Friday, September 05, 2003

Saturday Sept. 6, 12:11 a.m.

So, another work week has passed by without incident. Another full-time teacher has gone by the wayside. And it looks like I have at least one more dry week at the school before things start hopping again.

It'll be a quiet Saturday with just the kids to teach. Maybe I might go for a rubdown at the neighbourhood clinic provided I haven't sweated too much. Then, it's the big breakfast outing at Roppongi on Sunday.

Sad to say, but I found out yesterday that one of our previous students from a couple of years back passed away rather suddenly. She was a happy character; middle-aged chain smoker with a blonde bob, black-rimmed glasses and a big smile. Definitely not your typical Japanese woman.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

September 3, 9:06 p.m.

One of those annoying days. Just when I was about to head out to start the renewing process for my passport, I found out that I needed to hand in my birth certificate. Only thing is that I didn't have one. So now I had to send out a letter to the Registrar General back home to get the APPLICATION FORM for the certificate which I have to fill out and then send back to Canada and then get the certificate to hand in with my other documents to renew the passport. Oh joy, oh bliss. I'm not particularly concerned since I'm not planning to go anywhere in the next 2 months but it's just that I don't have any love for bureaucracy. Then again, I could've been a bit more on the ball about the timing.

Also, Tokyo was entertained by a mammoth thunderstorm around 6 p.m. tonight. Usually, the storms in Toronto are louder than the relatively sedate ones here in Tokyo, but tonight, that fact was smashed by the natural fireworks and waterworks that inundated us. Luckily, I was already sipping my coffee in air-conditioned comfort at the Starbucks. However, I paid the price thanks to the delicate balance maintained by JR and the subway system going awry due to the storm. The power went out at one station which threw the schedules for all of the stations which meant that the trains were all superpacked for far longer. It was a claustrophobic's worst nightmare.

I swear that the so-called paradise of strict punctuality that the Tokyo transportation has is a brittle one. If there is any incident, ranging from an attempted suicide to light snow, that affects the train lines, the entire system suffers and therefore the entire commuting public does, too. I remember taking 4 hours one winter evening getting from Chiba City back to my city, a trip that would normally take just 30 minutes due to light steady snow. Some very unhappy people on that trip home.

However, despite tonight's hellish commute home, I'm grateful that the storm decreased the humidity a bit.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Tuesday September 2, 11:16 p.m.

It's been one of the few nights this summer which deserves to be called muggy. I can only hope that my fan will be able to help cool things off when I hit the hay.

Looks like my Thursday just got its hours doubled. I'll be teaching 6 hours's been a while since I've had that many hours during the day. Hope I'm not too rusty.

Tomorrow, I head out to the embassy to get my passport renewed. I'll have to put on the shirt and tie (definitely not a blazer considering the temps) and get those forms and photos done. It was fairly smooth 5 years ago, so I hope it won't be too painful

Ah, another one bites the dust. This time, it's Charles "Death Wish" Bronson. Unless one is a diehard aficionado of "The Magnificent Seven" or the aforementioned "Death Wish" series, Bronson is pretty much unknown here except for the older crowd. He was one of the first foreign stars to make a Japanese commercial. The product was for Mandom Aftershave. Oddly enough, I relate more to his younger days as one of the M7 than as the avenging vigilante. In fact, I still remember his turn in a Twilight Zone episode with Elizabeth "Bewitched" Montgomery as two warriors from opposite sides of the front.

Monday, September 01, 2003

September 1, 9:11 p.m.

Not extremely hot, but the humidity still managed to coat me in a layer of sweat throughout the day. Pretty nice day, all told though. At my first class, it looks like that trip to the Oregon Bar and Grill is an official go for next Monday. The views and, hopefully, the steaks will be worth it.

I paid off my bills afterwards which managed to wipe my wallet and mylesson fee clean. I gotta admit, though, that the tellers at the bank are quick and efficient They mowed through 30 people before me within 15 minutes. I also faced a long line getting to the ATMs downstairs but the wait was a mere few minutes.

Took another jaunt through Tower Records to pick up a magazine before heading to Subway for lunch. Then I ended up going all the way up from Shibuya up to Shinjuku on foot. On the way, I helped an Israeli woman to locate Harajuku, and I realized that there are quite a few interesting side streets in Harajuku which bear further exploration in the future.

