Welcome to Charles Wetzel's Japan Web Site

  • Click here for a brief explanation of what I do in Japan, and why I chose Japan.
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    March 31, 2013: Happy Easter, ITN 100, ITE 115, etc.
    It is late on Sunday night. It is still technically Easter. I have had one heck of a busy week, but have accomplished a massive amount. Hopefully this coming week won't be so busy. It's 11:55 PM now, and I'm starting my designated free time session. I'm going to just chill for 2.5 hours and do the following:
    1. Drink Oni Koroshi (Ogre Killer):
    2. 40 minutes: Write this blog update, complete with photos.
    3. 20 minutes: Shower
    4. 45 minutes: Watch some sort of documentary about Japan on YouTube.
    5. 45 minutes: Watch an episode of a certain American drama.
    I will continue this entry as soon as I take another swig or two...

    This week was interesting because I had to do two arts & crafts lessons with Hikaru. Hikaru doesn't like English that much, so my boss told me to do arts & crafts and games with him, so we made shuriken (ninja stars) — both Alyssa and Chisami had helped me learn how to fold these, origami-style, last week:

    On Friday, we made a toilet paper tube Easter Bunny:

    Hikaru can be kind of wild when we do lessons, but in these arts & crafts lessons, he has settled right down and been very cooperative, so I guess this works. :-) We still have two more classes. I wonder what we'll make?

    Oh, and my boss used my Easter Bunny that I made in a novel and interesting way. During our lesson with Fuyuka and Iroha and Miyuu (three-year-olds), my boss pointed to the Easter Bunny and told Iroha "The Easter Bunny is watching you!" Iroha, who likes to run around the classroom wildly, immediately sat down and behaved. Then she turned around to Fuyuka and whispered "[It's] watching us!"

    As for other memorable anecdotes:

    1. My five-year-old student, Naho, found the foam math signs (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) in the toy area. She pulled out the minus sign, started brandishing it about, and proclaimed, quite loudly, "剣の術やもん!" ("It's the art of the sword!").
    2. Three-year-old Iroha-chan started running around the room yelling "めい!めい!めい!" ("Mei! Mei! Mei!"). Why was she looking for "Mei?" Turns out that Mei is a character from the movie "Totoro" who gets lost in the tall grass near the house. Iroha was calling out for a fictional character from an animation...
    3. But best of all, was when I taught Yurie and Mayumi on Friday (they are sisters, both teenagers). Out of the blue, Yurie (17 years old) writes on the back of my lesson plan "まゆみはマゾヒスト" ("Mayumi wa mazohisuto."). "Mayumi [my student] is a mazohisuto." What is a mazohisuto? Well, I looked it up in my dictionary, and up popped "masochist." I just started laughing out loud. The two girls started laughing, too. Then Mayumi turned around to Yurie and said, in Japanese, "Do you think the teacher is a sadist or a masochist?" Then, in unison, they both exclaimed "SADIST!!!" Hahahaha...

    So yeah...that's how my teaching week went. There were lots of entertaining moments...

    As for what I accomplished, I:

    1. Did at least a couple week's worth of ITN 100 (Introduction to Telecommunications) work. I took Exam 2 on Sunday after massive amounts of study and got a 95 on it. Not bad.
    2. I did some of Week 4 and Week 5 in ITE 115 (Computer Applications and Concepts). I did ALL of Week 6 over the weekend.
    3. I worked. And on Sunday, I handed out 28 Big Apple fliers on behalf of Kaori in exchange for her letting me borrow her laptop for the weekend (which has Microsoft Office on it).
    4. I had a Japanese lesson.
    5. I did a bunch of other productive stuff, as well.
    I just hope this coming week isn't so busy... So...Happy Easter to everyone who is still in a time zone where Easter is being celebrated.

    March 22, 2013: Ryō and Tonight's Relaxation: Sake, Shower, Shōgi, Kimchijeon, and a Documentary
    First of all, before I launch into my plan for how I'm going to spend the evening, allow me to show my readers a newspaper article:

    So, what exactly is this article? Well, it's an article from the well-known Japanese newspaper, Chūnichi Shinbun. And my student is in the article. His name is Ryō (he's the kid in the middle of the back row). He won first place in the entire Tōkai Region for snowboarding (we all live in the Tōkai Region, which has over 15 million people, and this contest was open to all ages, so this is a big deal). That happened on March 7. Then, he continued his blitz, and, on March 12, won third place IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY OF JAPAN at the JSBA (Japan Snowboard Association) tournament for ages 0-15 in Fukushima. I had known that this kid was getting sponsored by the Yonex sportswear company to go to snowboarding camp in New Zealand every summer, but had no idea how good he was until this happened... Ryō, my hat is off to you! It is awesome to be teaching someone who could be an Olympic snowboarder in just a few years' time.

