Tuesday, February 27, 2007


We went to Hamamatsu city on the weekend to see C. run in her very first 5K. After work on Saturday, I. and I hopped on the bullet train down to Shizuoka prefecture and were picked up at Hamamatsu station by C. and Mom.
C. had booked us into the Grand Hotel, which is pretty imposing. Ugly on the outside, but pretty nice on the inside, with all the bells and whistles. After checking in, we dropped off our bags and headed back downtown to check out the Indonesian restaurant they had peeped before we arrived, Surabaya. Good food, including tempe! and other yummy veggie things. The staff was pretty accommodating about making stuff veg, too.
The next day we went to the marathon area, a few stops from the center of town and then a bit of a walk from the station. Hundreds of people were present, milling around and getting ready to run in various incarnations of the race - a kid 3k, a 5k, a 10k, and a 10 mile run were all options for the participants.
C. ran in the 5k, and paced herself like a pro, going slow and steady. There were several crazily dressed runners, food booths, and dancers cavorting around to keep us busy while she was on the non-visible part of the course, though we stationed ourselves along the way to give her a hearty "GAMBARU!!" as she passed. She clocked in about 30 minutes later, beating her personal best and emerging victorious! Yay Cassass!

She and mom have been wearing pedometers and counting their steps over at WalkerTracker, and I have been inspired by them and jumped on the bandwagon. Called manpokei (万歩計)in Japanese, or "measuring 10,000 steps", the few people who have seen it clipped to my sock or my belt have felt it necessary to tell me that manpokei are for ojiisan. Lucky for me, I don't mind being compared to a grandpa. I am, after all, getting pretty old.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

city of lost children

After a long day at work, I was out front loading all my crap onto my scooter. The area that my school is in is very residential - no houses, but tons of apartment buildings, or "mansions", most at least ten floors high. A couple of kids wandered by. Nothing unusual about that - this place is mobbed with kids. A perfect place for an English school/cram school, actually.

Except then I noticed that one of them, the elder, about six, was sniffling and crying. His little companion, about three, was trailing behind him uncertainly.

I looked after them in concern. The older one wouldn't look at me, but kept wandering along. The younger one, though, stopped and checked me out, an entreat on his face.

"Daijoubu?" I asked. Are you okay? He mumbled something incomprehensible but then started to follow what I assumed to be his brother. I watched them for a minute, but they stayed out of close range, so I resumed packing my bike.

A few moments later, though, as I was putting on my helmet, the little one came back. "Mama o sagashite kudasai" he said. Help me find my mom. I crouched down. "Do you know your mom's phone number?" He shook his head, crestfallen. The older one, several meters away, started yelling for his brother. "Techi!" he called. Techi (probably short for Testuya or something like that) replied but stayed by my side. Big brother came over. He had some kind of bandage on his hand. "Do you know your mom's phone number?" I asked. He fired a rapid stream of numbers. I got out my phone and made him repeat it more slowly, then handed the phone to him, who handed it to the three year old.

"Mama, come back! What? We're near the house. What? Yeah. Ok. Ok. Byebye." Older handed the phone back to me; "Arigatou gozaimasu," he mumbled. They wandered a few meters away. I stuck around, keeping an eye on them and packing very slowly.

A minute later, a woman came whizzing over the overpass on a bicycle. The kids ran over to her and she started gently scolding them. "Where did you go? What are you doing?" Reassured, I started to get my things together. "Thank you!" she called over to me. "Thanks for the phone! Sorry for the trouble!" "It's nothing," I replied.

Girl scout good deed for the day, I guess. Poor kids. Losing your mom is scary.

Friday, February 23, 2007


work stinks. some people are imbeciles.

pissed off. a lot lately. 

むかつく = pissed off, angry, irritated, offended.

Monday, February 19, 2007

dragging our arses all over the Kanto plain

A busy, busy day.

First of all, the happyokai. "Happyokai" is a kind of ceremony where everyone makes speeches. This was the happyokai for Japanese class, and my teacher was really pressuring me to participate. I kept thinking up excuses of why I couldn't do it, but they kept changing the date and I couldn't demur any longer without looking like an a-hole. So I wrote a really short, half-assed speech, and went. Since I couldn't stay for the whole thing, the teachers billed me first. Mine was the shortest speech in history. So much for more than ten years of Japanese study. I suck.

But happier times lay ahead. I hightailed it to Saitama, or DaSaitama, as discussed earlier. C. had bought me tickets to see Stevie Wonder for my birthday. Entering the arena, we discovered we had floor seats... even better, they were in the first block! We were only ten rows back, which is amazing for an arena...

I have this to say. Mr. Steven Wonder is love. That's all there is to it. He's a legend. The whole stadium was so frickin happy. And we danced our asses off, especially to "Superstitious" and "So What the Fuss?" Mr. Little Stevie is king. King.

As if that weren't a busy enough day, the Moment the show ended, we beat it to the station and jumped on the first train back south, toward Kamakura. Yes, Mr. Matthew Electrician was in town for his first Japan tour, and since we had missed his Kanto shows while we were in Hokkaido, it was essential that we caught this, his last show on his last night on the island.

