Friday, September 07, 2007

Saturday Sept. 8, 2:53 p.m.

I did's also the huge premiere of "HERO", the latest Takuya Kimura movie based on the hit TV drama series all the way back in 2001. Fuji-TV's been touting the movie for months now with all the force of its bombastic theme tune. In fact, on that Friday night music show, on Fuji-TV of course, "Bokura no Ongaku"(Our Music), the star himself chatted it up with his co-star, Takako Matsu, before a 52-piece orchestra played the theme...I think it's the first time in the show's 4-year run that the only piece of music played was a purely instrumental theme song. Certainly, the movie is top-heavy with all sorts of stars: the face of Japanese TV, Tamori; Takako Matsu's thespian father, Soichiro Matsumoto; and of course, tribute had to be made to the current hanryu boom by not only filming part of the movie in Korea but also having one of its big actors, Byeong Hong Li, have a cameo.
Am I gonna catch it? Not on your life...I think KimuTaku is only capable of two emotions as an actor: furious and surly. The movie will make oodles of yen, I'm sure, but for me it's just a very special version of a trendy drama....which means it isn't.
Saturday Sept. 8, 1:51 p.m.

Typhoon Fitow is now just a memory. Not only has it been downgraded to a tropical storm but Tokyo is back to steamy and sunny. I've got the AC on timer once again.

It was just The Ace last night at the juku. He's doing his usual tennis thing with his buddies today. Recently, I learned that he's also quite the coffee lover. I think I should've given him the Kona coffee beans instead of 002. In fact, he's even done one of those barista seminars at a local chain called SegaFredo. Well, at least I know what kinda souvenir I'll be getting him, although I don't know what kinda cachet a bag of coffee beans from Canada would merit.
The boss also told me that she'd contacted either Seven or her family about her big operation, the reason is that she's now inactive as a student. Apparently, she said that the nearby hospital could only guarantee a spot right on Halloween (never a great day to have an operation). Based on my years of experience, my eyes immediately narrowed and tongue went straight to cheek. The boss didn't pick up on that but I remedied that situation by throwing out the possibility that perhaps Seven may have decided to fly the coop permanently. To my mild surprise, she didn't react in horror but just looked thoughtful and said that she didn't believe that would be the case. And to be honest, using the line of a much-needed operation is a new one for me, and pretty heavy-handed as an excuse. So, we'll just see.....yup, I've become very jaded in my middle age.

Just had Tully & The Coffeemaker for their biweekly at Tully the shop. Man, for the last few times I've been there with those two and the Sisters of State, the flies have been swarming over us. That cafe desperately needs a number of Vapona strips hanging there. In about an hour, I'll have The Dentist and then I'll be off for home.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Friday September 7, 3:19 p.m.

Well, Typhoon No. 9, aka Fitow in Western nomenclature, pretty much took over all of Thursday in all things that matter. It started barreling in from yesterday morning, really shook us up by the evening and kept howling throughout the night before leaving a trail of floods and detritus...kinda like your typical Japanese salaryman on a bonenkai binge. All of the stations covered the massive storm like flypaper with the usual shots of the poor commuters who had to spend the night in the cold hallways of stations or wrestle with the elements outside.
I had the best of timing, though. I had the entire day off yesterday and most of today off as well. So I could see all the storm und drang from the comfort of my little decrepit apartment. I did go out to the neighbourhood conbini for a few minutes, though, to grab some supplies. It was pretty humid, though not as hot as it was in August. I also brought in the lighter of the two laundry poles and my broken screen door, just in case, the winds got a little too aggressive.
However, between Wednesday night and now, I now have a couple of packages sitting on my tatami room floor. Both are for The Anime King. One package is this behemoth containing three giant female figures from this game that he and his otaku cronies just love called "The Idomaker". When I saw these dolls in their packages, I just had to roll my eyes and remark rhetorically about when these guys were ever going to grow up. The Anime King did contact me and said that The Anime Chamberlain will be coming over to take care of the shipping of the huge package. I should hope so...but until then, I know have a huge cardboard box blocking my access to the bookshelf. I'm sure when The Wild Thing arrives next week, he'll probably have some strong opinions about the latest he usually does.

