Friday, June 13, 2008

Saturday June 14, 12:43 p.m.

I got a taste of what the bossman must have gone through. During Slim's lesson, the phone was ringing off the hook a few times, and finally I thought I just had to answer it just in case it was Speedy himself. Instead, it was an inquiry from a civilian. Erk! I tried to muddle through my bad Telephone Japanese and just managed to jot down her phone number and a first name; it didn't help that she was talking next to a busy street. As for Slim himself, he came in 20 minutes late. He either seemed distracted because of work or he gets down on himself if he makes too many errors in his homework, so I tried to be as encouraging as possible.

But in any case, I'll be leaving the telephones to Speedy from now on.
Saturday June 14, 10:28 a.m.

Back at Speedy's by myself. I've opened everything up...including a kettle of boiling water for the tea. Slim ought to be here in about 30 minutes.

Hmmm...been a morning of BREAKING NEWS on both sides of the Pacific. First, Tim Russert of "Meet The Press" heads for that newsdesk in the sky. Since we don't get NBC here, I only knew him by news clips on CNN and an interview on the same network on behalf of his book about his father a few years ago. Wolf devoted the entire hour of "The Situation Room" to him, and the way the other networks are covering the death, it almost sounds as if he were the second coming of Walter Cronkite. And TVNewser had two pages on the announcement; never saw that on the site before. Still, it's tragic to see a guy leave so young and just on the eve of Father's Day, too, when he had a son and a father.

Then, just as I was about to leave home, I saw my calendar weaving from side to side like a punch-drunk fighter, and then I felt a bit of vertigo. I first thought it was a breeze, then I realized it was an earthquake. There has been a M7.0 up in the Tohoku area...pretty strong one. Everyone in Tokyo got a whiff of it. If I could be TVNewser for a sec, NHK was right on top of it, including the prerequisite shots of the local newsrooms when the quake hit but it took another 5-10 minutes for the commercial channels to get on the ball. I guess they just couldn't leave their visits to the trendiest restaurants to cover a potential disaster in the making. We're pretty jaded about quakes here.

Speedy called me up last night after I'd gotten home from the juku just to say that I had to activate BC's computer to get access to the listening files in the textbook for Slim's lesson. He sounded a bit less frenetic, but that was only because he was so exhausted. BC has given so indication that she would be coming in, and Speedy has just given up on her. He has far more patience than me when it comes to people's foibles, but I think even he has reached his breaking point.
Friday June 13, 9:20 p.m.

I can hear the taiko drums out there for the festival, so I guess things are still going strong. Hmmm...I wonder if I'll need an alternate route home.

The juku boss came in all a-panting. She was decked out in her festival gear having lifted her share of mikoshi, and just as quickly, she went out. Mild Jr. came in. He'll also be in the festival lifting those portable shrines this weekend. He explained why The Urayasu Festival is quadrennial instead of annual. He said that it was for security...apparently, in years past, the festival had its share of violence via battling mikoshi of competing shrines which brought the wrath of the police. Mild Jr. also (half-)jokingly remarked that the mikoshi crews then battled the police. In any case, the powers-that-be decreed that the festival would only take place at an Olympic pace.

Tomorrow is the debut of the newest and probably last subway to be built in Tokyo, the Fukutoshin Line. I would love to check it out but it'll probably be filled to the brim by subway otaku.
Friday June 13, 6:54 p.m.

I recall an episode from Classic Trek, "The Return of the Archons", in which for about 12 hours, the residents of a planet go into a mad frenzy daily, screaming "Festival! Festival!" Well, things aren't as orgiastic here but The Urayasu Festival has started. As I was walking down Miyamae Avenue, all those lanterns that had been put up a few weeks finally looked appropriately positioned as crowds of locals were walking up and down the street, stopping by the stalls for franks-on-sticks, yakisoba, choco-bananas, and the like. Several older guys were dressed in their happi coats, headbands and tabi directing traffic, and a group of younger guys were practicing on their chants as they lifted their mikoshi. Of course, it wouldn't be a festival without a bit of Harajuku youth...there were small gaggles of boys and girls dressed slovenly with dyed hair schlumping along. I also did notice an interesting fashion thing as I was getting off at Urayasu Station. A few young girls...or I should say, gyaru...were dressed in happi coats and shorts but with yukata-like print designs. A new phenomenon in place? Pretty happy overall considering it's Friday The 13th.

