Saturday, 30 June 2007

Saturday Night's Alright

Saturday is the busy day at Yokohama. My first lesson was a no show, but from then on it was every session booked. I actually prefer to do the classes as sitting around all day is probably more draining.

After work I was going to go home and then straight to gf's. I saw Nathan and Johnny on my way out and they were going to a Izakaya to celebrate Nathan's birthday. I really wanted to be going home, but I didn't want to say no.

I had an 8% Chimay Belgian beer for 800 yen for a small glass. A bit expensive but it tasted nice, kind of malty. I left by 630pm thinking I had plenty of time to catch a train into Tokyo.

I didn't leave Keikyu Tomioka until 730pm and SMS'd gf that I would likely be there at 830pm. Now I realize it actually is about an hour and half to get there. I called her and said sorry but this girl is TOO understanding of me. Man, I like her!

She met me at Yotsuya station and I surprised her by creeping up from behind while she was looking at brochures.

This is my girl. Ain't she sweet? This is from my K800i. Not bad for a mobile phone.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Somebody Has To Pay

I made my way back from gf's a little tired. I got plenty of sleep. Just the train itself is quite draining.

When I got to Yokohama I decided it was about time I paid my rent. It's due on the 2nd and if I couldn't work it out, I'd have to ask someone to help me.

There was quite a lineup at the ATMs so I asked a clerk where to do it. She said the same place that I tried in vain a few days before. I asked another girl but she said I could do it without a bankcard and in english. I waited patiently in line thinking this would be another waste of time.

I got to the end of the line and the girls were nowhere in sight. My savior came in the form of a security guard. He talked and showed the way through it. A bit pointless as it was in japanese and I didn't get a word he said. It went quickly and before I knew it my rent was paid for another month.

I called Shinjuku HQ from the foyer of the Yokohama office to find out that I was going to be working in the office above. I could have just walked upstairs but I was dressed very casually, unshaven and had a bag of seaweed (I think) that gf gave me to take home. Thanks gf!

I went home and got changed. Jesse and Derek both noticed that I had cleaned the shower and thanked me for my efforts. Derek said I looked a bit down. I didn't tell him that I knew about the degrading post he wrote about me. I think it's better I shut my mouth and let it go away.

I just found out that on wednesdays I will now be starting much earlier at 1045am. I think this is a good thing. It should mean that I will have a lot more time to appreciate the day off I have the following day. Woo Hooo!

I made a spag bog again this evening. No one is home and everything is fine.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Two Faces

I found one of my flatmate's blog. I read a post from when I first arrived in Japan. From what he said it left me quite down. I won't go into detail. He just didn't say nice things about me. I think things are much better now. Sometimes you just don't know. I think everyone is two faced to some extent.

It's my day off and I just don't feel like doing anything. I did clean my room up a bit so now it looks presentable to any visitors that might come by. I must have been REALLY bored as I also cleaned the most filthy bathroom in Japan. When gf saw it she didn't want to go in there at all. Us boys were oblivious to it. So much for cleanliness.

Anyway I scrapped away the mouldy spores off the ceiling and the floor and even though I used the dishwashing liquid I did a reasonable job that the other guys noticed the next morning.

I left home at 5pm and went to Akihabara electric town first which is like one big Yodobashi Camera store. There were a few girls in maid's outfits giving out flyers to their maid cafes. Sort of cute.

Yotsuya is close by so there was no problem getting the train there. I decided to walk to gf's place instead of her meeting me at the station. I didn't get lost and she was pleased to see me. I was happy to see her. It's nice to have someone in lonely Japan.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Cheese Has Left The Building

Another day at Yokohama. I didn't have any classes for the first two time slots so it was pretty cruisy. All the classes I took went well.

I attempted to pay my monthly rent at the UFJ bank with little luck. The room was just full of ATMs with no-one to help. I had to go to work so I'll have to try again on my day off tomorrow.

My classes always seems to run a little bit over. On my last one, one of the other teachers stole my single student class so I had to do his three person class. I'm sure it wasn't intentional so no grudges here.

