Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Those slow walkers...

This story actually springs from my bike ride to work today, despite the title...
As I was coming down a rather large hill, faster than the cars around me, I had to dodge a courier driver and his trolley his mind was clearly consumed with other things. 
Usually, I would shake my head and lament to myself of the pitfalls of people not watching where they are going, but this time I was struck with a different thought. As I passed him at breakneck speed, I caught a glimpse of his face, as he was daydreaming, and then as he noticed me. He was clearly apologetic but worried about something...
So how could I be frustrated? What is going on in his life that he walks along a major road without properly looking where he was going? Especially since I can wake up and ride to work in 20 minutes, where, statistically, he has to take the train for hours... 
2 Corinthians 10:5b talks about 'taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.'
Unfortunately, I'm definitely not perfect, but I would not want to be someone who automatically thinks the worst of everyone around them.
Except for people walking and reading their smartphones, those people are the worst.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Conscientiousness

When I was young, people used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my invariable response was 'retired.'
This has been accurate, above all else, I've always tried to find jobs that give me the most free time, and second to this, a job that I enjoy.
Currently, I work 4 days a week, which pays the bills, plus some extra on the side. Furthermore, it is decidedly a job I enjoy, I get to practice Japanese, and hang out with kids.
However, I find myself realising that if I had the choice, most days I would not choose to go into work...
Being in Japan has also provided me another opportunity, modelling. Thanks mostly to the fact that I am tall, not ugly, and white, in a country where this is rare, I quite easily get the occasional job as an extra in a drama, or some commercial. Perhaps because these jobs are always different, I don't dread them nearly so much as work, but I would still prefer to be paid and do whatever I want... or perhaps be paid for doing whatever I want.

This leads me to the title: Currently I am studying for my Bachelor of Business and Commerce, and Bachelor of Information Technology and Systems, a combined degree at Monash University. My reason for taking the time to study this, while working full time, was to meet this end goal of being paid to do what I enjoy.
Though, intellectually, I know this fact, it doesn't stop me from avoiding all study to the last minute, and not using each semester's new found knowledge to immediately benefit this goal.

One of the many reasons for this recently came up in my (belated) Consumer Behaviour study: Conscientiousness.
Costa and McCrae (1986) developed the Big Five Model, which goes something like this:
We are each made up of degrees of several traits, and each define how we respond in any given situation. This are not immutable, but are also not a switch we can trigger at will. The traits are:
Neuroticism: Our degree of likeliness to experience negative emotions, where more neurotic people, more readily feel negative emotions in a situation, such as fear, sadness or embarrassment.
Extroversion: How likely we are to voluntarily interact with the world.
Openness to experience: Likelihood of seeking out a variety of experiences, novel ideas, and unconventional values.
Agreeableness: Our tendency to move towards people, pretty self explanatory.
Conscientiousness: Our tendency to control our impulses and to pursue our goals.

This last one is my problem, growing up with a pretty quick grasp of concepts and situations has only assisted in my low level of conscientiousness, but this is no excuse. Now that I have a name for it, I find that I can manage myself ever slightly better than before.

So I write this post for two reasons:
One: To help you, the reader, to know yourself. After all, Auguste Comte said, "Know yourself to improve yourself." Even the bible says: "Let us test and examine our ways" in Lamentations 3:40a.
Two: As a stepping stone, since I enjoy writing these posts, and if I could do it for a living, it would be a blessing.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Laughing

Today, on my Facebook feed, I saw another video of people laughing.
I almost skipped it, I knew what would happen, one person would laugh, more would laugh, I would laugh, it would be heart warming. However... it was 3 minutes long, and I thought that I had better things to do. 
Then I realised, what better things did I have to do? Check my notifications? Read my wall? For what? Something better than simple and heartwarming? 
I watched video, it was wonderful, I smiled and my day was better, but this was a symptom.
Everyone in Tokyo rushes. They rush to work, they rush home. They work long hours, and then try to enjoy the little time off they have. They choose a safe job, because it gives them security, and they don't have to be afraid... but they never live their life, or follow their passions. 

It would to play so safe, to never live your life because of fear of losing it. Be sure to take time and not be afraid.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Recently.

In recent history...

