Friday, August 19, 2011

Saturday August 20, 1:58 p.m.

Just had to mention that the cops had finally found the body of that Japanese girl who had fallen over Niagara Falls last week. Her name was Ayano Tokumasu of Aichi Prefecture. A memorial page has been set up on Facebook for her, and the lass actually had her own Facebook account which wasn't visited by her too often.

Saturday August 20, 1:41 p.m.

Gloriously cool today thanks to a major storm that swept through the Kanto yesterday. I couldn't quite believe it on Thursday when I read the 3-day report and discovered that although it would be hitting 32 C at 9 a.m. on Friday, the temps would be plummeting to well below 30 C by the afternoon due to some seriously heavy rain.

Well, sure enough, I did get my Gatorade at the nearby vending machine by my home at about 9 yesterday since I was losing water again as I had done everyday for the past 2 weeks. But during my lesson with The Bass in Funabashi, the clouds just got darker and darker until they finally exploded and let loose with a torrent of precipitation which continued into the evening. It was all coming down in sheets and my umbrella just kept my head dry on my way home.

Finally decided to try out the McBarbers in my neighbourhood for the first time. I was starting to take on that heavy metal roadie look so I figured that I didn't want to have the bossman lecture me on my hair and tried the place out. As the name would hint, it is one of those discount barbers, and as you can see from the picture, all one has to pay is 990 can actually get change from giving that one bill. When I entered the place, I was the only customer so the barber quickly got me seated in politely and in a friendly way, and just asked some simple questions of confirmation in terms of how much I wanted cut off. Then it was off to the races. Bring out the scissors and clippers and within 10 minutes, 5 months' growth of hair was all over me and on the floor. Luckily, I didn't have to suffer the itchiness of walking home with hair bits running down into my underwear; the barber had one of those vacuum hoses to suck everything up.

10 minutes and 990 yen. It took a sixth of the time and a fifth of the price that I'd once paid at my old salon. Economically speaking, I was certainly showing my wisdom but I felt rather bad that I could no longer go to that old place with the friendly stylists, complementary cup of tea and shampoo/scalp massage. Financially, I really could no longer justify it although I had always appreciated this service in this country. The last time I'd been there was in late February, just a couple of weeks before the big quake. I had a hack job on my scalp in Toronto during my escape there in April and then I just held off on a cut for almost half a year. I think it was just as well that I just hadn't made any more contact with the salon and just have them assume that I had gone back permanently. Not really good with the goodbye thing.

On YouTube, I went over some of the media coverage of 9/11 since we're almost at the 10th anniversary. Even though, it's almost a decade since that day, watching the ABC/CNN coverage still brings goosebumps. Frankly, I'm not sure what things are gonna be like next month on the 11th.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thursday August 18, 1:52 p.m.

Before I left for work this morning, I was switching between the latest episode of "The Mentalist" (the one where Cho goes on a rampage on his old gang) and today's "Piers Morgan Tonight". The latter show had Christine O'Donnell, former wannabe witch (and I mean this literally if you can watch her 1999 appearance on Jay Mohr's old show) and attempted Congresswoman representing The Tea Party. I only saw the first several minutes when I came to the decision that the interview was devolving into a verbal slap fest. And so Mr. Jane won out; as it turned out, I'd just read that O'Donnell walked off the set. No surprise there. It kinda looked like Piers Morgan was sinking his teeth into some red meat....Larry King, he is not.
Thursday August 18, 12:48 p.m.

Another hot one out there. If it weren't for some of the breeziness, I would probably be taking on the consistency of cheese fondue outside. As it is, I'm doing OK here at Speedy's since he's got the air conditioner working again.

I just have the one student today: The Bossa Novan. I'll have to put on the kid gloves to a certain extent today. Perhaps I was a bit too fast with her last week. In any case, once we hit 4:00, I'll be out of here and back home. Yup, Mrs. Thursday isn't in the house this week and I don't have The Carolinan tonight. For that matter, it's gonna be a quiet end to the week. Just only have The Bass tomorrow since The OL is off to a hot spring with her family up in Nagano Prefecture and I've got bupkiss on Saturday.

