Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sunday March 26, 2:11 p.m.

I'm in a day which can't seem to decide what kind of weather to have. We've had some rain, some cloud, some sun and some wind.

On my way to see JJ, I noticed that there were quite a few women dressed up in kimono. I gather that it's the annual graduation weekend for university. I could consider it a mourning day of sorts. After 2-4 years of relative bliss in societal moratorium after years of suffering at the hands of overbearing teachers and bullies in the regular school system, the grads can now look forward to decades of overbearing superiors and bullies in the regular work system.

Then, on arriving at Kiba and walking toward the Gatharia Mall, I saw this long line heading into the main department store. I wondered if there were some sort of celeb or one of Team Japan's members were signing autographs. I found out that it was actually the line to buy the last of the Nintendo DS platforms. Not surprisingly, Starbucks was more crowded than usual. I actually had to wait 5 minutes for my Caffe Latte (sounds awfully spoiled, I know..) And then just after JJ's arrival, my nose had a massive hay fever attack. I had just taken some of that medicine when my nose started filling up like a water balloon. If things had been really quiet, I would have heard the histamines chewing up my nasal passages. It was like once every 30 seconds that I had to stifle myself from sneezing or I had to drain my schnozz into my tissue. Happily, the meds kicked in halfway through so I was more or less professional again by the end of the lesson.

Got home to grab some lunch at Subway and then get some bento from the supermarket. Unlike the last couple of nights' devotion to Taco Rice, I'm gonna just do it automatic tonight.

Shard told me of this place located in Kyobashi called the "100% Chocolate Cafe". It's ironic that it took a friend all the way in Toronto to tell me of this Japanese version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory that's less than half an hour away from home by subway. I had no inkling that the Meiji Company had decided to build this ode to the cacao bean in this rather staid business area next to the glitz of Ginza. From the pics, the cafe looks interesting. It's less whimsical than Willy Wonka's emporium but has a cooler vibe. It's not just a cafe, though. Apparently, there is also a museum attached to it with perhaps even free samples of chcoolate from all over the world. I am so there! Maybe if I have some time this week and I'm in the local vicinity I may just drop in. If things are good there, I may even drag Skippy and the others. You guys can take a look at the website via

Almost forgot to mention that this weekend is the social event of the year for the anime otaku. The Tokyo Anime Festival is being held as I write in the Tokyo Big Sight by the bayside. There are probably thousands of the nation's grungiest looking at the latest manga, anime and cos-play fetishists just carousing through the huge convention centre. Bring your own deodorizer! I wonder if Akihabara is closed this weekend.

Move aside, Morning Musume. Your 15 minutes are up! The female counterparts to the Johnny Jimusho's himbo machine could possibly be pushed over the edge into pop culture history and nostalgia music shows thanks to AKB 48. No, it's not a new semi-automatic gun (although there are probably those who would like to use such a device on the girls for their brand of idol music and dance). It's actually 48 girls and women ranging from 12 to 21 years of age. Not sure what they're being marketed for but they've certainly made a splash in their home vicinity of Akihabara (hence the letters). However, this group, which could be four times as big as MM, has been doing its own singing & dancing act although the choreography can't be that elaborate since there is only a limited amount of room on stage. The Satyr was in the electronics district recently when he saw the girls on a double-decker bus surrounded by cellphone camera-flashing geeks of all ages. 48 band members!. Sheesh....they'd probably need an intermission after all the introductions are made.

And finally, I just read on The Japan Times website that the powers-that-be here have declared that by 2010, a new version of Tokyo Tower will be built in the shitamachi district of Sumida Ward. It'll be 600 m high and have all the latest transmitter equipment to facilitate all those television sets going digital. They mentioned by name that Toronto's CN Tower, which has had the title of World's Tallest Free-Standing Structure for 30 years, will be outstripped by this new construction. happy as I am that the top two structures will represent both my nations of birth and heritage, I'm a little wary about having a behemoth like that erected in an area which is a high-earthquake zone. The New Tokyo Tower could easily become the World's Longest Free-Lying Structure unless some of the cutting-edge earthquake-resistant technology is put into play.
Saturday March 25, 8:33 p.m.

Made my way over to The Tea Room about 10 minutes before the official opening time. But the cute diminuitive waitress saw me approach and let me in anyways. The New Yorker arrived right at opening time. I seem to always catch that particular waitress off-guard with my order; I only ordered an iced tea. Mind you, I don't think I've ever ordered one of those which could explain her slight double take. As for The New Yorker, she's good in practice but her actual production just isn't nearly as good. However, she became the third student that has professed a great interest in this aura-fixated fortune teller named Mr. Ehara. Her sister and SIL are also fans. But more on that later.