In June I started Aikido. I met a friend at Leafcup, my work, who had been doing Aikido for a year. He explained it a bit more to me, and I found it interesting. I went to a couple of beginner's lessons, and learnt quite a bit.

When I came to Japan, I had thought to myself that it would be cool to do some martial arts, but I hadn't thought too thoroughly about it. Meeting Andy, however, was an interesting turn of events. He had joined a very difficult course, called the Senshusei course (Senshusei meaning 'Specialists'). This course was designed by Shioda Gozo, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, to train the Tokyo Riot Police. It started in 1957 and was known for its difficulty, despite assuming no former knowledge of Aikido.

The course was opened to International Participants around 1991. It starts April 1st of each year, and finishes March 1, of the next year. The Senshusei course is run at the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. This is the main Headquarters for all Yoshinkan Aikido, and is the base for the leader of the style, and many different masters. The course itself is taught by many Senseis, all Masters in Aikido.

Unfortunately, however, I started the course in July, as a special entrant. Many international students had dropped out of the course, for many reasons, and since I had been so interested in Aikido and training so hard, Kancho offered me the chance to join. This was a very special offer, and I accepted, but there was a catch... because I was starting 4 months after most participants, I had to attend extra training, to catch up to the rest of the participants.

Accordingly, every week I am at the dojo for 12 hours on Tuesday and Thursday, 14 hours on Wednesday and Friday, and 8 hours on Saturday. In comparison, normal Senshusei students spend 5 hours at the dojo on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 hours on Wednesdays and Fridays, and 5 hours on Saturday.

Also, a lot of this time is training, and if not training, it is spent cleaning. For example, on a Wednesday, I arrive at 6:30 and clean. I start training at 7-8, then 8:30-9:30, then 10-11:30, then 12:30-2, then 3-4, then 6:30-8:30. I must be in Seiza 5 minutes before each class, even though I cannot sit this way, and after each class we must sweep.

Needless to say, I don't have much time to work with this schedule, but fortunately my cousin, Blair, is so generous and doesn't charge me rent. I also take my dinner for lunch for the next day, as after each day, all I am really interested in doing is sleeping, and food for the next day is so important, since the days are so exhausting.

However, I am learning a lot of Aikido, and even though it is exceedingly difficult sometimes, I do enjoy it. I also study Aikido from DVDs in my spare time, so that I can perform techniques perfectly.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hanami Party No. 1

Saturday, the third of April, a striking day.

Approximately 12:30 I was had just started pacing around in the kitchen, trying to decide what I would eat for lunch. Right on cue, Blair Thomson called, asking if I was free. "Yes... why?" I responded. "Come to a hanami party!"

"No worries."

My lunch died this day well before its time, and for this, I mourn. I walked to the nearby Shinagawa station, carrying a jacket for myself, as well as one for Blair, as he predicted a cold afternoon, despite the warm ambient temperature at the time of his call. Taking the familiar Yamanote line to Shibuya, I met Blair. Together we jumped the next train to Harajuku, another station along 'my' Yamanote line. 'Jumped' may not be a good word to use there, as the train was incredibly full; a more accurate verb would be 'pushed' or 'shoved.'

Arriving at Harajuku, one thing was immediately apparent; everyone in this city had decided that today was the best day for a hanami party. There was a line simply to start climbing the stairs from the platform, and this line continued throughout the entire train station, and only began to dissipate around 100 metres after the station itself finished. You may consider this 'bad,' but the mass of arrivals had forced the line going onto the platform to be single file, and it moved far slower than the 'exit' line ever could.

Our goal was to meet some friends of Blair's, and some friends of theirs, et cetera. Accordingly, we resolutely marched towards Yoyogi Park, amidst the masses. As we exited the station proper, I heard a strange sound. I shall attempt to describe it to you: "BEN."

This was strange, because we were in the middle of a veritable army of Japanese, sure my hair looks funny, but I did not think I stuck out that much. To exasperate my surprise, I really do not know that many people in this country, so what the heck? Soon enough an answer appeared, a customer of Leafcup, an English communication cafe I worked for, had noticed me. At the time, it was nice, and talking to him was fun, but later on I was even more grateful for this chance encounter.

