Changing This Website’s Identity Once Again

It’s been over a week since I posted an essay here on this website. It looks like what I feared from the beginning came true: my posts are irregular. Throughout last week, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have the fire in me to keep writing. I had a solid schedule, so why couldn’t I keep up? That was the one question I couldn’t answer, yet I did notice something else that I was doing each day. I was always practising my Nihongo every time I had free time.

I still couldn’t understand why I wasn’t writing more frequently on this website. What’s the difference between practising Japanese and writing? It turns out, it’s a lot. I love writing, and that’s without a doubt. However, the biggest difference is grit.

A professor of mine posted a quote on grit, and I wondered where it came from. So I did a quick Google search and found this TED talk:

After watching it, I was able to answer that one question. The reason why I haven’t been writing is that I don’t have the grit for it. The reason why I practise Japanese each day is that I have the grit for it. In fact, anything that is remotely related to Japan immediately captures my full attention be it politics or pop culture. Looking back over two weeks ago, the most fun I had writing was my essay on Falling in Love with a 1980s J-Pop Idol and the Dangers of Reminiscing.

This got me thinking. I think my website should just be centred on my progress towards living and working in Japan (with the occasional blogs). I feel excited just thinking about it, and at the same time, a bit worried since I have never been to Japan and posting about Japanese things seems a bit wrong.

Yet, I think the benefits outweigh that very small consequence. Working and living in Japan has always motivated me ever since high school. I’m 27 right now, and even though I lost sight of Japan during university, I always seem to be drawn back to it.

The prospect of living and working in Japan gives me grit, and I’m totally happy with having my entire life revolve around everything Japanese.

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

– Angela Lee Duckworth

Falling in Love with a 1980s J-Pop Idol and the Dangers of Reminiscing

Oginome Yoko is a Japanese pop idol who made her debut in the early 1980s but only garnered attention in 1985. Before I start introducing her to you, I need to tell you how I found Yoko-chan.

There’s a Korean variety show called Weekly Idol where they invite K-pop stars to the studio each week. Around a month ago, Weekly Idol invited CELEB FIVE, an idol group composing of older women comedians. They had been gathering fame in Korea for their single, which can be seen below. (Click HERE for the entire subtitled episode)

I was blown away! These ladies, who are literally middle-aged people, can dance better than most K-pop groups. In the full episode, they explained that the original choreography was from Tomioka High School Dance Club. Here’s an excerpt from Sora News 24 that explains TDC’s performance:

Japan’s economic bubble of the 1980s is a time sorely missed by many Japanese, as a time when money flowed and expense accounts were there to be abused. A group of local high school students, while too young to have actually lived through the period themselves, have now taken the big hair and big fashion of the ’80s and put it into a dance routine that has taken YouTube by storm, ratcheting up millions of views in mere days.

Here’s a video of their performance at one of Japan’s national dance competition:

Seeing the original dance was so amazing! What’s even more amazing is that they’re just in high school! How many professional dancers can actually dance like them? They are honestly so talented. As I watched this over and over, I saw a recommended video, and it looked like they had the actual J-pop idol singing the song along. I clicked it, and here’s what I saw:

Again, I was easily impressed by the choreography. I was also impressed by the singer. I was very judgemental when I saw her because she looked old, and I didn’t think that she could sing consistently. I was proven wrong. She powered through the song and even danced with the girls for a bit. Finally, I found the name of the song, Dancing Hero (Eat You Up) by Oginome Yoko. I clicked the first video I saw, and I fell in love.

A young, cute, fresh face 18-year-old Yoko-chan instantly won me over. Even with her little slip-up, she still was able to perform with grace. Here’s another one of her performance with better quality:

Then I saw another video suggestion of her at 26-years-old. She definitely grew more beautiful, but what shocked me was her voice. Her voice matured so well from a kawaii girl to a sultry onee-sama.

She’s performed Dancing Hero over the years like the one below from 2017 where she looks like radiant ojou-sama *swoon*.

At this point, you’re probably sick of hearing Dancing Hero, so here’s another one of Yoko-chan’s performance called Dance Beat back in the 1980s.

(Here’s Dance Beat in 720p 60fps)

If you made it to this point, congratulations! I initially wanted to title this essay as Finding Oginome Yoko and the Dangers of Reminiscing because I wanted to show you the rabbit hole I went through. I felt like I was being recommended by friends of friends to a girl then eventually falling in love. Does that make sense?

Now, what about the part of reminiscing? Each time I listen to older songs, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with one of my close friends from graduate school. He one day asked me if we could talk about something that happened to him. He told me he had an anxiety attack, which never happened to him before. He thought that he was going crazy since he felt like he couldn’t trust his mind anymore (he couldn’t trust it because he thought he knew himself so well). Then I told him that it was probably a set of circumstances that triggered it. His anxiety could have been a recessive genetic trait and surfaced only now.

