Friday, September 02, 2011

Saturday September 3, 8:30 a.m.

Listened to the 2nd of my 4 CD purchases of City Pop last night. This time, it was Junko Ohashi's "Full House" originally released in 1979. Cozy, who owns his own copy, told me it was a bit jazzier than her other albums of that time. I think he meant "jazzy" in the broadest sense of the word, though. If I were to be more specific, I would treat the album as VERY funky. And in the liner notes, the singer herself had requested her writers to make it more like Chaka Khan. And there is a lot there that reminds me of ol' Chaka. Again, Junko belts it out of the fact, so much so that I had to lower the volume even further on my Discman. The album is separated into a "Funky" and "Mellow" sides, but honestly speaking, there really isn't much of a difference. The horn section dominates on both A and B sides, with a couple of ballads thrown in.

Well, it looks like Typhoon Talas will probably bypass Tokyo and Chiba entirely, although the winds did whip up a bit last night. But when I came to the I-Cafe this morning, it was warm, sunny and humid. Not exactly weather to hunker down in. I'm here for the next several hours and then it's off to see The Bohemian for shabu-shabu tonight in the Hatchobori neighbourhood on the Hibiya Line. He will be the 2nd of two people I will inform about my permanent departure, the first being the bossman. Not sure how either will take the news. However, I am somewhat relieved that MB did take the news pretty calmly.

PM Noda has picked out his Cabinet. Nothing special to report except the attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace and the customary showing-off of the Prime Minister and his crew on the grand steps are becoming a disturbingly annual custom.

Friday September 2, 5:08 p.m.

It's been quite the day of commuting today. Over to Funabashi to see The Bass, then across to Hiroo for Swank, then to Nihombashi for The OL and finally back to Nakano-Sakaue to teach that new student, The Kimono Nurse...that last student will be here in about 20 minutes. And to add on top of that, there was some major disturbance on the Chuo/Sobu Lines which screwed up the Tozai Line. The weak point in the Tokyo transit system is something like the global economy. If the Chuo Line catches a cold, the Tozai Line sneezes. In any case, the Tozai was slow and packed...just like constipation.

Looks like The Egg won't take no for an answer. He wants to reserve my apartment as his hotel for next next week even though my place is now pretty much at fleabag level. Ach...his funeral. Still, it will be good to see him and his wife on this side of the Pacific.

Typhoon Talas seems to have fizzled out at least where Tokyo is concerned. We've had a few spritzes but nothing major in precip, and certainly no winds. In a way, I kinda feel like Anderson Cooper in Lower Manhattan last weekend when Hurricane Irene kinda stood him up.

Anyways, The Kimono Nurse is here.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Thursday September 1, 9:22 p.m.

Heard a huge cascade of precipitation roaring down the walls outside while I was teaching that fellow for his presentation. Not sure if it's still raining now. Still, I've heard that Typhoon Talas may be veering around the Kanto, so we may get the rain but not so much the winds.

And I got to see Mrs. Thursday for the first time in 3 weeks. Not surprisingly, we ended up gabbing for virtually the entire class on the usual "NCIS" but also on "Glee" for which she has become a casual fan...not exactly on the same level as Miss Genki. I also got a couple of juices from her as an omiyage from her trip to Camp Yokota a couple of weeks ago. Nothing like Gatorade Perform 02 and Lime Diet Coke.

I will now head on home and look forward to a busy day tomorrow. I've got The Bass, Swank, The OL and that new nurse who I gave a model lesson to yesterday.
Thursday September 1, 5:40 p.m.
Had my 90 minutes with Paddy at the nearby Vie De France cafe/bakery. Paddy has definitely gotten padded up in the 18 months since I'd seen him last. That British cooking (?) must be very filling.
We spoke on the whole spectrum of things: my permanent departure, his future in London, and movies & TV shows. It was good to have had the chat with him. He actually had just come back from The Cat's place up in Karuizawa which saved me any potential guilt trip since I basically have given up on any chance to travel up there one last time to see them due to my financial situation. Unfortunately, he's back to the UK on Saturday which means that was probably the final time I'll ever see him in Japan again.
Well, I've got my student from the insurance company in about 15 minutes, and then Mrs. Thursday will arrive for the first time in 3 weeks. She had a test to complete so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she passed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thursday September 1, 1:15 p.m.

