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, July 25, 2007

I'm all smug

Cyclists in Tokyo often drive me nuts. Cycling on the wrong side of the road or pavement. Not looking where they are going (into another cyclist often). Blocking a wide pavement so you cannot get passed, and so on.

Wednesday I often cycle to work as there is proper free bike parking, as opposed to my normal bung-it-down-anywhere-and-hope-it-doesn't-get-hauled-away policy. Today I got there a couple of hours after it would have opened up and it was, of course, full. BUT, I spotted someone about to take their bike out.

I got ready to pounce. I smiled sweetly and said hello to the old men looking after the bikes. I rushed. I waited. A few seconds after I spotted the space and started to rush for it and wait for it to be emptied, another women did the same, persued by her kid on a second bike. I beat her. I waited. She got ready to hedge in. I 'sumimasen'd' her and glared. The old men came up. She looked perplexed and didn't seem to be able to get her head around the fact I'd got there first and I WAS taking the spot. Or else. She REALLY didn't get it. It wasn't rocket science. It was first come first served. And she'd lost. The old men told her I was taking it. She admitted defeat.

I stopped my smug grinning after about five minutes.

The small victories are always the best!


Yesterday a whiteboard fell off the wall in my classroom. A few times. Scary. Luckily nobody was hurt.


Later I managed to, yet again, knock over a small row of bikes. A schoolboy rushed to pick them up. Now, can you imagine THAT happening in the U.K.?


Also yesterday, I went to the 100-yen shop and bought a 500-yen coin tin / moneybox thing. The idea is that as it can ONLY be opened with a tin-opener, thereby allowing you to save and not dip into it whenever you feel like it. It can hold 200 500-yen coins. That's about £400. If the exchange rate ever takes a turn, it could be a lot more. That's my winter vacation (Cambodia/Laos)'s spending money. If I'm good :D

Monday, July 23, 2007

He who maketh the mostest noise winneth.

This, I honestly believe is (probably) the (unofficial) slogan of the latest round of elections in Tokyo which are, thankfully, over this Sunday.

If it isn't, it should be, as election vans are loaded up with people, (very) loud-speakers and people bellowing into megaphones or blasting music out over the (very) loud-speakers. It's unbearable. It's horrible. It's offensive.

Thank fuck it's nearly over.

Of course, this doesn't mean Tokyo will suddenly descend into silence. If only. But we'll only have to contend with the mega-phones being waved around outside the stores and the melodious affrontage from the garbage trucks, postal trucks, road crossings, platforms, trains, stores, universities.......

sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Please!


The weekend was relatively quiet. Saturday night saw a couple of non-alcoholic coffees at one of the few places to have outdoor seating. Sunday was a fondue and booze day. A lot-of-booze day. But it was fun - even if I did fall asleep on the train on the way home and wind up at the end of the route.

Oh well!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Trip Down Memory Lane / GAH!

Do if you remember these horrible things? Rubik's Cubes. I had one. I'm sure you did too, especially if you were a kid or teen in the 80's, like I was.

I remember mine well. The sense of achievement each time I completed a side. The problem was that I rarely managed to complete more than one side before giving up. I give up easily. It also didn't take long to realise the only way to complete it (as far as I was concerned anyway) was by cheating, which meant either peeling off the stickers or trying to pull apart and put the whole thing back together.

I don't know what happened to my cube.

I also had a Rubik's Snake thing which had to be constructed into a ball. That was too easy and swinging it around seemed more interesting, I seem to remember.

Anyway, they seem to have made a bit of a comeback in Japan. I don't know if this is the case elsewhere, or if, in fact, they never disappeared from Japan to start with, but I've been seeing them in the shops a LOT recently and this evening, on the train, I was watching a kid with her cube, diligently twisting away. She didn't seem to be getting anywhere. I wanted to tell her removing the stickers was easier but I guess that would have been admitting defeat. Not a very Japanese quality...

They'll all be walking around singing Duran Duran next...

Most of the teachers I know don't give written homework to students. They're sensible. I give it because I think it's important to see what they cannot do. It's a stressful process for me though.

Example One - from last week - and this is SO bad I'm reproducing in it verbatim and with punctuation and structure as is [italics are mine]. I read it and groaned. I don't want to be discouraging but GACK! And this is from a high level student:

Weather has been so shitty, and it is not like summer weather yet, as far as I remembered,

the temperature was higher in the last month??

