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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

**Added photos are just randomly placed and don't nesc. correspond with their location within the post...**

So I went to China Town and Motomachi today, for two different weekender pieces. Both are sub areas of Yokohama, which is on the south (I think?) end of Tokyo, although it's considered to be it's own city of 3.1 million people (the largest city besides Tokyo). I get the feeling a lot of people consider it to be a big suburb of the city, but I'm not really sure. It's where the port is, and should you be lucky enough to come to Tokyo via cruise ship, that's where you might expect to end up docking.

Anyway, its a fair trek from Shibuya-about an hour on a Limited or Commuter express train (very glad I avoided the local trains!) The station spits you right out into China town basically, which was decorated, as they all are, with big lanterns hanging on the streets and red street signs. It was a little bit weird, because the other china towns I've been to, you go from being able to read and understand everything to being able to read and understand very little... Here, I went from very little, to even less (there was basically no English in China town!) Compared to Toronto's china town, it was very clean and orderly, but I guess you might expect that here, there is a definite sense you are still in Japan even in the heart of China town.

There are four gates which surround the town, each one represents something different, and they were all lovely, as was the large temple (shrine?) which I took some pictures of... There are sooooo many restaurants in this area, it's absolutely overwhelming! I'm sure some are fantastic, some good, some terrible, etc. but unless you know someone who knows the area, I wouldn't even begin to know where to start looking! I ended up going to Daska, a should be great but is only marginal China 'theme park/museum' which has two floors of different stands of Chinese food (food theme parks are kind of big here, I like the idea a lot!) Anyway, I got some kind of noodles, which were pretty close to ramen, with dumplings in them (that I think had shrimp in them) and then bok choy floating around in there too. It was pretty good, but after I wished I'd gotten something a little bit less ramenish and more Chineseish.

I went to the street vendor they had outside, and got the variety pack of meat in dough... There was a little dough ball filled with pork (bozu), and then a couple of bundles of wonton style wrappings around ground meat with some veggies, and then some rice with chunks of meat wrapped tightly in a large bamboo leaf. It was all very tasty, even if I'm not quite sure what everything was! I'll have to try and google it tomorrow when I'm trying to write about it - I took pictures for reference! The actual museum part of the place was disapointing for a non Japanese speaker - its like a display of China towns around the world, and it looked pretty interesting, but there was noooo English anywhere! For something sooooo patently touristy (think Disney does China) I think it should be a little bit more bilingual! There also wasn't very much there for an 'All of China' display.

Anyway, I poked around all the streets for awhile trying to get a feel for the place - there were people selling these dough balls filled with meat or bean paste everywhere, and also roasted Chestnut vendors at every turn. I didn't realise those were of significance to China, but they certainly seem to be! I was handed one to try by someone and it was pretty good - dense and meaty and a little bit sweet. I've never had one before, and while I'm not sure I'd like a whole bag, I enjoyed the morsel!

After a few hours there, I headed about one block over to Motomachi shopping street, which is veeery posh! Its a little bit different from Omotesando or Roppongi Hills though, because I think a lot more of the shops are one off, or Japanese brands I didn't recognize as opposed to Tiffany's or whatever. I saw one place selling Abercrombie and Fitch sweaters for about 330$, which really makes me want to start importing them! All of the dogs here are dressed to the nines and I saw a couple of stores catering to them! There were some pretty great one off boutiques with pretty funky stuff, where I might consider shopping if I wanted to pay upwards of 100$ on a t shirt or something!

The whole area feels very European, with narrow cobblestone streets, french, Italian and German restaurants, patisseries, etc. It's actually very nice, and I can see why it has the reputation of being like Rodeo Drive, it certainly feels monied!

I headed up the hill away from that street a little bit to a different part of Motomatchi, heading past the foreigners cemetery (basically not open to the general public), where western style graves flow down a hill and have a fantastic view of Yokohama. It was a lovely setting (you can see into it, just not walk into it)

Then I went to the Harbour View Park, where I did indeed get a great view of the Harbour, and could see as far as Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo Tower. It was a gorgeous (t-shirt weather!) day today, which made everything all the more lovely. The park design is very European, and there are several houses which have remained from the original European settlers which you can go inside. I went inside one, which was gorgeous (completely western) with amazing wood detailing. There was an amazing pianist playing, and I was surprised, because there was no entrance fee, and it doesn't seem like a busy attraction at all. It turns out that the guy, who was maybe in his early twenties, was just a visitor who'd sat down and began playing at (I'm pretty sure) a professional concert level. When he was finished, he got up, stretched, and headed out with his friends to continue sightseeing or whatever - good timing!

There are a few book and literature related museums up there that I'll have to check out at some point, but today I headed back down to Motomatchi to stop in at Tomei's, a Napa Valley wine bar to chat with the owners and do a mini profile on them as part of the Motomatchi piece in Weekender.

By this point, it was close to five, so I grabbed a bun from the bakery which had a line out the door earlier (I figured that was a good sign!) and then jumped back on a train to head home...

By seven, when Peter got home I was very droopy to the point of almost falling asleep, so when he walked down to the eki to meet a friend, I commandeered his laptop and walked down there with him, to get some food and write the (very) rough draft of the article about the woman we interviewed yesterday...

Whew - pretty long day today! Will amend with photos once I get some downloaded off the camera in the next day or two for work...


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I left the house at 8 this morning (after a Circle K milk run no less), in order to bike to the Embassy before it opened at 9 to apply for my passport. I decided to just use the terrible pictures - the photo place wasn't open before 9 anyway, and not that many people are going to see that picture, so it shouldn't matter that much. (I may regret this over the next five years though!)

In the end, I got to the embassy about 10 minutes before it opened, and then when I got down to the passport office, I discovered that part is only open from 9:30-11:30! Luckily they had comfy couches and a vending machine, so I waited until 9:37 when they pulled up their shutters and handed in all of my forms and everything. It was all much more efficent once they opened than in Victoria, especially now - I've been seeing crazy lines on the news as people rush to get their passports before the US regulations go into effect (and screw over Canadian tourism, but anyway...)

Once I filled in the missing blanks, etc. It was about 9:55 -l uckily the embassy is close to work! I ended up being about 10 minutes late, but I stayed late, so it was OK.

