Planning For Hokkaido: Not So Different From Pittsburgh?

So my placement is Taiki-cho, Hokkaido. I just found out that they have already scheduled my welcome party and several meet-and-greets. I’m not sure whether I should be terrified or thrilled at this behavior…It seems like such a warm gesture and yet it’s being done now?

A warm the fireplace?

I was doing research on Obihiro, and it seems that it is basically like Pittsburgh, only smaller. It has lots of rivers, the winter temperatures are about the same, and the snow is the equivalent of Feburary’s “snow-pocalypse.” Taiki specifically has under 7,000 people. The University of Pittsburgh’s 2010 graduating class had well over 7,000…This is going to take some getting used to. On top of all that, my predecessor has told me that my fashion is going to be quite loud there, and draw attention to my already non-Japanese-ness. I bought some work-type clothing, but it will be very difficult for me to wear slacks and button-down shirts everyday…I don’t know if I can pull it off but I will ask if I can wear jeans on Friday, just for my sanity.

The airport is close by, and my one friend has told me that it should not be so terribly expensive to fly down to Kansai every few weeks, same as with Tokyo. I have people to stay with in each area, which cuts down on expenses tremendously. On top of that, it seems a rogue kohai (後輩=underclassman) will be joining me after his semester abroad for a little exploring. I’m really looking forward to this, especially since traveling with someone else makes me view things in a new light. I always settle down far too quickly in new places (case and point: Italy. I was done exploring within a few hours). Plus, as I will be the only foreigner within at least 50 kilometers, perhaps more, it will be a welcome respite from the constant use of Japanese. We’re starting to make plans now, but unfortunately University of Pittsburgh starts the spring term far too early, so he’ll have to book a more expensive ticket…

What I want to do when I get over there:

1) I will enter the lottery for Miyavi’s birthday concert tickets. If I win, I am soooo going since I am missing his American tour.

2) Get my butt to Kansai for a long weekend and hang out with my friends, old and new.

3) Karaoke with Coral. Hmmm….this should be number one….(I miss you <3)

4) Find a bass teacher ASAP. This is, of course, provided that the airline DOESN’T BREAK MY BASS. You never know with them….

5) Mystery meeting. I’m going to see if I can pull this one off, if I can details will follow.

My attempts at teaching...

Who knows….Maybe I can pull off this teacher/visual kei/social butterfly-thing after all…


自閉症とうちの弟(Autism and my little brother)

(Italian and Spanish: autismo)自閉症(read: jiheishou) is the Japanese word for autism.  I’ll be honest, I love the characters because they describe the disease quite well: self-closed-disease. Basically, autism is where interpersonal communication, something a lot of people take for granted, becomes a huge problem.

My brother was diagnosed when he was very young, possibly around 2 or 3, though I can’t recall exactly as I was quite young myself. He was diagnosed because someone at the daycare center noticed he was pushing kids around and not using words to communicate. Considering this was the early 90s and not much was known about autism, the fact anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary is impressive. More impressive would be my parents actually managing to admit to themselves something was wrong. Years of therapy later, and my brother managed to graduate with honors from a normal public high school….

My bro and his friends

I would like to think that having a brother made me a less selfish person, but sometimes I can’t help but think it made me more selfish. This disease is kind of like a double-edged sword. You learn patience and yet lose it just as quickly, especially if you are the sibling (i.e.: me). I don’t know what his future will hold, but he is enrolled at the community college. And I’ll be off to Japan with a debatable return. There was enough hope for him to graduate from high school, there should be enough for him to graduate from college, wouldn’t you agree?

On another, vastly different, note, I ran into my old AP English teacher at the ceremony. Damn I love that woman, she’s what I want to be like when I grow up. Only not a librarian (which she is now).

Stitch Doll and some S.A.

