Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ok class, now repeat after me: "We don't need no... Education"

I may have mentioned this before, but it's darned hard to have a completely bad day in this job.
Don't get me wrong -- it's possible. It's certainly happened. But in a job so thoroughly infused with people, you can never tell when something fun, or funny, or touching, or just plain lovely will happen. And it does pretty much every day.

I say this because things were looking to be shaping up into a pretty bad day yesterday. The schedule changed and I wasn't told (until someone came to get me partway through class), one of my JTE's (normally a gem) was befuddled and inattentive and basically sabotaged everything I did in the classroom, and physically I wasn't feeling so hot -- tired, hungry, weary, cold.

Then, well... how can you complain about a day when part of your work involved drawing this on the blackboard:

Now you see class: You don't need no education

I had been at a loss for what to do with my 2nd year class, and my JTE had suggested that we do a writing exercise. She loves writing exercises. My other JTE's hate them. This is one of the reasons I have to design different lessons for the same grade level in any given week. In any case, her suggestion was to do a "favorite song" exercise, where the students would write the lyrics in Japanese, and then translate them into English. Good idea, I said, and I made up a worksheet for it (as always, with cute clip art grudgingly coughed up by my ailing, ancient work laptop), with a little section at the bottom asking the student to tell me why the song was meaningful to him or her, why he or she likes it.

So that's what we did. The students got right to work.

The thing about this class is that, well, it isn't like other classes. I first locked horns with this JTE frequently. She wouldn't take a plan or suggestion from me without altering it in some way. Nothing ever worked for her. It didn't take long to see that she has an amazing command of her class, though, and they truly are lucky to have her. They have to work harder, but they really learn. Consequently, we can do all kinds of challenging things that would simply be too much for other classes. I've come to like her as a person, too, and I think only some of the other staff have bothered to see through the tough veneer.

Today we chatted about the subject at hand while the students wrote. (She will often snap up interesting or amusing comments from me and deliver them to the class in Japanese -- much to my chagrin when I forget that I'm "on the record") Well this class she fixed me with a serious look and asked: "Do you know 'Men at Work'"?

Uh, pardon me?

"The music group -- Men at Work. Do you know them?"

Not quite what I was expecting.

I had started out this year wanting to join a school club of some kind, and unfortunately found that everything I was interested in my school didn't do, or wasn't available to me. Kyūdō? No club. Shogi? No. Volleyball? Girls only. I got stuck with the English Club, which might not have been so bad, except that it was being run as just another class, with exercises. No fun stuff. No music, movies, group discussions, debates. Nothing interesting or challenging. So what did I find? The Broadcasting Club. Operating at noon, I could fit it into my schedule. The club broadcasts music throughout all of the classrooms where the students eat their lunch. I thought it would be a great opportunity to play some western music and see what they liked and didn't, and what they were already familiar with. Well, they knew the Beatles. They knew Michael Jackson. They knew Billy Joel. They knew U2. That was about it. I had a third-year student who knew Nickelback, but he's a special case. So I set out to provide a general western pop music education.

The first week we had Billy Idol, David Bowie, John Lennon, The Animals, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Nirvana, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan. And they knew none of it.

It was like some kind of strange Footloose universe where the adults had won. Not only were these kids NOT familiar with Stairway to Heaven, they didn't know Led Zeppelin.

Oh, the educating they were going to get.

But two problems arose. One: it truly is amazing the amount of depraved music I listen to. Or put another way, amazing how little western music doesn't contain at least one and probably several of the following: sex, drugs, anti-authority sentiment, anti-education sentiment, criminal behaviour, and any number of other things antithetical to the Japanese ideal, at least in theory. Problem two: I started running out of time, even at lunch. I was missing the occasional day, and there was still so much to play! Van Morrison, Van Halen, AC/DC, the Beach Boys, Chicago, Radiohead, Def Leppard, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Police, The Band, The Pretenders -- and oh the Canadian music! The Tragically Hip, Leonard Cohen, The Tea Party, Barenaked Ladies, Crash Test Dummies, and on and on. But a strange thing happened at about the same time. I'd come wandering into the booth to find... my Japanese club-cohorts playing western music. Just a little, sporadically, but it started happening often enough that I didn't feel that the students were really missing out. They'd have their J-pop and then one of the students would feel like some "Michael", and suddenly the classrooms would be filled with "The Way You Make Me Feel" (ok, we could do better, but that's beside the point). They also played some I'd never dream of playing. Incredibly obnoxious hip-hop. Metal. Avril Lavigne. And so I left.

