The jaded Buddha  

Saturday, 27 September 2008

“It’s all very well being enlightened, but what I really wanted was a sports car."

Ross Noble

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The British weather renamed  

Friday, 26 September 2008

In deference to The Archbishop of Canterbury and The Royal Commission for Political Correctness:

It was announced today that the local climate in the UK should no longer be referred to as .''British Weather.' Rather than offend a sizable portion of the population, it will now be referred to as 'Muslim Weather.'


In other words - 'partly Sunni, but mostly Shi'ite.

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Intrigue & scandal at the post office  

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The tranquility of Shoan 2 has been rocked by a series of scandals involving someone who clearly has a grudge against the Japanese Postal Service. Big M went to post some letters today, but when she got to the post box, it had been sealed up. And it wasn’t just one – they all had. After questioning the bird behind the counter, it appears that they’d been having a problem with somebody who’d been smearing poo over the post office window. But not content with that, they’ve now started shoving it into letter boxes as well. Bizarre – the work of a disgruntled post-stool worker perhaps? Sorry – couldn’t resist it.

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Pie wa tabemashita ga dare desu ka?  

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

In an effort to tackle my burgeoning waistline and get me back into some kind of shape in advance of joining a iaido dojo, myself and Big M ventured along to the local sports club for a look. Like you’d expect, it was very impressive: 3 floors consisting of very well equipped multi-gym, swimming pools, saunas and even an indoor golf practice room. Amazing. We were shown around by an enthusiastic young chap, clearly excited to have a gaijin to talk to.

The culmination of our visit was a detailed analysis of body composition carried out by a machine that looked like Captain Kirk’s bathroom scales. After being instructed to stand on metal plates, clasping an electrode in each hand, the machine proceeded to probe the mysteries of the Beerhound physique, concluding – with commendable accuracy –that I was a fat bastard. Impressive thought it was, I couldn’t help thinking a glance in the mirror would have probably sufficed.

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A new chapter begins  

Friday, 19 September 2008

I’m now finishing my first week in Japan, having being wafted here with Teutonic efficiency by those nice people at Lufthansa. Even getting the sword through customs proved an absolute breeze – however I’m sure getting it back into Britain won’t be quite so easy.

The place hasn’t changed much in my absence – i.e. junk and clutter everywhere. I’m not sure if this decor scheme is actually some kind of post-earthquake look or what. It’s bloody annoying, although to be fair the big problem is lack of available storage space. A shortfall that yours truly and his toolbox has already been called upon to remedy. No rest for the wicked.

Yet, for all the tasks waiting for my attentions, it is good to be back. I don’t know what it is, but I sleep so much better here. Monday night I slept for a straight 14 hours. And I needed it, after the traumas of the last 6 weeks.

Today we went to Suginami City Hall so I can register as an alien and get my infamous “gaijin card”. When issued, all foreigners have to carry this card with them at all times because they can be stopped by the police and asked for it in any circumstances. If you don’t have it, it’s “nick ni ikimasho, watashi no furui chugoku sara” – “let’s visit the nick shall we, my old china plate?”

Our American cousins (and I suspect the PC brigade in the UK) really hate this idea of being “picked-on” to produce ID papers on demand just because you are a foreigner. But I can’t see what the problem is. It’s their country and they have every right to wish to protect themselves from the kind of international miscreants that the UK falls over itself to welcome. I say, good luck to them. If you follow the rules and have done nothing wrong, there’s no problem.

I guess in the UK it’s different insofar as if you jump through all the right hoops (and pay their extortionate blackmail fees) you can eventually “become British” – whatever that means. Here it’s different: You are welcome to come and settle, as long as you obey the rules, but you will NEVER be Japanese. Again, I don’t really have a problem with that because I am not (nor, despite a deep affection for the country and its people, do I want to become) one.

However I can see that this status of “gaijin” might begin to become irritating after I begin paying taxes and medical insurance to my host country (next month!). One would like to think that participating financially in society would allow one to also participate socially and politically as equals. But not so. Mind you – looking at the so-called democracy in the UK, I can’t see much difference.

Oh..apart from the fact, there’s very little crime here, the streets are clean, there’s no stupid laws that penalise the law-abiding, the trains work, the cost of living is reasonable… etc etc

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Time to go  

Monday, 15 September 2008

Well, it’s finally here: After months of planning and weeks of relentless struggle and heartbreak, I’ll finally be on my way tomorrow morning. Assuming the taxi turns up, and there’s no screw-ups at the airport, of course. It’s always unwise to underestimate this country’s ability to scupper the best-laid plans, so until my bum is firmly ensconced in seat 50K bound for Tokyo, I think my blood pressure will remain at the "High” setting.

I feel a bit in limbo at the moment. Not quite here, but not there either. I truly don’t know what’s waiting for me in Japan. I don’t know what will happen with the business over the next 6 months. I really am flying by the seat of my pants; risking absolutely everything on a wing and a prayer. But whatever happens, it’s sure to be an adventure – and the adventure of a lifetime at that.

I keep questioning myself over my motivation; why am I doing it? Why, at 46 am I not content with slippers and the 9 to 5? The truth is, I don’t really know. There is something inside me that just keeps driving me on. I don't know what I'm searching for, or even if I'll know when I find it. But search I must. One part of me really yearns for the stability of the unadventurous, the provincial; craving only routine and the certainty that nothing will ever happen to upset that cosy, safe existence. But there’s no way I could ever live like that; I’ve always pushed further, reached higher and dreamt bigger than my contemporaries. Perhaps foolishly so.