I got a ton of assignments at work today, all relating to China Town (we have a China special coming up) - I'm writing something about China Town tomorrow which will possibly be the feature, and otherwise will be the travel section, and then I'm also doing the 'On my Street' (but not MY street), working on the kids pages, and writing up the sports article. I get to go to Yokohama/China Town tomorrow to spend the whole day doing research which will be a fun field trip :)

I spent the morning doing preliminary research on China Town (and discovered that there is a ramen museum in Tokyo where you can go try lots of different kinds of ramen, I def. have to do that!)

After lunch, Anthony and I went to Suji's to interview a woman for the sports section - she's a Canadian (from Mississauga) over here with her partner for his work, but starting up super simple and short self defence classes for women, drawing on her lifelong taekwando (and other martial arts) background. It was very interesting to talk to her, and I definitely plan to at least take the initial self defense class from her... she also does some private taekwando classes which would be cool as well - stretchy and kicky!

Left work at 4:30ish, ate left over curry for a snack and then went to teach, the little girl had so much homework! She claims it was all from today (due tomorrow), but I'm not sure - it was a loooot and she barely gets any, so I'm wondering if she was hoarding it :) Funny response to this question: Something you can play music on_________. Here I'm thinking 'radio, CD player, tape deck, or record player even', and she pipes up with 'ipod?' Um yes, clearly that's correct too, and clearly I feel old now!

Biked home and got back around 8, no sign of Peter, so I watched a couple of episodes of Friends and worked on some Japanese for a little bit longer... When I knew when Peter was going to be home, I made breakfast for dinner (so unhealthy but good - fried tomatoes, beans, sausages, an egg, one piece of toast and a toaster waffle). We watched the Apprentice, which luckily Sascha TiVo'd and was able to FTP to us, and then chatted about his new project a little bit (its very cool, stay tuned for details in the spring)...

Kind of a short blog today - it was busy, but not so exciting, mostly just work stuff or whatever, but tomorrow there should be some good China town pictures hopefully!


Monday, January 29, 2007

After sleeping in, and feeling decidedly unmotivated to do much and annoyed about that (I really didn't need to do all those surveys you sent me, Andee!) I decided to trek out to the Canadian Embassy today to get started with getting my passport renewed, which of course, was not as simple as it should have been! I'd mostly filled in the forms, so I finished that up, and then headed to the station near the Embassy, where, Peter promised me, there was a photo place in one of the towers of the Aoyama Twin Building, where I could get Canadian passport photos done. Well, there was a gorgeous paper shop with a cafe in it (yes, a random combi!), a book store where I bought a few early readers to use for teaching for 105Y each, and some other random shops, but no photo place.

I walked down the street to the Embassy, where the very nice lady in the passport section gave me a map to the local passport photo place, and also told me that they only accept applications between 9:00 and 11:30 AM, not so helpful when I'm there at 3! I'll go on the way to work tomorrow I guess. I also got my ppt132 form, where basically since I don't have a guarantor here in Tokyo, I can pay them 5000Y, and then someone there will vouch for me. It doesn't seem especially secure, but I'm glad they do it, it means I can get my passport done here, and for less time than if I were applying from Victoria, no less. The whole guarantor thing (when done traditionally) has its flaws too, so who am I to judge - I'm sure the innocent Canadians aren't lying on their applications about who they are either ;) (watch this blog get read and me get put on some kind of watch now, as a suspicious person or something like that)

Anyway, I walked down to the passport place, and had likely the worst photo ever taken! When it flashed up on the screen, the guy was like 'daijoubou?' in this really doubtful tone, and I was like 'hai?' in an equally unsure sort of way. Peter kindly pointed out later that there was no way to explain the number of things wrong with the photo, in any language. I didn't realise quite how bad it was till I got it home tho - in the photo, it looks like I weigh about 400 pounds, and there is no separation between my head and neck, at all. It's brutal! I mean, yea, maybe I put on a few pounds since I got here, but if I took that photo through customs, people would be congratulating me on my drastic weight loss success. It's terrible! Peter's like - 'I've never seen you look like that. I will pay for you to go get new photos done!' It truly is that bad. I guess if the place is open early enough tomorrow, I'll get them done, and otherwise, well that saying 'if you look as bad as in your passport, then you really need the vacation' will be true for me!

Came home and chatted with Navina for a bit (I really hope you can come out here!!!), and got the latest breaking news from home.. I don't feel old enough to have friends who are married...with children (well in 7 or so months from now, anyway). I mean, congratulations to her, I hope she's very happy, but ahhhhhhhhhh I'm currently running back to neverland!

Spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out, watching a bit of Sex and the City and Friends while studying Japanese. I can now say 'this, that, and that over there' which I'm sure will be helpful at some stage (likely when I begin to learn some nouns to go with them). Luckily Peter came home to clear up some confusion about big numbers (they kind of stack numbers here, so instead of having a new word for forty, they just say four ten, which makes sense, but can get confusing to keep track of when you get up to like 10 452 and you have to say 1 ten thousand, 4 one hundreds, 5 tens and 2).

It was Indian Night for dinner in Oyama-cho - I fried up some thin beef I bought on Friday (it was sooo tasty!) with a red curry, I think my favourite we've had so far, and rice, and then also baked (frying= too messy, and besides after that passport photo I think some kind of crash diet is in order :p) a few samosas, which packed a pretty good punch for little guys! I also heated up some poppadom, which was good, but didn't puff up like it was supposed to, not sure what the problem was there... It was all very tasty though!

We were hoping to watch the Apprentice:LA today (which is, as promised 'intents'), but TiVo preempted it with lame hockey, so we're trying to find it somewhere else (you can't watch the free stream off the NBC website unless you have a US IP address...) as it doesn't re run at any stage during the week. I guess we might watch a movie or something before bed - I have to get up early tomorrow to make it to the passport office before work, so I should probably sleep fairly soon!


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Started my day fairly early today, teaching the 'taxi guy' as he has come to be known in Shibuya at 10, so I left at about 9:30 to bike down there - he was a little bit late because of some problem on the trains, but that's OK, he showed up in the end.. We finished just a little bit after 11, and then I came home to make some french toast for everyone. The ridiculously thick bread you can buy here for sandwiches is so perfect for diner style french toast, I'm definitely a fan!

