……Damn Jet Lag

I’m currently writing this at four o’clock in the morning with the sun yet to rise. I got back from a three-week vacation last Wednesday and the jet lag has unfortunately set in. As I’m not blessed with the ability to sleep on planes, the eight hour difference between the UK and Japan was been made even worse. Adapting to UK time wasn’t a problem three weeks ago. But getting reaccustomed to Japan Time has been increasingly frustrating. I just about managed four hours of sleep yesterday, but it’s still been a stressful mess.

A friend once stated that the general rule of thumb is that for each hour of time difference between destination and starting point, that will roughly correlate to the number of days required to get over the jet lag. Well, it’s been nearly a week and while it’s certainly getting better, it ain’t over yet. School starts this Friday, so I shouldn’t have any trouble getting up. But whether I’ll be able to stay awake in class is the real question. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Time To Lose Some Weight!

In an attempt to control my ever-growing stomach, I’ve decided to restart my “jogging” routine and start to control my diet. Though it’s not an aggressive, “superhero” lifestyle change, I hope to lose a few kilos over the next couple of months. The late autumn and winter season are a gourmet delight in Japan with a custom of comfort cuisine. And as a result, I’ve let myself go. I weigh myself daily on the scales, though I’m constantly adjusting the dial settings to make sure it’s “100% accurate”. And I can tell you that I’m a little shocked. This isn’t the worst shape I’ve been, but that’s not something to be proud of.

It was bought to attention when I recently visited my girlfriend’s house during the Golden Week holiday. With nothing to do, we decided to take advantage of the bigger kitchen and bake apple pie. I was handed an apron, a lady’s apron, to which her mother commented that it looked like the equivalent of a man-baby’s bib. The usual questions of weight were thrown around like my days at school, I smiled it off but deep down it was  a rather embarrassing moment. The pie turned out fantastic by the way.

I’ve cut down on the amount of sugar that I’m eating. Soft drinks have been booted off the shopping list, and dessert has unfortunately been limited to once a week. With temperatures reaching 30°C already, it’ll take some self-control not to visit the ice cream section of the supermarket. Jogging at night has proven to be the best option, as I can avoid the summer heat and the embarrassing gazes from high school students. My chubby tummy or “pon-pon”, as my girlfriend has dubbed it, dances like an anthropomorphic lava lamp while I struggle uphill. Hypnotic, if not a little reminiscent of those “Belly’s gonna get you” adverts for Reebok. We’ll just have to see what happens in the coming months.

My High School Experience

Across Japan, junior high school third graders have started their three years of high school education. And with all this talk about the students entering an important part of their lives, I got back to thinking about my high school days. England’s educational system is structurally different from the likes of America and Japan as you can tell from the table below;

England’s Education System

Grade

School

Age

Nursery

Nursery

3

Reception

Reception

4

Year 1-6

Primary School

5-11

Year 7-11

Secondary School

11-16

Year 12-13

Sixth Form / College

16-18

Anyway my “high school days” found me at a completely new school, surrounded by new teachers and new classmates. Those stressful two years were a nightmare of examinations, coursework and social toxicity. After five years of studying at my secondary school, making close friends and building an attachment to my teachers, I found myself unable to study the subjects I wanted to at a Sixth Form level. My parents were also deterred by the school’s underwhelming test averages and university prospects. Thus we decided that it would be best if I changed schools for my A-Levels. And so it was decided that I would go into private education for two years.

I was overweight, my GCSE grades (Year 11) weren’t as high as everyone else’s, and I didn’t drive to school in a Mercedes. Though these never presented a direct problem for myself, I could tell that there was a divide between those students that were overly-privileged and those who weren’t. My friend was constantly ridiculed for being sponsored to study at the school, as his parents couldn’t afford the fees. And this underlying fact that a private school meant money, was ever present in every facet of school life. BMW cars, Swiss watches and lines of coke in the bathroom definitely didn’t make me feel comfortable. This even stretched to the school’s financial dealings. The Sixth Form building had been funded by some gentlemen whose name I can’t recall. Anyway, he had returned to the school for a visit and had witnessed an impromptu water fight. We got a prompt scolding from the principal who stated that “we should be ashamed” for losing funding for the school’s future projects. None us really gave a f**k.

What particularly stands out was that Sixth Form was a period of adult themes and hurried “maturity”. This wasn’t the group of classmates that discussed The Simpsons or the weekend football scores. Instead sex, booze, calculus and rugby were common topics of conversation. A confusing mix for me. I’d never had sex, drunk booze, studied calculus or even watched a game of rugby before entering high school. Talking about sex was always an incredibly nervous experience as an overweight individual. My innocent minded couldn’t grasp the terminology or justification for bragging about it. Under-age drinking was prevalent throughout the school. In fact the school grounds were surrounded by two pubs, one in particular was the “drinking hole” for many students. I’d never touched a beer or a shot of vodka before and the peer pressure was incredibly persistent, even on school trips.

