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 Thursday December 1 2005 - 6:41 am
The Big One....
Might as well make a start then

So where they hell were we, hmmm.... 13th of September - there's a lot to go in... I'm going to have to skip over so much just to catch up, so i'll just put in the important bits.

So my ear had popped and I could hear again, fantastic This was short lived though, as come Friday, the pain had returned so school was again a no-no. However by the end of the day it had subsided.....

Saturday 10th September
Ok, so Saturday night I went out with Chizue to see her friend play at a club in Yokohama - now Yokohama is the next main city down from Tokyo and is SOOOOO much better It's right by the sea and you can walk along the front in the little park/promenade - plus it's not full of foreigners.... wonderful place.

The club was a real underground afair, with me being the only gaijin there - i was in heaven.. finally ridding myself of the common foreigners haha - the other plus side was that every one came up to me to say hello - with even some buying me drinks! hurrah!

However I wasn't able to fully enjoy myself as the ear was really playing up, so we left at about 3am or so to find something else to do. Not easy when you don't have a clue what's where - so we ended up in a Karaoke booth, which was both warm and comfortable, hurrah! Thinking about it actually, with a painful ear - karaoke would seem like a strange thing to do, but hey, there you go....

Got home at some ungodly hour (might have been 8am - a time soon to become familiar to me) to sleep, however woke after only a few hours with massive ear pains, which only slightly went with pain killers and were unfortunate signs that something just wasn't right.

Monday should have been school, however the pain was just too great, so it was back to the dox...

Well after the first doctor failed to cure me, it was to a second (seemingly better) one who diagnosed me with just a bad ear infection and gave me some more medicine (the same as before) which he claimed would clear it up in no time, but if not, come back after 4 days and he would administer a supository!?!?

After saying goodbye (and making a mental note to *never* go back there again ) it was back off the to the pharmacy to pick up the drugs - again, things are different here, you don't pay a fixed subscription amount, rather just the cost of the drugs (minus 70% - insurance) - these first one's were cheap at £5 i think for two types, so beating the UK there

So Tuesday morning, i wake with a lot of pain and a slooshing sound in my ear - rather strange - so I get up to investigate by taking a trip to the bathroom. I don't make it in the door before Seiko and Shiho appear to say good morning, but instead end up screaming!??!

A quick look in the mirror and it is obvious why, my face is covered in blood! Perhaps my ear isn't getting better after all........ we therefore decide that serious action must be taken (well actually, I am *told* serious action must be taken) so a specialist doctor is sought (I thought I had already seen them)....

The girls find a special ear hospital, so we book an appointment and set off after lunch. It takes about an hour and a half to get there (very busy streets) - but when we do, this place looks a lot better, a proper big hospital style looking place.

Another good thing about the hospital situation here, is they seem to be a lot less crowded and I am actually seen on time (shock horror!) by a very friendly doctor (I am unsure of his name, but for the rest of this blog he will be known as "the crazy doctor" for reasons you will soon discover). I go into his little office, along with the girls (to translate - and generally hold my hand ).....

Let the crazyness begin .... it started out normal, he used a little swab thing to clear some of the blood, then got out an ear-looking-in thing (which i was pleased to see over the mirror technique of Dr F before...!) and proceeded to take a look inside my ear.... now, maybe he just didn't realise, but he basically just shoved the microscope thing straight in my ear - no warning and no sense of softness.?!!? So now i was in massive pain - "Ahah! Very interesing..." he says, "a very bad ear infection" (well duh!) "we will have to take some swabs" - (fantastic, now I am happy as it seems he knows what he is talking about).

Obviously, this is hurting loads, so you would expect him to remove the microscope - NO! He now calls over Seiko - "Here, take a look!!" he calls cheerily... "OWW OWWW OWWW!" - next is Shiho's turn (perhaps there is a circus or something in there... I dunno...) - before finally (yes, I kid you not) - a passing nurse gets to have a look.... Ok at the time it did really hurt, but I couldn't help but see the funny side of it - a great story to tell

So swabs were taken and I got to sit back outside to wait for the results.

"They're here!" (again in his cheery voice, which i quite like )
"So what is it?" - we all ask
"Well, you seem to have caught E-Coli in your ear - very strange.... but also very dangerous, you are lucky, it was eating away at your blood vessels (hence the bleeding) and if it had got past your ear drum, you could have caught meningitus and died?!?!" (bear in mind this is all said in his happy voice )

Right.... So remember this kids, if you go to another country and get ill, don't take one doctors opinion, nor two (especially ones that want to stick tablets up your butt) - but go to a third, crazy acting one - HE you can trust

I was then prescribed some different medicines, a load of pain killers and was told I would need to come back to the hospital *everyday* for the next 2 weeks..... oh and I can't drink for two weeks...

HOLD UP.... WHAT?!?!?

Yes, any alcohol could instantly reverse the healing process so i was *not* to have any.... dammit....

Queue 2 weeks of staying at home (I couldnt go school due to having to visit the doctors each day) before finally the two weeks was up.

To check I was ok, I had to have an ultrasonic ear test thing (I sit in a booth and press buttons when I hear sounds) - however on looking at the results, Crazy Doctor wasn't so happy with them..... "no more alcohol for another two weeks!!!"

This was now really going to cause a problem as Etsuko would be here soon, and the time had been set aside for non stop partying.... which now looked very doubtful But as much as I wanted to break his rules, ultimately I knew it would be stupid and just cause more problems in the long run......

Etsuko Arrives:
I had been looking really forward to her coming, but now due to the fact I couldn't drink - it wasn't going to really be so good as I knew she would always want to go out, thus not really practical for me.... it was therefore quite sad for me, as I only was only able to see her once (though I guess once is better than no times...) We did go out on her first night for a meal at "Outback" which was really nice (even though she taunted me by drinking some really nice looking cocktails) - but unfortunately I had to go to the hospital early the next morning, so had to cut it quite short.

No comes the mass skipping part - the time between then and the 13th of October or so....

So come the 11th, I hadn't achieved much and was now very low on money (I only had enough money to cover me until the end of October) - so a month late - it was job hunting time. I say hunting, but realisitically there was only one place I wanted to work at - Nova (

Getting a Job at Nova

I knew about Nova and the jobs available thanks to George and the crew from the Gaijin house last year, they offered a 5pm-9pm shift, Monday to Friday (no weekends) which paid about £1000 a month, perfect for what I wanted - as it meant I could still go to school in the mornings. I also knew I didn't want to fill in the online application as I hate waiting around for things, so dressed in my best suit (ok, my only suit) - I headed off to the Nova head office in Shinjuku.

Finding the place was actually a bit more tricky than I had expected and the place was almost shut by the time I got there, but eventually I made it in. Unfortunately I had neglected to have a drink of anything all day, so was seriously dehidrated when I walked into the office.

I'm not sure about you lot, but when I get very dehidrated, I get very dizzy and start to have speech problems (haha... honestly, it's happened a few times) - which really isn't the best way to feel when you are tying to persuade someone to give you a job......

So anyway, I walk into the reception where I am immiediately greeted and asked what I can be helped with - I just about manage to say I am here to ask about jobs and "no" I don't have an appointment, but could i please get a glass of water ...

Except "no", there is no water machine on this floor (26th) - they are down the bottom....! doh! But could I take a seat as someone will be along shortly (they had already called them, so I couldn't now go back down...)

A few minutes later, a tall chap in walked in and introduced himself. He did of course give his name, but by this time I was having problems remembering my own, let a alone someone elses He then explained that this wasn't usually how it was done () but as I was here he could take all my details - which he did.

For people thinking of applying, this was the basic stuff like - your name, country of origin, qualifications and any experience (i *think* i was filling out a paper version of the webform, but I can't be totally sure...) - he then said someone would call within a few days and let me know if they wanted me to come in for an interview.

A few days later and no call, I decided to let it get to Monday before I would have to contact them - however not quite being that patient I bashed off a mail on the Sunday night which read as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I visited your offices last Tuesday to enquire about job vacancies, where I met with one of your colleagues who took my details, but informed me that due to the staff that deal with hiring not being available, I would be contacted via email by Friday. However I have not received anything from you.

I appreciate that you are very busy, however my current situation deems it necessary for me to find a job as soon as possible. After researching all the different schools (and obtaining a few personal recommendations), I have decided that Nova would be ideal for me, due to both your flexi-time schedule and also the ability to be able to teach for Nova Kids (something I would very much enjoy).

I would therefore rather hold off trying to find a job at another company if there is a possibility you have a vacancy with yourselves.

I believe I would make an excellent asset to your company as I have both classroom experience from a previous job and for the year previous to me coming to Japan, I taught English to Japanese students in London on a voluntary basis which I very much enjoyed. I therefore feel I have both the patience and initiative to make an excellent English teacher.

Attached is my most recent resume, which I hope will cover any other queries about my background you may have.

I would be most grateful for a fast reply, as if you cannot help me I do need to start looking elsewhere.

Kind regards,

Ben Griffiths

Come Monday afternoon and "ring ring!" a phone call They were very interested and could I come in the next day for an interview. Of course, no problem..... so the interview was set.

The Interview
Arriving litterally 2 minutes before I was due to be seen (and once again forgetting any water...) I was ushered into a training room to meet 3 other Nova hopefuls We then met some very nice Nova staff, before the session got underway. First was the written test, which consisted of a multiple choice test (what would you do in this situation), a grammer/accuracy test (circle the wrong part of the sentence) before going onto a (short) essay section (write about why you want to come to japan?? - I think more aimed to the applicants who are still in the other countries; and "what special qualities do you have").

30 minutes later and that done, we then watched a short presentation on how Nova works, followed by a Q+A session (where we could ask our own questions....) before heading onto the main event (the one on one interview).

Now I know I've only had a few job interviews, but nothing has ever been as detailed as this. It must have lasted about 1 and a half hours in total!? First it was all nice and simple, asking various questions to me - before it started to turn more serious.

There was a quick fire round "I will ask a question, you have 3 seconds to give a 2 word answer"!!! I miss heard the instructions, so passed a few of them, ready to have a second shot. Except there wasn't one... (she had said if you pass you CANT go back...) which kinda rattled me (stupid, stupid!). I guess you want some example questions, but I'm really sorry but at this present moment in time I can't remember any!! Doh!

Next I was shown the Nova teaching book, told to pick a lesson (each lesson is numbered) then find the 3 hardest words on that page. No problem.... "Now imagine I am a low level Japanese person, explain them to me..."

Finally, I had to give a sample lesson and answer any questions that were thrown at me (explain this, what does this do etc. etc...) before finally it was all over, and I was told I would have an answer by Friday.

Was it hard... possibly, though maybe that was just as I haven't had much experience with interviews before / any others I have been 100% confident in myself. For new people thinking of applying, I honestly think you will have no trouble (you have to have a university degree to apply, so you should definately be capable of it!)

Friday came so I took the morning off school to wait for the answer "Ring Ring" - "Hello! This is X, I'm just ringing to say we were very impressed.... but..... your references haven't replied yet...." - basically, they couldn't offer the job until they had referrences!!! doh! I was asked if i could see if i could hurry them along, then call back next Tuesday for the answer.... grrrrr.....

Obviously everything went through ok (well I work there now ) - so next Tuesday I had officially been given the job, starting the next Monday!! (So from 0 to Job in about 2 weeks - cool!)

Monday 31st October
Wooo.... not an official work day (so we didn't get paid) - but our Nova induction. Basically filling in all the paperwork and finding out about how everything works. The most important thing we would find out was which school we had been assigned to - pretty much pot luck - so a bit nerve wracking...

It seems my good luck had returned however, as I had been assigned to Shimokitazawa Kita. A small branch in quite possibly one of the best locations in Tokyo (as well as being only 20 minutes from my house! 3 minutes from school...) I think I mentioned Shimo before, but it's basically the Camden of Tokyo. Loads of young people, bars, cafes and cool things to do

We then had a few "teambuilding" excercises which involved working in groups to solve problems before it was hometime.

And that my friends, was my last day of freedom

Tuesday 1st November
Wow! Today I am being paid, so I can now officially call myself a Japanese-Business Man Tuesday also signalled the start of my 3 day training, before starting for real on Friday

My training branch was in Jiguyaoka, a larger branch (well, it had 3 floors) in another really cool part of Tokyo. Training consisted of learning about the different parts of each lesson, watching some videos, then having some lesson practise in our group (there were 3 of us being trained). After lunch, we had to give half a lesson...

It wasn't completely alone as we had an instructor in with us to help out if anything went wrong, I was really nervous, but it all seemed to go ok After this, we had a feedback session where we went over what we did right, wrong etc.. before a closing session and the day was over....

Wednesday 2nd November
Today consisted of more training and help getting us ready for our first major test - teaching a lesson (actually 2) on our own!! They claim in the orientation you don't get thrown in at the deep end, though Im not so sure....

Thursday 3rd November
Again more feedback and looking at more options, though this day was different in the fact we had 4 lessons to teach, both BACKTOBACK... Meaning there was no time to pussyfoot around, we had to make sure everything was planned well in advance. For this reason, I got in an hour or so early so I would have a chance to look at the schedule and sort everything out. Luckily, and maybe a confidence boost - most of these lessons went quite well (though one was absolutely dreadful.... but we dont talk about that) ... before finally the day was over.... w00t!

My fellow trainees had Friday off, but for me it was to be my first proper day, yup, start training on Tuesday, teaching by Friday. In a way I suppose it was always going to be like that, just when you read it back, it seems kinda fast....

NOTE: As I am still one month behind, I'll write about day one - then skip everything up until now.... otherwise I am never going to catch up with myself.



