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!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Sensei! Sensei! Sensei! Sensei! Sensei!*


Today was a LONG day (09:30 to 21:00 in the school). After the lovely springness of yesterday, today was again grey, miserable and raining. This grimness was broken only by reams of pink paper lanterns hanging everywhere to celebrate the hopefully-soon-to-be-in-bloom cherry blossom.

I had to start the day much earlier than normal to do a special two hour class. With seven four year olds who were the sweetest things ever. Well, six of them were. The seventh cried quite a bit at the beginning and then spent time distracting the others.... But they were lovely and we had lots of fun.... Someone obviously likes me as I lucked-in on this one. My colleague had seven kids aged between six and ten to contend with. And I had my little angels :D

Luckily, it'll be another couple of months before I have to do any of these again.

This was followed by a sample lesson with a really cute little 2.5 year old boy who came in clinging to mum but didn't cry, got involved in the lesson and was heard leaving the building singing the song I'd taught him. Bless!

For a bit I had mixed feelings about having kids so young in a classroom but I do believe it's beneficial for lots of reasons. Firstly, proper contact with a strange white adult. Secondly, they're years away from starting school so it teaches them classroom behaviour, concentration and socialisation skills - remember most of these kids don't have siblings. And of course it's fun for them, they get lots of attention and, hopefully, get an enthusiasm for English.

I meted out my first punishment today when one kid kept pushing another one and my instructions to stop didn't work. I threatened if he did it again (and he's persistantly overbearing as he's physically bigger than the others) I'd send him out the room. He begged, so I let him stay. He pushed the other kid again and I sent him out to sit in reception for two minutes. Which I think is a good punishment for a six year old. I think his mum had stern words with him later as my colleague saw him sulking behind his mum as they left us... Oh well, it's tough being a kid I guess!

I've been sleeping badly recently and the first two hours left me in a heap for ages before coasting through the rest of the day caffeine by lesson by caffeine by lesson.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Hanami Part One

Went to a nearby park. The whole area around the station and streets was much busier than I've ever seen them on a Sunday.

Bought food and booze and met friends in park to worship the cherry blossom - er, to drink. Got a wee bit tipsy and decided we really needed music.

Oh, by the way, there was one tree in full bloom and another tree that had a branch with blossom, so we were a tad early.

Anyway, I spotted a random guy with a guitar, some 100 metres from us, sitting on a bench by himself, and we 'persuaded' one of the girls with us to get the guy over to play for us.

To set the scene, there were lots of groups of people sitting on tarpaulin's in the park with picnics and booze to celebrate the blossom.

Random Guy came over and joined us and we spent the next few hours singing loudly to his guitar. At one stage an Aussie with a didgeridoo (hey, I'm no Aussie, I don't know how to spell this word!) came over to say hi. Not surprisingly he'd heard us. He was with a load of Japanese mates about 100 metres from us. He told us one of his mates had Indian drums with him. He played the didgi for us and played a couple of tunes on Random Guy's guitar before going back to his group. Later a couple of us decided to stagger over and persuade Didgi guy and his drumming mate to join us, and they obliged.

It WAS all slightly surreal. Another couple of random people - Aussie girl and Japanese boyfriend - decided to stop by too and that Japanese guy played some tunes on Random Guy's guitar.

All good drunken fun. Though we were slightly jealous of Didgi and Drum guys arrays of candles, which we didn't have!

Ah..... Nothing like loud drunken singing. And whenever we were quiet we could hear other groups of people in the park doing the same thing!

Rape of dead duck


You need to paste in the second part of this link or my page goes funny....

Now, I can't help but think the strangest thing about this story is the researcher who spent 75 minutes watching....

Other things in the news I don't get: the 'tradition' in Manila on Good Friday where, this year 17 people were nailed to crosses whilst 'dozens' of Filipino men flagellated their backs with 'whips tipped with shards of glass and blades to atone for their sins'. (source: Japan Times).

My biggest problem with this is that is has become a 'tourist attraction'.

Now, I know there's a lot of sick fuckers out there, but still...

And talking of sick fuckers - am I the only one that's is totally sick to death of the Michael Jackson trial?

Another Easter thingy: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4383243.stm - I'm shocked that I got 8/10 in this quiz. I guess I know more than I think I know. Or I've got a talent with multiple guess.... (reminds me of O'level chemistry actually - er a, b, a, c, let's have another b... I got an 'N'. Most of my class did. Yay for chemistry and insane chemistry teachers.)

