Sunday, October 4, 2015


Wow! It's been like forever.Sorry, I've been busy hustling here in Japan. Teaching, learning Japanese, and trying out that Japanese on the locals here in Marugame with the help of a translator on my phone. That's right. Couri's getting a social life. (Don't worry, I'm still writing. Just a lil' less than I had been when I had no life in Japan.) With the help of a handy app called Talking Japanese, I've been working my way towards communication and (gasp!) pals! On top of that I've recently dropped some cash on a text book so I am slowly working my way towards speaking it in my own right. (The translations are a little nutty, after all, and best not to be trusted.)

 So now I know a little bit more about how to get around, which is great. (Okay, so I know like 7 blocks instead of 3.) And I know what my city is like at night. And, woah, some of it is super beautiful in the dark. (Not that it's not during the day, of course.)
Marugame lighthouse 
View of Marugame from the bridge near the dock. 

Couri's not 100% but kinda-okay method for making pals in Japan:
*go out and walk around.
*pick a friendly looking person
*say Konbanwa!
*try to make it work.

So as you all may recall from facebook, recently my apartment has been haunted by a coachroach. A big fucking gross ass one too. The first night I saw it I decided the best thing to do was just walk away cause shit is scary. So that's what I did.
alas, even outside they are unavoidable. 
While doing this I saw Marugame at night. Not for the first time exactly, but for the first time over a prolonged just killing time type of way. I got to know Marugame a bit better. It's actually a lot like Youngstown in a few ways. It's a shrinking city, complete with rough n' tumble kids called yankees, graffiti and bars full of people getting wastey-faced.
I don't know who Garry is but he's a busy dude. This shit is everywhere.
Marugame lso has stray dogs! Like everywhere!

While on these walks every now and then I'd exchange a greeting or two, and maybe some brave soul would try to hash out a conversation with me. Eventually I took my lack of social life and my lonely nights by the reigns, and gathered up all my pluck and courage, and decided to try my hand at talking back. 
my favorite Japanese wine cooler.
i.e.: pluck and courage. 
I've gotten to know a couple people now, and even have some actual friends (more or less.) On top of that I've had some pretty fantastic exchanges. Here are some notable ones. Any part marked with an * means it was spoken in the speakers non-native language. Most likely, if it's me, in a very broken way. # means I've resorted to a translator. 

Hip-Hoppers:Yu and Miguel 

Miguel and Yu: (staring and waving intently as I approach.)
Me: Konbanwa. 
Miguel: Hello!*
Me: How are you?*
Both exchange looks. Miguel: Good.
Me: How old are you?* 
Both: 18. (point at me)
Me: 26*
Both nod.
I nod appreciatively and get ready to leave.
Yu: We are Hip-hoppers!
Me: Ah! Rappers? Sugoi!
Miguel: Yeah. Club. (points towards club down the way.) Hip hop. 
Me: Club Axis? I go.*
(Both exchange looks.)
Miguel: You know?*
Me: Yes.*
Yu: (shows me a sticker in his hand then runs over and slaps it on a telephone pole.) Graffiti!
Me: (laughs. *aw so cute they think stickers = graffiti)
Yu: Yeah!*
Me: (sobering. *what if that is illegal in Japan? What if it is considered graffiti. Aw shit. Is it illegal in America? Man, I have no fucking clue.) (blinks). Good night* 
Both: Bye!* 

I've run in to Yu and Miguel a few times. Once Yu on his on. I came armed to that conversation with the necessary vocabulary. 
Yu: Hey!
Me: Good evening. What's up?*
Yu: (shows me sticker in his palm) Graffiti. 
Me: Oh.
Yu: Every day. All over.*
Me: *nods.* Illegal?*
Yu: ??
Me: Is it illegal? #
Yu nods and looks smug. 
Me: OOOH. No illegal I can do! No illegal. Good luck!* (gets ready to book it.)
Yu: wait! Picture?*
Me: .......okay. hai. 
I can't resist showing off how cute I am. Ever. 
 It seems mostly that teenage boys around 18 with some kind of western hobby are the most likely to wanna talk at me. They also tend to be trouble makers, I think. Maybe not like the WORST trouble makers, but a little rowdy. Case in point, one of my favorites and the most eager to talk is:

I actually first ran into this kid early in my second month here. I was heading to Club Axis, which is the hip hop club in the area that is pretty Western. My Japanese at that point was even more sorry than it is now, and so it was a short conversation. As I was walking down the arcade to my destination I heard the all too familiar, but unexpected rumble of skateboards. I stepped to the side and watched over my shoulder as two kids rolled by. The first breezed past, but the second stopped and bobbed his head at me. 
Him: Yo.
Me: Hey. I mean uhh Konbanwa.
Him: (pointing at the winecooler in my hand) biiru.
Me: Hai. I drink beer. I like it. Do you like beer?*
Him: Club.* (points to Axis as we draw closer)
Me: Hai. I go. *
Him: No event.*
Me: (looking at it) is it open? (it looks open)
Him: No event tonight.*
Me: Where's cool around here? *Swtiches* Where do you go?
Him: We go.*
Me: Where?*
We pause and his friend comes over. We all blink collectively. The conversation has reached an impass. I sip my beer. 
Him: Marijuana.
Me: (blinks) What?
Him: Marajuana. (motions at his mouth.)
Me: AH! No no. (cross my hands over my chest) (*switches*) I don't like. (switches) I'd be deported.(*)You like?*
Him: nods a bit.
Me: (laughing) Ahhh sugoi. Just like the skaters in America.
We pause again.
Me: Whats your name?*
Him: Jinjiro. (I forgot this, actually, thinking this was a one time run in and just saying words to say words, really.) 
I shake his hand and he looks confused. 
Him: You go? *points at bar*
I nod.  
Him: Good night. 

The next time I met him I was walking through the arcade. Still this was pre-translator so it was a pretty stilted conversation. As I walked down the street there were a ton of people hanging out at the end. I walked my way past, politely bobbing my head as necessary when one detached from the group and stepped out in front of me, arm raised as if he were hailing a taxi.
Me: Oh. Skater kid. It's you.
Him:  Yo. What's up?*
Me: Going for a walk. (mimes walking in the air.)
Him: Club?
Me: I don't go.* () Work tomorrow. 
Him: blinks. 
Me: Walk. 
Him: (nods) You go.*
Me: Yeah. Bye.
Him: Bye.
I turn and wave at the group of kids clustered at the end of the street who are bug eyeing me and they wave back. On my way home I see them again, pushing Jinjiro who is sitting on a skateboard. 
Me: Cute.*
They all wave and smile. 
One towards the back: USA?
Me: Hai.
O.T.T.B: EEEH? Sugoi!

Our next meeting occurred when I was out drinking with a bro of mine who I will get to named Kosaku. It was pretty short and I was pretty faded. Shorthand he said he was high as fuck and I said WAH? Then tried to teach him a drunk handshake. I asked how old he was (successfully in Japanese!) And understood he was 18. Then I exclaimed that he was hella young more or less (in Japanese.) And asked if he wanted to be pals and teach me Japanese. Kosaku was trying to help make sense of this as best he could. Then we parted ways and Ko was like "Couri be careful, that kid is a little nutty*" (More or less how I figured what he was trying to say.)

