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July 31, 2005

Football, rugby and Swanky - a good night out

We got a full night of entertainment packed in! We started with the football, extended to rugby and finished with a nightcap at Bar Swanky. It was all very cool.

Football: Jubilo Iwata v Bayern Munchen, National Stadium
This has been on the agenda for a few weeks now. You may remember that we were able to procure some discount tickets from the company. Bayern Munchen won 3-1, but the scoreline flattered their performance.

30july 010 edited.JPG I went with Leigh and Kaz. It was very nice to be out - the temperature had cooled down and the lines for beer were not very long. Even better, they had vendors coming around to sell you more beer later. Its been awhile since I have seen that. We had decent seats as well, which is good. But we were not really close enough for my camera. This guy sitting next to me had this fancy set-up with the long focus lens - looks like he had spent some serious dosh on it. I thought he was being extravagant, but a look at my pictures afterwards made me think he had the right idea.

The game was exciting too, at least the first part. After all the players lined up and had their pictures taken, the game ball was dropped by a helicopter onto the pitch. That was not the exciting part, I just thought I would mention it.

Rather, Jubilo Iwata seemed to rise to the challenge and secured an early lead, which they held until BM were awarded a penalty early in the second half. When they failed to convert, the ref gave them another chance. This was in the far goal, so I cannot claim to have seen the whole thing, but I didn't like it. That seemed to take the energy out of the home side.

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In fact, the quality of play in the second half was not so good. You had 18 guys meandering around mid-field waiting for the clock to run out. Every so often, someone would punt the ball upfield and a striker would run after it. It must have been too hot for the players. If that is true, I cannot imagine what it was like for this guy (this is the mascot for the Year of Germany in Japan - not sure if this is a mouse or what it represents).

Rugby: Australia v South Africa, Clubhouse Bar/Shinjuku 3-chome
After the football, we headed up to this place to watch the rugby on TV. They certainly treated us right: when we came in, all the tables were full, but they managed to make some space for us by moving some people around. Fortunately, it was one of the best tables for watching the television. We were pleased.

The food was suprisingly good and the atmosphere was a nice change from the usual Roppongi sports bar. Actually, maybe the atmosphere was the same, but the faces were different. I am not sure. I think everyone in the bar was supporting Australia except Leigh and a Kiwi at one of the tables near ours. South Africa ended up the winners and the place cleared out soon after that.

Bar Swanky - Akasaka 2-chome
Leigh and I took a taxi back to Akasaka after the rugby. As we got out, Leigh noticed two things: 1) it was not midnight yet; 2) there was a bar in the building the taxi driver let us out at. And that was Bar Swanky, which I have been to a few times and really like. What can I say...we had to go in.

I tried to find an Internet site for this place, but there are hundreds of links to places described as swanky (Shinjuku Park Hyatt/Lost in Translation/Roppongi Hills) and I could not wade through all of them. They are only pretenders to being swanky.

Anyway, you take an elevator to the ninth floor and when you come out there is a doormat that says Swanky and a smoky mirror with the same. Inside, it is tastefully decorated (swanky?) and there is a surprisingly good view looking out towards Roppongi. It was a good way to end the evening. Bar Swanky is very cool.

By the way, it is in the same building as the Starbucks on Roppongi Dori (next to Akasaka Twin Towers). WHen you see a blue sign with a penguin you know you have found the right place!

Posted by Kirk at 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

July 30, 2005

Surprisingly good weekend so far

And it is only Saturday afternoon! I had an early night yesterday. I was so knackered when I finished working that I just came home, telling myself that I would get a good start on Saturday (actually, I did not have any plans).

So, I was asleep before midnight and up at 8am today. I have went grocery shopping, tidied up the apartment, made blueberry muffins and even re-started studying Japanese. Well, actually, the latter is not going so well, which is why I am posting pictures of beetle advertisements and telling you everything I have accomplished in the last five hours. Maybe I should stop here and study some more.

Posted by Kirk at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

Culture exchange

Have you ever wondered why US fast food chains seem to do so well in Japan, but the opopsite is not true? Of course, a few Japanese chains have made it - there is a Mos Burger in Waikiki (the Japanese menu says: careful American size portions served) and a Yoshinoya in Times Square, for example, but I think that is more for Japanese traveling overseas.

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Maybe this is the answer - I saw this sign in front of a fast food place in my neighborhood called Hokka Hokka. The attractive little fella at the front is a Rhinoceros Bettle. From what I can understand, this is not the meal itself, but rather an appeal to nostalgia and childhood memories as some Japanese children would collect beetles. This is apparently one of the cool ones.