Speaking of which, yep, The Wild Thing is definitely a-coming next week. And I'll have him at my little hotel for the next fortnight. He apparently spent most of the last couple of days convincing his enigma of a wife that he wouldn't be imposing on me too much. He also asked me for reassurance that he wouldn't be imposing on me....I lied and said that, no, he wouldn't. (I'm sorry but 11 days with a guy with such an excess of personality is simply not gonna be that easy to live with....20 years of friendship or not).

I've only got The Ace tonight followed by tomorrow's biweekly sessions with Tully & The Coffeemaker, and then The Dentist at Speedy's. The mother of the Younger sent me e-mail cancelling the upcoming lesson on Sunday since the Younger has one of those volleyball games. Well, 4,000 yen down the drain but at least I won't need to go anywhere on Sunday.

Since I was safely esconced in my apartment last night, I was able to watch some other stuff aside from all those typhoon reports. On "Utaban", that music show with Takaaki ("Major League 2") Ishibashi and Nakai-kun of SMAP, I got to see two famous but disparate elements of Japanese pop culture meet. A slightly heavier-looking Hikaru Utada, the former pop sensation of turn-of-the-century Japan, got to meet the current comedic flavour-of-the-year, the prancin'-and-dancin' Yoshio Kojima, the fruit loops comedian from Okinawa who's apparently occupying the 5th spot in the YouTube popularity rankings worldwide. I'm pretty sure he'll be showing up on Anderson Cooper sometime soon. Kojima may even replace Cooper's fave "Seamanship" video. As for the fateful meeting, Utada just dissoved into giggles before she had her arms broken by an overly aggressive palmistry can probably catch her on YouTube for that as well.

I've been catching the tributes to the recently departed Luciano Pavarotti on CNN. He may also have a special place in the hearts of Japanese since he sang that excerpt from "Turandot" at the 2006 Olympics last year....the same song that helped get Shizuka Arakawa, the Japanese figure skater, her country's lone and gold medal. Thanks to that performance, CDs of "Turandot" sold like hotcakes for the next few months. Ironically, it was that same song which finished off the visual tribute to him on Anderson Cooper today.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wednesday Sept. 5, 4:37 p.m.

Typhoon 9 isn't supposed to be hitting us until early Friday morning, but we've already gotten a few smacks today. I was walking to the station today with my little umbrella over my head and my bag in one hand (kinda like Hayao Miyazaki's Totoro in one scene) when the skies suddenly opened up like rapids in the air and my entire left side got soaked. Unfortunately, a number of my texts also got their edges nice and wet. Ironically, as my half-drenched body tried to dry out in the local Subway, the rain just as promptly stopped, and to add insult to injury, the sun came on out.

Yesterday, I had my first session with The Beehive at our new home at a nearby community centre. Mrs. Travel also teaches Japanese to some of the foreigners there. Instead of our old dusty meeting room with the blackboard and long tables, we now inhabit a tatami room with low tables and seats. However, Year 9 is definitely looking to be a transition year. I just have Travel, Mrs. Jade, Mrs. Tee and Mrs Alp as regulars, and Travel told me that until some more ladies can be recruited into the hive, we'll only be able to meet 3 times a month. I'm not particularly dismayed by that turn of events since I've always been accustomed to the 3 on, 1 off system with them. Still, it does feel a bit emptier now since Potter, Tulip and, most recently, Perth have flown the coop.
After the first session, all of us hopped on a bus to Makuhari Messe for one of those occasional lunches I'm invited to. This time, we went to a place called Na no Ha, a restaurant which, according to Travel, specializes in a veggie buffet. She saw the slightly skeptical expression on my face since I'm still passionately an omnivore. However, she reassured me that I would be quite happy with the results. The bus ride only took 5 minutes and the restaurant itself was just across the street from Carrefour, that French supermarket.
We had to wait about 15 minutes since we came in right during the heart of the lunch rush but when we got settled in, I was indeed quite happy with the buffet. Unlike my initial impression of tables just topped with baskets of raw rabbit food, there were some nice examples of wabi-sabi dishes such as chawanmushi (steamed savory egg custard) and stewed vegetables. But some of the meat family was represented via fried chicken and sanma fish. There was even some savory pots of curry and platters of pizza. I actually did get quite stuffed on the fare there. Not exactly one of the cheapest buffets at 1,600 yen but I got my money's worth. Didn't really need any dinner after that.

