Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
- John's Journal / Blog
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Main Index (text only)
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Whinging on about my ailments like an old man
Vis à Vis a Visa
A Constructive Approach to Being Ill
Another Day Off
Izu Peninsula - Day Two
Izu Peninsula - Day One
A Thousand Pictures
Shinjuku and Shinagawa
Otsukare sama desu
Back at work... but not for long!
Ladies and Gentlemen - Entry Number 1000!!!!
The Big Day
Tuesday in the States
A Further Different Way to Fail to Cope with Jetlag
Off to Seattle
Working on a Holiday
All Saint's Day
The Business Trip Looms...
Wandering about on a Sunday afternoon
- Whinging on about my ailments like an old man
- [Tuesday 28th November]
I'm not sure what the collective noun is for ailments, but anyway I seem to have accrued a flock/herd/gaggle of them recently. When I'd gone to bed the previous night, I had strange but relatively dull pain in my shoulder. At about 2:30AM, my shoulder sent my brain an impromptu memo along the lines of "now I don't think you're taking this seriously are you?" and just to make sure it was understood loud and clear, I was woken up in a state of mild agony.
I'm not really sure what a trapped nerve is, but have a vague feeling it might be something like this. Anyway, some random pain killers were hurriedly found (at least I assume they were pain killers - Chie wasn't wearing her glasses and I find it's always hard to tell with Japanese medicine). Again I feel my policy of only taking medicine when absolutely necessary has paid off - these relatively mild over-the-counter pain killers seemed to have done the trick within half an hour or so, and I was able to get back to sleep.
I woke the next morning not really feeling that great, partly as a result of this episode, and partly because of my old friend gastroenteritis. In view of what a struggle the previous day had been at the office, I opted to work from home today instead. So I had a somewhat relaxing day, still managed to get quite a lot done, and felt signficicantly better by the end of it.
In the evening I wrote a "rebuild all" feature for the new blog engine - so as far as I'm concerned the job is done now.
The new blog engine (the replacement for Greymatter) still doesn't have a name. I had at one time liked the name "Babble" - but I think there's already something called that. Consulting the thesaurus for synonyms I found the similarly pleasing "Gibber". Any thoughts?
- Vis à Vis a Visa
- [Monday 27th November]
In amidst all the talk of Yorkshire puddings yesterday, I somehow entirely forgot to mention what really ought to have been the headline news. It appears Chie's visa has been approved. Within one week. That is just frighteningly quick!
I'm still a tiny bit cautious as we haven't actually got the relevant paperwork in our hands yet - Chie asked the embassy to send it to her parents house in Hiroshima, as we'd assume it would have taken much longer and we wouldn't be in Tokyo at that time. However, we got a copy of the certificate by email, and it looks like everything is in order. Within one week! Really quite amazing.
Of course this is absolutely the way it should be - we are married after all, we've been together six years and were able to provide plenty of evidence of that (or you could just bung "John and Chie" in Google and we fill the first results page). On top of that I have a really solid job lined up in London so we could easily satisfy the "no need to recourse to public funds" requirement. Not to mention the fact Chie has lived in the UK for over six years of her life already.
As for today itself... Well, I went into work but had a stomach ache most of the day, a sort of uncomfortable and bloated feeling, despite not really having eaten anything. I spoke to my Dad on the phone later on in the day, and upon describing these symptoms he suggested I probably have a kind of Gastroenteritis. I'd half suspected as much myself. I went out for lunch with TK to the sort of organic food place we often go to, and nibbled at my set lunch a bit there, but couldn't even manage half of it. I decided not to bother with dinner in the evening at all.
When I got back home I decided I ought to spend some time looking around for flights - I still don't have my flight back to the UK booked yet. This was an incredibly frustrating experience as ranted on the message board.
- Yorkshire Puddings
- [Sunday 26th November]
I think I probably did speak a bit too soon yesterday when I said I was on the mend - this morning I felt pretty crappy, and whilst I did get a bit better in the afternoon, all day I was feeling generally a bit weak and feeble.
