blacklilly: (Angsty)
Hmm.  Not being Japanese?  That's pretty hard, though liberating in equal measure.

No, I think the hardest thing for me is having to deal with practical things in Japanese.  I can hold a conversation with most people, but when it comes to getting the electricity turned on, or dealing with residence tax, I can't do it at all.  It's partly a nerves thing, partly that I ended up with some form of linguistic PTSD after dealing with estate agents to get my apartment.  After that exercise in torture I'm rather inclined to let someone who knows what they're doing help me out.

And that's Day 14.  I'm still chipping away them!!

I still feel a little numb about the Peace Boat.  Occasionally, I feel excitement approaching.  Then I think of all the forthcoming hassle of vaccinations, embassies and pre-departure training, and the excitement goes away.  Plenty of other people are excited for me though, so hopefully it'll become infectious.

Last night's vegetarian interview was wonderfully catered.  I had a vegetarian sausage roll, vegetarian cornish pasty and veggie lasagne - none of which I've eaten for YEARS.  The tofu scrambled egg salad with delicious and the chocolate cake for dessert was lovely and squishy.  During the interview I also managed to get myself a writing and photography gig for one of the upcoming issues!!  Go me.  Yesterday was a good day!
blacklilly: (Default)
The other day, after writing my last blog entry, I went over to my friend Mikey's house to watch wrestling.  Yeah, I know, me watching wrestling is not quite what you'd expect, but I was persuaded with beer and a heated carpet.  We watched the Royal Rumble - 40 wrestlers, 62 minutes, only one champion.  It was probably the most ridiculous thing I've watched for quite some time. 

So anyway, by the time I get tired it's getting for 1.30am and I have to walk home in the freezing cold.  So I wrap up warm, don my gloves and hat and head out into the nighttime streets of Asagaya.  And the reason I can do this - walk home alone at 1.30am by myself - is because this is what sets Japan apart from so many other places.  I don't feel that walking home at 1.30am is putting myself at too much risk.  The Japanese are always very proud of how much of a "safety country" Japan is, yet older people always seem to be talking about how things are going down hill in terms of crime and delinquency etc (note the rise in crime among the elderly).  What I like about living here is that I don't feel like a potential victim.  When I lived in London, I would always ask Gideon to collect me from Perivale station if I got home after dark, even though Perivale was not like living in crime central at all.  In fact, I was thinking about this on the way home from the Royal Rumble.  I passed by a really drunk guy and then passed another couple of guys on their way home from work or bars.  Had this been in England, I more likely than not would have picked up my pace and avoided them, and although I still felt quite on edge being by myself, I knew that more likely than not, I would get home safely.

And that is your answer for Day 13 of the Japan meme.

I woke up last night with a horrid sore throat and then failed to get back to sleep for much of the night, despite taking painkillers.  This morning it felt worse, so I booked a trip to the doctor and cancelled tonight's class.  I still got through High School despite progressively losing my voice (no illness could make me lose THAT much money) and then went to see the nice doctor who told me it's just a cold, and not pharyngyitis or any of the other things I was concerned about.  Which is good, but still denies me Japanese prescription drugs, which are pretty special.

On the High School note, I received some feedback from my students, only 40% of whom claim to make any effort to review or study for their English classes, according to the survey.  The ratings were somewhat erratic, but my favourite bit was the comments.  Students were allowed to make comments, both good and bad, and some of mine included:  "She is pretty and I can learn English", "She's pretty and friendly", "She is good at drawing pictures so it was fun!", "Since the teacher changed the lesson is much more interesting",  "She is good at motivating us" and "Genki".  I liked the ones about being pretty best of all - living in Japan makes me feel like a monster sometimes. The negatives mainly focused on not having a Japanese teacher translating every instruction, though one said: "Ishii should work more", "Ishii" being Ishii-sensei, who I never actually ask to do much other than translate for me, so not his fault. 

Now I have a free evening, I'm not quite sure what to do with it.  Maybe some drawing, some writing and some reading in bed!! Perhaps I should give the bunny some attention as well!!

Here I am looking pretty, despite being sick, on holiday:

blacklilly: (Default)
Gaijinfails are numerous and often unexpected:
  • the most recent would be totally forgetting to remove my house slippers at my friend's house when wandering in the tatami room. 
  • eating sashimi incorrectly.  It seems that the numerous times I ate sashimi with with Japanese friends no one ever mentioned that I was doing it wrong, until summer last year when  I was told the "proper" way to do it.  Of course, the person who corrected me, could have just been messing me around.
  • going to onsen and brazenly wandering around with my tattoos showing.  The best time this happened is when I went to an outdoor onsen in Gifu with two friends - one of whom had pierced nipples, and the other, who not only was three times the size of the average Japanese person, but also bedecked with tattoos.  The bath emptied out pretty fast.  Of course, it doesn't always work like that.  I was kicked out of my gym in Omori for having tattoos after some crinkly old bitch spotted them in the showers and reported me.  "Life in Japan is hard for foreigners," said the receptionist as I signed the cancellation form.  "Not really,"  I thought.  "You just like to make it difficult."