By the way, a Rhinoceros Beetle can carry 750 times its own weight, making it the strongest creature in the world as measured by proportional strength. Come to think of it, maybe that is the point: if you eat at Hokka Hokka you will get stronger too.

Of course, I can't read the sign, so I might have this completely backwards (anyone out there that speaks Japanese willing to help out?) No matter what it says, however, I am pretty sure this is an advertising campaign that does not travel well. But I do like the poster.

Posted by Kirk at 01:25 PM | Comments (2)

July 29, 2005

Another one bites the dust

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Ha! Maybe J League is better than we thought. Following Real Madrid's loss to Tokyo Verdy earlier in the week, Manchester United were taken down by Kashima Antlers last night.

After making a big deal about keeping four clean sheets in China and Hong Kong, they let in two goals here. And that made their inability to find the back of the net more obvious. Apparently, the tension is building as Ruud and Rio had a very public exchange of opinions when they walked off the pitch after the match ("you suck..." "no, YOU suck"). All very entertaining if you like to give Preyash a hard time.

This make me more excited about the Bayern Munich football match we are going to watch this Saturday. It should be good.

Posted by Kirk at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

Finally a night out

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After months (well, ok, a little more than a week) of working late, I finally had a night off last night. So, I met Richard for a few drinks. As tribute to the fantastic weather, we opted for an outside venue and went to Legends Sports Bar in Roppongi.

They actually have a very clever set up. Legends and Hobgoblin are in the same building and run by the same people. The British can go to the pub (Hobgoblin) and drink warm pints, play darts and watch the football. The Americans can go to the sports bar, drink light beer and watch basketball. Clever, right?

Actually, the football was on at Legend...more about that later. (Preyash - sorry for calling you to say I was watching it when you were working too much on your last night in Japan - it was a crap game anyway).


28july 004.jpg
Anyway, it was good to see Richard as we had not met up for awhile. In fact, I think the last time I saw him was his barbecue back in May, before my business trip. So, we had a lot to catch up on:
("you all right?" "yeah...you?" "yeah, good..." "...another round?")

We ran into a few people while we there, as you do. First up was Martin and Dave (you can see Martin in the picture on the right - and that is Richard on the far left). Dave used to know Richard's brother when he worked in London (small world!) Also, there was a small earthquake, which rattled the glasses a little. And that got us talking about the Hanshin earthquake back in 1995, as most of those guys had been in Japan at that time.

Later, we met Chisato and Lisa, the good looking girls trapped by Richard and Martin in the photo. Chisato (on the right) is an opera singer, but we could not get her to demonstrate. But, we are waiting for the CD! Lisa (on the left)is working to be a translator (thankfully, as my Japanese is awful). I am pretty sure her English is better than mine too.

Posted by Kirk at 08:43 AM | Comments (1)

July 26, 2005

Earthquakes, typhoons - what next?

Typhoon #7 of the season is due to arrive in Tokyo sometime tonight. In fact, we have been given a "get out of jail free" card from the company - due to adverse weather conditions we can go home early.

japan_sat_440x297.jpg I am not sure how I feel about the typhoons. I always thought they were like hurricanes, but they do not pack nearly that much power by the time they get up here. You get a lot of rain and its windy, but not enough that cars or trees are being blown around.

My birthday last year coincided with what was being described as the worst typhoon to hit Tokyo in years. We went out for celebratory drinks after work, but people kept going home as the rain got worse. Around 10pm, the rain slackened and the core group of people that remained figured we should make a break for it as this must be the "eye" of the typhoon and if we hurried we could get home relatively dry.

That was the alcohol talking. The typhoon had finished. So everyone that had left early had went out during the worst of the storm and the ones that remained got off easy (I am sure there is a lesson there!). The point is, when I get a typhoon warning, I am a bit skeptical. Then again, I live on a hill (no flooding) and do not have to take the subway (no drowning or being stuck underground), so I might not be the best person to ask.

Regardless, the best thing about typhoons is that they really clear out all the pollution. So, tomorrow should be sunny and very clear. Sounds like I will be taking pictures!

UPDATE: The typhoon has passed and as expected there was not much to it: it was kind of windy for awhile and there was some rain...just like rainy season. Wasn't that over last week. Pretty disappointing, but it has cooled off and that is good.

Posted by Kirk at 06:09 PM | Comments (2)

We are all Tokyo Verdy fans today

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Apparently there is some risk in these "money-spinning" Asia tours by European clubs. Real Madrid learned this the hard way, losing 3-0 to Tokyo Verdy. Tokyo media superstar David Beckham was particularly incensed with Kazuyuki Toda, who he claims was spitting on him. Actually, both of them also accused the other of "kicking" too. Sounds like they almost started playing football.

