Thursday, September 28, 2006

Japan's Future : In Safe Hands

Please find enclosed Junnoseke, Yutaro and Shuntaro.

These are all 10 years old, and a think they are the dogs bollocks.

They are not. But I am.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Classroom

The most exciting photo ever.

Yesterday I spent nine and a half hours in this room

Yugo and Shodai

Here are two of my students, Yugo (8) and Shodai (7).

You'll notice the "V" gesture here. This is not a reference to peace, nor is it a historical nod to Churchill's acknowledgement of victory in Europe.

Rather this is the Japanese equivalent of "cheeeeeese".

Don't really understand it, but wander round Tokyo and you will often catch people stood in front of temples and whatnot giving it the Vees while their other half does the snapping.

Yugo, on the left, is quite clearly very clever and is too advanced for this group. He scored 100% on his test and spends most of the lesson bored.

Shodai on the other hand spends most of the lesson pretending to be a robot.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

How To Read A Blog.

The techno-savvy amongst will already know you read a blog from bottom to top.

To read the entries in chronological order, scroll down to the bottom. Don’t just read the first entry. Why, that would just be foolhardy.

This latest lot of entries really need to be read in chronological order. Otherwise they won’t make sense.

Please obey these simple instructions. They are for your comfort and safety.

I Am The Law

Congrats to me Dad who has just been sworn in as a Magistrate. Sworn in does not involve them saying to him “you better put this f***ing daft wig on, then”

He doesn’t get to wear a wig. Although I might consider it if my current rate of follicular recession continues.

From now on I shall be calling him Judge Dredd and he will be dispensing his own brand of Derbyshire justice at an ABSO-infested court near you.

Good Luck Dad.

When I Was 7, All I Had To Worry About Was.....

I’ve been teaching kids for 2 months now. I’d had very little experience of them up until recently, but one thing I’ve realised is this: being a kid is wicked:

When I Was 7, All I Had To Worry About Was.......

* If Street Hawk was on tonight. Or Dempsey and Makepeace

* If Martin’s Newsagent would deliver my Transformers comic on time

* If I was having Waffles or Alphabites with me fishburgers for tea

* When my Dad would fit that siren to my BMX

* Where the missing card from my pack of Top Trumps was (it was under the beanbag)

* When it would next snow

* Whether this programme I wrote would work:

10 Print “I Am Skill”
20 Goto Line 10

Here Are Some Things Of Which I Was Blissfully Unaware:

* Kebab-induced diarrhoea

* Call centre hold music

* Call centres

* Women

* Delays on the Northern Line

* Staff appraisals

* Morning hangovers and ensuing mid-afternoon slump

* Mortgages/rent/stakeholder pensions/mini-cash ISAs/tracker funds

* My prostate gland

Comment leavers, I feel we haven’t scratched the surface here. Please feel free to add to these lists. The responses will form the basis of an exciting exhibition hosted in Uttoxeter Town Hall from 5th-7th October 2006.

The best response in either category might receive a thing.

Please mark your entries: When I Was 7, All I Had To Worry About Was………

Child’s Play

I’ve had two kids cry on me on this week.

The first one was during class tests. She clearly didn’t know the answers and, in turns, sat staring blankly at her paper or scrubbing her teary eyes on her forearm whilst sobbing inaudibly.

I also found out later that her mother had complained to the receptionist that the follow-up homework I had set had had no bearing on the lesson I taught. What bollocks. I did teach it. Everyone else managed to do it. Your kid is just not particularly bright. Sorry.

The second bucket of tears came two days later in response to a ball game I dreamt up. This game has been my saviour of late. The kids love it and it eats up minutes like some kind of minute-eating ballgame

The rules are thus: I recite the alphabet out loud, whilst attempting to chuck and hit the kids with a beachball. If I manage to hit one (the kids are pretty nimble), he/she has to say what letter I have reached and what the next letter is.

However, this game has its pitfalls; namely the kids go hyper - running around like they’re high on a diet of Opal Fruits and undiluted Kia-Ora. And of course this leads to accidents.

When you are 5, everything is at a dangerous height and whilst running round in an impossibly tight turning circle little Yuka smacked her chin off the table. I had just thrown the ball at her, and bravely she decided to answer the question first before, then, bursting into tears.

