Saturday, July 24, 2004

Sunday July 25, 9:05 a.m.

An interesting thing happened on Japanese TV last night. As I mentioned in my last entry, Fuji-TV was in the midst of its annual 27-hour telethon. The leader of the pop band SMAP, Masahiro Nakai, has become one of the most sought-after emcees for variety programs and not surprisingly was hosting this telethon. At close to midnight, on a rival channel, TV Asahi, the rest of the band was on SmaSmation, a show that showcases a lot of English and has SMAP member Shingo Katori as the host.

In a Letterman-esque move, Nakai caught his fellow bandmates on the other channel and then somehow made direct contact with his buddies. For over five minutes, thanks to technology, TV Asahi and Fuji merged and couldn't be distinguished from each other. The bandmates and their respective shows' other guests started getting into a mock bicker session. One of them pointed out after the jointcast that this probably hasn't ever happened before. I certainly couldn't see any of the major American networks ever pulling something like this...not even Letterman himself. Earlier in the telethon, Fuji had one of its own announcers race with another TV personality to the grounds of yet another rival station, TBS. The guards at that station firmly but politely told the announcer that he could only get as far as the gate while the other fellow, who did have a gig on a TBS show, passed through. I'm not sure if Fuji is trying to push the envelope or willfully break the Commandment of "Thou Shalt Not Merge Rival TV Stations' Telecasts" but it made for an interesting night. I can't believe that this couldn't have been totally impromptu, though.

Waking up this morning, I had the air conditioner set on timer so that it would activate at around 7. I'm gonna have to be careful about that in the future. Since my head is just 10 cm away from the external motor outside on the patio, I was privy to the loudest start-up noise; I could only imagine what my neighbours must think whenever I turn the air con on. For several minutes, I was nervous that one of my irate neighbours would come pounding on my door. However, the motor settled down into a more acceptable hum within a few minutes. But I will have to stick to my electric fan during my wake-up call.

Now that the Democratic National Convention will be revving up in Boston come tomorrow, there will be non-stop coverage on CNN. I see American politics as a hockey game: long, nasty with some pushing and shoving. Over here, Japanese politics is more like a Tarentino movie: lots of talk for the most part but then suddenly punctuated with some harsh violence.
Saturday July 24, 11:35 p.m.

Another hot one. However, I dragged along my blue blazer and a necktie in my travel bag to go with my usual heavy bag of books. By the time I reached my kids' house, I was dripping to the extent that it alarmed their mother.

Afterwards, I went back down to Aoyama 1-Chome and got those passport photos done. My blazer was a tight fit...definitely grounds to hold off on the calories. Too bad that I was to meet Betty Boop and the OL for yakiniku tonight. In the meantime, after getting those photos shot, I maintained my siege against the heat by first eating at Subway and then spending some time at what I later found out was the very first French patisserie to be set up in Japan. It certainly had that classy feel to it which made me feel a bit bad in retrospect for just ordering a cafe au lait like any grimy salaryman. When I entered, the place was completely empty. In fact, I was a bit surprised that anything would be open on a Saturday in the Aoyama Twin Mall considering that it was in a business district. However, within an hour, the place filled up with a lot of well-heeled middle-aged folk. To add to the French atmosphere, the owner, a transplaned Parisian, was there keeping a passionate eye on the action.

With less than an hour left before meeting up with the ladies, I made my way to Shibuya. Uh, the 5-minute walk to Parco was a slog but I managed to crawl myself up to the 7th floor and spent half an hour outside Toraji doing my crosswords next to a couple of laughing hyenas/young women before the OL and BB showed up. At BB's request, I showed her the photos from Hokkaido. BB seemed even more flighty than usual. The food at Toraji was mighty tasty. We tucked ourselves into a variety platter of different cuts of meat with a plate of Korean vegetables and lettuce to eat with the cooked meat. Our second step was ordering a couple of extra plates of beef, and the final stage involved us having kalbi kuppa soup and sharing a stone bibimpap. Everything was spicy and good but we were pushing things a bit with that last stage. However, I'm glad that the theory of a second stomach for desserts seems to work since the waiter got us some free Meiji ice cream bars.