At home Jessie was making his dinner so I just decided to finish the last of "the chunk". I was going to make spaghetti but I just couldn't be bothered.

Seems like gf wants me to come over tomorrow afternoon. I'm going to see her on the weekend anyway but she SMS'd sounding like she's keen to see me. So I guess I'm going to Tokyo tomorrow.

Monday, 25 June 2007


It is one of those days, but the hardest thing is getting out of bed. Apart from the obvious reason I just like sleeping in too much. Once we finally got up, gf helped me make some miso soup.

I didn't have any vegetables to add to it except onion (A LOT of onion). She added an egg to it and it was so cool how it cooked on top of the water. I also made some scrabbled eggs in the frying pan and fried crispy ham. Mmm..

Luckily today I only had to get to Kamioka. It is only 3 stops away so I didn't need to leave before 3pm. YAY!

The strangest that has happened so far was when I asked a man if he could have any car in the world, a Porsche, Lamborghini, Mercedes or Ferrari, he said that he wanted a japanese mini car. Go Figure..

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Yokohama Rain

After doing the usual sleeping in, we finally got out of bed. I video-called mum and dad. They both got to see the gf. For some reason she goes all quiet and suddenly forgets her near perfect english. I'm sure she was nervous.

Even though it was raining we still made the decision to go to Yokohama's Minato Mirai where there was a nice harbour and a mini amusement park. I'm sure if there was no rain it would have been much better.

We had a gelato in the shopping complex. I had a mango and blood orange sorbet and gf had rockmelon and some kind of japanese flavour that tasted quite good as well.

We went on the ferris wheel (700 yen) which was nice, high and maybe a little romantic?! The couple in the carriage behind us looked funny. They sat patiently next to each other, but no touching at all. weird..

We were considering going up the Landmark Tower but because it was raining and 1000 yen, we both decided to do it another day. Still, it didn't stop me taking a picture with the obligatory victory sign.

Friday, 22 June 2007

From Yotsuya to Keikyu Tomioka

I made sure that I was leaving gf's apartment between 10:30 and 11am. I wanted to be back at Keikyu Tomioka so I could ring head office to see where I'd be working today as I had sub duty. It was raining all day.

Gf decided to come all the way back to my place as she reasoned it was her day off. I didn't persuade her not to come and the company on the train was nice. I forgot to grab my ticket as I went through the gate at Shibuya, but gf talked to the Yokohama station guard and he let me through without making me pay twice. Thanks gf!

At Yokohama I tried the Citibank ATM to see if I could withdraw 100,000 yen as I am really running short of money to pay my rent. Thankfully the ATM spat out some freshly produced 10,000 yen bills so I am in the clear for another month.

Once we got home I got on the internet and spoke to my dad. He saw gf on the webcam. I wonder what he thinks of her, and of me seeing a japanese girl? I'm sure I'll find out his opinion soon enough. Gf managed to see the Softbank mobile phone bag on my floor so I gave her my mobile number there and then.

She came with me to the elevators at my work in Yokohama. So now she knows where I live, where I work and what my phone number is. I don't know if this is just some kind of honeymoon period, but I hope she doesn't go psycho on me. From what I am thinking now I don't think so. I like her a lot.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Ice Eating Fish

I arrived at gf's place wednesday night at 11pm. I only brought an extra t-shirt, as that was all that would fit in my bag. We slept in and later she made me a traditional japanese breakfast with Miso soup, rice, omelette and tea.

After, gf suggested we go to the Canal Cafe in Iidabashi for a drink and later the Four Seasons Hotel at Chinzan-so to see the fireflies.

The cafe was a great idea. It is actually on the river and with the humidity, a nice cold iced coffee was just what I needed. She, of course had a iced tea. There were some large-ish fish opening their mouths out of the water for food. I threw a few icecubes from my coffee into the water and those dumb fish went for it everytime *evil laugh*.

We then went to see the fireflies. There were quite a few people wandering the gardens awaiting their arrival. Gf and I walked around admiring the pagoda and smaller statues on a nice garden path.

