Monday, April 13, 2009

We've Moved!

So I guess that by now, not really anyone comes by and checks this blog out anymore, but on the off chance that someone does...

I moved to Matsue last year, and now that I'm online in my new digs, I've decided to start a new blog.

The Matsue Chronicles. (I like to stay with a certain theme whenever possible.)

Swing on by.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Long Time Gone

Happy New Year?

Okay, so I'm a bit late for that. And Valentine's Day. And President's Day. et cetera ad infinitum ad naseum.

Life here at the Casa Kidd Muroran Branch is...hectic, for reasons that those of you who are in the know already know, and also know why I can't quite write them here yet.

Let's see...updates updates updates...

The writing continues, which is the main thing that keeps me from updating here. I'm on article #77, which is due tomorrow morning, so tonight's going to be a late night. It's about the time my good buddy Dave visited me here in Japan. I've pretty much got the rest of the topics set up for my roll into article #100.

Mom and Dad Come To Japan
Oregon Trail
Hakuta and Australia
From Hakuta to Izumo
In The Hospital
Out On Iki
Misogi Time
Ikeda-san and Tamura Shrine
Modern-Day Ruins
Super English
From Shimane to Hokkaido
Dad's 60th
Sayonara, Wasabi-kun
Dead Tourism

Still trying to work out a few of the kinks in this list, but most of my subjects have been chosen.

So as long as I get a few extra articles written in the next couple of days, things should be pretty smooth running from here on out. I need to lock myself in a quiet room on the second floor of the school or something. Especially since I don't have any classes for the next two days. Take advantage of the chances, and stay the heck away from the Internet.

Singing continues as well...if you get a chance, do a search for "Perfect on Friday" on YouTube. You might find something like this...

Thank you Rocksaw!

My other band and I have a couple of shows coming up, one on March 2nd and one on March 9th.

Songs include...
Proud Mary (CCR)
Get Back (The Beatles)
Superstition (yeah, by THAT Stevie Wonder)
Long Train Running (Doobie Brothers)
Vehicle (Ides of March)
Whiter Shade of Pale (Procul Harum)
and more...

Anybody reading this who knows me from high school should have a good laugh at the whole idea of me singing Stevie, but hey, the bassist suggested it.

I've started up a Facebook page too, and have been posting a lot of photos over there. It's a little easier there is all. Look me up and check out the pics.

Oh, my car has a new engine.

Yeah. The seals holding in the oil weren't put on correctly, and last week on my way back from the airport, they slipped off and my car started leaking oil and making funny noises. I called up the dealer, they took it in to check on it, and I got a call that afternoon that said they weren't sure what the cause was, but they were darn sure going to find out. AND it looked like an engine replacement was necessary.

So I got my car back on Sunday, with a BRAND SPANKIN NEW ENGINE! Woo-hoo! Reset those near 40,000 kilometers I've put on Hello-kun!

Oh, and what with being in Hokkaido and all, I've been skiing quite a bit. (No boarding, as I have been threatened with physical violence by a couple of my cousins who shall remain nameless here ***coughcoughScottNathancoughcough*** if I ever started snowboarding.) Three days in Hidaka (work, no less!) followed by a day out at Niseko. Good times, good snow, good God my body hurts. heh heh

That's about it, I guess.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Brisbane Chronicles: Shark Biscuit and Other Tales of the Bizarre

On Saturday (12/8), I hopped on a train and headed down to the Gold Coast.

I've heard a lot of talk about the Gold Coast, and with it so close, I figured I should head down and see what all the fuss was about.

Plus, my compadre in crime, Jack, threatened me with physical violence if I didn't go surfing while I was in Australia.

"Dustin, I will NEVER be able to go surfing in Australia, so if you don't go while you are there, I will inflict a thousand years of pain on you."
Alllllllllrighty then. A-surfin' I will go.

I made reservations through the International House and was all ready to go. A quick stop off in Harbour Town to pick up a rash vest and visit my friend Ashley's mom, and then it was on the bus to...


Let's just say that the name fits.

A gorgeous beach, gorgeous sun tanners, and too damn many surfers in a small area. It was nice, but I wish we could have spread out a bit more and not had to deal with all the bloody galahs (see: idiots) who couldn't figure out where the swimming area was.

I stood up on my board for about one thousandth of a second before the board went one way and I the other, but all in all, it was a fun experience.

By the way, the words "Shark Biscuit" in the title refer to people like me. It's Aussie slang for new surfers.

