Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Snows of Tokyo

So it snowed in Tokyo this week. It doesn't happen too often as we're protected by the Pacific warmth to the East and the mountains of central Japan to the West absorbing the worst Siberian wether can throw at us. It was a few years ago the last time we saw something and this time was mild, a few centimeters at most in central town. But that never stops wombat drivers going on their daily journey as if it were a dry, sunny day. So watch out when you're walking, most drivers this side of the Alps, simply aren't used to it.

I have a small place in the mountains of central Japan close the ski resort area of Karuizawa where there is ample snow to be had. Last year I took the shinkansen from Tokyo and, at the station, switched to a taxi. Who kindly abandoned me (and my shopping) about 200m from my besso. Next arrived the comedy of errors as I slipped and slid up what is normally a two minute walk. About ten snow angels later (which included the shape of shoppings bags, I made it to the top.

Without my pride it has to be said. Friends were arriving that evening so I got to work on preparing an evening BBQ (I have a gas burner so at minus a lot C it can still light), glad they hadn't seen my pitiful demonstration strolling the slope flat on my back. However, of course, I'd left the evidence of the angels behind. And, of course, they found them all and I was the butt of all jokes for the entire weekend but then it go. Until this week, when they all remembered in the snows of Tokyo and enthusiastically reminded me once again. Still, I like snow. Not sure about some of my friends though... 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

I can vote! Well, not in Japan, but at least finally in the UK...

In 1982 I was too young to vote, you had to be eighteen in the UK. In 1987 I happened to be out of the country so missed that one too. By 1992 I was in Japan and we'd never heard of a postal vote (nor had any ability to sign up for it in the first place). By the time of the Brexit referendum I'd been overseas for more than fifteen years and so was disenfranchised under UK law. And although I've paid all my taxes in Japan (and we're talking a lot) the chances of me ever receiving the right to vote here could be compared to the survival opportunities of a gnat in a rather large volcano (and yes, I know I've used the polite version of the saying).

Until today. The UK rescinded the fifteen year overseas limitation recently and I've just signed up to join the electoral role. I know it's just one vote, which won't make a difference in any shape or form, but it's the principle for me. I can vote!! Might get it wrong but I can actually vote... Too bad I missed the referendum but there is a little bit of schadenfreude coming into play. Am hearing less and less about "it's all about freedom", but too late guys, past history. But I can vote now! Europe is not going to let the Costa Del Sol back in any time soon by the way. 

Now the next issue is a vote in Japan. I know I could change my nationality and have the right to do so, but it would also be a much longer queue at Haneda Airport. And I'm kind of proud of being British (for all out faults) and don't really want to go down that route. Maybe one day Japan will change to allow those who've been here a while, followed the laws (paid taxes as mentioned) but to be honest, the noise you can hear in the background is, proverbially, a certain hot place freezing over. Baby steps, but I can actually vote. And that is worth something as a first corner on the course. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

The last ten years...

A few days ago I posted a simple "10". The reference was to the tenth birthday of TenguLife, not long until she's a teenager... With over 600 articles out there it's been a real kick when people come to me and say "I didn't know that". My audience went from 90% overseas to 60% international as many in Japan started to tune in for the information they'd missed and enjoyed reading. So what has changed in the last ten years? (And I'm going to deliberately avoid the negatives of the world today before you ask)

Japanese social media went the way of MySpace and Toshiba the way of the Dodo (with Sony being a shadow of its glory days). Springsteen hasn't toured here in that time so there's an entire generation that's missed out but we live in hope. We didn't have "Baby Shark" back then (and if you're a new parent, just don't, you'll really regret playing it to the young ones, try listening to the "ABC" song in a car for three hours to Niigata...). And U2 are still going strong proving in 2019 that Japan has changed as the audience engaged with a passion (something they couldn't persuade them to do in 1994 when I saw them last). Oh, and we had no Ads on FaceBook!

We had a little pandemic but Japan led the world in not complaining and getting on about it, putting on a mask without a fuss and staying quietly at home when asked and not mandated (though the vaccination ball was somewhat dropped but soon caught up). We also had an Olympics where pretty much everyone (I'm exaggerating but you get the point) broke quarantine, athletes, officials and Presidents alike. It's been an up and down decade, I wonder what the next one will bring...

