Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Bright green drinks

I love the bright green drinks here. It could be fizzy melon, but I`m really not sure...

Last night, after posting and getting the train home, I went to get my bike and after getting extremely stressed with the machine when it wouldn`t release my bike, ended up paying again. This morning I left it in another bike park, with an elderly attendant. I have a feeling it`ll be plain sailing. As long as it isn`t shut when I get back. And he was awfully sweet too.

I had feedback from the second lesson observed last week today. I thought the lesson had gone pretty well, but there`s loads I can change apparantly. It was a useful exercise having this done though. At least it gives more ideas. hmph.

I`m losing one of my favourite private students. Last week, during her regular class, another kid observed - ie joined in but hadn`t paid to do so, and my kid enjoyed the group lesson so much she wants to join a group. Sweet kid. I`ll miss her.

When I got back last night, there was a phone directory outside my apartment. I seem to be left these every week. Maybe they`ll stop now I have one addressed to me? Of course, I can`t understand them, but anyway..........

Shoes should be taken off before entering houses and a variety of other buildings. I now feel guilty even if I wear them into my own one. How mad is that?

There. A shorter post. Happier now? ;-)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A whole week to catch up on.....

So, I seem to have rather a lot of notes scribbled in my little book and it must be some kind of personal record that I`ve not been near an internet cafe for a whole week.

After getting my gaijin card I was able to get a mobile phone. I have no idea what most of the functions do, and the instruction book -- well there`s about 100 pages, and five of them are in English. Go figure. I`ll have to persuade someone in my regional office to download and print it off for me. It`s a pretty funky phone though. It has a huge display panel and opens by sliding up. (It`s Vodaphone and a Sanyo V401SA for any geeks who want to know these things). And it accepts emails and I can send emails from it. This is VERY exciting. Why don`t phones in the UK do this?

I`ve also joined the local DVD store, had a landline installed (internet will take THREE weeks!), opened a bank account and bought a bike.

The bike is green. Well, everyone has a grey bike here and I have to be able to at least try and find it, don`t I? Like pretty much all bikes you see here, it has a basket in front and no gears. It`s legal to ride it on the pavement (sidewalk), unlike in the UK and pedestrians just sort of get out of your way. You can ride it on the roads, but most people choose not to. I`ve tried out an umbrella with it yet. The biggest, and most stressful nightmare though is parking it. In the UK, let`s face it, you can bung your bike pretty much anywhere. In Tokyo, everyone has a bike. Imagine the problems that could occur...... As a result, trying to find somewhere to park your bike is a nightmare, and if it gets taken away it costs 3000 yen (fifteen pounds) to get it back. Not fun. There are designated bike parks, but it`s the luck of the draw if you get a space. I didn`t park in a proper place yesterday and was very lucky my bike didn`t get taken away. It had a note on it and had been physically moved when I got back to get it. I was warned. This morning, I put it in the proper place and went to pay my 100 yen (50p) but couldn`t get the machine to work. I grabbed some poor old passerby and got him to help me. Poor guy. But the light kept flashing and I was convinced it`d get taken away. My lovely Wednesday receptionist made some phonecalls for me and it should be safe.

I can see this will totally do my head in!!! And could end up costing me a fortune. Of course, it`s properly registered, so there`s no getting away with anything anyway.

Oh and it has a basket in front and NO gears. Like most bikes here! And my sales assistant spoke wonderful English. When I complimented him, he replied he wasn`t a Japanese, he was Chinese. I didn`t quite see the connection, but he was very helpful anyway.

Opening a bank account was stressful too. I had miss extremely unfriendly bank assistant. Something very unusual for such a friendly and helpful place. She wasn`t happy my name was written first name and then surname on the form, as my Gaijin card has it the other way around. She wasn`t very sympathetic when I pointed to it in my passport either. Silly bint. Anyway, the account is now open. I chose my own pin number and told them. Very odd. And was given a passbook. I`ll get an ATM card in about three weeks time.

People here play train sardines. Apparantly the white gloved guards have been known to push people onto trains but I`ve not seen that yet. Trains here, especially the later into the evening you get, get pretty crowded. Actually, that`s an understatement. You know that joke where someone fills a pint glass with stones to capacity, and then finds there`s room for pebbles and fills it even more, and then manages to get a load of sand in and it looks like it`s totally choca, until they pour a load of beer into it? Well, that`s kind of like the trains here. I was watching the other night and it`s incredible. You really think nobody else could possibly get on, and another three shove there way in. This continues until about 30 or more people have shoved themselves into the no-space space. And teeny petite girls are the worst. They use their entire bodies to thrust people back so they can get on. You also get people hovering by the door until it starts shutting and they then shove on. Believe me, getting a seat is wonderful. Even if it means two businessmen falling asleep - one on each of your shoulders. Lovely.

Leading up to my road the other night I saw four policecars parked, two either side of someone`s car and they were hovering over it. I have no idea what the poor driver had done, but I did think four policecars was a bit much. Apparantly the police here only bother with things they can sort out? I`ve heard this. I donno if it`s true. It is, however, one of the reasons I bought a brand new bike and got it registered. I don`t want any run ins with the police, and have seen them stopping cyclists near where I live.

Newest definition of cute: seeing 54 five-year olds walking down the street in two`s all wearing wellies and pink or green hats and matching shorts and white tops. And followed by another 70 in blue or orange hats. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO gorgeous. Unlike British kids, I`ve not seen an ugly Japanese kid yet. I have to resist the urge to hug all my students (the kids I mean....) and remain totally professional!

My back has been hurting. I thought futons were meant to be good for you? What`s going on?

The nicest apple juice I`ve ever tasted is sold in the vending machine near my apartment. This makes me very happy.

I got very positive feedback from the first class observed last week. (The second one I get tomorrow). And today`s class with the nine year old boys went really well so I`m no longer concerned about having to teach them. The feedback gave me lots of good tips for dealing with them too.

I start Japanese lessons next week.

Saturday was interesting. I started off with a 10am class with a cocky 12 year old girl who`d lived in the UK for four years. It was my first lesson with her and she talked to me for 20 minutes without stopping telling all about Doremon...... I asked her what she`d enjoyed doing in England and she told me she`d been to loads of ballets and musicals and listed them. She then asked me what I thought about Cosette (Cosine??), one of the characters from Les Miserables. I was SO shocked! I can`t believe she asked me that. So, I just said it was a long time since I`d read the book and hurredly got up to rub off the game I`d prepared on the board thinking she`d laugh if I asked her to do it. She was most disappointed, and said she`d really wanted to do it. Guess you can`t win. A mature adult-child. This could be very interesting.

