Ikimasho!

Full Moons & Full Stomachs

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The moon from my bed in Tokyo last weekend.

Ahhh, Blogger’s Guilt…

I wonder if anyone else gets it or just me?

In the same way that if I go a week without the gym, if I don’t post at least once a week on here I get edgy. Amazingly, I’ve been running IKIMASHO! for four years now – with an average of two posts a week. But now with more writing gigs for other magazines and publications – as well as kindergartening full time – I’m busier than ever. And so, a week after my last post about hanging out with the Yakuza I feel in need of a creative purge. So here is some randomness from the last week.

But first, just look at that moon.

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I’m lucky that I have amazing light in my house, with huge sliding window doors that I can open on the second floor during the summer. The moon last weekend was pretty amazing, and my Canon compact did a really good job picking out some of the features. I still maintain that if you are a writer or blogger it’s best to spend money on a good small compact camera with a good zoom. One that can fit in your bag and is zero hassle. I know many people only take photos with iPhones these days, but when it comes to shooting at range you really do need a camera.

June is a busy month in Japan in that there are no National Holidays. We are generally spoiled over here, averaging one (sometimes two) random days off a month. You start to take it for granted though, and so every June feels very long. Next month also marks the start of the rainy season – so June is a month to keep your head down, keep busy at work and get ready for summer. School is going very well, I’m really enjoying teaching again and without sounding big headed I’ve gotten even better. I feel I’ve pretty much mastered it.

Following the earthquake down in Kumamoto we had an earthquake drill at school. This is something I’m used to now but I realise it’s probably just one of the million things that I see on a daily basis that doesn’t register with me anymore. It’s normal now. To those unfamiliar with Japan, however, it may seem pretty interesting. Basically when the alarm rings all the kids get under the tables, and then when it is safe to evacuate they take the cushions off their chairs and remove the cartoon character coverings. Underneath, the cushion isn’t really a cushion at all but a protective covering to help shield the kids from bits of glass and stuff. They put it over their head and file out quietly to safe ground. The cushion has the name of the kid etc on it, should they get lost during a real evacuation.

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Kindergarten earthquake evacuation drill. Kids put the yellow cushions over their heads.

Because my school is bento (packed lunch) as opposed to kyushoku (school lunch) I usually cook dinner the night before and make enough for lunch the next day. It means I eat out a lot less than I used to, which not only saves me money but is also healthier as I am in full control of what I eat. (Saying that I made tacos tonight which were pretty shit and I’m about to eat chocolate ice cream.) One thing I do splurge on now and again though when I’m lazy is tsukemen, the noodles you dip in broth. I must have passed one particular tsukemen place near my house every day for about three years without going in, but I finally decided to check it out last week. The guy behind the counter was mute as a fish – usually you have at least some small talk with the owners but this guy didn’t say a word. The reason I like this place is that the soup is thinner in consistency. As a rule of thumb, in tsukemen circles 99% of people like the thicker soup, but I’m the opposite. I’m also addicted to vinegar, and so I drown the noodles in vinegar before dipping. Believe me, it’s good.

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Tsukemen from Ramen Yajirushi in Shimokitazawa. The chashu (stewed pork) is very good – grilled on smoking charcoal just before it’s served.  750yen / £4.50

I should at this point shout out loud in capital letters that JAPAN IS NOT AS EXPENSIVE AS YOU THINK IT IS – especially when it comes to eating out. During the weekend – either on a Saturday or Sunday morning – I take my book and go to Ootoya in Sazasuka at 10am just as it is opening. I order teishoku which is is a pre-set meal — a main dish, always with miso soup and a bowl of rice, and it builds from there according the chef’s seasonal fancies (pickles, tofu, salad, etc.) With unlimited coffee this meal usually doesn’t exceed 1000yen which is £6 or $9. Actually, despite being a chain restaurant, Ootoya would be in my top-five tips for people visiting Japan simply because it’s a great place to find a lot of traditional Japanese food for cheap. The quality is very, very good too. Here are some Ootoya snaps.

I’m paid up at the gym until the end of July. The price of the gym over here is pretty nasty – about 11k a month which works out about £70. I toyed with the idea of switching gyms to one that is cheaper but in the end I’m a sucker for familiar faces and I’d miss the people I see there. In particular there are these two old guys who are hilarious who I enjoy chatting to as they seem to always be there when I am. Both look like they must have trained pretty hard when they were young, and one in particular is still built like a brick shithouse despite being probably about 65. The gym is the only chance I get to watch Japanese TV as I don’t own one in the house, but it’s all nonsense and cookery programmes. Saying that, I still do smile and feel happy when the sumo is on. I dunno, it’s a very normal thing to be on TV over here but it reminds me where I am, and also of watching it on Channel 4 back in Bangor with my dad when I was a nipper.

And in case you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say Japanese TV is nonsense, this is a good example. Gotta love it though.

 

Anyway, it’s time for me to go and eat that ice cream. I have satisfied me creative urge to post and now my stomach must be taken care of.

Goodnight from Tokyo.

Justin x


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2 comments

  1. Monty

    This might sound weird but this is my favourite post from you in a while. Interesting stuff mate

  2. Oooh, I’ve always wanted to go to Ootoya, but haven’t been in yet because my partner is vegetarian and I have a feeling there wouldn’t be anything in there for her to eat. Will have to check it out solo one time because i’ve seen lots of them around Okinawa.

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