It’s difficult to describe but it’s actually quite upsetting to see kids crying. It sets something off inside you. It seems that you’re so aware they are to encounter so much unhappiness in life, you’re determined they don’t spend a second longer than they have to being miserable.
For a moment, I came over all paternal

I Am The Invigilator

This week was Mid Term Tests and I was invigilator.

Shh. Turn over your papers now. No talking. Pens down......and all that lot. It's so much fun being on the "other side" for a change.

As anticipated some of my kids have done very well. Others haven’t got a hope in hell.

Great quote from Neil from the Young Ones on the subject of exams:

It was horrible. I sat in the big hall and put my pocket of Polos on the desk. And my spare pencil and my support gonk. And my chewing gum and my extra pen. And my extra Polos and my lucky gonk. And my pencil sharpener shaped like a cream cracker. And more gonks with a packet of Polos in each. And lead for my retractable pencil. And my retractable pencil. And spare lead for my retractable pencil. And chewing gum and pencils and pens and more gonks, and the guy says "Stop writing, please."

Book Off

Spent the majority of last Sunday wandering round like a complete prat.

I have been on a quest for a decent bookshop for a while now, and Dave told me of a second-hand English bookstore in Ebisu called Good Day Books.

He also gave me a map another teacher had drawn for him. The map had been scratched angrily into the page with one of those black, ultra-thin Pentel efforts. Buildings were heavily shaded with black cross hatchings and roads were scored with the great ferocity - this was clearly a Shane teacher.

However, it was to later transpire that the map was utter bollocks.

I set off, arrived at the station, followed the instructions and within 15 minutes realised that I was way, way out of position. Using my male intuition, instead of reversing my direction, I decided it might be a good idea to take what I considered to be short cut back to the station.

1 hour later it was lashing it down with rain. I couldn’t see the book shop. Or the station. Or any people. And my surroundings were starting to resemble the map – dark, angry, angular buildings. Also the rain was soaking through the page forming a large grey splodge making the chance of finding this bloody shop very slim.

Finally found my way back my start point and decided I would have one last go. This time I ignored the map and decided to let the ley lines guide me. And lo and behold within minutes I had found it. It was 100 yards from the station all along.

Why I walked down that street and took that particular turning I’ll never know because it was completely contrary to what the map suggested. But luckily I did.

The shop is great. It has a wonderful fusty page smell and the owner, whose accent seemed to contain traces of Oz, American, South African and Solihull, is clearly madder than a van of badgers.

I picked up some battered copies of Asimov’s I, Robot printed a bit pissed up and Hard Times by Mr C Dickens. I’m well sofistikated and that.

Should you be in the Ebisu area of Tokyo, I thoroughly recommend it:

SHAME School Of English

So this training, then. Well, it wasn’t bad.

However, it did open up a whole new can of worms right into the hornets nest.

Here’s why:

Shane teachers very rarely meet each other. They are often the only teacher in the school all day, open up in the morning, lock up at night and aside from a quick chinwag with the reception staff, have little contact with the outside world.

Like some covert splinter cell everyone’s identities are kept secret from one another lest they meet and compromise security. On the rare occasions teachers do meet, the results can be potent. Because teachers all deal in one currency - The Horror Story.

For any Shane lawyers, I stress that this is purely hearsay and I could not verify any of the individual accounts.

But, shitting crikey, I’ve been regaled with some great tales. Highlights include:

* An entire school shut down after the teachers and receptionist staff were so pissed off that they just walked out.

* Aforementioned July resignations were in response to Shane’s altering of the employment status its teachers; we now are classed as part time and, accordingly, receive fewer benefits.

* Shane charges way above the going rate for our apartments – it’s simply seen as a source of income.

* A teacher hospitalised through mental illness was badgered until she came back to work, such was the seriousness of their shortage.

*Shane, the man, now lives in a Scottish Castle which he bought for £6 million

Again, I stress that with all these cases, a good old campfire story does tend to take on a life of its own.

Before too long, the story will have no doubt morphed into:

“Did you know the company is actually run by a super-computer powered by Shane’s brain floating in solution? Also he can see all your thoughts. Oh, and he has access to an evil time machine”

Nevertheless, I get the distinct impression that I am working for a shit company.