I`m sure you`re aware there were some massive earthquakes in Japan on Saturday. Previously, all the ones I`ve experienced I`ve been at home for. Home is a very new apartment block especially designed to cope with quakes. It`s on springs, or something. So, when a quake happens, it sways and shimmers. On Saturday I was working and in a very old building. No swaying and shimmering. Just shaking and vibrating. I had two adult students who looked terrified. We felt several more throughout the evening.

Saturday night was a blast. I went to a tt pissup in Tokyo. We went to a bar that sold 50 yen beers. Yes, that was fifty yen beers (ie about 25 pence). And when we got kicked out -- apparantly we weren`t spending enough money -- we went to do some karaoke! In Tokyo, you get your own private ROOM to do this in and key in the songs, grab a mike and away you go. I found myself singing along to Rick Astley - though, please note this was NOT my choice, and several other dodgy artists. It was great fun, and I can`t wait for my next go!

On Sunday I visited my local cemetary and Buddhist Temple. Cremation is what most people go for here, so the cemetaries, to my understanding, are more of a memorial place and where bones and ashes are laid.

Actually, to go off on a tangent for a moment: there`s all sorts of etiquette here regarding chopsticks, etc which I was aware of but didn`t understand until now. Such as, you mustn`t have your chopsticks resting in a bowl or standing upright and you mustn`t pass food from person to person with chopsticks. Bowls of food are offered up to the dead with chopsticks leaning inside, so that`s pretty simple. The passing though: At a cremation the body goes in to be incinerated. When it is half done, it comes back out again. Relatives then pick up the bones with chopsticks and between them, move the bones into an urn. Lovely. Anyway, that`s why you mustn`t do that.

So, the cemetary and temple. The Temple had two extremely scarey looking deities guarding it. There was lots of bamboo, shrubbery and trees all around and it was very peaceful and beautiful. In the cemetary the graves/shrines/memorials, have headstones and long wooden prayer sticks about 6 foot high coming out of them. These are placed every 3 and 7 years apparantly in memory of the dead person, although living people can place them for themselves too..... All the graves had incence holders on and little containers for water. There was a hut with loads of buckets and water in it, and that, apparantly is for cleaning the graves. I was so perplexed by many of the things, that I`ve been interrogating some of my students. I have so much to learn, which is one of the many things I love about being here.

Contact lenses. I have Gas Permeable contact lenses. They are not hard. They are not soft. They are gas permeable. I don`t think they exist in Japan. I had a long `conversation` with a couple of optitians here and this is my conclusion. For cleaning and soaking purposes, this presents an interesting dilemma. Do I keep getting them sent from the UK, or consider changing to a different type of lens? I think it`s going to have to be the former. Though why they have something called `saline solution` which is only suitable for soft lenses perplexes me. Isn`t saline solution saline solution? ie salt and water? gah! too confusing.

In the same department store I had the contact lens conversation and bought the bike, they have kitchen wear. Now, let`s get this straight: kitchen wear, ie toasters, kettles, scales, oven grills, irons and so on are for adults, right? So, can anyone explain why there was an entire range of these goods with Hello Kitty all over them? And another range with Disney all over it? It`s all too much to bear!

Though I do want some cute dangly things for my phone....!

Newspapers. After the joy of the Japan Times the other day, I thought I`d try another English language newspaper. I`ve never seen such a creative use of punctuation in newspaper headlines. I saw commas and semi colons in headlines. I was MOST shocked. And the quality was no better, and just as amusing as the Japan Times. I dispare.

Tissues are an interesting thing here. It is extremely bad manners to blow your nose in public. Spitting on the pavement and sniffing are fine though. This being the case, it`s most interesting to see the quantity of people employed to hand out free packets of tissues to passersby. I may never have to buy another pack again.

I`ve been bonding with one of my neighbours. She invited me around for tea the other night. She`s another teacher and it was nice to just sit down and natter.

I`ve also started saying hello to random westerners now. It`s taken four weeks to break me in!

For three days, we had no rain. On my day off yesterday, guess what? It pissed it down!!! Oh joy to these typhoons and earthquakes.

I`ve also made `friends` with the girl in the local convenience store. She spent four years in Boston and is happy to practice her English. I`m happy to have another Japanese person to ask questions to! She charged me twice for a bottle of wine. I was too dozy to notice. She came running after me up the street, shouting: `Jo, Jo`.

I took the lovely bottle of Californian Shiraz home and couldn`t wait to pour it down my neck. You know how animal psychologists think it`s funny to put a nut into a bottle so when a chimp puts it`s hand in and closes it around the nut, it can`t get it out and has to figure out another way to get it`s prize? Well, the only other bottle of wine I`ve bought here (hey, they`re not cheap) was a screw top, so I didn`t realise just how crap the corkscrew I own is. Think chimp. I got into that bottle through sheer bloodymindedness, a lot of perseverance, a cut fingure, a knife, a bent decrepid corkscrew, a splinter of shattered glass, and a cork that ended up in a few dozen fragments. But the point is, I managed. Shit, did it taste good. Once I`d removed a few bits of floating cork. Must remember to buy a decent corkscrew. I can`t go through that `trauma` again!

I`m so in love with the concept of Bento boxes. You get them in convenience stores as well as restaurants and it`s a little packed meal in compartments. Typically, a load of rice or noodles, and some meat or fish, some pickles and maybe some salad. I think they`re wonderful. And so cheap too. I also love the little cylinders of cooked rice you get which are either plaine, egg fried, with tuna in or other things. It`s pot luck which I get as I can never remember which is which. I also love the dough balls with fillings. Again, pot luck -- point, and get.

And one of my students, a really old guy who`s a floating student (ie doesn`t book regular lessons) and comes in for chats, that I`ve met once before, gave me a present today: a really cool bilingual map of Tokyo. A really good one too. And considering how hard it is finding things in English, I`m so touched.

I just can`t believe so few people say Japan is a place they really want to visit. I don`t get it!

Friday, October 22, 2004

I`m a legal alien

Okay, I`ve been a legal alien since I got here, but today I got my alien regristration card (gaijin card) and at the top it tells me I`m registered as an alien. Cool. LOL.

I left the internet cafe yesterday in the horrendous rain and the steps were wet. I ended up on my arse but somehow managed to bruise my knees. I have no idea how this could be possible.

Today it rained. Now isn`t that unusual? If another person tells me this weather is not typical for this time of year I think I`ll burst into tears.....

And ravens. Shit, are they scary, and I keep seeing odd ravens (or crows or whatever) everywhere. eek!

One of the (many) things that has really surprised me, is the price of rice in supermarkets. It`s extortionate! I thought it would be really cheap for a rice eating nation. Apparantly, and this is the same reason fruit and veggies are so expensive, it`s all to do with export laws and strange politics........ Pain in the arse if you ask me though!

