“…and all the pieces matter.”

The Wire. Hell, what can I say about The Wire which hasn’t already been said a thousand times on a thousand blogs? It was always one of those series which I meant to watch until I actually got around to watching it… and that was it, had no choice but to burn through the first series in a week. It’s worse than crack, but it’s undoubtedly the best television series ever made. No question.

So apart from spending my last few days in Japan (Day 294/307 – 12 days left) watching a series I can watch anywhere, what have I been up to since climbing that monster-ass Fuji?

The day after we got back, I said goodbye to my dear friend and renowned jazz trumpeter Miles Davies, who is even as I write far away in gloomy Brum serving up creamy desserts to Cadbury’s World patrons, or whatever it is he does.

Then I’m not sure what I did next. Like McNulty and co., I am reduced to sifting through photographs, old text messages, and Facebook updates to try to undercover the story of what happened.

The Sunday after, we visited Harajuku … or we tried to. Yeah, been here ten months, and I still forget that Harajuku is north of Shibuya up Meiji-dori, not south. So we walked for a long time, wound up in Ebisu tired and confused, and eventually just got the Yamanote Line to Harajuku, which we should have done in the first place. We found a cool little shop called Chicago that sells all kinds of second-hand clothing, including cheap kimonos. I agonised for about ten seconds before setting 7,000 yen down on a supremely manly brown silk kimono, juban (undershirt), obi (belt) and happi (overcoat used for festivals). Now I have one, I obviously need to hit a few summer matsuri to show the thing off. I’m hoping the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival – on the very final Saturday before we fly out on Monday – will be a beautiful experience.

On Wednesday, I packed Jade off to a wicked little guesthouse/hotel in Koenji- dirt cheap and got everything you need. There’s even a Tesco’s nearby, which proves that Tesco have got stores everywhere. (Seriously, never seen one in Japan before.)

We had a wander around the cosy little district around there, which is a world away from the dispassionate bulk of Shinjuku or the straight-laced streets of Fuchu. Koenji is sort of old and dirty, but vibrant and beautiful at the same time. We headed a little way down the line to find the Asagaya Art College.


We also did some good planning for the final few weeks here. It will be hard to cram everything in, but I want to try. I’m going to attempt a jaunt to Osaka/Kyoto in the final week via night bus and capsule hotel, which should be a lark.

I had a big old clear out in preparation for leaving, dumping all these old receipts and worksheets I had no use for. Felt good.

Friday I met Rob, Hime, and Rob’s デカイ Russian friend Alex for lunch at this funky Russian restaurant in Kichijoji. Funnily enough, it’s the second Russian restaurant I’ve been to, but the first time I’ve had Russian cuisine.

Ah, it was so good. Beetroot soup, sweet and warming; a Cornish pasty-like side, and a kind of salmon omelette. Really tasty. After that, karaoke with a few more friends, and finally pizza at Shakey’s, a few beers, and MANLY CONVERSATION.

Saturday we’d planned to visit the Oedo Onsen Monogatari, but lack of persons postponed that to Sunday. Instead, Jade and I visited Tokyo Dome City to try and find where these cosplayers be at. Unfortunately, garishly-dressed fans were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the place was packed with air-headed KAT-TUN fans, killing time until his (edit: oh wait its a band lol) big concert at the Dome that night, taking photos and waving fans (the kind you cool yourself down with, not people) with pictures of them pretty-boys on them. I felt sorry for the handful of boyfriends dragged along.

It was kinda cool to be back in that area. My first destination in Tokyo way back in 2007 was Jimbocho – I have a strong memory of going for a walk on my first night and ending up at the Dome late at night, playing Taiko no Tatsujin alone. So long ago. Plus, I got to see the big LaQua roller coaster I rode all that time ago, in my last week in Tokyo.

Almost bought a Hanshin Tigers jersey at the baseball store. (I have a secret love for the Tigers because they never, ever win. Funnily enough, a few days later I sat next to a Tigers fan decked out in every bit of merchandise imaginable on the Metro.)


Later we met up with our old friend Yudai for a few drinks in an izakaya – Jade’s introduction to these wonderful little places. After Rob and I had downed a few massive pitchers of beer, we met up with Risako and hit a brand-new Karaoke-Kan for a few songs. They had a great selection of songs, including – a first! – Pizzicato Five’s Twiggy-Twiggy, my first introduction to j-pop years and years ago. Shame we only had an hour there.