Suicide Ali and I

So this past April at Tekkoshocon (the local anime convention), Tainted Reality brought Suicide Ali and Luzmelt to perform. To be honest, I could have cared less about Luzmelt, as they were too new and I didn’t have a good feel of their music. I was, however, ECSTATIC for the opportunity to see Suicide Ali. During my year in Kansai, I was unable to see them due to either schedule conflicts or just a general lack of shows to choose from. La Carmina managed to score some passes for my friend Shiori (who took all these wonderful pictures) and I, so off we went! Unfortunately, I was coming down with the flu during the week, so when the con-time came, I was dying. I did a ton of stupid things I shouldn’t have/didn’t want to (I left a voice recorder in the interview room, and Suicide Ali had to return it to me later, and also I was shaking people’s hands [I am a germ-a-phobe], so I had multiple mini panic attacks). But the performances did not disappoint in the least, and I am trying to get my butt to Tokyo for their one man (solo show) on Christmas. It was the first time I had seen them perform live since I found out about them back in 2006…sadness.

There will be a new single out the 23rd of June, Stitch Doll, and Tainted Reality had a preview on the broadcast. Now, here’s where I have to bitch a bit: It was INCREDIBLY hard to hear most things on that broadcast. I don’t tune in enough to know whether that’s a regular thing or just how it was that night, but my speakers were knocked up to 11. However, after making sure I was guaranteed an earache by pressing my ear onto the already-turned-up speaker, I really liked what I was hearing. It was much more in line with the song レバンディシュリング(Revandish Ring), which is probably one of my favorites of theirs (but 人間の要[Ningen no Kaname] is my all-time favorite, which was played an as encore THANK GOD). I immediately pre-ordered the Stitch Doll single from Darkest Labyrinth, and paired with the Variable Messiah (Goshi and Hiroshi’s old band) best-of album.


Suicide Ali has been around for six years now, and Goshi and Hiroshi about ten. It just amazes me that not many people know about them when the music and vocals are extremely well done. I take that back, the first time I heard Suicide Ali induced a WTF expression on my face that caused my insane Venezuelan roommate to laugh at me. I wish I could remember what the song was, but I suppose I just got so used to their style that I blocked it all out…At any rate, I adore this band and will make every effort to see them in either Osaka or Tokyo, despite the fact I am stuck in Obihiro (with an airport 20-30 minutes away ;])

I recommend:

正しい魔法の作り方 (Tadashii Mahou no Tsukurikata) (single, includes 人間の要 new version. The video on youtube now is the older version of the song, fyi.)

受継がれた指輪 (don’t trust me on this, but Uketsugareta Yubiwa, I THINK) (mini-album, has the version of Ravendish Ring I like the most)

Youtube. Use youtube on this because it links you to so many other songs. also allows you to preview before you buy, whereas Darkest Labyrinth sells only the CDs with no preview, but also sells signed pictures and posters.


I love these pictures. More for the hell of it.



My CDs shipped today! I can’t wait to get them ❤

What band should I review next? Any opinions?

Hisashiburi ya nen…

Well, it has been nearly 4 months since I last posted. Sorry about that, but life went to hell faster than I could keep dibs on. But after struggling through an insane thesis, research problems that would boggle your mind, and an insane restaurant gig, I’m back! With results!

Last time I posted, I explained the JET interview for CIR. My results were: I got into JET, but as an ALT for Taiki-cho in Hokkaido.


Taiki-cho is about an hour south of Obihiro on the eastern part of Hokkaido. It is known for….dairy farming. Yep, my neighbors will be cows and volcanoes (though I truly don’t mind either). The apartment is brand new, sitting on the riverfront, and the car…well, the car is used but in good shape. I’m also extremely close to an airport that will get me down to Kansai or Tokyo every-so-often.

I’ll primarily be teaching middle schoolers, however I also have one day a week where I teach elementary classes AND conduct my own adult English classes. On my own. Without help from another teacher. INTIMIDATING!

Since I am about 3.5 hours from Sapporo, I’ll be looking for a bass and piano teacher in the Tokachi sub-prefecture and bandmates out in Sapporo. If I can find a band, then I will be spending long weekends in Sapporo and teaching on weekdays. This will be all on top of finding a steady job, mind you!

All in all I am grateful for this opportunity, and though I am crazy-far-out-there, I think this will be an overall great experience. Plus, in all the downtime, BASS PRACTICE TIIIIME!

Oh, and my latest outfit creation (because I’m sure you all know and care about how I dress):

New Ero Loli?

New Ero Loli look?

