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    Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    Only in Japan?

    When this story dropped into my mail box a few moments ago, I did a double take.

    I mean, come on, you have got to be kidding.

    "Japan mulls limiting foreign residents to 3 percent of population

    A Justice Ministry panel studying an overhaul of Japan's immigration administration is set to propose that the proportion of foreign residents to the nation's population should be kept at 3 percent or below, Senior Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday..."

    (Full story here)

    Oohh makes me want to run amock in the Diet with a brick, or maybe a bulldozer actually... How backwards are those damn politicians?

    The thing is though, no matter what they do, they won't stop the influx. And besides, they need us gaijin. With a rapidly aging population on their hands they need folks like us to clean out their bedpans and turn the TV over from one cookery talkshow to another.

    The Japanese government is not known for its tolerance of foreigners. This year sees the reintroduction of the fingerprinting and photographing of all gaijin upon arrival. Oh, and schools are now assessing children on their patriotism, then there was yesterday's story about the teacher who was fined thousands of pounds for encouraging children not to stand up during the playing of the country's emperor-worshipping national anthem, with all its connections with wartime atrocities, which have yet to be admitted to...

    grr grr.

    Time for bed.

    33 hours to go

    ...hhm, must be time to give the shower a good scrub then. While I'm at it I think I'll clean the kitchen windows. Oh, and then there's that leaking tap I've been meaning to deal with for ages...

    Tuesday, May 30, 2006

    Hidden Beauty

    Continuing in the arts tower theme, which seems to have turned into a form of pre-exam therapy, to keep me from pressing this button...

    In case you have have had your head in a very big block of concrete for the past 40-odd years and don't know what the Arts Tower is, it's the University of Sheffield's Pride and Joy, a 1960's skyscraper that is now listed, thus meaning it can't be knocked down, which is what a lot of people would like to happen.

    It also happens to house my department, of which I am very fond, which might go someway towards explaining why I chose to to embark upon creating this series of photographs (the full series of which, including 'Melts' and 'Disintegration' can be enjoyed here), which I hope will help the non-believers to come to realise that there is hidden joy in this asbestos-filled beauty.

    'Arts Tower Glow'

    Is this photo rectangular?

    "After years of calls for more classrooms, the University of Sheffield finally agrees to expand the School of East Asian Studies by extending the Arts Tower."

    Anyway, must get on with pooing my pants at the thought of what awaits me in under 43 hours.


    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    Departure for Japan: Postponed

    Decision made.

    I'm not going to leave for Japan until September. I've emailed all parties involved in the summer activity expressing my apologies for withdrawing (extremely presumptuous of me to think that I may have made it through the selection process in any case!).

    I suppose this will feel like a relief in the morning. What with dad's dodgy ticker, and all these 'things' I feel I need to do before I leave the UK, well, it'll just make my life a lot easier if I postpone my departure. There's plenty of time to live in Japan in the future. Now is the important thing.

    Speaking of which, it's 4.02am. I'd best go to bed.


    Saturday, May 27, 2006

    Arts Tower Mobile

    Wow. I have to get a supply of these for next year whilst I'm in Japan, so I don't get homesick.

    (My department is on the 5th and 6th floors. If you look very carefully you can see my teachers looking out of the window, waving at the camera.)

     Posted by Picasa

    cut-out-and-keep Arts Tower

    Hey folks.

    I'm on a blog-break. Think I deserve one. Been here (library) for almost 9 hours now. Been a good day. I finally finished going through all the newspaper readings we've been studying since February, and providing I actually learn all the wretched compounds that I've put on my litle muji flash cards, I should do ok in that section of the exam. I was a different story last semester. I didn't realise that the comprehension section would be based on a story that we'd already looked at, so I completely skipped revising everything that that one particular teacher had taught us. Even told one of my class mates that we needn't bother with that section... (they then walked out of the 3-hour exam after 20 mins due to shock, and then left the course!) ...don't wanna make that mistake again! I really could have kicked myself when I turned the exam paper over.

    Anyway, it's pretty groovy really. I had a look at the piece that we did in week 1, a piece that I remember really freaked me out at the time, it just seemed incomprehensible, but today I was able to read straight through it in a couple of minutes and understand everything! Mind you, I then had a look at some other piece we covered a couple of weeks back, a news story about illigal immigrants, and that still had the power to scare me. Tell you what though, this learning business is blooming fantastic. I love it. Hmm, learning kanji in contxt is so much easier.

    Did a couple of essay plans for Postwar Japanese Politics too. They are the very essence of sexiness, but no doubt when I sit down in the exam hall in 6 days time my brain will suddenly forget the meaning of structure and tell me, "just write everything you know!"

    That's kind of what happened with my year-abroad project proposal, the one that was supposed to be 1000 words long, and ended up being 5000ish. I got 65% for that, but as I told the lecturer, whom I didn't know until 2 days ago but whom I came to like a lot in the space of 20 minutes, I wasn't really bothered by that as it's simply pass or fail, and therefore the grade has no effect upon my final degree (providing I get over 40%!). Yes, had a very interesting chat, about why japanese women find western men attractive and vice-versa. I've since bought a book on the subject so I can figure out why the hell *cough* would want to be with me (apart from the obvious), and find out if there's any other reason I'm with her other than, er, erm, so I can use her tip-ex pen when mine runs out.

    Oh, update on father. The hospital said they won't write to him for another 3 weeks, which is good news, as his condition is clearly not critical.

    Ok, well I'd best get on.

    Just wanted to say how happy I'm feeling. AND I have my own cut-out-and-keep model of the legendary Arts Tower ("The Arts Tower is the tallest University building in the United Kingdom"). I am yet to cut it out and keep it, but fret not, as soon as I have done so, I will take a photo. I'm also trying to track down an electronic version so you can make your own.

    Raa woooo wiggy wiggy and we're off to japan soon. STILL haven't heard back re the summer thing. Will hassle them next week..

    xxx by ebye bey

    p.s. all spelling mistakes etc are due to the fact that I am not using my own laptop and therefore are not my fault ha!!

    Thursday, May 25, 2006



    yes, so after a few days of drinking and watching films I finally managed to face the reality, the reality that is exams at the end of next week. 2 of the beasts.

    Our routine, which began three days ago, is quite simple. It goes like this:

    8am: Woken by 4 alarm clocks.