It took ages to get dark and quite a while for the fireflies to make their appearance but once they did it was pretty cool and dare I say it, romantic. As it was getting late I decided to stay over gf's place another night.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

My First Photo

So now that I am connected with my mobile I can finally take some more pictures with my K800i. So, for the first picture in Japan, this is one of my apartment in Keikyu Tomioka. It is not the most pretty looking building, but it's home for now I guess.

I got up about 11am and took this picture in my pj's. A truck drove past so I hurried inside.

Today I have to go to Yokohama to teach. I hope it will go well. Later, I think I'll go straight to gf's place. It'll be late when I finish and I definitely don't want to miss the train to get there.

Monday, 18 June 2007

The Expiry Date

This is my first day of real actual, god fearin' work. I thought I was going to freak out, but you know what? I had a REALLY GOOD first day!

Today I also wanted to get my gaijin card, national health care - Ko kumin Hoken, AND my mobile phone. I thought I could do this in three hours. Maybe at home this would be not too hard to ask, but in Japan I don't think so.

First I did the alien card and NHI. This was a little bit of a struggle. Of course the lack of Japanese was always going to be a pain in the behind. I think I did everything ok. I am happy to know that if something DOES happen, my parents will not have to sell the house to "fix" me should I feel not so well.

Ok, next was the mobile phone. The salesperson at Softbank didn't speak any english (what IS it with that? I'm in Japan. Everyone should speak english!), so from the start this was not going to be an easy ask. He was using a web yahoo translation service to explain what everything was.

Unfortunately I had to purchase a phone in order to get onto a phone plan. I chose a Samsung 707SCII because on a 24 month plan it is free. Even if I cancel after 12 months, I'll only have to pay 11,760 yen so no big deal. I signed up for the 980 yen white plan which is REALLY cheap. There was about a AUS $28 new subscription fee.

The really good news is that their SIM card works perfectly in my K800i from Australia, so I have a backup phone and I can use my trusty Sony Ericcson. Good pictures here we go!

I don't know what it is today but as the title of this post states, a few things decided it was time to check out. My sunglasses screw came off and i can't find it. My mobile phone case broke as well. I thought this was going to be a bad omen for my day, but as it turns out. Everything was sweet.

It would have been nice if I had more than 5 minutes before I started work though. The Pocky kept me going.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

There's Something About Yoko*

Ok it was bound to happen, but I didn't quite think it would be this soon. Yes, I met a Japanese girl last night in Shibuya at the Tasuichi bar. This is the bar that I have been going to the last three weekends but didn't know the name of it.

I was out with the training crew for our last hurrah before we start work next week. I was meeting them at the bar at 930pm but when I arrived there wasn't any one of them there. This quite pissed me off, but I thought I may as well still make a night of it and started my drinking.

Finally after about my third drink they all got there and we started off with gusto. After about another drink or two I met two japanese girls with a foreign guy looking like he was interested in picking one of them up. I said "Kampai" and I had a great chat with Yoko*.

She looked like she was pretty keen on me so I focused on this girl and left the other guys to fend for themselves. They soon left. I bought Yoko a drink and before you know we were getting pretty close. She is 35yrs old, but slim and young looking. Best of all she speaks very good english as she was an english teacher.

She asked if I wanted to stay there and I said that we should go for a walk. She gave me a mini guided tour of Shibuya. We ended up outside Shibuya station and I suggested we go back to her place.

She lives in Yotsuya, which is about 2500 yen in a taxi. So, in other words it's a LOT closer than Keikyu Tomioka. She paid for the taxi and once we got to her one person apartment she wanted five minutes to clean it up. It is a small but functional place.

We stayed in for quite a while during the morning. Later we had a lunch at Pauls. I had a quiche and Yoko, a salad. She gave me her mobile number and we walked around the park.

It looks like I will see her again wednesday night and stay with her thursday, my day off. Tomorrow I start my first official day of work. I am so nervous. I need to review my teaching as I don't want to make a mess of things. Cross my fingers!

