Friday, December 31, 2010

Year of the Bunny!!

Happy New Year to all!

I have to say that I am having a low-key, not quite, but almost, boring New Year's Eve here in Tokyo! My friend-boy felt he needed to use his days off to "do" some freelance projects he has been putting off, and work on some musical things as well. Certainly he could be "doing" me, but I suppose, I will still be around on Jan. 3rd or 15th, or February...and these other projects have some sort of deadline...(Actually February 3rd is Chinese New Year, so he is NOT getting out of that one! If I have to beg, yell, cry, or drag...I WILL get a New Years date somehow!)

I have managed to clean and organize my closest, throw out an ever-growing collection of magazines, and pare down my English teaching textbooks a bit. In an apartment the size of a shoebox, this helps quite a bit! I've also organized the bathroom linen shelf, washed dishes, and sent holiday greetings to a variety of people.

I have many hours left of 2010 - so I am trying to "clean up" many things before the new year. (Of course, the first day of 2011 is still useful for this...) I'm about to organize my next month's appointments, balance my budget/make a budget, and start "grooming" a previously published article for submission elsewhere.

Also, I am going to spend time looking at flights, hotels in Beijing. Yep, the friend-boy - and I are going to his hometown of Beijing for a few days in March. Partly to meet some Chinese business acquaintances I am working with online. Partly to visit a friend. I asked him to suggest a decent hotel...his suggestion? "I'll call my mom. We can just stay in my home with my parents."

Hm....all articles I have read say that the Chinese mother is rather difficult to impress. I need to start worrying about this now. Or not...

Friday, December 17, 2010


Last night, the friend-boy's band had a show. As the thoughtful girl I am, I sent him a message prior:

"Have a good show! Be careful of flying drumsticks!"

His band has a new drummer, but the previous drummer once threw her drumsticks at him during a show when his PC had a glitch and caused a pause in a song during a show.

He really did not find any humor in that at the time. I'm not so sure he finds it funny now. She did hit him in the head with one...

He responds:

"haha thank you! and maybe not this time. maybe next time you should come."

At this point, I faint! In all the time I have known him, he has NEVER asked me to come see his band live. He even told me once, he hates to invite friends because he just doesn't like playing live that much.

Still, I'm more important than a "friend-friend." I'm a "friend-girl!" And FINALLY he invites me to a live show.

I better not need to "bitch slap" any fangirls or groupies he might have!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trouble Ahead!

My day job consists of many tasks, including: conducting telephone-based English conversation practice, managing the receipt and review of corporate student evaluations, reporting student attendance and reading/proofing/correcting/grading student essays. The corporate business English students are all University seniors or salaried employees with prominent firms in Japan.

Students have certain topics to write about based on their course level and unit within the text. Sometimes topics are basic picture description, giving written directions, or writing a short "introduction" role-play. Higher levels write about the changing employment system, issues with working overseas, and gender roles. The gender role essay always provides me hours of amusement. Or bemusement. Or confusion. Sometimes irritation. And...I see trouble ahead with Japanese couples....

Following is an example of an essay on gender roles in Japan I have received. This essay is pretty representative of 90% of the essays I receive from the MALE students! (Their ages are 24-35)

In Japan, men should work in the offices and women take care of the house. It is okay for women to work when they are single. But when they get married they should think about quitting. It is because they need to keep the houseworks and house for their family. This is because Japanese care about family so women must take care of the house because men have to work long hours and sometimes can only have time at home on weekends.

Also, women are not really suited for working out of the home. They are not strong physically and get sickness when they have to work long hours. It is also to hard for them to work as managers because if they have to tell someone something strongly, they can get mental problems.

What kind of essay do I get from women? About 90% of the WOMEN say something like this...

I think it is important for women to have work outside the home. It gives them more life satisfaction with themselves and even their families. I am working hard on my career and want to be successful.

I am not married right now but hope to find my life mate someday. I hope he will support that I want to work. When we have children I hope that after I take a short leave he will support me going back to work and help with the children. Some companies now even offer a child care leave for men so maybe he can take a leave.

I think it is good for parents to be with their children and I hope companies will make changes so people do not have to stay so late at work and both parents have more family time. I hope my husband will help with the houseworks too. It is not fair for only woman to do the work if they both work. Many men can do houseworks and take care of children. I think that the choice of working or staying home should be made by each couple to their own choice and not only by a tradition.


So, here are some statistics....give or take a few points...

Just going on my students:
90% of the men want traditional roles to stand
90% of the women want newer roles and freedom of choice

"Professionally" obtained, and published statistics in Japan:
45% of women want to be housewives
71% of women become full-time housewives after they have a child

Doing a little math here....
29% of the women maintain their goal of working outside the home
26% of the women feel obligated/forced to give up their goal of working

I can see trouble ahead...will some of these men relent in their hardline traditional approach? Will some women be forced to give up their goals? Will some of these men and women stay single as they can not find a partner who accepts their viewpoint? Will there be brawls in the street between couples?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I was already on my knees...

I have voice lessons on Mondays...just a little something so should I ever accept an invitation to go "to karaoke," I will not be mortally embarrassed.

I trotted up the stairs to my instructors studio and was about to knock on the door, but dropped my backpack. It plopped on to the floor and a pen and some coins rolled out of the front pocket. I kneeled down to pick them up, and at the moment the studio door opened and Tachibana Keita of j-pop boy song/dance band was standing RIGHT THERE!

