Thursday, February 13, 2003

February 13

More bad news...hay fever is in full swing in Japan. And true to my luck, I reside in the prefecture with one of the largest counts of cedar forests whose pollen is responsible for most of the Japanese version. I've been going through most of my tissue with the speed of a Bullet Train, and ingesting medicine and Halls. I've even gone native and bought myself the mask that most people over here wear when they've caught a cold. It looks just like a surgical mask, and I've seen quite a lot of pseudo-doctors and nurses on the trains and in the streets. The problem is that it doesn't really matter; the subways and trains with their usual 200% of capacity during rush hours are living germ farms!

Also, Tokyo may be facing the same rolling blackouts that California did a couple of years ago. It seems as if TEPCO, the Tokyo version of ConEd, has to shut down some of its nuclear reactors because of a scandal involving false inspection checks. If that happens, a lot of Tokyo goes dark this summer. Already the ads have been popping out pleading with us to conserve energy. I think most people would like to conserve energy just so that they can give these TEPCO morons some whup-ass.

On the good side of things, the media has been buzzing about the Hayao Miyazaki anime flick, "Spirited Away" getting an Oscar nod this year. Plus, Japan's latest export, Godzilla Matsui, has been on every TV for the past several weeks.

Monday, February 10, 2003

February 10

I gather that the Force is indeed not with me these past few days. My computer is starting to die a slow death, my vacuum cleaner sucks up a neglected Phantom Menace Pepsi bottlecap which permanently plugs up the hose, my TV's audio fades in and out, and my wash gets an unnecessary rinse after an unforecast squall makes a surprise appearance. Well, at least, I've got Constitution Day tomorrow; Japan basically celebrates a birtthday which means all of us can sleep in.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

February 9

Well, the weekend was certainly an expensive one...even by Tokyo standards. Last night, we had a farewell party for a couple of students who had decided to drop out of our school. We went over to a large entertainment complex in Shinjuku. Our first stop was dinner at an izakaya (Japanese pub). Now, the characteristics of a typical izakaya is that the food is edible, the beer is flowing, and most importantly, the prices are cheap.. However, this place only fulfilled the first two; some of us were rather shocked to find ourselves pulling 5000 yen ($47 US) from our wallets.

Next stop, as is usually the case with our student-teacher outings, was karaoke at the local Big Echo box just one flight below. Now, Saturdays often entail a higher hourly rate for use of their singing chambers. And to be honest, we did imbibe quite a few beers, and gin & tonics. I had to pull out of there about 45 minutes before everyone else did so that I could get my train home (at 11 p.m.!...for the largest city on the planet, Tokyo transit closes up obscenely early). A friend from last night's binge met me and a couple of others today for lunch; he was kind enough to cover me so I got quite the financial jolt when he told me that the cost for singing and drinking was another 5000 yen. Urk!

Anyways, things were a bit more reasonable today as the four of us went out for a buffet lunch at the Farm Grill. However, the usual convivial atmosphere at the Grill was rather lost this time as the very harried and tense staff had to handle multiple bus tours of Chinese tourists. It wasn't just the crowds but also the culture clash between the locals and the tourists; knowing the hustle and bustle, take-no-prisoners attitude of Hong Kong from friends, and my own experiences in Chinatown back home, I was accustomed to the tourists butting into line and checking if the waffles were ready by opening up the iron. However, the staff and the surrounding locals were absolutely scandalized by the manners. Again, just one of those example of culture clash. Live and learn.

Afterwards, the four of us went down to Shibuya to see Luc Besson's latest (as a producer, not as a director), The Transporter with Mr. Madonna's favorite, Jason Statham. The story was not very deep and the ending was limp, but all in all, a good popcorn movie. The gimmick of a transporter was interesting to note, especially in the first half, and Statham gave a pretty good performance as the stoic Frank.

Well, back to the salt mines from tomorrow.