Location: Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum

It was nearly 40 years ago when Tokyo hosted the first Olympics held in Asia. Most of the 1964 competitions were at Tokyo's new, giant, state-of-the-art stadium.
 It's big enough for soccer matches to be held inside the track. Many of the most important soccer games held in Japan are played on this field. I happened to be watching TV a week or two ago and saw an international match televised from this stadium (most likely the Fuji Xerox Cup).
 The stadium is named National Stadium or National Olympic Stadium.
 Tucked away beneath the stands sits this statue, outside the entrance to our destination: the Prince Chichibu (or Prince Chichiba) Memorial Sports Museum (in Japanese).
 I kept the number of pictures to a minimum as I wasn't sure if photography was allowed. However, I am presenting the pictures as the report of my visit, and hopefully encourage some more people to visit.

The museum is much larger than expected. You enter through the first floor and pay your fee (300 yen for adults). The guide may ask you then if you'd like to "tour" the stadium, and if you say yes she'll give you a badge with instructions in Japanese. Don't worry, there's a small map to help guide you to the proper area. You might be able to walk around the whole stadium, but I went to the area shown on the map to take the pictures seen above. It was very cold and rainy when I went (even snowing and sleeting at times) so walking around a giant stadium didn't really interest me on that dreary day!

After returning to the museum, you head upstairs, where the real exhibits begin.
 The first room is very spacious, especially when you compare it to the first floor entry space. There are artifacts from several Olympic competitions, highlighted by several Olympic torches used since the early 1900s and artifacts from the 1964 games, such as the podium you see above. I think you can stand on it, but I didn't - maybe a great photo op! (I should have asked!)
 Continuing to the next room, there are several more artifacts from other, generally older sporting competitions. However, you can't miss the pacing car above. If I understand correctly, it was used to video the track as races were in progress, following its own little track. There is a short (about 90 second) video that plays on the tv seen at the top of the photo that even non-Japanese speakers can enjoy.
 I found a few displays of old baseball equipment. Many sports are included, though.
The exhibits seem to go on forever! It's a very large museum, especially for something "tucked away" inside a working stadium. The plaques honor several Olympic events, and if I remember correctly, the Japanese athletes who competed. The cases to the left hold even more competition artifacts, including medals and pins. The back room is a sort of shrine or dedication to Prince Chichibu.
I should note that the exhibits are not focused entirely on Japanese athletes . This is Vera Caslavska's leotard from the '64 Olympics, where she won gold. Her story is more interesting when you read the details, though. The entire case where this artifact is found is full of foreign athletes from Olympics throughout the past 100+ years.

I was thoroughly impressed with the collection and display of materials at the museum. As I've said, it's a very large museum, especially for its type, and it has a broad selection to view. There is little English signage, which can make it difficult to understand the importance of many of the artifacts, but sports fans and Olympics fans especially will enjoy this side trip on a slow day. I went on a Saturday, and I was the only one there (although, again, it was very cold and rainy).

The website currently (March 1, 2012) lists its hours as 9:30-4:30, closed on Sunday. Admission is 300 yen, with discounts for children and disabled persons. The museum may be closed on days where an event is held - especially major events like the Fuji Xerox Cup. You can get there by a five-minute walk from Sendagaya Station (once you exit the station, look for directional signs to the stadium). The stadium is part of a large park, so you could spend several hours or a fullin the area having a picnic, walking around, visiting the shrines, and catching a Swallows baseball game in the evening.

Good morning!

It's February 29. A day that happens only once every four years.

So at 2AM, the earthquake alert goes off on my phone. Happy leap day!

And then, I open my window to see what you see in the picture. It's snowing. In what should be March. Woohoo!

I have the internets! Let's write a post! (AKA How to set up your home internet service in Japan.)

As advertised, I installed my internet this morning. There was a great bit of stressing and worrying about properly installing everything. It's not that I'm technologically impaired - there are some differences between Japanese internet and the internet I've had at home.

First, everything is in Japanese! Every piece of paper given to me regarding my internet installation was written in kanji. This included all the instructions. My router software is in Japanese only. The software provided by the internet company was Japanese-only, which meant it was very difficult to install (and it still didn't properly install).

