Author: Charlie Hayes

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The Ultimate (Frisbee) Guide to Gunma

July 2, 2018 | Blog, JET Life | No Comments

Before I got here, I sent a lot of emails and Facebook messages about ultimate frisbee. I asked in Gunma ALTs and I bothered the people in Tokyo. I was informed that there was no such thing as ultimate frisbee in Gunma. A lot of people said they had tried, but they ended up shrugging their shoulders and saying, “shoganai, ne?”

“Shoganai” is not a word that I take kindly to.

At Gunma Games, I brought out a disc and found that a few others had, too. Tossing around, we talked about getting a game together. There were athletes there, but more than that, there were people who wanted to have a good time.

I created the Gunma Ultimate page on Facebook and invited everyone I knew to join. Since that first year, I’ve sent hundreds of personal messages, bringing out our fearless leaders and our most introverted nerds to play my favorite sport down by the river in Takasaki. It has been my singular mission to make ulti happen.

Photo from Shuichi Tsujimoto

My crew has played a dozen or so times. It’s not much, especially compared to my thrice weekly games in California, but every time has been a blast. I teach everyone what they need to know—the basics of the game, how to throw—and then I make sure that everyone is included. If it’s your first time with us, you have to score a point. Don’t worry, the pros will do all the work to make sure it happens, but I want you to understand my love of this sport. I want you to feel it. With a rotating group of regulars and newbies alike, we play until we’re nearly exhausted, then we go get ramen. Sometimes, we even do karaoke after that. I run myself into the ground to make sure everyone has a good time, and it is totally worth it.

If you don’t personally know me, you’re probably thinking, “this must be one of those organizer types—the guys who shake a lot of hands and make an uncomfortable amount of eye contact. He’s probably a jock, too.”

Absolutely not. I’m averse to eye contact and I hate shaking hands. Frisbee is literally the only sport I enjoy, and I only enjoy it in one way: when people are playing to have fun. This is it for me. This is what I do.

For context, ten years ago, I started playing ultimate because of my friends. We played on patchy dirt, with Home Depot buckets for cones. None of us owned cleats, and we were all completely f***ing terrible at the sport. As a result, half of our rules were completely made up to support our game and keep it fun for everyone. One or two people knew how to throw, and the rest of us made do, wobbling discs at each other until we eventually scored. It was a mess, but it was beautiful.

Now, after a typical school day, I go out to a park near my house and throw for an hour. I’m always alone, so if a kid is watching, I bring them over and show them the ropes. Sometimes their moms and dads play, too. Of course, I throw with my middle school students during lunch whenever they have a break, too. Even kids who hate me in class, who fall asleep or shout the answers during my group games, respect me and want to learn when there’s a disc in my hand. When my BOE insists that I visit preschools several times each year, I bring a stack of discs. I teach three, four, and five year-olds how to throw a backhand, and they have an absolute blast.

On the JET Program, we all fantasize about leaving our mark on this place, about changing the culture and convincing people that some small facet of our worldly understanding is worth adopting. The only thing I want to give Japan is a love for the silly side of this sport. I want them to see the side where men and women can play together without frustrating each other (mostly because the men finally throw to the women), and where losing can be just as fun as winning.

To that end, I threw a tournament in April 2018. It was a funny hat tournament; as in, you have to wear a silly hat or you’re not allowed to play. It enforced that sense of humor, that feeling of people barefoot in the park tossing the disc. Even though one of the coaches for Japan’s national team came to the tourney, he was including first timers in his plays. There were even a few little kids—like under ten—who showed up with their parents. It truly embodied the spirit of the game, and it was the most fulfilling thing I’ve done while living here.

I proudly wear my tournament’s t-shirt around town, and when someone asks about it, I tell them about it. I show them videos and teach them about the sport, often answering far more questions than I had intended. Yes, it happened here in this town, right over there. Yes, a lot of people came. Yes, it’s fun. Sometimes they tell me that they saw me in the newspaper or on TV.

I don’t push ultimate on anyone, but I do invite everyone. There’s a difference, and it’s important. I lead by example and collaborate with people who have similar goals. Whatever you’re into, chances are you can do it, too. Talk to people. Show them how much you love whatever it is that you do. Invite them.

I don’t do shoganai, but I do enjoy a good ganbare.

Ganbatte.

Epilogue: Since my tourney, I’ve solicited the help of Tokyo’s Ultimate crews to donate Frisbees and jerseys to my school. They gave us enough for a full class set, and next week, we’re going to teach the sport—for real, during class time. Wish me luck!

Charlie Hayes is a third year JET in Tatebayashi. Although he’s leaving the country, he is looking for a worthy successor to take over the Gaijin Gunma Ultimate scene. You can reach him at [email protected] if you’re interested!

So you need to get a background check, huh?

Maybe you’re moving out of the country, or maybe you just want a change of pace here when your contract is up, but either way, this is the place you need to go:

群馬県警察鑑識科学センター

〒371-0846 Gunma-ken, Maebashi-shi, Motosōjamachi, 535−1

 

They’re open from 8:30 to 5.

