Friday, November 04, 2011

Saturday November 5, 10:00 a.m.

Since I had several hours between Swank in Hiroo and The Button-Down Girl in Shinjuku, I decided to take one last look at Sugamo...known as the Harajuku for Senior Citizens. Just by chance, the neighbourhood was holding its annual Chrysanthemum Festival, so some of these flowers were greeting when I entered the main shopping arcade.

Yup, as I said, it's the Harajuku for Senior Citizens. If there were any more of these oldtimers walking at me, I would've gotten gerontophobia...the fear of old people!

A very elaborate gate to a temple inside the arcade. There was a flea market of sorts going on beside it.

Rather incongruously, there was a bit of hip-hop in this Mom n' Pop (like that, eh?) area.

The flea market also had a lot of old audio tapes for sale....and they were on my type of music...kayo kyoku. I was quite tempted to grab some of them....they had Seiko, Hiromi Iwasaki and Chisato Moritaka, but considering that I will probably not have any sort of access to a tape recorder in the near future, I held on to my yen.

A senbe of the must-haves in Sugamo.

This is one of the most famous shops in the area. It boasts that it is Japan's No. 1 shop for red pants...and other similarly scarlet wear. When a citizen turns 60, it's an auspicious age and it is often signified by the newly elderly wearing something red. Although I didn't see it yesterday, during my last visit here, this place also had a red brassiere on display, but I won't let you or myself imagine too deeply about any potential wearers.

Of course, festivals of any sort means a lot of food stands. And of course, the de rigueur yakisoba stand stands out.

Saturday November 5, 9:42 a.m.

A sunny and cool day in Ichikawa. I cannot complain.

Another thing I'll miss about Japan: convenience stores, or as they say here, conbini. However it's said, they are truly convenient. The robberies at these places have gone up in recent years, but they still probably pale in comparison to their grimier equivalents back home.

This is just one of four or five conbini that's within 10 minutes' walking distance from my apartment. At any of these places, not only can you get the various foodstuff and other sundries, but you can access a mini-bank for fast cash, pay all utility bills and even purchase Amazon goods and airplane tickets. Not a bad deal. Mind you, if you were a staffer there, the pressure and responsibility must be a lot higher. breakfast for today at the I-Cafe: sausage roll and pound cake along with milk tea. And no, I have yet to run insanely to the washroom after ingestion.

I have the day off today. So I will probably be busy doing domestic stuff and then also doing some more packing of various things such as CDs. I found out from Speedy that The Businesswoman and Mrs. Prissy want to have lessons with me in the next few weeks. Rack 'em and stack 'em!
Had my official lesson with The Button-Down Girl last night at the Cafe de Crie in Shinjuku. Right from the get-go, I had to take off my teacher's hat and put on the counselor's beret. Looks like the lass has been having stress problems at work. However, unlike my erstwhile student of a few years ago, she didn't sound nearly that morose. Still, I hope she does something about the situation. I realize that the economic situation doesn't make it easy to ditch an unlikeable job but when things get to the point that waking up on a weekday is the worst feeling, some big decisions have to be made.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wednesday November 2, 9:41 p.m.

Well, I've told 001 of my departure. She took it pretty well though she is saddened that I am heading home for good. She'll tell her old friends, 002 and The Baker. Perhaps we may all get together for dinner. I also heard that there are some big changes in store for 002 and her hubby. Her hubby works for an oil company, and international transfers were always in the offing. It looks like the day has come. Apparently, he'll be heading for Perth, Australia in the next few months. And 002 will be eventually joining him next summer. I was gonna tell Kirk but I thought that one bout of bad news was enough for me tonight.
The reactions have started to come in from Mixi and Facebook. So far, the average level has been that of surprise. But I think there are more reactions to come.
In any case, neither Speedy nor his wife have come back yet but I plan to close up shop by 10 p.m.

Wednesday November 2, 9:31 p.m.

Definitely one of the things I will miss about life in Japan is the conbini bento...or as I would translate it, the convenience store boxed lunch. This was my lunch for today...actually, this is something I bought at the nearby supermarket instead of the usual 7-11 or Lawsons. It's the 398-yen fried chicken a psychopath, there is nothing at all redeeming about this is the J-equivalent of a Big Mac set. And just like it, it is irresistable (at least for me).