I hit the Shinjuku mall, Times Square, and took a gander through HMV before taking a 12-minute break for a free massage in the reclining chair one floor down. I then made the trek over to the hotel district in West Shinjuku where my friend's workplace was.

I had thought that the whole thing about my friend setting me up with his boss as a new English student was a bit of a lark, but when I entered the company, the whole thing initially took on a serious air almost as if I were starting a new company class when I was full-time at my school. So things were a bit nerve-wracking when I was introduced to the president of the software company. The president turned out to be a pretty cool guy although he fit the stereotype of the old-fashioned gruff salaryman from Osaka. It looks like my services may have been rendered because of some serious communication gaps between my buddy and the president; the prez can't really speak any English, and my friend's Japanese isn't too hot either despite 3 years in Tokyo, a fact which has frustrated his boss no end. I would say that a good two-thirds of the meeting in his office consisted of a lot of off-loading of frustration concerning the communication gaps and one particular employee who seems to be a sociopathic slacker. By the end, the tension had left the room and basically we're leaving it open how any classes will go. But basically, I'll have to start from square one with the prez.

Afterwards, all three of us went out to a Chinese restaurant, one of these tiny secret gems hidden in West Shinjuku. This powwow among my friend, his boss and me took on the flavor of the usual drink out that virtually all Tokyo salarymen partake in night after night. I had a beer while the other two shared three pots of some potent Chinese liquor. The real treat was that the prez gave the restaurant staff carte blanche to whip up anything for dinner which usually heralds very good food. And sure enough, the stuff that came out was exquisite including the final two dishes of garlic-fried rice and spicy beef ramen. The staff was very friendly as well. I was so impressed that I took the name card for future reference. There's no knowing when the Movie Buddies may want to try a new place.

Afterwards, we said out goodbye to the prez, and my buddy and I headed back to Shinjuku Station. My buddy was a bit tipsy with drink but otherwise he was OK. I'm pretty sure I was stinking of sweat, garlic and beer but then again, 90% of the commuters were probably in the same boat. And the lovely thing is that neither of us paid a yen; as is customary, the prez took care of the bill.

And yes, I am quite happy that I am back home so early. Usually at this time, I would be teaching out in Jiyugaoka.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Sunday August 31, 11:34 p.m.

Less than half an hour before September arrives, and I sit marveling at the fact that 2003 will soon be two-thirds over. Although I think we'll probably still get a chance to witness some more torrid days, this summer has pretty much more of an unusually warm spring. Looks like France stole most of the heat going to us.

Well, it looks like someone was smiling down on me tonight. Just as I was prepping my lesson for my late night Monday guys (the ones who nearly slept their way through last week), one of them called up to say that they had to cancel tomorrow's lesson. No problems here...I was thinking may be it was time for a timeout.

I actually took a glimpse at Notting Hill, that Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant rom-com. One of the things that I like about living here is that since the TV stations in Japan just provide a bilingual track for movies shown on the small screen, they have no need to bleep out any offending words. So I was a bit amused when I had a whole bunch of F-words come out. Never would I see that in Canada. However, one thing that I really don't like is how they cut and slash in their humourous attempts to edit movies so that they fit into the 2-hour format.

Ordinarily, I would look forward to September since we have two national holidays, Respect For The Aged Day on the 15th, and the First Day of Autumn on the 23rd (yep, they do actually celebrate equinoxes in this country). However, since I went onto a part-time status, they don't really strike me as all that significant anymore.

Back home, of course, it is the Labour Day weekend, the last summer weekend for all those holidaygoers. And being Labour Day, that means Jerry Lewis is back on with his telethon. I caught him on Larry King yesterday, and I know it's not kosher to do so considering his medical woes and how much he's been helping "his" kids, but man, he just strikes me as such a pathetic figure trying to hurl out his ol' dusty schtick. Maybe Bob Hope did the right thing by disappearing from view after the 80s, although his specials probably did last too long.

Japanese TV has two major telethons in the summer here, but they're far less glitzy than the Las Vegas floor show that Jerry Lewis' telethon puts on annually. The Japanese variety is more in the form of a community picnic writ large with lots of young celebs in T-shirts getting involved in community stuff and fun n' games. Nah, I don't watch them either.