I wasn't quite sure what to expect, so decided it would probably be best to go in quite early (maybe an hour or so) - all was going well, I got to Shibuya early and went for some lunch at the local curry place. Perhaps I ate too much, or maybe it wasn't so good - but this turned out to be a very bad move on my part..... the train ride to Shimo wasn't so bad, but getting off - something felt very wrong....

Not wanting my first impression at work to be me dashing in and running to the toilet, I set off to look around for a public alternative. 20 minutes later (4:30) and still nothing, it was time to bite the bullet and just go to work. Unfortunately, I had of course walked a lot further than I had originally intended so now had quite a walk ahead of me....

4:45 and I finally get back to Nova to be greeted by the Japanese manager - Usukei (Nova schools work in an odd way, there are the Japanese staff (sales team, reception etc) who have one manager - then the teachers who have a different one) and Haruna (one of the receptionists) then pointed in the direction of the staff room.

Now, I figured there would be someone to show me what to do , but nope, it was just an empty staff room (the teachers were obviously teaching) .... a little daunted, I looked up on the wall to find my schedule, luckily not so busy, just mainly 1 and 2 man classes, so just set to getting the files out.

At the start of each day, you look through the schedule for the day to 'pull' all the student files you will need. You then look to see which lessons each has done (each level is split into lessons) - match up ones which haven't been done by the students (so if a group lesson, try and find a lesson that hasn't been done by any of the group) and then finally choose the lesson and make a note in the folder so no one else will pick the same one. Once you get more experienced, I've been told you can just pick lessons on the fly (ie not come in so early), but I think I am a long way from that stage yet.

At the sound of the bell (between lessons a bell rings, then there is a 10 minute break used to mark previous lessons) the rest of the staff filed in. Again, it seems I have been very lucky as all the people here are fantastic - Mark (a 4 year veteran), Jimmy (a year and a bit), Yen (2 years, though she has since left) and Tony (the boss and a really helpful guy). Shimo is (was) currently understaffed, so we have a lot of 'help' teachers from other branches, however as of now, we have Kate and Vanessa who have joined our team (so I am no longer the newest...)

So, lesson one was planned and I was already to go (ok, it wasn't quite that simple, but hey...) - the bell rings and I go out to the classroom.... except the student isn't there, my first lesson is a "no show" (pretty self explanatory really ) so I get the chance to go back and continue planning - nice start

I guess I should now explain how the lesson structure works. Each lesson is 40 minutes long, and is chosen from one of the level text books.

Each lesson has a number of aims (what the student should be able to do by the end of the lesson), this lesson is then split into a number of sections:

1) Assessment and Focus - the bit before the opening of the textbook, just to find out how much the student already knows about the subject you are going to teach
2) Language Input - Where the student learns all the language they will need to complete the application (pass the aims)
3) Tune In - Learn one or two phrases and how they will be said by a true native speaker (ie What Do You Think? -> Whadyathink)
4) Listening - A number of questions are set and then a passage, or conversation is read (at natural speed) - the students then have to answer the questions.
5) Activities - Some activities (maybe matching sentences, discussion topics) - basically things to practise the Language Input phrases / stage
6) Application - The most important stage, students have to close their books (so they can't look the language up) and a task will be set that will check they can pass the aims (for example, if the lesson was about changing money, a roleplay at a money exchange could be undertaken)
7) Wrap Up - Just basically a brief overview of the lesson and any corrections from the Application.

So there you have it! I actually find the correcting of students the hardest. Because I have spent so much time around Japanese people (when in England) who had very low English levels, I have become immune to "bad english". You know when you hear someone speaking English badly you can pick up on everything, it just sounds wrong - "i come england plane", "i coke want" etc... well, I can no longer pick up on this very easily. Infact, I pride myself on my ability to dumb down my English... Except of course now this is causing a few problems, but I am trying my best

The final thing I should talk about is "Voice" lessons. Voice lessons are basically an "English Lounge". In the fact, you just have a largish room with sofas and chairs and students just come in to talk English!! What is my role? Well basically to just make sure the conversation keeps flowing (there is no correction done here). I really like Voice as it's a great chance to find out about Japan (most of the times I just ask about things I don't understand... ) - we are lucky at Shimo as most of our voice students are high level (so we can have some pretty good discussions) - whereas a lot of schools have low level, making discussions a lot more tricky. I get Voice at least once a day, which I always look forward to - the highlight of the day Even better is double voice - woot!

One thing that does puzzle me though is why people would pay to come and (basically) talk with other Japanese people.... it just seems they could all swap numbers or something and then meet at a cafe for free!?!? If I didn't work late shift all the time, I reckon I would rent a room over a bar or something and have an "English Speaking" meet up - at a considerably cheaper price than voice!!

Ok, so that's Nova out the way - what else... hmmm...

Well since I started work, all my days are now filled with either school and Nova, or sleeping and Nova - so weekday activities are pretty rare (so don't expect any photos until the weekend) - however I have become pretty good friends with one of the Nova staff (Yumi - you can see her in the Shibuya photoset) who is helping me with my Japanese (or would do, but we keep drinking too much and forgetting about it) and has become good friends with Seiko and Shiho too. The last few nights she has been around for dinner (she can cook a wicked yakiudon!) - so hopefully my Japanese should now accelerate quite a bit.

The only problem is her weekends are Wednesday (yup, one day off a week) - so she can't ever come out on Sat or Sun, but if she starts late the next day (1pm) then we can sorta do something the night before.

Any other news, ah yes! Dad you will be pleased about this - I can now go and DJ at a bar in Roppongi... woot... not sure when I will go yet, maybe next weekend - but that should be really exciting. The place is quite empty at the moment, so I won't be overwhelmed by loads of people and it will be a great way to build up my confidence.

I'm also missing Gowry tonnes now, especially since I can only call her at the weekend due to the time differences - so I am looking forward to Jan very much. Erm, opened day one of my advent calendar (thanks mum + dad) - which despite me treading on it, hasn't broken... hurrah...

Oh, and finally got my hair cut (though she didn't cut off as much as I wanted) - which now requires wax to look right. The only problem with this is though the wind. Wax + Wind = Deadly combination. By the time I get to work, my hair has blown out into my "Wolverine" look, and then restuck again... lol... Next time, I will get a bit more off the top and sides, but now, I think it does look quite nice. (Except everyone reckons I look a lot younger now... doh!)

So there you go, yes I know loads has been left out - but better that than keep missing everything else, lets do a quick summary.

I ran out of money a month ago and been using my savings since (stupid ear)
Life had started to get quite depressing, but going to work has made me feel a lot better
My Japanese is very poor, I really need to find the time / study more
Every weekend I go to Roppongi despite hating the place (so the photo sets may start to get a bit repetitive)
I am extremely excited about January, can't wait to get home (even if it is only for 2 weeks)
I miss Gowry tooooo much to bear sometimes
But apart from that, I am happy

Phew... I'll now try to keep on top of everything by posting snippets every day (or few days) - but will always take the camera at the weekend, so at the very least you can *see* what I got up to...


 Sunday November 20 2005 - 10:54 am
So what happened?
As you can gather, there's been no writing update, however that was due to me being busy working on the photo section.

I figured that if I'm too lazy to write the blog, I can at least take some photos and get them up

So the photo gallery is (mainly) done - the functionality is there, but the looks will be sorted in due time. Just for now, I wanted to be able to get something online.

I'm going to retroactively write the log now, so I don't get further behind and then post it in one big go

 Monday November 14 2005 - 6:41 am
Update coming soon....
And boy do I have lots to say.

Apologies all who have been visiting, but it's been hectic!!

Tomorrow is blog writing time

..... I promise

 Tuesday September 13 2005 - 6:20 am
Dear blog readers, but last Friday I was hit with another ear infection, which means I can do nothing.

I'm now on some extra strong pain killers and some more antibiotics, so hopefully normal servive will resume shortly.

On the plus side, there's not really much you have missed - as I have just be lying in bed all day watching movies.....

 Thursday September 8 2005 - 3:18 pm
Give me strength
Another week passed, another "fill in entry" - a bit more to discuss this week, though not neccessarily more to type... this will make sense when i get to it.

Anyway, on with the show:

Saturday 3rd September

Saturday night was going to either be Ageha with Kaori (which I must admit, I didn't really want to do anymore) or out with Seiko. Things were looking unsure however when I was woken up to the news that one of Shiho's friends had died, so Seiko and Shiho had to go to the hospital (though I wasn't at this point sure why...)

Later on (this entry is going to be short, i can't remember too much - funny, i keep saying that... maybe Japan induces memory loss?) I received a mail from Kaori to say she would be working late, so maybe to leave Ageha until another day? This seemed like a good "get out", so i mailed back to say it would probably be a good idea, what with the Seiko situation and all.

My consience (sp) was clear at this point, as it meant i was out of the situation in a nice way and i really was staying at home, so needn't feel guilty I had gone out with her (Kaori).

Of course, my life is never that simple, and at about 10 o clock or so, Seiko called to say she had finished at the hospital and did I want to meet her in Shibuya with her friend Mika? After turning it over a few times in my head, I figured I might as well as I still wanted to meet up with more of Seiko's friends, so threw on a T Shirt and headed out into the night.

Arriving at Roppongi station, I was mobbed by the usual army of promoters trying to get me into their club (who don't even take "i am waiting for someone" as a reason not to enter... "you can call and tell them where you have gone...") - Seiko turned up about 10 minutes later with gifts of alcohol from the Convenience Store - so we started the night off with a streetside drinkathon (I wonder how much I look like a nuisance tourist....)

I then felt the pangs of hunger hit, so we nipped across the road to the 7/11 to get some grub... however, something caught my eye (or nose...) - it was another roasted chicken place.....

Now remembering the nightmare chicken of the night before, i was kinda uneasy about buying another one, but as Seiko pointed out, the people standing eating it looked happy, and it was the start of the night, so might be worth a try.... I therefore duley purchased a 1/4 of chicken with the obligatory roast potatoes.....

All went silent as the chopsticks grasped at the first piece of chicken and it was slowly raised to my lips.....



IT'S GOOD! Ahah! Finally, the great tiki god has blessed me with some proper wholesome food. This chicken tasted wonderful (though perhaps the greatness was accentuated by the fact i have been eating miserable food for the last 3 weeks) prompting me to do a little jig in the street, much to the amusement of a group of passing girls - and aquiring me some strange looks from the bar owner who was touting for business opposite.

Now the night was set, all we needed was somewhere cheap (I only had 3000 yen - pretty desperate) so it was off to meet Seiko's friend.

Entry to the club was 1000 yen, which wasn't a good start, though we did get one drink. I was about to try and barter this down when seiko just paid and went straight in... doh!

Inside was playing your typical R/B hip hop that i have come to love since i moved here (oh yeah, and i live in a penthouse apartment in Ginza doncha know? ) - however it wasn't as rammed as everywhere else, so we were able to get a seat/half booth.

I was then introduced to Mika and her boyfriend (I'm not sure of his name, but for the sake of getting confused later, I will call him Bob) along with Bob's brother Mike* (* of course his name wasn't really Mike....)

Straight away Bob bought a round of drinks, despite my protest that i couldn't afford to buy one back, followed by Mike doing the same. Mike seemed quite friendly and wanting to practise his English so kept asking me different questions and generally being quite pleasant.

It seemed obvious however as the conversation went on that he wasn't entirely kean on the black race (I'm sure referencing them as "Niggers" isn't PC anymore..) which was confirmed when he showed me a scar on his face, proclaiming the "Gipsies did it when I was a member of the Neo Nazis!!" - this struck me as kind of odd, seeing as he was Japanese (I thought you had to be white to join them, obviously not) - but also kinda left me a bit lost for words...

He then went on to explain he's not like that anymore and can put up with other races, just would prefer it if they weren't here.... riiiiiiiight...!??

Another round of drinks from Bob later and he sensed that I wasn't having the best time, so suggested we move onto another club/bar called "Wall Street" which would play some better dance style music - this suggestion was met favourably, so we "bust a groove" and got outta there

Wall Street must be the narrowest bar I have ever been to. Whilst it was very long, the walkway could fit about 3 people down it at a squash. The DJ was playing an interesting style of music (half dance, mixed with hip hop...) - however the vibe was good, and thanks to Bob, the drinks were flowing, making it not very hard to get into the whole party spirit.

Even if I had written this entry the next day, I still can't tell you what went on there, as I really can't remember, but I left the place with more money than when i went in, 2 unopened packets of cigarettes (i dont smoke) and some very bizarre photos on my phone...... a good night then

Sunday 4th September

Aha! This is an easy entry to write... slept most of the day, then started to write the last entry.

The idea had been to order pizza at about 10:30, as i had eaten quite a lot of scrambled eggs at about 5pm, so got on the phone to Gowry and Zak for a few hours until that point. However come 10:30, Seiko had gotten quite ill and was lying sick in bed.

As I had to be up early for my first day at school, I hit the sack about midnight... back to school tomorrow.... wow

Monday 5th September

Alarm goes off at 8:15 - argh.. off damn thing, comes back on at 8:30....

Why am I up at such an ungodly hour? Yup, today is my first day of school (woopee!) and i have to get in a little bit earlier to hand in my enrolment forms and actually sign into the place.

So it's a quick jump into the shower, muffins in the grill, clothes on, muffins buttered and out the house by 9:00. Quite impressive I think

As I walk out into the street to begin my walk to the station I feel somewhat enlightened. It's a nice morning, I feel quite awake and am already looking forward to learning something

By the time I had finished the 5 minute walk to the station, my earlier optismism had someone decreased and i was fighting the urge to go back home to bed The clock on the station showed 9:05 (I remember this as the train was just leaving ... doh!) - however it wasn't long until the next one showed up (and pretty crammed it was too) so I was able to start my communiting journey.

