Back to the UK  

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

After a few weeks away, I’ve returned to the UK to finalise the arrangements for our permanent departure. One of my biggest concerns about the move to Japan has been whether I will feel at home there; whether I will be comfortable living away from the UK. After just 24 hours back in the UK, I feel sure I know the answer to that question. Japan wins – hands down.

It’s not until you return here with an outsider’s perspective that you realise what a mess this country has become.

Waiting for me in the post was a letter from the British Kendo Association informing me that I now risk five years in prison and an unlimited fine because I own a Japanese sword. I now have to carry around a certificate, a license and all my insurance details every time I leave the house with my sword to practice my martial art. I can no longer practice in the local sports hall; I can no longer practice anywhere apart from my registered dojo without risking prosecution and a criminal record.

For what reason? I am not a violent criminal and yet I am being punished. Meanwhile, murders, knife crime and violent assaults with weapons are at an all time high. But these new laws do nothing to penalise the criminal element in our society, only the law-abiding.

Japan has none of this legislative nonsense because it doesn’t need it. It’s the same with licensing laws. There’s no need for restrictive laws because people know how to behave and consequently life is both enjoyable and free. It isn’t difficult to choose which kind of society I want to live in.

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Sayonara ‘Joji  

Monday, 28 July 2008

I’m off back to the UK tomorrow morning to finalise the move from Canterbury and to get my affairs in order. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve got to know Kichijoji (known amongst cooler people as simply ‘joji) and grown to love it. It’s a great place to live – its rabbit warren side streets providing enough interesting places to explore to last a lifetime. I’m going to miss it terribly over the next few weeks. But I am consoled in the certain knowledge that we are going to have a lot of good times here, and that I feel we’ve made the right choice. I always trust my gut instinct when it comes to houses, and I got an instant good feeling about this place. It feels like home, and I’m going to be sad to leave.

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Nagasaki visit  

The trip to Nagasaki went well and I managed to get pretty much everything done that I wanted to. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but given that it’s a town built on heavy industry, I did expect it to be a little more, well, industrial. In reality, the first impression is that of a beautifully rugged bay bordered by lush tropical greenery. DSC_0289small The city occupies every nook and cranny of whatever flat space there is. Towering above in all directions are steep mountains, deeply forested and riven with verdant green valleys. Bamboo groves and trees cling precariously to the the steep valley sides; the deep green fastness broken by terraced fruit groves and the occasional dwelling perched on the valley side. The people are friendly and the pace of life seems appreciably slower than Tokyo. In short, it seems a nice place to live.

The peace and provincial tranquility of the place makes it all the harder to reconcile the place as it exists today with Nagasaki’s indelible and tragic entry in the annals of human history. Looking out over this sleepy town, it is difficult to contemplate what fell out the sky on that clear blue August morning 60 years ago, what it meant for the poor people of this town and what it meant for all of us. Of all the places I’ve visited, there is something about this place that makes it absolutely unique. Apart from Hiroshima, I can’t think of another place or another event that had the same pivotal importance for the human race as did the bomb dropping on Nagasaki. DSC_0273 The world and the course of human history changed that morning. As you stand there looking at the city from across the bay, surrounded by the convenience of modern Japanese life, you still can’t get that thought out of your mind nor even begin to understand the enormous suffering that the people of this town endured so that the human race might move forward.

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Off to Nagasaki tomorrow  

Friday, 25 July 2008

Tomorrow will see my first trip out of the Kanda area. I’ll be flying down to Nagasaki on the southernmost tip of Japan’s main island. I’m looking forward to it, but it is a working trip so I won’t get much of a chance to have a look around. In fact, no chance at all. But I hope to at least be able to soak up some of the scenery.

Nagasaki is of course famous the world over for the A bomb dropped there on August 9th 1945. Grim though it undoubtedly is, I would very much like to visit the museum in Nagasaki and see for myself the terrible price paid by its citizens for Japan’s involvement in the Pacific war. There can be a no more sobering testimony to the folly of war-mongering leaders… Blair, Bush and Brown included

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Life in Japan. 4 – Trash Day  

The title to this posting is a little misleading; in Japan, every day is trash day. Today, for example, was “combustible, non-recyclable trash day”. Tomorrow is “recyclable plastics trash day”. Saturday is “non-combustible, non-recyclable trash day”. There is a collection every single day; each targeted on specific products. In short, the Japanese are really serious about recycling. More serious, in fact, than any nation on earth. Incongruous as it may seem in the concrete wasteland that is urban Tokyo, in the country that seems to eschew the natural world, the Japanese people actually care passionately about the environment. Perhaps it’s because there is so little green here; whatever oasis of nature does exist is so cherished and diligently cared for. In my travels around Inokashira Park, for example, I saw not one piece of litter. Not one. Interestingly, there are also no trash bins in the park – people take their trash home with them.

