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The Daily Mumble November 2002 Archive
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November 2002 Highlights:  bonfire night!, our countryside retreat, my first Christmas card, KOOP live, Billy Salisbury's homepage, Success and Failure, Tom Friedman exhibition, Derek the helium-filled Dalmatian, Coldplay live in Milan, live from 33,000 feet, jetlag, my new home in Tokyo - the broomcupboard, culture shock, Sheep chair, shall I go out tonight?...

Links: Map - where am I today? November 2002 PhotosDaily Mumble Home / ArchivesGuestbook


Tuesday 5th November 2002 - 17:38 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Ah, Bonfire Night.

November 5th was always something to look forward to as a child, well up on that list that included Christmas Day, my birthday, New Years' Day, Easter Sunday, the last day of school, and the one week of heavy snow that would fall every year.

Sadly, here in Milan, Guy Fawkes is unheard of. They'll be no toffee apples for me this year.

However, I will not let the event pass without notice. I've scoured my hard drive for appropriate photos, and now I invite you to join me in "oo-ing" and "ah-ing" at my own little display.

oooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhoooooooooo
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhoooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhoooooooooooooooooooooooooo
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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Tuesday 5th November 2002 - 20:24(GMT+1) Milan, Italy

In Italy, the first Friday of November is always a public holiday.

Well, actually, I just made that up, but last Friday was a public holiday so I could be right. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that this weekend was a three-day weekend, and because of that Kae and I decided to escape the smog of Milan for a day or two. The problem was, where to go? I know nothing about Italy, having lived here with my eyes shut for the past 7 weeks or so. I've been to all the touristy "must-see" places such as Florence, Venice, Rome and Pisa, and for all intents and purposes the rest of the country may as well be a barren wasteland in my mind. I just know nothing about it, and I don't have a guide book either.

Friday came, and still we had no idea where to go, until I remembered something someone had mentioned to me - what was it? It must have been in an email... Ah, that's it, it was my friend Adam whom I met in Japan:

"Do you have plans for Italy? You and your girlfriend could stay a night or two at the 17th century villa where I worked, near Bologna. It's at www.galeazza.com. Nice American boy and British girl run the place. They are young and silly, everyone helps cook, there is yummy wine, pretty gardens. The rooms have towering ceilings with large beds. Nice romantic getaway..."

Intrigued, I called the number given. I was told that the villa was a private home, and the host of a cultural association known as "Reading Retreats in Rural Italy". It was a place where people went to eat, drink and be merry, a place to party, a place to relax. Needless to say, 24 hours later we were there, having been picked up by Clark (the owner) at the tiny countryside railway station and then taken a few kilometres by car along gravel tracks into the middle of nowhere.

What a mad place! With bats, scorpions and spiders hanging from every candle-powered chandelier, the place certainly had a "young and silly" (Halloween) atmosphere! The ceilings really were towering, 7 metres above our heads and coated with fantastic images that took them even higher!

Our amazing telescopic bedroom ceiling

The entire villa was candlelit, with a roaring log fire providing the heat in the evening during the concert given by a Sicilian Guitar Quartet. The food was absolutely gorgeous, the company very entertaining, the wine endless. It was all quite magical really - our city blues were soothed away in no time.

The following day we continued to relax. Reading, and in my case writing page upon page in my 46th diary. We took a walk around the local area... it was all very atmospheric what with a silent mist engulfing the landscape before us in all directions. There was also quite a bit of eating and wine-drinking to be done, and of course stories to be exchanged between us and our hosts, Clark and his current helper Elena. They were very kind, the sort of people who you can instantly get on with. Elena was in fact a talking horse with a column in an American equestrian magazine - apparently the only horse in the world to regularly publish stories about life in rural Italy. As for Clark, well, the last we saw of him he was trying to dislodge a plastic bat from the ceiling by throwing a maimed plastic doll at it...

It was a great break, relieving us of all the stresses of the Big City. We were brought back down to Earth with quite a bump though, when, on reaching Bologna station, we found that all trains were delayed by at least two hours, and when ours finally arrived, we ended up stuck in the smoky corridor as all the seats were taken!

