Saturday, August 07, 2004

Sunday August 8, 8:16 a.m.

Well, the Japanese soccer team got that 2nd championship in Beijing. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of hard feelings from a number of the Chinese over the victory. It was very much a case of letting the contingent of Japanese fans who had come over to support the team that they have neither forgotten nor forgiven the last century.

Speaking of partisan nastiness, what's up with this sudden attack on John Kerry's war record? Kinda smacks of disingenuousness. While I was on the Internet over at the Pan Pacific yesterday morning, I checked out JibJab's now-famous take on "This Land Is Our Land" with the paper cutout animation of the players in this election. Hilarious!

The Cartoon Network in their eminent wisdom decided to show all of the mere snippets of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as one little movie last night. Acting was still as hackneyed as in the live-action version but at least the fact that it was animated softened the blow. However, that same fact gave free rein and full creativity to how each of the Jedi Masters fight. All I can say is that Mace Windu is The Man! Also, in a bit of Boba Fett Origin homage, I got a sneak preview of the next big villain for Episode 3 in the very last snippet.

Another big exodus is on as the metropolises empty for O-Bon. I'm hoping that it will translate into a lot more room on the subways for the next week. It will be another sparse week for me. Mind you, I will have time to do things such as pick up my passport tomorrow. Then, I can use all of Thursday to head over to the dreaded Immigration Building in Shinagawa to transfer my visa and re-entry permit. It's a shame, really....there used to be the main office in Otemachi and a number of small branches all over the Kanto to assist foreigners. However with the depressed economy, everything had to be amalgamated into one mother of a complex a bus ride away from JR Shinagawa. Now, every foreigner in the entire Kanto has to converge there. It'll be back to early morning arrivals. I'm planning to bring a lot of magazines and crosswords. Lucky, I don't have any classes that day.
Saturday August 7, 5:56 p.m.

Back from Yokohama. I'm glad that I could get my mind off of work for over 24 hours but I'm still exhausted from the heat and humidity although it looks rather threatening out there. Glad I got home when I did.

After my last entry, I spent a few hours back up in my room watching the Yankees on NHK Satellite 1 (it seems to have become a tradition with me and the Yankees and a hotel room...don't snicker). They managed to shellack the Blue Jays 13-4. However, I've been away long enough from the ol' hometown that I didn't really feel all that much pain seeing ol' Delgado and team get killed.

When I checked out, there was a rather long line of people ahead of me but it managed to move along quickly. Meanwhile, in the hotel's continuing campaign to bring a little Honolulu, there was a ukelele band playing Don Ho stuff.

My first stop was to head up the Landmark Tower up to their 69th-floor observation deck. It boasted the world's fastest elevator and it certainly felt that way as my ears approached explosive pressures. I took some quick snaps of the surrounding Yokohama scenery and then headed back down. Then, I took a bus to the uphill Foreigners' Quarter. The area certainly looked quaint with a lot of old wooden Western-style houses. There was the famous Foreigners' Cemetery whose headstones I could take pictures of without having to enter the place because the stone fence was so low. I walked down the main street for about half a kilometre before figuring that it was just going to be just residential stuff. Then I made the U-turn and took a quick left downhill to the trendy Motomachi district. Unlike the neon and chaos of Chinatown just a block away, Motomachi was all trendy and white. They had some high school girls directing traffic, too.

My final stop was up to the Ramen Museum. It was a bit of a disappointment in that the place was packed with people. I couldn't really appreciate the mock-up of old 50s Tokyo since there were so many people crammed in line for the individual restaurants. However, I did manage to find one place, Kurume Ramen, which only required a 5-minute wait. The way-more popular ones had people waiting for an hour! The ramen I had was of the thick pork bone broth variety. The place had that downtown stink but the soup was good. After that, I made a hasty way out and back to Tokyo which took a good 2 hours with all of the trains and transfers.

Now, it's kinda back to work. I've got to prep for the Jazz Buddy's class tomorrow.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Saturday August 7, 7:55 a.m.