    Well, anyways, with that said, I'm going to relax tonight. I'm going to do this between midnight and 3:00 AM. Here's exactly how I plan to do it:

    1. Drink some sake.
    2. Write this update and take a shower (60 minutes).
    3. I'm trying to learn how to play the Japanese board game shōgi, which is analogous to chess (the pieces are different and move differently, but it is very similar — there are: the king [ōshō, 王将], gold generals [kinshō, 金将], silver generals [ginshō, 銀将], knights [kei, 桂], rooks [hi, 飛, though honestly given that kanji, I think it looks more like "jumper," which is what it does], bishops [kaku, 角, though given that kanji, I do not believe that piece really means "rook," but has a different meaning, because that kanji normally means "horn" or "corner"], spear/lance units [kyō, 香], and pawns [fu, 歩, and the kanji actually means "walker"]). Why do I want to learn to play this game? Well, because it would be awesome to be able to just stroll into a park and challenge some 80-year-old man on a park bench to a game of shōgi. I have located several Internet-based Flash versions of shōgi. I have played several complete games with the Ham-Shogi program, but cannot win a single game so far unless I put the computer on a serious handicap. I intend to spend 30 minutes on shōgi this evening.
    4. Cook some Korean kimchijeon. I have all the ingredients in my fridge. I need to use them. This should take ~30 minutes.
    5. Watch a roughly one-hour documentary on Tōkyō on YouTube. Note that two of my activities here are very Japan-oriented. I feel that over the past year, I have withdrawn into a one-man English-speaking ghetto. It's time to bring back the guy who wants to know everything there is to know about Japan!

    March 17, 2013: Massively-Productive Week and Happy St. Patrick's Day
    This week (using the Japanese definition of "week" as stretching from Monday to Sunday), I:

    • Worked a total of six days.
    • Studied for and took two college exams (ITE 115 Introduction to Computer Applications and Concepts Exam 2, 96%, AND ITN 100 Introduction to Telecommunications Exam 1, 100%).
    • Caught up on my work/readings for both classes. Due to the ELI Pedometer Challenge and writing up the photo essay (8,374 words), I had really fallen behind in those two classes. I was meeting the assignment deadlines, but was way behind on the readings and ungraded assignments. No more. I am now 100% caught up in ITN 100 (meaning I did roughly two weeks' worth of ITN 100 stuff this week) and only a day or two away from being totally caught up in ITN 115. I have a strong A average in both classes.
    • Finished an 8,374-word photo essay on the 28-day ELI Pedometer Challenge (see below).
    • Completely caught up on my word backlog for Itō Sensei's Japanese class and attended a lesson with him on Friday.
    • Filed for my SOR (Status of Residence) extension at the Yokkaichi Immigration Office and also got my tax document from the Hinaga District Citizen Center.
    • Did various misc. tasks like typing up a list of 20 sayings/proverbs for Kaori for a Special Lesson next week, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.
    So, having had an incredibly productive week (in which I had virtually no free time and usually slept about seven hours a night instead of eight to maximize productivity), I am ready to kick back and enjoy the last two hours of my weekend. Here are my plans:
    1. Sake.
    2. Shower.
    3. Download the PuTTY Telnet client and use it to connect to a server which hosts the 1975 version of Oregon Trail. Play that.
    4. Watch an episode of a popular sitcom.
    March 12, 2013: Massive, 8,374-Word Four-Part Photo Essay on the ELI Pedometer Challenge Now Ready
    I have finally completed the fourth part of my account of how I managed to accrue 1.16 million pedometer steps (i.e. ~508 miles) in just 28 days for the ELI Pedometer Challenge (which I ended up winning, even though 70 people entered). Here are some direct links:
  • Week 1
  • Week 2
  • Week 3
  • Week 4

    March 7, 2013: My Two-Year Anniversary of Arriving in Japan, and I Won the 2013 ELI Pedometer Challenge
    Today at 11:55 AM, I passed the two-year mark! As for other recent news:
    I won the NVCC ELI Pedometer Challenge, walking 1,163,345 steps in just 28 days (i.e. approximately 508 miles in 28 days — let's see you beat that). I am in the process of writing a lengthy, four-part photo essay about it here (Parts 1 and 2 are complete, but Parts 3 and 4 will come online tomorrow and Saturday, respectively):
    The 2013 ELI Pedometer Challenge
    During the course of the Pedometer Challenge, I walked vast distances including:
    - Yokkaichi to Tsu
    - Yokkaichi to Nagoya
    - From Yunoyama Onsen Station to the peak of Mt. Gozaisho in winter, with snow coming down and a temperature of -6 degrees Celsius
    - An epic trek from Yokkaichi to Kyōto Urban Prefecture that led me through Kameyama and Iga (the home of the ninja) — on this trek, I got lost in the mountains of Kyōto and had to spend the night in a farmer's tool shed next to a frozen rice paddy and some tea farms.

