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!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Squeak, squeak

My bike used to squeak a bit. Before I left the pound, on Sunday, they gave it a quick once over, pumped the tyres a bit, oiled it, that kind of thing.

Yes, they oiled it for me.

Thing is, it now squeaks more than before. Maybe it didn't squeak enough before. Most Tokyo bikes seem to squeak.


Spotted on the train: a girl with about 50 Hello Kitty keychains dangling from her phone. Insanity. I mean, I only have two on my phone right now, plus several at home. And besides, so many must weigh a TON!


I've now also finished all of Season Two of Desperate Housewives. I LOVE this downloading game. Why didn't anyone tell me about it before?

P.S. I hope he's not dead. They're a cute couple. And SURELY Bree can't end up with ANOTHER psycho boyfriend, can she? And how long til weird woman foists off teenage daughter on them for good? In fact, is there anyone normal in the series? Gotta love it though!


I have a question: how can housewives (without kids) be 'too busy' for anything? I'm serious. I mean, just how many hours do you spend every day cleaning your house and cooking? Really? Granted, if you have kids, and especially if they are young, then I expect you to be busy but otherwise? I mean, seriously. Especially given the size, or lack of, of the average Japanese house. Is 'busy' a euphemism for, as soon as my husband leaves for work I go back to bed for most of the day and then have to watch lots of crap daytime television, and maybe get a facial before a tea ceremony lesson and before I go shopping?

I don't get it. Really. I mean, in a kidless house, just HOW dirty can your house get in a day? Just how much ironing do you and your husband generate?

I'll put this down to one of those things I'll never understand and shouldn't try to. It's just the amount of housewife students who tell me how busy they are...


Another student thing: there seems a lack of imagination here amongst the average Japanese person studying English. I've been told this, by the students ("I cannot imagination") several times, and I've seen in time and time again from exercises we've done. Yes, much of this is down to the school system, the way people are taught to think here, and so on, but it's real bash-head-against-wall stuff for me often.

Today, for example, for the first time, a student refused to try the homework I'd set her. It was a task that, in my opinion, should be a walk in the park for someone of her level. In the text book are various situations such as a woman asks her husband to give up smoking or someone is late for their wedding and tells the chauffer to hurry up. Hardly complex, and I asked the student to choose two from 12 and write up short simple dialogues from the situations. I even gave three examples. On the board. She freaked and refused saying it would take too long and it was too hard. Whatever. GAH!!! Sometimes I just get to the point where I've reassured and reassured and just can't be arsed any more. I gave her a grammar homework instead and she was happy. *sigh*

Monday, May 29, 2006

The green beast is back

I have my bike back. All is good now. I felt very lost without it. Although apparantly the council is becoming more random about when they do bike swoops. It could mean another trip to the pound. I hope not though.

Sunday I saw the Da Vinci Code. HOW disappointing. I mean, it had it's moments but, regardless of having read the book, I felt a lack of suspence, no chemistry between the main characters and an annoying script. Big let down. Oh well.

And I've just finished Season Two of LOST. Oh my god! Wow!!! How long til season three?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Oh, Bikerations!

My lovely snot-green, gearless, basketed, dented, granny-bike wasn't where I left it yesterday morning when I went to get it this evening.

I think it's been impounded. This means a fine and the hassle of having to figure out where it's been taken to and how to get it back. Shit :(

I then got home (the walk is SO long when you're tired) to find three bills and a letter from the gym saying my last payment didn't go through.

Just bloody great.

The sun is back though. However, rainy season is just around the corner. GAH!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Random Fluff

Taxi drivers, in my area anyway, all seem to be around 60. I've never seen one under 50 or so anyway.

And they all wear white gloves and have white lace over the back of the taxi seats. Not the most practical. Oh, and have I mentioned before that taxi doors open and close automatically? Or that taxis all have those navigating systems - but that taxi drivers don't seem to know how to use them?


A student of mine recently got married. Apparantly she's been suffering bad health since due to a change in her circumstances (ie having to get up at 5am, cook breakfast and prepare lunch for someone else and suddenly become a housewife as well as holding a full-time job, etc).

She's going to give up her English lessons. I suggested, to the receptionist, that the student would be better off giving up her husband, if that's what married life has done for her.


There was a fairly recent story in media here about a boy who pushed his classmate off of a balcony because she'd been ignoring him at school. Well, last weeks Metropolis had this story:

Police arrested an 18-year-old high-school boy for stripping a classmate, strapping his arms and legs with tape, wrapping him in newspaper, dousing him with lighter fluid and shooting fireworks at him. The boy said he was hurt because the classmate had been avoiding him.

