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!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Have you seen my sense?

I am a ditz. Have I mentioned that before? Last night I outditzed myself at the expense of a VERY expensive evening out.

Simply put, I was distracted, withdrew 20,000 yen (£85) from a convenience store ATM - and forgot to bloody take it with me.

Even stupider was not realising until some 5 hours later when I went to take money from my wallet to pay an Izakaya bill. We went back in to see if it had been handed in - remember, this is Japan - you expect things like that to happen here. But they knew nothing about it. I'm going to try them again today and also the bank to see if the ATM maybe took the money back in.

But I'm really pissed off. I really can't afford to be losing that sort of money. Fucking ditz, ne?


Even more shocking though was that after consuming quite a bit of alcohol, and sleeping for 6 hours - I actually got up - AND WENT JOGGING - not for so long but (and I am 'so' unfit) I did it at a jog two minutes, walk one minute pace mainly. I'm going to try and do it every day! (ish)

I'm still in shock but feel great for it. I'll probably fall asleep infront of my 3 year olds later - but for now, it's all good!


We phoned the convenience store. The money wasn't there and the type of ATM's they have there don't swallow the money back if you don't take it. So, someone is wandering around 20,000 yen happier, and I'm kicking myself for being such an utter ditz.

My energy level started plummeting this morning - even though I'd been fairly productive before it did - and I ended up going back to bed for an hour before leaving for work! Still, the day was okay, so it's all good!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sightseeing exploits, etc.

Well, catch up time. Here's how I feel about you all:

Although, obviously this could be referring to anything. Take it as a gift from me to you though.

The weekend before last, my friend Nikki, who used to live in Japan, but left four months ago came back to see her maaan. And happily see us too, which was so nice, as there are too few female teachers here and Nikki left a huge hole by going. But anyway... two nights earlier I'd been out for the normal Wednesday night quick drink(athon) / karaoke sesh.

Let's just say on Thursday and Friday I had MAJOR liver and kidney ache. Not fun. Which meant I had no booze when I saw Nikki on the Friday or Saturday. This made it somewhat ironic really that I should then be spending half the night up throwing up (etc) and burning a fever. A touch of food poisoning from the pub food maybe? It wasn't fun anyway and left me wiped out by the Sunday. It was raining heavily so I didn't sacrifice too much by not getting out of bed all day.

On the Monday though I was back to normal (for me anyway!) and went with my friend / student to KAWAGOE - a really cool city very close to Tokyo and a really nice way to spend half a day. Good ramen there too! We wandered around visiting temples, shrines and looking at old wooden buildings and blossom.

This little bridge was outside one of the shrines, as was the next picture in the same garden as the bridge. Very pretty:

Outside the shrines is a small area with 523 carved gnomes representing Buddha's disciples. Each one is different and, it's said, if you touch them at night, you'll find one that's warmer than the others. If you remember where it was and go back the next day, it'll be the one that looks most like you. Kind of scary really, isn't it?

The gnome/disciples are sitting, standing and reclining. Some are happy, others sad or angry. I found them really amusing though and here's some of them.

The first one has a pig - there's one for each of the 12 Chinese horoscopes and I walked my friend around for a long time searching for this one!

I loved these two. Don't they look they're sharing a secret?

These two just look bored:

Here's a picture of them, en masse:

And this one reminded me of my dead great uncle. I don't think his ears were as big though:

This is sweet street. Although, because it was a Monday (I guess), most of the candy shops were shut:

This was the kind of display they had. We didn't buy anything though.

Other buildings we saw in Kawagoe looked like this:

And here's a fire / bell-tower. Big, isn't it?!

And here's a horrible little dog we saw outside a food stall. It had a 'don't approach, I bite' sign above it. As IF I'd have been tempted to approach it!

Spotted in a Kawagoe shop window - hat and unfinished sweater - er, I mean, neck warmers. Sorry if you like them/have one, but I find them truly horrible:

March 3rd is Hinamatsuri, a doll's festival to celebrate girls and pray for their growth and happiness. We passed a shop full of the dolls and I wanted to go in (and take photos), but my Japanese friend said they don't like people going in and just looking. I'll go to another shop another time, without my Japanese friend and take some photos. Here's a couple from the shop window though of the kinds of displays people have in their houses - and most Japanese seem to have these dolls (13 of them normally, I think).