    So yeah...it has been an action-packed last week, really. Stay tuned for further updates to the account of my epic treks!

    March 2, 2013: I'm Alive
    For anyone who was worried about my safety, you can breathe a sigh of relief. I just returned from Gozaisho. After over four hours of hardcore trekking in ice and snow, I reached the summit. The temperature up there was a bone-chilling -6 degrees. I took a ropeway car down. That is all. I won't be able to respond to e-mails for about the next 48 hours because I am doing one last mega trek to Nara, the first capital of Japan, which will take approximately two calendar days. Don't worry. It'll be very safe. There should be sidewalks protected by guard rails the entire way, much like the treks to Tsu and Nagoya. So don't worry. It'll just be a test of endurance, that's all.

    One of the things I did in my designated block of free time was eat McDonald's new special, the Texas Burger. It had bacon on it and tasted good. I was still hungry after eating the Texas Burger combo (¥590) so I paid another ¥230 for an Oreo McFlurry. Then I went to Gasuto and had some pizza for ¥575. So I ended up spending ¥1,495, but got some really delicious food and tried some new things (I have never had these restaurants' versions of these items before).

    I played over five hours of Paper Mario: Super Sticker. One problem with having fragmented free time is that it's tough to play RPGs in little, roughly half-hour fragments. I designated several hours to play this game, and ended up making significant progress and having some fun. I beat Worlds 2-1 and 2-2, got my maximum HP up to 35 (from 20), got the ship's wheel, and cut the rope so the ship can sail, but unfortunately, there is a boss (the bukubuku, a large fish), so I'm unable to proceed since I can't figure out any way to defeat that boss (one of the kinopio characters claims I need a fishhook).

    I also learned 12 Norwegian words. Norwegian has absolutely nothing to do with my career goals, so I consider this particular type of study to be a fun free time activity. I learned color words today.

    Random Things from January

    Some Kimchi Jjigae I Cooked Last Week

    Late last year, I learned how to cook omurice. My omurice is pretty ugly, but quite edible.

    One of my students (who will remain nameless in this post) writes a diary and I make corrections... I see that sixth grade life is fraught with many of the same problems the world over...

    McDonald's has this promotion going on — when a person places an order, they start an hourglass. If the hourglass finishes before the order is ready, the customer can get a free Big Mac. Although this has resulted in a massive upswing in McDonald's efficiency (I have tended to find this McDonald's very slow and inefficient in the past), it must be very stressful for the workers...

    ...speaking of stressed, exploited workers, the Communist Party was downtown near the Kintetsu Yokkaichi Station making announcements on loudspeakers two weeks ago...

    February 3, 2013: Designated 6+ Hours of Free Time
    I decided to designate six hours of free time in one block and just have fun. The problem is that normally, my free time is fragmented and I just end up watching Hulu, getting in flame wars on message boards, playing Tetris, or doing something else that is neither particularly fun nor rewarding. So I decided that this week, I would set aside six hours on Saturday as "quality free time," for which I would actually plan in advance what I was going to do. See left for pictures of what I did... I also posted some pictures below those of various random things from January... Sorry if this is a dry post...

    January 27, 2012: Progress on the Norge Android App
    Yesterday, I obtained The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen for $9.62 for Amazon Kindle (I can open Kindle ebooks using my Android phone). I have reached Chapter 3.

    I also did some very, very rough sketches using one of those cheapo multi-lead colored pencils that I bought at the hyakkin for ¥105. Here they are:

    On the left is the basic "underway" screen. Note the two big triangles; these will be overlaid over the play screen with transparency so they do not obstruct the view. The player can tap either the up or down arrow with his/her finger so the airship can move up or down. The airship must dodge obtacles like icebergs, flocks of birds, storm clouds, etc. Collision with one of these may result in damage to the airship or even all the hydrogen exploding! I also intend to give the player the option at the beginning of the game to refill the envelope with helium instead, which will cost a significant portion of the player's money and have slightly less lifting power, but will not have the risk of exploding when hit by lightning. Note that below the graphical airship maneuvering screen, there is a status screen showing vital stats. And the player can access the game menu by tapping the Menu button.

    In the middle is a hunting screen. The player will be able to hunt game in various environments. I wasn't sure about it, so I researched it a bit, and Amundsen did hunt on expeditions and in fact enjoyed seal and penguin meat. On his first expedition from 1897 - 1899 to the Antarctic, he in fact killed many seals and ate their meat almost raw because it contains Vitamin C and this can stave off scurvy in the absence of fruits and vegetables. I am not clear whether the Norge crew hunted, but I may leave hunting in regardless because it is so much fun. In the real Android version, I doubt there will actually be crosshairs. The player will just tap an animal, there were be a loud bang, and a bullet will issue forth a moment later...