But another festival...a weekly one, compared to the quadrennial one truly feeling the wrath of Friday the 13th. The Public Security Agency put the kibbosh on the pedestrians' paradise of Akihabara until further notice...plainly because of the events of last Sunday, although the authorities had already been concerned about some of the other things that had been going on such as adult video actresses showing their wares, so to speak, in the hokoten, before the police swooped down. Still, a madman was able to accomplish what a politician had been hoping for. It's a pity...the hokoten was one of the events that put Akihabara on the map. The Maids will still be about on the sidewalks and perhaps in front of JR Akihabara handing out their flyers, but there will be no more dancing anime characters, no more otherwise innocent otaku walking about, and no more people just enjoying a Sunday afternoon in one of the most unique urban developments in the world.

I'm here by myself right now. I used my own key to the house to get into the juku. I guess the boss and her husband must be out in the festival right now. I've only got Mild Jr. tonight. Gotta ask him about the directions to his family's house on Sunday.

It was a nice day today...I actually felt good about walking outside. I headed out to Daiei and used up the remaining gift certificates on clothing and various household items, before noshing on a Wendy's meal. It'll probably be my last one for a good long while. I got my City Tax premium schedule last night. All I can say is OUCH! However, Speedy is majorly singing the blues. He called me to say that The Manhattanite is coming in at 1 tomorrow. I could tell that the bossman wasn't in a good mood. Most people get grouchy and their volume soars. As for Speedy, what he lacks in volume, he more than makes up for in speed of delivery. Yep, he was jabbering a mile a minute on the phone since it was just him in the office today being a one-man administration since BC has basically become hikikomori. I think it might be safe to say that BC may no longer be showing up at the office anymore. In any case, tomorrow, like I am right now in the juku, I'll be a solo in Speedy's school when I teach Slim and The Manhattanite.

The Satyr has confirmed his reservations for DVD Night, so it'll be back to a threesome tomorrow.

I can't quite figure it out, though. I gave that apology to The Carolinan last night for my fishy breath since she kinda made a sly back-and-forth about what I'd eaten. I got a reply from her saying that she doesn't what I'm talking about. I really hate these alternate universe shifts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday June 12, 9:46 p.m.

Looks like there has been some further movement in my schedule. Slim has booked in his next three of which will be falling on Saturday morning. Well, c'est dommage, but again he's a good student so I don't mind, and I can still meet MB and The Satyr for DVD night a bit earlier than scheduled. That is, if their significant others can let the leash go for a few hours.

But now I've just heard that BC managed to leave one of her annoyingly cryptic notes in the schedule that The Manhattanite did indeed book a lesson for Saturday afternoon, so apparently barring a call from the girl, she's on after Slim. Man, if it weren't for the fact that BC was so on the edge right now...

The juku boss also left a message saying that The Ace won't be coming in after all tomorrow night (I thought that Jolly was the go-to guy for cancellations), so it'll just be Mild Jr. I'll have to speak to him about the directions to his house for the Urayasu Festival on Sunday. I think Mr. Mild steered me wrong about the bus directions.

Looks like I'll be keeping it close to home tomorrow, get some added sleep, get some socks and undershirts with the last of the certificates. Just trying to decompress right now...

I did send my written apologies to The Carolinan for pelting her with fish breath tonight. She may have been joking but it's never bad to be humble.
Thursday June 12, 7:55 p.m.

After the Yogist's lesson, I headed off to Kinokuniya in Shinjuku. The cats and dogs of this morning finally lifted, and I could get there without needing to open up the brolley. Noticed that Krispy Kreme #1 only had a 40-minute wait and it wasn't a bad day at that point, so I guess the trend has finally peaked. Mrs. Mild did point out that Krispy Kreme #2 only demanded a 20-minute wait from her until she got her two dozen donuts.

I picked up Movie Buddy's belated b-day present there using some of the remaining gift certificates. I tried to find something Bondian but the books there were of the expensive coffee-table variety. Instead, I got this new retrospective on Indiana Jones which got pretty high marks from the reviewer in EMPIRE Magazine.