The downside of all this is the unbelievable complexity of sorting our rubbish into the various piles ready for collection on the appropriate day. Every day before 7.30 am, the man of the house has to gather all the trash bags and deposit them in the appropriate place. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. It could just be ruse to allow Big M another 30 minutes in bed in the morning.

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Shake, Rattle & Roll  

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Last night I experienced my first proper Japanese earthquake. At about midnight, the bed started shaking and the doors started rattling in their frames. The whole thing lasted for about 30 seconds or so. A few minutes later we got another little wobble that lasted 20 seconds or so.

Ironically, the first earthquake I ever felt was in Kent, so the experience was not entirely new. In terms of magnitude, I’d say last night’s shake was about the same as the Kent earthquake last year – maybe bit more. The difference is that here it is not an unusual event, so I doubt the local paper will be producing an earthquake pull-out supplement like the dear old Kent Messenger did last year.

Tokyo gets about 200 earthquakes a year. Most of them are fairly minor, but we are overdue for the big one. The Great Kanda Earthquake in 1923 levelled Tokyo and killed over 100,000 people. I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about a major earthquake striking. But the city seems well prepared for such an emergency. Every household keeps a special emergency backpack and supplies, and there are clearly designated emergency gathering areas in every neighbourhood. The government also has hundreds of warehouses located around the city packed with emergency provisions.

Nobody here seems particularly bothered about last night, or about the prospect of earthquakes in general. I have yet decide whether this stems from a genuine confidence in their ability to cope with such a disaster or simply an unwillingness to contemplate the prospect.

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Inokashira Park 2  

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

As I noted before I ran out of steam last night, Inokashira Park is also home to a small temple – this one dedicated to the vengeful kami (spirit or god) of love, called Benzaiten. Legend has it that this goddess casts spells on young lovers to bring their romances to an untimely end. Couples venturing on to the lake in the many small rowing boats are said to be particularly at risk. However, that didn’t seem to deter the many couples paddling around together.

Whether or not you believe in the legend, there is no denying it is a beautiful spot. 22072008106 Viewed from across the lake, the brilliant scarlet woodwork stands out starkly against the lush greenery surrounding it and the gold embellishments add a touch of regal elegance to the building. I’m not sure how old it actually is, but it certainly looks as is it has stood there unchanged since the days of the Shogunate.

22072008110I thought it prudent to go and say hello to the resident spirit and ask for her blessing in the traditional way. Tokyo is packed full of shrines and temples, and people visit them as part of their normal daily routines. The first step is to wash your hands and gargle using water from the temple spring, like to one shown here. Then you can approach the altar22072008111. The big pot in the middle is an incense burner. You can waft the smoke over yourself for good health.

After that, you can climb the few steps to the front of the altar, make and offering of a few Yen by lobbing into the chest provided and say your prayer, finishing by a clap of the hands to arouse the attention of the resident kami. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can bash the temple gong by pulling on the big rope you see hanging down. But being English, I didn’t want to make a fuss.

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Inokashira Park  

Today was spent exploring a bit more of my new surroundings on foot. Top of my list was a visit to the nearby Inokashira Park. I wasn’t disappointed. It is quite remarkable to find such an island of tranquility amidst the urban sprawl of Tokyo. 22072008099

It is difficult to believe that in less than 5 minutes walk from this spot, you are in the centre of Kichijoji with all its frenetic activity. Yet, under the shade of these majestic trees, serenaded by legions of cicadas, you could be a million miles away.

Inokashira Park was given to the Japanese people by Emperor Taisho in 1913. At its centre is a lake, bordered by sakura cherry and maple trees that give a magnificent display of blossom in the Spring time. It’s a popular spot with young lovers, with buskers and just people wanting to rest their eyes from Tokyo’s relentless concrete vista.

Legend has it that the first Shogun – Ieyasu Tokugawa – used to have the water for his tea ceremony drawn from a spring in Inokashira. The pond is actually the source of the great Kanda river. 22072008115

During my circuit of the park, I discovered what I presume to be the actual spring where the water was drawn. With my very limited understanding of kanji symbols, I was able to deduce that this sign made some reference to tea; However it could have just as easily said “No Fishing”. More on the Park and it’s temple tomorrow.