Then there's: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20050319b1.htm - about an unfortunate Japanese woman who was murdered by her husband - for cooking too much. Oh the hardships some people have to endure.

Oh, and the saddest news of all: I've now finished Series Three of '24' and local DVD store doesn't have any series of other shows. Might have to find another store.

And let's round up this round-up with an animal story (hey, I grew up with 'Newsround' - bulletins should ALWAYS end with an animal story) - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4384813.stm - bless!

this is all pretty random today, isn't it? Oh well, that's what you get if you come to my blog....

happy easter, hanami, etc everyone - don't over indulge in the chocolate, sake, etc...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Spring in Tokyo

And I have two Hanami parties to go to this week: tomorrow and next Saturday.

Hanami? Ah - watching the most beloved Cherry Blossom (sakura) - subject of 1000's of Haiku's. Apparantly. And an uncountable number of hangovers...

In England, blossom on trees is something that just - happens. Here it is lauded. Celebrated. People have parties, with picnics under cherry trees. Everyone talks about it. It is BIG. And only lasts a week. They have cherry blossom forecasts here so nobody misses out.

One of my students philosophised that the Japanese worship the cherry blossom so much because cherry blossom is like the soul of a Japanese person.... or the life of a samurai. Then again, she may have been on the Sake, but given she's in her 60's and it was 1pm, I think not.

Oh and here's the site if anyone wants to track the Hanami: http://www.jma.go.jp/JMA_HP/jma/jma-eng/sakura/sakura.htm

Today I had a manically clumsy day. I can't blame PMS this time so I've no idea what's going on. I must have dropped a dozen things and nearly cycled into a couple of things too. Gah! I'm sure it provided amusement for other people though.

I have the last four episodes of series 3 of 24. The DVD shop doesn't have series 4. I donno, maybe it isn't out yet. But I'll miss it. It was fun while it lasted.

I went camera shopping this evening. There's a baffling array of compact digitals on the market. I panic when confronted with too much choice. I want something with more than 4 pixels that looks nice and is less than 30,000 yen preferably. Why are there so many damn cameras that fall into this range? This was my second unsuccessful attempt to buy one. Did anyone steal the decision making genes I should have been given at birth?

Oh, and I've decided that wearing both a mask and sunglasses - there IS no way to stop them steaming up. Not the safest condition to be cycling in but pedestrians are pretty good at getting out of the way of cyclists.

Kitty-san. I think I've mentioned before you can get pretty much everything Hello Kitty. Apart from adult sized chopsticks. We're talking ironing boards, stereos, toaster ovens, clothes, you name it. Welllllllllllllll, get this: http://www.hellocat78.1hwy.com/ - cute huh? LOL!

WARNING: You may get awkward questions if opening this in front of kids... ;-0

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Last night

I was on the verge on throwing in the job.

I'm over it now. Though still a little angry.

Today is another day though. I hope.....

Groundhog anyone?

Ahh - had a wonderful day and I'm happy with every class I did. What a difference a day makes, eh?

Fitting In

So, having already sent my first text message many weeks ago - whilst cycling - and of course having a face mask - today I bravely tried - for the first time - cycling in the rain with an umbrella up.

No accidents though it was tricky. I have a long way to go before I can cycle with an umbrella in one hand, text on my keitai with the other AND have my friend/girlfriend/boyfriend perched on the back.

Maybe I'll pass on that though.

These activities are things I'd never do in England, but here we do cycle on the pavement and everyone does these things. (Yeah, yeah, I can hear someone reading this going: 'and if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?' - the answer is probably, by the way!)

Talking of face masks (for hayfever and colds), I was surprised, this being the land of cute, and all, that I'd never seen a face mask that wasn't white. To my relief (have I already been here too long?) today I saw my first pink one. It may have had Kitty San on it, but I couldn't get close enough to see.

Tonight I discovered the beauty of fresh kiwi and shochu. One word: WOW! And think of all that vitamin c!

And I've started planning Taiwan. Too much to see! And I must get a digital camera to take with me. Something cute naturally....

Oh and Monday morning, before doing a full normal day, I'm doing a spring school with SEVEN five year olds - for TWO hours. Can't wait.

