Thursday, November 01, 2007

Friday November 2, 12:27 p.m.

And I was only making the remark as a joke. Apparently, the NOVA teachers are indeed putting up signs "Will Teach for Food". Yep, things are that bad. And to add to the brutal irony, the local media has put up pics of what kinda digs President Sahashi had as an office. It kinda puts the Imperial Palace to shame. No surprise that some rather shady business dealings between Sahashi and others have come to the fore.

But it's not just the English teachers that will be suffering. Prices for various things are gonna be jacked up: gasoline, foods, etc. Not a good end to the year.

However, at least Nagoya is feeling no pain right now. The Chunichi Dragons won The Japan Series 1-0 last night over The Nippon Ham Fighters from Hokkaido. It was a 53-year drought for the Dragons. Not exactly the Bambino's Curse on the Bosox but still a long time between championships. I'm sure the tenmusu and the miso katsu are flowing in the eateries of Aichi-ken right now.
Friday November 2, 11:33 a.m.

It was rather interesting yesterday during coffee with The Madame in the new mall, Itocia (the one with Krispy Kreme 2 and the accordingly ridiculous line-up), in Yurakucho. She asked about the English translation for the Japanese term, yuutsu. I first said "depression", but she countered that the condition wasn't quite that serious, so I suggested "melancholy" which got a positive response.
Melancholy was certainly the feeling I had by the end of our time together yesterday afternoon. We'd met up to have lunch at the new Vietnamese restaurant in the basement food floor of Itocia. Very good lunch special but definitely it was a good thing that we got there at 11. By 11:30, the place was full. I'm sure Japanese urban geographers will be starting to talk about the Krispy Kreme multiplier effect.
However, I digress. We ended up going upstairs to the 2nd floor for coffee in one of those old-style cafes with the Taisho-era (circa 1920s Japan) interior design and waitresses dressed in tuxes. We were in the middle of one of our talks when The Madame finally blurted out that she was getting engaged! Engage poker face!
I was rather surprised at how calmly I took the news. Deep down, I knew it would happen sooner or later...and women over here have a way of keeping even news of a relationship top secret from even the closest of friends. Still, part of me was still roiling inside when The Madame explained why she was getting married. One of her multiple omiai matches finally bore fruit earlier this year when she met a government drone. Apparently, the two had gone out on some dates when the man finally proposed to her in late September. She accepted on the basis that: 1)she wasn't getting any younger, 2) although she had zilch romantic interest in him, he would do and 3) she really wanted kids.
Well, for 3), I guess I couldn't blame her since her biological clock is ticking..but the other two reasons struck me as being pretty desperate and cynical. I think she may be making the worst decision in her life but she was pretty cheerfully fatalistic about it (being Russian in a Hello, Kitty way). I didn't tell her that last comment as such but I did question her on whether she was truly making the right decision. She was pretty committed (or ought to be, anyways).
She then went on to talk about her family's reaction to her engagement. In the past, The Madame mentioned that her father wasn't exactly the most stable of people. But from her explanation yesterday, it seems that almost all of her family have reacted in rather odd fashion. Her father has always been lambastingly critical of his daughter...of the fact that she was in her 30s and couldn't get married. Finally, she catches one but papa still isn't happy and apparently has banned his future son-in-law from ever entering the house. Her sister, for some reason, has also not given any sort of blessing either. Both have even gone on record that they wouldn't even attend the wedding. Only the mother has been on The Madame's side.
And then The Madame herself laughingly remarked that she's only told me and a couple of others about her engagement since she's not particularly proud of her long-sought achievement. Most likely, according to her, she and hubby will be just get married in Hawaii with no one in attendance and have just a small cocktail party in "celebration".
My feelings? WHAT THE F---?! That little idiot is just as screwy as her tyrant father. After some back & forth on the matter, I decided to end the conversation about 30 minutes early and walked her back to JR Yurakucho Station. She said that there was still some time left for talk before she had to go off to meet her mother, but I mumbled that I had to do some errands and quickly let her go. She has sent me a couple of e-mails happily thanking me for yesterday, so obviously she's none the wiser about how quickly I let her go home.

At this point, I'll just say that I've decided to terminate my end of this rather odd relationship. She'll figure it out later.

