Sunday, 28 December 2003


In celebration of the first snow for Tokyo this winter, I have changed the blog's colours accordingly. Hope you like them, more insights to follow when the synapses start firing again...

(tried to study today, wasn't very successful, might have to cut down on the drinking...still, remembered how to play with the blog, which is almost as good. wonder if the uni will let me post assignments here rather than writing them out in hard copy and posting them to Leicester...?)

Thursday, 25 December 2003

Merry Christmas

A quick note to the loyal fan base, thanks for all your support over the last few months, Keep those comments trickling in. Have a great holiday, see some of you soon, speak to others sooner.
links cont'd

ok, got 'em. thanks for the feedback.

Wednesday, 24 December 2003


Can anyone see the new links mentioned below? I put them there, same as all the others, but I can't see them...

Tuesday, 23 December 2003

Broadcasting Standards

An inquiry had been held recently into alledged bias in the reporting of the Inter Bowdidge Backgammon Challenge 2003 by seasoned reporter and Backgammon aficionado Omar Sharriff.

The inquest met for a marathon 7 minute session, during which it was decided that the report upheld the finest standards if impartial journalism. The inquest went further to suggest that the report, and Sharriff himself, could feature heavily in end of year award ceremonies, especially the prestigious Fox News Award for Fair & Balanced Reporting.

Other stuff

Check out the new link - to kanji site - for those of you wanting to brush up on your kanji (and run by long time friend Chris, who yesterday had a poke around my computer and laughed at the inefficiency of it, then cleaned it up so it is now working properly and doesn't seem to crash - thanks Chris).

And also the new blog - Speaking as a Parent - this is mainly for Golf Playing Soon to be a Father Brother - lots of good stuff here and has been keeping me amused for months.

Monday, 22 December 2003

And finally...

"And the last item on tonight's sports bulletin is on the final of the Inter Bowdidge Backgammon Challenge 2003 - over to our reporter Omar Sharriff

"Thank you Tony. Yes, what a day for Backgammon lovers throughout the world. Once again this year's deciding match was between Paul 'the old Master' of Clanfield, England and Justin 'the young pup' of Arakawa fame. And what a match it was!

"As ever it was played out over a first to 21 points format and once again they had us on the edge of their seats. But if only that were true of the start. Yes, as so often happens, the old master's mastery of the lucky dice was at its most potent in the early rounds, rushing quickly to a 12-1 lead after only a handful of games. The wails of anguish could be heard all over Eastern Asia as time and again the old timer pounded the youngster with dice of such ferocious jamminess that the umpire at one stage held a brief stewards inquiry over whether the old master had somehow hacked into the Yahoo Games driver and fiddled with the random dice generator.

"A lesser man may have crumbled in the face of this fortuitous onslaught. Indeed going back to the Clanfield Cup in October and last year's Inter Bowdidge Challenge, the youngster did just this, capitulating in a manner only professional English Cricketers are usually capable of.

"But not today. It started with the odd one or two games won here and the. Cat and mouse stuff through 15-6 scoreline in favour of the old master until the young pup unleashed a game of spontaneous brilliance that the old timer could only stop and stare. No lucky dice here, 'play what's in front of you' was the order of the day and the youngster did just this. But this was no blasting of his opponent into submission. This was finesse. A blur of swift movement, an eye on the now but, uncannily, seeing the gaps a dozen moves ahead to leave the old timer out flanked, out manoeurvered and out of time. 15-14 in a single throw of the dice - obviously all that private work on wrist flexibility and strength in his bedroom came to fruition.

"But as the 8 time Clanfield Grand Master with Bar, the old master was not going to take this lying down. Back came the back game and forward came the second bottle of cotes-du-rhone. Nip and tuck. Dodge and weave. Easy on the doubling dice that earlier in the contest had been accepted with gay abandon. A game to the old master. One back to the young pup.

"But what's this? The scores locked at 18-18 and a crucial double halfway through the game from the youngster! But why? The tension rose. It could go either way. The youngster must be mad to do it, he's only a couple ahead on the board. Surely the old master will accept, double him straight back and win the game and the championship?

"He refused! That was the crack that the youngster needed. With it he realised that the old master was beaten.

"With the score at 18-19 it was all over. The old timer, perspiration dripping from his brow and inspiration seeping from his toes, was through. The final games were played out in an almost perfunctory manner. The young pup milking the applause of the crowd, though not forgetting to console the deposed champion. A quiet word and a brave handshake over the ether showed the measure of the victor.

"And with that 18-21 final scoreline, the Inter Bowdidge Backgammon Challenge Cup returned to Asia for the first time since the young pup's decampment to Japan in 2002. It has been a long wait for the people of this island nation, but I can tell you there was dancing in the streets on Tokyo last night, much of it lasting well after closing time.

"But what of that double, the double that had broken his opponent? Was it a plan? More likely a gamble of enormous proportions, that only a true grandmaster of the game could make? "Actually I pressed the wrong button..." was the somewhat sheepish answer of the young pup. Well I think we can all se a little bit of gamesmanship in that one. A nice thing to say to a vanquished foe, but all who were there to witness it will long remember the steely look in the young pup's eye as he lent over to take another swig of his wine. An accident? Not a bit of it.

"This has been Omar Sherriff in Kawaguchi at what can only be descibed as an historic victory.

Thursday, 18 December 2003

Festive Drinking

Goes on quite a lot. I got very drunk on Sunday, did the whole leo thing and ended up playing pool at about midnight in Shinjuku, I think. Monday morning wasn't pleasant.

Then extravagant quantities were consumed last night at the Shingawa Prince Hotel's 39th floor city view bar. A marvellous place that again has the benefit of a nomihodai, which means you turn up, give them a tenner and they let you drink as much as you want for two hours. Life doesn't get much better. This morning wasn't pleasant either.

And then tomorrow evening I have to go out again - oh the hardships of the christmas season. And then I'm holiday until the 3rd, wonder what that will throw into my path...

Other stuff

Finished the Julian Barnes, quite amusing, quite interesting, but nothing to write home about (even though this is a bit like writing home about it...sort of...) Golf Playing Going to be a Father Brother said I should write some more about Japan, so here's another strange one for you.

When you buy a bicycle in Japan it must be sold with a bell. All well and good, probably the same in England I suspect. Oddly enough bikes aren't allowed to be ridden on the road here, only on the pavement, which makes the whole bike-with-the-bell-thing very sensible. But here's the thing, Japanese people do not use the bells on their bikes. It is considered rude, according to my guru of Japanese things/wife. So Japanese people will cycle along behind you, sort of trying to get passed but resolutely not ringing their bells and then getting angry if you don't move out of the way (tricky if you are plugged into your walkman). And even weirder is that if you, as a gaijin, have the temerity to ring your bell to get some random Japanese pedestrian you will be subjected to the blackest of looks. Even though you cannot buy a bike in Japan without a bell.

Probably says a lot about the Japanese pysche I reckon.

Saturday, 13 December 2003


Am now reading England, England by Julian Barnes. This is worthy of note as it has been sitting on my bookshelf for about 4 years, surviving the return to the UK and numerous 'what shall I read now, I haven't got any new books' episodes, unread. But now I have decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. This leaves Jonny got his gun by Dalton Trumbo as the only book on the shelf I haven't at least started - but that looks really depressing, and is, according to Grandfather-in-Waiting - so I think I will wait until Christmas before giving that one a go.

As for recent reads, the Jostein Gaarder wa quite good again, he likes his philosphy theme, but all three of his books that I have read seem to follow the same lines, though different scenarios, but still, gets a bit monotonous after a while. The John Simpson autobiography was interesting. He says people have described him a bit of a pompous git in the past, and they would be spot on, but he has been in (and kicked out of) a lot of the most interesting places of the last 30 years - Berlin 1989, Baghdad 1991, Tiananmen Square, Iran, Kosovo etc - so has some stories to tell.

Glorious sunny day today, beautiful view of Mount Fuji through the kitchen windows, crisp, clean air. Just the sort of day to sit inside and study human resource management in schools and colleges. *sigh*. But am going out to get irresponsibly drunk tomorrow on a christmas party excuse of a leo sayer.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003


is nearly over but I thought I'd go for some autumnal colours to brighten the place up a bit. How nice.

Monday, 8 December 2003


i've just discovered colours...

Golf playing brother will no longer 'just' be golf playing brother. No.

Now he is golf playing brother who is having a kid!!!!!!!

That's right, you read it correctly. Julian and Katharine are pregnant - one or both, I don't think it matters really - and are due to have bouncing baby something at the beginning of August next year. So congratulations to you both, great news as it means I get to be an uncle and (strong hint here guys, are you paying attention, not really a hint, more of a direct statement etc) a god father. This is cool as I can be the weird uncle/god father who lives in a foreign country with a foreign wife and gets great manga and who pops up about once every two years and who eats weird food and tells corrupting stories and says things like 'don't tell your father'. Cool.

Actually I think I might by vying with the man who will be granddad for the last couple of things there. Julian is going to stand no chance with the two of us working on the youngster, I expect granddad is already in the planning stages.

This is especially good news as this will be the first child of its generation in the family, so extra special kudos to you guys for having dome the family proud.

What also made is nice was that Julian, when he called up to tell us the news, wasn't actually that pissed! Or at least tried not to show it... No, what made it even better than that was that he apologised to me after all the stuff I've written here about Minako and I trying to make babies. Taking your thunder, or something, as if that matters at all! No way mate, this is your moment in the sun and you guys should enjoy it as much as you can.

And be nice to Katharine!

Other news

Shame this gets relegated to 'under the fold' as it were, but you can't argue with big news. In a first, Arakawa Riverview has been linked to another blog! As you can probably tell from the sidebar about 'other blogs' we are now linked to Bondibooks, a blog that is part of a bookshop run by a chap called Josh in Kichijoji (that's in west Tokyo, for those who aren't in the know). Anyway Josh fancied a link and who am I to refuse? So take a trip to the blog, and go to the bookshop site as well. And if you live in Tokyo, why not pop over to the shop itself, it seems there is usually a cup of tea on offer, especially if it's raining. (OK, now I realise there is probably only about one other person in Japan that actually reads this blog and can therefore get to Kichijoji (hi Steve), but you never know).