I always thought Japan had the market cornered on all things bizarre, but today I found myself proven wrong. It's pretty bizarre Down Under as well.

I was shopping for some souvenirs at an Australian Souvenir shop in the Queen Street Mall today, when I heard a familiar song come over the radio.

Bam-bada-bada, bam-bada-bada, bam-bada-bada, badabadabadabada...

(Trust me, it'll make sense in a minute.)

A bit of a country-fried intro, if I do say so myself...

Then the lyrics kicked in.

Big wheels keep on turning,
carry me home to see my kin
singing songs about the southland.
I miss ole bamy once again and I think it's a sin.
Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her.
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down.
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
a southern man don't need him around anyhow.
Hold on...


Sweet home Alabama, where the skies are so blue.
Sweet home Alabama, Lord, I'm coming home to you.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen, in an Australian souvenir store in Brisbane, they were playing Lynrd Skynrd's "Sweet Home Alabama".

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Australia.

Japan, you've got competition.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Brisbane Chronicles: Kicked Outta The Bar

"Sir, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Well, this is a first. "May I ask why?"

"Well sir, you see..."


Let me back up to the beginning.

Last Thursday, I headed out on the town with some friends I'd made here. We decided to hit one of the local pubs for dinner and drinks.

I'd found a place called The Union Jack in the downtown area of Brisbane, and I figured that would be a fun place to go. Besides, you're pretty much guaranteed that you'll be able to find good whiskey at a place called The Union Jack.

So we met up at 7, and headed over to the pub. We ordered some drinks, some fish and chips, and my personal favorite, shepherd's pie.

Oh, and a whiskey.

Thursday nights at The Union Jack, you can buy a card for $10 that gets you four drinks. The only problem is that they sell the card every OTHER hour, and we'd just missed the cut-off for the card. No big deal, just wait until 8 and then go to the counter and get one.

So we sat and talked and enjoyed our dinner, and when I checked my watch again, it was after 8.

$10 drink card time!

I headed to the front entrance to buy a card when a rather burly-looking bloke stepped up to me and said:

"Sir, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Well, this is a first. "May I ask why?"

"Well sir, you see, we have a dress code, and I can't let you in if you're only wearing shorts."

But I've been here for the past hour?

"I come on at 8, and that's when our dress code starts. You're going to have to leave."

Can I at least go back in and get my stuff?

"Oh yeah, sure mate."

Be right back.

So I head back to the table, explain to my friends that I've just been kicked out for wearing shorts, finish off what's left of my whiskey and the shepherd's pie, and head back out, telling my friends that I'll wait for them to catch up.

"Hey mate, sorry about that, but it's the rules."

No worries. It's just kinda funny. Who in their right mind would wear pants when it's as hot as it is?

"True. Most places around here have that rule though. Nothing I can do."

Like I said, no worries. I enjoyed the place though. Maybe I'll come back for lunch sometimes.

"Right. Dress code doesn't start until 8, so you'd be good then."

Yep. Well, here come my friends. Take it easy.

And then we headed off to another outdoor bar that wasn't as strict in their clothing requirements.

Thus ends the tale of the first time I ever got kicked out of a bar.

Oh, and in case anybody out there reading this would like to get a hold of me directly, my e-mail is yoshiwatari (at) hotmail (dot) com. Hope to hear from you, Sebastian. Thanks for the comment on my last post, and thanks for looking me up!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Brisbane Chronicles - G'Day From Down Under

G'day mates! How ya goin'?

Summer in November. Water spiralling down the drain the opposite way. Santa coming to town on a surfboard.

That's right! I'm in the Land of Oz - Australia!

Starfish High decided to have our month-long Intensive Language Course held in another English-speaking country other than the States this year.

Although, sometimes I wonder if you can really call this English. (I keed, I keed!)

Yours truly got sent along to keep the unruly bunch from going wrong.

What a difference a year can make.

Australia is a really great country. I'm having a blast. Water dragons in the backyard, possums on the telephone lines, eight million different kinds of deadly animals on land and in the water...

Australia...It's FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAntastic.

But seriously, I'm having a ball. We went to the Lone Pine Koala Reserve last weekend, and yesterday I went to the XXXX (Fourex) Brewery over in Milton and took the $18 tour.

You get four beers at the end! (It's like making all that money back!)

Good times all around, and when I can get my data downloaded, I'll post some pictures.

The one thing that worries me is the weather shock I'm sure to get when I get back to Muroran. Aussie summer to Hokkaido winter in ten hours...not fun.