I think the force that overrides the inertia of my passive side can be simply summarised: I want to able to say on my death-bed, that I really did seize every opportunity to experience life; I really did take every chance to learn and grow and expand my mind to take in as much of this crazy world as I could. If attaining wisdom, becoming a more experienced, capable, benevolent and understanding human being is not the goal of life, then I have indeed been a fool. However, I have a hunch I won’t be proved wrong in the end.

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The Last beer in Canterbury  

Sunday, 14 September 2008

I visited Canterbury one last time today. At last the weather smiled long enough to be able to enjoy a beer in a pub garden, and so it was I found myself sitting in the Unicorn's very satisfactory little garden. Today's trip was mainly about shopping - particularly the things I can't get easily in Japan, like shoes. Not to mention trousers to fit my inexorably swelling waistband. I've really got to do something about that. I also bought a couple of cashmere scarves for the girls, and some very expensive chocolates. And finally, I bought a mini-cathedral for Big M's model house collection. All in all, a very pleasant day.

But also a rather strange one. I had to remind myself that home was no longer a short walk from the High Street. I will miss Canterbury. For all the trials and ordeals that I've suffered here, I feel Canterbury will always be "home" - at least in a spiritual sense. Yet it also feels like time to move on. So despite the odd pang of regret, I'm very much looking forward to the next period in my life. I am sure it will turn out to be just as frustrating, bewildering, taxing and punishing as establishing a homestead in Canterbury. I hope it also turns out to have been similarly worth the effort.

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Canterbury from the University  

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Today there's an art exhibition in Canterbury. I saw this watercolour and I bloody wish I'd painted it. Perhaps one day I will.

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Goodbye to an old and trusted friend  

Friday, 12 September 2008

This morning saw the departure of our faithful and long-suffering family car to the great car park in the sky. I was very sad to see it go. Spookily, it actually broke down for the first time since we’ve had it this morning – which I find almost unbelievable. It’s like it knew.

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Only in Japan - Mayonnaise Margheritas!  

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

As reported in the excellent Gaijin Tonic blog.8640-sick%20copy

“Oh blimey, what next? Koji Nakamura, a typically inventive Japanese bartender in Tokyo, makes cocktails with mayonnaise. You might think he was incredibly drunk when he came up with the idea, but Koji is obsessed with mayo and even runs a restaurant in Western Tokyo called “Mayonnaise Kitchen” (the Japanese actually have a name for mayonnaise fanatics- mayolers.)
Koji’s creamy cocktails include the “Mayogarita”, and the “Mayoty Dog” (which has mayo instead of salt around the rim.)
I’d have to be pretty far gone to drink one of these horrific concoctions, and have a sick bucket close at hand.”

That makes two of us - Beerhound

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The illusion of credibility  

The trouble with being a Beerhound is that when Bacchus’ hand weighs heavily upon your shoulder, one is forced to seek sustenance from the nearest hospitable watering hole. In this instance, that happens to be Rye’s 1940’s pub. Much as it irks me to provide any kind of encouragement to such an ill-conceived and – frankly -crap establishment, a beer is a beer and when you need one, you need one. Thus it was that I found myself once again darkening the door of the most bizarre drinking establishment yet encountered in these parts. Actually, in any parts I have yet had the good fortune to visit.

I tend to keep myself to myself in this particular establishment. I don’t particularly wish to be drawn into conversation with the owners or clientele (such that it is) of the place. Privacy is part of that, but mainly it’s because I really quite resent the arrogance of these pseudo middle-class tossers who think they can invade a town like Rye and turn into Islington-On-Sea. And  - my God – they were out in force tonight.

Allow me to set the scene:

A semi-deserted 1940’s themed bar; bereft of customers, except for a couple of dinner guests and a solitary (though ruggedly handsome, wind-swept and interesting) guy sat in the corner. The owner, clad in pristine chef’s whites unsullied by culinary labours, sits drowning his sorrows on the wrong side of the bar. It transpires that the dinner guests are also recent migrants to these parts, and inevitably, the conversation with the hosts turns to where Rye is going wrong with regards to its marketing, and where Manchester is going wrong with its football team. In other words, bullshit about things these idiots have absolutely no connection with, or understanding of.

There seems to be a trend for these pseudo middle class types to associate themselves with football clubs and with regions like Rye – presumably in an effort to give themselves some kind of inverse social cache. They talk about Man U as being “my club” in an accent that has clearly never ventured further north than Fulham. They discuss matters in Rye as if they have been here for generations. They haven’t. Nor will they be.

Like so much in Britain under Labour, it’s all an illusion; The footy-supporting credibility, the business acumen, the ersatz intellectualism. Even their much-flaunted personal wealth relies entirely on a vastly-overvalued property market and bank borrowing, both of which look set to evaporate in the near future. I fervently hope that the coming financial tempests will sweep these idiots back into the mainstream of mediocrity where they belong.


My Rye correspondent informs me that the Beerhound crystal ball has proven once more to be unnervingly accurate: The 1940’s-loving owners have disappeared over the horizon, leaving a load of unpaid bills and disgruntled local suppliers. Like I said – Tossers!

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The mysteries of the east  

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

As regular readers will know, I am subject to frequent borrockings from the missus. Some are deserved; some come about due to cultural misunderstandings and some are just unfair. Occasionally, I get ones that are just plain inexplicable, and today saw just such an occurrence.

The Japanese side of the family has been noticeably non-communicative today, despite several prompts. Finally, I just got a cryptic message letting me know what a disappointment I am and nothing else. Why? your guess is as good as mine.

Sometimes its impossible to fathom what’s going on in that head of hers. I’ve racked my brains to try and think of what I might have done wrong this time, but to no avail. So I suspect it will remain a mystery. At least for the time being. In the meantime, I shall rise above it by exercising a Zen-like detachment from the confusion and emotional turbulence of the existential world; in other words, ignore it.

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