Strangely enough, I got another contact from Facebook. My ol' student, Miss Honolulu, contacted me from Perth, Australia, her home of several years. She was a good friend of MB's as well. Speaking of whom, he and The Satyr should be heading out to New York City sometime this weekend.

CNN had a feature about the hidden dangers of Yosemite National Park. Apparently, people who were destined to become the losing end of Darwinism have ended their lives needlessly by trying to get that great picture by the waterfall, not caring about the rangers' safety advice. At this time, my Sunday morning student, Yajima, and his wife are traveling in that very park. But he seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders....unlike that poor girl going over Niagara Falls earlier this week.
Wednesday August 17, 6:30 p.m.

Looks like I got another cancellation. I was supposed to have another one of the S-series but he's canned his lesson for tomorrow night. So I've just got The Bossa Novan tomorrow afternoon. I did tell The Businesswoman about their mutual interest in Brazilian music; maybe someday they can meet, but I'm not sure how The Bossa Novan is feeling about her lessons so far.

The Magician was fine. Luckily, we had to do one of those Snakes N' Ladders type of games to wrap up the text so it was basically a lot of practice there. We haven't even finished half of it and she won't be showing up til mid-September for her next class so we're looking at October probably for a new text.

Not sure if the Canadian authorities have found the body of that Japanese girl who had gone over the Falls. Apparently, they're frantically trying to track down her family back over here. At this point, if they haven't found her by now, she's pretty much a fatality.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wednesday August 17, 3:45 p.m.

Saw The Businesswoman for the first time in over 5 months, i.e. before the quake. She had been extremely busy at her university but with summer vacation, she finally had time to get some down time in. She's lost quite a bit of weight and gained some rustiness in her English ability but she was OK otherwise. We of course did some catchup on our respective situations because of 3/11.

The bossman was kind enough to bring over The Colonel....Sanders, that is. Had a couple of regular wings plus some sort of spicy number and a mountain of fries. I think dinner is now out of the question for tonight. Y' just get that craving for all those secret herbs and spices but once you're satisfied, you can go on for another 6 months before KFC gets back at you.
Wednesday August 17, 1:42 p.m.

Well, from the musically sublime to the ridiculous....I just found out that there had been a hostage-taking incident in Shibuya involving Johnny Kitagawa. Ol' John just happens to be the head honcho of Johnny's Entertainment, probably the largest aidoru company in Japan taking care of the male aidoru groups such as SMAP and Arashi. Apparently, some nutbar forced his way into Johnny's place...not sure if it was the office or the home at about 9:45 a.m. Happily though, the police were able to defuse the situation quickly and the babbling freak has been taken into custody. Effeminate boys and ardent female fans can sigh relief.

Wednesday August 17, 1:02 p.m.

Still going on about my J-Pop oldies craze here. The picture on the left is that of Hiromi Iwasaki, probably one of the best pop singers in terms of pure vocalic talent. Apparently there are two celebs with the same name in Japan; this is the one who had her aidoru heyday in the mid-70s before turning into a pure pop singer going into the 80s. Of course, the pic is from her younger days since she's now over 50. At that time, she was noticeable also for the waist-length hair and the bangs...a hair style that was very popular amongst young women who were not interested in looking like Seiko Matsuda. And unlike the Queen of Aidoru, Iwasaki didn't have turn on the cutie and pouty looks, although she was attractive. She had this powerful voice with good range which the songwriters helped her with when she got out of the aidoru phase of her career. And sure enough, for the past several years, she has been performing onstage in various musicals, notably the Japanese rendition of "Les Miserables".

Iwasaki is one of my favourite singers here and has been for 30 years. The very first song of hers that hit my ears was "Sumire Iro no Namida" (Violet Tears), a ballad that was her big hit of 1981. And I think she performs ballads better than her more uptempo tunes. She seems to struggle for breath when she tries something with a faster beat.

In any case the reason I mention her is that I was listening to one of the many albums I possess of her, "Diamant" earlier this morning. Listening to old tunes has been one way that I've been using to beat the heat in my apartment.

Wednesday August 17, 12:38 p.m.

Another steamy one in The Big Sushi. 10 straight days of 35-degree-plus weather out there. It still won't approach the horrors of last summer but I am looking forward to some of that autumn weather. One thing about moving out and about on the streets...make sure you have your handkerchief, a package of Gatsby wipes and a vending machine near you.

