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Hello. I'm Sean and I live in Japan. I'm glad you've come because I need you to do something for me.

Help me get up to no good by reading this > Challenge Mode! <

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Alive. I am.

I haven't had a reason, or much of a reason to why I stopped writing these past couple months.  Among the contributing factors is a brain on tape delay, and more importantly, the noticeable degradation of my only working language, which I believe is suffering from pretty serious abuse.

When you teach English to English speaking students, you have the luxury of being verbose.  If they don't know the meaning of verbose, they can hit a dictionary.  I like being verbose, I like writing and talking in a flowery round about way.  I enjoy the way English works, how I can say the same thing twenty ways and probably still have options.  When you teach English as a second language, that option isn't there.  It is simple or nothing.  So my English isn't being used poorly, but rather simply, and in a world where your only working language isn't being properly bolstered and massaged, you tend to fall into some bad habits.

I'm in this weird catch-22 where the only place I can properly use the language at the level I wish is on this blog, and sadly never have the necessary motivation, inspiration or desire to write one.  My proficiency has been unexpectedly stunted.  Not irreversibly, but I have found that I need to try a lot harder.  Maybe I will just read more, and try to absorb better habits that way.

So, some updates:

Pat and Jenn's challenge:

Get a photo of you at a bar watching an nhl playoff game.

Here is a dated photo of the Kings playing the Coyotes in the Stanley Cup Finals.  This game was old even when it was being played.  I bet the Kings win the cup.

Rachel's challenge:

Swim in the pacific. 
I've swam in the Pacific before, but never on this side.  This was Utsumi beach, and it's about an hour from where I live by train.

Other updates:

I went to Iga Ueno, in Mie prefecture and learned that the Japanese Ninja of old had many ways to predict rain.  I reckon it rained a lot. 

I also went to Ise, which is also in Mie prefecture.  It is home to Ise shrine, the largest of all Shinto shrines in Japan.  Ise shrine is large, beautiful and very peaceful.  The trees I saw there were the largest I've seen in Japan.  It consists of an inner and outer shrine, this is a photo of the inner.

While in Mie, I also went to the coast and saw Meoto Iwa, the married rocks of Japan.  These rocks celebrate the union of marriage (between a man and woman specifically, I'm told), and apparently the rope weighs over a tonne and is changed many times every year.


I also went to Nagoya city zoo.  I saw this bear, and I love him.  He's a Yezo bear, and they are found far to the north in Hokkaido.  Yezo is an old name for Hokkaido.  Also known as the black grizzly.

I got a love letter from a five year old.

My student Chika tried to spell donut:

I saw this monstrosity.

And, I learned to never quit.

Things are fine.  

Coming up is my summer vacation.  Starting on the 6th of August, and going for two weeks, I will not be required to put on nice pants, or a collared shirt and go to work.  For two weeks, I have absolute freedom of movement and thought.

My official plan as of right now is to disappear, and see where I end up.  This might mean a hiatus from the internet, aside from access on my phone for navigation.  That is a loose plan, and we'll see how that pans out.  I'll let you know how it goes.  Nagoya is absurdly hot and humid, and apparently runs a close second to the south island paradise of Okinawa in terms of top temperatures.  I reckon anywhere will be cooler.

Sorry for the delay.

Much love,


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I had an outing.   I feel like every year I go to at least one baseball game; some random Blue Jays game against some team on some random Saturday, where we show up at the gates and get cheap tickets for cheap seats - enjoying the game with a beer in the nose bleeds.  Well for reasons easy to divine, my ability to see the Jays play this year has been some what limited.  However, baseball wasn't out of the question, and on Sunday I met up with some other ECC instructors, and we paid our way into the rather spacious Nagoya dome.

The game was a good one, and the hometown Chunichi Dragons aren't a team to disappoint.  As the 2011 champions of their division, the local baseballers are one of the best teams in Japan, and from what I hear, always put on a good show at home.

