September 26, 2011: Takahiro Antics
Today, I taught two brothers, Atsuhiro and Takahiro. Atsuhiro is the older brother, and Takahiro is the younger brother. Atsuhiro's lesson went essentially according to plan, except for him being particularly sluggish on the workbook. Takahiro, on the other hand...

Well, the lesson started off with an oral quiz, after which I began to work on drilling him on some of my special "Charles curriculum" words. These are words that I have selected that go above and beyond the standard curriculum, that I feel are applicable to Japanese children. Their culturally-neutral/Anglosphere-culture-biased textbooks don't have these words, yet they are very important to Japanese people (for example, most Anglosphere textbooks do not teach "tuna" and "salmon," but merely fish, leaving Japanese children at a loss of how to explain that they like "maguro sushi"). And one of those words that I picked as important but under-covered was "Shinto shrine." I have scanned the flashcard I made of "Shinto shrine" and uploaded it, as the reader can see below:

Well anyways, Takahiro is young. I think he's eight years old. And he kept saying "Shinpo" instead. So finally, I caved and wrote the kanji on the board for "Shinto" in the hopes that Takahiro would pronounce it correctly. Unfortunately, this had the opposite effect...

Takahiro started inexplicably saying "Shinto Kamidou" everytime I showed the flash card instead of the correct word, "Shinto shrine." It turns out that the little simpleton was reading the hiragana (the phonetic characters) correctly as "Shinto," and then assuming that the kanji below them were a wholly different word — and since his kanji ability was fairly low, his being an eight-year-old and all, he was mispronouncing the "Shinto" kanji as "Kamidou."

It turns out that not only didn't Takahiro know the word "Shinto," but students up to 14 YEARS OF AGE didn't know that word. Incredible! That's like an American 14-year-old not knowing the word "Christianity!"

I talked about this later with the basically-fluent-in-English Yuu, who is a 17-year-old high school girl, and she said something that was right on the nose:

Yuu said "I think it is the end of Japan."

Hahaha, well said, Yuu.

As for other crazy things Takahiro did that day, one of them was pulling on the skin on his face so I could see the red part under his eyes. Really weird. And he KEPT PULLING and exposed all this red stuff, and it was disgusting.

And the climax of the lesson was definitely when I asked "How's the weather?" and then either he or I said "It's raining!" Then suddenly, Takahiro promptly grabbed his crotch, started doing the pee-pee dance, and said "TEACHER! BATHROOM!" and ran off to the bathroom.

So that was Takahiro...

And today (I'm writing this portion on 9/27 now), Moe and Maya, two middle school-aged girls, informed me that their entire nuclear family (mom, dad, two sisters, and one brother) all sleep in one bedroom whilst their grandparents have TWO bedrooms to themselves (one for the grandfather and one for the grandmother). They were drawing their house floor plans in their workbooks and there was this one room labeled "Mother's, Father's, Moe's, Maya's, and Shin's Bedroom." No kidding.

Here are some photos from recently. I took them mostly during the past couple of weeks:

An Angry, Defensive Crayfish (note the eggs; it is spawning)


The Flashcard for "Apartment" (most Anglosphere-biased textbooks assume everyone lives in a "house" and fail to teach "apartment," but the majority of Japanese children live in apartments, so I feel it is useful, so I made this flashcard)


Many Anglosphere-biased textbooks teach "church." But how many Japanese people actually go to church? Here is a word they are more likely to need to say, "temple." Note the manji on the temple, a symbol of Buddhism (similar to the swastika, but reversed). Here, that's a recognizable symbol of Buddhism used on many maps and temples. In America, I'd get the Anti-Defamation League on my ass. But this isn't America!


Cram School (most students never learn this word from their published-in-the-UK textbooks, so they just say "juku," which is why I decided to create this flashcard)


Ending screens for FF4, a game I beat for the fifth time recently. This time, it was on the Nintendo DS.


This is Heracles no Eikou, a game I acquired for 400 yen that is a Virtual Console version of an old Game Boy RPG based on Greek mythology.

September 15, 2011: For the First Time in Four Years, I Have a Positive Personal Net Worth
Today I received my monthly pay, and am now pleased to announce the following:

FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2007, I HAVE A POSITIVE PERSONAL NET WORTH!!!

