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Sept 2005 - Motorcycle Gangs, 3-Hour Lunchbreaks, Time to Move On

Tottori City Library
There's a new city library that's really close to my house, so I've been going there lately to study Japanese.  It's nice and well-equipped, but there always seems to be a mother in there with a noisy, bratty kid that won't shut up.  Why would you take your noisy, bratty kid to a library of all places??

CA Winetasting
I visited LA for 9 days in August (during Obon vacation).  This time Kayo came with me--her first time to the USA.  It was awesome, but busy cuz I was visiting LA as a tourist this time.  Kayo and I went to Santa Monica, The Getty Center, Hollywood, a Dodger game, and Disneyland.  We even had time to take an overnight trip up to San Luis Obispo for wine tasting and a visit to Hearst Castle.  It was a great trip, but I needed more time to visit with everyone.

The 3-Hour Lunchbreak
Something changed in the Japan pension system recently so that any foreigners working over 30 hours now have to pay into the system.  This really sucks for AEON employees cuz it majorly reduces our already-low take-home salary. However, AEON graciously gave us the choice of keeping our salary the same, but cutting our weekly hours down to 29.5.  So basically we now have 2-3 hour lunches everyday.  And since I've been there so long, and since I now use a computer at work, I don't need much time to prepare for classes (every class has since looped several times over).  In short, I'm diggin' these long lunches big time.  I sometimes go home and cook lunch for myself and watch a movie or "Mystery Science Theater 3000" on Internet TV.  It sucks to have to go back to work after a 3-hour lunchbreak, though.

24C?  What the Hell Does That Mean?
Japan uses Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.  It makes sense, but it sucks because the degrees are so big.  When I use my AC, 24 is too cold and 25 is too hot.  I really want 24.5, but I can't do it!  I constantly have the remote in my hand so I can ping-pong between 2 settings.  Damn Celsius.

New Guitar
I got a new acoustic guitar for live performances.  I like it cuz it has a microphone built inside of it, so it can pick up percussive hits, other instruments, and even my voice.  I'm using it together with my looping pedal to get some really interesting sounds.  I've always been a big fan of experimentation as it covers up for lack of talent.

Complaint to the Shrine Drummer
I've been trying to stop the annoying shrine drummer from playing in the early morning.  I've left several notes in Japanese in the collection box at the shrine.  Then last week I actually went over there to talk to the guy.  He wasn't there, but there was a phone number on the door, so I took note of it.  As I was leaving, there was this really suspicious guy staring at me from across the street.  I think that was the guy!  He probably lives across the street from the shrine.  Anyways, I called the phone number the following day and I got some woman.  I was at my wits end with this dude, so I didn't even try to use polite Japanese.  Here's how the conversation went (translated for your convenience):

Woman: Hello. This is blah-blah cultural center.
Me: Yeah, is this the Tenjin-cho Shrine?
Woman: Yeah, we handle that.
Me: Yeah, well the shrine drummer is noisy and it has to stop.
Woman: Oh!  Well, please hold on...

Then some dude came on:
Man: Yes, may I help you?
Me: Yeah, I live near the Tenjin-cho Shrine, and sometimes the drummer plays really loudly early in the morning.  I can't sleep.  It's so noisy.  It has to stop.
Man: Oh, well....blah blah blah blah blah... (for like 5 minutes).
Me: ahhh...wait...ahhhh....excuse me...Can you please slow down?  I can't understand you.
Man: Ummm...oh....yeah, sure....blah, blah, blah, blah, blah (for like 10 minutes at the same speed as before)....I'll talk to the drummer, and tell him to quiet down....blah, blah, blah....
Me: Sometimes it's at 5:30 am.  That's ridiculous.
Man: There's no way it's that early.
Me (thinking to myself): This could be the actual drummer that I'm talking to right now.
Me: I look at my clock.  It has been that early before!
Man: Well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah (for like 5 minutes).
Me (thinking to myself): Damn...I really wish I knew what he was saying.  Is this even Japanese?
Me: You know, it would be much better if he played in the afternoon when everyone was at work.
Man: Ho-ho-ho...well, we can't do that.  Blah, blah, blah, traditions, blah, blah, blah, there is no law in Tottori City that says we can't do this.  blah, blah, blah...
Me: Well, I can't sleep, and it's noisy.
Man: blah, blah, blah (for like 10 minutes).

Then he finally stopped, so I said, "thanks" and hung-up.

I got the strong impression that this is the first complaint they've ever heard.  My students said that since it's a shrine, no one will ever complain.  I think that's lame because shrine or not, the guy wakes up the whole neighborhood at 6 am with his cacophony.

He hasn't played since the phone call, but I think it's only a matter of time before he starts again.  Kayo said she'll call and complain too.  Then at least she'll be able to understand what he's saying.  Kayo said I can also file a complaint with the city office.  My coworkers even offered to call too.  I was even thinking of putting a cry for help on my website (with the phone number) asking people to call and complain too.  Most people who go to my shows know my shrine drummer song that I wrote about this guy.  My plan is to keep complaining until I get deported.

Meet the Bou-Sou-Zokus!
While on the topic of noise, the summer in Tottori has been plagued by noisy motorcycle guys loitering around the station and revving their engines in the loudest possible way.  They purposely remove their mufflers to enhance the effect.  Again I asked Kayo and my students about these guys, and they said that despite the noise, no one does anything about it.  I want to complain to the police, but even the police are afraid of these guys.  A friend of mine said that there is no public noise law in Japan.  That makes complete sense to me since I hear shrine drummers, motorcycles, and political advertising trucks all blasting away.  Maybe I'll do a concert in the park next to my house sometime.  Or maybe I'll just keep my guitar amp turned up during apartment practice sessions.

I used to think Japanese culture was quiet and reserved.  The reality is quite the contrary.  It may be quiet and reserved on the surface; however, like every culture in the world--the Japanese need some kind of "release."  Japan just happens to choose the most dysfunctional of releases: mufflerless motor scooters, chain smoking, public knifing outbursts, and train-jumping suicides.  America takes a slightly modified approach: Allow the citizens to own firearms and watch them conveniently shoot their tensions away.

Time to Move On
I told AEON that I'm not going to renew my contract, so I've started looking for a new job.  My contract ends in February, but I definitely want to remain in Japan.  Tottori is very nice, but I'm hoping to find something in the big city as there are far more opportunities for foreigners there.  As for AEON, it was not a big shock to my bosses because AEON is a job, not a career.  Of my 8 coworkers, only 2 are "originals" that were there when I started.  And the 2 trainers at the headquarters that trained me have since left too.  I think it's time I move on as well.

AM Hall, Osaka
I did a show in Osaka at a place called AM Hall.  It was a great place because it was huge and offered incredible sound.  The show went really well, and we all (Kayo, the concert hall staff, and I) went out to a Japanese pub afterwards.  Everyone was so welcoming and kind to me--something that I often find and love about the people Osaka.  Of course, maybe the excessive amounts of alcohol had something to do with it.  Anyways, they asked me back, so I'm working on setting up a show in November.  Some members of the staff (who play in another band) offered to play with me next time.  It would be really cool to do a show with a full band, but we have to see if we can pull it off with a minimum of in-person rehearsal time.  My songs are really simple, though, so I don't foresee problems.

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