[The cultural association "Reading Retreats in Rural Italy" can be found at www.montefano.com ]

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Wednesday 6th November 2002 - 12:30 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Christmas is upon us!

Yes, it's official, Christmas is here. With Halloween out of the way the Milanese department stores are now busy fixing trees to the walls, hanging lights from the ceilings and preparing Santa's Grotto for his imminent arrival.

And, as if that wasn't enough to convince me to dash out and buy the Turkey, this morning I received, from Australia via England, my very first Christmas card! I've never actually met the chap who sent it, and judging from the fact that the message inside included the word "backstabbing" I don't think that's a bad thing. I wrote to him a couple of months back to thank him for his letter regarding an article that I'd had published in a magazine over there. I feel like Eminem in that video, the one featuring Dido where he finds himself with a completely obsessed fan who ends up driving off a bridge as he thinks he's being ignored by the superstar...

I'll have to be careful of people like that as I continue my journey towards stardom.

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Thursday 7th November 2002 - 16:54 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

I was faced with a difficult decision last night.

On the one hand there was Die Hard 3 on the box (featuring Bruce Willis dubbed into Italian), and on the other hand I had the chance to go to a free gig by KOOP, a band from somewhere in Europe (Germany? the UK? Finland?) who produce a great sound that could best be described as, er, Sixties Modern Jazz with an Alternative Techno Vibe? KOOP those sexy fellas

Sorry Bruce, but I just can't cope with you in Italian. You're bad enough on Japanese TV dressed in orange overalls and shouting "MOVE YOU!" at VW Beetles in that petrol advert.

Oh, anyway, I was meant to be telling you about KOOP, not Japanese TV (where you'll also see Nicholas Cage promoting slot machines, and Kevin Kostner telling us that when he was a kid he had a dream of bringing people to their knees but now he's perfectly happy with just drinking Brand X coffee...). Er yeah, anyway, KOOP. Mmm, they were good. Amazing Xylophone player. Was it a Xylophone? I guess so. You know, that instrument that you buy for toddlers, lots of strips of metal (or wood) on a frame that you bang with a stick. Anyhow, he was amazing, that guy playing the ding-dong Xylophone thing. The rest of the band weren't bad either. Certainly more entertaining than Brucy saying "Arividerchi" and other terrorist-related words in Italian.

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Friday 8th November 2002 - 12:26 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Hello. I'm writing from , which in case you weren't aware is Italy's answer to McDonalds, except for the fact that there's not a burger in sight. It's all pizza here.

I find it much easier to study in a cafe/restaurant. I think it's because I usually end up eating, drinking, and watching people, before going home saying to myself "there's always tomorrow". That's half the battle won, admitting that I have to study and setting a day on which to do it. I have achieved something today.


My old classmate (and good friend) from the Hereford Waldorf School, Billy Salisbury, has recently launched his own site, www.billysalisbury.com. There you can catch up with all the latest movements of the Undercover Hippy as he leaves Singapore (his home for the past two years) and, after a month spent rediscovering his home country, embarks upon a trip around the world lasting for all of 2003.

If you've got a decent speed Internet connection, check out his animations too! They really are really good! It's all at

http://www.billysalisbury.com

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Saturday 9th November 2002 - 22:30 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Sometimes it really does all get a bit much.

Today's been one of those disturbingly weird "timeless" days. I'm feeling very stressed and peculiar. Contributing factors that I'm conscious of include:

• started reading "No Logo" by Naomi Klein. It's shocked me. I see logos every day of my life... but to read about the thinking behind today's corporate sponsorship, well, it frightens me. Lets hope things improve in chapter four.

• drank 7 cans of beer and a Vodka&Orange last night.

• danced like a monkey for a couple of hours in a Milanese bar, which has resulted in the return of my Granny's Hip Syndrome.

• went to bed at 3.30am.

• discovered that a friend has changed considerably in the past two months, stemming fears for their welfare.

• got off the tram at the wrong stop this afternoon whilst on my way home.

