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, June 24, 2006



Finding peace and quiet in my day to day life is proving a real challenge. If I'm not woken up by the horrible little yappy dog barking it's head off in an apartment across the way, then I'm woken up by the builders. Sometimes it's like a contest: which one will wake me up first. And yes, these are the same builders that have been hammering away for the last two and a half MONTHS.

These noises are intersperced with melodies being blasted out by the trash vans and various salespeople's vans. Then there are political vans where messages are being screeched out through a tannoy.

The shops make lots of noise. The pachinko parlours make an extreme amount of noise. People stand outside shops shouting to frighten, er entice you to go in. Once in a shop the salespeople shout hello to you.

The crossings make loud noises and pipe out melodies. Stations are fraught with overlapping, and loud, announcements being shouted out.

Ipods and personal stereos rattle away in that annoying tinny way.

Kids scream. Adults shout. Schoolboys giggle. Women screech high-pitchedly. Heels clack and clatter and scrape. Bicycles squeak. Dogs bark. Builders build. Vans blast out music and speeches at an ear-splitting level.

And in my apartment, when I can't hear the yappy dog, or the builders or my neighbours, or vans blasting out noise... I can hear the aircon unit outside my balcony door, buzzing away, whether my aircon is on or not.

All I want is a bit of peace and quiet. Is this too much to ask?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Supply own caption

Don't you just LOVE these crocheted underpants? (Metropolis magazine)

Recent Student Saids...

Student said 1: If you want a good souvenir of Tokyo, I recommend condoms.

Student said 2: If you want a good cure for a cold, you should drink Japanese sake with a raw egg in it.

Student said 3: The country MOST like Japan in the world is the USA.

StudentS said ad infinitum 1: It's too cold in here.

StudentS said ad infinitum 2: It's too hot today.

StudentS said ad infinitum 3: It's the rainy season.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Just Odd

The mother of one of my five year olds came to pick her daughter up today after our lesson. The kid (who IS super cute) was hanging off the mothers legs. The mother looked at me and said: 'she's SO childish'. I pointed out she was, in fact, a child. The mother used 'babyish' instead.

Please... let kids BE kids!


I was walking around Parco today (a large department store) when a large (8 foot tall by about 6 foot wide) metallic silver teardrop with short stumpy legs walked towards me being encouraged on by a couple of security bods. Mr Large Scary Teardrop stood still in the electrical department for a while, wobbling and nearly falling on a kid, before he walked back out.

I was scared.


On the train this evening I saw a man (bit of a Shibuya boy actually) wearing a pink and white striped suit and white shoes. His hair was totally George Michael from the 80s and he wore shades and had a bleached goatee.

Everyone walking past him seemed to do a double take!


On the train going home after a night out, I did my normal trick of standing by the stairs when waiting for the train. This doesn't give so much space so people can't queue in such a massive number and it tends to be a bit less crowded. Tonight I was lucky and got to sit down too, but even if you can't get a seat this way, you can find a bit more space.

But I digress.

So, I was sitting down with a friend and a couple got on and went to sit down opposite us. The guy sat down. The girl started to sit down when another man spotted she hadn't quite made bum-seat contact yet AND PUSHED HER ROUGHLY OUT OF THE WAY WITH HIS HANDS. A few people looked at this scene in amazement but (predictably?) nobody said anything.

Unbelievable, no?


In this weeks Metropolis magazine is this picture:

This is a picture of a dog bed. It's designed for minimalist houses and is 10mm-thick perspex with 'funky cushions in contemporary-design shades'. Bla bla bla.

This is a dog bed.

It costs 262,500 yen. That's just over £1200 or US$2284.

It's a dog bed. It's a dog bed. It's a dog bed. [Bashes head on keyboard].

Friday, June 16, 2006

What Not To Say

WNTS 1: "But at school we were told..." - in response to a lesson on polite questions ('would you mind', 'could you possibly', etc). The student THEN proceeded to try and convince me that because at school she'd only been taught one kind of question that I, and the text book, were wrong and that these formal question forms didn't exist.

