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!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Want More?

Come here to see the teaching life continue... in LIBYA!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The End.

It's Friday 18th June. 2.50am. I should be 'getting up' at 5am to head to the airport... and onto the next chapter in my life. I was too hyped to sleep earlier, despite getting just three hours sleep last night. Seems to make more sense to sit it out now and doze on the way to the airport and on the flight instead.

Japan has been. Five years and nine months have passed. I'm totally ready to go - and totally excited about moving on - but also a little nervous of being totally out of my comfort zone. But it'll be fine.

Over the summer, I don't know how much internet access I'll have but there'll be one more post on here, once I've set up the new blog, to share the address.

Take care!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What? Where? When?

Early hours of Sunday morning: Picture the scene: I'm sitting on my futon; above me the aircon hisses away, the tv is on - it's the news. In Japanese. I can guess what the stories are but I'm not paying that much attention. In front of me are things, behind me are things. In fact, see me as the centre of a clock with numbers in every direction. Now change the image of those numbers to - things. Things, things, things.

I'm going through the extremely tedious job of picking up every piece of paper, every object, and trying to decide whether:

  • it will never be needed and is crap to throw away,
  • it will never be needed and can't be thrown into normal rubbish,
  • it is useful, but not to me,
  • I'll need it between now and Friday,
  • I'll need it during the summer,
  • I won't need it until the end of the summer and so need to get it boxed up to send on Monday,
  • I can't actually decide so it can sit around for a few days... and then I'll probably dump or chuck it.

There was (is?) a stray cat outside my sliding doors. I had the doors and curtain open, and suddenly saw this little face staring at me. I opened the mozzie screen to see if the cat would come in. It wouldn't. But kept staring. I put my hand out but it wouldn't come towards it. I noticed it had infected weepy eyes and some mange. It moved back a little. I held my hand out again and it moved forward, cautiously, and swiped my hand. Long claws. Ouch. Luckily it didn't draw blood. I didn't know what to do. I don't actually have anything edible in the house that I could have given the cat anyway. It kept staring. I got bored. Eventually I just shut the doors and curtains. And felt guilty. Until I realised how many bugs had come in during the time the screen was open. Then I stopped feeling guilty.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


How can I be expected to sleep when I have so much to be excited about?

  • leaving Japan
  • two new jobs
  • a summer of fun in London

And things to be not so excited about:

  • finishing diploma coursework
  • packing, chucking, sending, sorting, etc
  • er, can't think of anything else. those are enough!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I never got round to coming back to my A - Z post or things I like / don't like here. Maybe I will; maybe I won't. Depends how depressed I get with packing!

In ten day, TEN DAYS, I leave Tokyo. Of course, my level of preperation is, thus far, pretty non-existant.

Friday before last I took my diploma exam (bloody hard) and the next day was my final day of work (yes, I was extremely happy to leave). Since then I've been working on my diploma portfolio (final draft finishing, waiting to hear if I need to do any amendments) and, er, not a huge deal else. A couple of lunches and things but I really don't know what I've been doing with the time.

I certainly haven't been sorting through my stuff and deciding what to send in advance, what to give away, what to sell, what to throw away, or what to take with me. Although I'm getting a pretty good idea what to 'hide' in the back of the cupboard in my room!

So that's me. Had a fun day in the park yesterday. A sort of goodbye picnic. We went to Shinjuku Gyoen, which you normally have to pay to get into, but it was free yesterday. A couple of my friends had a baby, so they brought a tent to keep him shaded from the sun. Within minutes of erecting the tent, park warden dictator guy ordered us to take it down. Even more ridiculous, in the middle of a beautiful hot summer day - ie 4pm - they closed the park and kicked us all out. Only in Japan. I mean, how ridiculous? 4pm??? We moved elsewhere to continue drinking.

I've got such mixed feelings about leaving at the moment. Mainly, it's excitement, but also a little bit of fear... it's been such a long time since I lived in London and I do feel a bit 'institutionalized' from living in Tokyo so long. It's little things, like wondering if I'll get my things nicked in London vs. leaving my computer on a table in a cafe, bag with iPod, wallet and phone on seat, and wandering off to the toilet here. (Okay, I asked someone to keep an eye on the computer, but had it been bag only, I wouldn't have said anything).