The on-field hijinks spread to the locker rooms at half-time, when a few of the Real Madrid boys (Beckham, Ronaldo and Michel Salgado)tried to get into the Verdy locker room. They ended up "exchanging a few words".... if taken literally, it likely means all of them have twice the vocabulary they did pre-match.

Anyway, Beckham downplayed the incident later, saying it is "only handbags". That is the English way of saying it was not a real fight, alluding to girls swinging their purses at each other [insert your favourite Preyash comment here]. Then again, it could also mean Posh's influence has spread from Beck's media coverage to the pitch. Losing 3-0 to Tokyo Verdy seems to support that.

Posted by Kirk at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

Want to be popular? Break a leg!

A friend of mine recently broke her foot. Not very nice, I am told, and it took two weeks before a doctor here told her she might need a cast. So, the downside is some pain, hobbling around for six weeks and a lot of itching. But apparently, some people think it is sexy. Well, maybe some very odd people.

She was searching the Internet looking for some cast-related things and found this site. I thought I had seen it all, but this is a whole new level. Probably, there is even worse - but I am not about to go looking for it.

Posted by Kirk at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

Thanks!

Today, the little traffic counter hit 1,000 (as i type it is at 1,005 and counting)! The overall number is higher because I did not put it on until two weeks after I started, but this is a benchmark all the same. So, thanks for reading and I hope I can keep you entertained going forward.

Posted by Kirk at 08:03 PM | Comments (2)

What a boring day

I did very little on Sunday...no goodbye parties for Preyash, no bars/restaurants, and most importantly...no earthquakes.

I did go to Hie Jinja to snap some photos and try to get back into that groove - but for some reason there was no magic in the camera and the 20 or so pictures I did take were pretty lame. But I like Hie Jinja - it is so peaceful there. The mosquitos like it too - I got bit twice.

After that, I did spend some time installing new photo album software - once I transfer all the photos over, I will link into it. It is much easier to use than my original program (for both me and you) so that should not take too long.

I had this mild epiphany last night as I was trying to get through that..."i do not need to do this". Fortunately, I got past that and finished the process. And just in time.

Did I tell you I have become a fan of Sunday night TV? It is pathetic, but I must watch Third Watch and West Wing every Sunday night. It does not matter that the episodes are four-five years old because I have been here longer than that. My sister used to send me video tapes of West Wing and I am dreading the time the broadcasts here catch up. What will I do between 11-12pm?

Posted by Kirk at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2005

Sayonara Preyash 2

This is kind of a misleading title as we (Leigh, Nuala, Melanie and myself) only sat next to Preyash's fifth sayonara party and were not directly involved. But we did make it to Grape Gumbo despite the earthquake and it was fantastic.

First a word or two on how we got there. Yesterday's earthquake had a lot of implications. First, the elevators in my building were not working. I really have a much better appreciation for how high up I live, not just from the shaking, but from the 15 flights of stairs I went down to get out. All I could think as I climbed down was how awful it was going to be if they were still out when I returned.

Even better, many of the subway and train lines were not working. To rub salt in the wound, that meant that there were fewer available taxis. And it seemed the ones we did see were not interested in picking up a few foreigners. As a result, we were late.

But it was worth it. As I may have mentioned before, I like this restaurant. The food is very good and the wine selection is awesome. I like the spicy duck...it is unbelievably tasty, but truly most anything you order is going to satisfy you.

Even if the food had been poor, it would have been a classic night out because Melanie is one of the funniest people in the world and all sorts of strange things happen to her. It is a good combination.

For example: if you were thinking of buying the new Jack Welch (super ex-CEO) book on management tips, don't...it is complete rubbish. And if you insist you have to read it, you should go the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Lost and Discarded Book Center. They are still after Melanie to come get her copy which she thought she had safely binned (next time take your meishi out before leaving it in a toilet stall). Anyway, there are probably plenty of copies there for you to claim.

By the way, Preyash had another great night. Check out the comments on the last post and you will see that he was out until 4am AGAIN. Why his long-suffering wife puts up with that behaviour is a mystery! (just kidding Preyash - i know you only go out late twice every eighteen months).

Sorry - no pictures this time.

Posted by Kirk at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2005

That's a bit scary

Yikes...there was just an earthquake! No damage, but it did move some of the things in my apartment around. Fortunately, I was already in my designated earthquake protective zone (the couch) so I did not have to do much more than ride it out and hope it stopped soon. That got my heart rate up at least.

UPDATE: It was kind of big...enough to stop the bullet trains. It measured 5.7 on the Richter scale, but it was centered outside of Tokyo (in northwestern Chiba...hey are the girls from yesterday ok?).