And I am REALLY pissed off about something - A change of something I asked for but haven't got - midly seething might be more to the point - but I don't want to turn this blog into a place to whinge. I'll just be grumpy in silence.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Haloscan won't answer my emails, so any advice on:

1. Since being a daft cow and having to have Haloscan and everything else put back onto my blog, if anyone leaves a comment on Haloscan, it reproduces itself onto every post.

2. In Haloscan I still have all the comments people made previously, but they're not back up on the blog, where I'd like them to be.

Any ideas on solving this?

Scary experience

This evening I was about 15 seconds away from passing out / throwing up on a train. Very scary.

I'd been out drinking for a couple of friends birthdays but I don't think I'd particularly had that much to drink - one pint of beer and maybe 3 or 4 Smirnoff Ice's. 5 at a squeeze. And we'd grabbed a bite before, and I grabbed (I know, I know...) a Big Yuck burger afterwards.

The last train stops at stations it doesn't stop at during the day on my line, meaning it takes much longer. Luckily it wasn't as crammed as it normally is, but it was bad enough and I didn't have a seat. First few stations were okay although I was feeling shattered due to a few nights of not very good sleep - this was also the reason I was on the last train and not singing karaoke.

I was humming away - apparantly - as guy next to me pointed out, in English, a seat someone had vacated and did I want it - I said no. He then started asking me lots of (elementary level) questions in English. Completely random stuff and he asked what I'd been humming. I said I'd not realised I had been. Insanity anyone?

And then suddenly I started feeling really crap - really hot, really faint and a bit sick. And by a couple more stations things started going a bit darker (think of someone playing with a dimmer switch) and were really swimming. He saw me holding my stomach and asked if I was okay and opened a window and tried to get someone to give me a seat but I was nearing my station and was seriously worried I'd pass out if I sat down - and then I'd be stuck fuck knows where having to get a taxi back.

I managed to get off the train and squated against a wall for a bit and was then kind of okay.

Scared me though!

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Twat in the Hat

Yesterday on the train I saw a gaijin* male in a pinstripe suit (not-quite-dark blue or not-quite-dark brown - I don't remember.) He wore a bowler hat and carried a briefcase and a real umbrella (ie not one of the see-throw ones the rest of us have). He looked an utter twat. Another gaijin said something to him that I couldn't catch, to which Twat in the Hat replied: 'One tries'...

Oh one does, does one? I mentioned him to another couple of teachers and rumour has it he may work for the same company as us. Double gah! I mean, I could buy myself a Kitty San costume and I'd be 'trying'. Right?

I've not 'celebrated' St Patricks (well, for one I'm not Irish) for about a billion years - not in fact since I was in Paris, but somehow found myself drinking 500 yen guinness yesterday in an Irish pub in Tokyo. They had a Japanese band 'pretending' to be Irish. By pretending, try and imagine a Japanese woman, with Japanese accent, trying to sound Irish whilst singing Pogues songs. In fairness, the band WERE very good and played for hours without stopping....

But were were the green cocktails and the raucaus behaviour? Not in sight yesterday where I was, that's for sure. And to be honest, I think I'm getting too old for noisy, smoky pubs (isn't that sad?) and much prefer getting drunk somewhere more civilized and quieter. Unless it's a karaoke booth and then volume doesn't really count.

I miss dips. I don't have a great deal more to say on this but whilst there's an amazing range of yummy foods in Tokyo, I'd like to get my hands on some humous, guacamole, tzatziki, dorito cheesy dip...... And the price of avocado - well, I treat myself to one every couple of weeks, but certainly can't afford to not savour it's pure taste!

In the UK I was a bit of a cheese and wine person (great for someone with dairy and yeast intollerances, but still...) - and shit do I miss them here. I bought some Camembert this evening. Cheese is expensive and there's not a huge deal of choice, though I do buy ready grated something now and then (cheapest way and stops me eating too much of it!). Oh my! How disappointed was I with the Camembert? The texture was just... wrong and where was the flavour? Gutting. Absolutely gutting :(

And as for wine? The choice is limited and it's not cheap. I'm planning a trip to the UK well, vaguely thinking about) next spring when I intend to drink myself into a wine stupour every night. Of course, there's duty free on the way to and from Taiwan to invade tooooooo.

