Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keitai Gods Taketh Away. Keitai Gods Giveth.

After my first painful fiasco of trying to get a cell phone ( or "keitai", as they're lovingly called here), I admit, I was a little scarred from trying again.  The persistent chants of "When are you EEEVVER going to get a keitai??", however, finally drove me back to the electronics store last Sunday.  There, armed with the new confidence of having my own Japanese bank account and my Alien Registration Card (two things I didn't have on my first attempt), we proceeded to chose the cheapest plan, choose the cheapest phones, and get registered for our new service!

And then I was denied.  Again.  All because my Hokkaido bank card says only my first and last name, whereas my passport says my first, last, and middle names!  It was about that time that I began to feel like a cursed middle-named freak!!

Tuesday, we went back for the proverbial third try.  Denied.  Fourth and fifth attempts with my names switched around.  Rejected.  Just because the Japanese government has approved you for residency and decided you're not a terrorist doesn't mean the cell phone companies will!  Sixth attempt with a "different" signature.  Nada.

And then, after 3 1/2 hours, seven attempts, and some of the nicest, persistent staff EVER, we got to walk away with two fully functional, wonderful keitais!  There was a large, loud round of applause when my name finally went through!  I was so happy that I got my photo with the two gals who relentlessly helped us:

They felt so bad for my long trife with Softbank (keitai company) that they sent me home with 50 free coffee coupons from McDonalds (which got me thinking, "Do they just keep these on hand? Or were they waiting around for the right schmuck to come along?"):

And here they are in all of their glory!  I'm particularly proud of the "his and her" kabuki decals I found to help us feel more Japanese-y:

So there, hopefully, is where the keitai saga ends.  Please contact us for phone details if you want us!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Camping At Shokotan

We headed to the peninsula of Shakotan for some camping and another HAJET welcome party this past weekend on the one and only bus out of Sapporo that makes the 3-hour trip.  Shakotan is a rugged package of beaches, mountains, dense forrests, onsens, sunsets, and drool-worthy clear blue ocean waters.  Despite being accused of being dirty Russians, and having to pay $3.50 for a can of beer, the area was a gorgeous getaway from the city!

One of my panoramas, stitched from 4 photographs of the coastline:

Sam and I being mermaids...or water buffalo...or something...

Our awesome and FREE campsite right on the beach!

Yes, we were very happy to be there:

I LOOOOVE wearing flannel in Japan...while camping...on the BEACH!

For some reason, this shot reminds me of one of those t.v. "reality" shows about the rich kids who live near the beach in California and lead dramatic lives and have scandalous love circles but still manage to all come together for some beach bonfire action.  Is this the first sign of homesickness?

Oh, and I promised a more creative sparkler shot...I call this "Burning Man."  Deep, isn't it?

As you may have gathered from my various excursion posts so far, Hokkaido is definitely NOT Japan.  We're hoping to visit that country next month if all goes well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wild and Wacky Wednesday Weekend Wrap-up

Still recovering from a three-day weekend this past week, due to "Respect for the Elderly Day" on Monday, hence the late weekend wrap-up once again (a whole lotta elderly and a whole lotta respect can REALLY take it out of a person!).  

Anyhoo, I had yet another "welcome" enkai (all you can eat and drink party) last Friday for my school.  This time, it was to welcome not only myself, but the Chinese ALT as well, so I like to think that it was double the fun with double (or triple?) the languages to work through!

You knew I couldn't leave you hanging without at least ONE food shot, right?  Feast your eyes on the luscious bowl 'o sashimi for our starter:

On Saturday, our fun Aussie friend, Sam, came for a weekend of foolishness!  We did some more great Purikuras, harassed 100 yen-men at Bic Camera, ate Indian food, did some day-tripping, and frolicked with some drag queens (more below)!

We took the train to Otaru, a quaint little canal-town known for music boxes and hotate, or grilled scallops.  This is where my kyoto sensei took me on one of my first weekends in Japan:

Otaru is also great because of its apparent identity crisis.  It's a Japanese town that sells itself as "little Venice" and is known for its great German beers.

Sam getting cell phone advice from this shady character:

Jacob eating hotate on the streets of Otaru:

Okay, so perhaps the best thing we stumbled upon this weekend was the fabulous, fabulous Sapporo Rainbow March, celebrating diversity of all orientations!  The SRM is the longest-running march of its kind in Japan...even folks from down in Tokyo fly up for the event!  Even more awesome, the entire event ends with an address from the Mayor of Sapporo...completely revolutionary for this country!

I have to say, if a conservative, resistant, homogenous country such as Japan can start to embrace all of our wonderful human differences and diversities, I have a little more hope for the rest of the world than I did before!

I can only wish and hope in my wildest dreams that I could EVER look as good in a Medusa outfit:

And this is perhaps the greatest...well...the greatest thing I think I've ever seen!  I have a whole new batch of inspiration for my life now:

Sam holding our Polaroid with the anti-AIDS guy...yes, Japan can even make AIDS look cute:

All I have to say is, "yes!"

I looooooove long weekends filled with random fun lovin' and good times!   Especially when those good times are clad in leather and neon feathers!  Am I in Japan?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sports Days

Pretty much every high school in Japan has a brilliant thing known as Sports Days or Sports Festival.  This is a time when each grade level is divided up into many different teams, colorful (and usually pink) team shirts are designed, and the whole school competes against themselves in volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, and softball.  Classes are out during this time and competitions are held for the entire day or days (in our case, two days).  It's another example of the Japanese spirit of fostering close group bonds and cooperation, while demonstrating the importance of "the team" (as opposed to our very individualistic society back in the States).  

In reality, though, these days are just a whole lot of FUN!!!!

In addition to the top four sports competitions, there is also a jump-roping contest and a ping-pong tournament...

The peace thing that is very much predictable in this country!  Bring the camera out, and the fingers go up every time.

The festival ends with a huge ceremonial relay race among all of the teams, followed by team awards, hugs, and LOTS of photos!

Celebrating in style with my uniforms normally don't allow for this!