Started to reap the benefits of my CD purchases this morning by listening to Taeko Onuki's "Cliche". As I've mentioned before, "Cliche" is the 4th album in her "French Titles" period in the early 80s. I've yet to get the first three albums, but after listening to this very short CD (just 36 minutes), I can say with some confidence that it probably has the most amount of French influence. A number of the tunes have that lilt and ennui of French Pop, thanks to the arrangement by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Jean Musy. One track, "Hikari no Carnaval" has the smack of chanson, a favored genre of music in Japan. Although Onuki keeps the songs within the French idiom, she does play around with the beat. The opening track "Kuro no Clair" has a very epic, lush feel with those synthesized strings, but the second track, "Shikisai Toshi" is a cute, bouncy piece. Very much a keeper.

It may be September, but the humidity is still killing us here in Tokyo. It's just the prelude to Typhoon Talas. It's actually not going to attack the Kanto head-on as originally forecast but the right edge will still give a mighty hip check to us in the next couple of days. I think it'll be the folks in the Kinki Region that'll get the brunt of the storm.

September 1, along with last month's O-Bon season, will have an especially deeper meaning this year because of March 11th's quake. Today just happens to be the 88th anniversary of The Great Kanto Earthquake which brought down Tokyo like a pyramid of cards. The day has been annually been the time for earthquake drills all throughout the country. And the capital has put on the largest drills ever made starting from this morning. PM Kan, in what will probably be his last big act as the leader of the country, was taking care of things while soon-to-be former Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda was in the control centre before he takes over the reins as Prime Minister.

As for me, I've got social issues to contend with. The Egg has been keeping me updated about his plans for coming to Japan next week. And Paddy will be seeing me this afternoon for coffee between my lessons with The Bossa Novan and yet another presentation student from the S-guys. Paddy's on a brief business trip from London and he's coming up from Shinagawa to meet me. I'm not sure if The Cat has informed him about my permanent departure from the scene.

However, I have sent word to the Movie Gang about my situation. I'm waiting for the fallout.

Wednesday August 31, 4:58 p.m.
Well, Yoshihiko Noda has officially become the 95th Prime Minister; yep, I was off by 5 Prime Ministers when I made my last entry about him yesterday. So, the morning wide shows were all vivisecting him, finding out what makes this guy tick. The media went to see his younger brother, who is a councilman in Funabashi City Hall, and then they openly wondered aloud about the relatively low-key wife of the PM. They've already gotten into the habit of referring to her as Japan's First Lady. She's already made an impression by not making one. Two PM's ago, there was PM Hatoyama's wife, a former member of the Takarazuka acting troupe, who definitely came across as being sweet but loopy....especially with that Chibi Maruko-chan hairdo and that bubble skirt that she'd worn when she and her hubby had visited the United Nations. Then there was PM Kan's wife who was frankly a bit of a battleaxe with her stinging comments about her husband and his compatriots. Taming of the shrew, indeed. But the new PM's wife has yet to be seen since her husband's surprise win on Monday. And the production assistants for all of the networks had a heck of a time trying to find any footage or photos of the new First Lady. They had to settle for a few-second shot of her beside her husband painting in one eye of a daruma taken all the way back in 1993.

Wednesday August 31, 4:41 p.m.

It's been a muggy one here in The Big Sushi today. The temperature kept itself below 30 degrees but the humidity was at least 70%. Hurricane Talas is also making its way up toward us; should be here by tomorrow night.