I walked all over Shinjuku looking for some place for a late lunch or early dinner. Ended up going to SUBWAY for the first time in several months. I had stopped going when I saw them starting to actually charging for cheese in their subs. However, I had to relent and ended up having a full tuna sub. My choice would have ramifications later on.

When I headed for the subway, I did notice the newest skyscraper to hit the Shinjuku skies, west of the station. I don't know what it's called but it looks like that gherkin building in London, except it has some angles carved out of if some mad rabbi circumcized the hell out of it. Any more of these buildings and we may get that Blade Runner skyscape after all. I also found that Burger King #1 in the basement plaza of Shinjuku I-Land. Not too many people there despite the fact that when it had opened over a year ago, there was a lineup to rival that of Krispy Kreme #1.

I got back to Speedy's just in time to see The Carolinan waiting at the station. As we were walking back to the school, we started talking about our mutual friend, BC. She had also noticed that BC wasn't too happy the other night when we all went out for dinner at the nearby cafe. We continued the talk into the first few minutes of the lesson. I then told her about her emotional breakdown a couple of weeks ago and how worried I and the bossman were about her fragile state. She related that another friend of theirs said that BC had declined her invitation to a concert of hers due to ill health. We can only hope that she can snap out of her funk soon.

One thing about The Carolinan, one of my longest-standing students. She knows me well enough that she can take a few potshots at me but she does it very indirectly. Apparently, my tuna sub breath traveled a little too far than desired...she just asked me innocently what I'd had for dinner. When I replied "SUBWAY", she then asked me which sandwich I'd had. When I replied tuna, she gave this "A-Ha!" look. I can take a hint...I'll duly brush after a tuna and onion sandwich or I'll just eschew it altogether.

Anyways, Slim ought to be here in about 15 minutes...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thursday June 12, 11:49 a.m.

Just finished with Grandma Dynamite. Found out that she's also a huge Mariko Takahashi fan along with Mrs. Mild (would just love to have those two together).

As expected, BC's bailed out again today. Now, she just can't (or won't) move out of bed...which brings up red flags. I think she's clinically depressed. Speedy may just want to get that want ad out now for new assistants. I may have a word with The Carolinan tonight.

I read...or tried to read...the Wiki entry on "Pink Lady and Jeff"...yes, it's been a pretty boring day. For those who are younger than 30 years of age, this example of Japanese & American cultural relations gone rancid was an NBC TV show whose producers inexplicably decided to have the legendary (at least in Japan) 70s pop idol duo, Pink Lady, co-host in the loosest sense of the word with comedian Jeff Altman a variety show. Of course, being part of an ethnic Japanese family in Canada, my parents made my brother and me watch the visual car crash. "Shogun" was also considered compulsory viewing when it came on a few years later....along with "Mr. T and Tina" (but that's another story). The two things I remember about "Pink Lady and Jeff" were their performances and the memory-cringing running gag of the two girls stripping off to bikinis and sharing a hot tub with Jeff (can you say bathing suits on washboards?) at the end of the show. The fact that it was one of the worst TV shows ever vomited onto the screen has been well known; what I didn't know was that it apparently was the final nail in the coffin for primetime variety shows. I gather that "The Brady Bunch Variety Show" didn't quite do it. Ironically, The Not-Ready-For-Primetime-Players were wowing them on a late night variety show called "Saturday Night Live" on the same network at about the same time. Thirty years later, though, there has been a happier coda of sorts with Puffy Amiyumi living their American life via The Cartoon Network. Still, I think AKB 48 needn't think about packing their bags quite yet.
Thursday June 12, 8:29 a.m.

It's raining a menagerie out there. Pretty miserable but I bet a month from now we'll all be begging for precipitation. I know that The Yogist just loves this type of weather. She could be absolutely manic today.

The only big question today is whether BC will come in or call in sick once again. In either case, she'll probably be hugely depressed.
Wednesday June 11, 10:44 p.m.

And thus another Hump Day comes to an end. 001 has been enjoying her weekly shots of "Heroes". I even showed her the final scenes of the season finale via YouTube during the break. The Diver passed again with flying colours. The angst remains though she is improving...really. And Medicine Man was his level-headed best though it's obvious he doesn't have much of a social life. He'll be headed off to a conference in Malaysia next week so he won't be around then.