Gotta giggle: as you may have realised by now, it`s been raining a bit here. The `look` is wellies and suits. I think it`s hysterical. And not big knee length wellies, but wellies just over the ankle, with suit trouser bottoms tucked it. It IS practical. But it don`t half look silly! I`ve only seen it on businessmen though. No women.

And, talking of businessmen, shit do they have cute arses or what? Sorry, but they do and it`s so hard to not stare at them.

I am in great envy of people who can ride a bike, hold an umbrella over themselves AND talk on their mobile`s at the same time. And without falling off or crashing into a tree. Of course, they are all on the pavements, so no danger from cars I guess. And the pavements, and the roads, are pretty wide. Wide by UK standards, anyway.

Umbrella condoms make me giggle too. I always feel I`m being naughty when I roll them on. Seriously - the majority of shops, food places, etc have either umbrella stands just outside or just inside, or they have these long plastic sleeves you put your umbrella into to stop them dripping all over the place when you wander inside. With some of these there`s a machine you insert the umbrella into, with others, you just grab a plastic thing and roll it up your umbrella. It`s an excellent idea, and it`s been amusing me for the last three weeks now! Actually, on the subject of condoms, I was hunting for something in a shop today (no, not condoms) and they have a brand called `new condoms`. Right, let`s move on...

Macdonalds does iced tea. Actually, everywhere does iced tea...

Toilet bowls here are just wrong. When you put loo roll down them it doesn`t go straight down into the water and wait to be flushed away. The toilet bowls are angled so it ends up sitting on a `ledge`. I really hope I don`t ever need to be sick into it. Too euw for words, me thinks!

I had to get up early this morning to go and collect me gaijin card and try and sign up for Japanese lessons before my classes started, but I was knackered. I actually spent a whole hour telling my alarm clock to f*ck off. Out loud, obviously. That`s not good is it? ("beep, beep, beep" , "f*ck off" [whack], etc)

I have somehow managed to lose some weight. The amount of crap I`ve been eating this is amazing. I guess it just goes to show how bad a boring office job is for you and how hopping around a classroom with seven year olds before climbing up four flights of stairs, really helps. And as receptionists keep buying me cakes, it`s even more amazing!

I was thinking today how funny it is that people pay for me to teach them English. Seriously. I think I`m an okay teacher and my students seem to enjoy my classes, but I can`t wait to be a good teacher. I think I`m getting there.

I had another class observed today, by another of my bosses. It was an adult class, and I think it went pretty well. Again, I`ll wait for the feedback to see.

I`m definitely getting cabin fever, I`ve decided. As soon as one of my days off coincides with a dry day AND a day I`m so exhausted I sleep all of it, I`m off exploring........ but then, there`s no rush I guess. I`m planning on staying for quite a while.

When you receive your change in shops here, unlike in the UK, your money doesn`t get thrown at you. First you get given your notes, and a chance to put them into your wallet, and then you get given your change. So civilized. So nice compared to the UK!

Sniffing is a big thing here. Apparantly blowing your nose in public is rude, but sniffing is not. I`ve been sniffing along too, though I do wish other people wouldn`t!

Dustbins are SO hard to find here. Maybe it`s a way to encourage people to use the right bins for the right things, but wandering around the streets, you just don`t see dustbins, unless they are outside a shop, and even that`s rare. Bit of a pain really. And, of course, the streets are spotless, so it doesn`t seem to be a problem either. Imagine that in the UK?!

I`m living in Asia. I`m on another continent from pretty much everyone I know. This has just hit me. (like, doh!) But seriously, I suppose it`s because Tokyo is, in many ways, so much like any European or American city that it doesn`t feel that different. Or maybe it does. I can`t really decide.

I had another thought about my leaf kicking rantette: one, I`ve not seen the `right kind of trees` yet to give me loads of huge leaves to kick and, two, even if I did, they`d be all soggy and that wouldn`t be any fun, would it?

This city is obsessed with cute ants and cute elephants. I keep seeing little cartoon ones on everything!

And cute music is everywhere too: on crossings, in stations, etc.

Shops here sell tinned spam. Why??

I`ve discovered my first English book selling shop. I`m shocked to discover the prices are the same as in the UK. I mentioned this to a colleague who said there`s lots of shops around with very cheap secondhand English novels too. I could end up over buying........ Really must see if libraries here have English language novels. And, I have to confess, I got such a kick out of seeing all those rows of books and so cheap......! I only bought a dictionary, and that was a nightmare in itself. Choice: English-Japanese OR Japanese-English. Not both. Unless you wanted to spend a fortune. And if you did get both, you didn`t get any Kana in there. I wanted everything. Still, you can`t always got what you want.

And I bought an English language newspaper from the station this morning, `The Japanese Times`. It reads like it were written by a high school student, or someone pre Journalism school. I was giggling my head off at bits it was so painful.

Home time now......

And PLEASE stick your pin into my guestmap or sign my guestbook. Or both...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

raining, raining, raining

I`ve been in Tokyo 22 days now. I think there`s been about 3 days when it`s not pissed it down. I keep getting told this is not normal. Now, does this help me? And, we`ve another typhoon hitting Tokyo around midnight tonight. The rain is getting heavier and heavier and areas of Japan are already flooded and people dead......

My day off yesterday: I mentioned I went into my head office to do some lesson planning. Problem with that though is the other teachers are all so friendly and want to natter when they`re not working. Of course, I love nattering as well -- but it does mean it takes three times longer to get anything done.

I had a lesson observed by one of my bosses today as part of my `ongoing` training. (Yeah, right). Of course, the lesson he observed was my nine year old lads. Not the class I find the easiest. And I decided to try several new things with them today....... At least someone else can now see the difference between divvy student a and uber bright student b, and how it`s a pain trying to strike a decent balance so they both benefit. The ones in the middle neither lose nor win by the situation.

And I played buses with my 3 year olds today. Shit, kids are exhausting. Actually, low level adults are pretty exhausting too, but they`re a laugh.

The comfy internet (media) cafe`s I`ve mentioned: what I didn`t mention was that the massive comfy chairs take up the entire booth you are in and you need to manipulate yourself into them. A bit like your average small public loo in the UK.

I was in heaven yesterday: I`ve found a huge, cheap chemist. They even have some brands of shampoos that I`ve used before in the UK.

Very exciting.

I just wish this weather would clear up. It`s SOOOOO depressing.

And another thing I`m longing for is a real Autumn. I love kicking leaves as I shuffle along the ground. Here though, maybe because they`re so super efficient, or maybe because I`ve not ventured into a park yet, but I`ve not seen any leaves I can kick. This saddens me and I feel I`m missing out. If it EVER stops raining I may have to start going to parks to hunt out some leaves.

And I`m missing English newspapers. I`ve seen English Language newspapers here, but no English ones yet. I don`t have a clue what`s happening in the world. Once I get netted up at home (next week hopefully), then I`ll have time to check online without having to pay for it....