Until ya hear from me again, toss some shrimp on the barbie, grab a cuppa, and have a nice time with your bloke or sheila.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adventures In Akabira

Welcome back, me.


The leaves are turning yellow and red, it's a lot cooler in the evenings, our open school events are finished and the Mariners are trying to figure out what they can do to be competitive next season after having a big ol' batch of baseball impotence rise up (hah!) and kill their season before I could watch them suck it up against the A's in early September.

It's fall again.

I had the day off on Monday, so I went out and did some exploring.

Since I'm not a big fan of most of the shrines up here in Hokkaido (and that's a subject for its own post), I've had to search for something else to go out and see while I'm here.

I found my answer. Haikyo. Modern-day ruins. Buildings that have been abandoned and are slowly being reclaimed by nature. Railroad lines that were closed down and had the majority of track pulled up, but still leave evidence that at one time, they were used and loved by the people in the communities they serviced. Mines that have dried up and are no longer economically viable to run.

Hoo-boy, is Hokkaido filled with haikyo.

This time, I headed to a city called Akabira. Located in the formerly coal-rich area of Sorachi in central Hokkaido, Akabira was part of the huge coal mining boom that swept through the island in the last century.

But like most booms, it was a temporary thing, and as the coal ran out, mines started getting closed down, until there were only two left in Hokkaido. One in Kushiro, where they are still mining under the sea floor, and one in Akabira, which was operated by the Sumitomo Coal Mining Company. It held on the longest, finally forced to close down in 1992. The mine shaft complex still looms on the Akabira horizon, and the folks in Akabira have decided to use it as a tourist attraction.

Presumably because there's not a whole heck of a lot else to use as tourist attractions in Akabira. (I say this with love.)

A few weeks ago, the Sapphire Princess luxury cruise liner came to Muroran, and once again the staff and students of Starfish High headed out into Muroran to volunteer as translators for all of the rich people that came into town. The event was successful, and at a celebration some of the staff had a few weeks later, I met a woman who works in Akabira promoting "dead tourism", as she put it, in comparison to "live tourism", which is what we pulled off in Muroran.

Basically, she works with a group that encourages tourism of the old, no-longer-running (i.e. "dead") coal mining areas in Sorachi.

So with a day off coming up, I called her and said I was heading that way and would be there sometime after 9 AM. (She had a meeting at 10.)

Up and out the door at 6 AM Monday morning. (I'll have plenty of time to sleep in when the snow falls and the insane Hokkaido drivers make me fear for my life out on snowy, icy roads.) And as promised, I made it to Akabira just after 9.

Ms. Uemura, my kind and courteous host, met me at a local convenience store and set me up with some people to show me around town, apologizing that she couldn't. Which just made me feel bad, because she was taking time out of her (what seemed to be an insanely) busy schedule to help some white dude with a camera slung on his shoulder go around and look at mines.

So before heading off to her meeting, she introduced me to Mr. Kato, who is a haikyo fan like myself and took me on a quick trip through town.

First, he took me to a lesser-known mine, the Fukuzumi Shaft, which is completely overgrown, not that easy to find, plus it's not even all that known among the people in Akabira.

The Fukuzumi Shaft.

We also went and saw the Akama "Zuri" mountain. "Zuri" is a term used in Hokkaido to describe the slag and cast-off from mines, and it was often piled up so high that it made small mountains.

Then it was over to The Main Attraction.

The Sumitomo Coal Mine building, preserved since its closing. "Preserved" in this case meaning "not torn down and merely left to the elements, with the most basic touch-ups done to the outside, because Sumitomo didn't have enough money to tear it down".

The crows seem to like it, anyway.

After a quick peek at the outside of the building, we swung over to see the old power plant for the mine, and then it was over to the coal mining museum, which was converted from an elementary school.

Ms. Uemura made a phone call, and some dude from city hall showed up to open the museum up, as it is usually closed on Mondays.


This is a fact that I remembered upon arrival in Akabira. Oops.

The museum was very informative, with a lot of material and equipment of display. Thank you, city hall dude.

Then Mr. Kato and I headed back to the mine, because he had just recieved a call from Ms. Uemura telling him she had made another one of her phone calls and now some guy was coming over to actually OPEN UP THE MINE BUILDING.

Mr. Yamaguchi, general manager for Sumitomo Coal Mining Company Ltd., met us and let us inside.

So I got the official tour. Which apparently usually requires a lot of paperwork but this time only took a phone call.

Thank you, Ms. Uemura!