Part of the problem may be that I haven't had a proper meal since Thursday - my stomach hasn't been showing signs of willingness to accept food over the last few days. Still, today I thought I ought to try and eat something, and so spent a while pondering what I might have an appetite for.
Having listened to the somewhat bizarre Weebl and Skoo Podcast in the morning, it seems the thought of Yorkshire Puddings had become lodged in my head.
I don't think we'd ever really attempted this before in our flat in Tokyo - we basically don't have a proper oven, just a microwave with a slightly crappy oven feature on it. The maximum temperature setting is 200°C, although I'm not quite sure it actually manages that in practice. As an added difficulty, it seems the little baking tray we'd bought to make mince pies last year doesn't actually quite fit in this microwave. So it ended up being shoved in at an angle - not wholly desirable for something containing hot fat.
Oh and we had no means of weighing out the ingredients either. Weighing and measuring is not something I bother with for cooking generally, but for making a batter it is prone to failure without the appropriate quantities.
Still, despite all these difficulties, we managed to make something that did at least vaguely resemble Yorkshire puddings. We also found a box of Paxo in the cupboard, and once we added a few potatoes and some brussel sprouts (surprisingly these are readily available in Japan) it was in the rough ball park of a Sunday dinner.
I still wasn't able to eat a lot, but if anything is going to help me get over a loss of appetite, then it's Yorkshire Puddings.
- [Saturday 25th November]
Well, at the risk of speaking too soon, today I appeared to have made a significant recovery from the mystery illness which had me somewhat incapacitated the previous day. I still wasn't quite feeling 100% - a bit of a dodgy stomach, and a complete inability to deal with cold temperatures (the fan heater was on all day) - but generally a big improvement.
Most of the day went on working on the new blog engine (which really ought to have an interesting name). It has turned out to be a really mammoth task to replace everything Greymatter was doing for us previously. Today I spruced up the comment handling a bit, and put in some features for dealing with archived entries. Hopefully it is more or less done now - there's only a finite amount of time for which Chie will tolerate me being glued to the computer!
It's quite frustrating that a significant portion of the work involved was dealing with malicious comment posters (i.e. spam). Again I wonder how these people sleep at night, knowing how much of other people's precious time they're wasting.
- A Constructive Approach to Being Ill
- [Friday 24th November]
I spent today being really very ill indeed. It was a strange sort of illness - a bit like a cold in that I had a high fever and absolutely no energy - but other than that none of the usual runny nose / sore throat / cough type symptoms. I did have a bit of a dodgy stomach though. Possibly some variant of gastric flu?
Although I managed a brief outing in the morning, for the remainder of the day I was entirely bed ridden and feeling worse than I've felt in a very long time. I took some cold medicine (good old Paburon Gold - the Japanese answer to Beecham's Powder) in the evening which seemed to help quite a lot - this brought my fever down and I started to feel like I was getting back to normal.
There are two lessons to be learnt here.
1) I have a policy (which has often been scoffed at) of only taking medicine when I absolutely have to. If I just have a regular cold which is merely a bit of an irritation, then I won't take anything, knowing it will clear itself up within a day or two. I've heard from medical professionals that the more you take any given medicine (say paracetemol), over time the benefit of it gets less and less. Your body builds up an immunity to it or something. Anyway, I feel I've been somewhat vindicated in this approach given that today I was able to recover from a fairly nasty bug using only very weak over-the-counter sort of medicine.
2) The other thing I have got a bit obsessed about over the last few years is washing my hands. Apparently this is one of the reasons that doctors don't get ill that often, even though they come into contact with all sorts of mingy diseased people - they wash their hands after every appointment. I was trying to work out where I might have picked up this bug this week, and the strongest contender seemed to be on the second day of our trip to the Izu peninsula. Japan has plenty of public toilets which is really great. On the downside they're not always that clean, and there's typically no soap. In these circumstances you're probably better off not washing your hands at all - by touching the taps you're probably picking up all sorts of germs, that you're then completely ineffective at washing off with cold water alone. Still, having visited a couple of these facilities during the day on Wednesday, and ineffectually "washed" my hands, then probably later on in the day having eaten something with my contaminated digits, I think I gave the germs in question an express ticket into my stomach.
