Sunday, February 24, 2008

Easy Rider

When I first arrived in Tokyo I was woken up in the middle of the night by an extremely loud siren, with someone talking over the top of it through a loudspeaker. My initial reaction was....

a) that it was the end of the world.
b) a large earthquake was about to destroy Tokyo.
c) Godzilla was on the rampage.

Breathing a sigh of relief five minutes later, I realised that it was just an extremely loud ambulance.

And speaking of loud things that keep me awake, gangs on motorbikes frequently drive past my building late at night very slowly, revving their engines extremely loudly.

Now when I saw the Japanese anime film called Akira, I thought young Japanese people riding about on motorbikes was really cool.

I have since changed my mind.

Apparently in the Toyama prefecture, music therapists have developed a police siren which is soothing and reassuring. Click
here for the article.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Today I went To Sumida City Hall and I was interviewed for the local TV channel by my friend Ken, who works for the local government.

You can check out the website for the district I live in

The interview was about cultural exchange and how Sumida is viewed through the eyes of foreign people. I got to talk about what I like about Sumida and how it is different to other places. A Chinese woman was interviewed as well and she talked about how she helps foreign people intergrate into Japanese life and how she helps organise cultural exchange.

It's on Channel 9 this Sunday.

The interview went really well and I think I may yet still become famous. Ideally I'd like my own show.

This isn't the first time I've been on TV in foreign climes though.

When I was in Thailand I went to a Robbie Williams concert and afterwards I was interviewed about it by a local cable channel. The only reason I probably managed to get on Thai TV though was by telling a slight lie about how I'd been at school with Robbie and what great mates we still were because money hadn't changed him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sapporo Snow Festival

Last weekend, I went to the Sapporo Snow Festival(Yukui Matsuri), on Japan's northern most island, Hokkaido. The official website for the festival is here.

The snow festival first began in 1950, when local highschool students built six snow statues in Odori Park. Now it's one of Japan's biggest winter events and attracts around 2 million people over its seven days to see the snow and ice sculptures.

The festival now has an international snow sculpture competition and other events which include ski-jumping and musical performances.

Sapporo is also famous for its beer and it hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics as well.

I caught a plane at 6.30 from Haneda airport in Tokyo on Saturday morning. I arrived at my hotel in Sapporo feeling pretty exhausted at about 9.00 as I hadn't had much sleep the previous night before. The hotel I stayed at was the
Keio Plaza Hotel which was very nice (a lot classier to what I'm used to), if a little expensive.

It was really cold but I had a very nice time. Many of the statues and sculptures were very beautiful and the amount of time and effort that goes into them is amazing. It's just a shame that they don't last forever.

I even got to make my own snowman in an event to make as many little snowmen as possible, in order to get into the Guiness Book of Records.

Other highlights included my trip up Mount Moiwa to see the view of Sapporo. Unfortunately there was a huge blizzard and I didn't get to see much. I did get to have some miso ramen(noodles) in a nice restaurant at the top, which was delicious.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.

-Mr Miyagi

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


One of the strangest sights I've seen here in Japan so far, are hundreds of young Japanese men, just standing around looking very smart in their suits with highlights in their hair(looking like a horde of 80s Simon le Bon lookalikes), in a part of Shinjuku called Kabukicho (a very dodgy area if you know what I mean - I was lost, honest!).

I later found out that these men were hosts. Apparently women can hire out their services for a bit of company and they can earn up to fifty thousand yen a night.

I'm obviously in the wrong profession. I'm more than happy to charge 20,000 yen a night (+ bus fare home and a bag of fish and chips). The thing is I think some of them in the menu above, taken from outside a host bar in Osaka, look a little odd.

And if you think hosts are overcharging, apparently Mickey Mouse costs 330,000 yen just for fifteen minutes if you want him to come to your party. I've learnt that he is so expensive because there can be only one Mickey Mouse at a time in Japan. You can't have more than one existing at the same time in different places.

Hello! It's a man in a suit. He doesn't even say anything.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Today was the Setsubun festival, which welcomes the coming of spring. In the past people would drive evil spirits away with the strong smell of burning dried sardine heads, the smoke of burning wood and the noise of drums.

Nowadays people throw beans around their house, or at temples and shrines. When people throw the beans they shout 'Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!' ('Devils out, happiness in'). People should then eat the number of beans according to their age.