On Sunday, we took the train out to Odaiba over the Rainbow Bridge (again!) to visit the old Oedo Onsen, a kind of theme-park-hot-baths complex near the Telecom Center. We met up with Yudai and Kaz, ate some chicken at the Miraikan Lotteria, then met Risako and Rob to hit the onsen.
We went before in October, so it’s nice to bookend our trip there. Hit the hot baths – hit the sauna – hit the cold, cold bath. Ate ramen. I got ice cream. It’s a really nice place, and if you go after 6pm, it’s only 1,600 yen. Plus you get a faux-Edo period street full of people clattering about in yukata, which is cheesy fun.

Odaiba’s further than I thought. I’d missed the last train on the Seibu Line, so Jade and I walked from Higashi-Koganei, through the empty streets of Koganei back to Tama station. (Can you imagine walking through the dark streets of a British city at 1am and not running into something? Eh, maybe I’m just paranoid.) It was strangely beautiful, getting somewhat lost and then running across the enormous metal pylons of the Seibu Tamagawa Line, like disturbing Cold War brainwashing antennas in the middle of a entirely dead suburb of Tokyo.

Can you tell I am beginning to tire of this blog post? I need another fix of the Wire, but I don’t want to start the season 2 shit straight off … gotta space that shit out, bro.

Yesterday was Umi no Hi (Sea Day), another wonderful public holiday in Japan where everyone goes to the beach. Or goes to Harajuku to hit the sales (I roughly estimate a third of pedestrians were carrying a bag from Laforet – no lie).

It was a beautifully clear day, and we wanted to hit a few of the art galleries around the Omotesando area.

Sadly, one was closed for the holiday, and another was 1,000 yen for entry, so we saved our money and went to see exhibition of Hokusai’s famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei (富嶽三十六景)) at the Oota woodcut gallery. Hard to believe a gallery of such classically Japanese art is squirreled away behind a Softbank in ultra-hip Harajuku, but there’s that mix of ancient-and-modern that lazy travel journalists like to claim Japan is uniquely comprised of every single time they do a piece on Japan. (Unique my ass. Go to any British city and see a branch of Tescos next to a centuries-old cathedral, or a similar thing in any country in the world.)

Anyway, as a guy who owns a (very beat-up) jumbo A1-size poster of the famous Great Wave of Kanagawa, it was strange to see the real thing – a tiny square of thin paper with that incredible curve, the sprawling tentacles of foam, the crescent of the fishermen’s boat.

Ah, but is it the “real thing” at all? It’s a woodblock print, and thousands were made. There’s probably some point in there about what constitutes art, but it’s getting late and I think the point here is obvious.

As always, there’s the one everybody thinks of, but some of the less seen prints are more splendid. The thing about the woodblock printing technique is that the paper becomes 3D – gradients are infinitely smooth, characters pop out, fabrics are decorated with actually embossed patterns. They’re nothing short of breathtaking.

It occurred to me a nice little place I could show Jade – the Harajuku Chamamo Cat Cafe – so we went up to the little room on the fifth floor I visited some months ago and bothered the cats for an hour. It’s so relaxing, just watching them curled up. I had a chat with the owner in pretty decent Japanese, which was fun.

A long walk getting lost in Yoyogi Park in the still-hot twilight led me to feeling a tad heat-struck. I was feeling dog-tired by the time I stumbled back to my room, and I still don’t feel great.

It’s got to the point where I really don’t have any time left to do anything. I want to hit a festival this weekend (after we visit Hakone), and go to the beach, and see Osaka, and say goodbye to people, and pack, and finish this translation I’m doing, and post things home, and I’m still not sure if I can do it all in a measly twelve days. But … I guess I must persevere.

So, until next time, here’s what we all came to see: beautiful puddycats.



as the French call it, le weekend

My room
I cycled along Route 14 on my way back from Kichijoji. I can’t remember what I was listening to, but it seemed apt. I passed glowing family restaurants in the dark, catching a vignette of a store manager standing, alone, keeping a midnight vigil over rows of empty tables. Brief traffic flashes past. The night air whips past, cool and refreshing. This is my city.

Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.

The word of the day is “crash blossom“. On Nippon Housou 1242 AM Radio, they are debating the relative merits of YouTube and Nico Nico Douga.