That's right. I now have enough money to, in theory, pay off my student loans, something I plan to do soon. Basically, during college, I went deep into debt financing my education, since there were very few options available to work (especially in Korea). However, I started to put a small dent into that debt in the latter part of my stay in Taiwan, and then here in Japan, I have been making whopping paychecks (over $3,000 a month before taxes and so forth are taken out). This has made short work of my student loans!

So as soon as I transfer this money back to the United States and pay them off, I'll be completely debt-free, which will be an AWESOME feeling. Right now, I'd estimate my total assets (either my Bank of America account or my cash [in bills, not counting coins]) to amount to over $5,200; my debts (student loans only, I paid off the credit cards a long time ago) are around $5,000. In other words, I have a personal net worth of approximately $200. :-) Hooray! The hard days might finally be over! And might I add that I became capable of paying off my student loans within less than 11 months of finishing university. How many students who put themselves 100% through college can say that?

September 5, 2011: Update on the Past Week or So and My JLPT N4 Results
Stay tuned. I will update more in a little bit once I have uploaded some photos and typed some text...

...and here we go! Below are two pictures and some captions/paragraphs that will explain my last week or so:


Not only did I pass the JLPT N4, certifying me as having a Japanese level of "basic" (1,500 words and 300 kanji), but I also got A's in every subject (an 'A' grade in Vocabulary, an 'A' grade in Grammar, and an 'A' grade in Reading). In other words, I didn't just pass it, but passed it with flying colors.


This is my five-year-old student standing next to his creation, a mech-type robot created with a cheaper Duplo knockoff. Note the crayons for missiles. For his protection, I have made sure not to show his face, and will only say that his nickname is "Gin-chan."


CRAYFISH ATTACK!!!

These guys live in the drainage ditches near my apartment. This one felt threatened because of how close I held my camera.


This is my puppy in Nintendogs + Cats, which I named "MeongmeongiCHW" ("meongmeong" is the Korean word for "bark," so basically "BarkBarkyCHW"). Note the Kinopio hat (obtained in a StreetPass hit), the chew toy and the goldfish bowl (obtained through recycling), and the nice hanji wallpaper and Korean-style decor (purchased for 100,000 yen of in-game currency). Yes, I have been pimping out my in-game house and my in-game dog.


A beautiful dead bug in the driveway of my apartment.


For the week of 8/21, I designed this poster and some other paraphernalia to teach the students how to say their favorite Japanese foods in English. The mini-lesson, which I delivered to the majority of my classes for the week of 8/21 was a moderate success! In addition to this poster, I had a board game and a laminated card-based memory game to help the students get exposed to the words.


Here is a close-up of a crayfish in one of the local drainage ditches taken on my HP Photosmart camera with close-up enabled.

August 28, 2011: The Week of 8/21 in Review
Stay tuned. It was a productive week, and text and pictures will follow soon!

...and here it is! The update: look at the pictures to the left to see how my last week (and the one before that, in a case or so) have gone.

As for what I accomplished this week, well, I accomplished a ton. In terms of fun and recreation, I kicked back and played lots of Final Fantasy IV DS and met my weekly goal of reaching the Giant of Babel, which is nearly the end of the game. Soon, I will be able to add this game to my list of games that I have beaten (which currently includes 64 games). Not only that, but this will be my fifth playthrough of Final Fantasy IV (I finished the SNES version in 1999, the PlayStation version in 2000, and the Game Boy Advance version in 2006 and again in 2008). As for other fun/recreational things that I did this week, I had a Skype meeting with my language exchange partner, Yoko.

In terms of work, I worked a full week. I had not one, but TWO games prepared for my students. One was a board game (for slightly older students) and the other was a memory game (with laminated cards). The theme was Asian food in English, something their textbook (published in the UK) is SORELY lacking in. The mini-lesson that I presented to the majority of my classes, complete with the games and the song (a modified "Do you like potatoes?" version) were all a success. As for other work/money-oriented things, I came in under budget (spending only 4,995 yen of the 5,000 I had allotted). I also got Kaori to write a letter for an insurance company (so I can claim a refund on a plane ticket) and came up with a plan to get the black binder up-to-date. All in all, in terms of work/money, the week was very productive.

In terms of education, the week was productive, as well. I added 35 kanji to my Anki kanji study deck, and 105 JLPT N3 words to my JLPT N3 study deck. Not only that, but I outlined ten of the most important commands in the Puchikon programming language and also watched a lecture by Professor Christine Hayes (on the Hebrew Bible, for my religious studies) and wrote copious notes on it. Overall, it was a strong week educationally-speaking.

