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    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    holiday

    The holiday, which commences in 55 minutes in the form of a night bus to Kansai, has come at just the right time. Really reached crisis point today, what with receiving results of my kanji test (failed, as expected), and once again feeling like a complete idiot in class. Must start reading at home.

    And I KNOW one shouldn't compare ...but thingy next to me got 95% for his kanji test!

    I felt so crap that for for the first time ever in my uni career I decided to skip a couple of lectures and go home. So I did. They weren't exactly critical anyhow. Ha! RAAAAAA what a rebel.

    Anyway, we're off for 6 days now, away from all the crap, should be grooovy, I'm excited already :-)

    bye bye!

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Rub it in

    When discussing with the hairdresser how I wanted my hair cut, she said
    "We'd best not cut the top, especially near the back."

    Well, don't beat about the bush now will you?! I'm already perfectly aware that I'm going bald. At least she didn't use the specific Japanese word for "balding".

    Oh, and incidentally, they must have seen that video of me using a vacuum cleaner to rid my head of loose hair after I'd cut it, as they did the very same thing to me. Vacuum cleaners with very long tubes coming out of the walls so they were.

    ACTION CONQUERS FEAR!



    Saturday, October 28, 2006

    *Twinkleitas*

    I have some photos, taken last night, that I would like to share with you.

    You may accuse me of being obsessed with *Twinkle*. You would not be wrong by doing so.

    Many more available here





    Tom meditates

    Thanks to our hosts Tom and Miyu for a fun evening, and safe journey home to Toshi and Hannah!


    Miyu gets Power Hungry








    tags:  |  |  |  | 

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    I have the power

    I felt like such an idiot in class today. Combination of too much annoying the neighbours last night, and a very early moring in order to make it to the Immigration Bureau before the queue stretched all the way back to Korea, resulted in one very tired Joseph, and very tired Joseph's can't read Japanese. It was quite horrendous, I even struggled with the Hiragana (that's the easiest of the 3 scripts), having to pronounce each one individually until I realised what the word was, then said it again. I don;t normally mind making mistakes in class, we're all friends, but this morning I actually turned red and promised to make *Twinkle* give me a good spanking when I got home for being such a bad student.

    These past two weeks I have felt completely stoned. Slow to respond, having trouble recalling things. Language ability doesn't feel like it's coming on at all. Examples I give in class of new grammar points tend to be correct in themselves, but omit the very grammar point that they are supposed to demonstrate! It's a novel experience, feeling like a complete idiot in the classroom. Oh, and that kanji exam - I ran out of time - only got 3/4 of the way through the paper! Why we need to know the word "Semiconductor" at this stage I don't know.

    Despite all this, I'm not feeling particularly down. I am combatting the negative experiences with positive thinking, thanks to a book *Twinkle* brought with her from the UK. I prefer to think of now as the low point, from here on my language can only improve. OK, so I keep on forgetting the word for 'memory', but at least I've stopped saying "yomerarenai" instead of "yomenai" (group two verb, "to read", in it's negative-potential form i.e. "can't read".

    It's been so nice having *Twinkle* around again. We spent the night at her family home the other night (hope we didn't wake the rents in the room below...), then the following day went out with mum and dad to a gallery, and then sushi. Doing the getting-to-know-them thing. They're lovely. I like her family very much. Following conveyor belt sushi (the four of us ate as much as we could - with the total bill coming to only £20...) On Wednesday we're off to Kansai (Kyoto / Osaka / Kobe / Nara). Will be good to see some friends and chill out. My first proper trip out of Tokyo in 7 weeks too, with the exception of those few hours in the mountains last week.

    Oh, I forgot to mention, *Twinkle* got the job she was after, with a bloody good company. Commencing Jan 07, it's gonna be hard work, but a fantastic opportunity to learn more about how we're gonna get rich. The starting wage is damn good too, considering the peanuts most people get paid around here.

    It really is a battle, this getting-the-balance-right thing. I don't think I've ever felt so many demands on my time whilst simultaneously feeling so in-control in regards to how I allocate my precious hours. It's ironic that the lack of a feeling of helplessness makes it all the more challenging! No, take the control of my life away from me! Someone pull my strings. Damn Steiner education...

    Oooh, I got my permission to work stamp/ certificate thing today (thus the trip to the Immigration Bureau, a dissapointingly efficient place these days. I was in and out of there within 6 minutes this morning), thus I can add a part time job to the list of thre billion things to do in a day, once i find a company that will accept a bumbling halfwit who struggles to communicate in his native tongue, let along japanese.

    We're off to a halloween party in a groovy little club near Omotesando tonight, thanks to Tom for getting us on the guest list! *Twinkle* is looking damn sexy in her new outfit which we chose just for the occasion, I've managed to persuade her that a dress that low cut is perfectly ok for a fancy dress party. I'll just have to restrain myself from dragging her off to the toilets half-way through the night, dressed in my scary Phantom Of The Opera Mask and top hat & wig...

    And with that, he was gone.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Firefox 2.0 released today

    In case you weren't aware, Firefox 2.0 was released today, and you should ALL be using it to read The Daily Mumble. It's faster, and more secure.

