blacklilly: (Default)
I was down by the river taking a walk this morning and saw a few things that set Japan aside from others:
  • a woman running along the path wearing a t-shirt that read " I am not a virgin"
  • a guy sitting on a park bench, headphones on, cigarette in mouth,  doing stretches
  • three women hugging a tree
  • a guy walking down the street misting his hair with a plant spray bottle
Dubiously en-sloganed clothing is everywhere in Japan, and I'm always surprised that no one actually checks the meaning of whatever's on their t-shirt or bag, or jacket.  Some of the best ones I've seen include - "I came here to fuck your ass", "I LOVE SEX" a la Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Frankie says RELAX" t-shirt, posters on classroom walls that say "Let's Fuck" and a guy in Harajuku with "Fuck You" written in gothic script across his back.  Not, that this doesn't happen outside of Japan.  I translated the kanji on a friend's t-shirt which he thought looked really cool, but when he discovered that it said "Punk Rock Girl" he decided that maybe he didn't like it so much any more.  I think I should invest in more clothes containing dodgy language.

if it's one thing about Japan that I love, it's the odd eccentricities that people have, which seem to be tolerated.  I just don't see anything of these things happening back in England (well, tree-hugging and bench stretching are not too unrealistic, I guess).  I'm not making fun of these people at all.  I'm always on the look-out for the unusual, and Japan just brings me something everyday that gives me a smile...or the creeps.
*           *           *
I held a vegetarian Thanksgiving party at my house today (I know - an English vegetarian holding Thanksgiving - odd). We'd actually been invited to another party, but it was too far, and there was a baby there (why would I want to go to a party where I wasn't the centre of attention;)), so two of us were not up for it.  I like an excuse for a vegetarian get-together so we all brought something different:  mashed potatoes, green beans, cheese and potato bake, devilled eggs, veggie lasagna and I made pumpkin samosas.  The guys brought booze and snacks and we had chocolates for dessert.  it was a good afternoon/evening and now I'm beginning to think I may have drunk a little too much. 

I feel like another break from drinking is in order soon, as I seem to be having a few too many parties of late.  In fact, I have another party tomorrow night, and some gigs next weekend.... when am I going to get this done???

One month until I go to Bali.  Can't wait to leave the country for a bit!!

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Japanese class for the first time in 6 months.  Am looking forward to getting back into a regular study routine as the past 6 months I've not had any chance to actually study, though I've spent a ridiculous amount of time discussing major issues like ice-cream flavours with small children.

I'm also considering going to try Bikram Yoga, though I'm a little afraid of the amount of flesh on show in those classes - yoga at 100 degrees = bikinis.  I'm still mulling over yoga clothes too - need a top that's not to slide around all the time and pants that don't fall down.  Plus hoodie.  I want that hoodie.  (edit - I was very naughty and bought the hoodie in bright purple, rather than the pink and black I wanted).

Well, bed time for me I think.  Need to give my brain some rest before tomorrow's lesson!  I shall leave you with a picture from a walk last week that I took on my Holga and got x-processed:

blacklilly: (Default)
It's cold and raining.  Boo.

I was a little rushed off my feet the last week.  Despite coming up with the grand plan to reduce my working week to Tuesday-Friday, I've ended up working 6 days straight, having taken up a short-term contract teaching at Waseda University.  It's quite fortuitous that I was offered the job as I had just worked out my predicted paycheck for January/February next year and things were looking a little hairy.  I have a month off both of my hourly paid jobs in December/January (no classes scheduled - not my laziness) so I was looking at being down a large amount of cash.  If I save the extra cash from this month's six-day a week craziness I should have enough to get by, but I may be on the brown rice and miso soup diet...

Other stuff I've done/am doing: 
  • am currently house-bound for the afternoon as I'm hennaing my hair.  As a result, things are looking very clean and tidy.  
  • I quit the gym on Tuesday after getting pissed off with a rude old lady the previous Friday, and then finding myself on the elliptical trainer wondering what the hell I was doing holding myself captive to the hell that is Japanese TV programming when it was gloriously sunny outside.  I quit straight after my work out. 
  • Then, in order to keep the exercising going, I went for a walk on Thursday morning, got stupidly lost and ended up somewhere along Waseda Dori.  It took me 30 minutes to get home, turning an hour-long walk into a 90-minute, 6 kilometre adventure. 
  • I've also been doing yoga everyday in order to prepare myself for this holiday next month.  I'll be doing 3 hours a day for a week, so I need to be getting ready for that, plus doing yoga is the closest thing to peace I get lately.
  • I've got my writing itch back after recovering from the mental wasteland caused by the summer.  Now, what to do with it...
  • November 6th was my 4-year Japanniversary - I spent it in an amazing house in Izu (see picture at the end).
  • Had Korean food in "Korea-town" (Okubo) yesterday.  Bibimpa is deeelicious.
  • I may have become slightly addicted to the first season of "Lost".  Help me - there are six seasons!!!
Day 09 - Favourite stores/shopping centers.
Hmm.  I don't enjoy shopping much - at least, clothes shopping is something I do for purpose only, not for pleasure, and I tend to stick to the European stores - Zara, H&M, Next.  I'm a devotee of Lush and The Body Shop, but again both are British in origin.  Japanese stores...??  I like Loft for it's singular ability to fuel my stationery addiction.  I used to go in there on my breaks in Yokohama and play with the pens.  I also found my favourite pen in a 1.6mm nib there.  I also like FrancFranc, and I also recently found an amazing peppermint tea called "Sheherazade" in a tea shop called Lupicia.  Tower Records in Shibuya is good to visit, though I have to exercise extreme self-control when presented with all the pretty books. 

