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!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Another rainy Sunday

The weather has been very erratic the last few weeks in Tokyo. Today has been non-stop rain, for example, which is still NO excuse for me having seen a DOG in a RAINCOAT. I mean, why? Especially as the dogs head wasn't covered, nor most of it's legs, tail and half it's back. Plus it just looked plain silly.

In supermarkets here you can pick up (free) little plastic gadgets that you put over the handles of a carrier bag to make it easier to carry when the bag is heavy. I usually use my bike so don't have to bother if the bags are heavy. Today though, with the rain, I had to put all the shopping in to one bag... and blow me if those holders don't make life so much more comfortable. Can't understand why they don't have them everywhere.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saturday ramblings

Apart from the odd day, most of my Saturdays are kid free and are, now, all private students. I teach in the smallest room in the school on Saturdays and, now the noise problems are sorted out, it feels kind of cosy.

It struck me today how much fun my job can be. I can get students to talk about anything I want which, if you know me and my rather random brain, can be a lot of fun and very interesting and informative. And sometimes they even ask me about myself!

Take today: the topics of conversation were many and varied. Nothing outstanding, but very enjoyable all the same. We covered: the fact that vending machines in my town sell booze, but that I've never seen them; how easy it is to break the law in Japan; banning smoking in public places; the acting industry in Japan; King Arthur, the Knights and Samurai warriors and how they were linked; the atomic bomb; the BBC; hangovers; school history lessons; the preservation of old buildings; stage schools; the workplace; the Olympics and I can't remember half of what else now. Oh, the odd bit of grammar was also thrown in when it had to be!

And I've been tagged for Five Food Challenges by Y. I've always managed to (conveniently) forget tags but here goes. They're not very interesting, I'm afraid:

1. Keep food regularly in the house. My fridge is too often bare - and that after me spending a lifetime of shared-houseness dreaming of having a whole fridge for myself and not just a shelf. And remember to buy fresh food from the 100 yen shop.

2. Start preparing and freezing large amounts of food so when I come in all tired I can just sling things into the microwave and not have to think about it.

3. Give up eating bread. Again. And generally just cut out crap from my diet. This includes cutting down on the amount of caffeine I consume every day.

4. Learn some Japanese recipes. I buy a lot of Japanese ingredients but generally just improvise with them. I have two recipe books - I want to start using them.

5. Try out some new recipes. My 'kitchen' consists of a single ring, a toaster oven (with no heat variation) and a microwave. I've got very creative in the time I've been here. I want to get more creative.

Okay, I'm tagging Mr Teacher, Liisa, Beastie and Liz

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Japanese contests

Japan has some rather interesting festivals. Take this one that was on the news today - an annual competition in Kyoto where competitors strain to see who can lift heavy mochi (sticky rice cake) for the longest time. For women these are 90 kgs and for men 150 kgs. They showed this on the news.

Other interesting festivals include the baby crying contest where poor little sproglets are handed over to hulking great sumo wrestlers so people can watch them cry. The baby who cries the loudest wins. It's good luck for the babies. Apparently.

I've also seen various food eating contests (noodles, doughnuts, hot dogs, etc), face pulling contests, more food eating contests, etc on the news here before. Maybe we should have more things like this in the UK!


I am currently waiting on this week to end (roll on final class on Saturday) so I can avoid human contact for a bit. After my stormingly good start to the week (see Mondays entry) things couldn't really go that swimmingly, could they? So, okay, I'm PMS'ing which means any arsewipe becomes a double-arsewipe as far as I'm concerned but today really did it for me.

Another teacher almost had me in tears this afternoon after being an utter cunt to me. Now this particular teacher has been ruffling more than a few feathers previously but my relationship with him, to date, has been to keep out of his way as all he ever seems to do is whinge about everything, complain about everything, look miserable and create an atmosphere. Sure, everyone has moments when they are dissatisfied with things; but he never has anything positive to say. About anything. Last week he made the receptionist walk into my room in the middle of my teaching a class as he wanted to check a page number in a text book. Extremely rude and unnecessary, in my opinion.

Today I asked what unit he was using in a particular student book (because there's only one copy and I have a small room with a small table and the teachers book takes up twice the space of the students book. These books are ring filed so easy to whip out units, which is generally done whenever a book needs to be shared between classes - but didn't actually get any further than asking what unit he would be using) and was so disgusted at his response. Nobody has EVER spoken to me so rudely before for no discernible reason. He's got a fucking screw loose. I was so shocked I almost burst into tears and would have done, if I hadn't left the school at that point. Luckily (for him) there were no students around. He's shouted in front of students before with another teacher.