I resisted pointing out the merits of Japanese schools to her.

WNTS 2: "What does 'offside' mean?" - I can bullshit like the best of them. Actually it's one of my better talents. But COME ON. I don't know everything and some things are past bullshit. For possibly the first time since I've been teaching, I uttered the words: 'I have NO idea'. One of my lovely colleagues somehow overheard me telling her that we should ask him after the lesson. He explained. The student and I now understand.

WNTS 3: "Paris Hilton is my idol." - Luckily (for the student) I didn't have a mouthful of water at the time, or she would have ended up very wet. (I drink water when I'm teaching. Beats coughing when my throat gets dry).

My question had been what famous person would she like to be. My brain quickly tried to come up with the reason why she'd chosen Paris Hilton. But couldn't. And it's rare I can't think on my feet. So I asked her why (in a VERY disbelieving tone). Her answer, because she is rich. I said, yes... but LOTS of famous people are rich. She qualified her answer by adding Paris is beautiful and wears short skirts.

So there you have it.

I asked her what questions she would like to ask Paris, and the first one she came up with was, 'how many boyfriends have you got?'

I adore my students sometimes!!! (For anyone on this planet who doesn't know who Paris Hilton is, go google it yourself.)

WNTS 4: In a true and predictable, I can't think of anything creative or imaginative to say stylee, the majority of my students (in separate classes), when asked to predict the score of the NEXT Japan game (against Croatia) decided that the score will definitely be the same as in the last game.

Of course IF, by some almighty fluke, they are correct, then I'll, er... give them even more homework, or something.

And now for some news:

WNTS 5: Policies changes are needed to reduce suicides - How about just working less hours and relaxing more and being less competitive and dropping the gang mentality that prevails her. I must say the figure they give - of 32,552 people committing suicide in Japan last year really shocks, though doesn't completely surprise me.

Later in the article, in mentions that work places should provide mental health care. Whilst, in theory, this is a good idea, one of my students with mental health problems (I KEEP telling him to use the word 'depression' instead) was told by his doctor to take a month off of work and JUST stay at home all day every day.

I don't hold much faith, in short, in the Japanese medical system getting this pegged, and I dread the time when I'll have to see a medical professional here (be they doctor or dentist) as I constantly hear so many horrifying stories of the kinds of treatments people get here.

WNTS 6: I'm tired. On a note that might be related to WNTS 5, above, tired staff are costing Japan some $30bn a year!

I must say I particularly like the caption under the photograph which reads: The study says Japanese workers need more rest. Like, er, really?

More than half of my students come in every week complaining of being tired. This is regardless of whether they are kids, housewives or workers. Of course, in my opinion, not getting up at 5am to make / eat a stupidly large breakfast could be a key to getting more sleep.

WNTS 7: So, are you the 'one' in ten? The one male in ten that is who is, apparently, still a virgin by 40 years old. Could it have anything to do with the long hours worked? Or the number of 30 and 40-something still living at home? Or the tiredness? (see WNTS 6 above). Or depression? (see WNTS 5 above).

And on a purely nostalgic, and totally unrelated to anything above, or in fact Japanese, I found this website yesterday:

WNTS 8: Moo - (you need to scroll down the link til you get the cows) - this took me on a little trip down memory lane. Or should that be a long drive from White City through the streets of London to Marble Arch?

A few years ago, when I was working at the BBC, I was on a very well-known kids show and we were given a cow to decorate for the Cow Parade.

A bit of background: cow parades started in the US, I think, and lifesize fibre glass cows are produced and sold to organizations and individuals to be decorated and then displayed around the city, in prominent spots, before being auctioned off or whatever. All of the money raised goes to charities.

Anyhoo, we were given a naked cow to decorate and because of the potency of the spray paints and potential mess, we decorated her outside, on some grass with a canvas sheet for her to stand on. Typically, it started raining heavily but we'd borrowed a couple of gazebos (bits of canvas on sticks) to place over and protect her.