Since I did get my monthly stipend, I used some of it to add to my moving costs in the form of some more J-Pop CDs of the 70s and 80s. At Tower Records in Shibuya, I bought a couple of albums. One is called "Flying" by Sumiko Yamagata. I'd never heard of the lady in all my 30 years of J-Pop enthusiasm until I came across her in that "Japanese City Pop" book. Cozy showed me a few of her early albums that he just had sitting around in his office. Apparently, she started out as a folkie judging by her looks: fluffy sweater vest, short bangish hair and bell bottoms. But as the book writes, with "Flying", she made that transformation into City Pop princess: a more mature blown-dry hairdo and silky dress. Also according to the write-up, her music took on that more modern AOR approach. Kinda reminds me how Olivia Newton-John metamorphosed from Australian country music kid to American disco queen.

Also at Tower Records, I picked up another one of Junko Ohashi's albums called "Full House". Cozy also had this album and he told me that this disc was a bit more jazzier so I should be enjoying this one for sure. Then I took the Hanzomon Line up to the bookstore area of Jimbocho where my favorite old music haunt, Tacto, was. There, I quickly snatched up The Best of Hitomi Tohyama for a heavy 6,300 yen. There were other original albums by her at far less expensive prices but only the 2-CD set had the song "Our Lovely Days", the tune that spurred me to look for her in the first place. So I plunked down my yen. When I looked at the liner notes, I found out that "Our Lovely Days" was co-written by none other than Burt Bacharach himself; yep the melodic hooks definitely scream Bacharach. I also threw in another Taeko Onuki disc. "Cliche" is the 4th in her series of French titles from the 80s whose songs were arranged by Ryuichi Sakamoto. I've yet to listen to any of them since I still have to work today. But hopefully I can at least listen to a couple of tunes tonight before I hit bed. I can guarantee I won't last through an entire album since I'll probably be ready to drop out by the time I get home.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday August 30, 8:54 p.m.

Finished with S-Fluent. Did a pretty good job with his presentation but will need to vary his tone of delivery a bit more. He and his compatriots will be giving their in-company presentations tomorrow, so he (and I assume, his buddies) is feeling a bit nervous. Understandable, so I told him about envisioning his audience naked...may not have been the best advice for a guy who's married with 3 kids.

Just about ready to call it a day. I've got a pretty easy day tomorrow. Just 001 and Kirk in the evening but I plan to get out and get some CD shopping done. My latest paycheck was pretty small but I figure I can only live once, so let me die with some good music.

Tuesday August 30, 7:14 p.m.

Haven't really talked about the weather in any great detail in the last few entries. I have to say that it seems like the heat wave for Summer 2011 may be over (knocking on lots of wood). The last several days have seen warm but not excessively humid weather and the nights have been gloriously comfortable to sleep in. This time last summer, we were still in the middle of a record-smashing heat wave that lasted for another month.

But the big meterological news is that Tropical Storm/Typhoon Talas is supposedly well on its way to hit the Kanto within the next couple of days. The next three days have been showing nothing but umbrella signs. Just wonder if there will be high winds to add to the heavy precipitation. Generally, typhoons are not quite as epic as the Atlantic hurricanes but they still carry quite a punch if there is a direct hit. In the past, Okinawa was the prefecture that acted as the local whipping boy for these storms but in recent years, Typhoon Alley seems to have veered even further north into our neck of the woods.

Tuesday August 30, 6:19 p.m.

Finished up with the model lesson. Speedy just informed me that she's a lock. She's also a nurse with an interest in bossa nova, like the Bossa Novan, although she merely listens to it and not play. I just hope that the bossman doesn't get too nuts when I tell him that I will only be able to teach her for just a few months before I take off for home for good. Speaking of which, I will have to get started on that letter of resignation to deliver to him tomorrow night.
Tuesday August 30, 4:47 p.m.

Just waiting for my model student to get through her second written test. We usually have any potential students do an introductory and a Level 1 test just to get a baseline of their grammatical abilities before the actual model lesson. I've never been a big fan of doing model lessons although I will tell anyone who is checking out a conversation school as a student to demand one. Basically, it's just the usual irrational fears that bubble up within me....kinda like actors having to go to auditions.

It's been a fairly busy day although nothing compared to the five lessons of yesterday (thankfully, the 6th...Mr. Swank....did a dotakyan so I still got paid for his lesson). I had the usual session with The Beehive, so it was talk about the new Prime Minister and last week's whipping boy, Shinsuke Shimada. Then I met up with The New Yorker for the first time in about 3 weeks.