    On the right is the ice fishing screen. I'm thinking of allowing the player to catch many types of fish (it's up to random chance) and there will be an in-game catalog of the fish and game the player has shot/fished for, which can be viewed at any time and may even be factored into the score.

    So yeah... Some rough sketches. Nothing to get too excited about, yet...but it's a start.

    January 25, 2013: Somewhat Detailed Plans for My First Commercial App (for Android OS)
    I have decided not to shoot for JLPT N2 in July. I will postpone that goal to December, instead. With the time that is freed up, I plan to spend 300 hours on my first commercial app (for Android OS). Click below to download the initial doc, which I hacked together tonight using vi and gedit on Linux:
    norge_plan.txt: 7.5 kB, 1,237 words

    Works Cited:

  • http://www.frammuseum.no/Polar-Expedition/The-airship-Norway.aspx


    I feel I should mention one more thing.The reader might wonder why the heck I'm putting all my precious ideas out on the Internet before implementing them. I figure that it's relatively safe to do this for several reasons:

    1. This site has low traffic, so very few people are even going to see these ideas.
    2. Most of my readers, I believe, aren't jerks who would rip something off from me.
    3. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and besides, the ideas don't look 1/10th as cool in the design doc as they do in my head.
    4. I think I have something to gain by publishing the design doc online — I have made a statement about what I plan to do, which means I have an infinitesimally smaller amount of accountability, and am that much more likely to finish this project.

    January 7, 2013: JLPT N2 Study Plan
    As of right now, I have just over 180 days to prepare for the JLPT N2. I expect test preparation to take about 487.5 hours. This is based on calculations I performed using the facts that 1) I have passed JLPT N3 with a fairly solid score, and 2) that the Japanese Language Education Center has posted numbers of study hours for each level which have allowed me to make this rough reckoning. When I made this list of things I need to do, I realized that some of my time estimates were very, very optimistic, so my guess is that actual preparation will take longer than 487.5 hours, so oh well. Here is my schedule of how I plan to spend those 487.5 hours over the next 180 days:

    Scheduled Things:

  • 180 hours: Anki reps (mostly vocabulary reviews)
  • 39 hours: Classes with Hagino Sensei (26 lessons * 1.5 hours per lesson)
  • 39 hours: Language exchanges (26 language exchanges * 1.5 hours per language exchange)

    Related to Sections of the Test:

  • 91 hours: Vocabulary (20 words per hour)
  • 50 hours: Grammar (work my way through an entire grammar book)
  • 1 hour: Kanji review (basically just print out a chart and hang it on my bathroom wall; I have already mastered over 1,000 kanji and proven it via the KanKen 5-kyū, so any study beyond this is probably unnecessary)
  • 50 hours: Specific exam-related listening comprehension practice (not counting an audio component in my Anki reviews, lessons or language exchanges, or random TV watching/radio listening)

    Test Registration/Test Taking:

  • 0.5 hours: Registering for the JLPT N2
  • 3 hours: Actually taking the JLPT N2
  • 7 hours: J-Test stuff (two hours per J-Test exam and one hour for registration for each)

    Review Stuff:

  • 10 hours: Full review and practice test
  • 7 hours: Re-reading grammar notes from last time twice (3.5 hours for each re-read)


  • 1 hour: This plan
  • 2 hours: Buying books (and feel free to splurge — time is a far more precious resource than money right now)
  • 7 hours: Learning words and other stuff not directly related to the test

    That's the schedule. Some of those time estimates are quite optimistic, and realistically, I expect test prep to take more than 487.5 hours.

    Other things I plan to do outside this schedule:

  • I must watch at least one one-hour time slot Japanese TV show per day from Hulu with no distractions (no Web surfing or playing Tetris while doing it or that kind of thing). The only thing I may use is Kabuto on my Android phone (to look up words). This should be the last thing I do each day.
  • I will construct a full-immersion environment in the living room of my home on 1/9 (finished by midnight).
  • 7 hours per week (10 on the first full week of this) may be English time. Study time and time working for Big Apple is exempted from English time, of course.
  • Keep a log of which things on the 487.5-hour list I have completed, a log of Japanese TV show blocks I have watched, and a log of English time. The log should be written in Japanese.
  • From now until I take the JLPT N2, all blog entries will be made via lang-8, in Japanese. I may have a bit of parenthetical English/side notes in English, though, so that my friends and family can more or less understand the entries.
  • Whenever I'm sitting on the john after work (effective 1/14), read the designated 100 kanji and their readings for that day of the week, to keep my kanji strong.