Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sunday March 13, 2:35 p.m.

This was the sight that greeted me when I finally got home after my 5-hour odyssey commuting post-quake. I had been expecting that there would be a mess, and sure enough, there were CDs, a useless computer monitor on the tatami. Also, my DVD player and my microwave were also down. But surprisingly not out. Despite the fact that my oven fell all the way from the top of the fridge, it was still working as usual.

It took an hour to clean the whole mess up but I wasn't exactly sleepy since I was rather rapt at the around-the-clock coverage. As Piers Morgan said, it was indeed the Worst Quake. For past major quakes, the Japanese would label them as Dai-shinsai or Great Quakes. This was the first time that I'd ever seen "Kyodai-shinsai" or Super-Great Quake.
The past couple of days have been interesting to say the least. Even though the Tohoku area up north has basically been destroyed, even Tokyo and Chiba have been affected. Yesterday, I found out that my gas was offline (and probably will be for a couple of weeks according to the gas company), and now my water is now gone, too. Luckily, I filled up my tub with water...of the brown variety. Not sure when that will be back. There has been a run on food and daily supplies at the supermarkets and convenience stores. I bought some mineral water and may even try some oolong tea sponge baths when I get home.
My relatives in Osaka have contacted me to make sure I was OK. And I was able to reach my worried mother and sister-in-law. Of course, they nagged me about making sure I had enough money and my passport ready to take off.
It's been taihen definitely. We've had the Mother of All Quakes, then a gigantic tsunami and now we may even be facing a nuclear meltdown at the two Fukushima power plants. It's playing out like an Irwin Allen triple feature. Even the Tokyo Canadian Embassy has sent out a warning about avoiding non-essential travel to the surrounding prefectures including my Chiba. Ouch.

Sunday March 13, 2:18 p.m.
Yup, these scenes just brush the surface of what Friday March 11 was like. This was the day of The Big One (probably)...the day of the Gigantic Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake, the largest temblor to have ever hit Japan in its history.
The picture to your right is a smashed glass pane at the front of the Maynds Building in Shinjuku near the station. I often teach The New Yorker at the Starbucks there. Luckily for us, that pane seems to have been the only casualty in that part of the neighborhood.

To the left were the escapees from the skyscrapers just behind The Maynds Building. Of course, they all had their cellphones out taking pictures and gawking understandably at seeing the huge structures swaying like palm trees.
The very top picture was at Shinjuku Station at about 8 p.m. Unsurprisingly, hundreds of people were all lined up like centipedes waiting for buses and the streets themselves were filled to brimming with commuters who had decided to trek it home on foot.
It was a 5-hour odyssey to get back to Ichikawa from Shinjuku, in itself a minor miracle considering that the trains and subways were offline. I walked from Speedy's in Nakano-Sakaue all the way to Shinjuku Nishi-Guchi Station on the Toei Oedo Line under JR Shinjuku and had to walk against the massive flow of commuters heading away from downtown. I ended up waiting at Nishi-Guchi for about an hour before hearing that the Oedo Line was back in operation. But then I hit a brick wall in the form of the Tozai Line, my home line, which was still down. I waited at Iidabashi Station for over an hour to no avail...watching commuters asking and even chatting with the station officials. although there was one irate moron berating one of the younger station staffers.
I ended up taking Oedo Line again over to Monzen-Nakacho Station since at least that would take me a bit more east and therefore closer to home. Plus, Monzen-Nakacho is also on the Tozai, but didn't really have any hope that the train would be back online and sure enough, it wasn't. The Oedo Line was packed to the gills...probably 200% capacity but managed to survive while some junior high school girls nonchalantly exchanged that they go through sardine-like conditions on a daily basis during their commutes.
Once I got out on street level at Monzen-Nakacho, I had been hoping that I could somehow catch a taxi back home, but the streets were jam-packed with cars. So, I had resigned myself to a long walk home but then when I reached the next station, Kiba, I overheard one of the police officers standing by the entrance that the Tozai line had finally come back online. I cheated commuter hell.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friday March 11, 4:50 p.m.

Well, this will be one Friday I'll remember. I was sipping my latte in the Shinjuku Starbucks when I started getting that now-familiar feeling of a temblor underneath my feet. Ach, I said. Probably a Shindo 2 or 3. Then, things started going cinematic. The decorative lights started swinging like pendula and the glasses started tinkling and with growing intensity. And I was moving...without intending to. And then I did something I thought I had never done in one of these and the rest of the Starbucks clan got out of Dodge (or the Maynds Building) as soon as possible. And then I saw something I thought I would never see...whole buildings were swinging to and fro....and I'm just standing in an area that probably has the highest density of skyscrapers in the entire city. Nice knowing me.