Matt really shreds on the ukelele (and banjolele), and he's also the nicest, coolest guy ever. We sang along to all the songs we knew in the tiny, 15-capacity Café Goatee, and the whole audience provided the tap-dance routine during "Little Hands", since Matt was solo acoustic and didn't have any band to do that part. Super awesome. Please, please go and see Matt "The Electrician" Sever if he ever comes to your town. He is folky and punky and bluesy and funny.

Also, this day I logged 15,000 steps.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Thanks to Lynne Truss and her wonderful book "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation". This means "clarity, lucidity". This also reminds me of Robyn Hitchcock's song "Birds in perspex", which, it turns out, is a kind of clear resin. So related to perspicuity, if not too closely.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I co-wrote this article about Davey D'Andrea's illustration over at Ping Magazine.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

winter wonderland

Sapporo is getting me back for saying the weather wasn't that cold on our first day. We got kablammed with a snowstorm on the last day, making our plans to go up in the hot air balloon moot.

Instead, we trekked out to the Shiroi Koibito park to watch the making of chocolate and spend money in their giftshop. Not much worth it, in my opinion. I mean, when you visit a chocolate factory, you expect to be able to sample the chocolate, right? Kind of a lot, even? They gave us one lousy cookie; also, most of the factory is kankeinai - not much related to chocolate production or even chocolate, instead showcasing a half-assed collection of toys (because children like chocolate and children also have toys?) and a bocca della verita that screamed at us when we came near it. Nice touch.

Depressing, too, all of the creepy animatronic dolls and figures that were strewn around the glassed-in factory, adding a babes-in-toyland-esque mood to the working scene; probably annoying as hell for the people who actually have to work there, putting little slivers of white chocolate between langue de chat wafers all day.

Next time we'll skip it and try the hot air balloon rides, or maybe the Royce chocolate factory if they have one.

Monday, February 12, 2007

my chikan

We went to the Hokkaido historical village, which showed the pioneer-style village of about 150 years ago. We spent the early afternoon slogging along the snowy roads, checking out the original printing press of the Otaru shimbun, hanging out in the tractor stables, and tasting amazake with elderly volunteers inviting us to sit by the blazing pit for a "fireside chat". Outside, the occasional horse-drawn sleigh canted past, inducing us to hum "winter wonderland" while walking around.

Back at the entrance building, we struck up conversation with some Panamanian tourists, flexing our Spanish and they their English. It was amusing to watch the tourist speak to the vendors in Spanish and the vendors replying in Japanese, neither understanding each other.

Best of all, an old man sat making postcards from elaborate paper stencils, each design emerging from a layered sheaf of paper, each color flipped aside as he finished with it. He refused to sell any to us, insisting instead that we each take one for free. He signed them for us.

Back in Sapporo, we ate dinner at the Indian restaurant Taj Mahal, the same place I. and I ate last year, then went to see the sculptures in the Odori park blocks. They were beautiful, but word to the wise: it's better to visit the festival at the beginning than at the end. The sculptures were a bit dirty and melted, all around worse for wear than the ones we saw last year at the opening of the festival.

As a final capper to the night, back in the room, the phone rang around ten o'clock. I answered it in English, expecting it to be either C. or Mom. But no. A man told me, in English, that he was looking for companionship and other sweet nothings. He sounded like a foreigner - he didn't have a Japanese accent. Flustered, I angrily told him that my boyfriend was in the room with me and asked him what he'd like me to do, at which point he hung up. Creeped me out - my own personal chikan, and I wondered how he had known that a woman and a foreigner was in this room. I hadn't seen anyone in the hall on this floor, and though he could have spotted me in the lobby, there was no way of knowing my room. Perhaps he passed by and heard female voices. At any rate, I immediately wished that I had said something more witty and withering. Alas.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

sapporo first night

Touched down in Sapporo after a minimum of hassle with the flight. Rolling into Sapporo station, it's cold but not freezing. Funny, last year we arrived during a blizzard, with feet of packed snow rendering the roads lumpy and crunch and hazardous and with walking-path tunnels chopped into the ten-foot high drifts shoved to the side. I just thought Sapporo, and Hokkaido, were always like that. Guess it was a fluke.

It has been a warm winter, with almost nary a complaint from perennially cold me. Now all checked in and snuggled down into our Toyoko Inn, Eki-minami-guchi.

Let SnowFest '07 begin.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

lost nights

I spend a lot of time trying to triangulate my motorbiking routes, making my commute more streamlined. Eventually, this leads to shorter travel time, but in the meantime I spend a lot of times utterly lost, riding around looking for familiar landmarks and telltale signs.

Usually that's okay - I don't attempt an alternate route unless I have a little time on my hands and a bit of wanderlust. And it often leads to great revelations: "Hey! I just cut ten minutes off my route!" and "Cool! I don't have to ride on the huge death-road anymore!" and "Wow! This rad thrift store is only 5 minutes ride from my house!"

At eleven pm, though, after a long day, I'm ready to go home. I usually end up finding and following a bus toward a likely destination.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


A word I never bothered to look up until reading it in "A Thread of Grace" by Mary Doria Russell. Means synthetic; artificial; a substitute for the genuine article.