Friday, September 03, 2010

Saturday September 4, 3:28 p.m.
Just about ready to get out of here. I got through my three classes without little trouble, although my lunch was kinda getting me to sleep during The Intellectual's lesson today. However, with Miss Prissy and The Publicity Assistant, we had quite a good time talking about cockroaches and good Tokyo hotels respectively. I was especially surprised with Prissy's apparent fearlessness when it comes to picking up roaches with her bare hands; she doesn't look like the super tough type in appearance but she doesn't end up like a quivering jelly mold on seeing the shiny brown insect in her house, unlike 99.9% of the population. And I thought I was the only superhero around.
The picture above is that of Tottori Prefecture's pear-flavored caramel that I got from the juku boss last night as a present. Her story about her experience with this candy is something that could only happen to the scatterbrain. Apparently, when she decided to chew on a cube of the stuff, she ended up pulling out one of her molars and had to go for some emergency work at the dentist. Luckily, my dental hygiene must be somewhat better since I could chew down on the caramel easily. I put up this news as a new topic on one of the Mixi communities dealing with sweet stuff. Within an hour, about 8 folks put down their favorite caramels...which is about the fastest reply I've ever gotten for anything in my 18 months on the SNS. For a country that's known for sushi and tempura, it's interesting that every prefecture apparently has their own contribution for caramel. And there was even a boom a few years back for something called raw caramel.
Well, I'm ready to go. Gonna head on over to Nakano Broadway and see if I can find something at Recomints in an attempt to repeat the luck I had at Tacto yesterday with that Ruiko Kurahashi CD.
Saturday September 4, 9:44 a.m.

I think we may have broken some sort of record for longest heat wave in Japan. In any case, it's plenty steamy out there. No sign of rain at all. I'm surprised that we haven't be given any water rationing announcements, but then again I haven't been able to catch up on the news recently. And unlike last year, there has been a distinct dearth of typhoons coming up to the Kanto, not that I'm complaining all that much.

Went down to Jimbocho yesterday after my lone class at Speedy's to check out that old CD shop. I was lucky to find a Ruiko Kurahashi disc that I hadn't had previously. Basically, it's a compilation of seven of her singles including the B-sides. The B-sides were unknown songs and though they were pretty enough to listen to, I could understand why they never made it onto one of the number of Best CDs. It's a rare one, too, judging by the cost. I paid about 3700 yen for it, which is 700 yen more than a contemporary disc.

Got my usual 3 Saturday students: Miss Prissy, The Publicity Assistant and The Intellectual. Also had to make some tests for Cozy and Miss Prissy, and grammar material for Yajima whom I'm seeing for the first time in about a month tomorrow.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Friday September 3, 11:56 a.m.
The Ramen Museum is probably the first of the food emporiums that now populate the big cities like Tokyo. I made my latest visit back on that steamy Monday after checking out of the Sakuragicho Washington. Walking out of the massive JR Shin-Yokohama Station, I was already feeling like a limp dishrag during the 10-minute walk to the museum and it was only 10:45 a.m. I'd been told that it was good to get to the place early since the place gets crowded between 1 and 5 p.m. Looks like there were some others who got the message since there was already a small group of people who were waiting in front of the locked doors. Then, when that busload of Chinese tourists arrived some 5 minutes before opening time, we all got into line lickety-split.
As you can see from the picture right here, the front of the Ramen Museum looks pretty austere but there is an interesting spiral design at the right which probably refers to one of the de rigueur toppings on a bowl of noodles, the naruto, a thin pink-and-white spiral of steamed fish cake.
Of course, one doesn't go to The Ramen Museum to look at the history of noodles but to actively partake in the digestion of said noodles. But it'll cost you...300 yen just to get into the place and then the average price of a bowl once you get into the sub-basements is around 800 yen. But the museum has gone all out to provide a depiction of old Showa Era-Tokyo from the 1950s; just think of Marty McFly ending up in The Big Sushi instead of that small town from "Back to the Future". There are even ancient announcements of arriving subways from the time period which occasionally get barked out through the speakers.
As I said, it's good to get to the ramen as soon as possible since lineups can get pretty long. So I held off on the photography until I finished my main business there. I ended up going for the Kumamoto representative, Hi no Kuni (Land of Fire), and got myself a bowl of their cha-shiu men for 950 yen. Usually the image of Kyushu ramen is of a pretty thick, artery-hardening broth coating noodles and just about anything else in its path, but the Kumamoto soup was actually rather light though the chefs didn't skimp on the rich flavor. And they didn't skimp on the pieces of BBQ pork.
Afterwards, I tried to walk off some of my added cholesterol by going through the mock-up of old Tokyo. It's rather nice to walk through the rusticity of the postwar era when a lot of buildings were still constructed in dilapidated wood instead of the huge concrete behemoths of today...including the soon-to-be-completed Tokyo Sky Tree. I could imagine hearing a jazz standard being crooned by legendary Hibari Misora as I walked through the alleys.
Some minutes later, I came across a paper sign which said in kanji, "The Future" on the stairway. So I returned to the present in the form of the 1st floor gift shop. I ended up buying a couple of boxes of ramen noodle pieces covered in chocolate for a couple of the juku students. I did try some with Mr. Mild later that night; well, let's say that I had good intentions in mind when I bought the stuff.