Peter was meeting his friend in Aoyama at 1, and I was teaching at either 2 or 3, right next door (still wasn't sure at that point) so I hitched a ride and installed myself in Blenz. I ended up reading for a bit, and then my student showed up at about 2:30 - he'd wanted to do three, and I'd wanted to do 2, so we kind of ended up compromising. His English is very good, so they're enjoyable lessons - he's off to Poland on business this week, so we practiced some things like introducing his company and what they do, and how to make small talk about the country. My best advice? Make sure you tell them you're enjoying yourself, I'm guessing they aren't going to want to think you don't enjoy their country! I feel ridiculous giving him business meeting advice, but he knows that's not exactly my area of expertise - he just wants the perspective of a native speaker, and I guess I fit that bill OK.

Its funny, my last two or three students have all been interested in accents, which leads to some pooooor demonstrations on my part of a New Yawkah or Southern Belle... I'm sure they think I'm off my rocker! Also had to answer the 'what food is Canadian food?' question a couple of times... 'Ummm Maple Syrup and Tim Hortons?' Mmmm Timmies!!! Should be in the embassy I think!

I digress.

Right after we finished I jumped on a train and headed down to the Aqua Field at Shiba Koen to play futsal. Because of the lateness of the lesson, and coming from a different train station/line, I ended up a little bit lost and a little bit late, but there were tons of people, so it was OK. We ended up splitting into 4 teams of 4, roughly, and I played on the 'all Queen's team' (we were all representatives of the Commonwealth save for one American ringer). It was a fun team, not good, but low key which was nice - I'd played with two of the guys before Christmas so it was nice to see some familiar faces.

Unfortunately, my shin was really acting up at the beginning - I got some ice and that seemed to help a little bit, but it was probably pretty lucky that our team didn't play too much (winner stays on and all that), as I couldn't run for extended periods of time. I'd also like to blame my generally a bit crap play on my injury, but I think I'm going to have to be honest and say that not playing just butchers you! Not sure what happened that time before Christmas, b/c I was actually decent then, but today, yikes! Not pretty at all! Hopefully it won't take too many weeks before it comes back to me!

Anyway, came home for around 7:00, jumped in the shower and watched a Sex and the City before Peter got home.. I think we're about to watch some Ugly Betty and then just chill out and what not.. Not sure what I'm going to get up to for tomorrow, but I don't work or teach, so I should probably try and do something!

One last thing - Congratulations to Mom for her 2007 SYRCA (Saskatchewan Young Readers'
Choice Willow Awards nomination (in the diamond willow category)
for Trouble on Tarragon Island. We better get this website up and running so all her fans can flock to that! She's also been nominated for another 'block of cheese', which is slightly less exciting but will probably involve a better awards ceremony, - I have the feeling I'd enjoy it much more now than the last time we hit the M awards and I was like what, 14?

Anyway, congratulations!

ja ne,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The theme of the day today, unfortunately, seems to have been food! I safely don't need to eat at all for about a week, and its lucky I'm hopefully playing soccer tomorrow is all I can say! It was totally delicious though, all through the day haha

Anyway, I slept waaaay in this morning till about 11:30, which is later than I've slept for ages! I just had time to get organized before walking down to Shibuya to teach at 1, which was fine, this is the guy that I've been teaching for awhile (he was my first student), so we know what's going on or whatever, nothing too exciting is ever covered, but it's getting easier to keep the conversation moving which is good...

Called Peter after my lesson, and we decided to meet up at Suji's for brunch (that restaurant which opened on Wednesday by work), so I walked from Shibuya to there, which took about an hour (which is good, now I know it would take 1.5 hours to walk to or from's a bit nuts that I'd actually consider that, but I love roaming around here on foot or by bike, its good fun and there's always something to look at!) Anyway, the walk was nice, it was such a gorgeous day today, I was walking around in a t shirt and not cold at all! The only bad part was wearing my big winter boots, which apparently I can't walk in for any length of time (especially not quickly or up and down hills seemingly) - my shin is a total mess now! (I think its because the boots are heavy, and the extra effort required to lift up my foot is too much strain on my ridiculously screwed muscle) Hopefully it gets itself back together for soccer tomorrow, I can't deal with it being injured and me not even have been working out in the process, ridiculous!

Anyway, Hitomi, Peter and I eventually congregated at Suji's for brunch, and it was really good - I had eggs with homemade sausages that were soooo good, kind of spicy and v. yummy, and then home fries which were good too - actual chunks of potato involved. The whole thing was very North American, which I guess is what they're going for with the NYC style theme...Everyone there is so friendly - Jason recognized me again, and I recognized most of the people from the opening party - I get the feeling it wouldn't be long before one became a proper regular in there!

We moved on from there and headed down to Omotesando Hills to check out a Windows Vista display they were supposed to be having - we ended up seeing an opera signer preform in honor of Vista (or something like that, it was a bit weird!) we stayed for one song and then walked to the Docomo store so Peter could get a new battery for his phone... I still have no idea what the new Vista looks like or how it's going to be to use, but I can't see that getting everyone who has XP to switch their OS is going to be any sort of an easy task!

After the battery procument Hitomi introduced me to the delicious wonder of crepes from the crepe stand on Meiji Dori... Custard whipped cream, strawberries and mille feuille, sooooooooo amazingly good! I kind of wish I'd never tried it now haha, they're going to be hard to pass in the future!

By this point, it was only about an hour until I was due to meet Sarah and her friends at Hatchiko, so instead of going home and leaving again almost straight away I walked to Shibuya, and had a coffee and read for a bit and then met them at 8:45. Sarah, Leslie (who came to Roppongi with us that time before Thanksgiving), and their other friend from Waseda (Ginger) and I went to Outback Steakhouse which was sooo good! It's going to be pretty entertaining when I meet all their guy friends that they were gossiping about as I try and put the correct story together with the correct guy; great fun!

