Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
Rather a lot of Curry
A stew by any other name...
Last Day in Hiroshima
At Home with the Moriwakis
Off Site Meeting
Leaving Do Number 1 of Approximately 140
Respect the Aged Day
Big Fish in a Small Pond
How many beans make five?
Working at Home
The Other Side of Tokyo
Gifu and Nagoya
A Very Interesting Toilet
Movies on Demand
Rounding Off the Weekend
Leon, Shinjuku and Takaosan
Leon, Gav and Stu in Tokyo
- [Friday 29th September]
Nothing to report really. Work was pretty uneventful, as was the evening. I made a rather intense pasta sauce for dinner - a rich tomato and olive sauce with lots of onion and garlic (and cooked in garlic flavoured olive oil, no less).
Errr, that's it really.
- Rather a lot of Curry
- [Thursday 28th September]
My current assignment at work means that most days I am very busy in the mornings and in the early afternoon, and it isn't always that easy to get away from my desk. So lunch has often become a very brief affair - just a snack grabbed from the very limited selection available in the supermarket next door to the office. In addition, with TK not coming into the office at the moment I don't have my usual "lunch buddy" around, and I always feel a bit awkward about going and sitting in a restaurant by myself.
Today though I was really hungry, and fed up with the food from the supermarket next door, so decided I would go out and get a proper lunch, even if I did have to go by myself. So I went to the place near the office that does a lunchtime all-you-can-eat of mixed Asian cuisine (some Indian, some Thai, some Indonesian and so on), which has a couple of vegetarian curries usually. As is the way of all-you-can-eat buffets, I ended up eating more-than-I-really-should-eat, after which I waddled back to the office and spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to stay awake.
I had arranged to go out with TK in the evening, but had left all the planning to him. I had a feeling what was coming - he had of course arranged for us to go out for a curry.
Actually the place was very nice - a restuarant TK often goes to in Harajuku, he seems to know the Nepalese guy who runs it. However, I have to admit two curries in one day was a bit of a struggle for me. By the end of the evening my stomach was making all sorts of unusual noises (although I wasn't actually in any real pain), and no doubt there were some interesting odours arising as a result.
Still, at least I didn't go hungry!
- A stew by any other name...
- [Wednesday 27th September]
Having worked at home last Friday, and taken the first two days of this week off to have a long weekend in Hiroshima, it meant that in total I hadn't been out of the office for five rather glorious days. I think one of the things I dislike most about my current job is literally just the office itself - it is such a gloomy and unpleasant place to work, with a perpetually oppressive atmosphere hanging around in the air.
So having had a really good break from that environment felt really great, and today was actually pretty manageable as a result - besides anything else it's a lot easier to be in good spirits at the start of your working week when you are already half way through it!
The weather seems to have skipped autumn and gone straight to winter here - it was pretty cold and wet today, and for the first time for probably six months I decided to wear a jumper. As a result of this, in the evening I fancied something hearty and warming for dinner, so I made what I loosely describe as a mediterranean stew. I have a few different stew recipes I've been refining whilst here in Japan. In terms of the actual vegetables that go in, they're generally all more or less the same - just whatever comes to hand really. It's only really the sauce that varies. Tonight's was what I call a mediterranean stew - not sure if this is any kind of real dish. So for this one the sauce is largely olive oil and tomatoes, perhaps a splash of red wine, and lots of Herbes de Provence (actually really lots this time - I had a bit of an accident whilst administering them, and they're kind of hard to take back out again!). Anyway, as my Dad would say, "although I say so myself" it was rather good. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold and wet September evening.
- Last Day in Hiroshima
- [Tuesday 26th September]
Today was the last day of our long weekend in Hiroshima. Our train back to Tokyo was booked for 4PM, so we had the morning and afternoon to do various bits and pieces. We spent most of the morning hanging around Chie's family's apartment before heading out just before lunchtime.
