Archive for December, 2006

Prettification of TDM for 2007

I recently got my hands on 100 business cards, each sporting a different photo from my collection. Some of them really work, whilst others just look silly. Anything to stand out from the crowd. Anyway, this got me thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit of visual variety on The Daily Mumble? I know I already have a random image, but that’s about half-way down the page… what I wanted was a random title – and now we have it!

What do you reckon?

There’s only a choice of 22 images at present, one of which is selected at random every time you load the page. I’ll probably make more as time goes by, but for now, I think this gives TDM a nice new feel for 2007!

If you’d like a random banner on your (Blogger) blog, visit Freeyasoul Adventure for the code.

Anyway, back to the plastic cakes.

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Taking Control

I’ve put another A4 poster on the wall today. It reads,

“Don’t let anyone else Define you or Confine you”

I heard this quote this afternoon whilst making 2 litres of curry to keep me going for two days. I had my iPod on, and had been listening to a 1950’s recording of the late Earl Nightingale, whom I wish I’d discovered some 10 years back. As that audio book came to an end, so the next one began – an audio book I wasn’t even aware I had, and the name or author of which I have no details of. Still, his words grabbed my attention. Don’t let anyone else define you or confine you. When digested along with the other lessons I’ve been learning, they have the full impact of that big digger thing that 007 drives into the concrete wall at the beginning of the latest, wonderful James Bond film.

As I read this books, listen to these recordings, I note how it all feels right. Terrifying, but right. Most of it is common sense, we all know this stuff – but there is a huge gulf between being in the state of knowing something, and being in the state of doing something about it.

It’s not what happens to you in life that determines whether or not you achieve your dreams, it’s how you react to what happens to you. We all know that, but how many of us truly take charge of our lives? I know that I haven’t thus far.

I’ve spent far too many years playing along and seeing where life is going to take me. I’ve been that boat out on the water with no destination logged into the GPS navigation system. What do you think the chances of me reaching my goals are if I have none?!

This doesn’t mean I have to chart out my complete course – I can’t, because I don’t yet have all the knowledge necessary to get me there. I don’t know enough about sailing to chart the oceans – but I could probably get out of the harbour if I tried.

I’m standing on the street somewhere in Roppongi (it’s all up-market these days don’t you know. The days of the Iranian chicken sellers are long gone…). I want to get to Tokyo Tower. Now, I don’t know my way around that part of the city, and thus I don’t know how to get to Tokyo Tower. But I can see it on the horizon, sticking up into the sky in its mini-Eiffel Tower-esque manner. If I keep my eyes fixed on the tower, and head in that general direction, even if I don’t have a clue how to get there, I will get there. I can’t NOT get there.

And so it is in life. The only thing stopping me is me. The me who is letting others define me and confine me, even though they are not consciously doing so.

I still can’t quite get over the results of last week’s name experiment. Astonishing. A mere change in attitude has resulted in me being able to do something I have never been able to do before. The next test is currently underway, with the writing of this essay. I am combining all lessons learnt thus far to get this done. It is working, in that I feel calm and relaxed about it; I know I will do a good job of it, and complete it well within the time limit. I will then turn my attention to my exams, which will also be fine.

At first glance one might think that it is quite extraordinary that this kind of education, that is, teaching people how to think in order to make the most of life, is not taught in schools. The irony is, is that when we are young we are the most accomplished thinkers in the whole world, adaptable, positive in our outlook – anything is possible (“I want to be a doctor / vet / superstar) – it is only as we grow older that we regress, our patterns of thinking come to be stuck in a rut, which is of course but a grave with both ends open.

Likewise with financial education. Do they teach you about loan companies at school? No. What happens on your first day at uni? You are offered a free camera if you sign up with Barclaycard. How bizarre, that such a vital life skill in barely touched upon at school!

This journey really is absolutely fascinating. Having barely read a thing but text books all my life, I have so much catching up to do.

Night Night xxx


old school roof, shimoda

That cake’s a fake!

I’m currently carrying out some research into Western-style weddings in Japan and have learnt a shocking fact: the beautiful tiered wedding cake, which plays an integral part in over 90% of ceremonies in Japan, IS NOT REAL!

“Real cakes are too expensive, and thus re-usable plastic models account for the vast majority of those seen in ceremonies today. In order to allow the cake to be cut, there is a narrow slot in the back of it, into which the knife may be placed. At the appropriate moment, the wedding director flicks a switch, releasing dry ice from the base of the cake, to make for dramatic photographs.”

I’m not sure I want to read on…

[EDIT] When writing the above I completely forgot to mention that many weddings in Japan are conducted by ‘fake’ priests, the only qualification they need is to be a white male. Even I could do it.

There’s a story on the BBC about it here.

For a far more detailed account of being a ‘fake’ priest, in addition to what I consider to be a sound defence of the practice (from a Japanese point-of-view), have a look at the .pdf document The Rise of the Chapel Wedding in Japan by Michael Fisch.

Funny that I should forget to mention this when I first wrote about the fake cakes. I’ve known about the fake priests for a while and so don’t really consider them to be unusual, but a plastic cake?! Mind you, when you bear in mind how big these ridiculous creations can be it’s hardly surprising. I bet they’ve got earthquake proof steel reinforcement rods running through them too…

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Christmas 2006

Well what a lovely Christmas. Just purrfect. I shall refrain from providing a detailed account, as alas, essays are a’bangin on the door, demanding attention.

