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Monday, July 22, 2013

Less Than A Week To Go!

Quick update: I went to Disneyland with some family members just yesterday but since I'm planning to edit together all the video we shot into one compact video that post will have to wait a few days.

Apart from that though, it's really hard to believe that the day is almost here. It's seriously less than a week away! The only thing left to do now is pack. And as the spirit of packing is abound I have decided to write a small post about thing that aren't quite essential... but I just can't possibly leave behind in America.

5. DS Lite (white) and 3DS (blue)

They both serve their purposes
 They may come across as being particularly childish, especially in Japan, but the fact of the matter is: I love video games and they can be a great resource on a particularly long voyage (train/bus ride, etc.) when there is little else to do. I'm also able to buy and play Japanese games on the DS Lite since there is no region restriction on it meaning I could still get a bit of studying in whilst entertaining myself. 

 4. Bento Box and Gift Chopsticks

Both were gifts really. . .
 This Bento was a present to myself after receiving a bit of birthday money from Mitsuko. We found it at a shop within the AEON in Matsue. I wanted to be really careful with my limited funds so I avoided buying anything that was less than practical. I found a scale model kit of an X-Wing from Star Wars! Man, I wanted that so bad. Like I said though, it wouldn't have been a very pragmatic purchase, and I wouldn't have wanted to build it while I was in Japan for fear of it breaking while going home. So when I came across this Bento, I knew it was perfect. Utilitarian and a lovely gift. 
The chopsticks themselves (believe it or not) deserve their own story: The day I was flying home from Yonago Airpoirt (to Tokyo, then back to LA) I was dropped off by Mitsuko's landlord, Adachi-san and his wife. We were both feeling pretty sad about having to part. After giving Mitsuko a good-bye hug and a kiss I started walking towards the security gate leaving behind those who had brought me all this way. As I was walking through the metal detector, I heard my name being called. I turned around and there stood at the entrance to the checkpoint, Kageyama-Sensei, the BOE member who we had worked together with on all the kindergarten lessons. He waved a small wrapped gift in the air, beckoning me to come claim it. The airport security wouldn't let me backtrack through the gates though, so one of them retrieved it and handed it to me. I thank him from afar and waved a final goodbye to everyone. I didn't open the bag until I got home, because it felt like the right thing to do. Inside was a small hand towel, and the chopsticks you see above. Both of the items pictured will be my workplace utensils. It still amazes me that he came to send me off.

3. Mahjong Set (and playing mat)

Seriously, learn this game now

This one is also another gift. While I stayed with Mitsuko, I came to meet and befriend the lovely husband and wife couple who ran the medicine shop across the street. Keiko-san, and Jiro-san, were absolutely vital to our well being on more than one occasion and I owe them more favors that I could possibly list here. The same medicine shop is where I studied my Japanese and talked with Keiko-san about everything from relationships to astronauts. I fear I'll never be able to replicate those days or conversations and where that might make me sad, I shall instead choose to cherish that time. This mahjong set was a going away gift given to me by the both of them. Among the many things Mitsuko and I did with Keiko-san and Jiro-san, playing mahjong was one of the best. I remember way back in the first days of meeting them, when Jiro-san asked if I knew about mahjong. I naively said yes, and reminisced about the tile matching game that we so often think of when mahjong enters the brain. He laughed and dismissed that as not being mahjong. He taught us Riichi (or Reach) Mahjong, which is the Japanese variation of Chinese Mahjong. Rather than the tile matching variant, Riichi Mahjong is an extremely deep game that is insanely fun to play. It was a perfect going away gift to remind me of the nights we stayed up late hoping the next tile would be the one we needed.