Currently doing this entry from the Pan-Pacific in Yokohama. Pretty nice hotel but I gotta admit, though, that my room doesn't seem all that different from the place I had up in Sapporo a couple of months back and it was quite a bit cheaper. Goes to show how prices are in the Kanto...
Mind you, the amenities are rather nice; my room has a good view of the Minato Mirai area, including the huge Ferris wheel. Plus, the bathroom is quite generous: big bathtub, separate shower booth and toilet area. The staff are also very friendly although with this current Hawaiian campaign that they're on, I almost felt like I checked into Maui. It is definitely a higher-grade hotel in that a young lady took my little bag up to the room and explained everything to me...seemed a bit Stepfordian, though.

Last night, I just traipsed through Chinatown....I'm glad that they made that Minato Mirai Line; it certainly makes the trip down there a whole lot easier and shorter. Chinatown isn't all that different from my last visit there. However, it was rather difficult to find a place to eat since all of their specials start from 2 people, and since I was a solo, I ended up going to a buffet place near the station. Not kinda reminds me of The Mandarin buffet back in Toronto, although I'm sure some of the purists will probably blanch in horror. For me, though, the words "Chinese" and "buffet" will always go together like "Adam" and "Eve".

After taking that well-needed bath and shower, I retired a bit earlier than usual but got up pretty early. Had my breakfast buffet (yes, another buffet...but then again, I am here to enjoy myself) in the hotel cafe. Good food and service.

I'll be checking out in about 3 hours. I'll see if I can head up the Landmark Tower to the observation deck before checking out the Foreigners' Quarter via the Blue Line Bus. Then, after that, I'll check out Motomachi before making my last stop at the Ramen Museum.

Since we're entering the O-Bon festival from this weekend, the 40-km traffic jams have already started. Luckily, I'm headed in the opposite direction.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Friday August 6, 8:16 a.m.

59 years today, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. NHK is doing its annual ritual of showing the Peace Park festivities. Something to never forget. Ironically, off in China, the natives are also letting the Japanese soccer team know that they will never forget (or forgive) events of that time. I'm not too disturbed by the booing and heckling though...probably just a regular day at Yankee Stadium for most opposing teams.

I met up with the Jazz Buddy yesterday in Shinjuku. She was pretty somnabulent as usual...just not too good in the mornings, I guess. Looks like she'll be coming to Gabby's farewell party after all, though. I got a bit of insight about the dynamics between Skippy and the rest of her fellows at the school. JB remarked that she didn't know really know her all that well but her impression was that Skippy tends to be a bit overbearing in her opinions and that she doesn't realize it. Sounds like a lot of other "leader" students from previous years. In any case, I'll be meeting JB on Sunday for another lesson and then spending much of the day with her before meeting up with the rest for the farewell party.

My first lesson with the QB's friend, The Programmer, turned out as much as I had expected. I met him in Ikebukuro and we went to the cafe in Libro Books...which is even quieter than the Tea Room. My assessment is that he doesn't really need regular lessons and I hinted that to him. He just needs some proofreading for his documents and some vocabulary if he asks for it...nothing really for me to see him that often so I'm quite happy to keep any meetings to a biweekly schedule.

Between my two clients, I had my occasional lunch at Foo Foo; the waitress screwed up my order and just got me that sole bowl of spicy ramen instead of the whole lunch but as it turned out, I was pretty satisfied with that sole bowl. Then, I did a half-hour on broadband at Kinkos since my computer was going through one of its uncooperative moods (my ScanDisk put it in its place last night). Amazing this broadband...kinda like going from a schleppy Edsel to a sleek Lamborghini.

Since I still had several hours before meeting The Programmer, I ended up catching Shrek 2 in Ikebukuro. Yes, lots of in-jokes for the blockbuster movie fan and certainly Puss n' Boots made quite an impression on the audience...though I can't really agree that Antonio was that much of the scene-stealer. All in all, it was an entertaining 90 minutes but I'm a bit leery about the plans to make Shrek 3 and 4 knowing The Law of Diminishing Returns of Sequels. It'd be a shame to see the franchise head the way of Rocky or Superman by overrreaching.

Well, I do my little mini-trip out to Yokohama today. Just have The Teacher a half-hour earlier than usual and then I head on out to the west. I still haven't packed but it's pretty easy. Lookin' forward to spending a luxurious night. Cotton pyjamas, a bathtub AND shower cabin, all rooms with broadband access...yes, I'm there. My big decision is to whether head out to Chinatown tonight for dinner (which may be crowded and expensive) or wait to do dim sum tomorrow afternoon.
Decisions, decisions....

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Wednesday August 4, 9:51 p.m.