The New Yorker told me what her sister, The Carolinan, had told me a couple of days ago. They would be meeting to see if they could get into Omotesando Hills. Good luck, I said somewhat sardonically. Considering that the place had opened just a month ago, the crowds would still be trying to stuff themselves into Tokyo's newest mall. I figured that gaijin enclave, Fujimamas, would also be crowded, so I suggested they could try the hot dog emporium, Hansens, just around the corner, if they couldn't fit anywhere else.

Meanwhile, I headed out to Kinokuniya to get the latest edition of the Oxford Picture Dictionary for SIL. I also picked up a Dell's Crossword Puzzle Book since I'm rapidly flying through my current book. The Anime King said that he would send me a couple of similar books but I've yet to hear anything from him or get any of those SEGA packages that he said would be showing up on my doorstep on the way to his home in Canada.

Then, it was off to Speedy's for the third and final lesson for that giddy girl in "English for Cooking". She wasn't the only student that would be there today. Speedy was getting another one for counseling for a homestay stint in Canada. As it was, the giddy girl was almost half an hour late due to some guy probably offing himself on the subway tracks. She was still good to go for the lesson and at the end, she may have hinted that she may be interested in some regular lessons which pleased Speedy no end when I told him afterwards.

While I was there, I was checking my e-mail when I saw that Skippy (another giddy one) told me that she had actually met the famous Mr. Ehara at an invitation-only event. The kimonoed psychic even analyzed Skippy's aura, much to her delight. She also professed that she'd sent a telepathic message which he received with ease, apparently. Hmmm...I remain unconvinced. But I did forward her message to the other believers, the aforementioned Sisters of State, SIL and even The Madame. Perhaps, they will start that English-language appreciation society for all things Ehara.

I was pretty exhausted by the time I got home...I guess the giddy girl and The New Yorker did tucker me out. I had my second helping of Taco Rice in as many nights since I had those fixins to get rid of. Feeling pretty full right now. Saturday night on TV involved me switching once more between the 2-hour special of "IQ Suppuri", that mental game show, and another one of those magic shows (I told you that magicians are having their fifteen minutes). On the magic show, it was the king of all Japanese magicians, Mr. Maric, who was wowing the guests tonight. Mr. Maric has been around for years, and his first claim to fame was back in the late 80s. He basically disappeared from the tube for virtually a decade when the magic boom came back into vogue in the last year. Tonight, he was impressing The Kameda Bros, those cocky boxers from Osaka.

I've got another lesson tomorrow with JJ and then I can relax a bit. Still gotta figure out what to do with her for the lesson.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday March 24, 9:30 p.m.

Taco Rice was as savoury as ever. I even have fixins left over for another round tomorrow. I had received a number of manju from the juku boss this morning which she had gotten from another friend of hers after a trip to someplace rural and scenic. Manju are those sweet-bean-filled buns that I've been eating since I was a kid even in Toronto. I made the mistake of heating one of them up in the microwave; the bun felt like cardboard. From now on, I will put the remaining ones in their proper place, a convection toaster-oven.

Tonight was again a TV night. I was switching between a couple of food-based (there's at least one show a night somewhere on the Japanese TV spectrum that deals with cuisine) shows. One was on TV Tokyo. It was the "Debuya" special. Debuya roughly means "fatso" and so the two hosts are appropriately outsized. One is named Ishizuka, a famously fat tarento who's also one-half (or should I cheekily say three-quarters) of a comedy duo called Honjamanaka (I think). The other is Papaya Suzuki, another tubby TV personality whose claim to fame is sporting an afro and showing his 70s disco moves. The two often go everywhere in Japan and often outside of the country with a bunch of fellow tarento guests in search of outsized portions in restaurants. Since it was a special, the target was outside of Japan...specifically, the growing city of Shanghai. Towing along gay tarento Kaba-chan, former Japanese national women's volleyball team captain Nakabayashi, and another cutie from the 90s, Sakura Uehara, the dirigibilic duo checked out some of the culinary action in the Chinese city. One place they tried was famous for serving some mucho spicy fare with lots of chili peppers. Mr. Ishizuka was sweating most profusely while the others begged for a gallon of water. As an aside, it's interesting to note that Debuya had actually also visited Toronto some months ago in another special. They even visited the St. Lawrence Market. I wonder if they hit Greektown on the Danforth.

The other program was on NTV. It was also a 2-hour special version of a cuisine-based show hosted by comedy duo 99, Hiroshi Yabe and Takashi Okamura, who are probably the most widely-known duo in the geinokai who still do stuff publicly together, except for fellow Osakan pair Downtown. 99 has their flagship show on Saturday nights on Fuji-TV, "Mecha Mecha Iketeru", but on their Friday-night primetime outing on NTV, the boys host this program in which they invite guests to a swanky restaurant of the week, try the various dishes and then guess their prices. It has a "The Price Is Right"-type of vibe in that the boys and the guests have to guess the prices as close as possible. The monetary gap between their guesses and the actual costs will build up against them. The one person who ends up with the largest gap has to pay the check for everybody. And since the restaurant is as far from a McDonalds as could possibly be envisioned, the bill can go up into the hundreds of thousands of yen (mere thousands of dollars in America).