So, I'm nervous. I'm wondering how I'll get on in the new job as it's going to be something so different from what I'm used to.

And I'm excited. Above all, I'm excited. I can't wait to leave now and get back to see all my friends and I'm so looking forward to a summer of London fun. And, even better, knowing I'm leaving again after the summer!

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Today is all about numbers:

39 - the very scary age I just turned. I'm 39. Me. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.


5 - the number of teaching days I have left in Japan.

5 - also the number of days until my diploma exam.

19 - the number of days until my diploma course work needs to be in.

27 - the number of days until I leave Japan.

Uncountable - the number of possessions I have to sort out and things I have to do.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh My!

I am currently having major second thoughts about 'the place I'm going to after London'.

I'm sure it'll be great. I'm sure I'll have a hell of an experience and will learn much and have much to blog about.

But I'm starting to have nagging doubts. The more I'm researching, the more I'm flicking between excitement and doubt.

It could just be that so much else is going on right now - like being 1.5 weeks away from my exam and a month away from leaving Japan...

But I'm nervous. Really really nervous. I'm determined to see it through but - and this is partly the problem - mid-September is quite far away. Far enough away to look for and find something else. Though I know I shouldn't...


Monday, May 17, 2010


Despite not sleeping much last night, got up early and had a very good study session in Kichijoji. I can't study at home as I play on the computer, nap and a heap of other things.

The sun was shining, the day was warm, I was in flipflops. After a good few hours of productivity, our brains reached overload and we took some cans of drink to the park and hung out for a bit. Caught up with an old friend I'd not seen in a long time, which was super lovely. Listened to music, chatted, drank, relaxed. Headed to a bar for gyoza and booze. Threw around a model airplane. Laughed so hard tears ran down my face.

Went and played pool. A couple more drinks. Did amazingly well at pool. For me. Who really is not a good player. Headed home earlyish. Hot shower. Sleepy. Happy. Nice.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brain Overload

  • I just remembered my a-z. Had totally forgotten about it.
  • Noticed on Facebook that lots of my mates have birthdays coming up over the next week. Remembered I do too. Next week. Had totally forgotten. Not that it means anything, but still.

  • Time is moving too fast:
  • My diploma written exam is on the 28th.
  • I finish work on the 29th.
  • I have a few days after that until my portfolio deadline.
  • I have a heap of paperwork to do for work detailing all my classes.
  • I need to recertify my BULATS examiner status.
  • I need to sort out my stuff - what's to be sent to England, what's to be given away, what's to be disposed off and what's to pack.
  • I'm leaving on the 18th of June.
  • That is ridiculously scarily soon.
  • I'm nervous about going back to London.
  • I'm even more nervous about where I'm going after London.
  • I'm not exactly having second thoughts about my plans; but I'm hesitating a little. This is why I'm not telling anyone where I'm going. I have my own nerves and doubts and don't need to have to justify my choice right now.
  • I'm nervous I won't live up to the expectation the new jobs have for me.
  • I'm slowly going nuts through lack of sleep.
  • I can't relax.
  • It's all work, study, worry.
  • And more work, study, worry.
  • I can't relax. I have no time to relax. I'm so way past natural energy. It's all about caffeine these days.
  • I struggle to fall asleep. I struggle to stay awake.
  • I want to have less things flying around in my brain. It's relentless right now. And I don't like it much.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Black Magic




Free refills.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

An A - Z of Jo's Japan - Part One.

A is for Animation - is anyone not crazy about animation here? Whether it's comics or cartoons, everyone seems to be nuts for it. From the salaryman, reading his porno manga on the train, to the 18-year old school boy dangling his favourite Disney character from his phone; from the cartoon characters warning you against getting your fingers stuck in the train doors, to the cute character on the garbage vans. From his and her matching cartoon character clothing, to the old lady with cartoon characters dripping off her stationery. It's everywhere.

A is also for Apples - which are massive, often require two hands to eat and are the sweetest juiciest ones I've ever tasted. Yummy!