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Six year olds cheat. It`s quite funny. Especially when their peers realise they`re cheating and they try to deny it....

But anyway, I`m loving my classes, though the preparation time is massive. Most days I have about nine different classes and am really struggling to do all the prep before the classes start. Meaning I`m doing it after work in the evening and on days off.

By after work I mean late. Typical working day: get up between 9 and 10, brekkie, shower, etc. Around 11am leave the house (the schools don`t physically open until midday). Get to the school and do an hours preparation before, normally, having first class at 1pm. Continue teaching until between 8.30 and 9.30pm, with some breaks if I`m lucky where I can do more prep, queue tapes, etc. Clear up and leave the school between 8.45 and 9.45. Depending on which school I`m in it`ll then take between 40 minutes to just over an hour to get home. Get and eat food, relax. It`s often getting onto half eleven by this time. Sort out things for next day, maybe watch a dvd. By 1 to 2am feel ready to crash.

I`m tired!

I`m starting to really miss people now. Although, to be honest, I have no time to see people. Of course people I do meet here seem to all have different days off from me at the moment, or to live a long way away. But it is still early days.

And I`m longing for a bath. A real bath I can LIE DOWN IN with a book and a large glass of wine. My bath is less than 3/4 size. My knees just about reach my chin if I get into it. So I guess it`s showers all the way, until I start going to Onsen`s...

And please someone take the rain away. It`s been pissing it down all day and -- this weekend another typhoon is due. Just great!

I had loads of plans for today - my day off. They got aborted.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Always do your homework!

So today I came a little unstuck in one of the classes when attempting to teach a grammar point I`d not prepared beforehand and had never even heard of. The sodding teachers notes were no bloody help on this either. The class were pretty good about it and said they did understand the point but just couldn`t get hear it on the tapes, or something like that. GAH! Why is English so sodding complicated? Anyway, I suppose I`ll have to attempt to get my head around it before next Friday. Or just ask someone else.

I forgot to also mention that the internet cafe I described yesterday also had a shower. In fact they are `media cafe`s` with banks of magazines, videos, etc to be used here too. Pretty cool. I guess.

Though not as cool as my blanket. The company sorted out new futons and bedding for us, and I have THE most lush blanket. It`s super soft. Just like a kitten. And so nice to snuggle into!

There`s an article on the bbc website http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3708098.stm about Japan opening up it`s immigration policy, etc. The thing that really strikes me though is it talks about how everyone is homogenous here. I realised that`s one of the things I like: being different from everyone else.

It also amazes me that I`ve not mentioned the Pachinko parlours here. I`ve not ventured into one yet but think games arcades and lots and lots of them. Absolutely everywhere. And big and bright like everything else. I don`t know that much about Pachinko, except it involves businessmen sitting in front of a machine, pulling a lever and watching 100`s of little silver balls shoot down. And then you win money. Or not. Or something like that. It`s meant to be relaxing. Ooo, I just found this: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2065.html

Another fashion thingy here at the moment is longish denim shorts and boots. Very very popular.

I`m a teacher. Seriously, it`s only just hit me I`m not playing at this. And I can`t even begin to explain how much I don`t miss my old life. Only people.......

I`m also quite lucky, I think, in as much as I teach in five schools in five very different areas. This means I have a huge variety of students.

And it was sunny today! But I was stuck inside, apart from a couple of little venturings out. Including one into the Vodaphone shop to try to get a mobile. They didn`t speak English. I don`t speak Japanese. I`ll try again next week, with a Japanese speaker!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Things just ain`t like what they are back home

So, I`m in another internet cafe. Next week I`ll get my Gaijin Card (meaning I`ll officially be registered as a foreigner/alien) and will be able to do all sorts of wonderful things like opening a bank account, getting a phone line and INTERNET ACCESS at home, getting a mobile, etc, but for now this is it.

This internet cafe I`m in right now: I`m in my own private booth with closed window, my own lamp and extremely comfy office chair. I`m drinking (complementary) Earl Grey tea in a nice china mug, though I could have as many free hot or drinks as I like from a very wide choice. There are very cheap snacks available too, should I get peckish. And if it all gets too much, or if I get too cold or uncomfortable, there are blankets and head supports I can use. Oh and there are toilets here too. If anything exists like this in London, I`ve not found it. But then I didn`t visit that many internet cafe`s in London.

After classes yesterday I needed some more fresh veg and wandered into another supermarket. I DO love supermarkets here. I have no idea what 80% of the things are, and that makes it so much fun. What does amaze me though, is the price of rice. I thought rice was meant to be really cheap in Japan. Noodles and pasta are, but rice? ouch. I saw a drink called Creap which made me giggle. Shame it wasn`t spelt `creep`, but still...... Also, they have these little plastic gizmos you can take and put around the handles of your carrier bag to make them easier and more comfy to carry. Gotta love it! Another, slightly more alarming, thing I`ve been seeing in quite a few shops is face whitener. Think Michael Jackson....

Another of the more `original` - okay, I`ll stick to `odd` fashions here is the liking for baggy leggings and baggy tights. Grannyrama or what? Sometimes worn as are, sometimes peaking out from skirts.

All of my lessons seem to be going pretty well now and I love most of my students. The four nine year olds I had a rough lesson with last week, were much easier to deal with yesterday when I actually had the right stuff planned and knew how to use the tape recorder. Problem is though that they are very different levels from each other, with one being particularly good and one being particularly bad. The others fall in the middle. The bad one spent yesterday unable to keep his eyes open, so I cruely kept making the others shout. He looked dazed. It was quite amusing. Anyway, I do think he`d benefit more from individual tuition, but having an even number in the class works well for team games. It`s pretty much up to me to influence what happens next and if I want him removed from the class. But I`d feel guilty, even though it`d be for the benefit of the others. Oh gah!

My students hate doing listening comprehensions, so I keep giving them them to do. OO the power! I do explain it`s for their own good and they seem to enjoy doing them.... but would rather just chat. Listening comps are the compromise! I`m loving learning new games and trying them on the students. They`re not `new` games, just new to me, and make it all a bit more fun and varied for them and me, even though the material we use in class isn`t tooooooo bad.

I had to give a trial lesson yesterday to assess someone`s level. Poor guy was exhausted afterwards but has signed up and I get first stab at him next week. (He won`t be doing regular lessons). A brand new student. hehehehe!!!!! But I`ll be gentle. Maybe.

Yet another of the better thought out things in Japan are toilet doors that open outwards. I can`t stand it when doors open inwards into tiny cubicles that you have to then manoeuvre yourself into. This is so much more sensible.