Posted by Kirk at 04:38 PM | Comments (2)

Sayonara Preyash - Part 1

Last night, we took Preyash out for his farewell dinner. I think he has had four or five of these now, so that in itself is nothing special, but I did happen to be invited to this one (!) so it is worth mentioning. We had hoped to go to Grape Gumbo, but it was all booked up, so we reverted to Plan B, which was Cicada in Nishi Azabu.

22july 003.jpg
This is Preyash with two of his clients, Sean and Peter. Do you think he looks a bit nervous? I had already warned him that the camera would be out tonight, and if you remember from a previous post, I intended to get some memorable pictures of the evening! So, he had every reason to be! Leigh was also with us, but I could not get him to move over, so he will remain hidden from sight for now.

Anyway, the food is good (the portuguese style spicy chicken was fantastic) and the staff were careful to keep the wine flowing at a regular rate. The link above gives the place a lot of kudos, and I would generally agree. For some reason, however, they could not decide whether to give us more bread or not, so they would bring a basket, set it down and then take it away. If you can deal with that, you should go sometime.

Foolishly, I had thought this would be the entire evening and expected to have an early Friday. As you can imagine, I was sadly mistaken (like I usually am). After agreeing that one more drink would be a good idea, we headed over to Amyrta bar near Nishi Azabu crossing for a night cap.
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I am pretty sure that spelled the name of the bar wrong as I could not find an Internet site using that version. But I do have a good excuse in that the first three years I was in Tokyo I had known it as the "air con" bar, because of the big AC units lined up on the sidewalk next to it. In fact, it is famously hard to find as it is off the main street and down a small corridor and the only way we could find it is too look for those AC units: "is it down there?" "no, I can't see the aircon units" "better walk a little farther up the street then"

As you can see from the pictures, we had a good time. The bar was hopping when we arrived, but after twenty minutes or so they found us a table. In the sense I wanted to get home early, this was not a good thing, but it was certainly more comfortable. And the so-called "just one drink" turned into three or four (I was not really keeping track after awhile).

We nicked the stylish hat from one of the girls in the bar and handed it to Preyash, who immediately put it on. Pretty cool, don't you think? I certianly know what I am getting him for Christmas!. I probably would not have published this picture except he kept telling me, "hey, come on...it is only 12am" (or 1am...or 2am). So this is what you get for reminding me of the time.

22july 012.jpg 22july 014.jpg

To summarise the rest of the night: Preyash had a cigar (see his suave lighting technique above) and we talked for awhile with these girls at the table next to ours. From left to right is Mari, Nao, and Nori. Aren't they lovely? The crazy stalker man on the right is, of course, Preyash. They are from Chiba, which is pretty far away from central Tokyo, and were in town for a full night out (meaning all night as the trains stop at midnight and do not run again until 5am).

22july 017.jpg

Eventually, it was 3am and I saw this guy, who was looking like I felt. How he could sleep like that is beyond me. I felt terrible because I really should have stayed out later, but I was running on fumes. And Preyash reminded me that of all the time he was in Japan we had never had a big night out.

But I had mixed beer, wine and mojitos over the course of the night (not in the same glass, but you know what I mean) and I was feeling a bit giddy. So, we finished our drinks, said goodbye to the birds and headed off home. It was still dark when we left, which was a small sign that I had some self-control left...I was quite pleased to get home and asleep before the sun came up as I could still say I had an early night.

By the way, I called this Part 1, because I will see Preyash again tonight, this time at Grape Gumbo, one of the great Tokyo restaurants.

Here is a few more pictures to round out the evening...on the left is Leigh at Cicada. On the right is Sean with Mari and Yukiko.
22july 004.jpg 22july 010.jpg

Posted by Kirk at 12:22 PM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2005

Hey Thomas! What's that word again? Dumbkopf?

A friend of mine asked me today why i have not started learning German yet. Ominous, right? Do you think he is missing something?

I just laughed because the thought never crossed my mind, but he seemed to be put off by that. So, I told him I would put some German words in the blog.

Wunderbar, bitte, danke, guten tag, kartoffelsalat, kartoffelkopf

So...how is that? By the way, you may remember Thomas from my discussion on the Ex-Bar. He was the aggressive German attacking my little friend. Oops. I forgot - he told me not to call him that, or else.

Posted by Kirk at 06:08 PM | Comments (1)

Ooops I did it again

What is it about summer? I get down on my knees and pray for a reason to go out in the winter but no one will. Crank up the temperature a few degrees and everyone is out.

Actually, this is one of the benefits of living in Asia - time works differently here. Most places in the world have some unwritten rule that you cannot make plans after 6pm. Anyway, I was at the office until 915pm...instead of going home, I called Dominik and sure enough he is out. I met him and Jeremy and a few others at Ex-Bar.

