Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday November 11, 2:30 p.m.

It's dog's nose weather out there today. Been a while since things have gotten this cold and wet.

It turned out that my only lesson was with Swank this morning down in Hiroo. She was practicing for the Speaking segment for her TOEFL test. Considering that it's tomorrow, all I can say is that just get a feel for it and then learn from your mistakes for the next attempt. Unlike some Scottish starship engineers, I'm no miracle worker.

The Button-Down Girl had to cancel her lesson tonight due to overtime so it looks like I can meet my old students after all. The venue is apparently a Thai restaurant in Omotesando, so I'm looking for spicy and not too expensive.

Just gonna chill out at home for a couple of hours before I head out again.

Thursday November 10, 6:12 p.m. Well, I've made the deal with The Handyman and he'll be coming on the 20th in the morning, and this is the main culprit I would like him to deal with. The clamp holding my defunct satellite dish to the railing has pretty much rusted onto it permanently. I went as far as getting a screwdriver set from Tokyu Hands and doing a bit of DIY. But it was a futile attempt. Of course, for 20,000 yen, I'm not only going to get him to get this dish off, but also to get rid of some of my other defunct stuff like a stereo and 3 speakers. So far, it seems like he's be on the level.

I've also contacted TEPCO to tell them about my departure. The girl there, a Ms. Ishikawa, just seemed so hopped up on caring. I guess after all of the hatred they've probably been getting from irate customers connected with the Fukushima Incident, the switchboard must be so grateful when they get a nice voice on the line. Heck, she even wished me a safe trip home. In any case, the TEPCO guy will probably be the very last visitor to what's left of my apartment since he will be arriving in the last few hours of my tenancy there.

It's just The Sisters of State today. I had The New Yorker a few hours earlier at Shinjuku usual, very low level but we managed to keep up some sort of conversation. I've got her sister, The Carolinan, in about 10 minutes. And then that'll be all she wrote for today.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday November 9, 9:40 p.m.

Well, I bit the bullet and decided to hire that English-speaking handyman, Akiyoshi Matsumoto. I've had a few e-mail exchanges with him, and although I may be paying a bit for his services, part of me is also rather interested in meeting him because of the unique nature of his job. Plus, I don't think any of the other companies would be able to take on the challenge of removing a rust-sealed satellite dish off my railing. Anyways, you can check out his website at

I went over to my real-estate agency again this morning to ask about whether I could leave some of my furniture for the next tenant or if I would have to have it removed. The lady there was nice enough but she had that somewhat "Why are you asking me this?" expression on her face. Well, I could use the savings in my cash. But at this rate, it looks like I may also have to rely on Dustman...which is a major removal and recycling comapny in the Kanto area.

I've told Kirk about my departure so he was initially taken aback but after a few jokes and a bit of Dancing Bear, we both settled back down into our usual easy repartee. The bossman is planning a farewell party for me at the beginning of December; I'm hoping that he can invite some of the students. I know that The Intellectual is at the top of the list.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Wednesday November 9, 4:19 p.m.

Apparently Mount Olympus is crumbling. The big news here and overseas in business is that scandal involving the top management of the famed Japanese camera company hiding a bunch of losses ranging back to the 90s via some takeover fees. The whistleblower is the former CEO of the company, British-born Michael Woodford, who got sacked for his actions about a month ago. Since then, he's become an apparent fixture on CNN. But it looks like he's gotten some measure of payback with the new president making that ubiquitious deep bow of apology in front of the cameras and a vice-president getting ousted. Woodford's hope is to get back his old position and take tainted Olympus forward.

Well, good luck with that, I say. The term "whistleblower" is not only hellish to say in katakana, but it's frankly nothing that would ever dared be said in this society. The current upper management in place at Olympus has only obliquely mentioned Woodford and there has been no mention whatsoever of him getting his job back. Although I think the situation can be repeated in a lot of other countries, especially in Japan, the overriding policy is Harmony Above All...including Honour. The powers-that-be will not appreciate any boatrockers or wavemakers of any sort, even if white-collar crime were taking place. Woodford has thrown the USS Olympus off its keel and most likely the board of directors will be more than happy to see the backside of him getting back to England.