Speaking about Okamura, arguably the more popular half of 99, he's had his share of slings and arrows thrown against him...mostly by the Morning Musume fans since he has often verbally abused the girls when they've appeared as guests on "Mecha Mecha Iketeru". For the record, everything on comic-variety TV is scripted ruthlessly to the last smirk so I wouldn't take any of the antics with anything more than a grain of shio. He's apparently a fairly decent sort outside of the tube, especialy since he knows the pressure cooker of Japanese show biz. Not that he needs someone like me to come to his defense but I recollect a special episode of "Mecha Mecha" when the monkey-faced guy actually joined up with the boy-idol-manufacturing emporium known as Johnny's Jimusho (home of SMAP, Tokio, Kinki Kids, etc.) for a few days to show everyone what it's like to work as one of the young, cute and hairless-chested. Okamura's time with the boys was filmed as much as raw documentary as anything else so it was a bit of a shock to see the guy who often abuses folks get abused for real by the big boys at Johnny's. While he was working with some of the younger boys in the dance studio, they were berated by the drill-sergeant like choreographer and then by the most popular member of SMAP, Mr. Trendy Drama himself, Takuya Kimura. Okamura even got some tutorial from Masahiro Nakai, the gabby leader of SMAP who's also on tons of variety shows; Nakai-kun also tore a few strips into the seemingly left-footed Okamura at one point out of frustration. Not happy-go-lucky at all. But it seems as if Okamura got some lasting education out of his brief experience from the Johnny's boot camp. He's currently wowing a lot of folks here with his commercial for a soft drink called Nuda where he's breakdancing like a pro to a song by Queen. So let's be a little easy on Mr. Okamura, shall we? I think the point is that no matter where you are in the tarento hierarchy, most likely you're yelling at someone AND you're being yelled at. Just like in a regular company.
Friday March 24, 5:13 p.m.

The day started out at Urayasu McDonalds where I had my Hotcake Set with a hearty Sausage McMuffin on the side. I was watching from my vantage point on the 2nd floor of the restaurant and saw quite a few people running to the MUFG branch across the taxi and bus cul de sac. I gather since the 25th is on a Saturday, people were racing to check their paydays today.

My first Friday class with the juku boss was quite smooth. I had been slightly worried that I wouldn't have enough material or chatting points for her in the 2 hours, but I needn't have fretted at all. The first hour was devoted to TOEIC Listening but ended up going 20 minutes longer followed by a 10-minute break (at her request, not mine) and then the last several minutes based on chat. Like a lot of my favourite students, she likes to tangentialize. She also liked the fact that I now have Thursday mornings free since I dumped The Denmother's son. It's always nice to have an alternate slot.

Speaking of that minor fiasco, The Denmother sent e-mail over apologizing for her son's waywardness but not explaining what was up with him. Not that I really needed or desired any explanation. I already had an inkling about his nature from Mummy's rants about him and his problems with authority figures. She did offer to send over any remuneration. However, since I'm rather loathe to give out any bank account info, I just told her that she could hand it over to me the next time we went out for a drink....believe me, the money isn't worth the leakage of confidential information. However, she just got back to me saying that she didn't want the issue weighing any further on her mind so she will send it over by genkin kakitome (postal delivery of cash)...yes, the post office has special envelopes in which actual cash can be sent. Apparently, postal workers can be trusted here. Just as apparently, the word "postal" has of yet to be given the insidious meaning that it now has in the States. In any case, The Denmother did ask whether it would still be possible to teach him past April but she basically answered her own question with a "Probably not, eh?" You got that right, sister! I feel sorry for her. But then again, there are probably a lot of family friends who feel sorry for my Dad for having me as a son.

Afterwards, I had my outing at the gym for the first time in 2 weeks. I actually did put in a good workout. I still feel pretty bloated, though. Just the usual middle-aged folk riding dem bikes and doing dem aerobics.

I guess the workout did rev me up a bit. I not only got the laundry done but also did some vacuuming and even prepped for The New Yorker and the final "English in Cooking" lesson for that enthusiastic woman tomorrow. Now, the only things I need to do for the rest of my night is just make that long-awaited Taco Rice and then continue my education in all things Hangul.