That's it for today. Perhaps more observations on Japanese life to follow soon. Like shutters. You think shutters and you imagine slatted wooden things on the side of a house in Provence or something. But Japanese do shutters as well. Big, strong, ugly aluminium (or even cast iron, by the weight of the noes in my first flat) things on all the windows of a flat. Why so strong? I once remarked to Minako. Well, something to do with typhoons, which I can understand, and also for security, which I cannot. Very dangerous place, Japan, she opined, lots of burglaries so we need to protect ourselves. Now for anyone who has lived in Japan and England this is patently untrue. So I have come up with an alternative.

I reckon that it is deep seated need of the Japanese pysche to shut yourself off from the rest of the world and be in a self contained little environment, totally introverted, not concerned with the outside at all. It started with the Tokugawa shogunate closing off the whole of Japan (except Dejima in Nagasaki) to outsiders until Admiral Perry sailed into Tokyo bay 300 hundred years later and in the minds of the Japanese, nothing has changed. Japanese schools' idea of teaching geography consists of, this is Japan, the rest isn't. Tourists wander about in herds in any foreign country, safety in numbers etc. And wherever you go at 6pm, you will see the shutters come down on houses all over the neighbourhood, even when it is 35 degrees in August. Weird, if you ask me.

Tuesday, 2 December 2003

Surprised it doesn't happen more often

A strange thing happened to me whilst walking to work yesterday. Well, happened to someone else really. Monday was another grey, wet, rainy kind of a day, like so many we've been having recently - not what I came back for. I walk to work through some of the quieter back streets, which, if you have been here, will know as narrow, straight and usually with high walls right up to the junctions, which makes seeing traffic around corners more tricky. So, I walked across a crossroads, brolly angled in front of me and as I crossed I saw a small van coming up the road from my right. As I got to the other side I momentarily raised my umbrella and saw a woman on a bicycle. She was head down, moving fast, umbrella held out in front of her. Before I could say anything she was past me. I did have time to think 'oh no' (very useful, I grant you) and turn to follow her progress.

You can guess what happened next.

Yup. Straight across the crossroads at exactly the moment the small van came up the road. It braked (broke?), so did she and try to swerve as well. Hit her square into her side and threw her and the bike into a wall.

Just to remind you, she was holding an umbrella so wasn't in full control of the bike and only had her hand on one brake lever. It was raining, which makes stopping even more difficult. And as far as I could tell, she didn't slow down or even look where she was going.

I don't feel particularly sorry for her, she was, in my opinion, acting with the utmost disregard for everyone involved. I feel sorry for the driver of the van, who luckily wasn't going too fast.

Him, and the woman's son, who was in the child's seat on the back of the bike....

But I am surprised it doesn't happen more often, the way Japanese seem to ride their bicycles. Seem to have a deathwish.

(PS They seemed OK. The were walking around afterwards and there were plenty of people on hand from a nearby building site to look after them.)

Sunday, 30 November 2003


Not everyday your old man gets a mention in a national newspaper, well done chaps.
  • Beaujolais
  • Saturday, 29 November 2003


    hmm, saved and posted that last post with a view to go back and edit (i know how this compurter works now) and it seems to have disappeared off my 'edit' pane. so, i know there are typos in the post below, but i can't do anything about them now.

    ps watched 'chicago' tonight on dvd - please pick any icon on rathergood's swear-o-tron for this piece of nonsense. oh, and add matrix #3 as well.
    Saturday night

    What with the Rugby World Cup over, what is a chap supposed to do? Everyone in Blighty has had it easy - games at 9am mean that the rest of the day is free for drinking and falling over, so when the cup finishes, nothing much has changed. Us poor souls in Japan are now faced with empty evenings staring at the bottom of a bottle of red....

    oh ok, not all that bad then.

    But it does leave a gap, so what better way to fill it than with stories from this week's press to delight and amuse (if I'm lucky), or just give me something to write (much more likely). All these taken from this week's Daily Yomiuri.

    First up is a delightful new scam that some of the youth of Japan have been practising recently. Imagine a spotty adolescent/young hoodlum phoning up a random old person:

    "Hi, it's me [pretending to be errant offspring]"
    "Er hello [in a slightly bewildered fashion], how are you?"
    "Not good, I've crashed my car/got to have a abortion/need to pay off gambling debts/etc, can you give me 10,000/100,000/500,000 yen right now?"
    "Er... [still bewildered]...ok. How?"
    "Pay it into this bank account."

    And they did. To the tune of lots of millions of yen, apparently. Makes you wonder, really, along the lines of, why didn't the old persons tell their 'offspring' to come and collect the money? Or why didn't the old persons mention any names during the exchange? Or even, didn't any of the old persons wonder about the strange voices at the other end of the line? But there you go, but there are plenty of good scams that take in old 'English' persons as well, so we shouldn't wonder too much.

    Interesting news, perhaps even ground breaking, about crime in Japan. Since 1995, the number of robbery cases has increased threefold, as well as injurous assault, sexual assault, fraud and embezzlement all on the increase as well. Not that ground breaking, you may think, but, this is the first piece of reporting asbout crime that I have ever read in Japan where the main focus of the article wasn't about foreigners commiting crimes. In fact, of the 4 columns, the word foreigner appears only once at the bottom of column three. Those of you reading this outside Japan may thing I am being a little over sensitive about this, but it is odd to be a foreigner in a country and every report you read about increasing crime is about foreigners. Oops, could turn into a rant here, so let us move on.

    Those of you who have read this blog for a while may well remember a rant I had a while back about the government putting tax payers money into a failing bank. [if this rant was at the start of August it may well no longer exist. Blogger seesm to have swallowed these for some reason. Apologies]. Anyeay, the point is is that the govt is at it again. This time it is Ashikaga Bank, which apparently has overstepped its adequacy limit, or something, so it may well be off down the tubes if someone doesn't give it a helping hand. Now I'm all for helping out needy banks in times of trouble [actually I'm not, but bear with me here], but this is after Ashikaga has recieved 30 billion yen in 1998 (that's maybe 150million quid) in 1998 and 105 billion yen (oh lordy!) in 1999...of taxpayers money.

    So let's put this into perspective. Some punk kid scams a little old lady out of 100,000 yen and gets put in prison for a year or two.
    The Japanese government skims 130 billion yen out of the country and gets to do it again next year.


    These stories were of course mixed in with then usual reports of white collar crime (Kobunsha Exec in 22million yen embezzlement), non foreigner related muders ('Man shot Grandson, killed self), really dull political news (Govt, Parties spar over pension reform) and an unusually large number of people doing silly things on mountains (Man dies after plunge on Mt Fuji; 4 rescued, plus 30 Hikers found safe after n ight on Mt Kiyosumi).

    Last but by no means least is a another story about the government and money. In a report published on Tuesday, it apperas that over 40% of central government employees still receive all their salary in cash. Yes, in the most technologically advanced country on the planet, 40% of salaries are paid by one of the Office Ladies (and rest assured, it would be a female member of staff) popping down to the local Sumitomo-Mitsui on a friday lunchtime and collecting enough cash to pay everyone in the office in a smal brown envelope. I think it's fab that you can walk around with a very large amount of yen in your purse ad not worry about it.

    Anyway, as I read the first aprt of this article I was scoffing at the backwardness of these silly Japanese. But then I read on. Actually, 40% have their salaries paid in part or all in cash. Now, as you may well know, your average salaryman doesn't actually control his salary. It goes straight into the bank account, an account for which he probably doesn't have a bank card, and his good lady wife doles out a kind of weekly pocket money...

    What better way, therefore, than to have most of your salary paid onto your bank account, to keep the good lady wife happy, but a part paid cash-in-hand to do with what you will?

    And there was me thinking these guys were stupid. Just goes to show....

    Wednesday, 26 November 2003

    whither the weather?

    yesterday was like manchester in a monsoon - really grey, real downpours, running water in the streets, cold, miserable etc.

    today was like sydney in the spring - blue skies, balmy temperatures, glorious sunshine, birds singing in the trees etc.

    what is the world coming too?

    Sunday, 23 November 2003


    Goodness me what a game that was. I can only say that on Sunday afternoon after watching it twice at home. I went to the clubhouse to watch it, of course, but naturally couldn't remember much about the actual game itself by the time I got home. But the emotion, the passion, the excitement, that I remember from last night. What a game!

    The clubhouse was once again packed, this time with English and Aussies and the atmosphere was great. There were even a few Japanese there, surprisingly enough, all of whom seemed to be supporting Australia, for some reason. I'm sure their natto didn't taste too good this morning. And what about Australia, my didn't they play well. Considering they only had about 42% territory and possesion, they seemed very tenacious, dragging the game to 100 minutes. But still, we won! It would have been a lot quicker, I suspect, if Ben Kay had held onto the ball when 5 yards from the line, but oh well. And Jonny and Jonno...what guys. Hearts of oak. And the whole team. Robinson's try, how pumped was he after scoring? Magnificent stuff.

    Most amused that every time Australia took a penalty kick, the English half of the pub erupted in chants of 'Boring boring Aussies!'. Also, because we're all post-modern ironists out here, we did the same when England took a shot at goal as well, just to be fair, you realise. Managed to shout myself hoarse throught the game, so post match analysis was at a premium. However, I think most of it was fairly simple stuff like 'yeeeesss' or, in more lucid and thoughtful moments 'fuuucking yeeeesss'. As I said, I had to watch the game again this morning to find out what actually happened in the match. This wold be a useful skill to acquire with my post match telephone conversations. I usually speak with parentals after big rugby matches and, in most cases, I have little or no recollection of what was said. I suspect that more post-match analysis was aired, probably along similar lines as above, and Minako reminded me this morning that apparently a card we posted on Thursday has already arrived. But anything else, can't really remember, so apologies if I promised to do anything but haven't yet, if I did, best drop me a line to remind me.

    Think I may have left a message on Chard's answerphone as well....

    So it's all over for another 4 years. Roll on the 6 Nations in February. Should some of the team retire? I think some of them should, like Back, Dally, maybe Hill and Leonard probably should give it up after 113caps, but I don't know. Jonno should stick around for a bit, just to let the new guys get established before he goes - surely 2007 is too far away for him? And a new captain, please don't make Wilkinson the skipper, too much on his plate already.

