Friday, September 30, 2011

Saturday October 1, 9:45 a.m.

A bit overcast but the temps won't be too bad...around 25 C today. I'm about to head off to the Grand Palace Hotel to pick up my friend and his wife. The Anime Chamberlain called up this morning to see what we were up to. His sardonic sense of humour is still very much in operation.

Swank was in better form yesterday compared to her jet-lagged self a few weeks back. After her lesson, I actually made the short hop to Roppongi where I knew there was a Burger King to try the new XT Steakhouse Burger. Yep, it's a thick, juicy sucker (yep, I know I'm treading on the R-18 borderline with that expression) but the BBQ sauce didn't have much zip; in fact, I was more reminded of shio tare.

My former juku boss also left a message asking whether I would be able to meet her and my possible replacement on Monday night. Although I'm on a much lighter schedule these days, Monday nights happen to be the busiest night of the week for me so I had to decline and instead suggested Tuesday.

Anyways, it's almost time for me to head on out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday September 29, 5:06 p.m.

Had that lesson with that rather perky nurse who just started. Nope, it's not The Bossa Novan who I'm starting to suspect has flown the coop. When a student suddenly cancels her final lesson on her contract with only a few minutes to spare, and leaves neither a reason nor a time that she'll have her next lesson...well, the writing is on the wall. I don't think this was the reason behind her probable departure but I kinda noticed that she didn't really give too much effort to any homework she was assigned.

Anyways, this nurse looks like she'll be staying at least for a while. The Kimono Nurse gave us the go-sign to renew, and it certainly looks like she's been enjoying the lesson. She's got the funny bone for my sense of humour, and though that has meant that the sidetracking has gotten a bit thick, we're throwing out the English and that's the name of the game, isn't it?

For the past few hours, I've just been concocting another Eiken 1 exercise for Swank's lesson tomorrow and then having some conbini dinner. I haven't seen Swank for a few weeks due to a cancellation on her part and the holiday Friday last week. Also, Burger King Japan will be debuting its BK Steakhouse superburger tomorrow which I will try and seek, but I'm not sure if there's a branch in Shibuya where I'll be heading after Swank's lesson. I'm planning to hit Tower Records since I'll be buying a few discs on their Tower Re-card plan.

I've got a fairly busy Saturday coming up since my childhood friend and his wife will be visiting the capital from tomorrow. They'll be staying at the Grand Palace Hotel just across from The Imperial Palace. And I heard that The Anime Chamberlain will be stopping by sometime in the next few weeks perhaps.

Skippy apparently visited some sort of Rabbit Cafe. Yep, you heard me....Tokyo has become the home of various specialty cafes over the years. Of course, you know about the Maid Cafes and the Butler Cafes. Now, animal cafes are coming into vogue. Skippy always tries out these places. She went to a Cat Cafe several days ago, and then over the past weekend, she visited a Rabbit Cafe in which for a small charge of 500 yen for 30 minutes, you can have your coffee while enjoying the company of a Fluffy. I told her that I'd be interested in joining her just for the novelty.

I guess the first of my farewell parties has been officially organized. One of the Teahouse Ladies has set up the party at a Singaporean all-you-can-eat restaurant in Yurakucho. Never a bad choice. And on my birthday, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thursday September 29, 12:51 p.m.

The news Stateside seems to be fixated on the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician accused in the death of Michael Jackson. I saw the before-and-after picture of Jackson rehearsing on stage and then dead as a doornail the day after. However, the really horrifying thing was hearing that taped message on Dr. Murray's cellphone of a totally whacked-out Jackson slurring something. Sounded more like The King of Drop than The King of Pop. Dr. Murray wanted to prescribe more drugs to him?! And why did the doctor tape the phone call in the first place? Insurance? Proof? A lot of the medical talking heads on CNN, including Dr. Gupta, have wondered aloud what Murray must've been thinking when he was giving the propofol to Jackson. Well, so far, it doesn't look too good for him.
Over here, it seems like All Nippon Airways must be wondering if it's a yin-yang month. ANA finally got their first Dreamliner superplane 3 years late, but the upper management had to do the necessary on-camera bows in apology for some sort of incident earlier this month involving a plane between Hong Kong and Tokyo which had to flip over upside down with passengers aboard.
And the crime news gets even more bizarre. One of the veteran lead TV reporters, a portly fellow by the name of Okuyama, has apparently been missing for several days. But there have been sightings of him (kinda like Elvis) in the bedroom town of what can be described to be a newly homeless guy. Kinda wonder if he's trying to flee from the yakuza or something. Then there has been the story of some nutjob who had inadvertently murdered his mentally problematic daughter by forcing her to sit under a man-made waterfall at the back of his home with the help of a local priest...I kid you not about this one. Never fails to surprise me about some of the bad things that happen here.