But then I already knew that.

The Week In Bulletpoints

At the risk of seeming predictable, it’s not been a great week. Here’s why:

Man Flu

I’ve had an extra strength dose of man flu and, in all seriousness, it’s been pretty harsh.

I coughed so hard I wrenched my left side. I didn’t get much kip as it was so painful to lie down and was also sporting a shocking headband headache which was making me dizzy.

Lessons were a struggle. Felt like I was doing cross-country in concrete boots

However, just on the horizon lurked my four day holiday. Keep going, I thought, you’re nearly there. Then, if I want to lie on my bed doing sudoku or idly juggling my bollocks, I can do just that.

Aaah, four days.Yes!

Which brings me to my second point:

10 Green Bottles

Four days had soon become three. Turned out that I was down to teach in a teacherless school twice that month. Not, as I thought, once. Never mind I thought - 3 days is still enough time for serious juggling. Number juggling obviously.

Which brings me to my third point.

Just The Fax, Ma’am.

Neil, one of the SHANE management bods, phoned me on the Monday

Neil : Yeah............just wanted to check you’re OK for training on Friday and Saturday

Me: er..............what?

Neil: Have you not received the fax?

Me: Received a fax? What year is this -1987? No I haven’t received a fax.

Neil: Ok....sorry about that. Well, yes there’s follow-up training on the Friday and Saturday.

Me (now getting angry): Neil, are you aware that this month I will have worked three 6-day weeks AND given up two days of my holidays for “training”?

Neil: Really? Yeah.......really sorry about that..... not ideal, is it? So see you Friday?


Neil: Before Me.

As it happened, I was meeting Neil the next day to discuss my lessons.

Actually, Neil is a thoroughly decent chap and getting stroppy with him would have been counter-productive. I get the feeling despite his loftier management position, he has just as much chance of influencing the SHANE “policy makers” as I do.

In fairness he listened to what I had to say and claimed that July and August were some of the worst months he could remember for workload - 7 teachers had done the off in July, leaving them with a chronic shortage.

Consequently, new teachers (eg me) had been given a few rounds of ammunition and a tin hat and pushed straight out into the warzone.

“Don’t worry” he said “We have a load of new teachers arriving next month. It’ll get easier”.

The message was clear: sit tight and wait for reinforcements.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Mum

Please will everyone wish my Mum a Happy Birthday. If you’re reading this Mum, I have got you something although I haven’t worked out how the postal system in this country works yet.

Hopefully, I may be able to get it to you before too long.

Can’t really find any suitable Birthday Cards, so you may have forgo that pleasure this year.

Elvis Doesn’t Live

After impressing me greatly last week by telling me she had been playing a Deep Purple medley with her school band, Ikumi has really let herself down.

One of the questions in her text book asked her to choose an adjective describing how she would react to a number of scenarios.

The examples included: you have been robbed; you have won the lottery; you are in a haunted house etc. And of course, she was meant to say: happy; surprised; scared etc.

Except I noticed the last one had been left blank. The scenario was : you saw Elvis.

“Who’s Elvis?” she said looking at me blankly

“Who’s Elvis?” I said back, probably a little too much venom “You’ve never heard of Elvis Presley?”


So, it’s come to this. That a man born in 1977, the year Elvis died, is now so old that a girl he teaches is young enough to have never heard of Elvis.

I’ll be 30 soon. Then it will all be over.

Piddling In A Stream Of Consciousness

Fans of pithy, witty comments may want to look away now. This post is a bit of a rant and does go on a bit. But I was feeling a bit blue and was on a roll.

Actually, if you’re a fan of pithy, witty comments you may want to try a different website.

So, it’s nearly two months on. How am I faring? Alright, I suppose. As usual, in my head there are two columns: one for pluses and one for minuses.

The Pluses:

As a country, Japan is fantastic. Once you’ve got past the initial whole “wow I’m in living the future” thing, you find a country that is polite, efficient, tidy, welcoming and exciting.

Also, like the moment you find a really nice sleeping position after tossing and turning, I have found a series of routines with which I am now comfortable:

I know my school timetable inside out, I have a handful of restaurants which cater for my tastes and I have learned the usual stock phrases: how much, can you speak English and Chicken McNuggets, please.