    8.45am: Leave home, having had breakfast and put our packed lunches that we made the previous night in our rucksacks, not forgetting the thermos of tea and two bottles of organic blackcurrant squash.

    9am: Arrive at main library. There are still some seats available. If we were to arrive at say, 11am, it would be very tricky for us to find 2 seats, let alone 2 seats next to each other. That's how packed the library is.

    9.05am - 6.55pm: Study.

    7pm: Go home.

    7.30pm: Eat supper, prepare packed lunch for following day.

    8.30pm: The fact that I'm studying for about 10 hours a day means that in the evenings I feel free to relax and do what I want, without getting stressed about not revising. The fact that my brain is completely frazzled by this time also means that even if I actually wanted to carry on studying I might find it tricky.

    11.30pm: Go to bed.

    And that's how it's set to go on for the next 15 days or so. Hurrah!

    Good news is, no sign of epilepsy, despite perfect conditions for it, and despite me being on a very low dose of Epilim. I put this down to (a) 8 hours of sleep every night (b) not getting worried (c) not being single...

    Still don't know what I'm going to do after the end of term, still no idea when I'm going to Japan. Not sure when I can move my stuff back to Hereford either, as dad is yet to hear from the hospital (thus not sure if he can drive or not). In a way that's good news, as had he had a 'critical condition', they would have called him back in immidiately. Unless of course they've accidentally got his results mixed up with those of Mr. Smith across the ward - it wouldn't be the first time!

    Anyway, it's all good at the mo. Just gotta keep me head down, and it'll all be over soon.


    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Last day with my classmates

    Well well well. What a nice couple of days I've had. haven't done anything in the way of study since, er, three days ago now. HA! I laugh in the face of exams (and no doubt regret it later).

    <Justification clause>
    If I didn't have some time off I would go CRAZY!
    </Justification clause>

    Anyway, I'm all set to start revising later today. BUT, first, I must tell you what I've been up to...

    Oh, but before that, I must just instruct you to go and have a look at an interview with "Mr Lordi", the winner of this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

    I was curious as to whether the UK had come up with a song that was, as usual, guaranteed to ensure that we lost by a margin of at least 267. Reading the review on the Eurovision Website, and then checking the results table, I was reassured that we had not broken away from our British tradition of making complete fools of ourselves, and had indeed lost by a margin of 267.

    Another contestant not short of confidence is Daz Sampson of the United Kingdom who describes himself as 'the people's champion'. But there's no sign of him at the start of the song, which is being sung by five girls in cute school uniform, sitting at desks in a classroom. It's only after the chorus that Daz appears from behind a blackboard, dressed in a bright yellow jacket and rapping about the gulf between teachers and teenagers. A very catchy tune!

    A very catchy tune maybe, perhaps of that variety that is so terrible that it sticks in your head, going round and round and drives you crazy. A bit like Cliff Richard's "Christmas Time".

    Anyway, moving swiftly on.

    So, yes, Thursday, end of term, anticlimax. Floods of tears etc etc. Ok, not quite. Nonetheless, a bit odd.

    Friday was far more structured - it went a little like this:

    Got up at 10am to make sure that the cake which we'd 'made' for our teachers was feeling happy and looking mightyly colourful, and as you can see, it was.

    It was then off to the arts tower, laden down not only with cake, but also a few other prezzies, such as a trophy and a badge ("Best Teacher Ever"), and a pen with "BOB" written on it - the name of the persona one of our Japanese teacher's takes on when recording skits for use in listening classes. Ohm, and a BIG box of chocolates.

    Here's the groovy 2nd year crowd, all but one of us (Warbadger included, but hiding), with our three fantastic Japanese senseis.

    It's great that we have made it so far without distinct warring factions having developed amongst us. Sure, not everyone loves one another to the extent that they'd want their babies, and in some circumstances that would be somewhat problematic even if they did, but nonetheless, I think overall we're a pretty happy bunch. This will no doubt be the last time that we'll all be together, as some will fail the exam, others will probably hate japan and drop out, or not pass the year abroadm or get married whilst there... these things happen.

    After the cake presentation, we all trundled off to the pub, where, being joseph, I got drunk on half a pint of beer. Then a bit more drunk on some more drinks... until time melted away and the day became a veritable orchestra of interaction with classmates, some of whom up until Friday, I knew almost nothing about. That was great, exchanging stories and opinions, and laughter. And chips. Our venue somehow changed from the pub to the pool room in the bar at uni, and then an hour or so later the terrace out the back, where this photo was taken. By this time, a few of us had been joined by our other halfs. When *Cough* arrived at the bar she was told, "Joseph's being very funny", to which she thought, "ah, he must be drunk...".

    After that, heaven knows what time it was, probably evening, the 12 of us that remained trooped off down London Road to a polish restaurant run by, surprisingly enough, a Polish man who served Polish food, and played Polish songs for us on his accordian whilst we waited for our food. Mind you, all that squeezing took its toll on his wrists, and after a few minutes, he could play no more. As his accordian fell silent so screams arose from the paying customers,

    "MORE! MORE! MORE!".

    Almost in tears at this sight, he begged, "If there is another accordian virtuoso in the restaurant tonight, please step forward and fill the air with music once again"

    Well, how could I refuse such a desperate plea from the heart?

    I have since discovered a video extract of my performance. You might have to turn your monitor on its side for this one, but such is the beauty of the music I'm sure you'll agree, it's worth it.

    (Windows Media Video, 3.7mb)

    We were home by about 11.30pm I think. Apparently I didn't talk to as many roadsigns as I did last Thursday.

    Yesterday, surprisingly, I didn't feel that bad at all, apart from having heavy feet. Having said that, I wasn't in the mood for study either, so we decided to go to the cinema to see The Davinci Code, to see what all the fuss is about. Apparently, in Japan there were queues strecthing up to 1000 people in length outside cinemas. Thankfully we didn't encounter such a thing at the Odean in Sheffield. In fact, when I went up to the box office the lad working there had actually dozed off! head lolling down, I had to knock on the glass to wake him up!!