In terms of health and hygiene, I kept on on that. I got rid of a whole bag of combustible garbage, got my recycling at least 95% current, and lived a healthy lifestyle (walking 77,244 steps according to my Nintendo 3DS pedometer, although a glitch caused more than 6,000 steps to be deleted, so that number ought to be over 83,000).

So really, it was an extremely productive week. I just hope the subsequent week is as productive. Stay tuned for an update when that time comes.

August 27, 2011: Eight Photos of My Visit to Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Shrine Available Now
About a week ago, I visited the shrine (Toyokuni Jinja) for the notorious Hideyoshi (very important in both Japanese and Korean history) in Nagoya. The pictures are here:
Mastering Nagoya (a long-term photo essay I am writing about Nagoya)

August 18, 2011: Walking Around the Square-Enix and Taito Main Offices in Shinjuku
Less than 12 hours ago, I located the headquarters for Square-Enix (formerly called "Squaresoft") and walked around inside the headquarters. It was basically just a bunch of office buildings in a 16-floor building with some elevators. There was no tour, no company museum, or anything intended for the general public, but just seeing where those guys create their masterpieces was kind of cool. I basically just walked, looked around, behaved myself, and tried not to do anything that might arouse the suspicion of the security guard.

Essentially, Square-Enix headquarters is a surprisingly mundane set of open-plan offices (no cubicles that I could see) where fairly ordinary looking people do their work. Like any office, there are restrooms, rooms with cabinets where the employees go to get snacks, breakrooms, etc. It wasn't what I saw there so much as that it was a pilgrimage by a die-hard fan of Final Fantasy and other Square-Enix productions.


The Square-Enix headquarters are located in the Bunka Quint Building in Shinjuku. The building is shared with some other companies like Pfizer and Taito.

The security guard refused to take my picture, but he got one of the women at the reception desk to do it. Note the katakana company plates in the lobby of the building for both Square (the Final Fantasy games) and Taito (Space Invaders).

Some of the Square-Enix employees were taking the elevators or walking around the building. I tried to chat up one or two of them, but the deepest conversation I had with a Square-Enix employee went like this:
(in an elevator)
Me: Excuse me, do you work at Square?
Her: Yes.
Me: Wow!
(I'm so amazed that forget whether the elevator is going up or down and push the button that I think is the wrong one)
Oops!
Her: It's okay.
The End

I first played Final Fantasy VII in 1998 (and eventually beat it on both PlayStation and PC). Back then, Square-Enix was called "Squaresoft" (that was before the merger with Enix, of Dragon Quest fame). I have since spent probably thousands of hours on Square-Enix games and beaten a total of 24 games by Square-Enix over the years, starting in about seventh grade. In fact, just this year, I beat their Wonderswan Color version of Makaitoushi Sa-ga, so I'm still truckin'! Anyways, I digress...


View from the Square-Enix Employee Restroom on the 12th Floor (which I took after the Square-Enix employee who was using the urinal left, of course :-) )


The Square-Enix Reception Desk (note that the picture is a bit off-balance, because I snapped it right before getting onto the elevator, because I was not sure if photography was allowed and didn't want to get reprimanded)


A Map of the 11th Floor with Fire Exits, Rooms, and Elevators Indicated
The part below says "Stock Company Square-Enix" in kanji and katakana.


Taito is also located in this building. Taito made a massive contribution to video games in 1978 when they released "Space Invaders." If you have never heard of Space Invaders, you seriously need to brush up on your video game history; it was among the first (if not THE first) space shooter arcade games, ever, to feature enemies that come at the player. I had not even intended to visit the Taito headquarters; I discovered them by accident in the same building as Square-Enix, and did some online research later, and it turns out they are headquartered there, as well.


This is a Taito break room.

August 15, 2011: Second Trip to Tokyo: Day 3
I arrived on Saturday after a very, very long journey (at least eight hours) on various futsuu (ordinary/regular trains) from Yokkaichi to Nakano Shimbashi here in Tokyo. And the last three days have been extremely busy with lots of social interaction, so I am thoroughly peopled-out now. However, as of 5:00 PM (when Bona went to work), I have found myself in a sudden island of extreme productivity. I know that I only have seven hours to get myself back on my feet from all the partying and interacting, and lo and behold, I have studied over 300 Anki flash cards, cooked two meals for myself, finished the Tower of Babel in Final Fantasy IV, and now I am writing an update to my Web site with ten new photos. By the time this update is finished, I will only have about two hours left, which I intend to spend taking some sort of walking tour of the Nakano area (check back in a day or too for more photos, of course). *UPDATE* Before the end of the seven-hour island of productivity blitz, I had also succeeded in taking a 6,000+ step walk around Nakano Shimbashi, as well as entering the shower and getting clean. Here are the ten photos that I have snapped so far using my Nintendo 3DS.

