Sunday, 30 September 2007

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"taikai". It means competition or tournament. A "senshu" is an athlete or competitor. Note that "senshuu" is a completely different word meaning "last week". So take heed in that if you hear someone drag out that last "u" sound a bit, you've missed the taikai rather than having a chance at competing =).
Ueno-san, me, and Yuu

Jokes aside, this Tobu Taikai (Tobu meaning East, as in Eastern Saitama) was my first Japanese competition and indeed, first competition in a long time. The heavy rain couldn't keep dojos all over from coming out and there were lots of very good competition.

It was a pretty great experience although that's not what I could say about the results. Regardless, I was pretty happy with my performance, especially in kumite where final score was close enough that I thought I did better than I expected. I won't go as far as to say I could have won, but I think I could have won. Although in could've-would've-should've land, anything is possible, but results are the only things that matter.

The best part was that losing is by no means discouraging. I walked away from the ring unscathed, aside from a really sore left side of my jaw where I took a good punch, and eager to train more and improve my standings next time (on the 21st, for the Sugito City competition). I don't have such grandiose images of winning everything though, as progress is my only goal. There will be lots more opportunities to test my mettle and the results will come on its own.

The dojo on a whole, however, did very well- Shiramizu students placed or won their category often. Particularly exciting were the elementary and high school boys team kumite, which Shiramizu took top honours in.

At night, there was a party to celebrate both the good work done at the competition (Shiramizu senseis and staff all contributed is some form either as refs, volunteers, managers, competitor support staff, etc.) and, more important, to celebrate Hachizuka sensei, Iwazaki sensei, Yamazaki sensei, and Yoshiwara sensei's recently attained 3rd degree black belt standing. The night was full of speeches and good times, no doubt partly due to the "all you can drink" feature at the restaurant.

All in all though, and excellent first time out I thought, and I can only hope I have better things to say about the results next time haha.......

Shiramizu's Mikiya Kikuchi (red gloves) scoring a point in the high school boys team kumite match.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

"How's the crime rate in Vancouver?"

Wow, how do you answer that one and stay fashionable??

Well, I suppose it has its ups and downs and bad parts of town, but on a whole I always felt it a pretty good place.

Then I was met with a quizzical stare.

"............................ I hear it wasn't too hot this summer."

Oh............ climate. I see.....

This rather fun conversation happened recently at one of the dojo classes. Arakawa sensei has taken on two seniors who, I was told, wanted to learn karate as a means to protect themselves and their grandchildren. Sort of a self-defense class, if you will. He merged them with the on-going Wednesday morning adult class and one of the new students happens to speak very good English. He told me he used to be a banker or bank manager of sorts and I can only presume he needed English rather often.

Of course, it's never easy learning the pace and pronunciation of any new language and it goes just as well for me. In one of my private lessons, my student want to learn how to sound out words properly and I never realised how complex English was to speak.

Sometimes though, nothing needs to be said at all and everyone knows what each other is thinking. For instance, last week, whilst packed like sardines into gigantic moving sardine cans otherwise known as trains, it ground to a halt in an emergency stop.

Emergency stops on trains are rather sudden, despite the obvious name. It's worse when you don't really realise that the train is slowing because it happens so smoothly. It's only when the train stops fully that the momentum of the sardine car flings you forward. Or, it would, were it not for everyone else around you.

But worst of all is that because you are so crammed in, you can't move your arm to grab a handle or move your leg to stabilize yourself. So you end up keeling over backwards like Neo from the Matrix and you rely on (or pray that) the uniform keeling over of everyone in the train will hold you up.

Then comes the emergency stop explanation/announcement and there is no confusion there about the general mood of the cabin. I wish I could tell you why it stopped but...... well, you know =).

Rather more weirdly, that was only the first of two emergency stops that nice. The escalator I was riding on about 20 minutes later also stopped suddenly and for no reason I could see. Note to self- always hold the railing on the escalator lest I be flung face first into the lower back of whoever is ahead of me.

As for the crime rate here................. fall is coming but it's still hot occassionally during the day. But the evenings are relaxingly cool.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"yuubinkyoku". It means post office. Really that's it. No fancy double meanings or jokes with this one. Although, interestingly, the post office also acts as a bank, so you can set up a "yuubinkyo koza" (post office account) to store all your money. There are private banks as well, but the post office banks are what most people use and they're standardized across Japan, which is helpful if you're travelling and need to get some money. I had to go twice with Arakawa sensei because, as expected, it's all set up in Japanese and I don't speak any of that.

So today, when I went back by myself, I managed to nearly grind all the yuubinkyoku work to a halt.