    Re the film itself; I'm not surprised its created such a storm, although I don't believe that anyone has the right to censor it. Why is it such a crime to express alternative theories on history, a history that took place thousands of years ago? Ok, so I agree that in cases such as that of that historian who has frequently denied that the holocaust took place (and has since been arrested / charged in Austria where making such proclomations is a crime), where the evidence is significant, and to deny that it ever took place is denying people of their past, but when it comes to Jesus, who lived before the time of digital cameras / HandyCams, well surely the past is open to debate, and surely debate is a healthy thing as it encourages understanding.

    It's these reactionary forces within religion that I don't like. Thankfully we don't see too much of that sort of thing in the UK.

    Anyway, the film was rather good I thought, despite the brats next to us who I'm sure went into the wrong screen, having bought tickets for "X-Men". "Ah! I thought it had finished!" they announced to the whole auditorium at the end of each scene.

    Back home, and no, study still didn't appeal, so we watched Phantom of the Opera. Oh, except for the last 10 minutes... The DVD had been corrupted by some evil spirit, and thus we can only assume that in the end the good guys won.

    Next was In the mood for love, a superb film set in 1960's Hong Kong, telling the story of two neighbours who discover that they have something rather unfortunate in common. Great stuff, thoroughly reccomend it.

    Finally, I came across The Aviator. We've watched the first half, will watch the second half this afternoon, after lunch at our favourite Chinese Restaurant. I quite like it actually, depsite Leonardo.

    Revision begins tonight.

    These exams are gonna be great!! Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!


    Thursday, May 18, 2006


    woooooooooooooooahhh on a downer. BIG post-last-class of this two year block anticlimax. Not quite sure what to think or feel.

    Kanji test was not the disaster it could have been. Still, I could have done a hell of a lot better. My recognition is ok, it's writing the damn things that does me in (and 127 million Japanese too! After all, isn't that what computers and mobile phones are for?!) Anyway, I added up my score at the end, it equates to approximately 70%.

    Got the result back from last week's Japanese comprehension mock. Basically, we get given a piece on something like Japan's population crisis and then have to answer a bunch of questions on it. I got 74% for that, thanks to a few hours spent revising the relevant kanji the night before.

    Made a bit of a mess of today's mock though. I think my translation of the headline of the newspaper article kind of sums it up, I clearly wasn't thinking. It should have read something like
    "40% of firstborns born to mothers over 30"
    Instead, I put
    "1 in 4 children born over the age of 30"
    As our teacher said, that would be a painful delivery.

    Right, must be time for copious chocolate consumption.


    cheeky tutor

    We had a mini-kanji test on Tuesday, as we do every week. I accidentally learnt the wrong week's kanji this week and so didn't do particularly well, 2.5 out of 10 in fact. Hurray for me!

    Nevermind though, those weekly tests don't count towards our final grade.

    Anyway, these tests basically take the form of a few sentences written in the phonetic script; we then have to re-write parts of these sentences using relevant kanji.

    One of the sentences this week was:

    "musume san to no gokekkon wo yurushite moraemasu deshouka"

    which translates as
    "May I have permission to marry your daughter?"

    Despite the fact that it appeared that my tutor, Tanaka Sensei, had been in quite a rush to mark the test, he'd taken the time to comment next to that sentence,
    "This is a particularly useful phrase to use with your girlfriend's parents when you want to marry her"

    Thanks. I'll bear that in mind!

    I was also told today that it would not be advisable to spend all next year hanging around with *cough*, for obvious reasons. I'll come back even more girly than I left if I do.

    (A man that has a kanji test in, er, oh sh*t, 7 hours 45 mins...)

    eight hours and counting

    ok, so 8 hours 30 minutes to be exact.

    I'm really stuffed re. this kanji test in the morning. Just tested myself and there are so many compounds I could't remember. Just try and console myself with the thought that this test is worth very little really, and in the grand scheme of things means virtually nothing. Still, I really hate doing badly, I get really dissapointed (with myself). I'm a perfectionist... but when it comes to kanji, I still find it really tough to face studying them. My plan for next year is to learn all the basic ones, 1,800 of them or whatever it is. We've covered about 750 so far. I can't decide whether to opt for the Heisig method, which I started with several years back and have found to be of lasting benefit, or stick with the more traditional (yet dull) Basic/Intermediary Kanji Book style.

    I loathe learning kanji. If only they weren't so damn useful in everyday life in Japan.


    Epson Cursive

    In Shinjuku, central Tokyo, there's a HUGE advert for Epson (I can only find one photo of it online, here). It's been there years. Big flashing light thing several stories high. Makes you wonder how they can afford such a thing in such a prime spot.

    I'll tell you how - BY RIPPING ME OFF! Right so I had this Epson printer, and about 8 months after I bought it, it packed up. I took it to the university's computer repair place where I was told that in order to run a diagnostic wotsit on it, it would have to have to have genuine Epson cartridges installed, not the cheaper versions I had. Let's just think about this for a moment. 4 cartridges (Cyan, Pink, Yellow and Black) at 20 quid a shot, that's 80 pounds. Price of new printer? 60 pounds.


    Anyway, so I bought a new printer, the Epson C66. It worked ok for about a month, and then for some bizarre reason suddenly decided to stop using yellow ink. No matter how many times I cleaned the damn thing (each time using quite a bit of ink of course), it just refused to be add the vital 3rd colour to the set. Great, I always did want full-colour photos, in purple.

    That happened about a year ago. Since then I have only ever used black ink. In fact, I have made a point of clicking on "properties" in the print dialogue box everytime I print something and selecting "Black Ink Only", even if the document is just a B&W Word document, in order to avoid the costly replacement of the colour tanks. Despite this, I have had to replace the full set at least 3 times... WHY???? I have not seen a single pixel of coloured ink emerge from the damn thing in over a year, and yet it continues to insist on getting through 15 quids worth of (imitation) cartridges every couple of months. OOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhh it makes me so angry. What makes it even worse is that the PRINTER decides when the cartridges are empty, and not ME. Thus, if I buy the special long-life cartridges (that contain less air than the usual ones) the printer will still tell me to replace it after the usual number of pages, even if the cartridges are still half full. Mottainai! (as they say in Japan.)