    MS Internet Explorer users will be shot on sight.

    Firefox 2

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    You want newspaper? I give! I give!

    Getting there, getting there.

    This time tomorrow my first kanji exam will be over. When I pass, I will receive my first ever kanji certficate, hurrah! The harder the tests get, the bigger the certificates become! Fingers crossed.

    Today was a looong day. I was woken at 7.45am by *Twinkle*'s head appearing at the top of the stepladder. She'd been away for about 10 days in Kansai, and despite having taken the overnight bus back from Osaka, (and thus having not really slept for 24 hours) was still fairly energetic upon arrival...

    Our Japanese reading class was quite intersting, focusing on student's study habits However, for some reason that escapes me know we spent the last 20 minutes discussing what women in Japan have to put up with at the hands of men (barely a day goes by without a headline that reads something like today's Yokohama official arrested for groping woman on morning train). Shoes with built in mirrors / digital cameras to facilitate up-skirt peeking, and precautions to take when riding on an escalator were also discussed. I tried to not appear to be too knowledgable on the subject.

    I then had a break for a couple of hours, perfect for kanji study - or sleeping in the library for that matter... then it was the dreaded Multicultural Theory class. The one taught in Japanese, that I don't understand, and in which I had to give a talk about what Rastafarianism meant to me as a Brit. A Brit who went to the Hereford 6th Form College, and hung out with friends in the local park every lunchtime getting stoned, influenced to a degree by Reggae and so forth. Well, it certainly woke them up. I swear Japanese students believe in subliminal learning, i.e. learning when asleep.

    That seemed to go down ok, and then the sexual theme of the day continued with an examination of Japan's Maid Cafes (where all the waitresses are dressed up in little frilly outfits straight out of manga - once again influenced by school girl uniforms which I mentioned last week were the starting point for the current trend of wearing ridiculously short shorts and knee length boots, even if it bloody freezing and pissing it down with rain).

    It's hard to escape from "fashion" over here. Looking through the Rikkyo student mag I was surprised to find several pages devoted to photos of current students on campus, detailing what they're wearing. I can't quite imagine (Sheffield Uni's) Steel Press doing that. In Sheffield I don't get the feeling that I get here, that is, that the girls have put considerable effort into deciding what to wear. having said that, look at the Goth culture that has emerged around Devonshire Green (Sheffield) on a Sunday! It's staggering how many teenagers gather there, all dressed in black, big shiney leather trenchcoats and dishevelled miniskirts. The only difference is, if they were in Japan, they would have been photographed many times, had the phenomena that they are described in the fashion mags, and catergorised so as to take their appropriate place in Society. Instead, they just gather on Devonshire Green every fortnight and frighten the foreign exchange students who live in Victoria Hall. Everyone else ignores them. "They'll grow out of it one day".

    Back home and I knocked the carton of orange juice on the floor over. It's turned distictly autumnish, and I'd like to turn the heater on. But no, the environmentalist in me tells me to put another jumper on instead, which I do.

    I get distracted by the news, damn the convenience of RSS. If that young guy who knocked on the door last Sunday seriously expects me to take out a subscription for the Yomiuri Shimbun he's going to be dissapointed when he comes back next weekend. I told him I got all my news off the net. I told him I never read newspapers (apart from the Guardian, a daily copy of which we have at uni), but he still insisted on giving me a week's free trial, no obligation. I told him time and time again, no thanks, but he seemed to think that as a gaijin I was just missing the point. "Furee, Furee, no manee!" he said in his best English; I assured him that I could understand the Japanese equivilant that he had used up to that point perfectly well, and that no matter what language he spoke I still didn't want the paper. He was not to be put off however, and handed me the usual 2 boxes of washing powder (it is customary to receive washing powder as a free intro gift in such situations. One then palms these off on one's neighbours as "Hello, I'm your new neighbour" presents), which we don't need, before jumping on his scooter and dissapearing down the road. I now have a pile of newspapers beside me that is growing larger by the day...

    Hmm, perfect for mopping up spilt orange juice.

    One step closer to nuclear?

    Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday that Japan should openly debate whether to develop its own nuclear deterrent following North Korea's atomic test, while stressing that the government doesn't support such a move.

    ...But he said the regional security environment has changed since the policy was introduced in the 1960s.

    "It's only natural to discuss how we should cope with the changing environment around us," Aso said. "I'm not in favor of suppressing a debate over whether we should or should not possess nuclear (bombs) or stick to the three non-nuclear principles."

    full story

    ____________

    Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday plans to order Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) to give greater reporting focus to the issue of North Korean agents' abductions of Japanese citizens.

    full story

    ____________

    [Prime Minister] Shinzo Abe [grandson of Class A War criminal Kishi, who was responsible for putting an end to hopes for a pacifist Japan in 1959] ...was in the center of a raging storm last year when Asahi Shimbun revealed in several articles that the then-deputy chief cabinet secretary and Shoichi Nakagawa, another LDP member and now agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister, pressured NHK, Japan’s public television network, to censor a documentary program about a people’s tribunal set up to judge the use of sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Most of the victims were Koreans, Chinese, Filipino and Indonesians.