We kept things pretty early tonight since all of us were stuffed to the gills. We just walked back through the throngs of kids back to the subway and said our goodbyes there. I got home and immediately went into the shower to wash off all that grime and sweat. Apparently, the senior citizens' home next to my building had some sort of outing to a festival since there was a reverse exodus back into the home by the old folks.

I did some prelim checking on hotels in Yokohama for that nascent "trip" to the city. I was pretty floored by what the Pan Pacific and the Hotel Intercontinental were asking for one night. The usual part of me immediately nixed the idea of staying there, but the more liberal part posited the question of "Why not?" I may have to pay close to 30,000 yen for one night of luxury but I won't exactly enter the poor house if I do so and it is a night in Yokohama....when am I gonna get this opportunity again, especially since my days here in this country may be numbered? I'll sleep on it and then see if my liberal side is still willing to take the plunge.

Looks like telethon season is back on Japanese TV. Fuji-TV started its annual 27-hour festival. This year's theme seems to be on comedy duos. Pretty silly but it makes for a nice antidote to all of the dour CNN news. I even caught an old 80s idol, Misato Watanabe, actually appearing on a cooking show. She was one of the few singers who actually had a decent voice for rock..kinda bordering on the Janis Joplin side of things. But I know that she was mellowing out by the fact that she actually did show up on the show and she even did a duet of an enka song with the host. In her hey day, I would never have been able to imagine her doing anything like that. It was also quite evident that she's added quite a bit of mass over the past two decades. I wonder if she'll be ending up like Linda Ronstadt.

Well, got that package coming here in the morning so I'll have to get myself up for that. And then I'm off to meet Skippy and Movie Buddy for Harry Potter. I'm not sure if we'll be able to catch since the OL informed me that school is out for the summer holidays so the kids are now out in full force. However, I'm not too worried since we can just go for Indian a few hours ahead of schedule.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Friday July 23, 11:52 p.m.

My two lessons today went off without a hitch although things are slowly entering holiday mode. SR, for instance, won't be seeing me for the next few weeks due to various trips. Actually, The Teacher got me thinking about whether I should take a bit of R&R during the relative quiet period in early August. Yes, I know, I know...I had a holiday back in June. However, I think taking some time off somewhere would be better spent elsewhere rather than just wasting my own money and energy in my air-conditioned home. So I'm thinking about spending a weekend in Yokohama. It's still unexplored enough to merit a weekend of study and yet it's close enough that transportation wouldn't be a major drain on the finances. However, there is still the matter of accomodation. Project in progress.

After my classes, I took off to meet the Beauty Pair for dinner with that friend of theirs. I reached Nishi-Kasai Station a half-hour ahead of schedule so I did a bit of quick exploration. The area is quite a bit bigger and busier than my neighbourhood a few stations away, but like my station, it also had a station mall underneath. It was longer and had a larger concentration of restaurants and other eateries, though. Ten years here, and this was my very first time to get off there.

By the time 6 o'clock came about, I was dripping like a wet rag. The high heat was back. The Beauty Pair picked me up and we hopped on a bus for about 5 minutes before we got off in a somewhat suburban spot. Then, it was just a walk of a couple of minutes before reaching Toriden, a neighbourhood watering hole which specialized in yakitori. The place is an AKACHOCHIN or "red lantern" which denotes it as a small intimate pub. When we entered, it was occupied by a salty bunch of men which got pretty loud in the slang. However, the guest of honour, the Clown, wasn't there as he had been expected. In fact, the three of us wondered if he had actually chickened out since one of the BP mentioned that he had expressed some nervousness over meeting me, a member of the alien set.

However, just as we were downing our beers and tucking into some of the yakitori, he showed up 30 minutes late. True to form, his first act as soon as he came in was to drop his pants revealing a wild pair of jockey underwear. Of course, the Pair squealed in delight and shock. I "marveled" at his wit and sophistication. Actually, despite his rather raunchy sense of humour, the Clown came off as a pretty decent sort...he rambled a lot but in a button-down way. He was definitely not a usual Japanese guy.

Our four hours at the pub were pleasant ones. I don't think I'd ever been in a Akachochin in my decade here for the simple reason that it is a watering hole for the locals. However, the food and drink were good, and the Clown kept the Pair in stitches. The Clown and I even did a couple of karaoke songs each with the in-house set. I was a bit nervous about how my rendition of Billy Joel would be received but the other patrons didn't seem to care so I was OK.

