Kanagawa High School Visit

mood: Excited

I have been helping on a somewhat regular basis with open houses here at Temple. Because of this, another student and I was asked to visit an all girls high school english club and practice conversation with them. We had an absolutely awesome time and I was really looking forward to another high school visit (for first visit, see archives). That opportunity finally rolled around this past week. This time, we were going to visit a public high school in Kanagawa near Yokohama city. The students of this English club/class were soon leaving to visit England and wanted a chance to practice their English before they left via presentations about their culture.

So the trip started off normal enough. We met at Temple's nearest train station and boarded a train heading towards Kanagawa. Kanagawa is the prefacture directly south-west from Tokyo where Yokohama is located. Also, the Navy base is in Kanagawa.

Here I am being moody cause I can't find a place that charges less then $30 for a men's haircut.

Here are the other two people in my party. Steve, on the left, is a veteran of this sort of work and has a part-time job working in OIS (Office of International Students). He is soon graduating and is looking for work here in Tokyo. On the right, is Chizu, our leader and representative from Temple. She is making a presentation to the high school about Temple and joining in for the English club presentations.

It takes about an hour and 10 minutes to get to the school's station from Temple. I especially liked the Kanagawa area, it reminded me alot of San Francisco in the weather and style.

The school was massive in size shocked . I was told that this was actually two public schools joined together. When thinking back on my high school, it pales in comparison. I mean jeez, this school a damn sky-scraper practically.

Entry gate to the school. This school is especially different in the fact that it doesn't require students to wear a uniform. Probably the only school I've heard of thus far that does this in Japan. Students are free to wear whatever they like much like high schools in the states.

Japanese in general really really love baseball. That and footbal (a.k.a. soccer). Almost the entire athletic grounds were dedicated to baseball fields and practice areas. To the right in the above picture you can see this.

Here we are walking into the main entrnace. Oh boy exciting! satisfied

First thing to do was check in with the main office, which by the way looked exactly like every office I've ever seen in a Japanese TV drama or anime. Inside, the English teacher awaited our arrival.

When we arrived in the room, about 10-20 students were waiting. Later on, about 10 more students coming from other classes showed up to join in. Also, a new teacher from Brisbane, Australia came in to watch. Pretty cool guy who seemed very excited to start working here. Heck, I would be too.

As we went through the presentations we learned alot about the culture from the Japanese point of view. Subjects like oragami (see above), Kabuki theatre, and even creepy Otaku, was discussed.

In this particular presentation a student was talking about a yearly festival where the student body split up into different teams based on shirt color and compete. I kinda wish I had an opportunity to experience Japanese high school life like some of the other Temple American students.

I don't really remember what this group talked about but that guy on the right was the only male in the entire group of 30 or so students. Lucky guy.

Oh Dang! Group photo.

Students getting up to leave and head home.

View of Yokohama from the window in the classroom. Really amazing view. My classroom view in high school was overgrown grass and an undermaintained baseball field plain.

Time to go. Gotta wave goodbye to the English teacher. This English teacher is actually a graduate student at Temple.

Here is that anime/tv drama office I was talking about. eerie isn't it?

Temple's mascot is an owl, not very intimidating I know. This high school also has an owl, apparently with a lazy eye, displayed in the courtyard.

Here we are heading out finished up for the day. Every high school visit is a blast. I hope there is time left for one more before the semester is over. Thanks for reading!
Mason on 03.20.07 @ 07:01 AM PST [link]

Krispy Kreme > The World

mood: Patriotic

First let me start off with this hilarious failure at English.

While I'm sure the creators of this company thought it was cleaver to join the english words 'rapid' and 'speed', I don't think they realized its close resemblance to the word 'raped'. LOL When I first saw it I read it as raped and stopped in my tracks confused as to what service would offer rapings delivered.

Moving on...

So I was wandering in Shinjuku as I do from time to time (famous area in west Tokyo) and ran across this brand new Krispy Kreme. Set among a very populated and frequented area near the station, the first Krispy Kreme in Japan pulled immense crowds. I remember when I was a junior in high school in Sacramento when Krispy Kreme opened their first store in Sac.

It was pure insanity, the whole school talked about how great they tasted and how the wait was 3 hours long to get a dozen of them. I had a hard time believing they were that good and confirmed my assumption when I actually ate one. Don't get me wrong, they are beyond delicious, but not 3 hours waiting delicious.

That mass of people is only half of the line to get a donut.

They even still have hot lamp when fresh donuts are being made. With how long the wait is all day long from opening to close, I'm sure that light never goes off.

These guards were posted to make sure noone cutted in line. I asked one of them if he liked the donuts and he told me they were the best. He also told me it was at least a 2 hour wait to buy a dozen. I wasn't surprised by the looks of the line.

