Saturday, December 04, 2004

Saturday December 4, 11:42 p.m.

Well, as expected, it was a long day with the kids at school. I was in full Santa gear and my co-hosts were in their reindeer hats as the annual Xmas party got into full gear. There was a smaller turnout this year than in previous parties since this year's crop is smaller to begin with and also since a number of the students just couldn't make it. However, what was lacking in the turnout department was compensated by the enthusiasm from the kids in terms of the games which were wild and woolly. The reindeer thought up of a game of stacking cans within 45 seconds which brought the animal from everyone especially from the Dollface.

Afterwards, it was about an hour just hanging in the school lounge before we headed out for our second party at the nearby izakaya for a few hours. All went pretty well except for a few minutes at the end when Bruno, one of our teachers, got a bit too antsy from too much drink and scared a few of our students. Luckily, somehow, the kids managed to ditch him and we ended up going to another drinking joing just down the street for another couple of hours. By that time, I was pretty exhausted but I still managed to keep a good face on things. The talk was initially on how surprisingly boorish Bruno acted near the end but things calmed down. In the States, his behaviour probably wouldn't have gotten a second glance and if he were Japanese, the same would have been true here but unfortunately since he is not Japanese and he usually doesn't act that way in class, he stood out like a sore thumb. He's a pretty nice guy so I'm hoping that all will be forgotten by the New Year.

Things finally broke up around 10:30, some 10.5 hours after things got started so I'm rather glad to get home. I just cannot do those long nights out that I used to do back home a decade or so ago anymore. Mind you, I have another long day tomorrow with the previous year's group to catch The Incredibles and then Tony Romas. I hope the weather clears up by the time I get to Shinjuku since it's raining steadily now.

There was talk about having a drinking party at one of the teacher's houses, and my place was brought up. I warned that my little hut was pretty cramped and messy, but in truth, I wouldn't mind having some visitors over again. But it'll probably have to wait until the kids graduate since I really can't invite the whole kit and kaboodle; just the ones who remain in contact.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Friday December 3, 8:54 p.m.

Another exhausting day today. I figure that I'm unconsciously so diligent about keeping a good rapport with the customers that I just expend a ton of energy. Well, at least it's nice to know that I'm losing calories even without going to the gym.

My lesson with The Teacher was another laugh-filled one. I got a bit of a surprise when one of the people at the adjoining table called my name. It just happened to be another one of the former students from the school. She dropped out halfway through. However, she's kept in good contact with The Songbird and even asked for my particulars.

Tried to look for some more Xmas presents but nada. So I ended up dropping in at the school where the kids were having their last official day before breaking up for the Holidays. Actually, several of them will be having semi-private lessons over the next couple of weeks. I sent off a message over to the Scheduler to see if I could get in on some of the action, but sure enough, I haven't heard a thing.

SR and I had another long chat at the Tea Room. Looks like she's having the usual gripes at work about her neer-do-well supervisor. It'll be the last time I see her this year since she'll be too busy with the accounts next week.

Got back home and had my dinner. Checked out the current crisis about that Morning Musume who strayed from the straight and narrow. Seems like things are starting to subside as the reality of her new persona non grata status is developing. On the main music show tonight, the group appeared, happy as usual, without the young lady in question. Nobody batted an eye, nobody whispered a word...WA was maintained and so shall it be.

SPIDERMAN is making its TV premiere right now on NTV, ostensibly to commemorate the release of its sequel on DVD today. I may be picking up the 2-pack back home.

Well, tomorrow will be the big Xmas party. My Santa suit is ready to go, but I do have to wash the beard tonight. Could be another long day.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Thursday December 2, 10:06 p.m.

Had that lesson with Jazz Buddy this morning. Instead of our usual Starbucks, she took me to Haiti, a cafe a few hundred metres down the road which also boasts some spicy curry fare. She was yawning a lot thanks to her typical lack of sleep but she did get rather animated again when talking about her sister from Hell. Looks like next week's chatfest will also be "on the road" as well. A bit more quieter, though. We'll just be moving over to the local Tullys for cocoa.

Then I headed back to the school and waited an hour before we launched the 2nd annual trip to Namjatown for the food tour. There were about 7 of us and we first hit the Gyoza Stadium where we picked different restaurants to amass a bunch of gyoza to compare and eat. Once that was done, we went upstairs to the Roll Cake Exhibition. We found some interesting stands over there including one that was hawking a new confection "invented" by current flavour-of-the-year celeb Aya Ueto, a standing roll cake surrounded by sliced strawberries and topped off by a cream-filled shell. Not bad, if I may say so myself. I also decided to get another piece of roll cake in the form of a fruity one. While we were all noshing away, one of our number, The Dollface, started gabbing about one of her classmates who wasn't with us. Our absent member usually comes off as a rather quiet sort but in reality she seems to have quite an active sex life according to what she's blurted out in class. The Dollface was more than happy to relay some of that news to me.