    So nice try Australia, but Rugby is coming home. Well done England.

    (oh, and a note to 'Mat' from New Zealand, you are the bitterest, sourest poorest excuse for a rugby fan I have ever heard. For those who haven't seen, 'Mat's' insightful comment on the match on the planet-rugbywebsite was something like 'this is the death of world rugby, thank you Wilkinson'. Guess he's forgotten about Andrew Merhtens, Grant Fox etc. Tosser)

    Non-rugby related stuff




    Minako's well.....

    Plants are sort of OK but throttling back for winter...(except the olive tree, which is still shooting up (in the sense of growing quickly, not mainlining extravagant quantities of Class A's))

    Off to watch the Matrix tomorrow after studying...


    ah, to hell with it, yyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssssssss!

    Tuesday, 18 November 2003

    other blogs

    one thing about doing your own blog is that you wander around and find more blogs, especially through Blogger, who provide this mighty and wonderful service.

    anyway, just finished a book entitled 'the baghdad blog' by salam pax, which is his blog written before and all through the gulf war pt.2. fascinating stuff and the blog is still in existence so go check it out at
  • baghdad blog

  • i won't add it as a permanent on the sidebar as i think you have to ask permission for that sort of thing, blog etiquette, which i don't want to do as i think this guy gets a million emails a day and don't want to bother him.

    thanks to julian who, when he couldn't find a copy of the book to buy for my birthday, gave me his own copy.

    Sunday, 16 November 2003


    England 24 - 7 France.

    Oh yes.

    Oh yes.

    Bring on Australia.

    It's all karma.

    RWC final in 1991, Australia beat England in England.

    RWC final in 2003 England beat Australia in Australia.

    Buddha had it right, what goes around comes around.

    You can't argue with the big guy.

    (where's my weekend gone?)
    What a game!

    What a game! Where did it all come from? Who would have thought it? The passion, the skill, the never say die attitude...what a game. Yes, I think Scotland's dramatic 1-0 victory over Holland in their first leg Euro 2004 playoff will go down as a classic. Shame they'll probably lose the 2nd leg, but there you go.

    And the rugby was pretty good as well. Of course it was. Classic stuff. Great atmosphere in the clubhouse as was naturally packed with Aussies and Kiwis. Best thing was that even the Aussies thought they were going to lose. An Australian guy from the office turned up wearing an All Black shirt! He changed at half time as he'd brought his Wallaby shirt as well. I was standing next to a group of Australians and managed to get them and half the pub pointing at Pratty shouting traitor midway through the second half. All good clean fun.

    Anyway, come on England this afternoon. People coming over and I shall get drunk again - turning into a heavy weekend. Off shopping now for supplies, updates to follow.

    Saturday, 15 November 2003

    saturday afternoon

    Decided not to throw the laptop over the 7th floor parapet as, tempting and enjoyable it would have been, it would have curtailed the internet doings of more than just myself, so thought I'd better not. Very Jeremy Bentham of me, you may say, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. And it isn't my computer, that was a consideration. But I will now be more circumspect in using the spellchecking facility. It wasn't very good anyway, being based, it seems, on an American kindergarten dictionary and thus any word over 2 syllables or seven letters was automatically flagged. I'm trying to thik of an example, but daren't try it again in case it freezes agan, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

    Anyway, it is saturday afternoon and I find myself with a spare few minutes before heading into 'town' to watch the Wallabies and All Blacks bash lumps out of each other in a lively hostelry known as the clubhouse. This was chosen as the clientele is predominantly antipodean, which should make for a good atmosphere, a sort of sine qua non if you will, for watching these sorts of games. (Think I used that bit of Latin properly, read it in a textbook earlier today and didn't have the foggiest)

    But spare a thought for those who are unable to watch the rugby today. Specifically a chap who works for us who had to be taken to a pyschiatric hospital this week as he has a nervous breakdown and manic depressive psychosis. Not a pleasant thing to have at the best of times, but in Japan I think it must be even worse. Some of you may remember the chap I came out here with, Andy, back in 1996. He went mad as well. Is it me? Am I driving people to these ends? Well, not this chap as I don't really know him, but I have met him and done some training a while ago, so you never know. Anyway hope he gets better soon, especially as out health insurance policy doesn't actually cover in-patient pyschiatric problems, which could prove expensive for this chap. But get this, the policy does cover out patient treatment of the same kind, which seems a bit back to front to me. I mean, this chap is in a bad way, but if he was an out patient he could at least fly back to the UK and get treatment there, but now he is confined to a hospital so can't leave so will be racking up huge bills that he can't get out of even if he wanted to try. Doesn't seem quite fair to me.

    Goodness this has turned into a bit of a rant. Didn't mean it to, so apologies, but, well, I hope you can see my point. (Just in case you're wondering, I checked over a couple of other ex-pat health insurance policies and all seem to say the same thing, so looks like you're a bit buggered if you lose your marbles in a big way over here).

    Quick comment in answer to big golf playing Brother's comment on the last post, no there was nothing about golf in the post that disappeared. There is seldom anything in my posts about golf, what with it being one of the more ridiculous pastimes invented by the Scottish. But I'll tell you what, sometime, in the next few weeks, I'll wite somehthing about golf that isn't too rude, how about that?

    Right, I'm off to the pub. Not really sure who to shout for today as whoever wins will be hard in the final. Let's hope rugby is the winner...

    (PS no spellchecking to be done, so apologies for any typos)

    Tuesday, 11 November 2003


    just spent the last hour writing a long post, went to spell check and the whole bloody thing froze. fuck it.

    topics included rugby, the japanese election, post-holiday depression, studying, plants, urawa reds, sumo and my snazzy new counter.

    the next post may well contain a polemic about NEC laptop computers, assuming I can write one after throwing this machine off the 7th floor of an apartment building...

    Tuesday, 4 November 2003

    what is the world coming to?

    OK, I know it's a bit late, but but what on earth happened to Wales on Sunday night? Rediscovered their passion? Gave it a good crack? Didn't take no for an answer? Who knows, but it seemed to work and produced what has got to be of the best games of rugby I have ever seen - and England wasn't even involved.

    Sets up an intriguing England v Wales quarter-final this weekend, can't wait myself. And, for that matter, sets up a good prospect for NZ v SA, if the Bok pack plays up to its potential and the NZ forwards are as useless as they were on Sunday. Ahh, Rugby World Cups, don't you just love 'em...(well, I do anyway)

    Other than watching lots of rugby and doing not a jot of study, not much happened at the Arakawa Riverview in the last week. The plants are looking a bit healthier after I pulled off another bunch of caterpillars and threw them over the balcony (I must admit to feeling a little guilty about doing that, condemning them to a free fall death over a 7th floor parapet - perhaps its because I'm reading another book by Joe Simpson that seems to include a lot of lines like '...and then he died whilst climbing in Bolivia...', which I suppose is quite normal for one of his books, but still). Also pulled off some of the more completely nibbled leaves, which seemed to perk them up a bit. The olives, rosemary and lavender all seem to be going well too, as the autumn continues to be quite warm and balmy in this neck of the woods.

    That's about it really. Hmmm. Will try to have some deep thoughts to share with you all over the next few days...

    ...probably won't happen

    Wednesday, 29 October 2003


    Have just found this excellent story and thought I must share it with everyone.
  • Here
  • for the truth...

    Have also added the website to the favourites, check out the swearatron, very useful...

    ...have invaded the basil and have been merrily chomping away! Bastards!

    I don't know, you turn your back for 5 minutes (or two weeks) and the whole thing goes to pot. It doesn't help when your appointed herbacious assistant has a pathological fear of caterpillars and, when I announced from the balcony that I had found one of the little buggers, promptly slammed the door and locked it, refusing to open it (or even turn around) until i had deposited the aforementioned over the side of the balcony. Rex, do you do housecalls in Japan?

    Now back in the swing of working again and my what a pleasure it is to be back. The holiday seems but a distant memory. The suitcase finally arrived on Tuesday afternoon with nothing, it appears, broken. However a spent camera film seems to be missing, so if Parentals or Chard come across a random Jessops film, pass it on, otherwise all the memories I have of the trip will be those haphazardly retained in my alcoholically befugged cerebellum. Either that or Rex or Bert will have to sort out their digital ones and get them emailed across sometime.

    Second half of the holiday passed without apparent incident. I managed to get to London and meet up with Colin, an ex-colleague from Centre People, sounds like the company is doing ok but with the same weird boss with all her hang-ups (like sacking people, for instance). Also spent a day at our London recruitment office, which was good although it was only meant to be a morning. Still, I have claimed a day's less holiday as I consider it a day of work, I even tried to claim overseas daily allowance for it as well, but the boss was having none of it. Lastly I managed to get up to Leicester and meet my MBA tutor, Saeeda, (first assignment returned, I got a 'B' with 67% - 3 more and it would have been an 'A'! - am more than a little proud of this, not to say somewhat surprised) and have a good old chinwag - this after losing all the phone numbers and maps of how to get there, not an auspicious start. Anyway Saeeda didn't really talk (and she likes to talk) about the last assignment, or ideas for the next one, rather she went on about the dissertation, due in 2.5 years time, and then suggested that I start thinking about doing a Doctorate! Well just hold on a minute there, I think I'll just try to plod through the rest of this course before thinking about that sort of nonsense (although was secretly a little flattered).

    Then got back on Friday night and got whammed with Chard and Hugo in the Duke of Devonshire, played a little arrows and beat a couple of locals, which, I suspect, made us bellow. Most impressed with Chard who, along with Bert and Rex, forswore the puffing of fagarettes during the lakes and who managed the whole night in the Duke without the help of one of the little fellas. Nice work, long may it continue.

    Then back home. Just to say that the parting image of blighty was of apparent chaos in the departures hall of terminal 4, which pretty much summed up my experiences of the british transport system whilst back. I mean, it comes to something when the most effective and efficient mode of public transport when back was the train from London to Leicester and back.

    Sunday, 26 October 2003

    Back in Japan

    Easy to deduce from the title what this post is refering to. Anyway, am back home and feeling jet lagged already - heaven only knows what it will be like tomorrow.

