Saturday, December 22, 2007


Ive been reading and sleeping and eating and drawing. I havent had an English conversation with someone since Monday. My futon has been moved into the living room, and my roommate moved out. I wrote some blog entries at home, but then I got sick of the idea of talking about myself, so I cant manage to bring them to the internet cafe. I get sad when I think about my dying sketchblog, but then Im happy because I know my comic book is taking shape. Very, very, slowly.

EDIT 2007.12.27
I added the posts I wrote at home.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Frozen Peas

I didn’t leave the house today. Actually, I just went to 7-11, but it’s after midnight. So, I didn’t leave the house yesterday. I put myself together enough (but somehow forgot to button my fly) to bike around the corner and go to the only place open 24 hours in this city. I need something to make this toothache go away. Im not sure what I thought Id find at a convenience store that never has anything I need ever, but if there were pliers for sale I would have spent my last few yen on them.

I didn’t get out of bed until four (except to pee a few times). I heard the doorbell at about 11am. I didn’t budge. Whoever it was, I am sure I didn’t want to see them. I was awake, in bed (or on futon), but there was nothing to get me to actually leave my room. No plans, friends, work, ideas. I read a little bit. I stared at Owl Skunk.

Finally, I was a little hungry and got up and poured myself some cereal. If it weren’t for food I would probably just float away. It gives me purpose. I need some everyday. After the cereal I took a bath. It ended abruptly, as usual, fearfully jumping out of the hot water, convinced I just heard one of the paper doors slide open. Ive never lived alone, turns out Im horribly paranoid.

I could have drawn today, but I didn’t want to. The phrase creative paralysis keeps creeping into my head. I think about what I could be potentially painting or drawing and Im immediately bored of myself. The other day I started work on a watercolour still life of all the fruit people have been giving me. That isn’t what I want to be drawing. I think of working on my comic book, which I have resolved will mostly be about me and my lack of knowledge about anything else, and I am repulsed by the idea of drawing my face or hands again. At least not today.

My comic has turned into a monster. I don’t just feel guilty when I don’t work on it, I feel like I am turning my back on the one interesting thing I can accomplish in my life. Without it Im lost. And sometimes Im terrified to touch it.

I also don’t have a desk. And the aesthetics of a workplace are important. Sitting in my dirty kitchen or on the itchy tatami, fluorescent bulbs humming over my head, isn’t exactly an environment conducive to art-making. Or am I making excuses? Maybe I don’t have what it takes at all-- even though I can think of many examples of how little it actually takes.

Anyway, creative paralysis.

So now Im writing this. Im at home, on my internet-free laptop. It’s kind of like what a castaway stranded on a deserted island would do. With no one to talk to, no one who speaks my language (and not just English), I keep my sanity by keeping a record. A list to prove I existed. I am alone, in Japan, and trying to make the pain of my toothache go away by sticking frozen peas between my cheek and gums. And also, I took something that Im sure will knock me out for a few days.

Until then.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More More More

Today Jon asked me why I don’t write blog posts at home and then bring them to the internet café on my little pink USB stick. It’s true, I do have a lot of downtime at home and I spend huge portions of it sleeping or in the bath. I could do something a little more productive, and update this blog thing.

But whenever I write here I feel like I’m complaining or just giving mundane details of my day-to-day life. Maybe that’s what blogs are. Hilarious situations happen here a lot, but when I sit in front of the computer screen I draw a blank. Sketchblogging is so much easier (if I could just get myself to do some of that!).

As I write this a little Japanese voice inside my computer is asking me “sō desu ka?” How appropriate. Within the last week Ive gone from banning the Japanese language in my home (at least when it’s gaijin saying things I don’t understand) to having a slight grasp on the language. When I first came to Japan I didn’t know a word. I couldn’t recognize anything said on TV or to me. At my first (and only) Japanese lesson a few weeks ago, the woman was asking me for my name and I gave her a blank stare that created a whole new remedial section in my beginner’s class.

Now Im starting to pick things up. It took a combination of hearing the same thing repeated over and over, learning about the grammatical structures, and seeing the words written in romanji in books. But, even when you read Japanese in the familiar script it is pronounced differently than in English. For example, “desu” is pronounced dess. The “u” is silent. And “hajimemashite” is an example of how tricky it is. It’s pronounced ha-jee-may-mosh-tay. I’d say I know about fifty words. I can make a few questions but cant really put sentences together beyond “My name is…” and “I like it.”

