The Mouse and Me

For anyone who knows me personally, I’m sure you already know about this, but I guess it’s about time that I should mention that I’ll be doing that things adults do and getting married early next year. Shock, gasp, horror.. I know. Hey, it’s a surprise to me too! Well.. no, not really. But let’s try to associate a little bit here.

So in addition to the excitement of having finally passed my first year of being a translator (YAY!) I’ve got a lot of planning to do between now and the end of the year, assuming that my job doesn’t decide to eat my soul in the mean time. If I could ever offer a bit of advice to you, be careful selling your soul to the law industry. They’re fond of souls, and will more than happily take it. Trust me.

No, no. If you’re going to sell your soul to anyone / thing / entity, for the love of all that is holy, sell your soul to Mickey Mouse! Which is what I have somehow done. Because, you see..

I’m getting married at Tokyo Disneyland!

Well, the hotel next to Disneyland, to be more exact. I think it goes without saying that this wasn’t exactly my idea. But, eh, I’m reasonably okay with the idea. More okay than I figured I’d be, at the very least. I believe I had this discussion exactly a year ago, where I said that “there is absolutely no chance I’m gonna get married at Disneyland,” but apparently things didn’t turn out as planned.

No, I'm not wearing either.

No, I’m not wearing either.

I bet you thought I was joking, didn’t you. Nope.. I’m actually totally serious. However, I’m pretty dead-set against the idea of dressing up in the horrible red pants and looking like a prince. Surprisingly, I’m absolutely okay with having Mickey and friends attend The Most Important Day of my Life, but totally not going to dress like a prince. I have standards here somewhere, even if I’m told that they’re misplaced and ill-defined.

The oddest part about the whole process for me, actually, is that not only have I (obviously) never planned a wedding before, I’ve never actually even been to a wedding. Worse yet, I’m living in Japan and doing it at Disneyland, so I have exactly zero familiarity with the entire process. If anyone asks me how “different” it is, I really can’t say. I do credit this with why the sticker shock doesn’t horrify my as much as it should, though. If you don’t know what a wedding should cost, you don’t know how much Mickey is over-charging you. Pretty good in the end, huh??

I’d like to harass you with more photos of how Disney-fied one can get, but I’m afraid I need to be in the office early tomorrow morning. However, I do have a whole booklet of cakes, decorations, and napkins (yes, napkins) on my coffee table, so I’ll be sure to take some photos!

And remember: no matter what you do, don’t wear the tacky red pants.

Candy Magic

Candy molding at its finest!

Candy molding at its finest!

Well, I think we can safely say that being a professional candy artist is a job that we can rule out from my future, but to be fair, it is something people spend their adult lives training for. It was a lot of fun, though!

You basically start off with a ball of melted sugar (think candy cane candy, but without the peppermint flavor) and have 1-2 minutes to pull, cut, and shape into something meaningful. Supposedly this… thing is a rabbit, but don’t think too hard about it. If you close your eyes and pretend, you can almost see it!

One thing that’s counter-intuitive and that you havn to keep in mind is that you have to touch it as little as possible while still trying to make it into something. Your paltry 98.6 degree hands are freezing in comparison, so every time you touch the candy, it hardens. To save time, you also have to keep the scissors in your hand while working, which is definitely not something you want to do in your normal day-to-day life, but it works out somehow.

As I mentioned last time, it’s now been 6 years for me since coming to Japan, but the good news is that I’m still able to find something interesting to do pretty frequently, be it amezaiku candy molding in Asakusa - the old-style downtown part of Tokyo - and the various temples, museums of modern art, or festivals and local events, I’m lucky to at least have a lot to do. I definitely enjoyed those 3 years I spent in Yamaguchi and think I made the right decision to start my life in Japan in the countryside, I think I prefer the city for the sheer variety of stuff to do.

Coming up, I actually have some exciting news and more stuff to cover, but I’m actually at Disneyland right now and missing a parade, sf I should probably go. But! I have some interesting pics to post soon. In thn meantime, enjoy my delicious rabbit!