It was a pretty direct beeline over to 002's place since we were all in Chiba that day. She was fine as usual. The trip over to the juku took a bit longer than expected due to some jinshin jiko at Waseda couldn't have been a jumper since Waseda is a local underground station. Most likely, it was some person who collapsed or something. Anyways, I got to the juku a half-hour later than usual. No problems, though.
Just like the Beehive, the juku is currently in transition mode. Seven is on the disabled list and The Siberian will be missing for a couple of weeks. So, it was just Chip N' Dale, The Milds and Jolly with an hour to hour-and-a-half breaks in between. The boss felt very badly for me about that despite reassuring her that I didn't mind. In fact, I think she was being a little too adamant on poor Jolly that he should try to come for the 9 o'clock slot instead of his usual 10 o'clock, since he is the customer after all. We're serving him, not vice versa.

When I got home last night, I was on the can when my phone rang at two separate times. The caller didn't bother to leave a message so I just assumed it was Mom who usually does that. So I gave her a call this morning...apparently, it wasn't her last night so I'm kinda wondering who would do such a thing at 11:30 p.m.
I found out from Mom that a family friend of many decades had passed on last week from cancer. Our two families lived very close to each other...maybe just 15 minutes walk. And all during my childhood, it would be rather common for us to go to each other's houses. I hadn't seen her in many years though since I decided to put down roots in Japan. This news plus the fact that my old friend of also many years' standing, The Entrepreneur, got hitched on the same day made me realize that the times were indeed flying by.

Talking about old friends, The Wild Guy called up out of the blue. Apparently, he will be coming back to these shores from the 10th to look up some more possibilities for securing a job. And he asked me if he could stay with me for "a while" as he does some interviews. I couldn't really say no to him but part of me isn't too eager since I'm quite happy with my privacy. Well, he told me that he wasn't sure about the accomodations quite yet and that his enigmatic wife wasn't too happy about him imposing on me (it's the Japanese custom of not making trouble). We'll just see what happens. But it may mean that I'll have to spend part of Sunday overhauling my steadily deteriorating apartment, cockroaches and all. I did hear from him, though, that The Egg and his wife finally got themselves a condo at Yonge and Eglinton from 2009.

I dried out sufficiently to teach The New Yorker today. Initially, I was wondering whether to change venues to the Starbucks just above Ichigaya Station so as not to get surprised by ambush precipitation but the rains kindly held off during our walk to and from the Tullys. Actually, The New Yorker was pretty good today since the usual amount of raucous ambient noise was much lower (we were sitting beside some Buddhist monk type).

Tonight, I've got my Wednesday night lineup of 001 and The Judge. I haven't seen his honour in a couple of weeks because he had taken his family to Fukuoka for a bit of vacation. The Manhattanite, a girl I haven't seen in many weeks, was poked into the schedule between 001 and The Judge. It'll be a packed night but all of the folks are good ones so the hours should pass by fairly swimmingly.

Tomorrow, I've got bupkiss on the schedule so I may pull off another hikikomori-like recluse day like I did on Saturday. Plus, with that typhoon coming in, outdoor conditions may not be too nice anyways. I'm gonna feel sorry for that delivery guy who has to bring over the latest package for The Anime King. I will probably fill up on food and drink on my way home tonight so that I don't have to step out of the apartment.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Monday September 3, 5:12 p.m.

A little back to the heat wave of last month, although it doesn't feel all that searing out there. It was a pretty glorious weekend, weatherwise, though. But we do have a potential typhoon headed our way mid-week.

