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Gary and Jean flew back to Canada yesterday.
I think that they had agood vacation, they
certainly took in a lot of sight: Nikko,
Kamakura, Hitachi, and the Izu Peninsula.
Jack loved having his Grandpa around, he
cried when he left.
In other news, Karen and I are starting to
realize that we have a bit of a visa crisis
on our hands. Her old work visa is going
to expire in January and we're not sure how
we're going to get her a new one. She can't
get a dependant visa because I'm not working
right now. She can't get a new work visa
for the editing work that she does (which
is our main income) because it's freelance
and unverifiable. For various other reasons
it's not really feasible for either of us
to take last minute jobs as English teachers
or some such thing just for the visa.
We're hoping that we'll be able to work something
out with one of our editing customers, but
there's still a chance that Karen will have
to leave the country in January. We still
haven't decided what we'll do if it comes
If we leave then I think that some of you
will be pretty disappointed. On the other
hand, a change of scene might be just what
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Five and a half years ago when I first came
to Japan I got a job teaching English, two
jobs in fact. I taught as an assistant English
teacher in junior high schools during the
day and I tutored businessmen in conversational
English at night.
The night school was in a small office in
Yaesu, a business district near Tokyo station.
There were four or five teachers there at
any given time and we each had our own tiny
room where we tutored our students. The students
were mostly middle-aged men from the many
banks, brokerages, and multinational firms
that had offices in Yaesu.
I had many students at this school, most
of them now blur and fade in my memory so
that all I can now recall is an image
of a vague generic student. However, I do
remember one particular student, a Mr. Watanabe,
because he was always so excited and enthusiastic.
Unlike most of my other students, he was
eager to engage me in conversation, although
he was a bit of a nervous chatterer.
One evening, as was usual, I prepared my
lesson in the ratty little teacher's lounge
that we had at the back of the office. Next
on my schedule was a lesson with Mr. Watanabe.
I picked up my textbook and notes and walked
to the tiny teaching room where Mr. Watanabe
was waiting for me. I paused for a moment
outside the door, patted my hair down, adjusted
my tie, and then confidently opened the door
and strode into the room with a big smile
on my face.
"Good evening Mr. Watanabe, how
you?" I asked.
"Ah, ohhh, ah, good Mr. Clarke,"
he nervously shot back, getting half out
of his seat and then sitting back down. "Ah,
anyway," he went on, "how about
I froze. "Erection?", I repeated
back to him while my face turned red and
I slowly moved the textbook that I was holding
to hide my groin area.
'My God!' I thought. Could it be true!?!
I dared not look. Did I just walk in here
with a big woody? I had been flipping through a copy of Vogue in
the teacher's lounge.
"E-E-Excuse me," I managed to say.
"You know!" he said, "Erection,
Erection, there's a new Plime Minister....It's
in the newspaper. How do you say? ... a poritical
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Living in Japan these past five and a half
years, my eating habits have changed for
the better. I'm staying relatively trim with
little thought to my diet and with no exercise
other than walking. In fact, I'm finding
that I have to drink a lot more beer than
I used to just to maintain what I like to
call 'the graceful curve of my gut.' Karen,
unfortunately, isn't supporting me in that
Japanese food is generally healthier than
what I used to eat back in Canada. I find
myself substituting Japanese food for Canadian
food without even noticing. I used to eat
Doritos and Pringles, but now I eat salted
rice crackers and roast seaweed sheets. I
use to snack on smoked meat sticks while
drinking beer, now it's squid jerky. While
walking around the neighborhood tonight with
my father-in-law Gary we came across a small
delicatessen-type shop and we sampled what
I think will be the hors d'oeuvre at our
next party -- squid in a blanket.
Chances are that when we move back to Canada
I will join the growing ranks of the chronically
obese and fill my trough with hamburgers,
rib steaks, and spray cheese, but I hope
that won't be the case. I suppose that I'm
counting on Karen to help me keep my 'graceful
gut' under control and to carry on with our
newfound Japonized diet.
Today's pictures are once again from the
recent tori-no-ichi festival.
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Today's pictures are from a tori no ichi festival near our house. Surprisingly, I'd
never heard of this festival before
day when Karen heard about it from a neighbour. She was looking for something
to do with Gary and Jean, my father-in-law
and his friend, who are staying with
I can't believe this festival isn't more
famous, and I also can't believe that it
was taking place only 20 minutes from my
house all these years and I'd never heard
about it before. It was an exceptional festival:
bright, dynamic and vibrant.
The tori no ichi dates back to the 1700s, and it's centered
around businesses buying lucky votive rakes
in order to 'rake in money and good fortune'
for the coming year. There is a wide range
of rakes, kumade in Japanese, to choose from. Some are small
and cheap while others are the size of cars
and cost tens of thousands of dollars. The
idea is that you upgrade your old rake every
year with a new one that's a little bigger
and a little more expensive -- kind of like
When someone buys a rake, the sellers shout,
clap their hands, and sing a good-luck song.
As usual, the crowds were thick, but everyone
was calm and ambling as they inched through
the temple walkways to view the kumade stalls and decorative lanterns.
It was refreshing to find something new in
the neighborhood, but now I'm left wondering,
what other cool things am I missing out on?