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, October 30, 2006


You know in The Simpson's credits where Bart scribbles lines on the blackboard - different ones each week? Well.... if I was Bart Simpson my lines would be:

Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge Nomihodai is not a challenge

[Nomihodai = drink til you puke. Not really, it's a drink-all-you-can-for-a-set-price-in-a-set-time]

So... another drunken weekend, basically.

After spending another weekend drinking my stomach is currently hurting. In brief, then:

Friday night I decided I definitely wouldn't go to the Yamanote party, after two weeks of yes-no-yes-no. Instead I planned to go to another party after work on Saturday, which turned out to be a let down as I got there late and people were finishing up a nomihodai session. I downed a beer and a half and then a few people filtered off. Suddenly - really suddenly - it was about 8.35pm, I decided I DID want to go to the Yamanote Halloween party (which kicked off at 9.07pm). Having told everyone I wasn't going, I wasn't sure if anyone I knew would be but a few frantic calls confirmed a couple of my mates were going and I persuaded (well, it didn't take that much persuasion) another friend to change her mind and race to Shinjuku for the train.

What a laugh! Due to my pathetic indecisiveness, I had no costume, and neither did my friend Lou. My two Japanese friends were dressed in sari's. I'd tried explaning Halloween and sari's didn't really go, but hey! We did have cans of alcohol though (bought in the station).

Most people dressed up - grim reapers, horses, super-heroes (well, I thought they looked like giant coloured condoms actually) and all manner of colourful afro wigs, masks and so on. The atmosphere was fun. The crowd was a mixture of foreigners and Japanese and everyone drank and chanted and chatted.

There were police in the carriage but they looked more bewildered than anything else - and we (especially Lou) laughed at their shortness, anyway! (I know, but hey, we were drunk!)

We'd planned to just stick it for ten minutes but ended up doing a whole circuit - such a giggle!

Then we got off the train and went to a bar, gathering a few random lads to come along with us - who were good value and we had a good laugh with them. Having drunk beer and shu-hi so far, I tried to be sensible and stick with Smirnoff Ice, but my Japanese friend persuaded me it was a good idea to move onto Long Island Ice Tea instead.

Lou made me get the last train; my Japanese mates went onto somewhere else, one fell over and ended up in hospital after hitting her head on the floor.

Sunday morning I had to get up bloody early as normal for a Sunday, to go to my TESOL. I had the hangover from hell and can't believe I actually made it, let alone got my act together to teach!

On Friday, my mate Tim got married, and Sunday was his wedding party. I missed the first party as I was at the TESOL, but made the second party, which was nomi-bloody-hodai. And I did. It was fun. The after party party was in a karaoke can, naturally. Also nomihodai. Also fun.

And now my tummy hurts!

[My friend, Sue, who hit her head, took pictures on the train so, as soon as I've got them emailed from her, I'll post some - if they're any good]

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lonnnng Weekend

Firstly, I've given in and decided I will go to the Yamanote Party - for a bit anyway. I mean, how bad could it be?

Now, to be honest, I don't normally talk about evenings out because, let's face it: "I went out, got a bit drunk, had a good time, sang, went home", doesn't make for interesting reading.

Last night though will go down in memory for it's oddness. It started off normally enough: I'd been out on Saturday for a change (I don't normally go out on Saturday nights due to getting up early on Saturdays, working a tough day, and then having to get up early on Sunday for the certTESOL: Sunday nights / the odd midweek are more normal for me).

The cast of characters part 1 - a handful of teachers and Gaijin management; a handful of Japanese management and Japanese staff and about 200 students.

After the course, I went to a company drinking event and spent two hours, not getting drunk, and having random conversations with students

The cast of characters part 2 - a smaller handful of teachers, Gaijin management, Japanese management and staff and about 20 students

After the event ended and most students had left, the drinking continued - for free - and there were some very strange and random conversations, including one Japanese staff member (let's call him Mr A, who sat questionning a member of Gaijin management about his sex life, in front of a group of people; a Japanese staff member who went all out for alternating between full-on flirting and full-on nit-picking with pretty much any male within a close vicinity

The cast of characters part 3 - two English teachers, a member of Japanese staff (JFS) and a member of Japanese management (Mr A.), 3 female and 2 male Japanese students

The time came in the evening when the call for karaoke just got too loud, so off we trotted for a few hours of singing mainly English songs, drinking, dancing on seats and tambourine shaking. One Japanese male had to leave to get home and the 2 Japanese married female students had to get back to their husbands. Rather strangely Mr A. seemed to nervous to join in any of the English songs, despite his English being rather good, but I guess he may have been too nervous in front of us? Instead, he sang lots of Japanese ballads and smoked away in the corner when we were singing - before clapping us and telling us how great we were.