I scrapped my plans to go to Akihabara yesterday, but since I probably won't go back to Yokkaichi for another couple of days, I still have a chance. Stay tuned.


The Entrance to Takeshita Street, Part of Harajuku, the Fashion District


A Supposedly Extremely Busy Crossing at an Intersection in Shibuya (didn't look very crowded to me, but Bona insists that it is about 3x more crowded during the day)


Gabi, Bona, and Cha Seul-gi (from left to right) Making Takoyaki, or Octopus Balls, at Bona's and Gabi's Shared Apartment in Nakano Shimbashi


Raw Horse Sashimi (I found it delicious)


Cha Seul-gi and Her Boyfriend, Kim Gwon-bo, Who Is So Emaciated, He Was Not Allowed to Serve in the Regular Korean Army and Instead Must Carry Out His Military Service Obligation at an Office


Bona and I Standing Out Front of the Asakusa Buddhist Temple


Lots of Shops in Asakusa Leading Up to the Temple


Asakusa Buddhist Temple (main building, where we paid 100 yen to get our fortunes, and mine is "Normal Luck" and Bona's is "Bad Luck")


Asakusa Buddhist Temple's Pagoda


Tokyo Sky Tree, Still Under Construction (note the very faint red crane on the right side of the building on top of the big circular part — the outside of Tokyo Sky Tree is pretty much finished, but the inside is still under construction at the time of this writing)

August 12, 2011: Plan for This Week, Even Though Only Two Days of It Remain
This week will be a crazy one because I am heading up to Tokyo on Saturday (which is technically tomorrow). I want to map out a plan for what I hope to accomplish this week. Here is my plan for this week:

Religion/Spirituality:
- Watch the second Old Testament lecture and write up notes in a flurry for ten minutes.

Health/Hygiene:
- Do all the things mentioned in the previous week's plan. However, do the laundry on Friday instead of Sunday.
- Get rid of/clean everything in my apartment with mold on it.
- Remove the covers from the windows that I put there during the typhoon. The place needs to air out.
- Consolidate my trash even if I don't dispose of it.

Work/Money:
- Do all the things mentioned in the previous week's plan in regard to working hard and doing a roughly 37-hour week. I had designed a game ("Art Gallery") by the first lesson on Monday, which is good. I have been, and will continue to, plan out the lessons before I do them.
- Accept all reasonable requests from Gate Tong.
- Budget my money such that I do not spend more than 700 yen per day, except on the transportation fees for getting to Tokyo this weekend.

Fun/Social Activities:
- Get to Tokyo by Saturday evening. Make sure to get a gift or two for Bona.

Education:
- Learn at least 40 Japanese words by the end of the week. I define this as adding 40+ cards to my Anki deck and being current on them on Saturday.
- Add 35 kanji to my Anki deck (an average of five per day). Be current on the deck on Saturday. I am gunning to pass the KanKen Level 8 in October.
- Come up with some sort of idea regarding finding a subset of Puchikon commands on my Nintendo 3DS that I will use to create my first Nintendo 3DS game. I want to use that subset to write a game for the Nintendo 3DS. This will comprise my IT education for this week.
- Listen to 30 minutes or more of Japanese radio per day, at least until my radio breaks... [COMPLETE]

August 10, 2011: 20 New JPEGs Covering Suzuka Wildlife, the Ise Shrine (Geku and Naiku), the Yokkaichi Matsuri, etc.
My readers are in store for a treat today! 20 JPEGs, hand-picked from a much larger number of photos, representing the various things I have done since the last major photo update (these pictures are of things that stretch back about a month). It took a great deal of work to pare down all my precious JPEGs to just 20 (I wanted to put a cap on the number to ensure high quality). In some cases, I combined multiple photos into one JPEG, hence the appearance that there are more than 20 JPEGs. Without further ado...