Finally, our last stop was Ice Cream City. The Blue Seal stand was no longer there so we couldn't try the bucket, but we all sampled a lot of other stands. So after 4 hours, we were pretty much done. Now, it's just the big Xmas party that's next up. It'll be nice to have a day to recuperate.

Got home and made the reservations at Tony Romas. Then I did my usual lurking at the J-Pop forum. One facet certainly exploded into a ton of chatter over the past 24 hours. Apparently, one of the founding members of the girl group, Morning Musume, was discovered to have plagiarized some material for her book of poetry. And as a result, she's been officially suspended and ostracized from all activity for at least the next couple of months. It certainly didn't help that she was one of the most popular of the girls. The folks from all over the planet were just nattering away at this major crisis. My take on it is that, yep, the girl screwed up..but she's only in her early twenties and she'll recover easily enough. She's apologized and now she's taking the rap.

Well, it's been a long day and I've got two lessons tomorrow so it's time to pack it in.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Wednesday December 1, 10:04 p.m.

Started the day off with that long trip to the tax office. Gave my new roachkillers a test run. Sure enough, they initially fit quite well but then the blister spots started happening. I think I should have them broken in by the weekend.

Well, what can I say about the visit to the tax office? I'm glad that I got it out of the way. The Ichikawa City Tax Office is located in a non-descript neighbourhood. The square building kinda sticks out like a shiny block in an area of old stores and bars. As I said, I'm glad I got the visit out of the way; that's really all I could say. I got this half-hour spiel by an obviously dedicated officer of the government who plied me with a lot of paperwork. I could only understand 20% of what he said but that was enough for me to get the gist of it. I will try and get further clarification from my students or friends. The overall message is that I probably will have a lot of paperwork to do that will make the usual tax filings in Canada look like a cakewalk. No wonder entrepreneurship is so low in this country. A person would rather stay a cog in a huge company and have its accounting division take care of the gory details than take care of it himself.

I didn't have a whole heck of a lot of time before my lesson with The Aunt so I just went over to the station closest to the teaching site and ended up having another Mac lunch. One thing about eating at McDs. I can have the Big Mac set and within a few seconds of wolfing it down, I can still walk away and go off without getting any sort of tummyache. Not sure if that's necessarily a good thing but when one's in a hurry...

Not sure either if the lesson with the Aunt will continue on after today. Oh, it went better with the structure but she's off on her New Zealand trip next week and so I won't see her again for the remainder of the year. Basically, she was just looking for travel English. However, I still appreciate the referral by The Hawaiian. She was her usual reliable self.

I headed back down to Toranomon for The OL's regular lesson. I was a bit surprised when she gave me a block of kamaboko, or fish cake. She'd gone to a nice hot spring trip over the weekend with 8 of her buddies and it was a souvenir. Looks like that outing to the Chinese place will be postponed til the New Year since Betty Boop won't be available this month.

Got home and I shouldn't have done it but I still got a bit of dinner despite the fact I'd had a sandwich at Starbucks. Some cravings you just can't escape. When I turned on the telly, I found the first of the video signs that the year is nigh. The annual Fuji TV song festival celebrating this year's hits was on live from the Takanawa Prince Hotel. One surprise was seeing Beyonce of Destiny's Child in the dining hall. I can only wonder what she must think of some of the acts. Activate plastic smile. Also, there was quite the heavy Korean influence reflecting how big the Korean boom has been here over the past several months. It's almost as if the Korean singers are part of the regular Japanese talent crop. And the annual Red N' White show will have a few Korean singers on as well. This couldn't have been imagined a few years ago.

I also got a surprise call from Skippy since it was her first one. She was her usual dandy self. Her trip to Paris was very Amelie-like; she even visited Montmartre where the movie had been filmed. She also experience that bugbear of travel...she got pickpocketed on the subway. She put on her sad voice then but quickly rebounded back to happy-go-lucky once more. You could probably run her down with a car, she'll still have the smile on her face. Well, I still like her regardless.

Only have the Jazz Buddy tomorrow morning. We're supposed to head over to a different venue for a change of pace although I'm not sure if that will improve her English any. Then, I start that field trip with the schoolkids to Namjatown. Should make for an interesting report tomorrow night.

That last mass mailing to the gang finally brought out Chip Guy after several months of non-communication. And then the plans for us to head out to my favourite Tex-Mex place back home got him hooked.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Wednesday December 1, 8:48 a.m.

Looks like my occasional missive to the folks here and abroad. Got a few more replies to it than usual when I told everyone about the fact that one of my old students became a centrefold, so to speak. I rather noticed that the women didn't respond, though, heheheheh.

Had my first workout at the gym in well over a week. Not too bad but I did gain a kilo initially. I'm just wondering what the Holidays will mean for me in terms of dieting. What am I saying? Dieting is a four-letter word during Xmas.

And it seems that I've finally things locked down for the group gathering on the 5th for The Incredibles. Now, it's just waiting for everyone to confirm.

Well, I gotta start my day by heading out to the tax office out in the mos inconvenient of places (have to travel to Moto-Yawata Station and then walk 15 minutes to the office) to pick up my personal income tax form. I had put it off twice but I cannot really do it anymore. Then I've got The Aunt and The Hawaiian and the OL.