With 001 cancelling today, I have The Businesswoman in about 90 minutes, followed by The Magician and then Kirk. Nicely spread out in terms of schedule and with the gap left by 001, I even have time to get a small dinner.
Tuesday August 16, 8:58 p.m.

Finished that 2-hour with S-Fluent. And yep, he's very fluent. Very adept with the language due to his many years in America. Will be looking forward to his next two lessons.

I've heard about that 19-year-old Japanese student who fell over Niagara Falls. If they can't find her by now, I'm afraid there is very little hope left. She'd be staying in Toronto, I heard.

And I finally got word from my old friend, Paddy, who's living in London with his wife. He assured me that they hadn't gotten dragged into the riots of last week, but he didn't mince words about what to do about the thugs. You'd think a guy who had lived several years in The Big Apple would be kinda inured to that sort of stuff, but....

Tuesday August 16, 5:46 p.m.

Still have quite a bit of time before the next student enters. I did a bit more research on this new musical target, Hitomi "Penny" Tohyama. I checked the Wikipedia writeup and found out that she's had quite a few albums released. And she not only has a community devoted to her on Mixi but also the lady herself has an account and occasionally chimes in. Plus, she's got an Ameba blog. I haven't joined this community since I still have to listen to some more of her stuff on YouTube. I did have a chance to listen to one of her tunes called "Our Lovely Days" which is indeed a lovely City Pop ballad. But still have more to hear.

I bought myself some cola to help get me up for this next lesson although I am well aware of the possible sugar crash. Just hope that this fellow is interesting enough.

Speaking of City Pop singers, I listened to Junko Ohashi's Best album last night since I had that rare moment of nothing on TV and no pressing need for pressing clothes or prepping lessons. That last sentence may not have sounded too complimentary to her but really I do have an interest in her stuff as well. Her most famous songs are "Silhouette Romance" and "Tasogare My Love", two pretty ballads with the latter being strongly in the Showa Era kayo kyoku vein of things. However, they don't really reveal that before and after those hits in the late 70s and early 80s, she had a streak of funkiness in her songs on the level of a Wild Cherry in which she could really belt a lyric out of the stadium. I've also been collecting her old albums of late as well. However, strangely enough, my favorite tune of hers hasn't even rated a mention on any of her Best albums. And her 1987 disc called "DEF (D-something or other, Emotion, Fragrance)" didn't have anything particularly noteworthy except for the first track called "Nemurenai Diamond" (Sleepless Diamond...yep, I can't figure it out either) which just has that sophisticated pop feel to it which I've always been drawn to....kinda like Swingout Sister. It's something that hasn't been usually attached to Ohashi but she really pulls it off well.

I've got the distinct feeling that I'm gonna need extra boxes for the CDs when I finally move home in December.

Tuesday August 16, 5:01 p.m.

Well, I've just got another one of the S-series for my other student tonight. I had a marathon session involving three of them back on Saturday....really wrung me out by the end but nice folks all. According to the bossman, this new guy tonight is supposedly the best of the lot, and his presentation notes show it....very concise phrases in point form on his PowerPoint slides. And he even did some volunteer work in Compton, LA...and survived. Still, these are 2 hours in the evening so I'll have to grab some caffeinated stuff before I start the lesson or I may end up doing some rather embarrassing such as dozing off in front of him.
Also got the news that 001 has cancelled her lesson for tomorrow. But I still have The Businesswoman for the first time in several months....let's say this, the earthquake hadn't happened yet when I'd had her last class. Then, it's The Magician with a couple of hours now vacant due to 001's cancellation and finally Kirk.
Newswise, the interesting feature today is in Osaka where the cops found a can which had been sitting beside a telephone pole for a few days. The contents were a lot less innocuous....body parts, including a human head, two right feet and various other gory gems. At first, I had thought it was a Yakuza gang sending a message to those who would dare cross them but now it looks like it may be a personal conspiracy. Apparently, according to eyewitnesses, there were a couple of guys and one woman who had been handling the can.
I listened to that Taeko Ohnuki album last night. "Signifie"was a remarkably short album....just 36 minutes, and a lot of the songs are actually on her Best album. Still, it's nice to know that I do have the original. I think it is quite an interesting disc by Ohnuki for an album that had been released in the early aidoru-saturated 80s. Although I wouldn't really peg it as City Pop, it is notable for Ohnuki's whispery vocals and the French Pop-influenced melodies....something that reflects, according to the Japanese Wikipedia write-up on the album, the New Academism boom of the time. O-h-h-h-h-kay. In any case, I now have that urge to get her previous album, "Cliche".
As I've said before, that City Pop book I got at Towers several weeks ago has been a musical godsend to me. I've discovered a number of artists that really never got on my radar although their heyday was at least 25 years ago. Now, I'm trying to look up artists such as Hitomi "Penny" Tohyama and Tomoko Aran. I actually did come across their albums at Tacto yesterday but I guess their rarity has jacked up their prices.
Tuesday August 16, 4:48 p.m.