Anyway, on this particular day, here was my JTE asking me: Did I know Men at Work? Well, that's one of my favourite bands, isn't it? And I'm not talking about the hits, either. Sure, Who Can It Be Now? and It's a Mistake are great, but they hardly compare to I Can See It In Your Eyes, Helpless Automaton, and Catch a Star. I could go on and on... (don't worry, I won't) But naturally what really got me is why does this teacher know Men at Work? Is it because they previously had an Australian ALT? "Oh no. We know Men at Work." (!) Well ok then. And what else does this JTE know and like? (Wait, don't tell me: THE BEATLES.)

"Do you know that song: 'Smoke on the Water'?" ...

... YOU LIKE DEEP PURPLE?!? "Oh yes, very much." And so there we go, singing "Duh duh duh, duh duh duh-duh, duh duh duh, duh duh" in front of the class. What else does she like? David Bowie. The Police. Queen. Kiss. I was staggered. So we chatted about western bands that I thought she might know or like, and thus we came to Pink Floyd, and my drawing on the blackboard. (my drawings are a constant source of amusement to her -- she calls me the lawyer who likes to draw) She also asked me if I had been a good student when I was in high school, and when I said yes, she said: "I don't believe it!" Uh, ok. But she explained she meant "studious and well-behaved" rather than getting good grades (to which the answer again was yes -- I didn't start rebelling till university). But it was some kind of "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" observation/compliment, she explained, so that was ok.

Oh, incidentally, those are the lyrics to Clapton's I Shot The Sheriff around that picture. My JTE wanted me to write some song lyrics for the students, and well, I was damned if I could remember any. I mean, I could think of lots of good music, but not all the words to any given song. Some of the clever ones I'd recorded and transcribed for use in class weren't handy, and again I couldn't remember all of the words. So I Shot the Sheriff went on the board. Which, if you strip it of cultural context and humour, is kind of a violent song. At least I resisted the urge to go for Another Brick in the Wall.

An interesting addendum to my recent shogi match story. I was fishing around for more info on the game -- it's fascinating, really -- and came across some information which shed new light on the game I had had. Surprising light. Apparently, novice players are given handicaps. Great, heaping handicaps, starting with the rook and bishop (by far the most powerful pieces; there are only one each of them, and there is no queen) but generally even more:

An experienced player at shogi can give a beginner the handicap of eight pieces easily. This means that the experienced player plays without his rook, his bishop, his two lances, his two knights and his two silver generals. In fact, games are sometimes played at the handicap of ten pieces (without the two golds as well) and still the giver of the handicap wins. I have played games where I have given a beginner a handicap of the entire board, playing only with my bare king, without even pawns, and still won.

I am by no means a great player of shogi. Nevertheless, I can easily give the average person, not a regular club or tournament player, the handicap of six pieces, meaning a rook, a bishop, two lances and two knights. Moreover, I can give any player rated less than 5 kyu the handicap of a rook and a bishop and I will win every game at those odds.

Because of the greater complexity of shogi, the stronger player will win with much greater frequency than in chess. Big upsets are much rarer.

From Basic Rules of Shogi on the web. So again, I'm stunned. I had no handicap. Maybe I have a talent for this thing. Have to follow up.

The other thing that's happening here lately is it's paper marking time again. This time with a rather tight deadline, so I'm spending a lot of time wading through some 240 of them. I first blogged about my discomfort correcting the kind of unguarded, heartfelt sentiments expressed in some of these essays, and that hasn't really improved. I get essays on war, loss, and heartbreak, and my response is the same: stroke out the erroneous words and letters and try to provide some kind of helpful, supportive comment.

Some of the essays, though, are hilarious.

One of the things that's really striking is how words are mispelled according to how they would be mispronounced. So you get plenty of "l" and "r" mixups, which in writing can be a little jarring. Sometimes vowels share that fate, also.

"I have two dogs. They are very very very cute. Their names is slum and dunk..."

Well, I was in correction mode, and almost without thinking I wrote "Slam?" above where the student had written "Slum" and instantly regretted it. The student goes on to describe Slum and Dunk in fairly good detail, and with obvious affection. Is the family now sadly pondering whether to change their beloved pet's name, now that they're aware that his name is synonymous with urban decay? I have no idea.

