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)
One thing I used to find irritating about the Japanese was their constant obsession with having colds and 'allergies'. It seems that every month of the year brings something that a large number of people seem to be unable to deal with. This irritated me because my students would come to class hiding behind their face masks. These things give the serious creeps, not only because they hide most of a person's face, but also because they advertise the fact that you are ill.*

These past two days we've been battered by strong winds that thump against the apartment building, and actually make it shake. Yesterday at work (I have an 8th floor classroom with windows all down one side), as I was starting a private lesson, the clouds started to take on a rather bruise-like colour which quickly became a dirty yellow-smoggy shade. Then suddenly, I could no longer see up the road that runs away from the center of Yokohama. Something like a yellow smoke was marching towards the building. It moved quickly and was gone within about 20 minutes of my first noticing it, leaving behind bright, cloudy skies. It turns out that what I witnessed may have been a cloud of dirt and sand from the Gobi desert blowing through. I recall one of my students mentioning this last year as a reason for his wearing a mask. If the dust coming through is that thick, so far from its original home, I guess that's a pretty good reason to wear one.

A student later in the day commented upon the wind, pointing out that as the wind was from China there was bound to be dirty and polluted dust coming through. Which brings me to another thing - the fact that a lot of people feel the same way about the Chinese as the English and French traditionally do about each other. Products made in China are generally disliked (but cheap, ne) in a lot of places, but I've never been warned so many times to steer clear of Chinese ebi gyoza, Chinese garlic and, in fact, anything Chinese.

Hmmm, my thoughts today are a little muddled as I didn't get home until 7am. I was out karaokeing until 6am with some teachers and students from school. How did we manage to spend 6 hours in a karaoke box? Copious amounts of beer, Haribo Gold Bears and various munchies. The final bill was about 15000yen, which also suggests that the reason my throat hurts is from too much singing. As my friend Rachel once said: "You need to fight filth with filth" so we piled into a fast food restaurant I'm too ashamed to name for breakfast. The reasoning works though, I felt much better after ingesting two fish burgers, a hash-brown and a coke.

Walking round Yokohama at 6am was great - not many people about - early-rising workers off to get the first train, people going to Haneda Airport, and us dirty-stop-outs staggering in the thin early morning light. I've missed much of what was a wonderfully sunny, though extremely windy, day and the sun is throwing long shadows across my balcony. There's half a cup of un-drunk tea next to my laptop and two empty eggshells. I'm going to brush my teeth, have a bath, and do some Japanese homework - though in which order I don't know...

*(I was on the train to work the other day and an older woman opposite me kept coughing 'productively' into her mask, then taking it off and giving her nose a good blow. I'm a bit squeamish about snot and phlegm, so those together with a warm train carriage was making me feel a bit gooey-kneed).

I am snot

Sep. 30th, 2007 12:18 pm
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I was remarking to myself the other day, as one often has to when one lives alone, that I had not fallen ill for almost a year. Clearly I forgot to bang my head against the table for good luck, as I have contracted a rather oppressive presence currently prohibiting the movement of air in and out of my nose. So, I made it ten and a half months without illness, which must be a lifetime first.

To celebrate I have decided that today is Bed, Bath and Book Day II. So far I have watched two rather excellent episodes of X-Files Season 3 (D.P.O and the one about the psychic guy who talks about auto-erotic asphyxiation to Mulder) and uploaded some photos on Facebook for you to peruse. At some point I may add them to Flickr, but not today. Next I shall be sinking into a nice bath out of which I do not plan to emerge for some time. I wish I had a Mum here as someone bringing me hot chocolate and Mum Toast in bed would be lovely.

So I haven't spoken about my adventures of the last few weeks. Two weeks ago I spent Sunday in Matsumoto hanging around and looking at the castle, which was pretty cool (especially as it's black). I got a guided tour in English (for free) around the castle and got to mess about with Samurai windows and risk death on some very steep steps. Cho omoshirokatta. After I walked to the nearby Museum and looked at Tanabata dolls and large phalluses. It seemed rather strange to observe small children looking at giant wooden penises in display cases, but I guess that is just my inherent Western discomfort about anything sexual. Still, the attention to detail was remarkable. After that I took a wander round town looking for a Mexican restaurant, but no luck so ended up in a cute little cafe full of Marilyn Monroe pictures. Unfortunately a headache set in soon after so I headed back to Ina.