I see that George Bush is getting a very frosty welcome in The Great White North. Nice to see and hear.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Monday November 29, 10:27 p.m.

Quite a butt-kicking start to my day this morning. I went to the convenience store near my place to do some copying for my lesson when I picked up one of the usual tabloids to wile away the time as the copier was doing its thing. I came across the usual nudies pages when I saw one young lady who seemed rather familiar as she was posing in various pretzel-like posees with very little or no clothing on. Then I came across the name,and my eyes almost fell out! The very bare lass happened to be one of our old students from the school from a number of years ago.

I always had a feeling that something like this would happen but it was more in the way of some student hitting the big time on stage or on TV or on the CD shelves. And actually, one of our former staff members actually did release an album not too long ago, but I digress. Our former student was one of our more vivacious types during her year with us. Half-French, half-Japanese...she was turned out like an Asian Brigitte Bardot. She certainly had a very strong side to her but she was a good student even though her rather raunchy taste in clothing made her look like a BAD student, if you know what I mean. Well, since her days with us, she's managed to pop on the TV a number of times as a model and even had a stint on an NHK program for a while. Well, from that program to this centerfold stint was a pretty drastic change in direction. This is news that I should let the DJ know since he's the only other teacher left who may have known her.

The rest of my day was rather mundane in comparison. I had my lessons and I continued my Xmas shopping between classes. Even my Company class went pretty well today. I did have that dinner at the sushi place tonight but found out that my coupon was only for a couple and I had to spend at least 3000 yen. Well, at least I didn't have to pay too much.

Got my second bereavement notice in as many weeks. The first one came from my uncle who informed me that his mother-in-law had passed away this year. So according to Japanese tradition, I am not to send any New Year's card to his family. And then, the second one was from the husband of that former student of mine who so suddenly passed on recently. I'm starting to feel that I should send some sort of letter to him to let him know how wonderful his wife was.

In any case, I still have a number of things to do before I hit the hay.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Monday November 29, 8:07 a.m.

Well, my night last night was spent making my 7th Xmas compilation tape in the last 14 years. At least you can't say it's a run-of-the-mill hobby. I always combine some of the usual regulars like Bing, Tony and Frank with a lot of the J-Pop singers. Yes, believe it or not, I think every J-Pop singer no matter their length of time in the limelight has put out at least one Xmas song. They can be covers of the traditionals such as "Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire" or "White Christmas"; but a lot of the stuff are original compositions with that heavy hint of Kringle. Of course, being heavily non-Christian over here, the originals are more on the Santa side of things than on the Jesus side.

It's kinds weird how the J-Pop industry has been embracing Xmas all these years. As I said, it takes on the Santa and fun aspect of things since the Yuletide is taken on more like New Years in America, namely it's one of the biggest party nights of the year. The basic themes of the Xmas songs are almost enka-like. They usually deal with having tons of fun or about a couple which has either gotten together or broken up on the 24th. The most famous J-Pop Xmas song, or the equivalent of "White Christmas", is Tatsuro Yamashita's "Christmas Eve". It was made all the way back in 1982 but it would be another several years before it became a huge hit when the song was used as the jingle (no pun intended) for Japan Railways. And then for another several years, it would be the de rigeur song every December. I think the song has kinda faded somewhat since the newer generation is embracing more recent Xmas pop fare from the latest musicians. I took a look through a thread on the JPop forum...the one dealing with winter songs...virtually all of the songs the kids mentioned are within the last few years. No mention at all of ol' Tatsuro.

Well, I got word from GC that he got back from his vacation. Looks like he took Northwest according to his connecting hub and the fact that his plane was grounded for repairs. He's ready to housesit for me. And the juku boss was kind enough to volunteer to look in on the place periodically.

Off to work I go in another hour or so. It'll be a slog for the first half of the week but the latter half should be fun with a couple of those get-togethers.
Sunday November 28, 7:27 p.m.

My Xmas shopping officially began today. I was armed with my gift certificates and headed down to the Ginza. After searching around the various department stores, I could find the calendars down in the B2 of Matsuzakaya. Still, I blew some more money on CDs today at the nearby Yamano Music. Ginza certainly looked to be in the Xmas spirit. A lot of decorations have been put up and the stores were doing volume business.

After my brief but intense outing, I came back home and ended up eating at the Chinese family restaurant, Bamiyan. I was going to go to the kaiten armed with my 10% off coupon but seeing that there was absolutely no one inside, I decided to hold off and went across the street instead. I hadn't been to Bamiyan in a very long time although the place has been up for several years. The big reason was that my ex, being a nutritionist, had a major disdain for anything that smelled of family restaurant. Not having had any lunch, I managed to engorge myself on their fare and even top it all off with a Haagen-Daas Apple Pie Ice Cream. I did forget to buy a new pair of shoes, though. My only other window of opportunity will be on Tuesday between my lesson in Tsudanuma and the gym.