Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday November 17, 9:29 p.m.

Well, I would like to thank all of you for looking in on my motley little blog, especially those of you from Russia and America. I'm not at all writing anything on anime or manga or J-Pop, at least not in any great quantity, but apparently there's something about Japan you like.

In any case, I had my 2nd and last lesson with Mrs. Thursday tonight. I was quite fortunate today in that I had my gabbiest students with her and The German earlier...I made the mistake of misidentifying her as The Nurse in my earlier entry, although she is indeed a nurse. I ended up talking with Mrs. Thursday without a text for about 75 minutes....again much of it was on television, especially on "NCIS". I also informed her about my departure which got the usual "Ehhhhhhhhhhh?!" exhortation of shock. Still, I reassured her that we still have one or two lessons left to talk on the travails of American TV.

Got the word from Swank that she's cancelling tomorrow's lesson due to an emergency errand so I've only got The Bass tomorrow morning which means that I can have more time to peruse the Nippon Express notes and clean up the house before the sales reps arrive. I think I should make some coffee and get some donuts.
Thursday November 17, 7:47 p.m.

Had The Nurse earlier this evening. It was another text-free gab fest from start to finish. She's always dumbfounded when she discovers that another 60~65 minutes went by as fast as warp speed. And she was further shocked to find out that these talks will be coming to an end in a month. But she took the news well as "C'est la vie".

I've been going over the Nippon Express forms and explanations with a fairly fine-toothed comb. I've never been a huge fan of paperwork and just going through this gets an uncomfortably tingly sensation down my back. I remember coming back from my first tour of duty in Gunma 20 years ago and when my Dad came with me to pick up the rather huge package from a Canada Post depot in Mississauga. He's definitely no lover of red tape and got rather testy with the clerk when there was a holdup in the processing. Just glad that he probably won't be in much of a condition to accompany this time to pick up a much larger package from Japan. And I've got a feeling that Nippon Express will handle this a bit better.

Thursday November 17, 6:44 p.m.

Ah...finally something to talk about on my JPop forum. Ever since I joined it several months ago, there have been a lot of starts and stops in the conversation...though, admittedly talking about kayo kyoku of the 70s and 80s will never garner that much interest. But today, there was a couple of nibbles...about this young lady (well, back in 1980), Mariya Takeuchi. I've written about her in previous entries as well as post up a few of her album pictures. One fan was wondering whether female Japanese singers in their 50s would still draw in the fans. One respondent and I agreed that Takeuchi would be the likeliest choice although Miyuki Nakajima and Yumi Matsutoya wouldn't be too far behind.

I've said that Takeuchi started out her career by acting as the Japanese version of Connie Francis with her 50s-style pop tunes. However, over the past 20 years or so, she's been contemporizing her music with up-to-date arrangements of ballads, but I'm not talking about Beyonce or Mariah Carey here. She would still be considered very AOR in the Americas. Mariya has that velvety voice which lends herself well to languid romantic ballads. However, with Xmas just around the corner, we'll be soon greeting her now-annual treatment of "Suteki na Holiday" (A Wonderful Holiday) on KFC commercials all over Japan. Yep, this country seems to be the only one in which families would actually cheer Daddy if he brought over a bucket of the Colonel on December 25 for dinner (I'm pretty sure Daddy would be sleeping in Rover's house back Stateside if a similar situation would occur). This song is probably the most evocative of a Norman Rockwell Xmas in terms of arrangement; I mean, this is a tune that would never be composed except in a very tongue-in-cheek sense in the States. Only in Japan. When you hear this song, you would expect to see one of those old Rankin/Bass cartoons to accompany it. But that's what I love about the old J-Pop sometimes...this ability by Japanese songwriters to give their alien but sentimental twist to Western music.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thursday November 17, 4:24 p.m.