Still, I'm here, I got my latte and I was able to teach The New Yorker although the two of us did have to vacate the premises for 15 minutes when a Shindo 4 aftershock rumbled through. Transportation lines are down all over the city so I'm not even sure I'll be able to make it to Urayasu for the juku lessons tonight. In any case, I think my reunion with The Journo is now gone since he had once told me that if there were a huge quake, standard operating procedure at all media outlets is to report for assignment at headquarters. Since he is working for NTV, that would be Shiodome. There are dozens of people camped outside of the Shinjuku Kinko's where I'm typing this right now, and I've got a feeling that I'll be here for quite a while longer.

Apparently, the cellphone networks are down which means I've been seeing another first in a long time...lineups for public phones. Not sure how I'm gonna contact the juku boss.

Mixi and Facebook have been busy with Twitter-like postings from various folks such as Miss Viva and Shrek.

Anyways, more on this later. I'm gonna reconnoiter.
Thursday March 10, 9:35 p.m.

Finished for the day. Just waiting for La Fille to finish her stuff up since I'm supposed to be locking up tonight. I guess the bossman's missus would prefer to stay inside her room. Like the ideal boss' wife, she was kind enough to bring us some Japanese confections known as dorayaki for us to nosh on before we take off for home.

Heard from The Carolinan tonight that her sister, The New Yorker, doesn't seem to be enjoying Hong Kong too much. I'm supposed to be seeing her tomorrow for her lesson so I guess I'll get the full story then.

Mrs. Thursday was jovial as ever. However, her Hina Matsuri dinner didn't suit her too well. Apparently, the majority of the 10 dishes at the Chinese restaurant were far too spicy for her liking.

Well, I was able to get my taxes filled out for delivery tomorrow and even get stuff done for The Journo and The Restauranteur at the juku. Not too shabby.
Thursday March 10, 6:15 p.m.

Had my regular dinner of karaage bento (fried chicken box lunch) and something called Honey Milk Tea courtesy of Lipton. There was also a Union Jack on the carton....I guess there's something about Honey Milk which brings about memories of Great Britain.
Thursday March 10, 5:21 p.m.

I haven't gotten one of these in a while....pretty much an empty afternoon between lessons. I had been thinking about going over to Shinjuku to pick up another Krispy Kreme dozen for the staff here, but decided to forego it, especially since I don't have that much money on hand and I don't really want to hit the bank again for another re-supply. I'd been thinking that it might be nice to get a box as an expression of White Day but came to the conclusion that it would all be an exercise in least for now since I'll probably pick a box up next week just after the artificial holiday.

I basically spent most of the afternoon on Internet surfing. Took a look at the Futurama Wiki for a short bit. I've finished off Season 3 although I still have a few more commentaries to go. I've always enjoyed the chat amongst the crew there.

Apparently, I've gotten the word from Amazon that my Volume 4 of "SCTV" is ready to go. But I'm still waiting for the pay ID. However, they had told me earlier that the SCTV biography book is now of print. Looks like I'll have to wait for my next trip to Toronto to search for that. But that coffeetable book of Second City seems to be just hanging around at the Shibuya branch of Tower Records. I may just grab that.

Anyways, time to get some dinner before The Carolinan comes over in an hour.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Thursday March 10, 2:41 p.m.

Finished up with The Shareholder. Nice enough guy but he's just not the most talkative fellow by his own admission. Taciturn would be the perfect adjective for him. Well, at least I got him into the chapter where I excel...The Future. I introduced the concepts of utopia and dystopia, and tried to use various sci-fi movies as examples. He may not seem all that eager about it, but I will enjoy the very least, to keep myself from nodding off.

As you can see from the picture on your right, those are chocolates. And March 14th is White Day...the second commercial excuse in a month for folks to give the sweet stuff. Over here, Valentine's Day is for the women to give stuff to men while next Monday is the other way around. And both came most likely from the enterprising minds at Fujiya, the country's most famous confectioners with the ever-smiling Peko-chan. In any case, men everywhere are now hitting various chocolatiers like ants on sugar this week so that they can give their loves or fellow sapphic workmates another step toward diabetes. That would include me. I've already given the first package to Mrs. Prissy...basically, I'm returning favors to those ladies who have already given me chocolates. Today is my package to The Carolinan...a box of 9 pieces of chocolate from Morozoff. Then her sister gets her package tomorrow in Shinjuku. After that, I've got 8 more women to terms of chocolate.
Thursday March 10, 1:05 p.m.