*Yoko may or may not be her real name

Saturday, 16 June 2007

The Graduation

It's the last day of training. What I don't know now I won't know or I'll have to learn really quick. I'm sure there will be nerves but I have a new mantra, "No Fear". Sounds better than "Holy Sh%t!!".

I must have been in such a rush that I forgot to log out my time card. I called the office to fix that. I managed to ask a station attendant to break a 100 yen coin for me. My charades were unnecessary as he asked back in english, "change?".

I signed my contract so they mustn't think I suck too much. I have the schedule now where I am working and thankfully most of my classes are not too far away from where I live.

The closest is three stops away in Kamioka where I have changed trains every day. I also have Yokohama and the furthest is Fijisawa, about an hour away.

Tonight we will go to Shibuya to celebrate. I plan for it to be an all-nighter. There is no way I'm going to be stranded at some strange station again.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

The Amusement Never Ends

On a day off you could be doing a lot worse than going to an amusement park. It so happens that the training crew, that is Johhny, Joel, Julia, Barnaby and myself made our "own" way to the Tokyo Dome City Amusement Park in Suidobashi.

With the trains there were a few changes. Just to avoid your eyes glazing over I'll mention it briefly. From Keikyu Tomioka to Yokohama on my usual line (230 yen), then to Shibuya on the Tokyu-Toyoko line (260 yen), then Yoyogi on Yamanote line and Chūō-Sōbu line to Suidobashi (160 yen). I mistakenly paid 210 yen for this because I didn't write the fare properly on my cheat sheet.

We all bought a day pass for 3000 yen which we made sure we got the full value of the ticket. Most of us went on the Thunder Dolphin three times. Crappy name I know, but the first drop of this roller coaster is 80 degrees and it drops from really, really high.

Geo Panic was another cool, in the dark roller coaster,but it strained the body on the turns. We did 2 haunted houses, (The 13 doors and Zombie Paradise), but they were pretty lame. We were more scared doing the scaring ourselves. Towards the end we went on The Big O. No, it's not what you think. It is a centre-less, large Ferris Wheel. The view was excellent as it was also getting dark.

At this point I want to rectify my earlier comments regarding the other training crew. Julia, I said was unsociable. Over the past two weeks she has come out quite a bit and I'm just putting it down to shyness. Also apologies to Barnaby. You have a unique name and I'm sure you are proud of it. You are a great guy and it's been good getting to know you as well. I hope this saves me from an eternal life in damnation.

Also before I go, I want to mention that I did my first wash of clothes since I've been here. I was feeling a little stinky so that is now taken care of. Another thing is "THE CHUNK", the rather large chunk of Pecorino cheese my dad gave me to take here has finally been liberated from it's plastic confines. Still tastes good. Mmm, gotta love that Pecorino eh?

This is a first person view of "Thunder Dolphin". (No, I didn't take my video camera on this ride. Acknowledgement goes to thunderrabbit. How you filmed this I have no idea).

Friday, 8 June 2007

It's Been One Week

It is one week since I've been in Japan. Well, actually technically it was yesterday, but I kind of forgot so "happy week" anniversary!

Today I had to give a teaching demonstration. All I can say it was daunting to say the least. I was worrying about it all last night because I don' t think I am totally confident with all the concepts. Derek and Jesse helped me out heaps last night. I think Derek was kind of amazed at how dumb I was. I don't know what it was but these things were just not sinking in!

To make a long story short, I did an ok job but I knew myself it could have been much better. I'm sure with time I will be doing so many of these things that it will come automatically. At lunch I had my first bento box. It was really cheap and filling. The counter guy first put in chopsticks but went "oh" and put in a fork as well. I think I am getting better at the chopsticks though.

To celebrate our first week we had a beer and yakatori skewers in a bar alley in Shinjuku. The back alleys are really atmospheric. This looks more like the Japan I expected.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

One Crowded Hour

I caught the train about 830am. My soundtrack for this journey was a mix of Baby Animals and AC-DC. A rocking tracklist would have me pumped to face another day of training.

