David Chart's Japan Diary

December 29th 2006

OK, so it's late again. I'm going to stop making apologies; you'll get a diary entry when I get round to writing one and be grateful. It's been a variable couple of weeks or so, in terms of workload.

Immediately after I wrote the last entry, I had a quiet week; nothing to edit, no writing projects, and lots of students taking a week off. I did some reading, some tidying in the office, and a major revision of my my books page. It's now split into several pages, one for each game, and has some of my thoughts on each book rather than ad copy. It also uses more recent link methods from Amazon, not that anyone ever seems to buy anything through those links. Maybe I need to do more supraliminal advertising: Buy My Books. The pages aren't up to date; I have about half a dozen books to add, and a whole new game line. However, now that the structure is reset, that shouldn't take too long.

Then everything got very busy again. I got the manuscript for another Ars Magica book, which I was supposed to turn over this year, so I had to edit it. In addition, all my students, including a couple who have lessons very rarely, wanted lessons. Financially, that was good, but it did mean that I had a very busy week. I did finish editing the book within the week, and turned it over to Atlas on time, but work rather dominated.

However, on the Saturday (the 23rd), we went to an end-of-year party. This party was held by Yuriko's friends from a job she had about ten years ago. They've all stayed in touch, and have these parties every year. Last year I couldn't go (I think I had to teach), so this year was their first chance to meet me. It was a fun party, with some very good food, ranging from sushi to steak sandwich. I think I only talked to about half of the people there, but that's probably about par for the course. I spent quite a while talking to a man who's the same age as me, but has a fourteen-year-old daughter. That's quite a different life... One particularly nice thing was that one of Yuriko's friends commented that my Japanese intonation was good. "Oh, your Japanese is wonderful" is very common, of course, but that's fairly conventional. A particular comment on my intonation is rather more unusual, and suggests that it might actually be fairly good. Doubtless I still have an accent, but apparently it is not atrocious.

On the way back from the party, I bumped into a friend from Yamasa. Actually, she tapped me on the shoulder while we were changing trains. She was my classmate for a year, but left after the Proficiency Test to go back to America and study at a specialist interpreting graduate school. We'd has no contact since; I didn't know she was back in Japan, she didn't know I'd never left. What are the odds of just bumping into someone in Tokyo? While I know people are bad at probability, I think this was genuinely unlikely; apart from anything else, I hardly ever use that train line. We chatted a bit until our journeys went in different directions, but the plan is to meet up again in the New Year, when we both have a bit more time.

On the two Sundays, we were mainly doing Christmas shopping. This included buying our own presents from various family members, since physical distance makes that a bit tricky. I got shoes from Dad. Fortunately, I have small feet for my height, and I can buy shoes at ordinary shoe shops here. They don't have my size in everything, but they do in most things. I don't much like buying shoes; they're expensive, and it's very difficult to tell whether they're the right size. I know the appropriate numbers, but which one actually fits depends on the style of shoe. Since Christmas, I've been wearing them, and the formal shoes are, I think, the right size. I'm still not entirely sure about the trainers. They're very comfortable once they're on, but they're a bit hard to get on in the first place. Oh, the problems I face.

On Christmas Eve, we went to get my present from Yuriko, and Yuriko's present from Dad: new cell phones. The Japanese system has finally changed so that you can keep your phone number when you change companies, so I've changed to au, the same company as Yuriko. My new cellphone is really quite absurdly over-featured; you can tell it was a present. It has a three megapixel camera, which can take movies, and can surf the internet, even if the site is not adapted for cell phones. It is also a television. I've not used that feature very much, mind you.

One good feature of the internet access, which I have just confirmed, is that I can write entries for my Japanese blog on my cell phone. I have, in fact, just done that. Given that I have to use a cell phone's text entry feature and pay for every packet sent to the server, I don't think I'll be doing that very much. However, it may well be useful on occasion.

Christmas Day is, of course, a normal working day in Japan. This year, however, it was also a Monday, which meant that it was my day off. Therefore, I cooked Christmas dinner for Yuriko.

This was, perhaps, a slightly foolhardy undertaking. After all, I've never cooked Christmas dinner before, and doing it Japan makes everything more complicated. The first complication was finding a turkey. The Japanese don't do turkey at Christmas. They do chicken. Particularly fried chicken, so KFC is very busy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Obviously, I can't bring myself to think of KFC as Christmas dinner, so I had to find proper ingredients. I had to go into Tokyo to find frozen turkey of a reasonable size, but I did manage to buy one. I even remembered to take it out of the freezer on Christmas Eve, so that it would be ready to cook.

Cooking it was the next problem. I found instructions on the internet, but they were all American and started from eight-pound turkeys. Ours was about three pounds. So I had to do a bit of extrapolation on the cooking time. Then there was the roast potato problem. We have one oven, and it isn't terribly big. According to Silver, who provided very useful hints on cooking roast potatoes, they really need a higher temperature than the turkey. The best I could do was put them in the top of the oven, and then turn the heat up for a few minutes after taking the turky out. That seemed to work, though, as the potatoes were the most successful part of the meal.

Vegetables are also essential. Sprouts do not appear to be for sale in Japan, but that's not necessarily a major problem. We settled for carrots, broccoli, and green beans. Unfortunately, these ended up slightly overcooked, particularly the broccoli. I knew that carrots needed longer than the broccoli, but it would appear that they needed more longer than I thought... The carrots were only very slightly soft, but the broccoli was rather mushy.

Still, everything was ready to be served about when I'd planned, and everything was hot when it appeared on the table. The turkey was fully cooked and did not poison us, and nothing was actually inedible. There were, of course, left-overs, but we ate just about everything up on Boxing Day, so that wasn't too bad. Overall, I think my first attempt at cooking Christmas dinner was a success, but there was still room for improvement.

Oh yes, for dessert we had a traditional Japanese Christmas Cake. That means lots of fresh cream, and strawberries. I think it must be the red and white colour. Actually, I prefer strawberries and cream to the traditional English Christmas Cake, so this is one local substitution I have no problem with at all.

I finished work on Wednesday, so now it's my New Year holiday. Yesterday I sent out international New Year's cards. Last year I didn't get it done at all, and this year it's done but a bit late. Maybe next year I'll get it all done on time. Maybe...