He also told me that he wanted to do martial arts as a way to make himself feel better. Then I asked him a question, “Are going to practise martial arts to help improve yourself, or will you do it because you want to go back to those days where you had fewer problems?” He said it was the latter.

That’s the problem with reminiscing. It blinds people of the present day of where they are now. I told my friend that reminiscing is fine; what you want to get out of it is where the problem lies. When I listen to 1980s and 1990s J-pop, I don’t transport myself back in time to where I had anything I could ask for. I use the love that I feel for the music to gather energy and lift me up so I can keep going.

Another danger lies in being stuck in the past. For the majority of my teenage years and early 20s, I was a victim of the past’s temptation. I kept reminiscing about how great my life was and as a result, I wasn’t able to move forward. I wasted 5 years of my life due to my unhealthy obsession with the past.

Many people are victim’s of the past’s temptation, and most of them are older people like my parents. They always dream about what life was like before the changes happened. Maybe that’s just it. People reminisce because they’re afraid of change, and from what I can see, a lot of people who are hoping for change are young or sick of what the older generation has passed on to them.

What do you think? Do you agree with me or not? I wanna hear about it! Write it down in the comment section below.

Featured image from Amazon

Unexpected Inspiration

I just came from a teacher’s training seminar on Mind Mapping and Speed Reading. This is the third time I went through this training. We teachers at the company needed to do this since college entrance exam season is coming up, and the company decided to change the format of the lesson plans a bit. We were tasked to make a mind map of happiness, and I naturally did a mind map of working and living in Japan. That was pretty much the highlight of the training. I also noticed that there was a guy beside me practising his Japanese, and I was a bit jealous of that. Good on him though!

What was surprising for was that he came up to me as I was leaving. He asked me if I was interested in Japan, and I said that I was. So we talked a lot about why we wanted to go to Japan. He was interested in becoming interpreter or translator then, later on, develop a good Filipino-English dictionary app. Apparently, the Filipino dictionaries here in the Philippines are not as good as English dictionaries or even Japanese dictionaries.

This person was a man of language. He studied for his JLPT N5 on his own and got it! He didn’t need an aid of a class or anything. If he could do it, then I could do it. So starting today, I’m going to brush up on my Japanese and eventually sign up for the JLPT N5. I hope I can do it by the end of the year. Wish me luck!

Hokkaido Part 3 [end]

(Hokkaido part 1) (Hokkaido part 2)

The light snow had finally stopped falling unto the mountain. The sky was shedding its blue-violet skin and slowly revealing its orange heart. The sun had yet to creep over the horizon, but its rays had already touched the forest’s treetops. A small rickety blue car struggled along the rock infested road along the side of the mountain. The thin veil of snow over the road wasn’t helping either since the car’s tires were as smooth as freshly caught tuna at 5AM. The car was paper thin, and the cold easily pierced through the bones. Yet the cold nor the rocks fazed Ken’s driving as he’d driven this route ever since he bought this car. Beside him was a girl, blindfolded and tied shibari style. Ken felt comfortable in his blue jacket and white scarf unlike his passenger who was naked and shivering.

After another 30 minutes, they stopped at a small rusted gate. Ken reached for two duffle bags at the back seat and got out. The girl stayed in the seat blowing hot air into her rope-tied hands. Her side of the door swung open, and Ken pulled her rope which was tied to her chest dropping her on the damp forest floor. Her snow white skin was a stark contrast to the dirt and dead leaves that stuck to her. Ken pulled the rope up signalling her to get on her feet.

They walked on a path weaved in tree roots. Ken looked up at the canopy: two duffle bags in one hand and a tied girl in the other. This brought a smile to his face, for how lucky must one be to be able to do this each weekend? They reached an opening to a field covered in snow, and in the middle was a wooden shack.

“We’re nearly there,” said Ken to his shaking companion. Her feet were red from the forest floor. Her sides were red from branches and bushes scratching at her skin.

Ken looked for the door key as they approached the shack. He unlocked the door after finding the keys in one of his eight jacket pockets. The inside of the shack was much cleaner than the outside. It had a bed, a chair, a table, and a fireplace. Ken threw duffle bags on the floor and took the girl’s blindfold off. “Maya, go wash while I light the fire,” said Ken.

Maya stared at Ken with her beautiful black pearl eyes.

Ken chuckled. “That’s right. I forgot you were deaf.” He took out a pen and paper from the duffle bag and scribbled what he told her earlier. Maya walked out the door, got a pile of fresh snow, and started rubbing it on her skin. She came back relatively cleaner. The room was a bit warmer but still freezing.