See, Paul, who was in my position before me, needs to wire me some money because I paid a cell phone bill for a time period when only he used it. Sounds easy enough, right?? I was kindly sent a email (to my phone) by Richard's wife stating, in Japanese, that I need the bank info so Paul can thus wire the money to me and not some offshore mafia drug laundering account.

As if not showing up at the counter holding my cell phone out at arms length was enough, the lady (who, despite having helped this foreigner nearly everytime I went to the post office, was very nice) needed to speak to the manager about how best to do what I needed. Then another worker joined in the discussion. I lured 3 of 4 bank workers into my cause and that didn't bode well for the people who needed to pay bills and the like.

Regardless, after about 5 minutes she came back and said some stuff that ended in "dekinai"- otherwise known as "cannot". So, it turns out I can't receive money from Canada through wire transfers. Sweet................

Anyway, long story short, I went to a post office whereby most people do send things internationally only to be told I can receive anything internationally. But I'm sure there are ways around it so........ who knows =).

Oh, and I attended the Wado-Kai East Japan Regional camp this past Sunday and Monday. It was a great chance to train with some very high level instructors (some of which are on the National team) in preparation for my first tournament this weekend. Fun but unbelievably tiring as the training lasts for about 2 hours each morning and then about an average of 3 hours in the afternoon.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Hallo. My name is...

"ryuu". According to one of the teachers in my Japanese class, my last name (the Chinese character for it) is pronounced "ryuu". In case you read Richard sensei's comment, it is indeed the same pronunciation as the Japanese word for dragon. Unfortunately, my name doesn't exist in the dictionary whilst "dragon" does, which can only lead me to the perhaps obvious observation that my name doesn't mean dragon at all.

What it means, I have no idea. Equally apparent is that the middle chinese character is pronounced "ritsu". In Japanese, it means to stand, although the pronunciation varies since Japanese kanji has two pronunciations, depending on whether their written singularly or paired up with other kanji. Confusing, no??

The last character no one recognized but someone deftly translated the Cantonese pronunciation of "kay" to "kii".

That makes my name "ryuu ritsu kii". Just thought you'd like to know =).

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"kouzui". It means flood, as in, too much water. This relates to me rather directly in that I managed to flood the main floor of my house over the weekend.......... haha........... ha.........

See, the place I live in isn't really a "house" per se. It's a side building attached to a restaurant that has the amenities of a house. There's a kitchen, bathroom, shower, etc. The room I'm in is more like a living room, hence it's rather large size. I have 9 tatami mats which, judging by people's reactions when I tell them, is about the equivalent of eastern Europe.

But what it doesn't really have is provisions for laundry piping. The water comes from the bath tub and drains into the shower. That's not really a problem except that the drain pipe and shower door can't be used at the same time. So Matsuda sensei (who lives upstairs and is a yoga instructor) and I have to make sure we put the the pipe to drain into the shower come laundry time.

As you might be able to guess, I forgot over the weekend and proceeded to flood the floor with a few mm of water. Luckily, the floor is a hard surface so cleaning was as simple as opening the side make-shift porch door and sweeping it all out into the 30 degree day. Then we wiped the floor down and that was that- it took about 15 minutes. Of course, I only found out about this method after I spent an hour trying to mop up the water. But now I know...............

I also distinctly recall having told Matsuda sensei that I would never ever flood the house when I first got to Japan, to which she just nodded and laughed. Now I know why haha........... she said Paul, who was here before me, has done it three times. And herself three times. So I'm allowed two more times as well. Four is too much, but 3.5 times is ok too, if I can figure out how to half-flood something...........

But, always positive, Matsuda sensei just considered it summer cleaning and proclaimed how beautiful the floor was afterwards ("kirei", if you remember the past Japanese word of the week =P). So all is well.

I had some time left over to go to Ikebukuro to visit the Toyota Amlux Salon before meeting a friend for dinner that night. The Amlux Salon is a sort of glorified-dealership-cum-museum, with 4 floors of Toyota models and some bits and pieces of racing heritage.

Staffed with impeccably uniformed women, it was pretty interesting to browse. One rather interesting display was of something called the i-Unit. It's Toyota vision of personal, multi-purpose transport. It even had a video where people in space-rabbit suits galloped around a dry ice rink..................... apparently that will be our future............. sweet!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"oshare". It means to be "fashion conscious". As you can gather from my post a while ago, it's not so bad to be considered "oshare". Although, really, my consciousness is usually dominated by other thoughts.