The next time I ran into him I was much more sober and much more adept with translating through my phone. (Thanks to practice the above mentioned pal.) As I was exploring a little further I came to the shipyard, and I saw a kid sitting on the stairs with a skateboard. Beyond I see more kids with skateboards. I pop my earphones out, already knowing what is about to occur. And sure enough as I approach one distances himself from the herd and the arm goes up. 
Me: Oh. It's you. 
Him: Yo. What's up. 
Me: Not much. (*) What're you up to?
Him: Skate.
Me: (nod). How are you?*
Him: Good!
Me: (nods and prepares to move on.)
Him: Did you go to high school today? (He must've thought I'd understand this. Which I did, kind of. I know the word high school.)
Me: You're a high school student?*
Him: (looks confused, sets board down to cross his arms) No! (points at me) Did you go to high school today?
Me: (blinks and decides the correction of my place of occupation is needlessly complicated due to the language gap.) Yeah. Hai. 
Him: Oh. (nods). (Whispers of sugoi from the spectators.)
Me: Whats your job?*
Him: Eh?
Me: Job? What?*
Him: ehhhhh (I hand him my phone and switch it to japanese 2 english and show him how to talk into it) Ah! Shipbuilder*
Me: (nods, not really understanding what that entails and throws out a sugoi just for the sake of that's what I think I'm supposed to say.)
Him: (nods, pleased. Points at me.) English teacher.* 
Me: Hai. I'm an English Teacher.*
Him: (pointing at himself) Japanese teacher.*
Me: You'll teach me Japanese?
Him: Ya.*
Me: Thanks.*
(at this point we exchanged a way to talk through a messaging system and I relearn his name.)
Me: Can I take a picture of you skating? (mimes)
Him: (nods.)
Me: (Takes out phone and gestures for him to stand somewhere) 
Him: (blinks and shakes his head) Money.
Me: What? Wait a minute.* You want me to pay you for a picture?#
Him: Yeah. (*)Unemployed.
Me: You just told me you were a shipbuilder 
Him: (blinks)
Me: You mean you're broke. (#*) broke.(*#) 
Him: (blinks) Film?
Me: (laughing) Hai. 
Him: Money.
Me: I don't have*
Him: (laughs too). 
Me: Okay, well, I'ma walk now. (mimes)
Him: Go for walk.* 
Me: Hai.
Him: (motions for phone translator) Touch (asking for keyboard instead of speech) (types out Yung Wild and Free in english while saying it)
Me: What?!* () THAT WAS ENGLISH! YOU COULD HAVE JUST SAID IT! What the fuck are you doing?
Him: (laughing) I'm young wild and free*
Me: Okay. Nice seeing you.#
Him: (gestures for phone) # Do you go to highschool what where I go?
Me: I don't understand*
Him: (looks at phone and frowns, shakes head. Gives up.) Nice to meet you too. 
I scurry off quietly cackling and shaking my head. 

At first he was my fave just cause other than the young cute girl on the train he was the only person to randomly approach me, but he's transcended that now just by being a source of constant amusement. Mother fucker is trying to be so America, trying to charge me for a picture. I will not be scammed tho. Ain't giving that lil' punk shit. But I do find him sooooo fucking funny, so I'll probs keep saying hi. 
since I wouldn't cough up the dough, here is an poorly drawn reenactment of the encounter. 

Drunk Businessmen "Kevin 1 &2"
These dudes were walking the arcade one night when I was sitting outside just doodling and writing. They were pretty wasted but nice dudes. They sat down and started trying to talk to me. One knew a bit of english, so there wasn't much translation going on, especially since my phone was dying. 
Mostly they kept saying I looked 17 and grabbing my chu-hi away from me. Then they tried to read my fiction. One would pretend to read it and always just say: "KEVIN! OH KEVIN! I LOVE YOU KEVIN! I NEED YOU!" and I'd cry: "I don't know Kevin!* much to their delight. Then he'd say "next page" and start all over. The one who spoke less English would say something and the other would shout "Shut up Kevin! I'm reading!" Then they'd laugh more. It was pretty redick, and they tried to give me their numbers and ask me to lunch. I let them write them down and excused myself, never to call again. 

