Friday, August 13, 2004

Saturday August 14, 7:57 a.m.

Woke up at 6 and turned on the telly to see the highlights from the Opening Ceremonies. Yup, didn't miss all that much...just the usual idealistic images and the lighting of the torch. The Japanese team looked less goofy than they did at Sydney although I think the female athletes resembled a pyjama party contingent. A lot of people crab about how over-the-top the Americans are about their media coverage of their athletes. However, Japan is not really any different. Fuji-TV devoted 2 hours to just one athlete, a 15-year-old ping pong prodigy who used to cry up a storm whenever she lost a game. I hope her maturity has grown along with her talent. Every other station here has also devoted itself to some sort of Olympic cheerleading, complete with its own inspirational pop song.

I heard that these Olympics could be the dirtiest ever due to the drug infractions. Maybe the new motto could be: Higher, Stronger, Faster, Dopier?
Friday August 13, 8:39 p.m.

A supposedly unlucky day but so far, so good. I hope the Olympics fare just as well. Since we're 7 hours ahead of Athens, I'll be fast asleep while the Opening Ceremonies are playing themselves out. I'm not too disappointed since the OC is merely a lot of pomp and circumstance but unlike Sydney, we'll be missing out on a good chunk of the Games daily due to the time difference.

It was another hot one today but relief may finally be around the corner. We may actually dip down past 30 on Sunday with rain. We can only hope.

Work was just in and out. I only needed to meet SR at the Tea Room for her lesson. We spent a good chunk of it chatting on ramen since she's a big fan of the stuff as well. Surprisingly, she's never been to the Ramen Museum. I told her to run, not walk to the place.

Well, the place is ready as it'll ever be for Movie Buddy to come and crash tomorrow night.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Thursday August 12, 11:39 p.m.

Well, I woke up early and headed out to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. I noticed that my timing was quite good as the subways and trains were a lot emptier than usual due to the O-Bon holidays. I could actually get a seat which is rare on a regular day even at the early time of before 7 a.m.

When I reached JR Shinagawa, I headed out to the East Exit and found a lot of English signs pointing the way to the bus for the TRIB. I'm sure with the numbers of gaijin from all over the Kanto, the signs were necessary. A ten-minute ride later, the bus stopped right in front of the entrance itself at 8 a.m. I never got a whole look at the building but from the literature and the floor guide, the place is supposed to be rather humongous.

There were already about a dozen people scattered about the entrance with a small fraction creating a small line in front of the automatic doors (the doors wouldn't open until 8:30). The first group seemed to be a group of Chinese and their representative lawyerly type.My first impression was that they made up the majority of the initial group. A Falun Gong member was trying to hand out literature which I politely declined. I spent the half-hour going through the Olympic issue of TIME.

Another much smaller line started to form in front of the second set of doors. At first I wondered if I were in the right line, but since the doors opened up into the same lobby, it didn't really matter. That point was further emphasized when the security guards finally opened the doors and there was a mad dash into the elevators and up the escalator; the lines were just a mere formality. As such, I just let the masses fly in while I checked out where I was supposed to go. The floor guide wasn't specific enough, so I went up to the second floor to the information counter where an older version of me gruffly handed me the appropriate form and told me to go to Counter A.

I was lucky in that I only needed to transfer my visa and re-entry permit into my new passport. There was none of that need to buy the purchase stamps so I could just head straight into the line. Things certainly looked pretty grand and modern inside this new Immigration Bureau. It had an airport terminal air about it...all pastel colours and sterility.

It was another 25 minutes of waiting. I started to reminisce about my times waiting in line at the TD Bank. However, at about 8:55, five minutes ahead of schedule, the shutters opened at the counter, and there was a small phalanx of uniformed women ready to take care of our needs. Japanese efficiency at its peak. Since I was 5th in line, I was fortunate that the phalanx consisted of 6 women. I just handed in my passports, the signed form and my gaijin card, and the woman gave me a slip with the number 2. I would wait until that number was called at Section 2 just a few metres away.