    Following the report, an NHK producer also conceded in tears that they were made to remove key footage, including survivors’ heart-wrenching testimony, from the program that was aired in January 2001.

    full story

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    I fought the law, and I won

    You may recall that last month I inadvertantly signed up for two modules at uni that I was not elligible to sign up for. The modules I'd chosen were not to be made available to students in the Social Sciencs department unless they had taken certain qualifying modules the previous spring.

    I was told that it would be necessary to give up the two classes I'd chosen, and instead take some other courses that I had little interest in. At the same time, it was suggested that I resist this request, and have my case put forward before the St. Paul's committee.

    On the day of the meeting I was rather busy, and so accepted the kind offer made by one of my professors to attend on my behalf, and state my case.

    In the middle of my sakubun class today I received an email, congratulating me on winning my case; indeed, I had, apparently, set a precedent, and thus based on the ruling by St. Paul himself, all students in a similar situation will now be able to continue in their courses as they had desired.

    You see, it IS possible to beat the b*****ds.

    production line

    I've just munched my way through 180 grams of chocolate coated peanuts. Yes, THAT'S how rebellious I'm feeling.

    Phrase of the week has been "Shakaiteki na ru-ru", which translates roughly as "the rules of society". They've been popping up everywhere; in conversation with friends, in conversation with teachers, in dictating how those around me behave, in dictating how I behave. I should take the example of my classmate Jon who was found on Friday night by police, in a flowerbed, covered in muck and sick.

    Ok, Ok, maybe I shouldn't go quite that far, but nonetheless, a little loosening of the belt is called for (I'll save those sort of antics for next year in Sheffield...)

    I'm a bit peed off with my attitude towards uni. The fact that I don't understand as much as others around me causes me to put pressure upon myself to study harder, thus I spend much of the week stressing over how I am going to utilise every second given to me to ensure that I do REALLY well. Thus, I don't do other things that I want to do, such as write The Daily Mumble - having not done so for a while I now realise how important it is for me to vent. Here.

    Oh Bugger I just accidentally opened Excel.

    Take the forthcoming Kanji test as an example. It was set about a month ago, and will focus on the meaning and readings of 96 kanji of medium difficulty. I've actually learnt all the readings of them - that only took a couple of days of hard work, and I feel very happy about that - but I am yet to start learning the meanings of the 600 or so compound words that could potentially appear in the test, which is now 3 days away.


    Thing is though, it doesn't actually matter if I don't pass. It's a voluntary test, it doesn't affect any grades. It doesn't prove anything, and even if it did, so what. So, I'll learn what I can before wednesday, do the test, and be happy that I've learnt whatever I've learnt.

    Now, to just extend that attitude to the rest of my studies! Ha!!

    Bloody hell I have such a big issue with expecting so much of myself, I feel it's quite detrimental to my general well being. I'm trying to chill out, I really am. But then that is a direct challenge to my strong desire to Not Be A Victim Of The System, to excel in order to break free of the chains that bind the poor, the uneducated.

    AHH! Warning lights! Haven't we been here before? Do you have to work through the rat race in order to not be a part of it? I don't think so. Surely one can simply say No, I won't do that. It's tricky though when you are in a place like Tokyo, where life without money is problematic, to not buy into the system to a certain extent. This takes me back to my uni course. Is it important to do really well? What is more important? Japanese language proficiency or good grades? The two are not the same. We are told that it is important to have a reason for studying abroad. Those who have no goals for their year do not reach their goals - surprising that...

    So what exactly am I hoping to get out of this year? Well, that's the thing, I just don't know. In Sheffield my goal was good grades, it's what everything was generally geared towards. Very UnSteiner, Very UnJoseph, I loathe the stress I feel from those around me, and in particular the stress I put upon myself.

    Here though, it's a bit different. It's a Pass or fail year, which essentially means go to class, do your homework and be nice to Sensei. I'm almost tempted to not do Wednesday's test. (You know I will though).


    performer at Kawagoe Festival

    I want to get a part-time job. Maybe in a convenience shop - there are some that are willing to empoy foriegners (thanks Miyu). Yes, I could potentially earn a lot more teaching English etc, but I want to take advantage of this year when I can just about get by on the finances that I have, I don't need to earn a lot of money. I don't need to worry about supporting a family etc, something that may not be so in a few years.

    In order to do a part-time job, I'll need to ease the pressures of study. Less study...

    ...ok, so forget the uni system, let's think now How important is the aquisition of the Japanese language to me? Do I really need to become fluent. I know plenty of people who have been here for many, many years, decades in cases, whose spoken Japanese is nothing to write home about, but who are perfectly happy with the knowledge that they have aquired naturally.

    What I'm getting at here, is, should I be dedicating my precious time to classroom-like study of the grammar and language etc, you know, at home alone surrounded by text books, or should I just do the bare minimum to satisfy sensei and then get on and do stuff outside the home. Or watch TV. Those damn groovy dramas. 9pm Monday nights, I forget which channel. Music university thing.

    It all leads back to my percieved role. Permission to use the word *Fuck*. (permission granted).