In this month, the temperature has not been high, however, in my workplace; we start to
use air conditioner to

Stay some exact temperature, which is great, considering people, making people

Comfortable use library. I have been sick because of that. My desk is computer room,

inducing a lot of computer equipment and our few servers at library, my computer's order,

staying colder, I do not know how much temperature he decided on, it has been so cool

inside my room. As a result, I have been not feeling well without any reasons, I had to

bring winter clothes to stay warm in my room to work.

This week, my computer boss, has got few more fans, well, it has been rather colder than

Before.......... he is worried about crashing our servers, few months ago, our servers

were crashed due to temperature, I mean burning some computer equipment.

I do not like to use air conditioner always, these days after I stay cold room and stay with
air conditioner, my body always needs it, I realize

As a result, I always start using air conditioner without high temperature at home

My body temperature might be changed.


Anyway, you can see the problems this is causing me. And the resistance to the temptation to rewrite the essay for the student in summary form: 'my boss' fucking around with the aircon and forcing us to sit in Arctic conditions has led to my body fucking up, and therefore I'm fucked off.'

Somehow I don't think that'd go down too well though.


Example Two, also from last week, and this time from a lowish intermediate student (remember we are basically teaching spoken English NOT writing skills, so I take no responsibility for the inability of my students to put a logical sentence together). This time, and like the above piece, the student took it off her own back to write this. I often just encourage my students to write 'something' - which they do.

This student picked four pictures from a catalogue and decided to translate the Japanese being used to sell the objects.

For the first picture ,of a couple of brightly coloured water bottle/flask things, the student wrote:

It is nice looks keep cooling bottle, made in U.S.A.

We need cool beverage for summer leisure activities. It can keep beverage cool and design coulor, price every thing is good one.

For the second picture, of a couple of hideous looking rings, which I'm guessing from her description to maybe be toe rings, although it's really hard to say:

It is the season for flourishing summer sandals, we want it.

This design is same as ring and necklace.

It will dress your glancing foot from sandals.

For the next picture, of three toilet rolls (one red, one tangerine orange and one pale lime green), she wrote:

Toiletroll purveyor to Europe celeblity landing Japan.

The roll is three sheets of peper

It's for celeb' specification.

And for the final picture, of a plastic umbrella with a lace-effect design:

It became so cute even if vinyl umbrella.

It is lace painted vinyl umbrella for recommending shopping in raining day.

Let's graduate from cheep vinyl umbrella.


See what I have to put up with?!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I think I'm addicted to Facebook.

Miss G. - this is ALL your fault.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bla bla bla

Oh have I talked a lot this weekend!

Weekend highlights:

On Saturdays I teach a women in her late 50's (ish). She's a lovely lady and has opinions that she's not afraid to vocalise. If you know Japanese students, you'll know how unusual and refreshing this is. If you don't know Japanese students: it's very unusual and refreshing! - Most of my students seem to have no opinions and won't ever disagree with me - however hard I try and provoke them.

Anyway, we were studying something about Poland and, naturally, the Pope was mentioned. I said to her, you know, millions of people worship him and millions of others consider him to be the most dangerous man alive. We then rode a 40 or so minute tangent discussing abortion, adoption, contraception, organ donation, cremation and late pregnancies and disabilities.

The most memorable moment of which was probably when she told me I should get pregnant NOW. (I'm 36). We managed to stop laughing after about five minutes.

She's a great student. I wish I had more like her.


On Saturday it was chucking it down with a promise of a typhoon to follow on Sunday. (Which never came). I met a friend after work to grab some food and have a catch up.

Now, if you know me, you know how indecisive I can be. If you don't know me, I'm sure you've figured it out by now. Anyway, after eating we decided to do something else. The problem was we couldn't decide what the 'something else' should be and ended up wandering around randomly in the rain trying to get inspiration. (yeah, right!)

In any area with lots of bars, you get lots of people trying to persuade you to go and drink in their bar, follow them to the karaoke place they're promoting, etc. Generally, you ignore the bar promoters and hunt out karaoke ones - if you want to do karaoke - as you can negotiate a price with them.

But, cos friend and I were being so ditzy, er, I mean indecisive we allowed one of the 'promoters' to talk to us and persuade us into going to his bar. First we were given a 90 minute drink-as-much-as price or an individual drink price and we were told there was no entry charge....

I immediately thought 'hostess bar' and asked the guy what kind of place it was and if there was going to be a table charge. He said no, which I found a bit odd, but we decided to follow him and see what it was about anyway. As we got there we saw the sign outside - three girls in bikini tops - but for some reason decided to go in for one drink anyway. (A couple of years ago I blogged about another night where I'd accidentally ended up in a hostess bar (yes, really) and we'd had a really fun random night).

