Friday, August 07, 2009

Saturday August 8, 3:37 p.m.

Finished my Saturday rounds with The Intellectual, The Publicity Assistant and Mr. TOEIC. With the first two, I did broach the topic of NorikoGate with them. The PA, who is kinda sorta in the know about these sorts of things, started weaving a story of intrigue about the background of Ms. Sakai. It was all kinda hard to believe considering Noriko's public persona but I'm waiting to see if any of her claims can be verified. The PA's kinda hoping that there will be an O.J. Simpson-like car chase, although the thought of a former aidoru trying to race down the opposite lanes of the Kan-Etsu like in the final scenes of "Ronin" are rather hard to imagine.

Feeling pretty beat so I'll make my way home in about 20 minutes before the rains start coming down on my laundry.

Saturday August 8, 10:27 a.m.
That was my initial reaction yesterday afternoon, after having returned from my lesson with The Bass, and catching the news on what used to be known as Noriko Watch Day 4 and what is now known as NorikoGate.
At about 11 a.m., the police announced that former aidoru-turned-actress Noriko "Nori-P" Sakai was no longer just a missing person but was now a suspect in the case involving her separated husband, Yuichi Takaso, who'd been nabbed on Sunday in Shibuya (where else?) for drug possession. Apparently Nori-P has been into the stuff as well, and police found paraphernalia in her condo in Minami-Aoyama. As the local media has been saying ad nauseum from yesterday, the poor wife has now become the target. And the newspapers haven't been shy in their headlines. I've seen tabloids like Tokyo Sports screaming "Nori-P! Fugitive!" I can just hear the theme song from the David Janssen show right now.
Pretty much every station, even NHK, has used the trials and tribulations of Noriko Sakai to lead off their news. As I was channel-switching at one point yesterday afternoon and early evening, just about everywhere I tuned in to had the image of the pretty young woman sashaying girlishly while the pundits were talking about drug abuse and escape from justice. As the media would put it, this story has the legs of a marathon runner. Sakai is obviously not the first J-celeb to have been caught smoking the weed, but the fact that she has cultivated an image of a squeaky clean and cute performer for over 20 years, only to be found that she's not only on the stuff but on the lam has gotten everyone in this country talking. And beyond, too. Sakai is also popular in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. As a typhoon was pummelling into Taiwan, the newscaster was breathlessly talking about NorikoGate. It'll definitely be a stop-the-presses moment if and when she's caught.
Could be quite the topic for discussion with the students today.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Thursday August 6, 5:14 p.m.

Very much an anti-Hump Day today since I've only got Music Man in the last slot tonight. Woke up late at 9 a.m. (and for me on a weekday, that is very late) and just lounged about. However, I did see half of "Basic Instinct"; strangely enough, I'd never seen Sharon Stone's magnum opus before. Paul Verhoeven certainly pulls in the violence of "Total Recall" and the sex from "Showgirls" into this one with tons of profanity.

Spent the interlude between 001 and The Fashion Designer last night to research and then finally book the hotel for Yokohama. I cruised through the Rakuten site and found the Yokohama Sakuragicho Washington Hotel for an inexpensive 8,000 yen. Compared to the last place in Yokohama I'd stayed at a few years ago, the Pan Pacific, the cost is just a fraction and the amenities are pretty slim (the Washington chain is basically a business hotel), but then again I'm close to all points that I would like to see again, such as Chinatown and Minato Mirai 21, and I don't really need all those frills. The reviews by foreign guests have been pretty praiseworthy of it: simple, clean and convenient....and with a decent breakfast buffet. All I need.

The Fashion Designer has signed up for another 4 lessons...for the past year she's been with us, she's always bought her lessons at 4 per. As Speedy would say, not the most economically sensible payment plan for someone who's been studying for several months. However, she did manage to intimate through her oft-garbled speech (she was especially sleepy last night) that this would be the last batch she does before she decides to finish with us. So, probably another student biting the dust in another month. However, as for me, the bossman has said that some of the students of that departing teacher may be put into my field.

Well, NHK was on the case on the very first trial done with lay judges. Looks like the verdict came in at 2:30, and the defendant got 15 years for murder.

Noriko Sakai and her son are still missing. Apparently, a cellphone signal had been picked up in Yamanashi Prefecture before the phone was turned off. In a somewhat ominous tone that the tabloids here haven't failed to notice is that the prefecture is also home to a group of woods infamous as an ideal haven for suicides.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wednesday August 5, 4:55 p.m.

The photo on the left was taken in the plaza bracketed by JR Yurakucho Station and the new Itocia Mall. If you look at the centre of the picture, you may see some woman with a microphone trying to ask a gaggle of women a question. Yep, even in this country, there are always reporters trying to get some sort of opinion from the hoi polloi. However, unlike in the States or Canada, where such reporters risk being berated or worse by the approached, a lot of the folks here will just suddenly walk away at an increased rate of speed or immediately hide their an ostrich's head-in-the-sand sort of way...and spurt off. The lady nearest the female journo apparently was trying to use her paper fan in that manner.