I`ve now started using buses as well as trains. Some you pay when you get on, and some you pay when you get off. It`s pretty easy to figure out though: just see which set of doors is open. The insides of the buses, like the trains, is very wide with lots of space down the middle. One things that cracks me up is that over the wheel arches are seats. To sit on these you practically have your knees under your chin. It`s very comical watching people in these seats.

If you look out of the window from the train, you see very few buildings that are under four storeys high, and they are all emblazened with huge banners advertising what they are in bright colours and huge letters.

Tokyo is such a mish mash, and I`ve still only seen about 1% of it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Boy when it rains it REALLY rains

So, rain in Tokyo means 2 or 3 days non stop. Great fun. And as for Typhoons....

Anyway, there`s been another few little earthquakes in the last few days and today was actually a dry day, which made a change. I didn`t leave my apartment yesterday (just stayed in, snuffled, and caught up on stuff that needed catching up on) but it chucked it down all day.

Lots of random comments today:

One of the things I love about the earthquakes, is the after judder in the apartment. I`m sure I`ll get bored of it soon, but I love the feeling of the building shaking from side to side. I`m odd. I admit it.

After talking about my disappointment in only seeing vending machines with cold drinks and cigarettes, I realised that hot drinks (as in bottles of hot beverages, not cups of) vending machines, and ice cream vending machines are all over the place too.

The comic books that are popular here need further clarification here too. Don`t think kiddies comic; think two IKEA catalogues size. Seriously, they are massive!

Apart from scarey blonde woman, another ad that keeps catching my eye is one for `goo world`. In `goo world` you can get `goo parts` and `goo bikes`. This amuses me.

Tokyo is one of the cleanest and tidiest places I have ever seen. I am yet to see any graffiti anywhere and even litter seems a rarity. I also haven`t been into a single public toilet that hasn`t had toilet paper yet. Imagine that happening in England? How refreshing!

After my small dog rant, I saw a large dog. It was looking most dignified and sitting next to two t-shirt wearing chihuahua`s. Large dog wasn`t wearing any clothes thankfully.

Apparantly dental hygiene is very big in Japan and bad breath is a big no-no. Teeth brushing is, therefore, extremely important. Oh, by the way, I`m talking about dogs still. One of my students told me about this today. He has five chihuahua`s and cleans the teeth of them all after every meal. Bless.

I`m really getting the hang of cooking well with one ring and one teeny toaster oven now. I`m yet to find fresh veggies with any sort of taste or lasting ability though.... The hunt goes on.

Most Japanese people seem to carry around little flannels to dab the sweat from their heads. Quite cute really!

The realisation my apartment is pretty much soundproof is wonderful. This is a rarity in Japan apparantly.

In the UK I rarely listened to my music but put all of my CD`s and half of Val`s CD collection (the decent half) onto my computer. I`ve never listened to so much music before. It`s wonderful having it all with me. Once I`ve connected up to the net at home, I may venture into the area of Japanese radio and see what that has to offer...

The other thing I`m hearing a lot of, are circadas. They`re everywhere by the sound of it.

And on the subject of wildlife, I saw two massive crows today. Or maybe they were ravens. I can`t tell the difference. They were very big and scary though. Think Alfred Hitchcockesque here!

I`m getting millions of emails which I love, but my letterbox has so far given me nothing but junk mail. It`s getting lonely. No hint intended. As if!

I bought some peanut butter the other day. I`ve never known anything like this. It`s shiny smooth. Tastes good though........

And I am loving having my own fridge after years of flatsharing and being stuck with one shelf. It`s bliss. It`s wonderful. It`s heaven. It`s something I`ve been longing for for ages...... and it`s full :D

In my bedroom I have what could be labelled the world`s worst lamp. It is so tacky, and so out of style with everything else that I`m actually growing quite fond of it. It`s got a gold base and gold stem and gold leaves coming out of it with a tulip shaped white head bit. Very old fashioned but growing me.

Bakeries, etc. They have a lovely system here whereby you pick up your own tray and your own pair of tongs and collect what you want before they bag them individually for you. Cute!

Enough for today!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Of coughs and things.

I have three days in a row off, thanks to a national holiday. Well, in theory. I`m on standby to cover any teachers that are ill tomorrow so we`ll have to see.

Today`s been a write off due to feeling so shitty. I did drag myself out for some fresh air. Hence why I`m sitting in an internet cafe.

And talking of ill - Saturday afternoon I developed a bit of a sore throat. By the end of teaching it was a very sore throat, and by Sunday morning it was raw and I was Miss Croaky 2004, a bit feverish and NOT a happy bunny. Managed to eventually drag myself out to the shops though as I had loads of things to do and get there. Good old miming got me some antiseptic throat spray. Tampons proved more of an issue though. In the UK, (sorry about this) you have little diagrams on the back suggesting what strength to get, etc. In Japan - no chance. The choice was pink or blue. I looked in several shops and the choice was still pink or blue. Miming shaving gel (I got it and amused three assistants in the bargain) or miming throat spray for sore throats is one thing...... but there are miming limits. I bought both and then discovered the boxes are different thicknesses. Bit of a give away really, no?

I`ve now done a whole week of teaching. This means I`ve now met all of my current students, with the exceptions of those who`d cancelled or those yet to join. It also means I no longer have to be dependent on other people`s crappy handover notes. I had my first intensive lesson on Saturday. 3.5 hours with two students. I`ll have four next week. The time flew by and I think we all enjoyed it and they, more to the point, learned loads. Thankfully, they (two girls a couple of years younger than me) enjoy games and roleplays, etc, so the lesson didn`t get too dry.

Learned in another lesson, the only way I can really discribe the meaning of the word `disgusting` is by miming picking my nose. I seem to be miming everything these days and gesturing a lot. I keep catching myself mid conversation doing it to other teachers now too. Oh well.

More random observations from the last few days:

Posh and Becks are on a huge poster in one of the stations. I have no idea what they`re advertising but had hoped I`d managed to escape them.

Shower gel, and most beauty products are extortionate compared to the UK.

Describing Tokyo, I`d say imagine Leicester Square or Times Square, and that`s what you`ve got. Everywhere. I love it. SO SO tacky!

On the trains, most people`s books have covers on them. This reminds me of middle school. Or are most people ashamed of what they`re reading.

Talking about reading. I saw one guy with a really funky gadget. Imagine a pen, but wider. I think it was a dictionery. He was using it to point to some of the words in his book with a lazer beam. I was dieing to ask him about it, but didn`t think it would be polite to do so.

Japanese people are good at hiding emotions and expressions. Until someone sits snoring on a train, and then everyone glares in disgust.

The trains here are amazingly crowded at the times I get them. In London this was one of my pet hates. Here, it doesn`t really bother me.

