The Daily Mumble December 2002 Archive
Yesterday, a bunch of friends and I popped off down to DisneySea, an offshoot of Tokyo Disneyland where you'll not find a single cartoon character. Rather than create a fantasy land, in the building of DisneySea (a huge park centred around a network of artificial harbours and lakes), the American Superbrand has sought to create a parallel universe that is more real than it's real counterpart.
Take for example the mini-Venice, complete with gondolas and rip-off pasta restaurants. All it lacks is floods, sinking houses and Italians. The volcano by the way is somewhat more controllable than Sicily's Mt. Etna, in that it erupts on the hour every hour at the touch of a button.
Looking at this picture you would be forgiven for thinking that I had an intimate relationship with this plastic camel. Admittedly, I did ride him once last year, but the fact that I have my eyes closed is less to do with any feelings of great pleasure, and more to do with the human eye's need to be cleaned by a blink now and then.
On my last visit I'd had a really good time at DisneySea, being completely consumed by the DisneySpell and experiencing copious amounts of DisneyMagic. This year however, I was not accompanied by my girlfriend, and therefore had no-one to hold hands with on the "Seven Voyages of Sinbad", and no-one to kiss when walking the streets of Venice II. Instead, I had my friend "John" ( I shall refer to him as "John" to protect his true identity). As "John" said, he had left home that morning with the sole purpose of not enjoying himself, and I must say that he succeeded in doing so admirably.
Having queued for the best part of 2 hours, and then ridden for 60 seconds on the "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", his first comment was; "when I was on a jet-boat in New Zealand it went much faster and lasted ALL DAY!!"
You can see his point of view can't you?
"John" doesn't really fit into DisneySea's target audience demographic. It's all very entertaining for Tokyoites who have never stepped outside of the Big City, but for someone who has been travelling to exotic locations for the past 30+ years (he'd started by hitchhiking around the world at the age of 18), well, the plastic version of planet Earth just doesn't appeal.
I tried my best, taking him to the Aladdin's Lamp 3D Theatre ("the IMAX in London is much bigger!") and ensuring that we had a good spot to watch the evening fireworks from ("when I was in Sydney Harbour for the Millennium celebrations..."). Well, for those 12 hours he drove me crazy, but in a way it was quite refreshing to hear such a torrent of anti-corporate cynicism.
Thank you for your company, "John". It was an enlightening experience, but if you don't mind I think that I'll take my girlfriend next time!
Well today saw another TWO trips to the Japanese Immigration Office. The first time I went there (at about 10am) I was told that Yes, of course they could issue a Student Visa valid from March 1st 2003. Having had that confirmed I took the 40 minute train journey back across Tokyo to the school that I wanted to attend, and told them what immigration had told me. This was all a bit difficult as I had to do it all in Japanese! Anyhow, the school still insisted that no, it was too late to apply for a visa, that the immigration department would NOT issue any more until July 2003. I'm not very good at arguing in Japanese, and so reluctantly headed back to the immigration department in the hope that they would telephone the school on my behalf and sort out which one of them was talking rubbish.
As it happened, it was the Immigration office on the 2nd floor of the government building that had got it wrong, as when they phoned through to the student department (off-bounds to the public) on the 3rd floor, they were told that Yes, applications were no longer being accepted!
That's the student visa out of the window then, at least for the next 6 months. It's a shame. Two days ago I sat in on a lesson at a local language school to see what it was like. I am pleased to announce that my self-taught Japanese did not let me down, I understood everything said. I guess for now I shall have to continue with my books at home.
me: It's a learning Experience Joseph, a learning Experience.
me 2:I don't care of it's a Learning Experience! I don't want a Learning Experience, I want to be happy!!!!
me: But you know you CAN do it Joseph! You can be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do!
me 2: I know that, I KNOW! But, well, I just feel useless! I'm lonely here, can't you see that? Anyway, the system's against me and there's no way around it!
me: oh now Joseph, you know that the system is only as real as you want it to be.
me 2: yes, I know. But...
me: But what?
me 2: oh be quiet!
Yes, it's been another of those days. Here is a scientifically accurate mathematical analysis of today.
As you can see, things went so pear-shaped at one point that time actually went backwards!
It's a little embarrassing to tell you the following, but The Daily Mumble is allegedly 99% about real life.
It's Friday night. I have no friends. I saw the following ad in a magazine today:
It starts in an hour. I'll be there.
Oh Joseph, what is your life coming to?
The next morning...