Which reminds me.  I am currently fixated upon this hoodie I found on Lululemon, but which they don't have in the colour I want (pink and black) so I'm deliberating about the green one.  Sigh.

blacklilly: (A Vad Day)
I have no idea.  I mean, I know what we're talking about in terms of the Herbivore/Carnivore thing.  There's this idea in Japan at the moment that you can classify men as herbivore or carnivore based upon their behaviour - herbivores are sensitive, quiet types who are not going to chat you up in a bar for fear of being rebuffed, whilst the carnivores are the hunters, as it were.  I think this is just an excuse to let Japanese men off the hook for being thoroughly useless - but maybe I'm just bitter.  I guess on a good day I'm a carnivore, but most of the time I'm a herbivore.  I'm so scared of being rejected and laughed at that I either don't approach people, or if I do meet someone I like, I just end up disappointed.

As for the S and M thing, I've heard people discuss this before, but I'm a little lost.  I can only think of it in terms of, you know, S&M.  If anyone could enlighten me...?

Apparently, there's a typhoon on its way.  Should be hitting Tokyo just in time for Halloween.  Which scuppers my costume plans as they were of the slightly eye-makeup and fleshy sort.  Boo.

On the upside, it turns out I'm not the only one with grumps this week, which makes me feel slightly less alone in my misery.
blacklilly: (moody)
It appears I still have the miseries.

Anyway, words I use:

genki (energetic/bouncy/all the things I don't feel right now)
hanami (cherry blossom viewing time)
momiji (autumn leaves - esp maple leaves)
sakura (cherry)
shinkansen (bullet train)
onigiri (rice ball)
sugoi (wow!)
yokatta (that's great!)
cha (tea) - as in uron-cha, soba-cha, o-cha, ko-cha etc

There must be more, but I can't quite remember at the moment.

The upside of being pissed off (and I was given even more reason today by the dumbass gynacologist I have to put up with) is that it gave me enough energy to complete Week 3 of the Couch to 5K thing I started.  I was so full of hate that I pushed myself to a 4 minute run to finish things off.  Sounds sad - a mere 4 minutes - but progress none the less!!  I figure for as long as I'm grumpy, I'm just going to hurl myself into the gym and attempt to burn off the hate.

Oct 28th -

natsukashi - nostalgic
mochi - soft sticky rice cakes
anko - red adzuki bean paste
blacklilly: (Default)
Hmm.  I don't think I ever really said there would be nothing I wouldn't try, but keeping in mind my vegetarian proclivities, that cancels out a great deal of food.  That being said, my fish consumption increased when I came to Japan, pretty much because I either gave in to the fish in almost every dish, or I just never went out for dinner.  Lately, I've cut back on the fish - I feel far too guilty most of the time.  At most I eat it once every two weeks, normally when I'm out.

I recall being a little dubious about the idea of natto, but it was something I ate on my second day in Japan, thanks to my friend Yusuke, who took me to a tiny izakaya in Ikebukuro and ordered natto omelette, looking on with amusement and then astonishment as I discovered that I actually liked fermented soy beans.

Weirdest thing I've eaten, and which I was really struggling with (and still do) is sushi and sashimi.  It was all I could do not to gag the first time I ate raw tuna.  The weirdest sashimi I ever had was one of these little critters:

Yes, teeny tiny squid.  Teeny tiny raw squid.  I popped into my local bar on the way home one night in Omori and was offered these as something of a challenge.  For some reason, I accepted it.  So, with a plate of soy sauce and wasabi put one in my mouth and started to chew.  At first it was just bland squiddishness, and then suddenly my mouth was filled with the sea, and it was absolutely revolting.  Maintaining what little dignity I can still muster, I swallowed down the squid and then sat at the bar making nasty faces until someone kindly got me a beer.  It was nasty nasty nasty.

It made me think of that scene in "Oldboy" where the protagonist eats a whole live octopus and the tentacles are slapping about on his face while he chows down on the poor critter.