Most of the afternoon was spent trapsing round the centre of Hiroshima on wedding planning related duties. It occurred to me how remarkably short my patience was with this kind of thing! We looked at a couple of hotels, restaurants etc which had rooms that could be hired out, but none really jumped out as a great venue to me (especially considering the price!). However, one interesting sounding plan for the reception did present itself - there's a company which offers chartered cruises around the sea inbetween Miyajima (the island where the ceremony will be) and Hiroshima port on the mainland. This almost instantly became my number one favourite plan - a lot more fun than just a gloomy banquet hall in some hotel. The initial quote we got was a little off-putting though, but Chie is determined to see how much she can haggle them down to - after all, at the time of day we are asking, the boat would otherwise be moored in the dock doing nothing. So we'll see.
Also as part of the wedding preparation stuff, I tried on the traditional Japanese costume that I would probably be wearing for the ceremony. I didn't look quite as rediculous as I had anticipated. The costume hire fee for the day is, seemingly like everything else wedding related in Japan, quite extortionate. However, Chie seems pretty keen that this is the one area we're not going to compromise on. I suppose it would look kind of rediculous if we just wore regular suits and dresses, given the venue for the ceremony and everything. Although I didn't want to admit it to Chie at the time, once I put my costume on, I did actually think to myself - wow, this is pretty cool. I think secretly I quite like dressing up for special occasions - it reminded me a bit of my graduation robes. I guess it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have this kind of ceremony, with all the traditional trimmings, and so I have to admit my original hardline attitude to the money etc is beginning to weaken a bit.
So after all of that, we got on the Shinkansen at 4 and headed back to Tokyo. The four hour trip is a bit of a drag, especially towards the end, but at least it is very smooth and comfortable - I think I even managed to get a bit of sleep, which is pretty unusual for me on the train.
- [Monday 25th September]
Went for a day out to Yamaguchi, the neighbouring prefecture to Hiroshima. The main event was to go and see the Akiyoshido Caves, which I have to admit were rather spectacular. Unfortunately given the difficult lighting conditions the resulting pictures are a bit of a disappointment - but in a sense that makes it all the more worthwhile having actually visited in person.
Not only were the caves themselves very impressive, but as an added bonus, after visiting the caves we also went up to see the hills on top of the cave complex. There were lots of limestone rocks protruding from the ground, and it wasn't the usual forest covered mountain landscape you see in Japan - if anything it was a somewhat English looking panorama. Very nice indeed.
On the way back to Hiroshima we also fit in a visit to Rurikoji, a temple in Yamaguchi city itself (well, more or less).
- At Home with the Moriwakis
- [Sunday 24th September]
I had taken my laptop with me to Hiroshima as I needed to work this morning. Chie left me to it, and went out to meet a friend for lunch. In fact Chie ended up gone all day. As I was finished with my work by around 2PM I was left in the slightly unusual position of spending the afternoon with Chie's family but without Chie there.
When Chie finally returned in the evening, Chie's Mum prepared the bits and pieces for a temaki sushi dinner - temaki being the DIY self assembly one.
There are a surprising number of ingredients one can use to make vegetarian sushi. Tonight I had avocado, hawasabi (leaves from the wasabi plant), umi budo (a type of seaweed - literally translates as "sea grapes"), tamago yaki (rolled Japanese omelette), umeboshi (sour pickled plums), as well as some kimchi on the side (not particularly Japanese, or for that matter a normal constituent of any kind of sushi, but I just like it).
- Itsukushima Jinja
- [Saturday 23rd September]
The main event of the day was visiting the Itsukushima Jinja (jinja means shrine - a shinto temple) on Miyajima. We're planning to hold the Japanese ceremony of our international marriage extravaganza there in December, and the people who run the shrine had suggested we go along and watch somebody else's wedding first to make sure it was the sort of thing we wanted.