An early Thursday as usual, since The Patent Attorney had his lesson today. But although it's a long day, it's not too intense. I just have four lessons with The Shareholder, The Carolinan and Mrs. Thursday yet to come. Some nice gaps in between. I managed to fill out the official tax return to hand in...along with my cash tomorrow morning at Ichikawa Tax Office out in the boonies.

Mind you, for about an hour, Ms. Efficiency and I found ourselves without any power due to a blown fuse. The bossman was busy for about two teaching a student. We searched for the breaker switches to no avail; we were later to find out that they were located in the private residential area so there was no way to access them. No big problems, though. The two of us had some quiet time reading books.

Yesterday's quake which gently jostled The Artist and me during our lesson was actually quite powerful up in the Tohoku region. It reached a 5 minus on the Shindo scale or about M7.2. In any case, anything that gets into 5 automatically has NHK and every reporter in the country on standby alert, according to The Journo. Things went to Shindo 3 here in the Kanto although I thought things were somewhat gentler. I guess I've really gotten used to tremors.

The Dancer and her family are en route to this country since The Dancer and her troupe are performing once more somewhere here. However, I won't see them probably until the 19th when they actually arrive in Tokyo. I have to figure out the easiest route to The Ramen Museum from the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku where they will be staying.

MB tried to invite me over to this place for a Friday session of DVDs since The Satyr is apparently going over then, but of course, I've got my three students at the juku. But The Bohemian was more successful since he asked about my situation on Saturday. I'll be meeting him at the usual spot in Shibuya.

I checked Mixi again to see if The Loon had given her latest rants on anything. It was all pretty quiet on that front.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Wednesday March 9, 1:04 p.m.

Well, I've made it past entry 3,800. Another 200 to go and maybe I can get upgraded to Business Class.

I have confirmed that my latest Mixi friend is a bit of a loon. This was the woman who asked to be my friend and then started haranguing me about providing a PROPER profile page and correcting my Japanese writing...not that I resent the last part...I can always use critiquing when it comes to my written languague skills. However, her method strikes me as being very Lucy Van Pelt on acid. On Monday, I put up an update on Mixi for which she corrected me my use of kanji. I acknowledged it and half-expected that she would correct me on my acknowledgement. It's been 2 days since I had last logged on, and in the interim she put up five separate rambling updates (this is open to everyone) in very fractured English complaining about a Mixi friend's apparent refusal to open up to her. He is still on my list of Mixi friends but when I checked his list out, The Loon was no longer up there...which pretty much confirmed my suspicions that she needs some professional help. She's still up on my list...for now, but if she starts going off the deep end with me, I'll dump her as quickly as possible. I had expected that I would get that one nutcake in either Facebook or Mixi...pretty much inevitable in a democratic SNS. I got a second opinion via Ms. Efficiency (who also has her own issues) and even she blurted out diplomatically that this loon sounded rather f***ed up.

Just had the one lesson with The Artist today. As is often the case, she was about 15 minutes late but this time it was due to her taxi having to negotiate all sorts of construction sites. During the lesson, we had a small quake which may result in some tsunami hitting the northern Pacific shore so NHK is on the case right now.

I'll be heading out within the next 10 minutes to Shinjuku since I have to pick up some more White Day gifts....these will be for The Sisters of State (The Carolinan and The New Yorker) in return for their chocolates last month on Valentine's Day. It will be kinda hard to top the veggie chocolate that I got from one of them, though. However, I will scour the basement floor underneath Takashimaya Times Square.

Yesterday when I met The Beehive, there was a mistake in the scheduling at the community square which has been our home for the past few months. That will teach them for reserving too far ahead. Basically, there was no room for us there so the four of us just jammed in one of the waiting areas. Luckily, none of the staff passed by to catch us. There was no such mistake between Swank and myself this time despite the accident of last week.

At the juku, The Juggler, the newest student in my flock there, has been coming along nicely. Beforehand, the boss was back on form and badgering one of her students to do better with some math problems. The Milds had a rare 90-minute session with me since they had to make up a lost lesson. I tried one of my PASSPORT lessons as a supplement which they appreciated far better than the usual Side by Side exercises since the Travel English was more relevant to them.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday March 7, 7:28 p.m.