Update: He did this to another girl a while back, apparently, and they didn't speak for four months afterwards. Nice guy, huh?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Twenty reasons to be pissed off

In our company most teachers get two days off a week. A certain number of these, spread over the year, are allocated as 'cover days' - where you are told in advance you will be working an extra day in a specified school - and 'standby days' - where you have to work if another teacher is off sick and find out on the day.

On Saturday, night at the party, I was having a drunken conversation with someone - actually I had many drunken conversations with many drunken people - and saying I was going out the following night (ie last night) but was on standby on Monday (today) so REALLY hoped I wouldn't have to work. The person said they were going to call in sick. Naturally, I assumed they were kidding. THEY FUCKING WEREN'T. So, either I worked for someone who called a sickie -or this was devine retribution for making the joke.

Either way, I wasn't happy and listed twenty reasons why I was pissed off whilst walking to the station. I tried to counter these with reasons to not be pissed off - but only reached four.

And it wasn't the greatest of days. I'd been given the wrong information for most of the classes - always a good start. And had to administer three loads of tests - and mark them - to kids classes which I cannot even begin to explain just how boring this process is as the whole thing is done with a tape and I just sit there telling the kids to shut up.... Or something like that.

I was meant to finish at TEN p.m. - Most of my days I finish between 8.30 and 9.15 (6pm on a Saturday) and, in fact, it's pretty unusual for a teacher to finish later than 9.30. Anyway, two of the final three students managed to find their phones and call to say they wouldn't be coming. The third forgot - but the receptionist decided we should go a bit after 9.30 and after finally reaching the bloody student.


Oh and last night: pretty tame really. We had a company girls' night out and I only had three (largish) glasses of vodka and tomato juice. Well.... drinking strips you of vitamin c, right? And tomato juice is a good supply of said vitamin so it made perfect sense to me. And the vodka? Hair of the dog, natch!


And one last thing, check out Masa's website, if you haven't already. I'm not sure if I've linked to it before, but it normally cracks me up. Great observations and very interesting photographs...


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Confessions of a teenage alcoholic

Okay. I'm no teenager and I'm not an alcoholic. Every now and then though I, like everyone else, can drink just a teensy weensy bit too much.

A typical night of me drinking too much involves me talking total and utter bollocks. And a lot of it. I mean, even more than normal. I'm a happy drunk. I don't get all depressed and teary. I just talk a lot. Or fall asleep. Or, occasionally, go and throw up.

Last night was a house-warming party at a friends. My mate decided to take kahlua and coke. I grabbed vodka and diet coke on the way. We were thrilled to realise, on arrival, that we could, therefore, spend the evening drinking (very very very strong) Black Russians. A Black Russian is meant to be (apparently) 4 measure of each of the spirits. A measure, with no implement, is a very arbitrary number. I mean, is it 1--2--3--4? Or should it be 1-2-3-4? You get the picture. We weren't sure and didn't really care anyway so they tended to be strong. Mine did anyway.

I have vague memories of some of the conversations. Given what I DO remember, it's probably a good thing I don't remember more of them. I also have a vague recollection of getting back to the station and debating whether to go out and do more drinking or see a movie or something else. Sense actually prevailed and we just went home. Except...

On getting to my platform I, somehow, managed to slip down the gap between the (stationary) train and the platform. I recall that bewildered 'huh? what happened?' feeling when you try to figure out what you should be doing. Anyway, I got grabbed up by a couple of random people so all was well.

In the taxi, on the way from the station, I remembered the Japanese for left AND right for a change. My mind always goes blank on the word for 'right' for some reason....

This morning (well, this afternoon, let's be honest. I mean, I didn't really see the morning and WHY WHY WHY don't McDonald's do a free home delivery hangover service, eh? huh? huh?) I found some rather odd emails on my mobile phone sent and received boxes that make no sense. Nothing embarrassing luckily though.

Oh, and I have a recollection of two embarrassingly drunk MSN conversations.... My apologies to you both. Did I say anything I should worried about? More to the point, did I actually make any sense.

Oh well. I have a few hours to get myself together now as I have to go out and drink again tonight. *Sigh*. It's a tough life being a teacher in Japan, you know. Thing is though..... tomorrow I'm on standby which means it's my day off but if any teacher is ill I will have to work. Let's just hope I feel better tomorrow than I do right now.

Where's my glass of water?

Update: I'm receiving comfort now that I know everyone else was also steamingly drunk (hopefully they won't remember the crap I don't remember saying to them either) and that other people are also suffering today!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My typical adult female student

... thinks it`s perfectly okay if she has to work a 13 hour day, every day, because some people have to do more.