So when I phoned the number in the ad to get more info, I was told that usually a minimum of 25 to 30 people attended, although on a good night there could be as many as 60.
When I arrived at the venue - a shoebox even smaller than my cupboard - the guests numbered three, one of whom was a Japanese man in his late 50's who was smellier than a very smelly piece of Stilton cheese.
Realising that beer was the only feasible way to survive the ordeal, I settled down with my one free drink to see how much alcohol I could extract from the golden bubbles.
Thankfully it was all over by 9.30pm. Still determined to have a good time that night, I located a British pub, where, having eaten a very suspicious beef and onion pie, I began to feel very sick.
I was in bed by 11pm.
Next Friday I think I'll stay at home and read!
So much to tell you and so little time... so, what I'm going to do is be a lazy sod and copy & paste from a letter I wrote to my siblings last night. Here goes:
It's been a while since we had any decent helpings of Japanese Engrish in The Daily Mumble, so here's a couple that I spied this morning in Tokyo:
Outside the fashionable NOWA restaurant, these two huge signs can be seen:
Oh, make me happy!
This photo of a piece of cheese is about 2m high in reality - Yeah baby YEAH!
Nice jacket, Mr. Bogey!
The latest Japanese car has just gone on show on a snowy sidewalk in Western Tokyo. It's set to rival the enormously popular Smart you know...
Timed to coincide perfectly with the first snowfall of the year, yesterday my aircon/ heater decided to go on strike; no matter which buttons I pressed I just couldn't get it to emit any hot air. I called the housing agents, who said that they'd send someone around as soon as possible.
When I returned home from the warmth of a local cafe, I found a note on my desk beside the aircon remote control. It read:
Well, that clears that up then.
I was thinking of getting my hair cut this week, what with the recent emergence of a very sexy side-parting and all. Today, whilst getting hopelessly lost on my bicycle (again), I found the perfect place to have it done.
"Short back & sides, and a scraggy tail please"
Today is Thursday 12th. Do you know what that means?
It means that tomorrow is FRIDAY the 13th! That's my lucky day!!!
I know that my most people consider Friday the 13th to be an unlucky day, but then, unlike me, most people weren't actually born on Friday the 13th.
(Don't worry, you've still got a month to buy my present.)
I wonder what's going to happen? The fact that nothing lucky has ever happened to me on any other Friday the 13th since January 1978 is beside the point. I can feel it in my bones. There again, that could just be pins and needles...
So basically it's a case of learning 1,850 stories like that one! No problem! I intend to study for several hours a day for the next month or so.
Hhmm. Watch this space!
You know how sometimes you see yourself and you think, "no, that isn't me! I don't look like that!"?...
A week ago last Saturday, the night following the huge happnin' party that I described above, I couldn't stop myself from going out again to wow the crowds of Tokyo (cough). I had intended to only stay out for a few hours, have a couple of beers and be in bed by 2am.
Let's just say it didn't quite work out like that.
So, this Saturday (the 14th) I came across a better option: a year-end party at a private English language school with a fixed entrance fee and all the food and drink you could possibly desire included. Mm, it wasn't bad. Beer and wine were plentiful, the sushi was absolutely delicious (despite the soy-sauce supply running dry at 10.30pm). The guestlist held the names of all sorts of people, from 3-year-old monkeys to 60-year-old company presidents. However, the ones that caused the trouble for me were the 32-year-old mothers.
She wore a long, black, velvet dress. Her face was coated in an inch of white powder. Her impossibly-long false nails got caught up in her wig whenever she felt the need to scratch. Her breath was that of a snail who'd fallen in a beer-trap the night before. Her sweaty hands were everywhere.
I'd done my best to avoid her for much of the evening, having realised pretty quickly upon arrival that the gothic freak on the couch was completely drunk, steaming drunk. Then, it happened. She somehow managed to pull herself up from the leather, and stagger across the room to a chair beside me. The following conversation ensued in English and Japanese.
Why you don't wanna talk to me?
She then stood up and began to shout, prompting everyone to turn around to watch:
her: You told me you'd come home with me! You said so over there!
At this point she got her mobile phone out, and trying hard to hold back tears of frustration and anger dialled a number, before handing the phone to me. There followed a brief conversation (in Japanese) which was extremely confusing, but essentially the voice on the other end said that they were waiting for me. I told them that if that was the case they could come to the school to find me, as I I couldn't possibly leave a party where there was so much sushi and cake still to be eaten.