    *Fucking fuckity fuck* I feel so bloody tied to the expectations that accompany my given role at Sheffield University that I could be Japanese! Like the girl who was for all intents and purposes being sexually assaulted on the train the other day, but who felt so obliged to follow the rule which states that one must not cause a fuss in public that she said not a word.

    Imagine feeling so constrained that you can't even defend your personal space, when it is being so dramatically invaded! Whilst no-one has got their hands up my skirt, I do feel similarly victimised by this bastard society that has me in my place - that being the society that is a construct of my own mind, encouraged by the partcipation of many people around me.

    I even thought about dying my hair green tonight. Getting my flourescent jeans sent over from the UK. Wearing a hat that says something as strong as *FUCK*, but in a way that is not offensive to other people. I don't want to upset others, I just want to be myself.

    But there you go, here we have yet another clash. It's this bloody concern for others, or rather, the concern for the (aggghh, opened Excel again, who put it next to iTunes?) peace of mind of others, that holds me back. If Joseph was to do exactly as he wanted, which to be honest is at the moment to be a bloody lazy student and not really do any work - there's been days when I've just not wanted to go to classes due to a feeling that they're mendou kusai (tiresome, bothersome), if Joseph was to behave in this way, there would be people who would be somewhat dissapointed in him. He would not be fulfilling their expectations. I'm not talking specific people here, erm, well perhaps I am. Specifically I mean all the adults (in this context I cannot be categorised as such) in the UK whom I respect, and whom I don't want to dissapoint.


    Something to smile about: *Twinkle*

    I want to be free! Wasn't that why I came to Japan in the first place, 6 years ago? To escape from those ties? It worked, back then, in my gaijin bubble, free to do as I pleased, free to use my credit cards. Now, I'm here courtesy of a UK-based system that I have chosen to be a part of. I have to play by the rules - If I don't my funding will dry up and there's no credit to fall back on this time!


    Are those carefree days really over? Do I actually have the ability to recapture the freedom of those years gone by? These past two weeks I have conciously mourned the passing of my childhood. Walking back to Ikebukuro station from uni I have wished I was one of those school boys, age about 5, grabbing each others caps and running away with them, shouting, laughing, falling over in the subway. I want to do that. All I can do is a make a lame attempt to immitate such freedom through my worn patchwork jeans, and unshaven face. Where's my voice?! I want to sing! I want to shout. I want to feel the freedom that my friend Alfonso felt in 1996, when he stood on the Lauberhorn and shouted "Fuck you Frau von Almen!", the evil old granny who made our lives above the clouds so difficult. We lived in a ski resort - but were banned from snow sports!


    I feel quite sad. I don't want to feel regret. What should I do?

    It's interesting. In the past I would have attributed the feelings that I have now to the lack of a loving partner. But now I am loved and cared for. Will I ever be able to find true satisfaction? Currently, I am using the excuse "well, it's the (educational) system I'm in at the moment that prevents me from doing as I really wish". But after I graduate, won't it simply be, "Well, I need to work to pay off my debts, to pay the rent".

    Do I have to play the capitalist game? Does one have to play by these rules to ultimately work through and escape their grasp?

    Or can one simply say "No"?


    Octopus legs anyone?

    tags:  |  |  |  | 

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    A Year in Japan - Episode 02 out now

    Yes, I finally managed to scrape together Episode two, using fragments of spare time I found in the gutter outside the house.

    www.ayearinjapan.com

    Now, on with the kanji...

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    WANTED

    Another 12 hours per day to

    - Update The Daily Mumble with exciting tales of festivals, food, step ladders and DIY

    - Upload multiple photos taken in recent days

    - Learn the kanji for the upcoming exam

    - Deal with email inbox, untouched for a week

    - Finish recovery procedure following massive data loss which has so far cost hundreds of pounds and countless hours to deal with (argh argh)

    - Record 2nd episode of "A Year in Japan" podcast series

    - shoot video of people STILL running backwards in the park

    - Upload audio of the most chicken-like person I have yet come across. Recorded in secret in shoe shop.

    - do the washing up

    If you are a spare hour or twelve, and are looking for somewhere to feel useful, please get in touch.

    ______

    I do happen to have a few shots of Hamarikkyo Park (situated on the banks of Tokyo bay) to hand, and shall leave you with them for now.






    It just begs the question,
    no what with pet?

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    is the world going backwards?

    Am I missing something?

    This morning, whene I went for a jog in my local park, everyone was jogging backwards around the track.

    Is this some new fashion, or has it just been shown that jogging in reverse makes you younger?

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    A home fit for a King (..fisher, or similarly sized animal)

    It was a desperate sitution. I'd been trying for 5 hours to study, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. Realising that things were getting out of hand, I made a decision: Get out of the house, go to that cheap 'Italian' restaurant that's open till 2am, the one with the free drink's bar, and study there. Packed my bag, opened the door, and then thought,
    'Hang on, this is ridiculous. We've just spent all this money on rent and so on, so we have our own place, and I still have to go out to cafe's to study - even when Twinkle is at her parent's house?!

    Thus, I went to the supermarket around the corner instead, bought some half-price black-sesame flavour Haagen Dazs, a big tray of sushi, and a pack of Van Outen hot chocolate. Enough to keep anyone satisfied, surely? Back home, on with the iPod, study stuff spread out all over the kotatsu (heated table) and new white carpet thing, bought today for only 3400 yen.

