parasitegirl: (Default)
The Trash Jawas still have the trash area on lockdown.

The Trash Jawas are the elderly women who are picking through the trash every morning around 6 AM to make sure you are not throwing out the wrong item on the wrong day.

Photos )
parasitegirl: (Default)
I've been wondering how much the energy awareness aspect of the earthquake's affect on our grid is going to impact the yearly extravagance of "illuminations" here.


Sep. 21st, 2011 02:36 pm
parasitegirl: (Default)
I am indoors, home early, and now dry.

Typhoon Roke is headed to my area. I am glad to have been allowed to come home early. Local schools are only teaching in the morning, the students have already gone home, but I was at city hall.

I'm not expecting it to be too bad here, but I am happy to be indoors. It was much worse down south, which was already not doing well after typhoon Talas.

One of my earliest memories of teaching in Japan was going home from a typhoon and watching an old black and white movie lent to me by a teacher. It taught me why our windows have metal shutters here. EVen shuttered I remembered a horrible sound and there being a mystery quick rush of water into in one room. In all my three years in the apartment I never figured out how the water got in, although it must have been window-related even with them shut, and it never happened again.
parasitegirl: (Default)

Pro: I have mini icepacks tied around my neck.

Con: The faculty room reeks of those burning misquito coils

Pro: I’m sipping cold mugi-cha and I don’t have a class for a few hours.

Con: I’m knackered from teaching last night.


It’s now in the 80’s and 90’s much of the day but with humidity also in the 80’s and 90’s we’re all exhausted as soon as we wake up. The curtains I made to clip-in my kitchen windows when I go to work has cut down the feeling that I am returning to an oven when I get home. When I get home my first task is always to water every single plant I own. They get watered about 3 times a day in this weather. I get watered more often.


Tomorrow I have a massage appointment. I think of it often and fondly.

parasitegirl: (Default)

Today should be getting up to 31 degrees Celsius. Welcome to summer!


I’ve got my hair pulled up in braids, Heidi braids. Expect more braid varieties this summer, including Frida Khalo homages. I realized I could no longer spend all my summer in ponytails (as they do look a little severe on me) and buns…so I did the same thing I did when I had to learn about make-up…I spent some time on youtube watching tutorials by girls half my age…trying…swearing…searching…until things made sense. Thank you youtube, without you I’d have to kidnap my own teenagers and bribe them with coke, candy, and introductions to young men up to no good.


I biked to work today. It’s my first day (of the semester) at the school closest to me (about 10-15 minute bike.) I was greeted by children and by a giant red mascot, Chiba-ken….He’s a dog in the shape of Chiba Prefecture. The principal commanded a child to hold my bike while he got a picture of me and the mascot. I bet I’ll have a copy of the photo in a few days.


I’d hate to be wearing a mascot uniform today. I’m already regretting trousers today.


It should be a horribly hot summer…and one of energy cutbacks. Japan-wide, many businesses and governments are adopting “super cool biz” steps in relaxing dress codes so people don’t die. This won’t mean much of a change for me as I already dress for work in the spring and summer like I’m attending a casual cruise party or a picnic.


And, as today brings the full sun. It’s the first morning that I’ve clipped-in my homemade summer-time kitchen-cooling curtains…in hopes that my kitchen floor won’t be hot to the touch each day I come home this summer.


(Curtains: )


My balcony garden is also full of awesome for the summer. It’s a good thing I am not planning to leave Japan this summer…as Mrs.Nakajima could never take all of the plants home with her. If I go anywhere for a few days I’ll look into setting something up with Nin, who works nearby.


My awesome container garden…excluding those in my kitchen:


I look forward to eating my own bitter melons, tomatos, cucs, eggplants, peppers and more. I’ve already got more shiso than I will ever need and my need to search the more expensive stores for fresh herbs is almost down to zero.

parasitegirl: (momotaro)

Someone stole Colonel's glasses, thus the "execution style" head hole. Years of CSI viewings also inform my opinion that he has defensive wounds on his hands.
parasitegirl: (Default)

You wake up half-naked in an unfamiliar room. Your pockets are full of leaves and your hair is a fucking mess. There are some cats in the corner. They look at you with a mixture of pity and distrust. “How did I get here?” you ask yourself. You could lay there pondering this question for a long time, but I think you should find a shirt, try to do something with your hair, apologize to those cats, and get the hell out of there. Get on with your life.

