Barrel Chest

Week V


November 30, 11:40 PM JST

Happy Tuesday! Today marks exactly four weeks since I arrived in Japan. My how the time has flown by! Just like my time in Japan, my day was a pleasurable blur!

I woke up early and accomplished some important errands this morning. I took care of some housework and sat down to enjoy a hot cup of coffee. I continued to tweak my video conferencing abilities and had a great chat with Nghia, Ludwing & Kaeli. After some skype-ing action I cleaned up and went into work. Today I had a private lesson with one of my most advanced students. He is a fascinating man. He is a college lecturer, a medical doctor, and is the project lead on the construction of a new hospital. We worked on a chapter from ETERNAL’S most advanced book and enjoyed each other’s company. I very much look forward to seeing him every week. Although I am a little intimidated by his presence since he is so well spoken!

Before long it was lunchtime! I sat in the teacher’s lounge waiting for the clock to strike 4. I was looking over a lesson book when my equilibrium shifted. I looked over at Joanna who was lost in her own book. “Must have been me,” I thought. Moments later I felt the same sensation and was sure I felt the room move. Joanna looked up from her book and asked if I felt something. I was relieved she felt it too! I stepped out of the lounge and asked Moto if he felt something. Yes, he told me. It was a 3.0 earthquake. Very minor. I rolled my eyes and set out for lunch.

My only day of the week where I have the same break as anyone else in the office is on Tuesdays. So Joanna and I grabbed some Japanese food at a restaurant on our floor of Station Square. We chowed down and enjoyed chatting. Before long it was back to work!

I concluded my day with 4 hours of classes. There is nothing that makes time go by so quickly. Many students came and went and I quickly found myself standing in an empty classroom at 9pm. I packed my bag and hit the door. Another wonderful day here in Sagamiono, Japan!


December 1, 11:59 PM

Day by day I am continuing to get settled into my new life here in Japan. I better understand my neighborhood, my role at work, and the rules of the country. Per usual I woke up hours before I needed to be at work. I took care of my chores and ran some errands.

Work was great. Each day I spend less time preparing my classes. Less time finding things around the office. And I spend more time talking with students! Today I taught a very wide spectrum of English levels. Time and again my teaching dexterity was tested. Each time I rose to the occasion!

After work I returned to our local Japanese restaurant with Hamish and Joanna. This time Hamish brought some of his associates and I enjoyed the company of other native English speakers. Through them I was invited to attend their local church. Back in the states I was not much of a church-goer, to say the least. However I feel that here it is a good opportunity to meet new people. And I am not opposed to exposing myself to a new religious perspective. I’ll be attending a service at the Church’s new building this Sunday. I very much look forward to that day!

Additionally I very much enjoyed spending time with Hamish and Joanna outside of work. Joanna especially. I wish her all the best upon her return to America. I’ll soon post some pictures of my great coworkers.


December 2, 11:30 PM

Thursday’s at work we have a weekly teacher’s meeting. For 50 minutes we discuss the school’s numbers and take notes over important topics. I love having a weekly meeting like this. It keeps everyone on the same page and helps to create some unity! It seems everyone at my branch is doing their jobs well and the school is benefiting!

Each day now I’m continuing to establish more of a routine in my daily activities. Humans are creatures of habit, and I fully recognize this! Not only do I find it comfortable to have a routine, but I think I personally benefit from it! My days are becoming more efficient and I’m opening more personal time. More personal time means more spontaneous activities! I like to keep a healthy balance!

I spent part of the day cleaning more than usual. I’m planning to host the girls at my apartment this weekend, so I’m trying to get my place ready for their arrival. I typically run a tight ship, but I want everything to be perfect for their time here!

Not much more to report here today. Tomorrow looks to be a nice time after work. Details to come.