    It worked. I managed to get through one of the three handouts I need to do by Wednesday, and thus feel much better. Learnt some new grammar in the process - a bonus!

    So, yes, it's been a pretty mad week, what with the move and all. I didn't intend to miss my Wednesday class, but by the time I'd finally finished stuffing the last of belongings into Twinkle's suitcase and my big rucksack, it was getting on... I wouldn't make it on time, and thus cancelled the class. Still, because of this the following day I was able to begin the cultivation of a beautiful relationship between myself and my favourite sensei. I'd been softening them up already by correcting the (English) grammatical errors on the class handouts... ooh I know, terrible aren't I?! Still, close relationships with one's teachers makes for a much more enjoyable education in my experience, a subject I touched upon in my previous post.

    The move then - it went well. Apart from that bit when I put my 45kg suitcase, which contained amongst other things, an HP printer, a few plates and a lightbulb, in the back of Twinkles father's car. Before I had a chance to shut the boot he was forced to move the car due to the presence of an oncoming bus that seemed to have no intention of stopping - when he pulled off the suitcase remained exactly where it was, resulting in it not actually then being in the car, but rather lying on about 80cm of air. CRASH!! I thought I contained my horror remarkably well.

    Speaking of horror, last night I saw my first ever proper fight in public (in Japan). It was not nice. Two lads, who had obviously had quite a bit to drink, were not too happy with one another. A punch-up ensued, with one chap having his head repeatedly slammed into a ticket machine, and then kicked once he was on the ground. Naturally, o-one did a thing, as is the way. I couldn't bear to watch, so ran off to find the police. All knowledge of correct grammar usage left my head as I tried to explain what was going on. Still, they got the message, but by the time we returned to the scene the victor had fled the scene, the other chap lay semi-conscious on the floor being tended by station staff who had been somewhat alarmed by the sound of someone hitting one of their machines rather harder than is usual when it doesn't give you your change.

    'Semai' is how I would describe our new home. Semai, in this case, being an adjective that could be applied to a shoebox that belongs to an ant who has just got a lovely set of slippers from Clarks that are the perfect fit. I must admit, I was somewhat horrified when I first saw what we had signed up for. 4 days down the line, I quite like it, although I do wish that we could see sunlight. Although the neighbouring building is a whopping 15 metres or so away, it's so big that it blocks out the sun as it traverses the southern skies.

    (apolgies for erratic behaviour of photos in this post)


    The backside of our manshon
    Entering the flat, we have a corridor - home to the washing machine, 'kitchen' which basically consists of a sink, and a cooker where the draining board should be, as pictured below.


    In the corner of the corridoor is a microwave, on top of a fridge. No work surfaces...

    Toilet and bathroom are the usual modern Japanese affair (although no remote controlled bum massager - I demand a refund!), a single unit manufactured by Bridgestone tyres of all people.

    The living room is 6 tatami mats in size, which is, er, exactly 3.7m by 2.5 metres (I knew that IKEA tape measure would come in handy). Here it is, as seen from the bedroom, which is a little attic up a 7-rung ladder.




    At least we have a balcony, which we can fill with plants, when we've raised a few thousand pounds to buy them that is. It seems like you have to pay per-leaf for house plants round here.

    We're in a nice area though. I like the shoutengai a lot (traditional shopping street, packed full of privately owned tea-shops, fruit and veg-sellers and the like). Got a huge basket of bananas for 40 yen the other day! Plus, we have quite a few 100 yen shops, some of which are open 24 hours. Oh, I did make one rather shocking discovery in one of our local supermarkets:


    Yes, "Original Brand" Tesco biros! There's no escaping the evil bastards.

    The broadband comes complete with a few TV channels, including MTV. Which reminds me, I recieved an email yesterday telling me that that ghastly program made by the BBC, and featuring the epic 2000-2003 tale of Yours Truly, has now been broadcast in New Zealand. Let's just hope it never makes it to Japan... For some odd reason we also have a seperate digital TV box which offers all the usual rubbish (quiz shows featuring 'celebrities' who spend up to an hour debating something such as the correct way to fold a towel). Mind you, we'd better not take it with us when we move house because there's a ban on carrying out apparently...


    So far the only TV I've watched has been Air Force One (Harrison Ford), which thanks to the wonderous innovation that is biluingual broadcasting gave me a whole evening of nail-biting tension, and 'The White House' (is that what it's called? American drama series...) I spent a whole afternoon watching that (in English of course), and loved it!

    *Twinkle's* sister had a baby the morning of our move, and thus she (*Twinkle*) been pretty taken up with proceedings around that wonderful event. I finally went to see the baby today - she's so cute, and has the most impressive head of hair I have ever seen on one so young. It was really nice to go visit *Twinkle's* family. I hadn't yet met her mum or grandma, so was a tadge nervous on the way there. However, it turned out to be a very relaxed affair, was all very natural. I didn't feel I had to 'try' and be anyone but myself. The fact that I've been to the family home several times now helps of course, and I feel very relaxed around *Twinkle's* 3 sisters (2 of them having been educated in the UK) in any case. Her father has started to relax around me now too, so it's all cool there. I finally remembered to thank him for lending me a significant wadge of money to tide me over until my scholarship arrives!