In terms of actually studying. My teachers were a mixed bag, all possessing unique personalities and foreign teaching styles to what I was used to. I had two history teachers. I always looked forward to my English History lessons purely because of the teacher. She was kind and understanding. Lessons wouldn’t be a lecture, but a discussion of opinions and ideas. Meanwhile, I loathed studying about Bismark and the Russian Tsars. Not only was it uninteresting but our teacher was an traditionalist and eccentric who had studied at Oxford University, something he was overly proud to remind us of. I loathed going to his lessons or handing in homework for the fear of being ridiculed.

In the end all that mattered was that I got the grades I needed to go to the university. I made some friends, enjoyed studying some of the material, but I never felt any connection to the school. I hated the over-privileged atmosphere of under-age drinking, drugs and pampering that was ever present. The phrase “you are an ambassador of this school” was thrown around by the principal, but it wasn’t something I was proud to be associated with. I was very fortunate to have been brought up in a family and I’m grateful that my parents were willing to invest in my education to that degree. But my high school experience wasn’t something I’d like to repeat.

My Spring Vacation

Spring vacation has unfortunately ended and it’s time to head back to work. This year’s holiday thankfully didn’t involve the stress of moving apartments or changing schools like last year’s. Instead it took the form of general laziness and “relaxation”, which ended far too quickly.

I headed up to Miyoshi on two separate occasions. Both to visit some of my good friends who had taught me at a “Japanese Evening Class” when I was living there. We’d arranged to go to the Wakunaga Garden in Akitakata on it’s opening day with the hopes of seeing the spring flora. Instead we got a couple of centimetres of snow and freezing temperatures. Typical luck for someone from England. We instead indulged in a Sunday Roast dinner at Cafe Mike and Shirley. The fragrances of lamb cooked with rosemary and pork with sage were glorious. So too were the Yorkshire Puddings and gravy. The lovely owners were celebrating their third year of business, so we got a free slice of cake.  I just wish that their cafe was closer to home, instead of the two hour train ride.

Meanwhile the annual “Cherry Blossom Festivals” across the prefecture were right at the start of April. But with the prolonged winter weather, the blossoms had failed to truly reach their peak. My Instagram feed was awash with pictures of locals sat under sparse branches, a rather depressing sight. And with a three-day spell of rain forecasted for this weekend, it could prove to be a rather disappointing viewing experience this year.

There was plenty of sitting in front of a screen though. I managed to played through the entirety of Horizon: Zero Dawn, a stellar action-adventure/ RPG with an interesting approach to the post-apocalypse genre. And I continued to gain useless experience from shooting WWI-era soldiers in Battlefield 1. Exciting stuff.  I also attempted to binge-watch Netflix’s Iron Fist, but its lack of genuinely interesting characters or really anything of particular note saw me throw in the towel after five episodes. And with Ghost in the Shell’s release here in Japan, I had a look at the two anime series that followed the original 1995 cult classic. Both were entertaining, but lacked the charm and atmosphere that made the original such a classic.

Finally, the last few days were devoted to spring cleaning. There’s always a sense of accomplishment when you sell or throw away a crapload of stuff that you never knew you had. Last year I was astonished at the amount of clutter I had collected over the course of two years. All in all, it was a pretty good spring.

Star Wars “Fever”

After watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Christmas Eve, it seems that my girlfriend and I have contracted “Star Wars Fever”. In fact, my late Christmas present from her was the Imperial Shuttle Tydirium (from Return of the Jedi) in Lego form. I sorely want the AT-AT set, but I don’t think I want to splash out the exorbitant amount of cash on eBay. Anyway, we ended up watching

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This Year’s Christmas

Christmas has passed, but now everyone’s getting ready for New Year celebrations. New Years in Japan is one of the most culturally significant dates on the calendar, far more than Christmas. People queue outside the post office doors to send their nengajo (New Years Cards), while others line up to withdraw cash for otoshidama (gift money for children). Families decorate their houses with kadomatsu and order osechi (traditional New Year’s food) for extortionate prices. So its fucking nuts everywhere. Continue reading “This Year’s Christmas”

Christmas. Bah Humbug!

The Christmas decorations have been up since October and the insufferable music is playing on loop everywhere;  J-Pop Christmas songs with broken English….kill me now!!! This will be the third Christmas I’ve spent in Japan, and it remains one of the most “depressing” times of the year. My Facebook feed has been plastered with pictures of decorated trees, Mariah Carey live performances, and the god-awful John Lewis advert.

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