Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday September 17, 8:45 p.m.

Just another 30 minutes before The Music Man finally gets here. Well, I got to see the Noriko Sakai act of contrition. It looked like everyone was in a hotel ballroom...those places are usually used for celebrations, not for humiliations. The cameras were flashing so hard and so frequently, I was afraid that another Pokemon incident of induced epileptic fits was gonna happen. In any case, since the sound on my computer has been turned off for some reason, I could only watch Nori-P looking shellshocked and tearful as she bowed beyond the contrite 60-degree angle and mouth her apologies. She's apparently put herself in the hospital for the next little while to recover. The person I feel for most of all is the new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama. He had just become only the 2nd non-LDP PM in the last half-century, only to be upstaged on his first full day in office by a former aidoru-turned-drug addict.

Well, it looks like Swank is definitely coming my way again. La Fille handled the rendezvous. I'm supposed to be meeting her not in Hiroo, where she now lives, but in the relative anonymity of Roppongi Hills since she doesn't really want to be seen there by any of her neighbours. As if I could ever be mistaken for a paramour. Kinda nice if I got treated to lunch there...

And that meeting with The Romantic and his friend will have to be put off til a later date. He left the message saying that the 28th won't be possible. He suggested the 29th but I've got my classes with The Beehive and then the juku. No can do.
Thursday September 17, 7:28 p.m.

The face that launched a thousand cameras...finally came out after several weeks in the hoosegow. Yep, that's right...Noriko Sakai was released from from Bayside Police Station a few hours ago to a lightning storm of flashes and then off to a press conference to show her contrition (and perhaps some of those dance moves?). She didn't look too much the worse for wear but the sadness on her face was all too apparent. I've only been able to see screen captures of the press conference but it looks like she's had to pause a few times to dab at some tears. I've got a feeling that her story will be on all night.