On top of that, if you are curious what else I did in the last few months, check out this page on La Carmina:

Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing the latest single by Suicide Ali (Stitch Doll), so stay tuned! ❤

So I went to Chicago, and I took a JET interview…

Life has been rather chaotic of late, what with the snow storms, midterms, lack of internet, and far too many double shifts at the cafe for one’s immune system to bear. But, I did manage to get my butt to Chicago for the JET interview despite all the mayhem.

As almost all students of Japanese may know, the JET program is one of the main English-teaching programs emphasized by universities as a way to get students back to Japan. The reason it is emphasized so much is because it is run by the government, and no Nova-esque disasters can occur unless the whole government collapses. However, as more and more students apply, it is getting more and more difficult to be granted an interview, let alone be allowed into the program. There are several reasons for this, the first and foremost being that schools in Japan are cutting their ties with JET in favor for outsourcing their English teaching programs. Why, you may ask? Well, JET, though stable, has had a history of attracting the “loonies” from abroad. Take, for example, the predecessor to my adviser: Sara, the Wakayama JET. Now, Sara was a Scotswoman. She liked her drink, and she also like to throw up in the toilet and pour coca-cola down after the puke in order to “clean things up”. She would also miss work periodically, and when her husband was hit by a taxi, she pretty much quit the program for the last few months (i.e. spent all her time at the hospital and none at the school she was assigned to). She was a nightmare for the system, an irresponsible JET who is now, rumour has it, a plumber. It’s a good example of why JET is being cut out of schools. There is also the matter that outsourcing is much cheaper. Schools only want a JET who is responsible and able to adapt to a new environment quickly and efficiently without a nervous breakdown. And this is all according to my adviser, mind you.

Allow me to explain how the JET program application process works. You fill this application out online, and you print the materials under the “Printable Materials” tab. This is where things get tricky, and this is also where the first round of cuts occurs. If you mess up one tiny step of this application, your whole application, letters of recommendation and all, will be thrown out. This happened to my classmate, who did not specifically state how to write and package the letters of recommendation. Or the woman from whom the recommendation was requested was just a moron and did not know how to read. At any rate, read EVERYTHING on the forms, and go over things as many times as possible to make sure you did not mess anything up. There is even an order in which you must package the materials for mailing, so don’t give them a reason to pitch out your application on a technicality.

There are two aspects to JET: ALT and CIR. 90% of all JET participants are ALT, or Assistant Language Teachers. I once heard it described as being a “child’s santa clause”, but after speaking to a variety of JETs I came to realize that the duties vary not only with the school, but with the amount of effort you are willing to put in to the task at hand. A JET from Kyoto basically does all his own lesson plans for his middle school class, which is excellent experience if you want to be a teacher in the future. Other ALTs, well, let’s just call JET a break from reality for up to 5 years. There is also no Japanese requirement for this position, though JETs that know Japanese are becoming a gold standard. Let’s face it: you may be teaching English, but you still need to navigate Japanese society. Also, flexibility is key for this position, as you will most likely be placed in the countryside far, far away from cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. If you absolutely have to be in the city, your application may be ranked lower than others simply due to the lack of positions available. Now, the other 10% of JET participants are CIR, or Coordinators of International Relations. You NEED to know Japanese to get this position, preferably a very high Level 2 or a solid Level 1 on the JLPT. There are two types of CIR positions: local government and prefectural government. Local government has more leniency than the prefectural one, as you are more involved with community outreach. The prefectural government, located in the capitals of each of the provinces, has a very specific outline of what the CIR is to do on a daily basis. Obviously, Japanese is needed to communicate with coworkers and the people in the community you are assigned to. Tasks range from translating to helping create tour guide tapes to throwing a community festival.

I applied for CIR with the option of being an ALT. I was granted an interview (for reasons unknown to me) for the CIR portion. I immediately ran to my adviser and also to my mentor, who both gave me a list of possible questions, Japanese study guides, and also just spoke to me about their experiences and what I should expect from the interview. The interview was to be in Chicago, as I initially planned to go with my friend (though that plan fell through when I realized CIR interviews are on very specific days whereas ALT interviews are everyday during the assigned week), and it was to be divided into two portions: a 20-25 minute English interview with a former CIR, a member of the consulate, and (insert random Japanese person here) followed by a 10-15 minute Japanese examination. I opted for a Tuesday afternoon timeslot, as it was earlier in the week and on the first day of CIR interviews. I prepped the best I could, and off I went to Chicago to face my doom.

