Update on Life

Hello everybody,

How is everyone doing? There is a lot going on in my life at the moment - so much to describe but it is difficult to put in to words. I had a job offer in South Korea and one in Japan working for the same company that went bankrupt. However, I decided to reject both offers and start a new business with my friend Bob Wilkie. He went to a LifeSuccess Seminar in Florida for a week and is now certified as a Life Coach. That is where the previous video came from that changed my life.

So, these past few weeks I have been busy brainstorming on ideas, with Bob of course, on the best possible way to get the business up and running. There are a lot of programs and avenues we can take and everybody in their life can think of three areas which need improvement. As a Life Coach, you help people achieve their goals and desires, making their life and everyone else around them better. It is the very same thing that attracted me to teaching - changing lives for the better. Now, I can not only help children but adults as well. I have seen the improvement and change in my own life so I know that this information will work. I've been home since the middle of February and didn't really have a direction, thought I wanted to go back overseas but not really sure how I was going to do it. With this information, within three weeks I had the two job offers as well as two more interviews for companies based in Japan. Pretty amazing if you ask me.

So, lately I have been working with another guy on creating the website and getting that finalized. I have been contacting everyone I know and attempting to spread the word. For me, it is really funny when I communicate with others, I can see the areas of their lives they aren't really happy and now I can help them. I just got finished writing two articles which I am hoping are published in local news papers. I really want to write a third but need my inspiration. When they are done, I will be sure to post them on here. Additionally, when the website is finished, I will be sure to post the link. I never realized how much work goes in to starting a new business. I think the past two weeks I have been home for dinner three times when before I would be home every night.

Sharp change of subject, I am going to move out and live with a friend for the next few months. I am thinking that my move out date will be August 15th. On top of all this, I start coaching this week so that should be interesting. I still need to get my USA hockey certification. So, things have been busy busy busy to say the least but I am loving it and happier then I have ever been. I am also going to start a book so if there are any fathers reading this, please send me an email. I have a questionaire that I would greatly appreciate your help with.

Hope everyone is doing great and loving life, remember, you only get one shot at it!!! Take care and go dance!

With much love,


Hockey Camp and such

So, lots to report but I'm extremely tired at the moment. I just got finished working a hockey camp for the past two weeks. Lots of fun and I learned a lot; however, I am not too sure about kids these days. For the most part, they were good and I'm sure it's that way with every generation. There was one kid, problem child all week long. Long story short, I hit him in the head with a dodge ball the last day and he dropped to the ground crying. My conscience is still out on the issue. It felt good, but what feels good isn't always right.

Which leads me to the next area of my life - women. Met another girl a few weeks back and we have hung out a few times. Had a crazy night that involved alcohol - I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Anyway, great girl, going to get her masters in Public Policy and might finish her law degree. A little, well a lot of independence in her, intelligent, attractive, and likes to joke around. The only problem is she is leaving for California in a few weeks and has a 10 day vacation between now and then. Needless to say, I think things are over (I doubt she'll call), but it was, as Joel put so elegantly, my first giant leap off the cliff, the relationship cliff. So, should be good to go, not sure if it's something I am actively pursuing at the moment, not just this one, but all girls in general. I will be sure to keep you up to date.

Had a job offer in Korea and three interviews from companies in Japan. However, I decided to stay in the area and see where this life success thing takes me. If thing's don't work out, I can always head over seas in the near future or out to Seattle, see Joel. There are a lot of things in the planning stage at the time being and I am positive that once they move in to action, this will be something I love to do. The next couple of weeks should be very very interesting, perhaps life changing. I believe, for now, that is everything. I hope that everyone is doing well and is happy with where they are at right now in their life - remember, you only get one shot at it! Take care and love you all. To all my friends in Japan, I miss you guys and hope to see you soon.


think you can't video

So I looked on YouTube and found the video. If you are going to watch it, be prepared to no longer make excuses for yourself, be prepared to never use the word can't again, and be prepared to have your life changed in 6 minutes. You think you can't????


Think again...


think you can't?

So these past few weeks, I have been in the dumps. There have been rays of joy and happiness but far more cloudier days. It's all changed. My friend and boss Bob Wilkie went away to a Life Success Seminar and came back with tons of information. However, it was a 5 minute CD that will forever change my life.