I got home desperately needing a shower so I got that going straight away before I started doing some lesson planning for the older sister. I checked my e-mail. It seems as if Arwen never did show up for DTE's outing after all, and despite DTE's repeated attempts at contact, Arwen hasn't bothered to reply. I was thinking of giving young Arwen a bit of a lecture in courtesy when I received a letter from another old student and former classmate of Arwen's from China. She hasn't been able to check her e-mail for 2 months due to her job. After reading that, I ended up sending a much more compassionate message to Arwen asking how everything was going although I also did mention that DTE had been wondering about she was doing. I hope that Arwen hasn't decided to abandon her friendships.

I even received a message from one of the original Tea Room ladies, the Operator. One of her old compadres is back from Argentina with her new baby. The Operator was wondering about our availability in September since the Argentinian will be in Tokyo around that time.

It'll be another horribly hot day on Saturday. And I have to lug my blazer in my traveling bag to get those stupid passport photos done. Aw, man.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Friday July 23, 7:51 a.m.

A bit of a shock going to bed last night. Didn't need to put on the fan at all in my room, though it was still hot. I even felt chilly with the air con by the end of my day, and there were even some cool breezy wafts from the window. However, it was back to normal this morning. My futon was starting to get a bit damp with my sweat so I got up pretty quickly.

Pretty glad not to have gone to see Chip Guy. According to some of the chatter from the e-mail, he didn't even show up last night. Just got bogged down in business trip. He wanted to make it up today with an offer of lunch but for me, that's not gonna be possible since I basically gotta scoot straight from The Teacher to SR due to an earlier start time for SR.

In a way, that brutal heat snap of earlier this week may have helped us. Now, we'll probably snort in derision at a mere 33 degrees.
Thursday July 22, 7:32 p.m.

It was hot but bearable today. There wasn't that feeling of pain and suffering that I'd felt on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it certainly did help to have those stiff gusts from time to time. However, the pert NHK weatherwoman sweetly announced that we'll be stuck with the dog days well into September.

Started my daily foray into the big city by having lunch at Pepper Lunch at the station. I had the 800-yen hamburger and sauteed pork on the sizzling plate with bean sprouts, green beans and carrot slices. At first, I thought it was a bit risky to try and fry the raw pork within the limited time of sizzle, but it worked out OK. I certainly haven't had any problem with worms so far.

I went down to the nearest subway station to the Embassy to see if I could get those passport photos done. There doesn't seem to be one close to my place and I recalled the studio in the Twin Aoyama Mall was pretty hep to how the Embassy wanted them done. So I went down there and found out that the photographer couldn't take them since I wasn't wearing any jacket. You see, white shirt on white background tends to leave photos with floating heads. I could imagine my photos would have been ones of giant balloons. So I have to do the process again on Saturday between my kid lessons and dinner with The OL and BB, this time with my blue blazer in tow. Since THAT is one from Canada, there's no bloody way I'm going to wear it outside unless I'm aiming to create a portable sauna, so I'll have to stuff into my other bag.

I met up with The Engineer for a bit of coffee in Shinjuku. He kinda annoyed me with a couple of cracks (he doesn't have full control of his tact at times) but I just answered with distnterested shrugs. However, the coffee part was good enough. He spent the next several minutes talking about his latest technological purchase. To be honest, I'm not exactly particularly all that enthralled by Akihabara being the semi-Luddite that I am but I did engage him in some talk about it. 90 minutes later, I walked him back to the West Gate and we parted. I was still feeling a bit grumpy so it was good that I ended up sleeping a good part of my commute home.

Movie Buddy gave the OK to the next outing on Sunday. We'll be catching Harry Potter 3 at Shinjuku Picadilly. Looks like the movie is slowly ending its run at that theater since it'll only have two showings starting in the late afternoon. That's fine with me since I've gotta wait for that package from my student in the morning. I also sent invitations to Skippy and Arwen on the assumption I probably wouldn't get any bites due to the relative short notice. However, I was a bit surprised that Skippy actually did bite and enthusiastically gave her OK for Sunday. Arwen, not surprisingly, has yet to reply and I frankly doubt that she'll do so before it's too late.