Today I've been in a pretty morose mood.  For some reason last night at the party I went to I was overcome by the heat of the place, and as I sat on the steps cooling off, was overcome with a really strong feeling of despair.  I ended up going home for a bit as I was so distracted by this intense feeling that I couldn't even hold a conversation with my friend, who seemed to cotton on that I had descended down into the depths and was trying to get whatever it was out of me.  I lay down for a bit, had a shower, changed and then went back - by which point most people had gone.  I managed to cheer up by playing a couple of guys at Connect 4.  One bet me was that if he won he could have my phone number.  I won the game, but I gave him my number in return for an orange juice.

Sometimes I just need a day of moping.  I think I got that today. I stayed home, had a bath, rearranged my bookshelves, watched Alice in Wonderland and cooked some excellent food.  As it's a moping day I should have watch Amelie or Bright Star - something to cause a cathartic session of boo-hooing.  There was no booing today.  I'll cheer up tomorrow.  I'll have to cheer up tomorrow, I've got to be genki Laura for my students.

Something that should cheer me up - a got a short term contract teaching at Waseda until the end of November.  That'll make my CV look sexy.
blacklilly: (Ero ero ero)
I didn't quite manage that daily update thing, did I?  I have a darn good excuse though.  I got a phone call last Friday from a friend who works for a rock magazine in Tokyo.  She needed a photographer for a visual kei fashion show and concert on Saturday.  At first I said no, owing to having private lessons to teach (and also a terrible fear of having to do a photo shoot with a band).  Then I sat about thinking about it, and thinking about it, and thinking about it, and then I rang her back and said I'd do it.

So I met her and the fashion ed. (also an acquaintance) outside LaForet in Harajuku on Saturday afternoon and hung about for a while until the bands and models did the press call photo thing.  I've never done one of these, and I've never had to do one in Japanese, so thank goodness my friend was on the ball on my behalf.  After that we had a little interview and photo shoot with the designers and band members of Sixh.  The light was terrible; they were not a little bit intimidating with their serious faces; and I was bricking it because all my Japanese left my brain.  I felt totally out of my depth and this was reflected in the fact that I totally forgot to get a decent band shot. 

After that was over the fashion show started.  I wish I was pin thin and gorgeous sometimes, as I'd love to get into those clothes (and actually look good in them), but then I wouldn't have amazing boobs, so I guess I just keep the belly that comes with them...and the butt...and the thighs.  Sigh.

After the fashion show ended the first band DaizyStripper took to the stage.  Looking at those boys photos, I would never have expected to be quite as impressed as I was.  Their first song started with a load of head-banging and gutteral screaming, which nearly had my jaw on the floor with the pure joy of what I was witnessing a mere six feet away.  So, I spent the evening crawling around on my knees, taking photos of the bands, enjoying the music, and again totally forgetting to get band shots, by which I mean shot with the whole band in.  Not one.  Some had two or three members in, at most.  And the poor drummers.  They just don't keep still long enough for me to get a good shot. Entirely my fault.  I shall not blame the equipment, or the drummers (even though I think drummers need to be blamed for more bad things in the world;). 

All in all it was a great night, and I learned a great deal from doing it:  don't freak out or the Japanese will fail you; group shots! groups shots! and drummers!; don't wear the baby-stomping boots when you will be crawling around on the floor (my knees have been complaining ever since).

Day 05 - Which, if any, Japanese mannerisms or expressions have you adopted?

I was having dinner the other week with a guy (oh, alright, I was on a date) who started laughing his head off while we were talking.  He had asked me a question and rather than replying with a "yes" (he's almost perapera (fluent) in English), I had used the Japanese "un" noise instead.  He thought it was funny that I did it so naturally.  My kids also picked up on it the other week when they asked me a question in Japanese, so I must be pretty convincing at it. So that's one thing. 

I sit on the floor alot (I didn't do this England - a house full of animals makes it far too dangerous).

I use "ne" a lot at the end of sentences, even English sentences, despite the fact that I find the overuse of it by aging women in the gym to be one of the most annoying things ever.

I guess the first thing I picked up was bowing, followed by my number 2 bugbear - the "peace sign" in photos.  Ask most Japanese people where this affectation comes from and none of them will give you a decent or consistent answer. I shall just let the mystery remain. I have no idea why I do it, but sometimes I do, even though I refuse do let people do it in the photos I take.  Here I am, at last year's New Year's Eve party, caught off guard by someone.  I think I was standing on the table in the middle of the room at the time.
blacklilly: (Default)
Well, I guess my favourite place not in the guide books would be Ina, but I'm not sure that counts as a place to visit, rather a place to return home to.  So, I guess the best place I've been to which IS in guide books but is a relatively little-visited place is Sado Island, about an hour and a half off the coast of Niigata in the Japan Sea.

