Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Apologies

Posted 03 Dec 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal

Sorry for the lack of updates for the past few months. It appears that I’ve hit a dry spot as far as blogging is concerned.

As soon as inspiration strikes normal service will resume.

Merry Kurisumasu!

Posted 25 Dec 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal, Photography

Best wishes to everyone. Have a great day and get stuck into the important business of opening those prezzies!

Non-stop noise

Posted 26 Jul 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category News, Personal, Photography, Tokyo

High summer is an awful time to be in Tokyo, when temperatures exceed 30ºC on a daily basis. What makes it even worse this year is the non-stop noise from outside our apartment.

From 8.30am to 5pm we have the demolition crew, who have been clearing the land next to our apartment to make way for a new car showroom. They expect to finish everything by March 2009:

Then from 7pm to 3am we have the roadworks posse, who are laying new gas pipes underneath the main road. They have at least five light-sabre-wielding traffic monitors along a 50-metre stretch of road, one of whom you can see here:

Thankfully I usually don’t get back from work until after 7pm on weekdays so I miss the demolition. However, the $#&%ers insist on working Saturdays: I’m currently struggling to hear myself think over the noise of drills, diggers and crushing concete.

Novemberings

Posted 19 Nov 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal

Well, it’s certainly been a while since my last post. Recently, I:

  • discovered that any more than three pints of lager renders me out of action for the following two days;
  • caved in to fierce internal pressure and bought an iPod Touch, plus a rather nice armchair from Muji;
  • have pretty much finished my side of work for this year, although I’m sure something ridiculous will happen, forcing me to work late all December;
  • booked my ticket home for Xmas/New Year (23rd Dec!).

New York

Posted 25 Aug 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal, Photography, Travel, USA, Weather

The Thinker in Central ParkVery much enjoyed New York, and forgot about the huge amounts of pot holes on every street between JFK airport and Manhattan. Pot holes held no fears for our shuttle bus driver, however, as we stormed through traffic at 80mph. Springy suspension is the daddy!

Our hotel wasn’t bad at all, though some strange latex cover had been put over the bathroom ceiling to prevent ancient bits of plaster falling off and killing customers (I put my hand to it to check, and felt a wedge of plaster resting on it that could have felled an ox). Luckily, the room had a big telly and a huge bed: that’s all I need!

Speaking of TV, it always astonishes me how many bizarre religious commercials crop up on US networks. One of the best was for a “Green Prosperity Prayer Cloth”, which went something like this:

The Reverend X wants to place in your hands the “Green Prosperity Prayer Cloth”, which he has personally blessed and anointed. Thousands of people around the world have used this Biblical point of contact prayer cloth to receive abundant blessings of financial prosperity.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling that the Big Man upstairs (if he is upstairs; he might be in the garage for all we know) would probably not have approved of this one.

Living in a country where customer service has reached an insane level of politeness, the care-free attitude of most sales assistants was absolutely fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, being polite is all very well and good, but to be quite honest it drives me nuts – in Tokyo, I can’t look at a item of clothing in a department store for more than two seconds without someone drifting to my side, then providing me with a detailed explanation of the item in question: Aaargh!

Scrawny bugger in Battery ParkObviously, some people don’t care for the care-free attitude: I witnessed a woman go absolutely ape shit in CVS (Boot’s the chemist’s US equivalent). I guess she wasn’t too happy about their photo developing service, and went off on a particularly gormless-looking girl behind the service desk. The other staff found this highly amusing.

A similar situation occurred in a subway station: Some woman was unleashing every last drop of verbal venom in her guts at an old man. Some of the things she said were unbelievable.

Visited Ground Zero. Now that is a big hole. I vaguely remember going there seven years ago: it was a Sunday and some lads were playing football on the street, right outside the World Trade Center buildings. Anyway, we didn’t linger there long; someone was trying to sell maps and memorabilia shouting: “This is history! Right here!” He could do with working on his sales pitch, as he scared away almost everyone within a hundred metre radius.

MoMA's central hallMade it to MoMA. (I wanted to go the last time I visited New York, but it was being renovated at the time.) It was heaving, and there was so much to look at that it was all quite overwhelming. There was a particularly good exhibition on Soviet Modernist architecture – the New York Times has very good article about it here – and very nice ice cream in the cafe… err, I really should have been paying more attention, shouldn’t I?

Everyone seemed to SHOUT down their mobile phones at any given opportunity, no matter how inappropriate the location, or the conversation. I couldn’t help but overhear one old gadgie make an appointment with his doctor to check haemorrhoids. You’d think if you were discussing something like this, you wouldn’t put your phone on speaker mode, in the middle of a cafe, at lunch time.

Lower Manhatten from the Staten Island FerryTook the Staten Island Ferry. Did you know that it’s free? Well, it is, and is definitely worth doing, although there’s nothing at all to do on the Staten Island side – 99% of passengers on board our ferry went straight back to Manhattan.

For the rest of our time, we didn’t do anything overtly touristy – a bit of shopping, which for me was mostly for books (so so so many book shops – you people living in English-speaking countries don’t know how lucky you are!), and for Ayako mostly – you guessed it – clothes and bags. I’ve never understood why women don’t just want, but need so many bags. What’s all that about?

Anyway, we’re back in Japan, where it’s currently 35ºC and the humidity is disgusting. Back at work, which is the same as usual (I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever finish the project we started eight months ago), and… well… yeah, that’s about it really.

Hope you’ve all been enjoying your summer, wherever you are! I’ll be back with more stuff soon.

You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!

Posted 07 Aug 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal, Work

Apollo Creed
If I were Rocky Balboa, this week would be my Apollo Creed.

