without actually seeing it, so if anyone knows where I can find a torrent or DVD (preferably with English subtitles) please let me know ASAP! Here's a synopsis if the title and box art hasn't convinced you yet:

"This wild comedy pokes fun at the world of pro-wrestling by placing its accomplished wrestler protagonist Koji Taguchi against a giant squid known as the Calamari Wrestler. The Calimari Wrestler not only proves to be Koji's most difficult opponent yet, but also has an effect on several people's personal lives when he becomes the unlikely object of a young girl's affection."

Happy Obligation Chocolate Day!

02/14/06 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts, Trains

Puppy Monorail

02/13/06 | by silverso | Categories: Trains


Boingboing today posted about this tiny monorail made for puppies and I just couldn't resists posting the picture here. This website also has an interesting monorail news section which may have uncovered the real reason why Iran is so determined to get its hands on nuclear power. Looks like Lyle Lanley has been keeping busy.

Let's Build a Snowman! (Or Jamie's Steady Descent Into Madness Part 1)

02/09/06 | by silverso | Categories: Deep Thoughts


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.

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Avoiding life and teaching English in Noheji, Aomori, Japan


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