Anyway, the dolls are very precious and special and passed from generation to generation. These are the ones I blogged about a while ago that have special blessed cremation ceremonies at shrines when people get rid of them:

And that was Kawagoe. Very clean, peaceful, interesting and easy to get to. Oh and then there were these. Note evil dark clothed masked gangsta type on scooter attacking poor white clothed overweight obasan? It's not clear if her bag is Louis Vuitton, or not:

For anyone who watches 'Lost', this made me laugh. In case you were wondering, this is where they hide:

This cute (what else) octopus was outside a (guess where?) octopus shop, about to cook himself or something:

And the sign of the day that had me giggling like a 12-year old schoolboy (and I could explain about the sign, but I won't) was this:

Then, this weekend, we had a school holiday on Friday and Saturday which meant, with my normal days off of Sunday and Monday, that it's been a four day break for me.

Friday I went with a friend to the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi where we saw The Smile in Japanese Art and All About Laughter - two very enjoyable exhibitions, especially the latter.

Then we went and drank with more friends. Rather a lot actually!

Saturday I was a bit tired so slept most of the day. Saturday night went out for a couple of hours.

Sunday met up with a friend for sushi breakfast. Most of the food came on kid plates and you could enter a plate lottery at the end to win a prize. We didn't win. I was very upset:

Then we went to Kogenai Park open air Edo Museum (site in Japanese, but click for pictures) which I'd visited half of a couple of years ago. There's lots of reconstructed Edo shops and houses in a nice peaceful setting. Well, apart from the kids!

I didn't take any pictures, because I did last trip (probably somewhere on this blog!) But I did see an old tree that was full of rot. The texture was beautiful though:

There's a chain of discount store here called 'Don Quixote'. It's full of everything you don't want and a few things you might. The quality can be cack, but it's an amusing place to go to. Amongst the many amusing things we saw yesterday was this delightful fancy dress costume. Tres Matthew Bourne, n'est pas? But camper.

Here's the package from the reverse [giggless]:

And finally, one of my favourite signs, in Tanashi, that I've been meaning to post for ages:

I've not been there yet for a DININIG experience, but I may have to!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Must be laundry day.

This is the Disney character, Stitch. He's kind of cute, isn't he? Okay, so we've got that out of the way.

Now, see this costume? Isn't it also rather cute?

But now we have to get to the point of this post. What could possibly possess a male some 5.5 foot taller than the above baby to wear such a costume. In the daytime. In public. In a park and a museum. Accompanied by his girlfriend (who wasn't in a costume).


ANY ideas, anyone?

Cos, buggered if I do!

(Apologies for not being brave enough to take a picture of the guy in said costume)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Did you just say what I think you said?

Odd kind of day really.

Said of the song of two five-year olds: "they're singing about a whore house"

At one point I was out in reception talking to the Japanese staff and a little girl was waiting for her lesson. She was wearing string around her wrist and showed us it was there so she could do string games with it (cats cradle, that kind of thing). Naturally, and to her a/be- musement we grabbed it from her and started playing and chatting about childhood games. I asked if Japanese kids did clapping games and the receptionist asked the kid who said yes as her little classmate came in. They then loudly - with the adults getting rather enthusiastic as well - demonstrated one of the games...

and when I asked the receptionist what they were singing about she told me it was about a 'whore house'.

Quite a significant time later, after I'd explained 'whore house' I think I established they meant 'horror house' or something. At one point the receptionists and one of the kids mums had 'whore' and 'horror' written on a scrap of paper and were having a loud laugh about it all anyway.


Me: Give me another way to say 'to hate'.
Student: 'To fuck?'

Now, the above student is a 20-year old boy (this is Japan. Twenty year olds are 'boys') with something like mild cerebral palsy I think who is studying economics at university and is pretty sharp, although sometimes a little hard to understand. He and his mother study English together and have been my students since I got here. His mother and I sometimes gang up on him, but all in good fun.

Actually, on the subject of the mother, who bought a TOEIC book a couple of weeks ago and is very proud of the fact:

Me: Have you opened the book yet?
Student: No.
Me: You 'really' need to actually open it if you want to take the exam at some point.


Then there was this exchange:

Me: Tell me three kinds of underwear.
(Different) Student: 'Strip?'

Funny thing about this one is that the student, bless her, is as dull as dust (again another student I've been teaching since day one with the school). Her full answer to the question included a garter and a slip. Does she have a secret life I don't (want to) know about?