It's amazing how similar the stores here and in the US are. Same goes for other restaurants like McDonalds and Starbucks. Anyway I threw together a quick video to help share what the scene looked like.

Mason on 03.19.07 @ 11:08 AM PST [link]

We always want what we can't have

mood: WTF

Whenever I go ape-shiza over a car here in Japan my Japanese friends always look at me funny. They can't grasp why something as common as a Skyline or an RX-7 would possibly cause me such excitement. I personally thought they were just taking for granted the amazing cars they have here, but after a recent trip to the magazine stand, I came to a realization that has changed my outlook on the whole thing. I had heard previously that many Japanese were very fond of american sports cars. I had always figured they were few and far between and only liked it cause they rarely saw it on a daily basis. I had no idea that there was a whole subculture obsessed with american cars here in Japan. A large enough subculture that there is an entire magazine devoted to them.

Enter A-Cars magazine. Your monthly source for all things automotive and American. This healthy sized tome sports some 300 pages of yankee styled car knowledge. After a literal 'LOL' in the 7/11 I shelled out 580yen for this bible de americana and took it with me on the train to learn of Japan's outlook on our native car culture.

I was, to find the kind of cars they showcased in this magazine. Cars you'd pay to have taken off your property were presented with an assumed value on these glossy pages. Let's take for example the car pictured below.

Done stifling that vomit trying to escape your stomach? Cars like this riddled the pages discussing not only the car specific features, but the style in which the owner kept it. Things you'd cover your nose upon seeing were displayed as a prized style of upkeep. Also, note the 'Special One' on the side of the page. I'm convinced that when the editors asked the local americans about the owner and his car, they received a response along the lines of, "Oh he's special" and misunderstood the true meaning behind the comment.

This picture is an awesome example of this. The comment below the picture is talking about the type of trash found in the rear dash of this old rust bucket. Describing as if it is the cool american thing to do. Listing the Marlboro cigarette box, soda encrusted cup, potato chip crumbs, and misc. papers as if that was the way you too should litter your car.

It gets worse then just revering our trash in monthly periodicals, they pay out the nose for it.

I understand the text is small but I'm sure you recognize the cars. Those are the cars littering and polluting our streets and highways throughout America which cause our eyes pain when seeing them. Throughout the book many dealerships specializing in the importation of American cars advertise their best deals here. This specific dealer is selling that blue 87' El Camino I underlined for $23,218(2,670,160yen). 23 grand!? I'd pay to have that ugly heap removed from my driveway! How about a 78' Chevy K-5 Blazer for a whopping 30 grand? Yea that's the price. The list goes on...unfortunately. crying

Stop for a minute and think about it though. Cars which are so incredibly common here in Japan fetch quite a hefty price in the states. Take for example my R32 Skyline. Said and done I paid about $14,000 for my skyline for a gts-t model. That exact same car would get me, if I was lucky, $2000 here. Another example, think about the FD3S Mazda RX-7. Kelly blue book for a 93' model in the US is around $13k. Here? around 3k-5k for a low mileage 93'-95'. It goes to show the simplist model of economic supply and demand. As a human nature, we want what we can't have, what's rare. Whether it be for status or interest in the foreign, it holds true for everyone in every country.

Haha, you can't help but laugh though. Cars like this you'd expect your grandma to pick up groceries in.

Own a Taurus? Feel bad about it? Find some comfort in the fact that while you look lame in the US, some Japanese people think your car is bitchin'.

American cars in America aren't the only thing in this magazine. They also interview Japanese people who own imported American cars. These people must think they're the pinacle of cool. So sad how wrong they are...

Oh Dang! That's an awesome cool firebird with sweet chrome rims huh? hahaha. My guess is he has the same things going through his mind in this picture that we do when we proudly pose in front of our 'JDM' rides. He gains praise for achieving an authentic American style car the same way we ordain levels of 'JDMness' to our Japanese sports cars in America.

If you have a love for Japanese sports cars, you then have to ask yourself if that love is only because it's rare or if it's rooted from a true appreciation for that style. This problem far from keeps me up at night though as the sound of a turbo car or an RB-series motor brings a smile to my face everytime. Are you hopping a bandwagon or do you really like it? Do you even care? It all comes down to personal preference. I know hundreds of friends who love the sound of a modified american V8, and hey, more power to them. I myself can't get enough of turbo 6-cylinders or cleanly modified import aero kits.

When you pick up your Super Street or Import Tuner do you get giddy when they tour such famous makers as HKS and Apex'i? Well it's a two-way door for the Japanese american car enthusiasts. This issue they toured the Grant steering wheel factory in the states. You can buy Grant steering wheels in your local Kragen if I'm not mistaken. I couldn't help but chuckle at such an article.