Now you always read that Japanese trains always run on time, etc etc... stickler for time, run military time etc... Well maybe most do, but certainly the train from Setagaya to Shibuya doesn't always being a few minutes late (which i guess is still good, just when you are a little late - is quite infuriating).

I got to Ometo-Sando at about 9:25, and as I had not known the correct fare, had to queue at the fare adjustment machine to pay the difference. Of course, this meant I arrived at college a little late (9:40 or so) - much to the amusement of everyone there, but after quickly going through all the forms, i was ready to be sent to class.....

My class is very small (4 people: Bob, Jean, erm an indian woman and ME ) which I think should be good for learning. The way they teach is vai repetition (so teacher says something, then we go around class repeating), so if the class is big this can take ages.

One annoyance though is the Indian woman who asks so many questions.... The idea is that no English is spoken in class, so we just have to work everything out. Except this woman keeps stopping to ask in English... ho hum....

I can't even remember what we learnt (more on this later) - however it seemed we got through quite a bit and I think this will be quite a beneficial course.

At leaving time (which couldn't come too soon) - the heavens had decided to open (due to the typhoons going on in Kyshu) so I nipped next door to get an umbrella, before braving the cold and heading to Shibuya for some lunch.

I had wanted to try a Yoshinoya, however with them all being full up, Subway seemed like the next best bet... so subway it was I decided to eat out as inside seemed quite hot, but couldn't seem to cool down outside (despite the rain) and now rather worryingly, the hearing in my right ear had got decidedly dodgy.

Now this has happened before and usually means I am getting a cold, so it seemed the best thing to do would be to head home, not before making a quick stop at Citibank to remove my UK money and then nip down the road to the Shinsei bank to deposit it all.

Back home i was feeling decidedly worse so hit the bath computer to run me a nice hot bath (39 degrees...) and 10 minutes later or so it was ready. Not having been in a bath this deep for a while, it was great to be able to get my head right under the water - however on coming up for the umteenth time, my hearing suddenly didn't return, regardless of how much i tried to prod it (** notice ** never try and do this) - plus the heat was now making me feel rather sick.

Tonite was Arnauds last night and he wanted to go out, so although i wasn't feeling the best, i did want to say goodbye, so went off to the bus stop to get to Shinjuku (the train is starting to cost so much) - by now we were in torrential rain and on finding out the bus would be 30 minutes, a trek back to the station was in order and the many changes that came with getting to Shinjuku.

Arnaud had been going to a particular restaurant everynight and he really wanted to show me it, however first stop was an ATM so I could get some money out.

Houston, we have a problem.

Now I really cannot understand why a country so technologically advanced as Japan can't get something as simple as a cross bank ATM system working... comprende?

No, well it's simple. Out here, you can use your ATM card at your own bank. And that's it... possibly a 7/11 if it supports your bank (there are quite a few banks, and ATMS can choose who they like) - why they can't be like the UK and let you use one bank card anyway, I just don't know.

To top it off, you actually have to pay for withdrawals too if outside a certain time (?!?) - though not with the Shinsei bank (which is why I chosen them).

So anyway, of course, none of the bank machines will accept my card, nor will Citibank let me use my UK account due to me withdrawing the maximum earlier (to put in the Shinsei bank). After about 30 minutes we finally find a Shinsei bank (inside a Starbucks!) and I can withdraw my sacred 3,000 yen.

Grr... just thinking about this annoys me. If I had gone somewhere with no Shinsei bank, I would have been completely stuffed - I wonder why this system is used.... hmmm....

/rant over

So we go to this restaurant of Arnauds. It's a pretty cool looking place, you sit up at the bar/table area and they give you what looks like a pottery kiln. On top of this is a grill and as you order the food, they give it to you on a silver platter (raw) and you get to cook it yourself.

No, whilst this is all well and good fun, these type of restaurants always strike me as just money making schemes, why? Well it's simple.

They generally cost a bit more than a normal restaurant because of their "uniqueness", ok, but then if *I* am cooking the food and not a chef, surely the prices should be cheaper? All the staff are doing is getting some meat out of a fridge... In fact, come to think of it, why didn't I just stay at home and save myself £15?!?!

I must admit, it was quite nice... but in the back of my mind, all i could think was we were paying too much... Especially funny was when Arnauds piece of pork (we had bought pork and chicken) dropped through the gaps in the grill top and ignited, causing quite a large flame to shoot out the top of the "cooker" haha...

After the meal, we spend a pleasant hour or so browsing the local arcades, trying to win various toys, whilst also conconting a cunning plan to defeat the sex club owners who kept trying to get us in their bars.

Basically the way it works, they come up to you trying to be all friendly and everything, then trying to direct you into their establishment. This can get so annoying when all you really want to do is get across the street, but as soon as they know you speak english they are onto you. Last year, I tried to get the better of this situation by talking in French, however being from Nigeria, a lot of them spoke this too.

So this year required something special, we shall call it the "Akbar Language Deception Technique"

Akbar Language Deception Technique - A very simple technique that allows you to walk freely around the street without being jumped apon by various dodgy touts. This method requires a like minded friend and works as follows:

Whenever you are in an open area and likely to be targetted, simply strike up an animated conversation with your designated friend in a completely made up language. For further effect, talk very loudly and laugh extremely crazily along with making wild hand guestures. Believe me, no one will come near you

Finally, it was time to go back (as my health had seemed to deteriorate again) so we headed back to the station where we said our good byes (*sniff* lol) and made our seperate ways home.

Tuesday 6th September

Getting up seemed a lot easier today as I had gone to bed on time the night before, so I had time to check my emails before I set off. 20 minutes later, I realised that of course I didn't have time at all so had to rush for the 9:05 train.

Catching that on time, but then missing the next one meant I arrived at college at 9.40 - ah well...

Today was the first reading/writing lesson and would introduce us (well not me, but everyone else) to the wonderful art of scripting that is Hiragana and Katakana (not Kanji, that comes after we have learnt the first two).

Basically the two 'Kana' languages are the way of phonetically making any Japanese word (If you think of Kanji as being the picture way, the Kana allow you to make the same sound) and have about 90 characters each. The first lesson involves learning the first 30 of each (nice and easy start to the session then) and was basically the teacher drawing one on the board, and us copying it down. Every 5 characters, we would stop and have a miny test, making words from what we had just learnt.

Whilst normally this wouldn't have been too bad a lesson, i was feeling decidedly worse than yesterday and now properly had complete hearing loss in the damn right ear. Everytime there was a break, I wanted to get up and leave, but I must admit i was too scared

So after enduring 3 hours of pain, it was finally time to go (and go and sort my ear out) - however i really wasn't sure what i was supposed to do. First stop was to ask the teacher, who then redirected me to another student named Greg who had been here for 10 months so knew the score.

Basically it seems you have two choices: 1) go to a hospital or 2) find a local clinic.

Luckily he knew one near by in Harajuku and was walking that way so offered to show me the route. This he told me, was a good clinic as they all spoke English and that is much more reassuring, especially when they are working on something as delicate as your ear...

The place seemed good enough, however we soon hit a snag... insurance... of which if of course had none.

We get it so easy in the UK. You are ill, you go to the doctor. Simple.

Here, you are ill, you try and grin and bear it until you can no longer, then you PAY to go to the doctor.

To keep the costs down, every Japanese citizen is expected to take out medical insurance (which is based on your previous years salary) which then takes the costs down by 70%, however as I had only just got here, I wasn't yet enrolled on a plan.

The cost to see me ... £150!!!

EEK! Not having that sort of money (and even if i did, not wanting to part with it) - i politely declined treatment and staggered back dazed and confused into the street

Catching the train back, I wasn't quite sure what i should do, but it seemed like a good idea to ring Shimpei to ask. This I did and he explained he knew a clinic near that should be a lot cheaper, but he couldn't pick me up until 4, would this be ok? Fine.

Getting home and with the pain still not letting up, I decided the internet was my friend and I would ask it what i could do. A quick Google returned a few pages that suggested "Garlic Oil" put in the ear should do the trick.

Well, I still had some garlic left over and a new bottle of Olive Oil, so this was worth a try. We don't have a garlic masher, so I used a fork to try and squash it up as best I could, before filling the glass up with olive oil, then putting it on the stove. When it was all melted, I used a spoon (we have no dropper) to pour it in my ear (plugging it with a clove of garlic for good measure) before tilting the laptop on it's side and settling down on the bed - my head swimming with oil.

After about 2 hours of this and feeling no different, Shimpei came around, so i emptyed my e in the sink and went outside to meet him. First stop was the local ward office to see if i could actually get on the government health insurance scheme (and thus save myself a load of cash) - so 10 minutes later we were sitting at a desk answering all sorts of questions.

Luckily it seemed, I *could* join, but my premium would dependant on a few things.

How much did I earn last year? Nothing
How much do I earn now? Nothing
What is my job? Fulltime Student (and I had my card to prove it)

I dont think the woman fully believed me, as she went off for quite some time, however on her return she jotted a load of numbers down and finally informed me my premium would be ......

800 yen (£4) a month!!

I think perhaps luck must have been on my side, as the average cost is £70 a month.... Shimpei was also a bit put out I think ("you are SO lucky!! it's unfair!") as he pays quite a bit more hehe... but it seems it was due to my no earnings last year.... w00t!

So now armed with insurance, it's time to go to the local "ear doctor" - arriving at the place doesn't look promising, everything is turned off, however the doctor wakes up (!) when we enter and hits the various switches flooding the place with light.

I kinda wish he hadn't - this must be the most dodgy surgery ever seen. I wouldn't even let Beavis come here for a checkup. It wasn't even clean and just seemed so dark ages. The doctor didn't even have one of those cool ear looking in devices, but had to rely on a bright light and one of those circular mirror headbands...!! Could have been the scene from an old horror movie.... (Or that Cypress Hill music video, I can't remember which...)

Anyway, after about 20 minutes of looking around and applying various things to the inside of my ear, he was finished. I had an allergic reaction to the air conditioning which had caused something in my head to swell; this then caused the air pressure in my ear to be thrown out, making it feel like my ear was blocked. Finally, me poking around in my ear trying to stop this feeling had caused me to get an ear infection (which was causing the pain).

So i was given a batch of tablets to take (antibiotics - we think... they have no writing on them) and some drops for my nose. On telling this to Seiko back home, aparently the doctor is not allowed to do this and I should have received a prescription.... hmm....

Come dinner time I was still not hungry and having received a mail from seiko telling me she wouldn't be home, best thing to do seemed to be to go to sleep.

Wednesday 7th September

Even I can't make today sound interesting:

In bed all day feeling awful, watching movies on the computer (yes, ALL day!)

Oh no wait, except for when I got hungry and due to the stupid ATM situation, had to make a 45 minute round trip to get some money out from Shibuya......

Thursday 8th September

Already knew I wasn't going to go in to college today, so had turned off the alarm. Woke up to no pain, but still not full hearing and Seiko and Shiho watching TV in the front room.

I got up to say hello and get some water, when, POP - my hearing cleared! Everything seemed so loud Hurrah! Dr Frankenstein DID know what he was talking about!

Today is still a boring story, in bed on the net and watching movies, but I should be well enough to make college tomorrow... i just hope I haven't missed too much.

Now.... i realise this entry definatelly hasn't been the best, but i have been feeling groggy all day, but really couldn't miss writing any more or i would be much too far behind.

I think from now, entries will be shorter as I am settling into a "same same" routine, with maybe a bit more to say on the weekends (which hopefully won't be same same....)

Anyway, anything else... hmm... ah yes!! Fruit...

Crazy Fruits - the name of a popular 5p arcade machine (remember that Nan? Always played it at the Burstin (sp) and Brighton) but also rather a good name for the fruit situation here.

You want an apple? Sure, no problem, £1.50 please. £1.50 for a single apple!!! Yes they are quite big and individually wrapped in a nice packet, but seriously.... Oranges are a bit cheaper at 80p, with Lemons cheaper again at 60p... but sorry mum + dad, if you want me to eat more fruit, you'll have to transfer some money over...

Rather more astonishingly, I have found a shop that sells 470g of chicken for £1.25!! I think it's chicken breast (I can't confirm this) but even if not, it tastes quite good and is cheap as chips So will bring the price of my pasta and chicken down... hurrah!

So there you go people, finally an up to date blog.... tomorrow if i feel ok, I'm going to Club Pure with Chizue and her friends which should be good, just wish Arnaud was still here to come too...

 Sunday September 4 2005 - 2:29 pm
Forgive me father, it has been a week since my last confession....
Ok this is most likely to be the most confusing entry written. When I started typing, it was Sat the 27th. Then I restarted on the Sunday the 28th. Now however it is Sunday the 4th of September. However to try and keep the flow going, I will just keep adding to the end.

You have been warned.

Oh, and a big "Konnichiwa!" to Uncle Jack, I am honoured you feel reading this is worth a trip to the library

"Well dear friends, welcome to installment 3 of the greatest journal in the world, typed today, Saturday the 27th August, through a very hazy vision, but more about that later." - this was going to be the start of this entry, but due to me not finishing it and going out instead, I will instead write an even more hazy account on this fine evening, Sunday the 28th I therefore warn you, there might be quite a bit missing (along with quite a lot of my memory... eek!)

*** jesus - I've only edited one paragraph and already my vision is going blurred and flashing!!! at least i don't have a headache though I suppose..... ***

Last time I wrote, I was just settlng down to a good nights sleep, of course once again broken by the building crew in the morning, though they now seem to have demolished the wall and started putting up the new one, which whilst still quite loud, is a lot better than a jackhammer going off .... (cutting the concrete blocks with an angle grinder though does still make you grit your teeth so as not to go mad and hurl yourself of the balcony).