B is for Booze - now I have to admit that the last 16 months I've actually drunk very little, comparatively speaking thanks to studying for the Diploma and general tiredness / aversion to smoky places BUT drinking in Tokyo... shochu is probably my favourite drink. It's a clear spirit that can be made from various things like sweet potato, rice, barley. It can be drunk straight or on ice but is commonly used here as the base for cocktails. And it's bloody lovely. Bit of a gamble about the hangover though.

No post about booze would be complete without mention of the nomihodai which, roughly translated, means 'you are now challenged to drink as much as you can before your time runs out / you pass out and we'll take a ridiculously small amount of money from you to do it.' Nuff said. Wouldn't work in England, bars would be drunk dry. In Japan, the tolerance level is much lower. I'm sure bars shudder when a foreigner orders nominhodai.

B is also for Bikes - everywhere you go - bikes. Granny bikes mainly, with little baskets at the front, one gear and a self-locking device instead of a chain. And everyone cycles on the pavements, which can be rather annoying. Especially when it's raining and the cyclist is holding an umbrella. (see D is for Danger).

C is for Chan - which, along with Kun, San and Sama are honorifics added after people's first names. Except when they're used after the family name! Kind of like Mr or Miss. Except pets, kids (generally, although not exclusively, girls) and cartoon character are all referred to as Chan. Hello Kitty is Kitty-chan. Seriously. Kun is used for boys, San for adults and Sama for people who deserve a lot of respect.

C is also for Chihuahuas - Silly little bug eyed things that are not cute and can't cope with the Tokyo winters (but then neither can I) or summers and are generally carried everywhere anyway. In silly clothes. Okay, they're not that bad, but definitely not suited for Tokyo. Other than for the 'cute' factor. They're not real dogs though and, scarily, 'chihuahua' is also the second most popular search that has brought people to this blog.

D is for Danger - Tokyo is a dangerous city. You might step on a cockroach, slip off your stilettoes and sprain your ankle, break a nail fastening your designer bag, fall off your bike when trying to juggle steering with holding an umbrella and talking on your phone. You could be bruised by a granny's elbow as she charges past you at 20mph to nab a seat on the train or pass out from the salaryman's booze fumes on the train in the evening.

Okay. Tokyo is actually an insanely safe and secure place. I've not felt intimidated or worried for my safety here. I'll leave things on tables in cafe's while going to the toilet and know they'll still be there and, before my lovely green granny bike turned into a rusty mess, I'd happily cycle with things in the basket knowing they wouldn't be snatched. Heck, I'd even leave them in the basket while I went into a shop.

D is also for Dry Squid - love the stuff. Comes in a bag, very moreish - when it doesn't make you choke. Many hours of enjoyment come after eating it too, from trying to extract the strands caught around your teeth.

Part Two coming in next couple of days.

Things I Won't Miss When I Leave Japan - Part One

Takes battle stance for potential can of worm opening time:

1. People being able to smoke in bars and restaurants.
Many restaurants don't have separate smoking and non-smoking sections, let alone a ban. Often, if they 'do' have two sections they will be literally next to each other. I like to enjoy the aroma and taste of my food without inhaling your fag smoke, thank you. And I like to go out drinking for an evening without taking aching lungs home with me.

2. People who pretend to care about the environment.
I could say a lot but let's leave at one example: my house has 6 bins (9 if you include the small ones for batteries, pet bottle lids and lighers) to separate rubbish, and people get very uppitty if others don't abide by this. However, they people in the house think nothing of leaving all lights on, all extractor fans on and the heating on - when nobody is around.

3. Spoilt kids.
My opinion. Discipline and behavioural guidelines are sorely lacking in many many of the kids I've seen.

4. The weather.
Too cold and too wet. Summers are good though.

5. Shared living.
I'm too old for shared living!

6. Not being able to access a good selection of shoes.
My foot size is bigger than the average Japanese woman's. This excludes most shoe shops. The ones that DO have my size are expensive and the selection is crap!

7. Blind faith.
The students I teach are individuals who generally don't question anything and however much they might dislike something, often believe it's good for them and won't change it.