    Mind you, the past few weeks have seen a real battle of wits between me and my printer. You see, after the 10th June, I shall not need to use it for about 15 months. I really don't want to leave it with full ink tanks installed becuase no doubt by the time I return, the Epson Pixies will have popped by and refilled their fat little bellies with my ink. Thus, when (about 5 weeks ago) I noticed that all the ink tanks were close to empty, I realised that I had to somehow make the printer think they were full until the end of term. In order to do this, I've had to use tecniques like printing without turning the printer on, and instead moving the print head backwards and forwards across the paper and giving the ink tanks a tiny little squeeze at the appropriate moments. Its made for some interesting printouts I can tell you. I hope my lecturer could read that essay. I put a note on it saying the font was "Epson Cursive"...

    Anyway, I must admit, I do feel somewhat smug at the moment. Here we are, end of term tomorrow (i.e. no more printing needed) ...and check out this stunning sight:

    How about that for timing. And it's still printing you know, should I be hit with a sudden desire to do some printing.

    In Other News,
    Got the results of one of my two essays back today. 67. That's ok, and is higher than I was expecting as it was a bit of a rush job. Too much reading, not enough careful planning and writing. The conclusion really let me down too, as it did in last term's essays. Still, if I do ok in the exam for that module I should get a high II:1, which is ok. Language tests etc are going ok so far. I think I did well in the presentation project, despite pressing the button on the remote too many times and mucking up my powerpoint show, forgetting all my words and going bright red. I've got either 'A's or 'A*'s for all my weekly homeworks, and today's listening test was easy peasy lemon squeezy. I thought sensei was being really generous by giving us such an easy run. And then me thinks, maybe this is all deliberate. They really don't want us to fail because that would screw up their relations with our Japanese partner institutes. Likewise with the National Union of Teacher's industrial action. We were told today, unofficially, that it is highly unlikely that we would be prevented from going abroad next year, even if our exams weren't marked, thus, we are basically unaffected by the row that is causing many students a hell of a lot of grief.

    Tomorrow's Kanji test will no doubt be horrendous: remember this is the one that I got 2% for last semester!

    After that, I've got two weeks to revise, then the Proper exams start...

    Ok, Ok, I'll go study the kanji...

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    Hereford Waldorf School Reunion

    This one is for any of you out there who
    a) went to school with me
    b) know anything about Steiner Schools.

    One of my 7 classmates at the Hereford Waldorf School was Billy Salisbury, a.k.a. The Undercover Hippy, multi-talented artist and musician.

    Now a couple of years back, the Hereford Waldorf School celebrated its 21st Anniversary with a great big reunion and cabaret, performed by a big bunch of students. At this amazing event, Billy performed one of his creations, The Crayon Song. It tells the story of Billy arriving at the Steiner School having come from the state system, and meeting all these 'weird hippy kids', and the teacher, Mr. Tame ("call me Peter"), who incidenatlly is my dad, as he taught our class for a number of years.

    The Crayon song sums it all up, and is available for download here.

    But there's more. As explaned on Billy's website, there was someone present who happened to be armed with an MD recorder, and recorded the whole event. This recording has now been magically transformed into MP3 and WMA format, and is available for download here.

    I must say, I'd forgotten how funny the cabaret was (although I don't think you'll really appreciate it unless you went to the HWS or another Steiner School). I especially reccomend the Quiz, which runs from 4:30 through to about 16:30... I'm yet to listen to the rest...

    Ok, I must dash. Go have a look at, and buy one of Billy's CDs whilst you're at it.

    Cor blimey Gov, I'm so grateful for my Steiner education.


    I've now had time to listen to the whole track, and I tell you, it's fantastic. Not just the quiz, but also the introduction of corporate sponsors, the poem, the songs... fantastic stuff. Makes me proud to have been a part of it all!

    Class-mate's Bum Crack

    So, here we go then, last taught week of the academic year.

    Bloody good thing too, I'm knackered, and enthusiasm is rapidly disappearing out the window. I find these times-of-change difficult to deal with, that is, end of regular weekly timetable, start of unstructured weeks that are hazy in their appearance.

    Not knowing whether I'm going to Japan in mid-July or September is causing me a bit of stress. If it's the former, then I'll only have 5 weeks to get some cash together and see people I've promised to see. If it's the latter, then that's kind of cool, because it gives me an additional 6 weeks or so before I head back to Japan - a chance to breath. So, one way or the other, I don't mind whether I'm told July or September, I just wish they'd tell me!

    Fax from my uni in Tokyo today - they'd lost my JASSO scholarship form!! Great... It would be ironic if after all that hard work I didn't get one. It's been known to happen before, although not with students who attend universities where two scholarships are available and only two of you are going!

    My mate JJ, whose Tokyo apartment I'm hoping to rent come the summer/autumn has been struck down with some complex form of pneumonia. Poor chap, he's flying back Wednesday to 'enjoy' the 'benefits' of the NHS. Let's hope they don't turn him away at the hospital, "I just flew halfway round the world to be hospitalised here, and you're telling me that I have to sleep in a corridoor?!" Get well soon JJ.

    More bad news from dad as well; last week's heart examination (with the radioactive fluid, see here), confirmed that he does need something doing to him. In addition to one of his arteries being a bit blocked, a part of his heart muscle may be slightly damaged. He wouldn't want me to tell you this, so if you have our home phone number, please don't bombard them with calls. The fact is he's really pretty well, I mean, he's crazily active in the garden, singing in local choirs, giving talks and stuff, so he's not exactly on his deathbed, and he's used to living with a dodgy ticker ever since his quadruple heart bypass a few years back. Then there's his siblings, who between them probably know more about heart problems than the best cardiologists in the land.

    What does this tell us boys and girls? Whatever you do, don't get into a profession where you will be under a hell of a lot of stress (such as Headteaching) as it will ultimately lead to angina, probably. Also, if you feel stressed, figure out what the cause of it is, and if possibly, deal with it, as it occurs. It only need take a few moments of analysis if it's pretty simple. If it relates to something more long-term, consider what your health is worth to you, think hard, and then take some brave decisions. That's what I try to do anyhow.

    I'll keep TDM updated on his situation for the benefit of family members & friends that I know tune in.

    Back to uni though, I tell you what, these last few weeks of lectures have been great. You can tell that our tutors really want us to pass this exam. We pretty much know exactly what to expect - something I can't say I remember feeling before exams in the past.

    Ohhhhh today, in class, one of my classmates, who I hardly know, was sitting in front of me, and displaying his whole arse through the gap in his chair. We're talking flesh, hair and everything. How the hell he could not be aware of this I don't know. You know what though, I just couldn't concentrate. I mean, it's not that I was deliberately looking at this guy's bare buttocks, but they were kinda right in my face. My friend beside me caught the expression on my face and burst out laughing.