Last weekend I travelled down to Nagoya to meet up with some other teachers for an end of summer beach party. We met at Nagoya station and travelled to a place called Utsumi. I guess when you travel to the seaside you expect to see it as soon as you arrive, so there was a small sense of disappointment that we couldn't see the sea from the station. But there were palm trees lending an air of antici...pation. We stocked up on provisions for the picnic and then headed off to the beach, were we promptly flung ourselves into the sea. Of course, very few others were in there on account of the seasonal presence of jellyfish, but we figured they weren'tkiller jellyfish so we'd take our chances.

We spent the day in and out of the sea, walking along the shoreline collecting sand dollars (about which I was very excited, having never seen one before), and drinking beer. Of course I neglected to remember that my back was exposed to the sun, so despite the hat and a liberal dosage of SPF 50+ elsewhere I still got badly burnt by a sun that merely peeped from behind the clouds every so often. Behvin also got stung by a jellyfish, so badly that she had to pull the creature off of her leg. Ouch!

To end the trip we headed to an onsen to have a wash and soak in a glorious yummy series of sulphurous baths. Then back into Nagoya for dinner. I stayed at Behvin's apartment for the night, but slept badly on account of the sunburn. The next day we headed into town to meet up with my old student Miho, who has a cool haircut and a fetish for men with glasses. We investigated Nagoya castle and then headed into Sakae to pick up books, magazines and munch on Haagen-Daaz. By this point I was flagging and so raced back to the bus station to catch the bus, arriving back in Ina with swollen and bruised feet utterly exhausted. Though in an entirely good way.

You can see pictures here.

There is other news but I'm waiting until next week to reveal it as it's not quite 100% certain (on my part) yet. Last night, despite the clear onset on illness, I had promised Mikio a karaoke session so he, Joe and I went to a snack bar to sing and down beer. I was barely inside before the Mama there put on Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf". I have no recollection of singing it there before but clearly she knew I knew it. I also sang some Abba, Madonna and Whitesnake (the latter was a little unsteady, but not a disaster). We also livened up the evening by exploring the word honki which translates as being earnest about something. So Joe amused us by singing all his songs earnestly, with accompanying hand gestures. Almost as good as Rob Halford back in the stadium days of Judas Priest. You know, I swear Spike in Buffy was modelled on him.

Right, I need to bathe, read a book, do my Japanese homework, and attempt to write something in iambic metre as part of my poetic self-rehabilitation.
blacklilly: (Default)
I was visited by an Incubus on Friday night, and no, it was, in fact, quite frightening.

So a week of disturbed sleep was compounded this morning but being awoken by the town sirens going at 6am. What they were alerting us to, I've no idea. I got out my dictionary to find out what was being said, but had no joy. Half and hour later as I was finally starting to to the edge of my resentful wakefulness the blasted thing went off again. So I gave up, made a cup of tea and read [ profile] greygirlbeast's "Bradbury Weather" instead.

I blame the incubus invasion on red wine and watching Hugh Jackman in a dumbass movie. I had little in the way of expectations when I sat down to watch "Kate and Leopold" (it was showing on the Movie Plus channel and I was bored and not in the mood for anything cerebral). My only point in watching (aside from thinking Hugh Jackman is pretty, though particularly in Wolverine mode) was to see whether the film would tick all the plot boxes for a love story. Which it did. Shame that none of the science behind finding cracks in time wasn't explained, but I guess that's far too much for the target audience to take in.