Essentially though, it went like this:

Christmas Eve

09:32 – Twinkle & Co. touch down at Narita Airport, make their way to family home just north of Tokyo. Simultaneously. I depart from my home for the same destination.

11:00 ~ 23:30 Much fun is had at the family home, including the eating of Ducky Original Mince Pies, which must surely be the most heavenly in the whole world. Not only is there Christmas to celebrate (many of the family are otherwise engaged on Christmas Day, what with it being a normal working day in Japan), but also Twinkle’s birthday. There are ten of us around the heated table. Amongst the many gifts I receive are numerous articles of clothing which I love. In less than three months Twinkle’s eldest sister seems to have got me completely figured out – as revealed by this stunning gift with which I was delighted.


I present Twinkle with her Strawberry birthday cake. It contains 3 large punets of strawberries, 3 eggs, half a cup of flour, 2 bars of chocolate and half a cup of sugar. It is cooked in a saucepan, using our very clever hotplate with a button on that says “Cake”. It is a moderate success, a wee bit soggy. The four banana cakes I made that week were much more successful. Lesson: stick with bananas.

Christmas Day

08:03 Twinkle and I board a train bound for Izu-Shimoda, 4 hours south of Tokyo, to join Emmie and Russ and others for a traditional Christmas in their countryside retreat.

Thanks to the Foreign Buyers Club (virtually free delivery across the whole of Japan) we have everything required to make it feel just like home, including a HUGE turkey. I recall the first time Russ and I stuffed a Turkey, back in 2002. That was quite a struggle, but over the years Russ’s skills have clearly developed: he is now an absolute pro.



Absolutely stuffed!


A few stitches signal the end of the operation.

In the end, the Turkey took over 6 hours to cook – I think it was about 9.30pm by the time we were ready for Christmas Dinner! That’s not to say we went hungry in the meantime, oh no! The amount of food consumed that day was quite staggering. Oh, and the drink too…

Emmie and Russ had one surprise up their sleeve with which I was absolutely delighted – a home cinema! DVD player linked to an overhead projector and hifi-system, with roll-down screen that had been cunningly (and unobtrusively) attached to the ceiling! This meant that we were able to watch some fabulous DVDs, including the BBC’s Planet Earth, a classic episode of Channel 4’s Phoenix Nights, Superman Returns (I nearly cried when he saved that plane load of people, I was so moved), A series of Unfortunate Events (great acting by those children), oh, and a FABULOUS Canadian circus troupe. I forget what they’re called, but they were just great. All so theatrical, more an opera on a trapeze than an elephant on a beach ball.

I was very happy. Good company. Good food. Good drink. And a very comfy cinema. What more could you ask for?

Brussel Sprouts of course, and that’s exactly what we had, specially shipped over from the UK, to really make what was the most delicious Christmas Dinner into the 100% genuine article. Christmas crackers were pulled, plates were stacked high, champagne corks were popped.


Boxing Day

12:00pm Get up!

Getting up was followed by the Boxing Day Walk. Whenever I go down to Shimoda, Russ and Emmie always have some new local discoveries up their sleeves. This time was no exception, and I must admit I was pretty stunned by the HUGE open-roofed cave-type-affair which we found ourselves in. Fascinating rock formations, reminded me of my trip to Mars.


Just up the hill from that was a natural sand-piste, begging to be skied upon (there was actually a place just acros the road that rented out sledges!). I did give it a go using my natural skis on which to surf, but within seconds of my arrival at the top a huge section of the sand dune began to break away and slide down towards to sea – scary stuff! I ran away as fast as I could!


knackered, and sand-blasted!

And before we knew it, it was time to come home. The holiday was only too brief. Essays and revision howl for attention, times passes only too quickly.

Twinkle and I would like to thank Emmie and Russ very muchly for your kindness, t’was wonderful!

The Christmas Gang

p.s. one email in my Christmas inbox was from Google Alerts, which I have set up to tell me whenever people talk about me on the www, or as tends to be the case, when they steal some photos from TGW. This email informed me that a photo of some snow drops in mum and dad’s garden has made it onto the Woodland Trust website, as a “wallpaper of the month”. How lovely!

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Happy Christmas

Well golly gosh what a long day. It’s 3.15am, I really must go to bed. Have been busy baking (very exciting, mega-successful culinary delights, at least they look mega-successful, will find out tomorrow and Monday). Listened to a couple of hours of an incredibly empowering audio-book. Life is just oozing opportunities.

My cutey managed to get her plane in the end despite all the foggy chaos, and is now somewhere over Russia. I’ll be joining the whole family for some jet-lagged birthday celebrations in the morning. Monday is the traditional Chrimbo in the south – the 6kg turkey is awaiting my stuffing-fist apparently.

What a great year its been. I’m very excited about next year too.

Oh, the podcast, www.ayearinjapan.com; I will be recording more episodes soon – just been so busy!

Goodnight, and a very Happy Christmas to you all.

xxx love joseph

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