    I knew that if the class was to get underway with him still mooning me I wouldn't be able to process a single thing the tutor said. Something had to be done.

    Thankfully, the table that he was sitting at was in a slightly unusual location - it should have been forming the 3rd side of the horseshoe-shaped arrangement that we normally have, rather than in the middle of the room.

    "George", I said, "your table, I'm afraid I'm going to have to move it. It's upsetting the psychosymantec ecospirit of the entire room."

    He's not exactly the argumentative type, and so obligingly stood up, allowing me to move the table to the side of the room, so that the only thing now accorded the privilege of admiring his crack was the wall.

    That was the second bum-related incident to have occured in class in the past week. A few days ago, my friend was telling me about a friend of hers who works in a hospital.

    "Yeah, and then one day this guy walked in with a whole frozen duck up his bum!"

    I didn't even want to consider, WHY??!!


    p.s. I've finished uploading my photo archives to Flickr. All 8,510 of them, conveniently only searchable by year or country. I've decided that Flickr is officially CRAP (it's not designed to deal with large collections, and why can't you search by meta-data or filename?), but nonetheless will contnue to put my piccies up there in addition to the usual photo section of TGW.

    Saturday, May 13, 2006

    Tame Goes Drinking

    Ah, curse my status as a British student! ...for with that label comes the need to go binge-drinking now and then, a practice that not only leaves you being sick in your course-mate's toilet, but also leaves you utterly incapable of doing anything that requires the use of one's brain (luckily for you that doesn't rule out Mumbling).

    Having said that, it was a bloody good laugh. *Cough* and I went round to Lar's place last night, just a few of us eating, drinking and reading magazines like Men's Health, a publication full of notions of masculinity that are entirely alien to me.

    Anyway, as you know, I don't usually drink. No neeeeeeeeeeed. Still, none-the-less, it is jolly good fun to get completely rat-arsed now and then, especially these days as I'm so happy that it results in me being exceedingly silly and rather funny (her words, not mine, possibly prompted by the fact that I publicly showered her with compliments whilst under the influence of a whole bottle of white wine, which was drunk in the space of about 45 minutes). I've been hearing tales today of other things I got up to, of which I have absolutely no recollection. Thankfully nothing too regretable, and no bruises from when I (apparently) fell over.

    Lars was also very funny - and very accomodating. He has had a clean toilet too.

    Thank you Lars.

    Today was a slightly different matter though. I felt rough. Had that morning burst of still-drunk energy, during which we went to buy orange juice. Then it was back to bed for four hours of BBC Radio 4 Podcast therapy - a cervival cancer exert from Woman's Hour, 3 episodes of the wonderful From Our Own Correspondent, oh, and Digital Planet, in which I learnt about the mad and I think very sad case of South Korea, where 80% of the population are on broadband, and 1 in 3 people are members of a 'virtual world' where you 'buy' an empty 'room' from some online company, and then spend days and days 'buying' stuff like wallpaper, carpets, photos, bedspreads, then invite all your friends round to 'visit' your room. You can also visit theirs, leave messages for them etc. What a waste of people's time. They'd be far better off using it for constructive purposes, such as cutting holes in the perimeter fences of US military bases, and sneaking in at night with big bags of Tate & Lyle sugar to put in the fuel tanks of army trucks.

    Yes, so there you go.

    ooh, watched the 2nd half (tee hee) of Sex and Lucia as well, which I liked a lot, superb cinematography. Love the light on that island.

    So yes, not a lot of study going on. I must be careful not to get complacent. Thing is , we had three mock exam-type excercises last week, and I found them all pretty easy. Thus, I don't feel at all worried about my language exam on the 2nd June, and thus, I don't feel inclined to revise. Of course, this is very dangerous thinking, and no doubt were I in 1930s Japan or 2000s Singapore I'd be arrested for even voicing such an opinion.

    hmm, well, I think it's bed time again.


    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Tame Goes Flickr

    For those of you who don't like my photo albums due to the fact that there's no "slideshow" option, today is the day that you have been waiting for...

    Over the past couple of days I've uploaded over 3,000 photos to, not to replace the standard layout I use, but to compliment it. I'll be uploading the remaining 3000 or so photos over the next few weeks.

    You can find my Flickr account at I've already had 434 hits (in just 48 hours or so), not bad - those horse cocks are working wonders. Had an invitation (from an 'admirer') to join some dodgy Japanese Buddhist organisation too - I turned it down though - some of you may recall my day spent in the company of such crazies after being approached on the Tokyo subway in October 2001, an experience I'd rather not repeat.

    Unfortunately there's not much in the way of a Search function on Flickr - well there is, but if you think I'm gonna waste about 4 years tagging each photo with keywords then think again. Dedicated I may be, stupid I am not. Most of the time.

    A bunch of us went to the park today - jolly good idea Roniko. Lovely cherry blossom. Cherry blossom is one of those things that for some bizarre reason Japanese people have this idea doesn't exist outside of Japan. Like 4 seasons - the number of students I had who expressed astonishment when I told them that we too had a Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.... I dunno, what do they teach them in those schools other than patriotism and obedience? Send the whole nation to a Steiner School I say.

    Erm, yes, well. Let's have one last pretty piccie in this series titled "RAAAAAAAAAAAA It's Spring Behind the Arts Tower".

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Under 4 foot 11 inch Special

    This notice, which I spied in the window of a Chinese restaurant, begs a number of questions:

    1) Why only children under 4' 11" (approx 150cm). What about short adults (what's the politically correct term for short adults? Oh yes, 'Japanese'). I mean, the stomachs of both Japanese (and other dwarfs') stomachs must be pretty similar in size to those of children under 4'11", so why the discrimination?

    2) "At the manager's discretion" (or should that be "discreCtion?". Does this mean that the manager has a tape measure behind the counter with adjustable inches on? If he's not in the mood for handing out free chop suey and banana fritters with a dollop of ice cream that has clearly been defrosted and refrozen, does he set it to "small inches", thus increasing the height of his customers?

    3) "We apologise for any inconvenience caused". Inconvenince caused to who? The children/japanese/dwarfs/gnomes who aren't under 150cm?