Speaking of gyms, I quit gym back in the middle of November.  I got so frustrated with running on a treadmill going nowhere, and being subjected to Japanese TV, which is for the most part food porn and talentless "personalities" giving their watered down opinions about the process of making tatami mats whilst a bevy of overly coiffed and primped "personalities" nod their heads in disinterested agreement and giggle.  I doesn't help that I dislike TV in general, so Japanese TV was never going to fare well with me.  Anyway, I've been walking, swimming and doing yoga like a little beast since I quit.  I actually exercise more now that I don't go to the gym.  So maybe I should get off this computer and go take a walk in the sunshine!

I've been sounding pretty grouchy about Japan lately.  I think I need a break.  So it's a good thing my trip to Bali begins on Saturday!!!!
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
It's 10.27am.  I'm waiting for my rice to cook so I can have breakfast,  It seems to be taking much longer than normal.

Today is one of those 3-day weekend days, though I did work yesterday, covering an IELTS class at the British Council.  It was a rubbish lesson, but that's the point of being a sub-teacher - go in, do the lesson, but don't be too good at it, else the students may get disappointed with their regular teacher.  After that, I stopped off in Takodanababa to get rid of some books at the Blue Parrot second hand book shop.  Much to my delight, they were having a 50% off sale on everybook in the place, so I traded my books in and picked up:  

George Eliot - Silas Marner (possibly my favourite book ever)
Wilkie Collins - The Woman in White 
Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Love in the Time of Cholera
Carols Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the WInd

I've always struggled with the Victorians.  I think it comes from forcing myself to read "Great Expectations" at a young age and not being able to cope with it.  I avoided them at university too, so I'm still making up for the gap in my reading.  I must admit that going round the bookshop was a little boring.  There were so many books to choose from and not many that I could get excited about.  Must go to Tower Records and pick up some more recent stuff, like David Mitchell's new book.

HahAAAA!  The rice cooker has just chimed!!

Hmmm, rice, poached egg and kimchee and miso soup for breakfast,  Odd, but delicious.

day 11 - overrated and underrated Japan

This goes along with what a few other people have said, but the train system is hugely over-rated.  People in other countries always bang on about the punctuality and regularity of trains in Japan, but what they fail to mention is that sometimes these trains run at well over 200% capacity (capacity being defined by the number of seats and hand-holds in a carriage).  I regularly have to endure  having full body contact with a total stranger in the mornings on my way to school, which I often can only get through by closing my eyes and trying to shut down my brain for a few minutes until we hit the next station.  Getting on and off the train is treacherous as those inside the carriage push and shove their way out, often causing the people at the front, who are doing their best to get out of the carriage anyway, to literally pop onto the platform.  I saw a guy take a tumble out of the train one morning and all people did was step over him as he lay curled up in a ball on the platform until it was safe to move.  An interesting article in The Guardian on this, only the other day.

Last night trains are the worst.  The Yamanote and Chuo-sobu lines run up to nearly 1am out of Shinjuku, but from about 12pm there's only one train every ten minutes and it's very often running late at this point.  Last Friday I was out with two friends in Shibuya and we got the second to last train home (about 12.37 out of Shinjuku).  We got on the train fine, but as successive Yamanote line trains dumped people onto the platform, people kept getting on, and on and on.  My friend Erik started up asking people not to get on anymore because it was getting so uncomfortable.  I had my arms around him and was pressed up into his back so I was at least groping somebody familiar.  Eric's comments were making everyone around us laugh, as it was pretty funny, but some guy took offense and told him to shut up.  Erik asked me why I was laughing and I had to explain that it was just the guy behind who was rammed up next to me laughing.

The only good thing about this situation on late night trains is that people are usually in a good mood and more willing that normal to start up a conversation with you.  I once had a conversation with a really cute guy after he ended up within my kissing zone.  I was with my friend Saradia and commented on his earrings being pretty cool.  She said I should talk to him, but I was too shy.  As we got even more squished he said:  "Gomen nasai" and I replied: "Daijoubu", and then he said: "I hate this fucking train" with a perfect American accent.  So he'd clearly understood all that I had said about him being cute.  We had a really good chat all the way home, swapped numbers, and have never seen each other since.

In my previous post I mentioned Japanese guys being overrated, and I was going to explain why I think this, but just like them, I can't be bothered today.  Maybe another time soon, ne.

Right!  Now for a wash and a walk!!!
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: (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)

April 2011

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