The title, as I am sure you have guessed is "Think You Can't" and it is a father/son tale. At birth, the umbilical cord was wrapped around the child's neck and he was born a quadrapeligeic with cerebalsy. At eight months, the doctors told the parents they should give up on the child, as he would never be able to comprehend. Well, doctors build him a machine so that when he tilts his head he can talk. This is not even the emotional part of the story. To make his son happy and connect with him, the father decided to compete in triathalons. The catch, when he swims, he pulls his son behind him in a raft. When he bikes, his son sits on a seat in front of him. When he runs, he pushes his son in front of him in a special cart.

Here I was without any motivation, I just came home from Japan, my girlfriend broke up with me, I wasn't happy living at home, don't really have a job, not a lot of friends in the area, etc, etc, etc. I'll tell you what, those days are over. I doubt that I will ever pity my life or my situation again after seeing the strength in this man. He has been truly inspirational and my whole outlook on life has changed within the past three days. I've thrown down the challenge - to myself. Think you can't get a job overseas? Think you won't make any money while you are home? Think you can't quit smoking? THINK AGAIN!

There is a 5 minute DVD that will completely change your life and I believe you can find it at www.teamhoyt.com. I am pretty sure it is called the "CAN" DVD. I would highly recommend it no matter where you are in life's journey. However, I must warn you, it is very emotional and the three times I have watched it in the past three days, I have cried.

So, at the moment, Bob is helping me with what he has learned during his past week at Life Coaching. It is so simple yet so amazing and like I mentioned, I have already seen a difference in my mind. Now, when I get up in the mornings, I put the music on and dance. Then, I go to the mirror and tell myself I'm happy. Starting the day off right makes a tremendous difference and sets the tone for the entire day. Anyway, it's good that Bob is teaching me a lot because I get a chance to learn, but he also has an opportunity to speak in front of someone and then I can offer suggestions. (One piece of advice that I want to add before I forget - If you ever want to teach someone something, life lessons, how to do something, etc., please don't ever tell them. You will get so much further by asking questions, the right questions, and guiding their thought. It is amazing the difference with our private ice hockey lessons when we told them in the past what to do and in one week, when we asked questions.)

I have my final Dale Carnegie class tomorrow. Used in combination with the Life Success coaching - watch out!! Next week, I am a counselor at an ice hockey camp. That camp is the first two weeks in July and then Bob has his camp the following week. There really isn't a whole lot else to report on at the moment that I can think of. I went to a party on Saturday hosted by the owner of the pro-shops. It was a very nice get together at a beautiful home, pool outside. I met a nice young lady and she is headed to Florida in August for school. So, at the moment, I'm not sure what I am going to do. I believe that I am moving in with Michelley in the middle of July. Oh yeah, perhaps most importantly, I have an interview in August for a school in Japan and another one in Chicago in July. Also, I have met a wonderful person in South Korea who has introduced me to her boss. I learned all of this on Friday, the day Bob got back.

So, that's where things are at at the moment. I hope that you are doing well and enjoying life. My apologies for not updating more regularly. There have been lots of late nights lately spent discussing all of this new information. Take care and remember, CAN!


I am...

Today was a wonderful day, perhaps the best day since I arrived back in the States. You might be wondering what made it such a special day... so, I will tell you. About two weeks ago I went to dinner with my father and some of his old high school classmates. While we were eating one of my dad's friends offered me a scholarship (worth approximately $2000) to take the Dale Carnegie Course for business.

Well, today was the first day of the course (there are still two more to go) and I must admit, that it has lit ignited a flame which has long been extinguished. By now, you are probably wondering how. There was one exercise we were asked to perform and it went something like this - Imagine yourself six months from now the happiest you have ever been. Now, go ahead and write what is going to happen on December 17th of 2008. My paragraph went a little something like this:

I am the happiest I have ever been as I find myself waking up in the Aochi household. I awake a 6 am and perform 15 minutes of meditation before throwing on my running shoes and heading to the gym. After an invigorating workout, I head back to the house and write another chapter in the book I have just started. The writing goes smoothly and effortlessly and within an hour I am off to meet my friends to dine at a famous sushi bar. On the train ride there I put on my Japanese lessons and study for a bit. After enjoying lunch, it's off to work where I teach English. The students enjoy my enthusiasm and participate in each lesson, showing a marked improvement from when I first started teaching them. After work it's off to a 280 bar to grab drinks with my co-workers, many of whom share different nationalities, some of whom have become my closest friends. When I arrive home, I give my family a call, seeing as how we speak twice a week. Now, it's time for bed seeing as how I start my first martial arts class in the morning.