A week before Bona came, I took a massive walk. I walked over 35,000 steps that day according to my pedometer. These are some of the wildlife that I photographed (except for the centipede, which I photographed several days later). The crayfish are extremely abundant in the drainage ditches alongside most major roads in July and August. The toad and crab were photographed inside the industrial plant by the Suzuka River (later that day, I ended up crossing the Suzuka River bridge on foot).


Bona came for a visit one weekend when she had some days off work. Our first night, we went out to an Indian/Nepalese restaurant called Prakriti and ordered tandoori chicken, cheese nan bread, and two types of curry. The curry was supposed to be spicy (I specifically requested ***** curry, or the hottest type, but what we got was barely spicy at all). The food was delicious, though.


This is Bona and I standing in front of the Geku Ise Shrine. Note that the Ise Shrine is the site that houses one of the three Japanese royal treasures (it houses the mirror). The other two treasures (the royal katana and the royal stone ball) are held elsewhere: Tokyo and Nagoya, respectively. It is also worth noting that the weddings of the royal family (including brothers and sisters of the emperors, and sons and daughters) are held here.


This is a snake that was living in a tree near the torii just inside the Geku Ise Shrine.


To be honest, the Naiku portion of the Ise shrine was far more stunning in terms of scenery and gardens. Geku (previous two pictures) was very rustic in comparison. I enjoyed Naiku more.


Another Photo of the Grounds of Naiku


Yet Another Photo of the Grounds of Naiku


A Crane (possibly, not 100% sure) and a Crab, Both from Naiku (Ise Shrine)


My students kept omitting their locational adverbs and it was bugging the hell out of me. So I made these board drawings to show them where they were going wrong.


See above.


For some reason, this baby is always present in the same place at the local Sanshi Supermarket. Sometimes only its head peeks out when the display is full.


Below are the two frogs that survived my tadpole-raising experiment. Unfortunately, the other tadpoles/froglets didn't make it. I released these two into the wild after raising them for a little over a week, from tadpole to froglet. And above is a fallen butterfly that I photographed en route to the Yokkaichi Matsuri on Sunday.


Taiko Drummers at the Yokkaichi Matsuri on August 7


Portable Shrine and Portable Shrine Bearers Near the Kintetsu Yokkaichi Station


Young Women in Yukata at the Yokkaichi Matsuri


This is some sort of horror house. I almost didn't publish this picture on the Internet, but the old woman in the chair rudely lept up, grabbed my ear quite hard, and yelled into it (in Japanese) "YOU MAY NOT TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS!" To spite her and her rude attitude, here is a photograph of her operation.


The square in which some guy was playing "Born to Be Wild" with somewhat questionable English lyrics during the matsuri.


Delightful Little Ball of Fluff


People Sitting on a Monument


Bona suggested that to break up the monotony of constantly eating mapo tofu, I should use eggplant instead. The result was this. Mabo nasu. It tastes very good, but the eggplant is about twice as expensive per kilogram as the tofu, if not more.

And those are my photos from about the last month. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we have more than 20,000 words' worth of material right here, in this update.

August 4, 2011: THE YEN CRASHES
For several months now, I have been taking advantage of an incredible exchange rate thanks to an overvalued yen and an undervalued US dollar. Today, when I woke up, the yen was 76 to the dollar. This is much, much stronger than the yen normally is (usually it averages around 100 to the dollar).

However, I logged onto CNN and was shocked that the headline article said that the Japanese government was about to intervene to weaken the yen (to bring up Japanese exports). YIKES!!!

So I grabbed my International Payment Application and Declaration form that I had saved from the last visit to the Japanese post office, filled out the info as quickly as I could, and rushed over there. And I'm glad I rushed over there and sent 140,000 yen to the US while the exchange rate was still high, because nine hours later, the yen had fallen by 4% versus the greenback!

I have forecasted this for quite a while now. Then yen is ridiculously overvalued and it was only a matter of time until this happened. My guess is that over the next few days, the yen will drop in value until it is 80 or 90 to the dollar, maybe even grow weaker than that.

If that sounds pessimistic, keep in mind that I have some firsthand experience with this. Back in Korea, I saw the won drop from ~1,000 to the dollar to ~1,500 to the dollar in about one week (and not recover to close to its former value for years). So my rush to the post office to remit money was definitely backed up by firsthand experience from back in Dae-han-min-guk. And I'm glad I did it when I did, because in just nine hours, the 140,000 yen that I sent home (for which I locked in the good exchange rate, hooray) has devalued from $1,791.89 to about $1,722. That's in just nine hours.

