Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Back home

Posted 13 Sep 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Photography, Tokyo, Travel, UK

Currently enjoying a well-earned break back in the mother country, but will be returning to Tokyo very soon.

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.

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.