Apparently, the missing Noriko Sakai has been tracked down...or the wilds of Yamanashi Prefecture. Film at 11, no doubt...or if you're a TV Asahi 10.

Amidst all this entertainment-based hoopla concerning the fates of Noriko Sakai and Manabu Oshio, there actually has been coverage of the first trial held in Japan with laymen judges. Yes, since Monday, six regular citizens have been bracketing the three professional judges with a few more behind as reservists to hear a murder case. Well, it's definitely interesting....unlike the jurors in the American justice system, the lay judges can actually pose questions to witness and defendant alike.

Well, I've popped the question to the bossman about possibly getting the night off on Monday for Yokohama. Medicine Man has decided to have his next lesson on the 17th, and The Full-Timer will probably won't be available for a few weeks at least, and since the juku is on holidays next week, I thought I would take advantage of the lull. And according to the Rakuten website, there are still quite a few rooms amongst the hotels in Yokohama.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wednesday August 5, 12:44 p.m.
I've been getting a few compliments on this photo so I decided to post it up here as well. Kinda cheated on it by using the "sunset" option on my digital camera but taking some poetic license is never a bad thing. It's just a shot of the Cocoon and some other skyscrapers from in front of JR Shinjuku Station. I was heading back from The Bow's class when I saw the opportunity and took it. Maybe if I even sent it into METROPOLIS...
Looks like Slick Willie still has it...the former US President just flew into North Korea and got those journalists out of Kim Jong Il's labour camps faster than he could usher Monica Lewinsky out the back door of the White House. Supposedly this was done as a "private mission", but if anyone believed that, they would be eligible for all that wonderful land in the Everglades.
There may be an opportunity to get that one night in Yokohama sooner than expected. Next Tuesday, the juku is on O-Bon holidays and Medicine Man has decided to eschew his usual slot on Monday night, and with The Full-Timer burning the midnight oil at work, I may just have a very long weekend coming up. But I've gotta check my account. The Cornerette has said that the money is on the way, but...
Wednesday August 5, 10:11 a.m.

Well, even Noriko Sakai's family have said they don't know where she is. So now even I am a little worried.

Had a little trouble with the Internet for about several minutes.

Grandma Fado has come in with some more treats. This time, it's peaches.
Wednesday August 5, 8:16 a.m.

The somewhat different summer continues in The Big Sushi. Usually a Tokyo August day starts off with a lot of brilliant sun and me futilely plugging up the leaks in my pores with a drenched handkerchief. Not's been the seemingly 2009 default of gloomy sky and no such attempt to take out my square of cloth. It's not exactly cool out there but neither is it hot. Just enough warmth to let us know that...yes, it is officially summer.

Last night at the juku, the boss told me that The Hungarian could pass muster in his debut on Saturday, and in fact, the mother of the kid he'd taught was quite enamored with him...or I should say...his ability. However, the boss also reported that she got internally aghast when he proclaimed in front of both mother and boss that he would be happy to just teach for free if need be. Ahhh...the idealism of the 20s. I reassured the boss that that would give way slowly to the practicality, realism and bitter cynicism of the 30s and 40s. Kinda ironic since I'd always thought that the juku boss was more of that up-with-people type of personality. However, since the operation last year, she's become a bit more down-to-earth.

My Hump Day isn't nearly as bad as was originally scheduled. Got word from The Admin that she has to cancel today's lesson due to a business trip. So, instead of the 2-cafe day, it'll just be the 1 cafe with The New Yorker. I still drank down a Ripobitan D just in case. BTW, I also received word from The Full-Timer that she would like to have my lessons but it looks like her search for work was rewarded a bit too well....she told me that she's had to work until 10:30 at night since she started last week. Join the club...we have jackets.

Ahhhh....those poor Nori-P fans must be praying right now. After the news broke yesterday that her surfer dude husband got nailed for drug possession, it was then revealed that Noriko Sakai, the former aidoru-turned-actress, has now gone missing. Her tarento agency has been trying to contact her without success. I don't get the feeling that anything bad has happened to her; she's probably just gone to ground at her family's place or with friends so that she can absorb what's happened and then come up with a plan of action...such as rolling up that really thick newspaper to whack her spouse with.

I finally got word from The Cornerette that everything in the invoice is now OK and that The Corner will send over the money. So, that's one hurdle overcome. I'm still thinking about whether I will actually spend a night in Yokohama as a bit of a break this month. Still, seeing that things at Speedy's could be a bit lean not just for this month but for the foreseeable future, it may be more financially prudent to keep everything in the account. Still, there's a lot to be said about taking that overnight trip, and thanks to agencies such as Rakuten and Expedia, it's quite a bit cheaper to get a room even at some of the more expensive hotels.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tuesday August 4, 1:22 p.m.