The day after – or was it the same day? – I’m on the 48th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Actually, the 47th floor, where the toilets are. Away from the bright lights and monochrome carpets of the observation deck on the floor above, the oddly-lengthy corridor to the toilets is plain, a shade of industrial beige, unadorned. It seems impossible that this floor was once open to the elements, as big-muscled construction workers wearing blue bandanas hoisted great steel beams into place, laid cabling, built stairs up to a floor that had yet to exist. If you were one of those workers putting this floor up, twenty years ago, two-hundred and thirty metres above the ground, would you be able to imagine how it would look full of tourists and gift shops and with a grand piano? How’d they get that up there, anyway? The whole place seems impossible, a logical contradiction.

Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.

The next day – or it might have been today – Rob and I, sweltering from the heat, take a seat on a bench outside MUFJ in Kichijoji. We are killing time until the contact lenses we have ordered from the local opticians are ready, at 2pm. The lenses are made in Japan – it should be cheaper to bulk-buy them here and bring them back with us. I bought a collection of Otsuichi’s stories, Zoo 1, and the first The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya novel. I feel like we’re two old men, sitting on benches all day long.

Some time before, I’m at ICU for their end-of-term party thing. It’s a bright, sunny day. Someone hands out water pistols. I take a few photos, lie back on the grass, bask in the sun. It’s certainly summer.

Back in Shinjuku, we browse all seven floors of a branch of Marui, one filled with little boutiques for the stranger side of Tokyo fashion – gothic, lolita, punk, gothic lolita, steampunk, and various combinations of them all. Two middle-aged men dressed up like china dolls in pink frilly dresses and blonde curls stomp around on platform shoes. Victorian angels float through the merchandise. On the first floor, I buy a silkscreen print, which later covers my window.

Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him.

Close to midnight, I get on the wrong train and end up on the Hashimoto spur. Luckily, I can still get home before the trains stop running. I am at a station called Keio Tamagawa with about three or four other people on the platform, all of us waiting for the last train.

A lot earlier, in the book shop of the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, I flick through glossy, enticing books on architecture. I ache with desire to become an architect and design sweeping facades of glass and pine, design for better living, live in Fallingwater and listen to jazz all day.

The simple fact is that if you are ever mentioned on page 1 of a Dan Brown novel you will be mentioned with an anarthrous occupational nominal premodifier and you will have died a painful and horrible death by page 2.

The night before ICU’s party, I’m in Koreatown with Kaz and Rob and Kanako and friends, feeling nostalgic at the PCbangs and noraebangs, mixing the egg into the bibimbap and wrapping up chunks of barbecued pork in leaves of lettuce with lashes of chilli sauce. This time a year previously, I must have been heading out to Seoul for a month. It seems like forever ago.

“”Every day I write the book”. Elvis Costello,” says the DJ on Nippon 1242.

Today, I’m back on Route 14, cycling back wearing my nice new climbing boots which I bought for scaling Mount Fuji in two weeks’ time. Everything is so perfect, so peaceful, and yet there’s an underlying current of discomfort. It can’t be summed up in words, that’s why. I’m overwhelmed by it all. The sheer beauty of nature, the overbearing unending joy of living, when everything’s going right – no one can quite write that down. It’s painful.

A Day in the Life (of Japan)

Today is just day 160 of my year in Japan. Together with the 2007 expedition, that’s 232 days I’ve lived in Japan, or 3% of my entire life. And yet I fear I have missed something. The wood for the trees, perhaps.

You get so used to a country that you miss all the little things. My mum sent me an email asking what it was like, exactly, to live in Japan, and I realised I couldn’t really answer.

So I thought I’d go through a single typical day with a fine-toothed comb, highlighting all the mundane aspects of what makes life in Japan just so, the certain phenotypical aspects of the daily occurrences which one might miss without a measured examination.

I was woken up at 10am by my phone ringing. (Keitai, or mobiles, are ridiculously popular in Japan. Observe any youth or salaryman on the train and they can be on their phone for the entire journey, never looking up from the mail they are composing. Talking on the phone on the train is forbidden, and this being Japan and not the UK, everybody complies. In Japan, rather than SMS technology, all phones use email for “texting”, which means easy communication with PCs, attachment of files, thousand-character messages, etc. In English we speak of mailing somebody, not texting them.)
It was Dan’s student tutor/language partner Kazuki who I met way back in October, informing me that one of our Leeds lecturers, Mark Williams, was going to meet with us today at lunchtime. The conversation was almost entirely in Japanese, which is always nice, but Kazuki is very easy to understand. Certain conversations go without a hitch because we spent all year preparing for them; for example last week I went to get my bike tire puncture mended and turned up in some middle-aged guy’s garage (the smell exactly like my granddad’s garage back home, of sawdust and turps) and didn’t slip up once. But make it just a little faster, throw in a few more words I don’t understand, and I flounder completely. Such is the paradox of language comprehension.