So, and to answer Anshul's question from the other day: not all alcohol is expensive, it's just the choice is limited. When out I tend to drink cassis soda (a blackcurrant liquor drink), shochu (a strong clear spirit made from various different things and lovely with peach or sour or........ many other things), or sake or vodka tonic. In Japanese 'vodka tonic' is 'vodka tonic'. Donno what Gin is. I've not had a G&T since being here. Actually, that's utter bollocks. Rumour has it I was responsible for getting 20 odd people kicked out of a nomihodai (drink as much as you can for a set price) at an Izakaya a few months ago, by ordering too many G&T's. Funny how things like that nearly slip your mind.

Buying bottles of shochu or vodka is pretty cheap at any rate, and beer is cheap.

My favourite soft drinks here include the most wonderul apple juice I've tasted, Pocari Sweat (an energy drink supposedly) and the wonderful bright green melon soda. Tonight though, I bought a bottle of melon sweet. OOOOO WOW!!!!! Tasted most lovely with vodka!

The weather has gone schitzo again. This morning was a beautiful sunny day with a real mid spring feel to it (we've been having really shitty weather recently) and the last few nights I've been sleeping without the blankets on the duvet so it's definitely getting there. We even had lunch outside today. Half an hour later it was raining though and it's now really cold and blustery outside.

While most of Tokyo is being hit really hard by hay fever (allerGies with a hard 'G' if you're one of my students - *giggle* - as in 'I've got a lergy' - never mind, I'm having a moment...), so far I (who have numerous annoying a lerGy's and intolerances, seem to be bearing up pretty well, and haven't had to take more than a couple of antihistamines so far. For Brits, the hay fever season here starts a good couple of months before it does in the UK. Anyway, I'm coping with my mask and am starting to figure out it IS possible to not always steam up my sunglasses whilst wearing mask and sunnies.

I'm not sure what foreigners image is of what the Japanese wear. But I think I was a bit surprised when I got here at just how many people you see wearing kimono. Of course, the number goes up whenever there is a festival or special day and they are truly beautiful. On the feet are worn baggy-ish white silky looking split toe socks and the most uncomfortable looking wooden flipflop (thong) things. Gives girls a very strange walk! Now you do see the odd granny wearing them all the time, but younger people is only for a reason. Oh and apparantly two sets of special underwear are worn under the kimono and the obi (big sash worn outside the kimono) is really uncomfortable which is why you see girls wriggling so much: it loosens them. (I love the things I learn from my students!!!).

Anyway, the Japanese academic year starts in April (unlike September in the UK and, actually I've not idea when everyone else's start!) which means right now there are a lot of university graduation ceremonies going on, and a lot of wonderfully uncomfortable but glammed up kimono'd girls wandering around clutching year books and flower bouquets.

* gaijin = foreigner (I've mentioned this several dozen times though)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

P.M. oh Shit...

Firstly, please keep Taiwan suggestions coming. I need to open the guide I have and read it so do help me decide where to go. Taipei and....?

Anyway, today I went up to Immigration to sort out a multi re-entry visa to get back into Japan after Taiwan.

Popped into the conbeni (convenience store - please remember the abbreviation) to get some money and saw with some amusement (amusement as it's the kind of thing I do and it's a relief to know I'm not the only ditz on the planet) that the girl before me had left her 10,000 yen note sitting there and had walked off. Naturally, I shouted after her...

To reward my laughing at her I then managed to cycle into a standing display of something. Luckily it was on the 'main' shopping street and I was going pretty slowly so it just wobbled a bit. My spatial awareness was totally out. I nearly cycled into someone after that. And later in the day had a near collision (on foot) with some cables going from the pavement diagonally up t the top of a telegraph pole, or lampost or something. I also dropped my wallet once and had a near drop a second time.

There'd been a notice up in the school saying to get to immigration take the number 12 bus from T station. Twats. I took the number sodding 12 bus and after about 15 minutes on it asked someone if we were getting near the Im. office yet (it's meant to be a 15 min trip). It turns out I'm on wrong bus. Nice driver sees bus in opposite direction and shouts it to wait while I run over road. Nice driver didn't charge me. When we got back to T station I asked 2nd bus driver about bus and he, bless his heart, deserted the bus he was about to drive off and ran (with me in pursuit) to the NUMBER 12 BUS STOP and showed me which bus to get. Now, WHY couldn't my school have spelt out they meant no. 12 bus STOP and not no. 12 BUS. GAH!!!!!!

Couldn't believe the sweetie left the bus and passengers to help me though. That is SO Japan for you.