We also took the opportunity whilst on Miyajima to look around for a place to hold the first reception after the ceremony. It wasn't all that successful The first place just gave the impression they were determined to take as much money from us as possible. The second place seemed sort of disinterested and a bit vague, but gave the general impression they'd want to bleed us dry having caught a whiff of the fact that it was in some way connected with a wedding. The third place looked a lot more promising - they didn't actually have wedding service there, which I found instantly appealing. If you try to book out a banquet hall for 30 or 40 people for a meal and a few drinks for any occasion other than a weddding, it seems to be massively cheaper - as soon as the word wedding appears anywhere in the arrangements then that thing happens like on old cartoons - there's a cher-ching sound and you see little dollar symbols appear in the salesman's eyes. Magically additional costs start to creep in from nowhere, and before you know it, the simple meal for a group of close family and friends is costing you your life's savings.
Unfortunately we then later found out that the third place is run by the Japanese mafia. Personally I didn't have a problem with going ahead on that basis, since they seemed so much better than the others... but I think Chie was definitely put off.
After leaving Miyajima we went to have dinner at an Italian restaurant back on the mainland. This was also listed as a possible reception venue, but it quickly got removed from the shortlist due to the really crappy service we received this evening.
So, a tad frustratingly we haven't been able to make a great deal of progress on deciding where to hold the reception thing... Still I'm sure we'll work something out.
On a completely unrelated note, we had a conversation about the English language over dinner which I found quite interesting. There are lots of words to do with using your eyes in English which all have a very similar meaning but with subtle nuances - look, see, stare, gaze, peek and watch all mean basically the same thing, but you'd use different ones depending on the situation. It was hard to explain exactly what the difference was though - I guess it is one of those things that native English speakers just know, without ever really thinking about.
- [Friday 22nd September]
We were off to spend a long weekend - four nights - in Hiroshima. So just after seven we got on the Shinkansen from Tokyo, for the four hour trip to the Western part of the main island.
I like the shinkansen very much indeed - and am completely against the alternative of domestic flights on a number of levels... However, a four hour journey is still a four hour journey, and given that it was dark and so we couldn't watch the scenery go by, it did start to drag a bit after the first hour or so.
Anyway, eventually some time after 11 we arrived in Hiroshima. To save Chie's Mum having to come out and pick us up late at night, and also because due to some crazy package deal it actually worked out cheaper, we had decided to stay the first night in a hotel in the centre of Hiroshima. The hotel wasn't much to write home about, but on the plus side being in the centre did give us a chance to go for a late bite to eat and a drink on our arrival. So Chie and I headed over to an American style bar/grill place called The Shack, which we both rather like, and enjoyed one of their fine vegetarian tofu burgers each - plus of course a beer and some fries to accompany it.
- Off Site Meeting
- [Thursday 21st September]
Given that TK isn't coming to the office regularly at the moment (he's working on other projects elsewhere) we seem to be falling into a habit of arranging weekly "off site meetings". I'm not sure if this is terminology only used in my company, but it basically seems to be a code word for going out drinking.
Anyway, we had dinner at the same okonomiyaki place in Shinjuku I'd been to a couple of weeks ago. After that we went on to a whisky bar called Refrain, and had a very nice chat with the barman there about all things malt related. I felt the usual slight pang of guilt for going to any whisky bar other than Watanabe-san's place in Ikebukuro, but I justified it to myself in that it was a simple practicality of our location.
Anyway - just like every other night out with TK, it was a very pleasant evening.
- Leaving Do Number 1 of Approximately 140
- [Wednesday 20th September]
At lunchtime today I got chatting to a couple of guys on my team, and somehow or other the fact that I was going to leave the company slipped out. This then somehow translated into the fact that we absolutely had to go out drinking that evening. Who am I to disagree?
So we had a very nice evening out in Chofu, the suburb of Tokyo where our office is. We spent the first couple of hours in an Irish pub there, knocking back pints British style, then went from there for a thoroughly decent karaoke session.
One of my particular favourites of the evening was a rendition of a Tagalog (i.e. from the Philippines) song called something like Sino Sayo (although I can't remember for sure). Me and one of my colleagues who hails from the US turned it into a duet. Naturally, neither of us can speak a word of Tagalog, but we gave it a very determined go, and I think the results were quite tear jerking.