I cycled to the post office, which is open only on weekdays, while listening to the Archers. (I got back into it just in time to hear the death of Phil Archer, which was genuinely rather sad.) In Japan, post works pretty much the same, except when you want to send a letter they weigh it and ask you for the correct postage. (I assume if you know what you’re doing you can buy the right stamp and post it yourself, but I most assuredly do not know what I’m doing.)
So I bought an envelope and posted my invoice and came back to pick up my parcel from the student office on campus. When a parcel arrives, you get a little note on your mailbox, and you bring the note to the student office and exchange it for a parcel after signing the little book. (The nice woman who works there seems to remember everybody’s name.)
The parcel was from my mum; it contained chocolate and, of course, forms to fill in and post. And two envelopes, meaning I didn’t have to buy one. Another trip to the post office, then.

But first! I went to meet Mark Williams at the agreed place, but he apparently wasn’t there yet. I met up with Fran, though, who told me that he was presumably attending this East Asian studies conference that was going on (meeting us was just a side benefit). We were told to come back at 4:30pm. As we got the lift, a guy came out and passed us with a quick look. Seconds too late, of course, I realised it was him.

Not to worry. I had four hours to do some errands in Kichijoji. I hopped upon my bike and cycled to Higashi-Koganei, which is our third nearest station (Tama is closest, but expensive; Tobitakyu is about 5-10 minutes away by bike, but doesn’t go to Kichijoji).
Bikes are ace in Japan. They’re cheap, you can cycle on the pavement, and you don’t need a helmet. I love my bike; I can get anywhere after a fashion (even Shinjuku, though it takes two hours).
The chain keeps coming off my bloody bike though. The first time it happened I was stuck because there’s a entirely pointless cover over the chain and I needed a screwdriver to get it off. Now I’ve taken to carrying a screwdriver around with me, but it’s still a bother.

Japanese suburbia is a strange mix. The backstreets are like some carefully-assembled shanty town; narrow streets, houses crammed together, the buildings all poured concrete and PVC ugliness, the cars all squat-faced Toyotas and Nissans crammed into double-decker driveways (I kid you not).
Then you get to the main roads, and it’s America suddenly; ugly chain malls and parking lots and family diners and empty pavements. It’s very strange how closely Tokyo’s suburbs are modelled after the US style of car-orientated consumerism.

I reached Higashi-Koganei in about 20 minutes, counting a maintenance break to put my chain back on. It was my first time there, and I got a strange sense of being near the sea. Perhaps it was the sun; perhaps it was the way the platform floats like an island above the sea of roofs around it. I parked my bike for free (not always a given) near the koban (the ever-present police boxes; Japan loves its cops, it does) and entered the station with my Suica (a IC swipe transport pass, similar to London’s Oyster card, that you charge up with cash which is automatically deducted by tapping it (or just your wallet with it in) on a sensitive panel at the ticket gates).

Japan’s trains are a by-word for punctuality. Though the Chuo line is one of the most popular places for suicide (tastefully represented by “Cause: Accident” on the delays screen in English and 人身事故 (“human body accident”) in Japanese), they can clear a body up in 20 minutes, or so I hear, and long delays are very rare.
The more modern JR trains on the Chuo and Yamanote lines have display screens by all the doors showing route and station information as well as adverts and news updates. On the train, you sit if you’re lucky, or mill about the doors if not. Kids, adults alike read manga. Everybody is on their phone. Old guys read newspapers or novels, hidden in plain covers so no one can see what you’re reading. (Which is the point of reading on the train, right?) People rarely talk.

I noticed some sakura by the station as the train left. Sakura is cherry blossom; it comes out in March and Japan goes nuts with patriotism. People go to parks for “hanami” (flower-viewing) and drink copious amounts of sake, a experience which I am looking forward to. Most sakura isn’t out yet, but you can see it here and there.