I arrived at my interview a day ahead of time, mostly because I wanted to do some shopping. On the day of the interview, I arrived 30 minutes ahead of time so that I could check in and use the facilities as I pleased until my name was called. All CIRs in Chicago interviewed with Panel A (out of A-D), so I was led into the room and placed in front of a table labeled Panel A. I made sure to introduce myself and shake everyone’s hand. The random Japanese guy, mine was an academic whose name I cannot recall, began the conversation in Japanese. Very simple questions, such as “Why do you wish to be placed in Kansai?” and “How did you handle Japanese food?” I responded accordingly and to the best of my ability, with “I have a large network of friends there” and “I was fine, except I have a milk allergy and that made me unable to consume most desserts”. He also asked me how I would handle a long-distance relationship, to which I responded “I have done it before, and though it did not work out, Skype made the whole process easier”. After that we switched into English, and I was asked how I would handle a company dinner in which a food item I did not like was placed in front of me. I told them I would have to swallow my pride and eat as much of it as possible and not complain (I had mentioned that I was not a fan of takoyaki or okonomiyaki, so they used those items as an example of a company meal). I also said I had done the same thing before with a fugu dinner my host family had held, as I do not like fugu. They asked of my experience in Japan, either working (I did an internship at BNY Mellon, Tokyo and also worked part-time in a restaurant) or studying (I studied abroad in Konan University, Kobe and Temple University, Japan). I said  I had an enjoyable time, though if I had to repeat the experience I would not have selected Konan. When asked why, I asked them if they knew of Konan’s reputation. When they said no, I described the student body as being a stylish entity I had no connection to, thus forcing me out into the wilds of Osaka and Kobe to find a friend network that genuinely wanted to hang out with me, versus being forced to due to the small nature of the college. I also stated that, despite my hatred of the school, I adored my host family, who treated me as their very own daughter. They asked how I liked Italy (I studied there for a summer), and I said it was amazingly eyeopening, and that I never knew men on vespas would hiss at me in order to get my attention. The panel asked me to describe how I would present and teach American Valentine’s Day to a group of elementary school children. I said that I would teach them phrases to put on their valentines, and also have a valentine-making contest. I also stated that I would teach them some picto-grams, just so the kids could have fun with drawing the bees in “be mine” or the eyes and hearts in “I love you”. They asked of my experience at BNY Mellon, and how I was treated during company drinking parties. I said it was usually just myself and the higher ups, so the panel responded with a “What would you do if your coworker got drunk at a company nomikai?” I was stumped, so I responded with “Take care of them the best I can, but when they pass out I would have to put them in a corner out of the way to prevent harm to them or others”. I have no idea how that response went down (same with the Konan statement). There were several other questions seemingly off the cuff: “How will you react to a situation in which you are constantly gossiped about?”, “When you are a JET, you stand out no matter what, so how can you cope with the feeling of eyes constantly on your back?”, and, finally, the dreaded “Do you have any questions you would like to ask us?”. I responded “Yes. I heard there have been times when JETs must work with special needs children….” The former CIR assured me that every experience went over well. She must have thought I was scared, so I corrected her with a “But I WANT to work with them! My brother is autistic, I know how they function and how to help them through most stages of development, provided they are autistic….” I think that response went down very well, as the consulate guy wrote it down on my application. They finally asked me the required questions, including “Are you on medication?” and “Would you like to be considered for an ALT if you are not ready for CIR?”, among others.

After the English portion, I moved to another room to take the Japanese examination. I was greeted by a little old Japanese woman, who told me that she would hand me two essays, one at 2 level and one at 1 level. She gave me one minute a piece to read them. Then she asked me to read them aloud. I did very well with the 2 level, but the 1 level I was very hit-or-miss with. After I read them aloud, she asked me a series of questions about the essays, and I was to answer them to the best of my ability. I did the best I could, and tried to escape as soon as I was able. It was not a walk in the park, but anyone who has taken a JLPT exam would recognize the format easily. I failed my 2 level JLPT by one point, but I think that I am more than capable at working in a Japanese environment.