Plagiarism can also be a bit of a problem, though not nearly so much as at home in the west. For every set of compositions, I usually get a single pair where there was obvious copying happening (complete with identical mispellings) and usually another where a pair of students simply seem to have worked together. I suppose they figure that, with so many students, so many papers, I wouldn't notice. But I go through them rather intensively, in a short amount of time, and I can spot the similarities right away. So I was a bit surprised when a student thought that they could copy me and not have me notice.

First, he ignored the instructions, to choose one of the three possible topics (family, pet, or hobby) and instead wrote one paragraph on each, modeling my examples exactly, replacing a word where necessary (baseball where I had written snowboarding, cat where I put dog, etc.) My example sheet for first years also usually includes some vocab or expressions that they might find useful. So after writing three paragraphs copying my examples nearly exactly, the student concluded his essay with the following sentence:

"Here are some adjectives that you might use."

Yeah. We had a pretty good laugh about that one.

Some compositions are just in a charming, idiosyncratic style that I hate to mess with. It's a fine line between good english and boring english, but where there's an obviously better way to say something, I mention it.

"Allow me to introduce my family to you. How many people are there in your family? There's six in my family and for families. My mother, father and grandmother, grandfather and great grandmother. they are is look great. My great grand mother especially she in good shape. Does she do something special to do? No, she doesn't. She is go to bed early and gets up early. She have a good sleep and get plenty of rest. Does she have any hobbies? She hobby is knitting and sewing. It looks like she is very fun. What does you father does for fun?

My father hobby is walk a dog. And he likes have a good sleep but he don't have free time now. He business is persimmon farmer. We make our living by farming. Oh agriculturalist? Yes. my family is early risers. But I don't like early riser. Because my mother sid. "The early bird catches the worm."

I get up early this morning. I experience in no different from before. I overslept again.

My family is large family. they are in good shape. They are living in the by out of choice. Do you like your family? Yes, oh course."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Eeeeeeeeh... yeah that's weird.

So here's an interesting little event.

I'm sitting in the staff room at my desk. Our office is an open-air affair. Japanese offices don't have cubicles from what I've seen. About a half-dozen other teachers are in the room -- so it's about half-occupied.

I'm tapping away on my computer when I become aware of a rattling sound. Loud. My first thought is: earthquake. But as the seconds tick by, I realize that none of the windows are shaking. The noise is only coming from one place: the double doors that lead into the hall. Those doors open about a hundred times a day, with students peeking through looking for teachers, with a loud "Irasshaimase!" But this time the doors didn't open. They just kept rattling, loudly, and now all of the teachers were looking up at them, curiously.

As the JTE closest to the doors got up, the shaking stopped. She reached out and opened one of the doors, craning her neck around the corner, and then speaking to a couple of other teachers who were standing in the hall. She turned back to us and said a few words in Japanese, and the teacher next to her put her hand to her chest, taken aback. My mentor, sitting close by, caught my eye. "Poltergeist," he said. Well at least someone got something from my Halloween lesson.

Turns out that the two teachers a few paces from the doors, on the other side in the hall, had heard and seen the shaking, too, but no one had touched the doors from that side. They figured what we did -- that someone on the other side was doing something to the doors for some reason. A tremor is another possibility, but indeed, only those doors to the hall shook. None of the windows or other doors did.

In honour of this event, I have devised a new feature for Mumblings: the ectoplasm scale.

ecto reverso
Ok, now I'm creeped out.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

As if I weren't missing winter enough

I understand that Lake Superior froze over! Here's some lovely footage.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The accidental gaijin -- my first game of "shogi"

I've been a bit of a mess this week.

It's been cold, I've been sleeping almost not at all, and running late pretty much everywhere I go.

On Monday, I found myself chatting with the Japanese teacher who sits behind me in the staff room. A bit of an outsider if you can believe it, only because he's from the nearby prefecture of Nara. (the Japanese are unbelievably insular geographically) Super-nice guy. I've been out with him socially on a couple of occasions, usually with another teacher who just passed his teaching exams, the youngest here. And occasionally with one of our senior teachers, one of our two resident persimmon-barons. Also a nice guy, though I still find the social hierarchy a bit weird, both in the obsequiousness of my colleagues in his presence and how he in return throws his weight around. It's all a bit odd and discomfiting.