That’s how I feel these days when asked “How did you come to live in Japan?”

The answer you deserve )


parasitegirl: (Opp!)

I forwarded the you tube clip of my local dental debut in a Japanese educational film to a friend last night..and he noticed how I cover my face slightly when I smile.

I posted a photo of the latest costume in progress last night, another friend remarked on the peace fingers I was flashing and noted that my hand has “Gone native.”

And any friend who has seen me within 48 hours of flying in America knows that there is a patina to my motions that is new…although it can be subtle in comparision to my temporary in-ability to see large empty streets without wondering what terrible nuclear event has happened, my freezing when faced with the choices and sizes of food,and the fact that I talk and gesture like I assume most everyone around me has a rudimentary grasp of English.

I get nervous for a while when we eat without saying itadakemasu. I bow my head at everyone.

When I first moved to Japan I disappeared. I slipped into a body language foreign to me…and I did so without checking to see if it fit. I became unrecognizable. I averted my gaze, reduced my eye contact, brought everything closer to my body. My voice didn’t jump octaves but it did sink in volume. My gait, and it is a distinctive strut, decreased.

And if you’d asked me, I’d have told you that I wasn’t experiencing culture shock…that my research into Japanese life and culture had protected me from such bumps. I was in shock. My studies created a sensitivity to my otherness and potential offenses that I was reacting against, and probably increased how lost I became in body and mind.

I didn’t see it happen. Those around me had no idea, because they had no sense of who I was across the ocean.

Then I visited Praveen in Singapore and he came to Japan to see me…and he saw it all. He saw it in disturbing detail. He saw the brash, explicit, skin-dweller of loud awkwardnesses and desires that he’d loved replaced by an alien of unsure smallness. I wasn’t myself…and when pushed to be who I was, and Praveen can push like no man I’ve ever loved, I brought forth fractured parodies. There were moments, but so much of who I am was obscured and confused.

We talked of foxes and hedgehogs…and while I don’t believe in such strong dichotomies to describe the intricate lives and personalities we are…I will agree that finding me rolled-up in a ball to protect myself from externals is something that would rightly share the shit out of most people who know me.

On August 8th, 2010, I will mark nine years since I landed in Narita for the first time.

I have adapted to my surroundings. My otherness has also become clarified in a way I now embrace. I continue to have jobs that are predicated on my otherness and yet require that I can integrate in traditional Japanese ways. I used to think of this as a balancing act, but now it is just what I do. Yes, it is a state of inhereint and shifting contradictions, but it is also the state where I live. I know my limits and also retain the flexibility required to prevent me from becoming the bitter ex-pat I could be.

I cover my teeth when I laugh but it is a laugh you can hear from rooms away.

I bring my hand up to the back of my neck in a move of modesty, nerves, submission, and then I look into you with the eyes I’ve always had.

I continue to be the girl you’ve always known…and that girl was always in flux....but I am also that girl who stood strong and solid.

parasitegirl: (Default)
birds fly to their nests
Do you know where you're going?
Light years to come home

This is one of many small poems in a tiny, handmade booklet I have. The poems are hand printed and photocopied. I've had this for a year and a half.

I got in when my third job in Japan fell through and I was in the rush of a new job hunt. I'd broken up, once more, with Wataguy and was reeling. One night I met up with my tattoo artist for an indian dinner, and as I waited at Hachiko

From Mar. 10th, 2008 at 10:36 AM, I blogged here

A Japanese man with near flawless English (slightly European sounding)
came to talk to me. I tried to blow him off, thinking it was simply
"talk to the foreigner" stuff. He gave me a collection of his
photocopied haikus and asked for money because he's homeless, and I
gave him some. I don't usually give cash, but in Japan I am rarely hit
up for it. He was pleasant to talk to and I found that being asked for
cash bothers me less than having someone who just wants to waste my
time making painful English small talk with the foreigner. The
mini-book of haikus wasn't half bad either. I figured I could use some
good karma, although in the scheme of things I know 8USD of karma
isn't much.