Together we marched towards Yoyogi Park. As we walked, I was interested to find that Harajuku was the closest station to this park, not the more logical 'Yoyogi station.' Whilst we walked, Hiroshi and his friend invited us to join them at their hanami party, which unfortunately Blair and I had to decline, due to our impending meeting with his associates.

Walking through the park, the sheer number of people shocked me. On both sides of the path we tread, were groups of people seated on blue tarps, eating and enjoying the beautiful day. Nevertheless, this did not even compare with the wall of people marching with us along the path. I remember almost daring myself to jump on top of the nearest person and see if they would help me crowd surf all the way there. I have photos of this event, but until I either get my website working, or decipher a photo blog website, they shall remain displayed only on Facebook. In fact, they are not even on there... yet.

Our march ceased at what appeared to be a toilet block, located close to a pond, approximately the park's centre. Hiroshi greeted some more of his compatriots here, who again offered us a seat at their upcoming celebration. We repeated our, now quite practised, declination speech, but said we would wait with them to see which party would find its remaining members first. Blair attempted to hasten this process with a myriad of phone calls to his friend, attempting to locate their group. Unfortunately, our success was far from assured.

Whilst we waited, there was a group of five or seven Japanese young people, I cannot recall the exact number, practising a dance right there in the middle of the park. I was so impressed, not only that they were quite good, but also they were brave enough to, so shamelessly, practise this dance in such a public place. Whilst I attempted to sneak photos of them, I was informed by my companions that, not only was this common, but that they would be overjoyed to notice their momentary stardom, and would laugh at my surreptitious paparazzi behaviour.

Soon enough Hiroshi and his friends decided to go for quick turn about the 'immediate' vicinity, in a visual search of their remaining companions. I say 'immediate' here, as this seemed to imply quite a decent walk, as we were surrounded on every side by beautiful cherry blossoms, innumerable Japanese people, and blue tarpaulin as far as the eye could see.

Farewelling them for the time being, Blair and I found a seat on the edge of a nearby fountain, deciding to at least sit and have something to drink whilst we waited for his friends. Unfortunately, Softbank, the company with whom we both had mobile phones, allowed very little reception in the area, and we had issues with communication. Pondering our options, Hiroshi and his friends arrived and gave us the answer. They had not found their friends, and accordingly we all waited together on the edge of this fountain, eating a little and drinking a little more.

Soon enough more friends of Hiroshi arrived, one of which had a bag in which was situated the cutest dog I have ever seen. Please see photos.

Time, it seemed, was intent on marching on, and far too soon, division struck our group a decisive blow.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bargaining.

I hope I remember never to comment on the proximity of my posts to the present. Historically, such comments have shown 100% correlation to further delay in blog posts.

Either that or I am just slack.

This post is a comment on Friday, the 2nd of April.

On this day, I found myself in Shibuya with Blair, who had to perform some tasks at a nearby bank. I had been meaning to get batteries for my camera, and accordingly I requested he point me in the correct direction. Blair guided me to three different electronics shops, all in close proximity, surrounding Shibuya crossing. It has been said that Shibuya Crossing is the busiest in the world, I have not visited any of the other contenders, but I can vouch for its... busyness.

The first store I visited was 'Labi,' apparently the biggest of my 3 options. Finding rechargeable batteries was not as easy as I may have first imagined, as it appears this did not qualify as important enough to place on their shop diagram. Following 15 minutes of fruitless exploration in this 8 level electronics store, I asked one of the staff, who directed me to the correct location.

Upon a successful discovery of my prize, I inspected my options. ¥3500 was the average price of a battery charger with four AA batteries. My Mummy always trained me in the art of not simply spending my money, but getting the most from what I have. Accordingly, I took note of the price, and journeyed on to the second store, Bic Camera. To my dismay, I found it to be another multilevel electronics store. As I ascended the staircase to level 2, I saw something out of the corner of my eye...

Relieved to find the rechargeable batteries section with such ease, I inspected my options. I discovered a very similar spread of supplies, but markedly cheaper, around ¥3100. At this point, you may be tempted to think that I simply made my purchase and was done. You would be wrong, there were three stores, remember? I made use of the camera function on my mobile phone, and took several pictures of my preferred options, and headed for the third store.