After that, we intended to go to Hills Cafe, but it had closed...for good (more about that later). So, we ended up at Heartland in Roppongi Hills. Still with me? While we are there, I meet the ex-boyfriend of one of my colleagues and one of the girls I met at the beach in Sarushima last weekend.

Good fun! I wanted to take some pictures but Horst at Ex-Bar snapped my picture when I went in there (sober!) and it looked so awful I swore I would not get my camera out. It is 1230 now and I just got home. Overall, I thought I would work late and come home...instead, I went out, met a bunch of people and tied one on. Whew...better get to sleep.

Posted by Kirk at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

One day down...

Yikes! 10pm and I am finally settled on the couch at home. You see, the long days I mentioned a few posts back have finally arrived. Actually 10pm is pretty good as I expected much worse and will get that over the next few days.

But enough about that. I have my book (The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird), a glass of wine, and a CD playing. That should calm me down a bit. I was almost ambitious enough to whip up a small dinner for myself, but I opened the wine first. Oh well, I had a big lunch.

When I was in the office earlier, the building was making a big fuss -lots of creaking etc. A few minutes later, my earthquake watching buddy Nuala e-mailed to ask if I had felt the earthquake...and I hadn't. I knew if I stayed late enough there would be a good reason to be at work!

Posted by Kirk at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

Next stop...Hokkaido

So, I will get a bit of holiday in Japan after all! I am going to take a long weekend with Kaz (a previous star of this blog) and tour part of Hokkaido. He went a few years ago with the bird and keeps telling me how very cool it is. I am looking forward to it.

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Hokkaido is the northern most island in the Japanese archipelago. Despite being the second largest of the Japanese islands, it is the least populated with only two million people (and half of those are in the capital Sapporo!). You get the idea - lots of space, cold etc

We are heading to the central and Eastern parts of the island, so we will skip Sapporo completely. One definite destination is Shiretoko National Park, which has just been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lots of nature: trees, lakes mountains, wild animals...should be fun. I also want to go to Daisetsuzan National Park, which is also well-known for its beauty.

I have been to Sapporo once, but that was during the World Cup and we barely made it out of Suskino let alone the City itself. So, in a way this is the first visit for me.

One place that I really would like to go but it is impractical for this trip is Wakkanai, which is the northern most city in Hokkaido and Japan. You can sometimes see Russia's Sakhalin Island off the coast when it is clear. Which reminds me, there is a very good write up of that p;ace in a book called Hokkaido Highway Blues. You should read it if you have a chance!

Posted by Kirk at 08:29 PM | Comments (5)

July 19, 2005

Best Italian in Tokyo?

I was out for dinner at Elio's in Hanzomon tonight. It could possibly be the best Italian restaurant in Tokyo. Everytime I go there, I swear to myself that I should be eating there everyday.

I stayed with the basics tonight...penne alla'arrabiata for a starter and a nice sirloin with balsamic for the main course. We finished off with parmesan and a cappucino. I want to say the portions are just the right size, but I could have had two or three other things on the menu. It is just that good.

I thought there would be a nice picture on the website to stick into this entry, so I did not take my own. But there is not, so you get stuck with the boring text-only entry for now.

By the way, they also do a reasonable lunch menu and the fast service means you do not have to make excuses when you get back to the office late. Lunch or dinner...you need to get over there.

Posted by Kirk at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

Real football starts soon. And more signs of WC glory

I am not talking about crap Asian friendlies or the even more crap, over-hyped Premiership with their big-spending ways.

On 6 August, mighty Yeovil kicks off their League One season at Oldham. In fact, they will have three matches under their belt before the top flight players have kicked a football.

More on why 2006 is England's year...

Yeovil are currently on tour in Germany - and followed up their 2-1 win over Preussen Munster with a 2-1 success over a Bayer Leverkusen XI on Friday.

Which seems to be yet ANOTHER sign that 2006 will be England's year. You want another? Chelsea won the league for the first time in fifty years. Subtract ten from that and you get forty...which is just how long it has been since England last won. Coincidence? I think not.

Posted by Kirk at 12:51 PM | Comments (0)

Busy two weeks ahead....

Rainy season may be over, but the financial reporting season is just beginning...and that means late nights at work for me. Considering I have been out almost every night since I returned to Tokyo, this may be a blessing in disguise.

Speaking of which, my one night of freedom from the office is also the night that we take my lazy colleague Preyash out for a farewell dinner. I would say nicer things about him because he really does work hard, but if you read the comments to various posts here, you will notice that he is always giving me a hard time. I have to make sure and get some pictures of him after he has had a few drinks. Just so you see he is not credible.