Kakigori at SadoI went there last summer for the Earth Celebration festival, and found the whole place to be thoroughly charming.  I particularly liked the total lack of convenience stores and vending machines.  You never realize how ubiquitous these things are until you can't just buy a bottle of green tea whenever you feel like it. 

I was on holiday with a friend of mine.  She arrived the night before I did and met some people from Nagoya who she proceeded to regale with stories about me, so much so that when I arrived the following lunch time I was met with the comment:  "So, this is the bitch you were telling us about?".  It turns out she was telling them about the time I capsized our kayak in Thailand and got everything, including the money, totally soaking wet.  Still, doesn't quit warrant the name-calling, ne.  Needless to say, since that holiday our friendship has cooled off a great deal.  Anyway, with said people we hired a car for the day and got to drive about the island, which has some stunning coastline, tropical-coloured sea and even a fjord.  On the other day we hired bicycles and cycled round the coast to a small bay where you could go sailing in a coracle.  On all three evenings, we climbed to the top of a hill and watched amazing taiko drumming performances before heading back down to catch the last bus back over to the next bay where we were camped out next to the beach.  On the last night I took the midnight ferry back to the mainland and caught the bus back to Tokyo, nibbling on onigiri I picked up at a brilliant vegan food stall on my way out of town.

Here are some more photos behind a cut so I don't take up more room:

Pics )Pic )
One of the performances down near the harbour.

Amazing coastline.
blacklilly: (Shibuya)
First off, I've been watching the Chilean miners being rescued since it started at lunchtime and it has made my day being able to see these men come out of the ground.  I normally feel quite misanthropic towards humans in general, but seeing such hard work and effort from people in Chile and the co-operation from countries around the world to get these men out has given me a nice feeling that humans can do really brilliant things when they want/need/have to.  A guy on the BBC said earlier that this reaffirms that humans are the most important thing on the planet.  I wouldn't go that far, but I think the human spirit, at its' best, may be.

As a teacher I get to meet over 100-150 people a week.  At the moment, they're mostly kids.  At first I hated kids, not because I hated kids, but because I really had no understanding of them.  I guess I was scared of them, that's usually where some hates come from.  Since teaching in elementary school, I've got to know some lovely little humans, and they really can make my day...or ruin it, depending on how much they cry.

However, I also work with adults, and I think the most interesting person I've met so far was one of my students in Yokohama.  I'm calling her M. I remember very clearly her first lesson with me.  M was a tall, plump lady with waist length hair and glasses - the Japanese version of an Indian Squaw (pardon my un-PC use of the word "Indian") - and she was shaking and sweating like a leaf on a hot day, which is the most unusual reaction I've had from a student. She always seemed nervous and almost monosyllabic the rest of the time, barely making eye contact and mumbling when school staff spoke to her. I taught her for about a year, and during that time she told me all sorts of stories.  The thing that impressed me most was the amount of travelling she had done.  As the owner of her father's business (she is a landlord in Yokohama - big big bucks) she not only had the money, but the time to take her husband away to go on world cruises, scuba-diving holidays in the Maldives, Indonesia and everywhere in between, helicopter trips through South America, and even taking ships to the Arctic and Antarctic.  M said at the Antarctic base she spent her time playing with penguins, and sleeping though Polar Bear sightings in the Arctic.  She said the only place she didn't want to go was the Middle East.

Her personal history was also very very interesting.  Her mother was bedridden with TB while she was a young girl, and so for 6 years was confined to her bedroom.  M and her sister were brought up by her father and aunt and rarely ever saw their mother.  M was very boyish, her sister very feminine. She used to go out drinking in Kabukicho with her friends on all-nighters at high-school, and when she started going into a yaki-tori shop in Yokohama to drink whiskey at the age of 16, her father set her up a tab so she didn't have to get them from men. M went to university in the 60s, read Mao's "Red Book" and became a student activist, eventually getting kicked out of her Christian women's university for arguing with the lecturers and protesting against the Vietnam War.  Then she spent some time trying to teach kids, but gave up after her cram school students climbed out the window whilst she had her back turned and ran off.

What she did between then and taking over her father's business, I was never really able to ascertain but she did tell me about her decision to get married in her late 30s.  She went to see her father's bank manager and told him she wanted to get married, and asked if her had anyone in his office who would be suitable.  So she got married.  Her sister's son (sister is divorced - unusual) is agorophobic (or just a massive otaku) and never leaves the house, preferring to stay in and play computer games. M's husband does all the cooking for her and her mother (who lives in the apartment upstairs, has a massive collection of wigs, and dislikes baby birds because they're too noisy), cleans the windows in their office building, and generally sees to the running of the business while M snoozes or studies English in her office. 