Ruuuude 26 year olds.
These two passed by right before the business men. They stopped to say hi and we spoke through translator. One was much more talkative than the other. Basically this conversation boiled down to them asking me how old I was, what I was doing, and if I had a boyfriend, all of which I navigated okayish. One was a delivery boy. I told them I used to deliver pizzas. They laughed. The other was a kindergarten teacher (who flashed me a tattoo on his shoulder and then asked for a high five.) He was the less talkative of the two, and seemed the nicer one as well. His name is Tetsuya. The other I can't remember, I ignored him after he asked what my cup size was. I said that's rude, he laughed, and I got super frosty, kinda ending the conversation there. 

As far as actual friends go, my coworkers from Gem School are super cool. I went to this girl Rose's birthday party. We sang karaoke in a private room. It was a lot of fun, and I was super extra drunk cause before that I really hadn't drank since I was in the States.

Rose and her boyfriend Alex. Both very cool. 

And then there's Kosaku, who speaks a little English. Mostly we translate shit to each other through our phones. He's like my new weekend drinking buddy. He likes to watch horror movies so we'll usually grab a chu-hi or two and watch one either Friday or Saturday night. He's a good kid. College student, 20 (which is the legal age for both smoking and drinking here.) I also suspect he's increasingly worried about my ability to survive. One time I crossed the street (late at night when no one was around) on red, and he was like "No! Couri! Be Careful!"and we managed to discuss the legality of it, but I don't know if it translated well. I said "I know its kinda illegal but there are no cops so it's ok" to the best of my phone's ability, and he said something along the same lines, so I thought we had an understanding, but then he kept trying to teach me how to cross at every intersection. Then I said "Hi" to this girl outside of Donkey who was looking at me and he was like "NO! COURI! SHE'S A YANKEE!"  (Coincidentally he said be careful when he met Skater-san too, but apparently he isn't a yankee, just into partying too hard.) So far I've shown him this really horrible clown movie on netflix, and Orphan. Thinking of trying to get through the Babadook with him, but I'm not sure how well it will translate. Even with my shitty ass no Japanese, I could see the Japanese subtitles were sometimes saying something completely different than what was being said. I hope to achieve fluency one day just so I can call bullshit on that. 
My first rum and coke in Japan.

Kosaku tagged along with me to a party at Marugame castle that was mostly foreigners and some Japanese people who spoke English. It was a pretty radical time and I even ran into Nobu. Nobu is this fellow who stopped to try and help me my first day here. I was on my street like 10ft away from my apartment, but I'd basically forgotten what it looked like. He approached me with perfect English, asking if I was lost. I said kinda, but I knew I was close and we had a small conversation while I looked around trying to spot my living space. Eventually it clicked that I was right outside and he said if I needed any help to let him know, but we didn't exchange any info. 
At the party he stepped up to me and was like "Hey! Do you remember me?" And was shocked I even still knew his name. He lives close by and just this last Friday I took a walk with him and his pal Tomoko. He's 28, but when I asked Tomoko her age she just said it was a secret and laughed. She's super cute. Nobu is much wilder and goofier than I thought when I first met him too. Tomoko doesn't speak a whole lot of English but Nobu translated between us. 
Part of this is going to need some clarification. When I first arrived in Japan I spent a large amount of time laying around cramming in all of Community, and soon after took to saying "coolcoolcool" like Abed. It wasn't a conscious choice, more something I picked up and under the stress of living somewhere foreign, kinda latched on to. It's a habit now, and I say it a lot. And since I'm usually talking to non native speakers I usually say it with both my thumbs up, kinda posed like the Fonsi. Nobu and Tomoko noticed this pretty quick into our walk and started saying it to. (A lot of my students also repeat it and its so adorable.) The difference is Nobu was hella aware that this is not a standard thing so he started teasing me and passed the joke on to Tomoko. He actually does this redick impression of me where he pretends to smoke fervently then sticks his thumbs up and says "coolcoolcool" and Tomoko would follow suit. They referred to it through out the night as Couri-style. (He's also reenacted our meeting like twice and always plays it as if I was terrified. He made me play act it with him for Tomoko and at the end he was like "Shit, you have a good memory.") 
I taught them the phrase "to a T" cause after his impression I was like "That's it. Perfect. You got me down to a T," and it was one thing in English he didn't understand. When asked why we said that I had to really think hard about its origins. The best guess I could hazard was linked to the whole "cross you i's and dot your t's" biz, but it was hard to explain. They taught me the cuss word for "Go die" but I can't exactly remember it. Apparently its the most offensive word in Japan atm. "Shinai"? Maybe? Ahhhh. Not sure. Then when I tried to say "no problem" in response to how my life in Japan was going they laughed super hard. "No problem" (as in I have none *doesn't work in response to thanks, btws*) is "Mondai nai." But I was saying "Monde nai".   Which apparently means "I didn't grope/grab it." When they explained this I said "Opi monde nai." (I didn't grope the boob.) Much to their delight. (So boom. I successfully joked in Japanese. Cross that shit off the list of things to do.)