Naturally these didn't meet in the middle and the rain kept pouring down inbetween and onto the cow, and smudging our handiwork. We had great fun doing it though and the art director completely redid the cow after we'd finished filming with it.

This wasn't the end though. Katie (as the cow was called for reasons I cannot possibly tell!) had to be filmed being taken to Marble Arch. The whole point of filming this was so she could be seen, which meant she was put on the back of a low-loader, to the utter amusement of people around London and almost to the detriment of one poor guy who almost came off his motorbike doing a double take.

Did I mention Katie was a lifesize cow?

Well, I had to get permission for our little jaunt from everyone (and his wife) - meaning phone conversations with about 7 police departments, 6 London Boroughs and around 6 other organizations. Bit of a logistical nightmare really. And trying to have a serious conversation about a lifesize fibre glass cow isn't something you do every day, is it?

Anyway, it was all a lot of fun and I hold it as one of my fonder days at the BBC.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rain and balls and kids

The last seven days have been, personally, pretty uneventful. It's warm, but the rainy season has hit which means, er, that there's lots of rain. Or something. It's a pain for trying to dry washing and cycling, at any rate. But it's boring and there'll be plenty more of it, so let's move on...

Balls. I'm not a footie fan BUT I do like the World Cup. I suppose it's the equivalent of saying I'm religious but only go to church on Xmas Eve, isn't it? And maybe it's because I'm not in the UK, but this year I am particularly interested.

Of course, it's extremely bad luck that all the first round games are at 10pm, 1am or 4am and it is rather annoying watching them with Japanese commentary, but still. I'm happy to be able to watch the games.

What a shame then that England's first game was so bloody DULL. Apparently, they're finding Germany too hot. Poor loves.

I don't know if Japan complained about the heat, but I doubt it. The English complain. The Japanese don't. It's very un-samurai spirit, or something like that. So, I settled down last night to watch them donning a collection of very dodgy haircuts and some very strange jumps (did anyone else notice their strange jumps?) as they gave their 100% (NHK said their tactic for winning was to give 100%, so it must be true. Although it does seem a very daft thing to say. I mean, can you imagine saying a team is giving 98.5%? Exactly. It's daft, but no less than I'd expect from NHK news).

And didn't the Aussies look massive next to the Japanese? I mean, there must have been an average height difference of more than half a metre between the two teams.

Anyway, bad luck to the Japanese.

I tried to be sympathetic towards my students today. I even helped them with their pronunciation of 'Croatia' ready the next Japan game. See how nice I am? Of course, one of my students is confident that Japan will beat Brazil... I guess stranger things have happened, but still...!

Kids are Japan are lucky. Or are they? On the one hand, the majority of them get away with doing nothing around the house, and most of them don't have to do part-time jobs. (By kids, I mean anyone up to pre-university age). At the same time, they aren't trusted to do things like babysitting, because that involves responsibility; something they aren't normally entrusted with.

At the same time though, the pressure on kids here is enormous, and it's a story I hear repeatedly:

The majority of my kid/teenage students, and the kids/teenagers of my adult students, go to juku. Juku is 'cram school', or after school school, if you like, where they get help with their subjects from school en masse.

I have students who were sent to juku from FIVE years old, so they could pass exams to get into the best elementary schools. FIVE YEARS OLD.

Older students attend juku three times a week. To say nothing of their English lessons with my company, their music lessons, their dance lessons, their sports clubs, their periodic Saturdays at school, and so on. Most of my students seem to average about five hours of sleep a night. And it all seems to help them achieve the next step up to university and, once they manage to get into university, they just stop working.

It doesn't seem like much of a childhood to me.

And here's an interesting example from the BBC website that illustrates just how balmy it all is. I'm particularly speechless that this woman talks about lego building lessons.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Using Aerobics to learn English.