Basically I catch three trains to get to Shinjuku. First, an all stops train from Keikyu Tomioka where I am living to Kamioka which is the first express train stop. From there I catch a very crowded express train to Shinagawa. These two trains are on the private Keikyu Line which because of that you won't find easily on a Tokyo subway map. This part of the ride costs 470 yen.

Ok, still with me? Shinagawa is on the famous Yamanote line that does a ring around central Tokyo. From here I go in the right direction (well I have so far) to Shinjuku (190 yen) which if you'd been there you'd know that is the busiest train station in the world. I've been there and Wikipedia agrees with me so it must be right. I'm yet to sit down for my whole one hour or so journey.

I was an hour early so I called the toll free number for Softbank. They have the cheapest white plan in Japan for 980 yen a month. The girl said the SIM will work for my phone but they won't sell the plan without me buying a handset as well (which sucks). So either I buy a really cheap handset or get a useable good phone (that can be used in Australia) and pay that off in instalments.

At lunch our whole training team (five plus teacher) went to a restaurant and I had some yummy rice curry. It was 850 yen and a nice large size.

Going home I bought some milk, eggs and Calpis. Yes, that's right. It tastes like one of those "good" bacteria, probiotic juices. I've just about finished it so it must be all right. The name makes me giggle too.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Do You Want 50 Yen Back With That?

Yet another day of training. I'm waiting for the crowded trains to drive me insane but it doesn't bother as much as I think it should. I brought my iPod on the train and while this was happening I was listening to the soothing sounds of Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero. This LP has seriously cool tracks. Sell a kidney or "borrow" it. Highly recommended.

I have somehow managed not to go the wrong way on the train. I'm just doing the same thing every day. As long as they don't change the train line number I'm cooking with gas. Training was a little ordinary and tiring. I went to a mobile phone store regarding the use of my K800i, but I they said the SIMs were locked to the phones. Later I tried Jessie's SIM, but it didn't look to be working.

I observed a teacher doing lessons and I think I can manage. It was like he was listening to two groups at once. If I can do this, then it should be no problem. I bought some chips from Lotterie. A rip off of Macdonalds. On the menu board it showed 260 yen, but the checkout girl showed me a menu with the sizes and small was 150 yen. I put the right money out and she gave me back 50 yen. What the..!?

I went to the supermarket for some black pepper and dishwashing detergent. I had my headphones on and didn't even notice Derek was standing right next to me.

Once more it was the same rice as the last two nights but probably tomorrow I'll try something out of the ordinary and make pasta. HAHA.

Monday, 4 June 2007

First Day Of Training

I got up this morning at 730am to get ready to go to work. Derek and Jessie had their Japanese girlfriends over for the night. I joked to Jessie where mine was. He said that I will find one soon enough. We'll see I guess.

I arrived at Shinjuku at about 10am. I managed to catch the right trains. The only thing was I didn't buy my second ticket before exiting the first gate and it started to close when I put my old ticket through. You see I catch two different train companies to get to Tokyo.

I pushed my way past the barriers and figured I'd get my new ticket at Shinjuku. The fare adjustment machine didn't accept my ticket so I had to go to the guard at the gate. He thought I wanted a ticket BACK to Keikyu Tomioka but I pointed past the gate so he calculated what I had to pay and let me through.

Shinjuku is a huge and BUSY station. I managed to find my way to the training office not too bad. I walked a little further than I had to but all was ok. At training I first met Joel from Newcastle, also Johnny (from Australia as well) who I met at Shibuya saturday night. The other two were Julia, a bit of a unsociable girl from Australia too and Barnaby from NZ. He seems a little ordinary but who gives their kid a name like that?

At lunch I had another of the Chin noodles from the Family Mart convenience store. This things have drugs in them I swear. Deliciooous! We all got some food there and ate them at a nearby park. A few japanese girls were checking me out. Well I'd like to think they were. I was very spiffy in my black suit and yellow tie.

Going home the train ride was not as busy as I'd thought it would be, but I had a mild panic shock and jumped off at Yokohama, then immediately realising I was still on the RIGHT express train to get where I was going.