Posted by Kirk at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

Rainy season is officially over...let the fun begin

Well, all good things must come to an end. The Meteorogical Agency says that rainy season is now over. Of course, it will still be raining every now and then. But we will all be surprised and caught away from home without umbrellas.

For the record, it should be about thirty degrees every day for the next week. The thunderstorms forecast for the end of that week must be a fluke.

Posted by Kirk at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

I have been tinkering...too hot to do anything else

Well, that wonderful 19 degree weather last week is already a distant memory and we probably won't see anything like that again for awhile. It is 29 degrees now (84F) and supposedly feels like 33 (92F) thanks to the humidity. Arrrggghhhh.

Anyway, I have been making a few changes to the site today, both minor (font changes) to major (new sidebar sections). I have added a feature that lists the recent comments posted by you at the bottom of the sidebar. If you do not like it, let me know.

Also, I added a section called "my gurus" with a link to the extremely helpful Learning Movable Type pages. They have figured out how to get more out of MT and also explain it well enough that a computer misfit like myself can understand it. If you are new to MT and trying to figure out how to improve things they are highly recommended.

UPDATE: Check that out!!! I was able to get a background picture to replace the boring red color I had before. Not sure if this is the one I will use permanently, but it will do for now!

UPDATE #2: I have also expanded the size of the actual blog...it is much wider now. To make it look better I also pushed up the font sizes. My only concern is that some computers will not be able to support the width...let me know. It will probably be hot again tomorrow, so I can change it back.

Posted by Kirk at 10:50 AM | Comments (3)

July 17, 2005

Sarushima (again!) and the 4th of July barbecue

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Well, maybe not 4th of July, but it is summer and a three-day weekend. Actually, tomnorrow is Marine Day, which I mentioned in a previous post. And like America, it is not the holiday that is important, it is the barbecue.

Anyway, I was surprised to make it at all. I had agreed to meet everyone at Yokosuka-Chuo Station at 930am. Needless to say, when my phone rang at 945am and woke me up, that was a problem.
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I managed to spend the maximum time waiting on every subway/train platform and when I finally made it to the boat dock at Yokosuka, i discovered I would have another 40 minutes before the next boat.

So, instead of being on the beach at 1030-1100. I got there at 130pm. But it was worth it. Being at the beach is always very good fun and Sarushima is very comfortable compared to Tokyo. I had the opportunity to embarass myself with my bad Japanese (again...I really should take some lessons), but everyone was very polite about it, so I did not mind.

Too many people to do introductions here...you know who you are. But I did want to point out that Mitsuyo (top left picture, on the left) is really leaving to Hong Kong (this Friday) and that Tomoko is even more tan, I mean suntan, than she was last time we met.

And Sarushima had its monkey back. At least for a day.

Posted by Kirk at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

Uh oh...this can't be good news

This story has been gathered a lot of attention in Tokyo and with good reason. It seems that the deadly fault line under Tokyo is up to 17km shallower than previously expected. In short:

"A shallower earthquake source fault means that shaking in the event of a quake will be stronger," said Hiroshi Sato, a geology professor at the Earthquake Research Institute who led the study. "So estimates of anticipated damage in the metropolitan area should be reviewed."

In a way, I am glad that the story came out this week. In my very unscientific opinion it would be too much of a conicidence that the major earthquake expected to hit Tokyo would come so soon on the heels of a news story like this. That is also why I keep writing about earthquakes here. I am doing my part to keep Tokyo safe.

Posted by Kirk at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2005

Yum!

Chicken, pesto, green chili, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese...

Mix it all together and what do you get? Pizza! I made it and it was absolutely delicious. I should have taken a picture, but I was so hungry I did not even think about it.

Whenever I make a successful dinner I get more excited about cooking again. So, the question is what do I make next? Maybe something with shrimp.

Posted by Kirk at 10:18 PM | Comments (1)

July 15, 2005

Friends in high places

Obviously, someone at the Japan Times is an avid reader of my blog. On Monday, I listed the things I wanted to do (re-read it here) now that I am settled again in Tokyo.

And sure enough, today's Japan Times provides an overview of beach bars in Shonan, including Hayama. Hayama is the most difficult of the beach communities to get to because it does not have its own train service, but as the article says, it is worth the hassle. Zushi or Enoshima are much easier, but not as good.

Thanks to the Japan Times, I can map out some options. Anyone up for a trip to the beach?

Thanks to Jeremy for pointing that out! By the way, it's his fault I am obsessed with the beach here. A few years ago he called me at 2am and asked if I wanted to go to the beach. Of course, I said yes. It was one of my all-time favourite Japan experiences. We drove down with the dogs, swam in the ocean and as dawn broke, clearly saw Mt. Fuji across the bay. One quick ramen later, we were back in Tokyo (by 7am!)