That is the logo of the company whose representatives will be visiting my 30 sq. m. hovel tomorrow evening. It is indeed Nippon Express. I've been in contact with one of their sales representatives indirectly recommended by The Carolinan and she's gonna be sending a two-person team to scout out my stuff in my living room. I'm just wondering how they would react to a thousand CDs, a couple of dozen DVDs and several books including half of the collection of "The Complete Peanuts"? Can you say "otaku"? In any case, I'm gonna keep my emotions fully in check when the price is blurted out tomorrow. The representative said that they would send everything "door-to-door" which makes it a whole lot more convenient for me but I'm just gonna wonder how far into nosebleed territory the cost is gonna go. In any case, the rep sent over a bulky package of notes for me to peruse before I meet her team. I'll probably be spending the two hours between The Nurse and Mrs. Thursday studying and jotting down questions while I take a good hard read. And as for the two students, I'll be informing them of my departure tonight.

Apparently while I was the lone occupant in Speedy's yesterday, there was quite an incident down near JR Chiba. A senior citizen had taken the driver and one female passenger hostage in a bus for a little over an hour before he was rather easily brought down by the cops. According to him, he had a bit of a beef with the cops for which he felt that pulling such a stunt was the only way to get their attention. Well, he's got their attention....and a straitjacket now.
Wednesday November 16, 7:30 p.m.

Well, the Kimono Nurse was a no-show. She was supposed to have her lesson at 2 p.m. today but never arrived and Ms. Schmooze's attempts to ring her up were unsuccessful. She was on her final lesson on her current contract, which rang up alert signals in my brain. Usually if a student lets a final lesson go like that, it often means that's the last we've seen of her. Ms. Schmooze has alerted Speedy about the situation, and I'm sure he wasn't too happy. But in any case, if she has truly flown the coop, then that's one less student I have to break the bad news to.

So, I'm basically waiting for my first student who will be Kirk. 001 had to cancel tonight. And then, The Businesswoman will be in for her lesson at 9 p.m. I will have to tell her about my departure.
Wednesday November 16, 7:23 p.m.

I decided to walk on that Sunday from Shibuya to Shinjuku on my way to meet up with Skippy for the movie. As usual, there were the unusual people to see. But strangely enough, there weren't the Harajuku freaks for some least not in any congregation. There were some individual garishly-dressed types scattered here and there but it seems like the party is over as it is in Akiba.
However, a new fixture on the bridge is that individual giving free hugs. I would've been glad to contribute but I was afraid the lass was gonna suddenly jack up the price.

Down near the entrance for Takeshita Avenue, just across from Harajuku Station, there was a Hello, Kitty type posing for pictures. A couple of Harajuku Girls were charmed enough to indulge the person.

And as usual for a weekend, Takeshita Avenue was packed to the gills with humanity...mostly under 20 years of age.

I was getting closer to Shinjuku when I came across this rather large figure who just so happens to be Mr. Hattori, the famed founder of a cooking school and the former panelist on "Iron Chef".

Apparently, his school was having an annual culture festival. I'm sure there were a few celebrities in attendance.

Wednesday November 16, 7:16 p.m.

Some more hilarity in Shibuya on Sunday. As I was crossing the street in front of Tower Records, this refitted van which kinda looked like The Popemobile (any guys looking in from The Vatican?) turned the corner blasting some heavy metal music. Well, it turned out to be the AniMetal USA truck with a bunch of KISS wannabes and the music just happened to be a metal version of the "Space Cruiser Yamato" theme song.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wednesday November 16, 2:55 p.m.