So it was up at 12 or thereabouts, to get my stuff together to go to the local city hall to register. I had my little map, but it is litterly just across the park, so didn't cause too much of a problem. At least, that was the plan, except Seiko had drawn the map wrongly, so I went off to some other government building. Luckily a kind chap knew where i was supposed to be going, so dropped me off right at the Alien Registration Desk

It was then just a case of heading up to the counter, getting some forms to fill in and handing them back. In return, I was given a certificate of "living there.." (I dont know how to word it better) and a nice big pack about Setagaya-ku (all in English, w00t!) - I also had to pick up some temporary certificates that I would need to take to the bank in order to open an account and possibly the Vodafone store.

To Mum + Dad: You will be pleased to hear that health insurance is compulsory here (despite me trying to argue I don't need it), however it's not too expensive (about £30 a month) and means you only have to pay 30% (or sometimes 10%) of all medical fees. Not sure how doctor prescriptions work (as far as colds and antibiotics etc) - however there is a mystical looking shop in central tokyo that claims it can cure anything, just using diffent plants and animal faeces.....

Oh this is so annoying, I am not even sure what day it is, so I'm not sure what I've already said... oh hang on, ahah!!! Yes!!! I remember. This might be Thursday I am writing about. Ok... good...

So I got back from the Registration Office quite late, but still wanted to go to my college to enrol, however not knowing where it was, I had to go back to Shibuya to a net cafe to look it up. Once again though, I got there too late (the school closes at 5) - and seeing as it was the start of the typhoon, the weather was awful and not really good for "walking for miles to find a school" in.

Seiko was at work and Shiho was out, so I now had nothing to do. The rain really was coming down now (at least I thought so at the time) - so I decided the only sensible thing to do would be to check into an internet cafe for 8 hours (£5) It also seemed like it would be a good idea to try and find some more people in Tokyo to meet up with, so I headed to my favourite penpal site to see who was on offer. Fired off a few emails to random people looking for a language exchange, then put up a new ad of my own (its like a "meet people" bulletin board).

I then set the mail client in the background and just got on with some randomness... about 10 minutes later, I already had 4 replies, including one girl called "Waka" who was on MSN at the time, so was able to chat live. She did tell me some really interesting things, however I can't remember that far back, except that I am supposed to be meeting her on Tuesday... (however I also told her I would mail to confirm on Friday..... whoops....)

The rest of the time was just some internet randomness (including catching up with Gerald.. hey dude!) - before I left at about 11:30 or so to get the train home.

And here, I must confess a sin, one of which i am massively ashamed.... I was so hungry by now that i went to..... yes, i know.... McDonalds...

Ok let's jump subject here (we'll come back to me leaving the cafe in a mo..)

Japanese Food - A type of food invented by someone who really hated the Japanese locals. Consists of making all food contain fish, or if they spare you of that, soy. Resulting in it smelling terrible. Then, just to take the p1ss even more, the time they do let you have something that tastes ok (such as western food) - they shrink it to about a quarter of it's original size....

The food is actually really becoming a serious problem, I really can't stand the smell of it (which is aparently the soy) - which makes just trying it very hard. I am therefore surviving on hot dogs and burritos from the local convenience store... Shiho and Seiko are worried I will just waste away, and I am inclined to agree with them. Whilst you can get more "western type" frozen foods (chicken nuggets and the like) - we have no oven, nor microwave so none of it can be cooked..... I do need to sort out something soon though (even if it involves removing my nose and tastebuds....)


Anyway, back to the net cafe. So I had thought the weather was bad earlier, well now the typhoon was pretty much over tokyo, and was quite a bit worse. Luckily I had brought my umbrella, so I was able to keep it off my head, but the force of the wind meant it blew under the rim and got my top body all wet... yuk!

I got back just before the girls and we sat around for a bit until Seiko decided she needed to get some eye wash, so we set out in the rain to the 7 11 across the park. The journey there was ok, with a few dodgy moments involving almost overbalancing and falling into puddles, but we got there safely enough.

The journey back we (well, Seiko) wasn't really quite so fortunate as a freak gust took her umbrella and ripped the top off, which then went sailing down the street. The more chivelrous (sp) side of me thought I should offer mine, however it was cold, so I just pointed and laughed... haha...

By now, the park had become pretty submerged, with water about 3 inches deep and most places and only a few routes to get around it all, most of these being very low (like 5 inches max) and thin (4 inches) walls across which we had to balance. All was good until about half way, when yet again the wind blew (strong wind in a tornado, who would have thought it!) taking Seiko off the wall and into the now mini lake.... hahahahaha...

Back home after drying off, we spend the next 3 hours or so doing english language / pronounciation practise. (Seiko has a book of about 1,800 word she needs to learn, so I just kept opening it at random pages and testing her and Shiho on them....) - and then proceeding to confuse them with - console (as in "dont worry") & console (ps2) and polish and Polish....

So bed time was morning time, with Seiko having to get up again to go to work in 3 hours... lol...

Cool, we are now up to friday, which is a bit fresher in my mind.

Did I post the internet and phone will be installed on Wednesday? Well if not, the internet and phone will be installed on Wednesday I was up for the budget pack, but they went and ordered the 100Meg line instead... I suppose I can't complain, its a 3 way bill split so wont be too bad...


So Friday morning, my tasks were simple. Go to Vodafone shop to get mobile, then with the number, I would be able to get a bank account at the Shinsei bank, before going to the language school to enrol. Simple..

The first problem occured when I got to the Vodafone store at 4 pm... hehe... I took a ticket and awaited my turn. 30 minutes later, I was finally called...

This was the Vodafone Shibuya store with the English support (which of course was the reason I had come here in the first place) so I had my list of questions ready. The woman who served me was extrememly friendly and was able to speak really good english and laugh at my jokes... (or maybe she was laughing at me..? )

All I wanted, was to be able to email back to the UK for free and also be able to send and receive SMS if i needed to. I already knew the phone I wanted, so I thought all would be simple. However at the Vodafone store, you had to pay 12,000yen for the actual phone. I said it was only 1 yen down the road, to which she explained I had to sign up for a 2 year contract, and if I broke this I would need to pay 10,000 yen (now here is where the problem occured, I mis calculated and made this to be £500.... not the £50 it is).

I didn't want to do this obviously as I would only have the phone for 15 months. Again, another problem. Japanese phone contracts arent like UK ones. In Japan you have to sign for a year at a time, you cannot just use a year then keep on going without signing... To break after 15 months, I would be signed up to my second year of contract, so would have to pay 4000 yen (£20) - ok... I guess it's not too bad.

You know, there is a load more story to this (I was in the store with her for two hours) - but I really dont want to write it all now... sorry!! Suffice to say, I signed up to a one year contract (£20 a month, with £10 of free calls/data transfer and free emails), paid 12,000 yen for the phone, 2500 joining fee (I KNOW, I HAD TO PAY TO JOIN!!!! WTF!!!)

I couldn't have the phone straight away as it takes an hour to activate, so I went off again to the internet cafe to check my mail. To my suprise, I now had another 12 replies to my ad from various people wanting to meet up. I still haven't replied to any yet (no time) - but i dont think i will be short of possible friends here

Anyway, back to the Vodafone store and my phone was ready and already charged (I made sure by asking...) - I now had 30 minutes to get back home, drop off the box and stuff, change into a shirt (the club we were going was dress code) and get back to Shibuya to meet Shiho and Seiko for 8 to go eat.

Of course, it was never going to happen, so I felt a bit guilty when I finally got back at 8:45...

I was starving now and had found a guide to Shibuya which listed a local Outback!! (for anyone who doesn't know what Outback is, it's an Australian steak house which sells really nice food, we have them in the UK - there's one at Wandsworth - you know Dad, we went there for Tom's birthday)

So, we're inside and I'm looking at the menu... hmmm... nice big steak I think. Now the sizes are all metric here, so I am unsure of the weight, but going by the price of the large one, I assume it should be pretty good. The obligatory Blooming Onion arrives first, which is comparable in size with it's UK counterpart.... things are looking good.

When the steak arrives about 15 minutes later, I am sure that a mistake has been made. Yes there is a rump steak infront of me, however I think it must have come off the rump of a new born baby micro-cow (the type you get in christmas crackers.... =)) did taste nice, I'll give it that, but really.... I can only imagine what the small one might have been like.

Seiko had also found out the club was playing hip hop, so even though it had a swimming pool, this was not alluring enough to make me want to go, so we decided to go Roppongi instead (I know, I know, yuk yuk yuk...) - first stop though, the bookstore to go and meet a friend of Seikos friend!!? A frenchman by the name of Arnaud (I think) - who luckily spoke English and who is actually a great guy (which is quite suprising since he's french ... :P)

A special mention should now be made to the phone I had just bought, which of course had now ran out of battery... thanks very much.... grrr.... However apart from that, it's an amazing phone and I love it to pieces. Finally I have a black flip, which can record pretty good quality movies and photos and send them as email for free!!! Haha! So now you lot can expect random videos and odd times of the day. The web address above was wrong by the way, its: (not

So to Roppongi (minus Shiho who had work the next day, so had gone home), first stop the "One Stop Bar" where Seiko's friend worked and could offer 500 yen drinks. That's pretty much all it could offer, the place was empty (probably as the music was rubbish) and pretty small... so after 2 drinks, we made our excuses and left (after meeting up with another of Seiko's friends; Yuka).

We wandered around for a bit, before finding ourselves outside the "Hideout" - now I had been here last year, and remembered the dodgy drinks prices. The guy outside was trying to get us to go in with the offer of 500 yen drinks. I pointed out he promised this last year, but once we were inside suddenly the prices went up, so to prove he wasn't lying, could I have a load of the 500 yen vouchers. He said he couldn't do that, but if I wanted to come back upstairs to get a new voucher each time, this would be no problem.

Ok, that seemed fair... so we went inside.

Inside was a mix of foreigners and locals, with the locals maybe slightly outnumbering us gaijin, however everyone was in a good mood and the music was starting to get quite trancy so all seemed it would be good.

Arnaud was really getting into the musical spirit of things, pulling off very impressive (or strange, depending on how you want to see it) moves, which attracted the attention of a group of japanese guys who came over and started to clap This crew then became our new clubbing buddies, which was pretty cool... The main guy, whose name was Hipai, was really having a good time and was pretty smashed. He then proceeded to live up to his name, buy paying for a round for anyone who was within the vacinity, including two girls (Chizue and Mam... - doh, I forgot) who then came and joined out party group (We were quite blatted by now, and drinks had miraculously gone up to 1000yen.... the same as last year, so i don't want to think about how much money Shipai was forking out....) - cue loads more crazy drunken dancing...

At about 3am, Seiko and Yuka left to go to a different bar (we arranged to meet at 5am at the station), leaving me and Arnaud to carry on (along with a new recruit, an extremely drunk j-girl who took a liking to anyone who would look at her... including trying to get off with Chizue... haha) - I managed to keep clear, though Shipai wasn't so lucky (or maybe he was, depending on how you want to look at it....)

Come 4am and I was quite tired, but with an hour to go we had no choice by to stay in Roppongi. I just wanted to get a coffee to try and wake me up a bit, but not being on offer in the club, we decided to leave to find a Starbucks or something. The two girls also weren't feeling the vibe so much and also left to come with us.

We sat in a local coffee shop (Starbucks closed at 4:30) until 5 when we left the girls to go to the station to meet up with Seiko... who of course wasn't there... After 20 minutes, it finally occured to me we could use Arnaud's phone (doh!) to call and see where she was.

We didn't get through straight away, but after a few attempts Seiko finally picked up. Follow some very drunk sounding Japanese, along with a transfer to an even more Japanese sounding guy who then hung up on us. Getting a bit worried now, we called back, to only have Seiko again trying to explain something, but which neither me nor Arnaud could understand... Although we were still worried, we realised there was nothing we could do, but as we knew she was still with her friend, we decided to finally head back home.

Due to the time, the trains weren't quite as frequent, however they weren't too bad and I managed to get home by about 6:30 or so where I had a quick browse of the Vodafone catalogue before heading to sleep, when I noticed something I hadn't seen before....

(Let's recap, my contract = yearly, with a £20 break out clause I need to use in month 15. I then had to pay £60 for the phone in the first place.)

The "Happy Bonus" tarrif which I thought had a £500 breakout, only had a £50 break out. Why is this significant, well...

Phone cost if taking out Happy Bonus = 1 yen (0.5p)
Monthly line charge (- 5% bonus)
Month 13 and 14 - Free (Saving about £40)

So the phone saving cancels out the breakout penalty, followed by me getting 2 months free and a 5% reduction. Whereas I just had to pay for the phone AND now pay the breakout penalty... grrrr... I wish I was angry, but the woman was so nice I dont want to go back and complain incase she gets in trouble or something...????

Saturday 27th August

Woke up feeling absolutely awful and with no memory of the night before at all!!! (Luckily it's all come back now, but it was incredibly amusing at first ) - and deciding I definately didn't want to go clubbing this night (supposed to be meeting George to go to Womb).

However, staying at home seemed pointless, so at about 7pm we went out to find some food. My stomach wasn't feeling so good, so it seemed Subway was a safe bet for a plain sandwich. Subway roast chicken is nowhere as nice as it's UK counterpart, but they made a good effort. The only bad point to the meal was the cockroach stuck on his back near our table, but after switching seats so I couldn't see him, everything was a lot better. It also says a lot to the quality of the sandwich that I didn't feel sick after we left, and had suddenly picked up a craving for some vodka.....