Anyway, I was chatting with my office mate from Nara, and asked, probably not for the first time, if he played shogi. Shogi is "Japanese chess", and along with kyūdō(Japanese archery), it represents the main cultural in-roads I've decided to pursue while in Japan. I'd never played before, nor did I know the rules, but I'd picked up a cheap cardboard board and wooden pieces at the hyaku-yen shop (aka: dollar store) and was still looking for someone to show me the ropes. My companion checked his calendar and suggested the next day, Tuesday, after school. That was a little sooner than I expected. I wanted a bit of time to at least learn the rules so I wouldn't completely humiliate myself, but I agreed and got busy trying to find out more about the game. That pretty much amounted to printing off the wikipedia entry and trying to come to grips with how different this game was from western/international chess. Pretty damn different, as it happens.

For those interested, let me describe the key differences.

In both chess and shogi, pawns are the most numerous actors. They are the grunts, the footsoldiers, and while they are readily sacrificed in play, in either game it is foolish to underestimate them. The main difference here, however, is that, while in chess, pawns attack at forward diagonals, in shogi, they attack directly ahead. This means that while they often lock up in the centre in a game of chess, blocking the progress of many more powerful pieces in the back, in shogi the centre is a free-for all. Soldiers either keep at weapons length or they engage and fall, clearing the way. The locking or clearing of the centre represents a fundamental strategic decision in any game in chess. That element is completely absent in shogi. (I always try to have new chess players try to visualize pawns wielding lengthy weapons like pikes but having limited space, requiring that they be pointed obliquely; here, I imagined the shorter weapons of Japanese soldiers, perhaps some kind of stabbing short sword.)

Another fundamental characteristic of chess is the progression through stages of play, usually from an opening, where pieces are "developed" to ideal positions, to begin the middlegame siege. Endgame is usually characterized by very careful play on a board largely cleared of pieces. Well not so in shogi. In chess, pieces are said to be "captured", but they never return to the board. It's really a polite way of saying that they've been killed in action. In shogi, pieces really are captured, and in any subsequent turn, the capturing player can return them to the board to fight for their new master. ANYWHERE on the board. As a kind of story element, it seems both dramatic and ridiculous. I like the idea of reinforcements -- a new lancer joins the fray; the cavalry charges in. But I have no idea how to imagine a foot soldier popping up from nowhere behind enemy lines; a general appearing suddenly in front of the opponent's king. It's bizarre. And to a player of western chess, hugely unpredictable. So nothing recognizable as an endgame ever takes place in shogi. Reinforcements keep arriving at critical moments in any open location, blocking threats, directing attacks, and generally messing with the western player's idea of carefully constructed areas of threat and safety.

As if this weren't enough, each type of piece can be promoted in enemy terrain to take on entirely new characteristics. Picture a knight riding into battle and then hopping off his horse. Suddenly, he moves and attacks in completely different ways. So too, the fuhyō (footsoldiers), the kyōsha (lances), the keima (knights), single hisha (flying chariot -- a rook) and kakugyō ("angle mover" -- a bishop), and ginshō (silver generals). Only the king and the kinshō (gold generals) cannot be promoted and so carry the same pattern of moves throughout the game. It's like "counters" in the Japanese language. You can't simply use numbers for things -- one plate, one book, one cup, one dog, one person -- each category of object requires not only a different word for the object itself but for the number that precedes it.

All this to say that, getting two hours of sleep Monday night, I was wholly unprepared for Tuesday. It's sometimes not bad for teaching, particularly in the afternoon, where sleep-deprived genki-ness helps keep the students entertained and interested. But not particularly good for shogi, I think. In particular, when trying to study the wiki notes that morning, I found myself running up against a surprisingly tough obstacle wholly unexpected: I was having trouble telling the pieces apart. I had learned their moves for the most part, including their differences before and after promotion, but the Japanese script used to identify the pieces looked much the same to me. Here I could spot the kanji for "wheel" -- ah yes, a flying chariot, the eastern rook. But wait, here's "wheel" again -- the "incense chariot", the lancer unknown in the western game. Other pieces likewise looked confusingly alike. That didn't bode well. You can't play a game mistaking pieces for each other -- even a couple such mistakes would be disastrous. So I asked that our game be postponed until I could at least learn which pieces were which. Amused, my colleague agreed. Shortly thereafter I discovered that it was actually Valentine's Day, and I adopted that as my excuse. (Sorry Jules! She hadn't realized either, and actually, in Japan, this is her day to give me a gift. We guys return the favour on White Day -- March 14.) Anyway, I basically put shogi out of my mind at that point, thinking that we would set another date in a week or so.