So last night I went to my favourite bar. I had been requested to go out to karaoke with Joe and few others but have taken a thorough dislike to singing in snack bars lately, so headed for the comfort of Yongo Yongo. It's not that I don't enjoy the singing. I am just quite bored with the number of requests I get to sing songs. People always make suggestions and I feel obliged to acquiesce. In some cases, people don't even ask me, they just give me a microphone when a song comes on and say: "Dozo". My annoyance at this behaviour is furthered by the fact that this is most often done with songs I hate - Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On", Mariah Carey's "Hero". I've come to an agreement with Joe that the next time this happens I will inform the bar of my hatred of these songs, and give the mic to Joe, who will go on to sing on my behalf. That'll learn 'em.

Joe and I went back to Yongo Yongo for a private "mini-mini-live" with Mi-chan, back from a gig last night in Roppongi. Kumi brought her son Koki, who is 9 years old, but not much past a year old in mental terms (I can never keep up with what the "PC" term for this is). He was utterly ecstatic to meet Joe and insisted on crawling across us to get a hug. He was mesmerised by the guitar and enjoyed banging away on the bongos too. He's a very happy, if slightly anxious, kid and is good fun, though I guess extremely tiring to look after as he needs constant attention. So Koki munched on kombu onigiri while Mama cooked up a huge feast - egg and eggplant pizza, nama-haru maki, bagels, salad, accompanied by beer and wine.

As a result I'm been feeling distinctly off-planet this afternoon. However, I'm going to correct the situation with more red wine and a viewing of "Before Sunset", one of my favourite films, which I had the joy of tracking down in Tsutaya today.

Maybe I might get to sleep properly tonight...


Jul. 9th, 2007 10:42 pm
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My birthday weekend has been pretty nice. On Saturday night Kumi organised a little party at a place called Bar-7 - or Bar Nana - where we drank lots of beer, ate birthday cake and played darts. Then we wandered off into the night to karaoke, where I serenaded everyone with "Wuthering Heights". Then off to Dei-ai for further drinking until 5am.

On my actual birthday I woke up far too early. Andrew and I went to West Village where we met up with a couple of my students and had lunch followed by Crazy Parfait - 18 inches of ice cream. Tabezukare deshita! I had a brief chat with Gideon by phone, which was nice. Then Yasuko picked me up and took me to her place for sushi.

Today Mikio took me to Okaya to see Pirates of the Caribbean. It was dubbed. In Japanese. But I still thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I only understood about 10% of what was said. Then we stopped off at a restuarant where a friend of his works. I was flagging by 6.30pm so he dropped me home. I'm still flagging but I'm too hot to sleep yet.

Pictures to follow next week!

blacklilly: (Default)
Last night's karaoke turned up an interesting addition to the set list - Black Sabbath's "Paranoid". My voice was either in fine fiddle (unlikely) or everyone in the bar was pissed (most likely) as I got a rousing round of applause and t'other teacher said he thought that was the best song I'd done yet. I also sang "Under the Bridge" but I can never get the key right. I'm either too high (Alan Partridge-style voice there) or a little too low. Time to remove that one I think.

I was also serenaded by a guy with whom I was holding a conversation in Japanese. If you knew how good my Japanese isn't you'd know this was quite painful. He found a song which said something about "Laura" and proceeded to send the bar into fits of laughter by warbling my name.

The current karaoke set list is now (as far as I can recall, after all I'm never sober when the singing happens):

Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Lisa Loeb - Stay
Abba - Dancing Queen
Abba - Take a Chance on Me
A-Ha - Take on Me
Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights (not often played)
Bjork - Hyperballad
Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams
Euryhtmics - Angel
Soft Cell - Tainted Love

And as for the laughing thing, it has been commented upon that I'm always giggling. I think this is linked to the effects of Sapporo.

Off to Tokyo tomorrow for the day. I'll be meeting up with a couple of students from London - Noriko and Yusuke, for shopping and lunch. I'm hopefully going to remember to buy myself some David Bowie and get some new clothes.