Thursday September 17, 6:02 p.m.
I've managed to get pretty much everything done that I needed to: prep up for lessons for The Bass and The New Yorker tomorrow, set up the next stage of review for The Restauranteur, upload the photos into Facebook, and even sent Speedy some ideas for that Eiken 1 course. Not bad for 6 hours. And I still have over 3 before The Music Man comes in for his lesson. One big Donut Day.
That picture on the left is one from the Takeshita Dori leg of my big walk on Monday. It shows a couple of stores that provide the lifeblood for the typical Japanese teenager in Harajuku...the cream-and-banana filled crepe. I'm sure that there are a whole lot more of these shops riddling the entire neighbourhood. I've had my fair share of the thin pancake filled with stuff, but I couldn't see myself even entering the lineup for a crepe in Harajuku. With all of these kids, I'd probably be seen as a pedophile on a fishing expedition.
Had a young mother with her kid come in earlier in the afternoon. Cute kid but I was surprised to find out that he was still only 18 months old. This boy looked like he was 3 or 4 and could walk quite well. At this rate, he should be eligible for military service by the time he hits 10.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thursday September 17, 1:50 p.m.
Just a couple of shots from that recce I took from Shibuya to Roppongi on Monday. The orange Slinky on the left is that tunnel just beyond Aoyama Cemetery and a click away from Roppongi Hills. The one on the right is one that most teens in Tokyo would know on a weekend. That is indeed Takeshita Dori...on a Monday, no less...still packed to the gills with the girls.
Yesterday split up my week into 2 mini-work weeks since I had nada on the schedule. I'm sure 001 is enjoying coddling koalas and climbing Ayers Rock in Oz right now. As for me, it was just cleaning the apartment and watching the relatively quieter pomp and circumstance (well, relative to the party atmosphere of a US Inauguration) of the swearing-in of the first non-LDP Prime Minister in 16 years into the Japanese Diet. Pretty much by 3 p.m., all of the TV stations were glued to the Lower House Chambers where Yukio Hatoyama shyly stood up to accept the accolades and, of course, the responsibility of becoming the 60th PM in charge of the 93rd Cabinet. However, things for the newbie DPJ parliamentarians got started all the way back at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. when two (relatively) young Diet folk showed up at the gates of Nagatacho...along with some bleary-eyed media types. At 8 a.m., the full media and newbie scrum finally got let in like a bunch of kids at Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
Of course, the up-close-and-personal stories of the new Cabinet officers...including PM Hatoyama were put up on display. Watch young Yukio at the tender age of 9 with Grandpa Ichiro, the first LDP Prime Minister. Then see him 21 years later with his baby son, Takarazuka Troupe-trained wife, and the worst haircut ever seen, and then come the glory political years of the 90s and 00s. Then, there was his first primetime news conference as PM at 6 p.m. followed by the official investiture of him and all of his Cabinet by the Emperor before things came to a close with the group photo on the steps in the official residence.
But have a bit of heart for the outgoing Prime Minister, Taro Aso (well, I won't but you can feel free to). He gave his farewell speech in the morning and was probably very moved by the line of Aso fans who did come out to say goodbye. He was in the chambers later that afternoon, looking rather glum with some of his other fellow LDP'ers.
For several days, there had been some tabloid reports on this Mieko Tanaka and the fact that she had been in some softcore romantic movie not too many years ago. I had no idea who this person was until yesterday. It turns out that she is now one of the Ozawa Girls, a freshly-minted DPJ parliamentarian....not too old, either...only 33. Unlike some of her new colleagues, she quickly gave the press her back since she probably didn't want to go over any old ground about her movie career. But she did fess up back some days ago, stating that at the time that she had needed the money....which would probably put her incongruously with Anna Nicole Smith. Ironic, since new Deputy Prime Minister Kan lectured the young 'uns about not providing the media with any cannon fodder.
But even with all of the coverage focused on Nagatacho yesterday, Noriko Sakai could not be denied. Or that is, her husband, to be more exact. Yup, the surfer dude-crackhead, Yuichi Takaso, finally got bailed out last night at 5 p.m. from his Shibuya holding cell. Not only were the media, passersby and cops outside in force, but apparently some disgruntled Nori-P fan who took a page out of that Iraqi reporter's playbook and tossed a shoe at the departing van with Takaso in it. He got hauled in pretty short order. As for Sakai herself, she's supposed to be finally getting out any minute now.
Finally got a call from The Romantic about that so-called research project he has been telling me about. He came to the realization that it would be better if we met in person than have him send over a bunch of papers....hmmm....I wonder....
And Cozy finalized the plans for dinner for the 27th. It'll be at the last spot that he, me and the juku boss got together. Looks like Cozy will be bringing his wife...according to the boss, she's quite the looker.
I had my first early morning arrival at Speedy's in some weeks since I seem to be now having a dearth of classes. I guess absence truly makes the heart grow fonder; I really enjoyed the McBreakfast this morning. Miss Prissy returned after some weeks; she'd had a good time in Guam and told me that she made the extra effort to use the English she'd picked up in class. Nice to hear. Got an omiyage of Mango Chocolates. Now, basically I'm off til The Music Man comes in at the late hour of 9:15 p.m.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tuesday September 15, 1:23 p.m.

Last night didn't go too badly....The Music Man was fine and I didn't end up strangling The Medicine Man like I'd wanted to last week for his non-performance. I think with the latter guy we got into a warm-up discussion about the H1N1 virus which would definitely be in his ballpark. He said that Swine Flu would probably affect almost half the population and it would peak in early October. He also suggested I get a mask, although not of the cotton variety since they would be a bit too loose to be useful. Point taken.

Speedy reacted with some surprise when he found out that I wouldn't have any classes tomorrow. As usual, he just noted "That ain't too good". Well, with two students now having vacated the premises and 001 off on her Australian sojourn along with the fact that I have no privates, it looks like I'll have the anti-Hump Day.

The Bohemian contacted me to change the date of our meeting. Apparently, an old friend of his from university will suddenly be moving to Southeast Asia very soon, so he wanted to combine his farewell meeting with my dinner with him to the 26th instead of the 20th. I'm good with that. Also, Cozy got in touch with me; apparently, he had spoken with the juku boss about getting together for dinner, and somehow he had convinced her to come out on the 27th although she may not be ready for a full dinner. Well, I'll just see when I talk to her later today.

Another celebrity death....Patrick Swayze has really become a ghost. The writing was on the wall for the past couple of years, but he finally passed away today. I bet there will be a lot of folks putting on that "Dirty Dancing" soundtrack tonight.