It'll be another long day here tomorrow as well, since I now have Grandma Dynamite permanently on the schedule followed by The Yogist. And it looks like I may have The Carolinan sewn up as, at least, a frequent visitor to Speedy's which will keep both our nerves calm. Slim will be batting cleanup.
Wednesday June 11, 5:33 p.m.

Summer at Speedy's is just around the corner, y'know, when it's time to put in the air conditioner. The two of us installed it into the classroom window. The bossman also informed me that Grandma Dynamite is a lock for Thursday mornings. So, another early morning into the neighbourhood tomorrow.

Met The New Yorker down at Ichigaya, our old stomping grounds. Somehow I've gotta get her coming here to the school more often. Never easy teaching at a cafe in the middle of the afternoon. She'll be heading to Okinawa this weekend for a short vacation.

It'll be the usual Hump Day lineup: 001, The Diver and then Medicine Man. The Diver should have done her test...I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it is a clean pass. She may have a major heart attack if she doesn't.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wednesday June 11, 11:59 a.m.

Crisis averted...The Nurse didn't get a perfect score on the Make-Up but she aced it anyways. The rest of the lesson went smoothingly. I did tell her that I had used some of her black rice supplement in my white rice on Sunday. Luckily, instead of getting a gray mix of carbs, I got a rather brilliant purple.

BC has called in sick. Speedy told me that she had to leave early yesterday as well due to...something. And here I was blogging last night about my concerns about her. I told him about her crying breakdown a couple of weeks ago while he was away. He figured that something like that would happen. I gather then that lessons with her are probably now off the table.

With all that has happened in the past few days, a feat such as Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Kosuke Kitajima smashing the world record on Sunday managed to barely make the news radar. Well, it did help that he did it while wearing that new miracle Speedo swimwear. That little controversy kept him and the rest of the Japanese team in the news. The problem was that though Speedo was helping all of these international swimmers break records, Team Japan could only use swimsuits manufactured by the sponsors Asics, Mizuno and one other company. Well, the impasse was resolved yesterday when a press conference announced that the swimmers themselves could choose the suit that would, in their estimation, be the most useful in getting that Gold. So, Speedo is now very welcome. However, Mr. Kitajima in his usual shoot-from-the-hip style said that the press shouldn't stress the suit as much as the person in it.

The Coffeemaker got back to me concerning Sunday. Yep, she's cool with the re-schedule. I'll see them on the 21st instead.
Wednesday June 11, 9:05 a.m.

Jolly did show up last night. Still had a slight fever but he was much more on the ball. In fact, he was definitely on the golf ball on Saturday...less than 24 hours after he appeared like Death Warmed Over to the juku boss and me. He had the best score out of his 17 workmates on the course. However, the other big news last night was me being drafted into the quadrennial Urayasu Festival this weekend by The Milds. I'm to help carry a mikoshi...those huge portable temples that everyone sees as part of traditional Japanese culture on TV all around the world. Unfortunately, by the time I'd accepted and gone home, I realized that I was supposed to have Tully & The Coffeemaker on that same day. Well, instead of breaking the bad news to The Milds, I decided to ask The Coffeemaker if she would consider re-scheduling...not the most appropriate thing to do but I figured that I see the pair once or twice a month. The Urayasu Festival is once every four years. And the pair has asked me to re-schedule on occasion, so I think I can sacrifice some professionalism for an opportunity...although my shoulder may not agree later on Sunday night. It was strange, though....I'm usually pretty good when it comes to checking my schedule before committing to something. But when The Milds invited me, I just jumped at it...and I'm not really a festivalgoer. Maybe some sort of kismet is on its way. Also, the festival appearance will mean an early start to MB and me after DVD night. I invited Movie Buddy to the festival, but he declined saying that he wasn't much for them either. Instead, he'll be heading over to Akihabara. I'll feel a little bad again about having to curtail our usual Morning After breakfast, but then again he would've had to do it anyway since I did have the lesson with Tully & The Coffeemaker.