December 3, 11:59 PM

After work on Friday we went out for some drinks at a nearby izakaya. It was nice spending some time with Joanna & Moto outside of work. However some time turned into a long night! Joanna left at a reasonable time, but me and Moto ended up closing the bar down! We tried six different kinds of sake and flirted with our cute server. Eventually we made it out of the bar, and not a moment too late! Moto was able to catch the last train out of town and I made the walk home. A satisfying end to a satisfying day!


December 4, unspecified time

Happy birthday Mom! 🙂

Today was a wild night! I worked an eight hour shift which flew by! Shortly thereafter all the girls made their way into Sagamiono and we set out for a night of drinking! Elisha, Lauren & Lisa all made the journey to my neighborhood. Two of Elisha’s cousins even came in from out of town to party with us! Take, her older cousin is a riot! I’ve never met a non-American that is so completely attune to American humor. Despite having a limited speaking-vocabulary, this guy knows how to make a group laugh!

Elisha was running late so the five of us went to a local bar for a drink. We visited a whiskey bar that I had been dying to check out. Let me tell you, it was high class all the way. My bourbon on the rocks came out to be $16. But the environment made it worth the price. Such a treat!

After our drink Elisha showed up and we went out for dinner. The izakaya Moto took me to the night before, was close, fun & cheap. I took the six of us there for some food and drinks! Everyone greatly enjoyed the place and we had a great time. Shortly before 11, Take & his sister, Yuka left for Shinjuku. The girls and I were far from being done for the night.

I next took our crew to my favorite bar, Angie’s. Angie’s is a really cozy hole-in-the-wall bar. However tonight its location wasn’t a secret. The bar was packed! We looked around for a seat and I made eye contact with a table of young, white men. I nodded and said “hello.” They replied with heavy British accents and asked us to join them. We quickly introduced ourselves and went about ordering drinks. What was supposed to be a quick drink turned into two hours of chatting. These blokes were all English teachers originally from Britain. They happen to work for another English school right inside my shopping center. I had no idea the business even existed!

Much fun was had as we played European/American/Asian drinking games and laughed at each other’s silly accents. Sometime shortly after 1, when the trains had stopped running, we gathered our items and left Angie’s. By this time two of the three men had left, and one Englishman stayed behind. Still though, we were not done drinking! We shuffled over to the closest karaoke and bought an hour of singing time. An hour came and went and again we found ourselves swaying about out on the sidewalk. By this time money and liver capacities were both running low. I made an executive decision that it was time to go home.

At a brisk pace, I can make the walk from station to apartment in 15 minutes. However with four drunk people in tow, we were not able to make such time. Sometime before 3 we had returned to my apartment. I lent out four pairs of pajamas and we prepared for bed. Five people in my living/bedroom is a tight squeeze. But we made it work. We even somehow managed to fit three people on to my futon. I remember briefly thinking just before bed, how much tonight felt like a night in college. I chuckled to myself and fell asleep.

Another successful night in Japan.


December 5, late

Sunday would have been a perfect day, if the Huskers would have held on to their lead! I was fortunate enough to Skype into Asher’s apartment and watch the game via Krystal’s laptop. During commercials they would pivot the laptop so I could see everyone on the couch. And then during the game they would twist me back around to point at the television. So I was able to both watch the game and “hang out” with them during it. Such fun! I hope I can do the same for the Holiday Bowl!

After the game I met up with Joanna and caught the Odakyú out of town. We went to Roppongi, near the heart of Tokyo. We had the ambition of visiting the church I mentioned earlier. Hamish’s friend, Rochelle, is a regular member of the the church and spoke highly of it. Joanna had visited once before, but a while ago. Thus far I have leapt at every opportunity I’ve had. So why not church?

The service was held in a convention center. The church had grown too large for its previous building and is in the process of renovating a new location. The building itself was marvelous. Just what you would expect in Tokyo. The church service was very… contemporary. We walked in just as it was beginning. I didn’t even know we were at a service for several moments. The lights were off and a nine-person band was playing on stage. Several dozen people were right in front of the stage getting their dance on. I was given a seat right next to my new friend, Rochelle. The band was a multiracial assortment of different nationalities, very cool. They sang Christian rock songs and switched back and forth between Japanese & English. The lyrics were displayed on the three projectors behind the stage. This was fun for me because I got to practice my Japanese some! The band played for a solid 20 minutes before we were seated.