8. Cuteness.
Used to love it. Now it's too much. I don't see why everything has to be cute. From the shoes on the dog's feet to the character on the garbage vans. Why?

9. How long everything takes to get done.
Things that really should take a short time, really don't. Japanese people I've asked don't understand this either.

10. Rules.
Too many rules. That. Don't. Make. Sense.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Things I'll miss when I leave Japan - Part One

1. Convenience Stores - they're just so... covenient for last minute groceries and a million other things.

2. Vending machines - that work EVERY time. You put money in and, tada, a drink comes out. You may laugh but think about England: you put money into a vending machine and - well, it's a gamble if you get anything, in fact you're probably likely to lose your money.

3. Hot coffee in cans. Seriously. LOVE the stuff. Especially from a vending machine on the station platform on a cold day.

4. Feeling safe ALL the time. Knowing if I have my wallet and phone in my hand that they won't get snatched and I won't get attacked.

5. Oden. Seriously. When I first came to Japan the smell made me feel sick but then I sort of got into the occasional oden munch out. I'm particularly into the sausages, hard-boiled eggs and daikon (radish). So good on a cold day.

6. Being able to use large denominations of cash for small items. I wouldn't dare try it in England.

7. Consistantly hot summers. Okay, slight cheat this one as - well, you'll find out in September - but I certainly don't expect to experience more than about two hot days in a row in London over the summer.

8. 100 yen shops. Oh bliss, bliss, bliss.

9. Living in a no-tipping society. It's not that I'm tight, it's just that tipping confuses me and it's nice that staff do a good job because it's their job to do so, and not because they're after a tip.

10. Going into shops and restaurants where staff are polite and don't show they really don't want to be there - like they often seemed to do in London.

I'm going to find adjusting to London life hard, aren't I?

Part two coming soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring what?

We're in the middle of a pre-rainy season almost daily non-stop pissing it down season.


And the Japanese always go on about how Japan has four seasons.

I think not.

We have cold, very cold, back to cold, wet, very wet, hot, bloody hot (love it!), typhoon, cold.

And somewhere amidst all that we have cherry blossom season and autumn.

Four seasons? Pah!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Time Is Right

November 2007 NOVA, one of the big chains of language schools in Japan, collapsed.

April 2010 GEOS, another of the big ones, collapses.

Aeon? Gaba? ECC? Shane? Surely it's only a matter of time before another one bites the dust.

My company just shut it's New Zealand branch. We can't afford new textbooks to replace tattered ones in the schools. Student confidence can't help but be shaken by what's happened with GEOS after NOVA. Maybe it won't make students leave, although I'm sure students will seriously consider whether or not to renew - but I think the affect on potential new students is going to be huge.

Teachers come and go from language schools, but the sheer number of teachers leaving from my district - experienced teachers; teachers who have been around for a long time; good teachers, is quite staggering. I can't help but think that this will persuade any teacher worth half a grain, to seriously consider other options now - and not wait around for the whole Japanese language school industry to come toppling down like a neat little row of dominoes.

And with the departure of good and experienced teachers, will come the departure of loyal students. I'm not saying inexperienced teachers won't do a good job - we all started somewhere, but with a lack of support from experienced colleagues, the potential to learn from others just goes.

RIP Industry. I'm glad I'm getting out while I still have the choice.


On another note, I'm glad I'm getting out before I go batty from hearing things like:

  • First year university students don't work hard because they're so tired from their entrance exams;
  • It's okay for kids to sleep in class if they're tired;
  • It's good for kids to go to cram school at kindergarten age because they need to get into a good elementary school;
  • Kids don't need free-time - it's healthy for them to get up at 5am, spend an hour travelling to school, go to their music/tennis/flower arranging club after school every day and then go to cram school and then go home and do their homework before going to bed. And it's good that lots of Japanese kids spend Saturdays being shepherded from swimming lesson to English lesson to music lesson. Okay, I'm paraphrasing slightly on this last one.
  • I've just had enough now of seeing babied / overly tired / uncontrollable kids. We're teachers NOT babysitters. Not every child is suited to the environment we teach in. That's a fact. If you're going to come to exhausted to a lesson - have an energy drink. Or don't come. If you're too tired to catch a ball and too tired to keep your eyes open in the lesson if you sit down, then what are we, as teachers, expected to do?