It's clouded over considerably since this morning but this time I'm home so hopefully if the rains come pouring down again, I'll be able to minimize any damage in terms of wetness. However, although it is officially Spring now, it's still pretty chilly. I do wonder if those cherry blossoms are gonna be coming on schedule, let alone early. Well, one sign of the Vernal Equinox, though. Television has already gotten into Specials mode once more as the Winter dramas have ended their run and the Spring dramas are chomping at the bit to premiere next month. The sports guys on the tube must be feeling like they're having a great time this year so far. The Winter Olympics have come and gone (despite the massive failure of the athletes), the World Baseball Classic managed to grab 30%-40% ratings thanks to the miracle of Team Japan, and now we've segued into the annual high school baseball championships at Koshien Stadium which of course will go into the regular baseball season. And what is this? We even have this little thing called the World Cup coming our way in June. This is gonna be really something every 4 years...the Winter Olympics, WBC and The World Cup all in the same year.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, pachinko parlours have often brought in themes into their machines to attract people from other walks of life. For the old school anime otakus, there have been machines with Space Battle Cruiser Yamato (yep, let's sing that catchy theme tune) displayed on the digital screens. Now, for those Korean drama fanatics, new machines have been developed with that really treacly series that launched the entire Korean boom that's been grabbing Japanese middle-aged women for the past couple of years "Fuyu no Sonata" (Winter Sonata) with ever-smiling Yon-sama. And y'know....there are probably plenty of chain-smoking obatarians who would be more than happy to send those tiny metal balls flying into the maze of pins while listening to that insipid theme song.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thursday March 23, 9:29 p.m.

Forgot to mention that The Rolling Stones are in the country doing their latest tour. They did their Tokyo concert last night at Tokyo Dome. And the PR boys have said that the 1 millionth person to see a Stones concert at the home of the Giants strutted in last night. As I spin my finger in the air in a "Whoop-dee-doo" gesture, the world's most rock-bound geriatrics stayed at The Four Seasons in the Big Sushi. As a bit of info, apparently the guys who paid top yen (in the form of 50,000 of them actually) not only got a great seat in front of the strutting Mick Jagger but also got a little tote bag carrying stuff. The bag has a picture of a geisha on whose kimono is printed lots of little Stones logos (the big lips, baby).

Actually, I've got a story about those guys (you are welcome to do your own whoop-dee-doo gesture if you wish). Several years ago, when I had first joined the ol' school, I had to go to the aforementioned Four Seasons Hotel to do a series of level checks with some of the new young staffers since they would most likely be called upon for English help from the special guests. I had a brief talk with the hotel manager (a nice if slightly starchy fellow....but he is a hotel manager) before I got started with the kids. He mentioned that The Stones and Mariah Carey had stayed there before. I asked him about how The Stones behaved. He just rolled his eyes. Well, I can assume his eyes probably fell out of his sockets last night although it's hard to even imagine Miwk and Keef being able to keep up with the groupies at their advanced age. Frankly, I would think that the Golden Diva would be the more demanding of the two.
Thursday March 23, 9:18 p.m.

Well, it was just 45 minutes before meeting up with him when oops he did it again. The feckless Denmother's kid called me up to apologize and cancel due to some "trouble". That's three damn strikes, you're out, kid. With just one more Thursday, I think it's pretty useless to help this one so I've sent off a missive to his Mom that I've washed my hands of him...politely, of course. He is her son. I can do without the aggravation since I have tried to keep up my end of the bargain this month but nothing.

The kids were good today. They're headed off to Switzerland tomorrow for 2 glorious weeks of skiing in the Alps. Must be nice to have a doctor Dad. They were pretty nonchalant about the whole thing despite this will be their first international outing without Mom and Dad to tag along. Then again, the girls have about 14 others accompanying them so there shouldn't be any problem. That, of course, will not allay Mom's fears.

The Carolinan arrived at the Tea Room about an hour earlier than I'd expected which was just as well since I could use the early arrival home. We spoke about Cherry Blossom Viewing season which is just around the corner. She said that she makes it an annual habit. I, on the other hand, becoming increasingly more unsociable as the years pass, said that if I'm invited...I'll think about it.

Well, now that I'm back home I still have got to get some planning done for the juku boss for her Friday lesson. Then, it's back to the ironing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thursday March 23, 9:16 a.m.

It looks like The Teacher has become the floater on my schedule. We're now gonna be meeting next on Tuesday, sandwiched in between The Beehive and the juku. It also looks like we're going for more structure in our meetings. We may be going into the nitty-gritty of grammar. I have already started her on phrasal verbs.

Then it was a beeline up to Speedy's. 001 had her test last night. The two of us were riding each other pretty badly about her ability to complete it. Well, on first glance, she's aced the first page. 006 finally showed up after cancelling 3 times. Luckily, her second class went without a hitch.

I've got a pretty busy one today. No less than 4 lessons with The Denmother's kid, my two girls on the eve of their ski trip in Europe, and finally The Carolinan. I should be properly wiped out by the end of my day. I had to spend part of the midnight hour prepping for those lessons. However, tomorrow will be just as slow since The OL has cancelled her lesson. I've only got the juku boss for her first Friday morning lesson. I may finally hit the gym after 2 weeks.

I actually got a letter from The Hawaiian. It sounds like she feels as settled in her adopted home of Australia as I do in Japan. I think Oz has got a keeper there. Anyways, she's now studying English, may I add...which has garnered no small amount of respect from me.