George still wasn't ready, so to pass the time between then and him arriving, we went to the local 50yen arcade (though all the games I played were 200 yen..???!) until he called and told us to meet him outside Starbucks, after which we proceeded up the hill to one of his friends leaving parties.

Just getting in the lift should have set alarm bells ringing that this place would be expensive (it was a complete glass front that was on the side of the building, so you saw out over the whole of Tokyo as you went up to the 15th floor) - but getting inside it was amazing. The whole wall was glass, and being so high up meant you could just see for miles. Only having 2000 yen on me (£10) meant whenever the bartender came over I had to pretend to be on the phone and so after 15 minutes or so, we decided to go and head over to Shimokitazawa.

Now Shimokitazawa is billed as Tokyo's Camden and after going there in the day, the night promised a lot. Except when we got there, the place was dead with the only visible thing to do being Karaoke. I wouldn't have had a problem with this, but Arnaud only having a week left here wanted to party, so decided he would pay for a cab back to Roppongi (oh joy!)

We stopped one in the street and pilled in instructed the good man to drive to Roppongi - and off we went. The speed we went at seemed a bit erratic, but we put this down to Japanese drivers. It was only when we were still stopped at a green light, did we pay attention to our driver, who had fallen asleep! Seiko kicked his chair to wake him up, so we continued.... for the rest of the journey, every few minutes, the guy would then fall back to sleep!!! We should have probably been really scared, but we couldn't stop laughing and even managed to get a photo... we did get there in the end, and we secretly hoping he would fall asleep before he took the money - no such luck

Before we went into a club, it was a quick stop off at a convenience store to buy some very cheap alcohol to drink in the street first (thus saving us valuable cash!) - the pikey within me decided to go for the cheapest strongest (some fowl lemon drink) - which predictably meant after about 5 minutes, I was saying "Konbanwa" to anyone who walked past and trying to strike up a conversation with a friendly Japanese guy, who I had to apologise to "Sumimasen!" as I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying... "Wakaranii!"

Finally, 3 cans later we were ready to find a (different) club - Seiko suggested "Muse" as Arnaud wanted to meet some JGirls and apparently that was the place for foreigners to meet them... so we went, 2000 yen to get in £10 (but 2 free drinks) - but it did seem to be playing some decent music. Much to Arnaud's dismay however, the place was just full of guys (at least 3 to every girl) - however the real reason we were here soon became aparant after realising Seiko was missing and after a long search, finding her in the chillout room with some guy called Matt...

Arnaud was now pretty fed up and wanted to go, but after pointing out this would be unfair to Seiko, he agreed to stay. His luck was in though, as after about 20 minutes, we saw Seiko on the way out. I ran after her to see what the ku was, to have the guy give me his phone number and tell me to call it if i got lost?!?! I was like "eh?" - to which he said "if you need to get to Seiko's house, just call me" - i told him i lived with her, so knew pretty well where I lived - to which he replied, "well thats strange she said that then..." - i know, that really doesn't make much sense, however i think it's safe to assume Seiko must have been pretty drunk (nothing different there then...)

I then went back to tell the good news to Arnaud who had now managed to find some JGirls (5 of them) and was engaged in conversation with them on the center table.

Blond Hair Syndrome - The art of being cute by hair colour?

Gowry had said about this before I went, girls will give you attention because of your hair colour. But I couldn't believe this would be true.. though i stand corrected. The amount of girls who have come up to me and told me i have "cute hair" ... ? ... how can you have cute hair?!?!? I don't understand! Even worse, I don't know what to say back, normally just going with "Arigato" and trying to look shy... ) haha.. I dont want to say "you look cute too" or something back (wrong idea!!), but at the same time, feel i am supposed to just to not be rude....?? (answers on a postcard please) - maybe i should just dye it black??

So to tie that in, this is what happened when i went over to Arnaud. I got the hair ruffling works (DON'T - i spend ages gelling i just right!! ) - and was worried I would have to stay over there - however Arnaud wasn't so impressed ("These are girls are ugly..." - harse i think, they weren't, however there seems to be no intermediate word - a girl is either "beautiful" or "ugly"....) and wanted to go find a different club.

This involved a brief walk back down the main road to Roppongi (via a convenience store first ... ) - where we looked for somewhere to go. However after 30 minutes of looking, Arnaud wasn't at all impressed with the women (the notion of looking for good music seemed not to be a matter of importance for him) - so it was decided (to my relief) that we should go home.

I went the long route home, as I was unsure what the Seiko situation was, so got home at about 7:30 (after sending about a million photo mails to Gowry ) to a quiet house. I must admit, i was still pretty drunk, as i'm sure I saw the guys shoes by the door, but on checking again when i woke up, they could have been my slipppers...!?!

After lying in bed for about 30 minutes, Seiko popped her head around the door and then went off.... At least.. I think she did, though I have a nasty suspision i imagined all of this --? she's dissapeared out again at the moment, so i can't confirm - however i will ask when she gets back

So yes, woke up to an empty house and after taking a 30 minute shower, decided i should use the time constuctivly to update this - so - here i am - 3 hours of typing later!!!

Have I missed anything? Probably, but I can't see straight so well at the moment, and certainly don't want to read back over everything to work out what's not there... lol...

Tomorrow we are all going to Odaiba to see a show of somesorts, though i'm not sure what. I also really need to make the effort to enrol at college before they fill up too quickly....

UPDATE UPDATE - Ok I missed a whole week, so will continue as in one post, however there's no way i'm going to sit on this floor for the next 5 hours, so it might be a little rushed

Monday 29th August

Monday was the scheduled trip to Odaiba and we were very kindly driven there by Shimpei. It's hard to explain exactly what the whole place is and it's purpose, but i will do my best.

Basically, some time ago (I think Shimpei said about 30 years ago, but i could be wrong) the Japanese Government decided that a new "part(?)" of Tokyo was required, so they built a massive man made island, which is of course, Odaiba. Then they built a huge bridge to get to it (the Rainbow Bridge). Finally, on this massive island they build a massive ferris wheel, a huge mall, the Fuji TV Headquarters and a load more industrial things.

Apart from the large wheel, the main attraction seems to be around "Pallette Town" - which houses a mall built to look exactly like the rome in the caser times. If anyone has been to "Caesars" in Las Vegas, you will have some idea of what this place looks like. They have the same high ceilings painted to look like the sky, fountains in various openings and big pillars holding everything up. On closer inspection, these pillars and the marble is just painted on (unlike the usa one which did it properly) - however it still looked quite impressive.

We arrived there around lunch time, so first step was to find something to eat. Obviously Japanese food was out, so we settled for an italian. To try and make a bit of an authentic, I was made to order all my food and make some enquiries about the menu in Japanese ... (Kyo deserto wa nan desu ka? - what is today's desert) - and even to make a complaint about my fork being dirty!!

The meal was actually awful - so Shimpei taught me how to say "this food is disgusting you stupid idiot!" - however I didn't quite have the nerve to say it to the waiter when he asked how everything was ... (Kono bakka yaro - you stupid idiot)

Next we went to check out the arcades (which in this place were hideously expensive, 200yen a game!!! - £1) before going out the main building to find the show / fair thing. It was a bit of a trek and on reaching the place, we found out we were required to pay 4000yen entry (£20) - which wasn't really too appealing. Instead we went off to the beach to have a quick look around (i use the term beach very loosely - it was indeed by the sea and had a sand like mixture, however it was also mixed in with loads of tiny rock fragments which made it look a nasty colour....)

Finally (sorry, I am rushing this, I need to catch up and only have 2 hours until the pizza arrives...) we went to the Sega Themepark. Basically all the rides are computer generated, including the roller coasters and flying machines. This kinda took away most of the appeal for me, so i declined to go on anything except for the Touring Car Championship simulator which was pretty cool.

Basically you get in a full sized touring car (mine was a Mercedes) which has a huge tv screen in front of it. You then basically are playing the computer game "Sega Touring Car Championships" - but the car you are in is on hydraulics so moves with you.... SUGOI!

Finally it was time to head back, so we went to get the car from the car park (£20) and get on the freeway home... lol, freeway, i love that word.

Getting home and it was dinner time, but instead of staying home, I was told we were going to go to a Japanese pancake restaurant - cool, sounded interesting - and i'm happy to say it was.

It was a little walk from our place, so en route Shimpei gave us a guided tour of the area (which of course didn't involve much - we have a library and 3 convenience stores...) before we got to the main high road and the restaurant.

This was a proper Japanese style place, with us having to sit on the floor around a largish table with a metal hot plate in the middle (which was a *very* hot plate as i discovered when i put my hand on it... lol)

There was no smell of soy in the place and i was quietly optimistic that perhaps this place might actually deliver something nice..... and it did

First course was some very tender (or is that, boiled for a heck of a long time) beef with a cabbage mix (I know Nan, i am allergic to cabbage, but i didn't want to offend ... ) which was then put on the hot plate (though plate is such a wrong word, this this was basically the whole table) and started to fry. We then picked off it as we wanted... mmm... just thinking of it is making me hungry again

Next course was a noodle / meat combination thing which again was put on the plate and again was most scrumptious.

Finally was the "pieste de la resistance" (sp) which was the pancake. Now I don't know about you lot, but I see a pancake as one of the batter kind. Not this though, it was like basically a bit potato cake, topped with many different things. Despite this initial dissapointment, after trying it, again it didn't matter as it was so nice

I should add that along with this, we had skipped the usual water drinks as Shimpei wanted to introduce me to all Japanese alcohol. Well, it seems i have a taste (as also is true in the uk) for the women's drinks, prefering the nicer taste of fruit to the harshness of alcohol - which Shimpei found incredibly amusing. "You drink like a girl!" - well i don't care, as the alternative tastes rank as....

I think I must have tried every drink on the menu by the end of the night (we stayed until 1am) - so of course come home time I was hungry again...! A quick stop off at the 7/11 to buy some burritos solved this...

Tuesday 30th August

Today's plan was quite simple, go to the language school to sign up, then meet up with Waka afterwards at about 5. Getting out the house at 3 meant i was kinda stretched for time, but figured it would be ok.

So, first stop the language school.

I found the place easy enough (it's right on the main road - hard to miss) so went inside to see what it was all about and was immediately greeted by a very friendly old woman (well I mean she must of been about 55 or so...) who sat me down and the proceeded to explain how the course / school worked. Mon, Wed + Fri are Speaking and Listening Days, with Tue + Thur being the reading / writing days.

Actually, i should rephrase that. The first thing she did when i sat down was to grab my hand and proclaim "what a great ring, where did you get it?" (talking about my chinese / japanese ring Gowry got me at christmas) - i *think* she was being genuine, but maybe she just wanted to be nice to me so i would sign up ... haha....

I must have been talking to her for ages as she went through everything which was all great until she got to the bit about start time. "Everyday is 9:30" - HOLD UP - no I explained i wanted the afternoon course as there was no way I could get up a 9:30. "Sorry" she said, but "there are not enough people to run an afternoon course" (it seems everyone in this country likes to get up early and finish early so they have a whole day to play with).

As much as i pleaded with her, she wouldn't budge and run the course just for me (even when i offered to pay double ) - i was starting to worry this could be a problem. I wanted my months holiday of getting up late, and this looked like it was going to skupper my plans.

Then she hit me with another whammy... before i enrolled, i had to come to an observation class to check i liked and agreed with the teaching methods. Which was, yup, you've guessed it, at 9:30 the next day AS WELL as thursday. Well that just sucked as i was meeting Waka that night, then Chizue and Maduka the next and had been intending to stay out...

Anyway, I kinda half heartedly agreed and was finally able to leave However as it was now 4:30, I knew i wouldn't meet Waka in time, so sent her a text letting her know i would be an hour later than planned - she replied ok.

So now it was off to Shibuya to get the train to Ueno to meet up.

After about 20 minutes into the journey I get another mail from Waka telling me she is too tired to wait and will go home?!?! Of course, I have never met her before and don't want to come across as too angry, so instead of replying with the "f*&k you b1T6h, i have just travelled ages to find you" - i sent back a more conservative - "no wait, i'm almost there" (lol)

15 minutes later the train finally got to Ueno, so i headed off to the hard rock cafe (our meeting point) to find her. (i had by now forgotten what she looked like, so hoped she would recognise me - not difficult i suppose when i am the only blond in the whole station....) - however she was not there... hmmm... email time.

After 20 minutes she had still not replied and i was just about to give up and go Akihabara when finally i got the vibration in my pocket and the familiar "fairground noise" that lets everyone know how popular i am .... - Waka had indeed left and gone to Ikebukuro (about 10 minutes from Shibuya....) - but i could come meet her if i wanted.

At this point, i didn't know where Ikebukuro was, so sent a message back accordingly.

15 minutes later I finally got a reply, so i headed back to the Yamanote line (the BEST line in Tokyo - like everything good is on it....) and off to Ikebukuro station (20 minutes away).

Arrive at the station - send email = "where are you" - 15 minutes later - "at the exit".... (this station is huge and has about 8 exits) - "which one?" - 10 minutes later "east exit".

Beginning to think this girl is a complete moron, but not wanting to waste anymore time and to try and make the best of the situation i head to east exit - where of course, she isn't....

me: "i am at east exit, where are you"
her: (5 minutes later) "east exit"
me: "erm, i am at east exit, where exactly are you?"
her: (15 minutes later!!) "Come to Ettu"
me: "what is Ettu?"
her: "shop"
me: "WHERE?!" (trying not to send an incredibly rude message - keep cool mr ben...)
her: "it's right outside the exit inside the mall (i forget), you can't miss it"

I then head outside, but i can't see this place, until i just happen to look right down the road where the big sign for the mall is visible.... slightly confused, but putting nothing past this girl, i head down the road to the mall and into CENTRAL exit. I'm looking around when i hear my name called... it is of course Waka who has been waiting at central exit the whole time...? hmm...