    BA lost a whole lot more brownie points this weekend as not only did I not get an upgrade, again, but they endeavoured to leave my suitcase somewhere that isn't Japan. Last seen in Heathrow Terminal 4, said the chap on the desk. Well yes, I know this as it was the last time I saw it as well. And it wasn't just me, perhaps half a dozen people from the same flight we all waiting to fill out forms - they have a permanent 'lost luggage' desk there, for heaven's sake, I didn't see desks for any other airline...

    But that is all I can be bothered to write for today as the backs of my eyes are tired (not a pleasant sensation), not helped by watching England labour to victory over Western Samoa, who had 8 first choice players out and only represented half of the country - as they said in 1991, imagine if we had been playing the whole of Samoa.

    Sunday, 19 October 2003


    Well, BA won't be getting much of my business from now on! No upgrade! Can you believe that? Maybe I should have dropped unsubtle hints like, "give me an upgrade or our business goes elsewhere". Ah well

    This is only a quick one to update everyone. The climbing in the lakes was fantastic. Monday we did the Old man of Conniston again, but actually got to the top this time, after much hard blowing along the way. Tuesday was Helvyllen (spelling?) via Swirral Edge and then across to St Sundays Crags for a really good pull. Wednesday was a local climb around Troutbeck around the valley. Thursday was the big one, from Dungeon Ghyll up to Three Tarns, onto Bow Fell than across the ridge to Esk Pike before dropping down and then climbing up to Sca Fell Pike (we stood on top of the country) and then down via Rhosset Ghyll. The last one was over seven hours and included a lot of hard climbing but was well worth it. Oh, and we got utterly belted every night in preparation.

    Obviously great to be up there with Chard, Bert and Doctor Dog (who starts the new job on monday, good luck). Now back in Clanfield with family and watched England stuff the 'Boks on Saturday. Great stuff.

    More updates to follow soon.

    Friday, 10 October 2003

    I'm off

    Well, not quite yet, but have been to the BA thiung and am a little drunk. anyway, will be off in about 12 hours and be back in blighty not too long after, so see uk people soon.

    dropped very subtle hints this evening so hopefully...

    but will try to update the blog with tales of derring do and getting lost on the old man of conniston whilst in blighty, but you voracious things may have to wait until the end of october for your next installment...

    (unless you are with during the real life installments, but then you won't be there for them all, unless you are a limpet, which i would prefer it if you weren't, i'lls top now i think)

    Tuesday, 7 October 2003

    the little chaps

    Just following up golf-playing-brother's comments on the last post, the little chaps have got a good 30 minutes of sloshing about in their half pint glass apparently.

    Luckily there is no waiting around in Japanese hospitals, so I can do the business, hand the half pint glass (with a bit of clingfilm over the top to stop spillages) relay fashion to Minako as she sprints out the door to her waiting bicycle (sit-up-and-beg style). She then peddles furiously to the hospital and hands to the doc, all in 11.5 minutes - giving ample time for the doc to select the Ian Thorpe's and Mark Spitz's and give them their boost.


    Also, moving on, have just watched the dvd 'bend it like beckham'. Corny, true, but quite good fun and certainly a recommendation if found at a lose end on a Tuesday night in Kawaguchi.

    Only 2 days of work left to go before I get on a plane back to Blighty. And, one thing that I didn't mention before is that BA have given me another onerous task. It is a real hassle, but on Thursday, when I should be in the office until about 9pm finishing everything up before I go, I have to (have to, mind, for the good of the company) leave the office at exactly 6pm and go to seminar/meet and greet/free BA booze up at a swanky hotel in the centre of town. The things I have to do! I will have to sit there and listen to some dry chap waffle on for 45 minutes about planes or something, then immerse myself in free wine and canapes and drop extremely subtle hints along the lines of 'these new first class reclining seats look awfully nice, I wonder if I'll get to see one tomorrow...'

    You can dream.

    Sunday, 5 October 2003


    Was such a beautiful day this week that I took half of it off to masturbate. No really

    It is that time of the month again when Minako tries her hardest to get pregnant (obviously with my, ahem, input). Having tried the usual, and far more pleasurable, method unsuccessfully for the past year or so, Minako decided it was time to take things to the next level, or something like that. So, luckily that meant that I had to come home early from work, on a lovely day let's not forget, and produce a deposit that Minako could take to the hospital which they would then encourage to do the business in some way (stand beside it with a megaphone I suspect).

    This is not the first time I have had this marvellous opportunity. Way back in Spring I had to perform the same solemn duty, that time so the doctor could check the health and vigour of my output (very 'genki' was his assessment). If you have never had to do this, I can assure that it is not that easy especially as the receptacle they give is the size of one of the old straight half pint glasses - quite a feat to fill one of those I suspect! When I aired this view to Minako, she told me not to worry, then, on her return form the hospital, looked me in the eye and told me with a straight face that I had failed to fill the aforementioned flask and wondered if I could try again, this filling the flask at least half full...

    I will not relate the conversation that followed that incident...

    Sunday, 28 September 2003


    Last night was Flamenco night, hence the title of this week's load of old nonsense. "Why Flamenco night?" I hear you wonder. Well, very simple really. I used to work with a lady by the name of Tomoko before I moved to my new job, and she goes to Flamenco lessons every Thursday night. These were held in Kawaguchi so we took the train home together on Thursdays and she went off to tap away whilst I went home. So, last night was the show that the school put on and Tomoko gave us a couple of free tickets and asked us to go along.

    And to be honest, it was really quite good. They dancers weren't completely crap, as I was kind of expecting them to be, but actually pretty adept at it all. For those not in the know, Flamenco, for women at least, has basically three moves: firstly the strut, in which the dancers don't do impressions of bracing beams, but rather they strut around the stage, sometimes turning around, looking haughty; Second, they lift up their skirts and stamp their feet, looking haughty whilst they do it; and thirdly they lift their arms up in the air and twirl their fingers, whilst looking, if you can't guess, haughty.

    Haughty is important in Flamenco. Other things get a look in too, for example castanets get clicked, fans get fluttered and shawls get twirled as well. But all done in a haughty manner. And for the first hour or so, it was all quite beguiling and an impressive spectacle to behold. Indeed, the opening number involved about 200 dancers on the stage and in all the aisles in the hall. But, I'm sorry to say, that after about 3 hours of it, with only a 15 minute intermission, one's enjoyment and concentration did begin to flag. That and Minako sitting next to me asking "can we go home yet?" about every 30 seconds (this does not bode well for having children, but at least it is good practice for me...). But it was good that we stayed as all the dancers, Tomoko included, were waiting in the foyer afterward and we got to say well done and good show etc.

    So anyway, well done Tomoko, jolly fine performance, didn't put a foot wrong.

    other news

    Is a bit thin on the ground this week. One personal highlight for me was a jolly fab aspect of the new job in that I am the one responsible for the things like flights for teachers to and from the UK. At the moment we use BA as our carrier and this week there was a new BA representative in town so he dropped in to see me to have a chat. Of course we are quite a good little earner for BA as we have something like 200 flights London-Tokyo flights a year, and probably a similar number the other way, so they like to be nice to us - well, be nice to me now. So, when I let it slip that I was off back to Blighty in October, the Japanese BA lady suggested that she might like to 'take care' of the booking personally...So I'm crossing every finger I have in the hope that this means 'take care of bumping you up a class or two, Mistah Bowdiji-san' or something like that. I will let you all know, though those that I see in London on Friday 10th will be able to tell if I step off the plane looking like I've just stepped out of a salon (although I then have to use the tube to get to north London, so will probably arrive looking pretty crap...).

    On an almost related point, Rob had news that he is going to become an expat as well, as his company Axa-something-or-other are sending him off to Paris for four months from November. Nice one there Rob, hope it all goes well over there. Actually, it wasn't a related point at all. Oh well.

    Can't think of anything else to write - this may be a symptom of my biorhythms, which intellectually are right down at the moment. Who knows, but if you want to know yours, check out the new link today (have to say goodbye to 'Talk like a Pirate', but rest assured that will be back next year).

    Tuesday, 23 September 2003

    ...erm...can't think of a headline...doesn't bode well, does it...?

    Gosh what a productive couple of days. I took Monday off and today is a national holiday, it's the autumnal equinox don't you know, so today I painted myself and Minako with blue woad and we wandered through the streets of Tokyo beating each other with mistletoe and birch twigs.

    Not really, but it would be interesting to see what the good denizens of Tokyo would have made of that.

    But it was a productive couple of days. I have finished assignment one, which is a feeling of great...well...anti-climax really. It is done, but there has been none of the last minute, up-till-6am feverish writing that seemed to characterise parts of my undergraduate days. Maybe I'm doing this all wrong, I don't know. The other thing is that I may well feel that the essay is done, but this is probably beause I have now read it about 40 times (at least) and therefore it all makes perfect sense and the conclusions are self evident - in short, objectivity has become a problem. But then again I asked a chap in the office to read it last week and he seemed to think it was ok (and he is a 'proper' teacher with a B.Ed etc), even though he didn't get the last 800 words or so. But it has been rewritten with the suggestions of the tutor in mind, so hopefully it shouldn't fail (actually, she said that if it was rewritten with her suggestions, it should be a solid 'b', which is far greater than the 'scraping a c' that I am looking for) so fingers crossed.

    But here's a weird thing. Sat and Sun were designated study days this weekend, so by Monday morning, my morning off, as it were, pretty much everything was done. We were heading out for lunch at about midday and so I after reading the paper and going over the internet, had nothing to do for what seemed like an hour at the very least! This was a most odd feeling and I found myself opening a text and starting to read a chapter that will be relevant for the next module...! Freaked me out, I can tell you.

    Then I realised, take out the work and the study and there's not a great deal left.

    This depressed me no end. But then we went out for lunch and then to buy a new pair of hiking boots for the trip to the lakes in October and a lot of things were suddenly ok in the world. (As you can probably guess, deep introspective self reflection is not one of my strong points). Except that I didn't get the boots yesterday as the shop we ended up at in Shinjuku (lit. translation 'new Inn) didn't have the colour I wanted (they only had bad-curry-turd brown rather than nondescript gray). So today we went back to Ochanomizu (lit. 'place for water for the tea' - no really) and bought the aforementioned boots - at 20 quid off to, pardon me, boot.