Thus ended my exam. I thanked the former JETs working the check-in booth for taking the time to talk to me about their experiences, and then I ran to catch my flight (only I hopped on the green line instead of the orange at Roosevelt. Oops…) I will hear from the program in April. I hope I got in, but I am very reserved in this hope, as spaces are limited.

One last thought: Always wear a suit to these things. Presentation is incredibly important, and you have only 15 seconds to make a good first impression. Manicure it up, wear cleanly pressed suits, shine your shoes, and show self-expression in minute details, such as earrings and necklaces and color of the button-down shirt. DO NOT come in khaki pants, a tweed suit, a tweed dress, or, heaven forbid, jeans. They may just reject you on lack of work styling.

Snowstorm of the Century

So, here I am. Snowed in at my parents’ house. I came home on Friday morning so that I would be closer to the doctor’s office, but when I woke up this morning there was almost three feet of snow at my door. Needless to day, I had to cancel both my bass lessons and my doctor appointments for the day… I am grateful, however, that this snowstorm did not hit Valentine’s Day weekend, as I am to fly to Chicago Sunday the 14th for my JET interview (and some shop-therapy on michigan Avenue). At the same time, though, I left all my homework at my apartment. Even more unfortunate, it’s midterm time and I have two this week. Looks like a bunch of all-nighters coming up… 😦

I’m Back!

And I have returned! I came down with a very high fever and a bad case of the midterms, so I have been avoiding the internet like the plague. But now, I have some time, so I am going to continue with this blog! Let’s go!

So, I have worked out the JET situation. I will be interviewing for CIR (Coordinator of International Relations), which is a position working in an office rather than as an English teacher. Since I really don’t want to teach English, I am thrilled that I was selected for an interview! I bet it’s because I worked in BNY Mellon in Tokyo for the summer….Hmm…At any rate, Japanese is required for the job. Which leads me to my next point.

JLPT. Japanese Language Proficiency Test. 日本語能力試験.

I failed it. By 10 points. Because of the damn vocabulary section NOT having kanji to help me identify the words. I plan on not bringing this up in my interview, as it is very embarrassing and might hurt my chances.

The way JET works is thus:

90% of all JET participants are ALT (Assistant Language Teachers), and 10% are CIR. Taking the exam is highly recommended for qualifying yourself as being at a certain level of Japanese. Obviously, I suck. My plan is to ace the English portion of the interview and make them think that I am a completely normal and sane person, and if I bomb the Japanese portion…..maybe they will still hire me?

I have begun my Japanese review for the interview, and also done a mock-run with a member of the Asian Studies staff. She gave me hope… help me believe in me!

And I manage to mess up JET already…

So, as you know, yesterday I received confirmation that I will be interviewing for the JET program. What that email did NOT specify was whether I would be interviewing for CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) or ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). On my application, I selected CIR with the option to more to ALT if my application was not strong enough. The email was generic, and since it matched with my friends who all applied for ALT, I assumed that I, too, was selected for ALT. I booked a plane ticket with a friend, and booked an interview.

Today, though, I recieved an email that my interview had been cancelled and that I needed to rebook as a CIR. I had sent an email to confirm in the morning, due to feelings of dread last night. To my horror, I had only one day to interview for CIR left avaliable: Tuesday, Feburary 16th. In other words, the day of a midterm with my thesis adviser. NOT GOOD. Now, there is all sorts of drama going on with the plane ticket, mostly because my friend is scheduled for a Friday interview and now I a Tuesday, but we are booked on the same ticket. The airline will not let us split apart, so my friend is trying to either switch her interview time or just cancel the flight as a whole….I feel terrible, as this is my fault.

At any rate, they let me keep the interview despite my messing up the time booking. So, maybe, with any luck, I will be returning to Japan as a CIR instead of an ALT! Wish me luck! With everything….. >.<

JET Interview is Go!

Go, go, Chocobo!

 Today I received notification from the JET program that I will be interviewing for a position. I applied for both CIR and ALT (specifically, the CIR position with the option to switch to ALT). However, I know that my Japanese ability is not strong enough for the CIR, so I have instead opted to interview as an ALT. Whether this is problematic or not is debatable, and I have sent them an email notifying them of my change. At any rate, this is a huge step forward in my plan to return to Japan and not only master the language but start a band up as well. Stay tuned for more details!