Japanese is a lovely language. Shame I don`t understand it really. People`s names and place names just sound so nice. And cute. (sorry to harp back to the whole cuteness thing again)

Refuse. Firstly, the refuse vans appear playing music akin to an ice cream van. Secondly, refuse confuses the hell out of me. Thirdly, it confuses Japanese people too, according to a conversation I had with a Japanese assistant at one of the schools. Burnable. Unburnable. Recylable. PET. Gah! And each has to be separated and put out on a separate day. I`m getting better now and know the sign for recyclable on things. The biggest question though, is why is so much food produced in plastic packaging here?

Road crossings also play very pleasant music. Cute. lol. It`s like a mini symphony or something.

Umbrellas. People cycling with umbrellas is extremely amusing. I need a bike just so I can do this. Bikes share the pavements with people, not the roads with cars. This can be quite scary. I left my borrowed umbrella at a school by accident, so I had to buy a new one. I got a lovely see through one. These are very popular here, and remind me of being five years old again. Of course the reason they are so popular is they cost about a pound. I did see some on sale the other day for 50 pence. But I didn`t need another one. And everyone has big umbrellas. I`ve not seen more than a couple of handbag sized ones since being here. And you have umbrella etiquette for shops. Either you leave them outside, or you get given plastic wrapping to put around it. It`s great!

Some random white woman on a bike said hello to me the other day on the way to the station. What`s going on? Am I part of some exclusive club now? Most odd.

Language. I love the way a lot of notices and menus have a couple of words of English on them. For example, menus outside restaurants may have the headings, starter, main and dessert, but the rest of the menu will be in kana or kanji. I think it`s hilarious.

And I still have no idea what I`m eating half the time.

To add to the earthquake which, by the way was a 5.9, if that means anything to anyone -- well, I asked someone what the measurement goes up to and, apparantly there`s no limit. Now, excuse my ignorance, but what`s the point in giving something a value if it`s meaningless? I mean, if it was 5.9 with a maximum measurement ever of, say 15, then it`d mean something, no? Anyway, 5.9 means big. There were a couple of little ones this morning too. Oh and I`ve had a typhoon since being here and a lot more rain. Is it me?? There`s been a couple of nice, bright, sunny days too though.

Supermarkets. Heaven. Is there anything more exciting? Okay, there IS, but I love supermarkets, especially when there are lots of new and unfamiliar things. Yesterday I wanted some Soya Sauce. I identified what I thought was soya sauce, by way of it being in the same area as another bottle that had what could have been soya beans on the label, and of it being roughly the same colour. You try miming `is this soya sauce?`. The woman I asked, and myself, ended up giggling our heads off. My Japanese on the situation consisted of `nani desu ka? soya sauce?` and her`s consisted of `brown`. I THINK I ended up buying soya sauce but haven`t opened it yet.

Vending machines. These are everywhere - like every 100 - 200 metres or so down any given road. After everything I`ve heard though, ie that you can get everything from them, all I`ve seen so far has been drinks (alcohol included) and cigarettes.

Convenience stores. There are nearly as many of these as there are vending machines, and the sad fact is, food from them is generally cheaper than getting fresh food from supermarkets. This, of course, means a lot of waste.

Toilets. The toilets flush the wrong way here and there`s a male flush setting and a female flush setting. Seriously. There are also little diagrams explaining females need to sit and males to stand. I LOVE this place.

Drinks. I`ve now had Pocari Sweat and Calpis. They both taste of sugared water.

Beware of the elephants. I have no idea what it meant but I saw a sign the other day saying elephants weren`t allowed to do something. Remember the cuteness thing? This could have been advertising anything, but was probably something extremely UNcute.

Homelessness. I was wondering about this as I`d not seen any homeless people in almost two weeks. I discovered them the other day though. Another fact of urban life, I guess, but without the aggressive begging. Maybe an elephant would sit on them if they did?

(un)Happy Hour. I had a happy hour pint on Saturday night that cost me three pounds. This was half price. I nearly passed out. The barman looked at me and said, you`ve not been in Tokyo long, have you? How`d he guess?

My washing machine. It`s a toploader and I have no idea how to make the water hot in it. You load the clothes in one half and put powder over it. You then turn on the tap and make sure the powder is all disolved before putting the lid on and setting a time for up to 15 minutes and one of three strengths. Then, when the timer goes off. You change to another setting to drain the water, and move the clothes to the other half of the machine to spin. Then, when the spinning is done. You move the clothes back to the first half, cover with water, to rinse it, put the lid back on and set the timer again. Finally, you drain that water, move the clothes back to the second half and spin them. Three cycles of spinning still doesn`t get them completely dry though. Due to the weather I have washing drying all over my apartment. My washing machine amuses me. It`s one step up from doing it completely by hand.

More shopping. Everything, pretty much, that you buy that gets put into a bag, gets cellotaped down. It`s great. Everytime you open your own bags feels like you`ve bought yourself a present.

I`m becoming addicted to the little pots of fruit in jelly you can buy here. Probably 100% sugar, but so nice.

Actually, talking of sugar, etc - weight loss may not be that easy here. Everything tastes too nice!

Couples. I`ve noticed lots of White man/Japanese woman couples here, and know that there are a lot amongst the teachers. What I`ve not seen, so far is any White woman/Japanese man couples. Wonder why?

Oh, going back to the school boy and school girl thing. I saw a load of school boys today. They DO exist!

Today I saw a chihuahua in a t-shirt. My opinion of dogs is pretty simple: big dogs are lovely, little dogs are not so lovely. The Japanese seem to love little dogs. Especially chihuahua`s. Why? And of course, they get carried everywhere. Prior to seeing the t-shirt wearing `thing` I passed a pet accessory shop. I saw, and I swear I`m not making this up, sunglasses and necklaces for dogs. And I thought Paris was bad.

Sorry, for the long postings, by the way!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Did the earth move for you, baby?

Last night I experienced my first earthquake. I was sitting on the floor of my apartment, preparing for today`s lessons and suddenly the whole building started shaking and vibrating. I considered whether or not to panic and decided it was too much effort. The whole thing lasted a matter of minutes, and after the big rumble the building continued vibrating. Nothing fell from anything but it was pretty awesome to experience. Especially the building vibrating and cupboards shaking around.

Apparantly it was quite a big one, or so I was told. Now, obviously if it had been on a mass scale it wouldn`t have been so exciting, but I HAD been looking forward to experiencing my first one. (Remember, I`m a freak who quite likes (gentle) air turbulance, being on a boat/hovercroft/ferry, etc on choppy waters, and thunder storms).

Oh and the rain stopped some time yesterday afternoon. Finally. The sun has been shining away happily since. See, the cuteness is definitely getting to me. Even some of the `do not` signs have cute little characters. The kids are very cute here too. So are the men (ahem. drool.)

Other cutesy things include the loving for keyrings hanging from bags. Think 15 year olds. Then consider it`s actually all men, including businessmen in suits with cute keyrings hanging from bags, etc.