Mr. Kato (Thank you, too!) had to take off, so Mr. Yamaguchi took me around to see a few more places.

Like the company bath building, where workers would go to clean up after eight hours (or so) in the mine. It is also the place where the currently store some hazardous materials (not photos permitted), so apparently no one except company personnel get in there. Perhaps this is another example of the Gaijin Smash.

I also got to visit the equipment display garage, where some of the machinery used in the mine is on display. Mr. Yamaguchi told me that the majority of the equipment is "sleeping underground", sealed up in the mine when they closed it off.

He had to get to a meeting as well, so I thanked him for his time (which he made perfectly obvious was being provided to me ONLY because of Ms. Uemura's call) and left.

A couple more shots of the mine from outside.

Fall leaves...
...and some very beautiful flowers.

Ms. Uemura called me and told me to meet up with her at a restaurant run by her mother, where I could have anything on the menu. A croquette rice bowl and mini curry and rice later, she arrived from her meeting. I thanked her profusely, and offered any help that I might be able to give if she ever needed any English translation work done. Then I was on my way.

Through Utashinai and Kamisunagawa, and down into Ashibetsu, past Lake Katsurazawa...

...where I got this shot.

Then over into Mikasa City, where I got a few shots of the Ponbetsu Mine Shaft.

And then I went home.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Well, That's Not All Bad...

You scored as Charlie, You're Charlie! Sweet, adorable and caring but with a bit of a bad habit.



























Who is your "Lost" alter ego?
created with


I like "Lost". Anxiously waiting for Season 3 to come out on DVD.

(Hint, hint, nudge, nudge Mom and Dad)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

And So It Begins...

I've officially entered my third year of employment at Starfish High.

Hard to believe that it's been two years already.

Life in The North Country. Good ol' Ezo.

Good food.

Great scenery.

Wonderful people.

Absolutely beautiful place to travel around in.

And yet I find myself asking that classic question that was posed so well by The Clash.

I suppose I'll find the answer soon enough.

On a completely unrelated note, I went to an exhibition of Salvador Dali's artwork at the Hokkaido Museum Of Modern Art on Sunday. Love me some Dali.

It was quite possibly one of the most intense experiences of my life. I never thought that I would get the chance to see actual Dali artwork outside of a textbook or slide show. And yet there it was. I had a big ol' dopey grin on my face for the hour and a half I spent there. Just absolutely incredible.

I also attended my first overnight outdoor music festival, Rising Sun Rock Festival 2007 on Friday and Saturday. All Japanese bands, but a really cool event. The toilet situation ended up being pretty bad by the end, but for two days it was music and fun. Having a barbecue and drinking until the sun came up on Saturday morning was fun, but it kind of put a damper on Saturday. I ended up bailing out to the tent early on Saturday and not watching the whole thing. That was okay, because you could still hear all the music all the way out to my tent.

Good times.

Yet that question still lurks...

This Is Why I Love The Internet

Two of my favorite TV shows, brought together in one glorious video.

(Courtesy of College Humor)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'm An Uncle!

Hey everyone!

I know it's been a long while since my last update...

July was busy.

Starfish High's school festival was on the 30th of June and 1st of July. Sang "Popsicle Toes", a jazz song, on the 30th, and "Festival Preparations", a punk song, on the 1st. Both sets kicked major ass.

The next day I flew home. That was for P-dog's wedding, and the old KB gang got back together again. Everyone looked great, and I got more than a few "update the darn blog" comments.

This will happen. Just not yet.

So P-dog is one happy newlywed. Good to see, good to see.

After coming back, I made a trip to Furano to take some pics of the lavender that Furano is famous for. Mom and Sis are BIG lavender fans, and I promised them some photos. Keep an eye out for those here.

A slow week followed, and then I went on a big adventure for the big three-oh. Yep, yours truly turned 30 on July 30th. Abandoned train lines, hot springs way up in the mountains, more fresh seafood than you can shake a stick at, crab meat, a festival, and many many miles under the tires of my car.

Pics from this trip will also appear...sometime.

Good times.

And now, official word has arrived. On August 12, 2007, at around 2AM, I became an uncle. My kid sister gave birth to William Ravi Mallory, her own little pod person. (I mean this in total good fun.) How tough is my sister? It was an all-natural birth. No drugs, no IV, no nothing.

This is why I live in Japan. She scares me so damn much that I'm afraid to be in the same country with her for very long.

Anyway, congrats to And, Mark, William, and the new Grandma and Grandpa Kidd.

Oh, and Uncle Dustin, too.