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!

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Bon voyage, me!

I'm in Taiwan April 24th to May 2nd.

See ya's later........


Tuesday, April 19, 2005


All teachers are doing a big countdown to next Saturday, which is the last teaching day for two weeks....

The last week has been work, work, lots of drink, work, work, lots of drink, work mainly. Teachers are leaving so there are leaving drinks and normal impromptu drinking nights.

And only five days until Taiwan now.

Oo, just remembered something from Friday. One of my students, a nine-year old girl presented me with her puppies business card. Well, it's a business card sized card with a picture of her puppy and it's date of birth and it's name which is '[family surname] Woof' - pronounced without the 'w'. So cute! And the card is all pink and white.

HELP! I'm seriously falling for cuteness. I'm doomed. There's no cure :(

Still, at least I don't have Mickey Mouse tattooed or shaved and dyed into the back of my head, or a pigeon-toed walk. EVER.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Hanami Parties

So, Hanami season is over. The rain and wind of the last couple of days means that most of the blossom has now fallen. Shame. I'll have to find another excuse now to abuse my liver.

Saturday night was my second hanami party. This time the many trees in the park were in full bloom and pretty awesome to look at. I'm not sure how many people I was with (!) and people kept coming and going and -- well, I was drinking and talking, okay?! The park was packed with people on tarpaulins, sitting and drinking and having picnics. Some were dancing or had musical instruments with them. One group had a table in the middle of their tarp, with a pole coming up from it and a disco ball attached. Crazy stuff, but great atmosphere - felt a bit like a festival or campsite!!! And afterwards, inevitably, we went to karaoke. Except the buggers really annoyed us: they kept turning the heat up in our room and turning the lights on and cancelling songs we'd programmed in. And then they tried to overcharge us.... We paid a lot. But not the lot they were requesting.

We are now on the run from one of the Tokyo Karaoke Mafioso.

Sunday, due to a slight hangover, I didn't have so much to drink at the hanami party. Sunday's party was in a large cemetary and, again, there was a huge amount of people sitting on the ground eating and drinking, playing music, etc. The cemetary was beautiful, though somewhat windy and the atmosphere wonderful.

One random Japanese guy with a video camera came over to us and asked if he could record us, and could we just continue talking to each other!

But one of the funniest things was a pizza delivery guy came around to us and gave us a leaflet. Yup, you got it: we could have had pizza delivered to our gravestone party!

I hope all the spirits of the ancestors enjoyed the hanami as much as everyone else did.

Afterwards we went to an izakaya and I had a lovely shochu drink: amino acid, honey and lemon flavour. Nice!!!

We walked through a closing market afterwards and their was a skip of tuna heads. I thought tuna were small: these heads were bigger than mine. Naturally, I took some pictures. Naturally, it may be months before those pictures get anywhere near the blog!!!

And, talking of heads: picture an adult female with two high ponytails on either side of her head. One is dyed black, the other red. All the rest of the back of the head has been shaved and is stubbly. Shaved INTO this is a LARGE orange Mickey Mouse head with a little gap in the cheek were a little red heart has been added. Curving under the head, in green letters, is the word 'DISNEY'.

WHY????? What possessed you?

Today was fun. Had lunch in a wonderful cafe in Ebisu called 'Good Honest Grub' - the kind of place you really want to find so you can just linger for hours. The menu was all in English and I had a wonderful grilled chicken ceasar pitta bread thing there - the first pitta bread I've had in nearly 7 months....... and apple crumble! Yummy :D

We then went to a fantastic contemporary Spanish photography exhibition and the Metropolitan museum of photography and mooched around that for a while. The pictures were amazing and we spent ages disecting them, before going to the nearby BEER museum. This was all in Japanese and wasn't greatly interesting. The beer drinking area was really cool though, and the beers, at 200 yen a pop were very nice!

And as it was raining we had umbrellas with us. We locked our umbrellas up in special umbrella cages to keep them safe and secure!

Good fun in all!

Oh, and here's an interesting article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/japan/story/0,7369,1451704,00.html - it's all about how Japan's virgin wives are turning to sex volunteers.

It's also common in Japan for divorced couples to remain living together...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Free-standing things

"Oops, I did it again."