Wow, I thought. I would be the second person to get out of there. Not that easy, though. The counter started with 1 logically enough. However, then it spurted to 4 and then 17 and then...well,you get the message. I thought it was giving out a football play. One woman had a slight panic attack and asked what was going on. The woman who handled me told the surprised lady that the numbers didn't indicate order of service but instead the case number. I have to admit that the staff were very good. They were polite but firm and brooked no dissent. I harboured a brief fear that Case No. 2 would be the 50th or 100th person served. However, that fear was nullified when my number was called and I got my passports back. She asked me to confirm that the visa and re-entry stamps had been accurately written up and then she told me to report to my local city hall to register the change on my gaijin card.

So, a half-hour wait outside, another half-hour inside and 25 minutes of processing...I only had to endure Immigration for less than the length of an average movie and half of my TIME. Still, I'm glad that I showed up as early as I did. I don't think I would have been nearly as lucky if I had come later on.

Basically, that was it in terms of my business in Tokyo. I have no lessons to teach, so I just made my way back home. It was a bit funny coming back home to see that most of the shops and restaurants still hadn't opened yet. It almost felt like I were coming back from the graveyard shift. The heat was definitely back although the morning had actually been rather pleasant. We will break the record of consecutive days over 30 degrees today and probably extend it by several weeks. I could have gone over to City Hall today and got that updating of the card but I figure that one visit to bureaucracy was all that I could stand so I'm just gonna enjoy life and just clean up a bit at home. I've got Movie Buddy making a reservation at Hotel Allan this Saturday with DVDs which probably means that his girlfriend is busy with her buddies this weekend. I'm a bit reluctant to let him come over since it is the summer and my place simply isn't too comfy during the dog days but he is a good friend. I know that he'll probably sleep with the air conditioner on overnight since he's not too acclimated to the heat. I just hope that the AC doesn't rumble too loudly. Actually, we're also catching RIDDICK earlier in the day after my lessons with the kids. I've asked Skippy if she'd like to join us but I haven't received any reply. I kinda doubt that she'll tag along this time, though. MB said that he would also ask The Hawaiian.

Looks like the Olympics are on already 2 full days before the Opening Ceremonies. And Japan has gotten off to a good start with its women's soccer team. The ladies took good care of the Swedish team 1-0. However, after hearing that a lot of the infrastructure is still not in full operational mode, I am wondering how well the security and logistics will hold. Memories of Munich and Montreal (which is still paying off its debt from 1976) come to mind. But with no less than the US Sixth Fleet being a part of the security detail, I think it would take a pretty herculean effort by Al Qaeda to make any sort of dent in Athens.
Wednesday August 11, 9:14 p.m.

Got prepped for the long wait at Immigration by getting a couple of magazines. Looks like I'll have to wake up somewhat earlier tomorrow if I'm to get serviced early enough when the place opens.

The Biologist didn't seem too impressed with me today although I could be reading too deeply into things. However, I wouldn't be surprised if it were indeed the case. In any case, I just have one more lesson with her so if she can endure the last two hours, we won't ever have to worry ever again.

Some of my ol' buddies from the oil company contacted me tonight to see if I'm up for another get-together. Looks like the next meeting will be in mid-September.

I was reading through the new and improved METROPOLIS magazine to read an in-depth analysis of the current Bobby Fischer kerfuffle here in Japan. As a kid, I remember him as being the wunderkind of international chess. Too bad he ended up being a Hitler nutjob wannabe. To give some background, Fischer had been on the run from the US, which he has slagged to extremely far ends, at one point, publicly applauding the 9/11 attacks. He apparently had a match with his arch-rival Boris Spassky in war-torn Yugoslavia, contrary to US government orders. Since then, he's never bothered to return to answer charges for his "crime". However, one day, he entered Japan, a country that he had once treasured as a sanctuary, only to be indefinitely detained and have his passport revoked in what is looking to be an American ploy to drag the former chessmaster back home. The story is just begging to be told as a movie or an HBO special.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Monday August 9, 11:15 p.m.

My trip to the Embassy was short and sweet. Picked up my new passport. Now, the second phase is to head over to Immigration on Thursday.

I played it safe at Aoyama Twin for lunch. I just went to the local Subway sandwich branch. Then, I headed up to Shinjuku where i basically spent the next few hours just drinking stuff, reading TIME and prepping for the company class. As I predicted, I was nodding off pretty easily in the heat and humidity.