After this model lesson, I just have S-Fluent, the really good presenter to do his dry run with his presentation.

Speaking of the new Prime Minister, I found out from the Beehive that he is a local fact, he's from Funabashi City in Chiba Prefecture just next door to my home of Ichikawa. I learned of some of the lore of Yoshihiko Noda as he was going up the political ranks. As recently as a decade ago, he used to stand in front of JR Funabashi Station handing out flyers and introducing himself. Apparently, one story had him speechifying in front of a station for 13 hours straight. If he had indeed been doing that a decade ago, there is a pretty good chance that I even walked by him, although I've always made it a habit to completely ignore politicians.

I listened to some of his talk last night when he had addressed the DPJ throng soon after his runoff victory over the Industry Minister, Banri "Crybaby" Kaieda. He has a rather interesting way of giving his sentences this short but intense delivery. And he admitted that when it comes to charisma, he has little to none. In fact, he referred to himself as a dojo (stress on the 2nd syllable), a common slimy loach, and that he would never ever look like a kingyo or goldfish. That's OK by me. As long as he can somehow tackle all of the problems plaguing this nation, I can get used to dull and pedantic.

I even found out that PM Noda is a kohai of Mrs. Travel and Mrs. Alp from their old high school. Mrs. Travel, in fact, had seen the man at a reunion some years ago, and would have to agree with the man himself that he doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd. In any case, Noda has just officially been voted in as the 90th Prime Minister and now it's just getting that new Cabinet together either by Friday or next Monday.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday August 29, 6:34 p.m.

There has been a book out in the stores here titled "A Geek in Japan" by a Spanish fellow over the past several months. Apparently, the contents are based on this guy's blog which talks about the author's adventures and descriptions of life in this zany country with plenty of his own photos. It became one of the most popular sites in the Spanish-speaking world, which therefore begat the book. He's probably raking in the dough.
Perhaps I should re-label the title as "A Lucky Bastard Geek in Japan". I'm sure as hell not hearing anything from any greedy publishers.
Monday August 29, 6:26 p.m.

Looks like my social calendar for September is getting that special feel. After several years, The Egg and his wife will be visiting Japan from the 8th. My old friend asked if my apartment is available as the DIY B&B. Although it will sound very unwelcoming, I had to decline him. My place frankly has gone downhill over the years, and certainly women won't find it too homey. And I'm sorry, but frankly even with my best cleaning efforts, I don't think my place will just do it anymore as a crashpad. At least, The Egg gave me an out by stating that his wife preferred to find something in the form of a proper hotel near Tokyo Station. Believe me, that's fine with me.
Also, a family friend has informed me that he and his wife will be visiting at the end of next month. They won't be needing my help in terms of accommodations thankfully but I hope to see them for dinner. Plus, of course, there are the usual meetings with the Movie Gang.

Monday August 29, 6:01 p.m.

Just found out over the wire that "Ghostbusters 3", a movie that had been flitting around in the ether for years has finally gotten the official green light....with or without Bill Murray, which could be a significant plot point in the new movie.

Now I don't think the original "Ghostbusters" was a gutbuster at all...aside from one well-placed joke late in the movie, and the 2nd movie was even more in need of laughs. But I think what the two of them had was heart in terms of the characters, the special effects...and of course, that theme song (although I distinctly remember its performance on the Oscars of that year as being one of the low points in the show). In fact, I did buy the double-pack DVD set a couple of years ago and still enjoy watching at least the first one repeatedly.

Dan Ackroyd mentioned that the movie will be one where the old Ghostbusters, who now frankly have Slimer's girth, pass the baton to a new generation. Apparently one name has already been bandied about...that of Ashton Kutcher, aka Mr. Demi Moore. As for me, I wouldn't mind having the first Asian ghostbuster in the form of Masi Oka. And why not have a female ghostbuster? I think that Felice Renee Smith from "NCIS: LA" would be a nice addition.