Second, Japan (at least, the internet service I use - NTT) uses PPPoE, a login protocol I wasn't familiar with. You sign up with a line provider and a service provider and you get IDs and passwords for both. It turns out I only needed the one from my service provider to login, but I wasn't sure of this.

Third, the person who set the account up for me stressed strongly the need to ensure everything was up and running on the installation date. I'm not sure what would have happened if I didn't, but I was afraid I'd mess something up and have to wait another week or two for service.

It turns out that for the most part, my worries were unfounded. So some tips to anyone going through a similar process:

If they tell you that you can install the service on your own, it's not too tough a job. This is especially true if (a) you know where your phone line is in an apartment - even if you don't have phone service and (b) if you've set up your own internet/network devices in America or other countries (I'm guessing). There's a modem that connects to the phone line, to which you then connect your router or computer.
If you're using a router, the service provider ID and password get entered into the PPPoE settings in the router. PPPoE was written in "English" in the menu of my Buffalo-brand router, under the Internet tab (again, in English). Then I just matched the characters for user ID and user password on my service provider's sheet.
If you're connecting the modem directly to your computer, you need to set up PPPoE on your own machine. You don't need to install any special software if you're running Vista or newer, but I recommend searching for instructions on how to set up a PPPoE connection. It isn't hard to do and the instructions will be the same whether you're connecting to a Japanese network or an American network.
It was very easy to identify the user ID and password on my service provider's sheet. They provided a couple different IDs and passwords, though - so if this is the case, use the first set provided. I am making the assumption that you've hooked up a home network before, though. If you haven't, it might be best to find a friend with experience setting up this sort of stuff. Working with kanji is very difficult if you don't read it, and not having an idea of how to set up a router can make this task impossible when everything is in kanji and you don't know what to look for.
Now that my internet is up, I can finally get back to writing posts daily or at least every other day. I've done a good bit of exploring in Tokyo and I have a lot to write about, so hopefully tomorrow I'll pick a good topic for everyone.

I will say, now, that the most difficult part of living in Japan continues to be the language. I can translate most websites fairly well using Google's translation tool, but it doesn't work when I'm in the grocery store staring at something that could be fish, pork, or chicken. Or octopus balls, as it seems I ate Sunday night. I'm always able to get the basics down to get what I need, and most of the questions I get asked tend to be the same so I have got in the routine of answering a certain way when I get a question, or just answering before I get asked.

For example, when I buy bento (takeout) meals at the convenience stores, most of the time they'll ask if I want it heated. When I go to a restaurant that has takeout or sit-in meals (i.e. McDonalds), I'll know to say "eat in" (pointing down) or "takeout" (pointing towards the door) - most seem to know "takeout" anyway. Japanese convenience store employees are very good about using gestures - they'll wave at the screen when telling me their total, they'll point to the microwave or hold up a spoon, etc. And again, most stuff is so routine, I can figure out what they're asking or saying.

But still, amongst all the noise and talking around and with me, I live in a fairly quiet, isolated world when I'm not at work. But that's a post for another day. And not tomorrow.

Here is one of the most popular songs in Japan right now - the only one I ever seem to hear:
Until next time, goodnight!

Update: Sightseeing and Sickness

The past couple weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me. I wake up feeling great one day, and sick the next. I vacuumed my apartment for the first time a couple weeks ago and I think I kicked up some major dust that sent my sinuses on fire, making the next couple days miserable. I finally got better, and then my sleep patterns were a bit messed up, and I spent a day at work exhausted.

I recovered in time for the three day weekend (11th-13th) and all the excitement that was to bring: a good bit of Tokyo sightseeing, dinner and karaoke with my friend Ellie and her husband and friends on Saturday, and meeting a blogging friend on Monday. There are stories to be told for all of them, which I hope I can write this week. But I stayed up a little late Monday night and was pretty tired on Tuesday. I recovered for Wednesday and then developed a cold that really slowed me down for the rest of the week. Sunday was better as my cold seemed to be on the way out, and Monday was better still. It's now Tuesday morning and I'm feeling nearly 100%. I've found that using a sleeping mask (recommended by one of the girls I went to training with) helps me sleep a bit better, especially once it gets to be morning and the early sun brightens up my room.