You're adults, I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions here.

On second thoughts: it seems that the 'group mentality' here can be so strong that, should you be rejected by the group or sub-group, you just go nuts.


And the lovely birthday weather I had on Sunday and Monday turned back to cack today.

Wednesday update: weather is looking bright and sunny. Maybe my washing will dry?

Update on Wednesdays update: the morning WAS beautiful. Very hot and sunny and clear. By mid-afternoon though it had turned to cack and was chucking it down. Oh well.


Another brief thing, on the back of the student who's suffering ill health since getting married. Another student, one with three kids under 5 and a half, has NEVER been out anywhere alone with all three kids. I think that's a real shame. I mean, strap 'em into a double buggy and away you go!


Oh, and a newsflash: the price of a 12-pack of toilet paper is going up by 50 yen from the middle of July because of rising fuel prices. (This was just an almost 10 minute story on the news).

Monday, May 22, 2006

May 22nd - a life in a day

35 years ago, today, I was born, at around 9.45pm, at St. Georges Hospital, Tooting, London., to a secretary. It was a Saturday night. I was never told where I was conceived or whether the birth was easy. Not really my problem, was it? My father, a taxi driver, was, at the time off somewhere else. The story of most of my childhood, if truth be told.

30 years ago, today, aged 5, I was coming to the end of my first year at Junior school. I had a grey school uniform that was very cute, lived with my mother, father having long since left the scene, in a council flat in Luton, Bedfordshire. I was probably doing ballet lessons at the time (this 'phase' didn't last long as I had the grace of something with no grace), and had a ladybird or two as pets. They lived on the leaves of the Busy Lizzie plants we kept in the flat until the disappeared. I then went and rescued some more. We had a balcony with tomato plants. Pigeons laid their eggs in the plants. I have never liked pigeons.

25 years ago, today, aged 10, I was living with my mother, her nasty boyfriend, and his beautiful Golden Retriever, in a big house in a nice area of Wimbledon, London. I learned how to cycle - for the first time and used to ride up and down our cul-de-sac a lot. I was best friends with a French girl that moved a couple of doors down and we'd have huge arguments and borrow each others Barbies.

20 years ago, today, aged 15, I was living with my mother in a smaller place, near Wimbledon. Life wasn't particularly great and I didn't take anything seriously. I'd also been sacked from a few part-time jobs by this point.

15 years ago, today, aged 20, I was living in Stafford, Staffordshire, studying Psychology and American Studies at university and doing too many drugs. I should have taken some time out before going to study. I still wasn't really taking anything seriously.

10 years ago, today, aged 25, I was living in Bath, Avon, and having an affair with an utter twat. I was signing on at the time and doing a lot of writing for the local paper. Having spent two years in Paris, I'd come back and decided to do a French A'level, for the hell of it. I was doing that at this time too.

5 years ago, today, aged 30, I was living back up in London, having gone to Cornwall and done a Post-Grad journalism course, and lived in Brighton, in the interim. I was working at the BBC. It had it's good points.

And today, aged 35, I feel old. I've been in Tokyo for nearly two years teaching English, and I cannot, for the life of me, imagine where I'll be or what I'll be doing five years from now.

I was going to post all this earlier but, due to downloading most of season two of Lost, my computer was refusing me any further access to the internet.

On Saturday I was in a stropingly bad mood, suffering major pre-birthday blues and was about to cancel any form of celebration of my birthday. I didn't though.

In an abbreviated nutshell then: 15 friends joined me for lunch at Barbacoa, a Brazilian restaurant, where the drinking started for some of us. The weather was on my side, after being really crap recently, and so afterwards a few people drifted off, but most of us went and sat in the sun in Yoyogi Park for a bit, with another quick drink, before we went on to Arty Farties, a gay club with an awesome nomihodai (1000 yen 5pm to 9pm), cheesy music and not too many people. Later on, a couple of Japanese friends and I went to karaoke. Two of us sang. One just tried very hard to stay upright. I was among the singers!

I've had emails from two of my lightweight friends today saying they cannot remember most of the evening.

I always take that as a good sign.

As for me; I had a bit of a hangover this morning, but it wasn't too bad and kind of dissipated as the day went on. Or it did until I got onto a train anyway.