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Life in Japan: 3 – The food  

As everyone that knows us will testify, we are most definitely “foodies” (and “drinkies” too, of course). As a family we take a keen interest in comestibles, and so we often find ourselves hanging around in food shops wherever we travel, looking for the new, the exotic or the exceptional.

One of the big gripes Big M has about English food is the lack of decent beef. If you’ve ever tasted Japanese Kobe beef, you’ll understand why. By comparison, English beef is about as palatable as old shoe leather. 22072008086The reason is that European beef lacks the marbling of fat that the Japanese produce has. You can see this very clearly in this picture, snapped in one of our local supermarkets. The result is that Japanese beef is extraordinarily succulent and literally melts in the mouth. It also means that it can be cooked very simply. One of the tastiest methods is sukiyaki – cooked at the table in a pot of soy broth.

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You don’t see these in the B&Q garden centre  

Monday, 21 July 2008

The local DIY nirvana, J-Mart, has a well-stocked garden centre. Amongst the more familiar plants on display, I spotted this one; a pitcher plant. Kind-of brings it home that we’re now living in a tropical climate.


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Life in Japan: 2 -The remote control toilet  

Sunday, 20 July 2008

One of greatest mysteries I have yet to fathom is the remote control for the toilet. Yes, you read that right. Every throne in our new place is equipped with a multi-function electronic toilet seat (controlled by a com-poo-ter maybe?) that has a bewildering array of functions, most of which I can only begin to imagine. I’m sure Captain Kirk has something similar – presumably equipped with a function for dealing with Klingons.

 16072008063At its most basic level, the humble toilet sea is equipped with a heater. This is one of those interesting ways in which the differences between the Japanese and English psyche are laid bare: To the Japanese, a warm toilet seat means comfort and  convenience; to the English it generates unwelcome mental images of a facility recently vacated by a 20 stone navvy.

Pleasant though it might be to have your cheeks gently warmed, it’s in post-poo mode that the toilet seat really comes into its own, with its ingenious variety of cleansing functions. Now I’ve always been a bit wary of experimenting with this, mainly because the stop button is not always immediately obvious. It’s all very well having a spotless bottom, but the prospect of being stuck on the bog with Old Faithful shooting red-hot water up my jacksy, and not being able to get off for fear of flooding the khazi is the stuff of nightmares. However, following a brief instruction course from Big M, I now feel qualified to go solo. Basically, the controls are pretty straightforward: At the top, the all important Stop button; below it, the ancient Chinese symbol for “Wash Arse”. Below that, “Wash Fanny”. Big M recommends I don’t try the last option. 

So, this morning I had the first opportunity to tackle my chuff nuts the Japanese way. After parking my breakfast, I grabbed the remote control, gripped the seat, voiced a silent prayer and pushed the button. Nothing happened. I felt cheated. The cause of the misfire was a mystery, but I took it as a sign and left it alone for another day.


I can report a successful first encounter with the Japanese grommet-washer. It was certainly a new experience! After the initial shock of a jet of water whooshing up the Khyber, I found it hysterically funny.

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Getting sorted - slowly  

We are back online again after a break of a few days. And what a punishing few days it has been. Certainly the hardest work I can remember for a long time. We first got the keys on Tuesday and we immediately set to work decorating the girls’ rooms and cleaning. The people that were here before were smokers, so the living room and one of the girls’ rooms were pretty grimy. Decorating wasn’t much fun – under the roof in an un-air conditioned house in 33 degree heat. But cooled by a regular supply of cold beer from the local corner shop (open 24 hours, of course – no stupid licensing laws here!) I managed to make good progress. 16072008065

The air con guys turned up on Wednesday and spent the day installing coolers for the 2nd and 3rd floors – four in total. So by Wednesday night, we actually had some cooling while we finished off the girls’ rooms.

The move itself was handled with superb efficiency by the removal company, beginning with the delivery of the upright piano. I was expecting a gang of blokes. hauling the thing over the balcony. 17072008070 But in the end, it was two wiry little guys and a truck with a crane on the back. They had it from the back of the truck into the music “room” (actually a cupboard) in about 10 minutes flat. Quite amazing.

The next day, the main load of furniture and stuff arrived from Seijo. Included in the consignment was Puchi the cat. She absolutely hates the cat carrier since going for an operation, so the girls were a bit worried about how we were going to keep her calm during the transit. Big M asked the removal company whether Little M could travel in the cab with the cat. 18072008073They said this was not possible due to insurance restrictions. However they suggested a cunning plan – they gave Little M a job for the day so she could travel with them. She arrived kitted out with official cap and t-shirt, looking very professional. They even let her keep the shirt – very kind.