- [Tuesday 19th September]
It was a very boring and uneventful day at work, but despite (or perhaps because of) this I found myself increasingly irate towards the end of the day. On leaving the office, I was ignored by the security guard (there's usually a customary "otsukaresama desu"), which only seemed to make matters worse. By the time I got home I was quite fuming.
I'd downloaded that Arctic Monkeys album the previous day. I'm dimly aware they were super popular recently in the UK, but that hype certainly hasn't manifested in Japan in any way I've noticed. So I just approached it with an open mind, and have quite enjoyed it - especially when in a bit of an agitated state of mind like this evening.
Gradually as the evening wore on my pointless bout of anger subsided. We ordered in pizza for dinner, which I washed down with a couple of nice cold beers. I think the combination probably did the trick and improved my state of mind significantly.
- Respect the Aged Day
- [Monday 18th September]
Today was a national holiday in Japan - "Respect the Aged Day". Chie and I didn't really do anything specifically along this theme (although we're planning to visit Chie's grandparents the following weekend), but instead spent most of the day just slobbing around and not doing all that much.
We ate a late lunch of leftover red wine stew and cous cous - a combination which worked surprisingly well. I think we then popped out to do a bit of shopping after that, just to by stuff for dinner mainly. When we got back there was a rather nice sunset to be seen from the balcony, so I took a few snaps of it with my new camera. Like all digital cameras I've seen, when taking shots of sunsets the colours you get are quite different to the actual reality, but still nice in their own way. Strangely the entirely automatic default settings seemed to do a far better job than the purpose made "sunset mode".
Chie made gyoza for dinner, which were very nice as always.
Not much else to report really - just a very lazy day off work!
- Big Fish in a Small Pond
- [Sunday 17th September]
Again I worked in the morning - I seem to have landed a bit of a bum deal with my current assignment - however I had to bring it to a swift conclusion around 12 as we had plans for the afternoon. We were going to meet Chie's friend Enomoto-san and his wife Yuko-san, and go to visit an aquarium in Tokyo.
I'm not totally sure aquariums are really my thing, especially as this place was so crowded and it was kind of hard to actually see anything in a lot of the tanks, other than the backs of a lot of other people's heads. Still, on the plus side they did have a penguin pool, and I have to admit to having a bit of a soft spot for those little chaps.
After leaving the aquarium the four of us headed back into the centre of Tokyo, to an area called Shiodome. There was some kind of big tall building there with a few floors of shops and restaurants. We had the usual awkward and embarassing struggle to find anything even vaguely vegetarian, and eventually settled on Indian. For once it was an Indian restaurant in Japan that didn't actually look all that grotty. On the downside though it was a bit overpriced, and the two vegetable main dishes we ordered were pretty disappointing really, considering what they cost. Still, it was sustenance I suppose, and the main point was to go there and have a chat with Enomoto-san, a friend of Chie's from her university days. I'd met him two or three times before but it had almost always been just in passing, so this was probably the first time we'd had a chance to really have a proper chinwag.
Chie stopped off in Shinjuku on the way back to do a bit of late night shopping. I was feeling pretty tired though so headed home ahead of her. I found myself checking on work stuff when I got back, and it occurred to me that the ability to work from home is in fact something of a double edged sword - sure it means you can get away from the office, but it also means that getting away from the office no longer equals getting away from you job. Oh well, having said that, I've got less than 3 months left to go now, and I suppose in a way it would be nice to leave them with a good impression of what a trooper I was right up until the end.
- How many beans make five?
- [Saturday 16th September]
Actually I worked in the morning today - but thanks to the remote access thingy I didn't have to go into the office so it wasn't too bad.
In the afternoon Chie and I headed out for a spot of lunch, and then a bit of shopping. I had decided to finally get around to cooking the dried beans I'd bought on a previous trip to the US - and make one of my favourite recipes, Boston Baked Beans. So after we got back from shopping I got down to some serious "George's Marvellous Medecine" style cooking - the recipe involves quite a lot of ingredients and I usually make a large batch in a big couldron style pot - it feels a lot like concocting a potion or something.