In the evening, after having done nothing all day, I went into Shinjuku and met up with some more friends. We spent a giggly evening in an izakaya (good old hair of the dog, eh?!) before more karaoke. Naturally!

And two of my VERY cheeky, or maybe sensible (?) friends, gave me a compass as a present as I never have a clue where I am.... It's cute and fun, but I donno if it'll stop me getting lost!!!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I've recently found out something new! Form teachers, from Elementary school, through to end of Junior High schools here, visit the houses of all the kids every year.

Most classes can be around 40 kids. That's 40 home visits. Each one lasts about 15 minutes so, including travel time, that's an extra 40-ish hours of a teachers time.

Once upon a time, apparantly, there were lots of poor kids, so it was necessary to check out their houses but this.... and now.... the mind boggles. I feel extreme sympathy for the teachers here.

In the UK, there are (or were in my day anyway) annual parent-teacher meetings IN THE SCHOOL. If a kid has a problem, the teacher will call in the parent for an extra meeting. If there is a hint or a worry that the kid might have a problem at home, maybe a social worker, or an educational psychologist, or some other specialist would maybe go and visit.

I just cannot imagine teachers giving up 40+ hours of their time to do this in the UK. It's an utter waste of time and resources, in my opinion.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I love 'Kaldi'

Kaldi coffee shop is probably my favourite shop in Tokyo. It sells coffee, obviously, and you're always given a free hot sample as you walk into their store but the reason I love it is they also sell international food.

I can indulge in cheap olives, couscous, pitta bread, chocolate covered pretzels, good dried mangoes and so much more....

Did I mention it's also very cheap?

The Headache

The headache I had last Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and that went finally on Monday morning, stayed away Monday afternoon, Tuesday and Wednesday...

..came back on Thursday.

It's not fair.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Flowers, Beds and Bad Quality TV

Coming from London, and being a typical city-ite, I can't tell one flower from another but there is a lovely smell coming from some blossom or other at the moment near me, which I love cycling past.

Quick apology, J. for forgetting your birthday. I emailed you. I'm crap. I apologise!

We've been hit by a typhoon, which is going to be around for the next few days. Great. I love being wet. Especially when I'm cycling. NOT!

Japanese telly is something I generally try to avoid, apart from watching the bilingual news (crap and VERY selective reporting) and bilingual movies (old and cheesy, so I can put up with them).

Last night though I had no short DVD's or downloaded programs to watch, and didn't feel like watching a movie, so I put the telly on. Now, my take is that British humour on TV is, generally, quite subtle whereas Japanese humour on TV is more, er, physical: think British kids TV in the eighties. I'm seen many Japanese 'comedy' programs where the humour comes from hitting someone or watching someone hurting themselves, etc.

One programme that I couldn't drag myself away from last night, revolved around a hidden camera watching a Japanese girl in her bedroom, sitting on her bed, and watching TV. We carried on looking at the girl for some time as the comedians laughed at her and as she kept shifting position, all the time waiting for the MAN HIDING UNDER HER BED to get the opportunity to grab her remote control, hide it, and then start changing the channels of her TV, before finally revealing he was there. We then saw the 'comedians' laughing their arses off as the poor bint screamed and started crying in a corner in fright - before they all walked into her room.

Lowest common denominator programming is what this is known as in the BBC. IE - it's cheap and it's crap.

Another programme I flicked on and gawped, trying desparately to see what the point was, had girls in bikinis (I have a feeling THAT was the point) foot wrestling, arm wrestling, wrestling wrestling, tit wrestling (using their tits to push their opponant off a podium), etc. And giggling a lot.

Shit do I miss the quality programmes that Channel 5 used to put out! Kidding. I do miss Channel 4 and the BBC sometimes. Only sometimes though!

I think this is all part of the bigger pattern though: the general childness of the Japanese psyche - the love of 'cute', of pink, of physical humiliating (school yard) humour, of little dogs in silly clothes, of over accessorising, of high pitched voices and pigeon-toed walks, of the love of manga and anime and so on.

On another note, I am laughing my arse off at the BBC's fuck up, when they interviewed the wrong man on a live news programme. Shockingly (as NHK normally ignores the rest of the world) they showed the interview on the news. Good on the bloke, but I wonder if any heads rolled for the cock up?