Meanwhile, I signed up for internet last night, so I should have my own super-fast signal in exactly one week. Until then, it's very difficult to post pictures (I tried to add a photo to this post and it just would not work), and thus writing posts with pictures of all my travels is pointless right now. I think I got a pretty good deal - three months free plus 10,000 yen to spend at the electronics store where I signed up for service. I get the feeling it's the same offer everywhere as I checked a few places. I might get a printer or router, if the price is right.

So until I get internet service, thanks for reading! I might make a couple short posts with my phone this week (a little faster but the formatting is different). I have some goodies (candy) to show you.

The Grand Tour: My Tiny Apartment

It’s been three weeks since I moved into my apartment, and it’s quite nice. While it’s only about 7 tatami mats in size, it’s laid out fairly well and I’m able to have a spacious-feeling area.
My Tiny Apartment from the Interior Doorway - my futon is on the floor in the right corner, folded up. It's a nice, sunny day!
I can’t measure it directly, but I estimate the main living space is about 10 feet by 10 feet square. In what is about the size of a small American bedroom, I have my closet, my TV, a shelving unit, and my futon. There’s also a small desk-table and folding chair, a cabinet which holds my linens and also serves as a table and space for my rice cooker, and a rack for hanging clothes. During the day, I can fold the covers and futon up to open up the floor to make it easier to walk around. It makes the whole place seem much bigger.
My Tiny Apartment looking at the Interior Doorway from the window. The bag and box on top of the white shelving is all trash to be taken out, with my trash bin near the middle of the photo next to the stacked suitacses.
Near the entrance is the kitchen and bathroom. The bathroom is really two parts: the shower/tub/sink enclosure and a separate “room” for the toilet. This means that the toilet doesn’t get wet during shower time and any unpleasantness the toilet brings stays in its own (ventilated) space. Outside the toilet is the washing machine (no dryer) – it’s a fairly good machine as it seems to clean my clothes well, but I certainly miss having a dryer.
Looking from the interior doorway to the entry door. The bathroom is on the left, and there's a hint of kitchen on the right.
When I get paid in a couple weeks, the first thing I plan to purchase is a decent chair. After rearranging a little bit (with only a couple pieces of furniture in the place, it isn’t a big chore) I found a better arrangement which leaves a good place to put a chair with a footrest. I’m thinking that eventually I should get myself a foot massager to use as a foot rest! My feet are quite tired and sore by the end of the day.
My tiny closet, full of clothes. There are plenty of blankets on the top shelf, and my vacuum is hiding on the lower left.
There isn’t room for anything else as far as furniture goes. It might be nice to have a real bed (instead of sleeping on the floor) and I could fit it in, but I’m sleeping well enough now that I don’t find it to be a necessity. While I can’t sit on the floor for long periods of time and sitting in my little folding chair gets uncomfortable fast (thus making a good chair a necessity), my sleeping abilities aren’t suffering due to using a futon so I’ll just stay as I am.
The kitchen! Not much counter space and only one burner. There are pots in storage under the burner, and the cabinet over the sink can hold food.
The fridge is fairly large and the microwave also works as a toaster oven. I haven’t done any real cooking yet, but I plan on making tacos tomorrow night - I bought everything on the way home tonight. I can get a pretty good fresh meal for under 500 yen at several restaurants and convenience store food is even less expensive, so there is little incentive to cook.
The shower unit bath. No curtain - I shut the door to keep the water in.
I have only one small problem with the apartment. Due to its size, humidity from my daily shower (even with the ventilation fan going) and laundry causes condensation to collect on my window. I am worried about mold or mildew growing on things, so I have to be sure to air out my apartment as often as possible. The same goes for my futon, and I do my best to be sure it’s in a position that any moisture from the night before (from normal sweating) has a chance to dry.
The private toilet which plugs into the wall. It's heated, and when you flush, water comes out of the faucet at the top to rinse your hands.
As for the size, I don’t need a large place. The storage tower I have is big enough that it should be able to hold all the souvenirs I collect over the next year or more, and I have enough furniture to be happy when I come home. I don’t plan on spending much time in my apartment, and even on those days when I do, there isn’t much I can add to it to make it more pleasant. I do need a set of instruments for my Xbox, though! Maybe next month…
Last, the first view you have of my apartment - bathroom and washing machine on the right, with the kitchen to the left. The box against the kitchen cabinets is my short table, which I just put behind the trash bin. The big grey blob in the middle is gone (the old futon).
So that's my apartment! I hope you enjoyed the grand tour!