The bar was empty but three Filipina hostesses were hovering around. We walked in, sat down, and the drink price was lowered straight away. My friend decided we should email a 'responsible friend' (apparently we have those!) to let them know. I did. And managed to get him all panicked. Anyway, we ordered drinks which were STRONG and the girls were hovering between very friendly and fucking annoying.

Half way through our drinks my mate suddenly panicked and bolted. And so we left.

Now the thing is, what would have followed, had we stayed, could have been something, or it could have been nothing. The empty bar could have filled up (apparently it was a newish bar), we could have had a fun random evening or just enjoyed a few drinks and then left.

Or, and this is my theory, the girls could have waited til we were drunk and then started getting pushy for us to buy them (expensive) drinks and fleeced us, or.... well, who knows what could have happened.

We ended up in an Irish bar instead.


Sunday there was meant to be a typhoon. I dressed for a typhoon - wellies and clothes that would dry quickly and met up with a friend for an afternoon of drinking. Except he'd been out drinking the night before and was too hungover to booze. We spent four hours eating Mexican and getting free cola refills. After six large diet cokes (and a pina colada) I was ready to start bouncing off walls.

It was a nice relaxing and chilled afternoon though.


And there was no typhoon.


From there I went to see another friend and her new house. Long evening short: we ate, drank and talked about fuck knows what from about 6pm to 5am.

I then had to go and work.

In my wellies.

Actually, the wellies were hurting me as I walked so I went to Uniqlo before work and got some nice flip flops and a more 'appropriate' t-shirt to work in.

I have NO idea how I stayed awake.


This morning there was a big earthquake in Niigata http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6900156.stm - lots of injuries, a few deaths, lots of flattened houses, and a fire in a nuclear power plant. Nice. Many people in Tokyo felt it. I didn't. I'd have probably confused it with post-drinking wobbliness anyway.

I DID, however, feel another one, that went on for quite some time, about 20 minutes ago.

Quote from above article: The fire at the nuclear plant has been extinguished, and there was no release of radiation or damage to the reactors, officials said.

In this link, however, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6901213.stm we get a different story: a strong earthquake in central Japan has damaged a large nuclear power plant causing a leak of radioactive material, officials at the plant have said.



What's in your fridge? Mine seems to be filled with alcohol, mixers, moisturisers (I don't really have anywhere else to keep them and it's hot these days!), a couple of eggs, some Thai curry pastes... and a couple of veggies.

Is this normal? I remember the days of shared-housedom. It used to be my dream (seriously!) to have my own fridge and not just have a shelf. I've had my own fridge now for nearly three years. And it's empty more than it's full. Seems kind of silly really.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Favourite Words

Those magic words were uttered to me today: "Your last student has cancelled."

This phrase fights with 'free' 'karaoke?' and 'nomihodai' to be my favourite utterances.


I've blogged before about the lack of dogs to be seen walking in Tokyo and how it's more likely you'll see them being carried in a bag, or pushed along in a buggy. Well, today I saw a Pug being carried - in a baby sling.


Crazy Gaijin moment: In Kichijoji today I passed by whole chickens being spit-roasted. I've never seen a whole chicken in Tokyo, let alone one being rotisseried. The only thing missing was the smell. It didn't stop me from stopping in front of it and watching it for a few minutes though.

[I have no oven and wouldn't be able to roast a chicken even if I could find one!]


After spending a few hundred pounds on clothes in London the other week, I found myself strangely being drawn to Uniqlo this afternoon, where I bought yet more...

Control me someone. Please.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I have a 12-year old girl every week who sums up much of what is out of balance about this place. She has no life. She studies. When she's not studying, she studies. Her life is school (which she hates) and cram school (which she doesn't hate so much) and cram school homework.

She goes to cram school every day, although some weeks she'll not go there on a Sunday. But only some weeks. In her school holidays: well, she doesn't have school holidays she has cram school.

She never hangs out with friends. I don't even know if she HAS friends. I think they all bore her.

This week we were talking about how boring and pointless school was and I said the point was to get through it so you could get through university and enable yourself to have the freedom to do what you want after that.

I asked her what she wanted to do in the future. She said 'eat'. I suggested being a food critic might be a good job for her. She said she doesn't want to work, just eat. Oh and travel around Japan to eat and visit slot parlours. I asked her how she'd afford it if she didn't work....

She said she'd marry a rich husband, but had no idea how she'd go about finding one.

She has no life and so she cannot imagine having a life. I find this sad. Although I've been here long enough to not be surprised by this.

