chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47


The two-month mark on my countdown to leaving Japan is approaching like a speeding shinkansen. My plans are quickly coming together for my travels afterwards. So far, it looks like Kate will fly into Osaka or Tokyo from Toronto. I'll meet up with her and we'll visit Kansai and Tokyo before leaving for Australia. In OZ, we'll visit Lauren in Brisbane and explore the east coast for several weeks. Then back to Canada for me! Some of you may notice that my plans have been scaled back a bit (no living in Tokyo or traveling to New Zealand)... I decided to focus my energies (and money) on one thing. Do one thing and do it well, right?

So, in spirit of my plan-making and countdown pressure, I have decided to hunker down this weekend and finish everything that's on my plate. First, I need to wrap up the past month on my blog. A lot has happened that I haven't written about. Looking back in my archives several weeks ago made me realise how valuable it really is. I wrote about stuff that I probably wouldn't have remembered out of the blue. Basically, it's my online journal, so it needs to be updated ASAP. Look for posts on Korea, the Fushiki Kenkayama Festival, the Daimon Kite Festival, Tokyo, and the Design Festa. Most of my pictures are already online.

PavilionLanterns Up CloseFun Was Had!Tokyo Metro Building

Speaking of photos, that's an area that seriously needs to be looked at. My Flickr account has a little over 2000 photos. My computer has over 8000 photos! You do the math... Damn.

Lastly, I need to pack and mail tons of stuff home. I have already packed up my winter clothes, so all that's left are my books and DVDs. The trick is getting these boxes to the post office. I don't have a car and taxis are over $15 a ride. I'm seriously considering buying a toy wagon and pull my boxes down the side walk in comfort. You laugh, but it's going to be awesome! Thankfully Toyama is the flattest place in Japan.



I loved this video! Watch for yourself:

So many memories!

Update: Read about this video here.

Mega Listmania

I've decided it's time to publish my Mega Lists. Things have been moving so quickly lately. I need a little time to reflect on my time here. Before I know it, I'll be stepping on my plane out of Japan! Two more months left...

⏏ Mega List: Things I'll Miss About Japan

» Black seasame treats (ice cream and cakes)
» Seasonal flavours of chocolate, pop, and beer (rotating between peach, Japanese pear, orange, strawberry, sakura, apple, pineapple, and muscat)
» Purikura (ultra fancy photo booths)
» Getting absolutely anything at combinis (convenience stores)
» Drinking anywhere
» Trains
» Alcohol for sale anywhere (including vending machines)
» Vending machines around every possible corner
» Getting small treats on my desk randomly (omiyage)
» Buying airplane, concert, and movie tickets at combinis
» Japanese stationary and paper crafts
» Getting anything at ¥100 shops
» Bowing
» Mountains
» The ocean
» Going to Tokyo or Osaka for the weekend
» Unlimited umbrellas
» Nomihodais (unlimited drinks)
» Tabihodais (unlimited food)
» Singing karaoke in private booths
» Festivals
» My students
» The mild weather
» Not having to tip
» Being close to the rest of Asia
» Japanese variety TV programs
» Concerts
» Everyone being stylish
» Being paid a seven-figure salary (even though it's only yen)
» Keitais (cellphones)
» Being special
» Kotatsus (heated tables)
» Fresh sushi
» Hanami (drunken cherry blossom viewing)
» Japanese fireworks
» Buying and using fireworks anywhere
» The Hokuriku Canada Association (free gourmet buffets at stylish hotels with Canadian ambassadors and Japanese princesses)
» Chu-his
» Getting naked with a bunch of men in onsens (hot springs)
» People wanting to meet me because I'm different
» The four seasons
» Special products
» "One of the Top Three"
» Cheap bananas
» Japanese grocery carts
» Everything having a cartoon mascot
» Meeting people from all over the world
» Feeling superior to tourists
» Cute clothing stores
» The paper that goes over your face during a shampoo at a salon
» Men's chocolate
» Remembering that Japan's nature really does look like old school Nintendo games, with the rounded trees, small hills, mushrooms...
» Getting mail delivered on Saturday
» Tatami and paper blinds
» Reading about the 'latest technology' in North America, then realising the same thing has been available at my corner store for several months
» Discount travel agents
» Canned coffee, both hot and cold
» Japanese rice
» Cheap birthday flights (now defunct...)
» Rice planting season
» Sapporo, Asahi, and Kirin
» Bento lunches
» Rotating sushi restaurants
» Hidden shrines, temples, statues, and gardens
» Thousands of years of history
» Being able to celebrate both Canadian and Japanese holidays (twice the fun!)
» Interesting photo subjects everywhere
» Telling people I live in Japan