I recently met another super-rich person who I'll tell you about another time after I've gone to visit his fabulous house in Izu.
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
Since coming to Japan almost four years ago (November 6th will be my 4-year Japanniversary) I've lived in various locations.  Ina, Omori, Yokohama; but my current home is about 10 minutes on the Chuo line out of Shinjuku in Asagaya.  I moved here in May this year, and have always felt quite amazed by how quickly I got used to living here.  Ina took a long time to love because of the whole culture-shock, not speaking the language, and dealing with below zero temperatures thing.  I still consider it be my "Japanese Hometown", as I have lovely friends there, and always like going back to see everyone, but like any hometown you need to get away.   I liked Omori-machi, but I hated, hated, HATED my apartment and the various 'intruders' who liked to surprise both me and my guests.  I remember complaining about how much I missed Ina, when in fact, I just needed to live somewhere that didn't make me itch.  Yokohama was cool, convenient and clean, but lacking in social interaction once my late-night party girl [ profile] jennarose went back to the US. 

Asagaya has a very "downtown" atmosphere, by which I mean that it feels like a small town with a sense of community.  There are all these little streets that wriggle all over the place, amazing restuarants (Japanese (of course), Thai, Turkish, Indian etc etc), tiny tiny bars and shops I will probably never go into, and old-style buildings that give the place an unusual attraction.  I was talking to a friend the other night about Asagaya, and about how now having such a firm sense of 'belonging' to a place and the people makes it increasingly difficult to imagine a life anywhere else.  I jokingly call my local bar my living room, but that is quite true.  I can go there any night and there will always be someone I know to talk to.

I also really like it because there's always something going on.  Next weekend there's a jazz festival, last month the omikoshi;  Koenji is just a 20 minute stroll should you need a change of scenery (or a tin of baked beans from Tesco), and when you want to blow off steam on a Friday night, Shinjuku and Shibuya are within easy reach.

Here are a couple of other pictures, one from the Omikoshi festival the other week, and one from the Asagaya Tanabata festival (which, oddly, was in August, not July).

See my Flickr for a better image.
blacklilly: (Genki)
So, here is a picture of me and two friends as we were heading off to the Koenji Awaodori Festival back in August.  Summer festivals in Japan are an excellent excuse to air out your summer yukata, wield a fan and shuffle about drinking beer and chew upon street food on sticks. 

I went to a "one week only" shop in Asagaya with Akiko(l) and Sonomi(r) where I tracked down a yukata for 5000yen.  The older lady running the shop took umbrance at my having a bosom, and was trying to gently flatten my boobs into a straight line with the rest of me (though given my experience with old ladies in Japan, she was probably just copping a feel).

(Alas, LJ doesn't seem to like this photo, because despite this image being really large in terms of pixels, I can't get it much bigger than this.  You can find a clearer image here)

I thought it would be interesting for you to see how a yukata is put on, as it requires someone to dress you, just like the princess you are.  So here you go:

First you need a vest and decent pants as that's all you'll be wearing underneath, though I opted for leggings to maintain some modesty on the stairs.  The yukata is really long, so once you've worked out how much material you need for the waist you kind of pull up the excess to create a sort of double-layer of material about you mid-section.


The yukata is fasrened with lengths of cotton and then once your neckline  and material are all hanging correctly, your servant can begin tying your obi (belt).

Finally, you're ready to go and can then berate the boys you invited along (on the phone here) for forgetting their own male version of the yukata.

(better image here)
blacklilly: (Default)
I thought this would be an interesting thing to do as I speed towards the anniversary of my fourth year in Japan.  I pinched it from[ profile] hinoai .  I'm gonna start tomorrow.

