Friday, July 15, 2011

The Change

One of the most common questions I get asked by the Japanese here is 「一番違う物は何ですか?」 or, "What's the biggest difference [between here and Canada]?".  This question is simple and innocent, right?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Several weeks ago, when Spring here was just budding, Christina took me to see some of the sights she had been shown by friends.  It was a long day of biking but it was nice to see more of the city I am living in.  And I have lots of pictures!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mind Your Manners, Now!

Languages are not math.  In math one learns the basics, 1+1=2, which is used to teach the next step up X+1=2, and so on and so forth.  There are constants, and constants are always true.  1+1 can never equal 5.  You can't divide be zero.  n1Sin(theta1) always equals N2Sin(theta2).  Eventually you get into some fun things like i, positive or negative zeros, and how to deal with division by zero.  But the rules never change.  You just keep building your knowledge base with the tools you have.

In a language you learn a bunch of vocabulary, how say your name, age, where you're from.  Then you learn to ask a very basic question.  Soon you learn how to use new verbs.  Then everything goes to pieces.  Every language has some irregular verbs.  But you can learn and master those verbs, you can even master the weird grammar.  But sooner or later you pass from doing grammar drills and memorizing words into how to use the language.  Sure, you can write a report, understand instructions from the teacher, and talk to friends, but the very nature of a language is that is spoken and it changes.

Ever tried talking in Olde English (Old English, not middle).  You would sound like a drunk German-Italian hybrid and no-one would understand you.  No matter how hard you study a language there will always be bits of it in which the nuances escape you.

For me, it's あいづち(aitzuchi).  What is this funky word you ask?  Simply put, its interjections.

In truth it's hell.

It is basically how to show you're listening to the speaker and understand.  But it's not eye contact, and it's not nodding (although that is one form).  It's actually phrases, repetitions, and words.  I.e. speaker says something, and you say 'oooh', or 'aaah'.  But the Japanese use it for everything and have tons of them.  Tons.  AND some are only used by males, or females, or have a more formal feeling. 

I can memorize them, learn them, know their meanings and try to use them, but what I hate about them is that I'm essentially interrupting to say I'm listening.  It seems so oximoronic that it drives me insane.  That and in a few months time when I return the giant land mass I call home, I will seem like a freak for using the ones I do use.

Next time I learn a language, I learn one that doesn't involve me constantly interrupting someone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I realize that even if I write a blog everyday, I won't be showing all the pictures I've taken, or will take.  So instead I've made an online photo album of currently about 370 pictures.  Not all good decent quality, but this way you can see all sorts of things.

As I take more pictures I'll upload them there.  There is now a link in the side bar called "Photo Album"  feel free to click it whenever.

Also, if you choose to peruse the pictures, and something looks interesting feel free to comment on this post, or future ones.  The more you pester me the more likely I am to post.

Monday, May 16, 2011

教会 (Kyoukai) Church

I haven't posted in a while, so here's a long one to make up for it!

I went to church for the first time in Japan in March.  I know I am a bad Christian, never said I was a good one.  You pay 100 bucks a week to go on a one hour train ride to a church you can't get a hold of the people in to find it's location.  Or maybe you prefer the 50 bucks a week with a three hour train ride.  I should go though, I know but it's hard when I'm this lazy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I am currently sitting on a Japanese style floor.  Properly known as Tatami mats, the Japanese style floor are bamboo mats.  Rooms, and whole apartments, are a measured by the number of tatami mats in them.  These floors are very sensitive to damage which is what has given rise to the Japanese tradition of not wearing footwear in the house.  It also explains why western style chairs are not common.  The repetitive motion of pulling chairs in and out would destroy these mats.  This lack of permanent furniture allows for the style of one room living.  Last night, we all stayed in a very nice Japanese style room that had a table, a desk and a dias.  To the side via the sliding rice paper doors, there was a sitting area to view the garden that was more western style.  It was beautiful (pictures to come).

Thursday, March 17, 2011


 The following is not a post about what happened, or how the Earthquake was cool.  It has nothing to do with the interesting experience and if you can't deal with the lack of humour leave.

The earthquake moved the Honshu island 8 metres  and shifted the earths axis almost 10 cm.  It also sped the day up by 1.8 nanoseconds.

The death toll is currently 3, 676.  With over 10 000 more missing.  Whole communities were literally wiped out and people did not know for days as the roads were destroyed.  It was the rescue helicopters that discovered there was nothing left. Satellite images show that whole forest were wiped clean of life and cities are void of infrastructure.

There are thousands of relief workers working non-stop and if I spoke better Japanese, or was able to be, I would be there in a heart beat.  I can't be.  But if you have ever considered donating to a charity, I hope that you consider the Tohoku Earthquake as one.  If you're a student and unable to donate, find out if there's a fund raising event and volunteer, or fore-go your coffee one morning and donate the $2.50.  If for no other reason than I still don't know where some people are, and I would much prefer they be found alive.

For donations or up to date news on the quake, go here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SLEEP! or not...

Later in the evening John, a Japanese friend through Church (yes he is Japanese but he has taken a Christian name), came by to check on us before he went to a friends to sleep for the night.  He worked only a few minuted from our hotel in Shinjuku but he lives in Yokohama, which is a fair distance away.  That night we had Sarah and Caroline stay with us as they had nowhere else to go.  It was not a good night for sleep.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Caroline and Sarah walked with me to the first floor, down the emergency staircase because we still were unable to use the elevator.  There, the girls inquired about their bus to Kyoto overnight to discover that it was canceled, but they were entitled to a refund.  The hotel staff had filled all their rooms and the price for a single room with a bed was about $170 CAD, twice their normal rate.  The businesses in Shinjuku certainly made their share of money off of the disaster.  The hotel staff was kind enough to let the girls store their luggage overnight and they shared a room with us.

Monday, March 14, 2011


As the day started to wear on, the sky darkened and the clouds began to blow into the sky that were full of rain clouds.  As the weather started to get colder, the quakes started to become slower so more and more people left the open area in the center to sit on the benches along the outside of the park.