Well, close enough..

All right, I know I said I’d totally start writing more and that I totally didn’t actually do that, but unfortunately between my work life and my personal life, it just hasn’t left me as much time to ramble on about personal stuff, at least as much as I’d like to. There’s, of course, also my issue with having a desire to ramble on at length and not being satisfied with just writing a short blurb.. but that’s neither here nor there.

So, what’s up with me? Well, I’ve just about finished up my first year as a translator, meaning I’ve finally finished up that nice little check box on life. This week also marks 6 whole years in Japan for me, which is more than a little strange when I stop and think about it. You know, once you hit the “half a decade” mark, you start comparing it with other life mile stones. That means, for example, that I’ve now lived and worked in Japan longer that I was in university. The funny thing is that university seemed so long and important at the time, and yet 6 years in Japan just seems to have come and gone. That’s also probably related to getting older, but hey.. let’s not think about that!

Onto a more personal level, I can’t really talk about my work much, but my personal life is also going pretty well. When I’m not out with friends, dating, and what-have-you, I’ve been spending a lot of time in cafes reading novels (there are a lot of books that sadly never got translated into English, so I’m glad to have a new world of Japanese literature open up), going to museums, and doing different “cultural activities,” I guess you’d call them. Yeah, I’ve been here for awhile, but I feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do to take advantage of Japanese culture that the locals had a chance to do their whole lives.

This weekend, for example, I’ll be heading off to try my hand 飴細工 (ame zaiku, candy crafting). Basically, you’re given a blob of molten sugar candy and have about 40 seconds to mold it into some artistic creation. I’ve tried it once with less-than-stellar results, but it was a lot of fun and I figured I’d give it a second chance.

Coming up.. I’ll be sure to post some pictures and talk about it a bit more, before I overstay my welcome and bore you with it all. But hey.. it’s something to look forward to!

And..  I totally swear that I’m going to write more frequently now.

Till next time!

I LIVE!

Lemme see.. what did I miss? Happy Fourth of July, Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Jason’s Birthday, and Happy New Year! I think that just about covers it, right?

I feel bad for missing so much and for disappearing like this all of a sudden (and for, well, half a year), but for how busy the first half of 2013 was professionally between people leaving and joining our company and very intensive projects, the latter half of 2013 was incredibly busy on the personal front, so updating my blog had to take a back seat. Some of it’s good (finally officially became a translator, dating life is going well, etc.) and some not so good (death in the family.. long story), but all in all, I think we’ll brush that all aside and confront 2014 with a new-found vigor and make this year as awesome as humanly possible. Instead of my usual “look at what happened in the past” that I write about for every new year.. we’ll try something different. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up for 2014!

For the first time in about 3.5 years, I’ll finally be heading back to the US for vacation! As I mentioned (long, long ago) the last time I went back.. it’s kinda bitter-sweet for me. Naturally, I was born and raised in the states, I’m American through-and-through, and I think it’s a great country.. but I can’t shake the feeling that Japan is really where my home is. Vacationing in America and coming home to Japan, you know? It’s been nearly 6 years since I’ve moved to Japan, so all of my “adult” life is here, from my friends that I’ve made after university to my cell phone contracts and even credit cards. It’ll be fun to go shopping in American-sized (huge) stores and be able to understand news and the radio without having to focus. I really should go back and visit more often.

Other things coming up this year? Not a whole lot that I’m aware of, other than the joy of renewing my passport for the very first time, applying for permanent residency here in Japan, and all that kind of stuff. But I have a feeling that this year’s gonna be a good one, so I’m not too worried.

I should make some dinner and get on with my evening, but I think what’s been holding me back from writing was the whole “it’s been too long” thing. Now that we’ve gotten this awkward silence out of the way, I’m hoping to update more frequently.

Happy New Year!

A few weeks late and a dollar short

I absolutely meant to write this a few weeks ago, but let’s overlook all that and not worry about it. Besides, no one really knows the significance of the exact dates except for me (and the Japanese immigration bureau), right?