As I read my paragraph to the group, I could hear and feel the happiness in my voice, realizing that more than anything, this is what I want to be doing. The instructor also shared a story about how a car slammed into her house and knocked a door into her father. Everyone was alright; however, the father had to go and get x-rays. The x-rays revealed cancer but seeing as how it was in its early stages, her father ended up living a good 40 years instead of 4. Had the car never hit the side of her house and the door never cracked into her father, the cancer never would have been revealed. I know this is an awkward comparison, but it's how I feel toward Agnes. Something horrible in my life is going to actually turn out far more positive then I ever would have expected because now, I am free to go back to Japan.

It was a wonderful day and once again, I can feel the happiness and joy slowly creeping back in to my life. I can feel the energy just getting ready to burst out. Since I have been home, I have yet to find a reason or purpose to stay here, attempting half heartedly to come up with something. Well, now I know it's not where I want to be right now in my life. Now that I shared my six month goal, I would ask you to do the same and leave a comment, so we can hold each other accountable. What have you always wanted to do? What would offer you the most fun out of life? Well, imagine that all your dreams come true and write a paragraph of what's going to happen to you on December 17th, 2008.

On a final note, we also did some memorizing exercises and learned a few techniques to memorize names. If you don't believe me, call me with a list of nine items, assign each item a number, and test me. I feel pretty confident that I will be able to repeat the item along with its number.

One last thing so I guess I should remove "final" from the above note. I finished the book John Adams- and have now started watching the mini-series on HBO. Although there are several historical inaccuracies it is rather quite intriguing and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Hope you are all doing great and can some how find a way to capture that zeal for life which I rediscovered on this Tuesday, June 17th, 2008. Best wishes to all and remember to listen!



Well, needless to say, I am pretty down in the dumps since finding out that Agnes will not be coming. However, I said my final goodbyes as I packed up everything I had of hers and shipped it off. In order to get out of my slump, I have also joined a gym - Planet Fitness ($25 registration fee then $10 a month). I must say, that has helped life my spirits quite a bit and right now my butt is sore from doing squats. So, trying to get myself back in shape is a challenge and a great way to release my frustrations. I remember why I detest gyms so much though. It seems as though, and perhaps I may be way off in my assessment, that everyone, guys and girls included, seem to judge you while you are at the gym. Seeing as how it is my first week back, I feel pretty week and can only lift a fraction of what I used to be able to do and feel quite inadequate at the gym. Give it a couple of months and I'll be right back where I used to, hopefully. Now, if I can just start eating healthy.

In other news, not a whole lot going on with work. I help my dad out a few days a week repairing screens. Also, I am working at the pro shops now a few days a week and helping Bob Wilkie out with private lessons. On a side note and something I am looking forward to, I got a call from Bob Hartley who coached in the AHL and NHL and he asked me to help with his camp. So, I think that will be a great experience for me and a chance to learn some new drills. I also thought about asking him if he knew of any open coaching positions and seeing if he could help find me a job somewhere. I think it would be amazing to be a professional coach and get paid to have such a job.

Also, I am starting a book club with a few of my friends/mentors, people who I greatly respect and admire so that is something to look forward to. Right now I am in the process of learning How to Know God by Deepak Cheeporah (poor spelling). Interesting books but not so sure I agree with it completely. I don't believe there are really steps to knowing God and often find that part of me is in Step 1 and another in Step 4 according to him. So, I'm not sure if this should be a smooth process or if it's alright to find yourself in different stages.

I got a new pair of Crocs from Michelley. Only the second day I've had them, first I've actually worn them but so far so good. I realize, after sentences like the last, I need to increase my vocabulary and vary my diction quite a bit. Hopefully writing in this blog will help.

1) Are there any other words that can successfully replace hopefully?

2) I am torn as to whether I should stay in the States any longer or once again, attempt to live overseas. I made a commitment to coach an ice hockey team, which is something I am looking forward to and believe will be a great challenge. Also, it is something I thoroughly enjoy. Furthermore, my best friend is getting married in May and I am in the wedding. So, if I don't depart within the next few months, which is highly unlikely, I would have to miss the wedding. I guess this is one of those philosophical debates I will have with myself over the next few weeks, but I guess I should look into it at the very least.

3) I am considering going by the name of J. Alan Cassel similar to that of J. Edgar Hoover. Let me know what you think and if you like it. Personally, I think it has a great ring to it but my view is a bit biased.

Hope everyone is doing well. On a final note, Michelle just bought a house and I might be moving in with her to help defray the cost of her mortgage and get me out of my house. I'll keep you posted if anything comes up there. Take care and let me know if you want to go grab a beer at some point.