Anyway, it was a complete waste of a day - it's always frustrating to get ill when you're on holiday.
Still, lessons have been learned.
- Another Day Off
- [Thursday 23rd November]
Quite a binary-esque number for this entry.
Not a very eventful day. I've got the whole week off work, but didn't really have anything planned for today, so instead just lolled around at home. I spent a while getting the website up to date, uploading pictures, writing journal entries, working on the new blog engine and so on...
For dinner we had gyoza, which I made for a change (usually Chie cooks if gyoza is on the menu), which came out OK.
- Izu Peninsula - Day Two
- [Wednesday 22nd November]
Our very short holiday was only for one night, but given that we weren't too far from Tokyo, we could take the opportunity today to meander slowly back home, and take in some more sights on the way.
- Izu Peninsula - Day One
- [Tuesday 21st November]
As I had the week off work, Chie and I decided we ought to go somewhere, even if just a short trip. For a long time we'd been talking about going to visit an onsen (hot spring) somewhere, and finally by today we had managed to get our act together and had chosen (albeit somewhat randomly) to visit the Izu Peninsula. It's just under a three hour train journey from Tokyo, it has plenty of hot springs, was by the sea, and all in all suited our needs perfectly.
We got on the train from Tokyo at midday, which got us to Shimoda - a town on the tip of the Izu peninsula - just before three. We more or less headed straight from the station to our ryokan - the Kurofune (black ship) hotel. Oh, we did stop off en route at a convenience store to buy some essentials (sake!).
The room was really fantastic - it was ryokan style - so tatami, sliding doors, sitting and sleeping on the floor, the works. It was also quite large for two people - at least 12 tatami mats in the main living/sleeping space. The best part was, of course, our own private outdoor bath on the balcony, filled with onsen water, and overlooking the sea. It was nice and roomy - probably big enough for four people, and the great thing about an onsen bath is that it is always full and always hot.
So largely we spent the remainder of the day lounging around in the bath, looking out to sea, sipping sake. It had been a long running ambition of mine to sit in an onsen and drink sake from a jug floating on a little tray, and having bought a collection of potential floating trays from a hyaku yen store (everything for a pound) earlier in the day, I'd been able to realise that dream. Absolute bliss.
I didn't have high hopes for the food - my previous experience of ryokan food was that basically it was a set menu, and no scope for making anything vegetarian.
This place was completely different though - Chie had told them when we booked I was vegetarian, and the chef had devised an entire menu especially for me, all of it 100% vegetarian (even the usual fish stock problems had been dealt with) and of a really good quality. I particularly enjoyed the chargrilled tofu steak, and the vegetable shabu shabu with matsutake. Absolutely one of the best meals I've ever had in Japan - my hat off to the chef at the Kurofune.
Overall I don't think I've ever had a better hotel experience than this - absolutely fantastic.
- [Monday 20th November]
The whole day today was devoted to carrying out various errands around Tokyo relating to Chie's visa application, which we eventually submitted at the British Embassy towards the end of the afternoon. In the end I didn't quite give them the full payload of 200 photos I'd sorted out the previous day, given that there was a particular envelope for all the paperwork to go in which they wouldn't really have fit in. Instead they got an annotated cross section, from 2000 up to the present day, which will hopefully be sufficient. I guess I should have labelled the little album with "more available on request".
Not much else to report really - it was pretty tiring rushing round Tokyo getting all that sorted out. In the evening when we got back we had gnocchi for dinner, and then set about trying to find an onsen to visit for the next day or two.
- A Thousand Pictures
- [Sunday 19th November]
We need to sort out Chie's visa application over the next few days. When applying for a spouse visa for the UK, one of the things they ask for is some sort of proof that you have a genuine relationship - things like letters, photos etc. So this afternoon I se about finding pictures with me and Chie in together, over the last six or seven years. I ended up with a collection of around 200, and the intention was submit along with the application form.
Chie's name in kanji (chinese characters) means "thousand pictures" and I never seem to tire of the poignancy of this, given how many pictures I've taken with her in over the last few years.