It’s 1.4 km from Shim-Maebashi station, so you might want to take a cab. If not, there’s an underground walkway, but it’s kinda hard to get to from the station. Go straight out the main exit, turn right at the main street there (just past the restaurants and all that) and walk for quite a ways. When you get to where the karaoke place is just across the street from you, you can turn right and head into the underground area. This leads almost straight to the place, but I wouldn’t experiment with the route if you’re in a hurry. Honestly, from the outside, it doesn’t look like it’s going to take you anywhere other than an old warehouse in which to be murdered.

Once you make it there, you can talk to the receptionist. She doesn’t speak English, but she’ll call over a guy who will muddle through it with you. If you both do Japanglish, you can get the job done. He’s a jolly little guy with glasses.

Here’s the thing: the guy who does the fingerprints is very skilled with his machine. He will make some odd, “I don’t know about this” grunts as he does the job, but if you’re only after a Japanese background check, you’re gonna be fine. They have a form that has English on it, as well as a sample, pre-filled one for you to crib off of. It takes about ten minutes all told, you pay them, and then you’re done for the day. You will have to come back a week or so later to pick up your results (they can’t mail it, he says), but that’ll be that.

If you need an FBI background check, however… Well. That’s more interesting. I brought the FBI’s fingerprinting card that I printed out from their site.

https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/standard-fingerprint-form-fd-258-1.pdf/view

No, they don’t have copies of this card on site. Yes, you should bring your own. Yes, printing on regular old combini printer paper is just fine. No, it doesn’t need to be on cardstock. My suggestion: fill out the information at the top BEFORE you make copies of the form. (I checked with the pertinent authorities and the writing on the form doesn’t need to be fresh, just the prints.) The fingerprinting guy made a couple copies of my form for my own personal use after I got there because, well, I think he knew how it was going to go. (Hint: not well.)

If you’re in this predicament and not well-versed in fingerprinting, go on YouTube and learn how to take fingerprints. No, I am not joking. No, I am not exaggerating. Luckily, I’ve been fingerprinted rather often for my previous employers, so I knew what I was doing. The “fingerprint technician” did not. At all. After we collaborated in ruining two of my FBI printouts, I delegated to him the job of holding the paper still. I did the rest—rolling the ink, taking the impressions, and checking my work. Some key notes for you:

1) Get your whole finger print inked—go high enough up (practically to the top of your finger), and roll your finger left or right until you basically hit your nail on both sides. Get full coverage here.

2) If you were a little messy inking yourself, make sure you wipe off your finger below the first knuckle crease. I ruined one page because I was sloppy in the inking process.

3) Have him hold the paper so that the box you intend to fill is at the edge of the table. If it is, your other fingers will be out of the way (i.e., off the table) and it will be easier to roll them.

4) Test the mechanics of your hand before you put your finger down. Then, press your finger down and roll the way that your hand wants to roll. The left hand is generally easier to roll from left to right, the right hand is the opposite for me. Your hands may be different, though.

5) Use your opposite hand to apply pressure to the finger that you’re rolling. Generally, this means using your thumb and forefinger on the helper hand applied, essentially, to the nailbed area.

6) Don’t press too hard or you’ll just make a black smudge instead of a print.

7) Check the FBI guidelines on the printout—they tell you what’s good enough, so make sure you’re not making any obvious mistakes. If you did, start over.

8) Wipe off after each roll. The last thing you want is a stray print muddying up a good impression.

When you’re finished, they’ll want to make a copy for their own records. I’m not sure why, but it’s a thing they do. Lastly, there’s a spot on the paper for them to sign, but “Japanese police don’t sign things,” so they won’t be doing that, either. Honestly, if you’re after the FBI background check, you’re going to this place to make use of their stamp pad and that’s about it. Your experience may be different, but for me, it was a complete farce.

After you’re done with all of that, you’ll need to pay them. That means going to a driving school that’s outside, across the little river there, and giving them 400 yen for a stamp. Bring the stamp back, and they’ll finalize your Japanese background check. From here, you’ll wait a week or so for your Japanese results. Meanwhile, you’ll need to go and mail off your fingerprints to the FBI. I’m not including the address here in case something changes in the near (or far) future. You can easily find it on the internet.

Good luck, and my your fingers be flexible enough to face the twists and turns of a struggling middle-aged Japanese man.

************

Quick note about the FBI: they take forever. You can go through an FBI channeler, a service that will greatly expedite the process, but you should know that they don’t accept documents that aren’t signed by the place that did your prints, and they’re going to want to send your results to an address within the United States. (This was my experience, anyway—maybe you’ll find someone more lenient who’s willing to deal with the cultural differences. Truthfully, the FBI doesn’t care if that spot is signed or not, according to the research I did online, but the channelers have their own rules.) This is a problem, obviously, but I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to check if someone named Tanaka works at the Maebashi police station, if you catch my drift.

(Disclaimer: What you do with that line on the form is entirely your choice, please don’t consider this to be bulletproof or consequence free advice from a wizened older JET. You do you, and please don’t implicate me, GAJET or the JET Program if you get in trouble for what you do when you do you.)

Final Note: There are places in Tokyo that will do your FBI fingerprints and sign the document. They will charge you 20,000 yen for their services, though, so honestly, I didn’t even entertain the thought.