Well, it looks like I got a bit of a lucky break in the form of Miss Genki. She dotakyaned...slang for suddenly cancelled. She couldn't make it but I still get paid. She phoned us up about 20 minutes before her class was to begin to say that she's mired down in work. I answered the phone...not too often I do that since I'm not very good at telephone Japanese...and she let me know. The funny thing is that it took her 2 minutes to realize that she was talking to me since I was using my politest Japanese as would be the case when dealing on the phone. We made each other's day.

In any case then I get some relief from my Hump Day.

However, Prime Minister Kan can't buy a break to save him. Another Cabinet minister has had to leave the nest....and this time, it's a high-profile one. Foreign Minister Maehara proverbially fell on his sword today since he had taken a political donation from a non-citizen, which is illegal under Japanese law. Actually, the citizen in question is a permanent Korean resident...which doesn't particularly seem too offensive since he was not only a permanent resident, but a zainichi...which means he was born here. But a non-Japanese is non-Japanese to the government no matter if he/she had been born and raised up in this country. To be frankly honest, I didn't think much of Maehara...and for that matter, any of the elite in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Their tenure for the past couple of years has been disappointing to say the least. But I'd thought that either Maehara or the former Foreign Minister Okada would inevitably be following Kan once he resigns....which will most likely be sooner rather than later this year. But now, I can't even be sure that the party itself will survive beyond this year.
Monday March 7, 6:28 p.m.

Four down, three to go in my Mega-Hump Day. I've got a back-to-back-to-back starting in about half an hour with Miss Genki, Kirk and then The Businesswoman. Luckily, the major snow we got in the morning dramatically disappeared by the time I made my walk over to teach Mr. Swank. It was a switch in terms of health conditions from last week. He was jolly while I was somewhat ailing from my hay fever. He and his family are heading over to Okinawa starting tomorrow with Swank and the kids following him on Wednesday since I will be seeing her tomorrow afternoon in Roppongi provided that I can get there in time from The Beehive session.

Unfortunately, it looks like that nose spray seems to have provided only the briefest of relief so I ended up getting the Benza Block once more at the drug store on the way over to teach Mr. Swank. Even with the precipitation, it looks like that pollen was still making a beeline for my sinuses. It's gonna be a long hay fever season.

I continued with my weekly Saturday morning viewing of old movies. This past Saturday, it was "Kiss Me Stupid", a sex farce of sorts made in the mid-60s. But this didn't have Rock Hudson or Doris Day. Instead it had Dean Martin, Ray Walston of "My Favorite Martian" fame (or if you're a Trekkie, he played Boothby the Starfleet Academy gardener), and a post-"Vertigo" Kim Novak. A rather odd trio, to say the least. And frankly speaking, for a Billy Wilder movie, a bit of a misfire. In fact, it never really did catch fire for me, and after about 40 minutes, I came across that Piers Morgan interview with Charlie Sheen, and that event pretty much destroyed any residual interest in the old movie.

Besides that, my surprisingly open weekend involved catching episodes from "Futurama" and "Robot Chicken". Rather appreciated the opportunity to get away from teaching for a couple of days.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Monday March 7, 12:44 p.m.

If it's Monday, it must be snow. Or it is the eternally metamorphosizing precipitation.. For the second Monday in a row, Tokyo has gotten an onslaught of rain, sleet and wet snow within the course of a few hours. When I left Cozy's office this morning in Toyocho, the 5-minute walk to the station saw a steady rain turn into frozen rain, and by the time I got to Nakano-Sakaue some 40 minutes later, I was witness to a huge wave of flurries. There has been some accumulation so far but the blizzard has tapered to just a few small flurries...for now.

Unfortunately, despite the precipitation, my hay fever has been giving me no end of woe. Although The Artist said that she was also under the curse of attacking pollen, I was by far the worse affected even though I took a few whiffs of my nose spray. I've got the mask on now as Mrs. Prissy should be here in about 10 minutes.

It's a huge Hump Day today as well since along with the 3 students I've already mentioned, there are 4 more to go on the conveyor belt including The Businesswoman who'll be filling in the very last slot after Kirk tonight.

The Overachiever canceled his lesson on Wednesday which would've met a midweek holiday for me but The Artist decided to come in for the same slot. I can't really complain though since that is the only lesson I have on Wednesday, and I actually got a full 2 days off this past weekend (very rare indeed) due to Mr. Jyuppie doing a dotakyan yesterday morning. So, although I lost 7,500 yen in income I was able to save myself a long train ride and could enjoy a second consecutive day of slumming it at home. However, I did use one of those Sunday hours doing my tax return...actually, the dry run of it. I will be filling out the real thing in a couple of days so that I can pay my share on Friday morning.