Posted by Kirk at 02:57 PM | Comments (0)

You gotta love this

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Someone is using this graphic as their thumbnail picture on a Japanese weblog ranking. I nicked it because it is very cool.

Posted by Kirk at 02:49 PM | Comments (1)

The return of Matt

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So...here we are, Thursday night. And it's another good night! Tonight was the return of Matt to Japan. He lived here for some god-awful amount of time (16 years?!), but went four years ago with his lovely wife to England. And now he is back..

We all met up at Hobgoblin Akasaka. I won't go into the details, mostly because I drank a lot! Anyway, on the left...Matt with Andy. On the right, Matt with Paul. Maybe tomorrow I will expand on this. For now...yikes, need some sleep.

UPDATE: was supposed to be a quick drink or two and turned into most of the evening! Anyway, I used to work with Matt and Paul when I first arrived in Japan. So, we spent a lot of time talking about where all of our former colleagues have gone, what they are doing etc. We also talked a bit about where to live after leaving Japan. Funnily enough, all those places have warm weather and beaches!

Posted by Kirk at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2005

It's Bastille Day - time to celebrate

I completely forgot that today is Bastille Day. Must have slipped my mind when I was toiling in the fields for wages barely sufficient to feed myself. Anyway, lets go grab some torches. It is time to burn some nobles, loot their estates, and eat cake. If you happen to be stuck in the office and can't join in, you should go to this website and try this instead. After all, it is important to treat history with the respect it deserves.

UPDATE...my best score was 690!

Posted by Kirk at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

Whew...OK now

I was feeling a bit peculiar when I got back from Ex-Bar tonight. I think Tokyo can be a touch overbearing at times. So I popped Madness in the CD player. All better now.

Posted by Kirk at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Ex-Bar - a Tokyo institution

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Tonight was a good night. I met up with some friends at Ex-Bar. If you have been in Tokyo any time at all, you know about this long-time Roppongi favourite. The respectable, handsome gentleman in the picture on the right is Horst, owner of Ex-Bar and a long-time Tokyo native (if you ever there check out all the pictures on the walls...he has been here for a long and very fun time!)

Anyway, it is truly the local's local. Everyone I see when I visit has been going there for years and they all know each other. After one night with the massive quantities of great food, sport on the TV and Unterberg to wash it down, one can understand why the regulars swear by it. Anyway, I do not spend enough time there. It is a good place.

That dodgy man in the picture on the left is Dominic, also a Tokyo institution, but enough about that. And to fill in the details on the other picture, the angry aggressive German is Thomas. I am the one on the left that seems unaware a picture is being taken (even though I had given up the camera two seconds before that).

Ex-Bar is highly recommended. If you can't make it, you can always check the webcam using this link.

Posted by Kirk at 09:54 PM | Comments (3)

Going to the football...

One advantage of working for a German company is that you get BIG respect when its the Year of Germany in Japan. I know...I can sense you are jealous already.

Anyway, we were able to get some discounted tickets for the 30 July friendly between Jubilo Iwata and Bayern Munchen. Ok...it is a 7% discount, so maybe we are only talking about 'a little' respect, but that is still better than nothing.

I am not a supporter of either team, so I am not making a statement about anything. (Bring Yeovil out to Japan and you would see some real excitement!), but it should be good to watch live football, so I am looking forward to it. The match is at the national stadium, which is very (very!) close to where I live, making it convenient as well.

I was talking to one of the "actual" Gemans in the office today and he said he would not pay to go see a German team in a friendly because the quality was not very good. (It's a good point in a way...the reason these teams come out to Asia is to make money and the price of my ticket will help them over-pay Oliver Kahn for another year). Anyway, I agree with him, but wonder why he limited his assessment to friendlies?

A little extra on the Japanese challengers can be found in the entended entry...

This is a description of the 2005 Season Club Slogan for Jubilo Iwata. Now you see why I am going? I have an inner compass!

"Rashin - The path to glory" is Jubilo Iwata's club slogan for the 2005 season. This season is a time when national and international competitions are going ahead, and we are preparing to have our total strength as a club challenged. To succeed in such a fiercely competitive season, we need to set our priorities so that we know "what takes precedence over what," and accurately judge a situation that changes by the minute as the season goes by. "Rashin," or compass needle, refers to the direction that needs to be taken by our club. To make our value on playing "world-level football" a reality in situations where difficult and severe choices must be made, this slogan symbolizes the solidarity of the team, the staff, and the supporters as we decide what takes precedence. People affiliated with Jubilo Iwata each have an internal compass and show confidence and a strong will to succeed to go forward to the final stage.
Posted by Kirk at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2005

Duvet shopping...plan B

Sorry - I meant to write something Sunday about this. So, I made my long-awaited foray into the world of Japanese bed linens, but I have come across some early obstacles.

