Thursday, August 12, 2004

(I am going to resend this email with the pictures not attached – sorry if this is inconvenient – it is just to ensure nothing goes wrong with the transmission.)

Ohayoo gozaimasu/ komban wa / konnichi wa! Watshi no namae wa Chris desu! O-genki desu ka?

Hey there its me again! How is the cold New Zealand winter treating you? Better than the hot Japanese summer? Was 31 degrees all day today! The humidity has dropped a little but is still enough to make you happy to see an air-conditioned room.

Had `kids training today` which involves a lot of sitting on the floor and playing games, and believe it or not singing! We are colouring, colouring, colouring….all the day long…” Luckily I have been putting a few hours in the Karaoke bars and was all warmed up for the singing task. I put a hint of Tom Jones in my delivery and a twist of MC Hammer. I was MC Jones, or Tom Hammer or something I think? Anyway now I can look forward to teaching kids their ABC`s and 123`s etc.

On the tourism front things have been quite busy. My flattie Adam has a friend over from Australia. She is on her way to China to teach English to kids. She is staying for about a week, and at the moment they are in the `Happiest Place on Earth`, no not the Hillcrest Tavern but at Disneyland. Hope they do better at finding Mickey Mouse there than we did at Fuji-Q Highland Park.

So while Lauren has been here I was tasked with keeping her company while Adam was working and for a couple of hours while Adam was (mostly successfully) battling a dose of diarrhea. We went to the NS Building in Shinjuku, which houses the worlds largest hydraulic-powered clock. It is basically a water wheel which turn a large drive shaft. The clock is made by Seiko. Incidentally the clock is housed in the same building as the Nova Head Office and it was the second time I had seen it. We then went up the building to the 29th floor and took the picture which should be attached to this email.

We then hit the Shinjuku shops. Found a really awesome bookshop which has all the stuff that will come in handy in the future, including Japanese/English textbooks, both ways (so I can learn and get private students). It also has a large amount of English academic type books and Novels. It actually reminded me of the university bookshop. Very cool. I felt smarter just going in there!

We then went off to Shibuya, which is a suburb (well city in its own right really) of Tokyo. For those in the know, this is where a bit of the filming of Lost In Translation was done. From the Starbucks which is a couple of floors up above a pedestrian crossing where about five or so sides meet together. Similar to Five Cross Roads in Hamilton but slightly more impressive. Actually the pictures I took are a bit average and don’t let you feel the vibe of the place. It is known as a real young persons hang-out, and there is so much going on there. I also have a special spiritual link with Shibuya as it is the only place that I have been able to watch the All Blacks play. Admittedly the amount I spent on one beer there was enough to buy a dozen Waikato back home, but I am apparently not in Guatemala anymore.

After baby-sitting Lauren for a few hours we met back up with Adam and went to Hachioji (closest city to our home), for some ramen (big bowl of noodles and vegetables), was very filling. We all discussed what touristy things needed doing the following day. We decided that an early start would be the best and decided getting up at about 8.30am would be best so we could maximise our sightseeing.

Got on the train at about 2.30pm the following day after a good sleep in, a session of Lauren emailing family and friends, showers, lunch, deciding where to go first, deciding what would be shut by the time we got there and balancing the advice from the Lonely Planet Guide and what we had heard from fellow gai-jin.

We decided that Oodaiba would be the best place to go, which features the worlds highest Ferris wheel (well in 1999 it did) at 115 metres high, the Toyota amusement park, a great view of the city from the harbour. Oodaiba, which is built on reclaimed land from the Harbour is accessible by the Tokyo monorail, which is quite fun to ride, very high tech and apparently doesn’t have a driver, well one that I could see anyway. I saw another passenger get in and sit in what would be the drivers seat. The fact that the man was drinking a beer made me think that he probably wasn’t going to drive the thing, unless this was his first job after being fired from Florida Air.

You will see some pictures taken from the Ferris Wheel and a picture of the Ferris Wheel as we were leaving the area, all lit up real pretty at night! We hit the Ferris wheel at dusk, but because of the cloud/smog cover we didn’t see the sun set and we were too early to see the skyscrapers lit up, although we did see all that on the monorail back home. The monorail goes over a huge bridge called the Rainbow bridge, which is actually a Double Decker bridge which the train goes through the middle of the bridge, very 21st century stuff. The train actually dose a big loop before it climbs up into the bridge.

Also in Oodaiba is the Toyota ‘Amusement Park’ which isn’t as amusing as I though it might be, someone like Brett might be able to spend a week there but for me a quick look around was ok. Some of the more exciting parts of the park were the cars that drive themselves around this large indoor/outdoor track. I think they use magnetic disks to find their way, which is fine as long as where you want to go has magnetic disks all the way there. They also showed the new way that they stack cars in these massive machines which use a fully automated forklift system to locate and retrieve your car. There must have been about 20 cars stacked on top of each other, that is two columns of ten cars. They also had lots of old cars and the newest of the new cars.

The Toyota design museum was also there which showed the advances they have made since the Corolla. There were also a lot of new things they are developing, especially in terms of mobility (cars that the seat comes out and picks you up from your wheelchair or mobility scooter and instrumentation in side the car. There was also a car from the future there which I assume is only a model rather than a working car. If not George Jetson will not be a happy man.

Following the sights of Tokyo harbour we hit the crème de la crème, of Tokyo shopping. Ginza. We didn’t stick round too long there for fear that the Gucci and Llardro people would try and charge us a few thousand dollars for looking through their window! The people were dressed up as pretentiously as they possibly could, even silly old tarts walking their toy dogs. I had to admit that I felt a bit out of place in my 2000 yen sandals and warehouse shorts, only my Edmonds Judd polo shirt added any respectability to my outfit.

We then went to the nearby Senso-ji (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is a temple located in Asakusa, a central part of the Shitamachi. Shitamachi ("downtown") is the old town of Tokyo. For more information please visit Courtesy of the Japan guide website!! We hit the place quite late in the evening and all the touristy shops were closed, thankfully probably! Was quite nice there but I didn’t feel moved at all. A few good photo opportunities though! One of the pictures looks a bit spooky, is it my aura? Or is it a low light picture which I was moving too much in? I’ll let you be the judge….but if you look carefully at the grassy knoll….

Things have been patched up with my flatmate and we are talking again. He sort of apologised to me yesterday. Which in typical macho guy fashion was a handshake. Things are a bit more tolerable at home but I am still greatly looking forward to moving into the city. Having a bigger room will be good, more room to spread all my clothes over (eh mum? ;-). Also the over 2 hours each day commuting is taking its toll on my patience, especially knowing that in a few weeks when I am about a third of the way on my current way home I would already be at home!

Had my 2 month probation evaluation, I apparently got one of the highest results and my boss asked me to apply for a management job at my branch in the next few months. I have discovered that the fastest way to be promoted in a job, is to not want to be promoted. I have to say that I am enjoying the pure teaching aspect of my job a lot. The bureaucracy I can do without, but the students make teaching quite worth while. I am actually seriously considering taking some steps to become a real teacher or at least look into the possibility. So anyway it looks like I get to keep my job post probation.

I sent a couple of postcards today but I realised that I am seriously lacking physical addresses for people. Please send me your address and I will try and get you a postcard.

Sorry about the length of this letter, I will try to write more next time!!

I have no big plans for the next couple of weeks but will keep you informed if I come across anything interesting.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I found a diagrammatic depiction of what you are supposed to do when encountering a bear. I am not sure if you do that after wetting your pants or during??

Oyasumi nasai.
Purveyor of fine Bears


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