Humid as usual but the temps are only up to 27 C today...about as usual as a blizzard in Tokyo in winter. Still, I've got that pervasive sheen of humidity all over my body as would be expected on a summer day here.

Just got some errands out of the way. Mailed off the birthday card and present to my brother. I sent him "The Otaku Encyclopedia". Not that he's a plaid shirt-wearing, bespectacled anime geek but he watches the stuff occasionally when he can get some time off...which is very occasionally. I also sent off a belated birthday wish and happy housewarming card to The Entrepreneur.

The big news here in Japan has been the arrest of a young handsome actor who I'd never heard of before, although he's been in the biz apparently for the past decade (tells you how miha I've been lately). Manabu Oshio was nabbed for drug possession; nothing too exciting about that since that sort of news pops up now and then. However, police found a discovery of a decomposing nude female body in the same apartment that they had nabbed Oshio. Now, that's Fatty Arbuckle territory. He's been married (probably soon to be not married) to former flavor-of-the-early-part-of-the-decade actress Akiko Yada who hasn't been seen all that much. I can only imagine what she's going through right now...."I was dumped for a rotting corpse?!"

Then, for all those old Nori-P fans....Noriko Sakai's surfer dude husband also got nailed for drugs. No corpse there, though.

Well, luckily, the only excitement I'll have (knock on wood) tonight is just my usual juku classes. I gotta find out from the boss how The Hungarian did last weekend.
Monday August 3, 8:45 p.m.

Just found out through conversation that our other nighttime teacher will be heading Stateside permanently next week. It's been quite like the TARDIS recently here at Speedy's and at the juku. That is, at the end of a season. People stay awhile and then they're gone off somewhere else. Bay herself will be heading over to the States in a few months once her visa comes through to join her husband. And then I'm sure Ray and La Fille will probably head off on their own tracks while Speedy, the juku boss and I stay to mind the store.

Monday August 3, 7:13 p.m.

Yup, I'm such a glutton for punishment. That's another pickled grasshopper ready to be devoured by yours truly. You can see what remains of its legs towards the upper right hand corner. Feel free to barf anytime! The package still remains quite full in my fridge. I still maintain that they're not difficult to eat but they just don't go with anything during dinner. I mean, have you ever tried eating the stuff with your favourite wine? Pretend to be that snooty French waiter..."Would Monsieur prefer to have his locust with Chateau Neuf De Pap or Beaujolais Nouveau?" I guess sake would be the closest thing since it seems to be sold as an o-tsumami (snack food). But the only sake I can afford or get easily is of the rotgut variety...i.e. One Cup Ozeki. Selling for about 150~200 yen from the vending machines, Japan's equivalent of Chez Thunderbird will either put hair on your chest or have it fall out altogether...and hit you with a massive hangover if you're not careful. And as a throwback to the 70s, instead of the screwcap of Chez Thunderbird, One Cup Ozeki has an old-fashioned pull tab cap...just so that you can have that extra feeling of pain in your hand to help dull the pain that you'll feel later on.

I've been reading those two books by the Ferguson Bros; I finished "How To Be A Canadian" last weekend which was co-written by the boys, and I'm on the one that came before, "Why I Hate Canadians" written by Will Ferguson. While the sequel definitely has that absurdist humour flair, Will's solo effort comes off as being more dryly-humoured. If I were to use a CNN feature analogy, "Why I Hate Canadians" is the Jeanne Moos feature before the boys' version of "The Daily Show" via "How To Be A Canadian". Interesting reading.

Bay just came in with the latest gimmicky product in soft drinks. It's shiso-flavoured Pepsi. Yep, that leaf which pops up in Japanese cuisine like a cameo appearance with that strangely minty scent and taste. In my 20-year-old English-language Japanese cookbook, shiso has been just as strangely translated as "beefsteak plant", I guess because the myriad lines on the leaves reminded the author of the various perforations on a typical piece of beef. Frankly, I could've just said "the back of my hand" as a better translation.

Monday August 3, 4:27 p.m.

Midsummer is here. It's warm and humid, and the cicadas are hissing on schedule. However, gosh darn it, it just doesn't feel like a typically fiery Tokyo summer. For one thing, although I still sweat up like a fountain, it's merely warm and humid, not hot and humid. For another, the nights are still quite pleasant to sleep in. And the rain has been coming every other day. Nope, definitely not the same ol' Tokyo summer.
Since I just have the one lesson tonight with Medicine Man (yep, my only lesson starts at 9:30 p.m.), I decided to give my feet a workout and went down to Ginza. I had to buy a couple of birthday cards for both my brother and The Entrepreneur at Ito-Ya. I had my first and last buffet lunch in a while at that Hong Kong place in Ginza INZS. Filled myself up nice and tight. The reason I decided to take the gastronomic plunge was that I'd gotten the annual warning from Ichikawa City Hall that my checkup would soon be arriving. Luckily, they recommended that I take it in the month of my birth and not in August...which means I have a chance of getting my weight down so that at least I could give some sort of semblance that I actually tried.

