David Chart's Japan Diary

January 24th 2004

This last week has been a bit more interesting than last week, not all in a good way, unfortunately. Good bits first, which also happens to be chronological order.

On Sunday, Hang invited me over for dinner with her and some of her friends, both Yamasa and Japanese. The Japanese man was quite difficult to understand, partly because he spoke quite quickly, and partly because he spoke like a real young Japanese man, which is a little different from the officially received pronunciation and grammar we are taught in school; what a surprise. The two women (his older sister and a friend, assuming I didn't completely mess up my listening comprehension) were much easier to understand. Maybe women talk better than men. Anyway, the food was excellent (Vietnamese, courtesy of Hang, and Taiwanese, courtesy of her roommate), and it was a very pleasant afternoon.

People with desserts Everyone else at Amy's dinner. From left to right, Mary (Singapore), Amy (Canada), Trine (Denmark), Chris (USA), and Jay (USA).

On Tuesday, Amy invited a group of her friends out for dinner. We went to the tonkatsu place, and it was very nice. I had hatcho miso tonkatsu aoi don. Hatcho miso is a variety of miso made near Okazaki, and it's very famous. It's also very nice. Tonkatsu is pork cutlet, and don is short for donburimono, which means 'stuff on top of rice'. 'Aoi' was a kanji I couldn't read, so we asked the waiter for an explanation. It's the kanji for the leaf in Tokugawa Ieyasu's mon (or badge), and thus is a reference to the fact that he was born in Okazaki. So that was a really, really local dish. When bits of the family that can eat it come over, we might have to go there. Afterwards, we went to a cafe in the mall which was recommended on the basis of its desserts. And it really did have an incredibly good selection, so I think all groups of family and friends will be taken there. (It's called Cat's Cafe.) Most of Amy's friends were people I already knew, but I hadn't met Mary before, which isn't suprising as she has only just arrived. She's from Singapore, and so is not appreciating the current cold weather. It was a nice evening.

The weather has turned very cold recently, to the point that the evening news on Thursday opened with 'Good evening, it was particularly cold today, wasn't it!'. I think this may have something to do with the fact that I've been ill for the latter half of this week. I've either had a very heavy cold, or the edge of the flu that's going around. On Thursday I actually had a fever, which broke some time in the night, so in that respect I'm getting a lot better.

The other problem is that my eczema has broken out all over my body. My head, arms, and legs are all itching almost constantly. I'm not entirely sure what's causing it, but I'm trying to eat a more balanced diet, including taking vitamin pills, in case it's some sort of vitamin deficiency. I'm also eating energy food called CalorieMate (or Karoriimeito when they write it in Japanese), which claims to be balanced and thus is a better way to increase my calorie intake than chocolate... I suspect that the weather has a lot to do with the eczema, though. It's always got worse in winter, and the fact that it's not breaking out much on my torso leads me to wonder whether it is due to temperature changes in my extremities. Still, it's very annoying, and it's making it very hard for me to get a good night's sleep -- which will become a major problem if I can't figure out how to fix it soon.

Apart from the illness, things are going well. Obviously, I've not been as lively in class as I might have been, but I've been watching lots of Japanese television, making heavy use of the video. On Thursday, when I had the fever, I spent three hours watching the first three episodes of a series called 'My way of life with her and her'. It's about a typical Japanese salaryman who gets left by his wife. Except that she also leaves their seven-year-old daughter with him. The main plot appears to be the father figuring out how to be a father -- at the end of the third episode he walks hand-in-hand with his daughter for the first time ever. It's really sweet, and, of course, one of the messages is that families have to take priority over work, at least some of the time. The reason the man's wife left is that he spent all his time at work, and that's also why he has almost nothing in the way of a relationship with his daughter. It's interesting that one of the major new dramas of the season has that message; it suggests that Japanese society may be starting to shift in that respect.

And then there's the series about a group of female dancers who also work as elite armed police officers. Maybe Japanese society hasn't changed that much...