Thursday, August 13, 2009

Friday August 14, 12:21 p.m.

Pretty darn quiet. Only had The Nurse. She'd just come back from a bit of an O-Bon holiday in Ishikawa Prefecture with her mother. Ishikawa is a remote province on the other side, the Japan Sea side, of the country. I don't really know what happens out there, but the school did get a souvenir in the form of some soft rice cake covered in bean paste called ankoro. It is, despite the description, quite good.

This past week hasn't been quiet seismologically in Japan. There was the Shindo 4 on Sunday night, then the biggie on Tuesday morning which rocked me from my sleep in my Yokohama hotel room, and a couple of more last night. So talk of The Big One has come up once more in the media, although it still hasn't bested the darkening story of NorikoGate. But are we ready for either The Great Tokai Earthquake I or The Great Kanto Earthquake II? It would seem not. The Japan Times just wrote up an article that the government hasn't printed nearly enough evacuation maps for the citizens just in case The Big One does happen. I think frankly that the Japanese have a rather fatalistic view toward quakes....if it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. People talk about home earthquake kits (canned bread, bottled water, flashlights, etc) but how good would such things be when everyone is out at school or work? Plus, luxury apartments keep getting higher and higher on reclaimed land in Tsukiji and Odaiba when there are signs on the street openly warning that in a major quake, the land will liquefy. Those apartments will certainly get lower and lower in mere seconds. So, perhaps the government is taking a rather lackadaiscal attitude....but it seems to do that with a number of issues....except, of course, for its own election later this month.

I'll probably be headed home in the next half hour or so. There's a discount book sale in Takashimaya Times Square. I may head on over there, but still waiting for that translation income from The Cornerette, I'm not sure it'll be worth going over if I'm just gonna watch.
Friday August 14, 8:28 a.m.

It's one of those in-and-out transitions today. Both Speedy and I had left the office at 11 last night and I was back in by before 8. The steamy Tokyo nights are back as well....I was peeling off my clothes to take a well-needed shower. To try and get some decent sleep despite the heat and humidity, I followed some methods that I'd seen on that TBS info show, "Hanamaru Market" yesterday morning; the theme was on just to survive the night without sweating to death. I put my fan near my feet (I did take a shower so there wouldn't be any risk of death by foot odor) and had the flow bounce off the closet so that there would be forced air circulation, and I didn't bother to drink anything cold since that would effectively turn off the sweating mechanism. It worked pretty well; despite the fact that I only got 5 hours of sleep, I don't feel too badly.

However, Speedy may not be feeling too good right now. He all but conceded that perhaps our days are numbered here at our current location. The school has been suffering financially....a lot of it due to the current financial malaise. Students are simply not renewing. Although he hasn't officially started yet, he's now thinking about alternate locations such as on a major train line which would mean higher rents. It would be a pity, but frankly I can't see us staying in the Nakano area either. The neighbourhood is pretty much dead at night, and heck, we lost one of the cheapest and nicest Chinese restaurants a couple of years ago. The bossman is also considering drastically changing direction, including even becoming a kids' school (gulp). If so, adios.

Sad sign of the times....apparently, there was an actual mugging in my city of Ichikawa, and not too, too far away from my neck of the woods. Some psycho with a metal bat managed to break a kid's arm and run off with about 15,000 yen last night. Times are tough, and so the especially weak-minded will take the easy way out...on someone else's head. Back in Toronto, every time I came home at midnight, I always kept a good eye on my surroundings for anything bad. I may have to do that now here as well.

Despite my early arrival, I've only got The Nurse in about an hour and that will be all she wrote for me for the entire weekend. Yep, real quiet week.

Finally got through the "Verified by Visa" process. I kept getting rejected by the computer for some reason when it came to my information to the extent that I was wondering if the name should be "Harassed by Visa" instead. However, after three phone calls, last night's operator came through for me.
Thursday August 13, 8:51 p.m.

Nearly finished my lone busy day of the week. Got through Miss Sedona, The Bow, Mr. TOEIC and The Carolinan. Now it'll just be The Music Man in 20 minutes. We're approaching the end of Miss Sedona's time with us. She only has about 4 more lessons and she hasn't given any indication whether she'll bother hanging on for the next few months before she takes off for The Great White North. She has been with us for over a year...kinda hard to believe that this was the shy pharmacist who was itching to visit San Francisco and Sedona, Arizona.