Seguing into Akihabara, the media is still on The Akihabara Massacre. Allegedly, Tomohiro Kato has broken down into tears but has remained steadfastly unapologetic about his actions on Sunday. I guess that would be no surprise since he was (and maybe still is) a man filled with psychotic rage. There was a near-psychotic media scrum when he was taken out of Manseibashi Police Station. Despite his defiant stance, he did have his head bowed down in seeming penance. But there have been some interesting observations concerning the crime. One was that Kato's parents took the unprecedented step of holding a news conference outside their home and apologizing for their son's heinous deeds. Although their faces were kept away from the camera lens, the cameras and microphones were keyed on them as the mother collapsed in miserable prostration. Whenever any of these sorts of crimes have played out, the parents of the perpetrator have never been shown or at most, perhaps, the media only gets a secondhand account from them via the police.
The second thing was that on YouTube, I saw a remarkable video with a Maid speaking in fairly fluent English acting as reporter-on-the-spot just minutes after the attacks had begun.

I also read an editorial in today's "International Herald Tribune" which was gleaned from the Japanese affiliate, "Asahi Shimbun" which kinda grated on me. I'm not sure if the translation lost something or if the contributor hadn't meant to do it, but the tone of his or her description of Kato seems to treat him as if he were some petulant girl acting out for not being allowed to go out with her friends. Terms like "self-centred" and "selfish" were bandied about, and true, Mr. Kato does have those traits but those adjectives seem rather pale compared to the horror of what he actually committed. The man is a sociopath...he's no longer human.
Tuesday June 10, 7:29 p.m.

It's certainly been the most leisurely wait before a lesson that I've ever had at the juku in recent memory...and I am approaching the 4th anniversary of my time here. Certainly, when your first (and possibly only) students happen to be The Milds, the nicest couple of married English students you can ever get, well, you won't have to fret too much about what to do for the lesson. Plus, The Milds are the students that have been with me since their nearly mute beginnings. In the past 3 hours, I've managed to have my dinner and read through the latest issue of EMPIRE Magazine. The juku boss, feeling bad that I've had to "waste" a lot of the late afternoon waiting since The Brazilian has suddenly opted out, gave me a Haagen-Dazs sandwich, thereby adding to my fat content...metabolic syndrome, be damned.

And at this point, we're still having cool comfy nights to contrast with the increasingly warmer days. That should change as we enter July, but for right now, I'm quite happy with the meteorology. Still haven't heard from Jolly...not sure if he'll be showing up or not, but usually if he is to cancel, he usually does so around this time.

BC has continued to remain an enigma. Since her emotional breakdown in front of me a couple of weeks ago due to the shenanigans of her dastardly boyfriend, she's been having her mood swings...kinda like my ex....she's definitely not been a morning person....everytime I've come to Speedy's in the a.m. she's come off sounding as haunted as the character in Munch's "The Scream". However, she does warm up in the afternoon. Still, I'm not sure about what she really wants to do even though she has been accepted to school in British Columbia. She has yet to answer me about what she plans to do about any remaining lessons with me, although she really doesn't need me anymore in that capacity since she works alongside me, speaking English without needing to pay me. Well, we'll see what she's like tomorrow.
Tuesday June 10, 4:27 p.m.

Well, it looks like The Brazilian won't be showing up after all. I was greeted loudly in English by the juku boss as I was walking toward her house a full 20 m away. The lady who was walking on the other side of the street must've been wondering what that was all about. In any case, The Brazilian is apparently laden down with work and it looks like that she probably won't be attending either of our lessons for the rest of this month. She basically has the same job as 002...a health care worker for the elderly. But she appears to be working with a rougher breed of geriatric. When she came in for her grammar lesson with the boss, the boss noticed a huge hole...yep, that's right, a her right arm. The Brazilian remarked that one of the inmates...ah, I should say patients...chomped down on her hard. I guess having that second childhood means becoming like Baby Face Finster. The boss also noted that The Brazilian was just having a hell of a time getting through the most basic of grammar concepts. In a way, then, I'm happy that The Brazilian has opted out for the meantime. I can only imagine how she would've fared with me.

So, it'll just be The Milds and maybe...just maybe...Jolly tonight. Man, talk about what a difference a week makes. I was being swamped with work last week and now it looks like I'm on O-Bon holiday.