For a day off without any classes, I feel pretty tired for some reason. Well, I still have to get ready for my two classes with The Teacher and SR tomorrow. The Teacher will be easy enough since she always provides the material. In fact, I have to lend her my DVD of "Ocean's Eleven" since she hasn't seen it yet and she's a big Brad Pitt fan. I just wonder how she'll take the oh-so-cool dialogue and story, though. As for SR, I sent her a fairly big fill-in-the-blanks assignment so she's probably groaning right now, but I was nice in that I didn't give her any further things to do before class. She'll have plenty of stuff on her plate tonight. Then, I meet up with my first pair of students on juku night...the Beauty 6 close to home for dinner with one of their friends. Apparently, he's quite a cut-up; I hope I'm in the appropriate mood as well.

Speaking of BB, I just received mail from her stating that her cat has come back home. It's a bit of a miracle, really. However, it looks like the little one has a bit of an eye injury.

Well, after several day of nothing, that friend of the Quarterback actually got back to me about his lessons. It looks like he's too busy this week and next week, I have my usual class with the Curry Master and the SE so we're trying for the 5th as our inaugural class. With these postponements, I'm kinda wondering if I'm headed for another Salaryman-type situation. SIGH

Well, the airport security video of the 9/11 terrorists came out this morning to media adjectives of "fascinating" and "chilling" CNN's Anderson Cooper was in fact starting to reach my annoyance threshold with his repeated usage of the latter word. However, I thought the really chilling story was not the video but the interview he did with a passenger on a Northwest flight about alleged eyewitness reports of some suspicious activity involving 14 Middle Eastern men and some washrooms. Were they going through a dry run for future terrorist attacks or just testing the defenses or were they just really that weird band due to perform in Las Vegas on a gig? Apparently, the call to the venue that booked them corroborated the band's story but I'm still feeling rather suspicious despite the fact that the interviewee seemed a bit clueless at times. However, I also can't imagine that Al Qaeda would be so brazen to have over a dozen of its members purposely attract attention from just about everyone else on the plane unless their purpose was to, in fact, give everyone the willies. On that point, Bin Laden's organization hit a homer.

On a lighter note, I noticed on the red crawl at the bottom screen, some news about Krispy Kreme releasing a new drink with the glazed flavour of its donuts. Now, wouldn't this be somethng that Homer Simpson would just love? I love glazed donuts but a glaxed-flavoured drink? UGH!

Well, gonna make dinner now. Just so that I don't have to spend a lot of time in the hot kitchen, I'm keeping it to fried cabbage and franks with a salad. That ought to keep me regular.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Wednesday July 21, 9:56 p.m.

Almost forgot to mention that today is Eel Day in Japan. Yep, July 21st is designated as the day that we are encouraged to the long fish in any form to gain stamina. And boy, could we use some of that stamina right now in this heat wave. Actually, though it was still blisteringly hot, I was able to handle things better. I didn't bother eating eel today since I jumped the gun on Monday. Instead, I just downed a bowl of garlicky ramen and gyoza at the station.

I had a pretty good session with the Biologist today up at the Tea Room. I hope our remaining sessions (she takes off for France in about 5 weeks) are as good. The OL was also in good form. She even was kind enough to call up Toraji to make those reservations for us on Saturday.

Well, I've just got to get a bit of dishwashing done before I start on filling out that application form for the new passport. I'll be going out to the Embassy tomorrow to get that piece of bureaucracy done. I just hope I can find a photo studio nearby the place to get those passport photos. If not, well, I'll just put things off until next week. It looks like that prospective first lesson with the Quarterback's buddy will be falling through. I'll just check one more time tomorrow before declaring him MIA. If it's indeed the case, then I have a day off tomorrow. However, I've also yet to find out anything from Chip Guy for tomorrow night.

Back to the weather, we "only" reached 38 degrees today. Looks like the big winner in the heat sweepstakes is Kofu, Gifu Prefecture with the 2nd-highest record high temp with a grand total of 40.1 degrees, next to Ichihara's 40.2 from yesterday. Speaking with the kiosk lady at the station, I found out that there were quite a few folks dropping like flies due to the heat. I didn't get too much sleep last night but I hope with a higher fan setting, I can get some decent shuteye tonight.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Wednesday July 21, 10:33 a.m.

