Yay! I'm Approved!

Today was the day that I offically asked Reiko's parents permission to marry her. We had a great conversation, and after it was all said and done, my request to marry was okayed!

I knew that I would be meeting Reiko's parents this trip, as it's been planned for months. For the most part I was pretty cool and collected, until we started talking about it here. I don't think I've been that nervous about anything before.

Afterwards I tried to help Reiko and her mom with the cooking, though I think I made matters worse. So, after everything, it's been a great day. I'll be posting lots of pictures where Reiko's making some California rolls, as well as some from around the area.

Once again, my mind is wandering and this entry is likely not going to make any sense whatsoever. So on that note, I'll head off. Right now I'm at Reiko's parent's place and dinner is almost ready. Can't be too late for this first dinner :)

Snow!!!

It's almost January, so I guess that means it's time to get some winter weather.

This morning the sun was shining and the wind was strong as Reiko and I enjoyed our breakfast. The thing I really like about the weather in Japan is that there's not wishy-washy attitude from Mother Nature. If it's raining, there's no mistake. If there's wind, there's lots of it. Today's weather was mostly wind, but as Reiko made her way home she sent an email saying that it had started to snow. So I guess her father was right this morning, as usual.

This afternoon, Reiko and I travelled to Nagoya to look at another possible location for our wedding. This was located in the suburbs of Nagoya and the area was incredibly clean. As we travelled from the subway to the Marriyell building it was hard to spot litter or even normal weather marks on some of the buildings. We also managed to spot a few houses that had a very Canadian look and feel to them, as they were huge in comparison to their neighbours.

I'm really going to miss this country when I go back to Canada in a week. I know that one of the reasons I enjoy things so much here is the different atmosphere, but more than that, I'll miss many of the little things that make Japan so enjoyable. From the friendly greetings when you enter a store to the stares Reiko and I get sometimes out in public, I've become really attached to many aspects of this country. Of course I'll still need to find my place in this society when Reiko and I make a home here, but for the most part I couldn't imagine a better place to live.

Tomorrow I'll be spending some time at Reiko's home with her family. We'll have a great dinner and maybe even watch one of the Harry Potter movies. Of course, there are other reasons for this dinner, but I'll talk about those later.

I'm still uploading pictures to the galleries when I have an hour or two to spare, and I'll be sure to post more tomorrow. Right now I need to get some sleep.

Oyasumi nasai.

Why I've Never Tried for Canadian Idol

Most of us enjoy singing, even if it's in the privacy of our showers.

Today, Reiko and I spent over three hours at a local karaoke place and we had a great time. I thought that maybe after my last performance in April that she might not want to hear me try to sing in tune, or see me dance like a white guy, but this was not the case. One positive note was that I could finally sing one of Reiko's favourite Disney songs: "Under the Sea".

For many good reasons, we didn't record any of our performances, but it was still fun to choose the different songs and let loose for a few hours. I think the only song I did even remotely well was Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon". It's just not the same when you're singing along with a CD or radio because you can hear the actual artist and so a poor personal performance is partially masked :-P

I'm sure this won't be the last time that Reiko and I karaoke together, and that's great news ... for me. One of the things I might enjoy trying is the public karaoke. This way I can terrorize a broader audience.

I'll add more to this in a bit. Dinner's ready, and it looks like Reiko made some great omlettes.

Ja ne,

Singin' In The Rain

It's raining in Southern Japan today.

One of the things I like about the rain in Japan is the smell of the air, and the type of rainfall. The air becomes much more dense with humidity and fog, and carries with it a clean smell that's devoid of pollution. The rainfall is consistent and very relaxing.

Reiko and I travelled south to Toyohashi (about 50 km south of Nagoya) early this morning, and the view from the train was pretty spectacular. People were coming and going, kids were on their way to school, people were running for the train, and in all this activity there was an order. This order has to be one of my favourite aspects of Japan.

On the way back, the train was less full as most people were still at work. The rain had started while Reiko and I were busy with appointments in Toyohashi, and the sound it made while hitting the roof was so relaxing that both Reiko and I fell asleep for most of the trip. All in all, I think that the nap with Reiko was the best rest I've had in the last four months. It's a shame the train ride wasn't longer :P

Later today I'll be meeting some of Reiko's students, as well as some more of her co-workers. Perhaps we'll all go out for dinner afterwards. If we do, I'll be sure to post the pictures.