Laura Ashley in Japan has a fine selection of duvet covers - it is truly impressive - but no duvets. Not at any store. Really.

Plan B is to go the department stores and poke around - I have asked some of my Japanese friends if the single size corresponds to that in Europe. So far, the best answer has been..."you should go check". So, I will.

And yes Sandy...your ISP still thinks I am a spammer!

Posted by Kirk at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

Who would notice?

So, this story seems to be getting a lot of play. Apparently, cellular service is being blocked in the tunnels going into NYC to prevent terrorist bombs from being set off remotely. The logic is sound, but I am wondering...did they ever have it on? I mean cellular coverage is not exactly one of the high points in the US, is it?

Posted by Kirk at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

Hey! what's going on here?

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Yesterday, I was all geared up to write about the return of hot/humid weather, but I was too fatigued. There was even a conversation or two in the office on how miserable the summers could be here. On that basis, I figured I would have a week or so to moan and complain about it, so why rush? It felt like 30 degrees and humid as can be.

But look at this...today, it is a cool 19 degrees (66 for the celsius challenged). I mean, call me crazy, but this is Tokyo in July. I don't feel right unless I am sweaty and uncomfortable.

It must be global warming. Or I have finally got the knack of this prayer thing. Hmmmm...what else should I be wishing for?

Posted by Kirk at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2005

Gearing up for summer (finally!)

One of the difficult things about my job is all the traveling. I know I have complained about this before, so I will skip most of the details. But I do have to say that it wreaks havoc on my attempts to get out and see more of Japan.

It has been two weeks since I got back to Tokyo and I am finally settled back in. Throw in the five weeks I was gone and that is almost two months that I have been out of action!!

Sometime before the end of the year, I want to do these things. It is in no particular order, and any one of these may be replaced by a suddenly "cooler" plan,

* Visit Kasama for pottery
* Go to Hayama and have a few drinks at a bar on the beach
* See a baseball game
* Walk the Yamamote Line
* Watch the fireworks
* Spend the afternoon at a matsuri
* Get out to a ryokan for the weekend (or at least an onsen)
* Return to Sado Island for the music festival (maybe...have been twice)

And that does not include going to Hokkaido for a late Summer tour (already planned) or any other place in Japan that I mean to go to but keep putting off (Okinawa, Mt Fuji, Kyoto etc).

Obviously, most of these are summer activities, so it looks like I will be busy! My next business trip is in September and it probably will be another long one. So, why do I always think about things like this on a Monday morning?

Posted by Kirk at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2005

Wow these pictures look so much better

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So, check that out. The new camera works like a dream. On the left, is my kitchen...on the right, my bookcases and the old kitchen table that I have not got around to doing something with.

Maybe I should have gone outside to take some pictures. As good as these look, it is a bit boring.

Posted by Kirk at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

Upgrade in the works

I have been meaning to update the style template for this blog, but I keep finding other things to do (like reading other people's blogs to come up with ideas). But that does not mean I have not been busy making improvements.

Today, I went shopping for a new digital camera. The one I have now has proven to be good, but it is only four megapixels, while the newest ones are five. Of course, the real question is whether I need to have that extra megapixel of resolution. And to be honest, I really don't.

But I did need the 2.5inch display and a smaller size, so I bought it anyway. I also bought a carrying case and a memory card. I most have been feeling extravagant!

Posted by Kirk at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)

Excellent show of support

I ran across a very cool site today as I was aimlessly clicking my way through the Internet. You should check it out.

Posted by Kirk at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2005

More pictures!

I added some pictures to the Prague photo album...check them out if you have time. Click on the link "Go to pictures" and look for Prague.

I still have to put some up from Vienna, and I should add some from the rest of Europe at some point.

I am hesitant because I really think I need to get better software for the photo albums. I just do not like what I am using and I do not thinkit looks very good. Of course, maybe I just do not know how to use it!

Posted by Kirk at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

On an even lighter note...

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I went out tonight with some old friends...these are some of them. From left to right: Mamiko (I owe her a pizza), Mitsuyo (moving to HK for one year - terrible!), Haruko (the strongest woman I know), Tomoko (that savage tan only hours of weekend tennis can provide), and Rie (very sleepy - surprised she was awake for this). Lovely, aren't they?

I told them I was ready to write some book about them because they are all so different. Seeing how difficult it was to get these two paragraphs down...I might hold off on that idea.

Sorry Dominic - did not catch a picture of you.

Posted by Kirk at 02:23 AM |