I followed some random people off the bus that looked like they might be heading to the im. office (I'm always following random people) and that was that. Took my ticket and saw there were about 75 people in front of me. Woo Hoo! Filled out the form again, as the one I'd picked up from the school was an old one and waited and waited and waited. Eventually a load of people were called at the same time and it turned out I had to go to a conbeni up the road to pay and then come back.... . That was the point I threw my wallet in the air (it's normally boxes of tampons I do that with), wandered off. And then wandered back to ask where the conbeni was. The man laughed. You could see 'stupid gaijin' going through his head. LOL.

Anyway it's sorted now. And I grabbed a sandwich there with some kind of meat cutlet inside. I've also had sandwiches with potato salad inside and an asortment of other things. And sometimes you get 'spare' bits of bread. Most bizarre.

Then I managed to not find the bus stop to get home and wandered around for ages before eventually finding it. Well, I did ask a load of people where the bus stop was but none of them knew...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


The deposit is paid. I can't change my mind :D

Any tips or suggestions? (I've never travelled around an Asian country before)

Or anyone there want to meet up for a beer between April 24th and May 2nd?

Net Casino Buys Virgin Mary Pretzel

An internet casino in the USA (where else?) has bought a pretzel said to be shaped like the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus.
Auctioned on eBay, it drew 56 bids and the casino won with a bid of $10,600.
This is the same casino that previously bought a partially eaten grilled cheese sandwich said to resemble the Virgin Mary.
The casino put the sandwich on a world tour and it is expected it will do the same thing with the pretzel.

doc422fcfaaa69f8060714288.txt (okay you have to paste in this second half or my screen stretches!)

I love stuff like this. A couple of years ago in the UK there was a holy aubergine (egg plant) found and a tomato if I recall correctly with words written on them from the Koran.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Waa Waa Waa Waa (shake, shake, shake, shake)

Er, that's a karaoke impression for you! And I won't hear anything said against karaoke in Japan. I ADORE the little private booths you get with your friends. I love being able to control the volume, the dimmer switch for the lights, to be able to order your drinks with a remote control, to not have to listen to drunken strangers singing, to have a tambourine to go mad with. Can't be beaten!

I tend to go for things like 'Leader of the Pack', 'Eye of the Tiger', anything by Abba, or anything that can be belted out and isn't too high!

I ventured in 'Tokyo Hands' yesterday (a big department store) and bought an April-April diary (with free stickers, natch) in the vague hope of organising my life - from April. I'm missing birthdays left, right and centre, I'm not keeping notes of things related to extra pay - well, I am but in 25,000 different places. But I guess old habits die hard and I'll remain chaotic forever. Bugger.

In 'Tokyo Hands', I saw lots of little clothes. Not for dogs this time though, but for phones. You can have the most stylish phone in Tokyo if you're lucky. In this season's designer range, we have grey hooded sleeveless zip up jackets (for the slightly warmer evening), or for a more chic look how about a silk, Chinese style top with built in bust and a fastening on the diagonal (sleeveless). Or maybe your phone would just prefer a nice padded sleeping bag of it's own for those chilly winter nights? Or maybe a big furry dog with abnormally large head and zipper in it's mouth to make your phone feel or snug and loved while it hides in said dog.

And then there's your baby. To keep the little mite quiet and happy you'll get a pacifier/dummy right? I mean, you don't it sucking it's thumb. But which one to chose? The blue one? The pink one? The white one? Don't be daft. You can get a 'Lil' Vampire' one from 'Tokyo Hands': http://www.maskworld.com/display-product-full_0_8037_english_teeth.html or maybe a 'Lil' Piglet' one for that cute snouted look: http://www.kultschnuller.de/popup_image.php?pID=36

And there you go. I love Japan. LMAO.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Ooo I'm a silly moo!

On the train this morning I saw the cutest thing - a little girl (wearing a skirt in the same material as her mums - not sure about that though) who was all sleepy. So sleepy that she was having trouble deciding between eating a cake she was clutching or falling asleep. There was a real battle of needs going on. It was the funniest thing ever. She kept nodding off. And when the mother tried to remove the cake, the kid started howling. The mother gave it back, kid took one nibble and zonked out. Very funny.