002 was her dependable self. We got onto talking about her futon which were sunning themselves nicely out on the balcony. I told her about a news report that I'd seen a few years ago about the need to replace pillows and perhaps futon rather regularly since they quickly become the new home for millions and millions of ticks and mites. That got her attention very quickly and also turned her off for a few minutes. To think, that the population of an entire solar system could be crawling around you all night as you sleep...well, maybe you won't after reading this. For the record, the experts suggest putting the pillow in a plastic bag and then stuffing it in a freezer for a few hours will halt the progress of the critters. And in the summer, I'm sure they will feel mighty refreshing once you hit the hay.

Yup, it's definitely summer out there. My wash must be bone-dry by now. However, I hear that the Rainy Season will be rearing its ugly head once more from tomorrow.

Well, the big battle over the legendary "Hockey Night in Canada" theme is over...for now. CBC couldn't put up the money so CTV snapped it up in a New York minute instead. Dolores Claeman, the original composer, was just so happy in her home in London (not a hockey fan probably), while CBC was commiserating that it couldn't hope to raise up the funds that its rival did. I guess CBC kinda feels what John McCain must be going through looking at the Obama machine. In any case, CBC is putting its chin forward and starting a contest welcoming new song candidates for HNIC with a prize of $100,000 (I think). Meanwhile, I'm wondering what CTV needs this song for...perhaps it has some ideas for a hockey program of its own. There are fans of the original song out there who are clamouring for some sort of protest to get back "The Hockey Song" to the Ceeb where it belongs, but it'll just be like those Trekkies who shouted to renew "Enterprise" after it had been axed. They'll yell and scream for a few months and then life will just go on.

Permit me to wax nostalgic on Canada's 2nd national anthem. When Saturday night was truly Hockey Night in Canada, that theme was the clarion call. But hearing the longer Mancini-esque version at the end always struck me as the signal to hit the hay for Sunday...that is, until I discovered "Saturday Night Live". Now since I've come here, "Hockey Night in Canada" has expanded to regular doubleheaders with all sorts of little programs here and there, and there's now an annual Hockey Day in Canada. Geez, you leave a country for a decade....

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tuesday June 10, 10:02 a.m.

Well, we're still officially 11 days away, but I'd say today rates as a nice summer day, unlike the Noah's Ark-type of weather we had last night. I will be needing the menthol wipes by afternoon.

The analysis of Mr. Kato, the instigator of The Akihabara Massacre continues. The police and the media have painted a picture of a man of massive insecurities possessing an otaku-like exterior covering a volcanic temper. He's also a product of a broken home. His parents separated due to sarakin problems. There is a photo of him in survival game gear, as well as a cartoon drawn of him by his old classmates depicting him blowing up in rage.

Skippy informed me that although she was in Shinjuku at the time, an acquaintance of hers had been in Akiba at a time just after the attack; he'd thought it was some sort of popular performance and just avoided the massive crowds. MB just replied that he would see for DVD night on Saturday. He's not really the type to address anything that doesn't directly involve him. The Anime King also contacted me partly about the incident.
Monday June 9, 9:56 p.m.

Trivia of the Day: Alexander Siddig, ex-Dr. Bashir of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine", just happens to be the nephew of Malcolm McDowell ("Clockwork Orange", "Heroes", and he was Dr. Soran from "Star Trek: Generations"). Plus, he married (and divorced) fellow DS9'er Nana Visitor, and had a fling with Kim Cattrall, best known from "Sex and the City", but for Trekkies, known as Lt. Valeris, the treacherous Vulcan from "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country". Talk about your Trek royalty!

In any case, to continue with the Akihabara Massacre, apparently the AKB 48 girl group had been performing in one of the buildings on Chuo Dori during the attack. They didn't know a thing until their worried parents started sending frantic messages on their cells. I actually sent out a general message to Movie Buddy, The Satyr and Skippy to check about their whereabouts yesterday. So far, The Satyr checked in to say that he was home all day then. I did get some message of concern from The Wild Thing in Hong Kong on Facebook. I reassured him.

Finished up with Slim just now. Man, the classroom was a sauna, as it usually is as we head into summer. The major rain and thunder have subsided thankfully. Hopefully the sun will show up tomorrow as promised. At one point, even hail was forecast. In 14 years here, I have never seen so much as a frozen snowball come down in this country.
Monday June 9, 6:42 p.m.