• stressed about returning to in Tokyo, where I'm due to land in eleven, that's 11, days. 11 days. I don't feel ready yet. Perhaps it's just today. The thing is, I feel that I have to do something really constructive with my time there. I'm kind of bored with bumming around, and yet, at the same time I'm afraid of getting on and doing something "proper", by that I mean I'm afraid of attempting to embark upon a new career. The same old story of being afraid of both failure and success. I was considering becoming a student, studying Japanese. What is it with my fascination with the language? Perhaps it's based on feelings that I nurtured some two years ago, feelings which have long since withered but the concept of which I keep alive in my mind. Is it related to certain people in my life? I don't know.

So I feel this pressure, this stress. And then, I hear the voices of friends, relatives and most importantly voices from inside of me, telling me, It doesn't matter Joseph. Life's just life. You can do whatever you want, achieve whatever you wish to achieve if you really want to. Or, you can sit back and let it pass you by. It doesn't really matter. We live, we die. What happens in-between is whatever we make happen.

There's no success or failure in the end.

It gets to me! It gets to me that I still give a damn about success. There's no success or failure in the end! I know that! So why won't my mind accept the fact?

I am constantly trying to break those invisible boundaries that society has placed around me, the ones that say one should never spend over £7000 using credit cards in 3 months, the ones that say one should never write about Stuff That Matters on one's homepage, the ones that say one should never fly halfway around the world having made the decision to do so just a few hours beforehand for the sake of love, the ones that say one should be successful. It gets to me even more as I had felt that I'd broken free of those restrictions. I thought I'd worked through the success rubbish 3 years ago, when I finally turned my back on the mad world of Network Marketing that had swallowed me up. But it's all coming back on me now. I'm starting to worry about success.

Hhmm. That's interesting. I'm more worried about success than failure. Maybe that's a good sign.

Another thing that struck me this evening was how alone I feel in all of this. Is there anyone else out there who struggles with these questions as I do? I read of people going through such turmoil, but where are they now? Is there anyone reading this right now who could simply click on my email address and tell me what they learnt? Hasn't anyone discovered the Truth? Why do I have to go through all this alone? Why do all of my friends from my schooldays seem to be coping just fine without having to battle with these monsters? Why Why Why?

Ah, maybe I should just switch off for tonight.

MTV, that's the answer. The world's ultimate logo. I'll sink into bed and let all of those corporate images take away my fears. I will be Madonna, Nelly and James Bond. The daily life of Ozi Osbourne will consume me. Success will embrace me. American Express will sponsor me.

No fear. No decisions to make.

It's ok Joseph.

You're ok.

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Monday 11th November 2002 - 17:18 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Yesterday Kae, Aya, Kurichan and I visited an exhibition run by the Italian Prada Foundation. The exhibition featured 36 pieces by the American artist Tom Friedman. Up until a couple of months back I had absolutely no interest in art, except perhaps for photography, but I must admit to having been totally absorbed by what I saw in that converted warehouse. I won't bore you with graphic details, (and of course I've got no photos). Instead, I'll simply lift a few descriptions straight from the gallery guide. No interpretations are offered. What you see is what you get.

4 - A balloon made by applying papier-mache over a balloon then painting it pink.

8 - A tarantula made from the artist's hair.

17 - A form made out of the artist's underwear in which one pair of underpants is put on over another until no more can be added.

23 - A standard A4 piece of paper sits atop a pedestal exactly the same size and colour as the piece of paper.

24 - Two identically wrinkled sheets of paper.

37 - Toothpaste applied to the wall.

A couple of Tom's other masterpieces (which sadly weren't in the Milan exhibition) are "Two by Four", a plank of wood that is a copy of itself, and "Everything", in which all the words in an English dictionary are copied out onto a piece of paper.

What is art?

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Wednesday 13th November 2002 - 18:33 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

I first met Derek as both he and I were roaming the streets of Milan. Derek was a helium-filled Dalmatian.