    And then I got to walk home in them, about 10 kms through some jolly old bits of Tokyo, and some really quite bland bits of it as well. Still, this wander was good as it meant I got to break in the boots a little, not that they really need it as they are of the light/medium weight variety, rather than the heavyweight jobs, and also check to see if they gave me blisters, which they didn't, which is good news for the lakes.

    Saturday, 20 September 2003

    If you thought the internet was generally crap...

    ...then click
  • here
  • and you will be uplifted.
    couple of things

    1. it is raining, apparently there is another typhoon coming - what is up with the weather?
    2. Julian (big, golf playing brother) was made redundant this week - bad news but you still haven't told me what you want for your birthday
    3. we had a magnitude 4 (out of 7) earthquake this morning, big enough to make me worried that the cupboard was going to fall over
    4. have finished assignment number one - now I just have to rewrite it in line with suggestions made by the tutor. nearly done with it, only 3 more and a dissertation to go.
    5. did you speak like a pirate yesterday...?

    Wednesday, 17 September 2003

    Mid week update...

    This new comments thing is great as I get to respond.

    So, my brother Julian (the golfer...need I go on?) posted a comment that I hadn't mentioned, in my last post, that he, father and a couple of other reprobates called me at 5am on saturday morning to wish me a happy birthday.

    Well, I can certainly hold up my hand and admit this, the evidence is all (not) there for everyone (not) to see, as it were. But here's the thing, it is such a common occurence to be woken up at 5am by drunken louts in the UK (and now Europe) that it is scarcely worth mentioning anymore, only unusual or noteworthy stuff gets in here.

    This is tempered by the fact that I was, apparently, being serenaded by a restaurant full of drunken locals as well - although, to be frank (ha ha), the serious charge of 'willingly fraternising with known Belgians' is now an issue that may well be brought against the bibulous quartet...


    Don't forget friends, 19th September - Talk Like a Pirate Day...aaaarrrhhh, me hearties!

    Sunday, 14 September 2003


    If you remember back on 27th August I mentioned that I had planted a peach seed in order to grow a tree that had to grow as Minako said it wouldn't. didn't.

    Spent a lot of today writing my assignment and did a whole section that includes graphs. This may not sound a lot to you, but it was something of an achievement for yours truly as it was my first time, which was tricky enough, and also was on a Japanese computer, which was exceedingly tricky as I was, at every moment, dicing with the very real problem of deleting everything at the touch of a kanji'd button. But i didn't, which was a triumph in itself. Am now confident that it will be done, it is just the quality of it all that is in question. Also, the hardest thing, the most annoyingly difficult aspect of the whole thing is trying to keep it down to 5000 words or thereabouts. It would be so easy to just let it roll on a little and suddenly marks are deducted for verbosity. Very hard.

    Also had the first, faintest to glimpses of Mt Fuji today, away in the hazy distance. Through the cold months it can be seen almost everyday, but when it gets humid, hazy and polluted the poor lad disappears. So it is nice when we can see him again for the first time as it means the summer heat is on its way out (or rather it has been really windy for the last two days, which has moved the pollution out of the way, but that doesn't sound nearly as romantic, or optimisitc about getting rid of the summer weather). I refer to fuji as a chap, although now Minako isn't so sure if this is right or not. If it isn't apologies to the spirits etc. [which is a really smooth segue into]

    a grave situation

    But here's a weird thing that Minako and I were talking about yesterday. We were talking about funerals and graves. Strange, I know, but it started as a temple in Tokyo has defaulted on a loan and is now bankrupt, which means they are trying to sell it off so it can be demolished and apartments built on the site. Sad, but understandable. But no, a consortium of loclas are trying to buy it as they have their family graves on the site and don't want them demolished, again understandably so.

    So anyway we were chatting, as you do, about family graves in Japan, as they are quite different from most westerners experience. What happens is that the head of the family, sometime in the past (or maybe now) buys what is essentially a large lump of granite with two holes in it. When members of the immediate family die, their ashes are placed in one hole, i the front, and long flat sticks with writing on are place in the hole in the top of the lump of stone (don't really know what they are, but everyone, as it were, gets one). Women who marry into the family get placed in their new families hole, and daughters go to their new family's grave. Now, as you can probably see coming, one grave, lots of generations, one rapidly filling hole.

    And now a lot of the babies that were born in the pre-wwII baby boom are getting to the age where they are thinking about all of this. There was, apparently, a big Takase family conference about this a few years ago and it was decided that Koichi, Minako's brother and only son in this generation of the family, would take care of the grave. But already there are members of the family who are getting a little ansty as to whether their place in the grave is assured or not, because there is not much space left. Not having a grave to go to is unthinkable.

    I thought that you could just clear a little space, I mean, they won't care, will they? But yes they will, for two reasons. Firstly, after a life of slog and toil, one wants, as in the western version of these things, to rest in peace. That includes staying in your family grave (especially if, I suspect, you were the one who paid for it). Second, and more importantly, when you go through life, the spirit of an ancestor is supposed to sit on your shoulder and do stuff for you, like protect you, bring good luck etc. So, annoy the ancestor sitting on your shoulder and there could, literally, be hell to pay.

    Where this leaves us, who knows. Now Minako is out of the Takase family she is not entitled to a place in that grave - rather it is now my duty to provide a suitable resting place when the time comes - Arakawa River perhaps...?

    This is not meant to be morbid, by the way, just it is so different from what goes on in the west that I find it really interesting. Also, it might end up like a Japanese episode of Eastenders, with every angry with everyone else because the family grave is full nad no-one wants to buy a new one (granite is expensive, after all).

    Anyway, tomorrow is a national holiday, yaay, which means no work but more study. As with all national holidays, this one has a theme, it is respect for the aged day.

    So, yo, like, respect, aged people!


    thanks to Steve for writing comments on the last posting - and people thought I was becomming negative about Japan!

    Saturday, 13 September 2003


    Saw a great headline in the Yomiuri today which I just had to share with everyone...

    289 Teachers found incompetent in FY2002; 3 fired

    what saved the 286, that's what I want to know...?

    Apparently some of the shortcomings of these incompetent teachers were listed thus: inability to converse with students [pretty serious], teachers making too many mistakes in mathematics and Kanji [I sympathise with this one] and, best of all, 'high school teachers who continued with lessons even after the entire class had left the room'. Fantastic!

    In fairness, it wasn't just that three were fired, there was a much larger number of these 289 incompetent teachers who were reprimanded/punished first - 19.

    And now, over to you...

    rather than do any studying today, it is my birthday after all, I have been playing around with this and found a way to get a comments section attached. So, if you would like to comment on any of the postings I have made, please do. It seems that everone will have the opportunity to read them, but i reserve the right to veto any that I find too sensible.

    Sunday, 7 September 2003

    The MBA pt.2

    Well at least that is all sorted out. It seem that I was in the right and the university was in the wrong, although the way I read the email, it is a jolly good thing for me that they've managed to sort it all out and I had better not do anything of a similar nature again or there could be trouble.

    I don't know, all I did was exactly what they wanted me to do, except that I think my tutor received that bit of paper and didn't know what to do with it, so kept it, throwing the administrators into a lather of confusion, which they then ignored for five months. Anyway I have been allowed to continue with my present plan of submitting my first assignment at the end of September, which is good (and, let's face it, bad), apparently after my tutor put in a good word about my progress being sound - which is always nice to hear. Talking of progress, I have now written about 3000 words, most of which I am happy with. Actually, I have probably written about 10,000 words in total, but with rewriting etc, 3000 is about right.

    There was also a load of books that they were meant to send me, but didn't, at the start of this module. Thus about 40 quid's worth of books were bought needlessly by me. I wish they had told me that they would provide books at the start of each module, but that would be too easy I guess. They also sent a guide to the first module, with extensive lists of useful articles and suggested assignment titles. Come to think of it, this whole business may have started whrn I sent my tutor an email in August asking for some guidance on assignment titles...

    Ah to hell with it, I'm back on course for the submission deadline, and that is what counts I guess. One problem with this could be, of course, the...


    ...whereby I will return to the UK to drink real beer for a fortnight. The potential problem being this. I submit the first assignment on 29th Sept (company paid for DHL to the UK - nice). Leicester then take 10 days to mark it. If it is total garbage, they then return it to me to be rewritten. But I will leave for the UK on October 11th and may well not realise that I have to rewrite it until I get home on the 27th, possibly leaving me 3 days to resubmit it. I suppose I could call my tutor whilst in England, or even go and visit, but I will be so busy with hiking, drinking Bluebird and beating the lads at darts that I'm not sure I will have time. Oh well, in the words of Ferris Bueller (or it could have been Tom Cruise's character in Risky Business, I can't remember) "Sometimes you just what to say, 'what the f*ck...'"

    Back to the Holiday

    Yup, that's right, I will be back to Blighty on October 11th, sans partner I'm afraid, as I get a free plane ticket home whereas Minako doesn't. The first week will be spent hiking in the Lakes with Woolhead, CryBaby and Court Shoes (unreal names used to protect the daft) and it is here that the earlier references to Bluebird (local lake district brew, a 'session beer', according to a very drunk Court Shoes one night in March 2002) and darts. Apparently the lads have been practising in my absence and now think they are pretty handy - good luck boys, not a hope.

    Profound Thoughts

    When one becomes a Blogger, one is opened to a whole new world. One gets to read other peoples blogs as you find them at the site which hosts yours. I have read quite a few blogs, done a bit of research, and have come to a startling conclusion. Other people have deep, profound and philosophical thoughts, that they write on their blogs to share with the rest of the world.

    Wish I could do that.

    Lastly today

    My brother is a golfer.

    This is a terrible thing to have to say about any member of one's family and a line I hoped that I would never have to write. But it appears to be true as his wife, Katharine, who can only be described as an accomplice to the act, bought him a set of golf clubs for his birthday (which was yesterday, happy birthday Julian).

    Oh my goodness me. From our apartment overlooking the Arakawa river we can see a golf course I sometimes watch the punters wandering around hitting their little balls and I wonder, if I had a high velocity sniper's rifle...