The head pastor, and founder of Jesus Lighthouse, came to the stage and gave many congratulations. He had a Japanese associate with him who repeated all of his words in Japanese. I thought this was awesome. A bilingual service! After sometime the two men sat down, and two younger men came onstage. This time the service was led in Japanese and was translated into English. Today’s message was about planting your roots in the house of God, so that you may grow spiritually and subsequently achieve personal growth. An interesting message that I’m sure was great for many people in attendance.

After the service most people congregated in the main hall and introduced themselves to new people. I was approached by two young men who were gung-ho about their church. I gave them my email and asked them to keep me in touch with church opportunities. Next we went upstairs for coffee and further introductions. All told I believe there were 300 people at the 4pm service alone. The majority of the population was Japanese, with many caucasians and sprinklings of other races mixed in. Its pretty cool so many people can come together through their interests.

After church, Joanna and I wandered around Roppongi looking for dinner. We decided on the Hard Rock Cafe – Tokyo. I had never eaten at a Hard Rock before and Joanna hadn’t been to this specific one. Needless to say, a Hard Rock, in Tokyo, was expensive. A pitcher of local beer was over $40 for Pete’s sake! I opted for a $15 pint of Budweiser. Regardless we had a good time. On the walk back we saw the famous Tokyo Tower. It was too late and too far removed for us to make an honest attempt at it. But now that I know where it is, I can come back sometime soon!

We then caught the train back and stopped in Machida for drinks and snacks with Hamish & Moto. We shared some laughs and then got back on the train for Sagamiono. The usual routine brought me back home where I quickly settled in to bed and got some rest. Today was a full day!


December 6, 9:30 PM

Today was as productive as they come! The morning began on a surprising note as I was awoken from a dead sleep to an earthquake. I woke on my back to the floor beneath me moving. My quick reaction is a testament to how far I’ve come in my short month here. When I woke I knew immediately what was happening. My only reaction, apart from being upset that I was woken up, was a concern for my glass of water. I reached out to pick up a glass of water by my bed and held it off the ground, to avoid a spilled glass. The quake soon stopped and I returned my glass to the floor. I rolled over, and went back to sleep. Japan: 1 Alex: 1

I woke a few hours later and started working on my to do list for the day. Monday’s have quickly become my errand day. I stayed busy around the apartment and city as I scurried about, scratching things from my list. Mid afternoon I was all done with my requirements for the day, so I hopped on the train to Machida. Since coming to Japan I haven’t really shopped or spent much money. Considering I received my first paycheck two weeks ago, I thought I could splurge a little. I wandered around Machida’s massive shopping area stopping at a few stores.

I had the intention of finding a nice peacoat for winter, and wasn’t heading home until I found one. However it quickly became apparent that finding the right size might be difficult. I tried on several coats and kept having troubles fitting into them. Time and again my shoulders were too broad, and my chest was too big, even to fit into most “large” sizes. Many Japanese have been sure to tell me how much thicker I am than the average build here. Not fat, they’re sure to say. But top heavy. What began as flattery, quickly became annoying.

I was considering going home sans-peacoat, until I found a neat suit shop. It is very similar to the Men’s Wearhouse, but far more reasonable in price. Best yet, their sizes fit me! A lovely attendant helped me find the right size and rang me up. I left Machida spending a bit more than I wanted to, but am now fully prepared for winter!

Writing this blog was the last item on my list, and now I can get to bed! Oh happy days!


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About japanesealex

Alexander lived in Japan from 2010 to 2013. He is now pursuing a career in public service in Honolulu, Hawaii.

One response to “Barrel Chest”

  1. Claudia Wheeler says :

    Thanks for the bday wishes:) What’s the Tokyo Tower?

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