Had another good lesson (well, at least to me anyways) with the Biologist. And the lesson with the OL was fine as usual. Felt pretty drained, though, due to another scorching day. I'm counting the days before the Fall gets here, or more accurately, when Fall-like temps come to town. It probably won't be for another 6 weeks.

Looks like I've got my two students set for tomorrow: Jazz Buddy at 11 and then the QB's buddy at 7:30 in Ikebukuro which leaves me with 6 hours of nothing in between. Maybe I'll catch Shrek 2 somewhere after having lunch. JB has also consented to come for Gabby's farewell as well. Well, there may be hope.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Tuesday August 3, 10:58 p.m.

Another quiet day today. My two classes went smoothly; it was nice to see that I still have the chops to teach. As expected, the final student didn't come but it looks like I'll be paying a house call next week to his apartment to do his class.

I've got another late day tomorrow starting with the Biologist. Then, the Office Lady said that she'll be showing up at the regular time. I'm not quite sure when the Biologist will be heading back to school. Most likely I have at least one more week with her before she takes off.

As I left to head off to the juku, I could hear that the cicadas were screaming very loudly. It's been quite the hot summer this year. In fact, I saw a couple of them just lying down on the ground soaking up some rays...really.

My "diet" of sorts seems to have worked too well. I was rather famished when I got back, so I dropped off at the supermarket and bought a small pack of fried chicken as a late-night snack. Well, I figure a little treat shouldn't be too bad.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Monday August 2, 10:01 p.m.

It was a quiet weekend...quiet enough so that I didn't really need to add any entry. Typhoon 10 managed to leave quite an imprint on western place got 1000 mm in an hour. The other big news items were Crown Princess Masako's diagnosis of her depression as "adjustment stress" (going from a high-flying career as a member of the Foreign Ministry to the highly stultifiying role as future Empress can do that to one), and former PM Hashimoto's resignation as the leader of his LDP faction due to some sort of bribery scandal. However, I've also just heard that some raging sociopath stabbed 7 folks to death in Hyogo Prefecture. Nice to hear that the psychotic fringe is alive and well.

As for me, I was back in action after nearly 3 days of layoff. I wasn't too rusty; I just had my usual Monday regulars. Between lessons, I had some time to use my full HMV card to get a bossa nova CD and magazine for a discount and then visit The Maple Leaf for lunch. Not too bad in price; in fact, I think I may have been undercharged for my burger and Coke. And the place was almost deserted except for a group of nattering women. Then, I headed up to Shinjuku where I made my roost in that concrete plaza for about an hour. The heat wasn't nearly as bad as two weeks ago but I was still nodding off due to my lunch slowly digesting in my stomach. I'm happy to hear,though, that my relative culinary abstinence has had some dividends; my morning student remarked that my face looked a bit less Jabba-like.

Looks like the Quarterback's buddy is still up for Thursday. I'm not too thrilled about the time of 8 p.m. so I'm gonna keep the fib going that I can only meet him on alternate Thursday nights although the Curry Master and the SE are pretty much history. Ugh! I'm not too happy about teaching him all the way out in Ikebukuro, either. Memories of last year's weekly trek to Jiyugaoka still remain in my mind.

Had a slight snag with the travel agent concerning my reservations in Yokohama. She sent me a voucher via e-mail in the mistaken assumption that I could print it out. However, being the semi-Luddite, I don't have a printer. I just hope she can send it in over this week. But I think I should be able to just go up to the front desk and check-in easily without any piece of paper.

Well, tomorrow should be really light now that the Beehive is off for summer. I only have my juku classes and that's been cut down to 2 hours. As I figured, the final student has canned his class. The juku boss asked me if I could teach him on Thursday or Friday but that's pretty much out. All I need to do is send out some packages to the Anime King.

I still have yet to hear from Skippy about that farewell dinner for Gabby. From my end, the Jazz Veteran is the only one who said that she'll come. Movie Buddy has declined and Jazz Buddy & Arwen have yet to reply. I've always wondered if JB had something against Skippy. I've been told that JB has got a pretty dark personality compared to Skippy's "up-with-people" sunniness. As for Arwen, I just have no idea. Has she really gotten so busy that she can't even send one single letter or has she and 77 decided to cut off all ties with me and DTE? In any case, I think it's pretty inconsiderate of both of them.