So, a few days into the move and the place is still in absolute chaos as we struggle to find homes for everything. We literally can’t move for boxes, and the thing that’s worrying me is there are another 22 on their way from England as I write. There doesn’t seem to have been much planning about where everything was going to go, and it seems fairly certain that there is going to have to be a bloody good sort-out if we are going to get this place looking nice.

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First look inside the new house  

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Yesterday we visited the new house for a look around with the agent. My first look inside our new home. Actually I was pleasantly surprised as it isn’t quite as pokey as I imagined from the pictures. That’s not to say it’s spacious – far from it. But by Tokyo standards, it’s not bad. 14072008049

This time we approached the house from Nishi-Okigubo station which lies about 10 minutes walk north. Around the station is a fascinating maze of rickety yakitori shops and oyaji (“old man”) bars that haven’t changed since the 50’s by the looks. I’m sure they’ve never even seen a gaijin in these places. Maybe I’ll be the first.

The house itself is in fairly good order, but it does need a lot of cleaning and a bit of repair work to some of the walls, particularly in Little M’s room. The problem is that the building methods and materials are completely different to what I’m used to, so I will have to proceed with caution. All the exterior walls are basically wood panels attached to a steel frame. The idea is that the house flexes in an earthquake. Inside, it’s mainly stud partitions. Fixing anything to the inside walls is going to prove tricky.

But on the plus side, we’ve discovered the local B&Q. Well, it’s not called B&Q of course, but its the same idea. Only better! It’s got absolutely everything we need, including some great pre-made wooden components that you can use to create tables and stuff. Brilliant. And there is some absolutely beautiful timber available of all descriptions – Japanese oak, teak and other other hardwoods. The old man would have been in his element. I’m going to have a go at making my own desk for the office.


We’ve decided to use the Japanese room on the ground floor as my working space. In this way, it can also double-up as the guest bedroom if someone comes to visit. I’m keen that the furniture I put in this room is in keeping with the Japanese style, so I’m going to make a low desk and use a Japanese-style floor chair. When guests come (or when I’m in the dog house) I can just tuck it away and get the futon out of the cupboard. I think it’ll be very cosy.14072008051

Our bedroom next door is going to be a bit more of a challenge: For some reason, there’s a kitchen sink and cooker in there! It’s going to have to go to make room for fitted wardrobes, but it’s gas so it needs a specialist. There’s no way I can afford that just yet, so we’ll have to live with it. 

So the next few days are going to be hellish: Cleaning and decorating in these temperatures with no air-conditioning is going to be hard work. Even the Japs are wilting in the heat. Time to summon up my best Bulldog spirit, get the builder-bum shorts on and show them how it’s done.

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That’s not a moth – it’s a f***ing sparrow!  

I’ve finally managed to capture the monster moth on camera. moth As you can see – it’s absolutely gi-normous. I’m sure it would make short work of any suit it came across. Rather than flitting around nervously, this one seems to delight in buzzing passers-by and there have been more than a few shrieks from visitors as they’ve spotted the B52 of the moth world bearing down on them.

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It’s alright – I’ve found the pub!  

Monday, 14 July 2008

Today was spent spending ludicrous amounts of money in the Yodabashi store in Kichijoji. After a colossal splurge we are now the proud owners of an amazing Japanese-style fridge, a rice cooker, a washing machine that wouldn’t look out of place on the Starship Enterprise, a laptop and a 42” plasma telly. And a kettle; which as any Brit will agree, is arguably the most important item of all. I was just about to add an ironic “cuddly toy” to the list, until I realised - we did actually get a cuddly toy with the laptop!

Christ knows how we are going to pay for all this. But as somebody famous once said, “Don’t bother me with details”.

After such a monumentally expensive afternoon, any sensible human being would need a stiff drink. So it was that we set off to find a suitable watering hole. In England, this would mean simply retiring to the nearest available hostelry for light refreshments. In Tokyo, things are not quite that simple.


This is the South exit of Kichijoji station. Somewhere in this picture is an “English Pub” – can you spot it? No? Didn’t think so, but don’t feel too bad about it – I walked past it twice before I found it. And therein lies the problem. I am very happy when I’m in Japan; I love the people, the culture and the lifestyle. But when you live in a foreign country – no matter how much you enjoy it – it’s only natural to want to escape to familiar surroundings once in a while. Combine this with the natural bloke-like urge to have a pint and a packet of crisps and escape the family for at least an hour a week, and the quest for a decent watering hole assumes a significance of primeval importance.