U2, Saitama Arena 2019. Japan showed it had changed.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Haneda and a Dog's Breakfast

So the doors have (almost) opened again. To arrive in the country you still need something akin to infinite patience as the on-line pre-registration is a little less than unreliable, the vaccine certificate wasn't accepted and the App has been discontinued and changed, re-installed and discontinued again. Still, the several hundred staff laid-on to assist were super polite (though I cannot imagine how) and helped me through as I arrived back on Terra Yamato after a fourteen plus hour flight from the UK.

This is all due to change though in the coming weeks as quarantine restrictions become (um) restricted. Finally! Since spring of 2020 I'd been a COVID Refugee. If I'd left Japan it was unclear whether I could return until late last year (October 13 I believe) and the portcullis was raised a little and daylight shone through the bars of the gate. And then the UK went on strike. Don't get me wrong, this time I'm kind of siding with the strikers. I think they have a solid case to make unlike in my younger days. But it couldn't travel the UK.

Anyway, the tourists are here and enjoying Japan (a fine pass-time). I met a couple in their late twenties who were essentially touring their was from Australia to the UK, I met another three coming to see a cinema bar they'd heard about and a further older couple who want to know where to find souvenirs to take home (and they loved my dog). It's interesting that, at the moment, the tourists seem to be people who genuinely want to be here. And it's nice to meet them. Been quite a while but I'm happy to see them. But it has to be said, after three years to figure it out, Haneda remains a complete dog's breakfast... 

Friday, February 17, 2023

A day in the life

Sitting in a lunchtime restaurant I'm watching two older ladies, roughly late sixties, giggling and drinking their beers from the bottle. Not very Japanese but clearly old friends. Above them there's the painting of three bikini clad girls with a bottle of Baileys in the corner. In front of me a guy is trying to convince his girlfriend he does love her and to the right, the same but he's clearly lost the argument.

Behind, a group of ladies, one of whom sounds a little like a Macaw, somewhat drowning out the others. Everything in Japanese, which is ok if you know the subject but you lose it quickly as they flip subjects between themselves. The staff know me well and quickly come to my aid when asked. My friend has to leave but I sit and pick up email that my friend's mother has passed away and another is having boyfriend problems. 

Home is not too far away so walking seems like a good idea. One guy had clearly lost the girlfriend  discussion but the other still has hope. In the elevator no one looks at each other but the reflection of shoes in the doors is always an interesting place to observe. Bright light straight in my eyes as I stroll down the road where a carer is encouraging and old man to keep trying and walk with his frame and I pass the hole in the road  where my wife broke her leg a few year ago. Arriving at the door, the Uber delivered McDonald's is waiting for my son (which I collect and bring in). Five minute rest. And now I'm taking my dog for a walk. Welcome to Tokyo. Have a great day. It's cold.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Perceptions of a Geisha

The perceptions of the countries of the world are always interesting to encounter. The British food is solely fish and chips, all Americans carry guns, New Zealand is full of hobbits and all Spaniards dance The Flamenco. Etc. Obviously the stereotypes not only differ by country under review but also by the country of those enjoying the review. For example my French friends have rarely mentioned the British penchant for seafood but apparently I do (full disclosure: I'm British) eat roast beef. All day, everyday.

And in return, every Frenchman rides around on bicycles in a black and white striped t-shirt with a string of garlic around his neck. In my humble British opinion of course. And this leads me to my point, stereotypes are just that, an uneducated viewpoint, more often than not, far from reality. And that's as true of Japan as any other country (and if you do ever meet me, please don't mention "fish and chips" thinking you're being original, you're really, really not). So Stereotypes are founded more in ignorance than intelligence and in there lies the rub, they limit our perceptive abilities.

So recently I was in a conversation regarding Geisha. In the West, "Geisha" is, obviously, a pseudonym for "hooker", which genuinely couldn't be further from the truth. Geisha were / are (yes there are still Geisha today, try the backstreets of Kagurazaka in Tokyo) highly trained entertainers in arts of such as Shamisen, poetry or dance. End of story if you were hoping to get lucky when Japan re-opens its doors. True, through the nature of their work they would meet the rich and famous and a relationship may develop. And, when you think about it, that's no different from the origins and foundation stones of any relationship. Even if you happen to be a "Lion Tamer"...