I will continue to push myself, but for now I am in a safe holding pattern.

The other thing I am glad about is that the temperature has fallen dramatically. Monday was a shirt sticking to your back day. Wednesday was a get under the duvet day. There has been no transitional period; it’s gone from mid 30s to high teens overnight.

The Minuses:

Teaching is getting easier (I managed to prepare all my lessons in one and a half hours yesterday) but the job is still unrelenting.

This splitting up your weekend malarkey is harder than you think. One day off doesn’t seem enough somehow. Knackered, you wake up late, potter about all day then fail to get to sleep at night. Then you have to do it all again.

A 57-hour week is tough. A 65-hour week is very tough.

More important, I am still not really enjoying it yet. That’s not to say I hate it, (although I used to), but there have been precious few times when I have really been pleased with a lesson.

Kids’ lessons are blighted by the fact that no matter how dedicated or studious, they are still learning under protest. It’s very disheartening to see a row of glum faces staring back at you whilst you try to lever knowledge into their brains.

Adults’ lessons are OK, because you know they are there to learn. However, there is the added difficulty of you being under constant assessment; the student is bound to have an opinion on whether you are value for money.

The Verdict

Looking back over previous posts I may have been overly negative towards SHANE and the job itself. However, at the time, I was very angry with my predicament.

The point at which you need the most support from SHANE and for them to be at their most efficient is at the very start. And that’s when they are so very lacking.

Now I’ve become accustomed to their quirks, I’ve worked out ways of getting round its foibles and inefficiencies, sidestepping their inadequacies.

So now I am less critical of SHANE. Not because they have improved in any way but because, through experience, I have managed to work out my solutions to their problems.

However, I do have more respect for teachers than I had before. It requires completely different set of skills from my previous job.

With respect, teaching doesn’t actually require much intelligence. Instead, it requires stamina. It’s just a slog. You can’t really have any off days - you have to be on top form all the time.

We’ve all had a job where you can waltz in 10-minutes late, maybe with a hangover, check your emails for another 10 minutes and then think about getting down to some work.

But the point is, as long as you delivered the right result, it didn’t matter. If you did all those things and completely ballsed up a presentation, then you’d be in trouble.

Conversely, teaching is a horrendously inflexible job both in terms of time and task. Not only is your timetable set in stone, but the actual subject matter is too.

For example, I have been looking through all my text books and have now realised that nothing is going to change. This time next year I will still be teaching kids to point at Leo the Dragon and say “he is big” and still be really over-enunciating the question “so…what…did…you (point) … do…at…the…weekend?” to the adult learners.

That’s going to get boring. I just hope it gets easier before it gets boring.

The Future

Ultimately, I could consider this experience the first leg on a bit of World Tour.

I have been mulling over the idea of giving it another month or two before heading off to Oz or NZ. Maybe I can call in at South America on the way back.

Paul informs me that no one really gives a shit about anything in Oz, but that this can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand everything is so easy but on the other, everyone lacks drive and ambition. For people who are accustomed to the cut and thrust of London, or even in my case London and Tokyo, that could prove interesting.

Hey Kids, I’m A Groovy Teacher.

Secretly I always thought to myself that, should I ever become a teacher, I would be a trendy one.

You know - the one the kids thought was cool, wore shades to class, knew more about music than they did and threw text books out of the window saying “Rubbish. We’ll do it my way”.

However, it is apparent that that if you are a) older than them and b) a teacher you’re already irredeemably uncool in their eyes.

Why? I don’t have leather patches on my elbows. I don’t have a slightly suspect tache. I don’t listen to Chris Rea. Apart from Road To Hell, obviously, because that’s actually quite good.

My problem at the moment is that I’m running out of fun stuff to do. The emphasis at SHANE is on making the lessons fun for kids. And that’s fair enough; the last thing they want after coming straight from school is more straight-laced instruction.

But I am finding out that paper, scissors, stone, find the pairs and blind man’s bluff really have a shelf life and increasingly the children are beginning to look fed-up.

One girl in particularly has never once smiled in my lesson, and last week responded to the question “Are you happy?” with a flat “No”.

“No?” I said cheerfully, before re-prompting the correct answer “Yes I am happy”.