So! With the coming of June (yes, June.. sorry about the lateness), this marks my five year anniversary in Japan. That’s a full half of a decade that I’ve been here. With the 5 year visa renewal I’ve been granted, that also means that I’ll be here an entire decade the next time I have to take myself down to Immigration. It’s kinda weird to think about. It’s now reached a point where I’ve been working and living in Japan longer than I was in university. Obviously at the time, university feels like such a long, important, and vital experience to the rest of your life. That’s not to say that it isn’t important and wasn’t useful for me, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve definitely learned a lot and grown even more from the actual real-life experiences you have over what you read in a book. Looking back, I feel kind of ashamed of some of the deeply analytical papers  I wrote about Japan without having actually lived here.

So yeah, five years in Japan and counting! I don’t have any intention to leave any time soon (or ever, really, but that’s another story), so it marks a milestone in my life abroad. To commemorate (actually, it’s totally unrelated, but let’s pretend), I made myself my very own cup! I’ll be the first to admit that it’s pretty ugly, but there’s something really amazing about knowing that every imperfection in it, every uneven surface was made with your own hands, and that those imperfections are your own fingers. I signed up for a one-day class (about 2 hours) and I’d recommend giving it a chance, if you ever have a chance!

My cup!

My cup!

Signed, Stamped, and Authenticated

Signed, Stamped, and Authenticated

Outside of that little anniversary, I’ve actually been up to a lot lately. I underwent LASIK surgery a little over a week ago, and my eyes are just about perfect now. They still fluctuate day by day and my night vision is lacking, but it’s getting more stable now and my vision is better than perfect. Considering I’ve had glasses since I was 7 years old (roughly 20 years, nearly 3/4 of my life), it’s really amazing to suddenly be able to see perfectly from the moment you wake up to when I go to bed. Oh, and being able to see in the shower. It seems so minor, but.. you know, it’s the small things in life that are most amazing.

An observant reader may notice that I don’t have glasses anymore, and that the cup is carved with a very glasses-wearing Jason. This was a mild oversight since I made the cup a month ago for baking and had absolutely no idea that I’d have surgery in a month. Guess I need to make a new one!

Also, in the AMAZING NEWS!!!! category, I’ll be officially transferring to the translation department in my company as of July 1st. This transfer’s actually been in the works for a long time, but I couldn’t really talk about it since there was a lot going on internally at my company and it couldn’t be made official until recently. But hey, now it’s all set (date and all) and after nine long years of studying Japanese, I’ll be a translator.

I have some other stuff going on that’s all good news, but I need to wait a little while longer for everything to fall into place.

Anyway, just wanted to write this down while I had a chance. I’ve got a kanji test coming up next week, so I’ve been busy in my free time, but once that’s over with and I change positions, my schedule should lighten up a bit.

Well.. it’s been a good 2013 so far! Got another half-year to see how much more awesome we can make it.

An Open Love Letter to Japan – Part 2

Well hey there! Figured I’d be a bit more sociable and come around a little quicker than usual. Work’s been (as usual) busy, but I’m just finishing up a 5 day vacation. I didn’t exactly travel very far, but managed to get a bunch of errands out of the way and get out here and there. You know, renew my visa, go to Disneyland, run to IKEA, read a book, that sort of thing. What the young, cool kids nowadays would call a stay-cation. Or so I hear.

But that was now and this is then! Getting back to our story from last time of living on memory lane, we last left off talking about the hostel I stayed at in Asakusa. Fortunately, I actually left the hostel and wandered around the surrounding area on a near-daily basis. I regret to say that I didn’t really head out far and wide, but I did wake up early every day and explored Asakusa, Ueno, and all they had to offer. I did make trips to other parts in Tokyo with a Japanese friend of mine (who I met through a pen-pal program), where we made it all the way out to Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, Odaiba and some other places. But we’ll talk about that when the time comes. Right now, it’s time to talk about…

Asakusa – Temples, Donuts and Ninjas

Continue reading An Open Love Letter to Japan – Part 2

An Open Love Letter to Japan – Part 1

Wow… has it really been over two months since I’ve written last? Apparently so. I need to work on that, but I’m sure that’s something I’ve said before. Unfortunately, I’ve been really busy at the office (who isn’t?) since this year has started, averaging about 40 hours of overtime a month. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but between that, reading and studying, it puts a bit of a pinch on your free time.