Then there was my 12 - going on for 30 - year old student, who I adore teaching because she is so mature and bright and has a fantastically sarcastic sense of humour. Again, this is another student I've been teaching for a couple of years and who has totally turned from quiet little girl into confident young lady. Her accuracy isn't always so spot on, but she IS pretty fluent and we have some pretty good discussions about things.

She has a slave-driver of a father, not untypically for a Japanese kid, and gets very pressured to perform. She generally gets top marks in all her subjects at school and has to do English exams to please her parents.

Anyway, her favourite actress, for some unknown reason, is Lindsay Lohan and, thus far, I've avoided going into the subject of how fucked up La Lohan is. Today when she said she was planning on seeing the latest movie this weekend though, I asked her whether she thought Lohan had lost the plot and she said yes, and Britney Spears too - now unfortunately, this was right at the end of the lesson so we couldn't explore all this today, but I had enough time to ask about the new Spears haircut. The student said she really liked it.

I tried to encourage her to go for it herself. She didn't think her parents would be too amused though. Can't think why...

[evil chuckle to self]


Yet another student, said she'd gone during the week to see a skin doctor because her skin was looking old.... this woman is somewhere in her late 50s - mid 60s I think! We didn't go into the aging process of wrinkles but we did all have a discussion about looking after skin and do's and don'ts.

After I growled at them to explain 'PMT' - they all gloated back: they're all well post-menopause!

Still, one did bring me in cookies, and another bought me a postcard to show me something we'd been talking about last week - so I forgave them.


I think this is one thing I kind of like about my Thursdays - half the students are barking mad - but I can communicate properly with all of them.

I am SO SO misunderstood

I am a serious teacher. I only give serious lessons. Any other ideas about me are simply not true.

So why exactly a student decided to recommend her boss to me to learn 'bad' English I have NO idea. Apparantly he 'knows dirty, but isn't dirty' - whatever the hell that means. It certainly baffled me. I mean, AS IF I would teach a student anything other than correct and polite English. I have NO fucking idea what gives people the idea that I'd do otherwise.

LOL - Laying in bed I just had a thought: the above situation is detailed TOTALLY out of context, so to set things straight - the conversation took place after hours in an Indian restaurant with a group of teachers, students and staff present. I was still singled out though as the teacher who would give the best lessons in [ahem] 'real' English.

I'd never met the guy before, but most of the others had. He's a rather well off dentist and finally subsidised our whole meal rather nicely for us and...

my score of the evening was a 1000 yen (about £5 or whatever the current crap rate might be) dental check up and clean to come. How cool is that? Made my night and my wallet VERY happy :D And no, I don't have to give 'dirty English' lessons in exchange, in case you are wondering although I did offer to give some free English normal lessons if he wanted. Ha!

And on the subject of serious teaching: I would NEVER have strong black filter coffee before I taught three-year olds. I mean, it would make me more hyped than them, wouldn't it and I might do something stupid like having crawling races across the floor with them. And I might then gloat each time I won.

I mean, AS IF!

Neither would I ever have a second strong cup before my two-year olds or randomly decide to use full body teaching for the weather. Well, okay and the imaginary snowball fight worked quite well and they got quite into the full body sun, rain and wind. How to mime cloudy totally baffled me though. Oh - and we made spiders and they weren't scared (this 'they' being one kid who found the 'brown' flashcard scary).

Actually, my two year old's mums pissed me off today. If a kid misbehaves in my classroom it's my job to sort it out. If a parent is present I always feel the line becomes a little blurry regarding discipline. Today the two year olds thought it was fun to race around screaming at the top of their lungs when I asked them to sit down. The mums just sat and smiled. Un-fucking-believable.

And as a serious teacher I would never have my adult students spend 25 minutes making tower blocks from childrens cubes, obviously.


Oh and I had an interesting weekend last weekend and have photos to upload. I'll try and get around to it tomorrow...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It must be love, love, love...

Conversation, very recently, with student 'C':

C: So, I want to do TOEIC to change my job next year.
Me: Good idea. What do you want to do?
C: I want to be tour guide. I did it before I had my family.
Me: Why now?
C: Because my kids are nearly grown up and so they'll be okay if I die in a plane crash or a terror.

So, sweet, isn't it?

