David Chart's Japan Diary

March 22nd 2005

This has been a really busy ten days. Fortunately, I've continued to be healthy, which is just as well. Freelancing has continued fairly busy. While I am still on top of the work that needs doing, there is quite a lot of it right now, so staying on top is keeping me occupied. I've just finished another editing job today, and although it's late I'm so dedicated that I'm writing a diary entry for you all. I expect lots of gratitude.

The next thing keeping me busy has been school. As the end of term approaches, all kinds of events are happening. Last Monday and Tuesday were fairly normal; Monday was the last conversation class, and calligraphy had already finished the previous week. Wednesday, however, was rather busier.

A Dramatic Performance Me acting, extremely badly, with help from my classmates. Who were also acting badly.

Wednesday was Drama. We'd written the drama, revised it, and practised a bit. Last Wednesday, we were going to film it. We hit the first snag before we started; one of the central characters had flu, and was absent. However, he rose from his sick bed to come in and film his scenes, wearing a surgical mask to avoid giving us the disease. (As a side note, you often see Japanese people wearing those masks. In general, they wear them to avoid giving their colds to anyone else, not to avoid catching a cold. The main exceptions are children just before important exams, and people with hay fever.)

I'd been deputised to go into Kitsutsuki, the coffee shop on the school grounds, to get permission to film a couple of scenes there, so I did that on Monday. On Wednesday, we first filmed the final scenes, at a Vietnamese wedding, with authentic decorations obtained from Vietnam by Hang. This took a few takes. Then we went down to Kitsutsuki to film the two scenes there. Again, there had to be a couple of takes of each scene, although the staff were very complimentary about our acting abilities. For some incomprehensible reason.

At this point a second snag arose. Another central character had private lessons from 2:30, and it was already 2:30. We'd done three scenes. So much for getting all 13 done in the hour. Filming continued for quite a while longer, as we did all the scenes that we could. However, things still remained to be shot. Another potential snag was rapidly approaching; another main actor was returning home last Thursday.

So, on Thursday, after the final Songs lesson, we were shooting again. First, we shot the scenes involving the person going home. Then that actor had private lessons again, so I went home, did some work, and came back to school at about half past four to shoot my last scene. The final scenes were shot on Friday, when I couldn't be there.

But that wasn't quite the end of the saga. The scenes we'd shot in Kitsutsuki were incomprehensible because of quiet voices and background noise. So, today we re-dubbed the dialogue. First, the other scene, with Hang and Kevin, another classmate, was done. This took about an hour and something like half a dozen takes. Matching dubbing to a video is hard, even when the lines are exactly the same. Then I had to do my scene with Hang.

That took about fifteen minutes, because we got it right first time. We're just brilliant, I guess. (Well, we got it near enough right that we didn't want to do it again.)

Tonight, Sakamoto-sensei is editing the video, and tomorrow, sixth period, there will be a showing for anyone in the school who wants to be there. I gather that I am expected to attend. I expect to spend a great deal of time hiding my head in my hands.

The Group Photograph Everyone at the class party. From left to right, by position of head in the picture. Daniel, Paul, Scott, Nakane-sensei, Jamie, Ryou (I think), Martine, Hang, Kurita-sensei (in the back), Gi, Hara-sensei, Haruki-sensei, Aaron (at the back, still in his mask), Miki-sensei, Warble (that's what his name becomes when transliterated into Japanese, anyway), Me, Vinnie, Yeo, not sure (behind Yeo), Park (in front of Yeo), Hiroe-sensei (at the back), Hayto, Watanabe-sensei, Yamada-sensei, Kuroda-sensei, Nie-sensei (I think), Sakamoto-sensei, Kitabora-sensei, Fuma-sensei, and Kato-sensei.

In and between Drama, we had our end-of-term class party. This was a bigger event than usual, for a couple of reasons. First, we held it jointly with B class. Second, almost everyone in the two classes is leaving on Friday, which meant that nearly all the teachers we invited came. Thus, there were about thirty people present, including something like half of the AIJP teaching staff.

The party was a lot of fun. I cooked chips again, and they were enthusiastically received by the teachers. Hang and Thao made namaharumaki ('raw' spring rolls), and other students made food from lots of different countries. Part way through the party there was a brief break as one of the remaining Drama scenes was filmed. The assembled audience found it highly amusing, for all four takes. Unfortunately, the principals kept finding it rather amusing, too.

I got back from the party at about ten, having managed to talk to almost everyone there, and take, or have taken, a lot of pictures. There were a fair few people I don't really know, but a lot of people I'm going to miss quite a lot.

Hang-sensei Hang-sensei teaching us about transitive and intransitive verbs.

Going back in time a bit, Wednesday wasn't just drama. At half past four, shortly after we finished filming for the day, Hang gave us a mock Japanese lesson. Her teacher training course is also nearing its end, and she's at the point of giving practice lessons. It was really very good, although I did manage to flummox her by asking a question she couldn't easily answer. A couple of the Yamasa teachers pretended to be students (the other 'students' were actually students), and their comment was that Hang should have taught the lesson slightly differently, so that that question wouldn't come up. So I guess it doesn't have an easy answer at all.

I think Hang's going to be a good teacher. I hope she gets some good students.

Talking of students, I'm finishing up teaching in Okazaki. I gave my penultimate lesson today; the final one will be on Thursday, with the same student. That'll be rather sad, too. I've really enjoyed teaching her, and I think she's made a lot of progress. I've become aware of even more illogicalities in English, as well.