Every conbini bento has a set pattern...just like a frozen TV dinner for which the containers seem remarkably alike in shape. There is the main source of protein, whether it be chicken or a hamburger or fish. Then, there is the 2nd -largest segment which is the cooked rice sprinkled with sesame seeds and a red umeboshi (pickled plum) dead centre. After that, it's a bit more flexible. In this one, there is the small block of tamago-yaki (sweetened fried egg) over a soft pile of Spaghetti Napolitano, and strips of pink pickled radish. Pretty darn filling and a lot more inexpensive than a Big Mac set.

At the convenience store itself, the cashier will ask you whether you want the sucker heated or not. But I always go cold with the supermarket stuff since I think fried chicken tastes great either way. I'm sure when I do hit home finally, I will miss this stuff although I am looking forward to Canadian deli food again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Wednesday November 2, 3:08 p.m.
At yesterday's Beehive session in Funabashi, Mrs. Travel surprised all of us when she presented me, Jade and one other with small bubble-wrapped packets of matsutake mushrooms. Now, these were sent over by The Beehive's old comrade, Mrs. Tulip from Canada where matsutake mushrooms can be found but don't have quite the popularity there as they do here.
The native matsutake of Japan have nearly culinary legend status. They could be compared to the French truffle. Mass media go into major fawning mode every Fall about this supposedly amazing mushroom with the earthy taste and aroma which often gets manipulated into a whole spectrum of recipes ranging from rice boiled with slivers of matsutake to matsutake pasta. But the go-to way to eat it is by grilling matsutake and then putting on a few drops of ponzu for taste. I've got the national holiday tomorrow so I will be able to cook something up with this miracle fungi.
Speaking of the holiday, it's Culture Day tomorrow. I found out from Cozy that originally this was the birthday of the Emperor Meiji, the first modern Japanese ruler after the fall of the shogun-led feudal system. However, I will not be visiting Yasukuni Shrine or weaving flowers in an ikebana school. I will in fact be packing up one parcel of summer clothes and then trying to figure out how I'm gonna be shipping my hundreds of CDs home.

Wednesday November 2, 2:58 p.m.

Yesterday, I met up with Movie Buddy and after another round at Foo Foo, we went off to the Milano in Kabukicho to catch "Captain America". The movie had been playing for a few weeks now but decided to catch it just last night since the first of the month is always 1,000-yen Day in Tokyo. And considering the car crash of "Green Lantern", we weren't about to pay a whole ton of money for a superhero movie. As expected, the movie came between Mrs. Speedy's wholehearted ecstatic rave and The Satyr's just-as-wholehearted rant against it. The plot and the heart were there, but MB thought that the pacing for individual scenes was somewhat off. And we both thought that The Red Skull's demise was about as lame as they came. Still, Marvel has bested DC in the latest matchup. I would've enjoyed the movie even more but there were these three young idiots a few rows in back who just wanted to gab for some reason. I never would've expected that sort of behaviour in a Japanese theatre.

A few hours after getting home, I ended up watching "Event Horizon", the sci-fi/horror movie with pre-"The Matrix" Lawrence Fishburne and Sam Neill. I'd heard about all the gore what almost seemed like an homage to "Alien", and it certainly bore itself out on that front. After seeing all the gouged eyes and fallen guts, I was rather reminded of my kitchen sessions molding ground beef into hamburger patties.

Wednesday November 2, 2:41 p.m.

All by my lonesome here at Speedy's...a state that will remain so throughout my day. Neither the bossman nor his wife, and any staff for that matter, will be showing up here for various reasons. I'll be serving tea and crumpets for 001 and Kirk. It'll be just my show.

Well, I've pushed further ahead on Operation: Exodus. I went to the real estate agency and filled out the official form to get out of my apartment lease. Not too painful....I also nailed down the date for the interior decorator folks to come in and take a look at my apartment...they may in for a rather big surprise, although they must have some images about what a 17-year-old resident could have done to his place. However, the bigger thing was that I've just told everyone on Facebook about my intentions. I have a feeling that I'll be getting a lot of reactions in the next several hours. And I will be telling my students tonight. All of my private students have known now for some weeks but the Speedy students will be getting the bad news as of this month since I didn't want to cramp the bossman's style. Actually, a couple of them already know. Both Grandma Dynamite and The Music Man, two students who darkened this school for several months, had expressed interest in coming back, only to get the news about my departure. Dynamite decided to give up since she would only be able to see me 4 times before she gets busy again for December. As for The Music Man, the bossman had been trying to contact him but, true to his mysterious nature about his job, he had never left a contact e-mail address and attempts to reach him via phone proved futile. It was rather sad to find out that The Music Man's first question to us was whether I'd returned from Toronto yet. He apparently came by the school on Monday night to pick up a refund since I would no longer be teaching him; the bossman asked me whether I would hang around for another half hour so that I could see him, but I just said that at best, it would be rather awkward if I only met him just to say goodbye, so I just left to keep things tidy.