Oh, and almost Japanese, er I mean almost all the Japanese I teach are obsessed with the terror and, despite constantly being told it's a 'terrorist attack' or a 'terrorist threat' persist in calling it 'a terror'. Also, almost Japanese cannot use 'almost' properly. But, I digress...

In Japan they have Dog Days or Days of the Dog every couple of weeks. Now, whereas most things my students tell me I've heard before, this is one I'd not heard of. Google has drawn a blank for me - or rather my ability with Google has drawn a blank - so, I'm going on student-say here:

Dogs give birth easily so on a dog day it's good luck to rub the belly of a dog (not sure if this is a real dog or a stone dog as I kind of forgot to ask) to pray that a pregnant women will plop out her babies like puppies. Or something like that.

Well, I certainly learn something new every day.

Let's talk about yesterday - Valentine's Day:

Valentine's Day, in Japan was, apparantly [student-say], invented by the chocolate companies in the 1970s. On this day women buy cho-co-laiyt and give it to their boyfriends, husbands, male friends, male colleagues, male bosses, male relatives, female friends, female colleages, etc.

A month later, in March, is another day called 'White Day' where men are meant to buy cho-co-laiyt and give it to women.

I've explained to many a student that in the U.K. if you bought your boss chocolate for V.D. he'd think you wanted to have sex with him. To the younger students I've watered it down a little, natch. I've also wound them up a bit by telling them that choccies for V.D. in the U.K. is a bad, cheap and unimaginative present.

Most over taught phrase of the week so far - 'it's totally commercial these days'.

One student - I think the same one who explained what a cactus was to her fellow students by arm movements and 'woo-woo' noises a few weeks ago, made a lovely little slip up today whereby she said she was given a young boy for V.D. I think she meant she gave her grandson chocolates, but I took the piss out of her (60+ year old lady) seducing an 18 year old lad at any rate.

Oh, and then there was another student who told me she'd bought chocolate for her husband, but he has diabetes so can't eat any. So, guess who'll be eating them?! I dared, of course, suggest she could have got something else for him, but I'm only a silly Gaijin who doesn't understand Japanese traditions, ne?!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Recent Times

On reflection, this post should perhaps be three seperate posts, but hey!

Strange craving of the day: Branston Pickle. I've not had any for nearly 2.5 years. I want some. Badly.

Student quote of the day: Said - 'I'm poor'. Meant - 'My English is crap'.

Let's start with a bit of madness that is Tokyo. Until recently, if you wanted a donut in Tokyo you could get them - but they were pretty crap. However, no more. Now, the wonder that is (apparantly - although I've never tried them myself) Krispy Kreme has appeared in Shinjuku. This picture shows a large queue outside in the cold - to buy a donut. Apparantly, this is always the sight to be seen at this store. Insane.

I'm getting quite into Tokyo at the moment. Not freezing to death the whole time is definitely a bonus, but I'm just.... making more of an effort, I suppose. I'm even trying to improve my almost non-existant speaking ability in Japanese and realising at the same time that I do understand a lot more than I thought I did.

So, the new improved enthusiastic me is playing at tourist in Tokyo. I'm also carrying my camera around with me most days to snap amusing signs, sights, etc.

A couple of weeks ago I persuaded some friends to come with me to the Yushukan Museum (the war museum by the Yasakuni Shrine - you know, the boringly controversial war criminals one). It was really interesting and I'd been meaning to go for ages. Of course, we ran out of time, partly due to meeting late (I wanted a lie in), sitting for ages in Starbucks (other friends were late so we had to kill time) and trying to drag Japanese friends and their cameras away from the Shrines not particularly impressive flea market. We skipped around the last 8 rooms in about 15 minutes, in short.

Here's the tori gate at twilight:

Of course, photos are not allowed in the museum. I got a couple of my mates to demonstrate this point. Although photos are allowed of the kamikaze planes, engines, etc in the lobby:

Outside the museum the flea market had an odd assortment of things, including these. The cat is lucky. One paw raised is for health, the other for money. I can never remember which is which. The little fat guys come with blank eyes, like the one on the left. You paint the eyes in but I can't remember when or why. Useless, aren't I?

Then, last week, I finally made it to the massive Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, by the Sumo stadium. It was very interesting but just too many people. Cool building though and possibly the first time I've seen a reconstructed bridge in a museum.

This little inflatable sumo cherry blossom was outside an Izakaya. Cute, isn't it?