Thursday September 29, 12:33 p.m.

Just here all by my lonesome at Speedy's as has become the custom recently since the bossman is at the kids' school and there is no staff on duty. I've got that new nurse student along with The Carolinan and Mrs. Thursday. The weather is pure Tokyo Fall: none of that Canadian Autumnal Cool N' Crisp, mind you, but a comfortable warmth is permeating the metropolis.

Had my viewpoint on Japanese popular music given a good shake out of its complacency. I asked on one of the J-Pop forums whether there were any Mariya Takeuchi fans out there since I just wanted to start a conversation with like-minded people. Over here, Ms. Takeuchi is seen by just about least to folks down to their late 20s, one of the singer-songwriter legends of Japan's New Music. And recently, I did write about her debut album that I'd bought last week. Well, a couple of replies did come in stating that although she did have a few good songs in their estimation, the respondents also wondered how this singer could've gotten so popular over the past 3 decades despite the "cheesiness" of most of her tunes.

Uh...ouch! However, I did reply very a person in his mid-40s should...that I was a fan of her music but did acknowledge Ms. Takeuchi sometimes went a bit overboard with her homage to Connie Francis. Still, the comments did get me to remind myself that no matter how much of a singing genius she has been in her homeland, her tunes wouldn't ever see the light of day on mainstream American radio. They would be heard as a bizarre Japanese-language pastiche of 70s/80s West Coast music by most of the American public.

But then again, that cheesiness is what probably attracted me to Japanese pop music in the first place. I mean, a lot of the aidoru or even the City Pop stuff that I've recently chased after would never be heard Stateside or any other place on the planet, with the exception of China or Korea. In a way, people who love radio's Dr. Demento programme can share a bus seat with me. It's Western music given that Japanese twist....something that can apply to many things in the local pop culture.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wednesday September 28, 10:01 a.m.
Just some pictures from Sunday since I was in the Ginza area. I think there's something about Ginza at sunset and evening that makes it irresistable for amateur and professional photographers.

Wednesday September 28, 9:49 a.m.

It's another one-lesson day today. I just have The Godfather this afternoon at our Mosburger meeting place. He's got a lot on his plate these days. He just became a father for the 2nd time, he's trying to get his new business off the ground after being swindled in the summer by a con man, and his family has just moved houses. But he still has time to kill to have one English lesson. Gotta love the man's energy. And if he is indeed gonna run for public office sometime in the future, that source will have to be there.
As for The Beehive session yesterday, I saw the last of the Tobu Community Centre, the venue where we had our sessions for the last year. It's a pity that I won't be going there again until I finally leave, but apparently the rooms there are very much in demand so that Mrs. Alp has said that there was no way to book a room for the next couple of months. Our room was a small tatami one with cushions, equivalent to a 1K apartment in size. From next week, we'll be back at Cafe Nard in Funabashi which had been our alternate venue. Cafe Nard is nice in that it's quiet and it's only busy during the morning and evening rush hours. Still, I prefer our own private room rather than an open cafe since I've always been a bit worried about disturbing the other customers.
I just heard from Shrek this morning via Facebook that one of the regular members of my university club during the early 90s had just passed away. He was a gentle giant....sorry to say, but he was obese. However, he had a very gentle spirit about him. He even made his way to Japan as a teacher where he did have his ups and downs. In fact, in Shrek's tribute to him on Facebook, he admitted that our departed friend had his detractors as well as allies. I lost contact with the fellow once I came over here. I'd heard that he had lost quite a bit of weight over the years but I think his untimely death probably had something to do with it.
Wednesday September 28, 9:35 a.m. Had my monthly lunch with The Beehive ladies yesterday. Mrs. Travel was atypically absent though since she had to accompany her husband to the hospital for some heart problems. However, Mrs. Alp, Mrs. Jade and Mrs. Tee and even Mrs. London took me to this place in one of the department stores in Tsudanuma on the restaurant floor. Not sure what it says in total but it starts with "Nihon kai" (Japan Sea). It's a chain restaurant specializing in sashimi.

