Friday, April 29, 2005

Am I missing something?

Sony Overseas Models FAQ

I've been trying to figure out how realistic this "Important Notice" is, and all I can think of is, "Not very."
Important notice for Japan Tourist models
Tourist models are neither designed nor manufactured for the use in Japan.
Refrain from using them in Japan.
So let me get this straight: A foreigner-friendly computer which can be serviced in Japan and, so far as I can tell, can be purchased only in Japan, should not be used in Japan.

If these Overseas Models were super-duper, state-of-the-art computers available only in Japan, and if this were a gimmick to increase tourism to Japan ("Visit Japan, get a new computer, and be the envy of other foreigners!"), that might make sense. But they're not, and it isn't.

Edit: I should point out that Sony's own website states that Sony Overseas Models are "products that you can use both in Japan and overseas."

Thursday, April 28, 2005


I just like the way this turned out.

Thick clouds were moving in over Matsue after I passed the driver's test. This is the stoplight just out of the parking lot of the Driver's License Center; the building is behind the camera and to the right. Lake Shinji is straight ahead.

Golden Week

I just got out of a meeting with all of my JTEs at both schools, and dagnabbit, I forgot to take a photo while they were all there. My lapse in memory may have been due to the coma I was about to slip into.
One room, six English teachers, and myself, and no one spoke a word of English for the entire meeting.
English teachers.
Of course they're far more comfortable speaking in their native language, but it would've been nice, what with six potential translators in the room, if someone had filled me in on the discussion from time to time.
Got me scratching my head as to why I was even there.

But in the end, going to the meeting was better than going to the Board of Education after lunch (which was the only other option, as everyone at the junior high school would be at their various meetings). The meeting let out at 3:30, and as it was held at Minari Elementary School, I just walked home afterward (and got some watercolor pencils at the stationery shop along the way). Finishing off the day at the BoE would've meant sticking around till 5.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Golden Week. Friday, April 29th is Green Day. Tuesday, May 3rd is Constitution Day. Wednesday, May 4th is National Holiday (yeah, just National Holiday). Thursday, May 5th is Children's Day. All of these are public holidays. And the way the days fall this year, one can take personal time off on Monday, May 2nd and Friday, May 6th, and get 10 days off in a row. I won't be doing that, as my plans for the week are currently few and, when they do materialize, not likely to be complicated. So far the only thing I know for sure is that I'm taking Ikeda-sensei out for dinner on Saturday; her birthday was last week. Tane-sensei's birthday is next week, so I'll ask her if she wants to do anything.

Walking home from the meeting at 4pm, I passed a roadside temperature readout: 30°C.
It's been many moons since I've broken a sweat from walking down the road. But there's a good breeze blowing, and golly, I just realized this weather is perfect for drying laundry. I'm gonna go to the store and get some sturdy hangers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Ah yes.

Nothing like a little suspense to make things interesting....

The crank turns (two consecutive 90-degree turns) on the narrow roads looked really difficult from the observation room, where I took the photo yesterday, and from the back seat of the car, where I sat while the woman before me drove her test. But when I was actually driving, they weren't so daunting.

When we got back inside, we (five of us, all female foreigners) waited in chairs while the examiner called us one by one to tell us whether we'd passed or failed. The first one left after talking to the examiner: she didn't pass. Likewise, the second one left immediately. The third woman came back to the seats: she'd passed; words of congratulation were given. The fourth woman also came back, but she was just collecting her things.

He called my name, and I walked up, trying to convince myself that I'd failed, even though I felt pretty good about how it'd gone. Sure enough, he showed me on the little course map that I'd made a right-hand turn from the left-most of two lanes. Crap. I would've had points deducted for something like that in New York, and in Japan they give you no room for mistakes: it's all or nothing. He also made a point of telling me that my crank turns could have been better, that I should have turned closer to the insides of each turn. I didn't know why he was wasting his breath on style points.