They were playing another team from their division in the Lions, and spotted them a two run lead in the fourth that seemed insurmountable for the majority of the game.  Yet, in the bottom of the seventh, the Dragons finally found home plate and exited the inning with the deficit cut in half.

The Lions put up a tough front again in the eighth, and almost managed to shut the Dragons down with runners in scoring position.  Then, on an error for the third out, the shortstop overthrew first and the Chunichi found home plate for the second time!  The flood gates opened and the home team scored another four runs on four batters.

A quick top of the ninth and the game was over, Dragons six, Lions two!  It was a pretty amazing game, and the fans were maybe the best part.  There was so much energy and excitement during the comeback that it was palpable in the air, a raw enthusiasm carried by song and chant that I don't think is possible in the vacuous emptiness of Rogers stadium.

Here are some videos:

Here are the cheerleaders and silly mascots doing some dancing before the game:


 Here is the last out at the bottom of the seventh inning, the Dragons are up to bat. What they are chanting is the batter's name:


 Here is the kind of crazy things they play on the screen. The screen wasn't very well utilized, but when they played the pump up videos it was intense. The Dragon's mascots are two Dragons, pink and blue, and a Koala named Doala:


As a bonus, here are some pictures of my Monday/ Tuesday classroom:

And here is the board after one of my classes with older students. Team 'The Seans?' narrowly pulled off a victory over 'Team English' during a marathon battle of janken snake:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let's Do A Letter

Dear Child,

I know you were farting in my class for the whole hour, but there were eight of you, and so I couldn't put a name to the smell.  Seriously, you smell really bad, I'm not sure what you ate.

Please refrain from crop dusting my classroom in the future.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Things That Make Me Feel Awesome #2

That brief second, the fleeting instant in time, where I see comprehension come to a student's eyes.  After that the class is all smiles and fun.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vending Machine Roulette: Match

Vending machines in Japan are unique from the rest of the world.  Not only are they everywhere, and I mean absolutely everywhere, they're ubiquity is only outstripped by their availability of selection.  I would be willing to wager that there are at least eight different companies with vending machines set up around Japan, and in every vending machine there is no less than ten different drinks.

If you can't find something you enjoy, then have some water.

With this in mind, I'd like to introduce a new feature to this blog of mine!  Everyone put your hands together for Vending Machine Roulette!  Please come with me on a journey for the ages, as I venture out on a magnificent quest to buy, try and review every single beverage available for purchase from Japanese vending machines.

Today's drink is something called Match.  Aside from sporting a fancy yellow colour, and taking up residence in a tiny little machine next to an off white liquid called 'Pro-Sweat', which may or may not be real sweat, bottles of Match come with a fun little pump up message:  Let's Vitamin!  Yes!  Let us Vitamin!

In the area of taste, it is on the borderline of too sweat and addicting.  Its flavour is that of liquified candy. If you took all the rockets you received as kid while trick or treating, probably not an inconsiderable amount, and blended them with syrup into a yellowy broth, you would create something with a taste very similar to match.

I've only found two vending machines holding the stuff, and they were located on a shady train platform and a dark alley, respectively.

Let us vitamin!



Friday, May 11, 2012

Challenge Completed: Italia Mura!

"Visit the Italia Mura and explain to me why its called "italia" it italian themed...its near the port so is it safe to consider it the "jersey shore" of Nagoya?"

I chose this challenge as my first one because I thought it would be a fairly easy task in which to get my feet wet.  As with any time that I set out to be an intrepid adventurer, I decided to start my trek to the Italia Mura with a little bit of research.  I was interested mostly in where I could find the place, but also was curious as to whether it was a shopping center, or a market or perhaps something else entirely.