    My new acceptance of polite-Japanese has led to my feeling much better about myself when with people who are using it with me!! Ah, it was fear you see, this belief that I couldn't do it, that I couldn't remember to add my 'masu''s and my 'desu''s! The fear of mistakes led me to discard the entire concept. Well, I now realise that this was folly. Since my decision to cast aside my rather negative attitude towards keigo (see previous entry), I have found new pleasures hidden in the simplest of conversations with polite people! Yes, Joseph is no longer a rude bastard when it comes to speaking with upper class snobs Japanese people whom I don't know too well.

    It was quite amusing today though, when *Twinkle* repeatedly chastised her mother for using overly-polite Japanese with me. Reminded me of when *Twinkle* came to stay at my parent's place last new year, except there it wasn't mum's use of overly polite English that caused raised eyebrows, but rather her shouting across the diner table "DO YOU KNOW WHAT A LEEK IS?!!" Of course we laugh about it now; mum soon learnt her lesson.

    Yesterday saw a gathering of dear John John's friends, here in Tokyo. Not many of his close friends in Japan were able to make it to the funeral in England in the summer, so it was was only right that some kind of celebration of his life took place over here.


    It was nice to see people there whom I have not seen for many years, indeed, since one of my first trips to these islands. It was also good that *Twinkle* had a chance to meet two of my bestest friends here in Tokyo, T&M, whom I wish I saw more of. I'm so glad E&R came up from the coast to join us too... Entertainment was provided by a Mr. Cox, who was very well oiled by about 3pm, and continued to lubricate his innards with red wine until about 10pm. ...as did everyone else for that matter. I was conserative in my consumption, not wanting to be a complete wreck when meeting mother.


    Ted and David, 'The Old Farts'


    M and her Pussy Cat


    Yours Truly

    Hhmm, so yes, busy busy days. If I carry on like this the year will be gone in a flash. Not a moment to spare it seems.

    Today (that is, as of one hour ago), is our anniversary. That is, it's exactly one year ago that *Twinkle* first seduced me the little minx. Unfortunatelym despite our anniversary landing on a national holiday, I have uni, as for some reason they've decided that Rikkyo will have Tuesday off instead of Monday. Still, we're planning to go somewhere Tuesday, which should be nice.

    Feelings towards Japan remain mixed, on a bit of an emotional knife edge at the moment anyhow.

    Bla-di-bla. Bed time me thinks.

    xxx oyasumi

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Why hello. Fancy meeting you around here.

    Another thoroughly satisfying day, really enjoyed it. This uni malarky, you should give it a try.

    In this morning's grammar class we debated the use of polite / ultra-polite Japanese. I have a major issue with Keigo. The thing is, I feel that it is the very personification of the social blockade that prevents Japanese people from removing their tatamae masks of politeness, and thus inhibits the process of developing meaningful relationships. The thing is, we are constantly told that it is better to be safe than sorry, that it is better to use keigo than to risk offending someone who you don't know too well by adopting casual speech (the kind used by friends).

    I have a major hangup about this, which goes way back to before I even knew where Japan was. An aversion to doing anything that society dictates one 'should' do. It was this feeling that first led me to quit college and hitch-hike to Switzerland. It was this feeling that led me to write my resignation note on a till receipt when working at a certain supermarket, despite having a mortgage to pay. It is this feeling that makes it difficult for me to adopt formal Japanese, no matter who I am speaking to. Ultimately, I think the pressure exerted upon those in Japan to conform to their alloted roles will prove to be too much for me: I can't stay here forever. My personal freedom is very important to me, and having to constantly battle for it is quite exhausting. It's all very well, to say, "well, just don't give a shit", but when you are constantly harrassed (albeit behind your back), it wears you down. It can only get worse the more Japanese you understand.

    We were given an interesting insight into this kind of pressure today: a non-Japanese teacher working at Rikkyo told us of pressure that the foreign staff are under to conform to their roles as "Sensei". The distinction between staff and students is, apparently, very important. Thus, the wearing of casual clothes (such as jeans) by the sensei is heavily frowned upon. Comments are made in the staffroom, even when they are present. The belief that no foreigner can really understand Japanese is strong, no matter how many times they have heard that foreigner speak Japanese. It's such a load of bollox. Life is about living. Having a list of rules by which one must abide makes it positively dull, and whilst I personally do not abide by them, it makes me pretty sad to see so many people feeling that they must.

    I guess I should just be grateful that I'm not Japanese.

    It's not all bad though. As we know, the flip side is, is that Anything Goes. And it does. Aghh, the bloody contradictions! Next thing you know I'll be posting some picture of a 300-year-old teahouse surrounded by 21st century skyscrapers, or admiring the one cherry tree in the midst of the concrete jungle!

    Anyhow, back to the grammar class, and my conclusion.