Apparently, Noriko Sakai didn't get out on bail yesterday which probably disappointed the, I mean....journalists outside Bayside Police Station. The main reason was that the 5 million yen had yet to be paid. Most likely, if and when she comes out, she'll be looking quite a bit lighter physically. Prison has a way of making that happen...and it's not just because of the food. That former president of Livedoor, Horiemon, was looking positively svelte compared to his hedonistically plump days once he got out, and Sakai's fellow "comrade-in-arms" Manabu Oshio got out a couple of weeks ago looking somewhat thinner as well. The only problem is that Nori-P had already looked quite slim and trim when she had been arrested.

Well, I may not be making any money tomorrow but at least I'll probably get to see the inauguration of the new DPJ Cabinet along with the new Prime Minister live on TV.

As for my two cents on that so-called Serena Williams Tirade incident over the weekend and the fact that she hasn't apologized for it....well, what did you expect? It's not as if this was the first time a tennis player has gone bonkers....I'm sure Martina and Chris have had their run-ins with officials. And everyone knows about McEnroe. I'm just surprised that neither of the Williams Sisters hadn't gone berserk before on the court at this stage in their careers...pretty good control up to last weekend, I would say. Of course, the fact that Serena hadn't gone super-primeval on an official made it all the more shocking...still, athletes like her are different human beings. They're near-paragons of human physique, trained to be killingly competitive and have the pressure of making tons of endorsements...again, I say it's more of a surprise that she hadn't gone Wolverine before now. No, obviously it wasn't right what she did and she could've shown a bit of class by giving some sort of apology, but again under the circumstances, I really can't be that surprised.
Monday September 14, 6:38 p.m.

I ended up making that last entry exclusively on my latest walkabout so I'll wrap up the past few days here.

Ah, yes..."X-Men Origins: Wolverine", otherwise known here locally as "X-Men Zero"...they like to add Zero to any sort of prequel, and very appropriate here as well since there was a character by the code name of Zero. And unfortunately, the movie itself kinda scored itself with the same least in MB's eyes. For such a mild-mannered Aussie, MB is a pretty harsh critic. But then again, I can say honestly that "Wolverine" won't ever be scaring Chris Nolan and "The Dark Knight" franchise. For one thing, the movie was less smoothly flowing origin story of one of Marvel Comics' flagship characters, and more the usual backbreaker plotting that plagues these superhero movies: putting in so many superpowered heroes and villains in one movie that the flick just comes off as a fashion runway showcase for mutants. Hey, look, it's The Merc With A Mouth...Deadpool; hey, it's John Wraith disguised as the frontman for a hip-hop band; hey it's Merry from "Lord of the Rings" with an electricity fetish. And hey, it's good ol' Sabertooth....who just pops up every 10 minutes to have another go-around with his little brother. MB was correct in stating that he needed to punch out the editor; frankly, I would've preferred that "Wolverine" was guaranteed a quadrilogy...with that one plot strung out throughout 4 movies. It would have helped a whole lot in establishing and perhaps even relating to the various characters a whole lot better. Imagine having the first movie based on just the establishment of Major Stryker's elite unit of mutants and their adventures, then the sophomore entry could've dealt with Logan's angry defection and his meeting up with the love of his life. The third could've seen him "lose" his love (you're gonna have to read the Wiki summary to understand why I put the word in quotes) and gain his adamantium. And finally, the fourth movie would have seen him in the final showdown with Stryker. Of course, the beancounters at Fox would never have agreed to this. Their star isn't exactly in his twenties and he probably would want to get out for something more Oscar-baiting. Still, the movie made enough so that the sequel is pending. Now I wonder if Magneto is next.

Well, as for today, besides the recce, it was a banner day for news. So much so that the soon-to-be Prime Minister Hatoyama ended up 3rd in terms of news stories. Noriko Sakai and Ichiro Suzuki took the flag at different ends of the pole today. The folks at the various news desks opened up with the requisite plastic smiles since Ichiro got his 9th consecutive 200-hit season in Texas early this morning. Reporters were out on the streets all over the country getting those personal opinions while his hometown displayed a huge banner congratulating the baseball, if Seattle could actually get close to winning even a pennant. As for the other end of the spectrum, singer-turned-tarento-turned-surprisingly-good-dancer-at-a-disco-turned-druggie jailbird Noriko Sakai was supposed to be out on bail today. Not surprisingly, there was a mammoth presence of media types in front of Bayside Police Station where she'd been held for several weeks. It's an irony of pop culture in that the Yuji Oda drama "Bayside Shakedown" takes place in the fictionalized version of the station. Not sure where she would be heading after finally getting out....I would think the nearest place for her would be her old condo in Minami-Aoyama....or as far away from Tokyo as possible.
Monday September 14, 6:09 p.m.