Which brings us to another reason for being busy: I've been to Tokyo again.


This weekend was a long weekend in Japan, as it was Spring Equinox Holiday. Taking advantage of that, and recognising the need to make some preparations before I move to Tokyo next week, I went to spend the weekend there. The chance to see Yuriko was another major attraction, obviously.

On Friday, I spent about two hours waiting in a cafe while Yuriko finished work. The office where she works is organising Art Fair Tokyo this summer, and so things are getting steadily busier. We had dinner in the shopping centre above Ebisu railway station. That's normal in Japan; most large railways stations have shopping centres above them, in the station building. These are generally fairly small malls, in American terms, or they may involve a single department store, particularly when the store and the railway line in question are run by the same company.

On Saturday, I signed the contracts for my new home. This was a bit more complicated than planned. I got a map to the office, and arrived there just before ten, which was when I was due there. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the office. I looked around a bit, but still couldn't see anything. In the end, I headed back to the railway station, found a public phone with a phone book, looked the company up, and called for directions.

The map omitted to mention that the company office was housed in one unit in the block of flats at the relevant point on the map. Armed with the room number, I was able to get there and complete the formalities. As is now usual, people were impressed with my Japanese, but the person dealing with things for the company was even more impressed that I was from Manchester, as he was a big Coronation Street fan. Yet another ever-so-slightly surreal experience.

Anyway, with contracts signed, deposits and fees paid, and the key in my hand, I headed over to my new place. It is, basically, really nice. The building is brand new (a little over a year old), and has an interesting design. The rooms aren't big, but they have private bathrooms and a really good, large desk. The common kitchen upstairs is clean and looks easy to use, although I haven't yet, and there's cable television in the common area. The owners live on the top floor, and seem to be really nice. I've met them three times so far, once a month ago when we went to look at the place and found, by pure chance, that they were there and willing to show us the room, once just after I arrived, and once again on Sunday evening. I even managed to meet one of my neighbours on Sunday, and he confirmed that it is a really good place to live.

The location is great, too. It's directly opposite a police box, so I doubt we'll have much problem with crime, and literally next to a convenience store, which will, indeed, be very convenient. It's also at the end of a Shoutengai (shopping street), running down to the station, which has a supermarket as well as more interesting little shops.

Another major advantage is distance from Yuriko, or rather lack thereof. At the moment, it takes three and half hours door to door, and costs about 20,000 yen. Once I've moved, it will take about twenty minutes, and cost about 200 yen.

Also on Saturday, we went to Akihabara, to sort out internet access from my room. The recommendation of the staff at the property agents was to do it there, as the agents in the electronics shops can generally move things a bit faster. We walked out of Akihabara station, crossed the street -- and were immediately accosted by someone selling high-speed internet access. It appears that Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) is in the middle of a major campaign to get people to install its optical fibre internet service. As a result of this, installation is free. So are the first six months. Oh, and you get a 15,000 yen coupon to spend in the store where the stand was.

I wasn't a difficult sell. The conditions were all fairly standard, the prices were about normal (once you have to pay anything), and I had, after all, gone to Akihabara to buy high speed internet access at one of those stalls. We wandered around a bit, and got accosted by several other people trying to sell us TEPCO's internet offering. It could take a couple of months to get sorted out, although it could also take as little as one month, so in the meantime I'll be borrowing Yuriko's net access, which will mean turnaround on email answers will be a bit slower.

Tokyo Big Site Tokyo Big Site, where GEISAI 7 was held. And Yuriko.

On Sunday, we went to GEISAI 7. GEISAI is an art show that runs twice a year. It is aimed at individual artists, and has lots and lots of little booths. Anyone can get a booth, and they aren't very expensive, because it was designed, by a successful artist, as a place where artists can be discovered. As a result, it was interesting. There was a wide range of styles and ability on display, although everyone was doing 'contemporary art'. As usual, some of it (most of it) left me cold, while some I found quite interesting, and one, where an artist called Sayaka Nakano (provided I've copied the right bit of the card she gave me) was displaying abstract works in red and white which really rather struck me.

The main reason we'd gone was to see one of Yuriko's friends, who had a booth there. We were a bit late (which, on the up side, meant that we got in cheap), so she wasn't at the booth when we arrived. Mobile phones are a wonderful invention. Yuriko also met a few other people she knows, and people from work, but then that's not really surprising. She does, after all, work organising art fairs.

From there, we did a bit of shopping and went out for sushi on the way home. The sushi was pretty good, although the tuna was rather "Would you like a bit of sushi with your wasabi?". The egg was delicious, though.

The Barbecue The barbecue by the river.

Monday was the holiday, and Yuriko's housemates were having a leaving barbecue for one of their number at the Tama River. This river marks the southwestern boundary of Tokyo, although there's no really noticeable difference between the two banks. The barbecue was held quite close to the Shinkansen bridge, which meant it was somewhere I'd seen lots of times from the train. It was nice to see it from the other direction.

Despite it being an area of greenery in Tokyo, on a holiday Monday, with glorious weather, it wasn't all that crowded. You couldn't call it quiet, by any means, but there was no problem sitting where you felt like, or setting up games and such. This party was a little more awkward than the class one, because I don't really know many of Yuriko's housemates. That is changing, though, and I'm sure I'll get to know at least some of them quite well in the near future.

From the barbecue, it was off to Tokyo station to get the Shinkansen back to Okazaki. That'll be the last time for a while; for my next trip, I have a one-way ticket.