Well, I was feeling pretty lousy and...yuutsu...after that announcement. Some people guzzle down a ton of ice cream, others replace the shelf paper in their kitchens. I took a 10,000-yen note and went shopping for CDs. I bought the 2nd volume of J-Pop Queen Yuming's year-long opus, "Seasons, Colors". It was the Fall/Winter discs as contrasted to Volume 1's Spring/Summer. Being pretty much the only singer in Japan who's still relatively relevant after more than 30 years in the industry, listening to the various songs reflected the changes in musical tastes, instrumentation and her voice.
Along with two other discs, I also got Michael Buble's mini-album of Xmas faves. Slightly disappointed with this one. Aside from his live performance of "Let It Snow", the rest of the numbers had no brass. I think on that note, his fellow Canadian jazzbo, Diana Krall, beats him hands down.

I've started some embryonic efforts in trying to find a new place. It's surprising and nice to see that there are quite a few places that now offer apartments with no need of a guarantor, key money and the other robber baron tactics that real estate agencies here use to fleece new tenants. To be honest, I don't care about the key money so much but I would be happy not to rely on my uncle anymore for the guarantorship.

Well, aside from the search for delinquent NOVA ex-prez, Nozomu Sahashi, the only other big news is that the deadline for the continued re-fueling of coalition ships in the Indian Ocean came and went at midnight. So, the Japanese government called in the MSDF ship, Tokiwa, and any other vessels back home. Strike 1 for PM Fukuda. And now there are talks that there may be a Xmas dissolution of Parliament. Well, at least, the MPs may be home for their KFC on December 25th.

Just have The Ace for his class tonight...only for 45 minutes. He's actually requested to go down to 30 minutes but the boss told him that he's gotta make up some lessons thereby tacking on the extra 15 minutes to each class for the next 3 weeks.

Speaking of Xmas, most likely I won't be home for it. Just don't have the money right now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wednesday October 31, 2:53 p.m.

In the middle of the big temporal desert between classes. However, I've managed to keep myself busy. The Chef sent me her latest menus to be proofread...those I got done in about 40 minutes. I also went through the lesson plans for the three students tonight, including pushing the envelope via some handouts for the advanced EIC student. 002 called up to change her time by an hour for next Tuesday, and I had a couple of sandwiches thanks to one of the grandmas. Apparently, The Dentist will be by later on to give me some sort of confectionary (hopefully, not by Akafuku).

Not sure how the NOVA story is coming along. Things have been fairly quiet in the papers for the past couple of days. The ex-president is still missing in action...his face is on a WANTED poster at the Facebook NOVA forum. I'm still thinking Nozomu Sahashi is probably at the bottom of Tokyo Bay along with the body of Ichi the Killer, that deranged kid who'd murdered a NOVA teacher, Lindsay Ann Hawker, earlier this year. I did check the website where an English-language Q&A page has been posted by the lawyers. There were a lot of "I regret..." statements in it, so basically, the teachers have been hung out to dry. And to add insult to injury, the rates for both TEPCO and gas service will go up from the new year.

Well, and here I thought it was just the Hello Project girls who were going through some hard times. It looks like Johnny's Jimusho can now add one of their boytoys into the minus column. A former member of the pre-SMAP group, Hikaru Genji, some fellow named Akasaka, got busted for drug possession. He was looking pretty heroin chic in those recent videos....gaunt and pale. I'm sure the J-Pop forums are abuzz.

However, the big story here has been about the official questioning of that former Defense Ministry Vice Minister who may have been a bit too cozy with a defense contractor during his tenure. Same ol', same ol'...
Wednesday October 31, 12:02 p.m.