My daily life as an English teacher in Japan

As I finish my second full week of actual teaching, I figured you might be interested in knowing what a day in the life of an English teacher in Japan is like.

I try to wake up by 9am. It isn’t easy. Wednesday I slept in until 11AM – but then, I was really sick and needed the sleep. Most days I’m up by 10AM.

Depending on how early I get out of bed, I have time to catch up on reading – mainly, the blogs I follow. Yes, despite my lack of posting for the past couple weeks, I was able to skim all the posts you’ve made and I’ve read several. Leaving comments isn’t that easy on an iPhone, though it’s much simpler than on my old Blackberry. I also use my morning time to check email and Facebook.

I take my shower and prep for work starting around 10:30 if I can. I use the full hour of “prep” time to also fold up my futon, open up the curtains (and possibly the balcony door to air out the apartment), and if I prepared, have a bit of breakfast. My latest favorite has been cream-filled pastries from the 100-yen shop – a full, delicious (not really healthy) meal for about a buck. I also enjoy some sandwiches/wraps – some with ham, egg, and cheese, or some other combination. I’ve had bananas on hand and juice as well for the morning.

I leave the house by 11:30. Tuesdays and Fridays, I don’t start until 1pm, so I might fuss around the apartment, cleaning or sorting or working through some other chores. Fridays have been my internet cafĂ© mornings, so I’ve braved the cold for an hour with the rest of the world. Saturdays are early days. I'm at work before 10. If I get out on time, I could pick up something to drink or eat on the way (well, eat at the school – I don’t eat on the train). It’s only a two minute walk to the train station from my apartment. The train ride takes about 7 minutes, and then my school is about five minutes from the train platform. I can get from my door to the school’s door in 15 minutes if the train leaves as soon as I get to the platform and on-board. Otherwise, another train usually departs within the next 5 minutes or so. The longest I’ve ever waited for a train in either direction was 10 minutes – much better than waits of 20 minutes or more at times for the streetcars back in San Francisco.

I usually arrive about 10-15 minutes early, which I need to prepare myself for the day – change into my work shoes, hang up my jacket, put on my nametag, etc. Some days, I teach a lesson as soon as my day begins, so I need to review the lessons before meeting my students and starting the day.

I teach between four and seven lessons per day, with each lesson being 30 minutes (for babies), 45 minutes (pre-schoolers), or 50 minutes (school children and adults) long. Each day has a different schedule, but it’s generally the same from week to week. Wednesdays are my most difficult right now – seven lessons, including four pre-school children’s lessons. Saturdays are my “longest” days – again, seven lessons, but mostly adult. During my nine-hour day I also get a one-hour lunch, so those two days leave me with only one hour of “prep” time.

My day is over about 9pm, though I need to say goodbye to students, put away my materials, and do any cleaning needed (it’s my turn two or three times per week). I get home by 10pm, usually after browsing a convenience store for food or picking something up from a restaurant.

I walk in my door, take off my shoes, and relax. I eat my dinner, watch some Japanese TV, browse the ‘net on my iPhone, and go to bed around midnight.

Trying to stay on a normal schedule while working an afternoon/evening job may be one of the most difficult parts of my life! There isn't much time in the mornings for anything, and there isn't much to do after 9pm other than karaoke, pachinko, and drinking! But I still enjoy my job and it makes the weekends all that much better.

Valentine's Day in Japan!

Gift giving in Japan is a big deal. There's an art to it here - people are in a constant struggle to provide equal-or-better gifts in return for previous gifts. So it should be no surprise that Japanese culture has adopted a few gift giving holidays from the west, including Valentine's Day.

Things are a bit different here, though. On Valentine's Day, women give men gifts - usually chocolate - but men don't give anything in return. It's a time for women to show men they like them, where normally they might be too shy or reserved to say anything outright.

Not all gifts are signs of love, though: women might give all the men in the office a small "obligation" gift. And the holiday carries down to the children, as girls bring sweets for the boys in class.

So is this fair? The women do all the shopping while the men don't have to buy anything! Well, not quite. One month later men give gifts to the women on a day known as White Day.

