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June 2005 - April Fools, Jusco Mornings, and Japanese TV Jaunts

April Fools!
My bosses Akiko and Maiko played an April Fools joke on me.  They pulled me into the interview room and told me that I had to be let go.  I kinda bought into it before they talked to me (they had me wait a bit) because I've heard horror stories of visa problems and stuff like that.  Anyways, it was an April Fools joke.  I hate April Fools jokes involving trouble at work, so I began plotting my revenge.  The whole day I acted like I was upset with them about the joke.  I went home after work and wrote an email that looked like it was from the trainer Alec at the AEON headquarters in Okayama.  It's an old and very easy computer trick that spammers use all the time.

Anyways, the email said that I had called him and told him that I was upset and that I want to submit a formal complaint to the head office.  It also said that he wants to talk with the two of them on a conference  call with their regional manager.  I sent the email to their cell phones.  I waited a few minutes and sent another fake email seemingly from my coworker Rebecca that said I was really upset.  Akiko called me in a massive panic apologizing profusely.  She was even with Maiko at the time all the emails came in.  It was perfect.  Luckily for me, Rebecca was not with them at the time.  That would've ruined it.

I strung Akiko along a short time telling her that we'll talk more during the conference call tomorrow morning.  Then I said "April Fools!"  It was freakin' awesome.  Akiko had even called Rebecca to talk to her before calling me, but she was in the bath at the time and didn't answer the phone.  Akiko said the two of them were really freaked out.  I told them never to mess with a computer dork.  I was glad they didn't know you could do that with a computer.  My old IT coworkers probably would've seen right through it.

Now I just have to work on my own gullibility.  I fall for April Fools jokes all the time.  Damn.

New Cell Phone
I got a new cell phone.  This time I went to the Vodafone shop by myself hoping that I could figure out the Japanese.  I did fine, but the woman there was odd.  She talked to me in this loud voice like I was deaf and mentally retarded.  I kept thinking, "What's your deal?  I'm not deaf."  My pimp new gold cell phone is a little bigger, but quite cool.  It has a 2.1 mega pixel digital camera that can also shoot video, and I can even watch TV on it.

Mike and Joe's Golden Week Adventure
My friends Mike and Joe came out to visit during Golden Week.  Kayo and I picked them up in Osaka; we crashed for the night; then headed to Tottori.  That same night we had a live concert scheduled in Tottori (Mike was going to be my special guest guitarist), so we had to practice.  Thinking that most tenants were out of town for the holiday and having over-confidence in the thick concrete building walls of my apartment, I turned up Mike's guitar amp a little bit more than I usually would.

This proved to be a grave mistake on my part.  My Japanese neighbor whom I had never met rang my doorbell.  When I answered the door, he glared at me with sagging, disappointed eyes and angrily said "SSSHHHHHH!"  I politely apologized for the transgression.  Given that Japanese almost never complain directly, I must've crossed a very wide threshold and landed well beyond the redzone.

Next came the landlady.  She politely explained that she received complaints about the noise.  Fearing further complaints (particularly ones directed to my AEON manager), I immediately put an end to the apartment practice session.  With no other choice, Mike, Joe, and I headed down to the Tottori riverside to continue practicing.  Needless to say, we got quite a number of curious stares from Japanese joggers.  It's not everyday you see 3 foreigners performing songs along the Sendai River in Tottori apparently.

Mike and I played that night at Afterhours to a crowd of mostly AEON students, coworkers, and Tottori University students.  Joe even joined us for the last song--a cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."  The show went really well (no doubt due to our riverside practice session), and it was so cool playing with Mike again.  I so wish we could play every show together.

After the show Mike and his guitar chops proved very popular.  He was called up on stage to guest jam with the house band.  He rocked out a sweet solo on the guitarist's Fender Strat, but unfortunately got over-zealous and broke a string.  But it was a dramatic way to end the solo, and the crowd went nuts (especially Joe and I).  If only he had completely destroyed the guitar a la Nirvana...

Somehow a very attractive Japanese girl from Kobe began talking with Mike.  She studied piano performance and had an interest in Mike's musicianship (and more).  Her English was very limited, however, so Kayo and I translated for them.  It was funny having to translate Mike's ultra-skillful flirtations.  Mike was bummed, though.  Here he meets this very cute girl all of a sudden, but can't communicate with her.  Oh, and don't forget she lives in JAPAN.  I told Mike: "Now you know what motivated me to start studying this language."  Joe cheered-up the situation by saying something like, "It must be so depressing having random cute girls talk to you after rocking out on stage."  Leave it to Joe to see the bright side, and Mike to see the dark.  Those 2 are like yin and yang.  Maybe deep down they're Asian like me.

