Friday, October 20, 2006

Saturday October 21, 1:45 p.m.

Gonna have to speed-type this since I've got The Ramen Lady for her biweekly chit-chat within the next 15 minutes.

Well, The UL and I got a bit of walloping news last night at The Tea Room. The manager had wanted to tell me the day before when I was teaching The New Yorker there but she didn't have the heart. Apparently, after 10 years of serving up all kinds of tea and crumpets, The Tea Room is calling it quits in one week. One of my main haunts will go the way of the dodo. Maybe it was fate that all of the students that I see there (The Sisters of State, M+M and The UL) will be coming next week right up to the final day. Time to look for alternate venues. I'm gonna miss the ol' girl...I was there for 5 years starting with The Tea Room Ladies; perhaps I should let them know as well. I retro-figured that maybe The Tea Room's days were indeed numbered for the same reason that I always enjoyed teaching there: it was always so empty there except during lunch. The Tea Room would have been my final touchstone gone with Ichigaya aside for the fact that I'll be meeting The Coffeemaker and Tully at a Tully's there from next week.

On Thursday morning, I met The Polynesian for just the 2nd time. My first demo lesson with her was a few years ago...and I didn't hear anything back from her. Plus, MB and I thought she was a bit more flightier than her more button-down and down-to-earth sister, The Hawaiian. So I wasn't looking forward to particularly any big things that morning. But it seemed like the girl has become a bit more grounded and less burdened with the accessories. And her English is better since she'd spent 6 months in Perth with her sibling. So, there is hope.

And after The Ramen Lady, I've gotta head out the door for Kichijoji to see The Satyr and MB for the latest chapter in The Burger Tour Saga. Tonight's episode: The Village Vanguard...and no, it doesn't follow the legendary jazz joint in Manhattan.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wednesday October 18, 10:00 p.m.

A long day is coming to an end. From my 5:00 a.m. wake-up call to head over to Immigration to this blog entry after 001 & 007, I've had a day. Hmm...not sure but I seem to be in a midweek rut. The lessons with the Wednesday duo have been a bit sloggy. In the case of 007, I think it's just that the guy is pretty button-down to begin with, but with the usually vivacious 001, she's been rather exhausted due to work. However, a long-unheard-from student may be making the rounds once more. Farrah may be coming back into the fold but it probably won't be til the second week of November at the earliest.

I've made the official announcement of my heading back to The Great White North for the Holidays to the students and to some of my close friends (what few I have left...I've been quite the demolition expert). Sometime next month, I may have to impose on the juku boss to pick up any December bills. I probably won't be asking The Chipmunk since I've barely spoken to her in the last year.

Recently, my departure from Speedy's neighbourhood has taken a different route. I used to just board the Oedo Line and then transfer to the Tozai. However, in the last couple of weeks, I've actually gone with the bus whose stop is conveniently situated not too far from the school. It heads back to Nakano Station, and the Tozai Line usually starts out from there which means a guaranteed seat. But more than that, despite the extra cost of 100 yen, I rather enjoy being on a bus more than a subway...obviously more to see from the window of a whizzing by instead of a dark tunnel.

According to CNN, Condi Rice has reassured we Japanese citizens (and permanent residents) that the U.S. will protect us if push comes to shove where North Korea is concerned. Well, considering what's happened with Iraq over the past 3 years, I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up wearing a Kim pin unless I got out of Dodge really quickly.
Wednesday October 18, 5:36 p.m.

Just finished my tofu dinner. I've gotten used to eating the curds, slightly flavoured with soy sauce. It helps that I'd eaten the lion's share at LAST so I wasn't all that hungry. But I'm just concerned about my sleep levels. Coffee would be kinda nice.

Thursday should be an uncharacteristically busy day...perhaps thankfully. I've got The Polynesian...The Hawaiian's sister. Actually, some years ago, I had an abortive first lesson with The Polynesian. Things didn't gel between us and MB had warned me that she was kinda flighty. So, I'm not meeting her with any big expectations here. Then, I've got another sister...The New Yorker. She's been pretty loyal...not particularly proficient in the English language, but loyal. And then in the evening, I've got B2....maybe B2B, although he's been busy.

I've also gotta think about what I'm gonna do with that new duo, The Coffeemaker and Tully although I won't be seeing them for another 10 days.
Wednesday October 18, 4:03 p.m.

Well, as of 9:15 this morning JST, I was no longer a visa resident in this country, living 3-year-to-3-year. After 10 months of waiting, I became a Permanent Resident in Japan. Well...I think the term waiting is a bit harsh. Actually, it should be more like 10 months from my initial application with brief periods of wondering. So, it was just a matter of getting up with the roosters and then heading on down to the monolithic Tokyo Regional Immigration Centre, waiting in a line with the rest of the applicants for about an hour. Then, I was told to purchase an 8,000-yen revenue stamp from the convenience store on the 1st floor before handing it in on a form. Some 10 minutes later, I got my passport back with a stamp saying that my permanent residency started today. No need for an interview or any other interrogation techniques; it was just like my previous visa renewal processes. But now, I no longer have to grovel for visa sponsorships which helps me somewhat. However, it doesn't mean that I no longer have to head out to Shinagawa. I still gotta renew rentry permits and when my passport runs out, I will still need to head out to the TRIC but at least the frequency of my visits will fall even further. And of course, sometime next week, I'll have to head on out to City Hall to register the change in my status.

Still, it was a small burden off my back. And I guess I can consider the permanent residency a belated birthday gift. Any other rewards were purely culinary: a Sausage Muffin set at McD's and then a buffet lunch at LAST in Shimbashi. The 8,000 yen for the Permanent Residency was a bit hefty, I had initially thought. But then again, I rationalized it by thinking that I've just paid something less than ichi-man to be able to stay here for the rest of my life. Not a high price to pay.

My day and night yesterday were generally fine despite it being the busiest day of the week. But I came down with a major allergic attack during The Beehive's session which elicited a lot of tissue from the ladies. I was still sniffling something awful until after lunch when I decided to sacrifice my 1400 yen to get some Benza Block Cold Medicine. Thankfully, it kicked in at the beginning of 002's class. My juku classes were their usual OK works of art. Jolly called in to pull off another dotakyan and The Milds pulled a sudden surprise weekend trip to Korea. Mrs. Mild had wanted to consult with The Siberian about his time there about a month ago. But man, the Milds aren't the greatest at retention. It was a bit of a tooth-pull trying to get any sort of application out of them. Not surprisingly, they gave me some more Korean dried seaweed as souvenirs.

I've got 001 and 007 tonight although I'm not sure if I'm in the best shape. Not because of any more sniffles but instead because of the early morning call today, I'm feeling pretty sleepy right now. I could use with a bit of joe.

On a totally different note, that part of the media covering the J-Pop industry is having a bit of a time talking about the defection of one of that local boyband, KAT-TUN. Apparently, one of the boys, a Mr. Akanishi, has rather strongly wanted to follow his desire to study overseas. After just a little less than a year of stardom, I'm slightly surprised that Johnny's Jimusho decided to let the kid go but it's supposedly for about 6 months, so not too long. The band's name comes from the first letters of each of the band members' last names, so Akanishi was the "A" (in a weird way, it reminds me of the "5 Neat Guys" from SCTV). So, with his departure, KAT-TUN may now become K'T-TUN. Sounds a bit Klingon, to me, although I don't think the remaining members will start wearing forehead ridges. Mind you, being a Johnny's band, they may as well sound like Klingon opera considering how little I like SMAP or Tokio.

Speaking of celebs, Speedy had his own sighting. And it was quite a catch, too. Over the weekend, the head honcho caught a glimpse of actress/model/Amazoness Norika Fujiwara during a bit of filming for her latest TV drama near Tokyo Station. Hubba hubba. Of course, with a lady of her stature (literally AND figuratively), her minders were also on double time. One of Speedy's colleagues was trying to snap a pic of her on his cellphone camera when a whole bunch of these guys started to block said colleague's view like a football team's defense on a hapless quarterback. But Japanese minders don't compare at all to a Mike Tyson posse. For one thing, bothering a Japanese celeb doesn't carry the risk of bodily harm.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Monday October 16, 2:53 p.m.

Did actually forget to mention a couple of other things. One is that after 10 months of waiting, the Immigration folks finally sent me that postcard telling me to come on down. Now I see if I finally get to become a Permanent Resident in my adopted home. It looks promising. The form postcard always has a list of the visas and their prices. Well, at the bottom of mine, there was a new stamp for "Permanent Residency---8,000 yen". Guess it's a small price to pay for relative security. Mind you, it means that I'm gonna have to head on out pretty early on Wednesday to Shinagawa.

I was also wondering about The Class Act. Both The Lady and The Matron have houses in Hawaii, and there was a rather sizable earthquake there yesterday. The governor has apparently labeled it as a disaster area. But at least for The Lady, some representatives from the area called her up this morning to reassure that aside from some crooked pictures, her second house is in good condition.

I also got a birthday wish from DTE, whom I hadn't heard from in several months. Looks like she's doing fine in Munich.
Monday October 16, 2:12 p.m.

Back at the AI Cafe in Akiba again. I just had to check my e-mail to see if my brother actually could come through with that ticket proposition. He was thinking of sending me an Air Canada ticket over. I kinda doubted that it could be done, and sure enough, there was no message for me. So in about an hour, I'll be sending my deposit to the travel agency for that Continental ticket.

I've had The Class Act but SIL cancelled out due to her mother's illness so I do have a few hours to kill before heading over to Speedy's. I've got The Part-Timer and 008 tonight.

After yesterday's stint behind the keyboard here, I met MB downstairs and we walked over to the Kanda area. Kanda is known mostly for its bookstores but there is also a small intense zone of ski shops. MB is getting that itch to hit the slopes again after his epiphany last season for the wonders of skiing. However, we decided to get some lunch at a local Freshness Burger. It was the first time for us to witness an empty Freshness Burger; since this branch is located in a commercial area and it was a Sunday, the place was a far cry from its Shinjuku cousin which is usually wall-to-wall people. We took another long walk towards Kudanshita. On the way, MB was talking about his hoped-for plan to set up a Role-Playing Game session sometime in the new year. That reminded me of my days witnessing the U of T RPG'ers; I rather blurted out that the guys there looked like the prototypical geeks. I don't think I offended MB with that remark but I'll consider it a long-delayed retaliation towards him and Frodo for snickering at me during karaoke all those months ago. Strangely enough, as we were walking through Kanda, we came across a small shop that was hawking "Lord of the Rings" RPGs. The staff there struck me as being folks doing a labour of love...very friendly and encouraging about their wares.

Last week, NHK was reporting on the fact that the Japanese economy had actually surpassed the legendary Izanagi econonic boom of the 60s which led The Land of the Rising Sun to its status as the 2nd-richest nation. The boom was so big that it actually got named after one of the founding gods of Nippon. Well, all of us viewers were rather gobsmacked at this news. We certainly aren't feeling any richer...folks aren't getting paid any higher despite this news. Perhaps it's an economic boom by stealth. Still, I think Tokyo is doing far better than any of its fellow megalopoli/metropoli.

Still, one sign that there could be an economic recovery under way is the fact that the Hollywood celebs are back doing their mondo bizarro Japanese TV commercials. Case in point: Scarlett Johannsen is now the spokesperson for Mt. Rainier Iced Coffee, following other pixieish stars like Winona Ryder and Natalie Portman. I'm sure she could have asked Bill Murray of "Lost in Translation" fame for some fatherly advice after his character's stint doing Suntory Whiskey commercials. Like Murray's character, Johannsen had to spout some English snippets while she's walking through what looks like the London Tube; unlike the previous spokeswomen, though...Scarlett is considerably more voluptuous. No idea whether she'll be making an appearance on Matthew Minami's program.

Mind you, Johannsen is following Kiefer Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones on the Japanese ad front. Sutherland has been taking the piss out of his Jack Bauer character by trying to dismantle a bomb with a bumbling Japanese sidekick while munching on a Calorie Mate wafer. But the weird one is Tommy Lee. Mr. Suffer-No-Fools-At-All has been in a series of ads for Boss Coffee for the past few months as he plays an alien (no costume though...just craggy-faced him) observing Japanese life. He's had to take on odd jobs as an assembly line worker and an electronics store salesperson hawking the merchandise in Japanese. And lately, he's been a delivery man who's had the unfortunate luck to have his truck ticketed by a couple of rent-a-cops played by The Regulars, one of those goofball comedic duos. Never thought I'd see the day. At least, he doesn't have to spit out some non sequitur English phrases. He just glares at the cops. If only Clint Eastwood were younger...

Ah, what else is new? Well, I was watching "Aru Aru Daijiten", that Fuji-TV Sunday night program which features tips on self-improvement. Last night's program dealt with the physical age of one's body and how to lower it. The show has a panel of tarento to talk about the topic and often humilate themselves going through a battery of tests. I was rather amused to see buxom beauty MEGUMI, a 25-year-old member known more for her sassy mouth and two other assets than for any particular talent, realize that her body is more fit for a woman on the cusp of retirement. She wasn't really all that sassy after that.

The locals here have been a little edgy since neighbour Kim Jong Il set off that little pocket rocket last week. Kinda wonder how things are gonna go for the remaining part of the year after the UN Security Council finally brought the hammer down on North Korea. The ambassador for Kim naturally stormed out. I wonder if he's gonna stay out with a South Korean becoming the new Secretary-General.