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...