Being a helium-filled Dalmatian, Derek's greatest wish had always been to fly. He wanted to fly high above the smelly lampposts where any Fido would pee, high above the realm of his nasty owner who would look at him as if he were a mere toy, and mostly, he wanted to fly away from his wicked 100 helium-filled siblings who's favourite trick was to hide needles in his bed.

But Derek had a problem. He had a string tied to his underside, and that string always seemed to be attached to someone or something.

On hearing Derek's story my eyes flooded with tears. How could I ignore this bark for help?

I immediately bought Derek the helium-filled Dalmatian for €6, and having heard his last request (to be filmed in action, flying, see the video here), I released his umbilical cord from my grasp.

Derek and I have always been close But Derek had his sights set high he was no street dog He knew that his body's weight was no obstacle
to free flight high above the streets of Milano Way above the crowds, the smog free to pee wherever he wished Derek the dalmatian had found doggy heaven

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Sunday 17th November 2002 - 12:00 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Last night saw my first appearance at the Milano Fila Forum, the 10,000 seater stadium that plays host to some of Italy's biggest live acts. Sadly (for the Milanese population) I wasn't the one on stage. No, rather, I was about a mile back from the spotlight trying to work out which midget in the distance was Delores from The Cranberries.

Good gig. Enjoyed it. Sort of.

Tomorrow I'll be back there as Coldplay come to town.

I feel such a victim of MTV's influence!


Today shall be spent packing my rucksack for Wednesday's departure. It's going to be a bit tricky as I have quite a bit of stuff, and there's a strict 20kg baggage allowance. I called the airline to confirm yesterday, and to find out how much excess baggage would cost. £34 a kilo! Can you believe it?! I think I'll be going down to the post office tomorrow to find out how much a 10kg parcel to Japan will cost to send!

Despite the stress and fear I have regarding my return to Asia I'm actually getting pretty excited about it now. I don't know what it is about Tokyo, but I do feel oddly attached. It'll be the first time that I've been there since I increased my Japanese vocabulary from 200 to over 2000 words over the summer - hopefully that will aid my reintegration into the city (as integrated as it's possible for a foreigner to feel in Japan anyhow!).

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Tuesday 19th November 2002 - 19:10 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

A housewife's worst nightmare...

Just imagine: you're settling down with a nice few cans of Heineken, contemplating what to share with the world in The Daily Mumble, when you glance down to the clock in the bottom right of your screen.

Ah NO!!! The laundry!! You forgot the laundry! Quick as a flash you find yourself sprinting down the road to retrieve your freshly tumbled pants, praying all the way that the funny old Italian woman who seems to be unusually fond of her one regular crazy English customer (who's Italian vocabulary encompasses all words from "ciau" to "ciau" and "do you speak English?" spoken in English) hasn't shut her laundrette early, otherwise you'll be returning to Japan with only one pair of socks...

I just made it. The other passengers of tomorrow's flight NH210 will be glad to know that my socks will be clean.


Having been somewhat disappointed with the Cranberries performance in Milan at the weekend, I wasn't getting my expectations up too high for Coldplay who were also playing the Fila Forum.

Wow. What a show! These guys were just great. The fact that we had seats right by the stage helped a lot; they were real people as opposed to specks in the distance. The lead singer (whose name I really couldn't tell you) is a great entertainer, acting the pop-star yet not selling out. Great voice too, almost as good as mine. The lighting was fantastic, very professional. They had a great little laser box thing too which created an entire virtual ceiling over the crowd - technology eh?!

A nice addition to the set were the six cameras positioned at strategic points around the stage. These gave us those all important close up views of the main man's nose, the drummer's armpit and guitarists' inner thighs. The images were projected onto white sheets, giving nice clean pictures with a natural feel. You know what I mean?

I was a bit disturbed however when, after a few minutes, I found myself with my eyes glued to the projected images rather than the actual band - the live "TV" pictures seemed more real to me than their living breathing sources on stage below. How conditioned am I by TV?!

Great show. If Coldplay come to a town near you, see them.


I'm so excited!

In 24 hours I should be coming in to land at Frankfurt, where I'll transfer to NH210 bound for Tokyo. I'm VERY excited now about returning to (Japan).