We've been to this place a few times in the past, and it has always given dependable food and service. Strangely enough, though, I ended up ordering the fried chicken course. And since the ladies can never eat as much as is offered, Mrs. Alp and Mrs. Tee gave me their share of hire katsu or lean pork cutlet. As you can see, there are generous mounds of shredded cabbage. I don't know what the Japanese would do if there were a cabbage shortage.

A close-up of my fried chicken. Fried chicken should be categorized differently from the version back in North America or even with Colonel Sanders' fare. Just a different combo of spices flavoring this stuff. Also, the Japanese tend to focus more on thigh (momo) meat than breast (mune) when it comes to the fried stuff. Still all good.

Over here, the folks love to dip their chicken into the local mayo. Amazing that they're still stick-thin.

The extra hire katsu that the ladies gave me. For a seafood restaurant, the cooks do a great job with other kinds of meat.

And they even throw in dessert as well. This was a chestnut chiffon cake. Yep, chestnuts can be made into desserts here, although the roasted variety is just as common.

This restaurant will be one place that I will dearly miss when I finally make my way home.

Sometimes, though, I have to wonder how much I really know my stomach. I thought that after this lunch, I would probably be able to go with just a salad for dinner. But I ended up cooking and devouring an entire package of spaghetti made into pepperoncino with all of the ingredients that would go into it. Of course, I woke up feeling distinctly bloated this morning.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday September 26, 7:43 p.m.

Today was a fairly busy day although Miss Genki did a dotakyan due to work an hour ago. I had Cozy for the first time in a couple of weeks due to a series of business trips last week. He got caught on the Bullet Train from Kobe during Typhoon Roke's havoc-wreaking so he ended up staying the night in Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture. Then, I taught The New Yorker at the usual Starbucks in Shinjuku. She fared a lot better during the typhoon...after drinking with colleagues at a nearby izakaya, she just crashed at The Carolinan's place in the city. Mr. Swank didn't even have to worry about whether he would be able to get home. His car and driver got him back home from the office in no time.
With Miss Genki's cancellation, I've only got Kirk in about half an hour. The weather has maintained its Fall configuration with a few showers earlier. I got my pay this month; several thousand yen better than last month but still with my rent and premiums to pay, I'll have nothing saved. Most likely, I'll have to ask the parentals for money.
Monday September 26, 7:29 p.m. Yesterday, we had that reunion of some of the old boys and girls from the Japan-Canada Students' Association at the University of Toronto in the eastern end of Ginza. We all got together at this very large and fancy izakaya called Gonpachi which was right below a major highway overpass.
We had a room all to ourselves although the main dining hall was virtually empty since our lunch began at around 2 p.m. and things really don't get cracking until about 6 or so, and that's usually on a Friday or Saturday.

This was my lunch...a fairly hefty meal with ten-don....shrimp tempura dipped in savory sauce and placed on a bowl of rice...accompanied by miso soup and soba noodles. Hit the spot quite nicely and very reasonable at the price of 1,050 yen.

This was after the reunion when things got dark in Ginza at about 6 p.m. Definitely a nice place to take a stroll at night...and the weather was nice and cool.

I've never been a fan of reunions...the last reunion I attended was a U of T one over a decade ago at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, organized by one of my clubmates in the JCSA. I mean, it wasn't her fault but a lot of the folks there struck me as being somewhat snobbish, especially when it came to me just being a mere English teacher. After that, I wouldn't ever go to another one of those, and there have been several each year for the past several years....and usually planned by my old friend. However, with this smaller and more private affair, I thought I would let go my prejudices and attend. One of the members there, a fellow who had been a mere 4 years of age when I first joined the club in its inaugural meeting back in 1986, even asked me why I had never attended those reunions. I basically just said that I was always working on Friday nights.

In any case, I did have a good time at Gonpachi yesterday. The man of honour was a fellow who had been with the club for about a decade...far longer than I had ever been there. Back then, The Paintball Warrior was a bit on the intense side....a character trait which sometimes got him into some trouble. But I was quite delighted to see and hear that he has mellowed considerably, probably due to his Japanese fiancee...a very kind woman who's becoming a surgeon and quite obviously loves kids...yep, we had the next generation fully represented.

Shrek was also there with his family, and we did some impromptu planning and so it looks like we'll be having some sort of Halloween party in about a month at his place. I have yet to tell them about my permanent departure; didn't seem like the time or place to land that bombshell.