random

– Junko has put a toy owl in the house`s main bathroom which hoots everytime you sit on and get off the toilet seat. Its the only reason I can think of to look forward to leaving tomorrow. Creepy just doesn`t cut it.

– A thirty-something year old guy tried to pick me up a few days ago. It was pretty funny because I thought he needed directions or something, but instead he asked me if I had “time to go somewhere”. It was so unexpected that I started to laugh – obviously not the smartest thing to do but I couldn`t help it. We were in a pretty public place anyway so I wasn`t too worried. When I finally stopped laughing and gave him a super how-darest-you glare, he switched tactics and asked me how to get to kichijoji.
Of course this sort of thing can happen anywhere, but getting picked up in japanese would certainly be considered a novelty for most people, no? If anything, I admire him for trying his luck out on a gaijin. Wierdo.

– I`ve met with Hitomi (from the Jazz club) a couple of times and it seems that she`s having boy problems. As much as I felt bad for her, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to give relationship advice in Japanese. She had supposedly confessed to a guy she works with and he turned her down twice already and when she wouldn`t let up, he told her not to call him ever again. Obviously once I got the gist of the story I was merciless. Stalker anyone?

annoyed

I`m really annoyed. Granted, it doesn`t take much to annoy me, but in this case its totally understandable. About two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Penn saying that fall course registration would begin on the 19th of this month. I also received a reminder from my study abroad advisor and a reminder on the day. Compare this to Hitotsubashi where believe it or not, they STILL don`t know when the spring semester is going to begin. Everytime I ask the answer is `sometime in April`. It completely baffles me that there exists an acadamic institution that does not plan its academic calender in advance. Even the crappy private universities I`ve seen in Egypt have planned their calenders at least one year in advance. The fact that I can`t plan ahead is incredibly frustrating.
When it comes to course registration, I will have to ask individual professors to allow me to take their class, as opposed to registering online as I would have done at Penn. This I don`t mind of course (the point of study abroad is…), but the whole calender thing just really pissed me off.

UPDATE: I was e-mailed an exchange student orientation schedule this morning. According to the schedule course registration begins after classes start. Huh? 
ミステリ。。。(mystery…)

open letter to all japanese senior citizens

Konnichiwa,
Let me first start off by saying, I really admire you guys. I mean you are the most active group of 65+ I`ve ever met. It seems you`re always either jogging or riding a bike or running around doing some wierd hobby. Like the other day I saw a group of you fishing from the river which was pretty cool. Okay, so you weren`t exactly fishing, more like scooping fish out from shallow parts of the water but hey, who am I to judge. And when you jog, you really jog. Its actually kind of embarassing when you pitter patter past me while I`m huffing and puffing on my bike (let`s not do that anymore mmkay?). The number of you guys who own professional running gear just blows my mind. No wonder you have one of the world`s highest life expectancies.
But to tell you the truth, this letter is not about praise or admiration. It has more of an admonishing purpose I`m sorry to say. Here`s the thing: I know alot of you like the fact that you`re old and active but there is such a thing as liking it too much. For one thing, lets just stop this whole popping out of nowhere onto a sidewalk. I don`t know how you guys do it but just stop, especially when its eleven o`clock at night. And I`m riding my bike. One of us is definitely going to have a heart attack (and I mean that literally of course). Little old ladies shouldn`t be walking all alone in dark allies in the middle of the night anyway, no matter how safe it is. There should be a law against it or something. Oh and another thing: just because you`re old and wrinkly doesn`t mean pissed off drivers won`t run you over when you are zooming down a road on a bike against the direction of traffic, with your cane rattling in the basket like a crazy person – and I`ve seen a number of you do that. If you don`t know that`s dangerous then you shouldn`t be left alone. Finally, if you`re going to jaywalk, do it only if you can walk without a cane, that is, if you can do brisk without breaking a sweat. A busy main road is a no-no. I will say this for the last time, you will be run over. The bus is free fer godsake, take the bus, for the sake of everyone`s sanity, especially mine.
Thanks for listening.

latest jmusic

Lots of Japanese bands/singers are releasing singles this month, and I thought I`d mention a few I thought worthy of a listen. If you watch any Japanese T.V. you will probably catch a live performance here and there for the next few weeks.

The first song is Tsubomi [蕾] or Bud by Kobukuro [コブクロ], who`s name by the way comes from the two band member`s last names Kobuchi and Kuroda (thank you wikipedia). Its a good song – I especially like the way these guys harmonize, and I`ve heard the song more than a few times on T.V. The release date for this single is the 21st of March.

tsubomi

Next up, Remioromen`s [レミオロメン] Akanezora [茜空] which came out on the 14th of March. Another good song with unique vocals.

akanezora

Another song to check out is Enomoto Kurumi`s [榎本くるみ]Aisubeki Hito[愛すべき人]out on the 21st of March – she`s got a great voice, an attribute which is, in my humble opinion, quite lacking when it comes to young japanese female singers.

aisubeki hito

Finally, KOKIA`S Arigatou [ありがとう]out yesterday, 16th March. I couldn`t find its PV on the tube but I thought I`d mention it anyway.

