[this post contains a load of photos that aren’t necessarily related to the paragraphs that they are placed between. Such naughty photos!]

Hoopla hoola hoo!

Kobe mosaic

Yes indeedy what an amazing thing this life thing is. Had a couple of excellent lessons tonight with three of my favourite students. I’ll miss them when I leave!

A superb example of Japanese city planning – new buildings are always sensitive to their surroundings…

Incidentally, the school where I work is looking for a replacement for me, starting 21st August. The pay ain’t bad at all, the hours are Mon and Tue 7pm to 9pm at Nihonbashi. Leave a comment of you’re interested.

Posing in front of Kobe’s Flower Clock

We had a superb weekend in Kobe with a big bunch of friends. One of the highlights was the party on Saturday night which saw about 20 of us crowded into a little hotel room (not quite sure whose!) until about 3am; I really enjoyed that (and the drinking of copious amounts of water first thing in the morning meant that when I woke up in the morning I wasn’t in the least bit hung over, although that could have been because I was still a bit drunk…!).

*Twinkle* and Miyuki play the nude

What made the party extra-special was the fact that one of the folks in the merlang was the incredibly successful producer of Fuji TV’s Hey! Hey! Hey! – one of the most well-known TV shows in Japan, presented by Downtown, who are possibly the most famous comedy duo on these islands. What a nice bloke! It was so good to get on first name terms with him (I reckon the alcohol helped!), and I look forward to the next time we meet. He was very kind; listened to me talk about some issues I have, and offered some precious advice. Ne. Very happy memories. It’s at times like that that I’m glad that I’m a foreigner as it acts as a natural ice-breaker. Unlike the Japanese around me there is not so much pressure to conform to social norms and remain at a respectable distance etc. (That doesn’t mean I make a point of being rude and treading on people’s toes – I use my keigo when it’s called for!) It makes me feel incredibly excited about the future. And the present.

It’s a hot day in Kobe: *Twinkle* and Miyuki attempt to shield themselves from the sun

That hotel was the same place that we met Yamazaki Takumi earlier in the year (a very funny guy who also happens to be the author of bestsellers such as kikubari no tsubo, published by none other than Ayumu Takahashi’s Sanctuary, whom we’ve also met, last year in Sheffield).

Children in Kobe’s Chinatown

It was a pretty good weekend for my Japanese too; non-stop concentration from Saturday 7am to Sunday 11pm! Had a lovely time wondering round Kobe for a couple of hours, visited the Hanshin earthquake memorial park down by the port. Pretty moving stuff (over 6000 people lost their lives as a result of the 20 second quake and ensuing fires). Back at the hotel I chatted with friends who were in town when it occurred back in 1995 – sounded quite horrific, and yet demonstrated just how amazingly resourceful and community-orientated people in Japan are at times of severe crisis, even if they are a seemingly selfish bunch at other times (at least in Tokyo – have a look at reports based on the results of the Asian Barometer for more on that).

A section of the port destroyed by the Great Hanshin earthquake

*Twinkle* demonstrates the latest in Japanese coin lockers: they don’t use keys as such, instead, you phone the locker using the number displayed, and it registers your phone number to a particular locker. When you want to get your bags out, you just phone it again and it unlocks!

I really enjoyed getting the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. The bus journey there had taken us 9 hours, but by bullet train we made it in under 3. I really am staggered by the speed that thing travels. Oooh, and they have a new model coming out in a few weeks, looks damn sexy.

our ride home