Realising that I was not to be swayed, Batwoman stood up, and with all the effort she could muster delivered her final stunning blow:
"You're not nice!"
The apologies from the school staff came thick and fast after she'd been carried down the three flights of stairs. Anyhow, after that incident I settled down once again with a huge tray of sushi and a few good people, to recount for them (in my very worst drunken Japanese) tales from the road of love, loss, hope and sledging. And, I was in bed by 1am.
The day before yesterday I started tasting metal. Literally. All the time, I had the taste of metal in my mouth. Last night I investigated with the aid of two mirrors, and sure enough, I'm a Metal Mouth. A few years back, I forget when, I had to have one of my front teeth extracted from my upper jaw, due to an infection beneath the root. This tooth was replaced by a solid gold fake, which was then coated in a tooth-colour cement to make it look like the real thing (which it does). Anyhow, yesterday's investigation revealed that the special cement has worn right through just by the gum on the backside of the tooth, revealing the precious metal below.
A call to my insurance company revealed that I'm not covered unless there's pain involved - my options now are to go to a private dentist in Tokyo and pay about 3 million pounds, or attack myself with a hammer in order to be able to claim the costs on my insurance policy!
8 hours later...
I called my dentist back home in Hereford this afternoon. Apparently there's nothing that any dentist can do except replace the whole false tooth with another. She said that the metal won't do me any harm, it's just a case of getting used to the sensation of having a handful of rusty nails in my mouth!
Just a quickie to thank the Tokyo Steiner School for inviting me to their Christmas / End-of-Year festival yesterday. It was really lovely, and took me back to my own school days thousands of miles away at the Hereford Waldorf School. It's wonderful to see Steiner Education being practised in Japan, where the state system is even more exam-orientated than in the UK!
Thanks Rudolf for providing me with a world-wide network of friends!
This afternoon, having spent most of the day inside, I ventured out to the 45th floor of the north tower of The Metropolitan Government Building No.1. From there, the view west across the suburbs towards Mount Fuji was just beautiful. It's the closest I can get to the mountains without travelling for an hour by train!
Ok then! What's the big idea?! Whoever put it there I want it taken away NOW!
It seems to be a custom peculiar to this area. I've found three slides parked slap-bang in the middle of roads around here.
Another peculiar custom that has been confusing me of late is that of the man who walks around this area at about 5.30pm everyday banging two big bits of wood together. He doesn't say a word, just walks along the streets making this regular "whack" sound. Last night I decided to ask my friend what it's all about, and she told me that it's to remind people to be careful about fire. At this time of year folks are getting their old heaters out, and it has been known for the kerosene-powered stoves to be forgotten about once lit, causing fires that rapidly spread from one house to the next.
So, that's why he walks the streets at night, banging his sticks together. Silly me, I should have guessed...
Today, whilst going down the steps to the subway station, I came across a man walking his handbag.
Yes, walking his handbag. It seemed to be having trouble climbing the stairs by itself, so he was offering it encouragement by talking nicely and giving a few gentle tugs on it's long black leather strap.
Mind you, I was too busy coaxing my left ear into following me to pay him much attention...
So, right, today. Yes. Erm.
Got up at 4pm. Mmm, didn't actually leave my room at all, not even for the toilet, until 4.30pm. No! I'm not lazy - I was studying. It's those crazy Kanji (see above), they've really got me going. Today it took me 5 hours to learn 46 of them. 172 down, 1,678 to go. No problem. I'll finish them off tomorrow.
I've got into this mad routine which sees me going to bed at 2am or 3am and sleeping through to about 11.30am every day. I must admit that I'm quite enjoying it, and it saves money too in that I only need one meal a day (at about 5pm).
This evening I went along to Sony Tower in Ginza (Tokyo's answer to Knightsbridge). I guess you could call it their "flagship store". For the first time though I wasn't particularly overcome by amazement at the latest gadgets and gizmos. I get this feeling that, for the time being at least, technology has hit a stumbling block. Sure, everything gets faster and faster and smaller and smaller, but, well, there was nothing new there. That doesn't mean to say that I didn't want to buy everything in sight - because I did - but now computers can do everything, well, there's nothing left for them to do.
What amazes me far more than anything Sony can come up with though is my own ability to learn. I don't mean to blow my own trumpet but, I'm seriously amazed by my own powers of memory and recall. What amazes me far more than anything Sony can come up with is my own ability to learn. I don't mean to blow my own trumpet but, I'm seriously amazed by my own powers of memory and recall.