Why do I love Japan, and in particular, Tokyo, so much? No idea. Pass.

But
I'm so excited!

Anyhow, I think that's about it from me in Italy. I've got an Internet connection set up in Japan so hopefully I can keep it all going without too much of a break. My thanks to all those in Europe who have helped me in one way or another over the past three months. See you next time!

joseph xxx

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Wednesday 20th / Thursday 21st November 2002 - 12am? GMT+2? 33,000ft (10km) above Russia

Is it Wednesday? Is it Thursday? What time is it? Where am I? All legitimate questions, as I am writing from 33,000 feet (10km) above Russia. Somewhere north of Moscow at the moment I think. Ah, there we go, 42 miles from St. Petersburg according to the map on the TV.

Outside temperature: -55°c (-67°f)
Land speed:
578mph (937kmph)
4751 miles (7645km) to go
8:38
hours until we land...

The fantastic view from my seat

What I want to know is why did I feel jet-lagged after only an hour in the air? Why does my laptop's mouse go completely nuts on aeroplanes, flying off the bottom left-hand-side of the screen all by itself? Is it attempting to stay in Europe? Is it somehow linked to a Microsoft Global Positioning Spy Satellite without my knowing?

So, that's it. I've left Italy, and by the looks of things, Europe too. The journey so far has gone without a hitch, oh apart from the men's toilets at Frankfurt airport (where I transferred); one of the urinals was blocked and had no intention of stopping flushing. I reported it to a woman in the neighbouring perfume store, who replied that it wasn't her problem. I told her it would be when the swimming pool extended to her cK1 display - then it really would be 'eau de toilette"!

Any sadness to be leaving Italy? No, not really. Milan really stank! I'm a bit surprised to find myself with a mild case of culture shock being back among the Japanese (I'm virtually the only foreigner on board this 747). Perhaps it will wear off by the time we reach eastern Siberia. Speaking of which, I think that must be the most beautiful sight I've ever seen from an aeroplane. The snow covered mountains of Siberia. No sign of man at all. No roads, no pylons, no houses, just nature. It's impossible to see such a large uncontaminated landscape anywhere within Europe, and is a sight that has been permanently imprinted upon my memory. It even beats the Swiss Alps!

Ah, you'll have to excuse me. It's sleepytime on board now, lights out. The sun (which set about 4 hours ago) will be rising soon. Night Night!

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30 minutes later...

I'd forgotten about ANA (All Nippon Airways)'s fantastic in-flight movie. They showed it when I came over to Europe in August.

It features 3 flight attendants in the latest Japanese action-thriller, you know, the one where they do all kinds of bizarre stunts (such as flapping their arms like chickens) in an attempt to avoid dying of deep-vein thrombosis or whatever it is you get on long-haul flights. It's called "Fly Safely with ANA" or something like that. Funniest thing of all though is that half of the passengers around me are actually following the instructions given on-screen, poking one other in the ears with their elbows.

It's a classic. I'll be the first one to get it when it comes out on DVD.

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10 minutes later...

Oh, it just gets better.

Now we've got a complete unheard of (probably straight-to-video) movie. It's one of those that having seen the first 3 minutes you can predict the whole storyline.

Little poor American orphan (big basketball-fan) finds a pair of shoes that he thinks used to belong to Michael Jordan. Shoes get struck by lightening, he becomes an incredible player when wearing them. That's as far as we've got so far, but I predict that:

Calvin (the orphan) will rise through the ranks and end up on a nationally televised game. Probably loses his magic shoes at the last minute but summons up the strength and skill from within himself and wins anyhow. Oh, and the orphanage bully gets taught a lesson in the meantime.

Has anyone else ever seen this film? Please don't email actually, my inbox is near full-capacity.

(the scary thing is, I actually WANT to watch the rest of the film...)

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80 minutes later...

I was right :-)

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my Pokemon Plane


Saturday 23rd November 2002 - 04.30 [GMT+9] Friend's house, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan

Hello. It's 4.30am and you find me in the brutal grip of jetlag.