There was a slight flurry of e-mail activity between me and The Madame last night. It looks like her schedule has opened up for next Friday so she invited me for tea. It's starting to feel like Fridays for the next month will be our quality time.

Team Japan returned from the States last night to a heroes' welcome at Narita Airport. Close to a thousand people were there to greet them. Still nowhere near the middle-aged crowds for that Korean heartthrob, Yon-sama, but I always think quality over quantity. It's quite a feather in the baseball cap of Sadaharu Oh, the world's greatest hitter-turned-world's best baseball manager, considering that the man was once lustily booed and egged by irate fans several years ago.

And in some tragedy for me, I hadn't been aware that we were in for some heavy rain last night. As a result, I now have some drenched laundry that't trying to dry at strategic points in my apartment. That teaches me not to ignore the weather reports.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wednesday March 22, 9:05 a.m.

It's the day after...and the full court press is steaming ahead about Team Japan winning. The wide shows hosts and panelists have been blabbering like kids on Christmas, and the papers have been splashing glossy pics of the team.

I took a look at the animated "Star Trek" again (yes, even after my dissing it yesterday...I guess, once a Trekkie, always a Trekkie), and it was one of those episodes dealing with alien infiltration on board the Enterprise. Then I remembered that the alien in question was voiced by none other than the late Ted Knight who had the more famous role of Ted Baxter on "Mary Tyler Moore". In fact, the animated "Star Trek" had its run smack dab during Mary's 7-year run on CBS. And for that matter, I remember that Knight was also the narrator for "Super Friends". I kinda wonder if Knight really needed that voiceover sideline. In any case, the cartoon will be finishing its run on SkyPerfect by the end of next week. After that, Classic Trek comes back.
Tuesday March 21, 11:47 p.m.

Well, more than 12 hours ago, I paraphrased the host of the Fuji-TV morning wide show and said that today wasn't just The First Day of Spring but also the Final of the 1st World Baseball Classic. Now, March 21st can go down in Japanese history as the day that Team Japan won the 1st WBC championship.

I only got to see the first three innings before I had to head off to see The Madame. However, Team Japan got off to a pretty solid start by getting 4 runs even before ace starter Daisuke Matsuzaka even had a chance to pitch. It was just as well that I didn't see the rest of the game since it turned into a nailbiter until the top of the 9th inning when Ichiro cracked it wide open and Team Cuba fell into the chasm. I finally found out who had won a good 45 minutes after the game ended when The Madame and I entered a cafe at The Tokyo International Forum for some coffee and the monitor showed a joyous group of Japanese baseball players giving manager Sadaharu Oh, the baseball legend who hit more home runs than even Hank Aaron, the traditional do-age or multiple throws into the air. It was rather odd...the two of us had been eating in COCA on top of the Bic Camera electronics store in Yurakucho a few floors up from where dozens of people had agglomerated around the various television sets to watch and then celebrate the team's win. And being at the TIF, we weren't all that far away from Mullion, one of Tokyo's great meeting places where the citizenry were ravenously grabbing newspaper extras from the poor paper boy when the championship had been decided. However, during our entire time in the restaurant and cafe, it was all pretty quiet on the Tokyo front. We didn't see any folks screaming in glee or running like chickens with their heads cut off.

When I got home tonight, I turned on the TV Asahi news and saw the highlights during the first 10 minutes of broadcast and saw how the game progressed from a near-blowout to a near-debacle for Team Japan until vindication came at about 3 p.m. JST. Then they showed how people everywhere around the Shibuya sports cafe, in a bar in Osaka and in an arcade mall in some prefecture....reacted when Manager Oh, Captain Ichiro and the rest of the guys got one for The Gipper. Not surprisingly, the Osakans got a little too animated in their lust for celebration and quite a few people were injured. Heck, even the more staid Tokyoites got a little carried away, necessitating ambulances. The broadcast included the usual champagne bath party in the dressing room. I don't think I, and for that matter most everyone else, had ever seen the two sides of Ichiro that I saw during this tournament. Mr. Suzuki had always shown a very calm and cool exterior during his day job as a Seattle Mariner but there was that tirade a few days ago when the team lost against the Koreans in the 2nd round, and then happily there has now been this look of beatific joy on the man's face which will probably grace every TV screen, magazine cover and newspaper front page in this land for the next week and probably at the end of the year. But the media scrum will happen for the next several days and of course, there may even be live coverage of Team Japan's arrival at Narita in a day or two.

After the disappointment of the Winter Olympics for Japan aside from the lone Gold won by Shizuka Arakawa, the win by Team Japan will make up for things quite nicely. It truly was a miracle, or in Japanese...kiseki, that the group that had to rely on Team USA losing to Mexico to even get into the final rounds was able to win it all. But it wasn't just Team Japan's was a victory for Japanese baseball and a feel-good vanquishing for all of Japan.