Technically speaking, we're still one week away from the official beginning of Autumn, but I can say with some authority as a long-standing resident in this country that Summer was a mere ghost of its usual skin-melting self this year. In what might become a habitual thing with me, I did another recce like the one I did on the 4th...but this time, I beat feet from Shibuya to Roppongi in about 3.5 hours; to be honest, it wouldn't usually take quite that long since the various centres of Tokyo are actually quite compressed within the 23 wards. However, I did have my camera with me just clicking away and I had yet another visit to the largest CD store in the world. During that time, although I did work up a fair sweat, it's saying something that I would even dare such a walkabout in a regular mid-September since those days are far from the September crisp and cool days of my childhood in Canada. I did have to concede to one vending machine, though, between Shibuya and Omotesando.

Looking like the middle-aged oyaji I am, it was with some bravery that I traipsed into the Mecca of all that is Teen in Japan....aka Takeshita-dori in Harajuku. Just before I made that turn, though, I noticed a ton of younglings entering the rival stores of H&M and Forever 21. Speaking of H&M, that huge branch just across from Bunkamura is about to open this Saturday. During the Mondays that I used to head over for The Class Act, there was always that huge boarding and the construction going on. Well, according to this past week's edition of METROPOLIS, it's ready to go and therefore I, and anyone over the age of 30, will probably do well to avoid that area this long holiday weekend. The lines will probably go well into the thousands.

I survived walking through the gauntlet of Takeshita-dori. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of kids there which made me wonder if there were actually anything called school on today. They were all dressed like anything except for proper students. Made my way through the stores of strange English names, creperies and boutiques with terrifying mannequins of human bodies and rabbit heads. Pictures to come later...

Then I got out the other side and made a U-turn to get onto the main drag of Harajuku and into the slightly more mature side of Omotesando. It was a Monday but it still looked like half of Toronto had decided to walk the streets there. Walked all the way up to the Aoyama side of things and took a look at the underground Echika restaurant complex in the subway station. The aroma of freshly-baked croissants was ever-present, so it was with some surprise at the end of this marketplace done up like something in Paris that there was a Vietnamese restaurant. I was tempted to go for the pho and bubble tea, but for some reason I decided to let it go for this time....maybe it was the fact that the two together would have cost me over a thousand yen.

Got up from underground and walked deep into Aoyama. Yup, typically tony neighbourhood. Tasteful apartments and houses that wouldn't look out of place in the Upper West Side, interspersed with various post-modern architecture denoting boutiques and stores. Made it all the way to the Nezu Museum. I was wondering about heading towards ol' Noriko Sakai's apartment (more on her later) but decided that she's been put through enough hell, so I turned left instead. In the distance, I saw the commanding presence of the main Mori Building that represented Roppongi Hills' contribution to the skyline, so I decided to see how I would be able to make that connection.

I ended up walking through the Aoyama Cemetery, one of the great landmarks in the area and then to some sort of orange tube tunnel. I didn't have to traverse through that so I just walked down the stairs to another street heading straight towards Roppongi Hills. It was definitely one of the highlights of my walk...there was the strange curving architecture of The Tokyo Arts Centre to the left, a major traffic artery to the right of me and a large cavernous underpass ahead of me. As I got through the tunnel, there was a strange dichotomy of some old, obviously 60s-built apartment blocks right in front of me while that Mori Building was not that far away. Made it to Roppongi Hills and walked inside. I looked in the local branch of the Aoyama Book Centre but found nothing so just walked and ended up having a Wendy's set in the basement next door to Roppongi Station. No, not particularly nutritious but certainly cheaper than Omotesando pho. But I certainly felt my bones when I finally got to sit down. That was pretty much it for my recce. Very good walk...may do it on Wednesday as well since I've got absolutely nothing scheduled on what was once my usual Hump Day.