    Of course not, but this doesn't alter the fact that my brother plays golf. He'll be giving up his playstation next...

    Sunday, 31 August 2003

    ahoy there, me hearties!

    This has to be one of the best ideas to come out of America in years. September 19th this year is world Talk Like a Pirate Day. No really!

    Check out the new link at the top right of the screen for all the details, then mark the day in your diary and tell everyone you know about it. Even Hollywood is getting in on the action with the Pirates of the Caribbean flick proving jolly popular this summer. I mean, what could be better than spending a whole day shivering timbers and splicing mainsails? Not much I reckon.

    The MBA

    Got a strange email from a lady by the name of Diane Atkinson last week. The general gist was 'thanks for signing up for the course, sseeing as it has now been five months, when are you going to choose what to study and then get going?'. And there was me thinking I had already started...Seems that a piece of paper stipulating which order I want to do the modules in didn't get through to Diane, the mba academic co-ordinator. So she thinks I haven't started yet. Also, they apparently were meant to send me a whole bunch of books when you start each module, but they don't tell you. So there was me, happily buying books from Amazon (and believe me, academic texts are not cheap) and getting down to study whilst the office sat there and wondered when I was going to start...for five months! If it was five weeks I could understand it, but to wait that long, thinking 'wow, this guy has just spent all this money and he's not doing anything, ain't that weird? Well, better let him get on with doing nothing I guess...' And all the while I'm in contact with my tutor, talking about courses and texts and assignments and the like. I makes me wonder. It also makes me wonder about my tutor, who had this document stating the order of the course but didn't pass it onto the academic office. It's enough to make you tear your hair out. Anyway, I am still looking at an end of September submission for my first piece, but they amy not not be expecting it until February. Doh!

    And here's a weird thing that I've just remembered but is great. If you remember, back on August 3rd I was holding forth on the old Japanese calender vis-a-vis the western one, with its special days like eel day and the beginning of autumn being August 8th. Anyway, not only do the Japanese use this calender, but, like most things in Japan, why have one when three or four will do? So they also use the Chinese year system when evey year has an animal with it - 1972 year of the rat, that sort of thing. Now, the Japanese are a deeply superstitious people and this manifested itself marvellously in 1966. I was reading an article about the population decline in japan and looking at some of those population/demographic graphs that look like bells (maybe it is a bell graph, who knows? statistics are not my forte, as well you know) and there was a huge blip in 1966 when the birth rate dropped prodigously. 1965 and 1967 were fine, but '66 was a shocker, the reason being that it was year of the horse. "What's wrong with that?" was the question. Well, apparently, female babies born in the year of the horse are guaranteed to grow up as fiery and headstrong and will, and I am not making this up (but someone might be), go mad and murder their husbands. Again, no really.

    So the birth rate dropped as couples avoided getting pregnant from early 1965 to mid 1966 to make sure they didn't give birth in that year. Weird. Women born in that year will now be 36, so the time is right for them all to start going off their rockers and chopping up their spouses. I can't wait to see the news reports for the next few years - will it become a defence in court? "Well, it wasn't my fault, blame my parents, they gave birth to me in 1966...". As with most things to do with children in Japan, this terrible fate only happened to girls, boys born in this year are fine, apparently, as boys in Japan can do no wrong (well apart from sexually abusing 4 year olds and then throwing them off the 7th floor of a multistory, but let's not go there).

    And oddly enough , it only seem that 1966 was affected by this curse of going mad and killing your husband, subsequent years of the horse, though not really trusted, are much more acceptable in which to give birth, it seems. This was something to do with a third calender being in some sort of dodgy conjunction - being year of the horse you get the headstrong and willful thing (very un-Japanese for a lady) and also a Hinoe year, which is the fiery/husband mudering bit. Add them all together and you get a massive drop in birth. Odd that.

    Wednesday, 27 August 2003

    just checking in

    haven't written anything for a while, so just thought i'd drop everyone a line to say we are still alive over here. it has been a slow couple of weeks for news stories that i can comment on, but a rapid few weeks in terms of work to do and assignments to worry about.

    minako's birthday was yesterday, so i'm sure evryone will join me in wishing her a jolly happy day and all that. naturally i was meant to finish work early and meet up so we could do romantic things like go to a concert, but of course i didn't get out until an hour and a half after i was meant to finish and missed everything, oops, but it wasn't really my fault, honest. so anyway we are off to dinner on saturday evening in ebisu, which should be most pleasant.

    summer has almost gone, which is good because it means the fantasy football season has stated all over again. check out the CoB website link for all the latest happeneings, but suffice it to say Arakawa Athletic, proudly sponsored by this very blog, is in pole position after the first couple of weeks - long may it continue.

    and that is it, except to say all the croiander is dead, last time i try and grow that nonsense herb, but the basil is marvellous and is being regularly consumed by yours truly, the lavender looks quite pukka and the rosemary is still alive. i have also planted a peach tree seed, and this must grow and thrive, mainly because minako has said it won't...

    Friday, 15 August 2003

    Oh Please...

    As if anyone had any doubts left about the recent war in Iraq and motives of Bush and Blair, the newest search and destroy Saddam Hussein mission is code named Operation Ivy Lightning...

    So next time Bush is asked if O.I.L is the motivation for being in Iraq, well, yes, he can say, and maybe even keep a straight face as he does it.

    Go have a look at
  • ABCNews
  • for the news story.
    the working week

    This week has been a holiday for me. Yes, the office has been closed - well, closed as far as I'm concerned - and I have been able to sit at home...and study. All week, no respite. At it hammer and tongs with Tony bush, Jacky Lumby and Keith Foreman, household names none and all. They do, however, write textbooks on educational management which are mostly dry but sometimes quite interesting. The deadline for this assignmant is getting closer and closer but, after a week of study and numerous emails to my tutor, who is now back after a month swanning around on a real holiday, I think I am a little closer to a title. The rest is easy...

    Except I made the profound and sadly irreversible mistake on Wednesday afternoon of reading a chapter in my Research Methods text about 'analysing quantitative data'. Quantitative data, for those not in the know, is stuff you can count, hence the root 'quantity', as opposed to qualitative data, which is stuff you can't count and therefore have to think about. Anyway, I thought that, at age 16, I had left equations and numbers-with-letters-added-as-well behind in Calthorpe Park, never to return again. Oh boy was I wrong - I've just discovered that things called 'statistics' exist (in a real, 'I've to confront them' sort of sense, I've always known about statistics in the useful 'statistically speaking, BMW owners wash their cars more than other car owners' sort of sense) and that they are quite important for doing things like proving your research is accurate, or even that it is research at all, rather than some jolly ideas you've been having.

    What made the really wry smile (soon followed by much swearing) was that this was classed as 'an introduction' to the 'basics of statistics'. Oh yes, that's right, the basics...Actually, they probably are just the basics and I am in for an extravagantly shit time. I could follow the calculations for their Chi-square, but I didn't really see how that then proved whatever it was they were trying to prove. It says something like 'the calculated figure 4.68 passes the significant critical mass of nuclear reactor number 1, proving that the number of children observed reading books wasn't down to chance and/or community chest unless they have 2 degrees of freedom in 1% of insignificant research' - or something like that. I intimated something like this to my tutor, perhaps without so much detail, and she suggested that maybe a reliance on qualitative data could well be more suited to my research focus. Thank f**k.

    Moving on, it has been suggested by one of the regular readership of this nonsense that there has been little in the way of information regarding the good lady wife, and had I, not to put too fine a point on it, murdered her and buried her under the patio? Well rest assured this is not so as we live on the 7th floor and the patio would in effect be the balcony and even I realise that if I dumped a body on the downstairs balcony, people would talk. So I threw her in the river instead...

    Not at all, true, Minako is alive and well and currently sleeping on the sofa about 2 metres to my left. Poor thing is tired and shagged out after accompianing me to the doctor's today for my obligatory annual medical (clean bill of health, except their instruments were faulty as they seemed to indicate my body fat percentage was slightly above normal, how odd...). As a lady of leisure she doesn't have to move around too much, so an unscheduled trip to the docs can be very tiring, I suspect. Other than that, not much to report - you see, this is why there hasn't been much mention of her as there isn't a lot to mention - anyway, I will keep everyone posted with events if and when they arise.

    Lastly, it is raining here again. Typhoon number 10 last weekend meant it was raining for the whole weekend and whilst sunday, monday and tuesday were quite pleasant, it has been raining since wednesday afternoon and will continue until sunday apparently. Still, better weather in which to attempt to study statistics I guess, statistically speaking.

    Wednesday, 6 August 2003

    back to the plants

    What am I doing to this poor coriander? Now the Percy Thrower stuff is dying as well! It's getting plenty of sunshine, plenty of shade, plenty of water and plenty of loving care and attention with a good regular talking to - and what do I get in return? Well... not a lot really is the only way to answer that one.

    And some little bugs are eating half of my basil! The stuff that I transplanted to the big pot and that we ate some of recently has been attacked by some voracious little bugger that is eating all the new growth. This, coupled with my gardening assistant's patent lack of ability in the please-go-to-the-garden-shop-and-buy-some-bug-killer stakes, is making life decidedly risked for the herbacious [spelt wrongly I suspect] borders of my balcony.

    At least the lavender and olive tree are doing well. I am still undecided about the rosemary. It isn't dead, but it doesn't seem to be doing an awful lot. Then again, it looks healthy in itself, perhaps it is just biding its time.

    Other than that I'm just really panicking about my MBA...

    Sunday, 3 August 2003

    ...summer's here and the time is riiiight, for sweating in the streeet....

    It is hot today. In fact it has been hot and really quite sunny for the past couple of days now. Yeah! The rainy season is over, with its dull, monotonous grey skies and unpleasant humid rain. Now summer is here we can sit around and complain about how hot it is - makes a change from complaining about wet it is. Anyway, I personally think it is a great improvement.

    According to the paper today, the 'Official' end to the rainy season for Tokyo was announced by the Met office on Saturday 2nd August. This was 13 days later than last year and only the third time since records began that the rainy season lasted into August (though not hard as official announcements date from the 1950s). The rainy season this year lasted for 54 days, which by anyone's reckoning is pretty long. So now it is 31 degrees, sunny with 47% humidity (which is quite low really).