I've mentioned previously that bicycles lock to themselves (a built in lock gadget on the back wheel) and aren't locked TO anything. In other words, they are freestanding. Months back I managed to knock over five or so bikes outside my apartment block. I had a friend with me so it was quite funny. Think domino effect.

Today I was alone. I park my bike (illegally) outside a bank along with dozens of other bikes all neatly sardined in. This evening I went to get my bike. Unlocked it. Tried to disengage it from the bike next to it. Stood back and watched ten bikes knock each other over. I just stood there in shock waiting to see how many were going to skittle over (and waiting for the ground to open up...).

While standing there, a Japanese couple, who must have been 20 or so metres past the bikes, turned around, saw what had happened. Didn't say a word, but turned around and picked up all the bikes... I couldn't even get to them to help.

That's the Japanese for you. I mean HOW kind?

Other freestanding things I keep seeing around are chairs. Now, must bus stops have benches, no? All the bus stops between my apartment and the station have little rows (maybe 3 or 4) of freestanding wooden chairs (think old classroom).

Do they disappear overnight? No. Are they vandalised? No. Couldn't see them lasting half a day in the UK.

One icky thing at the moment though is the popularity of nose-wiping on FLANNELS (toweling squares). I mean EUW, EUW, EUW. Hygiene??? And as 95% of Tokyo seems to by DYING with hayfever I've seen this a LOT. Yuck!!! And, even though I know sniffing is acceptable in Japan, I really cannot stand having someone sniffing loudly in my ear on a crowded train. Not nice.

Spring has definitely sprung. Please let it last.

And I've planned Taiwan. Hit me with any comments on this please itinerary, or suggestions for accomodation, train over bus, etc:

I have seven whole days and two halves. I'm not mad about hiking and want a pretty chilled, moochy time of it:

Taipei (two and a half days)
Wulai (one day daytrip from Taipei)
Hualien (one day)
Taroko Gorge (one day)
Sun Moon Lake (one day)
Taichung (one day)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bikes, bottoms, blossoms and bamboo stilts

My bum hurts from a lot of cycling on my granny bike (no gears, basket on front). Well, it wouldn't have been quite so much cycling if I hadn't got lost.

Today was beautiful. A really nice spring day and I hope it lasts for a while longer.

There's a massive park locally that took about 15 minutes to cycle to. I'd not got around to going there up to now, which is a shame. Anyway, it was beautiful and it gave me a chance to play with my new camera. There were dozens and dozens of sakura trees in full bloom - and rather a lot of people, but they were mainly sitting down under the trees so that wasn't too bad.

And the ice cream in the vending machines was wonderful!

In the park was a massive open air museum with lots of reconstructed 1600's buildings inside to walk around and in. Very relaxing and peaceful.....

And there were bamboo stilts to play with, which I did and managed to skin a chunk of my finger on a bit of rogue bamboo. Ouch :(

I managed to find the right exit to leave by which was quite an achievement as I'm directionally challenged and couldn't figure out where was 'here' on any of the park maps I looked at. After that I'm not sure what happened but I got rather lost and confused. Made it back eventually though and stopped off in a little shop to buy a couple of bits including a tin of what I thought was going to be tuna (it was next to sardines, but this was a VERY small shop). Got back and openend it and my first reaction to the chunks inside was that I'd bought cat food. It did have a couple of little tooth picks attached on top though so I'm guessing this was unlikely. I walked with it to the bin several times before deciding it couldn't be cat food, and put it in a salad and ate it. I have absolutely no idea what it was, but I've had a similar sauce on tinned mackeral before. If it WAS cat food, it was nice cat food, that's all I can say.


And my bum now hurts, a lot, from the cycling. I've a feeling tomorrow will be very painful! It was worth it though, and I'm happy to realise I'm not affected by the pollen here like I thought I'd be and like the rest of Tokyo is. A slight snuffle and need for a mask now and then and that's it! I got hayfever pretty badly in the UK.

Hot bath time now I think!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

For your Sunday amusement

This is a very old thread on Thorntree (Lonely Planet's bulletin board) about bad English attempts in Japan. It's so funny I thought I'd put it here for you to see.