The good news is that I've been very careful to send at least 100,000 yen back to the States per month, and should have no problem paying off my student loans by my birthday, even if the yen falls significantly. Big storms and typhoons aren't so bad when you're safe, dry, and cozy because you prepared yourself beforehand. :-)


My International Payment Application and Declaration Form (note that I wrote in kanji, hiragana, and katakana "Gakusei no roon no tameni okane wo okuranakereba narimasen," which means "I have to send the money for my student loan")

However, the unfortunate side effect of sending so much money back to the US is that now, I have only about 4,000 yen ($50 or so) to get me through until the next paycheck. However, I have a plan for that, too. I happen to have about 4,000 Taiwan dollars sitting around and when the yen really plummets over the next week or two, I'll exchange the TWD and buy more JPY than I could have bought previously. I'm playing the exchange rates... :-)

July 31, 2011: Plan for This Week (the week of August 31, 2011)
I've decided that rather than making a lengthy, five-month plan that I will no doubt run astray from at some point, I'm going to start doing the weekly plans again like I did earlier this year. They were by far my most successful goal-setting tools. Brief Plan for This Week:

Religion/Spirituality:
- Locate a textbook that is a basic overview of world religions. Read the first chapter and write copious notes. [COMPLETE]
Although I did not find a textbook, I found a potentially good series of lectures on the Old Testament, watched the first lecture, and took copious notes.

Health/Hygiene:
- Maintain standard hygiene. [COMPLETE]
- Average 10,000 steps per day for the whole week (the total at 11:59 PM on Saturday night should be 70,000 steps for the week). [COMPLETE]
Not only did I meet my goal, I surpassed it — 77,325 steps.

- Only purchase alcohol once during the week. And the quantity purchased should be 80 mL of actual alcohol or less. [COMPLETE]
I had a nice bottle of 39% Suntory Whisky (180 mL) for my weekly drinking session.

- Do all my laundry on Sunday. [COMPLETE]

Work/Money:
- Work hard at my job. Come in at 1:00 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (usually working until about 8:55 PM) and come in at 2:00 PM on Thursday and Friday. That will mean about 37 hours on the job this coming week, which is pretty standard. Do the best job I can given those times. [COMPLETE]
- Start preparing a game on Sunday and finish it on Monday before teaching my first lesson. This week's game theme: Dragon Quest. [COMPLETE]
- Contact Gate Tong and tell them about the error. After they fix it, cooperate with them. [COMPLETE]
- Budget my money such that I do not spend more than 400 yen per day this week. This will most likely mean buying all or most of my groceries at the beginning of the week and packing lunches for work and outings. However, this 400 yen does not include money spent on social outings or en route to/for the purpose of said outings (like going to Tokyo). [COMPLETE]
I did even better than the budget (in fact remaining 3 yen under it at the end of the week).

Fun/Social Activities:
- Go to Nagoya and post a language exchange flier with the aim of meeting some language exchange partners. [COMPLETE]
Well, not technically complete, but I substituted becoming a gold member on mylanguageexchange.com and sending out some extra e-mails as being equivalent, and probably more legal than sticking up fliers in random places without permission.

- Make five posts on a Nagoya or Kansai area Web site, for social networking purposes (once again, maybe I'll meet some friends). [COMPLETE]
- Get to the stage in FF4 when I obtain the Big Whale/Lunar Whale and travel to the moon. [IN PROGRESS]
I intend to do this this week (8/13).

- Make an update on my Web site with at least 20 photos from the last month or so. [COMPLETE]

Education:
By the end of this week, I hope to have accomplished the following goals:
- Learned 100 Japanese words on the N3 list by the end of this week (meaning feeding them into Anki and being current on Anki on Saturday). [COMPLETE]
- Memorized the on and kun readings of all 80 Kanji Kentei Level 10 kanji (I already know how to read/write all the characters in this set, but do not necessarily know all their standard on and kun readings in Japanese, yet). [COMPLETE]
- Re-reading all my A+ notes and re-watching two hours of A+ videos or more. [IN PROGRESS]
I intend to complete this this week (8/13).

- Listen to at least 30 minutes of radio a day. [COMPLETE]

July 24, 2011: The End of an Era: Analog TV Broadcasts Ceased in Japan, Forever, Today
They started broadcasting analog programming in 1953. And today at noon, they shut off the analog signals forever. From now on, it's digital. The TV in my living room is now, in its current state, utterly useless.