Agnes -

Well, for many of you who constantly read my blog while I was in Japan realize that I came home, in large part, because of a woman (which I might add is a very generous description, who henceforth will be referred to as Agnes). Sometimes, I can be so dim. Needless to say, things are not going to work out and instead of locking the disgust, hatred, and melancholy deep within my personal vault, which already needs a healthy nudge to close, I have decided to express my feelings on public domain, or at least the majority of them which I can transcribe in to this document.

Much like a hurricane, she slowly built up in my life until she was all I worried about. Now, although I’ve experienced the calm of the eye and the brief happiness that can accompany such a serene time, I have found that the eye is relatively smaller compared to the storm in general. I feel as though I am an island and the storm is passing through, intent on reeking havoc on people to come but now just a low level tropical storm continuing on its own path ever farther from me, and eventually, after I take care of the wreckage, it will be nothing more than a memory.

I have always dreamed of this ideal woman: intelligent, independent, athletic, spontaneous, motivational, and one who is willing to challenge yet also support me (by the way, if you know of anyone who fits this description and is still single, please let me know). The woman I planned on marrying had to meet all of these qualities and I always told myself that I would not “settle” for anything or anyone less. However, through the trials and tribulations of my last relationship as well as a bit of independent thinking, I have come to the realization that a woman need not be comprised of the aforementioned qualities as they can be found in friendships. Perhaps this is the biggest debate with which I currently struggle – I often ask myself if it is necessary for her to contain even a single attribute I so long desire.

Light bulb! I have now come to a bit of personal insight which should help me out in the future. I no longer yearn for my “perfect” woman. Rather, I am in search of an imperfect woman who possesses no character flaws. I now prefer a woman who might not be as athletic as long as I know that she will never give up. Perhaps she may not be spontaneous every day; however, if she is willing to make an effort and suggests something new to try, she is the one for me. Habits make the years pass unnoticed and uneventful. I am no longer in search of the perfect woman, the one who meets my criteria but one who strives for perfection, realizes her flaws, and confronts them rather then copes with them. It’s always ease to say you are going to change, never easy to actually make it happen.

The one thing that pisses me off the most is the fact that Agnes never gave it a try. She jumped shipped before the battle and was never willing to overcome her fear of what lay in store. In short, she took the easy way out. Never again will I look for a woman who wants things easy, who’s not willing to work hard, and who gives up at the first sign of distress. This to me is a major character flaw and one which I should have spotted long before.

I got an email from Agnes the other day and learned that the reason we broke up was because of a song. And the reasons just keep getting better. And the reason is as follows:

"Where I Stood"

I don't know what I've done
Or if I like what I've begun
But something told me to run
And honey you know me it's all or none

There were sounds in my head
Little voices whispering
That I should go and this should end
Oh and I found myself listening

'Cos I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

See I thought love was black and white
That it was wrong or it was right
But you ain't leaving without a fight
And I think I am just as torn inside

'Cos I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

And I won't be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do

'Cos I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood
Oh, she who dares to stand where I stood

So, if anyone has any insight as to what in the hell that means, please feel free to share it with me. If you knew you wanted independence or wanted to do your own thing then why in the hell would you tell me to come home from Japan? I will never be able to forgive her for that. It would have been a different story had she the guts to give it a try and things didn’t work out; however, she’ll never know what could have been, how great things might have been, how perfect we could have been together and now, she never will. And part of me hopes that it just eats at her, for the rest of her life she wonders what she gave up. In every single relationship from here on out she compares that guy to me and sadly, he falls a bit short, until she realizes there never will be another like me and she settles, every day questioning what might have been… Then, I realize my vanity is getting the best of me and she’ll find some loser who she’s happy with.

Rascal stated it best when they said, “I’m Moving On.”


Teach for America is Out

Well, not a whole lot to report on except for the fact that Teach for America is out. I got a generic response online which said sorry and best of luck in the future. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed but there are a few other options. I met with a large lobbying firm in Harrisburg on Friday and I am supposed to meet with another potential employer sometime this week. Although there are job offers, it is just something about the area. To me, it just doesn't seem like there is a whole lot to do, especially without a car (which might change today since we are going to a car auction). If we do wind up getting a car I believe it will be off to Florida to see Katrina and then I don't really know where. I'd go out and buy a nice tent and a sleeping bag and hit the road, maybe for 5 days, maybe for 25 days, I just don't know.

Still applying for a few other jobs as well. Some in the northwest, some in big cities. If all else fails I will probably start looking for jobs overseas again - who knows? Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying life. Take care and best of luck with all of your adventures.