She tells me we will go Karaoke after, but first she has to meet up with some friends, so we head over the road where I meet 3 guys, 1 korean and 2 yanks who seem quite friendly so we get chatting. i tell Waka I haven't eaten, so she says to go to a restaurant, so we head off to find one.

Finally one that looks ok, so she says to me "you go in and eat, then ring me when you finish and i will meet you" - this seems like a completely stupid idea bearing in mind the only reason i am here is to meet her, but she seems pretty adament.

I finish eating within about 20 minutes, so text her to say i'm done.... 35 minutes later she replies saying "what do i want to do?" - i text back saying i thought we were going Karaoke. Her reply - "well I have no money, but you can go on your own if you want.." ?!?!

Ok now I am convinced this girl is an idiot... the whole point of tonite was to go out, not for her to then say she has no money so i should go out on my own?!?!

This girl is a complete idiot....

So I go home... what a waste of a day - i could have gone to Akihabara after all... i suppose the upside was that i would in bed early for school the next day...

Wednesday 31st August

Something very scary and terrifying happens..... my alarm goes off at 8:30 ... OMFG!!

This is going to be a struggle - roll out of bed and stumble to the shower. Ahh, the water feels so nice and warm and ... sleepy .... Luckily there is the clock in the shower room, so i manage not to take too long and am all ready and leaving the house by 9.

The train is at 9.05 (i didn;t know this at the time) - so i just see it leaving as i get to the station and have to wait for the next one 9.10 or so - which means i then miss the interconnecting one at Sangenjaya - before finally reaching Ometo-Sando and having to wait in a queue for the Fare Adjsutment machine.

My first day @ school and of course, i am late

Luckily the older woman isn't in yet, so i am spared a telling off - but given my sample book and ushered into a classroom where i sit to observe. Or at least that's what i am supposed to do. I find though that after about 5 minutes i have drifted off into a complete day dream which i find very hard to shake off.

After an hour, the class has a break so i am moved into the beginners class next door to see what i will actually be doing (the previous class was the advanced, just to see how far it is possible to get in 7 months) - where it's just one guy being taught and the teacher (who i will have from Monday) - again I sit in here for an hour and a half, just watching...

The lesson teaching to me seems odd. There is no english allowed to be spoken in the class, so everything is taught in Japanese. I can see the logic here, but I know for a fact that I needed quite a bit of explaination on the "particles" system before i fully understood it, so i worry that maybe something else later along the line might require similar..?

After this lesson, I again had to sit with the woman outside to ask any more questions and for her to drill into me that 9.30 is not early (i still don't agree...) - before she waved me off telling me she expected me in at 9.30 the next day - i tried to argue it to 10.30 but she was having none of it...

"Your mother is not here in Japan, therefore I am now your mother here. So I will make sure you will study" ...!

I decided to treat myself to some cream puffs from the shop in Shibuya for lunch (i was so tired, nothing else seemed particualy nice) - but then wanted to head home as the internet should have been installed (yay!)

Got home to find everyone back, including Shimpei - however no internet, so instead we headed off to the local electronics store to buy the washing machine. (or at least, for Shiho and Seiko to buy the washing machine....)

By the time we got back, I was knackered (it was now maybe 5pm) - however had to get out for 7:30 to meet up with Chizue, which was now looking at becoming a major task in itself.

Seiko and Shiho then went to go out, so I figured to pass some time, I would just have a sit down on Seiko's bed.....

Of course, the inevitable happened and I woke up at 7.00 or so.... doh ^_^

Now worried I was going to be late, I decided the best thing to do would be to call, however i was beaten to it as my phone started to ring with Chizue's name flashing up.

"Tomorrow I am going to Kyushu and am still packing now, so I'm really sorry but I won't be able to make Tonite - I'm so sorry"

I tried to sound as dissapointed as I could (hehe) - but of course was now quite relieved - instead re-arranging for next friday.

I was though incredibly hungry, so it was back to the supermarket for my familiar shop of Chicken and Pasta Sauce, with a special treat of a creme caramel for dessert....

Spent the rest of the night playing computer games until about 1am when I figured I should go to bed.... except due to the knap i had taken earlier, sleep then proceeded to illude me until about 4am....

Thursday 1st September

How wondeful, the familiar alarm signal at 8:30. This morning however I wasn't so forgiving to it, and through it out the room to go back to sleep..... school can wait....

At 11am I was again woken, but this time it was a bit more excusable as it was the internet crew, round to fix the faulty cabling. An hour or so later, they were done and the net was up! Unfortunately, even though the whole house is networked up, it's not been done in the most efficient way, so still only one of us can get on the net at a time, however we'll sort this out and get a router at a later date - for now, it's ok.

Spent the next few hours or so going through my new emails (400... sheesh!) and catching up on the forum - before getting ready for the big night out in Shibuya and "Club Pure" which had an all you can drink night for £7...

Firstly met up with Arnaud, before heading to Pure to meet Seiko outside. Now bearing mind it was only about 11pm, the amount of drunk people fallen over on the street was amazing, so amazing it was just comical. These were normal business people still dressed up, just collapesed on the floor!!!

Outside Pure was an even better sight, a guy/girl (we weren't sure which) lying in a puddle with a rat sitting on top of him/her!! Tried to get a photo but it was too dark, dammit... Arnaud kicked the rat, expecting it to scarper, but instead it just stayed there... not afraid of us at all..?! The next kick was slightly harder however and sent the poor creature flying across the road.... hahaha....

Finally Seiko turned up and we headed up into the club.... to be greeted by the most empty venue i have ever seen - there were about 8 people there....

Was hoping this was just as it was too early, so on getting a drink, enquired to the barmaid where all the people were. She assured me they would come later, so we retook our seats.

By about 12am however, everyone had left, with the only people who we had originally thought were clients - turning out to be actual staff. Arnaud now decided he would have a dance just for the sake of it, and Seiko was pretty cained, so i headed back outside where the barmaid had now switched jobs and was working on the door.

Her name was Akiko and she was a promoter during the day she explained. I think she was underselling her title here as after some explaination her job sounded pretty impressive. Whenever a foreign band comes over to Tokyo, she is in charge of sorting out their hotel accomodation, planning everything - and so on. To mention a few, she has looked after Coldplay, Foo Fighters and Robbie Williams!

It was then decided that I should try and get some more people inside, so I was put on promotion duty, walking up and down the street shouting (in japanese) - "free drinks, come inside..."

Maybe my pronounciation was poor, or maybe it was just due to it being a Thursday night, but no one took me up on the offer, so after 20 minutes i sadly gave up

There was still no point going back inside though, so I stayed downstairs with my new friend and got introduced to her other friends who had now joined us (after going to Lawson across the street and buying me some food...!) - before being joined by Seiko and Arnaud who had got a bit fed up of staying inside.

Cue 2 hours or so of random chatting until the Pure team decided no one else was coming, so would close. We were however invited back inside for a private party type deal, which free pool! So in we went, where we met up with the Pure manager along with the manager of Club Ruby (down the street) - who told us we could now come in for free.

At about 4am, and after getting obliterated on free shots, we decided to head out and get some food (just me and Arnaud now, Seiko had already got a taxi home) - not before being told we were expected back next weekend, but we wouldn't have to pay - SUGOI!

It was then a quick stop off at the local curry house to grab a bite until the trains started at 5.05.

The alcohol was now really kicking in though (we had been given 3 quick shots to knock back before we left pure) - and it was a bit hazy getting back to the station, where although I tried my best, i couldn't run fast enough down the stairs to get the train - and along with another woman, almost collided into the closing doors.

Just then my phone let me know I had a message, and after checking it and reading the message from Arnaud letting me know he had just thrown up on the platform (haha) - i was about to put it back in my pocket when a great idea formed itself.

"I know, to pass the hour between now and the next train, let's call some friends"

Cue some very drunk phone calls back home (including one at my peak of obliteratedness to Helen - sorry about that!) before finally the train arrived at the station to whisk me off home

Friday 2nd September

After waking up and almost having a heart attack when i saw my outgoing call log (this months bill is going to hurt....) - i got ready to head back to school to properly enroll and endure the telling off i was sure i was going to receive.

Luckily, the woman back at learning HQ wasn't as annoyed as i thought she would be, and did see the funny side of it... phew

Walking back to Shibuya to get the train, I again received a text message, this time from Kaori, complaining she was in Shibuya with nothing to do - well now seemed like as good as time as any to meet up, so i told her to meet me at Starbucks.

Unlike Waka, Kaori was much better at time keeping (and actually replying) and arrived at Starbucks just after I got there. We then headed for the curry house of the night before to get some much needed nutrision.

We must of stayed in the restaurant for 2 or 3 hours just chatting about anything really. It was then decided we should go shopping as she knew some places that sold cheap furniture - so off we went.

It was getting kind of late now and i wanted to go home to use the internet, however was unsure how I should say this without appearing rude... deciding the "looking really sleepy" method was the best, i kept yawning until she asked if i wanted to go home... (w00t!)

So I made my excuses and left, though not before being offered a free ticket to "Agehar" on the Saturday night, which was pretty cool, so I agreed.

Back on the train home I sent a message thanking her for the ticket and buying my dinner and that I would bring Seiko to the club and that it would be cool so that she could meet her..

She replied back - "Oh okay"

Now maybe i read into this wrongly, but it would seem from that, she wanted just me to go. Why would this be...? I'll admit, now i felt uncomfortable as I am thinking she quite likes me ... eek!

Got home and was still pondering the whole Kaori episode when I got a message from Seiko telling me she is in Roppongi and did I want to come meet her and her friend Rei. Of course this sounded a good idea, so I set back out to get the train.

Arriving at the station at 12.05 was not an issue at first. The first train went to Sangenjaya no problem. It was at Sangenjaya that the fun started, there was only one train left before they terminated totally and of course, it wasn't going as far as I wanted.

The choice was to either cut my losses and go home, or stick with it and walk to Roppongi from Shibuya (which didn't seem that far, Roppongi-dori is right near the station) - decided i did want to go out, and meeting up with Rie would be cool (i had met her last year, but couldn't remember her...!?) I set off to Shibuya, and from there, started walking down Roppongi-dori.

40 minutes later and I was finally there and taking a moment to have a rest (it was so hot again) i lent against a lampost. Except it wasn't a lampost, it was a bus stop post. It was at this moment that the bus turned up (which of course had come from Shibuya...) - grrr... damn that seiko, she told me there was no bus!!!

Seiko showed up a few minutes later with Rie (who I didn't recognise at all... hmm...) with Arnaud running up pretty much straight away after. First stop, the local convenience store.

The Local Convenience Store - A fantastic place, open 24 hours where you can pick up cans of very strong lemon flavoured alcoholic beverages for 50p. A perfect way to start the night; go to the conveni, get 3 or so drinks, sit outside drinking then head into the club. Quite pikey I know, but at £5 a drink inside the clubs, I DONT CARE!!!

First stop was Gas Panic (Hip Hip, yuk!) However on arriving there and finding it to be massively overcrowded, we moved quickly on...

Next stop was an underground Hip Hop club, which was massively overcrowded and playing some god awful music. Rie however was in her element and was soon whisked away by a decidedly sleazy looking guy who seemed to appear from nowhere, leaving me with Seikos two friends (who she still hadn't introduced me to) - this part of the night is hazy, but i believe we stayed for an hour or so (and after i had knocked back a few white russians...) before leaving as we just couldn't take it any more.

Our final stop of the evening was to be a Trance Club, found on the 6th floor of a distant building. On entering all seemed good, with Seiko quite drunk (well that makes a change) and ordering a round of Champagne! (well it was just for me and her, but Arnaud and Rei were off somewhere else).

Arnaud was thoroughly loving the place and had already made some new friends on the dance floor - seiko had now found someone else who would supply her with drinks, but Rie didn't seem happy at all. After trying unsuccessfully to get her up and dancing, but failing, I asked her if she wanted to go outside for a bit instead - which she did, so we left to sit outside on the wall and chat.

An hour or so later, Seiko tottered out, saying that Arnaud was so happy he was going to stay, but we could now go, which seemed like a good plan.

On walking down the highstreet however, something amazing caught my eye... A ROAST CHICKEN STAND, complete with portable spit for fresh chicken.. W00t! Quickly getting out my wallet, i then proceeded to purchase a quarter chicken with some roast potatoes...

I couldn't wait, finally i had some proper food and eagerly raised the chicken to my mouth (with chopsticks of course) and took a bite...

But... something was wrong. This thing in front of me certainly looked like chicken, but had the taste of something most unlike chicken, infact it was less edible than anything i had yet tried... (including the Natta!!) - I could have cried.... (i didn't.... )

So it was with a sense of misery that I trooped back to the station, only for seiko to say she was going somewhere, wouldn't tell us where, and jumped in a taxi to be whisked away..?!

We (me and Rie) stood there for a while assuming this was a joke and she would soon be back, however after 5 minutes it seemed aparent that no, she had infact left...!

So home alone it was then...!? There would be questions in the morning....!?!!?

Right, I can't type anymore... this floor is so uncomfortable. Plus the pizza should be here soon, so I'll try and write up Saturdays events tomorrow, along with a report on the first day of school!

Ja Ne!

 Thursday August 25 2005 - 8:50 am
All is well on the eastern front
Good news!! Well, at least I think it is... or maybe it's a cause to feel guilty.. hmm... my rent has miraculously decreased to Nana-Man Yen (70,000 yen or £350) a month. I don't know if this is because it was originally worked out wrong, or the girls feel sorry for me as I keep complaining about the cost of everything... lol... but I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, so I'll accept it graciously...