Then, "Ii desu," he said.
"Ii desu?"
"Ii desu."
"Ii desu ii desu?"
"Hai, ii desu."
"OK desu ka," I said, pointing to the seats.
"Hai," he said, and motioned for me to sit down.*

I couldn't tell what miniscule mistakes the other women had made that caused them to fail, so I thought that I was a sure goner, which made the news of my passing mark difficult to accept. So I went back to my seat and told the other woman, "I passed... I think." But this was confirmed a few minutes later when I was called up to have my eyesight/color vision checked.

I am now a fully licensed driver in two countries.


"It's good."
"It's good?"
"It's good."
"It's good it's good?"
"Yes, it's good."
"Is it okay?"

Monday, April 25, 2005

Ways to Try My Patience: No. 1

Ways to Try My Patience: No. 1

Laugh at me for writing down my birth year according to the Gregorian calendar (80) instead of by potentially ambiguous Japanese emperor calendar (55). Share this misunderstanding with your nearest co-worker, and laugh again.
For extra punch, perform the above at the Driver's License Center, after you've thrown a bunch of Japanese-only forms in my face, rattled off a bunch of instructions to me in Japanese, and waited impatiently for the ten minutes it took me to not really figure out what they all mean.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moonshine.
You're gonna go, I know...
Cos the free wind is blowin' through your hair
And the days surround your daylight there.
Seasons crying, no despair,
Alligator lizards in the air.
In the air....

I'd bought a copy of America's Greatest Hits a year or two ago. I ripped the whole CD, though I really just got it for "A Horse with No Name." But about a month ago, on an unseasonably warm afternoon, I was just shuffling through the songs on my iPod, and I came across "Ventura Highway."

How could I not have discovered this song earlier? I'm pretty sure I actually listened through the whole CD when I bought it, but somehow this one flew under the radar.
Or maybe I heard it just fine, and it wasn't until now, with the sakura in the warm sky and the smell of earth under my fingernails, that it's made me feel like topping off the gas tank, rolling down the windows, and driving till autumn.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

When is polite impolite?

Reading from the Japundit archives tonight, I came across an interesting commentary on a Japan Times article. Ampontan makes some good points about recognizing and reacting appropriately to Japanese conversational conventions, and John Thacker writes a comment comparing these Japanese customs to those in North Carolina.
As a Southerner, I’ve never though it weird to talk about the weather. Nor to refuse all initial offers, to insist upon an offer even if you don’t really mean it, to offer compliments to be polite, and to turn them aside in order to be polite. I also understand perfectly well getting upset if someone doesn’t apologize for having you doing something that you wanted to do anyway, or offer to pay for something that you want to pay for. All favors should be initially refused (and possibly refused a second time). If the person really wants to do it, they’ll insist. Just basic politness I learned growing up in North Carolina; thankfully it applies for the most part in Japan. (Now in New York…) ... In fact, it’s downright frustrating for me to be in New York because people have such an impatience for small talk. Makes them seem rude.
I very nearly replied to this comment on the blog's page, but decided it was off-topic enough that it should be done on my own blog. So here we go.

I can't speak for other New Yorkers, but there must be a non-trivial number of them who feel the same way that I do about what kind of behavior is considered polite.

Regarding compliments, well, it depends on the compliment. If I believe the compliment was made in good faith, i.e. the person complimenting me really meant it, I say either, "Thank you," or more humbly, "I'm glad you think so." To deny this kind of compliment would be, in my mind, to call the compliment-giver a liar. If I say to someone, "You're really good at dancing," then I have watched them dance, thought they were good, and decided to comment on it. Of course, other compliments are just meant to be polite ("Nihongo wa jouzo desu ne," when my Nihongo couldn't get me past the Level 4 JLPT) or to flatter me ("You have the most beautiful voice in the world!"). In New York, I roll my eyes and say, "That's not true." In Japan, I omit the rolled eyes.
So where compliments are used as ice-breakers, I don't see a problem with denying their verity. But in other circumstances sometimes the most appropriate action is to accept the compliment gracefully.