... thinks it`s okay that, even though they have a reasonable holiday allowance, they aren`t actually able to use most of it.

... believes it's okay though, because they can carry over and store up the days for as long as necessary and, of course, when all the extra hours work makes them sick, that's okay as they will have stored up enough sick days. (the way I understand it is the Japanese system is similar to the US system in that you have x amount of holiday/sick/personal days to take - or dream about taking. in the UK personal days don't exist and sick days have nothing to do with your holiday allowance.)

... thinks it`s perfectly normal to nurture and support* their kids and put their kids before everything else, especially themselves. Even when these `kids` are, in fact, 19 year old adults who, in the UK, would be living independently anyway.

... thinks it`s absolutely fine that their husband does nothing to help with the kids.

... thinks it`s great that their husbands work so late as it means they are around a lot less.

... thinks it`s okay to get up at 5 or 6am every day in order to make their husband his breakfast and packed lunch.

... thinks it`s okay to work a full-time job and be a mother and housewife with no help from (god forbid) either husband OR kids.

... likes shopping and sleeping and doesn`t really have many other interests.

Of course, not ALL my students are like this. But most of them are.

* spoil / mollycoddle / sacrifice their own life

Disclaimer: these are MY typical Japanese female students. I am, in no way, suggesting all Japanese females are like this. Okay?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Is it over yet?

Valentine's day is evil. Todays receptionist gave me a little bag of home-baked heart shaped cookies and one of the students at the school brought in a box of chocolates for everyone. I guess the gym workout this morning equaled the sugar content of the above. Maybe?!


I have a class of three 6-year old girls. One I've been teaching for about 5 months, one for about 2 months and the third for 2 weeks. The first two have been getting naughtier and naughtier and, naturally, the third thought, last week, this was okay to copy. So I decided to take action.... As they can't read their names yet, I had them wear name badges with a different picture on for each. These matched their names and symbols on the board, under which I gave them five boxes for lives. The intention was each time they were naughty, they would lose a life. Each time they did something exceptional, or won a game, etc, they would gain a life. The one with the most lives by the end was going to get a whole sheet of stickers. (To put this into perspective: I give ONE sticker as a reward for completed homework normally. Six year olds get VERY excited about stickers - so you can imagine WHOLE sheet). I pre-warned the receptionists that if any kid lost all five lives, they would be sent to sit in reception for two minutes....

It took me five minutes to realise one of the receptionists had explained my entire plan to the girls. GRRRRR! However, it worked an absolute treat and I had three complete angels, and only one life was lost all lesson. It was also a lot more fun as they were concentrating better and we could move much faster between activities, which is preferable for us all!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentines Day

Sometimes students bore me or frustrate me so much it's a real challenge to keep interested in what they have to say. Or you just stick to the text book. Most students, though, are fine. And some you adore.

Today I gave a lesson to a more advanced floating student. Floating students don't have a regular teacher or regular time slot. The one I had today was a gem. We spent most of the lesson laughing. For example, after she told me she has a 13 month old baby and an almost full-time job:

Me: Does your husband help?
Her: Yes. He cleans. He cooks. He helps with the baby. He washes up. He takes out the garbage. He buys the groceries. He does the laundry.
Me: [look of utter stunnedness]
Her: [pause] He's not Japanese.

Okay, if this doesn't make sense to you, Japanese men, generally, do fuck all to help and the average Japanese wife gets up early to make him breakfast, lunch, etc. The average female student/receptionist also admits they prefer their husband working long hours so they aren't around so much.


In Musashino City, where I live, I keep seeing LILAC bulldozers. Bulldozers have to be cute now as well, do they?


I got post from the post office today. It was misaddressed. Although the information they sent me inside the envelope did have the right address on it. On the down side though, they also sent a letter to say the cost of sending money back to the UK is increasing 3.5 times from April. Guess who's not very happy, considering I have to send money back every month?


This year I got very excited before the beginning of the Olympics. I'm not really sure why, as I've never really done this before.... only to discover that Japanese terrestrial telly is only showing a limited amount. And a lot of that is the boring ones....


Valentines Day in Japan involves WOMEN giving chocolates to their boyfriends, male work colleagues, male bosses, male friends, female friends, etc. MEN reciprocate on 'White Day' which is March 14th. I wonder why Thorntons hasn't cashed in on this idea around the world. Be a hugely profitable adoption for them. But then I guess, in the UK anyway, they have all the Easter egg sales that start soon after Valentines to look forward to. Oh, and I got chocolate from both my receptionists today.


