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, March 31, 2008


I mentioned in the previous post about the female only accommodation that is available that eliminates the danger of men...

I had an almost unanimous response to my telling students I'd been to Cambodia. Not 'did you like it?', not 'what was it like?' not 'can I see your photos?' but 'is it dangerous? - every student who commented asked 'is it dangerous?'. Now, maybe it's just me but that is the LAST thing that would come to my mind if someone had been away somewhere. Predictably, the second question was usually 'how was the food?'

On the way to a friends Sayonara Party on Saturday, I was in Shibuya station and there was an old man doddering around after the ticket gates. He could have been drunk, he could have been confused, he could have been ill. Anyway, he staggered onto the up escalator and suddenly fell over, laying there head down, legs up (I'm resisting Kafka'esque comparisons here) - I was quite a distance up and probably couldn't have helped him up by myself anyway, but the people immediately above and below him ignored him for ages before a couple of people decided to help. What really got me though was the number of people above me on the escalator who didn't have the common sense to push the stop button as they got off the escalator so the people COULD help him up.

I pressed it as soon as I could get to it. The old man continued staggering around afterwards.


Everything is very pretty right now with pink explosions on all the trees. It's just such a shame the weather has been so bloody miserable, wet and cold. Not the best hanami weather. More of a kind of hibernating weather really.

Or in my case, househunting weather. I've found a few interesting places. Hopefully, by this time next week I should have secured somewhere but I'm really not too bothered. There is a lot available and a lot coming available all the time, especially guesthouse wise.


I'll try and get my Cambodia holiday written up later today.


It's funny. Life these days: I can barely remember life pre-internet. I mean the days when if you wanted to book a holiday you had to go into a travel agent and when the only information you could really get was from guidebooks or television programmes, if you weren't lucky enough to know someone who had been to the someplace you wanted to go to. Now, I can research the opinions of millions of people, find maps without trudging round shops, order a vegan meal without picking up the phone.....

Househunting is the same. As someone who has lived in thirtysomething odd properties, I consider myself rather familiar with the game of flathunting. And HOW much easier is it when I can find out all the information I need from a few emails and websites, when I can look at photos and check details before going through the time-consuming game of visiting crap property after crap property?

Mail. When did you last write a letter? Or go to a bank for anything other than the ATM?

Life is convenient. And yet we're forever trying to make it more and more so. Funny old world.

I'll talk more about monks later but monks are also moving with the times. Yup, this is what I was told when I asked a monk in Cambodia why he had a mobile phone. Hmmm.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What's New?

I came back from Cambodia on Wednesday evening, after having had a really good time - but I'll try and blog about the holiday later in the weekend.

Since coming back, the days have been starting off reasonably warm, but slowly getting colder and colder... I'm missing the heat of Cambodia. I got back to Tokyo though, to find it's exploded into colour, with white and pink blossom on many of the trees and bright red leaves on the bushes around where I live. It's so pretty. If it was warmer, it would be perfect...

This evening, on the way home, I suddenly had a thought about my keys. Now, this being some nine odd hours since I'd last thought about them, this was rather odd but, realising they weren't where they should be - and searching the my bag about ten times - just in case they turned up suddenly, I went rushing back to the school, to find it locked but had a sudden moment of 'did I leave them in my bike-ness'.

Luckily, my neighbour was prepared to put me up for the night, but I found the keys - sitting in the bike lock! (Yes, I'm a ditz) - Now either nobody noticed or nobody wanted my bike. I was very happy at any rate.

Right now I'm a bit consumed with trying to find somewhere to live. I have until April 20th - which is plenty of time. Kind of. I've thinking about moving into a Gaijin House (or guesthouse as they're otherwisely known) in order to maximise flexibility and minimise cost. And it could be an interesting experience. Although I have loved having my own place here and I am a bit nervous about sharing kitchen, bathrooms, etc with other people again - but they have cleaners in most Gaijin houses.

The problem with moving into an apartment is the move in costs can be huge and, once you put not wanting to pay key money or find a guarantor into the picture and then add deposits and fees and so on the initial money spendout can be huge. There are places available that don't require key money (a 'gift' to the landlord equalling about a months rent - which I won't pay as a matter of principle), etc.

But not wanting to do any of the above seriously limits your options, is my point, so I'm thinking a gaijin house makes sense.

There are some female only ones, the idea of which scares me. Absolutely no male visitors are allowed. That's just wrong. The reason I've been given is that Asian women feel nervous about their safety when sharing with males. Get a grip! Shame some of the female only ones are in such good locations though!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Been having nice random days and evenings with people recently. Lots of wandering, nattering, looking....


this time next week, I'll be sitting in Taipei airport. All night. Well.... I'm considering the hotel in Terminal two but it can't be pre-booked (or at least it can't be at the moment), so I'll probably just crash out in the airport.