There are “English themed pubs” – two in Kichijoji alone. But both, as in the picture above, are in the basement; I find it quite hard to get enthusiastic about a “pub” with no windows. However all is not lost. Diligent research via Kangetsu’s excellent wireless internet connection revealed the existence of a third –hitherto undiscovered – establishment named The Rogue.

So it was that this afternoon we found ourselves peering into alleys and backstreets trying to locate the place (address listings here are by no means simple).Thanks to my unerring sense of direction when it comes to all things alcoholic, we found it with not too much bother. 13072008043

Unlike all the other theme pubs I’ve seen in Tokyo, this place actually had an authentic feel about it. The furniture was English, as were the beers and the decor. It was quite spooky to see they had Spitfire – brewed by our local brewery in Faversham. Best of all, the owner – a delightfully nice guy by the name of Tatsuro-san – was as warm and welcoming as could be. I felt instantly at home. 

So I feel the question of “the local” has been solved. At least on one count, I can sleep easier tonight. Paying this month’s credit card bill is another matter. However, to paraphrase Freewheelin’ Franklin, “Beer will see you through times of no money better than money will see you through times of no beer.”

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Suginami City Here We Come  

Saturday, 12 July 2008

The second part of today’s trip was to walk from Kichijoji to the new house in Suginami city. The term “city” is a bit misleading as the Japanese slap this epithet on any former township that has long-since been absorbed into the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo. But I digress. The new gaff is about a 20 minute walk from Kichijoji which is not too difficult, even in today’s oppressive heat and humidity. By the way, I should point out this it has been f***ing hot today – 34 degrees and god-knows what humidity. Let’s just say that inside an air-conditioned department store, the humidity was 55% according to the readouts on the barometers they were selling. Anyway – I digress again.

12072008033 Here we are at the outskirts of Suginami city. There is such a curious mix of shops and buildings along the road that it’s hard to get an impression of what the people living there are like. Boxing gyms nestle alongside “antique” shops, Mercedes dealers and kitchen hardware suppliers. Come to think of it, it sounds a bit like Peckham. But a more genteel version, I’m sure.

12072008034 Eventually, we came to the new house, tucked away on a side street, not more than a stone’s throw to the local convenience store – or my “beer fridge” as big M calls it.  First impressions are that it seems in good order and quite a comfortable size. 12072008037The road itself seems very quiet with little through traffic, so I’m sure it’s going to be quite a quiet place to live.  That’s our front wall on the right.  There seems to be a lot of dog owners in this area – not sure how the cat will feel about that, but there’s enough greenery around for him to feel at home I think. I get the impression that the neighbours are older people. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.

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Arrival at Kichijoji  

Today I got my first look at what will be our hometown for the next few years at least. Well, to be strictly accurate, today I saw our hometown (Suginami city) and the nearest “bright lights” district, Kichijoji. And I must say, it’s an interesting spot.

12072008025 Kichijoji is situated on the western side of Tokyo about 10 minutes on the train from Shinjuku and about 15 minutes from Shibuya. This makes it quite suburban by Tokyo standards, but it is anything but a sleepy dormitory town. Kichijoji is absolutely ram-packed with shops,restaurants, bars – you name it – all tucked away in a rabbit warren of side streets and little alleys. Big M says she has been coming here for the best part of 20 years and still hasn’t seen it all, and I can believe it. I think it would take a lifetime to find everything that’s on offer here. The most interesting part for me is Inokashira Park. We didn’t quite make it into the park today, but we got as far as a yakitori restaurant that sits alongside it. 12072008026 It’s called Iseya and apparently is a bit of an institution. Once inside the dark, smoky and incredibly hot interior, it becomes clear that the building is actually a series of yakitori shacks that have somehow grown together over the years. This is the only way to experience yakitori – unsanitised, earthy,organic and all the more tasty for it. While we were inside, a Summer storm brewed up – kicked off by the fierce heat and humidity. 12072008032As we sweltered inside, the wind rattled against the plastic sheet nailed clumsily over the rough wooden window frames and tugged at the grimy perspex roof. Nestled against the edge of the park, this ramshackle old building suddenly seemed light years away from the modern neon-bright concrete Tokyo. I really enjoy finding these old, hidden places. And it seems Kichijoji may well have many other treasures to reveal. I’m going to enjoy finding them.