    It seems that by stubbornly sticking to my theory that the use of polite Japanese leads to glass walls I am in danger of a) appearing to be desperate to get into a girl's knickers, b) offending everyone else in general. Thus, I have decided to take the advice of my teacher (that's a teacher dressed in smart teacher-clothes by the way); I will take into account the 7 rules of keigo, which can be divided into social and psychological categories. The difficulty is remembering which rule takes precedence. In the event of memory failure, just use the same level of politeness as the person with whom one is talking.

    So yes, that was a jolly heated debate.

    Lunch, which was spent in room X108 as usual with the International Friendly Lunch Brigade, before heading off for my second Multicultural Bradford class. Well blow me down if I didn't actually manage to follow the whole lecture! Once again, this was largely thanks to last year's Contemporary Japanese Society module, in which we looked at issues re. immigrants etc. Background knowledge - the key to understanding what is going on!

    It was quite funny actually. Thing was, the professor, a very quiet man in his early 60s, had to explain to us why the number of filipino immigrants has decreased in recent years. Essentially, the decrease is due to the fact that in response to US pressure, the Japanese government has tightened restrictions on Filipino women coming to Japan to work in the sex industry. Anyhow, it was quite amusing, as the Professor kept on mumbling, "erm, well, I don't really want to talk about this, but I have to..."

    So yes, that lecture was great.

    It was followed by the (English language) Society and Culture lecture. Now that really was fascinating. She is a bloody clever woman, after my own heart too, seeking to break down barriers and not taking any shit. The energy she must have to have lasted here so long with a personality like that - astounding. I salute you, maam.

    She also revealed the origins of the lastest fad that all the sheep must be seen in - mini-shorts. Were talking very short-shorts here, that no fashion-concious girl can be seen without. Bare legs from just below the naughty bit to just below the knees. From there on down its either long boots or those ridiculous stocking things. I think I may have mentioned these in a previous entry, but anyway, they are everywhere. I'm not saying it's a bad thing though. Look, don't touch.

    No wonder they have to have women-only carriages on the trains.

    Speaking of which, the number of overweight Japanese seems to have increased a lot in the last 3 years. It may just be my imagination. If the trend continues it's gonna play havoc with a public transportation system that's already under strain.

    I spent 4 hours tonight in Denny's again, famed for it's free refills of tea and coffee, and for giving homeless people a warm chair for the night on the understanding that they buy something. It really is the key to getting a lot of homework done.

    Looking through the window of the Konbini this morning I noted that my 100kg of rubbish were no longer stacked beside the tills awaiting collection by Kuro Neko. Let's just hope that they were actually picked up by the courier, and not taken home by a member of staff who was short of a microwave, kettle and collection of assorted boxer shorts. Following lectures tomorrow, I shall be picking up the keys to our new apartment, and then attempting to find it. We've not actually seen the place yet! *Twinkle* won't be moving in until later in the week, as her sister has decided to have a baby within the next couple of hours (fingers crossed all goes well!).

    Anyhow, I'd best be on my way. No internet for the next couple of days then. Don't miss me too much.

    xxx joseph

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    underwearless

    oh no.

    You know those 4 parcels I sent last night, the ones that will be delivered to our new place tomorrow afternoon?

    I accidentally used all my boxer shorts as padding around the kitchenware.

    Let's hope my belt doesn't fail today.

    Gaining weight

    I seem to have gained quite a bit of weight since I arrived in Japan, 4 weeks ago.

    I arrived with just under 40kg. Tonight, I took those same 40kg to the local Konbini (convenience store) where they will be picked up tomorrow for delivery to the new mansion on Wedesday afternoon.

    Funny thing is, those 40kg have turned into just over 100kg. That's quite a bit of weight gain in 28 days. Let's hope the trend doesn't continue all year, or I'll have to put off my return to Sheffield next September until I'm Very Rich.

    Caw, it's bloomin good this Radio 4 Afternoon Play business, such a nice break from Japanese.

    night night

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    An OHP worth getting VERY excited about

    It's been a jolly good day today. It started off well, as last night I managed to learn a whole pile of kanji (we're talking readings here, which I didn't learn in the summer. The Heisig method is paying off big stylee now as I don't have to worry about recognising them), AND install Windows XP, a process which as most of you will know from bitter experience usually takes about a week. I can no longer stand using Dreamweaver MX 2004 on the Mac, having got used to Dreamweaver 8 on Windows. There's a world of difference between the two, not just because one is a newer version, but also because I really don't like the way that, on a Mac, when using a program like Dreamweaver or Photoshop, it doesn't put a background 'screen' on, to make the other programs dissapear. Instead you just have all the bloomin palettes floating around on top of your email program etc, unless you manually minimize the stuff in the background.

    Anyway, I now have Windows XP installed (thanks to Parallels Desktop), and I tell you, it works much better on a Mac than on a Windows PC! Having said that, I won't be using it for anything but DW8 and occasionally Photoshop CS2, as it is, after all, the route to endless frustration / viruses / Genuine Disadvantages. It uses about half of my Mac's RAM when on the go, but I don't actually notice it affecting the performance of OS X. It takes up about 4.5GB of hard drive space, not bad at all. It's good to have the Windows option readily available, as occasionally I do come across stuff that has yet to be translated into a language that a proper computer can understand.

    ____________________

    Enough technobabble.