Obviously there`s alot more music out there, but these are just the songs that I happen to like. Enjoy.

book off

If you`re in japan right now and you haven`t been to a Book Off, you`re missing out on a lot. Its basically a nationwide chainstore (they have some branches in the states too) that sells secondhand (japanese) books, mangas/dvds etc dirt cheap. Most of their manga for example goes for ¥105, which is pretty crazy. They`ve got new and old series/volumes which makes them better than a regular bookstore. My good friend Noli was actually the one who suggested that I go when I told him I needed some manga to practice my kanji reading (definitely a good idea by the way – it also helps with context/grammar use/informal japanese).
I think I`ll just quote him at this point: “While I have found single-shop bookstores that have been as nice, I have yet to find another chain as awesome as Book Off. What’s really great is that there’s a whole host of stores that the company created, including Hard Off (unfortunate name), Off House, Mode Off, Garage Off, and Box Shop. Hard Off is actually a decent place if you wanna get cheap games…”
Don`t forget of course that since its a secondhand store they also buy old stuff from customers which is great if you`re short on cash. Another reason people go to the place (I think) is to browse through the pages of manga and check out the art/story etc, which you can`t do at a regular bookstore because the volumes are wrapped closed with clear film – I`ve even seen some people make lists as they walk down the book aisle. True, some regular bookstores have viewbooks but thats only in a few cases. If people like what they see at Book Off, they might then decide to go buy a new version at a regular bookstore. Perhaps, not quite what the Book Off people had in mind.
I myself have bought a load of manga and its honestly come in very handy. For those of you who don`t know, some manga comes ready with furigana (hiragana reading on top of the kanji) which is great. Once you feel you can graduate from that, all you have to do is buy furigana-less manga and if you have a kanji dictionary its even better, because searching for a kanji helps you dissect the character and thus memorise it.

jazzy tokyo

Saturday night I wanted to go out but not to the usual Roppongi destination, so I decided instead to go to a jazz club in Kichijoji. I was going to go to a club called Star Pine but when I called them to ask for directions the owner told me I probably won`t be able to get in because and get this, Michael Jackson is making an appearance. HAHAHAHA. I knew MJ was in Japan because of the news but this was pretty random. Okay, so there was no Star Pine for me that night, so I googled another club. The club is called Sometime and its hidden in one of the alleys branching from Sun Road, a lively shopping avenue right in front of the station. It was extremely hard to find and I asked all the young people around for directions, but no one knew where/what it was.
I then happened upon three tall, gangster looking guys who were standing outside a convenience store smoking. I asked them about the shop (one of the them couldn`t stop smiling *Gaijin hehe hoho*) and finally, after messing with me for a few minutes they told me where it was. I asked them if they were sure and one of them takes a long drag from his cigarette and says quite simply “saa~…” which in the context means “who knows”. The other two guys started laughing their butts off. Needless to say I really wanted to kick him in the pants and thankfully, my informal japanese is pretty good so I told him in a few choice words what I thought of his saaa, to which the reply was “sumaneee” (“sorry” – yea right).
I was still lost so I approached a girl around my age and asked her for directions. Her name is Hitomi, a twenty year old attending senmon gakkou (technical/vocational school) for hotel management. She insisted on taking me straight to the place and when we finally reached it, she asked if I minded if she join me.
I told her to come along and we stepped into the place. Sometime is an amazing jazz club. When you walk in you reach a short flight of stairs which you go down to reach the main seating area. Its a pretty small place but the great thing about it is that the stage is in the middle of the club, with all the tables surrounding it. There is also a charming balcony seating area. Everyone there was in their late twenties/early thirties and some of them clearly came right after work. The night`s featured performance was vocal and piano, and once the music started up and the singer started singing I honestly felt like I was transported back to New York. It was really good and the singer herself was engaging and fun; all the customers were either clapping or tapping their feet. After the first few songs, the maitre`d and club owner put down her tray, picked up a second mike and sang backup. Now thats what I`m talking about. Her voice was stunningly good. A song later, three other girls popped out of nowhere and joined in singing `kiss the girls and make them cry`. The whole performance was thoroughly enjoyable and just plain fun. I definitely recommend it. For a list of upcoming performances check out their website http://www.sometime.co.jp/sometime/

relay races – japanese style

Time for another wacky Japanese show. Yesterday`s show was broadcasted live from a huge atheletic stadium somewhere in Japan:
The stands are absolutely full and according to the announcers, there is going to be a very important relay race. The participants are all wearing running gear and one guy gives a welcome speech and tells everyone to do their best etc. The first race involves four of the teams. All the runners take their places along the track, waiting for the starting signal. One of the officials fires the starting gun and the runners are off. I suddenly notice that instead of batons, they`re holding ropes and are running towards a row of large white things. The white things turn out to be – and I kid you not – refrigerators. What do they do with the fridges? Why, tie them to their backs and keep on running of course! And we`re not talking about mini-fridges here; we`re talking two-door, feed a whole trailer park fridges. At this point, it looks pretty straightforward – instead of using batons they`re using fridges…no biggie. But of course that`s just too easy. It turns out that its a furniture movers relay race. Yea thats right: its a tournament to figure out who can move electrical appliances and furniture the fastest. In a stadium. So, next up is a king size mattress, next a closet and then a freakin` three seater couch. I must add that the show was one hundred percent serious and wasn`t hosted by a bunch of comedians. I love it.