Friday September 3, 9:26 a.m.

Back at Speedy's again early for the 2nd day in a row. Somehow, this sort of habit has gotta stop sooner or later. This time's culprit is The Photog. Something has also gotta be done about this guy. He can't just keep rambling in classes, especially now since his New York project has been set back half a year. He's a nice guy and all but that sort of thing is gonna get old fast.

Basically once I'm done with him in a couple of hours, I have several hours of nothing until the juku lessons at 9. I'll probably head over to Jimbocho and check out that old CD shop with all of the obscure 80s discs. The important thing is that I just wanna chill out at home for a few hours until game time.
Thursday September 2, 10:36 p.m.

And thus another Hump Day comes to a slow end. Mrs. Thursday was shy but quite capable in her inaugural lesson tonight. Hopefully, she'll be a stayer. And The Music Man was his dependable self. I found out that both students will be absent next week since they'll both be heading for Guam for a short vacation. Can't complain about that. Besides, that will mean that I'll also have a rather early start to my Thursday night with The Carolinan being my final student.

Tomorrow, I've just got The Photog in the morning and then just the juku students. I heard that The Photog's assignment to New York has been thrown back until early next year. Doesn't make any of our jobs any easier.
Thursday September 2, 7:38 p.m.

About to get the last third of my classes under way. I've gone through The Patent Attorney, Grandma Dynamite, The Shareholder and The German. Grandma Dynamite's lesson was interesting in that it basically had her practicing the ol' show tune from "Fiddler on the Roof", "Sunrise, Sunset" in English. With The German, it was another gab session...mostly on the upcoming battle between PM Kan and former political strongman Ozawa.

I've now got a new student, Mrs. Thursday (couldn't come up with a better moniker for her, sorry), in about 20 minutes, followed by The Music Man.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Thursday September 2, 8:24 a.m.

Another beginning to a hot one in The Big Sushi. Drank down another isotonic drink on the way here. Gonna be another Hump Day with six students under my belt.

I've been doing some damage control vis-a-vis my e-mail. I rather foolishly answered to an acquaintance's so-called request to join an SNS called Tubely, and when I did so, it automatically sent requests to everyone in my contact list. So I've had to send apologies to everyone because of this virus.

Wednesday September 1, 9:56 p.m.
It may officially be September now, but the weather is still saying mid-August. Still scorching hot out there with nary any sign that Autumn is on its way. That timer on my AC has already gone off so I will be greeted with some cooler air when I get home and when I hit bed I can feel comfortable.
The above is a couple of pics from my annual Yokohama Chinatown dinner. For 1,980 yen, I was able to the pick of the litter for food. It was an all-you-can-eat but not a buffet. I just order it and the waiters or waitresses bring it over. I could order as much as I could handle, and what I could handle was 9 dishes by my lonesome. The food was good but not great. Although I could get as much Peking Duck as I wanted, I was still a little nonplussed by the fact that each serving of duck only consisted of two slivers of duck skin. Also the soup dumplings came with very little soup. Not all that impressed, but even with the all-you-can-drink option, it was a good 500 yen cheaper than the place that I had gone to last year.
I had three students today for my first round of students at Speedy's after Yokohama. The Overachiever and I had a great talk about political scandals (too bad he said that he may be leaving Tokyo for some sort of work in the near future). And then with 001, it was basically on the upcoming Arashi concert this Friday. She's even made up a couple of hand fans with her hero's name on it. Then Miss Sony was fine as usual.
Tomorrow will be Hump Day with 6 on the slate, including Grandma Dynamite who seems to be making just cameo appearances lately.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tuesday August 31, 10:02 a.m.

Well, the mini-vacation in Yokohama is just about over and again I have to write quickly since I'm at a coin-operated I-stop in the hotel. I guess I know why Twitter is so popular, but I've always enjoyed writing prose more than little tweets.

By and large, the culinary experience was good, not great. I don't think I've ever had a soup dumpling that didn't have any soup in it...more on that later.

On my way to the Ramen Museum to get some noodles before I have to whiz on back home and get ready for the juku lessons. I think Speedy is right...I really ought to have 2 nights here rather than just the one.

Saw "Monsters and Aliens" on the hotel video. Missed this one at the theatre, and I think it was OK to catch this one on the small screen. Not quite as fun as "The Incredibles" or as legendary as "Toy Story". This was basically a meeting of funny voices from the A-list of the Fox Japan lineup (Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland) and "Saturday Night Live"; there were some funny sight gags and the inevitable topical in-genre humour but a lot of the jokes were pretty much limited to old Warner Bros. cartoons. Not a home run by any means, but a nice solid double.

Anyways, gotta go.
Monday August 30, 6:55 p.m.

Yep, I'm here in Yokohama. Man, I couldn't ask for a hotter day to arrive in Japan's 2nd-largest city. I was pretty much melting when I got to the hotel at check-in time. Had to buy an extra undershirt but doing OK if feeling pretty bloated after the annual Chinese buffet, but this time, it was a different restaurant. More to follow when I get home.