Such as the fact that I forgot my lizard friend is not a lizard at all. It was brought to my attention that he's a salamander. So colour me wrong- Sorry! haha........... also, he still has yet to have a name. Suggestions such as Koopa and Harry are nice, so maybe throw a few more and I'll pick the best one. He is, by the way, still there, and still outside heh........

The other thought is how mentally strenuous is it to be in a foreign country. I never noticed it until someone pointed it out to me that it's a lot of freakin' work trying to make sense of a new language and you end up mentally exhausted at the end of each day. The amount of processing you have to do even for the simplest tasks makes it pretty rough. It's not so bad in the first month because a lot of people are looking after you and there's still the novelty of it all. But after a while, doing even the most mundane things is a pain. Like getting a haircut, which I managed to successfully do without coming out looking like a palm tree. Although that could be considered "oshare" in this country.............. hmm heh........

To go with the mental exhaustion is physical exhaustion as I prepare for competition. I still feel I'm quite far away from competitive level, but there's no better barometer than to actually try. The first one is set for Sept 30th, the next is Oct 21st, then one more on Nov 3rd. I was actually just informed I was enter in men's team kumite for the Nov 3rd one about 30 min ago, so....... yay!

But in no way is this post supposed to suggest that I'm disliking where I am. On the contrary, it makes every day a challenge and every night a reward for having faced it. That would make next year a culmination of 365 nights worth of reward. And that's good for a whole life time of reminiscing...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

"Bring The Rain!"...

Yeah, it sounded pretty wicked in Transformers when Tyrese Gibson shouts that into the phone and then the AC-130 Spectre gunship comes in and blasts the living electrons out of Scorponok. I remember my permanently immature brain shouting "OMG!! THAT'S SO COOOOOLLLL!!!!!!". It was, in my opinion, probably the best scene in the movie. Even better than when Bumblebee turned into the concept Camaro. Of interesting note is that the only Chevy versions of that car that are around don't actually run, being a show car. So they commissioned Saleen Inc. (known for their Ford tuning abilities and builders of the Saleen S281E Mustang in the movie, aka Barricade) to build them a working version. They converted a Pontiac GTO from the ground up to a fully functional 2009 concept Camaro in 30 days. That's impressive.

But when Japan brings the rain, it's nowhere near as cool. At this time of year, the rain is usually brought by means of typhoon (in Japanese, it's taifuu). Torrential downpours and winds tend to make life very difficult; trains stop running, streets flood, buildings sway, clothes get soaked, and umbrellas tend not to be effective against rain that falls sideways.

But luckily, those treacherous winds also mean the typhoon moves rather quickly and this one has been moving prefectures by the day. So by now, it off harassing other poor locals in Tochigi or something by now, just north of Saitama, where I am.

So, I made it through unscathed. The only casualty was my cheapest pair of dress pants, but that's nothing a bit of dry cleaning won't fix. Even better than that is that mid-September is coming up, which means fall is arriving and, soon after that, my first Japanese karate competition! "Bring The Rain" indeed......

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"futsukayoi". Translated literally is means "two days drunk". For those of you really on the ball, you probably have already figured out that it means a hangover. Of course, a hangover and being drunk aren't exactly the same so if you do actually find yourself still drunk the second day, might I suggest that rather than traipsing around your house (or whatever area you wake up in) declaring your newfound Japanese knowledge, you admit yourself to a hospital instead. Preventing alcohol posioning is more important than being bilingual I would think.........

What is also important, I've found, is to make sure the windows or bug screens are shut properly at night. But it's not a preventative measure against the bugs though, since their onslaught has since subsided with the rather sudden drop in temperature (25 degrees is cool if you compare it to 39). What it is useful for is keeping me from having to kill my new friend.

This is the lizard that lives on my door. Strange as it sounds, amphibians really aren't a surprise considering the climate, the abundant insect food, and the small river that flows through the town (and behind the house).

The unspoken (well, it would have to be, wouldn't it?? haha) relationship that I've imposed on him (her.... I don't know heh) is that as long as he stays on the outside part of the glass, he can be my friend. As the idea of his webbed feet crawling on my face as I sleep isn't very appealing, I afraid I will have to be mean to him should he ever come inside. I suppose I could catch him and put him back outside, but again, the communication barrier means he would try to run away and I would have to chase him. I really have better things to do with my time.

But, for now, he's upholding his end of the bargain so life goes on- figuratively and literally, in his case. Although the predicament I have now is what to call him. So feel free to suggest some names for Mr. Non-English-Speaking-Lizard-On-My-Door. And please don't say N.E.S.L.O.M.D. as that's just lazy haha........... although, it is interesting.

Anyways, suggest away and I'll pick a name later this week. Thanks! =)