Most of the stores have Valentine's Day advertising campaigns, with sometimes quite-large areas of the floor devoted to chocolates and other gifts. Kiosks and tables are set up in the malls with even more sweets selection. It's a big deal here!
I received my first gift yesterday (Friday) evening, from one of the children. It's very kawaii (cute)! Chocolate covered marshmallows with sprinkles and little silver balls (are those edible? I think they are). And it came in a cute Mickey and Minnie bag!

Should I receive any more gifts this weekend and Tuesday, I'll be sure to share!


Oishii means delicious and that's what these are. One of our students brought in some cream puffs and this peanut-filled one was totally awesome. I already have a major love of cream puffs!

An update!

Wow, two days in a row! Maybe I really am back!

I'm suffering through some very slow internet right now - but it's free, and I don't know how long it will last. I wrote a couple posts today that I will bring to you in the next couple of days, plus there are many more to come! I've made a list that currently sits at 14 topics - thus I can provide a post a day for the next two weeks without any additional travel or occurrences! I need to get back to my other two blogs, though! I'm really excited to show off some of my latest acquisitions.

Monday night through Tuesday night was really bad. I had a big headache, a sore throat, sinus issues, and I was exhausted; my entire body ached. I wrote the post, though, and went straight to bed. After twelve hours of sleep, I woke up this morning feeling much better. I still have some sinus blockage and I'm trying to keep myself clear to avoid an infection, but otherwise I am pretty much back to my normal self.

We had another noticeable earthquake this evening (5.9), but as usual, nothing came of it as far as damage. Most of the larger earthquakes are far enough away that they can be felt but they don't knock anything over around here.

My apartment is almost set up. One of the posts I've written is about my apartment, but I need to photograph it. Before I take the pictures, I want to finish the cleaning and reorganization I did this weekend. Being sick cut into the time I planned to use for the last of these chores.

I realize more and more every day (especially this week) that not having internet at home is bad for my health. Mainly because I can't watch TV with actors speaking English, I'm watching too many of my DVDs. With internet, I can stream my favorite shows! Plus, it won't be so hard for me to use the blogger site and entertain myself/unwind after work.

But! Things are going great. As long as I get to bed on time, I can get enough sleep. I enjoy my teaching and I love getting out and exploring Saitama's (the prefecture where I live) and Tokyo's neighborhoods on my days off. I feel kind of bad that I'm not going to the places I "planned" on visiting in Tokyo and beyond, but with the cold weather and leafless, dull trees, visiting parks, temples, amusement parks, and baseball stadiums isn't much of an option. Besides, I've only been here for one month. There are at least 40 more weekends for me to get out and do everything else on my list.

This weekend should be really fun, too! Ellie and Eiji are going to a party and have invited me to join them on Saturday night! I'm looking forward to my first karaoke night! And Kenny (some of you know in the card world) will be in town Monday! Siri says it will rain on Monday, but not during the weekend, so I might be able to visit a few more places. And, of course, I should spend some of my time these next few days writing posts.

So until I have a chance to take pictures of my place for my next post, Sayonara! (Wait, that's Fuji's closing. Umm... Yoiichinichiwo!

I am alive, I promise!

It's been a long time since my last post and I'm sorry. These past two weeks have been a big adjustment. The whole first week involved learning about my classes and teaching, plus getting comfortable in my apartment. The past week was my first full week of teaching so I was busy prepping my lessons and quite tired at night. It's a big deal when your workday starts at noon and ends at 9. There isn't much time in the evenings or mornings for playing around.

Plus I still haven't set up Internet yet in my apartment. This means I've been making a weekly trek to an Internet cafe to do searches/research and anything else to catch up for the previous week. I have my iPhone so u can keep up with reading all your blogs, check email, and post on Facebook. But writing posts seems to be a bit beyond my abilities!

Rest assured I will return soon to all my blogs. I have plenty to tell you about Japan, including a good bit of Japanese cardboard (for those interested in such things) and some sightseeing/exploring stories. My computer is at my school tonight but I will try to start writing some posts over the next couple days.

I felt a bit sick today (starting last night after I vacuumed) so I think I inhaled some nastiness from the vacuum. I quite tired and I'd love to take a nice hot bath but my towel is still wet from laundry this morning (no dryer). So, tomorrow! Meanwhile, keep o reading! I'll be back!