We also bought a DVD back with us - a Japanese film called Uchoten Hotel which we watched in bits throughout the course of the afternoon. It was surprisingly entertaining, as the IMDB entry says it was a bit like Fawlty Towers I suppose (in that it is a kind of farce set in a hotel) but distinctly Japanese, and yet with a sense of humour that I could actually get for once. Very good indeed.
In the evening we got a call from Haruka-kun, who was at a loose end, so we arranged to meet up and go to nearby "Okinawa Town" - basically just a small street and a couple of alleyways with a few Okinawan shops and restaurants on. We went to the same izakaya place I'd been to once before with Shig from work. In addition to the obligatory Orion beer, I enjoyed a few Okinawan specialities including some interesting types of tempura (rakyu - a kind of pickled onion, and some kind of tofu/seaweed combination) as well as some peanut tofu and some umi budo (a kind of seaweed). When this place eventually closed we went to a nearby shop and bought a few more cans of Orion, to take back to our apartment. We spent the evening chatting with Haruka-kun on a whole range of topics, and it was probably about 2:30 by the time we eventually decided to call it a night.
- Working at Home
- [Friday 15th September]
This week I'd finally managed to get the remote access thing working for my company, and so today I took advantage of the opportunity to try out working from home. My current assignment requires lots of communication with people in the US, but pretty much none with any of my colleagues in Tokyo. Given that from the office all I'd be doing is connecting remotely to a PC in the US, it occurred to me I could just as well do this job from home.
If I were to sum up the experience of working from home in a single word, then that word would have to be luxurious.
First of all not having to go through all the usual routine in the morning associated with going to work. Comparatively speaking I have a fairly short commute - about 45 minutes each way door to door. Still though that accounts for 1 and a half hours out of each day which is effectively wasted time, which only adds to the attraction of working from home.
The office I work in is a big open plan room, split up by high partitions, which means we can't really communciate with other teams, but we can easily be disturbded by them, and we feel we have to whisper all the time so as not to get on other people's nerves. Add to that the fact that it is a bit dim and dingy (not many windows) and not very imaginatively decorated and altogether I find it a bit of a dreary environment to work in.
So by contrast it was great to work at home, with the window open and my music of choice playing, no concern of annoying the other teams, but still with all my colleagues only an email/IM/phone call away if I needed them.
It also meant I could have a proper lunch for once, I could drink reasonable tasting water without having to pay for it (at the office it's either tap water or bottled water from the vending machine), and even pushed the boat out a bit and fit in a bit of a nap after lunch.
All in all it was quite luxurious. Not sure if it is something I could do every day - let's be honest you don't ever manage quite the same level of productivity working from home - but as an occasional break from the crappy work environment I have to put up with, it was most welcome.
- The Other Side of Tokyo
- [Thursday 14th September]
Tonight I'd arranged to go out with TK - he wanted to take me to his friend's restaurant near Asakusa. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but went along with an open mind anyway.
We met up around 7 in front of Sensoji, the main tourist attraction in Asakusa (actually almost the only real tourist attraction in Tokyo). We had our first quick drink of the evening in nearby Kamiya bar as it is a bit of a favourite of mine. Strangely, despite being less than a minute's walk from the tourist ridden Sensoji, Kamiya feels very Japanese indeed - on the three times I've been in I've always been the only non-Japanese person in the place, and the other customers are not just Japanese but very Japanese. A bit hard to put what I'm trying to say into words, but I'm sure if you ever went there you'd know what I was talking about. Izakayas in Japan can often be a bit superficial, and you generally sit at your table with your group of friends in complete isolation from everyone else. Kamiya, on the other hand, is a free-for-all - we almost always end up sharing a table with some complete strangers. The atmosphere is really lively too - I would heartily recommend it for anyone in Japan wanting to experience something a tad more genuine.