Of course, this does mean I should mention this website: http://www.engrish.com/ which has lots of silly signs, etc.

And the fact is that sinceI've been here, not a day has passed when I've not heard some silly Japlish/Jinglish or seen something badly written.

Oh and I have a problem with my new camera: it says I can't use it outside of Japan. Will I be in big trouble if seen with it in Taiwan? Still, it has 12 funky settings (It's an Olympus U-40 compact digital - red!) including a FOOD setting!

Friday, April 01, 2005

*Pan Pan*

I heard the strangest noise this evening as I cycled back from the station. It was a kind of cross between a bell and a high pitched 'pan pan' noise. I had no idea what it was until I saw the the teeniest, strangest, old fashioned looking fire engine flashing to a halt. Who'd have guessed? In the UK we have big, mean sirens that make a statement. No 'Pan Pan' in the UK. And of course, it made me think of Bambi, which was the first film I ever saw.

(In French 'Thumper' the rabbit is called 'Panpan', as that's the noise he makes.... Oh never mind!)

Things you'd never see in the UK:

One: a portable stereo in the street plugged into the outer wall of a shop, playing music. In the UK it'd be swiped in minutes...

Two: at the station this morning I saw a girl wearing, er trouser legs. With a skirt. Skirt and trousers I hear you think? What's wrong with that? It's a common site. Except.... these 'trousers' kind of lacked the main essence of trouserness. They started at the ankle and ended just above the knee..... (trouser material, trouser design, etc - just no bit joining them together.) But I also find the detached sleeve look quite odd.

Three: very strange skin colours: some permatan manufacturer is out there who should be sued to buggery. There's a certain group of Japanese who are turning orange. Think of your worst imaginable fake tan error.... And it's worse. Much worse. Orange. Orange I tell you. This 'certain' group tend to be young. Females do it, but it's mainly male. And it's normally accompanied with blond streaked hair. And that is normally a mullet. Oh Oh and these people are normally wearing pimp coats.

Maybe I'm just getting old and losing touch with reality, and I understand the desire some people have to make their skin darker with a bottle - but PLEASE. Orange does not suit anyone. Find out who the manufacturer is and SUE THEM!

Four: free cigarettes being handed out in the streets. One of my students today has a second job - she hands out cigarettes for four hours every Friday night to promote some cigarette manufacturer in Japan. Maybe it does happen elsewhere, but I've never seen it and cannot imagine it happening somewhere like the UK or US where the current drive is to try and stop people smoking.

Oh and I do love the look on Japanese faces when I tell them cigarettes in the UK cost 1000 yen. (here they cost about 150 yen).

Five: oh, actually I donno if you can get this in the UK, but tonight I bought a tube of something called 'Sweetened Condensed Milk'. Think glue with lots of sugar. Bizarre stuff. Well.... I treated myself to a punnet of strawberries finally (at about three times the cost of the same in the UK) and the tubes of gunk were on the same stand. It felt wrong not to really. (Sucker for ergonomically placed products? Me?)

On the subject of clothes:

One: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4379851.stm - fat people. cycling pants. WRONG. This is all about the idea of putting Sumo wrestlers into cycling pants.

Two: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4397849.stm - wear less clothes at work and don't consume so much energy from the air conditioning.

Three: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4328439.stm - nice Kyoto is letting people do lots of free things if they wear kimono. Sweet. Maybe I should go and hire one.


Gah! I spent about four minutes today explaining to a student what 'agree' means. Until it finally came out that she was asking about 'ugly'.

The other student in the class must have been so baffled at me explaining 'agree' for 'ugly' that she hadn't taken a word of it in and asked me what 'agree' was.

Don't ya just love days like these? (oh, to make sense of this you need to know that most Japanese will pronounce the two words the same). I got over the stress difference to them, but bet it'll be forgotten by next week.

Another student though hospitals had departure boards. I cracked up. So did the class when I explained why...

And what is it with my drawings. Either I get baffled looks or laughs (hey, I can't draw - get over it) OR cries of 'kawaii' ('cute' - pronounced like 'Hawaii', remember?)

Recently I've had cries of 'kawaii' for flowers (fair enough) and also for a picture I drew today of someone drowning someone else. Go figure... Strange students!