Lace and frilly popsocks sticking out from court shoes, etc, is another cutesy thing all around me here.

Macdonalds (yeah, yeah, I KNOW!) toilet played me flushing music from a special machine yesterday when I peed.

I finally gave in and bought some cheap wine here. I can`t really describe it`s taste or flavour, but it IS better than grapejuice. Just. Cheap wine = about five quid (still don`t know where to find the pound key on Japanese keyboards).

I am getting a little frustrated at the knowledge that all I`ve seen since being here has been stations, schools and my apartment/the hotel when I was there.

As soon as I get time I`ll do something about it though. I have enough holes in my timetable to now plan and photocopy during the teaching days and to not have to give up my days off to do this. I finish work at around 9pm every night, so no time for anything after that apart from getting home, eating something and preparing for the next days lessons.

My packing is a mystery. I am SURE there were many things I packed but when I`ve looked for them they`re not with me. Gremlins, perhaps? It`s all MOST odd.

On the trains there is currently an ad that scares me shitless. It`s got some blonde westerner who looks seriously possessed with her tongue sticking out in some pseudo sexy/yum kind of way that makes her look demented and as I said, possessed. She really bothers me.

School uniforms here are interesting. The skirts are the shortest things ever. Luckily, everyone is stick thin as otherwise, they`d like horrendous. And they`re all tartan. Or tartanish. And worn with long socks that go to about calf level and jumpers that have sleeves that reach over the hands. As for school boys: I don`t think I`ve seen any! Where are they hiding them?

Many females here speak in squeeky, girlie voices which is, apparantly, meant to be sexy. Yeah, right.

The building where this internet cafe is, has cameras in the lifts. How do I know this? When waiting for the lift, I was watching on a screen what other people were doing in the lift. Big Brother is alive and well in Tokyo. EEK!

Yesterday`s teaching went quite well apart from a group of nine year old boys. I had it all planned and the first half went brilliantly. Then we got to the second half, and I found I`d been given the wrong information in the handover notes and had prepared the wrong lesson. It completely threw me, and I`m not experienced enough to be able to just throw out more games to kids of that age. Plus I couldn`t get the hang of the forward and rewind buttons on the tape recorder. The wrong information for adults classes (a few) is fine though, as it`s easy to wing.

I also learned that three year olds colour at different speeds. Not ideal when you`re waiting on their pictures to use for the next activity.

Today`s lessons, by some miracle, all went really well though.

And I had 17 emails in my yahoo account so I`m thrilled about that. Only three were junk too.

And for Gemma: you`re word of the day is sumimasen, which means excuse me, and is probably the most useful word I know!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I found an internet cafe but the keyboard is strange!

It seems like weeks since I last wrote anything here, but this is the first time I`ve managed to actually have time and find a cafe.

Soooo, firstly it`s been raining heavily for the last two and a half days. Being soggy is getting boring. Seeing cyclists on bikes with umbrellas is extremely amusing though. Tokyo is a safe place. Apparantly the only things to ever get stolen are bikes and umbrellas. Gaijins (foreigners) on bikes are automatically assumed to have stolen them, and owning a bike is a good way to get to know your local police force. So far my umbrella (on permanent loan from a school I visited to observe a class) hasn`t been knicked. There are little cages outside shops where you leave them when you go in, so I guess this is down to luck. I`ve also seen multi umbrella stands where you can lock your umbrella inside.

I moved into my new apartment on Sunday. There are six other teachers there but everyone has very different schedules, so I don`t know whether there`ll be much socialising. We`ll see. I`m more likely to keep seeing people from my course and flight I think. It is still early days though.

The apartment is lovely. But then it`s all mine so I`d probably say that about anywhere. It`s all very basically furnished. The bedroom, which actually feels massive compared to the room I had in London has a futon, built in wardrobe, brown carpet with blue rug (or is it the other way around), a little balcony and a little open cabinet. It has sliding door into the `reception` room area which has a fridge (my OWN fridge - I can`t explain how amazing it is to have more than a shelf in a fridge. Even if it IS still empty!), a little toaster oven (I mean little), a small desk and chair, several small dustbins (trash is taken very seriously in Japan and you have to separate burnable, non-burnable, recyclable, plastic and god knows what else. It`s very confusing!) It also has a massive top loading washing machine that takes about zero time to wash but you have to keep moving things from one side to the other and put the water in yourself, etc. Then there is a little sink, a few built in cupboards and a one ring stove! The little bathroom has the equivalent of a 3/4 size British bath, a shower, basin and loo. It`s compact. Having been led to expect an extremely tiny apartment though, I`m thrilled. You really need to have flatshared for 15 years like I did to understand JUST how thrilled I am.

It`s in a very residential area and about 20 minutes stroll to the station. If it ever stops raining I may consider getting a bike, but the walk is quite nice too.

Yesterday was my first day of teaching and was pretty full on. I have five different schools and Tuesdays and Sundays are my days off. Yesterdays school was reasonably close and easy enough to get to. The organisation I work for has schools everywhere in Tokyo and many of them are tiny. Yesterday`s school had two classrooms and I was the only teacher in all day. The receptionist was lovely there, which made life loads easier when I couldn`t find things, etc.

Actually, to tell the truth, everyone is lovely including all the other teachers I`m coming across.

And EVERYTHING is Tokyo is cute. Believe me. It`s all a bit much and making me all mushy. When I eventually get around to getting a digital camera, I promise to post up some pictures of the cuteness. Hell, of everything.

Anyway, I had a real mixture of students yesterday and some of the classes went much better than others in my opinion. But, as this was the first time I`d met the students I`m not too bothered by this. I had three 5 year old boys and I`m really looking forward to seeing them progress. They were pretty boisterous, but I just went with it and had them running around the classroom until they wore themselves out. Luckily, nobody else could see me being followed around a classroom by three littlies hopping slowly, now hopping quickly. Of course, when teacher got tired, teacher stopped. The kids weren`t allowed to!

I have a variety of adult classes throughout the afternoon and evening, one had two ladies, the others were just 1:1. I really enjoyed these and, despite them being at all levels, they were all very chatty. This surprised me as I`d been given notes by their previous teacher saying many of them were reluctant to talk. Maybe it was just me. People always talk a load of rubbish to me. Kidding. And no, I made them work as well as just chat! Gotta make `em feel they`re getting their money`s worth, eh?

I also had a few classes with nine year olds - two 1:1 classes and one with two littlies. I didn`t feel these went so well. Partly because the notes I`d been given on them were crap and partly because when the activities weren`t working I didn`t have a big stock of games at the ready. This will come with experience though, and I already feel a bit better prepared for the next time I see them.