Day 01 - A picture of you "in Japan". (doing or wearing something "Japanese")
Day 02 - Describe your neighborhood in Japan.
Day 03 - Most interesting person you met.
Day 04 - What's your favorite place that's not in any of the guidebooks/lists of places to visit?
Day 05 - Which, if any, Japanese mannerisms or expressions have you adopted?
Day 06 - Food that you swore you would never eat but now love (or tolerate).
Day 07 - Which Japanese words do you use in English? (hanami, shinkansen, etc.)
Day 08 - Are you a Herbivore or Carnivore? S or M?
Day 09 - Favorite stores/shopping centers.
Day 10 - Something about Japan that sets it apart from anywhere else.
Day 11 - What did you find most overrated and underrated about Japan?
Day 12 - Describe a fail!gaijin moment. (Where you did something wrong or completely misunderstood because you couldn't ~read the air~ or just plain had no idea what you were supposed to do because you weren't born and raised here) Describe a gaijin!smash moment .(Where your foreignness was to your benefit)
Day 13 - -Something about Japan that sets it apart from anywhere else.
Day 14 - What is the hardest thing about living in Japan versus your home country?
Day 15 - Weirdest food item you've seen, and weirdest food item you've actually eaten.
Day 16 - How you realised you'd acclimated to Japan. (if you have)
Day 17 - Your karaoke top 5, your sushi top 5, your conbini top 5.
Day 18 - Post some amusing/cute/faily purikura.
Day 19 - Your favorite Japanese character(s) and Gachapon/UFO Catcher toys
Day 20 - Favorite Japanese festival or folklore.
Day 21 - Favorite and least favorite Japanese fashion trends.
Day 22 - Your favorite Japanese saying or kotowaza (proverb).
Day 23 - What is something you have/do in Japan that you wish you had/could do in your home country?
Day 24 - Your favorite Japanese slang or borrow-word (外来語), e.g. セフレ "sex friend"
Day 25 - Most interesting vending machine find.
Day 26 - What's your favorite/least favorite train line.
Day 27 - Place you avoid going to if at all possible.
Day 28 - A picture of you looking like a weaboo/A picture of you trying to blend in and failing.
Day 29 - What's the thing you [will] miss most about Japan when you leave (either on vacation, or move away)?
Day 30 - Did Japan meet your expectations, both good and bad? What has been the most surprising thing about Japan for you, or the thing you least expected?
blacklilly: (dean you're soooo sexy)
The weather this morning was amazing.  Just as I left for work, the first rumbles of thunder were heard overhead and the rain came gushing down.  I quickly swapped into my skull-print wellington boots and headed out into the storm.  By the time I got to the station (4 mins) the rain was pelting down and the thunder overhead was AMAZING!!!  We must have been under the centre of the storm as the thunder absolutely ripped apart the sky above us.  It was all I could do not to jump up and down gleefully on the train platform, but I''m sure someone must have spotted the huge grin.  Interestingly, I'm just this minute listening to a lesson on Japanese onomatopoeia and how to describe thunder...

So I booked a holiday to Bali for Christmas.  Much as certain people may feel this is a rather rash decision on my part, given my various financial commitments, I need a frelling holiday, somewhere that isn't Japan.  I haven't had a holiday since last Christmas, and I haven't left Japan since May 2008, so I'm busting to get away.  I want to go somewhere reasonably quiet, in the mountains, and preferably warm.  As it happened, it was rather a spur of the moment decision.  I was at work mulling over what I wanted to do for the Christmas holiday, when the idea of Bali popped into my head.  It has long been on my list of places to go, but I was at a loss for what to do there, as me and beaches don't often go well together.  And then it hit me!  Yoga!!!  There are so many yoga websites I read which have advertisements for overseas yoga retreats, so I googled a few places and eventually found somewhere which people seemed to highly recommend up in the hills of Ubud.  It's a week of yoga and meditation, spa treatments and wandering about in the jungle.  Most importantly, it's going to be really quiet, especially on the one day when they run a voluntary silence for 24 hours.  I'm around for a day and a half after the retreat finishes so I'm planning to go stay in a family compound somewhere in Ubud and check out life when you're not staying in a luxurious hotel room. 

As a result, I'm limiting myself to living on 500yen per day, which is entirely doable, as long as I remember my lunch.  As it happens, I've not been feeling too hot since the weather changed, so not going out or even doing anything suits me fine.

Now, this book has totally bypassed me before, but I have been made aware of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" by Front Row and Women's Hour on Radio 4.  The more I hear about it, the more worried I become.  According to what I've read, Gilbert went to Bali to "find herself" or whatever, thus sparking a flood of "women of a certain age" (whatever the hell "a certain age" is) heading to Bali to meditate and attempt to find love.  Which makes me wonder who I'm going to be on holiday with...  I for one, am not a "woman of a certain age", especially as I'm still passing for 26 years old at the oldest estimates from drunken strangers (beer goggles do me wonders).  I'm certainly not going to Bali to find love.  All I want is some peace and quiet, lots of yoga, and to chill out.  And to eat all the vegetarian Indonesian food I can.  So, I may have to get a t-shirt made which says: "I do not Eat, Pray or Love".  It's a suitably grammatically dubious statement, so could pass for a Japanese creation.  Maybe I could sell it...?
*       *       *
Attention-seeking Parrot

This guy is part of a pet shop in Asagaya.  The shop is full of cats, dogs, rabbits, a giant tortoise, masturbating monkeys (it's a long story), and has a HUUUUGGGEEE dog who lols and slops about the place.  The shop absolutely stinks.  I don't know what animal rights laws Japan has in place for such places, but it would be shut down in the UK.  This guy stands outside and occasionally responds to the call "Banzai!" by raising his wings and posing.  He also loves having his photo taken, as evidenced by the following:

blacklilly: (Amelie)
Right now is my favourite kind of time.  It's pouring down with rain outside, with occasional bursts of thunder and lightning. I'm listening to Late Junction on Radio 3, and my house is filled with the smell of cooking chickpeas.  After the 36 degree heat of yesterday, today is a much welcomed relief for me.  All I need now is some hot chocolate and a good book or movie and my day in made.