Another great pal I have here is Masamichi. He's a student of mine that I mentioned before. My Japanese dad. Soon though I may be losing him cause there is a possible schedule shift that will have me teaching in Kanonji on Thursdays rather than Marugame. Which sucks cause Thursday was my favorite day. All my favorite students are on that day, like Ricky, Tony and Keith who I've been teaching "Quit Lying" too. Tony is real bright and latched on to it right away. He even knows how to say "It's not a lie!/I'm not lying." And Ricky is just this doe eyed sweet heart who I adore. When I told them I may not teach them anymore Tony was like "That's cool. OK." and I was like "Damn Tony, I thought we were close."(on the inside of course.) But Ricky was like "WA!!!?" Oh gosh, he's just so cute I want to carry him around in a backpack. And of course Masamichi is the bomb. Last lesson he helped me translate my name into Kanji: 香城村. is for Ka(ori)  and means good smell. 城 is for Jo and means castle. 村 is for son and means village. So I'm a good smelling castle village. There's also ice of course which is: but I'm reserving that for my rap career/close pals. This weekend he took me for sushi and karaoke with his pals. (He's also taken me out to the Marugame Fan museum and gave me this super old really cool fan.) 
The Sushi bar was super coolcoolcool. Very traditional. I ate a lot. They had me try pretty much every thing there, and even though I was full like halfway through I kept going cause they were so nice and I really wanted to be as polite as possible. (But I don't exactly know how to do that. Shit, I don't even know how to do that in the States.) I know this much, octopus is hella hard to swallow. They also served the shrimp full body but kept reminding me not to eat the head. It stared at me beseechingly and I thought for a moment how shrimp had been the last meat I ate before I became a vegetarian in the states. Then I shoved that shit in my mouth in the name of being a good guest. (Oh yea, guys, I am for sure eating meat in Japan just so you know. After all I lack the basic skills of telling what has meat and what doesn't.) Masamichi taught me that Shamisen player (accompanied by a little air guitar motion) means someone is a liar, and through out the night he and his friends would tell redick lies about being rich or this or that and Masamichi would indicate it was a lie. Eventually I picked it up as well. And I even got my own lie in when sumo wrestling came up and one actually mentioned the WWE and the Rock. "Dwayne Johnson," he said. And I said. "Watashi no onisan." And boom! Second joke in Japanese. Also much fun was had regarding my name and the bucket of ice cubes.
After we went to a karaoke bar called Kaori where the hostesses name was Kaori which, as Masamichi delightedly pointed out, is basically my name to. We drank a little brandy and Masamichi and I sang the Carpenters, the Beetles, and Whitney Huston together. I also was asked to sing Let it Go from Frozen and the theme from Sailor Moon (they only had it in Japanese but I sang the English of what I could remember. Trouble is? There are parts with lyrics in the Japanese version that aren't in the English version. But they cheered anyway. They're so supportive despite my horrible voice.) 
It was a lot of fun. If I do lose Masamichi as a student, I hope to keep him as a pal. Oh yeah! They also have this wonderful service here where you can call a prof. driver to drive your car for you when you've been drinking. Real smart. 
me, Masamichi, and his friends. 