With all of the previous day's events, I did forget to mention that one of America's sports broadcasting legends had passed by over the weekend, so I wanted to pay a little tribute. ABC's Jim McKay passed on. I hadn't heard from him in years but on the news about his death, his voice and "The Wide World of Sports" theme began to percolate through my misty memories once more...especially his opening words during the theme: "....the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat..."

And then there is another sports legend which may be passing. But this one isn't a person, it's a theme song of its own. It happens to be the theme song for "Hockey Night in Canada"; I'd read over the past few days that the composer of the tune and CBC have had a falling out of sorts concerning the tune that's known to just about every Canadian born in the last half-century. I hope that there can be some happy ending to this little spat. I mean, I have only seen a HNIC broadcast barely a few times over the last 15 years since I've been here, but the theme song and the show are national institutions for Gretzky's sake. Heck, my cousin had an album with the original HNIC logo on it. It just wouldn't be a Saturday night without the brass playing that theme song (and it wasn't a few years ago during that stupid NHL strike). Man, just feel like going to YouTube right now and hearing for old time's sake. I'd say bring in Don "Grapes" Cherry into the negotiations. He'd kick some ass! Maybe bring in Blue as well (although I know the mastiff is probably long gone by now...tells you how long I've been here).
Monday June 9, 6:02 p.m.

The carnage in Akihabara yesterday will probably be holding the media in its thrall for this week. And probably will be cast off like snakeskin next week. It's one of the criticisms I have for the somewhat tabloid nature of the press here. The cameras will probe every little nook and cranny in Mr. Kato's life for the next five days...probably places that they don't really have to look. And then, it'll be off to the next lurid story. Does anyone remember last week's big story of the guy who had killed his neighbour in Tokyo, chopped her up like onions and then flushed the chunks down his toilet? And what of the recent, epidemic...of suicides in various hotels involving hydrogen sulfide? And then there are the two folks responsible for their run-by-stabbing sprees earlier this year. Has there been any follow-up about why they did what they did? I would like to know.

As I said in my last entry, it's a strangely light day today in terms of work. I only had SIL earlier today and then I have Slim for an evening lesson. Of course, SIL and I discussed the Akiba incident before going over an article on a story that now seems to pale considering the local circumstances....Obama's final clinching of the Democratic nomination. Things will probably be the same tomorrow. The Beehive is off. I start with 002 with my weekly house call and then I've got my first official lesson with The Brazilian...that young firecracker student that had been thrust upon me last week. Then, it's The Milds followed by....maybe...Jolly, providing he didn't end up in a hospital after his ghost-like appearance on Friday.

I was able to get some errands done. I sent off a package to my brother back home consisting of a couple of boxes of rice crackers and a copy of Samuel Jackson's anime, "Afro Samurai". I don't know if it'll be to his liking but it was the only English-language DVD I could find of the genre. Then, I had my haircut. Not surprisingly, the barber banter consisted guessed it, Akihabara.
Monday June 9, 5:11 p.m.

Y'know...yesterday was a pleasant day. I went to Jimbocho, the bookstore area in Tokyo, to get a bit of exercise and browse. The area was appropriately quiet and the streets surprisingly empty of traffic. At that time of 3:00 p.m., I would still be unaware for another 4 hours that at about the noon hour, carnage had exploded in Akihabara. At that time, I was watching the weekly I-Go tournament on NHK-3 where I'd thought the surprise of the day was (the man playing White ended up resigning a full half-hour before the end of the program).

I turned on the NHK 7 o'clock news last night while the rice was cooking. I got that Whoa! moment when I saw the scene on Chuo Street, the main drag going through Akihabara. It was incredible....I saw bodies laying on the open street where there would be the usual hokoten activities of dancing girls in various anime costumes, the otaku snapping photos on their cells, and maids handing out flyers for their cafes. Instead, hundreds of people were being held back by police officers while passersby were helping those who had been stabbed by a madman wielding a truck and a survival knife as weapons of mass destruction. I saw one fellow being given heart vain, as it turned out. At the end, 7 people were dead while 12 people were treated for wounds. And then there was the money shot of the psycho being arrested, his face spattered with blood.