This pretty much occupied the entire day - we'd got up pretty late following the previous evening's karaoke-athon, had a sort of Mexican meal for lunch, and then the remainder of the afternoon and early evening I spent busily hunting for pictures. Also I had two phonecalls - one from Mum and one from Vera - I seemed to be very popular today!
- Shinjuku and Shinagawa
- [Saturday 18th November]
I woke up this morning and thought, highly unusually for me, that I would quite like to visit the dentist today. It's been about two years since I last went, and before that it was a further 9 years. I was quite surprised by how quick and easy it was to book an appointment here in Japan, and before midday I was in the chair being prodded about by a complete stranger with some unnerving implements and reminded of that childhood feeling of mild terror.
I basically just had a bit of a clean-up, and apparently that was basically all I needed really. I'm not sure if the experience was made better or worse by the fact I couldn't understand the bulk of what they were saying.
Later on in the afternoon Chie and I went out shopping, she wanted to show me a couple of dresses she was thinking of wearing at the wedding. I had quite painstakingly explained to Chie how it was bad luck for the groom to see the bride's dress before the wedding, but she seems to have sidestepped this issue with a combination of loopholes - (A) because we're in Japan and (B) because this is not the dress she'll be wearing for the ceremony itself, but one for the party afterwards. So somewhat begrudgingly I went along. I opted for the dangerous gambit of actually giving my honest (i.e. somewhat negative) opinion about the first two dresses she had pre-selected on an earlier visit, which to my surprise was received quite well. In the second shop we saw an alternative which I thoought would look really good, and as it happens the designer (Tadashi-san) was visiting the shop at the same time, so we could even get a bit of advice from him. Still though Chie wasn't prepared to commit, so I guess we'll (or better still she'll) have to come back another day.
In the evening we went to Shinagawa to have dinner with one of my colleagues and his wife. On hearing I was leaving his wife had said she wanted one last chance to see me - I have that sort of effect on people you know.
After dinner we headed back to Shinjuku and met up with another colleague (and his wife too), and the six of us went for a couple of drinks there. Somehow or other it got too late for everybody to get back to their respective homes, so we decided to spent the night in a karaoke place until the first train went. This had seemed like a great idea to start with, but I have to admit somewhat regretting it towards the end - even for someone who likes karaoke as I do, five hours of it is a bit too much.
We eventually trudged back home, somewhat wearily, around 5:30AM.
- Otsukare sama desu
- [Friday 17th November]
I found the working day really wore me down today, but thankfully from now on I have a week off. After today there are four weeks until I leave the company, but I'll only be in the office for two of those - only ten working days left!
I was feeling pretty drained when I got back home, and didn't really feel like cooking. So we ordered in a pizza, accompanied with some Orion Happoshu, bought from the little street full of Okinanwan shops near our apartment. The happoshu was particularly good to my pleasant surprise, even, if I dare say it in public, a bit nicer than their regular beer.
(By the way, the title "Otsukare sama desu" is something they say in Japan at the end of the working day - roughly translated as "thanks for your hard work" or "you must be tired!")
- [Thursday 16th November]
Not much to report. Left work at a reasonable time, keen to have a restful evening at home. Spent a while fixing problems for Lorenzo on the new blog engine - the roll out of these sorts of things never runs that smoothly.
Chie had done a one-off day back at her old job today as her replacement had quit within her first month (!). So I got back into cooking duties, but it was a very simple affair - just pasta of the tube variety.
I went to bed very early, before 10, I guess this may have been a delayed reaction of the jetlag (I'd been fine the last few days) but I felt really knackered. I fell asleep to the soothing sounds of my iPod.
On the subject of iPods etc, I feel I ought to say something topical about Zune as it has just been released and all that... but I think it has all already been said. Personally I think I'll just stick with my iPod, if it's all the same with you.
- Evening Offsite
- [Wednesday 15th November]
Well the daytime was a tad dreary - it seems my remaining weeks will be filled with endless "knowledge transfer" meetings, although thankfully I'm now down to just over two weeks left in the office so hopefully that pain will be fairly limited. Actually as my leaving date is December 15th, today is the day I "officially" resigned, although in Japan it appears the official letter etc is not actually required.