Other poems include:

Suddenly dozing
In my uncertain shelter
Build all by myself


A torrential rain
Pushing man into a pub
To keep him drinking

On the back is written
Copyright by Hideo Asano 2005

He still blogs...and once lived in Christchurch.
parasitegirl: (please)
Today's co-teacher told me she thinks I am looking more and more Japanese these days. I didn't know what to say, so I theorized it had to do with the ammount my body language changes when I am with Japanese teachers (and not teaching) which I do to fit in...she didn't think so.

"I think it's because you eat natto every day."


If I was having this conversation a year or so ago I would assume that "looking more Japanese" was code for "thinner"...but now I don't know what to think. This teacher thought I was thin last year, so it's not that.
parasitegirl: (Default)

Today's fashion is a combined t-shirt keffiyeh!Pictures! )
parasitegirl: (holga)

Any of you who have me friended on Facebook know this already: I am photographing my life more than ever.


When I went over to watch IronMan at Puppy’s place two weeks ago we both whipped out our Iphones and geeked it up for a bit.. He admitted to having been so into his iPhone that he didn’t sleep the first night he had it. Me? I dated Pretty Boy my first night with my iPhone, but I almost made myself motion sick on the train home by reading stuff on my iPhone for too long. I don’t have much in the way of OMG really cool apps…but Puppy was appreciative of the sheer geekiness of how I keep track of all my costumes and when I wear them via Touch Closet. Puppy, however, brought Toy Camera to my attention…and I have flooded my Facebook with images ever since.


(We also geeked out on Dexter, which he was very excited to tell me about)


About 5 years ago, Praveen got me into toy cameras. I hunted down where in Japan I could get a Lomo after I saw his pictures and had hit a few web sites devoted to them. With a trusty Lomo I attacked Japan. The Lomo is a camera that exists due to Classic Soviet Union Technology. It is a fun camera but it isn’t a “good” one. The lens configuration somehow produces odd color saturation (which is exagerated with the use of low speed cheap films) and uneven exposures with darker corners not unlike you get from pinhole cameras. After weeks of carrying my Lomo everywhere and photographing everything “from the hip” (my stealth train skills got good then) I branched out to an additional Holga (a cheap Chinese “Brownie” camera with more dramatic pin-hole exposure) and a Holga-Pola (Holga with a 120 Poleroid attachment, which I still use from time to time. This icon was shot with my Holga-Pola).


With my Lomo I shot Japan and much of one trip to Cambodia (I shifted to a nice Hexar Silver for Mexico, the Hexar is not a toy) and have gone through two Lomos in my time. The summer after I got my toy cameras I ended up walking around Madison with Scotty the summer he taught a class in pinhole cameras, we geeked out.


When Puppy brought the Toy Camera ap to my attention it was love at first sight.The iPhone camera is kinda crap when it comes to normal digital standards, but it seem to work well by toy camera standards. Toy Camera processes the iPhone photos you take in a way that simulates the uneven, leaky, exposures and over saturated colors of many toy cmeras like the Lomo and Holga. If you want you can specify the filter (sepia, low contrast B&W, high contrast, different color saturations) or, as I usually do, allow it to randomly pick a filter each time you shoot. I like the randomness. If it took less time to change settings I would probably tweek more, but I like just clicking away and seeing the results.


What I like about the toy camera (real ones and the app) is that they depict the Japan I feel with greater frequency than photos I take with well balanced digital or my Hexar. I’d really have to be pushing film and playing around in a lab to get a better camera to show the Japan I think I live in. My Japan is alternately garishly over saturated and dramatically dark. My Japan isn’t evenly exposed. My Japan surprises me by not developing the way I thought it would. My Japan involves many hours a week in transport. My Japan looks a little lonely somedays. My Japan is surprised to find me doing what I am doing. My friends haven’t seemed to grow exhausted by seeing Japan through my eyes.


The images, although the first few predate the toy camera.


Mar. 25th, 2009 10:31 pm
parasitegirl: (wonder chains)
I have to wade through all the lesson plans I've made, clean them up, and create flow-sheets for the homeroom teachers.

This task would be made much easier if I could ever get my co-workers to check my bloody Japanese on all of this...and it is bloody. It takes no prisoners and leaves polite forms bleeding in the stage directions.  I am acutely aware that brutal Japanese is just the thing to allow a few homeroom teachers to sigh inwardly and say "Ah, Kathryn does not understand the Japanese way of doing things..."and leave my flowsheets as unread as my detailed lesson plans.