In a way, it's rather appropriate that Halloween would be a good day to address this issue since it is about all of the food horrors that Japanese society is going through. Earlier in the year, Fujiya, the leading confectioner of Japan, got suspended for several weeks after it was found out that it had been fudging (no pun intended) its best-by dates. Peko-chan was a truly sad little girl. Now that we're halfway through Autumn, it seems almost quaint and nearly forgotten that this little incident occurred considering what has now passed.
Meat Hope Inc., a meat distribution company, got nailed for passing ground up chicken, pork and what else was on hand doused in beef blood as pure ground beef; its pathetic president finally got arrested last week. The company responsible for one of Japan's most popular omiyage confection, Shiroi Koibito, along with two other major confectioners have also been busted for selling their wares beyond their best-by dates. And then, a chicken distributor has just been found out for selling substandard meat (foul fowl, if you like) as the best of the line; its president was just plunked back into civilization after having trying to commit suicide by exposing himself to the mercies of nature in a forest.
The articles and the news coverage have wailed far and wide about the seeming corruption of the Japanese food industry. However, strangely enough, none of the journos have talked about why this has been happening on such as systemic level. I think all of the companies have been victims of their own success. These aforementioned companies aren't poor entities. Fujiya and Shiroi Koibito are industry bellweathers. The Kyoto confectioner, Akafuku...also implicated in this sordid affair...was actually celebrating 300 years of operation this year. And yet, it decided to get into the muck and tried to get away with some shady practices. Why blow away centuries of reputation? Simple...the demand for all of these popular products was probably so great that the factories were under a lot of pressure to churn out the goods. And so, the cutting of corners began. And look where it has got them....somewhat humiliating (not sure if the management truly feels remorseful) deep bows in front of the flashing cameras and closed stores which has thrown out a lot of employees and disappointed a lot of customers.
But maybe there is hope (not meat hope, though). Fujiya re-opened some months ago and it looks like things are back to normal. Peko-chan is out in her witch hat and black cape. Perhaps a combination of careful production and the moving of the fickle media glare has given the first of the disgraced food manufacturers of 2007 a second chance.
Wednesday October 31, 11:32 a.m.

The Nurse was rather distracted today. She's never been the most robust personality but it looks like the reason that she was 2 minutes late (apparently a crime of Quel horreur! proportions in her family) was a spat between her and her hubby concerning the state of their kitchen. Her husband is apparently a bit of a Felix Unger. Still, she was very kind to give me a belated b-day present in the form of a DIY monaka set. Monaka is that local confection with a mass of bean paste filling a thin pastry shell. The Japanese versions of Haagen-Daas sell variations of monaka in the supermarkets and convenience stores.

Getting back to yesterday's developments, I had my pumpkin carving with the kids. Then, The Milds' son, Mild Jr., dropped in for a model lesson. His parents had told me that their son kinda resembled me in size. Well, I think he's a bit better-built, due to his judo and karate training. He works as a security officer/doorman for one of the hotels nearby, although with his build, I'd say that he would make an excellent doorman of a nightclub. His parents also underestimated his English skill stating initially that he had very little ability. Again, I'd say that he's more well-spoken than his parents. He's not gonna be too regular a student due to his schedule since he said that he only has time for his first lesson on November 27th and his December is filled up.
The Milds showed was the usual somewhat awkward meeting between son and parents for a few minutes before Mild Jr. gallantly offered to head on home. As for the parents, we basically exchanged stories about our respective trips...I on Hong Kong while Mrs. Mild spoke on her travels through Sicily. Like The Beehive, she and her four buddies went there all by themselves...all the more remarkable since Mrs. Mild is nowhere near as good as The Bees in her English ability. According to her, Palermo was a little frightening due to the crazy traffic there and the ever-present threat of pickpockets although the Mafia didn't seem to figure very much. However, she and her friends came across sunnier folks and situations when they traveled through southern Sicily. Apparently, the Japanese tourist groups haven't yet infiltrated that area of the world which makes it a truly special place. I did get a small pack of olives as an omiyage while I gave The Milds a calendar of HK.
The Siberian surprise there. However, Jolly came in on a full head of steam. Seems he's pretty interested in learning English presentation techniques so despite the lateness of the hour, both of us got our respective second winds up and pulled off a pretty profitable hour.

I inquired lightly to the juku boss about a topic that she'd broached me about a few months ago about finding a new location that would not only house a new school but also new accomodations for me. I had kinda figured it would've been too good to be true, and sure enough, it looks like that avenue has been closed off. So I guess I'll have to start looking for new digs....provided that they don't require key money or a guarantor.

I got word from my brother that my b-day present for my niece never arrived. Looks like Doraemon has ended up in the black hole of Calcutta for post offices....i.e. some grubby postal handler on the other side of the Pacific. So I'll have to try again...probably after lunch with The Madame tomorrow, if she doesn't mind the little shopping detour.

It'll be another one of those Wednesdays with that big schedule hole in the time-space continuum. Between The Nurse and 001, I've got several hours of nothing. So, I'll have to whip up something for that final class for that way-too-advanced EIC student I've got after 001. The only reason she's taken up my trilogy of lessons is that she gets a member discount when she debuts in the kitchen next month. And....hopefully....The Judge will finally show up for his long-awaited lesson. It's his last assigned lesson before renewal so the stage will be set to see if he actually re-signs or resigns.
Wednesday October 31, 10:00 a.m.