On Sunday, I met up with Skippy in Shinjuku for a movie outing. It was a skeleton crew Movie Gang since the others apparently got felled by a cold.
The two of us went to one of the older theatres, The Milano, and watched "Cowboys & Aliens", starring Indiana Jones and James Bond. Basically, it really just was about cowboys and aliens. Not a great movie by any means, but at least it'll be a trivia curiosity about which movie starred Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. Part of the hype surrounding this flop flick was that Ford was supposed to be playing his first out-and-out bad guy, but it just turned out that despite some cackling over-the-top thespian villainy in the first third of the movie, he reverted back to his old rugged self. Basically, he was more an embittered, misunderstood cowboy who got his mojo back thanks to some extraterrestrials. And frankly that first part of the movie involving Daniel Craig and Paul Dano was pretty much lifted from that Patrick Stewart-directed cowboy episode from "The Next Generation" involving Worf and Data, which was a parody on some old John Wayne oaters.

Since we ended up as just a couple instead of the quartet, we ditched plans for Hooters and ended up at one of our ol' favorites for dinner, Moyan Cafe in West Shinjuku. It was a fairly chilly night for Tokyo so we were happy to get in some nice Japanese curry. Not surprisingly, there was a small lineup but the wait was only 10 minutes.

With Japanese curry, there are always condiments such as pickled greens and bean sprouts. But Moyan also has baked baby potatoes. Not sure why but these potates taste really good with just the right amount of salt boiled in and tender enough to just bite through them.

This was Skippy's order of Veggie Curry. One can order a variety of sizes and my dinner companion went for the 80% of regular bowl.

I, of course, just had to order the zenbu Curry. "Zenbu" means "all" so I guess it can be translated as "The Works" Curry. This is the regular size of plate at Moyan. We also choose our spice levels from 0 to 20. I went for a 5 which was plenty hot while Skippy had her Veggie at the relatively mild 3. I can't even imagine what a 20 is like...perhaps it may involve signing waiver documents. "The Works", by the way, consists of Beef, Chicken, Pork, Shrimp and Cheese and costs 1580 yen. The pork is definitely melt-in-your-mouth. At my very first visit there, I actually ordered for the Megaton plate which is a bigger plate...when I saw the mountain of rice and the ocean of curry, I knew that a doggie bag would be needed. I'm definitely more of the regular size now. I may even damp down my spice level next time (if there is a next time).
Wednesday November 16, 2:35 p.m.

My second farewell party in as many nights took place in a far more suburban setting...just 10 minutes' subway ride away from my station at Nishi-Funabashi. 002 and her husband, The Engineer, took me to The Nanpudo Cafe...though it reverted to a bar later on in the evening.

As you can see, it has that rather Old World feeling, complete with ancient coffee grinder. This was the second floor, although it was really more like a loft...the low ceiling even had 002 ducking, and she's not exactly a tall woman. I was bent at 90 degrees getting to my table.

But the temporary backcrunching was worth it for the dinner. I ordered the hamburger plate which consisted of this round burger covered in demiglace sauce and sided with rice and potato salad. If there is another thing I'll miss in a culinary sense, it will be the Japanese take on Salisbury Steak. There is quite a bit more volume on the hanbaaguu. And the more serious chefs take a few days to distill a good demiglace from the various veggies and stock.

All of the culinary variety shows on TV (of which there is almost one or two a night) love to film hamburger steak...especially when it comes to showing how juicy it is. I pressed it down with a fork and I almost had to call a flood warning. I'm not sure how these chefs are able to get these patties so moist.

Dessert that night consisted of Viennese Coffee and a slice of Apple Pie. The three of us ended up noshing and talking for about 3 hours together. Actually, 002 had to leave around 10 p.m. but The Engineer wanted to chat some more. That last hour just sped by. The Engineer has been given his official transfer orders to Perth, Australia starting from December 3. This will be a big boost in his career since he will be there for the next 4~5 years. 002 will eventually join him at the end of next summer. So it was as much a goodbye party for him as it was for me. As with me, The Engineer has some mixed emotions about leaving his home but I told him about The Hawaiian, my other former student who's been living in Perth for the last several years. According to her and some scuttlebutt, the small city is a paradise for its residents. I have since then gotten in touch with The Hawaiian via Facebook, who was more than happy to offer her assistance to the city's soon-to-be newest addition. She has even sent a Friend Request to him.