    "Damn you Mr. Wong for making me so tall"! I swear I was under 4'11" two years ago" said the 8-year-old girl.


    Egg of Love

    The other day I cooked my *cough* a hard boiled egg.

    Please appreciate what a wonderful boyfriend I am, by observing the amount of love I put into even the most mundane of daily chores, such as egg-boiling.

    Golden Gnomes Award Ceremony

    I think I should give up all ideas of a Japan-related career and become a professional Nominator.

    Last spring, I nominated 4 teachers for exclusive Sheffield University Centenary Awards - all four received them.

    In the summer, I nominated Japan Society for Best National Society - we won.

    As told below, a few days ago saw my friend Will Christophers receive one of only 5 Union Centenary Acheivement Awards - following my nominating him.

    Tonight, saw the Golden Gnome Awards Ceremony for which I had submitted 9 nominations on behalf of Japan Society, covering everything from best website (that one was a joke by the way) to Most Successful Student Group.

    The competition was fierce. Almost 200 societies were in the running for a mere 18 prestigeous, highly-sought-after Golden Gnomes, one of which is pictured here.

    Out of the nine categories I nominated the Society for, we made it onto the shortlist of seven - an unrivalled performance.

    The first Golden Gnome we picked up was for Best Event Organised by a National Society - that was for Japan Day, which has rather bizarrely left us with over 1000 pounds to give to charidy, mate. The next was in recognition of Will's great contribution to the Society - the second such award he has received this week! (As his dad said, "I'll have to get you a filing cabinet for all these certificates...")

    Ooooh, and then things started hotting up. It was time for the Best National Society Award, the title we'd won last year. We were up against MASSOC (Malaysian and Singaporean Society), and some bunch from Scandanavia. Finland or Sweden, maybe Norway - I forget which. The representative on stage with me was blonde in any case, and probably drove a Volvo.

    Drum roll... I was sweating under the stage lights...

    and the winner is....


    I must admit, I was pretty gutted. Thinking back to everything we'd done over the previous year... Still, we could be content with the recognition for Japan Day, and our stack of runner-up certificates.

    Oh, but didn't I enter us in one more category? What was it... ah, yes, the best one of all of course - Most Successful Student Group.

    We really were up against it with this one. Our rivals included the fantastic RAG, a fundraising group that donates tens of thousands to charity every year. We couldn't possible win.

    Suddenly, the room fell silent. The MC, sweat dripping from his brow in nervous tension, slowly opened the Golden Envelope. Light flooded forth from within its holy folds, time came to a standstill, and someone dropped a bag of Maltesers on the floor.



    we cried, somewhat excited. Jumping up and generally making right prats of ourselves in front of the assembled masses.

    Wow, Most Successful Student Group! Excellent stuff, I can retire safe in the knowledge that during my time as a part of the Society we reached the pinnacle of student-group-amazingness. Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming all the glory for myself, it was the huge team behind the committee that brought us this success.

    Having said that, and getting back to what I said at the beginning of this post, it does suggest to me that I should try marketing myself as a professional nominator. I mean, 8 awards in the space of 12 months - not bad eh?

    So, I'm open to offers. Let me know what you'd like to be nominated for, tell me how much you're prepared to pay and I'll consider taking you on.

    (photo courtesy of Allen)

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Politics Essay

    I just wish to apologise now for the appaling crapness of the essay that I am going to submit on Tuesday. It truly is a pile of pants - not the recently washed variety either. I think I read too much, and allowed too little time to distill all that wondrous knowledge into my 3450 word essay that I shall be deleting 150 words from later tonight. Oh, and incidentally, that's including in-text references...

    My arse is now requesting that I prize it off the chair that it has been welded to for the past 13 hours, here in the library. You can tell it's dissertation season by the way - 9.45pm on a Sunday and packed!

    Yours Truly,


    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    The Dark Side

    When I get a moment, I'll be writing an entry entitled "The Stages of Gaijinhood", an entry inspired by a converstaion I had last night with a gaijin (foreigner) who lived in Japan for 23 years, backed up by my own experience. However, for the time being I just want to bring you this quote by the scholar Ivan Hall, who, when debating the role of the Japanese media noted that

    "where the Japanese Media differ from the other industrial democracies is not in the way they trumpet their national achievements, but in their strenuous effort to hide the dark side."

    Oh how true!


    I spoke to dad this morning. A few weeks ago he had severe chest pains and was taken to hospital by ambulance - with his history of heart trouble (quadruple heart bypass etc) he has to pay attention to the slightest sign of trouble. Anyway, this led to him being subjectd to a test a few days ago which involved injecting him with radioactive dye and sticking him in a big twirly wirly scanner, sounds great fun. "Gosh, Mr Tame, you really are glowing today!" Unfortunately this test revealed a problem one of his arteries, which will probably require surgery of some kind. His family is no stranger to hospitals - all three of his brothers have undergone bypass ops or had stents (things to widen the arteries) put in.

    He was very cheerful about it all this morning, telling me about how clueless all the doctors are. When he was in a couple of weeks ago they accidentally gave the man in the bed opposite him, Mr. Smith, two X-rays and didn't do dad at all - Mr. Smith told the nurses that he'd already been X-rayed but they replied that he must be feeling confused. Likewise, the doctor suggested to dad that he had actually had the X-ray but that he couldn't remember!

    Anyway, dad will have another radioactive test in a week or so, before the docs decide what to do. Of course, what this could (and may well) mean is that dad will be undergoing heart surgery in the next few weeks, which may then mean that he can't come to Sheffield to pick my stuff up! One of the disadvantages of having had an epiletic seizure last year is that it meant that I had to surrender my driver's licence, thus no driving for me.. So I was wondering if there was anyone in the Hereford area who would like to drive my parent's car up to Sheffield and back on the weekend of the 17th June (ish). In fact, I have someone in mind, someone who has taken the advanced driving test and whose initials are JK. If you happen to be reading, drop us a line, although chances are that I'll mail you first, once my internet is back up and running again.


    Sheffied Union Centenary Achievement Awards ceremony

    Last night saw the University of Sheffield Student's Union Centenary Award presentation ceremony take place. I nominated my friend Will Christophers, who is in a way responsible for that first fateful meeting between *Cough* and I last September... although I didn't actually nominate him for that reason - I nominated him for these reasons.