I thought she’d caught on, so I tried again: “So, are you happy?”

“No” she said.

Don’t know why she looks so miserable. We do play a lot of games in that class.

Still, such is her mood, I suspect I could dress up as a robot clown from the future and spend the lesson shitting out Twixes and Tizer and she still wouldn’t be happy.

Alternatively, in an extension to a previous post on the subject of indoctrinating the Japanese with Midlands dialect, I could always introduce “Supwiyo?” into the classroom. And they could always respond “Note”

Southerners should consult a valid copy of Phoenix Nights for translation.

The Yuki Strikes Back

You may have seen Yuki mentioned in a previous post. He is the boy who has problems understanding snowmen.

He is unintentionally hilarious, however, as this brief excerpt from today’s lesson demonstrates:

Me: Yuki, which colour is missing?

Yuki: February

The Blitish Are Coming

Saw a SHANE advert in one of my schools raving about a UK-themed, Japanese tourist attraction entitled “Blitish Hills”.

A surprising spelling error from SHANE there. Especially since we are, first, a language school and second, a British language school.

A low blow, but it made me laugh.

You take pot luck with pronunciation over here. At first, I was pooh-poohing the traditional Western view that all Japanese people say “flied lice”.

They usually they opt for a very soft “d” sound called a “flap”, instead of the “l “or “r”. Hence my name is pronounced: Fidip Doordi

But I have since met people who really do say “childlen”, “Engrish” and one guy who, when he was listing the months of the year, wrote “Aplil”.

The Japanese have their difficult words too. Take the ubiquitous but rather tricky “desu” - a multi-purpose word for is/be/are/. The word is not pronounced “desoooo”, but more like “des *hu*!”.

The trick with “desu” is to stop somewhere between the “s” and the “u” and dramatically cut the word short by tightening your chest like you’ve just stubbed your toe on the bed.

We’ve all done it; instead of screaming, you kind of go “hup!” and bite your lip silently for about a minute while you attempt to absorb the pain back into your body.

Also in Japanese, there are no strings of consonants. Consequently they often need to insert random vowels to make the word more palatable.

Here are some translations:

Next....................................Knicker Setter

Scrambled Egg.................. Soccer Am Bullet Air Go

Stereo................................. Soot Hairy You

Mrs Mouse (mentioned in a previous entry) is also the finest purveyor of this “Irritable Vowel Syndrome”. She is incapable of saying a word without putting a PISSING VOWEL ON THE END.

Me: What do we call this tense?

Mouse: Whatto do we callo thisso tenso?

Me: No I said that....You don’t understando a bloody wordo I’mo sayingo do you?”

All this Consonant Kerfuffle means that Roy Walker’s Catchphrase is unlikely to take off over here as, fact fans, the word “catchphrase” has the longest string of consonants in the English language.

Unless they call it “Cat A Chair Fur Air Sir”.


I’ve seen some great T-shirt slogans over here. The funniest are usually the ones that have been poorly translated into English. Every now and again, however, there’s one which simply defies description.

Last Monday I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt that simply said:

“Skullshit Hardliner”.

Now, I’m not sure if Skullshit Hardliner is a heavy metal singer (perhaps Mr Hardliner would write in to confirm this) or maybe a brand of extra strength mouthwash, but either way the guy wearing it looked like he spent a lot of time falling off skateboards, calling his friends “dude” and banging his groin on metal handrails.

I am on a quest to find the best slogan, so expect some updates here.

What’s In A Name?

It’s a good job I’ve got a good memory.

The list below represents about 2/3rds of my students. As you can see, I’ve got all on to not get them mixed up.

Read the list aloud as fast you can; it’s like a barmy Japanese version of Trumpton’s Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew....

Harumi (female)
Harafumi (male)
Yuka (2 of them)
Yuki (2 of them)
Yusei (pissed on my floor)
Yumemi (sister of Himemi)
Eiko (receptionist)
Reiko (female – Assistant Professor of Renology at Tokyo University)
Keiko (female - 2 of them)
Keigo (male – Consultant Neurologist)
Ayaka (5 of them)
Ayano (2 of them)
Himemi (sister of Yumemi)
Kazune (inaudible 12 year old)

I made the one of those up by the way.