We finished up at about 11:30 and I walked home, which has to be just about my favourite thing (competing with many!) about living in Japan, the fact that it really wasn't stupid for me to walk through part of Shibuya and then home, alone, at 11:30 pm. Yea, I didn't listen to my ipod so I was more aware of what was going on, and yea, I crossed the street instead of walking through the big group of guys standing outside a club, but it wasn't like I felt nervous or anything... totally great! I'm going to really miss that when I go back to BC!

Anyway, we're just about to watch the OC now (I think its the season 1 finale!), and then tomorrow I teach twice and hopefully will be playing soccer (I have a possible conflict that I'm trying to change with teaching) b/c that was great fun last time I got to play, way back before Christmas!

ja ne,

Friday, January 26, 2007

Slept in until 9ish and then dozed until 9:45ish when Peter left to go to a ten am meeting (which elicited a lot of whining for a meeting that was only in Harajuku!) Anyway, he wasn't gone too long, so I just had a leisurely breakfast, watched a few of the special features on Jordon's Coachella DVD and got ready to go.

Peter came home around 11:45 and we left for the office at 12:15 or so. I went with him so that I could use his mac to work on Mom's website, and also to get more work done, which let's face it, really only happens when I leave the house! The website is finally starting to come together after about 5 more hours of working on it today, I just need to pull together some content for schools and teachers and then the basic site should be good to go, not a moment too soon! The original site, circa 1998 has been built upon added to and edited to the point of resembling a bit of a shanty town. It's no one's fault really, there's just never been a full out site re do since then, and I think we all can look back at what was out there in 98, and then check out that you can do in 20 hours with Iweb (my kingdom for a MBP!!) in 2007 and figure out that a change was due... Anyway, expect an unveiling soon!

At about 4, I took a break to get some lunch, and tried to find a Subway (with no luck), when I asked someone if a Subway existed (I'm guessing arimasu ka wasn't probably the correct word but it got the point across, kind of!) the guy was like 'only JR'. I thought it meant that it was either by the station, or that you had to take the JR to another station to find a Subway... In the end, I realised (much after I'd left), that he meant there was no Subway as in Metro, only a JR station... ahhh so desu ne! Not so helpful! I ended up getting a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) bento from the 'pink bento store' (can't remember the name), which was pretty good - they cook/heat it up for you which improves things!

We left the office pretty early today, with just enough time left to get Venus some dog food before the place shut at seven, and then headed back to Nakano for some more bowling. This time, Peter and I went to the Marui (0101) department store which randomly has bowling in it! I won two out of three games plus the cumulative score, but Peter started catching up when he started using my Hello Kitty Leopard Print ball... After the bowling, we played a few games of pool and split it fairly evenly though Peter came out on top with that. As we were bowling, a group of very exuberant Japanese teenagers came in to bowl - they were the loudest kids I've seen since I've been here I think (there was definitely some pre drinking involved haha) they were having a great time, seemingly!

(what a great name for a shoe vending machine! Peter points out that in North America is more of a 'manual shoeser' system; a good point!)

(gotta love the licensed character balls! You can get all the Disney characters, Hello Kitty, and then like basketballs, pool balls, baseballs, etc.)

Its crazy how serious some of the 'ri-men' are about their bowling - playing several games on their own, etc. They have some serious style going on, and some of them are really pretty good! I haven't seen any league play like you always see in Canada, but maybe we've just not been there at the same time as them.
(those ri men need some hangers for their salary men blazers while at the bowling alley! - so well organized!)

Came home at 10ish, and since we were just after snacky food, I reconstituted some pretty dry leftover rice by frying up a couple of eggs and tomatoes and a tiny bit of mozzarella cheese with lemon pepper all together. I was guessing there was a fifty percent chance the whole mess would get scrapped, but it actually turned out pretty well, I'd certainly make/eat it again with left over rice - it was like fried rice (which shouldn't surprise me, but did), but with more egg than normal...

Just some Jon Stewart/American Idol/reading, or whatever planned for the rest of the evening, then teaching tomorrow afternoon and dinner with Sarah and her friends at Outback tomorrow night...


Thursday, January 25, 2007

7:30 came early this morning, but it was a gorgeous day, so that helped me get up! V and I had to walk to the combeni to get milk, and then I got a good Victoria update from Navina (what, is it once one person gets married everyone its suddenly the thing to do? I'm getting seriously left behind here!) before heading off to work. I decided to bike, especially since I didn't yesterday, and it was just such a gorgeous day today - It took about fifty minutes, or exactly the length of this week's This American Life - convenient!

Today at work was more the sort of work I thought I was going to have to be doing every day - the magazine went to print today, and as far as I know, BAB is coming along OK, so I worked helping the sales team all day. The first thing was to find the phone numbers to match up with a big mailing list of addresses. It's amazing how well hidden some companies keep their phone numbers on their websites! Some are so lovely and well organized with easy contact us sections, and some are just terrible! Also, a lot of the Japanese companies don't have English on their websites, so trying to find a contact page was interesting (if you hover your mouse on a link, when it tells you at the bottom what the directing URL is, that's in English - when people name their sites properly, it means you can navigate through Japanese links in English. Kind of.)
Anyway, it wasn't too exciting, but I enjoy researching, and it obviously needed to be done, so that was fine - it was pretty easy and just something to get done... For lunch, Karin, Jen and I walked up to Soup Stock, and stopped by this kimono sale going on just outside and upstairs from Paddy Foleys. I guess it happens on the last Thursday of each month, and they have kimonos starting from Y1000. I didn't find one that I wanted today, but I'll probably try and collect one before I go home, or at least some Obis, which Jen uses as a table runner which is a great idea!

The afternoon at work was finishing up the telephone number hunting and then trying to find businesses in which might be interested in an upcoming special edition of the Weekender we're doing. I also quickly retyped Bill's party line, which I guess was typed and faxed to us by someone in Manila or thereabouts (he's traveling around right now), but needed to be re inputted for us, so that was fine (although those J. keyboards are just different enough to be really annoying! For instance, the " is shift 2, and the @ sign is all on its own with no shift required, etc.)

Got out of work at about 4:30, and went to Hanamasa, which is a 'bulk' food shop (not really bulk!), to see what kind of food they have and ended up buying some knock off cereal and bananas (why are bananas soooo cheap here? It's weird!) On my way back down the street, I ran into Jason, the chef at Suji's (from last night), who remembered me from the party, I promised we'd be in next week (with work), and I also think Peter and I might get brunch there this weekend...yum!