The Bow has been doing OK at her new job although she's been complaining that there has been a war of sorts amongst staff who want and don't want the AC on. As for Mr. TOEIC, he had a nice time resting up in his home prefecture of Fukushima; definitely came in today looking all summery instead of his usual suit. And the good news with The Carolinan is that she's secured a position with the company that's gonna take over her old one...well, at least it's OK news for her. She has some second thoughts whether she wants to continue there for much longer.

The O-Bon holidays officially started today, and the highways look it. 54 km-long traffic jams have certainly contributed to the parking lot-like atmosphere of holiday commuting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thursday August 13, 12:26 p.m.

May not be too easy to see, but there are several small jellyfish swimming around in the waters surrounding the vessel "Nippon Maru" in the Minato Mirai harbour of Yokohama. Just caught them with my eye while I was taking a walk around the vessel. There was a bit of an ethereal beauty to them but I don't particularly want to find out if someone falls into the water.

We've been having a problem with jellyfish. There have been some humoungous ones playing havoc with fishermen's nets recently. These things look like Portuguese Man O' Wars...these jellies look like the Spacedock from the "Star Trek" movies and are probably a whole lot more lethal. I'm kinda wondering if the fishermen should just switch from catching plain bluefin tuna and go for the jellyfish...which make a fine appetizer at Chinese buffets and courses.

I've got Miss Sedona in about 15 minutes. She's had to do two tests before she goes onto the next text. I hope she did pretty well. Then, I gotta rush out to the Shinjuku Starbucks to see The Bow and then rush on back for back-to-back lessons with Mr. TOEIC and The Carolinan. The only real respite I'll have is after The Carolinan and before The Music Man.

Wednesday August 12, 8:37 p.m.
To the left of me is the quake report map from early Tuesday morning when that M6.6 came rumbling by. Honshu looked like it had a skin condition. I showed this to 001 during the break; she pointed out that the bottom right hand corner bunch of kanji was her city, Sagamihara. The other three are areas in Yokohama.
The person in charge of earthquakes for the government gave his press conference as he usually does after a major temblor. He insisted that yesterday's rumble was not a sign of the approaching Tokai Earthquake, the Big One that is supposed to be crashing into the area....which only makes one wonder: if the quake on Tuesday wasn't the sign, then how much stronger is the next one going to be?
Over the weekend, I actually caught an oldie of sorts: the original "Back to the Future". It still holds up remarkably aware despite the very 80s references to Huey Lewis & The News, the DeLorean time machine and Pepsi Free. It's just too bad that its 2 sequels didn't quite make the cut. In a way, it was a precursor of the fate for "The Matrix": great original, so-so sequels.
Wednesday August 12, 8:21 p.m.

Well, 001 has come and gone. And The Fashion Designer has cancelled her lesson for tonight. So, I'm basically done. I'll head on home in about an hour...just want to let those rush hour commuters go home ahead of me. But then I hear that the O-Bon holidays have started so there may not be too big a rush tonight.

Getting back to NorikoGate...I think the biggest image of the week concerning this sad story will be the one taken a few years ago in which Noriko Sakai was in natty dreads and other assorted DJ wear including the mandatory huge earphones around her neck, just dancing about like a reject from EXILE on speed. Then again, maybe she was. Or so the media would like to have us believe. The assorted talking heads on the wide shows have been building up their own case to indict the singer way before she ever sees a courtroom. No surprise there....gotta rake in the ratings, y'know. They've even gone into overdrive over the fact that she's had some tattoos emblazoned on her ankle and ring finger. To hear them describe it, it would sound that the tattoos automatically label her as a mass murderer. The New Yorker has far larger tattoos all over her person, and she's one of the mildest-mannered students I've ever known. Having said that, though, this is a country where, despite the slowly growing acceptance of tattoos as a fashion accessory, tattoos are still frequently seen as a bad news signal of yakuza and teen gangs. Still, I'd hardly mistake Nori-P as a thugette.

Wednesday August 12, 5:50 p.m.