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Life in Japan: 1-Tackling the onegiri  

Japan is full of interesting new things to eat, but many of these require a certain degree of experience to tackle effectively. None more so than the onegiri.


The onegiri can be viewed in pretty much the same way as we view the humble sandwich – a cheap and convenient quick snack, available with a variety of fillings. Pretty much every convenience store has onegiri, making them one of the most universal sources of nourishment when the hunger pangs strike. But unlike the sandwich, there is no bread involved; instead the filling is wrapped in a triangular rice shape which is itself encased in nori seaweed. The problem is that the crispy nori goes soggy pretty quickly when in contact with the rice, so some bright spark – presumably with a black belt in origami – developed a fiendishly clever way of wrapping the onegiri so that there is a layer of plastic between the seaweed and the rice. If unwrapped correctly, the plastic wrapper detaches easily to reveal a tasty and convenient snack; if done incorrectly, you’re left with a sticky blob of rice that quickly disintegrates in your hands, leaving rice stuck everywhere.

The correct method of tackling the onegiri is as follows: Grasp the tab marked 1 at the top of the triangle and pull smartly downward. This will peel away a thin strip of the plastic all around the onegiri. Step 2: Grasp the tag marked 2 and withdraw the side of the triangle in a smooth controlled movement. Repeat for tag 3. The onegiri can now be enjoyed.

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Jesus! What the F was that?  

Friday, 11 July 2008

I’ve just seen the biggest f***ing butterfly in my life fly past. It was so big it was actually gliding!

Working hard at the Kangetsu ryokan

This is currently my office! Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?

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Return to Kangetsu  

11072008011 It’s 6.00am and I am blogging from a humble little room at my beloved Kangetsu ryokan (Japanese inn) in the sleepy Tokyo suburb of Chidoricho. We have returned to Tokyo to organise the move to the new place and generally get everything set up ready for our new life. We don’t actually sign the contracts on the new place until next Tuesday, so for a few days I am staying at my favourite cheap-and-cheerful Tokyo hotel.

kangetsu The Kangetsu is an institution amongst budget-conscious travellers from around the world. Tucked away up an innocuous flight of stone steps, the hotel is actually a ramshackle group of buildings gathered around a central courtyard that is about as Japanese as you can get. There are stone steps, small ponds and a little red bridge that sets off perfectly the lush green vegetation that crowds in from all directions. Stepping through the bamboo arch into the courtyard is like stepping into a jungle clearing – a delightful and unexpected surprise in the otherwise uniformly urban surrounding streets.

I first stayed here about 4 or 5 years ago and it was one of my first experiences of Japan. As such, it holds a very special place in my heart. It was here that I discovered the vending machine that dispenses both ice-cold beer and hot coffee; it was here that I first ventured self-consciously into a traditional Japanese bath house. It was here that I first discovered what a public transport system should actually be like; every ten minutes a train arrives at the local station that will whisk you into Tokyo for about 80p.

Sure, it’s not particularly salubrious, it can be noisy and there is little in the local area by way of tourist attractions. But there is something undeniably charming about this outpost of Japanese hospitality. I love it.

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Terminal 5 experiences  

Thursday, 10 July 2008

It was with much trepidation that we learned that we would be travelling to Tokyo via the much-maligned Heathrow Terminal 5. I was fully expecting to get caught-up in the kind of organisational fiasco that only Britain can manage. But – to my surprise – everything seemed to go pretty much according to plan. The check-in was indeed effortless as promised on the website; our bags arrived in the same city as us, at the same time and British Airways managed to take off and land in the appropriate places without crashing.

The only thing that worried my slightly was the biometric face scanning that everyone has to go through at Terminal 5, whether you are flying internationally or not. There is something very Big Brother about that; something very New Labour Police State. Of course we all want to feel safe from lunatic suicide bombers, but there is something deeply unsettling about having my every movement tracked by some nameless state computer.

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Bright Sun; Dark Mood  

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The move to Japan moves inexorably closer and still I feel we are making no headway at all with the arrangements. For the last few days, it’s been just one set back after another: The accounts software I bought last month packed up, the bank account with Nat West I’ve been trying to set up since May is STILL not operational. We still haven’t decided on what stuff is going to Japan and how it’s going to get there. And to top it all, we’ve both come down with colds. Generally I’m feeling pretty run down and miserable at the moment and at a very low ebb. I hope things start to move forward soon. At the moment I can see nothing but darkness.

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