Went to teach, it was fine - the boy is a great artist!! He's decorated his science book and the cartoon-y type illustrations are great - a naturally good sense of perspective, and when he draws something from memory its surprisingly accurate. I told him I really wanted to see something from his art classes! With his sister, we read Aladdin, which they knew from Saudi Arabia... They were explaining to me the different names which they used in the story back home, etc. Interesting! I managed to refrain myself from piping in with 'A whole New World', but it was a weird flash back to the last Tokyo trip, which is probably the last time I read the story!

Biked home (though I really really wanted to just takuben the bike back!! I never want to ride home, but it's good motivation to exercises that extra almost hour - if i wasn't forced to do it to get home, I never would!) and got home about an hour ago...I went past that thing where the road was closed on Tuesday - it's weird, they're filming a mural being painted or something. I rode past there this morning though, and I don't remember the mural, so I'm not sure if they have it on removable panels or something, or if I just didn't notice it without the bright lights and film crew surrounding it?

I think Peter is out for dinner tonight, so I just had a snack, and am now about to collapse into a bath and then bed... Very excited about sleeping in tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

So my good intentions to bike to work today went out of the window when it took me so long to unsuccessfully pump up the bike tire (wtf is with that!?) that I barely made it as it was, even though I took the train and power walked from the station... given the number of hours I've banked after I'm technically done work, I'm sure no one would say anything about being a few minutes late, but still... I hate being late!

Annnyway, spent the entire day working on the same thing today, which was fun (handily!)- I got to research existing books on tea (either very Asian, or very 'your grandmother threw up on this!') and then start working on a few sample layouts for a design job we seem to be possibly doing. It was good fun, and I got to wander down to the gorgeous design and lifestyle book shop down the street in the name of research.

It was good fun to be playing around in InDesign again (oh yea, I'm just that cool, we won't mention how excited trolling through typefaces got me or anything!) It's a bit of a challenging 'brief', b/c the book hasn't been written yet, so we don't know much about length of text, the style of the book, or even particularly what the text to image ratio would be or anything. On the other hand its great to not have any constraints except for size, so it was really fun to work on once I got rolling!

I was just leaving at five (kinda vaguely on time!) when Helen said I should come to the opening of Suji's the whole office had been invited to that afternoon. As it didn't start for another hour, I headed off to study nihongo for awhile, and then came back to the office.

(walking back and forth between the office and Mcds where I had a drink and was studying, there was some serious excitement to the tune of at least 10 fire trucks, this dude on his huge cherry picker, etc. It was all going down at the brown building on the corner beside Donki...not sure what the story was, but pretty dramatic looking!)

In the end, I worked for another 45 minutes or so (Weekender goes to print tomorrow morning), and then at 7ish or just after, Helen, Arina and I went downstairs where we were shortly met by Anthony and his friend. We've all been intrigued by the construction just next door to us, so it was great to see the place on opening night - it's lovely!

Suji's is "the next best thing to mom's home cooking". Actually, it's probably safely better than MY mom's home cooking, for one (sorry mom!). It's a New York themed restaurant and bar (we're very excited about their brunch!) owned by a Korean/American woman (Suji). We had a good time meeting Suji herself, plus her brother (who is the General Manager of their original location in Soeul), the chef, Jason, who was great fun, and various other members of the staff, all of whom seem to be here via NYC, and are all super friendly, great people. Suji's officially opens for dinner on Friday, and then kicks of the brunch scene on Saturday - we saw the menu and it looks sooo good, can't wait!

Arina and I left at the same time, and on the way to the station discovered we're both Odakyu Line dwellers, so we traveled as far as my station together; it was nice to have some company! It's about 10:30 now, and Peter is out with some business people until who knows when, so I think I'll grab some food (I didn't eat much at Suji's, it was good though!) and then perhaps watch the second Coachella DVD before heading to bed fairly early (yea, right!)


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gorgeous day, so decided to ride the bike to work today - I will certainly keep doing that, but it always seems like a huge hassle when coming back home again, - I'm all excited to read or whatever, and then it's like 'crap, I gotta bike for an hour to get back!'. Anyway, its if not good exercise at least some exercise, and God knows I need that right now!

Anyway, rolled up to work at about ten and got put straight to work writing a 550 word (on the dot I'll have you know), piece about meeting people in sports clubs and the such (more about the clubs themselves than the meeting people). I wrote about gyms, ski/snowboarding trips with the Tokyo Gaijins, the TG's upcoming summer trips (some of them look SO great!), futsal, yoga, basketball, scuba, and the power squadron. How random is it that there is a power squadron here where you need to be able to speak English to get in (and they have their socials at 'The Maple Leaf' which sounds suspiciously Canadian). Also put in a quick mention about the Super Bowl (which is at 8am here, head down to the pub for an all you can eat American Breakfast Buffet!).

Then I typed in Partyline captions and made sure that we had all of the photos to correspond with the captions, and made a spreadsheet so we'd know where everything was. Quick break for a snack and then I spent about two hours re organizing all of the back issues of Weekender which are stacked on a big shelf, and were a bit disorganized to say the least before today! I had to shuffle everything to make it more densely packed so I would have room for it all, and then also sort out the random singles that were floating around back into their main piles - I basically took over the little kitchenette area and a hallway between the two offices, but there was no where to go and it kept growing into a bigger and bigger job. Easy and satisfying to get done though.

I actually left at about four today for the first time, partly because I figured once in awhile I might as well leave on time, and also because I was starving, and had just finished the magazine moving, so it made sense to leave before starting a whole new project.

Stopped at Subway (where you can get big, yummy steak fries of all things!) for a late lunch and then read for a bit at Roppongi Hills before going to tutor. I've just started David Sedaris' book 'Naked' which is another memoir/story collection. Not my typical book, but I enjoyed 'Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim', and so far I'm enjoying this one as well, it is a bit more off the wall all around!