Update: there's a 'comedy' programme on now: one comedian is wearing little (very little) rubber/leather shorts and has a huge white clown like circle painted around his mouth from nose to chin, he is jumping around like a monkey. He is being whipped by a female in a pink (of course) tracksuit top and leather skirt, whilst another comedian dressed as a schoolgirl stands and giggles. The girl with the whip seems to be randomly hitting people. Another is a male dressed as a girl. Not as a transvestite, but as a 'comedy man-as-girl', er, person. Various other images have been inflicted on the other comedians. I can't bear to watch any more. My brain cells are dying.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Bob-o the sodding builder

The last few days have been same-old same-old.

Happily, Bob the Builder and his mates took off Golden week holiday days last week, so there was some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, they made up for lost time by starting their hammering and sawing EARLY on Saturday morning. First I heard the rain. Then I heard them. This confused me as, normally, Bob and co stop working when it rains.

I investigated. ie I stumbled up from my futon and stepped the two paces to my window, pulled the curtain back a little bit, and stared outside. After wiping the window enough to see through. Condensation, not dirt. Although probably a bit of dirt too....

And instead of the scaffolding that's greeted me every morning for the last four weeks I found myself gazing upon the circus. Without the clowns. Bob and co and covered three storeys worth of new building in blue canvas and were happily bashing away underneath it.

Bastards. Only three months left until they pack up and piss off. I'm counting.


Last week was pretty uneventful. In Disneyland, last Monday, I had a bit of a headache. I had the same headache on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today. On and off. I'm putting it down to a virus and not drinking enough water, and not a brain tumour, as I've still got a bit of my nasty cough and have had a cold recently. In the past I've also had headaches that have continued for a few days. Not fun.


Apart from working I've been doing sod all, other than feeling sorry for myself - oh and one evening in an Izakaya, as I bumped into a friend at my local station.

I've also been galloping through Season 2 of The Apprentice (UK version), am currently downloading 'Desperate Housewives', Season 2, episode 21, and have the first six episodes of Lost, season 2, ready to watch. (well, correction: they didn't download properly. GAH!)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Final two days of Golden Week

Yesterday I slobbed. It was great.

Today I went to Tokyo Disneyland, thanks to one of my friends. Unlike the average Japanese person who has probably been there 26.3333333 times at least, today was my first visit, although I did Disneyworld Floriday when I was about 18, and Disneyland Paris about 12 years ago. I'm not a Disney nut, but have always had a soft spot for it and things like Disneyland bring out the kid in me. Especially after a large diet coke (sorry again for that, Shiomi!)

Anyway, thanks to the combination of it being just after Golden Week, and the weather being a bit downcast, there weren't huge crowds there, and the longest we queued for anything was about 15 minutes.

Very good fun, in all. Would I go again? Probably not. Although I DO want to go to Disney Sea.


On another note: can anyone please explain Louis Vuitton to me. I just DON'T get it. The bags are SO ugly. WHY do people (Japanese women) go so crazy for shit-brown coloured bumpy leather ugly shaped bags with L's and V's all over them and a huge price tag? WHY?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Always the Last to Know.

I'm the sort of person that would probably be a total embarrassment to my teenage kids. If I had any.

I have NO idea what music is big - anywhere - now. I bought my first CD player about a decade after everyone else. Computery things scare me. I started blogging years after everyone else. And I'm concerned that if I get an IPod, I won't have a clue how to put music onto it. (Hint: I want an IPod, if anyone's feeling generous, what with my birthday coming up and everything....)

Anyway, my latest 'discovery' (as I said, I come to everything later than most people) is downloading from the internet. It is SO MUCH FUN!

Having borrowed Seasons 1 of Desperate Housewives and Lost and being TOTALLY addicted to both, the idea of waiting around for them to appear on DVD was just too much. SO, I bravely ventured into the world of downloading. I've got as far as Episode 20 of Season 2 of Desperate Housewives (HOW fucking good is this series?) and am looking for episode 21 at the moment. I'm sure it'll appear in a few days time. And I'm now downloading the first 6 episodes of Season 2 Lost.

So, are there any other great discoveries, like downloading and IPods, from the last decade that I may have missed out on?

***************** DAYS UPDATE ******************

Today was fun! I met up with one of my favourite students, ate Mexican for lunch, saw 'Libertine' (Johnny Depp - 'swoon'), hit a happy hour in a British pub, went to a Chinese restaurant for more drinking and food, got joined by one of my favourite Japanese receptionists, drank more, went for a quick hour of karaoke (with nomihodai of course)... and got the last train home. A LOT of fun! Of course, the fact they BOTH have a fantastic level of English made it even more fun.