2. AKG k701 Headphones

An audio odyssey awaits you

A graduation present and an amazing set of cans to boot, these ones don't require as much explanation as previous entries. Music will forever be eternally important to me. Along with these I will of course bring some thing to plug them into, my iPhone, and iPod touch (thank you Mitsuko!), and laptop naturally. Those last three might have been included as an item on the list, but they all seemed too obvious as being essential items to bring along, and this list is more like things that aren't so necessary that I really want to bring with me. What else can I say? If you've never experienced music with a higher end set of headphones, you are totally missing out. The only thing I need now is a good headphone amp to drive them. The quality is phenomenal but they are notorious for requiring a bit of power to get the most out of them. My precious headphones are almost as unnecessarily essential as the number one spot on this list.  

1. Notebooks and Pens

Get a fountain pen and write something
The most important thing I did while I was in Japan for 6 months apart from all the volunteering, studying, shamisen learning, cooking new meals, traveling, and meeting new people was: writing it all down. 6 years ago I was in Japan on a study abroad trip to Fukuoka where I did equally many things in a 5 week span. And though it was the time of my life, only a fraction of that was captured with a photo and even less so was written down with the remaining splinters clung to the deepest reaches of my memory. I wish I had written more down while I was there and it still is my biggest regret that I never did. I promised myself when I went to Japan this last time that I would have a notebook handy and write more of my life down. Long ago I understood the value of reflection but it's taken many years to build a work ethic that would meet that understanding. I was incredibly proud of myself for sticking to it, and now I have an amazing journal of events that quite literally starts from LAX the day I flew out, and continues through nearly everything that happened to us in Japan, Korea, and then some. Adhered to the pages are also receipts, stubs, tickets, and other curios I picked up along the way to further cement memories within the pages of that mental desert. Fountain pens are something I also discovered in Japan. Of course, I knew about them before, but I never got into the idea until I was in Japan. I saw a display of them in a store called Miraiya-Shouten. I thought about how much writing I was already doing and felt that if I were going to be a writer I should do it properly and equip myself with a tool meant for the job. My first one was a blue Pilot Prera, one of my Christmas gifts from Mitsuko. It was the right call; having used them now I'm never going back. Currently, I have a brand new Rhodia Webnotebook (pictured) that I'm planning on using as my official JET journal. Along with that I have some other smaller notebooks that haven't been used, including a few that have. Some with various notes in them, one for book translating, one for recipes, and my Midori Traveler's notebook, which I plan to use as a planner.

NEXT UP: A list of things I wish I didn't have to leave behind...


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Travel Show!

Alongside another project that is not yet ready to be revealed I have decided to produce my own small version of a travel show!

 It'll be a web series dubbed, "Joshua in Japan".

The debut (pilot episode, I suppose) has been cut together from the various footage taken while on a trip through Hiroshima and Miyajima. I came to the decision while looking through the stacks of home footage I shot in Japan trying to trim down videos so I could show friends/family without it being boring. After a bit of editing I wanted to add a touch more production value so I added some titles to indicate where I was, and then (as is my wont) added some opening credits. After a while it just started to feel like a show. Thus, the at once home footage blossomed into the idea of making a whole show since I'll be in Japan for some time to come.

I grant that this preliminary episode is quite rough but this is principally a factor of not having planned a show at the time I was filming my trip(s). Now that I have an idea of what I want to do, I'll take more consideration into planning it accordingly.

I'm considering it more of an experiment for the time being, one that I know I can continue to improve and eventually polish up into a decent show that will hopefully be as enjoyable as it is informative.

I'm also playing with the idea of whether or not I want to actually be on camera for any of it. Regardless of that however, I'll likely do some voice-over work for future episodes (or even this first one at a later point) to explain where I'm at and what's going on.

In any case it's a new endeavor that will keep me busy and (despite all the extra work going into it) should be a lot of fun.

So pull up a chair, sit back, and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

4th of July Weekend

I think it prudent to open up this post by expressing my condolences to people who were injured or lost loved ones as a result of Flight 214's crash landing.

I cannot imagine at all what a horrifying and scary situation that must have been. I hope for a speedy recovery to all those affected by that incident.

Can you spot the beer can?