Advance to Thursday. Still short on sleep, still averaging just two hours a night, and really feeling it. In fact, I'm just about losing it. I'm feeling down after Valentine's Day for some odd reason, brooding about unresolved decisions regarding work and the future, and generally a mess. At that point, my Nara friend asks me what I'm doing Friday. I don't know, I say -- why? Well as it turns out, he and our senior colleague are spending Friday night at the school. Why, you might ask? They are guarding the examination papers. Yes, a safe is not enough. Teachers are taking shifts across the weekend, and these two are first. (for a measley 3000 yen as it turns out, but I'm not certain that they volunteered) So if I want to come in on Friday night, he says, we can play all the shogi we want. Wow. Ok, I say, unsure but thinking that it would probably be nice of me to give him something to do. But come Friday I'm still sleep deprived, and I am ready to beg off again when he tells me that he has club activity practice after school, so we wouldn't even be starting till 8 or 9pm. Besides, I hadn't glanced at the shogi materials since cancelling on Tuesday, and tired, had made a bit of a mess of my afternoon class and was ready for the weekend. But then he caught me a bit later and said that we can play at 7:00 -- he would go home right after work and change, return to oversee his club activity, and then order in. Eh... how could I refuse? So I finished up at work and headed home relatively early -- at 4:30 -- thinking that maybe I'd take a short nap and then study my ass off so the event wouldn't be a complete disaster.

Well, I get home and have a bite to eat and procrastinate, and I'm so messed up that the next thing I know, it's a quarter to seven, I'm freezing cold (9 degrees Celcius in my living room), and my computer is on the floor, having fallen from my lap. All not good. Ugh. So I get myself up, turn the heater on for the few moments it will give me, hurriedly get dressed, and bolt out the door. Well no bloody time to walk to school, so I take one of the ramshackle bikes I have in the nearby shed -- no working headlight, slightly wonky wheels, and worst: no brakes -- and headed off for the pitch-black roads between the rice fields between home and school. Less than ten minutes I'm at the school, remarkably in one piece. Students lingering after club practices greet me as I go by, and finding a door open by the office, I change shoes for indoor slippers and boogie to the staff room, just 7 or 8 minutes late.

My Nara companion is there, along with his senior guard-comrade for the evening. Also there was our youngest teacher, hanging around to socialize and (!) watch the match. A few other teachers were there but on their way out. I was glad I had munched on a piece of chicken when I got home from school. Food had already been ordered so I made do with coffee while I studied the shogi wiki printouts for the first time since Tuesday. I also got out the school shogi board and pieces -- still a cheap set but much nicer than mine -- and decided to familiarize myself with the look of the pieces directly. Well, I was in trouble. They were nothing like the clear, abbreviated script-symbols used on the setup chart in the wiki. Rather, they looked like the slightly less clear photos of the pieces themselves, and were terribly hard to identify. Worse, there were many pieces from different sets mixed together, so that I sometimes had trouble identifying like pieces as even the same kind. Uh oh.

We chatted a bit and my young colleague dropped the news on me that he and his girlfriend had split up. He had wanted to marry her, but it was a cross-prefectural romance, and she didn't want to leave her home. So I commiserated with him a bit before the four of us settled down to begin the game. As always, my senior colleague supplied what I could only guess was wry commentary in Japanese as I found myself unable to identify the pieces well enough to even set up the board. Either embarassed for me or not expecting much of a match to follow, he retired to his desk while I sorted out my pieces.

Then, with my heartbroken workmate as a lone spectator, we began. I was given first move. Um, great I guess.

So I rifled through my papers quickly for an opening. The wiki mentions two: an elaborate "castle" defence (they use many terms from chess, but in completely different ways) and a much simpler one, taking only six moves to put together. At this point I couldn't really understand any strategic benefits behind this opening, but it gave me something definite to do so I began it. Before I'd made my third move, my opponent came crashing into my line, taking the first of my pawns while my king was halfway from safety, halfway to safety, basically hanging out with his neck exposed. I'd failed to recognize a piece. It cost me and it looked like it was going to cost me a lot more.

