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Joseph's Online Diary Jan - Feb 2002

Wednesday 13th February 2002

About two hours ago we had an earthquake here in Japan. On the "Shindo" ("shake") scale it only measured a maximum of 4, which is pretty low. Here in Tokyo, we were about 200km from the epicentre, so we were only shaking to a 2 - but all the same it scared the hell out of me. Those of you who live in places prone to earthquakes will probably laugh, but with me coming from the UK, well, it's quite a novelty. A scary novelty. We live on the ground floor of a pretty much brand-new earthquake proof apartment block. Essentially it's a solid lump of concrete. Boy was it weird to see the whole room shake like jelly. I mean, the walls were actually moving! The table started crawling, the TV stayed still whilst the trolley that it stands on wheeled back and forth across the moving floor. Kae laughed at my reaction as I could hardly believe what I saw. Within two minutes the details of the quake were flashed up on TV over the Wednesday evening drama.

Recently Tokyo has had a quiet period when it comes to earthquakes so I have not witnessed any since I was here over a year ago. Recently, whilst preparing an English lesson for my private students, I found myself stumbling across various earthquake related websites - and was shocked to find that there were about five quakes in the UK last month! About 50 are detected every day around the world although many are too small to bother anyone but the scientists.

Hhhmm, it's all very strange. A real distortion of reality. Makes me wonder if I'm in the Matrix what with all this wobbling going on...

joseph

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Friday 1st February 2002

The last time I had the chance to jump up and down at a gig of a well-known band was way back in 1996. That was REM at Cardiff Stadium (which I understand has long since been demolished), so Monday night was quite a treat for me as myself and my girlfriend joined a couple of hundred Japanese fans at an intimate venue in central Tokyo. The Birmingham-born lads of Ocean Colour Scene went down a storm, displaying pure talent in every note that twanged from their guitar strings and vocal chords, in every bong that bounced off their drums.

I always have difficulty classifying music. I mean in the old days when I were a lad it was easy; there was classical, jazz, folk, dance and pop music. I can just about understand terms such as house, garage, hip-hop, acid jazz, jungle and so on, but when folks start to go on about underground-indie bathroom, garden shed, weetabix box and evien-entrarnce I lose the plot completely. When trying to define Ocean Colour Scene's style I drew a blank, so I sought the advice of my pseudo-Manchunian friend Lisa, here in Tokyo (who knows much more about these things than I do), and she came up with "Retro Sixties-ish pop-rock influenced by bands like the Who". Some may say she doesn't know what she's talking about but I won't argue with her wisdom.

I must admit to never having been an over-enthusiastic fan of Ocean Colour Scene, although I do have a couple of their albums on my C-Drive. Having never witnessed a professional live band up close I was taken aback by the skill of the writer, being able to compose what is essentially 4 or 5 songs that fit together to result in one great song. I guess that's what all songwriters do, but until this week I hadn't appreciated the fact. Enlightenment hits me once again...

Joseph in Tokyo.

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Wednesday 30th January 2002

CALLING ALL FEMINISTS!

It seems Japan is somewhat behind many other westernised countries when it comes to political correctness. Whilst studying today I discovered the literal meanings behind the Japanese words for "husband" and "wife".

Husband: shujin - meaning "master".

Wife: kanai - meaning "inside the house".

When talking about someone elses wife, use the polite form okusan - "someone in the back of the house".

My textbook notes that "while politically incorrect, these are used as there are no alternatives..."

Anyway, must be off to see if the woman has made my dinner.

Joseph

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Sunday 20th January 2002

Well, it's been quite a week, seeing the return of stress to my life after a well-earned break!

One night, a week or so before Christmas, I was woken by the most horrendous chest pain which gave me the inability to speak or move. The pain continued for a couple of days after that, although it was a lot milder. By New Year it was just a general ache that I felt 24/7.

With heart problems well represented in our family, I eventually succumbed to my worries (and those of the folks around me) and visited the local hospital. I had been reluctant to do so as I had heard that Japanese doctors were not so keen on disclosing to patients what their problems were, rather, they would prescribe a bottle of pills and send them home. The second reason for my reluctance was that I didn't want to know if something was wrong with me.