Tokyo (2nd Day)

I believe we woke up around 8:30 am and started the day off right - with some McDonalds! For some reason, I think Pepe was really in the mood and it was close to the bus station. I will say, and those of you who have also had the opportunity to compare, know that the Japanese McDonalds are far classier and have a superior interior design/decoration than those in the United States. The food is only slightly different. We ate our breakfast before departing to the Thunder Gate. The gate was absolutely huge and the city itself supposedly represented a more traditional setting compared with the Tokyo skyscrapers. There was also a temple so we decided to get fortunes. Additionally, the area is known for fried food of some sort and rice cakes; so, of course, we got both of them. The man flipping the rice cakes on the fire was amazing, I could tell he had been doing it for quite some time. It was quite the site and I really enjoyed that section of the city.
(Pepe and I in front of the Thunder Gate)

(Decky and Pepe in front of the Temple)

(Me cleansing myself in the smoke, a Japanese ritual)

(Fortunes! I finally got the best one but it was a little late.)

(Pepe and I in front of the pagoda)

(Pepe and I mimicing Buddhist's statues)

(The rice cakes)

I forget the name of the place we went to next but it was the electronic area. There were a lot of electronic stores, many, if not all of them were duty free. I think it's a ploy to get a lot of foreigners to go there but I'm not sure how they pull off the duty free scheme. Needless to say, that was not the purpose of our journey. We were headed to a maid cafe. From what I have read online, maid and other similar cafes have been sprouting up in Japan as a way to fill a fantansy. I know that many of you are thinking it is geared towards the men, however, when I was there, there were just as many women. I believe it has turned in to more of a tourist attraction but there are probably some back alley places. It was 500 yen to sit down and another 700 yen for a drink. No pictures were allowed and customers are only supposed to stay for an hour. If you wanted a picture it cost an additional 500 yen. Needless to say, it was quite pricey and did not fill any of my fantasies. However, it was an experience and if I ever visit Tokyo again with a friend, I am sure I will take him or her there as well.

(Since we were unable to take pictures I snapped this one outside. Needless to say none of the girls were that beautiful.)

I wish I remembered the names of each place but I have no forgotten. I do recall some of the names themselves but cannot accurately associate them with any place. So, after the electronic area and maid cafe we were off to the "Sumo Dome" and sumo area. Fortunately, while we were walking around I passed a sumo and took a photo with him. While he was a lot larger than myself, I have a feeling he was still rather small in the sumo world. I wish I would have known what rank he was. We stopped at a place for lunch and got some rice bowls. There really wasn't too much to see since it was a national holiday and a lot of the attractions were closed. One place I did want to go was the Imperial Palace in Tokyo since I already saw the one in Kyoto however that was closed as well.
(Sumo statue/shrine?)

(A sumo wrestler and me)

(Pepe and I squaring off in front of the "Sumo Dome")

We ended our stay in Ueno Park and the surrounding area. We walked along one street which had a ton of shops and the "chocolate man." He was pretty interesting. You pay 1000 yen and whatever he feels like giving you he throws it into a bag, it's all at his discretion. I'm not sure if some people get two or three bags or if some get a piece of chocolate but he was definitely an entertainer. We had Mexican for dinner, go figure and I think we ended up getting four bottles of wine - yes, the bus trip back was a bit rough! Oh well. My stay was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the city. I picked up a bit of Tokyo bend and by a bit, I mean one word - jian. As in "Watashiwa Justin jian."

(A group of us in Ueno Park. The man and dog were both famous for starting a revolution or so I was told.)

(The "Chocolate Man!!!"

(A final group photo before we got on the bus. I'm not exactly sure what Decky was looking at, maybe a nice looking lady passing by...)

Well, I hope everyone is doing well. I had a phone interview on Monday - not my best performance. So, now I have wait until the 7th of March to see if I made it on to the next phase for Teach for America. Pepe, remember, you are a penguin now. Good luck with your confession - I am rooting for ya buddy!!! Take care everybody and keep smiling!