And while all this was going on, I was having lunch with The Madame at COCA. About a year ago, she and I had reunited after well over a year of separation at that same restaurant. I recall her having to deal with some rather spicy salad painfully. Luckily, she was able to avoid some of the more intense dishes today. She reported to me about her adventures in spiritualism. She knows that I've been the Scully to her Mulder when it comes to this topic but she appreciated the fact that I'm basically the only one who's willing to listen to her without scrunching a face. I really have got to get her, Skippy and SIL together to have a seance or something. After about 90 minutes there, we went down to that cafe in the basement of TIF to have a coffee and cake. There, we spoke on somewhat more grounded matters such as a bit of soap opera-like conflict amongst her and a group of old buddies of hers, kinda like "The Joy Luck Club". Then, we actually made plans for further get-togethers (dates?). First, we brought back online that aborted trip to Yokohama...that will hopefully be fulfilled in about a month. But The Madame told me that she'd gotten a couple of free passes to L'Aqua, that new spa-like complex in the very busy Korakuen/Tokyo Dome area. That little trip could take place in a couple of weeks. I'm gonna have to talk with the juku boss about rescheduling a few of her lessons. The Madame unsurprisingly turned down my offer to come with me to have dinner with The Bohemian which was just as well.

It was an interesting comparison in terms of conversation between The Madame and The Bohemian. It was all about spiritualism and plans for a pleasant outing with the former. With The Bohemian, it was all about the cold hard realities of finding a job and some raunchy stuff intermixed. The two of us met at that other great meeting place, the always-crowded Hachiko in Shibuya. He was actually on time...I guess he is mellowing in his old age...he was always "fashionably" late before. We headed for our usual izakaya of choice, En, up on the 11th floor of Shibuya's Bic Camera buidling (oooh....holy parallels, Batman!) In fact, the last time we'd met 6 months ago, it was also at En.

Sticking to the parallels, The Bohemian, like The Madame, is also trying to find his own path in life now that he's in his late 30s. It's been a tough year for him. He's been trying without success to find a permanent job but just keeps getting rejected. However, he's had some luck as a casual daytrader online. I didn't get any specifics about how much he was able to reap from throwing about the stocks on the Internet but he did tell me about the how-tos of this high-risk game. I know now that I'm not alone in some of my journeys into the valleys of depression; he's also felt the emotional nosedives but he's still plugging away. I am kinda glad that The Madame didn't come along for this dinner. As I've said before, The Bohemian can be unsubtle when it comes to the ladies. He was actually flirting with a couple of the young waitresses which kinda left me slightly red. However, the waitresses handled it better than I did with some nice deflecting shots. Also, at one point, he started talking a little too loudly for comfort in my estimation about a slightly nutty friend at his fitness club who's not only a bit of the narcissist but also has an S&M fetish with some dollops of scatology (ewww...maybe I shouldn't have used the word "dollops"). Well, it's never boring talking with him.

En has got a great atmosphere and great food to boot but it's not cheap. And so it looks like with COCA, the cafe and En, I can safely assume that I busted the food budget this week. In fact, I had to drop by the bank to give back a couple of thousand-yen bills to The Bohemian while heading back to the station. I just wonder how I'm gonna be able to get back up onto the financial horse again. And I'm looking and feeling quite fat right now. Boy, wouldn't it be nice to head back to the gym.

I know that I've got The Teacher at noon tomorrow. And 001 has got her big test in class. However, I'm still wondering about 006. Speedy assures me that she'll fight heaven and Earth to be there but knowing her job, I'm not sure if The Tokyo Stock Exchange will let her go until the fiscal year is done. Well, perhaps with a little help from the spirit of Team Japan, perhaps I will be able to get her for second class at last.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Tuesday March 21, 9:34 a.m.

As the host of the Fuji-TV morning wide show corrected his main correspondent, today is not the First Day of Spring, it's the finals of the World Baseball Classic (rather inappropriate word to use for an inaugural tournament). In less than 90 minutes, Japan goes up against Cuba for global bragging rights for a sport that has sway in perhaps half the world. Sorry, but I'm never all that cheerful in the mornings especially. However, Ichiro has made a 180-degree emotional turn since his depressed bleat after that second loss to Korea; he piped at the most recent news conference that he "feels just the greatest". This, of course, after Japan beat Korea in the semis. The natives here must be getting restless as game time looms but they surely must be grateful as well since they have a whole holiday to soak up the action. In any case, I should be able to find out how Japan did even without access to a TV just by looking at the folks in Yurakucho during my lunch.

My shoulders feel like Mount Rushmore. I've tried to stretch them out with some arm turns and neck twisting but they're just resolute in their intractibility. I could really use that massage but Friday will probably the earliest I can get to the clinic.

Since "Enterprise" has finished its 3rd season on SkyPerfect (they're a year behind from the States), it's now the two-episode hour of the animated version of "Star Trek". Umm...yep, it falls into the category of those TV shows that always seem better in reminiscings than on repeated viewings. All of the voice actors seem so somnabulent...even William Shatner, that master of stylized acting.

In the battle between South Park and Scientology, it looks like at the end of the first period, it's Scientology 1, South Park 0. But I've got a feeling that Trey Parker and the rest of the guys on the show aren't licked yet, and they've shown that they don't usually buckle under whiny sanctimonious actors.
Tuesday March 21, 12:56 a.m.

Well, after 15 hours out, I'm happily back home and typing after a well-needed shower. You know it's an eve to a holiday when you see a drunk salaryman weaving on the platform and then a belligerent jerk salaryman yelling at the station staff because of a stuck ticket in the gate. Both of them happened at my station. One of these days, a jerk is gonna pay an ultimate price.

I got my ticket from The Lady today for Korea. And so I went to Tower Records and got myself a phrasebook in Korean for practice. I'm finding Hangul already a fascinating syllabary to study with their compact way of writing. Luckily, like hiragana and katakana, each character stands for just one sound. It's just a matter of memorization. Or so I think. It was the typical happy hijinks with SIL today when she went just ballistic (happily, of course) when she saw my beat-up copy of The Oxford Picture Dictionary. Well, it looks like I've got more textbook shopping to do this week, then.

At Speedy's, my second class with that really enthusiastic young lady was a bit toned down today although she was still quite genki with the lesson. I can thank a busy day for her at work which slowed her down a tad and the fact that it was a Monday night. I'll be wrapping things up with her this Saturday afternoon. Things are getting busier at the school now on Mondays; Speedy was teaching SB's brother in the other room while the new French teacher was taking care of his student in my room after my class. I hung around quite a bit longer than usual since I started up a chat with SB herself about her travels in Korea. She had a pretty good time there, and then Speedy's better half came by. SB had to go so I chivalrously stayed to keep her company until her hubby finished up with his student some 90 minutes later. So, it was another midnight arrival home.

Well, in a little more than 12 hours from now, I should be having lunch with The Madame at COCA barring any more wind-related delays. And then I'll be meeting The Bohemian for dinner at En. He sent e-mail letting me know that I would be more than welcome if I could bring any pretty girls along. Ah...I just sent a somewhat cheeky reply that I didn't know any pretty girls. The Bohemian is pretty unsubtle when it comes to the fairer sex so I think I'll save The Madame the trouble...not that I think she would join us anyways. She's a mama's girl, after all.

I'm a bit worried for Movie Buddy. His area of Australia was pounded by a huge cyclone today. I hope that his family is OK. I haven't heard from him since he got on that PSP/skiing kick.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Monday March 20, 7:54 a.m.

The Space Shower (a local music video channel) had their awards ceremony last night. Yuki's brilliantly freaky "Joy" got Best Video of the Year. So I decided to relive the video experience by looking it up on Youtube. I'd only seen it once since its release so the video still looked just as attractive to watch.

It's supposedly the final full day of Winter. I think, by all accounts, it was a long winter for everyone here in Japan. But it looks like things are getting ready for Spring. There have been some reports that the cherry blossoms are already starting to bloom in some areas. It's also the 11th anniversary of the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system. There'll probably be the usual moment of silence.

It'll be a slightly altered schedule today. The Lady will be the only one for The Class Act since The Matron is busy with family matters and then she and her daughter will be off to Europe next week so I won't see her until April. SIL will still show up but The Part-Timer will be away. However, I do have the second of my classes with that rather frenetic young lady later tonight. Hopefully we'll able to keep things to an hour so I don't freak out Speedy unduly. It doesn't particularly bother me too much since the lass is an enthusiastic student and tomorrow is a holiday after all.
Sunday March 19, 10:01 p.m.

The winds were blowing again so being a little gun shy after Friday's little problem with the subway, I checked the Tokyo Metro Bulletin Board once more and according to it, every line was still working within parameters. The alert sign was out by the ticket gates though stating that due to the high winds, the trains were running a little slower. However, it didn't seem to interfere with the schedule at all.

Met up with The Satyr in front of Wendy's and since we had an hour, we just had a bit of coffee at Freshness Burger, a local chain of somewhat higher quality burgers (with the prices to match). Because of our Canadianness, we were able to sit outside in the surprisingly chilly temps.

Also surprising was the number of people who showed up to see "Munich" in its last week of release at the Picadilly. It was a full house; mind you, we saw the film in the smallest theatre of the three-plex. Still, there were quite a few people who had to sit in the aisles, and in fact, The Satyr and I had to sit in separate seats several rows apart. Unfortunately, for poor Satyr, he had to sit next to a rather flatulent young man. Luckily, I was saved from any impromptu Smell-O-Rama in my area.