    It was, I must say, a really nice event. Very cosy, food and drink provided, lots of familiar faces present, including students, Union staff and the Pro-vice chancellor whose wine I accidentally stole from right under his nose. Not a wise move - let's just hope his power doesn't extend as far as exam results.

    Following the intro DVD, which was cringeably long (I felt embarrased for the girl, Jo, who made it, as sniggers slipped out during the section on which she focused on baked potatoes, but just kept on having to tell myself, "It's not my problem, not my problem"), the award ceremony itself got underway. That was all jolly nice - amazing what those 6 students have achieved. It was great to see Will receive his certificate and medal (even though they spelt his name wrong on the latter!), I was mightily proud, as were his parents who had come up for the event.

    I must admit though, throughout the ceremony I was a bit distracted by the two gentlemen sitting to my right. I was later to find out that one of them had been the President of the Student's Union in 1947, making him about 78 years old by my calculations. His friend was of a similar age. They were there to be presented with special awards in recognition of the amazing work that they did back in the era of postwar Britain, when there were only 2000 students at Sheffield, and women were a rarity. The stories they told made me realise just how much we take for granted these days. The Union just "is", you never really think about how it got to be the biggest in the UK etc... listening to them talk about the battles they had with the University and Government to secure funding etc was a bit of an eye-opener, as were the tales of what they got up to in their spare time, such as cementing toilet bowls to the tops of cranes. Makes us modern-day students seem so docile.

    Mind you, it wasn't what they said when on stage that really caught my attention.

    No, it was the conversation the two of them had just before they went on stage. I only overheard a few sentences. Bear in mind these are two seemingly respecatble 76-year-old alumni:

    "Oh, yes, and you remember all the oral sex!"
    "Yes, they loved it didn't they!"
    "Mind you, there were a lot of people with syphilis then weren't there..."


    That was a bit of a shocker. Thankfully once on stage, mic in hand we weren't subjected to further details. The furthest they went was

    There's two female dogs standing on the street.
    One turns to the other and says,
    "oh, let's sit down, here comes that bulldog with the cold nose"

    ...a joke that was published in the student rag, seen by the Mayoress who then demanded that the publication be withdrawn, thus sending the price of the copies that did remain in circulation rocketing, and raising a lot more money for charity.

    And with that, I must sign off, although I do have a lot more to tell you. An essay is banging on the door, and I can no longer afford to avoid it.

    Saturday, May 06, 2006


    I've always had this image of Newcastle as a grim, cold, Northern city, where grey is the the order of the day, people only smile when they have to, and trains only stop there upon special request and upon the proviso that police are present to prevent anyone getting on.

    I was wrong. In our survey of Cities of the North, which has involved trips to Liverpool, Leeds, York, Sheffield, Newscastle and Manchester (Station), *Cough* and I have found Newcastle to be perhaps the Number One city of choice to live in, were the situation to arise where we HAD to live in the North of England. Leeds is all very nice, but is a bit too much like any other city, just lots of shopping centres. You've had my review of Liverpool - give it another few years, bring back Fred the Weatherman and it might be OK. Sheffield has a great university and some nice new developments, but the council seems to be doing little to help the huge underclass. In the Devonshire Quarter, where I live, there are quite a few homeless people and drunken tramps - but all the new housing is ridiculously expensive "Exclusive 2 bed Apartments" of which there are tons already. I think the space could be better used for shelters and community projects, but there you go. York is a pretty city, but not really very real, as it is full of vikings. I couldn't live somewhere where you run the constant risk of having a viking lance poked up your backside when queuing at the checkout at Tesco. Manchester, well, I suppose I haven't really been there yet. I've been to the various stations, and admired that huge erection going up in the city centre, but other than that... I think the fact that the city is so football-mad is a bit off-putting, it suggests to me that the schools there aren't very good and all the boys end up playing truent, kicking a football round in the streets. I mean, look at Beckham's IQ, shocking how anyone could actually make it through to adulthood with such a condition.

    So this leaves us with Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The centre has nice wide pedestrianised streets. In addition to all the usual chain stores there's some nice local cafes and wotnot. Very pretty park just behind the cinema. Interesting bits of street furniture such as this Lino mat,

    (no giant horse-statues to add to my collection though), people who speak in an amusing accent (they must have Geordie classes at school), oh, and then there's Gateshead. I always thought Gateshead was a seperate city, but it seems I was wrong. From what I can gather it's just the name of the area around the river Tyne ...but it certainly deserves its own name, it's definately worth a visit. In addition to the huge mirrored bug on the south bank, there's the fabulous Millenium Bridge. It's shaped a bit like an eyelid, and has an ingenious tilting method the likes of which I've not been before.

    At certain times of the day, that is, certain times of the day that we managed to miss on two occasions, the bridge tilts to let boats through. The archway that you see reaching up into the sky goes down, pulling the the pavement bit up - ingenious. I would have liked to have seen that, hydraulics turn me on like very little else can...

    So, Newcastle, go there when you get the chance, while the paint's still shiney.

    Anyway anyway, about the meeting. As the train pulled nto Newcastle Station I asked *Cough* not to say anything embarrrasing about me, not to tell any tales about my past that would shock her sister and her boyfrined. I needn't have worried though, as within about 30 minutes of our arrival I'd managed to do the job myself. Things could only get better.

    Thankfully they did. In the 7 or so hours that the four of us were together we got to know each another quite well, and by the end of it all there was bit of cheekiness edging in. The topic of next-year's housing arrangements was raised (by *Hiccup*). I think she was rather dissapointed by the news that *Cough* was considering living with me and not her, but she took it very well and didn't stab me through the heart with a chopstick, having left them in Japan. Incidentally, *Hiccup* is indeed quite crazy, not your average Japanese (to use an appallingly Reischaueresque label), a fact that I find quite reassuring. We sought her advice on what the folks would think of us living together. There may be a bit of dissaproval initially, but if *Cough* is supporting herself (or living off my Scholarship!) then they should come to accept it.

    Overall then, a Grand Day Out. We now await the fallout from *Hiccup's* report back to the family when she returns to Japan later today.