I was awoken this morning at 9am or so by thumping of rain on my apartment, and then through my sleepy fug rejoiced as the storm passed over and shook the whole place as it crashed by.  My showa glass doors were quivering on their runners and the floor was vibrating.  I haven't heard thunder that loud for a couple of years, not since a summer storm in Omori when myself and the neighbours thought a bomb had gone off when a storm unexpectedly cracked by.

Last weekend I went to my friend Brent's wedding.  It was a lovely place called the QED Club in Ebisu, with a sloping garden and a huge patio upon which we had dinner.  Here are a couple of photos:

Nana, Brent, Hiromi, Shintaku, Nayoun, Kazumi and me.
     The bride and groom descend the stairs in a lovely set of new threads.
My favourite picture of the day was of my friend Nayoun.
On Monday night I went on a cruise around Tokyo Bay - not the most picturesque of places by day, but at night and with nomihodai, it's a different story.   Afterwards, there were some mutterings about checking out a host club in Kabukicho, but as we had a guy with us, we couldn't go.  I'm intrigued to go, but I can pretty much tell you now that paying to be fawned over by a guy who spends a hour teasing his hair to perfection is probably not my idea of the best time ever, but I'll do anything once.
The Tokyo Bay Bridge

Tokyo Tower

Last night I went out for a drink at 10pm (today being a National Holiday), and I didn't get back until 6.30m.  I met some friends at the bar, and then we all decided (or indeed, I may have planted the idea in everyone's heads - most out of character as I usually only do karaoke when I have no other choice) to go to karaoke.  Most enjoyable bit of the evening is when we chose songs in other languages and made up the lyrics.  My friend Miho chose a Korean punk song, which we sang a duet to, in which I told of my lust for Miho in high school uniform and wanting to get into her tights.  Hey, it rhymed, and that's the most important thing.  My other friend Koh chose a Korean song and then sang the whole thing in Thai - some sort of love song to Eric, who chose a Phillipino song and made up a nonsense duet with me.  We went back to Eric's house where I flung myself upon his king-size bed and fell asleep until 6.30am.  He has a 9th floor apartment, so it's the perfect place to see in the morning. 

And so now, I must brave the weather.  I was going to go to Shinjuku to look at books on Bali (I've booked a holiday), but the trains aren't running well by the look of things (I can see the train line from my house).  I'll go tomorrow.  However, I must pay the cash for my flights and buy a lemon for making hummous, so into the storm I shall go.  Thank goodness for my skull-print rainboots!!
blacklilly: (Default)
I should be going to bed as I have high school tomorrow, but there's clearly not enough time in the day and I still haven't sewn up the hem on my trousers.  Could be a total waste of time as rain in hurling down at the moment, and may well be tomorrow also, it being a Wednesday when rain usually seems to be falling.  In fact, last Wednesday the dry spell finally broke with a typhoon.  So you know what I did?  I went down to the open air pool in Asagaya and went swimming in a typhoon.  It's was the best thing I've done in ages, though probably not as good as if I had been naked also, but one can't have everything.  I enjoyed feeling the rain pounding me as I ploughed up and down the pool. 

Started running again last week.  Am following the Couch to 5K programme, but after two days it became obvious that my sports bra cannot quite keep things still enough anymore, so I now have to wait until the new sports bra I ordered from England turns up.  Ho hum.

Am organizing a jazz/funk night at the bar I help out at.  Had a painfully difficult conversation with one of the musicians the other night.  I could barely understand what he was saying so in the end he asked to be handed over to someone Japanese, which only made things a bit better, as the Japanese speaker had to keep repeating stuff too.  Anyway, felt a but embarrassed and depressed about my Japanese so have sworn to try and get back into things after 6 months off.

Have a pic.
Koenji Awaodori Festival, August 2010
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)

It has been the hottest summer in Japan for 113 years.  I think it's nearly 3 or 4 weeks without rain.  As a British person, I find this quite worrying, as I feel that rain is something one should see at least once or twice a week.  The Japanese have a word 夏ばて which kind of translates at "summer weariness" - the lethargy of months of oppressive humidity, no sleep because of the heat, no desire to eat etc etc.  I also have been savagely attacked on a near nightly basis by mosquitos and other unknown beasts, and have had to resort more than once to antihistamines due to the hives crawling up my legs.  I've got heat rash that won't disappear, and huge dark circles under my eyes, from not having had a good night's sleep in months (though that is normal, really).

Other than that, I'm working working. Perhaps stupidly I didn't take the two week holiday I was given.  I worked at the British Council instead, but I'm now feeling like I should have taken some time off.  But the money was going to be needed, so...

Bought a new camera - a Nikon D5000.  Still getting the hang of it.  I took a pic of these cool Cirrocummulus clouds the other day.  Very pretty sky for about an hour. so I sat on my balcony and enjoyed the view.

blacklilly: (Default)
Originally posted by [ profile] kylecassidy at kehten update
There are few tasks singularly more rewarding than bottle feeding tiny little sad kittens that become happier while you hold and feed them.