Despite keeping a close eye on the time, we managed to pass the time which would have enabled us to get last trains and got taxis to go drinking elsewhere instead.

The cast of characters at this point: 2 English teachers, 1 Japanese female staff member (JF Staff), 1 male student (JMS), 1 female student (JF Student), Mr A - and, after a bit, a strange Gaijin called Tim.

Despite a lot of faffing, uhmming and er-ing, we managed to get 2 taxis to the same place, decided to go for some ramen but ended up in a pub instead as we absolutely had to pee and it was chucking it down outside. The pub was meant to shut at 2am, but we stayed til about 3.45am, I think.

Mr A became a little letchy towards JF student turning a little light flirting into full-on creepiness and trying to get her to kiss him in the pub (where the 7 of us were pretty much the only people); JF staff got very pissed, had a shout-out with Mr A and then stormed out into the Shinjuku night at around 3.30am; Tim seemed pretty normal; conversations were generally weird; Mr A left to go home soon after JF staff staff had stormed out. JM student had gone a little earlier too.

Deciding finally that it was only fair that we left so the bar staff could go home we left and JF student decided to go and hunt for JF staff who was in a Yoshinoya in Shinjuku. For those who don't know - this is a chain of uber-cheap Japanese fast food restaurants and there are rather a lot of them in Shinjuku!

Tim gave his umbrella to JF student which then gave him the excuse to share Gaijin teacher's umbrella with the line: "I'll have to put my arm around you, okay?" Gaijin teacher, who is straight, remarked something along the lines of, "strangely, this feels okay." Tim then started trying to fondle Gaijin teachers arse.

Meanwhile, JF student decided to give up her hunt for JF staff and try to find us again. Standing in the middle of a couple of roads, whilst trying to avoid being hit by trucks and lorries unloading and delivering food to the restaurants around, we somehow managed to get JF student to understand where we were.

Declining Tim-the-strange-drunken-Gaijin's offer to take us to some dodgy sounding drinking joint until first train, we opted for ginger pork in Matsuya at 4am instead where the three of us talked utter bollocks until it was time to get one of the first trains home some time around 5am.

Happily, today has been my day off!

Oh, I nearly forgot: in todays teaching practice, I had students write tag questions to ask me. Having given them free reign to ask anything I was prepared that anything could come up. Most of the questions were absolutely fine. Until I got around to the final group who asked:

"You like tripping, don't you?"

It actually took me a few seconds to realise they probably weren't referring to drugs. I went rather red apparantly before correcting their question to: "You like travelling, don't you?"

Being such a good [cough] teacher, and knowing the students who'd asked the question, I explained "tripping" to them after the lesson!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Party Time!

The details of the Yamanote Halloween party have been released and are:

Saturday, October 28 JR Shinjuku station, platform 13 (Yamanote bound for Ikebukuro) Meet where car 10 stops, in front of the escalator from South exit Everyone boards the 21:07 northbound train and loops around clockwise BYOB, or better yet, whisky.

See you there? Now, for some kind of costume!

UPDATE: On second thoughts: I was standing, being battered, in Shinjuku Station, waiting for some friends this evening (Saturday), and I suddenly realised: I absolutely, totally and completely detest crowded places. What ON EARTH am I thinking? It'll be horrendous. It'll be rush hour with no place to pee. Funny how things sometimes seem such a good idea, until you really stop to think about them, isn't it?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Makes you want to [laugh / cry / gasp]

I was on a bus the other day that was trying to get around a corner but was being blocked by cars waiting for a train crossing barrier to go back up. The driver honked at a motorist and the motorist moved up, giving the bus enough space to get around the corner... well, until the car behind it decided to ignore the bus and move INTO the space. Idiot.


After being without my bike for almost two weeks because I didn't think I had the time or money to get it sorted out, today I went to the bike man. It took him 5 minutes to sort out both tyres - at no cost. Typical!


Following on from my toilet post below, there's a short item in this weeks' Metropolis magazine that says: "The manufacturer Yokohama Rubber unveiled a new aircraft toilet concept emphasizing "relaxation and comfort" and designed to enable women to apply makeup more easily."

WHY???? I don't want to wait with crossed legs whilst some bimbo relaxes in the sodding toilet applying 25 coats of mascara.


Only in Japan: another short item in this week's Metropolis says: "A private members' bar in Ikebukuro called Train Cafe claimed to be keeping gropers off the railways by providing them with a place where they can fondle women (the staff) without risk of prosecution." [I'm unable to supply a comment about this.]


Here's a recent article you might enjoy: it's all about dogs in Japan and how they are treated. The article includes information about how one Cocker Spaniel had a haircut and special massage for 12,000 yen. That's about £60. For an extra 3,000 yen (£15) it could have had a clay pack and a minus ion steam bath [what's that then?]