Tokyo (1st Day)

After about an hour or two of sleep, I left my apartment at 7:15 am in the morning so I could meet my good buddy Decky at Shin Osaka by 7:30. What normally was a 20 minute walk ended up taking about thirty minutes for some reason; perhaps it was because it was the last time I would make that walk from Higashimikuni to Shin Osaka and I wanted to take in all the sights. Either way I was late meeting Decky but we still made it to our platform on time. Since it was my last trip in Japan for a while, I decided to take the Shinkansen or "bullet train." Decky informed me that it moves at 200 k.p.h. and it took us approximately two and a half hours to get to Tokyo. The ride was silent and smooth and the sights were amazing. At one point, to the left, right out the window almost, was Mt. Fuji. Someday I would like to hike it.
(Decky and the "bullet train")

(Mt. Fuji from the window)

We arrived in Tokyo around 10:30 and went to Shibuya, the largest of the cities. We didn't get much of a chance to explore since we were meeting a friend. Also, there seemed to be a lot of shopping centers and malls, not exactly my cup of tea. However, I did get my picture with a famous dog which I now forget the name of. The dog reminded me of Lassie. After meeting up with one of Decky's friends we went to a famous street close to a giant arena where Kiss would be playing that night. On the street, which was filled with shops, we got crepes. I ended up getting a caramel, pecan, and ice cream crepe - it was quite delicious.
(Famous dog and Justin)

(Me eating a crepe with little success at the end.)

(I took this picture just to show all of the different subway lines in Tokyo. Decky, who is Japanese was struggling to figure it out, imagine if I had to by myself. Those are all the lines compared with perhaps 7 or 8 in Osaka. It was quite overwhelming.)

After eating Ramen for lunch we had some time to kill before Pepe (that was his nickname, his real name was Iipe) got finished voluntering. We ended up going to an island of sorts which housed Fuji TV, a minuature statue of liberty, and had a great view of the Rainbow Bridge. Additionally, there was a beach where we spent some time just relaxing. I must add a little story at this point. Well, nevermind, it was one of those where you had to be there; but, Decky got ice cream at a shop and before he even took a bite it landed on the ground. Poor guy. While we were at Fuji TV there was a famous comedian outside participating in some show. We hung out there for a few hours before heading to my favorite place - Tokyo Tower!!

(Decky and the Rainbow Bridge)

(Fuji TV in the background)

(The group surrounding the famous comedian right in front of the station.)

Pepe met us at Tokyo Tower and we headed up to the observation platform. Once we got there we decided to go to the "special" lookout which was a 100 meters higher or so and cost an extra 600 yen I believe. Nevertheless, the view was breath taking and it was amazing. All you could see was lights, lights, and more lights. There was a 360 degree view of the city and it was absolutely amazing. We ended up taking the steps down which was around an 8 minute walk or so. It was a lot of fun and a great view!

(Me and Pepe in front of Tokyo Tower)

(Me and Tokyo tower right before the sun went down.)

(The tower at night. It was spectacular.)

(View of the city)
(Another view of the city - AMAZING!!)

(Me and Pepe at the top of the tower. We were trying to get the city lights in the background with no success.)

(Walking down the steps)

After the Tower we went to a sushi restaurant with Pepe before heading back to his place to spend the night. When I first met him he was carrying a guitar on his back so it was time for him to prove that he could play. Once we got out of the station close to his house Decky and I convinced him to play a song. So, we stopped right in the middle of the street and he busted out his music. I didn't understand a word he said but he could play. I asked if he had a CD but said he just played for fun. Before bed we went to a public bath, my first time at one of those. Beforehand I tried to get Decky to explain to me what to do but there was definitely a lack of communication. So, while I was in the shower, some strange guy had to show me how to do everything even though I had two friends with me - thanks guys! The bath was rather relaxing and it was something I would recommend. I would actually think about opening one in the United States as it seems like a good place to hang out and chat with people, something I think older people would really enjoy. That was all for the first day. We went back to Pepe's apartment and played some Nintendo 64 before hitting the sack. For one day I must say I got to see a lot of places!
(What a baller - Pepe rockin' out!!)

(A little scandalous but Pepe wanted a picture since it was my first time in a public bath and for some reason we had to flex! This one's for you Pepe!!)

Hope everyone is doing well. I will try to get Day #2 up some time soon. For those of you interested, I passed the intial phase of my Teach for America application. I have a phone interview on Monday so keep your fingers crossed. I also started applying to be an RED which is someone who supervises RAs. Also, I got an email from a company in Harrisburg in regards to an internship - Thanks Uncle Rusty. So, I will keep you updated as all of the processes move along. Take care, Love you guys, and keep smiling!!