⏏ Mega List: Things I Won't Miss About Japan

» Being stared at
» Not being able to communicate properly
» Teaching English
» Sexism
» Racism
» Gaijin traps (rain gutters along the streets)
» Snow-covered sidewalks
» Street sprinklers
» Worrying about nenkyu (time off)
» The time difference between Japan and North America
» English literature being hard to find
» Earwigs
» Cold apartments
» Small apartments
» "Irassaimase!"
» Expensive international flights
» Bringing omiyage (small gifts) back to my coworkers
» Bank machines closing
» Natto (fermented, sticky soybeans)
» Tiled walls
» Farmers burning stuff for 8 months straight
» Typhoons
» Pushy obachans (old Japanese women)
» Masks
» Picking spinal cords or skin out of my school lunch
» Hollywood movies not coming to Japan
» Kerosene heaters
» No insulation
» Carrying cash around
» Paying money to use the highway
» White cars
» Sexually ambiguous people
» Not knowing what I'm eating
» Meat in everything
» Mayonnaise
» Strange bakery products
» Plastic, plastic, plastic
» Concrete, concrete, concrete
» Limited selection
» 50-stamp point cards
» Simplifying my English
» Teeth-sucking
» Nervous smiles
» Extremely meek women
» Group think
» HG
» Zero flexibility, even when everyone wants it
» Small portions
» Daimon Post Office
» Nasty teeth
» Japanese coffee
» Ridiculous bank fees ($7 per transfer)
» $30 for music CDs
» Confusing anko (red bean paste) with chocolate
» Not being able to read most kanji (Chinese characters)
» Smoking everywhere, including train cars, schools, and restaurants
» People not complaining
» The rainy season
» Being far from my family and friends
» The intermittent feeling that I'm wasting my youth

My Golden Talent

I have come to the realization that I have an amazing talent. No, it doesn't involve juggling flaming batons, wrestling a grizzly bear, or doing long division. (Although you should step aside when I tackle an algebra problem!) No, my friend, my special talent is much more subtle and obscure:

I have the uncanny ability to select the most expensive item from an array of seemingly equal choices, without fail.

You can present me with, for example, five neckties, and without looking at the labels or touching them, I will choose the one priced at $500 -- bypassing the $60, $35, $22, and $5 choices completely. (I hear some guys saying, "$500?? Impossible!" Possible. Have you ever walked into Louis Vuitton?)

Amazing, isn't it? It explains so much. My closet and bank account are tangible evidence of all of this.

Just last night, I unwittingly completed one of my "To Do In Japan" items, again. At the local rotating sushi joint, I managed to order the 'gold plate' tuna at ¥700 a piece! In case my incredulity doesn't shine through, that's the most expensive plate at the restaurant. Perhaps it's the only ¥700 item on the menu. What makes this even more incredible is that I managed to choose it from a plastic menu (sans prices) picturing over 36 different sushi types! There was no indication that this one dish was well above the ¥180 average price per plate!

When the gold plate arrived at my table, I knew instantly that my gift had worked its magic. This thought alone is what saved me from freaking out and yelling at the sushi guys for serving me two small slices of stupidly expensive and bland-tasting raw tuna. You just know they laughed at me when I left.

So I guess the question now is, "of what use is this talent?" Is there some sort of career out there requiring people to choose the most expensive item daily? If there is, I'm sure the title would include the word connoisseur or aesthete. Actually, it's more likely to include the word dispossessed or vagrant...

An Impromptu Collection Completed

A lot of my university and high school friends are traveling the world at the moment. I've decided that spending a year abroad is practically a right of passage in this century. It's all part of the grand Globalization® scheme. Soon we will all be Global citizens, working and living in different countries and speaking the same universal language!

Yeah, right...

My friends and I often enjoy writing a postcard. (A little English-teaching humor for you.) I've sent and received many postcards during my travels here in Asia. When I returned from Korea this week, I discovered another colourful 4x6 card in my mailbox. This one was special, however. I quickly made a list in my head and realised that this postcard completed my impromptu collection of "Postcards From All The Continents." The little card I was holding in my hand made a cross-Pacific trip from the jungles of Belize to the inaka of Japan, courtesy of Katherine and Anita.

I am now the proud owner of the following worldly postcards:

North America // The skyline of Chicago from Jamie.
South America // A view from a cave in Belize from Katherine and Anita.
Europe // The Coliseum in Rome from Brenna.
Africa // A hand-drawn Malawian card from Ann.
Asia // A boy holding a plastic gun in Korea from Heather.
Oceania // The Syndey harbour from Lauren.

Done and done!

Korea Preview


Not-So-Abstract Art
Originally uploaded by buck82.
I got back from Korea yesterday. It seems like I've been gone for months! I have another 500 photos to sort through, including the recovery of some deleted ones (tear). Check back later this week for the pics and dets!

▲ List: UNESCO World Heritage Sites I Have Visited

Dinosaur Provincial Park
Wood Buffalo National Park
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks

The Great Wall
Summer Palace: an Imperial Garden in Beijing
Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing

Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)
Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church
Tower of London
Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

United States of America
Grand Canyon National Park

Viet Nam
Ha Long Bay

Republic of Korea
Gyeongju Historic Areas
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple

That's it. It's kind of short, actually. Here are the places I plan on visiting in the next 12 months:

Australia: Great Barrier Reef
Australia: Wet Tropics of Queensland
Australia: Fraser Island
Canada: Nahanni National Park
Japan: Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area
Japan: Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara