Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sunday February 18, 4:56 p.m.

Did forget to mention one thing. I was in Maruzen during my walkabout from Ichigaya to Mitsukoshimae when I came across a J-Pop cultural book whose time has come. Titled "Love Hotels", the coffeetable tome has lots of interesting and often hilarious pics of what the conventional pleasure palaces of Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Shinjuku have to offer those horny couples who really can't knock boots in the smallness of their homes. There are even translations of the opinion cards that were left by the supposedly satisfied includes body measurements and stuff that I really can't go into here, although I did laugh out when I came across one response of "cod roe".
Sunday February 18, 4:10 p.m.

Well, kung hei fat choi...a Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Pig, eh? Fits me to a T.

Meanwhile, in the Big Sushi, Governor Ishihara's pet project, The Tokyo Marathon, went off without a hitch...aside from the weather, that is. It was a dreary inaugural...lots of rain and cold temps. I can only imagine what 002 and her hubby went through while it took 20 minutes for all 30,000 runners to get started at Tokyo City Hall. As marathons go, it was the usual bunch of lean and lanky folk sprinting or trotting through city streets, but it was nice to see that I could recognize the various locations as neighbourhoods that I regularly pass through. In fact, between lessons for The New Yorker and B2 on Thursday, I even walked a segment of the route from Ichigaya (the location of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine) through the famous Chidorigafuchi (a popular cherry tree-lined path...although right now, it's pretty barren of blossoms) to the Imperial Palace (a lot of joggers running around The Emperor's home...I wonder if Lucas used that as inspiration for all those TIE fighters orbiting The Death Star in "Return of the Jedi") and then after a pit stop at my favourite Vietnamese eatery, Com Pho, in Otemachi, I made it all the way to Mitsukoshimae after about 3 hours of walking. Glad that I did all the walking...I was able to get a little time capsule of the metropolis' architectural history from the Tokugawa Era through to the early postwar period and to the 21st-century samples of steel and glass.

Getting back to the Marathon, the winner was a Kenyan in his mid-30s who has been living in Japan for 15, he could speak Nihongo well enough to put me to shame. I'm sure Governor Ishihara, despite his perceived xenophobia, would probably consider him an honourary native son since the next four runners to place were Japanese. Actually, the 6th-place guy was that Brazilian fellow who had been sadly assaulted by that mad monk back in the Athens Games in 2004. No matter what ruthlessness Ishihara displayed to get his marathon on the world stage, you still gotta hand it to him that he not only made sure to see all 30,000 runners off in the miserable weather, but he was there at Tokyo Big Sight to welcome the champion 2 hours later. Now, I don't think the marathon did anything for tourism but the governor's got something to show the IOC.

Still, sticking with the feisty daimyo of the world's largest city, apparently there's supposedly a gubernatorial election this I know why Ishihara was so insistent on getting his marathon on this day. Nothing like a successful inaugural event on the world level to ensure re-election. Strange thing, though...I even heard that a former governor of Miyagi Prefecture who's now a professor here may be running for the post. I didn't know politicians could do that here...although there could be parallels made with the fact that Hillary Clinton could be a junior senator for New York despite the fact that she was neither born nor raised in The Empire State.

So, we have Chinese New Year and The Tokyo Marathon...ahhh...there was yet another big event yesterday. Model/actress Norika Fujiwara and comedian Tomo-something Jinnai tied the knot in Kyoto. Of course, there was the usual media scrum and wedding news conference for the happy couple...both groom and bride decked out in traditional Japanese regalia. However, I'd sworn the wedding was scheduled for today instead of on Saturday. Man, that Ishihara has a lot of pull.

Back into my own little world...B2 finally 'fessed up that she and B2B have gone splitsville. She's moved into her own digs not too far from her old boyfriend's place. I guess she must be going through Post-Breakup Depression...she was rather out of it during the lesson. But then again, when one realizes that rent and utilities now become part of mandatory expenses, one will need adjustment time. So I put out my counselor's shingle again and gave her a little pep talk on life as a completely unattached person in the big city. Not surprisingly, because of her newly restricted budget, she can only see me once a month.

To add insult to injury, The UL once again cancelled her class...her excuse this time was a cold. But her younger sister, The OL, came to the rescue and it looks like she may be filling in for her for at least a couple of times before The UL is back on her feet.

Saturday was fairly busy, though. I was doing a bit of back-&-forth shuttling between Ichigaya and Ochiai Minami-Nagasaki teaching the kids, Tully and the Coffeemaker, and finally The Polynesian. The Coffeemaker got me some belated Valentine's Day chocolates so gotta chalk up another customer for White Day. The Polynesian kinda screwed up the schedule again. Luckily, I reminded her about the lesson by phone so she did show up an hour later than expected.

Monday will see some poorer returns financially. I got the call from The Matron this morning that the lesson for her and The Lady will have to be cancelled since The Lady is still in London, presumably seeing her daughter and son-in-law. So, it'll just be SIL and The Part-Timer tomorrow. Plus, I got an out with that offer from Speedy to write up some curriculum for the school texts so I plan to get some cash tomorrow from that. Happy to finally get that e-mail from The Carolinan's friend...she may become my next new student. Sounds pretty genki...she even PS'ed me with her revelation that she missed Tim Horton doughnuts since she came back from her Canadian trip. Me? I'm still waiting to get into Krispy Kreme. I figure that the lineups there are still ridiculously long even with the lousy weather.

Got some news from old friend, DTE. Looks like she'll be making a visit to her old stomping grounds here in Tokyo in April.

Finally, I gotta say that the Boston Red Sox are feeling the treatment that a Major League team gets whenever a much-lauded Japanese player arrives on its doorstep. Tons of Japanese media are covering Daisuke Matsuzaka and his supposedly legendary gyroball...but the 26-year-old millionaire hasn't shown this Loch Ness Monster of pitches so the J-media is settling for covering the lad doing everything, including him picking his nose. Matsuzaka has said that he would sincerely apologize to any of his irked teammates. I'm sure if he wins some games, the Bosox would be more than happy to take the increased crowds in the locker room.

Anyways, I'm done here...time to cook up some grub.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Wednesday February 14, 3:16 p.m.

Well, Valentine's Day is of the myriad Western holidays that has taken hold of Japan like a bear to honey. Despite the sudden exit of one of the major players, Fujiya, all of the other outlets..from the tiniest confectionary store to the huge chains like Godiva...have ensured that there have been female scrums in their branches. I was in Takashimaya Times Square on Sunday, and as I was coming down the elevator there, it stopped on the 10th floor to reveal a ton of women just piling on top of each other in the Valentine's Day special section selling its tons of chocolates.

Over here, the romantic season is split into two. Valentine's Day is for the women to get their gifts to the guys while March 14th is saved for the reciprocation by the guys...a holiday known as White Day (although considering what some of those guys hope to score by giving some chocolate, it's a rather ironic colour to choose).

I've also not been immune to the culinary charms. Last Thursday, I got some macaroons from The Sisters of State, and yesterday, I got some chocolates from the Beehive ladies (although Mrs. Tee gave me some rather spicy rice crackers...she said that they would burn up the calories...uh-huh...) and then at the juku last night, Seven gave me some fairly expensive chocolate truffles. I unfortunately found out though with The Bohemian that fairly expensive chocolate truffles have a lower melting point than the usual stuff bought at the convenience stores. Within a few hours in my toasty room, the cocoa-powdered little lumps were reduced to sludge...albeit silkily delicious piles of sludge.

Earlier during the Beehive session, the ladies found out about my recent pricey visit to Casa Dos Fado in Yotsuya with Speedy's gang and decided that it was worth a visit. Not that I'm particularly worried since the ladies always pay my way during our lunches out but I was relieved to see that the lunch menu is considerably cheaper at just 1,200 yen a person.

Well, I'm doing a 3-hour session here at the neighbourhood Internet cafe since I got word last night from Speedy's assistant that 001 cancelled today's and next week's classes. Ouch! That'll hurt. least I stay in my neck of the woods. I'll be doing much of the same on Sunday since that Tokyo Marathon will be tying up traffic systems all across the big city. Being the first of its kind, I'm sure that despite all of the safeguards, there will be some sort of screwup somewhere. I got quite an earful from the Beehive yesterday about some of the sordid side leading up to this huge race. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has continued keeping his reign as controversial as ever. In his push for this marathon to take place, he basically steamrollered over the schedule of a much more established marathon in Ome...a smaller, more rural area of Tokyo without any due process which could basically mean that the Ome Marathon will have to find a new date to squeeze itself into amongst all of the other marathons that take place throughout the nation. Marathons aren't events that easily share...why would an athlete risk killing himself/herself with back-to-back runs a week or so apart? Also, due to the race on Sunday, streets will be closed off all over the metropolis for as much as 7 hours, so a lot of the commercial concerns on those streets are lamenting that they'll make bupkiss. So, why has Grand Shogun Ishihara risked inciting such wrath from his own vassals? of his very vocal wishes since he became Governor has been to bring the Summer Olympics here in 2016. What better way than to show off an inaugural marathon open to the media of the world? I just hope that he's treating this show as a National Security Event like the States do with The Super Bowl nowadays in this post-9/11 era. It wouldn't do for thousands of runners and spectators to get blown up or fall ill due to an Aum Shinrikyo sarin bomb or an Al Qaeda attack (although the latter crime is far less likely than the former).

The big non-news over the past few days has been the dogged tracking down by the Japanese media of Kim Jong Nam, the rather bloated son of Kim Jong Il, Grand Dictator of North Korea in Beijing and Macao. The media has been careful to say "a person who may be" Kim Jong Nam; I gather that the journalists figure that North Korea would be more than happy to send out a lot of decoys to get some laughs. Plus, the guy looks like me after a few too many pizzas and a bad visit to the barber. In fact, reporters can get alleged Nam sightings by just hanging around Akihabara for a few minutes...he looks like your garden variety otaku. It's ironic that Kim Jong Il, supposedly a big Elvis fan, now has a son who's gotten the sighting treatment. On related news, those 6-nation talks to beg North Korea to give up nukes have apparently borne some "fruit". Kim will give them up in return for food, supplies and delisting from the Axis of Evil (I'm saying this in a sing-song voice, by the way). Wait a minute...didn't this exact thing happen years ago? And guess what? North Korea stabbed everyone in the back.

But that hasn't been the only news...evidently, the Anna Nicole Smith sordidness has made its way over here onto the morning wide shows. And one of the hosts even spoke at some length about The Dixie Chicks sweeping some major Grammys. Although I think the Chicks got some revenge, I think the folks who burned the CDs and the DJs who refused to play them will probably be buying some of their discs...just to burn them again. Not sure if Michael Buble was still pouting away outside. I read that "American Idol" champ Carrie Underwood got "Best New Artist of the Year" honours...the only award for a once-unknown singer and a future-unknown singer at the same time.