Ok so where was I, ah yes i was just on my way to Shibuya to post the start of this up. You know, I really feel I must apologise again for the rubbishness of the look, but at this moment I really can't do much about it, anyway, I digress....

It's really strange, I have only been here for four days, but already I feel this area is like home. I must admit, I still like it that I'm the only foreign person here (whenever I see another westerner in Shibuya / Shinjuku - I kinda get a bit jealous... weird I know.. but I haven't seen any other blondes yet.... yatta!) - the walk from the apartment to the station now I'm used to it is quite nice, all the houses are so different, quite unlike back in the UK where a street is normally quite uniform in look.

I'm going to jump around a bit with topics now, as I keep remembering things in differnt orders, so prepare for a slightly confusing post.

Background: As I think I mentioned, and you can see from the photos, my bedroom door(s) is/are made from glass and keep out 0% of light. We are still working on this problem, and my brilliant plan involving many sheets of A3 paper (and an hour and a half to do one pane) came to nothing. The next idea is wallpaper which will be attempted tomorrow.

Anyway, because of this, first thing in the morning, the whole room is lit up by the sun (the curtains in the front room are some rubbish 2000yen (£10) things we got from Donki) which invariably wakes me up at about 6/7am. I do manage to get back to sleep however until about 9am when the builders arrive....

Smack opposite the balcony (and you can see it from the photos, it's like another high rise) is the university halls of residence. For some unknown reason (ie it looks fine to me) - the good people at the council / uni / whoever have decided they need to knock down the perimeter wall. If this was a wooden wall, then no problem. However it is steel re-inforced concrete, which requires a jackhammer and about a billion work men to knock down. Oh my god it's so droning, and combine it with the b4stard flying squaking things, makes sleep impossible. So then I lay they cursing them until 11 when they go for tea, so I can get back to sleep..... not a good way to sort a sleeping pattern.

I was watching out the window today shaking my fist at them (more for a laugh than anything) when one of the chaps looked up, saw me and got all his chums to start waving back... hahaha... he better watch it, they sell air guns at the local toyshop ..... mwahaha!!

You know one thing that puzzles me, it's how the japanese guys keep their hair so perfect. I assumed it was some sort of gel, but it seems to be waterproof. After I came out of Manboo (the internet / comic store where I uploaded this) - it was bucketing down with rain. But NO ONE'S HAIR WAS GETTING MESSED UP. I'm so jealous, it takes me ages of careful flicking here and there to be confident enough with my hair to go out, but only seconds to trash it in the rain, yet these guys don't have this problem.

To try and solve this mystery, I thought I would ask one of them, which of course was easier said than done. As expected, I didn't really get very far and just ended up telling him his hair was "sugoi!" (cool) - way to go ben! erm yes, quite....

I also had my huge shopping list to do, which (apart from the paper) had the very important items of lighting devices on it. Now, maybe I've just been spoiled by Dad's low prices, but to me 2000 yen (£10) for a budget lamp ISN'T a good deal. Ceiling lights are even worse, with the cheapest light shade I could find coming in at 3500 yen (£17.50) - so as of yet I still have no lighting.... maybe i should just bite the bullet and get one...

So we're now at dinner time and after meeting up with S+S they said we should go for Hamburgu. After questioning whether they meant hamburgER and being told "no", i was looking forward to this new delicacy. Of course, all a Hamburgu is, is a hamburger without the bun, but aparently because of this it is seen in a new light... I duly had the Hamburgu with Frankfurter, Pork Bits, Sweetcorn and Chicken, which I must admit was very nice (and it was also good that the girls picked it, so I can't be accused of not eating the local food .. )

After dinner, they wanted to go off to one of the many book shops in Tokyo, not to buy anything mind, just to sit in there and read!!! Reminds me of the Starbucks in Borders in Kingston, where you can get a coffee and read through all the books!!! Something I beleive Judge used to do during exam revision time so he had access to more material... (I of course did the more sensible thing of buying the book, reading it really carefully and returning it after the exam......)

I had decided now that I wanted to start on the creation of my wall masterpiece, so headed off home. All full of enthusiasm, I got in, hooked the laptop up to the TV (better speakers) , put on the Muse album and began sticking. I suppose I should have realised that the album finishing and me still on pane one of glass meant I wasn't doing too well, but I kept on going and put on Green Day to fill the silence. By the end of that, and after catching A3 paper as it fell off the wall WAY to many times, I came to the conclusion that:

1) This was going to take longer than an evening to complete.
2) I wish I had bought A2 paper

But worst of all, after going round the other side:

3) It looks completely crap anyway

It was at this moment that the girls got home, so I took the opportunity to have a tantrum and start shouting at the wall until they made me a cup of tea. (ok the tea bit isn't true, we don't have a kettle, but they did come to see what was wrong ) - we decided that perhaps going to the fabic shop in Shinjuku tomorrow (today) would be a better idea, so the paper was shelved (literally ... it's on it's own shelf in my special cupboard. When I feel particually evil, I tear some apart, sheet by sheet shouting "ha! you bastard, take that!!!")

Oh I missed a bit, dammit, ok well earlier we went looking for mobile phones. There are so many to choose from, but you have to decide what you basically want (sort of same as UK) - but you then limit yourself to which network.... it's not stupid features like colour screen, many ring tones etc, but important stuff....

To cut a long story short, I've whittled it down to Vodafone, but now have a dillema. I can either get the 3G model, which allows (amoungst other things) SMS to and from the UK and free picture emails (so i can take a photo, then mail it to you guys) and have global roaming (though I guess not so important) - however the signal coverage is not so good outside major cities... OR go with one of their V6 models which will allow me to listen to FM radio, use the video functions, but best of all.... WATCH TV!! I tried it in the shop and it's so cool... Of course, I don't have a clue what's going on, but it could be useful once I actually learn Japanese.....

Let's jump a day forward now (temporarily) - but after sitting up with Shiho last night for about 2 hours working out what each brocure said, then enduring a very painful english/japanese conversation with the woman at the vodafone stand in Shinjuku (just before reading the catalogue and finding out there is an English speaking shop in Shibuya... doh!) - I've decided to go with the 3G model, as it will be nice to be able to send and receive texts and the photo email facility will be cool (I'll eventually link it up with here, so I can post directly to the site...)

Well this morning was jackhammer morning, but I did get to witness a load of them kick at the wall until it fell down (which looked pretty cool!) - so perhaps all was not *quite* so bad.

I got up and dressed around lunch time and as Seiko had eaten, decided to walk to the convenience store to pick up some lunch (and a few bottles of water, but to write that would just be boring... oh no, wait.... lol) - of course, the convenience store is "Justin Heaven" as it's full of various cold fish dish type things. I of course aren't at all impressed by this, so hunted for some meat. Now I can tell the difference between fish and meat pretty well (i'm sure most of you can) - but now when it's all wrapped in breadcrumbs as most of the dishes are. Not to fall for the same trap as last time when instead of obtaining a nice chicken burger, i was hit with a mackaral sandwich (YADDA!!!) - I played it safe and went with the only english written packet in the hot food section - Spicy Chicken Cutlet Burger.

After a bit of hand waving, I managed to get the woman behind the counter to understand I wanted it heated up, so she popped it in the microwave for me for 15 seconds. Now I don't know what wattage these things are, but after these short moments of time, the thing was piping hot!! I swear I could see it glowing as she put it in the bag, but I'm not completely sure.....

Anyway, deciding it would be rude to eat walking down the street (well ok, i just didnt have enough hands free) - i took it home to eat. Settling down on the floor (lol), I opened it up and took a bite... but something was wrong... there was no cutlet in it. I was just about to throw it in disgust over the balcony at the builders (who had now resumed their 'jackhammering') which I noticed something small and brown... could it be...? Opening up the buns confirmed it, the smallest chicken cutlet known to man had fallen into one of the airpockets in the bread and was barely visible to the naked eye.... now I know the Japanese are small, but to make a burger this size is unthinkable. Think coke can diameter and you have my lunch....

There wasn't time to grumble too much though, as I had to go with Seiko to Shinjuku and look for fabric (to try and sort the wall out) - so took the now familiar walk back to the station....

Hmm, I wonder how long I will keep up writing absolutely *everything* I do, each entry has been a few hours so far... let's take bets...


Question: How long will it be until Ben-san starts writing very brief entries / no entries at all...??

(HAI!) A: 1-4 days
(HAI!) B: 5-10 days
(HAI!) C: 10-14 days
(HAI!) D: 14 days or more..

PLACE YOUR BETS...... tick tock, tick tock, don't be afraid of the ticking clock....


Sorry, lol... so Shinjuku and the cloth shop. We must of spent about an hour or two trying random cloths with the "torch test"

Torch Test Shine torch on back of cloth and see how much light comes through the front.

And as we got more desperate (as all of them let the light through) - and figuring unless I was VERY unlucky, the sun wouldn't rise smack next to my window anyway (in which case I'd be dead and not care anyway - at least it would stop the damn jackhammers) - we resorted to the "head test"

Head Test Make "tent" shape from cloth and put head in gap to judge light levels. This method of course obtained us many a funny look, however it was a lot more accurate and conclusive than the torch test...

Unfortunately though, none of the fabric (or at least the fabric within the £3 a square metre range - I need 8 square metres) passed, so we decided to go get some more food instead after meeting up with Shiho.

After dinner Shiho was off to the bookstore, but we agreed to meet after an hour to go check out mobile phones (but I've already told you that...) - so I had an hour to find an internet cafe, or, more accurately the one I was at the other day.

It took me about 20 minutes to eventually find it (all i knew was it was underground near the red light district) - after being offered sex about 30 times by various blokes (who i assume were a front for women, at least, i hope so... ) i finally found it, so settled down in the comfy sofa avec foot stall to log on... (i'll take a photo of one of the booths, they are amazing - pc, tv, ps2, dvd player, video phone etc etc... you can rent one for an hour or two just to watch movies, or as some people do, go to sleep!!)

So yes, apologies to you mum, but my time ran out before I got to your email

Then comes the phone store bit, which you've already read... before heading back via bus with Shiho to home. (our place does actually have a posh name, but i've forgotten it, so i'll update another time) - where... guess what.... I COOKED!!!

Now I bet you're all dying to know what.... but then, I think with a few guesses you would probably get it.... no...? Spaghetti with Garlic Fried Chicken and lots of Olive Oil A Ben and Gowry speciality, no? Ate this while sitting watching a comedy sketch show with Shiho, which despite being in another language (funny that...) - I managed to work out what was going on and it was quite funny. It must of actually been ever better if you knew what they were talking about, at least I assume so by the fact Shiho was rolling around on the floor every 2 minutes =)

Almost done, don't worry.... we then had another look at the whole glass door situation and tried to work out a new rememedy. Well, the next plan is wallpaper Cut very straight, I reckon it will be possible to make a perfect looking door (to the outside) - then put a (cheap) cloth over the whole of the inside. Of course, the A3 paper plan was also a masterpiece of an idea, so this could go horribly wrong too, however I have faith!

Which brings us up to now, 1am on a erm (I dont even know the day, let me check my ultra cool watch...) Wednesday evening (or Thursday morning if you want to be really precise) - heck, almost the end of week 1... i only have a week to go until i must start school... which reminds me, I need to enrol.... eek! And I'm sitting my pillow (I've learned from the sore bum incident the other day) listening to very loud music on my headphones

Shiho is down at the payphone talking to her boyfriend as her mobile has stopped working, and Seiko should be home very soon (her work finished at 11.... hmm... which means she should actually be home by now....)

I'm hopefully going to be able to get to sleep earlier tonite, not the 3/4am it has been, but this is looking doubtful at the moment. If I had a light in my room, I could sit in there reading... but as of yet, my cheapskateness self hasn't got the lighting ability

Seiko reckons she makes do (very well) with about £500 a month (excluding rent and bills) - so even the lowest paid Nova job should be ok. (however I will need to use all my savings for school...) - I also don't know how much she goes out, but I do know that I'll save a fortune in internet cafe bills once it finally gets put in haha!

Skype is setup now too, so I can annoy you all at work by ringing at 5pm my time and laughing at you lot just starting your day The timezone is a bit annoying though, as it means I can only properly ring at the weekend... grrrr...

So before I leave, tomorrow - Alien Register (something every "alien" to the country has to do if they are staying more than 90 days) - which will then allow me to open a bank account at the Shinsei Bank, which in turn will allow me to purchase my phone (Toshiba/Vodafone 902t for anyone interested - and then be able to text you guys

To you my friends... OYASUMI!

 Tuesday August 23 2005 - 4:19 pm
welcome to the orient!

Well I'm finally here, my year in another country has began, however even though it is probably the most advanced country in the world, i STILL don't have internet access!!! I am therefore unable to keep up regular contact (no phone line either) - so apologies for the lack of communication.

The internet (100meg ), phone (ip phone) and cable tv are all being installed in a week, so expect much more regular updates.

Also apologies for the awful look of this blog, but it will get a lot better when I get net access and don't have to work offline for everything.

Anyway, I shall begin..... let's get back to the UK.

Thursday 18th August

As you may or may not know, instead of chosing the direct flight to Tokyo, I decided to go via Shanghai and have my chums at the travel agents swing it so I would get a free night in a 4 star hotel and have 24 hours to explore. After getting on the plane however, I wondered if this was a mistake.

I was in the middle section on the end, with luckily no one sitting next to me, so was able to stretch out a bit (which was lucky to say the least, the legroom was awful!!) Then the next shock, this plane had no personal inflight entertainment... doh! So basically you had to watch what everyone else did. For the first 2 hours it was some V-TV chinese pop television thing, which looked absolutely awful and I couldn't understand anyway.... (I passed the time by eating my dinner quite slowly - pork and rice).