Tonight I had a Nabe party at my house. Jon was here and some former students from Nova, as well as a woman I give private English lessons to. She came to the grocery store with me and it was amazing! I could just pick up a product and she could tell me what it was and what was in it! That’s part of my reason for wanting to learn Japanese. Also, it gives me some brain food. But knowing that even if I study intensely for a few years I wont be completely fluent makes me feel defeated and unmotivated. Because I know I wont put that much effort into it. I think I have the attitude that if Im not going to be perfect at it (and will forget most of it when I move back home) it isn’t even worth spending time on. Of course, then I look around and realize where I am and pick back up my Kanji Starter book.

Like today, for example. I was in the shower and Jon was cooking pancakes (it was 4pm). All of a sudden the hot water turned off! Like, nothing was coming out of the showerhead. I got out of the bathroom and into my freezing apartment and asked Jon what happened. He had leaned on the hot water heater control. I stood there trying to fix it for twenty minutes, whining about my situation and screaming “I hate Japan!” I pushed the four buttons in every sequence conceivable and but nothing worked. The voice inside the box just kept saying, something-something-blah-blah-kudasai. I had to call Sister Fuji, luckily she came over and said the problem was that we hadn’t turned off the faucets. That’s what that voice was saying. Of course.

Funny thing happened yesterday. I was trying to find the kanji for “Kudamatsu” so I Googled “Japanese Kanji Kudamatsu.” Guess what the first result was… youre looking at it.

The Food

I hate the food here. Other than the ridiculously expensive strawberries, I find most things here unappealing. The bread I bought yesterday was gross. I threw up after eating at the Tex-Mex place in Iwakuni on Sunday. No matter what I buy I can taste Japan in it.

Jon coming here has validated my opinion of the food. Thus far, he’s not a fan. The soymilk is different, the coffee tastes watery, and tofu dishes lack any kind of spice or flavour. We’re not the only ones, though. Non-vegetarian gaijin hate the food, too. And it’s not even being afraid of something new or different, it’s just totally unappetizing. I watch cooking shows on TV and have never once started salivating from what Ive seen. And unless you’ve been here I don’t want your opinion of how I should feel about the food. Going to a Japanese themed restaurant or an American sushi place is not the same.

There is a place in Tokuyama I really like though, called Trés Café. The menu is completely Japanese (with no pictures) but Ive been there enough times with Ashley (who can read and speak the stuff) to know how to order the ¥800 set (it’s a great deal!). I know I impressed Jon yesterday when I ordered us both the sets (which includes a salad or sandwich, fruit, toast, jam, and soup) and answered what kind of soup (pumpkin), said we wanted salad and communicated which dressing. I forgot about the jam flavour question, though. So when the waiter managed to get “Strawberry, blueberry?” out in English I asked if he was asking about the coffee flavour. That got a laugh from the chef and other waiters later when I saw him retell his hilarious gaijin-tale. But Trés Café isn’t Japanese food, obviously. They don’t even have chopsticks there.

I do like noodles sometimes. I love the ramen at Antonio’s yatai. Last night some guy ordered me and Jon tofu Oden, understanding we were vegetarian. I ate a piece out of politeness (and complete drunkenness), but a piece of tofu floating around with fish, pork and eggs in a dirty pan with soy sauce isn’t exactly vegetarian. My spirit is slowly being broken.

I have tons of food in my house right now. Jon brought me a huge jar of peanut butter and bags of beans (among other things) from Canada. And there were massive leftovers from the Nabe (my fridge is stuffed with cabbage and vegetables I don’t know the names of). Sister Fuji keeps bringing me fruits and vegetables and my dining room table has a fruit bowl overflowing with grapefruits, kiwis, and mandarins. Yup, food.

God, I hate this blog.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Thanks so much for the books everyone!

I've started to learn some Japanese and read a bit of kanji. I'm no where near the 2,000 characters the Japanese government deems 'essential' but I have figured out I live in Yamaguchi, or 山口. 山 [yama] means 'mountain' and and '口' [guchi] can mean mouth or opening. I think it is pronounced kuchi when you're talking about a mouth.

So, Im like practically fluent, right?

Ive been doing that to keep busy. And picking up a few English lessons. Jon came to Kudamatsu Friday, so Ive been bringing him around, showing him the sights... the rice fields, internet cafe, The Mall. We went to Miyajima yesterday and had fun going in the mountains looking at deer and looking for monkeys. I even saw a raccoon-dog! Which is a recent life-long dream of mine.

Tuesday night Im having a nabe party at my house, with Jon and some of the Japanesies (nickname for the gaggle of Japanese women we hang out with). Tonight we're headed to the Indian restaurant and Antonio's yatai.

Ok, my time is up!