And I'm unattractively crawling on the floor for 10yen coins!

What I can say, that even through my rouge tinted embarrassment, is that he needs NO airbrushing or photoshopping. He has skin so smooth and perfect, it is amazing! And he wears nice cologne. And he's tall and lovely. And he's like...24 or 25....I need to cougar down!

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Kiss

I just got off the telephone with my daughter. As some of you may know, she now spends school terms with her father (in Texas, USA) and summers with me (in beautiful Tokyo). I also go to see her for a short visit during the winter holidays, or shortly after.

This evening, she gave me her big news.....she had her first kiss! This boy she has liked for the past 2 months, kissed her after school!

My baby is growing up! I might as well start knitting, grandmother-hood is approaching....

I asked her if it was gross. 'Cause she used to always say kissing looked gross. She said it wasn't too gross.

Then I told her, "Be Careful! You don't want people seeing you kissing boys at school. They will talk."

She sighed. "Mom, I really thought you'd be cooler about this. Maybe more excited or something?"

I said, "Yes, yes. I'm happy for you!"

What can you really say to a daughter after her first kiss?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Learning Japanese

I am very lazy! Why do I say this? Because I have lived in Japan for 16 months and my Japanese skills get me only as far as a brief self-introduction and a mental "bowl of words" that I can pull out as needed and combine with gestures, props, and facial expressions to get some point across.

An example - when I need to buy my monthly train commuter pass: I put the old pass on the counter. With my hand swirling over it in a sort of "shopping channel" gesture, I stammer out..."ano...shin...passo...ogikubo/kayabacho...ichi tsuki...kudasai" A new commuter pass is promptly obtained.

Or I go to the au store. Flipping out my cell phone: again, I use a swirly hand gesture over my phone. "uh...keitai...shiharai" They pull up my number, show write down the amount owed, I pay, and mission accomplished.

My friend-boy says "You don't wanted to learn." I feel it is more, "It was not my first priority."
My excuses: the first 7 months living here, I was working long hours at eikaiwa hell/GABA, and had my daughter living here - so free time was spent going to her school her activities, and general mom/daughter/life items.

After she left, my first priority was to find better paying job - which meant hours on interviews, commuting. One of my jobs including a one-way commute of 1 hour, 45 minutes. My days were blown between work and commute time!

Now I have the following to do: full-time job (40 hours per week), private lessons (8 hours per week), my new self run business (8 hours per week). Friends...and friend-boy. Going to the gym. I refuse to give any of it up!

I do welcome ideas on better efficiency, time-management...but as you can see, taking actual sit-down lessons with a teacher - no time! I finish my day job at 7pm, that puts me getting to a lesson around 7:45pm anyway...too late!

I have decided to actually organize my "work" day to allow for study time. Each work day gives me a one hour lunch break, mandatory lunch break!

I want to break up my lunch as follows:

20-30 minutes - Japanese study
15 minutes - update my twitter (business account) and facebook statuses (for family/friend account and business account
15 minutes - an invigorating walk up the stairs to the top of my work building, and back down to ground floor. Get the brain working. Probably should move this to the first activity during lunch!

Here are the sources for my self-study material.

NHK Let's Learn Japanese
- This series has two seasons. First season was made in 1984 and has 26 lessons/episodes. Second season was made in 1995 and has 26 lessons also. All the video lessons can be found on VEOH and YouTube. The textbook can be found on a variety of bittorrent places - although, I now have them downloaded, and can send it to you as an email attachment, should you, the gentle reader, want a copy.

Textfugu - This is a site written by Koichi of Tofugu fame. The site has lessons, videos, cheat sheets. Basically, the first few lessons are free for all, then you can convert to paid subscription to continue to higher levels. With my current level, it will be quite a while before I need the paid levels.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Gates of Hell - Jigokudani Yaen-koen

This post has nothing to do with Roppongi. Although, with a title such as "The Gates of Hell," it certainly could be!

Actually, Jigokudani Yaen-koen (eng: The Gates of Hell) is a small valley with onsen, near the site of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. It is famous for Snow Monkeys! These small macaque monkeys spend most of the year in the forest, but during winter, about 250 monkeys take over the outdoor onsen. Apparently for warmth, as well as for nearby food supply.

Warnings given prior to visiting include: do not eat near the monkeys, and do not even have food on your person! The monkeys can sniff it out and will attack! Uhm, I'm not sure if I am scared of monkey attack...these guys are not too big. Although, I'd like to avoid a nasty infection.

Another warning, do not make direct eye contact. WTH? Do not make direct eye contact with the monkeys?! Are they the Queen?! It is mentioned, "if a monkey makes eye contact with you, look away quickly."

Regardless of the potential of monkey attack, I hope to go on an excursion to see them on 12/23. (A holiday dontcha know! Emperor's Birthday.) I must scurry over to the bank to make my payment before all the spots are gone...

Upon consideration, the above warnings are also appropriate for the other "Gates of Hell" i.e. Roppongi. Do not carry food on your person or it will be sniffed out. Do not make eye contact with the minions loitering along the street. If you notice one of them has engaged in eye contact with you, look away quickly!

Unfortunately, looking away quickly does not work well in Roppongi. They will follow you anyway. All you can hope to do is quickly find a refuge to duck in to, hide out a moment, and hope their short attention span puts them on anothers trail.