Anyway, after our quick visit to Kamiya we got in a taxi to head over to the evening's main venue - the restaurant owned by TK's friend Kobayashi-san. Actually to my slight embarassment I didn't actually catch the name of the place. It was in a very traditional hanamachi district near to Asakusa which apparently has lots of ryoutei - a type of very traditional (and expensive!) Japanese restaurant.
Whilst this place was apparently not a full blown ryoutei, it did seem very traditional to me - we sat on the floor (tatami of course) at a small table, in a little room with those paper panelled sliding doors. Kobayashi-san's chef prepared a special menu for us, having been prewarned about me being vegetarian, and so we dined on lots of interesting little vegetable side dishes, and a set of excellent vegetable tempura.
Upon seeing the tempura, TK half shouted "MATSUTAKE?!?!?" - apparently this variety of mushroom is somewhat expensive, and tonight was TK's treat. Sorry mate!
Later on in the evening, to my surprise, a couple of bona fide geisha arrived - I didn't think these people really existed any more, outside of Kyoto at least. TK said that many of the nearby ryoutei had geisha working there, and that really made this feel like a whole side of Tokyo I had never seen before - almost like a step back in time. TK referred to one of the geisha as his second mother, she was a charming lady who persuaded us both to drink a whole load of suspect beverages I would normally steer well clear of on a school night. Sho chu just doesn't seem to mix well with anything else - in fact even sho chu with more sho chu seems to be a recipe for disaster.
We rounded off the evening with a final drink at a bar called Barley, which, as you might expect from the name, had a fairly respectable selection of malts (although of course, my loyalty in this area still rests very firmly with Quercus).
I really did feel like I'd seen another side of Japan tonight, which was quite fascinating. A slightly cruel irony that life here gets suddenly more interesting just after I've made a decision to leave!
- Two Years
- [Wednesday 13th September]
Today actually marked two years since Chie and I got engaged (although the entry from two years ago rather glosses over this fact, as does the entry from one year ago). So I suppose it is kind of appropriate that this week we've finally got round to starting all the bureaucracy involved in actually getting married.
We were going to go out for dinner or something to mark the occasion, but Chie wasn't feeling so well, so we chose instead to postpone for another night. The previous day the summer had appeared to suddenly just end, very abruptly. It went from being still quite warm to being rather dismal, cold, wet and windy. I wonder if that might have been partly to blame for Chie not feeling all that well.
I made a red wine stew for dinner, a meal I thought was quite appropriate for the somewhat dreary weather. Whilst I say the weather was dreary, I think on balance I probably prefer cold and wet to the usual hot and humid of the summer here in Japan. Cold and wet is more, well, British sort of weather.
I also spent a large part of the evening fixing Photo Studio. It didn't really work properly with the image files from my new camera which meant I couldn't really go through the usual process to put those images on the web. The root of the problem seemed to be that Casio cameras actually store two thumbnail images inline in each JPEG file, rather than the usual one you get with the EXIF standard. I came up with a simple fix that at least let the program ignore the second thumbnail properly, so the program could continue to do rotations, scaling etc with images from my new camera.
I've thought a few times recently how it might be nice to start Photo Studio again from scratch, I'd like to have a cross platform version that could work on the Mac and be a lot more straightforward to use. In reality though this is not all that likely to happen unless I one day have the opportunity to do something like this in a commercial capacity, and I doubt that's really going to happen.
- Big Day
- [Tuesday 12th September]
Today was a bit of a big day, on two counts (many of you will know of these announcements already, but anyway they need recording here for propsperity...):
1) In the morning I went to the British Embassy to to arrange our notice of marriage - yes that's right, me and Chie are finally going to get married this year. We're going to have two ceremonies, one in Japan (provisional date is December 8th, and venue will hopefully be Miyajima's Itsukushima Shrine), and another in the UK in the new year (date and venue still to be determined).