Grimmace and I in New York, NY

Visual Kei Review: 愛狂います。ー サイコXレタア

The first Visual Kei band review I will do involves a very unique group from Nagoya.  

愛狂います。, read as Aicle., are self-described as “those apple-looking people”. Really. They said it at a concert in Takadanobaba Area in summer 2009. This could be because ルビ (Rubi, Guitar) has a fascination with attaching “large apples to his head”. Actually, he constantly has some form of apple paraphernalia on his body at any given point in time. This statement could also be from the fact that えみる (Emiru, Vocals) used to have half-red and half-green hair that was spiked up, thus emulating an apple. The other two members, 玲音 (れおん. Leon, Drums) and さらん (Saran, Bass), have less-apple-themed attire and hairstyles. However, that does not mean that the styling of this band focuses solely on the vocalist! Lately, the entire band has done a shift in styling, moving away from their former, more color-centric attire toward a style that can only be described as being bitch-slapped by a  rainbow. (By “color-centric,” I mean each member has one color that they focus on in their wardrobe) They are truly embracing kote-kei and making it their own. I have also heard them described as “Nagoya-kei”, however I am not entirely sure what this phrasing entails. It was also used to describe Lupo Label (now disbanded), yet the music and fashion styling of the bands do not really compare.

Their latest single, サイコXレタア (Psycho Letter),has えみる appearing to channel some SiSeN with his belly shirt, shorts, and color combinations. At any rate, the title of the song is a very accurate description, as the song is rather random and blends multiple styles together. What makes Aicle. great, though, is their ability to actually pull off these combinations. It has, in a sense, become their signature music style. Other Visual Kei bands often attempt to do this type of music style combination, but more often than not they fall on their face in the attempt. There is no other way to describe Aicle. but “unique,” both in the sense of their style, music, and interesing music style.

Here’s what’s going on musically in this single:

さらん may appear to be playing some boring bass lines, but before the bass solo (which is rather simple), he is often playing slap-style. His alternation with ルビ also makes for some interesting plays off one-another musically. Very interesting bass lines going on with this band, very interesting indeed….

玲音 is a soild drummer. Let’s be honest: a good drummer can hold any band afloat. There is a lot more programming in this song, but he holds a steady beat and throws in a few tricks every now and then.

ルビ has been holding down the fort as the main guitarist since the rhythm guitarist, ケイタ (Keita) left in early 2009 due to family issues. I’d say he’s been doing a brilliant job and he is all over the neck of that guitar. I adore the pedals and such that they use, it rounds their unique style out.

えみる. Either you love his vocals, or you hate them. I, personally, like how he can turn off the vibrato for certain parts and back on again for the chorus. His voice is rather high-pitched by male standards, but it works in his favor, adding another layer of unique musicality to the mix. The vocals are standard Aicle., so you have to listen to more songs to understand exactly what I mean by turning on and off the vibrato.

Aicle. is, to me, a true Visual Kei band. They experiment musically and also in the realm of fashion, and pull it off. They are experiencing a huge jump in popularity, selling out shows not only in their native Nagoya but in Tokyo and Osaka as well. If possible, I highly recommend seeing them live, as the fans are just as unique as the band. (They have a certain name, these fans, but I have forgotten it….It was a play on 狂い) There is also a lottery that the goods stand has, called a クラクジ (kurakuji). for about 200 yen, you pull out a lollipop that has a number on it. This number indicates you prize, which ranges from a button to an autographed poster to (this only happened once as far as I know) a meeting with the band for pictures. I won the autographed poster, an autographed photograph of 玲音 before he dyed his hair from blonde to the pink-red-orange, a few candid live photographs, and a hand towel (it’s a Japanese thing…). I also met them after a concert once, sans makeup. That was a bit horrifying, but it was cool just the same.

For those new to Aicle and wanting to hear more, I recommend the following songs, as they give a good overview of what this band can do (and they can all be found on youtube!):

心臓 (Shinzou)

トウメイニンゲン (Toumei Ningen)

ハマー*ヘッド (Hammerhead)

ゴメンナサイ (Gomen Nasai)

Choco Sand Biscuit Cream

That’s all for this review (wow, that was lengthy…) but I hope it was enjoyable! If you have any bands or singles that you want me to review, just post them in the comment section or shoot me an email!

Aicle. circa Hammerhead

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