I adore some of my students but others should definitely be either at home sleeping or running around a football pitch to expend their energy. They shouldn't be coming to us.

And unlike some organisations where students attend 2 or 3 times a week for 90 minutes at a time, how on earth can people expect to progress when they come for 30, 40 or 55 minutes once a week and can't be bothered to study in between lessons. It's a struggle to teach them. They don't show progress because they don't put the effort it. They choose to study for whatever reason but I don't think the reasons are 'solid' enough. The courses are ongoing. They never end. There's no goal. There's no exam at the end. There's no progress check before going to the next level. Many of the students have never gone abroad. Most of them are certainly not brave enough to go on a trip that isn't an organised tour. They don't NEED English. They know this. And that's half the problem. The number of students who came back from a trip abroad who, when asked if they practiced their English when away, said they didn't is staggering.

There. I said it. I said what I really feel.

I'm not talking about every Japanese person. I'm not even talking about every Japanese student of English. But for the majority of students who come to our schools, it feels like this is the case.

Things that once seemed amusing to me are now just irritating. The time really is right to get out.


On even more devastating news: my external hard drive, containing thousands of photos, documents, movies, songs, etc has died. I've tried freezing it. Nothing. Am gutted. Hopefully a data recovery service can work some magic - and without charging an arm and a leg for it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

There IS something

A colleague, who is also leaving, and I were talking about work today. He said, 'there really isn't anything you're sad about leaving here, is there?', and it got me thinking. It's not that I'm actively not sad, if that makes sense, but rather that there's so many quirky ways of working and quirks in students, students parents, that sometimes I do find myself sighing in relief at the thought of leaving.

I'm sure the adage, 'you don't know what you've got til it's gone', may hold true in the case of Tokyo and my current job but, right now I can't see that. And, of course, I'm so utterly utterly excited about what's to come that I can't live in the mundane now. I want to be in the new future.

As far as work is concerned, that's not really a problem. I'm still making a big effort with the lessons I give and trying to support the teachers in my school as much as possible. But that's it. Unfortunately, this attitude is also distracting me somewhat from the diploma, which is a bad thing. I did, however, buy a new computer today which should make the diploma easier to get through as it's very small, light and portable and not old and prone to freezing or crashing.

I have come back down to earth regarding what's coming next but it IS kind of hard to not get excited about it all. The big groups of teens and seeing everyone in London over the summer and the amazing adventure that will start in September. And I have no reason to believe it'll be anything but amazing!

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm Cold and I'm Tired

I spent all of yesterday completely knackered, got home, put the heating on it was so cold, fell asleep. Guess what? I then wasn't tired until about 3.30am. Am, again, exhausted.

I'll say this for Country 'x' - it isn't a cold country.

The weather in Japan is abysmal. Mid-April and the heating needs to be on? Still, at least we're not suffering from the volcanic fall-out.

Another incoherent post brought to you from the depths of knackeredness.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


... I'm bouncing around in a bubble of excitement about September. No anxieties today.

... I'm excited by the thought of having time between jobs - at the beginning of September - to do a little bit of travelling - current thoughts are Paris, Finland and Glasgow. Thoughts change...

... I had a good day. I like Tuesdays. I love my Tuesday students and two of my groups got bigger today - that means Tuesday is a three group day. I also have one teen that it lovely and my day finished with two giggly 20-year old friends who I thought were hilarious.

... I didn't get any diploma work done. I'm a bit concerned about how this is going at the moment but I'm so distracted.

... I went and explored (online) my 'new' home from September.

... I received my contract in the post for June (London).

Everything is good. Apart from my sleep patterns. Oh and the weather this week? Sunday - lovely, Monday - terrible, Tuesday - lovely. I've been alternating between heating and aircon in my room (I don't really need the aircon, but my computer does. It's seriously on it's last legs.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Random Monday Thoughts

I can't believe it's cold again. Yesterday was lovely.

I'm finding it so hard to concentrate on my study right now. And I have so much to do....

Todays mood.... sleepy.