I must say that that was the best hospital that I have ever been to (for a start it didn't smell at all, and there was no ghastly orange and brown carpet in the reception area). Having walked in off the street (i.e no appointment) I was seen by an English-speaking doctor within 20 minutes. She asked me all the relevant questions before sending me off for a bloodtest, chest X-rays and an Electrocardiogram. (Is that what it's called? They stick little electrodes all over you to monitor your heartbeat) 30 minutes later I was back in the doctor's office with all of the results. She talked me through them, and explained that they were completely clear, no problems.

In order to get a true picture of how my heart was working, they would have to monitor it for 24 hours, and so I was sent back to the Electrocardigram test section, where I was fitted out with the latest state-of-the-art heart monitor that would record every beat on a little memory stick. I was told to be as active as possible over the following 24 hours to try to spark an "event" (bad chest pain). I was also told not to take a bath or shower as the little computer strapped to my belt was not overly fond of water.

That evening I set out from home for a jog around the neighbourhood. Sure enough, not two minutes after I'd begun, my chest was filled with searing pain. I became very dizzy and breathing deeply was a near impossibilty due to the agony. I pressed the button on the monitor to mark the event, and began walking back home. Surprisingly, the pain was gone within 30 seconds of my relaxation. Happy that I had my problem "on record", I returned the machine to the hospital the following day. I pity the nurse who had to take the machine off me as I stank like a wilderbeast after that jogging and stress without being able to have a shower!

A week later I returned for my results. Once again, all was clear. This time a very funny English-speaking male doctor talked me through it all. The print out clearly showed that on the previous Friday at 6.28pm my heart was doing just fine with absolutely no abnormalities, and none found elsewhere on the recording either. He told me that he was 99% certain that my heart is ok. Without sticking a camera snake inside me they can't find out any more. (No thanks!)

So, the mystery will remain with me. The pain comes and goes but does not concern me too much as I know it is not my heart. My lungs looked OK in the chest X-rays... I really don't know and nor do they. This of course all coincided with my 24th birthday which has served to mark the date from which I can no longer jog or go hiking! Yes, old age has caught up with me! I'll vist my doctor when I next visit the UK

Overall though, I would just like to say that in my experience Japanese hospitals are fantastic. The only sting came with the bill - £300, cash

Joseph

P.S Yesterday I spent the day admiring the latest Japanese technology in the shops with two good friends. Did you know that you can buy talking, voice commanded self-opening fridges which have up to seven doors? And what about a contraption that looks just like a mouse cage designed exclusivley for doing the drying-up? Video-phone door bells are all the rage too - witness the latest model in action! Then of course there's the Electric Chair which can give you a heavenly massage with all the brute strength in its hands of an articulated lorry! Of course there's the water-massage-toilet seat (see below) but perhaps the best recent addition to the world of home comforts is the electric slippers!

Check out the photos by clicking here!

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Groups of teenagers set up dressing rooms along the sides of the bridge
A stunning couple of ladies
Not quite sure on the theme here...

Sunday 6th January 2002

There I was just taking a quiet walk to the Meiji Shrine (Tokyo's most important Shinto holy place) when I started to feel that I wasn't the only one who stood out from the crowd...

Harajuku on a Sunday morning is a magnet for all those who love to dress up and parade around in bizarre costumes (the current theme seems to be black!). Anyone wishing to pass through the huge main gates to enter the shrine grounds must cross this one bridge where the dressings rooms are situated (top left). There are a few exceptions, but punk is the popular theme currently. Sabotaged lacy school uniforms were also quite common, and naturally there was the token camera crew and amateur pop group fighting the background drone of traffic.

Of course dressing up is not unusual - but this is something special being completely un-organised (it just "happens"), and of course because it is situated at the gates of such a holy place. It's a well known spot for silent performers from all over Tokyo - watch out for me in my fluffy white bunny-rabbit costume next week.

Joseph

The black tear and safety pins add that final touch...
Those white lines aren't marks on her jacket - they're nails emerging from her cheek!
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