Tokyo is a very distributed city; life collects around certain hubs on the rail network like Ueno or Shinjuku, and Kichijoji is the nearest one to us. It’s reasonably well-known (Toru Watanabe lived here in Norwegian Wood) and you can get just about anything you need here. And it makes for a decent night out, too.

I decided I needed a haircut last night, so I went down to QB House, one of a chain of 10 minute haircut salons across Japan. For 1000 yen, it’s the cheapest haircut in the city, I’m sure. You go in and buy a ticket from the vending machine (like a lot of things in Japan) and wait for someone to become free.
Obviously you don’t get a great style or anything, and a haircut is one of those things which probably shouldn’t be rushed. But the guy was friendly (asking me where I was from and all that) and my hair looks alright and it was cheap and it was indeed quick (though a little longer than ten minutes). The hairdresser even took my coat and bag and put them in a special wardrobe so as to not get covered in excess hair, and then vacuumed my head to suck up the cuttings. Ingenious.
I found another post office, filled in my voter registration form (I was already registered, but perhaps because I changed it to Leeds I couldn’t proxy vote in Norwich) and student finance form (hooray for a realistic amount to live on, unlike first year) and got them posted to home with a sweet flower stamp, as the kind postwoman explained.

Next, Yodobashi Camera. Yodobashi is one of the biggest electronics chains in Japan; think Dixons or Currys (do either of those still exist?) but with mammoth, six-floor stores everywhere. I bought the cheapest hairdryer I could find and went up to 7F to Uniqlo to get some shoes and/or clothes.

Uniqlo is making increasing inroads into the UK as a kind of uber-chic Japanese brand, or so I hear. In Japan, it’s nothing special; like H&M or maybe Topshop (as it used to be) it has a reputation for decent modern mid-budget fashion, and it’s a nice enough place to shop (although the best deals and the best fashion are to be found elsewhere). I got some bright red canvas shoes that will hopefully fit (after worrying that it would be impossible to get gaijin-size shoes, I found out from Dan that Uniqlo do cheap shoes in sensible sizes) and a bright orange waterproof jacket thingy, which I hope has that whole mild cyberpunk thing going on. (There’s a jawdropping label in Japan called FOTUS which do all kinds of bizarrely beautiful futuristic vinyl jackets and florescent trousers, but I’m not entirely sure what kind of places sell it)

Starbucks is the same everywhere, of course, and you don’t even need to know Japanese to order. In Japan, students flock to Starbuckses and McDonaldses, buy the cheapest thing, and then chill out for a couple of hours doing homework. It’s rather pleasant.

This particular store was full of gaijin – when I say “full” I mean there were five or six of us, which is a lot. Two Americans sat near me chatting about aesthetics and translation – or rather one guy with a nice beard and a pleasing accent talked while the other guy listened. It’s funny that Americans have a reputation for being uncultured, because there’s a certain kind of north-ish middle-aged accent that reminds me of fine thinkers like Seale or the philosopher-dudes from Waking Life, and it sounds vaguely famous and reassuring. “If you burn your bridges, you can’t stay there and fight your corner!” he exclaimed, sounding like he was in some kind of interesting Richard Linklater film.

I confess to often worrying that people will think I’m a tourist or something, not a proper long-term resident. But you can sort of tell who is and who isn’t. The couples with backpacks, looking lost are always tourists. The confident-looking American guys are ex-pats. Plus, tourists don’t tend to hang out in out-of-the-way places like Kichijoji.

My journey back to TUFS was much like the journey from there, only in reverse. I stopped in at my local combini, 3F, to get one of their delicious pasta salads.
Combini is short for “convenience store”, but they’re somehow more than a regular Spar; they’re like a hub of local activity. You can get snacks and bread and milk, but you can also get fried chicken or nikuman, buy concert or sports tickets, a ridiculous array of sandwiches and onigiri and Japanese bread snacks and hot drinks and magazines. They’re all open 24/7 and invariably staffed by two students who will give you exactly the same “IRASSHAIMASEEEEE” (“WELCOME.”) at 3am as they will do at 3pm.

Then back for a conversation with Mark Williams, which was pretty enlightening. Apparently we shouldn’t be that worried about the Leeds exam, which is reassuring but it is still very, very worrying. And Dan was telling me about how he’s got into all this modelling work in Japan just by signing up for a few agencies, which sounds like a decent racket and which I will look into.

And there you have it. A day in the life in Japan. It’s kind of the same as living anywhere else, except very, very different. And better.