I not written a missive for a while, so I'll have to get round to that sometime. I had saved an amusing story for you, but now I can't remember quite what it was. Hopefully I had the wits to write the thing down somewhere. The lack of reports has a lot to do with the mundane repetitions of everyday life. I may well be somewhere 'exotic' but I still have to get up and go to work every day, which can only bring a certain amount of amusement. Hey ho, I'll think of something for you, even if it is my planned feminist analysis of Japanese culture.
blacklilly: (Default)
I was rudely awoken at 11am by a man who I thought might be the postman. The intercom is at the end of my bed so I was launched from sleep doubled over, half in, half-out of bed with my earplugs rolling into the duvet.
" Hello?" Of course the reply was in Japanese and so I met it with a barrage of apologies and "wagarimasens" - I don't understand. He wandered off then. Given that I had got home at 5.30am and was still quite drunk it took me a few minutes to figure out where and who I was. For some reason I got out of bed, put on my coat and then stood in the middle of my apartment before realising that it was Sunday and therefore I had no need to do anything but sleep. Three hours later I got up and have been pottering about my apartment since.

Whenever I'm drunk, hungover or just feeling weird I drink miso soup. Miso soup is the cure for all ills, I have discovered, and has quite stunning curative properties when it comes to sore heads and dodgy alcohol bellies. Don't buy the nasty stuff in Sainsburys, it's not the same. Get thee to a asian supermarket, or the Japan Centre in Piccadilly and stock up. Miso soup is the new... well, it's darn fine stuff. I particularly enjoy chomping on the wakame pieces.

Last night was the usual Saturday night routine, kicking off in Genghis, then the Korean bar where one of bar staff made it glaringly clear that she doesn't like Sam's singing voice, then a snack bar at 4am where people kept saying I was "kawaii" - that means cute. I'm not sure what last night's karoke included. Sam keeps making me sing new songs, and actually has good taste in choosing them for me. Last night though I do recall singing Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn", The Carpenter's " Mr Postman" and a duet with Sam, though I really can't recall it at the moment. There was some other songs in the early hours but whatever they were, they're staying in the depths of drunken mindlessness.

Over the course of today I have: watched an episode of "Hellsing" (I was not impressed, maybe I'll try "Vampire Hunter D" next), the first episode of "The Lost Room" and downloaded the second (more on that when my brain functions), mooched about the internet, looked at tattoo flash, listened to X-Japan and learnt a bit more about Visual-K bands, discovered that Goteki released another album in 2005 and came to an end in 2006, looked at Emilie Autumn's website, found a supplier of goth, metal and other music in Japan; found a second-hand English bookshop in Tokyo (which I hope to visit on Tuesday), Skyped my mum, made a pasta-gratin thing with salmon and broccoli, washed my clothes, washed my dishes, eaten popcorn and toast, drunk a glass of wine (which put my head right), read a chapter in a Chaos Magick book about Gnosis and considered creating a sigil for my own "magickal workings".

I'm going to Tokyo for two days this week for training. I'm going to Isetan to stock up on MAC make-up and will also try to get into Tower Records to get some magazines and a few CDs.

Right now I guess I should get to bed, what with it being nearly 1am.
blacklilly: (Default)
”I wish they were not so beautiful; if they were not so beautiful and so inaccessible to me, then I should feel less lonely, although, after all, I came here in order to be lonely.”

The Smile of Winter
, Angela Carter

1730 words )
” Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity! I say let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand,; instead of a million count half a dozen… Simplify, simplify.”

, Thoreau


Nov. 24th, 2006 08:47 am
blacklilly: (Default)
I was in Genghis Khan last night, my usual haunt, eyeing up the young but rather pretty boy behind the bar, when Miki-san the chef said he heard I had a good singing voice. WTF? How did he know this, as his place has no karaoke machine and Sam wouldn't say such a thing? Turns out all the bar owners in Ina drink in each others establishments and talk about the gaijin. I said I had no idea about that as I can rarely hear myself sing - partly related to the beer consumption I suspect. Sam also confirmed that there was indeed a Madonna song the other night, and that it was me who sang it. It must have been a request as I wouldn't have chosen "Crazy For You". I feel the urge to swear in Chinese.
blacklilly: (Default)
Jeeeeesuz, this is becoming a regular Saturday night thing.