AH.... sunshine awaits. Sunshine, flipflops, bare arms, massages, exploring, meeting random people....

But back to the aiport. I've had two nights in airports before. Well, one of them may have been a night, I'm really not sure.....

After university, I skipped off to Israel to do the Kibbutz thing for about three months. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting but it was certainly a memorable experience. And not really so much in a good way either. But I'm airporting here, not kibbutzing - I remember the night before leaving I had a goodbye party that went on pretty late and the next day someone had agreed to drive me to the airport so I had to get up pretty early. I was dropped off quite a long time before my flight - like 6 or 8 hours before, if I recall correctly (we're going back to 1993 now - so memories are a tad rusty) - but from the location of the kibbutz, this was the easiest way to do it.

I killed the time in the lobby along with a load of other foreigners doing the same thing. I'm not sure if it was at this stage we found out the flight was being delayed by several more hours or if this was later. Anyway, time passed and we were eventually allowed through interrogation.

I don't know if Israeli immigration has gotten better, worse or is the same as back in '93, but we were all having to have our packs manually searched and had to answer about ten minutes worth of questions such as why we'd been there, what we'd done there, who we'd spoken to why we'd been there, etc. I had a heap of letters (pre-email days, guys) and they went through all of those too.

I remember going with another random girl to duty free (to buy vodka) and to a shop (to buy coke) and sitting 'discretely' in some airport corner sitting out the delay and getting sloshed..

I remember arriving late - or was it early - at Heathrow and going straight to McDonalds (yeah, well, I was tired and hungry).

Zipping back four or five months: I was coming towards my finals at uni and had to figure out what to do next. Going back home and sitting on it wasn't an option, as there was no 'home' to go to and I was in no financial position to be able to rent somewhere at that stage. In fact, financially I was utterly fucked at this point.

I'd decided some time earlier that I wanted to go off to Paris to au pair for a year (ended up staying two) but having no childcare experience outside babysitting a bit some 8 or so years earlier and not having agency fees anyway my chances of getting a job weren't going to be so good. So, I'd asked around. I'd asked around everyone I'd ever spoken to: 'do you know anyone who wants an au pair in paris?' - and amazingly, I'd struck it lucky and some random girl I'd had some random past conversations with in the past, hooked me up with a job.

The problem though, was that the family didn't want me until September. My exams finished really early - like the second week of May or something - so I was stuck - and randomly hit out on the idea of going to a kibbutz as friends had done that in previous vacations. I'd prepaid my accommodation for the next months or so after I wasn't going to be there but managed to fight my way into getting it back, which was pretty unheard of... and got enough money for a return flight to Israel and had some £30 or something to fly with. It was pretty dire, but I had no choice.

Thing was, I was flying on to Paris the day I came back from Israel, but getting two single tickets was much too expensive. I left for Israel with plans to go to France, but no money to actually get there. I'd arranged with one of my flatmates that she would get my accommodation deposit back, book me a ticket to France and have it sitting at the airport waiting for me....

And it worked. Except when I went to the airline desk to pick up the ticket, they said they didn't have it, by which stage I was ready to collapse from tiredness anyway, but they eventually found it misfiled as my middle name and surname had been joined together or something...

I have no recollection how much time had passed between the McDonalds and the collecting of the ticket, but I hadn't slept for over 24 hours by this point and was knackered. Went through passport control into the lounge, crashed out and NEARLY missed the flight.

When I got to Paris the frigging family hadn't been able to find me and so had gone home, or something like that. I couldn't remember more than two words of French in my zombified state and the information people didn't seem to speak much English. Oh and I had NO money on me. Well, the odd few pence and sheckel but nothing that could be changed up. Information man called the family for me who told me to get a taxi and they'd pay when I arrived. I remember sleeping most of the way in the taxi and I remember there was confusion over the name of the road. And THEN I had to be all genki when I first met the family. I pulled it off for about thirty minutes and then crashed!

My other big night of airport fun 'n' games (actually, this is a lie, I've had a few more random airport happenings - like thinking I was going to be not let into the country the time I went to Boston, fucking up on times and dates of travel, etc) but this one was well.....