Can you guess which one?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pissed Off

Yesterday, a kid pissed himself in my class. Admittedly he was only three, but I should have realised what was about to happen when I saw him gingerly gripping his doodah whilst I was teaching him to count to 10.

It was only at the end I noticed there was a small puddle on my carpet and a dark stain spreading out from the centre his grey shorts. I know my lessons are exciting but steady on....

Then it was time for a student I will simply call Mrs Mouse ; a 25 year old woman so weak, feeble and utterly unprepared for life you feel like shaking by her shoulders whilst shouting “just snap out of it, woman.”

She has nothing to say for herself, communicates via a series of non-committal whimpers and looks at me like a cow looks at the owner of an abbatoir.

I feel guilty for being so negative towards her. Hell, being shy is not a crime and a lack of confidence is not a reason to view someone so disparagingly.
But she’s just so....oh I don’t know.....inert. The human equivalent of balsa wood. Or watered down Lime Cordial.

To her I say this: Where’s your balls? Where’s your vim? Where’s your fire? Shout at me. Argue with me. Just do something which doesn’t involve you wincing uncomfortably like you’ve got wind every time I ask you a question.

The kid before you could beat you in a staring competition. And in an act of defiance, he also pissed on the floor. Maybe you should try that. I would respect you more.

Random Factor, Like A Tractor.

In attempt to marshal random thoughts, this section will feature a series of unconnected ramblings. Think of it as Blog Pourri.

* There’s a lovely girl in my Tuesday class called Ikumi. She is very bright for her 17 years of age and has been assigned a textbook she can do in her sleep.

When I asked her what she had done at the weekend and she replied that she had been that she had been playing saxophone in the school band. “What did you play?” I asked her, thinking I already knew the answer “...some traditional Japanese folk tunes?”

“Aaah no” she said politely. “We play Deep Purple medley.”

Man, I wished I had been there to see that. Smoke On The Water must rock most heavily on a tuba - Parp, Parp, Paaaah.........Parp Parp PaahPaah

* Out again last night with David, another teacher from my school at Sendagi. We were discussing about how we greet the students at the door and what questions we should ask them before we let them enter the classroom.

It’s usually “how are you today?”, but we both agreed that the response “I am fine thankyou” was getting boring.

David, who is Scottish, said he might teach them “Aye, ahm no bad, pal”, and that I would greet them with “Eh up. Nah then” only for them to respond “Ahm alraight”

* And finally....Famous Japanese Myths #1

Before I came to Japan I was under the impression that Japanese pupils were obedient, dutiful and respectful.

What utter, utter bollocks.


Some of you know me well. Some of you know me very well.

Some of you will understand the potentially catastrophic consequences of my running out of audio, video and good old dead tree (that’s books to anyone over 40).

As previously mentioned Japanese TV does nothing for me, I have read the books I brought and there’s only a certain number of times I can re-listen to my Alan Partridge and Mighty Boosh downloads.

So an open request to anyone out there with a shred of compassion: send me content. I will off course wire money for blank CDs and postage and packing.

George and Giacomo, Grand Viziers of The Download - I’m looking in your direction. Paul’s stuff will only last so long, and I’ll be cold turkey before you know it.

Some good quality Brit/US comedy or maybe a film or two wouldn’t go amiss.

Hey I’m on bended knee here.

Shick As Thit

There’s an old Armstrong and Miller sketch where two gruff, no-nonsense Northern businessmen hold a “Better Business Practice Seminar” for a series of rapt, grey-suited Japanese salarymen.

“You see, in business, what the Japanese need to do...” says one, turning over a flip chart

“ 'Give Less Of A Shit’

....advice that I would do well to take. I take it personally when a kid doesn’t understand something. Especially when, in my mind, it’s perfectly simple; this isn't difficult. Why can’t you understand it?

Take this example:

Me (holding up a picture of a snowman): “What is this? It’s a snowman. Harafumi?

Harafumi: eet’s a snowman

Me: Good. It’s a snowman. Yuseke?

Yuseke: eet’s a snowman

Me: Good. It’s a snowman. Ayano?

Ayano: eet’s a snowman

Me: Good. It’s a snowman. Ayaka?

Ayaka: eet’s a snowman

Me: It’s a snowman. Yuki?