A full-time job.
A diploma exam.
Leaving Japan.
A summer job in London.
A two-year contract in x.

There's so much going on in my head right now that I'm exhausted, my sleep is all over the place and... I'm nervous.

It will be understood why the big secrecy about x, but part of it is that I'm 99% sure it's the perfect decision and I'm worried that telling people may fuel the 1% of doubt to increase - if that makes sense. I don't want to justify my decision or have to explain it.

Part of my choice is for pure adventure and something I can't imagine. Part of it is going back to Plan A. Plan B was South America, Plan C was Spain. I'm not sure how many people knew about Plan A. But that's where I'm going if you DO remember that far back. Another part is - well, I've got a big ambition and this goes towards achieving it. Again, you'll figure out what I'm talking about somewhere down the line when I make it more explicit.

And above all. It's a good choice. A reliable choice. A choice that - given I'm not 25 and unlikely to change career - is a wise choice.

But there are so many thoughts racing around my head now and I wish they'd just calm down.

Today's thought was: I probably won't be able to get sashimi. Like, WTF? Of ALL the things I could be concerned about today it's whether I'll survive without raw fish.

I'm daft.

Friday, April 09, 2010


  • Lots of Japanese TV programmes seem to have Japanese people on, speaking in Japanese, with Japanese subtitles. I have no idea why.

  • I've noticed in Japan, and other Asian countries, lots of skin whitening products. I find this very sad.

  • A student the other day told me she'd just got a new job. A part-time one. She explained this was because she'd recently got married and couldn't cope with a full-time job and cooking and cleaning. I asked if she'd liked her job. She sighed and said she had. I asked if her husband helped in the house. She said he didn't know how. Good to know equality is live and kicking.

  • Another student told me she'd joined a marriage bureau. Fair do's. I mean, why not? She told me they were famous. And expensive. She said she'd known about them since she was a kid (like WHAT?). She said she'd had to get a certificate from the local government to prove she was single. She said she had to tell them her salary, height, weight and rank eight colours in order of preference. She's now considering paying them for 12 months to find her a husband. R-I-G-H-T.

  • Out of the mouths of students: 'I have a friend who is a transvestite, but he's okay'.

  • I have a student who looks like Ronnie Corbett. Except for her manicured nails.

  • I have another student who is the spitting image of Charlie Brown. She doesn't have manicured nails.

  • I have a stinking cold that came on suddenly probably due to too much excitement and not enough sleep this week.

  • It's cold. Bloody cold. It's the middle of April nearly and it's still cold. I think we've had three warmish days this year. Last weekend I was meant to go to hanami, the popular Japanese fight to find a spot to put you tarp down and sit on the ground until you bum goes numb, share food and get outrageously drunk festival in celebration of the cherry blossom which you must take lots of photos of - every year - even though it looks the same - every year. Anyway, the combination of having to work in the day (TWO six day weeks in a row!) AND the cold weather, and I just couldn't face it. Oh well. I can look at the photos I've taken every year since I've been here instead ;-)


Today I feel a little bit calmer.

After a flurry of emails last night things are making more sense and I know what I need to do when.

The problem is I'm now in a position where I'm not only working full-time and meant to be doing senior-teachery things BUT I'm planning to do my diploma exam at the end of May and need to re-submit two bits of portfolio and I'm thinking about the move to London / the move from Japan and logistics of that and the summer job and the permanent job (job 'x') after that.

And job 'x' involves a bit of a complicated visa process plus yesterday I was still hyper-excited, tired and uber-caffeine fueled.

The big problem is time. In London, I'm working full-time and won't have much time to sort things out for job x, so I wanted to do it now and here - with obvious complications. But it's fallen into place. Job x is getting me local help in London, Summer job will let me have the odd afternoon off to visit the local help and sort things out.

Am still very excited - and this is the reason I'm refusing to say where I'm going. You'll understand when I do say. Or, more likely, when I announce it on a new blog! Tiredness is overtaking me though. With so much going on right now my mind isn't very calm and so sleep is not being a good friend to me. Caffeine is though. And, of course, that isn't a good combination, is it?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

So excited!

I got the job!

That's the next two jobs sorted now!

Happy happy!