They even have an oldschool american car article section. In these articles there are picures of elderly americans grinning for the camera. I couldn't help but wonder how this magazine's editors and photographers approached the owners of these cars.

It's pretty much the exact same as America, just flipped. We have a large body of people who love domestic cars, and a slightly smaller body of people who like Japanese cars. And in Japan, they have a large body who loved their domestic cars (Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, etc.), and a smaller group that loves American cars. What did I learn from this? Don't judge people's opinions of cars too quickly. While I might find american car style damaging to my psyche, others may like it. I also found yet another things the Japanese are mirror to us in.

It's still pretty funny though. Paying money for El Caminos..haha. LOL
Mason on 03.19.07 @ 09:56 AM PST [link]

Yashio Cruise 2

mood: Byouki

I finished the last of my midterms this week and was looking forrward to the weekend. Due to a special request though, I will not discuss the events between friday afternoon and saturday afternoon. All I can really say is that I now have a cold and had to battle several agressive massage 'therapists'/hookers to leave me alone while walking down the street in the scum-infested shithole that is Roppongi. angry, grr

I spent the majority of the rest of the weekend resting up in bed. On sunday evening, Neal invited me over to hang out with him, his neighbor, and Masa. I needed some fresh air and just finished a secret mission to pickup "the goods" from a locker in Shibuya, so I was more then happy to attend.

Also at Neal's house was the girl who owned the white silvia from my first Yashio Cruise post, Yasuko. Seeing a girl into modifying cars stateside is pretty rare, so I was excited to make the new friend. The evening progressed along nicely, drinking some beverages and enjoying some Japanese conversation practice. Masa also showed me that his car was featured on the cover of the ever-famous Option magazine.

Dang he's practically famous! I guess Tec Arts, the shop who built his car with him, used his car as their shop representative machine for the Option article. Pretty exciting stuff; I too have also wanted to make it to the cover of a magazine with a car but yet to have made it.

That's Masa on the left and Yasuko on the right.

There's Neal giving me a death-stare with his older son Kai.

This is Neal's wife, Kanae, and her younger son Riku..who was posing as a power ranger ninja or some other deadly warrior.

And here I am with my ears about to bleed after trying to decipher 4 hours of straight speedy Japanese.

That's ok though cause we're hanging out with friends! confused

Masa decided to call up one of his other car guys to see if he'd be willing to come out to show me his car. His friend, Takashi-san, agreed and headed over. When his car rolled up I was pretty impressed. An S14.5 (S14 Silvia with S15 Silvia front end conversion).

His car has endless gobs of mods in it which cost him a fortune. Making around 500ps utilizing one of the biggest turbochargers in the market with a fully built/stroked motor revving to 9,000rpm. Body, interior, suspension, it's all completely modified. I discuss the majority of it in the above video and to my surprise, he offered to sell it to me for 20k, which is pretty cheap considering the transmission he has in the car cost 15k alone. I'm not a rich man though and I'd be scared of that much power in a car for what I want to do.

We went out for a quick test drive to feel what the transmission and light throttle of a 500 horse Silvia was like. Pretty impressive I must say. Even on partial throttle it is probably the most powerful car I've ever been in. You can also see Masa's S14 parked in front of the S14.5.

Pics of his caged interior and my super awesome Bride patched jeans. Don't be jealous cause I know my way around a needle and thread. The S14.5 has custom gauge setup with stack digital readout, boost, and nitrous pressure. Don't forget the tilted man-tach keeping track of his 9k redline.

His engine bay pretty much is the hottest thing I've ever seen, ever. His polished T-67 turbo is large enough to each a small child and probably would given the chance. He had so many aftermarket engine parts, both visible and non-visible, that I could hardly catch them all. As stated in the video, he also has a brake balancer installed to manually adjust the brake bias front and rear. From what I've seen, only the highest modified track cars bother using something so advanced. Then again I've never seen a clutchless Dogmission tranny on the street before either.

Here is Takshi-san JDM posing next to his beastly machine. How does someone get so rich you ask? Well when you're a talented software engineer I guess they throw super large salaries at you. Takashi was a totally nice guy and I really appreciate him letting me take the time to take pictures and video fo his car.

Thought I'd include some better pics of Masa's car since the first Yashio Cruise post were last minute and used dirty/ugly flash. No flash = better pictures.

Lastly, a picture of me getting psyched up to feel the S14.5's engine in action.

I didn't get home till late which I'm sure didn't help my cold but it was worth it. As always, thanks for viewing Urbanslide; I look forrward to sharing more with you in the future. big grin
Mason on 03.05.07 @ 11:24 AM PST [link]