Ahhh...the mess that is NorikoGate. There's been quite some movement since last week. Noriko Sakai, aidoru, actress....drug addict, has gone from poor missing person to crystal meth celeb gone haywire in just a few days.
The hyperactive mass media just went into warp drive late last week when the police suddenly threw out that arrest warrant for a person who had once been the top aidoru in J-Pop on a Hello, Kitty scale. Especially on Saturday night, when even the usually near-Vulcan-like newscasters of NHK, announced breathlessly...twice...about her turning herself in at a Tokyo police station. There was an even larger crowd in front of Shibuya Police Station, consisting of rubberneckers and journalists, than the usual hordes at JR Shinjuku at midnight. And of course, there was the de rigueur snapshot of the guilty party in the police van just looking straight down. I was just wondering about if this were the same Noriko Sakai who had come up with her own cute Nori-P diabetes-inducing dialect 20 years ago.
In the last few days, the J-Pop equivalent of "The Fugitive" has turned into a mix of "Kramer Vs. Kramer" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde". There has been a "he said/she said" quality injected into the ugliness between Sakai and her separated husband, Yuichi Takaso about when and how often she had started sniffing the weird stuff. And just as often as her old teen footage has been popping up on the screens, there has also been film footage of her in a totally different light, especially one 10-second shot of her at at disco, just going absolutely nuts as a guest DJ. Nope, kinda hard to believe that this was the same girl who had looked like a human character for "Hello, Kitty" but then again, she debuted over 20 years ago.
More analysis later....

Wednesday August 12, 5:21 p.m.

Well, I did make that mini-trip to Yokohama a couple of days ago. It was actually more of a day trip with a night stay at a hotel. My mini-trip became a mini mini-trip thanks to a couple of uninvited guests: Typhoon 9 and a M6.6 temblor just off the coast of Shizuoka.

When I got to JR Sakuragicho Station at about noon on Monday, the rains were pouring down like the 40 days, 40 nights Noah's Ark type of thing. Ended up spending about an hour at a Starbucks right under the Sakuragicho Washington Hotel before taking a recce around Minato Mirai for another hour. Then, I checked in...the Washington was as it had been advertised: small, but clean and convenient. No frills at all unlike the Pan Pacific where I'd stayed some years before. But after having stayed there, then the Hyatt in Seoul and the Mandarin in Hong Kong, I think I'm no longer in thrall toward high-end accomodations anymore. A businesss hotel suits me just fine.

Took a walk down the main street from Sakuragicho towards Chinatown about a couple of kilometres away. I'm not sure if it's because I've become totally accustomed to Tokyo, but I got the impression that the streets of Yokohama have a crisper feel in terms of urban planning...kinda like Sapporo. It made for a nice walk while gaining an appetite.

I ended up going to the same Chinese buffet restaurant that I'd gone to a few years ago. Strangely enough, I was once again the very first customer in the place when it opened at 5. It was eerie...and slightly pathetic...being the only one in the place for at least 15 minutes picking up dishes with the waitresses looking on ("OMG! It's that fat guy from 3 years ago....doesn't he know anything about being fashionably late!"). The food was fine with me, but it just strikes me as being a bit odd that during my 90 minutes there, there would only be a grand total of 10 customers including me. A bit I figured that the next time I'll try some other place.

I walked back up to my hotel from Chinatown via Yamashita Park in the evening. Took some good shots of Chinatown but for some reason, I just couldn't take any good ones of the nightscape of Minato Mirai. All of the pictures came out looking like all the buildings were heading off at warp speed.

Had a good night's sleep but then at 5:07 a.m. on Tuesday morning, I was "gently" awakened by a Shindo 4 quake. There was a Shindo 6 Minus (M6.6 in magnitude) temblor off of Shizuoka. So, Norikogate had competition with Shizuoka Quake for the rest of that day on the news channels. No particular damage to me or the surroundings in my hotel, but I remarked rather ruefully that that was probably the only time I'll ever experience any bed shaking in my hotel room...ahem. The breakfast buffet, by the way, was OK but not spectacular.

Because of the quake and Typhoon 9, I actually headed straight home after checking out. A bit premature about my decision, as it turned out, since when I reached back to Chiba, the sun was back out brilliantly. Ah, well. In any case, I'll just consider that mini mini-trip a Part 1 with Part 2 to follow in either the fall or early next year. I still have to visit Motomachi, the Ramen Museum and take one of those bay cruises.