So one month to go, but only 12 days of that (after today) actually in the office.
In the evening we'd planned an offsite meeting as an addditional more casual knowledge transfer session, but in the end we didn't bother talking about work at all. I believe a very brief bout of karaoke also ensued.
Didn't stay out too late - was back home before midnight.
- Back at work... but not for long!
- [Tuesday 14th November]
So I was back in the office again today, and it occurred to me what with having a bit of vacation to use up before I leave, I only have three weeks left to go in the current job. The end is very much in sight!
In the evening we had some leftover curry for dinner, and then watched Lost in Translation again - it is currently available for free from Yahoo Japan, just so long as you don't mind it being interspersed with a few adverts. It was nice to watch it again having lived here for a year or so and learnt some more of the language.
- Virtual Sunday
- [Monday 13th November]
Having lost most of the previous two weekends to plane travel for the business trip, I determined today I would take a day off in lieu to recuperate. It seems I have pretty much avoided jetlag altogether on my return to Japan - I went to bed as soon as I got home the previous day, had a good night's sleep, and then woke at a reasonable hour this morning feeling generally pretty normal.
Most of the day was taken up with writing the new blog engine for the 'Maison - it turned out to be a surprising amount of work to get even the absolute basics up and running. I guess it is sort of poignant in a way that they change over from good old Greymatter happened around the 1000 entry mark.
Hmmm... having said that I'm not sure if poignancy is a concept which can be associated with scripts on a website, but anyway...
I made a red wine stew for dinner in the evening, but actually Chie ended up having dinner with her sister so I dined alone.
- Ladies and Gentlemen - Entry Number 1000!!!!
- [Sunday 12th November]
Yes I can scarcely believe it - look at the address bar in your browser and you'll see this is the one thousandth entry I've posted in this blog.
This rather monumentous piece of numerical history somewhat dwarfs the events of the actual day it concerns which wasn't all that interesting really. In fact this is one of the shortest days I've ever blogged about. The flight back from Seattle landed in Tokyo around 5PM, so it is a little hard to determine exactly when today started (when I got on the flight, it was Saturday US time). Perhaps when we crossed the internation date line we were suddenly catapulted into Sunday? Who knows.
Anyway, Chie had come to Narita airport to meet me which was really nice. I was able to get through customs/immigration/etc in record time and we were sitting on a train before 6.
I dozed off a bit on the train on the way back, I was generally pretty knackered having been incapable of sleeping on the plane as always. I guess we got back to the flat some time around 8, and I pretty much went straight to bed - Chie knocked up a quick dinner which I ate in bed, half asleep.
Anyway, the trivialities of jetlag aside - 1000! One thousand!
- Leaving Seattle
- [Saturday 11th November]
Slept fairly late following the previous evening's outing, and then rather hurriedly got all my things together and checked out of the hotel. Luckily Shig was on the same flight, so I got a lift with him to the airport.
So it's goodbye to Seattle then. My next job will also require trips to the US now and again, but to CA rather than WA. So there's a strong chance I might not ever visit Seattle again. I've made four trips there over the last year or so, totalling up to about six or seven weeks.
Thankfully this may also be my last time to fly NorthWorst - and with this flight they sent me off on a particularly low note. The standard of service was terrible (clumsy, unfriendly, and generally very amateurish - not what you expect in business class), the food was utter crap as always, the movie selection was very uninspiring and it was also a pretty bumpy and unpleasant flight (although I'm not sure if it is fair to blame the airline for that last part).
Anyway somehow or other I managed to pass the time on the flight - a combination of my iPod and talking to the guy sitting next to me who worked in the seafood business (albeit somewhat difficult to find common ground between an executive from a fishing company and a vegetarian software engineer). Helpfully he told me how crap the food was in England, but I restrained myself from sinking to his level and giving him a detailed account of how crap the food had been in the US over the last week.
