Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Life in Tokyo - as days go by

 So, there is a general rule of thumb that you never try and do more than three things in a day in Tokyo. You can try but your performance is going to head south the further you go. And before arguments commence, going to work or looking after a baby count as one each, been there, seen it, done it. And anyone looking after a baby has already completed more than anyone going to work at the time of reading so don't complain to your spouse you're tired...

Last week thought I had an "interesting" day. I'd known I had a memorial service on the day (not a sad one, he'd had a good innings and passed with the beer he loved, in his hand) but in Japan you reflect on the person a year to the day after their leaving. So, suit on, and we went to the shrine where his remains are held until his wife also passes and then we'll inter them together. The chanting of the priest is hypnotic but we quietly payed our respects and moved on. To the next funeral. This was, admittedly sad and a few tears were shed. But good to be there.

After that one, coming home I received a message from a friend to say he was having a hard time and could we go for a beer. I caught up with him early evening in the (relatively) new Shibuya Yokocho (you'll find me half way along sitting at the red tables). A few drinks down and he was feeling much more in touch with the world and I had an enjoyable walk home through the center of Shibuya across the scramble to where I live past a thousand people.

And I'd achieved my three things. Two funerals and a beer. Not quite a movie title, but you can't have everything...


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Life in Tokyo - Sometimes it can get a little hectic

There was an old saying about life in Tokyo, "never try to do more than three things in a day". Going to work and having several meetings still counts as one before you say it... But sometimes things just all happen at the same time in the same place and, of course, it's the moment you catch flu (very mild in case you were wondering. I had Swine Flu many years ago and that was seriously not fun, this time I'll live, that time was touch and go) and the cold, dry blue skies of winter change to a bone chilling rain and that's when it happens.

So an old friend flew in last night from Australia (on a business tour from Europe). I haven't seen him since before pandemic (Japan's doors were firmly shut both during and months post the apocalypse). However his three days was shortened to eighteen hours, there or there abouts. So 11.00pm saw me in a taxi to his hotel in a race against the closing of the bar, made it just in time. Four drinks ordered and we made it to around 1.00am with help of some very kind bar staff who didn't complain at all that the lights were out and the place was very firmly shut.

So we'll catch up again this evening for an hour before he heads to the airport, my photoshoot I've deferred from today (under the "three things" rule). I'll meet him at a bar he doesn't know, in a part of town he doesn't know and then catch up with another friend before we head to a concert (Wilco, if you were wondering) and my first friend heads to Narita but has to find his car first. At the same time I'm helping my son work through apartment applications and getting myself up to speed on tonight's show whilst also joining a conference for a school where I help out. But as Ben Johnson once said, "mom, nobody died". 

The Queen concert two weeks ago was pretty awesome though...

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.