I actually saw the Prez for the first time in over a month. He was his usual garrulous self as he groused about The Iconoclast again. The class itself wasn't too bad; we had a good talk about the Ramen Museum.

Had a bit of an incident north of Tokyo in the Mihama Nuclear Power Station. 4 workers were killed by the steam leak but no radiation which probably explained the lack of extensive coverage on the media outlets.

Got e-mail from Skippy. Looks like she's back on her feet after her stomach problem from last night.

Well, tomorrow will be virtually a day off except for that one house call with the juku student. I won't need to leave the apartment until 8:30 in the evening. I figure that I'll probably use the time to scrub the tatami mats and air out the mattresses.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Monday August 9, 7:39 a.m.

Had my 6 hours of sleep...none the worse for wear although I'll probably feel it later on in the day. Woke up to 26 degrees and it'll head to 33, the 35th day in a row that we've been over the big 3-0. Serenity now! However, I think I'm getting used to life on the sun. I still need to buy some heavy-duty sunblock.

Just getting some a rather load of laundry done right now. One good thing about this weather is that I won't have to worry about rain. These clothes ought to be bone-dry within an hour.

The big news is seeing the Japanese Olympic team hitting Athens a few days ahead of the Opening Ceremonies. Yes, believe it or not. Athens is getting an Olympics underway this week.

I just have the Iconoclast's old company tonight for a class. Not sure what I'm gonna do after I get my passport. It'd probably be way too late to head for Immigration so I'll have 6 hours to kill all told. I'll definitely head for someplace frostily air-conditioned.
Monday August 9, 1:19 a.m.

Another long day out. I met The Jazz Buddy for her lesson. Before she came, I was sitting in front of an obvious tourist couple from the States. They were considering about where to go in Tokyo. I would have helped them but they were taking some bites out of each other, so I decided that they should suffer by themselves.

JB entered just as the Bickersons left. She was actually rather on top of things yesterday and we had a nice talk on various kinds of music to wrap the lesson up. For lunch, I took her out to Foo Foo. She appreciated the fact that there was a Ladies' Set, the "Ladies'" part being the inclusion of a tiny mango pudding to go with her noodles and gyoza.

The next couple of hours was spent looking around the various stores in Shinjuku for a present for Gabby. I was finally able to get the lass an apron in the basement of Isetan but JB couldn't make up her mind by the time everyone congregated.

Seeing that both The Scarecrow and Movie Buddy declined the invitation I thought I would be the only teacher there. However, I was rather surprised to see The Songbird chatting with Skippy outside of Mizuho. Then, Jazz Veteran, OA and the Golfer showed up. OA said that the guest of honour and her boyfriend would be showing up late so we went ahead across the street to an aptly named place called The Piggy's Kitchen, a restaurant which specialized in pork dishes. I have to admit that the belated lunch didn't really spark my appetite and to be honest, I wasn't all that amazed by the fare. The pork didn't really grab me and the cocktails were rather on the light side. However, I did enjoy chatting it up with The Songbird for the first time in several months since her departure from the school. I was surprised when Gabby and the Kid came since they also dragged in The Rapper, another old former teacher. His appearance was a rather strange cameo though. During the time I was in the Boys' Room, he took a rather abrupt and, judging from the slight tension around the table, not the most quietest leave. He even left his pack of Luckys and lighter on the table.

Gabby, The Kid and OA were having one of their usual mock-bickering sessions. I can only imagine that there will be a lot of tears when Gabby finally takes off in a couple of weeks for Stateside. Another interesting development was that Skippy, our grand Poobah for this party, was apparently heaving chunks in the washroom according to the Songbird. She'd said that she was suffering from a hangover; I guess that the hangover still had a few kicks for her. In any case, she was out for the rest of the evening. However, JV, JB, The Kid, The Songbird, and I followed through on the second party at karaoke. The Maid later joined us there.

Well, this week will surely be quiet. Virtually everyday will only have one class except for Wednesday's lessons with The Biologist and The Office Lady. I gotta go pick up my new passport in the morning and then I have my regular company class in the afternoon.