It is supposed to be the witching hour tonight but I think virtually all of the major hijinks associated with Halloween happened last weekend. So aside from some kids' parties here and there, including one at the juku tonight, it should be fairly quiet. I'm not even sure if that supposedly annual "hijacking" of the Yamanote Line by the foreign element will be taking place.

Speaking of the juku, I had that annual pumpkin carving. Last year, it was with Seven (who's probably now fled us); this time, it was Chip N' Dale. We used those cute little mini-pumpkins instead of the big American ones...good call on my count as well. It took the kids about half an hour, their usual lesson time, to get everything done. Chip cut his thumb with the knife but I think the band-aid kept the blood flow in check.

Anyways, The Nurse has just arrived. She called up to say that she would be late. And she was...a whole 2 minutes. Gonna have to punish her for the malfeasance.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday October 29, 5:50 p.m.

Managed to print out a couple of Halloween pics for the kids to colour in tomorrow. The past weekend probably had the usual ton of similarly-themed parties in Roppongi and Shinjuku, and I gather that the hijinks will continue for the next couple of nights even though they are worknights. Maybe some of the foreign folks could come costumed as NOVA teachers (ooooh...that was nasty!). I don't think I'll be able to pull it off considering that I only have the kids for half an hour...barely enough time to carve out Jack O' Lanterns but I may even consider trying bobbing for apples.

I found out that Chaz Jankel, that mystery man from Ian Dury & The Blockheads fame, who came up with "Ai no Corrida" is finally coming out with a compilation of his best hits on actual solid CD in early November. For the past year, only those folks with an iPod could download his best stuff, but since I'm a 21st-century Luddite I've been out of luck. However, I could get my chance next month.

On the local pop cultural front, there is good news and bad news. On the good news side, old 80s Johnny Jimusho's dinosaur, Masahiko "Matchy" Kondo finally got his first kid at the ripe old age of 43. Man, took him long enough. And on the sad side, Hello Project's former Morning Musume's starlet, Maki Goto, has decided to leave the company in penance for her stupid brother's criminal activity. Not that it would matter all that much to the population at large.

Matt Damon will be showing up on SMAP X SMAP's Bistro SMAP's cooking segment. Yes, Kimutaku and the boys will be whipping up something for Jason Bourne. I only heard a bit of his Japanese, but Damon doesn't sound too bad stating "Matt Damon desu" and "Sugee oishii!" (Really delicious!) He may have a future in doing those Japanese commercials! Well, I could imagine if the dishes aren't to his liking, he can always pull off some of that Krav Maga on the guys. I say, kick Nakai-kun first.
Monday October 29, 5:13 p.m.

Well, news on the NOVA debacle has gone far beyond our borders here in Japan. Mom called me last night a week earlier than usual to ask me if I had any connection to the scandal. I reassured her that the last time I set foot in a NOVA school, let alone teach in one, was over 10 years ago. Even my brother sent me an article that popped up in the newspaper back home. Right now, there haven't been any major new developments aside that the British and Australian embassies are holding out a helping hand for their nationals who've ended up on the short end of the stick. SIL and I were wondering aloud about the whereabouts of former president and founder Nozomu Sahashi. I sardonically said that he may have found a perpetual hiding place at the bottom of Tokyo Bay.

I just found out that the Boston Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies to grab The World Series. In the papers over here, that would probably read Daisuke Matsuzaka swept the Colorado Rockies to grab The World Series. He did earn his keep by being the first winning Japanese pitcher to open a World Series game, but is he worth $100 million? Nope...noone in any sport should be worth that much. Well, the Kamedas should be grateful to Dice-K, though. The victory should easily sweep their turmoil off the front pages for the next week at least. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a victory parade held in Matsuzaka's honour in a few days. Not much solace for the Rockies' Matsui, though.

I've just got The Full-Timer and that new EIC student from 6 p.m....uh, correction...The Full-Timer just called to say that she'll be 15 minutes late. Then, it'll be dinner for me. Kinda glad that I don't have The Beehive tomorrow. Can sleep in a bit before I see 002 and the juku crowd. I've got that pumpkin carving with Chip N' Dale first thing. Gotta get some Trick Or Treat candy for the kids.

The Madame said that she wants to check out Itocia on Thursday. I'm already way ahead of her on that since I visited the mall last Thursday. And I think I know the restaurant we'll try out. Since the two of us have nothing else to do that day, we can raspberry the folks lining up at Krispy Kreme No. 2.