I was woken this morning at 4am, by what at first I thought to be a Very Large Bomb going off somewhere in Nishi Tokyo. The boom was just incredible, shaking my residence, The Cell, with its sonic waves. The shock of it dragged me from the depths of sleep (where I’d been complaining to the JR (Japan Rail) staff that my SUICA (equivilent of London’s Oyster Pass) wasn’t working, as indeed I had done yesterday), into the cold harsh reality of life in the 21st century, where the bombing of major cities by the US and its allies is a regular occurance, and one never knows when Bush might have decided that your cupboard is harbouring dangerous al-Qaida terrorists, or families where most of the men have beards.

Ears swivelling around 360 degrees, I could hear no building collapse, no sirens wailing, no CNN helicopters arriving at the scene.

Then came the blinding flash. Seconds later, another boom, strong enough to shake the thong off Godzilla (had he worn one). It was only a matter of time before the downpoar began, and sure enough, the rain soon started to pound upon the tin roof of this shack.

It has been very, very hot lately. One would have hoped that this morning’s brief outburst would have cleared the air, but no, it remains as hot and sticky as a massage parlour without air-conditioning, and with an entry policy involving duffls coats smothered in Lyle’s Golden Syrup, and clotted mango juice.

Since I last wrote I have been somewhat busy. Saturday I managed to track down my old friends Tom & Miyu, and enjoyed (Aggghh! A japonism! I’ve clearly been here too long!) a lovely a-la-posh meal which was bloomin lovely, and a welcome change from curry priced at 300 yen (£1.50). There was much consumption of alcohol, and talking of the vocal variety – all in all a lovely evening spent with lovely people, my thanks to you both.

Yesterday I was up at 8am to meet *Twinkle* for a rather large meeting that took place in Yokohama Arena; this was in aid of one of the businesses that we are concentrating on to ensure that we don’t have to work for money by the time I’m 35. There were over 12,000 people in attendance for the Japanese-language-only affair – talk about a challenge! You know what though, I was actually able to follow what was being said most of the time! Sure, details are lost on me, but throughout the whole day there were only a few occasions when I was completely clueless. I know that prior knowledge and an awareness of context play a huge part in the process of coming to understand what is being said, both of which are not necessarily language-dependent, and both of which I was fairly clued-up on in that situation, but nonetheless, it was a victory for me and a victory for my Japanese Studies course at Sheffield. Comparing last year’s trip to Japan with the past week, I really have noticed a big difference in my level of comprehension. My dedication to the Heisig method of kanji study this summer is really proving to have been worthwhile – I’m not frightened by kanji I don’t know have forgotten, just curious. *Twinkle* has lent me her super-dooper electronic dictionary (which includes no less than 70, yes SEVENTY seperate dictionaries). I know this all sounds very conceited, but you’l have to forgive me. I think I should be allowed to feel like this following all the work of the past two years.

The power balance within our relationship has shifted to a certain extent. The change isn’t as great as it could have been due to the fact that a) when here, she’s on my turf, and b) I’m pretty familiar with the places we’ve been together and the systems we’ve encountered. Also, the basic fact that I am pretty grounded in my own place, and she is still living out of a suitcase in her overcrowded family-home influences our sense of security.

Anyway, *Twinkle* has just managed to pour her breakfast all over my bed, so I must be off to decode the kanji on the washing machine.