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. I hope you have sound. Watch these video clips. I'll let the blogger I've knicked this link from explain the clips, but they include some useful chanted sentences as: 'I can't stand the sight of you', 'Let me have my life' and 'You bucket of bolts!'.

Too too funny! Enjoy.

And do check this one out, using aerobics to learn Japanese, if only for the man in blue shorts aerobic'ing to 'dohmo dohmo'. You'll see what I mean. LMAO!

Cravings Satiated

In the UK I often went on a Sunday for Yum Cha. I adored Yum Cha. Really adored it. Since coming to Tokyo, the only time I've had Yum Cha is back last August when I went to Hong Kong.

My cravings had been getting really bad recently though and, in a fit of junkies desperation, I felt the only way to get rid of my cravings was by giving into them.

Hence three friends and I trotted off to Yokohama this morning to pay dues to my cravings. We went to Daichinro Shinkan on Chuka-gai Odori (143 Yamashita Cho - not that you can actually see any numbers anywhere), which had been recommended to me, and which I totally recommend in turn.

After a little wait, we went upstairs to the restaurant. I was expecting a trolley restaurant, but it wasn't. Dangerously though it was a two-hour tabehodai (tabehodai = stuff your face until your sick). And we really went for it. And the food just flowed and flowed and we just kept on ordering. At times we forgot to talk and just muttered appreciative grunts and moans. Fuck me, it was good!

And washed down with a few beers.

To say we were jointly in agony after this experience would be an understatement. The belly pain produced by our eyes-bigger-than-belly-fuck-this-menu-looks-amazing-and-we-gotta-get-our-moneys-worth attitued was something we paid for in BIG groans of pain as we all waddled out of the restaurant and through the streets of Yokohama and down to Yamashita Park where we collapsed and where I saw the final race in the Dragon Boat races that had been taking place the last couple of days. My friends were collapsed on the grass, groaning.

Thanks to a particularly loud and annoying loud speaker near us with the disembodied voices of two bints screeching out nonsense from somewhere (the tower with the speakers had no people in, as my friend discovered when she wandered over to tell them to hush up) we decided to waddle further away.

After a while of waddling later, and a lot more groaning about our bellies, we popped over to the attractions side of Yokohama (it wasn't a first visit for any of us and it was a beautiful day so we just thought: what the heck) and went on the big wheel, then waddled off for some coffees before waddling onto the train and heading back to Shibuya where we waddled into The Dubliners (Irish pub, if you didn't guess) for some quiet drinks. Unfortunately, the testosterone was running rampant and a large table of drunken lads were shouting, rather loudly, at a wrestling game on the TV in there. We had one drink and found ourselves ordering potato skins and dips, and humous and pitta bread, against the better judgments of our stomachs. The humous was seriously disappointing. I think they forgot to add the tahini and the garlic, and I am still on a mission to find edible and decent humous in Tokyo.

Anyway, the lads were generating so much noise we left and headed to The Hub (English pub) in Shinjuku for a drink before somehow finding ourselves drinking and singing in a karaoke can. Donno how that happened.

All in all, an extremely fun day, with good company, good food, enough booze and a hell of a lot of laughter!

Friday, June 02, 2006


There's been an explosion of men carrying Louis Vuitton handbags here. I don't know if they've all rushed out and bought one at the same time, or whether there is a certain date whereby all men have to dig out their bags from the 'spring' section of their wardrobe, or what, but they are EVERYWHERE.

I can't really think of anything else to say about this matter.


Fridays are always an interesting teaching day. I have quite a few kids classes with great kids who are very bright, lively and good fun to teach and the time with them just whizzes by, normally with a lot of giggles thrown in.

My adult students cross the spectrum, on a Friday, from foundation, through elementary, pre-intermediate and intermediate. All of them are absolutely lovely and we have really cool classes. They work hard, are very serious about learning English, and like to play games and have fun. And, especially the lower two of them, I've really seen make progress.

And then there's my utter nightmare student.