In other news, we’re in the middle of Golden Week here in Japan. Typically, this is a week of vacation at the end of April/beginning of May, but it worked out to two extended weekends this year. I didn’t really have any particular plans (when the entire country is on vacation, everything’s pretty expensive), so even though I could go traveling, lay low and read, or do something super exciting, I decided I wanted to try something a little different this year.

You see, recently I’ve been backing up all my files (…again. I have about 4 backups of all my files, since I’d really hate to lose them) and was looking through all my old photos. I actually have a folder literally named “Old Photos.” And in that folder, I found 3 rolls of pictures that I took back in November 2004, when I made my first visit to Japan at the age of 18. It’s been about 8 and a half years since that time, but I still remember vividly all the excitement, how amazing it was to be abroad–in Japan, no less–for the first time. Anyone who knew me back then probably knows that since the age of 13, I was dreaming of going to Japan, so finally coming here was beyond amazing. Since I didn’t want to just watch my limited vacation disappear, I decided to go visit some of the same places and take new pictures, to talk about those impressions I had back before I knew I’d be living here.

So, let’s get started!

First stop — Asakusa

Continue reading An Open Love Letter to Japan – Part 1

Meeting a Movie Star

What can I say? I’m a sucker for junk e-mail (as noted in my adventures with Yuki) when it’s well written and mildly interesting, and luckily for you all, I got another interesting one to my cell phone today. It’s not so much the fact that it’s spam, or that someone’s trying to rip me off, oh no. It’s how elaborate people have gotten to write these stories. And, most of all, what’s interesting for me is how different these e-mails wind up being compared to the American/Western junk mail I’m used to.

Note: This is all translated from Japanese, so some things may sound off.

So.. without further ado, I introduce you to Aya!

From: cp.r.3032@ezweb.ne.jp

Subject: Untitled

I’m sorry for the sudden e-mail. I was introduced to you by a person you know very well. I’d cause a lot of problems for them, so please forgive me, but I can’t tell you their name yet.

I work in management at a certain talent agency. I’m currently managing a talent*, someone who’s probably known to anyone nationwide.

So, let’s take a look at what we know so far:

  • We were introduced “by a person,” but they can’t say who.
  • They work at a “certain talent agency” (the Japanese word is one you’d use to describe a “name brand” or something, implying something everyone would know)
  • They manage a “talent” (a Japanese catch-all term for models, actors, and celebrities) that’s famous (and again, no name).

As you’ll notice shortly, it doesn’t get any more descriptive than this.

Let’s continue on for a little more in-depth information!

Continue reading Meeting a Movie Star

Only in Japan…

Japan is definitely not without flaws, nor do I intend to imply that it’s a perfect place to live, but it’s simple stuff like this that just warms your heart. This is a locked gate next to some storage for a business I walk past everyday and for some reason, they’ve kept the key hanging on the lock for he past few days.

The fact that it’s not broken into and that no one’s entered yet is just impressive to me. It reminds me of he stories you hear about small-town America in the 50s. “Leave it . . . → Read More: Only in Japan…

I know every bit counts, but…

One thousand sixty and THREE

I realize in this hard economy that “every little bit counts” and that there are people in this world who really do need to pinch every penny. I know being thrifty is important, and that we can’t overlook small expenses.

However! I have to say I was a little surprised to see this sign at the 7-Eleven near where I live. I mean, it’s not just one thousand and sixty yen per hour to work the overnight shift (10p to 8a), oh no. You will be paid a whole one thousand sixty THREE yen an hour. Now . . . → Read More: I know every bit counts, but…