Headed off to tutor, which was fine as usual. I was talking about flags which had symmetry with the little boy, and I was pretty impressed with how many flags he knew about, especially in the middle east, which of course makes total sense. It was funny though, because I said something like 'how about Mexico'? and he goes 'wait, I thought Mexico was with America?' This kid has a pretty good grasp of Geography, but I can kind of see how you might think that, especially in the border areas. It was a pretty funny comment though! In the meantime, he taught me what the flags of Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and a couple of others looked like, it was fun :)

Biked home, which took forever, because my little cut through road was closed while they filmed something, and the guy just kind of vaguely told me to go back to the main road and turn left (cue random arm waving). Since I kind of knew where I was, I did so, and ended up going basically to the Canadian Embassy, then all the way along Aoyama Dori before finally getting back to Omotesando - what a looooooooong 'block' to go around! In the middle of that, my ipod died as well, so that was kind of lame! Anyway, got home at about 8:15 and started a massive cookie baking operation.

I've been wanting to bake cookies for a few days now, so I looked up a recipe on and made chocolate chip cookies (except they also have chopped up Macadamia nuts and Hershey's candy coated kisses in them). I gotta say, I miss my cook books! Especially since I know that the cookies in my Better Homes and Gardens tome are soooo amazing!!! These ones actually taste pretty good, but they are super super thin (the crepe of cookies) and kind of a big crispy, whereas I prefer thick and chewy. Actually, it's probably good if I don't like them too much! I made a ton, so a bunch are going to my office, and I'll send a bunch to Orbitune tomorrow, the leftovers are more than enough for us!

While I was baking, I was watching a DVD Jordon lent me which is a documentary/behind the scenes two disc DVD about the Coachella Music Festival. It looks absolutely amazing and I'm putting it on my 'things to do before I die' list - any one coming with me?

Heading back downstairs now to watch some more and wait for Peter to get back.. work tomorrow but done nice and early b/c I don't teach, yay!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Not so much to report for today, slept in (!) till about ten, and we just slowly got organized to go before leaving at about one. I manged to finish and submit the diamond article and submitted it this morning before we left - it turned out to be 801 words (supposed to be 800), so I thought that was nice and precise :)

I went to the office with Peter today, because Sarah and I were having coffee after she finished work at five. I decided to just go with him early so that I could use his computer to work on Mom's website, so I spent a couple of hours doing that - it's a pretty big project with so many books, but its slowly starting to come together. I love iweb, its so easy to use, but it doesn't tie you down into frustrating templates!

Anyway, Sarah and I had a nice coffee/chat down at La Cucina in Mejiro, and she also generously answered all of my questions about Waseda and her MBA program for the BAB profile/article I'm doing. I was typing answers directly into the computer, and happened to notice that I'm at 1350 words from the interview notes, it's going to be hard to bring it down to 800! After a couple of hours, I walked her back to the station and then stopped by the AMPM on the way to the office for a snack. I got one of the little compacted rice balls wrapped in a strip of seaweed, which was good, and also one of the bizarre 10Y tubes of cardboard (er rice cake?) dripped in chocolate, which are pretty good if you just want a taste of chocolate but no substance. Then, I made a critical error, in buying something completely mysterious - guessing what something might be is not a good idea, seemingly.
(It looked so innocent - milk, strawberry... I think yogurt was a pretty fair guess!)
(and from the outside, it definitely looks yogurtish!)

I fully thought that what I was buying was strawberry yogurt, which I guess it kind of was, even though the yogurt itself didn't taste right and was scarily solid in its gelataneousnous (yes, that's a word!). The deal breaker however, was the chunks of basically tasteless hard gelatin type substance floating around in the yogurt (and not visible from the outside when I was buying it!) Riisa says it possibly originates in Indonesia of the Philippines, and that its popular because its low calorie, so you can eat more without ingesting extra calories. I vote that eating that isn't worth it!
(but lurking inside are chunks o' mystery gelatin!)

Worked on the website for awhile longer, basically until Peter was ready to leave the office at 9:30. We were bad and stopped for junk food on the way home, and I got all excited because I could actually read a good chunk of the the McMenu, provided I took my time with it (I was standing outside, not in line or anything), but I was actually managing to sound out a lot of the different burgers... Which isn't that exciting in the grand scheme of things, but actually kind of is!

We got our food to go, and watched the Apprentice (its good this season, living in tents is too much to bear apparently!) and then Grease:You're the One that I Want, which I'm a bit torn about - part of me really likes it because its Grease, and a musical, and they keep changing up the format of the tasks, which keeps it more interesting than say, American Idol week after week, but on the other hand, there are only so many songs from Grease to sing over and over again, and when they pick other songs to do, their song selection has been beyond random!

Anyway, that's about it for today, back at Weekender and teaching tomorrow, nothing so exciting (or in the near future) - I need to make some plans! (not exactly hard in this city though, always something to get up to, I love it!)


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sooooo ready for bed so just a quick blog...

Woke up at seven, and made it out the door just after half past to get down to Shibuya to teach at 8,-apparently I can get down there in about eighteen minutes if I'm about to be late! Today was the limo service guy again, we were meeting so early because he was coming straight from an over night shift, so needless to say, we were both full of energy :p Anyway, we branched out a bit from taxi talk which was nice, a bit more interesting...

After that, I went across the street (from one coffee shop to another) to start working on my diamond article, take 45 haha. I worked on it for about an hour and headed home, getting back around tenish I guess, which seemed toooo early to be home already! I started to work on the article a little bit more, and then took a break to call Navina, we had a good chat for over an hour, by which point everyone else was starting to get up...

I kept working on the article while Peter and Hitomi started getting ready for the BBQ we had tonight. I'm down to about 820 words so tomorrow morning I'll go over it one more time, and get ride of the spare 20 words before sending it over to Helen and Anthony, hopefully I've ended up with something acceptable! I'm also interviewing Sarah for BAB tomorrow evening when we have coffee anyway... Life as as working girl, I tell you :) Seriously though, I love it, and I'm happy to be busy - if there's any way I can swing it one of these months, I'd love to add Japanese school for a month (3hrs a day) as well. Not sure if I can get it off the ground, but I'd like to try...