    Another thing the article said in the paper, was that there is an internal rule at the Met offoce which states that the end of the rainy season must be announced before the official start of Autumn. All well and good, I hear you say. Well yes, except the official start of Autumn is August 8th...

    I find this strange as the 30+degree days will last well into September and Autumn - red leaves, crisp mornings etc - is a wish away in Novemeber at least. So what is going on? Well, it is all to do with the old Japanese calender.

    Japan adopted the Gregorian Calender, like the rest of the world. But I don't think they really trust it and so kind of acknowledge its existence to the rest of the world, play along with it, but really follow the old Japanese one because, well, it is more Japanese for a start. So you get all these weird things like the start of Autumn is August 8th, palpably not Autumn in the slightest. Then you get special food days. July 27th was Eel day, and all the supermarkets had huge displays of Eel for sale - and the even better thing was that far from pushing up the price on this one day to take advantage, the Eel everywhere was really really cheap. A loss leader, maybe, but good news all the same. This kind of thing also accounts for the 'auspicious' days on which to get married - and conversely there are really bad days to get married as well. Apparently this all comes from the days when Japan was a much more agrarian place and the year was shaped by the seasons (don't even bother trying to tell a Japanese farmer this is the same all over the world - they will not believe you) and therefore the day autumn started was important for rice growing, or eel catching, or perhaps something else. As a result all Japanese have grown up using this calander and not really bothering with the western one. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that the Gregorian calender was foisted upon the Japanese by the Americans after their defeat in WW2 and the top brass said something along the lines of "yeah, yeah, a calender, fine, whatever" whilst the average chap in what was left of the street said, "okay, will it tell me when Eel Day is? No, well I don't really think I'll be using it too much then. I have to!? Yeah, yeah, fine, whatever".

    Unfortunately the newspapaer article did not say what would happen if the rainy season didn't end before August 8th. Would they declare it over even if it wasn't? Wouldn't this confuse a lot of farmers? Who knows?

    Anyway, I'm off to check my Japanese diary as I have a strong suspicion that Sunday 3rd August may well be beer and yakitori day...

    Sunday, 27 July 2003

    Japanese gadgets

    Are the coolest gadgets in the world. Now for those of you who live, or have lived, in Japan, this may not be news for you. But for everyone else.

    Japanese people love their toilets. Now I realise that people all over the world love their toilets as well, but I think the Japanese really love their toilets. Most households in Japan now have electronic toilet seats that look like more technologically advanced versions of Captain Kirk's seat in Star Trek. They have warming functions so you don't get a cold bottom in winter. They have have buttons that do things like shoot water upwards, waft warm air to dry everything off, and probably start world war three if you press them in the right combination. Personally I avoid anything that tries top shoot water up my arse, but the Japanese seem to love them.

    But wait! What is this on the horizon? Has the perfect toilet seat been improved? What could they have done? Well, a company by the name of INAX - very big in the lavatory world - has now invented a seat that you don't have to lift up. It has a built in infrared sensor that senses when someone approaches and a small motor to automatically raise the toilet lid. All you have to do is walk up, drop your trousers and then sit down, none of this bending down to lift lid. And of course, when the business is finished, all you do is stand up, flush and walk away, no messing about with putting the lid down afterwards.

    Great stuff and a much needed development to the work begun by Thomas Crapper all those years ago. Whatever will they think of next....?

    Monday, 21 July 2003

    Not quite right

    Try as the Japanese do, they can't get everything right. So even though they tried desperately hard to have an English style grey bank holiday Monday, they blew it right at the end. Ah well.

    So we got an hour of glorious sunshine just as the sun was setting. The timing was excellent as well as it coincided with me finishing studying for the day (no really) and thus I got to eat yakitori and drink beer in the sunshine on a bank holiday monday afternoon.


    PS The word on the underground grapevine is that the rainy season will be over by next weekend. Fingers crossed...

    Saturday, 19 July 2003

    Under the weather

    Because, of course, it is a bank holiday weekend over here. Monday is Umi-no-hi or holiday for the Sea, which I think is a mighty fine reason for having a national holiday - Japan after all being an island nation and eating a lot of fish. The usual plan is to get together with all your mates and go to the beach, again a mighty fine idea. Except in a stab at improved globilisation, Japan has decided to import the very British idea of 'bank holidays = bad weather' and so it will be probably be raining on monday. Oh well.
    Apparently there has been a big lump of high pressure over the Sea of Japan that has been hanging around for longer than usual, making the rainy season last longer and the weather cooler - no bad thing there, you may think, but it is. Sales of air conditioners, sun block, beer and other summer goods are all down (though I'm doing my bit for the beer sales), and for a economy in a parlous state, this is not a good turn of events. And this poor weather also has a pretty negative effect of the farming industry, inhibiting the growth of fruit and veg all across Japan, which will undoubtedly lead to higher prices later in the summer.
    On the upside, the threatened power blackouts have yet to happen as demand for electricity to run air con units is down. For those not in the know, TEPCO, the Tokyo Electricity Power Company has had to shut down most of its nuclear reactors as they were found to be unsafe, with potentially lethal levels of slackness in their maintenance and upkeep - with the follow on effect that Tokyo will not have enough electricity for the summer and therefore rolling power blackouts have not been ruled out. Makes you wonder, doesn't it.

    But I am trying not to be negative as it has been pointed out to me that there may have been a certain amount of ranting against the Japanese going on recently. So apologies if you have felt the same way, I just try to tell it like I see it. Incidentally, Mr Konoike withdrew his comments about publically beheading parents' of errant children - I don't know, these politicians never stick by what they believe...

    Anyway one cool thing I saw this week was this. On Thursday all our schools were closed and a companywide 5-a-side football tournament was arranged. A bit short notice, to be sure, but in the end we had about 30 players, including yours truly, turn up and a fine day was had by all. But the cool thing was where we played. For those of you who remember, the 2002 World Cup was half played on these shores and they built lots of nice new stadia to hold the games. One of these stadia was built not 30 minutes from where we now live in a place called Urawa-Misono. It was at this stadium that England played Sweden and the whole place is a salutary lesson in how to organise and build an impressive stadium with minimum fuss - i.e. those in charge of the Wembly/National Stadium fiasco take note.

    The stadium was built just outside of Tokyo, but with a dedicated subway line meaning that most of central Tokyo is only about 40 minutes away. Also, it was built right next to a motorway, giving easy access to the road system. Also, it was built far from any residential areas, so as not to piss off the locals. This had the added benefit of more space - so not only have they built a swish, futuristic stadium, but they also have a separate full size pitch, and 2 smaller 5-a-side/futsal pitches that anyone can come along and hire. And this we did, and not only did we get the pitch, we also got clean changing rooms with working hot showers. All for about 150quid, which does not seem at all unreasonable to me. And this being Japan, even though there are huge swathes of concrete, there was not a single piece of graffiti to be seen.

    So it was all pretty marvellous, if you ask me. The only problem is what will happen to it all. Like a lot of the other stadia, not a lot of thought was put into what would happen after the World Cup. It was hoped that Urawa Reds, the local J-League team, would play their home games there. But no-one actually thought to ask the Reds. They prefer their old stadium, which although smaller, creates a better atmosphere and is better placed for their fans - the result is that only about 6 games a year are played by the Reds at Urawa-Misono. Now even i can see that six games isn't going to pay the rent, or debt, and nor is hiring out the futsal pitches to English schools for 5-a-side tournaments, so heaven knows what they are going to do to make money. And I doubt very much if the other stadia built for the world cup are doing any better, which again is a real shame. However, the FA in England could do a lot worse than ask the people who organised and built these stadia to take over the Wembly situation and get a stadium built - preferably with the same ideas about location and transport access.

    On a related note, the Telegraph Fantasy Football site is now up and running for the new season and a link has been added above right. This is the site from which the whole CoB Intercontiliga has sprung and which has given Steve D something to do with his afternoons for the last 4 years. For those wishing to join this happy throng, drop Steve a line on the CoB site and your applications will be vetted by committee at the earliest opportunity (written references will almost certainly be required).

    PS as if anyone is interested in our performance - P6 W0 D1 L5 GF4 GA plenty

    Sunday, 13 July 2003

    Various things on a Sunday

    It seem that over the last couple of posts I have been criticising Japan and the things that go on here. This week is different. This week I am going to criticise Japanese politicians and the really idiotic things that they say. George Bush and Tony Blair with their "Iraq has lots of really nasty weapons of mass destruction, honest, no really" don't even come close to the sort of comment that Japanese politicans come out with. Consider the evidence:

    Case #1: A group of guys from a Tokyo University set up a company that organises and runs parties for university students in the Tokyo area. These parties are big, really cool and everyone has to be there. Then 5 of these guys invite some poor unsuspecting and very drunk girl to a 'behind the scenes' area of one party and gang rape her. This gets into the papers and soon more girls come forward and say it has happened to them. Seiichi Ota, of the Liberal Democratic party and member of Parliament then comments to the press that gang rape is essentially a good thing as these chaps have more 'vigour' and therefore are more likely to halt the declining birth rate in Japan.

    Case #2: Again in relation to the problem of declining birth rate, a problem facing most of the western world as well as Japan. This case involves Yoshio Mori. In case you don't know, Mori was actually elected Prime Minister and served without distinction for a year or two, before going the way of most PMs in Japan. Anyway, his startling answer to the problem is to deny any kind of pension payments to Japanese women who failed to have children. That'll teach them. Doesn't matter that they may have paid all their national insurance all their working lives. They shouldn't have been at work, they should have been at home either pregnant or trying to be. Again this comment was given to the national press, without one assumes, engaging the brain before opening the mouth.

    Case #3: This is my favourite. you may remember the last post in which I mentioned a 12 year old boy who allegedly murdered a 4 yr old by throwing him off the 7th floor of a car park. This happened in Nagasaki and one of the government ministers who hails from that area, Yoshitada Konoike, came out with this gem. To quote "If we can't charge the boy with the crime, then we should drag his parents around the town and then decapitate them. This will show parents the necessity of raising morally upright children". That's right folks, parade them through town and then publically behead them. Again that'll teach them. Are these people living in the dark ages? And just in case you might have thought that Mr Konoike doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to children, he is the chairman of a government panel concerned with juvenile development and child-rearing. Oh, and don't forget, this child hasn't actually been accused of anything yet, or had a trial, or even benn arrested, he's just being questioned right now. God help the children of Japan.