Oh and I nearly lost one of million umbrellas today. I put it into the umbrella condom machine and it got stuck! For anyone that doesn't remember me talking about umbrella condoms before: outside supermarkets, department stores and any shop too big to leave your wet umbrella dripping in a rack outside, there is a little machine that contains plastic 'sleeves' to stop your brolly dripping. You insert the umbrella, the condom, er sleeve, goes on and you pull your umbrella out. Simple. Today it got stuck though and a security man came to my rescue. After about 5 minutes of him fighting with it he got it out, and gave me the dirtiest look. Well, by Japanese standards. By UK standards he gave me a midly displeased look!

Today I had very few hours of teaching but felt I was actually teaching. Some days I feel like I'm going through motions and just directing students through a book, rather than 'teaching'. Today wasn't one of those days though. I was pleased!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Kids and babies

In the last two days I've seen kiddies with in built squeaks in their shoes. Every single step they make, they squeak.

How any normal, sane parent not be driven nuts by this within five minutes of the novelty wearing off is beyond me.

Something else I've seen lots of since being here, but not seen anywhere else, are coats for mothers with special 'extra' unbuttonable panels to go around a baby carrier, front or back of mum. Fab idea. Lots pretty cute. Not surprisingly!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I'm a crap blogger

But I'm back. Actually, I'm annoyed at myself as this blog is meant to be a record for me as much as anything else and three weeks - well - not good.

It also means I'm out of date with everyone else's blogs and, until last week, had emails overdue an answer from back in January. The beginning of. That's all sorted now though and the doses of flu, colds and bronchitis are gone. More or less.

The weather here is bloody cold at night and, finally, hot-ish in the day. And we keep getting snow. It's March - what gives?

Of course, just because the weather is only just starting to heat up which does beg the question, on the subject of fashion, of are the Japanese mad or just made of sturdier stuff than the rest of us. There is a huge amount of girls and women running around wearing shorts, long socks and boots, or short skirts, long socks and boots. And school boys are still all out in the teeny tiniest of shorts, and have been all winter.

As a cursory nod to hay fever season (which many people started suffering with weeks ago, and which is only affecting me slightly) I bought a face mask two days ago. Think of operating room masks, although there are a few basic shapes and materials used. The problem is that they steam up my sunglasses. Honestly, I feel like the Invisible Man when I go out. Surrounded by other invisible mouthless and noseless people. I wonder if the face mask (for colds and hay fever) will ever take off in the UK. Doubt it somehow. And if anyone can tell me how to breathe into it without steaming up my sunglasses, I'd be grateful. It also gets a bit hot!

This morning the God squad came calling again. Two women and a small kid. This is one of the few things I have no tolerance for. Luckily a lack of understanding got rid of them really quickly. They rang the door, I answered it, they asked if I spoke Japanese, I asked if they spoke English, they got out Watchtower and showed me it was available in a million languages, I said goodbye. Gah!

Actually it IS nice not being able to understand other people sometimes. Makes life much less stressful, calmer and easier to zone out. I've always enjoyed it.

Yesterday, I had my hair cut. Short. It feels most girlie! Well, I'd not had a cut for over 18 months and it was getting ridiculously long - like half way down my back. The water is really hard in Japan and so it had really dried out too and kept matting and I kept molting everywhere and, well, I was about to cut it off myself. But I was brave. Armed with two bad sketches and a half price voucher I bravely ventured into a local Japanese hairdresser. Luckily while waiting I found a pic in a magazine in there that had what I wanted, more or less, so that was okay. And lots of furtive fringe pointings and ii-e's (no) got over my point that I'd not be a happy bunny if anyone attempted to give me a fringe. After a 'consultation' (hairdresser with no English, me with no Japanese) I had it washed. They lie you down in a chair to wash it! And take forever. Soooo nice. And this is all with a lightly mentholated cloth over your face. Utter bliss. Hair guy thinned it out too and it's now chin level. I like it. I think. After cutting it they washed it again. Never had that before. Of course, new hair style meant having to buy new accessories and so I now have several pretty clips from the 100 yen shop. I intend to get a Hello Kitty clip as soon as I get back to the Sanrio store.

To add to the weird things I've eaten list, I tried azuki bean poki. Poki are like little thin biscuit stick things. They were strange. Azuki bean Haagen Dasz was too though. But in a nice way.