Y'know, in this country, they ought to think about installing a new season starting today. It should be called Hell. Even overnight, the temperature didn't fall below 30 C. Made for some pretty wet sleeping. I didn't get too much of it myself; I partially took my final student's advice and slept in the living room with the fan on. I still woke up 4 hours short of what I should be getting, so I'm feeling pretty punchy. I've had the air con on for almost 5 hours, and I'm just worried that it's gonna conk out or explode because of the heat which certainly lends credence to the theory that lack of sleep could lead to paranoia. However, I've been feeling pretty cool if somewhat groggy.

There's been slightly less sparse traffic than usual this morning because I've been CC'ed by people like Party Hearty and one other about the return of Chip Guy. I've yet to hear any sort of reply from him concerning Thursday. I'm now starting to think I may actually get a blank slate tomorrow since that friend of the Quarterback's has yet to respond back to me. But there's always the last-minute gasp.

I'll probably be taking off pretty soon (as in the next 30 minutes) despite the oppressive conditions out there just so that I can give my air con a rest. Plus, I've gotta do a bit more prep work for the Biologist.
Tuesday July 20, 11:06 p.m.

It's official...we're in a major heat wave. That oppressive feeling of a blow torch on my back was justified. It actually hit 40 sweaty degrees in the Big Sushi, but the hottest spot in the country was in my prefecture in the city of Ichihara: 40.2 big ones. Someone even pointed out that the concrete was registering 50 degrees. I bet some weathermen were probably frying eggs on car hoods tonight. I can't imagine how Chip Guy must be feeling since he always despised Tokyo summers. I guess I can now imagine what Saudi Arabia must be like.

I got a message from Movie Buddy asking me about catching Harry Potter sometime this week. Looks like Sunday afternoon is the only time available for me. I was thinking of getting the ball finally rolling on that passport business but I think I'll hold that off until Thursday. I still have some prep work to do for the Biologist tomorrow, that is, if she's up for it.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Tuesday July 20, 3:04 p.m.

If these are truly the dog days of summer, then today must be a rabid Rottweiler. The heat is just unbelievable. I'm just happy to escape back inside even if only for a few hours. I received e-mail from The Entrepreneur stating that he would gladly trade the current rain and cool in Toronto for some of our weather here. Hey, let's make a deal!

My morning class with the ladies was cut short since the old 50s-issue air conditioner in our room was sputtering, so we ended up having a pseudo-lesson at the Makuhari Springs Hotel in Chiba. I'd been there once before with the ladies for lunch. The lobby looks pretty glitzy almost on a Las Vegas scale...not surprising considering that the owner also has a chain of pachinko parlors. Next week will be the final class with them before we all go on summer break. If the air conditioner goes on the fritz again, we may end up at the Springs again. The hotel itself is located within the sprawling conference technocity of Makuhari Messe; it appears a bit of a pink elephant since I didn't see a whole lot of people walking about. However, with all that white concrete reflecting the blistering heat, I wouldn't be surprised if everyone decided to scurry into the nearest building with air-conditioning.

Looks like I got my summer present from the other Monday student. I got one of those Yamato delivery slips in my door. I kinda feel bad; she doesn't need to do it. I think it was just because she saw the Italian wine that her classmate had given me a week ago that she felt compelled to do it.

Chip Guy wants to get together for Thursday in Shinjuku. I'm not sure if I can make it since I may have that new student, the Quarterback's buddy. But since I haven't heard from him in about a week (I don't think the conditions are too good for us), it seems likely that I may have that day off. I sent off a dispatch to The Engineer to inform him of the change in plans.

Well, I gotta get ready for my night classes. Man, I wish I were not going out in this heat but duty calls. I may consider going out in something more casual, though.
Monday July 19, 7:04 p.m.