Let's just start by saying HOW WAS I MEANT TO KNOW BRUSSELS HAS TWO BLOODY AIRPORTS? - I'd been in, fuck, was it Antwerp for a long weekend, a few years ago and (my memory is a bit blurry as a few European weekends have melted into one now) I think I'd booked two different flights to go back to England for some reason (may have been they were ridiculously cheap and I was trying to keep my options open) and the latter was involving 'calling in sick' to work so I could chill out in Brussels for an extra day - which I decided to do.

Again, it's all a bit blurry, but I think I'd taken a taxi to the train station - leaving heaps of time to get there, of course, got the train with no problems and gotten to the airport nice and early. Wandering around, unable to find the airlines check-in desk, I think it had slowly dawned on me that I may have not been in the right place. Started legging it across to the other airport and realised there wasn't a chance in hell of actually making it in time for the flight.

Ended up going back to friends house and checking internet for flight details for that night / next morning. I HAD to go into work next day. First flight was nice and early and perfect for getting me into work by 10am. Except it would be impossible to actually get to the airport by train in time for that flight.. so I had to head back to the (correct) airport, that night. I got a taxi (thanks again for those vouchers!) which had a bit of meteorite or something fall onto the roof half way down a motorway - but no problems apart from a dent - and got the train to the aiport and all was fine.

Sleeping in the terminal wasn't the most comfy of places (plastic chairs, oooo) [which is why I've already checked out where is good and comfy to crash in Taipei airport in case I can't get into the hotel] and they turned on the sodding lights at about 4am - an HOUR before any flight had to check-in!

I got back to Heathrow, legged it across to home, rushed in, changed clothes..... and made it to work by 10am.

Ah, airports....!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Two Yen

I had to giggle tonight: in a company where I go to give regular lessons, someone has lost two one-yen coins. Someone else found these two coins, a couple of weeks ago and went to the trouble of finding a plastic bag and putting the coins into it, and then pinning it to a notice board for the owner to take back. I've a feeling it'll be there for a long time.

Two-yen is less than one-pence!

(Well, it's amusing ME).

Toilet Doors

Wow! It's been ages since I've posted about toilets - the squat loos, the hi-tec loos, the toilet slippers that are provided, the lack of soap, the annoying flushing noise piped out to hide the fact that I'm peeing, etc BUT I finally understand something:

I always wondered WHY people knocked on my toilet door when I was in a cubicle. It just made no sense and irritated me a bit, if I'm going to be honest. Pressure and all that! Anyway the answer came to me in the form of a student yesterday.

Quite simply, in Japan it is wrong to leave the toilet door open when you are not in there, so they genuinely have no idea if someone is in the cubicle or not. Of course, common sense says look at the lock: is it red? Well, there's probably someone in there, isn't there?

Apparently this is all about Japanese people seeing toilets as 'unclean' areas and so hiding them away. Or something.

It does feel odd though to me as in most countries an open toilet door means the toilet is available and a closed door, well.

They hygiene thing here IS odd though if you take into account the lack of soap in many/most public toilets, the sneezing into a newspaper / hand / face cloth, etc that goes on.

I still don't understand why so many of my students try and shut the classroom door when they leave though.

Or why toilet slippers are in such disgusting colours.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Lot of Nothing

A lot of nothing. That's what I've got going on right now. Okay, that's not strictly true, there's been:

the normal lot of drinking, singing, hanging out;
I've been to two raw potluck parties in four weeks - good fun, food food, nice people...
I just had four days off - much needed!
I handed the notice in on my accommodation - lots to sort now;
In less than two weeks I go to Cambodia. And can't bloody wait - although spring is looking up!

I'm throwing myself back into raw foodism after getting a bit slack of late. It's not that I found it hard to do, just that the change in routine was making me lazy about it and I was grabbing crap from the bakery, for example, or the convenience store, when I shouldn't have been. I'm refocusing now.

Work is pretty shit, to be honest. From the second week in Feb (when the college semester finished) until April, when I'll know if the company is getting the college contract again and for how many teachers, I'm on cover and I'm being sent all over the place - often a journey of three trains and well out into the sticks.

Come April, if the college doesn't renew, well, we'll see what happens. My target date for leaving Tokyo is this time next year. And I'm pretty sure of where I want to go next. But that might change. My obsession with wanting to go to the Middle East went. I think I'm set on my current idea though.

And, on another note: following from a recent post of Timorous Beastie's on 'office ladies' and how the don't have their own job titles (secretary, receptionist, clerk, accountant.....) I've realised the same genericism is the same for 'salarymen'. People don't use job titles here. My students don't anyway. And people don't volunteer information about their department or what their company does. There's no 'I'm in marketing' or 'I'm an administration assistant'. Just 'office lady' or 'salaryman'. Weird. Or not.