I'm lying on my futon in a pitch-black apartment room, scribbling this note on my little backlit handheld PC, in a bid to slow the pace of the millions of thoughts that are racing through my head. I'd dearly love to get up and do things, but my kind host is sleeping not 2 metres from me in this shoebox apartment that is only too typical of homes in Tokyo. (Ironically, the name of the building is Plum Mansion.

So, I arrived in Japan 36 hours ago. I say "I arrived in Japan 36 hours ago", but perhaps a more accurate description of what happened would be "the transportation of my body to Japan was completed 36 hours ago." My mind and soul are somewhere else entirely, who knows where? Somewhere up in orbit. Perhaps the main cause of this feeling is the fact that, aside from my girlfriend, I have no clear purpose for being in Japan. It's more of a case of having returned here simply because the flight for which my ticket was valid happened to land at Tokyo Narita.

Another reason for my druqged-up state is that I have no base. This year I have come to realise that I am not a nomad, and that it is important for me to have a place that I can call "home". Yesterday, my first full day back in Japan, I set about trying to find somewhere to live. After a couple of Google searches, I had a list of guest houses ("gaijin houses") and so began to make phone calls. Unfortunately, those in the area where I really want to be (koenji, where I was last year) were all full, but there was one company 20 minutes from there that had a room available. What a funny place it was! The family-owned business "Apple House" had about 15 mansions in its care, each divided into single-room apartments with their own fridges, TV & videos, air-cons and broadband Internet connections. All very nice. However, it was the bizarre rules regarding the shared bathroom, lounge and kitchen that got me - usage was limited to between 7am and 1pm! What's all that about?! Also, if a friend wanted to visit they'd have to telephone the main office first to see if it was ok! Needless to say, I turned them down.

It was strange riding the trains of central Tokyo again. So many familiar places, yet I found that my relationship with them has changed to such an extent that I may as well have been in an identical city in a parallel universe. I am shocked to find that this city is a stranger to me, it's a stranger and yet I know my way around parts of it as if I'd been here for centuries. I had thought that I would be able to pick up where I left off, but no, this is one of those stages of a relationship where one has to start all over again, rebuilding the friendship, the trust.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Sure, it's a little upsetting to find that the relationship that I had grown used to gone, but it's also pretty exciting to know that I'm embarking upon a whole new journey of exploration into the heart and soul of the city.

(I think that one reason for the change that I am feeling is that this is the first time that I've been here with the ability to understand what people around me are saying. It's like having been deaf all of my life and now someone's finally taken the cotton wool out of my ears.)

Anyhow, it's now 6.15am, my Palm batteries are nearly dead, and I'm hungry. Time to say goodbye for now as I embark upon my second day in this mad city.

(yes, I am glad to be back.)

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Sunday 24th November 2002 - 07:30 (GMT+9) My new home, Asagaya, Tokyo

AAAGGGHH!! I'VE GOT CULTURE SHOCK!!!!

I was only out of the country for three months! What's going on?!

Ok, so yesterday I finally managed to get somewhere to live for the next month or so. If you're coming to Tokyo and you're looking for a gaijin house (Foreigner's guest house) get in touch with Fontana (03 3382 0151); they're listed in Lonely Planet Japan too. Helpful, good quick service, and pretty cheap. Anyhow, through them I've landed myself this nice little cupboard in which to hide.

note the words on the wall, aren't I a good boy?

It's 2m x 4m, with a little closet off to one side for my kimono and for when I can't cope with the walls being so far away. It has an attractive brown stained carpet and clean thin white curtains to let the light in. It's best feature is definitely the air-con/heater. Being so small, the room heats up in no time, making it all nice and cosy, except for the half-metre of air closest to the floor which refuses to budge above -5° ensuring that toes are always nice and icy.

My room is one of about 15 in this gaijin house. I guess there must be about 20 of us living here, coming from all continents. I don't know anyone else, although I have spoken briefly to a few folks who seem nice enough. There is, however, one completely mad Japanese resident. I've never seen her, but boy have I heard her! It started at about five this morning. A wailing sound. Imagine a very spoilt four-year-old child who wants some sweeties, but mummy won't buy her any sweeties because she's already had some. That child starts to whine, and then cry, and then launch into a full-blown scream. The screaming continues until mummy gives in and buys the sweeties, at which point the child is instantly quiet, having got what she wanted. Now, take that child and give it the lungs of a 22-year-old Japanese girl. The result is what I had the pleasure to be woken up and kept awake by this morning!

