Some hanami pictures from a nearby park




New Brief Theme

I ran across an interesting blog today while trying to come up with a topic for a new post.  Yes, my life has been rather routine and boring lately so I have no new news to report/rant about. 

The blog is here: 

I’ve since decided that for the next 5 blog posts I’m going to do a small list.  I’m basically going to copy the premise of the other blog and post one thing I will and one thing I won’t miss about Japan.  I guess I could just call this something I enjoy and something I don’t enjoy and it would be the same blog and the same copying.  Either way, that’s that plan.  First one to follow sometime today or this weekend. 

Also, the ju jitsu-only blog will be up and running sometime soon.  I’ve actually been hitting training regularly now so I can talk about it some.  I’ve even gone to posting some videos on my FB account to feel out the response.  Predictably, no one cared.  *sigh*

Old Blog

This is from a while back but it’s something I never got to.

Last month I went to a fairly famous monkey park here in Nagano prefecture.  Basically, it’s a retreat a little ways up in the mountains that has a tiny monkey villiage in it.  True to all things Japanese the monkeys abide the rules and stay within the confines of the park.  There’s a small warming hut that sells souvenirs and where you buy your tickets; after walking around the hut (no fences or walls) you enter monkey park and BANG the monkeys are everywhere.  Front side of the building, no monkeys; back side, monkeys galore.  How do they know!?  It might be the feed they give them but you’d think a few would stray here and there.

One of the more amusing things about the park is how acclimated the monkeys are to humans.  You can get right up next to them and they don’t mind one bit.  It makes me wonder how many people get bitten each year.

I know I need to add some pictures to the blog, an effort I plan to increase this year.

A small town next to the park. I'm not sure who lives there but it's pretty isolated.

As you can see, it’s a bit up there in the mountains.  There’s a tiny river that runs down the valley and you have to hike for about 20-30 minutes along the steep banks to get to the park.  It was very slippery and more than once we almost fell either into mud or down the bank.

Here's the path. Not too dangerous but very icy and slippery.

Many laughs were had trying not to fall.  I have some videos of me saying such things as “so we’ll be getting to monkey park in a fe–AAAHHHH!  OH MY GOD I ALMOST FELL RIGHT THERE!!”

Monkeys love them some onsen.

As you can see the monkeys were everywhere.  They are all over the mountain side and everything.  You can also see some people chillin up close and personal with the little creatures.

Ahhhhhh.. Aren't they cute?


 And finally possibly my favorite picture I’ve ever appeared in.

Getting close and personal

This one was a little scary as two things were going on.  One, as you can see this little bugger is a bit small and I was worried about his mom coming out from somewhere and going all Tonya Harding on me.  Two, some of the only wilderness survival stuff I know is “don’t look them in the eye!”, which is what I’m doing here.  I’m not just looking, I’m staring at him in the eyes to get the shot.  Plus a shot for 2 other cameras.  Yeah, I was probably not in any danger at all but I had thoughts running through my head.

So, there it is.  Some pictures of our day trip up to monkey park.  Thanks to R. for coming along and making it one of the best weekends I’ve had here in Nagano.  Also, the last pic is his so all credit on the shot goes to him.

Non Holiday Post

Yeah, I know I said I was going to write-up a post on the recent holiday here in Japan.  However, things have been very complicated and busy with an end-of-the-year project I’m trying to do with the 6th graders and I’ve had almost no time to study kanji or write-up a post the last 2 weeks.  Yes, I suppose I could write one up during the evening….

I’ve decided the ju jitsu blog will be moved to a new blog.   I’ll provide a link when I start it up.  My ju jitsu life has been on hiatus the past month (previously mentioned) so there’s been nothing to post except some gained weight and frustrations.

The good news is I feel healthy now, it’s the start of a new school year AND spring, and most importantly I have some motivation to start hitting the mats again: looking good at my local mountain swimming stream.

I’m also thinking about starting up a video blog either alone or with the girlfriend.  I would be doing the blog in Japanese.  Essentially, I need a reason to use Japanese more often and it seems like a decent idea.  The idea stemmed from a YouTube channel of a young woman who moved to New York and is blogging about her life over there.  When she moved she spoke little English yet decided to do the blog in English.  I haven’t watched every episode but there is a marked difference between her first English posts and the later ones.  Unfortunately, I will likely not see similar results but the idea is the same.

I use very little Japanese while at work mostly because I’m supposed to be “teaching English” (see: getting kicked in the balls) to the kids.  Also, the teacher I interact with the most has some capability in English, which gives me an out.  Anyone trying to learn a second language knows that an out is the most dangerous thing there is.  When I go to the doctor’s, for example, my Japanese improves immediately simply because I know I can’t fall back to English to bail me out.  It’s amazing what that little mindset can do.

The challenge of doing any blog/video in Japanese is daunting but I think it will be something good.  Ability wise I think I can manage, although I’m sure it will be in horrible Japanese and quite choppy throughout.  In many ways I resemble Japanese students and their use of English.  My knowledge of Japanese, while not master-level, is fairly strong.  I can sit down and write out a decent email without much problem.  However, because I speak so little my speaking is very stuttered.  It takes a while to search for what I want to say and how to say it.  Plus, I drop words a lot.  I’ve talked about this before; part of it is my personality and part of it is lack of practice.

I’m far too shy to go chat up random Japanese people at the local bars, which is really the best way to get good fast.

Getting over looking like an idiot and putting it online is another matter.  The funny thing is that when Japanese people speak English, no matter how bad, I never think how stupid they look or bad they are, I just think how well they are doing and how much effort it takes them, which is inspiring.

In this light we should never really be afraid of learning anything.  Yeah, we might feel like we look stupid but the fact is everyone has been there at some point.  When I first started ju jitsu I couldn’t do any of the basic movements.  Shrimping!?  WTF is that!?  “Oh, well you move your head one way and your hips the other way while pushing off one leg and the opposite shoulder.”  It sounds as complicated as it is at first.  Now, however, I’m a speed shrimper and can lap the gym with ease.  I see new white belts that struggle to do these simple moves and it always reminds me of where I was at one point and not how stupid they look.  When I see new learners of Japanese make mistakes with “my name is..” or something easy I just think back to the days when I only knew how to say “yes, sir!”

I think we all have this fear of looking weird or foolish when first learning something.  I think even the most natural teachers can admit that the first day of teaching they were a bit self-conscious.  This seems natural.  Humans are programmed genetically to care about their image toward their peers.  You can’t attract the other cave-mate if the rest of the group thinks you’re a bumbling idiot.  And yes, some people are just jerks and will take every chance they can get to make fun of you.  What everyone needs to remember is that we were all babies at one point, figuratively and literally.  We all had a time when the only thing we could do was crap on ourselves and then cry about it afterward.  Don’t let that stop you from learning how to walk.