I'm Home and Missing Japan

Although some of you already of you know, many of you do not. Since the end of January I knew I would be heading home on the 14th of February but wanted to surprise my mother. Therefore, I used the blog as well as a couple of emails to keep her off guard. I must admit, it worked very well - when I came home she was downstairs with my sister and as I stood at the bottom of the steps she looked over and then back to the stove, pausing for a second, then she finally realied it was me and got a big smile on her face! She had no idea so that was a plus! I only told my dad and three other people, none of which were in the state of Pennsylvania. The flight went well and I had no problems. I was able to sleep for a while which was something new to me.

At the airport I saw the crew on the same shuttle and for the first time in six months, I could completely understand a conversation I overheard. While it was exciting it was also sad because I realized that I was actually leaving the country which I had become so attached to. People continually ask me to describe my situation or what I thought of it and I tell them, "I love the country, I hated the situation." That is the best way I can describe the time I spent in Japan. However, I wouldn't change it for anything as it will probably be the most valuable learning experience of my life. As of right now, I really want to go back but I'm not sure when that will happen.

The things I'll miss:

1) My Japanese friends - I made a lot of great friends while I was in Japan and developed some already exsisting friendships. You always hear that you find out who your friends are when things go bad. After this experience, I can validate that claim. Some of my friends were extremely helpful and offered me a place to stay, aided me in searching for jobs, went above and beyond anything I could have asked for while other friends did nothing. I hope to be able to repay those friends who were so helpful someday.

2) Joel - When you go from seeing your best friend every day to not at all of course you are going to miss him.

3) The Aochi Family - Without a doubt one of the kindest, warmiest, most friendliest families in the world. Without them, I surely would have left Japan a lot sooner than I had. Mr. Aochi is outgoing, talkative, and somehow, we found a way to communicate. His energy definitely helped lift my spirits. Mrs. Aochi was the quiet, reserved one but with an endless kindness. I knew everytime I would visit that there would be a food basket waiting as I left. She was concerned about my welfare and offered a place to stay after Joel left. Mr. Aochi wanted me to accidentally miss my flight and stay with them - a very tempting offer and one which weighed heavily on me the night before I left. I just want to say thank you very much and I hope to see you again some day soon.

4) My private lessons - You are all very kind, wonderful, helpful people and without you, there is no way I could have stayed as long as I did. I appreciate your hospitality and cannot thank you enough for the financial and moral support. I know that I will continue to communicate with many of you and wish you all the best in your English studies.

5) Japanese kindness - One day I was on my way to Ibaraki-shi and wasn't quite sure if I was on the correct train. I had just arrived in Japan and was not used to the local, express, and rapid services. I asked a couple if I was on the right train and they shook their head no. They got off with me at the next station, waiting by my side to get me on the right train, and then waited for their train to come. Overall it probably cost them 15 minutes or so but I will never forget their kindness. This is just one of several stories I can share. When Joel and I were struggling after the collapse of Nova we had numerous offers. I will never forget the Japanese people nor their kindness, it has definitely helped change me as a person.

6) Japanese food - Sushi, Ramen, and anything made by Mrs. Aochi. Plus, the smaller portions were much healthier. I know I am going to have to watch my weight and everything I eat.

7) The Mass Transit System - It is so nice not having a car and still being able to travel almost anywhere in the country, something which is impossible in America. I loved the fact that I could go to Kyoto or Nara or Kobe without any problem, any time I wanted to go.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and I know that someday I will be back to Japan, it's just a matter of when. It could be in a couple of months or a couple of years. I will just have to wait and see what happens with my current job applications. I just hope that the next time I go back I can enjoy myself and believe it or not, I would be happy to work! Hope everyone is doing well. Take care. I am going to try to get some Tokyo pictures up today!


Give me a couple of days

Hello everybody. I know I haven't posted in a week but things have been a bit hectic. Joel and I had a sayonara party on Friday and then two days later I went to Tokyo. I have a lot of pictures I want to put up so it's going to take some time. I am still in the process of trying to figure out my flight details. Right now I am waiting on Nova but I should be leaving some time around the end of the month. Other than that, nothing else is really new, just spending a lot of time with friends. So, within the next day or two I will try to get up the pictures from Tokyo as well as a few from the sayonara party. Hope everyone is doing great and enjoying life. Take care and stay happy!!