She'll turn into someone like one of two sisters I teach if she's not careful. They are adults and as dull as dust. Every week I ask them what they did the previous week. Every week (for nearly three years) the answers have been 'I played tennis with my friends' and 'I went shopping'. Said in a toneless voice. And yet I persist in asking this question.

Just shoot me!

P.S. - nobody commented on the video clip below. Go watch. Comment. It's silly. You might even like it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Bit Better

Yesterday was a tough day.

Yesterday I felt really low.

Yesterday was the first chance I'd had since being back from London to realise how much I miss my friends IN London. Not that even that would be enough to make me move back. Unless you can find me a nice teaching job that pays £50k +.... Nah, didn't think so.

I got back from London last Monday night. Late. And went straight back to work on Tuesday, generally feeling pretty okay and just a little bit tired and being kept going with trying to stay awake and with the excitement of the impending visitors.

Wednesday night, jetlag struck and I was unable to sleep until about 4.30am or so. The same happened on Thursday night. But adrenaline and caffeine are nice friends to have. So much so that I didn't actually realise until today just how exhausted I was.

Zandt and his friends came Thursday night and I had a lot of fun hanging out with them and doing touristy / boozy things with them on Friday and Saturday. A LOT of fun. It's just a shame it was so short, but hey - better than nothing.

They left very early on Sunday morning and I didn't feel like going back to sleep. Most of the day was, in fact, just spent moping around feeling the quietness and calmness of my apartment.

And not liking it.

The thing IS that Zandt is one of the few people I know who really seems to 'get' and to know me. It's an easy and honest friendship. It's fun. But above all it's easy. Not even geography really seems to get in the way (I mean, it's not his fault he lives in the States. Okay, it IS his fault, but whatever).

In short, I felt lonely and it was then that the 'I miss my London mates' also had the chance to resurface. It's hard. Friendships here are very transient. People come and go. People get distracted by relationships. People turn out to be not what you thought them to be originally. You don't get the chance to see some people so often and so every time you meet it can feel like a huge effort. True friends are the ones that this doesn't matter with. They're the ones that are reliable, dependable and that you can trust 100%. The ones you can say ANYTHING to - and it won't matter. These are the friendships that take time to nurture but will stay. These are also the friendships that although you have to work at, you know it'll be worth it.

And sometimes, I just cannot be arsed. Sometimes, I'd rather just be alone. There are always new people arriving - but it's an effort to get to that comfortable stage and I find it pretty hard to trust and let people in anyway. Plus I'm pretty hard to 'get'. I know this. People who can break through that will find me a very loyal and dependable friend, but I keep my guard up for far too long with far too many people. That's just me.

And it's the people that have got through this guard that I love dearly and really really miss.

Generally though, things are better today than yesterday!

P.S. This video has no relevancy to anything. But it did make me laugh my socks off. Enjoy.

Toilet training for Japanese kids:

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

London, Part Two

So, I've now been back nearly 48 hours. As my body didn't actually get the chance to adjust to London time (and I think I did pretty well, although I tended to fade around 10pm each night) it doesn't need to readjust now, so I'm just a bit tired but not as much as I'd expected. However, I could have done with not going straight back to work, especially as now I have period pains, feel bleurgh, have a flat that looks like a bombsite (it was a little bit messy before I went to London, now it also has the post-holiday mess) AND one of my favourite people in the world, Zandt, is coming to stay tomorrow. (Okay, I have many favourites, but he's one of my favourite favourites).

Back to London then: Thursday I went to Epsom to hang out with Ben and meet his sprog. The last time I'd seen Ben was at my leaving party (funnily enough) when he'd just started going out with Gaby. Now they're married and have a nine-month old kid. It's all just a bit too strange to get my head around BUT it was lovely relaxing with them and the baby is just too lovely....

Getting to Epsom was fun and produced another of my 'I hate London' moments that I had a few times in the six days. This one was caused by trying to get an extension to my Oyster Card (travel card thingy - the one that the upstart at the Heathrow Airport underground station had raised his eyes at me when I'd asked about). I explained to the guy on the gate at Waterloo - I have a zone one and two Oyster card. I'm going to Epsom. I need an extension. Can I get it when I get TO Epsom? [Blank look]. I repeated. I spoke slowly. The guard looked bewildered. (This was England. I was talking English. Just to clarify.) The words eventually seeped into his brain and he pointed at a machine and said: No. Machine.

I walked to the machine. I queued. I eventually got to the front. The machine didn't do extensions.

I queued at the information desk to ask about the extension. I got pointed to another much longer queue. To be precise, the much longer queue had about 70+ people queuing at a 27 window area. THREE OF WHICH WERE OPEN.

I got my sodding extension.