2) After returning from the Embassy I gave my boss a call, and told him I would be leaving the company. I'd been worrying about this conversation for some time, but actually he was really good about it. Given current project timescales etc I offered them a three month notice period, so the current leaving date I'm working to is December 15th.
So, again, I think most of you know this already, but the plan is to move back to the UK at the end of this year. Japan's been a great experience and all that, and as my Dad said over the phone I'm sure once I leave I'll start realising there are actually a lot of things I'm going to miss.... but after giving it much thought I've decided that, for the forseeable future at least, this isn't really where I want to be.
Right. Well I think that's all significant enough that I don't need to fill in today's entry by telling you what I had for dinner (although incidentally it was a kind of macaroni cheese with broccoli, which, though I say so myself, came out rather well).
- [Monday 11th September]
Actually the title is a reference to the weekend before last - in one of the bars we went to in Shinjuku we got a guy to take our picture, and rather than the usual "Cheeeeese!" he shouted "Streeeeeeeeess!", which we all rather liked.
Comparatively speaking today wasn't quite the most stressful day I've ever had at work, but I did find myself getting increasingly wound up as the day wore on. Three of the management team (including my direct manager) were supposed to be over from the US for a round of meetings this week. I was very keen to take the opportunity to have a good chat with my manager about my future (or lack thereof) at the company. However, whilst the other two guys arrived as expected, my manager had to cancel at the last minute. So I'd sort of built myself up for a big speech, and then wasn't able to deliver it... which was pretty frustrating.
It seems Shig was also feeling the strain a little, so we decided after work to try and let off some steam. We went to a couple of izakayas first, and then went for something of a karaoke blow-out - I think we went well beyond the usual hour, and possibly it was more than two in the end.
It was interesting to me to analyse the difference in choices of songs that me and Shig chose for the purposes of relieving stress. Mine were all pretty shouty and occasionally angry (Nirvana's Lithium, Blur's Song 2, etc etc) whereas Shig chose songs that were energetic but, without wanting to put them down, of the "feel good" variety. Not sure if this is a cultural difference or just because we like different types of music, but now I think about it I don't think I've ever really heard any shouty angry music in Japan - most people here just don't seem to go in for that sort of thing.
Oh, and I sang "Puff the Magic Dragon", just to even up the karmic balance a bit.
- [Sunday 10th September]
One thing about staying up until 9AM (more or less) is that you're probably going to want a bit of a lie-in the next day. Actually the weekend plans worked out rather well - even before I had made plans to go to Nagoya, Chie had already arranged to go to an Onsen with a couple of friends. So Chie was away from Saturday morning until early Sunday evening, which meant I could happily sleep my way through most of the day today without fear of complaint.
Chie got back from her trip around 6PM, not long after I got up, and then I made a Japanese curry for dinner. We then wiled away most of the rest of the evening watching some obscure film from Gyao, whose name escapes me.
- Gifu and Nagoya
- [Saturday 9th September]
So, Leon, Gav and Stu were still in Japan, having moved on from Tokyo on Monday to spend the remaining part of their trip based in Nagoya. As I didn't have much to do I thought it would be nice to go and join them for a final evening out before they headed back to Blighty.
Also into the bargain I'd arranged to travel to Nagoya with Shig, my friend from work, who would then spend the afternoon showing me around neighbouring Gifu - his home town.
[Click here to read more...]
- [Friday 8th September]
For no particular reason I was in the mood for going out for a slap-up meal tonight. So after work we decided to head over to the little Italian place near to our apartment. We've been a couple of times before, and the food is always good, but tonight it seemed especially good - I had a very nice pizza and also what I think is their best dish - gnocchi with porcini. Very rich indeed. We even pushed the boat out and had dessert - I can't remember the name of what I had, but it was basically a cup of espresso and a lump of ice cream - the idea being you pour the hot espresso over the ice cream. Sounds a bit of a mess but it was actually very nice.
When we got back home, we watched a Studio Ghibli film about raccoons. I was surprised by just how much enjoyed it - albeit a bit odd and even a bit macabre in places.