An unusual day in that I didn't have the Beehive for the 2nd week in a row. Instead, I had The Godfather in the afternoon. As you may have read in the last entry concerning him, my latest student fell prey to a con artist recently although the money that had been stolen wasn't all that much considering how high-powered he and his colleagues are. Still, the fact that he was victimized was understandably galling to them. Well, when we met earlier today, there was a reckoning of sorts...the fraudster actually showed up out of the blue at a meeting last Monday for the victims to regroup. Obviously, the jerk wasn't welcomed with open arms but they did take the opportunity to grill him. He didn't show much remorse aside from some watery eyes (Seiko Matsuda tears, I call them), according to The Godfather, but he did fess up to his fakery on some points in his resume such as attending Berkeley to get his PhD (he actually had just audited a few courses there), and he even apologized to my student. The Godfather saw some hint of sincerity in the person that he has considered to be not a bad person basically but someone who is very troubled. The picture The Godfather painted of this guy seemed like something out of "The Talented Mr. Ripley"....a sociopath who had yearned for the good life and would do anything to get it. And the conman did get it for a while. He had used the stolen money to rent himself a luxury weekly apartment in Aoyama and to enjoy the cuisine at a number of Michelin 2-star and 3-star restaurants throughout Tokyo.

The Godfather wasn't totally satisfied with the outcome of the discussion. With the cost and notorious slowness of the Japanese justice system, it was decided that it would be no use to charge the conman. However, he and his fellows warned him that if he were to show up within The Godfather's rarefied business community again, they wouldn't hesitate to target him with a lawsuit. Frankly, I don't think someone like this Ocean's-Eleven wannabe is gonna go straight at all...most likely, he'll disappear for several months and then will try to find another mark.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday August 15, 5:24 p.m.

Well, I guess I've made it to 4,000 entries! I should celebrate this some way. Perhaps with a very nice bento tonight when I head home. And to think, it took just 8 years.

I had The German for her last lesson before she heads out to Hokkaido on the Hokuto-sei express...kinda like the domestic version of The Orient Express without the mystery. However, she'll get a nice French dinner in the club car. I teased her a bit by saying that perhaps a Sean Connery-type may ask to sit with her. She's definitely a student who would be happy never to use the text. We spoke on everything from the oversized amounts in an American restaurant to the current problems in London.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monday August 15, 2:47 p.m.
It was a scene that I'd never thought I would ever see on a Monday morning. The Tozai Line was not only empty but I could easily get a seat. Usually it would be the usual attempt to break spatial laws of physics as I get on the subway, even at 6:30 a.m. but it was like going on at midday. O-Bon must be firmly in session. And I'd also noticed that despite the summer heat, the walk to the station was a bit more bearable than usual...I wonder if the exodus of thousands of people shrunk the heat island effect.

Unlike the 6-hour marathon of Saturday, today will end up being pretty light in the schedule. I had Cozy for his usual morning lesson and I just have The German in a little more than an hour. And that will be all she wrote for me since Miss Genki is off for her own O-Bon holiday this week and Kirk seems to have made Wednesday nights his regular time.