Anyways, I think I need another short nap. I'll update this entry later, since I don't think it makes much sense.

Christmas in Japan

What a great Christmas, so far.

While my blog might show today as the 24th (at 7 PM), it's noon here in Japan. Reiko has to work today, but she came over early so that we could have breakfast together and open gifts. Reiko-chan makes great food, I don't know why she thinks otherwise.

Breakfast was eggs, salad and toast with syrup, followed by some apple yogurt. After this was done and put away, we brought out the Christmas gifts, and it looked like all the planning and worry earlier had paid off. Reiko really enjoyed her gifts, especially the complete collection of Mozart (170 CDs worth of music!).

It won't be easy to beat next year, so maybe Reiko and I can spend Christmas in Austria ....

I've started posting some pictures from my trip here. It'll be slow going, though. Unfortunately, my web server at home is decent for a few things, but doing the work of importing images and resizing for thumbnails is not very quick. Either way, I'll keep at it. Once I get home, the higher resolution images will be uploaded to replace the smaller pics.

Later today I'll head over to Reiko's work to meet her for lunch, and afterwards I'll get the opportunity to meet a few of her new co-workers.

I love this country.

Lots of Travel, Lots of Food, and a Little Sleep, Too!

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed all the little things in Japan. That's not to say that everything in Japan is smaller than it is in Canada, but it's the many little details that people don't really think about until they're either gone or seen again.

Reiko and I visited two possible locations for our upcoming wedding in Nagoya. The first was a full service host, complete with a church, several different reception areas, translation services for my friends and family, and a whole plethora of other offerings. Add to this the attitude of the consultant, and everything seemed perfect. Afterwards, we went to another place at the Little Italy located not too far from the Nagoya Public Aquarium. Unfortunately, neither Reiko or I were 'wowed' with the ultra-Catholic half-latin ceremony, or the general feel of the place.

So far, the first place is ahead by leaps and bounds.

Today we'll be checking out another place to see what they can offer, but it looks like it will be a tough sell to appear better than the first place we checked out. I'll be posting some pictures in the image gallery tonight or tomorrow.

On a scale of one to ten, this trip has been l33t. The weather is great (feels like Southern Ontario in the fall), the food has been awesome, and the people seem to be fascinated every time I pick up a pair of chop sticks. This is a great country to visit, and I think I'll really enjoy living here. That said, I have vowed that by the time I make my next visit to Japan, I'll have a much better grasp of the language.

Making my way from Narita to Tokyo was relatively easy. From Tokyo to Narita I ran into some communication problems. But at Narita I couldn't put together the simplest requests into a sentence. Luckily I managed to get close enough to where I was supposed to be for Reiko to still meet me. If anything, this trip has reinforced the idea that I can't just study this language passively.

On The Ground in Japan!

Alrighty, this is just a short message to say that I've landed in Japan after a very long and painful plane ride, and the subsequent getting lost on the Japanese rail system.

I'll write more about it in about two days, when I have internet from my apartment. In the meantime, this is where I am in Japan (within' a few km error margin).

Enjoy,

Sweating at the Airport, Running Low on Juice

Yare, yare ... what a morning.

Last night I found that my luggage would have weighed too much to bring, so I had to slim it down. At the same time, there wasn't room for a second winter jacket (my regular heavy one), which would mean I could possibly spend every moment outside shivering. This morning I managed to make enough room to bring my big jacket, but it meant leaving two pair of pants, a pair of shoes and bath towels behind.

This shouldn't be too bad. The bag is still heavy as heck (26.9 Kilos, and the max I could have was 27.0 kg per bag), but it's set and ready for the plane. When I tried to check in, the computers rejected me outright, and the person at the counter explained that my ticket had been voided!

Not cool.

However, it appears that the travel agent had printed the wrong intinerary for me and there were two reservations floating around Air Canada's system with my name on it. Luckily, all that got sorted out and I was permitted to pass. The security check was pretty throughout ... I had some guy pat me in places that I thought excessive, but that's the price we pay I guess. And now I'm sitting at my gate, waiting patiently to board.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to bring a light winter coat today was to intentionally keep myself cold. This flight is going to be 10.5 hours, and that means I'll be sitting beside people for almost a half day. The last thing I wanted to do was sweat and make a stink.