It also tells how dogs now outnumber kids under the age of 12, and how some are now to be seen [the dogs not the kids] wearing 10,000 yen (£50) collars with their names spelled out in crystals.

There are also 20,000 yen (£100) a night hotel rooms available for dogs in a luxery hotel near Narita Airport where they are served organic doggy pizza and special ice cream. It's also possible to buy 3,000 yen (£15) birthday cakes for them. [Shit, I wouldn't buy a friend a £15 birthday cake!]

Japanese pooches are, according to the article, increasingly being given names like Paul, Phil, Cliff, Alice and Tina.

It's the line in the article that says: "Galleria Artesta specializes in natural highlights, color and extensions for dogs" that really gets me though [may I cry now?] - oh and in this salon/shop you can buy 30,000 yen (£150) leather jackets for your dog. WHY, WHY, WHY?

They think some of their clients spend more than 500,000 yen (£2,500) a year on pampering their pooches.

After going on a bit about doggie bakeries, babysitting services, etc a magazine editor (of 'Dog Fan' magazine, if you want to know) says: "It's really about thinking of dogs as people and thinking about their needs." (regarding the 'extravagant services').


Another article that caught my attention was in yesterday's 'Japan Times' newspaper. Entitled 'Last rites for the memories as beloved dolls pass away.' - This almost defies comment. Certainly it defies any sensible or sensitive comment or anything that doesn't imply this society is full of er, 'interesting' people. I read this on the train yesterday and made a variety of noises from laughs to sighs as I read through it. In a nutshell, it's about how Japanese people cannot bear to discard their old dolls or soft toys and choose, instead, to have special cremation services for them at temples and shrines (you can choose a Buddhist or a Shinto end for your inanimate objects here).

Quote: "I couldn't just throw them away, because that would bring divine punishment."

38,000 people felt this way last year, it seems.


Last, but not least: on September 18th last year, after talking about it for a bit, Liisa, Beastie and I, after some dithering about it, and a fair amount of posting comments on each others blogs, decided to meet up and continued doing so.

Last night was the final meet up in Tokyo as Liisa and her family are heading back to Finland. No more karaoke or drunken nights with us. I have fond memories of Liisa's cooking, singing, dancing on the seats in karaoke, model poses, being the centre of attention by a crowd of men - in a gay club, and more.

It was all totally civilized anyway (tragic, really!) but we were all pretty tired. We did write a load of lovely haiku's for Liisa though to take away / burn / laugh at. (Haiku: Japanese 3 lined poem - 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables - lines 1 and 2 are meant to vaguely connected and it's meant to be related to a season in some way.)

Happy packing days, safe flight for you and the kid on Wednesday and let's Skype soon!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another Advert

Following on from my 'things that concern me' post lower down, there's another ad. I've seen a few times that I'm not sure whether I'm more irritated or amused by.

This ad. shows a Gaijin male 'trapped' under a climbing frame (jungle gym). A Japanese woman asks him (in Japanese) if he needs any help [er, yes, he's 'trapped'] but, because she's rather thick, and because he's a Gaijin she can't understand that he does [are you blind, love?].

Anyway, she shuffles off and joins a language school and about five years later [if the massive growth of greying beard on his face is anything to go by] she's successfully learned to say in English:

Can I help you?

I'm sorry, Nova, but if it took me that long to learn to say 'can I help you?' from an Eikaiwa, I'd want my money back.

Plus, just why is it necessary to show the woman as being so stupid?

Another Eikaiwa [eikaiwa = language conversation school] ad. a while back showed a male Gaijin teacher HANDCUFFED to a Japanese female student.

Now, I'm not saying that some Japanese students don't treat eikaiwas as dating agencies, but still....!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Comfort Zone

Japanese don't like peeing in public facilities. Only 3% of public toilet users in Japan are women.


[Does my sarcasm come across sufficiently here?]

Anyway, to make women happier pee-ers [come on! who are they kidding. did they ever try to go to the toilet in a cinema? that'd raise their so-called 'only 3%' statistic] Tokyo is introducing a new public toilet.

Except it's not being called a 'toilet', it's being called a 'comfort zone'. According to the news [NHK] this new toilet complex cost 90 BILLION yen. Now, as '90 billion yen' is rather a lot of money, I'm hoping they just mis-translated and actually meant 90 MILLION yen, which is just over £400,000. Although, that doesn't sound so much for the luxery loos, so who knows.

Anyway, they're in Akihabara (geeksville) near the station and for your 100 yen (50p) entry fee you get a polite receptionist who can give you all sorts of information, utter privacy, a toilet seat that replaces itself after every usage AND a floor that cleans after every person.

Can you say 'wasted resources'?

But then, this IS a country where women's loos have machines that make flushing sounds so people can't hear you peeing...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Things that concern me

In Japan many things concern me.