I have learned that putting lesson plans on desk with pleading notes do no good. Results are only gotten by poking and thrusting my screen in front of co-worker and saying "I promise, just a sentence..." The sad thing is my Japanese skills and my ability to write detailed descriptions are improved every time they do help and if they'd take the time now there would be a lot less poking and prodding in their futures. These people know nothing about timely rewards for swiftly completed work but they are on a different time schedule than I am: they are under pressure to stay late and receive praise (or the absence of negative punishment) if they always appear to be working hard... I get off at 4:30.

It's the sort of checking task that, if it were in English, I could do in under an hour...

Some of my lessons I love to revisit and some are simply placeholders I pray I am never called on to use. "Egypt!" I could wander around in for ages. It has room to expand and contract.  Alas,  "Let's go camping?"...I'd rather not.

And with that I get plunged back into the lesson plans...I just found a conflict in two of the things they've been asking me to do...nd they do need "Let's go camping" and 11 other lesson plans  I wrote (which I thought they'd given up on using) prepped enough so that people who are not me can teach it. It's the last  week before a new school year...everything changes on April first (including the first appearance of English textbooks in the elementary schools) and right now everyone is getting so red-tape brutalized it's hard to find where the tape ends and the intestines starts. I, for once, am no exception. I know what comes after this rush of things to do...boredom.

The Japanese started to make my head hurt, so I will be asking favors of people I know locally to help edit my Japanese.


There was some talk of having me correct the English on my contract and clean up the translation (if I have time I will post you some gems from my contract) but there is that conflict of interest in it being MY contract I'd be working on. We don't have anyone else who could do it...well, the support staff, but I don't think they want the support staff seeing the details of my full-time contract.
parasitegirl: (momotaro)
We went to a maid cafe yesterday.

Rob, Colt and I planned to meet up for lunch to socialize (and so that I could get my key) on Sunday.

They chose Akihabara (Akiba). I dislike the electronics district. It makes my skin crawl. My only good memory of Akiba has been sitting in the massage chairs with Warning-san after a long day of walking. Akiba is hyperactively geeky and creepy. All the electronics you em! Latest ultra-small technology for photographing girls in on it!  UBS attachable penile-stimulating sleeve in the shape of a tentacle in order to fully experience on-line anime-porn games...probably*....but Rob and Colt had some Macross thing to go to later in the day in Akiba so Akiba it was.

Part of the treat of having visiting friends is seeing Japan through fresh eyes. You also get to go do touristy/strange stuff you'd never do alon/with ex-pats/Japanese friends...for me that meant suggesting a maid cafe...which apparently was already in the day's plans. Colt, Rob's friend who is studying here in Japan, already had one in mind. I've been to a cat cafe alone (where I played with cats, not people dressed up like cats)  but I'd never go to a maid cafe by myself.Akibake! )
parasitegirl: (Default)
I saw a rhinestone blinged cold mask today.

Surprised, in retrospect, that this was my first sighting of one..Japan is Japan and all.
parasitegirl: (momotaro)
This morning I stepped out of Shin-matsudo station and saw many Japanese people grabbing for some sort of free "extra edition" of the Yomuri Shinbun (one of the major newspapers here) being given out.

Not wanting to be left out, I grabbed one as well.