- [Thursday 7th September]
Had a meeting at the end of the working day at my company's other Tokyo office (only my second time to go there actually) with a co-worker from another division to talk about the state of the broadcast industry in Japan. After the meeting we decided to go out for dinner around Shinjuku, and settled on the okonomiyaki place I'd been to once before. I had a suprisingly hard time finding it again, but we got there in the end, and I hope my fellow diners deemed it worth the effort - I at least enjoyed it very much.
We also popped into my manager's favourite karaoke bar, which happens to be just around the corner from the okonomiyaki place. No singing tonight though - just a quick drink and then back home at a respectable time.
This was also my first proper night out with the new camera. I think it will take a bit of getting used to - I'm not sure I'm totally overawed with the initial results, but perhaps there are settings that still need to be fiddled with.
- A Very Interesting Toilet
- [Wednesday 6th September]
TK hasn't been in the office so much recently as he's largely been working on other things elsewhere of late. Today was the only day he came in this week, and it was great as it was largely a sociable visit - we had coffee in the morning, went to lunch (at, err, lunchtime), and then after work went for a few drinks.
We went to a café/bar called Buns in the evening. It is interesting to me because it has an unusual toilet - unusual in that it is more like stepping into the bathroom in someone's house rather than the kind of functional and spartan affair you normally find in bars. It has been quite extensively decorated - more so than the rest of the bar - and has a number of articles of unnecessary furniture, as well as posters on the wall and ornaments on shelves. A bit hard to describe.
Reflecting on this, there seems to be a very wide range in the standard of conveniences found in Japan - they have everything from the grottiest and most unpleasant of squat style facilities, to the super high tech (featuring buttons I am always far too frightened to try out), the impossibly clean and, like this place, the delightfully eccentric.
I still enjoy the signs you get in some places saying "Western Style Toilet", although to this date I have yet to encounter the group of gun-toting cowboys that I'm generally expecting.
- Nachos Gracias
- [Tuesday 5th September]
I made Nachos for dinner. Well, sort of. I made a vegetarian chilli, put it on top of some tortilla chips, then melted some cheese over the top. Oh and a bit of token salad on the side.
Not much else to report really.
- Movies on Demand
- [Monday 4th September]
Nothing much to report really. Spent most of the evening watching a film called Stealing Beauty, via a Japanese website called Gyao, which lets you watch movies for free, but with occasional advert breaks (which you can't skip over or anything). As you might expect, it doesn't tend to have particularly well known films on there generally, but actually it is interesting now and again to watch these more independent type of productions. To be honest the adverts don't bother me that much - it is nice to have the ocassional break to go and get a drink, or pop to the toilet or whatever.
I'm not sure I was that taken with this particular film, but certainly the Tuscan scenery and so on was all very nice.
Dinner was a very simple affair - had kimchi ramen, which took approximately five minutes to cook. Took a few pictures whilst cooking using my new camera....
- Rounding Off the Weekend
- [Sunday 3rd September]
This was Leon, Gav and Stu's last full day in Tokyo, before heading on to Nagoya. Following the excesses of the previous two days, we had all converged on the same vague plan to just take it easy in the daytime, and maybe meet up for a quiet dinner in the evening. So we met around 7 in Shibuya, and to my surprise there were just two of them - Gav and Stu. Apparently Leon wasn't feeling all that great (I can't possibly imagine why) and so had decided to just stay in bed all day.
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- Leon, Shinjuku and Takaosan
- [Saturday 2nd September]
Chie and I spent most of the day with just Leon - the other two were off doing their own things.
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- Leon, Gav and Stu in Tokyo
- [Friday 1st September]
Three of my friends from England (Canterbury to be precise) were visiting Japan for a week or two, and starting off their trip with a weekend in Tokyo. Although I had seen Gav shortly before leaving England in Spring 2005, I don't think I'd seen Leon or Stu for 2 years (see here and here). So it was really spectacular to have this chance to catch up.
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