Today for example, I was in Family Mart or some such convenience store buying my breakfast onigiri (rice ball) and cold green tea, when I noticed the commercials that were playing (ie a video) on the front of the cash desk.

In this advert, a teenage schoolgirl was attempting the very tricky act of walking down some stairs whilst not skipping and she slipped and fell down a lot of steps landing on her back at the bottom. In typical Japanese fashion, the advert then showed lots of people staring at her, but nobody attempting to help, apart from one man who placed a book or a folder or something on her stomach.

Most bizarre. And pretty typical of the kind of thing you'd expect here.

A while back one of the teachers in our company was being as daring as to cycle on the road. Now, considering the average Japanese person that I see cannot walk or cycle in a straight line, my faith in motorists is somewhat, er, cautious, although I too sometimes cycle on the road. Not too often though (pavements are the way here). Anyway, said teacher was cycling when a lorry knocked him off his bike (badly breaking his arm, but that's not my point here). Another motorist stopped. Not to see if he was okay, but to tell him to hurry up and move.

Nice, huh?


On another note, do you know 'Cinnamon', another Sanrio creation (the GODS who invented Hello Kitty)? Well, it's cold season here so many people are masked up and most face masks are a very boring white colour. In fact, it's unusual to see any that aren't white BUT one of my kids, an extremely cute six year old, came to the lesson yesterday in a Cinnamon mask, and wearing a co-ordinated Cinnamon top. Too cute. I may have to get one. I wonder if they do Kitty ones?


And congratulations to Gabbie and Ben for little David Martin (good solid English name that!)

Maybe I'll send him a Cinnamon face mask for his first cold?!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ah. Now I understand.

The average Japanese seems amazed that the average Gaijin can use chopsticks.

Today a Japanese student told me she finds it too hard to use a knife and fork.

Now it all makes sense.

P.S. Don't forget about commenting on my Thailand thread.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Right, that's that then

My previous meltdown sorted me out. I'm fine now.

Quick round-up:

~ Nikki's now gone. I left her leaving party early, after only 3 or 4 drinks, as I was knackered after TESOL, and it was sad being there.

~ My bike has TWO flat tyres. Grrr.

~ As a result of the above: one of my schools I regularly cycle to. The alternative is the bus but yesterday I didn't feel like that, so I decided to walk estimating it would take about 30 minutes. It actually took nearer to 50 and was followed by bouncing and hopping around for an hour with four 3-year olds, then 40 minutes bouncing around with two 2-year olds and then a VERY lively 6-year old. I had a test lesson with an 8 year old (no energy left by this point). After that I had a couple of civilised lessons with adults before getting dragged kicking and screaming to drink. I got the bus home - finishing up with a 20 minute walk.

My legs hurt today. I can't think why. Oh.... and I also went for a very long walk on Monday, my day off. I have it in my head to do this three times a week. I have EVERY intention in fact of doing this. But it won't happen. I spent about 9 months considering starting jogging. I decided to give up on that plan!

~ The weather has turned to cack. Rain, rain and more rain. A good reason to not walk really.

~ It's Nikoman and Pizzaman season again as far as I'm concerned. (Deeeelicious hot steamed buns with savoury (mainly meat) fillings, for the uninitiated!)

~ Pay day is creeping up, thankfully. Thailand cleaned me out. I'll also get my two year bonus. Double yay!

~ Those bloody builders who kept waking me up for ages last year demolishing the building by our apartment blocks AND who kept waking me up for even longer this year rebuilding the sodding thing, are back again - building a wall this time. They seem to be managing about 15 blocks a day. Really.

~ Ben and Gaby should have dropped their sprog by now: but I still haven't heard.

~ One of my kid students has opted to spend two hours a week cleaning her local train station instead of joining a music club. Takes all sorts, I guess.

~ I finished all of 24, series 5 last week. I'm now waiting a few days before I download the new Lost which has just started broadcasting in the U.S. It's funny. If I was still in the UK, I probably wouldn't have watched any of these series - ie, Desperate Housewives, Lost, 24, Tru Calling, Prison Break and more I can't think of. They're all on DVDs in the local DVD shops. So bad, and yet so good!

~ Currently looking forward to a Halloween Party on a train. Every year for the last who knows how many years, there's been a party on a designated train on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. This is a train line which goes around in a circle. Party goers congregate at a given time on a certain platform and, all dressed up, get onto the train with beers. The atmosphere is meant to be a LOT of fun and, of course, the poor commuters get very confused at first...

Last year I heard about it after the event and was upset I'd missed it. I think it sounds like one of those 'must attend' events, just to say you've gone...!

One more thing. Does anyone have a VOX account? I've started one and put some pictures on. Before I put more on, does anyone have any idea how I can invite people once I've selected the friends only privacy option? I can't figure it out.