I took some pictures of the screen using my digital camera and will upload those. Here they are:

Channel 1 (taken on the evening of 7/24/2011)


Channel 3 (same day)

July 21, 2011: Mapping Out My Next Five Months
Today is the four-month anniversary of signing the contract with Kaori Nakamura and commencing work, officially, at Biggu Appuru Eikaiwa Sukuuru. And for the first time in quite a while, I have some free time from the various demands of life, so I think that I will seize this opportunity to map out the remainder of 2011. I have had an incredible first four months in Japan. Much smoother sailing than I ever could have imagined. I came here, found a job, improved my Japanese, etc. And now it's time to plan out how to budget my time and money from the rest of this calendar year. An update will follow shortly to this effect.

First of all, my work/education/spiritual and religious goals for the remainder of this year are as follows, in order of priority:

  1. Hold down my job. It is super-lucrative compared to all the jobs I have had before, and the conditions are relatively good. I should work hard to hold it down.
  2. Pass the JLPT N3 in December.
  3. Get A+ certified (computer technician certification which will also give me 2 credits for my second bachelor's degree, the one in IT).
  4. Pass the World Religions DSST exam (religious/spiritual goal).
  5. Pass the KanKen (Kanji Kentei) exam Level 8 (440 characters — although I can recognize [and theoretically, write] around 1,000 characters, the Kanji Kentei tests knowledge that is much deeper than simply knowing how to write the characters and their sounds, so I figure I should take a lower level).
Those are my goals for this year. Now, as for how to run my life and budget my time to attain those goals, that will come in further updates this week. Here is how I plan to schedule those updates:
  • 7/22: Religion/Spirituality Detailed Plan
  • 7/23: Health/Hygiene Detailed Plan and Fun Detailed Plan
  • 7/24: Work/Money Detailed Plan and Education Detailed Plan

    However, I may update this site with the detailed plans before that. We shall see.

    Over the last (slightly over) four months, I have found a job, held it down, probably passed the JLPT N4, reached the 10-year mark in Asia, and accomplished several other lesser things, as well. Now, it is time to come up with a plan on how to spend the rest of this year.

    July 3, 2011: I Took the JLPT N4
    It was very easy, in my opinion. I'm 95% sure I passed it. The listening section was not particularly difficult. I'd say that the hardest part was actually the grammar section (lots of tokoro grammar which I haven't learned yet), but I'm pretty sure I passed that section, as well. The issue here is more what my grades on the various sections of the exams are (A, B, or C) than whether or not I passed. I feel good. A huge burden has just been lifted from my shoulders, and hopefully, it will strengthen my position in Japan. As I look forward to the second half of 2011 (which started a few days ago, but today is the first day of the first full week in Q3), I can think of some potential ways in which I could challenge myself:

  • I could work on my programming and publish a good program, like a Puchikon program for SmileBoom's Puchikon programming language. Then get it published on their site. SmileBoom is a company in Sapporo, and I think I stand a good chance at getting a program featured on their Web site for programming enthusiasts. This could be a good first step towards becoming an IT guy in Japan.
  • I could work on getting an IT certification like A+ or SCJP. Both would give me credit towards an IT degree and also strengthen my position as an IT-savvy guy.
  • I could work on passing a level of the Kanji Kentei (Sino-Japanese Characters Official Examination). Although my JLPT certificate(s) already prove(s) that I can use some kanji, I feel like they under-represent the number of kanji I know. I know about 1,000 characters (maybe more) and the JLPT I just took only certifies me for 300. How do I show on my resume that I know 1,000 and not 300? By taking the Kanji Kentei.
  • I could work on studying for the JLPT N3 in December.

    Well, it looks like I have my work cut out for me once again. I should come up with a plan to study these things without cutting the other important things out of my life.

    July 1, 2011: Summary of Weeks 22, 23, 24, and 25 with Extensive Photos
    Wow, it has been an eventful last four weeks! I have uploaded 15 photos that illustrate my past four weeks and intend to do my summary of these weeks for my readers via the photos.