On the subject of ice cream: I was most impressed the other day when, before going to see The Juon (The Grudge) - good film! - we went to Baskins and Robbins to get some ice cream to take into the cinema with us. You can get it packed to go there (is it just me, or is my phrasing of things starting to get more American and less British?) and tell them whether you want to eat it after 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 120 minutes, and they pack it all up with dry ice. Sooo cool :D

The dry ice thing confuses me though as to me 'dry ice' is steam used for movie, tv and theatre effects and not uber cold ice cubes used for packing up ice cream tubs. But whatever, it worked!

Oh and I'm currently totally into Season 3 of '24'. Though I am questioning why. I mean, don't CTU vet their staff before employing them? Anyway, I just got through episode four and Kim's about to get shot or whatever by Gael. She's not a very lucky person is she? I mean.... Oh never mind.

A couple of weeks ago - and this is when the blog fell down - I went off to Hokkaido - the island at the north of the country and to Sapporo for the snow festival. (Photos will be short coming. Possibly.) Wow! Of course now I can't remember half of what I would have wanted to say so here are the highlights:

  • My second flight on a Pokemon jet. (First time was when I came to Japan).
  • Eating a melon flavour kitkat. YUMMMMY!!!
  • Seeing the MOST amazing snow and ice sculptures. The detail on all of them was fantastic. The size truly awesome of some of them. A couple had slides built into them. They were of famous people, characters, buildings, settings and ideas.
  • Eating the loveliest ramen ever.
  • Experiencing real snow - fluffy, powdery stuff like I have never seen in the UK. Real snow like I didn't know existed!
  • The really large sculptures had stages in front of them. On the night we were there (we - 12 of us - were there for two long days) there was a fashion show on one of the stages - lots of models in wedding dresses and shoulderless evening dresses. Did I mention it was snowing? And about minus 12 or minus 15? They did their best to not look too pissed off!
  • On another stage a guy was dressed as a giant M&M (the chocolate, not the singer). He sang and then ran off.
  • The third stage had two guitarists. The snow was building up on top of them and their fingers were red raw before they even started to play, but they had so much enthusiasm, so we danced around in appreciation!
  • To keep the roads clear they plough all the snow off the roads onto the pavements, so there are heaps 3-4 foot high of snow ON the pavements. Magical!
  • We saw a great dance and drum festival thing while there and had our photos taken with the performers. Or rather the organisers used our cameras - all 12 of them - to take pictures of us posing with the performers!
  • We nearly got run over by a police and media stampede soon after. The Prime Minister was visiting. We got out the way, but watched one policeman barely avoiding being tripped over by his colleagues ropes. Very amusing.
  • We found the cutest dogs in a pet shop all running around and disappeared from the cold to play with them. I was momentarily tempted -- they were soooo cute!
  • I had the first real bath since getting here in the hotel. By real bath I mean, well the bath in my apartment is, er - picture a bath, divide it into thirds and imagine lopping off a third. That's the length. You can't sit with straight legs in it. Imagine also that it's so deep that when filled to about two inches below the top, the water level reaches your shoulders, while you are sitting. And the bathroom in the hotel was warm so the water didn't get cold within ten minutes. Bliss.
  • I ate natto. Now natto is fermented beans (or something like that) and has a reputation for being disgusting. I'm a brave soul though and couldn't turn down the chance to try it at the breakfast buffet in the hotel. How can I describe it? The smell is foul. It looks foul. You pick some up with your chopsticks and a trail of slime lifts up with it. You eat it and, er, make the decision after two beans to never ever ever try it again, regardless of the rumour that it's an 'acquired taste'. Still, at least I did it and lived to tell the tale.
  • Did I mention the melon flavour kitkat? Available only up in Hokkaido unfortunately.
  • On the second day, we went up to one of the Olympic ski jumps. Taking the ski lift to the top the view was truly amazing - of a snow blanketed Sapporo and the hills surrounding it. We later went up a big tower and saw the view looking back at the ski jump. Also on the site was an Olympic museum with lots of simulators to play with (ski jump, bob sleigh, etc) and, naturally, we had a lot of fun there!
  • The wellies meant I didn't slip once. They're not the most comfy things to do lots of walking in though. And it did snow so heavily that we looked like snowmen ourselves at times. Oh and daytime we only saw a temperature guage once, and it said minus 5.9. Lovely!

Next trip, which I'm planning to book tomorrow is going to be to Taiwan end of April.

Apologies again.

Shit - is anyone going to actually read this post, or has it been too long since I lost posted anything?