    Other than that, Japan is a great country and at least the trains run on where have I heard that before?


    Not good news here either, I'm afraid. All the old coriander has gone the way of parents with deliquent kids (in the new Japan). Well, not all of it as the percy thrower coriander is still alive, although seem to be going the same way. The seedlings get to be about 2 inches high, then just start to flop and go pale and then slowly die. I've tried a little sun, lots of sun, a little water, lots of water, combinations of those, food, talking to them, everything, and still nothing. But, the basil is going great guns and it looks like it is going to stay. The rosemary and lavender are not doing too badly. Indeed the lavender, after a slow start, seems to have decided that it quite likes this whole growing lark and is getting into it in a big way. No flowers yet, but I reckon they are on their way. Lastly the olive tree and the coffee tree. The olive tree is still trying to do its upward thing rather than the outward thing that I would prefer. I tried the pinch out the new growth strategy, and this worked for a short while until it decided it prefered the upward thing and started again. But I have clipped it again in a vain attempt to get 'spread' - it is a battle of wills. Unlike the coffee tree, which is still making its own cobwebs and not growing. Don't know what to do about that one, but it doesn't seem to be dying, so I think I'll just leave it for the time being.


    Last thing today is about Kabuki. For those not in the know, Kabuki is traditional Japanese theatre and has a reputation of being really, really dull. Well, I went to a kind of 'introduction to Kabuki' today, and so, speaking with some authority, can say that Kabuki is only quite dull. The again, I only had to endure about 90 minutes of very abridged wailing - I'm not not sure I could sit through a 'proper' 6 hour production.

    It is awfully stylised stuff, with men playing women's roles and fight scenes where no-one actually touches each other. But it was bright and colourful and quite reasonably paced, so much so that it was quite like english theatre, especially as we were given a small headset that had a friendly voice telling you what was going on in English. But the most important scene (where the wife dies as she is in fact the earthly embodiment of the spirit of a willow tree that is being cut down) was so long and had so much unecessary wailing that it did give a good flavour of what a full on production would be like - really, really dull.

    But hell, today I've done a bit of 'culture' - a word that would be useful for the politicians of this country to learn.

    Wednesday, 9 July 2003

    oh bugger

    just had another one of those "write out a whole new diatribe and then just when you're about to post it you press a weird button and it all disappears" moment. Shit. May write it all again tomorrow, but the new link I added is still there. This new link is one that naturally I stumbled across after the last little rant about the short comings of Japan (newest shortcoming - 12 year old boy detained after allegedly sexually abusing a 4 year old and then throwing him off the 7th floor of a multi-story car park - what is this country coming to?).

    Anyway, not everyone out there likes us foreigners (gaijin) in Japan apparently...

    (PS - tonight's post that I had written was all about the plants, a request from Bert for an update. this will now appear at a later date. Sorry)

    Sunday, 6 July 2003

    What's wrong with Japan today...

    Its things like this. An article in yesterday's Yomiuri about lorries and how there seem to be a lot more fatal accidents this year than before. A spokesman from the Department of Transport said (a government ministry, one that makes laws);

    "It'll be difficult to establish a law to control the trucking industry, because the transport industry will resist it."

    So if the government won't do anything to regulate industry, what hope have we got...?

    This is one example. Another is the case of a manager at an agricultural collective who embezzled 17million yen from the savings of local farmers to gamble on coffee futures. A bit of embezzling, that's ok, but what makes it much much worse is the fact that when his superiors found out, they lent him another 20 million, of farmers savings, without telling anyone, in an attempt to try and recoup the money on the exceedingly dodgy Tokyo stock exchange. Only when they'd lost that and an even more superior superior found out did anyone even think about calling the police.

    And that is just on a local level. Even more impressive a scam is the newly formed Resona bank, which was previously known as Asahi bank, and a couple of others. This is now in seriously deep trouble, so what do the government do? Let it go to the dogs for having such inept managers? Oh no. They decide to pump in 1.96trillion yen's worth of tax payers cash to bail them out. That is 1,960,000,000,000, or 98,000,000 quid...for a private bank. In any other country this bank would be allowed to become bankrupt, probably as soon as everyone found out they were in trouble and took out their savings.

    But not in Japan. Here, not even a murmur.

    Tuesday, 1 July 2003

    cool gadgets

    As most of you know, I am something of a techno-phobe. If it is electronic, then I like it to be nice and simple. But get this. Today was my official 'first day in the new job' and so, at about midday, a bright young Japanese thing bounds over and presents me with a box saying "here is your new mobile phone!". This is great, in my job, I will never leave the office! So they give me a mobile...And not just any mobile, it has a little ity-bity camera in it as well, as if I need one of them! (for those of you in Japan shaking your heads now and muttering things like "mine has 15 seconds of video recording on it", bugger off). This job gets better and better. Now I just have to see how long I can hang onto the phone before they ask for it back...

    Sunday, 29 June 2003

    Another Sunday evening

    This seems to be falling into a pattern, as perhaps these things do, of a sunday evening session with a midweek update. So today's great news is that today we ate dinner laced with fresh herbs from the herb garden! Yes, an auspicious moment without a doubt. The dish was a sort of tomato and chicken stew, delicately flavoured with basil picked moments before serving. The whole thing wasn't too bad and you could actually taste the basil - I was so proud. Now all we have to do is wait for about 8 weeks until it regrows or some of the other stuff gets up to the level of edible (though that may be thwarted by hell freezing over first).

    Friday was my last official day at Minami Urawa office, in honour of this occasion, I did absolutely no work. This was partly not my fault as I was in the process of handing over the reins to Chris, so I didn't really have much to do anyway, and also last week Paul told me to go down to Nishi Kasai on Friday, so I got someone else to do the training I was meant to be doing, but then Paul changed the day to Thursday, leaving me with nothing arranged for friday and therefore nothing to do. So I did nothing. The bit that is my fault, a little, is that I didn't exactly go out of my way to find anything to do either, but bugger it, I was leaving. In the evening we had a farewell party with all the office staff at a local bar called Zan, which was very trendy and we all felt cool and sophisticated...well, I did anyway. Tomoko, who deals with accomodation in the office, managed to get pretty smashed on one cocktail, this after assuring everyone that she could drink 2 bottles of wine without falling over - hmm. However Tomoko is good fun and a crowd of us are going to go sea fishing in Tokyo bay in August, organised by her husband. (I realise that 'sea' fishing in Tokyo bay doesn't quite have the Hemmingway-marlin-fishing-off-cuba kind of style to it, but you have to start somewhere). I must have got drunk at the farewell party as i ended up drinking sake. This is always a good indicator of my state as if I am sober or thereabouts, sake for me is pretty rank stuff. But with a few inside me I suddenly feel the urge to be more Japanese and thus start shouting for sake, or if I'm really drunk, shochu, which is poor man's paint stripper from southern Japan. Anyway this accounted for a nagging head on saturday. But to be 'more Japanese', I would probably be better off sticking to the beer or going onto even ranker Japanese whisky (or maybe they spell it the US way whiskey) both of which appear to be far more popular than sake these days. In a way it is a shame, but it does mean that the sake you get these days is much better quality than the gut rot that used to be available, by all accounts. Apparently little specialised sake breweries are opening up all over the show now, which is good news, and not just for the Japanese, for me too.

    The one time I've had really top notch sake was when a student took me out on the piss. This was years ago and the guy was Fujino-san. He was an old guy, about 60-65 and a patent attorney for Snowbrand,who recently have had some pretty severe scandals even by Japanese standards, but in those days were a big company in the dairy products market. I thought this guy was great as he was a Japanese salary man of the old school. He lived in Kanagawa, about 2 hours from Tokyo and his lesson was on a saturday afternoon. This was thhe only time in his weekly work schedule that he could fit in an English lesson. He used to come to the lesson and basically slag off his colleagues of the younger generation for not working hard enough. He was in the office at 7 every morning and was the last to leave, past 10 every night (so he said) and couldn't understand why the younger generation weren't doing the same, if not longer hours..."they are younger than me, and they live in Tokyo. I am and old man and still I work harder than them. I fear for the company" was the gist of the first 5 minutes of every lesson, and he was right as Snowbrand now apparently does not exist, or rather it has changed its identity after the scandals alluded to earlier.

    Anyway, slightly ff the point here. So, Fujino liked me as I was a teacher (major respect) and I liked a beer. There may have been more to it than that, who knows. But getting back to the original rambling, he took me out drinking one saturday after work (I expect he rationalised it by thinking it was study time, therefore he could leave his office). Usually, when you go out with students, they take you to an izakaya, or to their mistresses house for dinner (that's another story), but this guy took me to the Hotel New Otani in Akasaka, one of the most swish places in town and one which I had not expected to be taken to. With us was also the school manager, whose name I have now forgotten but I can remember she was a bit of a looker. So, up to the 20-something floor and into a bar that it would cost 20 quid to walk past, but we breeze in and its all smiles and hellos to Fujino, who is obviosly a regular. We sit and he orders sake and yakitori for the 3 of us, and this sake is absolutely sublime. Delicious, melt in the mouth, like drinking liquid velvet. Of course I drank plenty of it and can't remember too much of the evening. One thing I do remember is him sitting there with a beautific smile on his face saying nothing excpet "you are a beautiful couple" to the school mamager and I every 5 minutes, and nothing else. Heaven knows how much the evening cost as he would not let us pay, but I know that I will not be able to afford to drink there for a long time.
    And I blame him for making me dislike sake as I spent the next couple of years drinking a lot of it, but much cheaper versions, which give you stinking hangovers, in an effort to rdiscover the essence of the east...or get really drunk, take your pick.

    So anyway, more specialsed sake breweries mean better quality sake, and probably better quality hangovers.

    I was going to harangue the Japanese banking system in today's polemic, but that will have to wait for another day. Lastly there is a new link, this one is to Thana Towers, the website of Bangkok Dave of the Olive tree fame. Nice to have you aboard Dave.