Wednesday November 16, 2:27 p.m. Part II of the ol' school gang party on Friday night involved us walking into Omotesando Station and into the basement food court known as Echika. It's been around for a few years now and it has that Parisian decor feel to it.

Despite the Gallic appearance, Echika also has some other ethnic restaurants such as a Vietnamese Pho place. Another member joined us there since she had been caught up with work. I ended up having a Chocolatte and a Tiramisu. Countdown to diabetes!

The latecomer was very generous in buying us some cute little panda-shaped bags filled with Kinokuniya cookies. If there is one thing that Japan does right, it's packaging. The venerable department stores may wrap a bit too much of the crepe and cardboard around their products but when they get creative, they're second to none.

Wednesday November 16, 2:18 p.m.

Last Friday, I got together with some old students from my ol' school in Ichigaya for a reunion/farewell party of sorts. The organizer was The Surfer Girl, a veteran of 5 years in California. On hearing about my departure, she quickly rounded up a few folks including my former private student, The Coffeemaker. We met up in the tony area of Aoyama near Omotesando Station.

The Surfer Girl chose a Thai restaurant by the name of Glamorous, a basement establishment. When we all met on that rainy evening, The Surfer Girl had already been knocking back a few with a co-worker (apparently, Happy Hour lasts 3 hours in Tokyo). Her buddy could only last a half-hour before she had to excuse herself due to her overindulgence.

Of course, the ubiquitious Fresh Spring Roll was ordered. The fare there was quite good but The Surfer Girl was disappointed with the portions which were admittedly a bit on the small size considering the prices. But then again, we were eating in Aoyama.

Wednesday November 16, 12:42 p.m.

It's been a while. Just been busy doing my remaining lessons and progressing with Operation Exodus. I got in contact with that representative for Nippon Express, so a couple of their guys will be coming to the apartment this Friday to take a look at what I need to send off. I spoke to her on phone so there was a slightly pregnant pause (first trimester) when I told her that I would be shipping 950+ CDs home. Even I was surprised when I did my inventory over the weekend over my collection; I'd thought that I had around the 700 mark, in itself not a small number of discs. In any case, I have to put the whole pile together so the guys can estimate a cost and the number of boxes. Much hilarity will ensue, I'm sure.

Also, I've gone to Ichikawa City Hall to inform the guys over at National Health Insurance and City Tax departments about my takeoff. Luckily, NHI slashed down the remaining amount of my premiums to cover just the final month of my time here, but the City Tax officer gleefully informed me that I'm responsible for paying that last premium before I leave Japan although it wouldn't have been due until February. As for my income tax, I walked a further 10 minutes over to the local tax office and the fellow there told me that, if possible, I should pay it before I leave but I'll have to see about that.

My final month of socializing in this country has begun which included meeting with some old students from the ol' school, including The Coffeemaker, my old private student. More on that night in the next entry. But Skippy, The Jyuppies, The Beehive, The Chipmunk and Cozy among others have sent in requests for one more dinner. I may actually end up sleeping on the flight home at this rate.

A bit of a mystery, though, from Skippy. It turned out that it was only the two of us for our Sunday outing. The Wedding Planner and MB both bailed due to a cold, so it was a movie and the Moyan Curry instead of the previously planned Hooters visit. I guess having a man and woman hitting that place would've looked a bit weird. In any case, Skippy informed me that she took a look at The Satyr's Facebook page and found his status update changed from "In A Relationship" to "Single" . Rather odd, indeed, so I also took a look and confirmed the sighting. He and Miss Ivory have been together for a few years now and have even shacked up. But I also found that there was no sighting of her in his Friends list, but then again, Ivory may not have been a FB member. I didn't push but I sent him a message asking if everything was OK. I'm still waiting for a reply.

Tokyo is having its first really crisp Fall day this year. It actually reminded me of a Toronto September morning. And Hokkaido already has had its first major snowfall.