One Night in Kichijoji

Trying to get back into this writing lark, now I have some time. It’s what I want to do, more than anything – it’s what drives me. I think I possibly explained before, but if I was a famous singer, I could lose my voice; if I was good at piano, I might not be able to afford one; were I a playwright, I still need actors and a stage. But being a writer, and specifically a novellist, it’s like you don’t need anything. You can write on a train or write on a mountain. You can write on a PC or scrawl it down on a napkin. Even if you’re completely paralysed you can still write.

The last days have been a little hectic. I was worried that I’d have nothing to do this holiday, but it’s been quite the opposite; karaoke on Wednesday, nomikai (drink-meet) on Thursday and then again last night. Everyone else sensibly went home before the stroke of midnight but Kaz and I, determined to make a proper Friday of it, ended up wandering around Kichijoji in the rain.

Kichijoji is a nice place, and it can be a pretty good spot for nightlife, but by midnight everyone sensible has gone on to Shinjuku and it was raining, so the town was kinda dead. Went to Hub for a few drinks, then an izakaya I’d been to before for a few more drinks, then got waylaid in a bizarre tiny shisha bar I’d noticed before, one which spills out on to the street under a plastic awning. The drinks were expensive, and the girls – well, I suspect they weren’t there for the atmosphere, if you get my drift – but it was kind of fun in a seedy underworld kind of way, the ten of us crammed into a tiny space on wooden stools, me alternately getting dripped on from the awning and having my ass grilled by the portable heater. Had it been more inside with the burly Sly Stallone-lookalike (right down to the porkpie hat!) between me and the exit, I might have been a little worried, but if they were running a dodgy clip joint it was an honorable dodgy clip joint where we were free to leave any time.

So we did. It was about 3am, and we had some time to kill before the first trains, so Kaz took me to this place he used to drink, and it was beautiful. It was an old-timey, Showa-era place, with vintage posters on the walls and that beautiful jazzy old Japanese music (I think ryūkōka?); you could imagine that it was the 1950s and you’d just got the new-fangled Chuo-line locomotive back from your labouring job in up-and-coming Shinjuku and decided to pop into your favourite haunt for a glass of nihonshu. It’s like a long-forgotten Tokyo, the Tokyo you see in old photographs. It was cheap, too, and I tried frog for the first time (exactly as Kaz said: like fish, only … like chicken).

So in the end, I spent a whole lot of money, but it was worth it because I learned stuff! I think I learned more Japanese just chatting to Kaz for a few hours than I do in a week of lessons. And such is the point of language learning, no?

Here’s the sunrise over Chofu airfield.


A little bird keeps visiting my balcony, which is nice. I leave out thawed frozen veg for him.

the beginning of spring break

Not a lot been happening here, though I’ve staved off holiday insanity for the last couple of days.

Friday saw a trip to the Tachikawa immigration office, which in punctual style I reached ten minutes before it closed. The staff were friendly for a change, although they started laughing at my file disconcertingly before putting a tiny sticker in my passport which entitles me to work 14 hours a week.
I got the train back from Tachikawa station to Musashi-koganei on the Chuo line (technically the Chuo Line (Rapid), the same thing and entirely different to the Chuo-Sobu Line, which is also identical to and nothing to do with the Chuo Main Line). I’d cycled to Musashi-koganei station to save the extortionate 150 yen fare on the Seibu Tamagawa line, which is the line we have to get from where we live to connect to the Chuo. It’s actually pretty quick to cycle to from TUFS (well, 20-30 minutes), and given that the Seibu Tamagawa line is such a ridiculous money-sink it makes a big difference.
Anyway, I studied in McDonalds for a while and then, not wanting to stay in on a Friday evening, met up with Miles and Ella for dinner and karaoke in Kichijoji. This was enjoyable. Saturday, I was going to go to this music bar in Shinjuku with Ella, Fran and our Korean friend Hime, but ultimately that was cancelled due to Expensiveness and we went to happy hour at Hub, the Japanese pub. Craftily, the pub had conspired to include some kind of chemical in our drinks which lowered our inhibitions and made us more likely to stay and purchase more drinks, even at post-happy hour prices, which we did. Nevertheless, a merry time was had.
Japan really doesn’t do the British pub culture thing very well, at least not in my experience. It’s all izakayas, where you sit in uncomfortable booths and have to eat stuff and then get cheated out on a service charge you didn’t know about. Hub’s nice, though. It’s a place to just relax and drink and watch the curling (where Japan beat GBR, although our team did look like they’d just wandered out of Asda).