At 8am I was hungry. Thankfully we have a 7-11 convenience store just around the corner, so it didn't take too much legwork to buy a nice pot noodle. The problem arose when I got back to our shared kitchen, and I found that I didn't have a lighter for the gas, and was therefore unable to heat up any water. I'm now listening out for any signs of life in the house so that I can pounce upon someone for a light.

Let's hope Crazy Screaming Girl is sleeping off her tantrum.

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About this culture shock - it's totally unexpected. I went out of my way to get a room within walking distance of the apartment where I'd previously lived for six months, hoping that familiarity with the area would help me to settle. Perhaps that has helped, but I still feel so challenged by everything. I think I know why though:

When I was here last winter, I was living with my Japanese girlfriend, living a pretty typical Japanese lifestyle. Working Monday to Friday, there was the reassurance that routine brings.

This time around, I am in a gaijin (foreigner) house, living a gaijin lifestyle with absolutely no routine. It's an entirely different world. I'm astonished by how different life can be in the same place. Perhaps this is something I should remember for the future. hhmmmmm.

Incidentally, I don't usually read horoscope columns, but I couldn't help it when I picked up the English language mag Metropolis yesterday.

Capricorn: Twists and turns aren't really your favourite way of approaching life, but it does make it all seem more exciting! Even if you can't make what you want to happen materialise this week, letting yourself see what is coming next offers more fun than you'd expect. In fact, moving through your obligations while noticing the antics of the universe brings in resources you hadn't expected"

:-)

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A few days back I was going on about success, failure and finances. I'd like to thank Selene for her email regarding life in Singapore, which served to remind me just how damn lucky I am to come from a family, a community, a culture, that is so (relatively) open in its thinking and accepting of people doing things just because they want to and not because of what other people think. I do sometimes feel pressure, the pressure of society, but I appreciate that it is nothing compared with what some people from other cultures have to go through. I slap my wrist and say "Joseph, you're a lucky boy! Now stop complaining and get on with it!"

Talking about Singapore, Billy Salisbury, my friend who's been working over there for the past two years, sent me a mail a few days back with a bizarre story of everyday life. I quote:

"A guy recently got sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for punching his wife's lawyer during their divorce battle. He was very upset and aggravated, and he lashed out, fair enough, he should be punished, but 6 YEARS!!! But it gets better..... He tried to appeal, and it went to the high court, and the judge decided to increase his sentence to 10 YEARS!!!!!!!!!!! That's what they give murderers!! This guy is about 50 years old with 2 kids, and they give him 10 years for punching someone!

The government also recently sued the leader of the opposition and banned him from running in the election because he.... well..... opposed them!..."

(And I thought Tokyo was crazy...)

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This chair makes a noise like a sheep.

mmeeeeehhhh

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Saturday 30th November 2002 - 21:31 (GMT+9) The broom cupboard, Asagaya, Tokyo

Wow. What a week. What a month!

I can hardly believe that it was THIS month, i.e. only four weeks ago that Kae and I spent a weekend in that huge Italian villa. Seems like a lifetime away, when here I am now, tucked away in my little cupboard with nothing but a chair that makes a noise like a sheep for company, in the middle of Tokyo. It's Saturday night so the house is VERY noisy - the Aussie kids are play-fighting with the Brits in the common room downstairs. I'm debating whether to go out tonight or not.

Reasons to go out tonight:

1) Need to meet people and make new friends. Current friends in Tokyo number five, two of whom are my girlfriend's friends!

2) It would be more exciting than staying at home in my broom-cupboard.

3) I like the taste of beer.

 

Reasons to not go out tonight:

1) Going to Tokyo DisneySea (the watery version of Tokyo Disneyland) tomorrow. This requires:

• Feet that are not tired.

