Sunday, 12 August 2007


Tokyo was interesting. Very hot and humid, I wish I had been sent there in any other season than summer. Winter would have been lovely. Minimum temp was around 27 degrees, max up to 37.

The group I went to teach were lovely, and I got to spend some time with some Australian colleagues, one of whom I've known for years. There were issues: when do I ever get to do something that goes smoothly? but they weren't insumountable. The Japanese had trouble installing their server in the first place. While they did manage to install by the time I arrived, by the second day the performance issues were so bad that I ended up distributing a VMware image to everyone. I had been prepared for some issues, but nothing as bad as we actually saw: the specs of this server were infinitely better than the one on which I trained a similar number of people in June. We had performance issues then, but nothing like we saw this week. I wish we'd had time to reinstall: maybe it was something to do with the changes they had to make after the initial install.

The Japanese in the group managed to overcome their cultural tendency not to ask questions pretty well (the Australians had no reservations to lose). I was worried that they wouldn't ask anything, but I spent a 2-hour session with them on Wednesday evening. I always feel terrible that I don't speak any Japanese: I know how hard it must be to overcome one's fear of asking questions in a language you don't speak very well. They generally get their point across, though.

Between the server issues, prep for the course and the timezone change I didn't get much sleep. I usually adjust within about a week, but my body steadfastly refused to believe that it was in Tokyo, and I woke up at 3:30 most mornings and couldn't get back to sleep. Why it thought it was on the west coast of the USA, I'm not quite sure, since I never went to bed before 10 pm. I also woke up with a migraine on Tuesday morning: thankfully I did wake up at 3:30 and the drugs took effect by the time I left for work.

I did manage to do a tiny bit of shopping... On Wednesday evening the three Aussies and I went into Shinjuku and had a look around. We found a 100 Yen store: the equivalent of a dollar shop or a pound shop, so I bought some random things including some sweet little buttons.

teddy buttons

Must knit baby clothes...

I went back in on Friday evening because I wanted to explore a shop which sold kimono fabric. I decided that most of that was too expensive, although I think the price might have included making up into a kimono: I couldn't really tell.

I then ventured out of the station and found a little fabric shop. I aquired some quilted fabric and some embroidery templates, all packaged in this lovely if slightly inexplicable bag:

felicite bag

How could anyone resist taste of best selection especially for you? I couldn't. I'm not sure what I'll do with them just yet...
quilted fabric natural star

quilted fabric shell quilted fabric star

templates and clasps

The only yarn they had was a terrifyingly lurid range of acrylic: clearly not a knitting shop...

I then ventured somewhat further, and found a bead shop. It occured to me when I got back to the hotel and read the writing on the bag they gave me that if I had used the lift, I might have found more fabric and yarn, but I don't really mind. I got quite a decent haul anyway including a present for my MIL, who beads.

My most exciting purchase was this:

bead applier

it can be used to sew beads to fabric, so I will have to have a try. The instructions are in Japanese and pictures. Thankfully I understand the latter.

bead applier instructions

I even have some beads to try with...

Tokyo beads

The city was humming: a bit too much for me in the heat. It was still 31 degrees at 8pm.

Shinjuku sunset cloud Shinjuku street

Shinjuku Lumine steps

I went for a walk at 4:45 this morning: still opressively hot, but I wanted to see a shrine one of my colleagues had described, and said it had been open when she had turned up one morninig at 5am. Unfortunately it obviously didn't open early on Saturday, so I could only walk around the outside. My camera chose to run out of battery at this point, so I didn't get many photographs, and I should have remembered that just because my eyes adjusted to the light-levels, it didn't mean that the camera could. Humans are more adaptable than I give them credit for.

Yasukuni Shrine entrance dawn Hanzomon streetscape dawn ginko sillhouette
ginko tree flower shop access cover

I then packed and got ready, leaving at 7:30. I'm not quite sure why, but I thought that there were 4.5 hours between 7:30 and 11:00, not 3.5. By the time the taxi arrived at the TCAT to catch the bus it was already 8:00 and I should have been at the airport... There was an accident on the motorway, so I didn't get to the check-in line until 9:30... a little nerve-wracking. I am getting better these days: I've finally convinced myself that worrying and getting agitated doesn't get me anywhere any quicker, so after the initial shock of realisation I was OK and slept most of the bus trip. The worst thing that happens is that the company has to buy me another airline ticket, which they wouldn't have to do if they were less cheap and bought me fully flexible return ticket in the first place.

I'm writing this on the plane, and I've got about 5 hours of a 12-hour flight to go. I got some more sleep at about the right time UK-wise, so I'll see how this timezone change goes. Hopefully better than the last.

The main issue with Tokyo was trying not to offend people. The culture is different enough that this was a constant worry to me. I blew my nose in the classroom, and realised my mistake as soon as I heard giggling. Thankfully my respiratory allergies were absolutely fine and I didn't need to blow my nose after the first day: proving to me again that living in London is not good for me.

My skin allergies went slightly beserk, but I think this is a combination of the heat and humidity, and whatever the hotel washed the sheets with.

This time next week I will be on holiday in Scotland! Yay! Unfortunately I have to do a day trip to Brussels the day before I go on holiday - work rang me up and insisted that I do it, even though I don't know enough about what they want me to talk about. The joys...

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