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.)