Sightseeing activities in Tottori included the famous coastal sand dune as well as a daytime jaunt at "JJ Club"--a 24/7 entertainment palace that reminds me of Pleasure Island from "Pinocchio."  Our daily breakfast in Tottori was aptly named "Jusco Morning" and included sushi, sashimi, edamame, kushi-katsu, gyoza, and about 6 liters of beer all purchased at the Jusco down the street.  90% of the beer was proudly consumed in public by Mike and Joe during the 5-minute walk back to my apartment.  Yes, there is no public drinking law in Japan, and we Americans love taking advantage of that.  Kayo got used to finding us comfortably drunk upon her arrival at my apartment.  How fun it must be to drive 3 drunk Americans around Tottori!

Next, we headed to Hiroshima with Kayo.  I had never been there before, so it was new for me too.  We went to Peace Park, the Atomic Bomb dome, and the Peace Memorial Museum on the first day.  Then we headed to Miyajima Shrine (on an island) the second day.  We stumbled upon a beer vending machine nearby the shrine and photographed it far more than the shrine itself.  Yes, the true beauty of Japan lies within its plethora of vending machines.

Then back in Tottori we visited the Iwado coastline and Amedaki (Rain Waterfall).  Transportation was thanks to my friend and student Yumi.  Yumi seemed to have taken a liking to Mike, so we gave him shotgun on the way to the waterfall.  Kayo, Joe, and I all passed out in the back of Yumi's van; however Mike remained wide awake due mostly to Yumi's lack of any recognizable driving skills.  According to Mike we almost died twice--one near miss head-on with a truck, and another treacherous near careen off the mountain ridge.  Kayo, Joe, and I were completely ignorant of these happenings.  We awoke upon safe arrival at the waterfall.  Mike was perturbed and his face was dripping with beads of sweat.  We asked him what was wrong, and he nervously reported on Yumi's driving.  We were all still alive, so Kayo, Joe, and I ignored Mike's report dismissing it as his usual paranoia.

Mondaiji on Japanese TV
I was on Japanese TV!  The guy that runs the record store that sells my CDs introduced me to a TV producer with Nihonkai Television.  He wanted to feature me on a show that was gonna introduce some foreign musicians living in Tottori (all 2 of us).  The catch was that it was gonna be live TV filmed while I was supposed to be at work.  Luckily, the filming was during a time I didn't have a class scheduled.   This meant it was at least possible.

I asked my boss if I could take a "longer lunch" to do the filming.  She very hesitatingly agreed.  That week was stressful, and the big day was even more so.  That morning I went to a rehearsal.  They asked me a ton of questions, and I did my best to follow along.  Immediately after, I had to taxi to work and teach.  Then we had a teacher's meeting during which the head teacher mad-dogged me to such an extent that even a retarded monkey could've read her mind.

I got antsy during the meeting because timing was critical; however, the head teacher took her sweet-ass time wrapping up.  Immediately after the meeting I jammed to the studio by taxi.  I was so nervous about the shooting (being my first time) that I took the liberty of preparing a "secret booze bottle" -- basically a plastic bottle of orange juice spiked with plenty of nerve-calming medicine known as vodka.  I swigged it in the taxi and in the studio restroom.  Alas, I hadn't had time to eat lunch so the vodka hit me fast.  I think I also smelled like a homeless wino stuck in an alcoholic fog.

The shoot itself was a rush--both good and bad.  The song went perfectly, but I wish I had had more time to prepare for the interview because my Japanese just isn't at a level where I can quickly think on my feet and improvise.  They asked a few questions that weren't in the rehearsal, and they talked about 10x faster than before.  I understood maybe 70% of what was going on, and the misunderstood 30% was horrifically awkward and uncomfortable for both the hosts and myself.  They also probably smelled the vodka on my breath despite the various breath-masking implements I had utilized.

Anyways, the show was broadcast in 2 prefectures and was even advertised a few days before in the newspaper, web, and TV.  All in all it was an unforgettable experience, and I learned a lot about my performance strengths and weaknesses.  The best I can do is simply continue building confidence both in Japanese and on the stage.

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