Sunday, I found out that j-rocksters the pillows were playing the final gig of their current tour at Tokyo Dome or JCB Hall (or whatever it’s called) and nearly went. I cycled around to find a Lawson convenience store and struggled with their ticket-booking machine for five minutes, trying to find the gig before giving up. Plus I didn’t really have enough money. Plus there’ll be other opportunities to see those guys.

I’ve decided to start shopping at the Lawson 100, the logical successor to Shop 99 of my old 2007 days (though they’re owned by the same company, stock all the same products, and there’s a Shop 99 about five minutes away from my nearest Lawson 100). The eggs are tiny and the coffee disgusting, but the price is right.

And I’m trying to learn 20 kanji a day from Heisig. I tried 50 a day before and burned myself out completely. It’s pointless to do that many – you forget them as soon as you learn them. I should hopefully finish a few weeks before the Leeds exam in May, which I am plus unconfident about given that everyone else is worried.

Yeah, I still don’t know. I got it together briefly enough to barely pass the TUFS exam, but the Leeds one is an entirely different, more difficult thing altogether. I know my parents will be telling me to just get my head down and study, but it’s not that simple. It’s a language. It’s a wild, uncontrollable beast. You track it for a year and you’re no closer to catching it. You study it for hours and forget it all in a heartbeat. I don’t even know how to study it. And yet study I must.

Anyway, this is what I want my contacts to do in a couple of years.

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

Recent events! and natto

So what’s been going down? Not much, I don’t think. Due to my poor long-term memory, I generally have to reconstruct my life from photos I took and mails I received, Memento-style. This will probably be quite rambling.

Last week I seem to have watched Brother, by Takeshi Kitano (currently appearing in ads for some English teaching school), which was a bit pants, to be honest. It’s like Kitano has no idea how to direct Americans, so he asks them to wave their arms around and speak in expository dialogue at all times (it’s painful to watch the talented Omar Epps (of House fame) churn out such stilted dialogue). Nevertheless, the clash of Yakuza with LA is pretty fun to watch, even if it completely loses the plot in the last act.

Then I recorded a commercial for my speech class, where I played an influenza suffer who is cured by the magic of Japanese natto. I haven’t had natto in two years. It hasn’t got any better. I mean, it’s less of a vomit-inducing unpalatableness than I remember, but it’s just … unpleasant to eat.

I went to Shinjuku, where a chugger asked me for some money for charity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I give to charity and I think it’s the duty of everyone to make at least some kind of regular contribution. It’s just that I don’t give to charities I’ve never heard of. This guy, as most Japanese street collectors are, was collecting for places hit by heavy snow in Japan and while I certainly wouldn’t wish natural disasters on anyone, the fact is that I’d rather give my money to third-world nations rather than a first-world country with the second biggest economy in the world.

They obviously only pick on foreigners, because he called out to me in English. I feigned lack of comprehension, so he asked if I was Portuguese. I waved my hands and then gave up and popped a handful of change into his box.

Speaking of charities; you may wish to consider a donation to whistleblowing site Wikileaks, who have found themselves in a spot of financial bother. These guys are fighting for free speech, and not just in an abstract way; this site has brought about a lot of exposure on everything from Guantanamo Bay doctrine to the recent Carter-Ruck super-injuction.

The weekend was fun. Went for karaoke in Kichijoji with Kanako, Katy, Miles and Rob, sang the usual; bit of 80s Japanese punk, 90s Britpop, 00s rap.
karaoke kichijoji
karaoke kichijoji
Saturday wandered about Shinjuku with Katy and (eventually) went for ramen. I believe Chris wanted to see what people wear in Tokyo, so here we go:
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(and isn’t Flickr so much nicer than FB’s ultra-JPEG?)

In the evening, headed to Musashi-Sakai to meet Rob and Miles where we feasted upon Subway sandwiches and bought dairy products from a local combini and ate them on a bench outside a hairdressers for reasons I can no longer remember.

And now it’s today! It snowed last night, so I went to ICU today and we had a little bit of a snowball fight. Then I got the Specials album off iTunes (it makes it so easy to whittle away all your money in tiny chunks, doesn’t it) and am thoroughly enjoying all the tracks I have sort of picked up from cultural osmosis.

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