It turned out to be the Inaugural Edition!  Front page pictures and article about the inauguration, middle pages more pictures and the whole inaugural speech translated into Japanese, back page the English article and the speech in English.
parasitegirl: (momotaro)
 My morning routine and my preshow routines are pretty hardwired in some respects. I don’t think of myself as an on-time person, but I know what time I need to be on what train and how to do it.
On my way to dance on Friday nights I usually pick up a black coffee at my local Tully’s before getting on the train. I no longer pick up a morning coffee because my last train to work departs as Tully’s opens. I rely on my presspot in the mornings. I don’t use my Tully’s tumbler on the way to dance, because I have no place to easily rinse and dry it when I finish.
Going to perform, I change trains at Omotesando. If I am early, I walk from Omotesando to the restaurant. Either way, I head to the trash cans at the information booth near the exit gates at Omotesando to discard my empty coffee cup.
I’ve memorized where trash cans are on my normal routes. This is because, for a country with a reputation for being fairly clean, trash cans have been disappearing. After 9/11 and as Japan joined the support troops in Afganistan, the fears of an attack on Japanese soil meant that the train stations stepped up security. This meant that the trashcans, feared to be a place where bombs or gas would be placed, disappeared. The AUM used the trains to spread sarin gas, but the trashcan fears stem from Red Army attempts and attacks in downtown Tokyo back in the day. I think trashcans were used to hide explosive devices then, but don’t quote me. This history means that the terror focus is on bins and trains. The security increase was also seen in bi-lingual signs urging us to report suspicious packages (these signs also turned up in Starbucks bathrooms, I guess due to the idea of American symbols of capitalism being another prime target, prompting me and another immature friend to refer to bowel movements as “dropping off suspicious packages” for a while), and…train security officers standing on large boxes and chairs to better survey the train station landscape.
The signs about suspicious people and packages are always in Japanese and English…the rest of the world are either assumed to read one of these languages or else they are assumed to be of no help in the war against terror.
Eventually the train stations brought in new trashcans, these with acrylic sides and clear plastic bags so that contents could easily be seen, but the number of waste bins was never the same. Security men stopped standing on boxes.
Two or three weeks ago, my Omotesando trashcans disappeared. I brought my trash to the restaurant.
Around that time, exiting the Kashiwa Tobu station, I was greeted by a large banner reading “Counter Terrorism” (in English and Japanese) with a…um..a Dolphin mascot of counter terrorism? I thought WTF? and took a cel phone picture. I have been meaning to upload it to my blog…along with the new terror threat signs about what to do with unknown items (I have made an icon from the Don’t Smell! Warning). I will upload these when I am at a location where I can access online photo storage.
This Saturday, on my way to dance lessons, I changed trains at Akusaka-mitsuke station and found that that trashcan was also gone. Leading up to this I’ve observed more station security officers (with special counter terrorism arm bands) some with large batons, many standing on large boxes. And Sunday I saw the newest sign, which explained the security measures: Due to the Hokkaido-based G8 meeting the whole country is on terror watch.
I will be carrying my trash more often.


Jun. 11th, 2008 06:22 pm
parasitegirl: (moody)
I haven't commented on the recent knife attack in Akihabara.

It was horrible, yes, but such things are still rare here. Many co-workers think it is terrifying and that it has changed their ideas about how safe Japan is, how safe they are. I'm from America. I'm an American woman.  As much as I spend a certain amount of energy telling Japanese people that America isn't THAT scary, the knowledge that walking down a street, even a busy street, might not always be safe is part of who I am. I don't worry about it, it's just something I know to be true. Random violence and targeted violence happens. There are things you can do to be aware of your surroundings and situations, but nothing is 100%. You can only worry so much, some things are out of your control.

The attack didn't kill or wound anyone I know. All my geeks are in America and not currently visiting Japan/Akihabara. It did, however, kill a recent graduate from the public school system I work at.

The connection is close enough to remind me that these things happen...but not enough  to feel the impact of it.

It reminds me of Jerry, my best landlord ever. Jerry was a nice man in MIlwaukee who made me steamed veggies when I was sick and who moonlighted as a low-level pro-wrestler. He knew all the folks in his building: the jazz pianist who lived next door (my bathroom sounded great ), the stoner upstairs who loved anime...all. A few years before I moved to Milwaukee he had lost a tennent serial killer Jeffery Dahmer.

I remember talking about the Dahmer days with a female teacher of mine from MIAD. She told me about the time when Dahmer was as of yet unknown, but the disappearances of young men was being felt...and our school was in the gayer area of Milwaukee, so it was felt...she remembered seeing male students being hesitant about going out to their cars or apartments alone after dark and other small issues of vulnerability American women are raised to be aware of but (muggings and bad neighborhoods aside) most men aren't.

Between Dahmer one year and the cryptosporidian problem the next, there was a certain awareness of human vulnerability.

Mmmmmm. Rumors of a boil water advisory...there are certain rumors worth paying attention to.
parasitegirl: (bellyhand)
Safi , Henna, Myself, and Dancer #2

Really, Neither Henna or I understand why we've never done a duet together. We seem to have a similar affinity for goofy faces.


parasitegirl: (Default)

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