I made some yummy rice and vegetables with meat on the side for dinner. I am on a roll at the moment. It tasted as good as last night. I must be onto something here. I am really fluking this cooking thing.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

The Day After The Day Before

As can be expected from coming back home at 7am, I slept till the break of 1pm. I didn't do that much done today. I went to the shop and bought a whole lot of groceries. I can't read any of what the food was, but thank god someone thought to put pictures on the packets. Worst buy was some really awful 2 litre bottle of (I think) black tea. It tastes like bitter cold tea without sugar.

I said "konbanwa" to a man walking his dog and he responded. It felt good. The Japanese are not that scary after all.I made some rice with vegetables and 2 slices of meat. Incredibly it actually tasted edible!

Tomorrow I start training. I hope I like it. I will be taking the train to Shinjuku, which is about an hour from here. I think I'm getting a reasonable grasp of the trains. Maybe..

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Shibuya Dreaming

During the day I did practically nothing apart from sleeping, frying two eggs and attempting to listen to my japanese language mp3s. I know I should have went out but I just couldn't be bothered.

Later that night Jessie said that I should go to Shibuya. Now he didn't actually invite me, so I thought I was not going to go there by myself. Later he actually asked if I wanted to come along with Derek and himself so I agreed and got ready as soon as I could. Unfortunately this meant that I didn't have enough time to shave.

Shibuya, according to Derek is Tokyo party central and you know what, I have to agree with him. Arriving there about 11pm this was going to be an all nighter. We went to a bar that looked like it was full of mostly gaijin teachers.

Shortly after we moved across the road to a more subtle underground restaurant/bar. it was here that I met Rochelle. She, with her other friends work for a rival english school, Aeon. Her work colleagues were talking about going to another bar so I left Derek and Jessie there and went with them.

Instead of going to another pub, we all ended up in a karaoke bar singing songs I didn't know with a loud group of Americans. Now I know for sure I can't stand this form of "entertainment".

By this time it was now early morning and somehow I have managed to get myself home. It is now 7am and I am SO tired. Goodnight or should I say good morning?

Friday, 1 June 2007

I Am An Alien

I didn't go to bed last night until about 1:30 am. It was hard to sleep in a new bed. I got up a few times from 5 am but being so early there was no way I was going to be up and about at that time.

I met my second flat-mate, Jesse. He is also Australian, but from Victoria. He is a very friendly guy. He gave me a lot of good advice and looks to be a good person to share this place with. To top things off he has a guitar! I am so happy about that. I was lamenting not bringing one of my own.

Both Derek and Jesse mentioned that for what we live in here, we are practically paying three times as much as we could get closer to Tokyo. But having said that, without Japanese contacts it would be difficult to acquire a better (and cheaper) living arrangement.

Finally at 3 pm I decided to go to Kanazawa Bunko where the ward office is to register for my alien registration card, Gaikokujin Toroku Shomeisho (also known as the "outside" person or gaijin card).

I don't know what it is but I am having a real big irrational fear at the moment. I'm feeling scared even to leave the house. The trains confuse me. It is so easy to get lost. I had a little help from a Japanese woman how much a ticket would cost, but the name of the station was right before my eyes IN ENGLISH.

Once I got there I followed the directions i was given and pretty much found it except I think I mistook the police station for the ward office. The woman there didn't speak any English so again it was a struggle to understand what she was asking me.

I went to a mobile phone shop and looked at the phones. I am in no rush for a mobile but I would like to get a SIM card for my K800i.

Now I know this would shock my mother, but I hadn't eaten anything (apart from a few Ferrero Rocher chocies) so I was feeling a little bit dizzy. I went to a small local convenience store and bought a whole lot of stuff, about $30 worth. I couldn't understand what the sales girl said, but she was kind of cute.

I managed to chat to both mum and dad online which was great. I'm feeling quite lonely at the moment. Derek and Jessie have their own contacts and already working, so I feel a little bit left out. I'm sure this will change when I start training and meeting a few people in the same situation as myself.

I found my way back home alright. My first official meal on Japanese soil was a spaghetti bolognese. So typically italian of me.