After I got a text through Line from Jinjiro that there was an event at Axis. I stopped in for a beer, figuring I may as well check it out. Alllll of my little ruffians were trying to be hard and just being adorbs. Starting to feel like I'm the Wendy of my own little Lost Boys. At first they all stopped to say hi, but as there was no signal I was without a translator, so it was a little rough talking to them. Then this burly Egyptian who speaks English swooped in and started chatting me up. No lie, dude was coming on strong, and it caused my kids to drop back a little and just kinda eye us from the sidelines. There were maybe 20 people there, and we were the only two foreigners. A lot of people were def. eyeing us up. He's okay but kinda aggressive, so I would slip away or allow him to slip away as much as possible. Once when I was alone I noticed this cute little hip hop girl kinda looking at me and taking steps forward and back. I smiled and waved at her and she ran right over and was like "HI WHERE ARE YOU FROM!?" We talked a little bit,and then she ran off, and she pulled forward an even tinier girl. The initial girl was 20, the smaller girl 18. They asked if I came to Axis a lot and I said sometimes. It was the 18 year olds first time. They liked to dance. Then Yu and Miguel came over, Miguel apparently knowing the 20 year old girl. We established that we were all pals. Then the Egyptian dude came back and started talking to the 20 year old (who kinda slipped off) then the 18 year old, and I felt myself brace a little. Like "SHES AN INNOCENT FLOWER YOU KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF!" But it seemed okay and she too slipped off eventually. 
The even was a live rap show, which I didn't understand other than the occasional "homie" and "so slow" and "west side" (which their hand signal for is completely different than ours.) In the crowd I saw Jinjiro -gasp-smoking a cigarette, and I approached him and said, "Otooto!(lilbrother) Wakaidesu!" Gesturing at his cigarette. He said 19 back and I blinked cause dude keeps fluctuating between 18 and 19. I shook my finger and said "wakai!" one more time and indicated the cigarette. Then I indicated I'd be watching him and he laughed. 
At some point a bottle of wine was opened for the performers and passed around and I was like "WHAT ARE THEY DOING THERE ARE 18 YEAR OLD KIDS HERE." So apparently either my age or Japan is turning me in to a total mom. At the end of the show the little 20 year old girl ran up to me and took my hands and said "Couri! It's stage time!" And ran up to dance along with Miguel and her friend. I smiled but did not partake, choosing to elbow Jinjiro lightly and ask him why he wasn't dancing. 
"Not hip hop." he said. "Love song." It was def kinda American hiphop-pop. Can't remember the exact song. But I nodded and said: "Aah, you don't like pop." 
"WuTang Clan," he said back, I laughed and nodded. Said I understood. He disappeared for a moment, and as I was finishing my smoke, decided I would leave soon, but he popped back up with the remains of the bottle of wine and passed it to me. Then stood a little ways away. I assumed this was a show of friendship/affection and appreciated the gesture. But instead of staying and getting drunk(er), I scurried on home after feigning a sip (I ain't that trusting), and saying good bye. 
The next day I worked Kid's fest in Takamatsu, and while I didn't have a lot of sleep is was a lot of fun. We read and talked to kids to raise their interest in Gem school, and I met the brightest 10 year old who speaks fantastic english and plays minecraft towards the end. I watched him build the tent we were housed in, and we played tag. At the end of the day he came to us and asked us where and when we taught and we wrote down the info for him. He's from Takamatsu, so I probs won't get him as a student, but it'd be cool to know he's around. 
So that's what I've been up to. I'm still writing and studying too. I'm working on a shortstory actually inspired by the arcade and the rough n' tumble kids of Marugame called Yoosei Yankees (Yoosei being the word for fairy.) Should be fun. 
Hope everything is cool back in the States! Love ya bros!

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