After I devoured my share of sho ron po and chow mein, I waddled out and made a first stop in the INZS branch of HMV. I guess for those guys, the Michael Jackson tribute is still continuing. "We Are The World" was playing on the speakers and video screens. Ray Charles still brings shivers up my spine but can you actually imagine having to listen to it all day if you were staff there? By the end of the shift, one would probably want to emigrate to Neptune.

Took a lot of photos of Ginza...very photogenic. The one above is from the Yurakucho and Marunouchi border. I thought it was one of the major hotels, but it was actually the HQ of The Tokyo-Mitsubishi MUFG Bank. I wonder how much of our accounts went into its construction.

It's gonna be a really lean week. As I said, I only have Medicine Man. The Full-Timer never got back to me about whether she would be showing up so I'm assuming that she won't and may never will again. However, just so that she doesn't completely disappear, I sent a missive asking for confirmation that that was indeed the fact. Of course, since The Beehive is off for the summer, I've got nothing until the evening juku classes tomorrow. Wednesday, however, is gonna be a real Hump Day since I've got no less than Miss Prissy, Grandma Enka, The Admin, The New Yorker, 001 and finally The Fashion Designer on tap. Then it's back to virtually nothing on Thursday with only The Music Man in the last slot, and finally Friday is gonna be just The Bass followed by the 90 minutes with the juku boss, The Ace and The Restauranteur. I was a bit surprised to see that there has been no e-mail from The Cornerette although an entire weekend has passed by. Still no money from that translation exercise. Considering that I've lost a number of students and that it'll be a low-paying month, any money I get from The Cornerette will have to go into savings. Too bad...I was hoping to spend at least a night in Yokohama.

Back on Friday, that big dinner party at The Restauranteur's place happened with the juku bunch. It basically wasn't really a celebration of my 5th year at the juku, and I'm glad that the onus wasn't on that. Instead, it was just a getting-to-know-you party. Before the dinner, I finally met The Hungarian, the newest hire by the juku boss. He's all of 25 and looks like he just got demobbed from the army with his short haircut. Pretty amiable guy and fluent in Japanese and has a major love for cats, so you can imagine he just loves Toonces the Juku Cat to death, despite being majorly bitten and clawed. I guess he's kinda into masochism then. Anyways, when the three of us got there, The Milds and Mr. White had already arrived. Strangely, the couple and Mr. White kept apart...but then again without formal introductions, they may have well as been at separate tables...'tis a Japanese thing. The Ace showed up some minutes later, and of course, The Restauranteur got busy with our group and two other parties. It was a mellow event...just what I wanted. The juku boss threatened to confuse it a bit with her usual scatterbrainedness, and she cheerfully pleaded with us to tell her straight about any nuttiness on her part. I just kept quiet...usually the confusion just manages to flow over us like a wave and then everything smooths out. I had told everyone beforehand that we would do this izakaya style....that is, everyone shares dishes. And after all was said and done, the price came out to just 1,600 per head...the same price I usually pay when I go there. The juku boss, The Hungarian and I had a brief cup of coffee over at the school before we all parted ways. The Hungarian was supposed to have had his first lessons on Saturday with some kids and an adult student who could only come on the weekends, so I'm hoping that he passed muster.

I had my first full weekend off in a few weeks. So, after finishing off with The Nurse and before the juku party, I'd stopped off, as I occasionally do, in Nakano to take a look for some old CDs. Nothing at Otokichi but I managed to scrounge up 5 CDs for a hundred yen per disc. I actually saw one of those discs at Yamano Music selling for 30 times more, so I'm glad that I could get the bargain. I did see a number of French nationals cruising through the dingy hallways...they're so big on anime. On Saturday, I went over to Akihabara. The maids were there...amazing how they could keep their composure in the heat. Had what has become the local food in Akiba...the doner kebab. Now, there's a corner on the main drag which has three trucks selling kebab. Had my usual Big Boy with can of pop.

On Sunday, since I didn't have The Jyuppies, I was at home all day. I actually caught that old movie, "Sphere" based on the Michael Crichton novel. I'd never seen it when it came out a decade ago, and I'm kinda glad I didn't. I think the advertising was wasn't a sci-fi adventure but just a haunted house mystery several fathoms below. A lot of plot holes there, too.

Well, with no Full-Timer and no word from The Cornerette, I really don't have all that much to do until Medicine Man comes in 4 hours. May just work on that project to save our company.