Yuki: er......

Me: Yuki - it’s a snowman

Yuki: er......My name is Yuki

Me: Aaaaaaaargh.

However, later I did have a moment of clarity: some kids are, unfortunately, just thick.

To join this school the only thing they test is the ability to hand over the money.

I Felt The Earth Move

Last Thursday there was an earthquake. I was in the internet café when everything went wobbly.

My monitor and desk shook and books on the bookshelf went from slanting like this "/" to this "\"

I furtively glanced around trying to catch someone’s eye, as if to say “this is happening, isn’t it ?”, but no one seemed to bother.

I felt totally helpless. There really is no obvious solution. Tornado? Get out the way. Heatwave? Drink plenty and stay cool. Earthquake? Erm…step away from the tectonic plate?

This was to prove useful as a source of questions for lessons later that week – Did you feel the earthquake? Was it bad one? Am I going to die?

The consensus is that Tokyo receives around 20 tremors a year and that this most recent one was quite big. I was also informed that this was a horizontal earthquake, and that it’s the vertical ones I should worry about. My thoughts immediately turned to the tin of Spam I call home and potential escape routes from its third floor.

Fortunately, I had been given a crash course on what to do in the event of earthquake earlier that week after practising the future tense with my Junior High School class:

“What will you do if there’s an earthquake?”

“I will cover my head”

“I will open all the doors”

“I will attempt to be out that day”

Better Than Dixons

Just on the left you can see the giant screens of Akihabara, or Electric Town.

Here you can buy anything from an extension cable for your lawn mower to a bag of pixels for your new Virtual Reality helmet


At The Top....

At The Bottom...

Top Tokyo TV Tower Trip

Here are some pictures of the Tokyo TV Tower. I've always been partial to anything skyscraperesque, and still get very excited when I am high above the ground.

Was worried that Paul, who said he had been up nearly every skyscraper and observation deck in Asia, would call a Halt On Towers (see what I did there?), but he was up for it.

So after work on Sunday (which should have been my day off) we met up in Kamiyacho and decided to make like Kenny Lynch and get Up On The Roof.

Initially, we paid ¥800 (£4) for the middle observation deck, but once there were impressed enough to pay an extra ¥600 for the top deck.

Did the right thing as well. From the top, 250m up, you can see the Rainbow Bridge stretching out over Tokyo Bay, and get a great view of Akihabara or “Electric Town”.

I have to say, it’s the best thing I’ve done in Japan so far. I did have a go at describing how good it all was, but at the time of writing (Sunday morning) the words are not coming as well as I’d hoped.

A quick look through my Microsoft Thesaurus threw up words like: amazing, great, pleasing, brilliant. And all those words are fine, but they are overused and pretty meaningless.

So, please use these words to make your own sentences: night time, million blinking lights, shimmering city, traffic, neon, landing planes, freeways, futuristic toy town.

I liked it. And I would do it again.

The Man In The Hat Is Back

Thanks must go to this man.

Paul, who has been sleeping on my floor for the past week, is near to completing his mammoth two year world tour and called in on me on his way from China to Vladivostok.

When I last saw him he was having Russian Visa issues and was trying to talk his way on to a boat in some remote Japanese port. Ray Mears? Pah!

Haven’t heard from him since. He is either on a train snaking across Siberia or been sold as slave labour to a secret Communist gulag.

His round the world trip has proved pretty expensive overall, so of course I charged him no rent, but here are some things he did as payment:

* Mended my computer

* Sorted out all my trash into combustible and non-combustible and put it out on the right days

* Found a cash machine in Akabane which took my Mastercard

* Gave me a load of content including Ricky Gervais’s podcasts, audio from Blackadder and League Of Gentlemen and also the entire first series of Doctor Who

* Bought all the beer and biscuits

* Did all my washing

* Cleaned my kitchen and bathroom and hoovered up

To you sir, I say thankyou.

Check out his blog at

Thursday, September 07, 2006


This is my first day off in a week and I have been working 11 and 12 hours days.

Needless to say I am knackered and haven't had chance to post.

Thanks for all your emails and blog comments - really appreciate it. Will get round to replying to them all.

Will post again Sunday avec les photgraphes.

I'm off for a lie down now.

Ta ra