Blair had only told me the directions to this third store, as it was on the other side of Shibuya Crossing, and we had just missed the lights. Therefore, I explored the way he had indicated, but to no avail. After an extensive search, I deduced that this third store was not open, or had permanently closed. The large rolling metal doors, painted with electronic goods, and in the exact location described to me supported this.

"Well now you just went and bought the stuff from that second store, right?"

Nope.

From grade 1, the start of my schooling, I was taught Japanese. This continued for a total of nine years, most of it with Mrs Carter. You would think that after such a long time, combined with living in Japan for almost a month by this time, my skill in Japanese would be quite respectable. If you were thinking that, along with the last 2 such statements I made, you would be wrong again. Three times now, shame on you.

Thus, armed with my photos, confidence, and such miniscule skill in Japanese that it would make Mrs Carter faint, I marched back to Labi, store number one. Finding a (very unfortunate) staff member around the batteries, I proceeded to point out my preferred pack, containing a Panasonic charger and some batteries. I then showed him the photo from Bic Camera. I then explained, in broken Japanese, how Bic Camera was cheaper, and they were expensive.

This last phase of my plan took longest. Eventually, we came to an understanding, and my victim spoke quickly into a microphone attached to his lapel. He then led me to a counter, with purchase in hand. Using a calculator, he showed me that the store was willing to part with my charger for ¥100 less than Bic Camera's price. I made one last concerted effort to increase this margin, without success.

"Crazy, this guy is crazy," you are no doubt thinking to yourself. Oh reader, you could not be more correct.

Epilogue:
Purchase in hand, I went to find Blair. A more difficult task than you would imagine. He had called and told me he was inside a certain bank at Shibuya Crossing, whose name I cannot recall. Shibuya Crossing is surrounded by many shops, so I walked into the middle of the crosswalk, and on my toes, peered around. Spying my goal, I headed over and started to explore in the bank. After checking all of the first and second level, even walking into areas where I most likely was not welcome, I decided that this was not the place.

Calling Blair, he insisted he was inside the bank, with which I vehemently disagreed. After some quick problem solving, we both deduced that we were in fact inside different branches of the same bank. Again waiting at the lights and heading to the centre of Shibuya Crossing, I spied another branch, and resolutely headed for it. On my way there, I accidentally ran it to Blair, almost literally. Apparently, I had been heading towards a third branch of the same bank.

Three branches of the same bank, within 100 metres of each other!

Even now, 20 days after this event, I cannot recall a time where Blair has laughed harder, than at my retelling of my latest conquest purchase.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Beach

Some movie or famous person must have once said something like this: We are fast catching the present!

If not, you saw it here first, folks. This post refers to the 30th of March, an interesting day. On the 29th of March, my host family, Blair Thomson and his wife Sachiko, along with their two children, arrived home from their respective holidays. On this, their first full day back in Tokyo, Blair and Sachi decided it would be nice to take a trip to the beach!

We left at around 12:30pm, to catch a bus from Shinagawa to Odaiba, the closest access to salt water from our current location. We arrived at a nice hotel, and made our way across suspended walkways and courtyards towards some cafes and the sand. It was unusual to be walking over 50 metres in the air, looking down at the water of Tokyo bay. Please refer to the following two photos.

One view over Tokyo Bay.


Turning further North, another photo.

I knew, when Blair informed me of our goal to arrive at the beach, that it would not be the same beach one would experience living on the Gold Coast. This certainly drove the point home. We found a nice Italian restaurant slightly further along the walk from this photo. Since I arrived in Japan, 26 days before this post, I have eaten more Italian than almost half a year on the Gold Coast. Please do not read that as a complaint, there are very few meals I have had in this country that I have not thoroughly enjoyed, interesting observation though.

After lunch, we journey down to bury our feet in the sand, or at least the Japanese version of that. If you had found the extreme difference between the beach on the Gold Coast and that of Tokyo Bay shocking before, these next photos may drive you over the edge.

A photo looking North

And then rotating to look west...

Then south...

And then turning...

A little to the east, I think.

Even though I was shocked to think this is the 'beach' that many in Tokyo would grow up to know, this is easily one of the world's largest cities, and one that is constantly growing. The land I was standing on when I took this photo was once the wild sea, a fascinating experience.