With these questions in mind I swiftly opened my browser to google, and  hastily typed 'nagoya itali-' before the autofill function relieved me of the need to say anything further.  A click later and I was on a Wikipedia page, having to come to terms with some rather harsh news.  It read:

Italia Mura (イタリア村) was a mall located near the port of NagoyaJapan. Its main attractions were a reproduction of one of Venice's canals and the San Marco Square along with its cafés and orchestra."

The first thing you notice is the use of the word was.  Italia Mura was a mall.  Next you notice the word were.  Its main attractions were a reproduction of one of Venice's canals.  The article summarized with this:

"On May 7, 2008, Italian Mura was closed due to financial difficulties, as the management claimed."   

I was no longer dealing with the concept of a bustling, fast paced Italian market.  What I had signed on to explore was instead, an extinct Italian homage, four years to the wind.  With this new found knowledge I decided to break my challenge into the important questions.
  • Does it even exist, and if so, in what capacity?
  • Why is it called 'Italia', is it Italian themed? 
  • Is it the Jersey Shore of Nagoya?

Does it even exist?

With this question first and foremost, I set out this morning by bicycle, and managed to get to the port within a reasonable amount of time.  I would have been quicker, but I had to make a necessary detour to one of the many Mr.Donuts found in Japan.  I used my rest stop as an opportunity to feed my coffee addiction and do some people watching.  

Nagoya Port is really nice, and especially so today because the weather was exceptional.  The Aquarium sat stalwartly to the far right of the large paved shorefront, and to its open doors streamed countless children.  However, this time around I wasn't interested in that inverted Ocean, and instead turned my bike to the left side of the large jetty, where there were very few people to be found.  

Nagoya Port is actually quite incredible and diverse.  Besides the aquarium, there is a maritime museum, a docked Arctic exploration vessel and a park, which is beautifully maintained.  The park was what lay between me and my destination and on this particular Friday, contained exactly two people:  a man on a bike, presumably without a home, who had a penchant for collecting cans, and another man, who was very far from home, and looked an awful lot like me.


After a brisk ride, and a brief stop on a bench to snap a couple photos and enjoy the salt air of the Ocean, I managed to get to the other side of the park, and found myself face to face with a rarely bland facade of what turned out to be the Italia Mura.  I was rather fond of the palm trees that were planted in rows, and they made me feel like I was back in San Diego again.

My next question was whether or not it was abandoned.  The parking lot outside the building seemed rather empty, save for a few cars, and it certainly didn't have the bustling feel of a place in use.  However, it was by no means in great disrepair, as it looked like the vegetation had been regularly groomed, and the main building kept pristine.  So it still existed, but in what capacity?  I'm not sure I ever found this out.  The main area of the Italia Mura had about five people in it, and they all had the air of maintenance me, carrying tools and ladders.  When I tried to park my bike close to the center, the man with the ladder actually said to me quite loudly 'Not!"

As for why it is called Italia Mura, and whether or not it is the Jersey shore of Nagoya, to those questions I can provide more definitive answers.  As for it being the Jersey Shore, that is a solid and definitive no.  This place had about as many Italians as it did French people, and about five times the number of Japanese to Canadians at that.  

As to why it's named Italia Mura, I guess it translates to something along the lines of 'The walls of Italy" and as said earlier in this post, the mall is supposed to be recreation of some of Italy's finer sights.    However, because of the whole abandoned feel of the place, and the absence of any people, the whole Italia Mura embodied this feeling of post-war 1940's sadness.  Besides a small field close to the area where some retired locals laughed and played weird golf, the whole Mura took on an atmosphere of forgotten tragedy and abandonment.  

So ends my adventure to the Italia Mura, and with it I call this challenge a success.  I do really wonder what will become of this place, as it has this latent beauty that sits untapped next to one of the nicest areas of Nagoya.  The port is a beautifully designed area of the city, and this part of its history and development is wasted and forgotten.  I take heart in the presence of the maintenance people, and hope they are working towards something great.

Thanks for reading, and as a bonus I will give an extra picture of a restaurant I saw while biking home from the coast.    

Much love,