Ah’s not dead yet, like

Posted 16 May 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal, Work

The morning rush-hour train to ShinjukuBeen grafting canny down’t pit of late, and the gadgies at work are nebby, so I cannat write owt there. Will write more the morra if I have time. Tara for now.

Like an old friend

Posted 15 Mar 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal

Murray's Mint!

The film that has done the most to ingratiate Tokyo to Western audiences over the past few years has to be Lost in Translation. The first time I saw it was towards the end of my first stint in Japan, and for some inexplicable reason made me feel a huge wave of nostalgia.

The first couple of months in Japan had streaked through my life like a Sunday morning train from Roppongi station (and I know all about those, much to displeasure of my bank account). I can’t say I was able to spend my time exploring the fascinating new country that lay beneath my feet, as my feet were usually trying their best to avoid stepping on the hyperactive throng of kindergarten kids I was supposed to be teaching. This miserable situation was compounded by my dismal surroundings: an apartment that, in any other country, would have been deemed too inhospitable for even the most savage of serial killers. The walls were made of toast. Toast made from very, very thinly sliced bread. I could hear the humming sound of my neighbours-neighbours fridge as clearly as if I had been wearing it for a hat.

Thankfully, I was able to move to a different city after a couple of months, and was befriended by a number of my fellow countrymen, who wasted no time in regaling me with their colourful accounts of life in this wonderful prefecture they called Saitama – “the Essex of Japan.”

Yes, together, we were the most negative group of individuals mankind had ever seen, but spend a few months in Saitama and you would understand. Its proximity to Tokyo invariably led to comparison, and an ever-present feeling that incredibly exciting things were going on just a bit further down the train line, just ever so slightly out of reach. And yet, here we were, with only our local video rental shop and Seven-Eleven’s for entertainment.

To be fair to Saitama the majority of complaints were made against our employers, who seemed to take great pride in screwing us over at every possible opportunity (and from what I’ve heard recently, still do). For me, every single Monday afternoon was hell on earth: Abandoned in the lowly confines of a scabby franchise school in the suburban wilderness with only a severe receptionist for company, whose only hobby – wrestling – incidentally happened to be first sport I would choose to be wiped from the entirety of human history. Add to that six hours of almost continuous kids lessons, and I was beginning to see the logic behind those lost souls who choose to jump in front of speeding express trains.

But as time passed, things began to fall into place. Those once-stressful days at work became carefree and routine, the holidays were long, and the weekends were for a good night out.

Eleven months after arriving in Japan, as I watched Bill Murray lovingly perform “More Than This” in some random karaoke box, at some random time way past normal people’s bedtime, I realised that it would be exactly those kind of things I would miss the most about Japan. The little things, the unusual things, the things that couldn’t happen anywhere else. I returned home one month later. But, as fate would have it, I wasn’t to return for long…

あけましておめでとうございます!

Posted 08 Jan 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Events, Gaming, Personal, Photography, Technology, Tokyo, Travel, Work

2007 already? I’m scared at how quickly time is disappearing before my very eyes. I can still distinctly remember New Year’s Eve 1999 as if it were yesterday: I was working in a horror-show bar in Newcastle city centre (Dobson’s. The name sends a shiver down my spine to this day), and slipped down a flight of stairs while carrying a crate of Smirnoff Mule at around 10.30pm, smashing bottles everywhere and smacking my head off a step. This gave me a fine excuse to leave work early and bomb down to Saltburn in my trusty Vauxhall Nova for the celebrations. I arrived down my local about 10 minutes after midnight with a slight concussion, to discover my mates either dancing on tables or passed out in a corner. Treasured memories indeed, and there are many…

NYE 2006 was a far more sedate affair spent in Aichi-ken with the in-laws. We went out for sushi, watched TV, ate some more food and talked about, well… stuff. I rarely drink these days as my hangovers – which were always bad – are now so utterly terrible that I really can’t stand experiencing the pain and torment more than a few times each year. Many Japanese visit their local temple at midnight to say their prayers in the hope of having a successful new year, but it was really cold, so we did it the following afternoon instead.

Japanese monolithGoing back a bit further, my Christmas was about as Christmassy as you could expect considering only 1% of the population are Christians, meaning it was a normal working day for me and everyone else here. My new job – so far at least – is going well. After being a teacher for so long it’s really nice to not have to be “switched on” all the time. I can come into the office, sit down at my desk and quietly get on with my work without having to pretend to be interested/jolly for hours on end. Incidentally I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be doing at work most of the time, so I’ve been attempting to try a few things and pretend to look busy, which, in Japanese offices, has been perfected to a fine art form. Nobody has sussed me out yet, so I think my technique must be pretty good.

In light of not being able to go anywhere nice or return home for the holidays, I continued my quest of buying unnecessary things instead. The most recent addition to my collection turned out to be a PlayStation 3, which weighs more than all the planets in our solar system combined and bears an eerie resemblance to the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It now sits under the TV and quietly purrs away in an ever so menacing fashion, emitting so much heat I can now happily live without central heating during the coldest of winter days.

Sweet meats

Posted 23 Aug 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Personal

Must... eat.. brainsss... Apparently, that’s cannibal-speak for “brains”. I can sort of see their point; brains do have a bit of a moussey texture to them. Dunno about the flavour though.

So anyway, we’re back in Japan and it’s… erm… hot. We’re up to a nice and sticky 35 degrees today – which is great for mosquitoes – I was engaged in stealth combat with one of the little buggers until 3am. Luckily, the good always prevail!*

Ayako’s back at work already, while I have a week or two to mooch about. It would be nice to go to the beach or something, only the beaches here become overwhelmed by a plague of school kids during August, there’s hardly enough space to put a hankie, never mind a towel, down. If anyone has any interesting ideas, do tell!

That’s my first ever blog post type-thing over and done with then. Phew!

*Ok ok, so I didn’t manage to kill it. Next time…