    This week, I walked about two hours to the place where the Suzuka River (in Suzuka, the adjacent city to Yokkaichi) meets Ise Bay. I had originally thought the walk would only take 30 minutes or so, but it ended up taking much, much longer. And the beach was kind of dirty. Still, I saw some interesting things and photographed them. This was also the first time in over three months that I had hit a beach. The last time I had visited a beach was in Taiwan when I visited Cijin Beach on my last day there.


    One of the former English teachers of Big Apple, who is also named "Charles," came back to Yokkaichi last weekend to play in the taiko drum ensemble. They played a gig at Kayo Mall, in the food court. Kaori invited me to watch them. He is the third guy from the right, and speaks great Japanese, and lives in Japan on a permanent basis; his wife is Japanese.


    Another major highlight of this week happened very early this morning when I finished the game Surechigai Densetsu (known in English either as "StreetPass Quest" or "Find Mii"). I have been working on this game since May 15, and have gone to great lengths to finish it, including walking around Nagoya Station for several hours last Saturday to rack up "StreetPass hits" from other people's Nintendo 3DSes. I finished Puzzle Swap, the other built-in game, last Saturday.

    In other Nintendo 3DS-related news, I have acquired the Puchikon programming language maintained by SmileBoom, a firm in Sapporo. It was a mere 800 yen. I fully intend to create and distribute my own Nintendo 3DS game using this tool as soon as possible. I am thinking about starting by writing a game in Puchikon (which has similar syntax to BASIC, which I have programmed for years) and trying to get it featured on SmileBoom/Puchikon's site on the Internet.


    Another highlight of these last few weeks was having steak for the first time in at least three months (the last time I had eaten steak was in Taiwan). Steak is expensive in Japan, but buying small steaks helps to cut the cost. The entire meal (including the copious amount of rice underneath the steak and lettuce, to fill the belly) in this photograph cost less than 250 yen to make.


    This is mochi, courtesy of my boss. Mochi is a sweet rice cake wrapped in a leaf.


    Lotteria has decided to enter the war to see who can make the unhealthiest fast food. Forget McDonald's. Forget Burger King. Lotteria has introduced a 10-patty TOWER BURGER that costs 1,400 yen.


    This is Suzuka Beach, which, as I mentioned previously, I visited on Sunday. It is a small, polluted beach near an industrial plant where the Suzuka River meets Ise Bay. There is a brackish environment around the mouth of the river.


    Here is a salt marsh crab I found along the Suzuka River near the ocean. It pinched me a number of times, but fortunately didn't break the skin...


    Here is one of the terrestrial salt marsh crabs. This crab ended up pinching me a bunch of times when I caught it! They have strong claws.


    This is a dead fish. Fish like this (except alive) inhabit the canals and rivers near the ocean in both Yokkaichi and Suzuka.


    A Moon Snail Shell Just Below the Surface of the Water


    This is an industrial plant right near the beach. Industrial plants in this exact area (the border between Suzuka and Yokkaichi) were the cause of Yokkaichi Zensoku (Yokkaichi Asthma) some decades ago. My boss told me about this. It turns out she used to live right near this beach, and the pollution was so bad, her family moved to the mountains to escape the pollution. Later, the announcement came that people who had lived in this particular area long-term had, in many cases, developed Yokkaichi Zensoku. No one contracts this disease anymore because the environment has been cleaned up, but a few decades ago, it was a serious public health issue.


    Here is a sandbar at the aforementioned Suzuka River beach. I waded out to the sandbar. There was nothing remarkable there.


    The beach has a few interesting shells such as these, moon snail shells, and the occasional cuttlefish bone.


    Here is a crab I found inside a moon snail shell. After photographing it, I returned it to where I had found it.

    Well, I think I have covered all the "fun" things I did over the past four weeks. As for budget, I stayed on budget. In fact, I made a ton of money. The exchange rate of roughly 80 yen to the dollar is incredible for paying off student loans. At this rate, I should have them paid off long before my Christmas repayment personal goal.

    As for health/hygiene/fitness, I have been hygienic but my fitness/health-related stuff has been rather poor. In July, I will need to find some way to cut the amount of calories I'm eating because I have gained some weight.

    In terms of education, I did not end up studying nearly as much as I had hoped or planned, but I took the official JLPT N4 practice test which revealed I should be fine on the real thing. I got the vast majority of the practice questions right, only missing two. I also started to study the Puchikon programming language. Education-wise, the last weeks did not live up to my goals, but were fruitful nonetheless. I hope that starting this month, I can start doing more religious studies, though. It is now early Saturday morning. This summary is done.