I ended up spending the late morning and early afternoon in Jimbocho, the bookstore area in Tokyo. That image of an empty Tokyo from early in the morning dissipated when I reached Kudanshita Station, the closest subway station on the Tozai without having to pay extra outside of my commuter PASMO. Just saw a lot of oldtimers and some young 'uns with cameras pour up the stairs. And then I figured it is the 66th anniversary of the official surrender of Japan to the Allies in World War II. Kudanshita Station is also the closest station to Yasukuni Shrine where Japan's war dead are buried. Most of the people were making the annual pilgrimage. Not sure if Prime Minister Kan was planning to go in an official capacity; usually when a Japanese PM heads over to Yasukuni, other Asian governments press the "I protest" button. In any case, I was walking the other way to Jimbocho so I didn't have to fight through the crowds but the police riot hoosegows were present along with an increased presence of cops on Yasukuni Avenue.

Now for the picture...I went over to Tacto, my go-to store for all of those old and rare J-Pop CDs although I should more accurately state kayo kyoku CDs since these come from the 70s and 80s. Being a Monday, I was the only one in the store so plenty of room to browse. I ended up getting Taeko Ohnuki's "Signifie" on the 2nd floor. Ohnuki has become my latest singer du jour because of her eclectic sound back 30 years ago and her long professional and platonic relationship with Ryuichi Sakamoto. I'd bought her 1977 album, "Sunshower", last month and it was a City Pop disc through and through. However, "Signifie" is her 1984 release of a more techno and European sound that had been part and parcel of hers and Sakamoto's efforts during the early 80s. Ohnuki was one of the biggies in the New Music movement which began in the early 70s along with Yumi Arai and Minako Yoshida. But whereas Yuming went more with the West Coast Sound and Yoshida headed into a more soulful direction, Ohnuki decided to veer more into a French Pop sensibility. Always interesting to see and hear how these young singers evolved over the decades. Anyways, I've got some listening to do later tonight. But there is a rerun of that old music show, "Uta no Top 10" on cable tonight.

Monday August 15, 2:26 p.m. may know this beauty's father better than her if you're living outside of Japan. Pops was Oscar-nominated for his supporting turn (I guess when you star with Tom Cruise, you can only be supporting) in "The Last Samurai" and was in there with Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception". Of course, I'm talking about Ken Watanabe. Well, this is his comely young daughter, Anne (which is the Anglicism of "An" 杏), all 5' 10" and 25 years of her. Over the last couple of years, she's become the latest "It" girl on Japanese TV and movies. Her agent should either have gotten a raise or fired for even getting her to do a musical though she's never sung a tune publicly in her life. And apparently she's an otaku as well....although before you mouthbreathers start increasing your pantings, she's a fan of Japanese history so a bit more on the academic side of things. Anyways, thought I'd let you know since someday she may even follow her father's footsteps and go across the pond to Hollywood.

As has been the case for the past several days, yesterday was another scorcher in the Kanto. I had to vacate my apartment for a few hours in the afternoon lest I actually broil in my own juices while sitting on my sofa. I ended up having lunch and writing at the station bakery. The night was little better even with both of my windows open and a fan going nonstop. However, Sunday night has been my must-see TV night thanks to AXN. I've been privy to "Hawaii Five-O"/"Nikita" from 9-11 p.m. Both shows are now well into their first season over here and have been developing their mythic arcs...the seeming prerogative for successful action dramas nowadays.

Just before must-see TV, though, I did get a phone call from Teddy Bear for the first time in several years. Teddy Bear used to be one of my students at the ol' school a decade ago, and though he wasn't the sharpest tack in the tool kit he was very studious with his English. He also often annoyed the heck out of me, one other teacher and that ol' student of mine, The Stick. Despite Bear's obvious mental difficulties, The Stick had very little patience or sympathy for him. I have to admit that I had tried to ditch him since he'd had a penchant for calling me at rather inconvenient hours such as midnight and that one other teacher was starting to get rather scared of him since he used to pester her all the time. But after several years' absence from my social world, he managed to track me down via Facebook and did the usual Friend Request. I decided to respond positively, and sure enough, he contacted me. I let him talk with me for about half an hour since he has never really developed a sense of timing about when to cut the conversation. He's admitted that he easily gets lonely which would explain the need for him to contact people at any time, and in the past few years, has developed a form of trainphobia because he's gotten a panic attack on a Ferris Wheel (sorry, can't explain the connection). Anyways, I've told him about my permanent departure from these shores at the end of the year so he wants to see me at least once for lunch or dinner.