Ken emptied the two duffle bags and laid its contents on the floor: clothes, packs of ramen, a pot, chopsticks, more rope, whips, sex toys, gags, candles, a knife, and a gun. She walked over, picked up the gun and cocked the hammer. Ken stopped feeding the fire with wood and slowly turned his head. He saw the fire reflected from her eyes.

“Maya, be careful with that.” She didn’t hear him, but she could tell what he was saying. She manoeuvred him out the door, and into the middle of the field.

Ken stared at her then his eyes widened like an owl at night. “You’re not Ma-“

BANG.

She turned around and walked back into the shack. She used the knife to cut the ropes and wore the clothes that were on the floor. She looked at the wall and noticed it was filled with polaroids. Photos of naked girls and boys with bruises and red marks on their skin. Each one had a date written on them.

She packed the duffle bags once again and headed back to the car on barefoot. She looked up the canopy with the sun high in the sky and smiled. The car was a pleasant sight, but she didn’t know how to drive. Thinking that the walk back to town would be long, she placed the duffle bags on top of the car and started her way down the mountain.

***

“So this girl killed our victim for revenge?” Kazu asked Ryo as they sipped from their cups. They sat across Rui in the investigation room. The translator stepped out for a break so she couldn’t understand what they were saying.

“It does seem like it,” Ryo responded. He scratched his chin as he thought more. “But why the revenge? She knew no one in those photos. In fact, no one in those photos is related to each other.”

“They all look alike,” Kazu said as they stared at the table full of polaroids. Two other officers found the shack that Rui and Ken were at while Rui was recounting the events.

Ryo exhaled in frustration trying to wrap his head around his first murder. “Let’s bring Mika in again to the interrogation room.”

Mika stepped in a couple of minutes later and sat between the officers and Rui.

Ryo leaned back and started asking again. “How did you know Ken?”

“Ken was my sister’s boyfriend.”

“Sister? You didn’t tell us you had a sister.”

“You didn’t ask.”

“So why were you with Ken?”

Rui let out a sigh and said, “I have very little time in my hands, and I think telling you now or later wouldn’t make a difference.”

Kazu and Ryo looked at each other puzzlingly.

“My sister was my twin,” she continued. “She and Ken have been doing that kind of stuff since high school. They got other people to do it and then eventually got kids involved.”

They stared at the photos, and there were some that were clearly still children.

“She didn’t mind… doing kids. She was as sick and demented as Ken. But Ken was something else. He started choking them, waterboarding them. Then one day, he took it too far. I don’t remember how he did it, but Ken made my sister kill one of those kids as they climaxed. Later that week, she came over to my place and told me what happened. We drank and cried. When I woke up, I saw her hanging from my ceiling.”

Rui stopped there and stared at the photos. They all sat there in stillness as the universe outside continued to move.

“I decided to kill Ken for my sister, for the child. Besides, I’m dying soon anyway so prison life wouldn’t be so bad.”

“What do you mean by that?” Ryo asked.

“I have a sickness, Captain.”

“So you decided to do one final act before you faded away?”

“You could say that. He would have kept doing this if I didn’t stop him.”

“The police could have done something Ms Rui.”

“He was too clever to be caught. Look at how many victims he had. This was the work of a genius. Then again, he couldn’t tell that it was me and not my sister. Either way, that’s one less scumbag, and when I die, you’ll have another one gone.”

Kazu raised an eyebrow and looked at his captain. Ryo rubbed his temples, and his eyes changed from an officer to a concerned parent.

“There are always other options Ms Rui. Reaching out for help would have been better. We could have brought justice to your sister, but you stained her death with revenge. She accidentally killed a child. She killed herself for it. Then you killed her lover. The cycle doesn’t end with this sickness killing you. Ken’s family would want revenge as well, and if you’re gone, Ken’s family will go to your family or your friends. Revenge is pouring oil on a fire. It’s a selfish way to satisfy your shallow desires. Your revenge has accomplished nothing. It has only passed the anger on to more people.”


The ending to this story has been put off for over a year because I couldn’t find the perfect way to introduce the twin sister. This is no way that this is in its perfect form, but I am satisfied with the ending. I hope you are too.

This story of revenge was inspired by one of my close friends. She told me how getting revenge towards my father wouldn’t solve anything. She told me that the cycle would only continue if I wouldn’t let go of the hatred I had in me. And so I did. Not right but eventually I did.

Failure and Persistence

Just like what the title says, I failed to get the interview and demo stage for the JET Programme.

What happens next? Well, I’m never going to give up on living and working in Japan. The JET Programme is the most prestigious English teaching positions in Japan, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only avenue for English.

I’ve been creating a bank of other Japanese institutions. Eikaiwa or ALT, I’ll take it (of course, the salary has to be reasonable). Continue reading “Failure and Persistence”