Those of you who are thinking "Dear god, please stop with the freaking kitty pix," you know, I'll try and hold back. But, they're so cute.

I'll let you know when I find out how much money we've raised for them. Until then. Thanks for everything. Be good to something or someone today.

This is Rich feeding Thing 2.

You love them, you know it.



Add me as a friend on LiveJournal, Add me on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter.
blacklilly: (Default)

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Based on a short story.

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Based on a blog entry.

As seen on [ profile] hils LJ.
blacklilly: (moody)
Rainy season began about 3 weeks ago.  A nice, breezy sunny day, followed by a rainy day and then a wall of humidity that crawled into every piece of clothing and soaked it through.  I have made some concessions to the summer this year and have started wearing white and blue in an attempt to keep myself cool - it was the heat rash on an otherwise normal day that persuaded me to finally give in and turn on the aircon.  Only two more months of this to go and then typhoon season sets in. 

Today is not my birthday, but it IS my birthday on Thursday.  And it is a special birthday, for on Thursday I will be 30 years old.  I had been planning/hoping that my 30th birthday would signal the end of what has been the second worst decade of my life (my teens unsurprisingly taking the No 1 slot in the shit-stakes), and allow me to begin the fourth decade  significantly better off than I had been before.  However, I think that the cosmos is playing some kind of joke on me.  I'd like to blame God, but seeing as I don't believe in all that lark, I can't really do anything but blame the mysterious cosmic forces who seem to like reminding me again and again that I am a mere stain on the planet.  I seem to mired in ever increasing requests for payments, mainly to the Japanese government who want money for this and that and then some more of that.  Today I came home to find, not the first birthday card to be delivered through my letter box, but a request for the payment of 180 000yen (that's $1800) in 5 installments over the next 6-8 months.    This comes as no surprise, as I have been anticipating its arrival for a few weeks.  The surprise  for the Japanese government will be that I cannot pay this money back.  I'm living on 1000yen a day as it is.  I guess I will have to come to some kind of compromise with them...or just not pay it. The only way I can pay this back is if I receive my "Loss of Earnings" payout from the government, but as that seems to have no date upon it, I/the government could be waiting a while.

I become very morose around this time every year.  I always mark the year by my birthday and by the New Year and every time I feel that another year of my life has been wasted, though whatever the hell it is I'm meant to be doing instead eludes me.  The only things I have learnt from the past ten years are: stay the hell away from drummers, or indeed any kind of musician (though, to be honest, I'm still trying to learn my lesson here); don't spend money, save it - money gives you choices; and only a very few friends exist in the world, and they're often the ones you wouldn't expect to pick you up when you're down. 

However, there are good things - good things I should remind both myself and my few readers about.  The one thing I am proudest of at the moment is that I learnt my lesson with money and was able to make a choice where so many other people could not.  And despite the difficulties and the financial and emotional stress it has caused me, I'm going to be much better for it, though maybe not in the financial sense for some time to come.  I've gained so much more experience in the last two months than I did in the two years preceeding them.  I could regret that fact that I stayed as long as I did in my dead company, but when in a strange land, with your housing and medical insurance taken care of and a fear that everything else will be as bad as your current situation (and not having the money do anything about it), it's easy to stay.  I've also learnt that when things get tough I can take care of myself, and I have people who care enough about me to help.  I think my family are still under the impression that I'm a nightmare of a human being, but I think that fact that I have been able to ask so many people for help, and people who have willingly given that help, means that I can't be as bad as I've been told.

Tomorrow is Tanabata - but more on that tomorrow...


Jun. 18th, 2010 08:55 pm
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
71 days since the last paycheck.  It was odd to put my card in the ATM today and get money out of it.  Now just to get the money from England and all should be back to normal.
blacklilly: (Default)

From the BBC:
Puppy thrown at German biker gang

Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:23 UK

A German student "mooned" a group of Hell's Angels and hurled a puppy at them before escaping on a stolen bulldozer, police have said.

The man drove up to a Hell's Angels clubhouse near Munich, wearing only a pair of shorts and carrying a puppy.

He dropped his shorts and threw the dog, escaping on a bulldozer from a nearby building site.

He was arrested later at home by police. The 26-year-old is said to have stopped taking depression medication.

After making his getaway on the bulldozer, he had driven so slowly that a 5km tailback built up behind him on the motorway.

After driving about 1km, he had abandoned the bulldozer in the middle of the motorway, near Allershausen. He continued his journey by hitchhiking.

"What motivated him to throw a puppy at the Hell's Angels is currently unclear," a police spokesman said.

The puppy is now being cared for in an animal shelter.


blacklilly: (Default)

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