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    naughty boy

    I'm skipping classes tomorrow, all one of them. Never done that before (Prof. H doesn't count as I attend his virtual classes instead on my iPod. Far safer to take his classes in bed as you avoid banging your forehead on the desk every few minutes...). I had a day off last year due to illness, ooh that was terrible I won't even begin to recount the full horror of the condition. This year I missed one class by accident as my classmate, who I follow everywhere, was sick, so I was lost. Other than that I have been angelic as always.

    Thus, tomorrow's action on my part is unprecedented. To voluntarily, knowingly skip classes. Mind you, I couldn't do this without consulting the teacher concerned first, the guilt would be too much, so that's exactly what I did today. The class is going to be mainly listening practice, and is centered on various sketches on a CD - yes, CD!! I know, I couldn't believe it either - digital technology in the language department. Up until now we've only ever used wax cylinders... Anyhow, I was able to 'do' that class in the library's Wolfson Suite using a wind-up laser-disc player that was manufactured in the 17th century, and had a big His Master's Voice gramaphone type horn on top. The other people in the room were not too impressed with my Japanese tales of waiters bringing mushroom-flavoured spaghetti sauce instead of tomato.

    Anyway, this is all by-the-by. Just setting the scene, just letting you know how much trouble I went to to get tomorrow off. Sensei completely understood my situation though, indeed when he heard the reason for it he virtually insisted that i take the day off, saying he knew full-well what I was going to go through... ganbatte kudasai, ganbatte kudasai! (good luck, good luck!).

    You see, tomorrow, I meet someone for the first time, someone who has just flown all the way over from Japan just to meet, er, her boyfriend, in Glasgow. She's here for one week only, and insisted that I travel 2 hours on a train to Newcastle to meet her (and her boyfriend). She is ...*cough's* older sister.

    Yes, tomorrow, I meet the family. Thankfully my name is not Focker and *cough's* real name is not 'Martha', so we shouldn't see any dog's being flushed down the toilet scenarios. Also, by all accounts, this sister is mad. Nonetheless, she is going to go back home to Japan on Saturday and will report back on *Cough's* gaijin boyfriend. I have to make a good impression. You see, whilst *cough's* family are apparently pretty open-minded etc, it would seem that *cough* is the father's favourite of all four daughters. We have had to tread very carefully, in fact, he didn't hear a thing about my existence until months after all the rest of the family knew. I already feel I kind of screwed it up with *cough's* other older sister by sending her an email that... oh, it's a long story, let's just say it didn't go down too well.

    When *cough tentatively suggested in a roundabout way that the two of us move in to the family house (that is, share a room etc), her mother didn't quite get the message that we were trying to put across, and kindly offered to let me stay in a garden shed in the grounds of her grandma who lives the other side of Tokyo.

    Oh, that's the other thing. *Cough's* older sister, let's call her *Hiccup*, who I shall meet for the first time in about 12 hours, would also like to live with *cough* upon her return to Japan in September, an arrangement that *cough* had sort of agreed too - before she met me. So, we're potential rivals you see...

    At the moment I'm just the gaijin who *Cough* has met in England, someone who isn't yet 'real' in the minds of the *cough* family. But, as of tomorrow, what with me meeting family member #2, my status will undergo a subtle shift, as I become more concrete, although hopefully not in the form of wellington boots full of the stuff dragging me to the bottom of the River Tyne with *Hiccup* looking down upon the bubbles that are breaking the surface of the water, laughing in a wicked, gleeful manner.

    Let's hope she doesn't do a Google search for my name either.

    Wish me luck.

    oyasumi xxx

    Latest addition to the student mould colletion: 5 day old spaghetti cheese stuff

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Nice weather for ducks

    I recently finished my tube of organic toothpaste. Having 'no time' to make it to my local health food store, I bought a small 'emergency' tube of Colgate, just to keep me going for a few days.

    That was two week ago.

    Today, I remembered that I really must get some non-lethal toothpaste, but knew that unless I read this I probably wouldn't - if you use Colgate or any other mainstream brand of toothpaste you should read it too, and then get yourself some of this.

    This morning I discovered Lemon Jelly, a UK 'band' who of course I have heard of, but whose music, until today, I had never heard.

    What a lovely album Lost Horizons is. Who could possibly resist an album which includes a track called 'Nice weather for ducks', and which actually includes a couple of quacks.

    Thoroughly recommended for mellow chilling out / learning Japanese to.

    Speaking of ducks, I hope to work on a aigamo (duck) rice farm this year if it turns out that I can go to Japan in July (I'll get a decision on that in about 10 days time).

    Speaking of Japan(ese), I know I've mentioned this before, butanyway, this semester our class are flexing our linguistic muscles by creating little Japanese blogs. I sound like a real ojiisan (grandad) in mine, complaining about this that and the other. Jason, my class mate, has his over here. More links to follow in due course.

    Aren't 2nd year Sheffield University Japanese Studies students clever?!

    The sillest thing you've ever done whilst drunk

    Whilst carrying out some research for my politics essay, I came across a website titled "The silliest things you've done whilst drunk". That got me thinking.

    I guess there have been quite a few incidents that could fall under this category, such as climbing up a traffic light (only to be pulled off the top by some policemen); sleeping in a puddle of someone else's wee in a telephone box (as referred to a week or so back); almost getting myself killed by climbing over a 3-metre barbed-wire fence onto a busy railway line (I was also under the influence of weed and magic mushrooms at the time, a combination I do not recommend); starting a shift as a waiter in a very high-class Swiss hotel dressed in one ski-boot, one waiter's shoe and a sick-stained white shirt; getting into situations like this:

    (that's a toilet seat by the way)

    Spending a night in a giant tumble drier; cycling home and falling off quite a lot (that's happened on numerous occasions); accidentally dropping a bottle of whiskey I had hidden up my sleeve into a friend's toilet - it went straight through the porcelain and onto the bathroom floor - I ran away without saying a word (although later anonymously deposited 160 pounds through the letter box); oh and that incient behind safeway's supermarket, ... to mention but a few.

    However, I think the silliest thing that I've done whilst drunk occured one night when I was staying at my mate Darren's bedsit. I woke up in the middle of the night, desperate for the loo. However, being completely out of it, I mistook his wardrobe for the toilet, and emptied my bladder over all his clothes. Jackets, shirts, trousers, socks and shoes, all were drenched.

    I never was invited back there.

    Thankfully, I'm grown up now. That sort of thing would never occur these days.