The highlight of the flight came in the last few minutes, as we came in to land at Narita the sun was setting, the sky was very clear, and we could see Mt. Fuji silhouetted against a red and gold sky. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand, but I found the sight to be utterly mesmerizing. In an instant I understood why people in Japan are so fanatical about Fuji - the word awesome has been horribly over used in recent years, but this was a situation in which it was absolutely appropriate. I was literally filled with awe.
In Japanese there is a word "nakanaori" which means to make up after a falling out. Without wanting to be overly sentimental about the whole thing, I felt like Japan was offering an olive branch with this glorious sight. It was as if the country itself was saying "nakanoari shio?" - "let's make up". I'd have only just over a month left in Japan after this point, and I felt like Japan was asking for us not to part on bad terms, to remember that amongst all the trials and tribulations of living abroad, this was still a country filled with fabulous and beautiful things.
- Wrapping Up
- [Friday 10th November]
Today was the last day in the office for this business trip, which would also be the last business trip I'd be making with my current company. There wasn't really a whole lot left to do following the big demo the previous day, just clearing up a few odds and ends.
In the evening something of a big night out ensued. There's a few people at US HQ I'd worked quite closely with over the last year - particularly two British guys - and so tonight was a sort of a farewell party in effect.
I had previously thought the Japanese were big drinkers, but having this chance tonight to compare on a 1 for 1 basis the drinking habits of the Japanese with a couple of people from my homeland, I realised they weren't really in the same league. My British colleagues knocked back pints as though they were eggcups, whilst my Japanese colleagues were literally falling asleep at the table after the first few. Part timers!
It turned into quite a late night - I think we were ought until about 2AM. I guess it was a tad bittersweet in a sense - when you leave a company, especially one on the other side of the world from where you live, the likelihood is there are some people you'll just never see again. Whilst for a number of people you work with this isn't going to be much of an upset, it is inevitable that you make friends with your fellow colleagues.
- The Big Day
- [Thursday 9th November]
In the afternoon today was the main event for this business trip - the big demo to a whole room full of management types. I decided to take the driving seat, and although I say so myself I think it went rather well - no hitches, no difficult questions (although at least one which was bordering on a bit dumb). This was sort of the culmination of a year's work, and I have to admit it felt rather good.
I decided a bit of a celebration was called for in the evening, and so me and TK headed into the centre of Seattle (we normally spend most of our time in the outskirts of the city around where the office).
We initially planned to get a bus, but whilst waiting at the bus stop we were offered a lift by a very nice Indian guy who dropped us off in the University District. Actually this area was a bit grotty on the grotty side and wasn't particularly mine or TK's cup of tea. So after a quick dinner (at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant, which was OK) we headed into the centre (or downtown as they say in the US) to find some bars.
It was hard work initially - unlike the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Seattle is a very spread out city, and you can end up having to walk a long way between each bar. We found one place initially - a Hotel bar in fact - which I thought was rather nice, albeit somewhat on the quiet side. Following that we went to the brewpub in Pike Place market - where I'd been on one of my earlier trips to Seattle.
The final venue of the evening was probably the best - we wandered over to the district known as Beltown (?) as we'd been informed there was a bit more in the way of nightlife there. We happened upon a jazz club called Tula's which was really good. They were having a sort of jam session for female vocalists. The bar was really high though - I guess a lot of the performers were semi-professional. Anyway, it was jolly nice - I particularly enjoyed a rendition of "Well You Needn't" - familiar to me as it's one one of my Thelonious Monk albums.
- [Wednesday 8th November]
More of the same, work, work, work then out for dinner in the evening - tonight it was Thai food, which was actually pretty underwhelming.
- Tuesday in the States
- [Tuesday 7th November]
More of the same really - in fact the whole week followed a very similar pattern. A mixture of demo preparation and meetings in the daytime, followed by a meal out on expenses in the evening. I think this time we went to a place called the Tap House, which I'd been to on a previous trip. The food wasn't all that marvellous, but as a redeeming factor it did at least have a good selection of beers.
- A Further Different Way to Fail to Cope with Jetlag
- [Monday 6th November]
By sleeping throughout the afternoon and into the early evening the day before all I'd really done was set myself up for a sleepless night. I didn't let this time go entirely to waste though - once I had realised sleep was futile I got up, turned on the computer, and made a thoroughly good start on the replacement blog engine for Greymatter (server timeouts have made it effectively unusable).