Most of the teaching days start at around 1pm and end 9pm. Some of the days, like Monday, Wednesday and Thursday are pretty packed. Friday and Saturday are much looser days. This means I can stop giving over almost entire off days (like today) to plan lessons and photocopy materials.

I went to the City Hall this morning to sort out my Gaijin Card (alien registration - yes, that does make me think of Sting every time it comes up). The building, obviously, wasn`t labelled in English in any way at all. I had a rough map I`d been drawn and made a random guess in the right direction before accosting some poor woman who didn`t speak English and went off to get American who`d been in Tokyo for 20 years. He`s now new-best-friend and has told me to contact him if I have any problems, etc. He may, of course, end up seriously regretting having uttered those words to me. The registering process was painless enough anyway, and once I get my card, in about three weeks, life will be loads easier and I can get a bank account, phone line, home internet account, etc.

What else? My working vocabulary has increased by another four or five words giving me a grand total of about 10 words/phrases I`m regularly using. My miming and pointing abilities are fantastic though!

I`m still getting confused by the trains. Buying tickets is easy though. You pick a random number (okay, I`m getting an idea about how much some journeys should cost) and buy a ticket. Then, when you get to the other end, a top-up machine will kindly tell you how much more you owe. This is so much simpler than figuring it out beforehand.

I`ve been eating some wonderful food here. Shame really that I don`t know what half of it is. My next challenge will be to actually get in some food, and not just live on bento boxes and pot noodles, as nice as they are. Actually, sod that. I LIKE having the noodles for breakfast, and the chopsticks are the only things to wash up afterwards.

Just in case you don`t know what a bento box is, think packed lunch. It`s a little tray with compartments. One has sticky rice. One of the others will have, for example, some meat or fish things, another maybe some salad, another maybe some pickles. Very nice. Very convenient.

Do pass on recipe and meal ideas to me though for one ring and one toaster oven. To put the toaster oven into perspective, think slice of pizza. Small slice of pizza!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Some Day Off!

Today is Sunday. It's my day off, and it's pissing it down outside. What a great day to be moving my stuff from hotel to apartment! The rest of my day 'off' will be spent unpacking (or thinking about it and making rough piles to sort later), and doing proper lesson plans for tomorrow (yesterday I did a lot of photocopying of materials).

I'll also have to locate the nearest internet cafe, supermarket, etc today.

No rest for the wicked, eh??!

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Today the weather was beautiful. I, however, spent most of it inside putting together l esson plans for my first day. I got the timetable and it's pretty full on with a LOT of 1-to-1 lessons and three lessons of nine-year old boys (a 1-to-1, three of them, and five of them) - eek! This could be a load of fun, or it could be hell on earth. Especially the five! I've got quite a variety of 5-i12 year old classes and one 3-4 year old group which, if I'm honest, I'm really looking forward to. I think! I also have a lot of adult classes. Wouldn't have minded more kids classes, but the adults ones will be easier. Probably!

This evening I shared a bottle of Shochu with another teacher. It's meant to knock your socks off, apparantly. It didn't. I'm very disappointed.

I saw loads of people in kimonos today. It's quitte sad just how out of place they now look somewhere like this. They're definitely not in tune with the neon explosions everywhere, and it wasn't just older people wearing them either.

Tomorrow morning I have to pack up and move to my apartment. I can't wait to get properly settled now, although it will mean until I have my Gaijin Card (foreigner registration card) I won't have net access at home and will have to rely on cafe's again for a bit. Blurrgghh!

Pot Noodles for Breakfast

Partly because I'm in a hotel until tomorrow, with only a fridge and a kettle in the way of cooking 'facilities', and partly because I'm trying to avoid dairy and bread, but I'm getting really into the 100 yen shops pot noodles. I have no idea what's in them, apart from the noodles, but they're a lovely brekkie alternative, in my opinion!

And it's another sunny day in Tokyo. Actually, my only gripe currently is that I really wish my sleep pattern would return to normal. Now, bearing in mind it had been all over the place for quite some weeks before coming to Japan, this could take quite some time. Hopefully moving into the apartment and unpacking will help with this.

We'll see.....

And I can't wait for tomorrow now, when I can finally get to do some exploring. Since being here, and in fact for the rest of today and tomorrow morning, I've had a packed schedule. And all I really want to do is have a good wander and find out where I actually am. Still, I guess I DO have plenty of time for that. But I'm impatient!


Tokyo is banning smoking in more and more areas of the streets now apparantly, and to compensate for this there are smoking shops popping up for people to pop into with their cigarettes and, er, smoke. I like it. Keep smokers off the streets!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Friday already

Today was another day of training. Yesterday we concentrated mainly on older kids. Today was the really little teeny ones and adults. Lots of information but it was fun. I can't wait for Monday when I start teaching. I'm dying to find out my timetable (tomorrow) to see what classes I'll have to do and where and to plan them. Yes, I'm looking forward to planning my lessons. Don't know how long that will last though. I'm terrified and very excited at the thought of Monday, but this training, on top of what we had before coming out, has made me feel pretty well prepared, just not 100% confident yet. Apparantly the first two weeks of teaching can be a nightmare and then it gets much better. And by three months teachers spend hardly no time at all preparing lessons. Let's see..

Today was very sunny. I saw lots of people carrying parasoles around to protect themselves.

I'm starting to get used to squat toilets now, but I really don't like them. Having to concentrate when you pee is just not right. My technique is improving though.

At risk of sounding obsessed by toilets, I used my first ever toilet/basin today. Very exciting! I've seen photos but couldn't wait to see a real one. Where the cistern is there's a little basin and a tap, and when you flush the loo, (clean) water comes out for you to wash your hands. This particular loo had a toweling loo seat (euw!), lots of cutesy things hanging from the walls and a floral toilet roll cover. Tasteful!

Today I saw my first person bowing.

Bars are confusing. We've heard of hostess bars and don't know how to recognise them. The importance of this being that we want to avoid them. It's just not clear though what's what and I need educating in this. There are red lanterns and white lanterns outside establishments, there are shut doors and dark dingy looking staircases. We walked for 40 minutes this evening trying to find one before going back to one we went to yesterday, which called itself a cafe/bar and had pretty dodgy looking staff serving. Our second visit there warranted free nuts though!

I really don't like the long socks look here. It just looks so wrong on anyone over 8 years old. And it's not only school girls but grown women too who are into this look. Tights with open-toed sandles are pretty popular too.

I keep seeing mullets and perms around, on blokes. Very scary!

I saw three white people today (who weren't to do with our schools). They're the first non Japanese I've seen. There was no eye contact!

This evening I had a curry burger thing from KFC. These little differences are fascinating. McDonald's has a Teryaki Chicken Burger. KFC has green Fanta and crunchy coleslaw. Disclaimer: There will be no more fast food after I've moved out of the hotel. But for now, it's convenient!