I couldn't decide on the first song so Sam chose for me, and then a bunch of drunk karaokers who spoke English pushed Sam and I to duet on the second and third, and I then duetted on Dancing Queen with Hari, who kept telling me how much she loved Billy Elliot. I think there was a Madonna song in there somewhere, possibly at the end, but by then I'd had rather enough beer.

Every Breath You Take - The Police
White Christmas - Bing Crosby
Last Christmas - Wham
Dancing Queen - ABBA

Was sorely tempted to give Toxic by Britney Chav a whirl, purely so I could put my Southern American accent on and do it Nickelcreek style. Decided against that.

The bar we went to, which has a 100% Scotch License (whatever that means), even has maracas, so you can shake along when the mood takes you. Last Christmas was accompanied by maracas and a tambourine, and then the very drunk man with the tambourine serenaded me with some sort of xmas song in Japanese. His friends 'gomen nasai'd" me a lot afterwards.

I would NEVER do this kind of thing back home. What is going on?
blacklilly: (Default)
The kind that also serves all of its fish pregnant.

I had my first day at GEOS Ina yesterday. I woke up at 7am and went back to sleep, then woke up at 10am. Sam, the other teacher, was going to walk to school with me at 10.30am. I was showered, made-up and dressed in 20 minutes. I think that's a personal record.

I spent the day observing Carl, the teacher who has been covering since the other teacher left. He's a very friendly, laid-back Canadian, and it was useful watching the GEOS method in action. The students I've met so far have all been really nice, so I hope the trend continues. I have a few kids classes, including an under-5s class, called Hippos. I'm aware that children under a certain age in Japan tend to be treated as "little gods" so it will interesting to see how I get on with them, as their mothers will be in the room watching intently.

After school Sam, Carl, Yasuko and I went out to a restuarant. As we walked in I had a sudden sense that Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanssen would be tucked in a corner somewhere pouting. The tables had small BBQ grills in the middle, and you were brought plates of food to cook. I explained that I was vegetarian to the chef, and said that fish would be okay. he came back with a picture of some prawns. "Okay." I said. About five minutes later two battered and fried fish arrived for me. They were whole. I could see thier eyes looking at me through the tempura. It was at this point that Carl mentioned that restuarants like to serve their fish pregnant. Still, I ate them, though I didn't enjoy them. This was followed, thankfully, by a great big bowl of salad and some potato wedges. And then two of the hugest shrimp I have ever seen. Again, their beady eyes were watching me as I cracked them open. They were probably thinking something along the lines of: " You murdering bastard, eating me AND my children". I trult ditched my vegetarian ethics last night, and all of today I've been cringing about what I did.

After the restuarant (and five pints of Sapporo) we headed over to a bar. It seemed nice and cosy, with comfy seats and Sam's specially reserved bottle of whiskey behind the bar. Then these books came out. I wondered why Carl was looking through a phone book. " It isn't" he said. " It's a karaoke book". To cut a long story short (too late), I ended up drinking more beer and siging not one, not two, but THREE songs. If my memory serves I started with Blondie's "Heart of Glass", then The Presidents "Peaches", and then Smashing Pumpkins "Disarm". I dread to think what I sounded like but everyone was clapping, and I know I wasn't the worst one - Sam has a particularly good ability to flatten every sound.

I think I got ohme about 3am. Somehow I got undressed, washed my face and brushed my teeth, and even managed to find an extra blanket before falling into a stupor. I got up about 2pm and went for a wander, and it's now 6pm and I'm back in bed, and I think I'll stay here. My apartment is really cold. I have a half-hearted heater in the main room, and an air-con thing in the bedroom which I can't persuade to warm up. I also can't get the hob in the kitchen to work so I'm without tea, or anything hot to eat. I'm going to snuggle down and watch Firefly for a few hours, it was the only DVD I brought with me.

Please send warm vibes in this direction. I promise a weekly write up (with pictures) tomorrow.


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