Two more days of Golden Week left now.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Asashoryu Sings!

Weather report: Fan-bloody-tastic! Perfect spring weather.

Face report: Red with panda eyes.

Day report: Lots of fun.

Today we went to Hikarigaoka Park for a Mongolian festival. The sun was blazing, the food was lovely, the drinks cold, and the entertainment really cool. Lots of musicians and dancers of all ages and all of the music was wonderful. Best of all, it was all free.

And (photos to be put up) for the final half hour of the festival ASASHORYU and a few other sumo wrestlers got up on the stage and sang. Asashoryu played guitar too. It was SOOOO exciting.

Naturally, the day ended up in an Izakaya, and now I'm so tired. I'm just not used to so much fresh air in one day, let alone the sun. I hope I look less panda-like tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Sun is Back!

Since Saturday the weather has been lovely. With the exception of yesterday when it just rained and rained. Today the sun was back though and it was lovely...

Last night I met up with Liisa and Beastie and we went to a really cool punk bar in Shibuya called Garage Land. Good company, 100 yen beers, a table and good music. What more can you ask for? I may be able to find it again.... we'll see. My memory and sense of direction are pretty crap but Liisa pointed out a billion landmarks on the way back, so there's a chance....!

Lunchtime today, I met up with a Kiwi friend, who lives in Tokyo, but who I met in Vietnam. We had a lovely lunch but she had to go back to work. She works at the B>>ritish School in Tokyo which I didn't even know existed til I met her. It follows the UK curicul um and she showed me around the school. Talk about culture shock! So many white kids in one place! And they all had posh accents. Very cute kids though and a lovely school.

Then I got to thinking: if I was a 'real' teacher, what would I teach? My degree is joint Psychology and American Studies (history and literature basically) so not mainstream subjects. Lower level literature maybe? Or general education to reception classes?

And this is a problem that many of us have, especially after a few years have been invested, although I'm still only at the 'nearly' two years mark: just what DO we do afterwards? Mainstream teaching seems the only option I currently have, or rather the only idea I currently have BUT as I'll continue for a few more years doing this it's more of a 'back of the mind' thing than a 'help' thing!

After I left her, I wandered through Shibuya, up Meiji Dori, to Yoyogi Park. Most of the route was pretty quite and nice, until I got nearer to Harajuku, which was mobbed. Met some friends, sat in the park until it got to cold and then went to another bar which served 100 yen beers. Fantastic!

And the best part: I still have half of Golden Week to go!

OO, I nearly forgot to mention: this morning, NO builders. Maybe they are taking off the rest of the week for Golden Week. Keep your fingers and bits crossed, ne!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Golden Week

I'm in the first half of a ten day Golden Week break from work. Golden Week consists of three national holidays back to back, Constitution Day, a 'Declared Official Holiday', and Children's Day. A lot of people take off the whole week, some don't get any days though. We get a lot....

After Saturday running around in Nikko, the lovely weather perservered throughout Sunday and Monday. It chucked it down today though.

On Sunday I met up with a friend who is in town for six weeks and did the normal tourist spots: starting with sushi for lunch and then going for a long wander through Harajuku and snapping more of the cosplayers. As usual, there was an abundance of Little Bo Peeps - the pink versions and her gothic sisters in black. No sheep were to be seen though. Some of the girls looked very doll-like. I DO find it quite odd. I mean, when there parents generation did it would have been new, daring, original... Now though, it's all about overloading on pink and posing for tourists cameras, sitting around and wasting time whilst being watched and gawped at by passerbys.

Yoyogi Park is always lovely and, on a hot day, even more so. Bumped into a couple of people I knew there, which was nice too but it was just very calm and nice before coming out Shibuya side and hitting the hussle and bustle there. And, after a wander around, we ended up in Christon Cafe (again) in Shinjuku, watching more Little Bo Peeps.

Yesterday I got woken up early AGAIN by the sodding builders outside, who have been at it for nearly two weeks now and will continue erecting an apartment block ten metres from our block until the middle of August. Noisily and early. Bastards

I went to the gym and came back for a very unpeaceful, hammer-bashing lunchtime and then went and saw 'The Producers'. Very very funny. Films always hit Tokyo cinemas at around the same time they hit DVD everywhere else.

This morning was raining very heavily so the builders, after waking me up, had to stop their work, and I got to go back to sleep before heading to the gym. And now I'm back out for more drinking. Laters..