Monday August 29, 5:08 p.m.

After Yajima's lesson, I decided to take a look up at Akihabara and was surprised to discover that there was still a hokoten going on. Apparently, the cancellation of the pedestrians' paradise was a temporary one after the March 11 earthquake.

Of course, this was the hokoten post-killing spree by that psycho a couple of years back. No performances of any kind, but at least all of us had lots of space to walk around. And the crazy cars were out. These are vehicles tricked up and decorated by otaku in tribute to their favorite characters. There were a few parked on one of the main streets which garnered quite a lot of attention by cellphone-wielding folks.

This young maid immediately shielded her face when she noticed that I was about to take a picture of her. Perhaps she is in the Maid Protection Programme.

Monday August 29, 5:01 p.m.

My gradual dissemination of my permanent departure from these shores is continuing. I informed Yajima yesterday at the end of the lesson. He kinda had this deer-in-headlights look in his eyes and there was a brief awkwardness. Of course, I knew that my private students would react in different ways but it still kinda feels bad that I have to let them know....even if I am being considerate in letting them know almost 4 months before D-Day. And then today, I let The Godfather know. He was nice enough to respond that it was too bad but he understood the situation. I still have to tell the Movie Gang, Speedy and The Sisters of State. No idea how The New Yorker or The Carolinan will take this.

Monday August 29, 4:51 p.m.

Besides the annual political winds of change, we've got the real thing happening as we speak. As labeled here on the map as Typhoons 11 and 12, the more imaginatively named Namundol and Talas are coming north. It looks like Namundol will be bothering Taiwan and mainland China, but Talas looks like it's making a straight line right for us in the Kanto. According to the timeline map in the above picture, it may strike sometime in midweek. Should be interesting. I don't think there will be quite the hype that Hurricane Irene was generating. And the hype was probably the only thing that Irene had been generating to epic levels as it relatively gently scoured through New York City. Anderson Cooper looked almost disappointed as the CNN meterologist revealed that Lower Manhattan would probably get flooded but only that. Aside from 12 hours of straight rain, Irene would basically snub The Big Apple. I can only hope that Typhoon Talas will do the same as its Atlantic big brother.

Monday August 29, 4:33 p.m.

"Allo...I bid you welcome to Maison De La Crow where you can 'ave all the crow you want to eat. May I interest you in our special for today: Japanese Prime Ministerial Candidate Crow with extra ticks and mites for extra crunchiness?"

Yup, don't bet on me for your political choices. I kinda feel like that guy who had bet all his money on The Vancouver Canucks to win The Stanley Cup in 4 straight earlier this year. I'd thought that it would be the relatively popular but dumb former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara who was gonna get the top job in Japan with the runnerup being crybaby minister Kaieda. Instead, it was current Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda who grabbed the brass ring of Nagatacho.

But I'm not alone in at the crow buffet table. A lot of the media thought it would be a two-way race between Maehara and Kaieda. There were an unprecedented 5 nominees for the DPJ presidency which had the pundits predicting...and predicting correctly...that there would have to be a runoff vote after the initial vote since noone was probably gonna get the 200 votes needed to get that majority amongst the DPJ parliamentarians. But the surprise started when the two-way turned out to be only half-right. Maehara got left in the dust in 3rd place! And here I had been ruing that Japan was gonna get its own Dan Quayle. But then again, things were looking bad for Maehara when it had been announced that the posse of Ichiro Ozawa, the blacklisted but still potent kingmaker within the party, was gonna support Kaieda instead of Maehara.

During the runoff, The Godfather and I were having our weekly talk at the Tully's in Tameike-Sanno, and we were discussing about how the party leadership elections would go. We were both surprised (and relieved) that Maehara got dumped. But then half an hour later, the runoff results came out on The Godfather's cellphone, and in the upset, Yoshihiko Noda got the nod. So, unless there are any major surprises tomorrow such as a successful assassination, the current Finance Minister will become the future Prime Minister. And he's the guy in the center in the bottom photograph. Not exactly photogenic but as long as he's competent, I'll take him anyday. May be wishing too much here.