As for my weekend...well, Saturday was certainly interesting. It was the first time in nearly a decade (since I had broken my ankle in a fall) that I didn't take a single step outside my door for more than 24 hours. Getting into a funk after paying all that money for health insurance premiums, rent and Citizen's Tax on Friday night can definitely induce one to become somewhat reclusive. I didn't even go out for food...I was afraid to go out for food. Basically, aside from yogurt, juice, coffee and a little cake I'd gotten from The Ace as a souvenir (namely, breakfast), I fasted. Actually, it wasn't all that bad. I was only being a couch potato so my stomach didn't register any pangs. The experience didn't give my any epiphanies although I'm happy to realize that I can go without any sustenance for a period of time. Really, I came to the conclusion that most of the time I eat not for survival but for the good taste. Maybe, if anything, it will lead to a bit better self-control.

I did manage to catch "300" on DVD, thanks to the Anime King's gift. It was more soul-satisfying than "Transformers" so it was a pity to hear that its theatrical release had underwhelmed whereas "Transformers" is pretty much guaranteed of a sequel or two.
I'd never caught "Sin City" when it came out so "300" was my first exposure to a Frank Miller film (I don't consider "Batman" or "Batman Begins" or "Daredevil" as Milleresque films...they're solidly the work of their directors). The use of greenscreen was obvious but not overwhelming...luckily, the heart and acting of folks like Gerard Butler kept the balance. And the story was simple enough, and more importantly, the battle scenes were easy to recognize.
Watching "300" though reminded me of Klingons. All throughout the reign of the Trek sequels (TNG and DS9), Klingons were often compared to the Japanese samurai with their code of honour and other facets of battle philosophy. However, I couldn't help but think that the Spartans, an entire society seemingly developed to be violent sociopaths, were more influential on the formation of Klingons. David Wenham's raspy narration reminded me of corrupt Chancellor Gowron, and even the guy who played Xerxes sounded more like Commander Worf. I half-expected him to order his Immortals to fire photon torpedoes.
In any case, I liked "300" more than I had expected to...but after watching the mind-numbing "Transformers", anything would've been an improvement. I kinda wonder if there will be a sequel to this movie. Considering the final scene, it will probably be called "40,000".

Sunday was another day at home, but I did step out to get some food. The only major highlight was seeing Eiko Koike make yet another congratulatory appearance on a variety program. Who she, you say? Well, she's probably the most successful member of the group known loosely as "Yellow Cab", a bunch of young ladies known for their breast sizes, at least initially. The amalgam included current tarento like MEGUMI, Waka Inoue and Eriko Sato. All of the ladies had already broken out of their gravia idol photobooks and gone into the tarento world of variety shows, quiz programs, and serial dramas. But Koike seems to be the one with the greatest exposure...ahem.
Well, last week, her standing exploded when she announced her marriage to her wrestler boyfriend. Basically, every variety show that she appeared in got the round of applause and congratulatory statements for her.

On the government front, Prime Minister Abe must be feeling like the entire weight of the world wasn't just only on his shoulders but as if Atlas himself was stomping on the world at the same time. Yet another Agriculture Minister fell on his sword again just this morning for some rather dubious financial dealings. And this, just a week after his Cabinet re-shuffle. I figure that if another major scandal erupts in the next month, there will be snap elections coming so fast that it'll probably blow back any typhoon headed our way. BTW, there is one on the way for midweek, apparently.

Today, I found out how long people can dwell and hold grudges. I had The Class Act for the first time in a few weeks. We were talking about our trip to Hong Kong when the ladies reminded me (and to me at least, not so jokingly) about what a washout I was as a communicator during the Korea trip last year. Nope, I admit, I let the side down when I couldn't really do anything about my lack of Korean skills there but I just wish they wouldn't hit me over the head with it. And to add insult to injury, The Lady seemed rather brusque when she told me to fax my flight details over to her and The Matron. I kinda wonder if I will really enjoy this trip, now that I've got this pressure on me.

Well, in any case, I've got to head out to teach The Full-Timer.