It's Marine Day today. It sure didn't feel like there was a lot of water in Tokyo, though. However, on the other side of the Alps, Fukui Prefecture is a disaster area with all of the floods it's been getting. NHK's been saying that it got a month's worth of rainfall in 12 hours today. I'm accustomed to seeing this sort of horror in places like Bangladesh and even rural America but not in this country. Koizumi's been getting a lot of hell from the locals when he visited the area today. Whether or not he deserves the abuse is academic; he's the PM...he's gotta take the flak. Plus, who could blame anyone who just had his house washed away?

Well, I met up with Jazz Buddy in Shinjuku for her lesson. The Andersens was closed due to the holiday so we ended up going to the nearby Starbucks. Fortunately, there were a few tables open. Ol' JB was pretty much like her nickname in performance: pretty to listen to and improvisational (i.e. all over the place).The reason was that she along with a few of the current school students had also gone to the Yokohama Fireworks Festival, albeit separate from the Arwen and DTE crew, after which she dropped by her workplace to chat with some of her buddies before finally munching down a midnight snack of a beef bun and catching TV until 3 a.m. this morning. That doesn't exactly amount to a fully alert student.

Afterwards, we spent 3 hours at the Tokyo Hilton just down the street for that cake buffet that I'd last gone down to with the Iconoclast. She enjoyed the spring rolls and the crab balls but she couldn't get through much of the actual desserts which she thought were somewhat subpar. So I gallantly paid for her share considering that I did suggest the Marble Lounge in the first place. However, she did mention that she and some of the others are looking for a good buffet. I reminded her of one thing concerning buffets: the cheap ones stress quantity over quality, the good ones will stress the almighty yen.

Poor JB had to head over to work tonight despite threatening to nod off near the end of our small feast. However, she was lucid enough to ask for the next lesson to be next Monday.

Getting back home tonight, I noticed that the fairly constricting boards were finally taken off the stairs accessing the station to reveal shiny marble stairs and an escalator getting the finishing touches before final activation.

I got word from Betty Boop for Saturday. I think the choice of restaurant should be OK. She also mentioned that one of her cats has apparently run away. Knowing how Dad is with the family cat, BB must be feeling pretty low right now.

NHK started showing its latest contribution to the anime canon last night by presenting Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. That's right. It would take the Japanese to render classic characters from Agatha Christie into cute 2-D cartoons. Not that I'm lambasting the effort; the anime does look a couple of levels above the usual Pokemon stuff, although, true to form, the producers did add a spunky teenage girl with huge eyes (what else is new?) and her cute duck, Oliver, as companion.

The school scheduler hasn't sent any requests for teaching so I have that sizable hole in my Tuesday schedule. So I'll just get ready for my Tsudanuma class and then the juku classes...after dinner, of course. I know that I shouldn't be indulging, especially after a buffet, but the sad fact of the matter is that I know that my stomach will be crying bloody murder without any influx of food tonight. Having said that, I know that I've gained some more stuff to my girth since it took me an extra minute to pull on the jeans.Ick!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Sunday July 18, 10:20 p.m.

Managed to clean off the bathroom and the kitchen along with some other household chores at the cost of a lot of sweat. After that, it was just off to get the shoes and the fixins for dinner. Got suddenly squalled on; I was barely able to get the clothes off the line in time; still a couple of shirts got slightly damp.

Well, the Sogas are back in Tokyo and not surprisingly a majority of the channels had their cameras on Haneda Airport. Sgt. Jenkins is now resting comfortably in a Tokyo hospital with the family. Hard to say what the future holds for them.

I saw "Ocean's Eleven" on DVD just to show myself that I'm relaxing and not teaching today. It's still a good smart film. I'm hoping that the sequel will follow the example of Spiderman and be even better. It could be hard to top, though.

Mom called up and she caught the good news about my birth certificate from my brother. I'm glad that I won't be getting the nagging about it anymore.

Still gotta check my notes for Jazz Buddy's lesson tomorrow. A bit of a pain considering that it is a national holiday. And I still don't know if we'll be trying out that buffet at the Keio Plaza. Hope to find out tomorrow morning, but since she's a late riser...I'm not holding out any particular hopes that I'll receive any messages from her before I see her at 11. I kinda wonder how DTE and Arwen are doing at the Yokohama Fireworks Festival although I'm sure it's been long over now. Hopefully, they managed to squeeze out from the crowd and get some cold drinks.