• An early start (7.30am) and therefore a good nights' sleep tonight.

• Lack of a hangover. I don't really want to throw up over some poor little Japanese child's head on the Wild Wild West Rollercoaster Ride.

2) With credit card bills totalling £8,500 this week, I really can't afford to buy a beer. The cost of one beer will buy me four big meals at my local beefbowl restaurant.

3) The parcel that I sent to myself overland from Italy last week arrived today. I need to unpack and sort it all out. You know, put the shoes under my bed, throw everything else in a pile on the floor to sort out some other time.

4) I haven't written much recently, either online or off-line. Really feel the need to write.

5) I'm tired

OK, OK, I think that's pretty conclusive. I won't go out tonight. I shall be happy to stay in. In fact I'm looking forward to going to bed already.

I wish I had an on/off switch. Imagine that, you could just turn your brain off and sleep for as long as you wanted! I guess it would have to have a built in timer, you know, to turn it on again, otherwise you couldn't wake up in order to turn it on again. Oh, and then of course it would also have to have an Emergency-On function attached to all of your senses, in case of fire in the house or something. But what if burglars broke into your house and put sticky tape over the Emergency-On switch before you'd woken up? You'd sleep right through the robbery! I suppose the switch would have to be strategically located, under your armpits for example. That way the tickling would wake you up before the burglar had a chance to apply the sellotape. Mind you, that would make it tricky for women to shave their armpits. Perhaps it could be located in the roof of your mouth, you know, a tongue-operated switch. That would be handy when visiting the dentist too. They could just turn your brain and emergency switch off instead of having to inject an anaesthetic.

I think I should patent the idea.

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Saturday 30th November 2002 - 22:42 (GMT+9) The broom cupboard, Asagaya, Tokyo

Anyhow, what have I been up to since my arrival in Tokyo nine days ago?

Er.

Um.

Good question.

Let's see. Well, the first few days were swallowed up with jetlag and cupboard-hunting. Ah, then of course my girlfriend arrived from Italy.

Remember last week I was saying that I was feeling out of place and all weird? Well, I found that as soon as Kae returned I immediately settled down. The thing is, before last week I'd never lived in Tokyo without her. Well, anyway, I'm not sure how I feel about that realisation. I don't like dependency, in my mind it's an altogether unhealthy thing (mail me with your opposing view)!

Ah yes, that's what we did next. We went back to Kae's parents' house in the "countryside" (Japanese "countryside" means anywhere where less that 3000 people live per square metre), where we relaxed and generally had fun. I think it was on the Tuesday that we went to the cinema to see the only film that wasn't halfway through by the time we arrived at the multiplex - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. If anyone knows of any film that contains more Hollywood mumbo-jumbo let me know so that I can avoid it. Still, the seats were very comfortable and we were able to get at least 2-and-a-half hours sleep that afternoon.

Wednesday it was back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen ("Bullet Train"); it always gets me just how much it feels like flying due to the continuously welded tracks that it runs on. It also gets me how you can fly to China and back for the same price as a 5 hour trip on the legendary train!

Yesterday, Kae's birthday, we sought out a little-known onsen (naturally heated volcanic hot spring), of which, surprisingly, there are quite a few within one hours travel of central Tokyo. That was fantastic, with it's five outdoor pools and the most beautiful wooden bath I've ever had the chance to bathe in: situated in the garden in a little wooden hut with huge windows on all five sides. There was also a mini-cave bath, and a wooden barrel with its top cut off. That one was very cosy - I've never had a bath in a barrel before! That evening we went for Okonomiyaki, in one of those restaurants where every table has a large gas-heated metal hotplate sunk into it. You are given a bowel containing the prepared ingredients (e.g. mixed thinly cut vegetables in an egg sauce), you then spread these over the oiled tray to cook until they are just how you like them.

This morning Kae returned to Italy. In fact, she should be coming in to land just as I type. I hope that she got there ok.

Hhm. That leaves me alone in my broom cupboard again.

Oh well, at least I'm going to meet Mickey Mouse tomorrow.

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