In Tokyo we have 'fair adjust' machines. This means it doesn't matter if you don't have the 'correct' ticket to travel on as you don't run the risk of dealing with incompetent staff or ridiculous queues or of risking a big fine, you simply pay the difference to another machine at the other end.

It works. It stops ME from getting pissed off. There's a very thin line between anal and efficient, as far as I'm concerned, but Tokyo has it. London doesn't.

Anyway, back to Epsom. I had a lovely time hanging out in Epsom, and then Ben and I headed into town, met Lesley all-to-briefly for a quick bottle of wine (thanks for that, Lesley!) before Ben and I headed off for some food in a pub.

Me to waitress: Bla, bla food, a bottle of [this] wine please and some tap water please.
Waitress: We don't do tap water.
Me: [confused] Sorry?
Waitress: We don't do tap water.
Me: You HAVE taps?
Waitress: Yes. But we can't give tap water.

Ben ordered a bottle of water before I was able to lose it!

Anyhoo, lovely evening, thanks for treating me Ben and sorry I wussed out so early!

Friday, went back to Oxford Street (and it was STILL cold and STILL raining), bombed it around more shops. Spent a LOT more money and met Nikki for a nice relaxed lunch (thanks for that Nik! It was very kind of you.) Rushed back to Oxford Street to do even more shopping and headed off to Covent Garden to drink/eat more with Paul, Kate, Gemma, Rob, Val and Iain. Lesley and Anshul both got way-layed somewhere.... but I'm forgiving ;-)

It was a lovely evening and really nice to see everyone again.

Saturday (still cold and still raining), Sarah and I headed to Borough Market (Yay! I love Borough Market) and had a wander along the South Bank (my favourite area of London) before meeting up with Andrew and Katya for some coffee, food and catching up.

It was lovely talking to Elaine on the phone but a shame we couldn't hook up. Well, if you WILL go to Portugal the week I come to London! I'll forgive you when you visit me in Tokyo!

Saturday night Sarah and I went to the cinema, wandered around (in the rain) and ate felafel. YUM!

And that was it. Sunday I came home. I have never been so happy to get to Narita before.

Let's make this brief. Briefish:
- Got to airport early.
- Went to check in.
- Airport staff got confused about who was meant to queuing where.
- Expected them to be nice.
- Was disappointed.
- Was suffereing PMS.
- Could just about manage to life suitcase onto belt. (Well, I'd been shopping, hadn't I and a lot of the stuff I would have carried in hand luggage I now can't)
- Expected the same kind of leniency ANA had given me when I'd first come to Tokyo.
- Got charged about £350 for excess baggage.
- Threw a fit.
- Continued throwing a fit.
- Ranted.
- A lot.
- Continued ranting.
- A lot.
- Cut finger badly on lock that had been broken by airline on way out.
- Went to toilet bleeding badly.
- Came out with finger wadded in bog roll.
- Continued arguing.
- Refused to leave anything behind.
- Refused to send anything.
- Refused to pay £350+ to airline.
- Refused to shut up.
- Finally paid £110 and carried ALL my shoes onto the plane with me.
- Flight was packed.
- Got to Kuala Lumpur.
- Chaos.
- Airport had just changed over to a new system.
- They were doing on-the-job training.
- NO transit passengers had onward tickets before getting to KL.
- 100s of people were queuing. Mostly for two+ hours.
- Can you imagine an airport FULL of angry people?
- With most flights being delayed?
- I looked at the queue.
- I asked if it would be smaller later or if there were lots more flights coming in.
- I got an answer and went off and played on the internet, sat and had lunch, went and looked around the shops, wandered around....
- and got back into the queue behind the people I would have been still waiting behind if I'd stayed put.
- I was unfrazzled. They weren't. I waited about 20 minutes.
- My flight was hardly delayed. It was also about 150 people short of being full, so lots of space.
- Slept most of way back on train.
- Got a shock at my station - it'd grown an escalator and a new platform in the six days I'd been away.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Where do I belong?

Tokyo, Japan and the Japanese often drive me nuts BUT I have never been so happy to be back.

This really does beg the question of where should I be. One of my friends said the other day that she felt she might never find a place that she really belonged. That's how I feel too.

Anyway, just a quick thought.

Tomorrow I'll try and blog about the rest of the week in London and, in particular, the reasons behind me 'never been so happy to be back' statement.

P.S. To clarify: seeing Sarah, Linda, David, Nikki, Mostyn, Vicky, Susan, Bapi, Ben, Lesley, Gemma, Val, Iain, Rob, Paul, Kate, Andrew and Katya was fantastic. And so was the shopping. It was other things....