"Munich" certainly goes down as the best movie I've seen so far this year. And whoever edited Spielberg's latest masterpiece should've been nominated for an Oscar if he/she hadn't been. The movie ran close to 3.5 hours but unlike Peter Jackson's bloated take on "King Kong" which was about the same length, "Munich" virtually sped by. I guess the editor must've followed the director's extremely fast filming pace. But considering how quickly filming took place, the movie didn't seem overly rushed at all despite the frenetic urgent flow. It came off as a grander scale version of "Ronin", that great Robert DeNiro/Jean Reno spy flick by John Frankenheimer done over a decade ago. Like that movie, "Munich" had that feel of the gray, dirty world that spies have to inhabit; it also centered on a group of those inhabitants going through their tradecraft for home and country. But unlike "Ronin", which was basically a fun game of Spy vs. Spy over the typical McGuffin, "Munich" was much darker in that it was "inspired" by the Munich Olympic massacre and how the events unfold from that tragedy psychologically affect the Mossad team hired to take out the 11 planners supposedly behind it. It wasn't pretty.

Eric Bana is now well on his way to join his fellow Aussies of Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, etc. in the Hollywood pantheon. It's kinda hard to believe that he was once a popular standup comic and sketch comedian Down Under considering his increasingly haunted portrayal of Avner. In a way, he's kinda followed Tom Hanks' career except that Hanks started his movie career playing comedic roles before making the transition to dramatic acting in "Philadelphia". Outside of Australia, the rest of us have only seen Bana in the straight films so it was easier to see Bana do the stuff that Avner had to do which included having sex with his wife in front of the camera...couldn't see Hanks being allowed to do that. Aside from one breast squeeze in "Big", Tom Hanks has remained a cinematic virgin.

There were quite a few interesting angles shown in this spy caper. For some reason, Spielberg seemed to enjoy interspersing the killing with life's pleasures such as sex and fine dining. Avner's hit team was probably quite successful for the most part because the members ate so well. Heck, even when Avner had to meet the top guy of the shadowy information broker cabal, Papa, for a bit of a soft scolding, Papa had him help out in the kitchen. As for the sex, well, I think this is the very first time that Spielberg, he of E.T. and Indiana Jones, actually showed a couple in flagrante delicti not just once but twice. And I was surprised to see full frontal nudity, albeit from a certain distance in one scene. The director also didn't flinch from the violence either but he had already made that precedent in "Saving Private Ryan". The other angle was seeing who was on the hit team itself. A couple of the members could've easily been mistaken for professorial types. There was the team hothead, played by Daniel Craig, but he didn't screw things up to put the mission in danger unlike in many other B-level spy flicks. In fact, the tradecraft was one of the strongest points of the movie. The assassinations were done quickly if not quietly and there was none of that Arnold Schwarzenegger/Roger Moore smart mouthing just before the dispatching of the victims. Of course, there was the main arc of the psychological toll that all this killing takes on the team, especially on Avner who looks like he's going through the worst of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by the end of the movie. He loses most of his team and those who do pay the ultimate price are not the typical ones and they don't go the usual way either. Basically, the whole theme is "What Does Vengeance Ultimately Accomplish?" Avner does keep his family but he loses virtually all of his team, his old life and home and almost his mind. At the very end of the movie, there's a blurb which reads that 9 out of the 11 people on the hit list had been taken out. It was an eerie fraction considering the final scene had New York's Twin Towers in the background right dead centre.

The only other irony is a purely whimsical one. The two characters never met on screen but we did see the future James Bond (Daniel Craig) and a past Bond villain (Michael Lonsdale). It was also notable that Lonsdale played the same sort of wise ol' man in "Ronin".

After over 3 hours of good viewing (heck, I didn't even feel the slightest bit of back pain in my seat), we were ready for dinner. We headed for that Koreatown in Shin-Okubo, just a 10-minute walk north of Shinjuku. We eventually made it to that restaurant that Skippy had introduced me to about a year ago, Jongno Bonga. We ordered a round of kimchi chijimi and a round of pork belly strips for dinner. I was lucky that The Satryr doesn't have a huge appetite since I didn't have a huge wallet. I would've liked to have indulged more in the menu though. Well, it's definitely worth a third trip....hopefully with a bigger crew. The one big disadvantage about dining at a Korean restaurant is of course the garlicky smell that sticks with you all throughout the ride home. I think one lady who had been sitting beside me on the largely empty Marunouchi Line quickly made a beeline for the empty bank of seats opposite me but she needn't have done so she did it when I got off at my transfer station. In any case, I had to take another shower tonight.

Well, after all this talk on movies and Korean food, I almost forgot to mention that the Team Japan miracle is still continuing apace. After losing twice to Team Korea in the World Baseball Classic, Sadaharu Oh's boys finally broke the jinx and made it third time lucky in the semis. Japan now faces Cuba in the finals on Tuesday. Luckily for everyone, it is a national holiday. It could be an experience then since I meet The Madame for lunch in Yurakucho and then The Bohemian in Shibuya for dinner.

Even with the shower, I have a feeling that I may have to open the windows wide tomorrow morning. Garlic is a notoriously hard thing to get rid of from the system. Unfortunately, the low temperature will be a cold 3 C.