In the Edo-Tokyo museum there are a few food places. This was outside one of them:

There's big park near my house. Previous attempts to go there and back were met with mixed results - ie - I could always eventually find the park but getting home without getting lost was a bit more of a challenge. My record for this trip (which should take about 15 minutes by bike) was over two hours last summer. I don't go there often.

Anyway, yesterday the sky was bright and clear (although bloody windy as I discovered once I got onto my bike) and I thought a trip to the park would be the perfect thing to do.

Here's my lovely green bike:

And here's its granny basket, which I love:

Anyway, there's a big open air museum in the park that I saw half of a couple of years ago and have been planning to go back to since - but I got caught up doing other things yesterday and so wouldn't have had enough time.

Somehow, and let me repeat - this is a BIG park - and about 10-15 minutes from my house - I couldn't find the bloody thing. I don't know where I went but let's just say I asked about 10 people before I managed to find it.

Happily I had no problems getting home this time though. The park was lovely yesterday. There were lots of people doing the normal parky things - walking, skating, tobogganing down a dry hill, unicycling, dog walking, eating, eating, eating....

Here's one of the many food places in the park:

And here's the yummy yaki-soba I bought from there:

And there were a lot of people taking pictures of the plum blossom which was signposted so you could find it and had a raffia mat between trees for some reason. Of course, I also whipped out my camera in an excited frenzy and started snapping the trees. (You know you've been in Japan too long when....)

And here's the raffia path covering. There's obviously some kind of logic for this. No idea what it might be though.

In Japan, everything has to be cute, as I've often said. Even bulldozers have to be bright and happy, as this purple one shows:

Houses in Japan are really small which is why everyone has rat sized dogs. Well, most people do... I spotted a fair few large mutts yesterday, including this gorgeous Great Dane which could probably manage a Chihuahua in two mouthfuls, don't you think?

As I said above, I've been carrying around my camera a lot recently and snapping lots of random things. This is the train I take every day:

Actually, this is an older version as they're being swished up now. The line, the Chuo Line, is also famously known as the 'suicide line'. Can't imagine why.

Often the platform is packed. Occasionally, like when I took this picture, it isn't though, and I quite like this picture:

On the subject of complete randomness, here's a typical lunch box from a convenience store. They heat it up for you. This one was quite good!

And here's my high street. Cute, isn't it?

Signs here fall into a couple of categories - those that baffle and those that amuse mainly. Much of the amusement is caused through either bad English or my lack of Japanese allowing me to imagine what might possibly be being advertised, promoted or warned about. Even when it's obvious actually.

For example this one for no dance-offs:

This one for no exposing smelly socks or throwing your bag on the floor in a tantrum, maybe?

Beware of the evil man who will feed your hat to the chihuahuas?:

On the trains, no precariously balancing children, no fat people, no going to the toilet / no bad posture and injuries must be visible (no arms allowed)?

Green people only? No sleeping, listening to music or talking. That discounts 95% of commuters then:

Mushrooms, however, are allowed to knit on the train or, in fact anywhere:

A lot of famous people do adverts here hoping, probably, that nobody outside of Japan will see them. I have no idea what kind of image Richard Gere is trying to portray here for this (maybe) bank? [I can't remember what this ad is for]. You can also see Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt strutting around advertising phones. Go and look on Youtube if you want to see. I'll try and get round to finding a link eventually. They're quite amusing.

Cigarettes in Japan are disgustingly cheap and easily available in an overabundance of vending machines in the streets. Interestingly, you don't see underages smoking on the streets. I wonder where they hide to smoke?

The message is out though. Whole areas are proclaimed as non-smoking, like these:

There is some reprieve in the shape of little yellow plastic er thingies, where people can hang and puff:

I find the anti smoking adverts on the train quite amusing actually. Here's a recent selection, for your amusement. I just find the English so ridiculous and condescending:

As you can see, the above speak for themselves. I don't need to supply comment!

And a final note, from the national treasure that is NHK bilingual television news:

[highly paraphrased of course] - If you think there's a chance you may catch the killer flu make sure you have enough provisions in your house to last at least ten years and, most importantly, when you buy dried foods only buy foods you like.

I couldn't make this up. They actually told people to only buy foods they like. And there I was, thinking I'd go and stock up on things I didn't like.

This is the same news that has told me to dress warmly for bed so I don't get cold, and to be careful my umbrella doesn't hit me on the head in the wind.