Refusing a favor when you would really mean to accept it is a behavior that, in my view, borders on the obnoxious. If I've offered to do you a favor, I meant it when I first offered it. If you refuse to accept it, I assume you really don't want to accept. In my mind, if I refuse someone's offer only to expect them to make that offer a second (or third) time, I am expecting them to do more work to accomodate me than if I'd accepted in the first place. It also puts the one offering the favor in the awkward position of trying to know when to stop offering. Maybe people from North Carolina and Japan intuitively understand when enough is enough, but how many refusals must I hear, or how adamantly must one refuse, before I know the person really means it? All this "asking more than once" business leaves room for people to offer favors without really meaning it. Offering a favor becomes just a polite gesture, rather than a true offer of assistance. And what if I'm on the receiving end of a "polite favor"? How do I know if they really are interested in helping me?

And we all know how gracefully I deal with small talk.

Ach, maybe all this just comes naturally to people who have grown up with these social norms, but they're confusing and wholly unnecessary to me.

I'm mildly sleep-deprived, so forgive me if this post seems a bit ramblesome.

And I probably won't get to blogging about the World Expo this weekend, but I'll get to it. In short, mostly good with small patches of lame. High temperature 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

more box

It talks to me at 8pm, too.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Words cannot express how pissed off I am.

Words cannot express how pissed off I am.

I don't know what to call it, so I call it a box. Some Japanese residences have them. At various times throughout the day they make some noise, usually announcements about events in town. I'd heard about them from other JETs who had them in their apartments, and offered words of sympathy to the stricken.

My heart sank when my supervisor informed me last week that I, too, would soon be subjected to this monstrosity: the towns are merging and every home must have one. I groaned audibly. "Nihongo, Nihongo, Nihongo," I said, mimicking the announcer's voice. "Wakarimasen (I don't understand). Can it be turned off?" No, but I could choose where it would be placed. In the apartment entrance, I said, far from my bedroom. She went off to find some more information, and returned with the news that, in fact, I would not be able to choose its location, as all the boxes would be installed in the same place in each apartment, but there would be an Off switch. "Ah, good," I sighed in relief.

She told me the installation would take place on Saturday, when I planned to be in Aichi. But when I returned, everything in my apartment was exactly the way I'd left it (for better or for worse). Ah! No box!

Until 6:30 this morning, when I heard an ominously familiar tune.
"Ichi! Ni! San! Shi! Go! Roku! Shichi! Hachi!"
Dear God let that be the neighbors' radio on way too loud.
But the chirpy piano continued to sound as though it were coming from the dining room. "Ichi! Ni! San! Shi! Go! Roku! Shichi! Hachi!"
That stupid warm-up exercize music. I caught it on TV one morning at Tokyo orientation, and you can see each stretch, but on the radio it's just some guy counting to eight over and over in time to the music, periodically calling out instructions that I don't understand. During the summer they broadcasted it from a speaker in a lot near my apartment, and some of the neighborhood kids would run to the lot and do the stretches.
But I am not seven, and this is not summer vacation, so being awakened by a perky radio broadcast at the crack of dawn, let alone one I can't understand, makes me really grumpy; the thought of being subjected to this for the rest of the time I'm in Japan frosts me.

Edit April 7: Duh, I forgot the punchline. I cannot turn the box off after all. Wednesday morning I stumbled out to the dining room and had a look at it. It has a volume control, but that was already set to its lowest level when it woke me.

However, further examination has revealed a pair of wires attached by philips head screws. Perhaps it can be dismantled for the time being and repaired before I move out.

Friday, April 01, 2005

2005 World Expo

Today I'm leaving for the 2005 World Expo in Aichi Prefecture. Trevor and Signe and I will drive down, take in the sights and sounds on Sunday and Monday, and drive back on Tuesday.

I'll let'cha'll know how it goes.