So, after getting a spot at the gate with a power outlet, I connected to an open WiFi hotspot and checked my work email. Unfortunately, the connection here is really bad. I had to break down and pay Telus for a bit of a connection. It wasn't until after I gave my credit card number that I noticed my notebook said it was still running on batteries...

The power outlet I've found appears to be a dud. Neither socket provides power, and now I'm running with less than 10% power left.

I'll try to put up some pictures after I get to my apartment in Japan. I'll be taking snapshots of almost everything. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to convert my aisle seat to a window seat ...

See you on the other side of the water!

Pre-Flight Checklist

With less than a day to go before my flight, I'm mentally checking off the things I need to do before boarding the plane. So far, the list is pretty light:

  1. convert a few hundred dollars to Japanese Yen
  2. do two loads of laundry, making sure to buy some travel-size Tide for Reiko
  3. pack bags with careful attention to gift placement
  4. make sure clock-radio alarm is disabled before leaving the house

Not a whole heck of a lot to do, here.

It's probably for the better, too. Since finalizing the flight several weeks ago, I've been slowly making sure that all the necessities and requirements are taken care of before this trip. One thing that I am a bit worried about, though, is the money situation while in Japan. I will likely not be able to pull any money from an ATM until Wednesday, so will the cash I bring be enough?

Reiko and I discussed the train ride that will be required to get from Narita to Mietetsu Gifu last night, and this really shouldn't be too much of an issue. This is what we've figured so far:

  1. 3:30 PM JST - Land at Narita
  2. 4:15 PM JST - Get past Customs & Immigration, and make way to train station at Terminal 1
  3. 4:30 PM JST - Catch train to Tokyo Station
  4. 5:30 PM JST - Arrive at Tokyo Station and purchase Shinkasen (Bullet Train) ticket to Nagoya
  5. 6:00 PM JST - Catch train to Nagoya Station
  6. 8:00 PM JST - Arrive at Nagoya Station and purchase train ticket to Mietetsu Gifu
  7. 8:15 PM JST - Catch train to Gifu
  8. 9:15 PM JST - Sit and wait 15 - 20 minutes for Reiko

Sounds simple enough, right? Hopefully I won't get lost along the way.

I'll be taking lots of pictures along the way, and I hope to post them on here whenever possible. Because of the limitations of my web server, I'll need to make the images quite a bit smaller than their actual size, but once I get home I will be able to post the full size images. I wonder how much internet access will cost at Narita Airport....

What to Do About Homelessness

Today I was in Downtown Vancouver with some friends, and a common scene played out before me: the poor and destitue were asking for spare change, or a meal.

Homelessness is something I've thought about for quite some time. What can societies do to help prevent this from happening?

There are lots of programs available to help people who have nowhere else to go, but there are many homeless who will not take part in these programs for various reasons. Before living on the streets becomes necessary, people usually have the ability to find work one way or another ... even if it's with a temp agency doing terrible jobs for minimum wage. Anything to keep rent paid and a meal in the stomach is better than the streets.

I've come very close to being on the street before. When I moved to BC several years ago I ran out of money and had no work and no leads. I knew nobody and was 2 weeks overdue with the rent payment for my one room in a family's home. I could have called home and asked for help (again), but my pride wouldn't let it happen. I vowed that if I completely ran out of money, I would walk back to Ontario.

They say that pride is the sign of a foolish man. After that experience, I agree.

Since that time, I've often given some money to homeless individuals or taken them to Subway or some other place for a quick meal. I've been in a position where the smell of food was enough to make you both incredibly hungry, and incredibly ill. These people are humans, just like the rest of us. Though I may not understand why some don't try to get off the street, I can't ignore them completely.

So this makes me wonder: What can we do?

Money isn't the answer. "Affordable Housing" might make things easier for many of the homeless, but doesn't solve the underlying problems. I don't think education is a valid option unless these people had food, shelter and clothing first. So what could trigger a large group of these people to come in off the streets and try to build a better life for themselves?

Some people have told me that the homeless are that way because they want to be that way. Maybe this is true for some, but not for all. I've spoken with a few, and these are people that had some terrible habits that they can no longer afford, with lives and families that they lost because of these habits. I'm sure that given the opportunity, at least some will take the offered hand and rebuild from nothing.

Of course the method for this isn't exactly clear. There is no single solution. Perhaps I should talk to a few of the local ones and see what I can do, helping one person at a time.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. ...
  4. 258
  5. 259
  6. 260
  7. ...
  8. 262