His name is Kato and he dropped the knife as soon as the lone officer pointed his gun and warned that he would shoot....a remarkable thing to say in a country where even a shot would make news. Mr. Kato did drop the gun and then slumped to the ground beside a building. The one thing I noticed was that he was the oldest 25-year-old I'd ever seen. This man had driven a rental truck all the way from his apartment in Shizuoka Prefecture, hours of driving, to, by his own admission, kill people. Akihabara was the area he knew and frequented; he knew that the world-famous area would be filled with shoppers looking about for the latest and the best in electronics and anime and manga. He drove his truck and ran down three people without decelerating before he did make a stop on a street I know...the one with a McDonalds and going under the underpass between JR Akihabara and the new UDX Building. There was a huge impact crack on the front windshield. Then, he set about on his rampage...he stabbed deep into several people, 7 of them fatally. I saw large pools of blood in the various cellphone photos that were sent into NHK and the other stations. Considering the hell that he wrought, from the first person that he ran over to his final acquiescence in front of the cop's gun took a mere 5 minutes.

CNN and BBC even led their hourly broadcasts with this story. The angle was that this was a horrific event in a country of very little violent crime. How uninformed they are. The CNN newscaster interviewed a Temple University professor about the whys and wherefors for this crime. At one point, he rambled on about a possible Yakuza connection for which I laughed sardonically and then he made a snide swipe at how the local commercial networks preferred to just show their variety programs and golf shows instead of going live. Well, NHK and Fuji-TV devoted their nighttime broadcasts to the massacre that night. And that professor can be a bit relieved that all of the stations led off with the story in their morning wide shows.

Yesterday's tragedy was merely the third run-by-stabbing spree this year in the Kanto area, following a similar incident involving a deranged teenager in Shinagawa in January, and then another one a few months later in Tsuchiura, a small city in neighbouring Ibaraki Prefecture. The carnage took place on the same day that several years earlier, the notorious Mamoru Takuma set about killing elementary school children in Sakai City near Osaka. Between then and now, there have been a number of similar senseless attacks ranging from knifing sprees to individual stabbings on schoolchildren by men dressed in black on bicycles. There have even been a couple of subway pushings by crazed men this year. And last year, I remember the shooting spree by a gun-toting nut in a gym in Western Japan around Xmas. The point is that Japan may be safer than most other developed nations but it is not a totally safe nation. Heinous crimes do occur regularly and they seem to be committed by very sick folks who are in desperate need of mental health counseling. It's been known for some time now that Japan has a serious dearth of specialists in that area. And my biggest fear is that these incidents have spawned some deadly ideas in some death-fixated people. Who was Mr. Kato inspired by and who has he inspired next? Akihabara isn't the only commercial and entertainment area in Tokyo. We have Shibuya, Ginza, Shinjuku and Odaiba by Tokyo Bay. Half of these areas also have hokoten...streets that are closed from vehicular traffic for the afternoon so citizens can stroll leisurely. Will the existence of these pedestrian paradises now be in danger because of yesterday's incident?

The Class Act was away today so I had lunch at Oazo in Otemachi. But I did go up to Akiba. It was perhaps kismet that it had started raining when I arrived at Suehirocho on The Ginza Line. Suehirocho is at the northern edge of Akihabara. However, when I started walking into Electric Town, I was struck by how normal things were, despite the fact that less than 24 hours earlier there was a massacre taking place. In a way, I guess, it's a good thing that things could revert least on the surface. Even when I had been watching the news last night and NHK was going live to Akihabara, Chuo Dori seemed the same as usual. Holding the umbrella and carrying my bag, I made my way to the corner which had been designated as the place to lay down lilies, bottles of soft drinks and other symbols of tribute to those who had died. There was a large canvas roof set up with a table underneath to hold the symbols while several news crews gathered to take in the sight. But other than that (plus a gaggle of reporters surrounding a more-than-happy fellow gabbing about the incident), the street where the damaged truck had been parked was normal as was the rest of Chuo Dori.

The last thing I'd like to touch upon is what Mr. Kato had said in explanation of his rampage. He said that he was tired of the world and that he wanted to kill anyone. This has become a chilling mantra...almost a verbal calling card for all those who have come before him and, unfortunately, those who will probably come after him. How many other Japanese are there out there who have become tired of the world?