Last week we had two extra days off work, which was awesome! Or would have been if it hadn't been just before pay day. Nikki and I went sightseeing on Thursday to Nihon Minkaen - a Japanese Open-Air Folk House Museum near Mukugaokayuen station, where we saw lots of 17th century onwards houses reconstructed. The kind of thing Dogs and Demons laughs at - ie how museums 'preserve' the heritage but how, in situ, it no longer exists anywhere in Japan. It was very enjoyable anyway.

In the same park is the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art holding lots of modern art, Picasso influenced art, etc.

Then we headed to Shinjuku and went up the Metropolitan Government Building to the 45th floor, after collecting loads of stuff from the Tourist Office on the first floor (the first tourist office I've seen since getting to Japan), where we had a truly amazing view all over Tokyo. I think Nikki may have been more interested in the toyshop than the view though....

Naturally I have photos. Predictably it may be some time before I sort them out. My photos are currently offline as they need editing. Also I'm in the process of getting around to losing the msn photo album and using Flickr instead as the MSN capacity is crap.

The rest of the weekend was pretty non-existant due to total lack of funds. Luckily pay day was yesterday.

And last night was lovely. I met up with the receptionist, a couple of ex-students and the girl who took over the day I gave up, for some drinks and food. My favourite cute waiter wasn't there to ogle, but it was a good fun night anyway.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Asian Squat

I'm going to update properly later but, in the meantime, here's a video that I found really funny:

The Asian Squat - Enjoy. I did!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Did I say 'spring'?

Well, as I type it is , yet again, snowing outside. Great. And fantastic for the snow trimmed washing hanging on my balcony. Oh well...

It is now, officially spring in Japan as the Setsubun festival happened over the weekend. To cries of 'Devils out; fortunes in', the Japanese put on little devil masks and take a handful of beans - the number corresponding to their age, and throw them from their house outside. They then sweap them up the next day. They are also meant to cook the same number and eat them. This happened, therefore it is spring.

I'm in gym mode now and getting frustrated when I can't go (ie when it's shut, or when my membership doesn't permit me entry). And today I had a gym counselling session, in English, with an instructor who was very nervous about his English, but very sweet. And I discovered a huge jazuzzi in the changing rooms.

I'm hooked on 'Tru Calling' at the moment, as my local DVD shop has all the episodes and, as I ran out of '24' ages ago, this is my new one. Seen it? I've also been working my way through all of 'Sex and the City'. And this time I'm enjoying it so much more than I have before.

And reading. I read so much here. Partly because I have loads of time on the train, but also because I'm getting my hands on so many random books. We book swap. I pick up books left in schools. I get given books. I rarely need to buy any, and when I do, they are always second hand. At any given time I seem to have about 20 books waiting to be read. It's great. And then.....I pass them on. Absolutely no hoarding. It's liberating!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Spring is on the way!

It's definitely starting to get much warmer now. What a relief! Although I've heard this weekend is going to be crap again. Spring and autumn are lovely here and the onset of spring will, naturally, mean the (hopefully) onslaught of hanami parties! Can't wait! In the meantime though, we've had two days of rain. Oh well.

Yesterday I think I may have overdone it at the gym. My biceps (biceps? the big muscles at the front of your upper arm? oh well) are KILLING me. Especially my right one. People kept laughing at me when I told them. Does sympathy not exist any more? One student told me it was because I was getting old. Thanks!

Every month or so I've been sending money back to the UK for my loan. I've always done this through the post office and it's always been the same. Except this month they've decided there is a problem with one of the addresses I've put down. Even though it's the same. Oh well... I'll get to the bottom of this eventually.

Today was good. All of my students were lovely and it was all nice and easy. Oh, except we had a little earthquake (again). My student looked terrified. The receptionist came in looking all concerned. I was my normal 'whatever' about the whole thing. The receptionist said if we were in doubt we should get under the table. I tried to not look at her like she was insane and asked if the tables were specially strengthened or something. She said they were. Afterwards I asked her if she expected the table would hold the weight of the ceilings collapsed onto it. She said probably not...

Oh and poor mum: I taikened (level checked/gave a trial lesson) to a couple of kikokusei brothers (Japanese that have lived in an English speaking country) and asked the 11/12 year old to tell me about his family. I meant for him to tell me if he had any more siblings, if his grandparents lived with them, etc. He told me his mother wasn't on a diet. Intriguing. I'm not sure if the mother understood or not what he had said, but I found it really funny.