The one that fucks up EVERY Friday for me. The only student on my schedule who I really don't like and really don't want to teach and cannot teach. The only one who totally stresses me out and makes me do a lot silent counting in my head. The only one on my schedule that I have NO connection with and never will. The only one who I cannot get rid of.

He's 12 years old and has 'learning difficulties' akin to Aspergers. And he repulses me (shoes get kicked off, sneezes and coughs come out with no hand in sight, he's often a bit grubby, he's sometimes only half dressed, he slouches half way down in his chair). I'm sorry, but he really does. He repulses and irritates me. He makes repetitive noises with pencils that really grind on my nerves and so so many other things. Something that SHOULD be a quick game can take a whole lesson.

After nearly one year of teaching him, I still feel no closer to him than on the first unfortunate day he landed on my schedule.

His father is a rich doctor, his mother is a doctors wife, he has a twin sister. After nearly one year that is ALL I know about the kid. I try to make the lessons fun for him, which is near impossible. He has special needs. I am not a special needs teacher. Nor do I wish to be. Nor do I wish him to remain on my schedule.

But the chances of me getting rid of him? He'll never leave. He'll never have to go to Juku (cram school) or some other club and need to change days....

Some teachers have said they've refused to teach certain students before. I just can't see that happening though. His sister (in a separate class) and he have been students for years here. They are 'good customers' and 'good customers' mustn't be pissed off. It's okay if the teacher is though, evidently, as I've made me feelings clear to my bosses on various occasions.

My ONE hope is that next week, when his parents come to observe me teaching him (next fortnight all parents who wish to can observe their kids classes) that they'll decide it's not working with me....

My fingers are crossed. For the sake of my sanity and stress levels!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Just Testing

Hint: If you are in a restaurant and are served something in a thick looking bowl ON a plate, the chances ARE the bowl is too hot to have been carried. There is NO need to test this theory with your thumb.

OUCH! (2cm long blister on thumb).

Hint 2: If a CD appears not to work, BEFORE you spend 4 minutes pressing 'play' 'stop' continuously, and THEN going to get a tape and apologizing to your student: ALWAYS check the volume switch is higher than zero. OOPS!

(student tried VERY hard not to piss herself laughing at me when SHE figured this out just before I walked back into classroom).


Thought of the day: before coming here I thought Japan and England had a lot in common. My extensive research has concluded we are both islands inhabited by people. And that's it. There are no other commonalities between Japanese and English people's ways of thinking, doing thing, attitudes to life, etc.

Social anthropologist, moi, ne?!


Weather update: a couple of days of loveliness. It's getting hotter, we've had no rain for two days, the evenings are getting warmer, I'm no longer taking a jacket to work, the duvet spends all night being pushed off-pulled back. Summer is around the corner. Shame really. Summer is TOO hot. I'd like it to stay like it is now!


And one more thing: I had a dream last night that I had to teach a class of about 60 people (most of my classes are only one or two students) and they wouldn't listen to me or do anything I said to them and I completely lost control of the situation as the number kept growing and they wouldn't listen to me. And then, one of the Big Bosses came in, and shouted at me because it was all my fault because I'd not noticed that students had been coming in from the wrong region.

He didn't help me teach them or tell me what to do. I think he helped me escape.

I'm not sure which thing is scarier about this dream: having dreamt about the teaching nightmare or having dreamt about a Big Boss.


Hot on my trail of having a bit of a ditzy week, I was playing a game with a teenage student today. It was my turn and I had to name six words with 8-letters: suitcase, classroom, etc. I got to the end, smiled and told her it was her turn. She laughed at me (I'm used to students laughing at me, from time to time) and pointed out that classroom has 9-letters.

For being so observant, I let her off having to do any homework. I'll give her twice as much next week.


And in a FURTHER moment of blondeness, I spent about 4 minutes trying to cue up a tape and getting very confused as to why I couldn't find the place I wanted.

Eventually I realised it was the wrong tape.


What all this tells me is that my period is due. Well, that's MY excuse, and I'm sticking to it.