Anyway, regardless of this lack of sleep I soldiered on into the office here in the US, and was there bright and breezey for 9AM. Not many other people were. The working day wasn't hugely eventful - went out for Italian food at lunchtime, and spent most of the day setting up for the big demo later on in the week.
In the evening we went out for Mexican food - I made a decree that this was all I was going to eat for the entire week (which didn't really come to pass in the end).
That's it really.
- Off to Seattle
- [Sunday 5th November]
Once upon a time these long virtual days caused by a shift in timezone over the international date line where something of a novelty. Now however it all just seems part and parcel of the business trip experience.
So Chie had already gone off to Hiroshima the previous evening, having stayed out fairly late at Quercus I awoke fairly late, but still in plenty of time to pack and sort out the apartment prior to leaving for the airport.
TK had originally been scheduled to go on an earlier flight, but his flight had been cancelled, so in the end we went on the same plane. By the time I got to the airport, TK had spent several hours in the lounge availing himself of the free drinks and was pretty trollied, bless him.
The flight itself was, well, just like any other flight to the US. Long, rather tedious, and completely without sleep. The food was not all that great this time - usually the Tokyo to Seattle leg is more or less passable, but today NorthWorst were obviously not putting a great deal of effort in.
Anyway, we arrive in Seattle around 11AM on Sunday, three hours before we took off, and after the usual messing around at the airport we headed over to our hotel.
I went out and grabbed a bit for lunch - there was a Subway not too far from the hotel. We get Subways in Japan, but they don't do they Veggie Max / Veggie Patty to which I am rather partial. In fact this was the first time I'd been to a Subway in the US - almost the same as in the UK, but perhaps slightly better and a fair bit cheaper.
Basically after that I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening sleeping. I awoke at something quite unhelpful like 9:30, and by that time I guessed nothing much would be open, so gave up on the idea of going out for dinner. Actually it turned out I couldn't get back to sleep at all the whole rest of the night, and attempted to put that time to good use writing a new engine for the blog on my site.
- [Saturday 4th November]
Today was my last full day in Tokyo prior to my business trip to Seattle.
First on the list, just after lunch, was to head over to Shinagawa for Chie's sister's university festival. The main attraction there today was a Japanese celebrity - Sakana-kun - who was going to be doing some sort of show at the festival. He's an odd sort of a celebrity - his stage name roughly translates as "Fish boy", and he seems to have become famous in Japan solely for his encyclopedic knowledge of all things sea dwelling. So we spent a while watching him, without any real idea of what he was banging on about, before heading off.
Next up we met up at Tokyo station Chie's friend who is confusingly also called Chie. Chie #2 is a semi-professional photographer, and wanted to take some pictures of me and Chie to add to a collection for a Japanese fashion magazine (yea, go figure!). Thus a slightly bizarre hour or so ensued - I've never modelled before, and I have a suspicion this is not going to become a regular event for me either!
Chie was heading off to Hiroshima today, so after the photo shoot, we went to an Indian restaurant for dinner, just prior to Chie getting on her bus. It was a place near Tokyo station, which was pretty good - we both had Thali style meals, but as a nice added extra they were served on banana leaves, which made it a bit special.
Chie got on her bus around 9. I had intended to go straight home to get a good night's sleep prior to my flight the next day, but somehow I found my legs carrying me to Ikebukuro instead. I spent a while in Quercus there, and had a very pleasant chat with a number of the regulars, before finally getting a taxi back home.
- Working on a Holiday
- [Friday 3rd November]
Although today was a national holiday in Japan, I went in to work anyway, determined to put the last few finishing touches to the big demo I'll be giving in the US next week. Actually it still doesn't do absolutely everything I would have liked to, but it's as near as dammit.
In the evening I was quite determined to go for a nice meal out - sort of a reward for working on a holiday. So I met up with Chie back at one of the stations near our apartment, and after a bout of indecision we finally settled on the Italian restaurant (called something like Buon Appetito Papa) which we've been to a few times before. We had some extremely rich and quite excessively garlicky food, and then after that staggered back home with very satisifed bellies.