During my university studies, I'd always come across the term "shame society" to describe Japan. Frankly, I think that's absolutely a misnomer. For me, shame comes when someone or some entity realizes it has something wrong and then immediately 'fesses up to the malfeasance. When it comes to corporate institutions, that term simply doesn't exist. Olympus this week, TEPCO 6 months ago...they knew what they had been doing was wrong but they just swept it under the rug and hoped that noone would ever find out. I think the bosses are more sorry that they got caught rather than for the actual crime itself. That doesn't really describe a shame society to me.
Wednesday November 9, 4:07 p.m.
An update on those matsutake mushrooms that I'd gotten from Mrs. Tulip in Canada last week via Mrs. Travel at last week's session of the Beehive. As I may have mentioned, the Japanese love this fungi when it comes into season in the Fall but tend to pooh-pooh any foreign variants such as the ones that grow in Korea and Canada. But even these ones have that rather earthy aroma and when grilled, they pull apart into stringy fibers...kinda like mozzarella sticks.
On my grill, I drizzled a bit of white truffle oil for a bit of flavor, but I think since the oil went past its best-buy date, some of the pizzazz seemed to have gone out of it, so I added a little shoyu as the locals do. Matsutake does have a somewhat deeper taste....not for everyone, though. Some wags have compared it to dirty socks. I tend to disagree...

With the remainder of the mushrooms, I chopped them up finely and added them to a pepperoncino spaghetti mix. Even with the added spices, that matsutake aroma still came on through.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Monday November 7, 8:33 p.m.

Had my lesson with Miss Genki. It was another fun one although we did actually finish off the chapter in the textbook. However, her reaction to my announcement of my departure was rather odd...she just nodded with that smile on her face. I certainly do not want her crying wee wee wee all the way home but I was expecting at least a bit of surprise. Ah, well...
I actually got a reply from that English-speaking handyman. And the surprise there was that he would be willing to come out all the way to Chiba to fix my problems. I just have to clarify one thing about the price which I hope is just merely a slip in his English.
Well, weather permitting, I will be taking a rather big package of summer clothes to the post office tomorrow morning. The wonderful thing about the Japan Post website is that they actually have a page where you can give the approximate weight of your parcel (in my case, it's about 5-7 kg), the origin (Ichikawa) and destination (Toronto) points, and then it will inform you about how much it will cost to send over. At this point, it looks like I'll be paying between 4,000 and 5,000 yen in postage for surface mail...which is what I'd figured. No, not inexpensive but at least I know in advance.
Anyways, I'm done here. Time to head on home.

Monday November 7, 6:43 p.m.

Not a major concern as of yet but I heard that Emperor Akihito has been hospitalized with bronchitis. Whenever I hear someone in their 70s up being put into hospital with a disease that ends in -itis or -ia, the Yellow Alert automatically goes up. So far, CNN hasn't put it up as the main headline although the Fuji-TV website has the video footage as its top story right now.

Akihito hasn't had quite the history as his late father, Emperor Hirohito, had, but he's still seen, at least amongst the older segment of the population, in a very relevant vein. He and his wife, Empress Michiko, have been touring the affected regions from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, trying to encourage the victims there. Any further movement in this story will get the national media on high alert.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Monday November 7, 1:47 p.m.

Nice Fall day out there unlike the rather soggy weekend. Luckily, I didn't need to put up an umbrella or so. As a card-carrying Canuck, I'm not too willing to open up a brolley; basically, unless the precip is on a Noah's-Ark level, we Canadians aren't particularly taken to putting them up. Over here, it could feel moist outside and all of the Japanese will activate them immediately.

Speaking about activation, I made my grand pronouncements about my permanent departure on Facebook, and pretty soon I got a small flood of messages stating shock and requests for one last dinner. It's very much a rack'em-and-stack'em deal now.

I have the rare situation of teaching three male students in a row today. I had Cozy and then The Godfather this morning, and in about 2 hours I'll have Mr. Swank in Nishi-Shinjuku. As with a lot of English teachers here, most of my clientele are women....something about women being more willing to open up and make errors learning a language. Both The Godfather and The Jyuppies asked me about a replacement again so I've had to send out the SOS to some of my Facebook friends.

Of course, I've got Mrs. Genki tonight to wrap up. I'm gonna have to tell her about my departure as well.

001 has apparently informed 002 and her husband about my departure. 002's husband contacted me for dinner on Saturday for which I have accepted. I can't carry a grudge too long. Not sure if 001 will come all the way out to Chiba, though, since she lives all the way out in Sagamihara...which is basically Kanagawa Prefecture (Tokyo is sandwiched between the 2 prefectures).

Strangely enough, that English-speaking handyman actually contacted me back and said that he would be willing to help me out. Must be slow business. I'm gonna have to think about it for a few hours, though, before I send off my reply. And speaking of handymen, I'm kinda wondering if I'm turning into one myself albeit a more esoteric one. I've become a counsellor to The OL and The Button-Down Girl over the past few days (work-related issues), and I'm gonna help out Bay's family with some volunteer interpreting with one of Bay's Seattle colleagues tomorrow night in Sugamo...yes, that Sugamo where I went on Friday afternoon. Plus, I have just recommended The Matron's high-powered husband to The Bow over some loan problems concerning her friend. I guess it's really about who you know in this city.