And that pretty much set the tone. I lost three pieces before I began to even consistently identify what it was I was looking at. Then began a rather steep learning curve in tactics while I faced more pieces than I had -- then more pieces again as my captured soldiers were "dropped" behind my lines in service of my enemy.
My opponent made just one blunder, losing his angle-mover. Or rather, my angle-mover. I resolved to not let him be recaptured again. And gradually a strange thing happened.

The tide began to turn.

It turns out that, while wildly different, certain principles of shogi and chess are the same. In either game, your options when under attack are to defend the piece, counterattack, or if possible, threaten the king. Threats to the king cannot be ignored. So -- if you are very, very careful -- you can hold off a knife to your throat indefinitely so long as you keep one on your opponent. Things were looking grim in one corner of my little kingdom. Enemy pieces were promoted and it was beginning to look like it wasn't part of my domain at all. I focused on attacking the enemy king and keeping him under attack from that point on, first pinning a gold general to him (a chess move!) and then desperately trying to arrange forks to simultaneously threaten afar while taking out threats at home. But, deranged from lack of sleep and pumped up on caffeine, I physically shook with nervousness at every move, as I could never be sure whether I had misidentified an enemy piece which would then come sweeping in and take something vital, returning it to the battlefield a turn later to be used against me.

I was lucky, however, and didn't miss any threats, and move after move I mounted new pressure on my opponent. It turns out that shogi is a kind of power-mad chess player's dream. The ability to reinforce anywhere on the board permits the mounting of threats unheard of in chess. That also meant that I had to keep the pressure on. One turn of release and new pieces would be falling from the sky to attack well inside my camp. Slowly, I took back the pieces I had lost and the cluster of available reinforcement shrank on my opponents' side while growing on mine, and I added them to my attack. We played a very good game then, I think. I made no major blunders and neither did he. Where I could have caught him out he always chose a different way, and never passed up the opportunity to drop whatever captured pieces he had to block my attacks and isolate my pieces. I nearly blundered with disturbing frequency, mind you -- just realizing in time that a contemplated move would fall to a (until then misidentified) piece, or mistaking my own piece for one of different abilities. I often stopped to scan my wiki printouts, reminding myself time and again of the moves available both to my pieces and to his.

Some two hours later it was all over. I had won.

So picture this. I'm in a country where, if you ever needed to let the boss win at golf, it's here. Standing is paramount. Saving face is critical.

Not only do I, a lowly gaijin ("barbarian"), beat my opponent, I do so at shogi, the Japanese answer to western chess, all the while scanning sheets to check how the pieces move and saying things like: "Keima desu, ne?" (that's my knight, right?) "Ryūō desu ka?" (That's a dragon king, isn't it?)

So I figure I may as well have just slapped him across the face. It didn't even occur to me to intentionally lose. I figured he would take care of the winning on his own. I was just struggling to stay afloat.

"You are very strong player" he said when it was all over. "Uh. I was pretty lucky, I think," I said. I thanked him for the game and we promised to play again some time. He headed out for a cigarette and I, still shaking somewhat, gathered my things to head for home. I met the other two teachers on the way out. They, probably out of kindness, didn't ask how the game went, and I certainly didn't tell them. But they'll ask my opponent, as will others who knew we were going to play tonight. I feel bad about it. It was a stunning victory and I'm proud as all hell to have been able to pull it off, but it's an embarassing turn of events for my colleague. I mean, on the way out, I joked that my senior colleague was a kind of fuhyō, guarding those examination papers. Uh, says my young workmate, "the fuhyō is of a very low standing." D'oh. That's my typical level of rudeness around here. Unthinking. (I replied that yes, that's true, but the pawn then becomes the kinshō, a symbolically important and grand evolution. That appeared to placate him.)

Anyway, I don't know if there are any shogi matches in my immediate future, or whether I should seriously entertain losing any of them if I have a choice in the matter. That's not something I would ever consider doing at home but perhaps here it's another question. Then again, a gaijin can't hope for integration anyway; rudeness is expected. I can at least earn a little respect.

So that was my first shogi game. A surprise for everyone. Now I think I'll get some sleep.

Some pictures.

Kanji chaos. What is what?
Notice the captured pieces off-side, ready to be "dropped" back onto the board.
My lower left flank has been infiltrated. I'm in trouble, but starting the counter-attack.
First game of shogi

My opponent, looking confident.
First game of shogi (2)

And it's all over. Ōtedzume. Check mate.
First game of shogi (4)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

and now a brief intermission

Uploading photos to Flickr before I continue posting.

In the meantime, enjoy this.