Er, yes, right, hhhmmm, it must be time for bed again.
Well today I was rudely awakened at 1.45pm by my internal body-clock. Must remember to take the batteries out before I go to bed tonight.
Thing is, I've got a Top Secret Plan that I'm finding impossibly exciting to handle, that's why I couldn't get to sleep until 4.45am last night/this morning. Anyway, it's top-secret and I won't know whether it will come to anything until mid-January - watch this space or email me to find out more.
But today's big shock came when my Miracle Bike (see above) revealed itself as an IMPOSTOR!!!
Yes, when getting my bike out for a bit of Turkey Hunting (in the supermarkets that is, you don't find too many of them on the streets of Tokyo, although having said that, I did find a giant tortoise in Shibuya last year...) I found that the front "Miracle Tyre" was flat! Bicycle Repair Man said that he'd been able to locate the culprit drawing pin which was then swiftly surrounded by his forefinger and thumb, before being thrown in the bin.
Thankfully, the damage was limited, and following the application of a rubber patch air was inserted into the cavity once more with firm results.
Still, I'm immensely impressed with how much trouble I didn't get myself into last night. At one point when walking down the street a woman in a long white puffer-jacket grabbed me by the arm asking me if I wanted a massage for ¥3000 (about £16). Well, not so much asking, more telling me that I wanted a massage. She dragged me off the main road, down a side alley and up to the second floor of some unmarked building. It was only when we got to the door of her lair that I managed to tear myself free of her iron grip and run back to the main road, with her screaming and shouting after me! I saw here again a couple of hours later and apologised - she jokingly kicked me in the leg.
What you have to bear in mind is that that happened at about 12.30am. My night had started some five hours beforehand at an English school's Christmas party. For some reason they didn't charge me the usual ¥3000 entrance fee - I guess they recognise a celebrity-in-the-making when they see one - leaving me feeling very happy as I devoured a couple of platefuls of roast turkey and Christmas cake with brandy butter. Oh, and there was the FREE bar too! Yes, that might account for today's hurting head.
I met some lovely people though. Very friendly, kind and interesting. I really enjoy meeting people, especially if it gives me the chance to practice my horrendous Japanese.
I finally got to bed at 6am, tired but intact, having met an Iranian chicken seller who took me to a local club. I'm astonished that I didn't lose anything or get taken advantage of by anyone.
Digital camera? Check. Pocket dictionary? Check. Wallet? Check. Memory of everything that happened? Check (I'm more surprised than you, believe me).
Money spent:¥5000 (£28).
Number of international phone calls made: 5 (4 to my girlfriend in Italy, 1 to my big brover in England).
Minutes spent wrestling with the coin locker that wouldn't lock: 30.
Minutes spent trying to find the right coin locker at the end of the night using the key with no number: 20.
Minutes spent trying to open the coin locker having finally located it: 25.
Number of strangers that I sang "Happy Birthday" to: 3.
Number of stops missed on the subway due to falling asleep: 3.
Hhmm. Yes, anyway, that should be the last time for a while that I go out drinking on a Saturday night, as next week Kae gets back. I'm not really the "goin' out largin' it" type. No, my ideal Saturday night is spent at home with a good video, a pizza, and of course, my Kaechan.
Now I guess I'd better get up and have some breakfast - it is 3pm after all. Or, I could just wait another one-and-a-half hours, that way it will be dark outside and I won't have to face reality in it's full-on Daytime Mode.
Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Night Night.
Christmas 2002 in Shimoda, with Emmie, Russ, "John" and friends
Christmas Eve "John" and I hired a car with seats made for very small bottoms, and drove down to the seaside resort of Shimoda to join Emmie and Russ and other friends for Christmas.
Wow! It was fantastic!
Food, drink, more food, presents, more food, more drink, a Christmas stroll, more food, laughter, food, drink, drink, food, friends, food, happiness, full tummies, more food, international phone calls, more food and drink... sleep.
You can see how it all went by having a look at my December photo album.
But, to our host and hostess, Russ and Emmie, I'd like to say a big
My girlfriend returned from Italy 2 days ago. I seem to have Sympathy Jetlag, having spent 34 of the past 36 hours in bed asleep.
Today we're off to her hometown for New Years, about 5 hours west of Tokyo. For the next week The Daily Mumble will be taking a break - but will be back in 2003 with all the gossip and tales from the life of a wild Tame.
Goodbye (and good riddance!) 2002.
2003 - be nice to me please!