I received an e-mail from The Bow...another ex-student. She'd found out from The Carolinan that I would be leaving and just wanted to give her goodbyes. And she also asked me I could give her some advice about a friend who got cheated by a Brit in Tokyo. I hinted that The Matron's husband could be of some help.

And Skippy asked me about hitting the Hooters in Akasaka sometime in the next couple of weeks. Well, gotta try it at least once.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday October 31, 8:22 p.m.

Finished my lesson with Miss Genki. It was another gab session since we got onto the topic of her foray into Facebook. She's just started her page and got a bit spooked when within a few hours of launching it, she'd already gotten one request from her cousin. I let her know that she should consider herself lucky that it was one of her family who had tracked her down and not some otaku. It was once again the talk about the differences between Facebook and the Japanese equivalent, Mixi. Facebook is not quite the anathema for Japanese society but I did tell my student that the whole point of it was to show as much as the user wants to show, whereas Mixi was more about the user getting involved in communicating via communities while staying rather anonymous via nicknames. She will take it day by day and see if she's up to the FB philosophy. Then we got into the Holidays, notably the typical Xmas celebrations back in the West. She did ask me whether I was going back home in December. I didn't tell her that my last move will be a permanent one; I'll save the big announcement for next week.
Monday October 31, 6:32 p.m.

The witching hour is once again upon us. I'm sure Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku will be having their final Halloween blowouts in the next 6 hours or so. And perhaps some of the more adventurous gaijin types (read: drunk foreigners) may take over a car on the JR Yamanote Line for an hour of revelry...that is, if the cops don't grab them first. Then, from tomorrow, department stores here will be taking a page out of the North American handbook and replacing their orange and black displays with those of red, green and white. Yes, once again, J-Xmas will be landing in The Big Sushi as of November 1.

Yesterday, after my lone lesson with The OL (she was in far better spirits than last time when she was in a bit of a funk), I met up with The Anime Chamberlain in Akihabara and helped him buy a couple of anime figures...nothing too obscene, thankfully. Was kinda disappointed that there weren't all that many Halloween types walking up the hokoten, but then again the cops probably would've shooed them away in keeping with the new spoilsport rules. We then met up with a couple that The Chamberlain knows from Toronto. They are just spending the next 2 weeks in Tokyo. Automan even knows them although it was my first time to meet them. We ended up going to Sushi Zanmai, the kaiten version, up on the top of Yodobashi Akiba. The couple were amply impressed by the massive size of Japan's (possibly) largest electronics store. When I entertain visitors from the home country, I usually take them up there since conveyor belt sushi is basically just a fantasy in T.O. Of course, we managed to pig ourselves out.

This morning, I had Cozy as usual for his early lesson and then I had several hours off before I saw Mr. Swank in Shinjuku. I finally made the call to my real estate agent after a couple of rounds of telephone tag. On Wednesday, I have to go over to the office and pick up a form formally notifying ABLE that I am leaving the premises. I snuck the call between watching the season enders of "Hawaii Five-O" and "Nikita". Yup, pretty rollicking stuff. Season 2 won't be starting here until next Spring, but then again I will be heading home right in the middle of that season.

Looks like Econoship may be the way I'm going in terms of moving companies. I've been seeing some good reviews about them. The Carolinan had sent me contact numbers for Nippon Express via a friend but I'm not quite willing to call them cold and then have them try to give me a hard sell. I will have to make a decision within the next couple of weeks.

It's been comfortably cool for the past few days, but Mr. Swank told me that it might be getting a bit warm tomorrow. So, the humidity may not be going away just yet. Still, I think it's probably more preferable than the freak snowstorm that's hit the Eastern Seaboard.

Well, I've got The Beehive and then The Kimono Nurse here tomorrow but after that I'll be meeting up with MB in Shinjuku for a rare Tuesday night at the movies. "Captain America" is on tap. I've heard different things about it; The Satyr despised it while the bossman's wife enjoyed it to no end.