 So, in other news, I spent the 4th of July weekend at Dockweiler State Beach, which is a stone's throw from LAX. Honestly you can watch planes taking off all day long, which is one of the appealing parts I think. The recent incident notwithstanding I think flying is one of the most amazing experiences in the world. Every time one would take off, we would all stop and gaze as it was swallowed by the clouds, off to a new country.

Anyway, we got there on the night of the 4th. My extended family had already been set up for a day or two so we were able to squeeze in without much trouble. Nearly every space you can park and camp in is booked well in advance for the 4th of July weekend, and this year was no exception. As we arrived there was food on the grill, and a bonfire already glowing just few dozen yards past the campers.

Police patrolled the area and even though many of the beach's patrons were firing off the most illegal of fireworks nobody seemed to be arrested or even reprimanded for having lit them. I think it's one of those days that nobody in an official position would ever admit (but we all know too well ) is a day that the law looks the other way because let's be honest: they think the fireworks are cool too.

Or maybe they'd just be booking the entire beach if they did and that's way more work than letting people rattle off a few imported sky-dazzlers.

I cut together a video for your viewing pleasure featuring some highlights from that evening check it out here. I don't think youtube will allow me to embed it because I threw some music on top of it. But honestly, would you have preferred no music?

We had our own fireworks to play with that night and by the good grace of whoever brought them, I was able to use a roman candle for the first time. How have I never played with one of those before? Those will forever be a staple of my patriotic gunpowder-related endeavors for many years to come. After all the fireworks finished going off us younger people pulled out the game Gestures® and started playing that on the beach before eventually moving back to the campers where the food was, naturally.

When that was over and most everyone was nice and drunk due to shots being thrown out left and right, we returned to the beach and played midnight horseshoes. I got a ringer! Three points. Just about 1:30 in the morning the alcohol worked it's magic; those who drank started feeling sluggish to pre-hungover. And so it was bedtime!

These kids caught some tiny crabs in a bucket

The next day we had some chorizo and egg burritos, mixed with diced up bits of the sausage from the night prior - an excellent combination I might add. The next day was met with frisbee throwing, a tremendous horseshoes comeback (down 4-19 to later win it 21-20), tanning, burning, and for my baby nephew: fear of coming into any kind of contact with the sand.

Eventually Peter took him to the water

I'll remember it for the rest of my life. I picked up him and carried him to the sand, tried setting him down and his feet curled in as though I were slowly lowering him into a molten pit of death. I decided maybe it was a band-aid ripping scenario and he'd be fine once he was plopped down. So I did just that and immediately Rocco (22 months old) started scanning his surroundings, realized it was completely sand in all directions, and said in his mumbly baby way:

"Oh no, no, no, no….."

Crestfallen. Thank you Rocco. I would've felt bad if it wasn't so funny.

Later that night the whole family had a hell of a time playing charades. We wrote down movies mostly then broke off into teams. There were some hilarious moments especially when Peter had to act out "Sex and the City", as well as Jeffrey's "Dumb and Dumber". Our team lost but we did super well, and had some great moments, I thought. I have a question though, and I'll put it out there to the reader, do you think it's slightly cheating to deliberately ask questions to the actor who is performing? I think it ruins the game a bit. POINT IN QUESTION: Someone was acting out The Lorax, which I don't think any of us had seen, and even fewer read back in the day. Earlier their team happened to be the same one that had drawn Green Eggs and Ham, so the actor in question repeated some of the gestures for that one, and one of the guessers said, "Is it a Dr. Seuss Book?" Then immediately after the actor confirmed it with a head nod, the guesser blurted out, "THE LORAX!"

Now, I don't know 'bout you, but I think that defeats the fun of the game. Just a little bit.

We played well into the next day, and we all had a really great time. Everyone slept comfortably that night.

Took this after washing my hands
The next day we helped clean up and pack things up. Not much in happened in terms of activities, just packing and loading. After we finished up there, I said goodbye to my grandparents and drove back home with my mom and brother. We made it home a little exhausted, a little burnt, but fairly content with the weekend.