Kyoto with Momo

Yesterday Momo and I headed to Kyoto and I was excited to visit a few temples which I have yet to go to. On the way there, I was checking the Kyoto Travelpack, given to my by my old roommate and I realized that I have been to 7 of the top 10 places to visit in Kyoto. I don't know, I was pretty excitied about it. Anyway, we planned out our trip the night before and we decided to go to Ginkakuji Temple (the silver temple) and Nanzenji Temple. We embarked on our journey around 10 am and since we had to take the Hankyu line, it was about a twenty minute bike ride to the station, with Momo on the back. Needless to say, by the time we got to the station, I was sweating up a storm.
We arrived in Kyoto and checked out the bus station map. After figuring out what bus we were to take, we headed to the bus stop. Ends up we were on the wrong side of the road but a nice older woman, pointed us in the right direction. After running across the street, we caught the next bus. On the bus we decided to get the All-Day Bus Pass for 500 yen since we had a couple of places to visit. Before we knew it, we were getting off the bus and headed for Ginkakuji Temple.

On the way to the temple, we came across the philosopher's path. I thought it was only close to Kyoto University as I read about it in the Travelpack; however, I guess it's a pretty large path which encompasses a large area of Kyoto. If you know me, you would know how excited I was to be on the Philosopher's path. I must admit, there were no great moments of insight or revelations while I was on my short part of the path but it was fun nevertheless.

(The Philosopher's Path)

After seeing pictures you will probably wonder why it is called the Silver Temple. Well, from my readings, the Shogun at the time wanted to cover the building in silver but either ran out of time, money, or both. There is a bronze phoenix on the roof facing to the east and the building itself is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. The grounds on which the building sat were more spectacular than the building itself. There is a silver colored sand and according to Momo, he wanted a river on the grounds. However, since there was no river, he decided to place the sand down instead. I heard it is beautiful in the moonlight. After Ginkakuji it was back to the bus stop and off to Nanzenji.

(Justin and Momo standing in front of Ginkakuji, the not so silver Silver Temple)

(Some of the silver sand, all it was raked and in some sort of design.)

(Random shot at the temple)

(Some more of the sand with a beautiful background view. There were several paths which we took and walked around the complex. Along the way there were a couple of minature shrines and some great views of the city.)

(One last shot of Momo and Justin on our way out.)

After we got off the bus stop we checked out a local map attached to the bus stop and planned our route for Nanzenji. Along the route, there was another temple, so we figured, why not, let's go. The temple ended up being the headquarters for a Judo Sect - the Seizan Zenrinji Branch. The name of the temple was Eikando. There is a story behind it:

"The then chief priest of Eikando, the Abbot Eikan, while intoning the Nembutsu, was walking around a statue of Amida. He suddenly came to as the dawn was breaking, Amida came down from his pedestal and began walking away, bekoning to Eikan. Eikan could do nothing but stare, speechless and unmoving. Then, Amida looked back at Eikan and called to him in a soft voice, "Eikan! Come with me!" Eikan decided to pass on to others the merciful heart he had received from Amida."

Amida is the Buddha who savs us all and in order to obtain the highest enlightenment, Amida established 48 vows. There are many multiple meanings to the statue's pose but my favorite is that she is looking back on all of those who have fallen behind, waiting for them to come to the front with her. It is difficult to explain but the statued and it's meaning was very touching. However, no photographs were allowed. There were several buldings within the compound and an amazing view from the pagoda.

(The Entrane to Eikando. In the background, to the right of the peak of the gate you can see the pagoda.)

(A garden with Eikando)

(Another random picture with Buddhist statues.)

(View from the Pagoda)

(A dragon water feature. I liked it so I took a picture. It would be neat to have a pond with one of these in it.)

(Buddhist statue)

Finally, we made our way to Nanzenji Temple. Once again there were a series of buildings and the largest gate I have ever seen in Japan. There was also a bridge where Momo informed me a famous drama takes place. At Nanzenji and several of the temples, moss is very prevalent. Momo also told me that Japanese people find moss beautiful although I'm not quite sure why. Inside the temple there was a tea room with a beautiful waterfall just outside. Also, there was some more of the silver sand as well as a moss garden. However, Nanzenji is most famous for the painted sliding doors, 132 of them I believe. Once again, pictures were prohibited due to the damage they cause.

(The largest gate I have ever seen. If you look closely you will notice people standing in the center. It was huge!)

(The famous bridge)

(Moss garden. If you look to the left you can see various types of moss growing.)

(One of the entrances to Nanzenji)

(Random building)

(Tea room - used for meditation)

On our way out of Kyoto I noticed this giant temple entrance. I am sure there is a specific name for these structures, however, I do not know what it is. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pictures, there probably aren't going to be that many more, at least not from Japan. Hopefully everyone is doing well and enjoying life. Take care and remember to smile. Love you all and miss you.

(Giant orange pillar. Yes, that is a bus on the right and a truck to the left.)