- Stealth Pumpkin
- [Thursday 2nd November]
Officially the last working day of the week (Friday being a national holiday). Things went a bit better today than the had in the first half of the week, so hopefully we ought to have a fairly respectable demo to show for our efforts when we go to the US next week.
Chie made dinner, and managed to sneak pumpkin in again. I didn't protest this time.
- All Saint's Day
- [Wednesday November 1st]
Today was David from the office's birthday and so there was a bit of a work night out.
Can't think of much else to say about it really!
- [Tuesday 31st October]
Didn't do anything remotely Halloween related actually. However, I did have a sense at work of being haunted by evil spirits - nothing seemed to work on that bloody computer today. Impending demo syndrome has very definitely set in, which appears to have the ability to bend the laws of nature, physics and logic, in order to conspire to make sure my big demo falls apart embarassingly. Still, a few days left before curtain up, so I am still hoping things will improve.
Today was Chie's final final day at work (which should have been last week, but was postponed a bit because of her little accident). So she is now unemployed, and having a go at being a house wife. I'm not sure it'll really suit her for long, but anyway, it has been very nice to have her do all the cooking for a change. Today Chie attempted to follow one of my recipes - red wine stew. The results were somewhat different to what I normally make, but not unpleasant. In an unusual move she put pumpkin in, and when I was brave enough to air a slight protest I was beaten down by the explanation that was Halloween so I had no choice.
- The Business Trip Looms...
- [Monday 30th October]
I'm now into the last week in Tokyo prior to my next (and final) business trip to US HQ with this company. As I mentioned last week, the main focus of this trip will be a big demo of what is effectively the culmination of my last 12 months of work. Last week things were looking very rosey indeed - all the major technical obstacles had been overcome, and it was just a case of putting it altogether into a coherent demo... or so I thought. This week, somewhat typically, all the software involved has begun to conspire against me and I am really struggling to get all the relevant bits and pieces to work together happily. Still, that sort of thing is to be expected - software has an innate sense of when it is about to be demonstrated, and will almost always misbehave accordingly.
Not much else to report really - for dinner Chie made a kind of stir fry involving flat noodles (sort of like the Chinese ho fun) and kim chi.
- Wandering about on a Sunday afternoon
- [Sunday 29th October]
Went to It's Vegetable in Kinshicho for lunch, then spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around Shibamata in the far East of Tokyo.
- Saturday Jazz
- [Saturday 28th October]
Recently I've not been able to sleep much past 9AM, and as Chie's friend had stayed the previous night in our apartment (thus occupying the lounge where my PC etc reside), when I woke up, given that the girls were still slumbering, I decided I ought to go into the office for a bit. So I spent a fairly productive morning there. Around lunchtime I headed back into the centre of Tokyo (Shinjuku to be precise) and there met up with Chie and her friend for a spot of lunch.
En route I popped into the Bic Camera in Shinjuku and bought a recharger cable for my iPod.
After lunch Chie and I spent the remainder of the afternoon shopping in Shinjuku. One of the highlights of today was that Chie had her bandages taken off following her little accident one week previous. She just has a little plaster on her chin now, and I am pleased to report it appears there will be no lasting damage.
In the evening I went over to Yokohama, to where TK lives, for a bit of a musical evening. TK (who aside from being an excellent broadcast/software engineer is an excellent jazz pianist) has a piano in his house and we took advantage of that to practice a song I am considering singing at mine and Chie's wedding in December. I am, of course, not exactly well known for my singing prowess, so part of the reason for practising was to get a seond opinion as to whether or not it was a good idea to attempt such a feat in the first place. The jury appears to be still out on that one.
Me and TK also visited a kind of small jazz club place near where he lives whice has nightly jazz jam sessions. It was really cool to see the reaction when TK arrived - he is obviously a bit of a local celebrity. I sat for a couple of very pleasant hours listening to his excellent and slightly unruly (as a result of the beer) piano playing - it was tremendous.