Anyway, around 4ish our guests started turning up - we had a small gathering with Tommy and Marina and Jadis, Nana and Spiros and Mibu. It was very nice - v. tasty food! Chicken, ribs, corn, salad, BBQ'd street vendor sausage on a stick (which is way better than if you just buy it in Yoyogi Koen!) a yummy baked potato casserole type thing that Hitomi made, and then at the end, a traditional celebratory Japanese dish, where you take a red snapper (the one we had was pre smoked kind of, and then tossed on the grill), and add it to some rice, with sesame seeds and wasabi, and then poor tea over the whole thing, and it turns into a kind of porridge. Its quite interesting! Like soup with broth that just doesn't taste how you're expecting it to, but I liked it. I think I've discovered that I'm not a fan of wasabi though! Had it accidentally last night, and wasn't so sure about it, and this pretty much sealed the deal, it's not really my thing, but other than that it was good!

Jadis was so cute! She's turned into much more of a person since Thanksgiving, and grown sooo much! (she's 17 months). She was very brave with Venus, who was a bit of a nutter in the beginning, but by the end of the evening they'd made friends, and she'd managed to tucker V right out. Jadis is pretty cute - she's picking up some English and Japanese words (she's definitely more billingual than me!), and will shake your hand and say 'nice to meet you', or say 'doomo' and throw in a bow - pretty adorable! With so many people around to wrap around her little finger she was great through the evening - always someone to say hi to, (and to protect her from that crazy Labrador chasing after her!) Very nice evening with everyone, we'll have to do it again soon!

Everyone cleared out around 10, and we watched an episode of the OC (if by watched I mean I slept through most of it!), and now I'm about ready to fall into bed...


Saturday, January 20, 2007

When I left this morning, around 10, it was snowing! Just a tiny, tiny, tiny bit - but still, snow! It was actually little enough that I thought it might be something blowing off a tree or whatever, also because I really didn't think it was that cold, but in fact, it was snow! Once I got off the train it was stopped though, and the rest of the day has just been on and off drizzle.

Had my interview with the diamond guy this morning - he was really interesting, and I learned a lot about diamonds - I had no idea that they were solely in India for about 3000 years, and that 10/11 diamonds in the world have gone through India in some way, for processing or polishing, etc. We were talking about the rose cut today, which is the oldest cut, done by hand, and coming back into vogue - the pieces he showed me were very interesting, and unique - I really like that cut, despite not being into jewelry, or liking diamonds particularly.

After that I took a very inefficient trip on the train from Roppongi to Shibuya (seemingly the way to go is on the bus, which didn't even occur to me, but it took twice as long to get there on the train as by bike, given that I went through Ginza!). Luckily, I had lots of time, and walked on up to the New Yorkers Cafe just about five minutes before I was due to teach. Today I was teaching the guy I've been teaching the longest, it was a bit interesting b/c the poor guy was pretty hungover today (he got home at 8am), so he didn't talk so much haha. It was fine though, we talked about Noh theatre and how its not exactly the most thrilling of theatre disciplines, and just some other random stuff, nothing earth shattering or anything!

Walked home, and then called home and had a nice long chat with Mom, watched Ugly Betty with Peter, and then had a nap for about an hour, before waking up to go meet Hitomi for bowling. It was pretty fun! The bowling alley seemed pretty clean and nice compared to the ones at home, and came with some bonus features like a fat jiggling machine, and shoe vending machine.

(one side of the kawaii ball I was using)
(other side of my girlie girlie ball)
(The score screen was very high tech! They had these cameras watching the action, so you could see in detail exactly how the ball was hitting the pins, and then they also had a thing to measure how fast the ball was moving (we seemed to average 20-28km/hr), and they also had several animations to go with your shot, depending on how it turned out - so there was a gutterball animation, a split animation, strike, spare, etc. Pretty cool!)
(fat jiggling machine - sooooooo weird! you stand on this board thing, and then crank it up to around 20 jiggles a second- it has a thing on it which says how many calories you've supposedly burned, and how far it's the equivalent to running. Supposedly in about 3 minutes I ran 1.5 k (and almost died from laughing so hard), but I dunno, it was weird. Peter says he could feel his muscles tensing, all I felt was fat as a I jiggled around, but it was certainly entertaining. After a few minutes on the test tube shaker I felt vaguely carsick and got off, but I'm glad I tried it, even if I prefer myself less violently mixed! Glad we did this BEFORE dinner!)

Despite claiming to be not very good at bowling, Hitomi cleaned up the first game, and although I managed to win the next two (I think it was the Hello Kitty ball I was using), her great first showing meant that she won the cumulative scoring. I beat Peter by two strokes over the night, which is funny because I actually had two gutter balls count in the scoring - once it hit a pin lying in the gutter into a standing pin and so I got one down there, and then on one it bounced out of the gutter again! Peter is claiming technical difficulties made him lose out on a strike, but I'm not sure of the details, so I can't comment on that... We only played three games before deciding we'd had enough 10 pin (you wouldn't want to get a shoulder injury or anything!), and decided to get some food.
(hot food vending machine at the bowling alley... I remember eating from one of these at the atom bomb museum in Hiroshima, but I haven't on this trip...yet)
(that part of the sign is mostly why I took the picture)
(shoe vending machine - put in your Y300, select a size, and away you go)
(another great sign, it reads "if you notice you, a manner changes" it took us forever to kind of figure out what they were on about - its attached to an ashtray, and if the ashtray motion senses you, it starts a ventilation fan. Not so clear by the eigo signage, but that's ok!)
We went to a nice little isakaya (sp?) in Nakano, and had a plethora of tasty food. I was trying to figure out what the link between isakayas is, because the three or so I've been in have all been COMPLETELY different, but Peter says they're just places where you get lots of little share type plates, eat, chat etc. "A place to get some food to wash down your beer" is how he put it.

In any case, we had sushi, (I even had a couple of pieces although one was soy and one was slightly cooked tuna, but still!), these funny flaky bits of what turns out to be the skin formed in the tofu making process (it was much better than it sounds!), deep fried tofu, tempura (sooooo good!), some kind of Korean style rice with pork and egg that you finish cooking on the table with the heat of the earthenware bowl (also soooo tasty!), salad with cold pork, yakitori (chicken of various types), and, slightly randomly, a spring roll type outside with potato and cheese inside. It was all pretty good, especially the tempura, rice, and some of the yakitori. I ordered a really weird drink, mostly just to blog about it - sparkling milk of some variety, but in the end, it turned out to be alcoholic, and since it was unopened I sent it back and exchanged it for some OJ - sorry about that re: the blog!