    ____________________

    I had two classes today: Japanese essay writing, and Environmental Sociology.

    The essay-writing class was pretty good. Of course we've covered all the basic material before in Sheffield, but I hadn't a clue what any of the grammatical terms were. Things like "quotation mark", "reference" - I only learnt the word for "vocabulary" last week! My lack of knowledge in this area means that when it comes to reading passages, I am utterly lost, stopping at every kanji, guessing the meaning but not having a clue how to pronounce it. I don't actually mind though. Everyone helps me out. It's a bit of a new experience for me though, not being one of the better students in the class. I am slowly coming to embrace my new role, in a hesitant fashion.

    Following that class I headed down to the International Centre - I love that place. Such kind, helpful, relaxed and funny staff, and a big, thick metal sheet that sticks out about 4 metres about the entrance, without being supported by anything more substantial than the glass door frame. There I submitted my application for permission to engage in part-time work, only to be told that I had just missed the deadline (by 4 hours), and I could either wait until next month or go to the Immigration Bureau myself! Aagggghhh!! Not Tokyo Immigration Bureau! We all know what fun I had there in 2003. The trauma I went through thanks to their sheer incompetancy! The thousands of pounds of debt that arose from their mis-information! I was told today that not much has changed, and even they, the university staff, find dealing with the bureau extremely frustrating!

    If any of my fellow Sheffieldians are thinking of applying for permission to work, feel free to join me next Thursday morning. We have to get there at about 8am apparently, as the queue tends to stretch for miles!

    Speaking of Japanese Immigration, I noticed something today that really took me by surprise.
    If you overstay your visa, no action will be taken against you!
    How about that?! They are actually now officially stating that overstaying one's visa is OK. I feel I should email Glenn Hook and tell him, so he can include this information in next semester's CJS module. Another demonstration of how the Japanese authorities are trying to meet the demand for migrant workers, without actually giving them any rights.

    Incidentally, there are a few conditions that must be met, such as one must not be wanted for violation of any law other than that prohibiting the overstaying of one's visa, and one must possess a ticket or funds for a ticket to leave the country, and one must intend to leave the country immidiately (why else you'd go to immigration at Narita I don't know. Oh, there are the cute air-hostsses I guess).

    Whilst in the International Office I was told that my choice of modules had created uproar within the higher realms of university management, and my case was, unbeknownst to me, being brought before the St. Paul's Committee ("St. Paul's" bing the alternative name for my uni). Whether or not St. Paul himself will be present I don't know. Apparently, I have unwittingly selected two modules that technically, I am not allowed to take, as they are continuations of modules that began in the Spring. Someone up there has declared that rules are rules, and I will not be able to get the credits for these modules, but apparently someone is petitioning St. Paul to have that ruling overturned.

    Today's Evironmental Sociology class was bloomin' fantastic. Seki Senei's Japanese is so clear, and she makes the effort to explain any technical term in basic Japanese (I'm sure this is not for the benefit of foreigners though. There's about 60 of us in the class and I'm the only non-japanese). For the second week running I understood virtually everything, oooh it made me soooooo happy! She started off by talking about the court cases that came about due to Minamata, saying,
    Many victims of Minamata disease opted for official recognition and a settlement before the official trial took place
    The amount of pleasure that one sentence gave me as I realised I understood every single word...

    This language thing, it's like a drug.

    We then watched a video about invitro-fertilisation; this was followed by an examination of the ethics involved in the termnation of pregnancies where it is known that the foetus has been damaged by environmental pollution. If someone had told me a month ago that I'd listen to a 90-minute talk on such a subject and understand most of what was said, I'd have laughed at them.

    Mind you, I have studied quite a bit of environmental-vocab this past week. Also, she's not exactly talking rocket science. A lot of it is conected with basic ethical questions, with which we are all familiar. Perhaps the biggest aid to my understanding what was going on though was Seki sensei's presentation tecnique. Just superb. A hell of a lot easier to understand than that kanji-filled book she's written!

    Tomorrow I have my second lecture on Multicultural Bradford, as I like to call the module. I doubt I will understand anything that is said except for "and with that, we've finished". Talking with a third-year student who took this module a couple of years back, I realise that even the Japanese students (who make up all but one of the class number) find it very difficult to follow. "I never knew where to start taking notes! What was important, and what wasn't - it was impossible to tell! I kept on falling asleep in class, interesting though it was!".

    I am doomed for failure with this one, but am not overly concerned. OOhhhh such a rebel!

    Speaking of oohhh's, ooooooooooooohhhhh, I saw the grooooviest OHP (overhead projector for any nunces out there) this morning, almost worth wetting the bed over. In Sheffield, we have these huge great light boxes, about the size of a telephone box, i.e. so big that they obscure the entire white board, and the teacher. Of course, they can only be used with transparencies, and are not terribly good at dealing with colour, or black text for that matter. Here however, we have these damn sexy, damn slim tablet-like things, with cameras mounted above them. The camera feeds into the projector... and hey presto! A full colour image of whatever is placed on the pad.

    I tried to come up with a reason why I need one at home. As yet, can't think of anything. At least nothing legal.

    Righty ho, better get packing!

    xxx