Next up was "Swordfish" (with John Travolta and Halli Berry (sp)) which was in English, and quite a good movie so I was happy After this I had decided it would be best to try and sleep the rest of the flight out (or at least until 2 hours before the end when the wake you for breakfast), however this was easier said than done due to the cramped conditions. I did manage to make some sleep here and there though, so wasn't completely shattered when we finally got to Shanghai.

Friday 19th August

The plane landed at Pu Dong (sp) Airport, Shanghai at about 4pm local time (and quite a bouncy landing too, causing a few people to scream, haha) to the most murky looking weather ever. You soon realised when you got off the plane however that these looks were deceiving, as it was about 28 degrees!! I then had to join the longest queue *ever* to get through customs (1.5 hours) before finally heading off to get my luggage and going to find the shuttle bus to the hotel.

When we got to the hotel, a porter came to the bus and picked up all our luggage. I felt quite sorry for his as he obviously wasn't expecting the weight of my case to be so much and almost dropped it I told him not to worry and carried myself into one of the most impressive hotel lounges I have ever seen! Really high ceilings and marble throughout, it certainly looked the business.

After checking in to room 352 and being given the keycard for entry, I headed upstairs to drop off my baggage and have a quick shower. I must admit, I did get a bit distracted by the free broadband so sent a few mails (but hey, if not you wouldn't have heard from me at all!) - a quick msn chat or so, then back to the lobby to find a taxi to the center of town.

The consieurge (sp) called a taxi for me, and told me it would be about 130 yuan (£8.66) - which didn't seem to bad. This cost seemed even better after an hour and 44.6km later!! (let's see a black cab do that).

I wasn't sure where I was going (it was all on the recommendation of the guy in the hotel) - but it seemed to be a central restaurant/bar square where there were lots of people. I was quite hungry by now and just wanted something to eat and fighting the urge to try and Chinese McDonalds, went off in search of some authentic Chinese food.

In the large mall just off the square was a quite authentic (but modern) looking place, so in there I went. I wish I hadn't now as the food wasn't so good. (The cold chicken with mashed up bone was particualy yuck!) - but I did eat enough to get full.

After this, I was unsure what to do. Find a bar and sit on my own, find a bar and try and talk to a random person, or just go for a walk. I took a wander back out to the square to survey the situation (and almost tempted by the "Very Sexy Cabaret" with Chinese girls in school uniform) but in the end decided the "random train philosophy" would be much more beneficial.

Random Train Philosophy - Go to station, pick random station, visit. (repeat X)

A train here costs about 14p (or 20p for a further journey!!) - so it seemed like a good idea to go as many places as possible. (trying to descretly work out where using my map, so as not to look too much like a tourist ) - i'm not sure where I actually went, but there was a big tower with a round ball about half way up and a "Super Big Mall" (or something) - which was obviously just a shopping centre.

Alex had told me to try and find "English Corner" at Shanghai Park, but I couldn't find Shanghai Park on the map (loads of other ones, just not Shanghai) - which was a shame, as it would have been nice to chat with some locals, but hey ho...

I did manage to find a Chinese night club (which was playing that song you like so much monk, the foreign remix of "groove is in the heart") - but was so tired I decided I just wanted to go back home.

Fell asleep in the taxi on the way back and woke just before the hotel, paid my £10 (it was night time now ... haha) and staggered upstairs to bed, bumping into the 2 American girls smoking just outside the lift for good measure....

Saturday 20th August

The idea had been to get up for 9 o clock to have breakfast then go and explore Shanghai at daytime, however when I woke up at 12:10, I realised I had kinda missed this opportunity I therefore changed plans to go to the airport for 1 o'clock to check my luggage in (plane was at 4:15) - then catch the Magna Lev train into Shanghai. Unfortunately, the checkin desk didn't open until 2, so I had to wait around an hour, however when it finally did open, I was at the front, so got the front set (by the door) by the window. (shame it couldn't have been for the first flight ... oh well).

I was then free to find the Maglev Train (though it was now 3:10, so I didn't have much time).

The Maglev Train is a magnetic levitation train (as in it doesn't touch the track, it's kept up and moving by an electromagnetic field) and as such, is able to go much faster than a usual wheel based train. You think the Eurostar is fast, take a ride on the 442km an hour (276mph) Maglev, which has the benefit of being very smooth (no bumpy track) and very quiet (there is no friction to cause any noise). It took 8 minutes to go as far as the taxi did in one hour!! I just had time at the other end to check out the Maglev Museum, before catching it back again to the airport to get the China Eastern flight MU719 flight outta there!

I think I fell asleep again on this flight (and it had no TV!!) - so not much to really report there.

Landing in Japan was a lot different to last time. I remember before thinking everything was so "wow!" and "look at that", but this time the same fascination wasn't there. I guess it's because I now see it as my "home town" Of course, there was the customary 40 minute queue to get through customs, however there was no problem and picking up luggage was a breeze (it was already off the conveyour belt, so just had to get it off the floor).

Finally, I was able to head downstairs to the station to get the Narita Express to Shinjuku. It may have been an express, but it still took 1.5 hours!! I'm sure I remember it being closer last time, but hey I then got a train transfer to head to Shibuya to meet Seiko and Shiho in front of the metal dog.

Walking out of Shibuya station, everything started to come back to me and I must admit a wave of happiness came over me, knowing that this would be my home for the next year or so ... sugoi!

Seiko and Shiho arrived about 10 minutes later to get me, which required another train journey (and no down escalator.. doh!) but was only 2 stops (and about 5 minutes) - so I thought cool, not far to get to school. However, we then had to transfer to a different train (which was about a 5 minute walk away...) before going for 3 minutes to our real home area of Wakabayashi.

Wakabayashi Eki (Station)Local Convenience StoreView down the road

Now to say this area is slightly residential is a bit of an understatement. Well I said I wanted to be thrown in at the deep end, so I guess I got what I asked for. There is litterally nothing here. A small supermarket, convenience store and.... well that's it I am most definately the only foreinger here (which I actually like... strange...) with the nearest shops about a 15/20 minute walk away (and even then there aren't that many) - the nearest bars (Shimokitazawa - which was supposedly near) took me about 35 minutes to walk to)....

I guess you could say i was a bit annoyed (though maybe too strong a word) at the location, as I thought it would be straight in the action.... however, more of a shock was yet to come.

Rent in Tokyo when you share gets quite cheap (around £300 or less per person) so when I found out the rent for me was £410, I kinda figured we must have a pretty good place. I realised the request to Seiko for a "not too expensive flat" must have gone over her head a bit when we arrived at the entrace to our place (about 5 minute walk from the station)

Welcome to the Chez Griffiths and Co.

Building OneBuilding TwoRevolving Underground Car ParkSecure Bike Park

Now come inside...

The LobbyThe lobby / hallwayThe LiftView from our floor (1)View from our floor (2)View from our floor (3)

And here you go... the front door of

4-33-14-312, Wakabayashi
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo-to, Japan

The Front Door!

Now since we moved in, we have aquired a bit of furniture, however on the first day, there was nothing... not even lights!!! I didn't have a bed, nor were there any curtains in the house!!! However a bit of that has been rectified now....

After a bit of investigation I have now found out this is one of the most expensive apartments in the area and is famous for rich people living here!!! I'll admit, it is a nice place (and has started to grow on me since I got a bed...) - but well.... judge for yourselves (it's only just been built, so we are first tenants )

Video entry phoneHallwayKitchen AreaFront room areaPicture 009.jpgMy room!My room (door closed)Making my bed :)My old bedBalconyView from balconyToiletBathroom sinkDoor to shower roomNot sure but it talks to you!The Shower Room

Now a special mention has to be made to the bath. As you can see, the shower is next to it (so you just shower on the floor, and what an amazing shower it is!) - but I couldn't work out how you fill the bath up (there are no taps).... may I introduce you to the bath computer..!!!

What the F*&?! - It's the bath control!

Yes, our bath is computer controlled. The temperature on the left is for the shower (so ignore that), then the time, followed by a set of bars. These bars are how high you would like the water level (I kid you not), followed by how hot you wish the bath to be (constant temperature, not a one off fill).

You then input all this info, press the red button and your bath is run for you. When it's ready, all the hot water controls in the house speak to you and tell you everything is set!! You can even set the time, so your bath will be ready for you when you arrive home!!!

Couple this with having a small park right next to the apartment block (green space is very rare in Tokyo):

Picture 032.jpgPicture 033.jpgPicture 034.jpg

And a playground opposite

Playground (1)Playground (2)

And I guess you can see why the place costs so much. When I get a job and have an exact knowledge of my income, i guess I won't worry so much, but now it just seems like this is going to be a very exensive year!!

Right, so that is the house done... now where was I...a yes...

So we arrive here, dropped all my baggage off and then went to visit one of Shiho's friends "Shimpei" who lives a few blocks down. Luckily for me, he can speak English so was able to tell me a bit about the area, what there is to do (ie nothing... haha) and very kindly offered to help me out if ever I need it. He is a painter for a living, so always at home, which will be very handy.

Seiko then fell asleep, so we headed back home.

Sunday 21st August

To be able to sleep here you have to be able to put up with the constant insect noises. We're not talking a little loud here, we are talking incredibly loud, both rustling noises and sometimes bird like screeches. I managed to get a photo of one kind, but the flying ones are higher up in the tree and couldn't get focused.

A noisy thing!

Needless to say, I didn't sleep so well, and woke up at about 2pm. Already round was Shiho's boyfriend Toshi and his friend (who can aparently speak english, but is very shy)

They both left, leaving us to do my first ever Japanese Food Shop If you wonder about Japan being expensive, somethings are (mainly foreign style imports) - but Japanese food seems incredibly cheap:

250g Chicken Breast - £1.20
Bottle Beer - £0.60
Equivilant Alcopop - £0.50p

Hmm.. actually that isn't too good a graph, as all I really can remember was the alcohol and chicken But take my word for it, it does seem a lot cheaper here (Though I am still working in pounds earnings.... maybe when I start to earn in Yen everything will seem to cost more...?)

We then headed out to Shibuya to buy lights, light bulbs, curtains and a rug - before going to an Italian for dinner (my choice ) though you have to eat it with chopsticks. Which involves grabbing a load, then sucking it all in your mouth...

Shiho then went back to stay at Toshi's house, leaving me and Seiko to take everything home, then have a very slow 2 hour conversation about not very much ... hahah... i don't think I can start my Japanese School soon enough... (conversation with Shiho is even harder, generally involving lots of hand movements and random noises....)

Yup, living here is definately going to accelerate my learning so much, as long as I am confident enough to keep trying (be strong my son!)

Monday 22nd August

Everyone had stuff to do today, so the flat was empty when I woke up. I decided I wanted to try and find "Shimokitazawa" which Shimpei reckoned was a 20 minute walk away as it has many bars and arcades. So after getting ready (and forgetting to turn on the aircon when I got up, so having to do so in 30 degree heat ), I braved the noisy bugs and headed outside into the hottest day so far.

Seiko informs me that the temperate in Tokyo is a pretty much constant 28 degrees (even at night) until October, so I hope my body starts to adapt soon, as I was sweating like a pig after only about 5 minutes!

After following the map for about 15 minutes, it soon became aparent that Shimokitazawa was not 20 minutes away, and I arrived there another 20 minutes later. I must admit, I could have probably made it quicker had I knew exactly where I was going, but would have had to run to make it in the 20 minutes Shimpei reckoned it was.

Shimokitazawa is how it had been described though, full of young people, clothes shops, arcades, restaurants and bars. I was pretty fed up by now though and wasn't in the mood for sightseeing, so just headed off to the station to get the train to Shinjuku where I wanted to go to Sofmap to get a camera.

First stop however was the internet cafe, which soon turned into a 2.5 hour net session (it was so nice to be able to read something in English) and involved scouring my Japanese Penpal Site to try and find some English speakers to meet up with plus sending a few emails.

Then it was off to Sofmap to get a new camera. I was originally going to go for a high end one, like the Canon IXY 600, or the Casio Z750, however after trying them out, I decided I would prefer a smaller (and therefore cheaper) one. In the end I settled for the Canon IXY 55 (IXUS 55 in the UK) - so Justin you can be happy I now have a Canon - for about £150 plus a 1 gig SD card for £40

By now it was about 8pm, so I headed back to the station to get on the many trains (3) back home - arriving back the same time as Seiko and Shiho. They had brought back a matress and some curtains for my room, so we put all that together, and my rooms feels a lot more homely now

I just need to buy a load of paper to cover the glass doors (it lets in too much light, so I get woken up when the sun rises) and buy a light and a desk and the room will be complete! w00t!

Tuesday 23rd August

Well this is today, and I'm just sitting on the floor (we have no chairs) - writing up all I have done so far. When this is done, I am off to Shibuya with my list of things to get:

1) Ceiling light
2) Desk lamp
3) Laundry Basket
4) Paper
5) Scissors and Sellotape
6) Shower Gel
7) English -> Japanese Dictionary

Plus I need to

1) Upload this
2) Pay Egg Card
3) Open Bank Account

Spent an hour or so this morning with Shiho trying to have a conversation, involving lots of translation book reading But I do need to get the dictionary to help me a lot more. Where possible I'm using the Japanese I know, but realistically it's not helping me too much.

Friday I will go to the school to enroll, which then should begin on the 5th September. So by October I should be a little more useful in conversations.... haha

Anyway, I better go, been sitting on this floor for a good 2 hours now and my bum really hurts


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