The place was pretty nice, we sat around a wooden bar, but there were also several private rooms where you sat on the floor around a private table, and the whole room was raised up a little bit - it looked very cosy! In the floor, they had many Plexiglas kind of windows where you could look at water and stones, etc. The door to get into the place was probably about four feet high, so we all had to duck inside - it was pretty cute! Nice vibe all around, but no photos unfortunately...

Back home, and its about 1:40 right now, I really want to get to bed pretty soon since I'm supposed to be teaching at 8 tomorrow, so I need to get up upsettingly early!


Friday, January 19, 2007

Well, after having to scrounge around desperately for things to blog about, suddenly there is a deluge of blogability! I'm seriously loving being busy, it's definitely better than having soooo much time on my hands! (wait till a month from now though, I bet I'll change my mind again!)

Anyway, I biked to work today, via Tokyu Hands to get a bike pump which I'm apparently incapable of using (its lucky I just got it for maintenance and not to fix a flat!), and the library, - its amazing how not wanting to be arguing about fines in Japanese can spur you into getting your books back on time! I ended up at Weekender at about 11:30. I literally almost ran into Caroline and Helen on the way to the office, so walked the last few blocks with them, and discovered that my Lima Bean Blog is not so well buried as I thought (in fact, it's not buried at all - I had no idea that it's a direct link through my profile...ooops!)

Anyway, I got the Things to Do column basically finished (there is sooo much cool stuff on the Cirque du Soleil site when you register as media!), and then we went for lunch at Zest, after taking a good hour and a half to decide that's what we wanted to do! Back at the office, I typed up Bill's Movie Plus column, then started to try and figure out the diamonds article - in the end, Bill came through with a contact that I'm actually going to interview tomorrow, so while the thing still isn't done, at least it's moving in a better direction!

I finished up a first draft of the Hawaii article, and managed to trim it from 1130-930, but sent it to Helen to get rid of the last 200 words. I honestly don't care what goes, God knows Mom has slashed and burned enough of my writing that I don't get emotionally attached to it anymore, but that doesn't mean I don't have issues finding the fat in it - it's hard to distance yourself from writing I guess, but that's why they have those lovely editor types. Speaking of which, I really need to get moving on Crash, it was all going so well, and then kind of stalled out there for awhile :(.

Be that as it may, left Weekender at about 5:40, and biked down to Shibuya to meet Jordon for the Canadian Rock and Rule Concert at O-East. The acts were Jason Collett, Amy Millan, Bedouin Soundclash, and The New Pornographers. I was definitely really excited about all of them, but especially the pornographers, who turned out to be the best act of the night.

The beginning was kind of sad - there weren't too many people there at all! It hadn't been promoted well at all I don't think. Luckily towards the end of the event it started to fill up, which was good, we were feeling kind of bad for the artists! Randomly, Jordon's friend Mai, (who was in Metropolis Glitterball blog photos I think, and works in connection with Orbitune somehow) was there with her friend, and they were there with someone from the Canadian embassy that knows Peter... It's a small gaijin world after all! Jordon also knew someone else there, which seems like a rather high percentage given how ridiculously big this city is!

It was soooo crowded with gaijins tonight! Crazy how much English was being spoken, and just the number of North Americans in the crowd was nuts - I guess probably there were a lot of Canadians, including a fairly big embassy contingent, but it still seemed weird! In a gap between acts, we started chatting with this funny couple from just south of Tokyo. The guy was from Texas, and had a Japanese girlfriend. They were really friendly, but she was hilarious, as she's draped on him, she's going "I hate Americans, they're assholes". He didn't seem to mind, so there you go - it was a bit random!

We got lucky tonight in that Neko Case was with the New Pornographers - since she's also doing her own stuff now, often she doesn't tour with them, and she's a BIG part of the act, so it would have been a much different set without her. They're a great group though - very democratic in how they work apparently, and they make some great music! Jason Collett and his band were pretty funny - very laid back and casual about the whole thing, they had the air of having just rolled out of bed and into the club about them, but both Jordon and I commented that there was something really Canadian about their set. I can't remember what made me think of it, but there was definitely a moment where I was thinking 'yea, they really are Canadian, aren't they?'.
(Jason Collett)

Bedouin Soundclash was the act I was least excited about, mostly just because I don't listen to their music so much, but it was pretty good - certainly a different feeling to the other three acts. I don't think their whole band was there, but I'm not sure who they were missing or anything. As for Amy Millan, we were kind of in a bar area chatting with Mai and her friends for her whole set, so while we could hear her, we didn't actually watch her at all. I like her new album, so I'm sure it was a good set, but I'm not gutted to have missed it or anything.
(Bedouin Soundclash singer)

The concert finished at about eleven, its weird how early stuff finishes here, but all to do with those trains! It was still a good long evening though, since it started at 7, everyone probably played about 40 minutes and then they had the changing of drum kits, etc. in between. I though the pornographers could have done a longer set, but I'm not sure how it actually compared to the others in terms of length.
(New Pornographers)

After we got out, we walked around the corner for some ramen, which was soooo good! Also very efficient - you buy a ticket for what you want to eat in a vending machine outside the restaurant, and then when you go inside, you give the guy your subway ticket type voucher, and five minutes later, you have ramen, it's like magic! Really entertainingly, all of the water pitchers in the place were Little Mermaid themed. I have no idea if that was some attempt at being ironic, or cool, or if they just
got a sale on them - I didn't see any other Disney stuff in the place!
(pick noodles)
(press button, get ticket, get food - great system)

Rode home, after fighting with the locker to get my stuff out at the station - apparently I overstayed my welcome and had to pay another 300Y to spring my stuff, which required breaking a Y1000 bill, it was all a bit stupid, but luckily there was a guy having the same trouble who explained it too me... I thought I was going crazy and standing in front of the wrong locker!

Just this blog and then bed - have to be back near the Weekender office tomorrow at eleven to do the diamond interview, and then race over to Shibuya for 1pm to teach...