Be Beautiful

Were we ever meant for something beautiful? Some people certainly seem like they were don’t they? But I suppose hindsight is always 20/20. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything of significance on even just a personal level seems to have a ‘je ne c’est quoi’ sense of purpose. Now I’m not necessarily hinting that you should double pump your fist and shout, ‘Who’s the man/woman?!’ just because you managed to open a can of corned beef without snapping that stupid key, though conversely if that gives you a sense of accomplishment, dare I even say, a sense of deep personal fulfillment, then why not. But I suppose we would never know a Superman existed (even if fictitiously) until the day he dawned his tights and flew through the air. Imagine if he just stayed home in his PJ’s and watched tv.


I was walking through Yoyogi Park on the weekend on my way to a little Cherry Blossom picnic when my attention was grabbed by several different attractions. There were the old school, 50’s, Grease wannabe Japanese rockers, the ever present juggling, magician, comedian but most enticingly, young amateur rock bands. It seems on sign of any clear day, these young bands will haul their full gear to the park, set up shop and rock out. The energy that fills that area is quite an experience to soak in; and these are just kids in their early 20’s. Admirable.

 So I slid up to two Akihabara types rocking out on the sidewalk, furiously head banging their heads to the tune of one of the bands with the loudest sound at that moment. I just marveled at the fact that they were doing something that just looked so fun and they were good too. I’m assuming they wrote their own songs and rented studio space to practice and record their own CD’s. As a tribute to their enthusiasm, as an atonement to my own lack of zeal in my youth, and to the encouragement of their paths wherever this may lead them, I bought two of their CD’s for 500 yen a piece. I’ve been listening to their CD for the past 3 days straight. 

So what does this have to be with us being beautiful? Well, I suppose my definition of beauty here is not necessarily the end product, though that’s even better if we find success or create something actually beautiful, but rather the gall, the nerve, the spirit to go do something we really enjoy doing, are interested in or that just peaks our curiosity to want to try. The beauty is not in the end product but in the attempt. To live a life boundless, free, courageous. To not fear what we fear, including ourselves. And I think the more we reach out, the more we put ourselves out there, the more we may even begin to see, understand more of ourselves. Why not eh? It’ll be fun.

Japanese 50’s Rockers  Young Band



Carpenter’s LevelSometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the real and the imagined. It becomes even more difficult under the influence of sense disorienting environments or substances – say being in the middle of a packed club with loud, booming music or alcohol. As for me, I have none of the above to attribute my most recent belief that my right leg may be longer than my left.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is a significantly huge difference. There is no grotesque bent hunch; no dragging of the feet as I walk, But such things when noticed by someone who notices the wrinkles in saran-wrapping handiwork, can be a problem; a pre-occupation on slow days or most noticeably making way down any stretch of corridor or street.

I noticed that every time I buy pants from Uniqlo (imagine Japanese Gap) the lengths are never right. They always feel too short; and I’m just not the type of man who likes to flash a lot of ankle. Call me a prudish ankle-foot virgin or just a guy that feels it’s a fashion no-no; either way it’s deflating to one’s public image. Imagine being seated in front of a smiling beauty on the subway only to find out later that her mirth and merriment were not so much directed at one’s stunningly good looks but towards one’s bare ankles, and droopy mismatched socks. It would be a crushing blow to the ego to say the least.

Nevertheless, I either feel like a sailorman without a ship (sailors have short pants); a nerd without a Star Trek convention to congregate to (nerds have short pants); or Michael Jackson minus the white socks, magic white rhinestone glove and signature dance moves (MJ has short pants). Whether this is because of sub-par fabric quality and uneven shrinkage after washing, poor workmanship on the part of the person doing the alterations, the cross-eyed condition of the measurer of which I failed to notice or to my own distorted abilities of being able to accurately perceive length, I can not say.

So to combat this problem and to try to remove at least the alteration element from the list of possible causes, I bought a pair of pants “off the rack.” Granted, the pants were a little short but the sales assistant convinced me that they were, “Just size!” So I bought a pair of “Just Size” pants I already thought were not “just size.” Shame on me. (Hmm, perhaps this is the true origin of this short pant problem – listening to sales staff.) But to squeeze the lemon juice over the open wound, I found not only were the pants “just” a little short but the lengths were different! Egads, somebody give me a rubber bone to bite down on so I don’t swallow my own tongue.

How do I know that the pants are short and off kilter? I have asked at least three to four people on occasion in regards to me pants when I had the chance. It was with such feedback that one trusted compatriot, that I have only met about three times on occasion over a five month span, informed me of the pant leg discrepancy when asked for her honest fashion opinion. “Am I a dork or are these pants short?” Discrepancies as you know can drive people to the brink of insanity and beyond, maybe even as far as Surrey. Ask any accountant.

Ever since then, I have begun to collect supporting facts: the way my right leg sometimes trips up a little, or that it hits the pavement in stride once in a blue moon, or the strange sensation of feeling like a waddling penguin.

Carpenter’s Level
No matter I suppose if this is the new reality with which I must live with. Though more tests will need to be done to confirm the matter. Possibly, if I can figure out a way to attach a carpenter’s level on my belt, I may will finally be able to arrive at the real truth.

Overeating – Tabesugimashita

I have Fridays off, so today my roomie told me about a great place he found – all you can eat for only 1000 yen which is about $10CDN.

The restaurant was just about 5 blocks away so three of us headed off. We found the small establishment, opened the door and were surrounded by buffet tables. The sight was something to behold but before we could lay our tongs on the grub, the kindly clerk requested the 1,000 yen per head entry fee. Understandable.

There was oden, snow crab legs, sashimi, sukiyaki, chicken teriyaki, specialty rice, veggies, soup, fried fish, salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, tofu, mochi, and tofu dessert.

I went for 2 rounds plus a final round of dessert. But the last round of dessert did me in. I couldn’t move from the table for little awhile. My two roomies seemed amused for some reason. I didn’t think it was a lot of food actually but apparently most of the items were quite heavy. Plus each time you go up, they give you rice. I guess at some point the rice just expands.

Outside I knew I was in trouble when I was moving slower than an old man with a hernia and a broken foot. It’s amazing what you can glean from context. I didn’t have to know the vocab to know they were yakking on in Japanese about whether I would “return some of the food”.

That was some meal, none of us were hungry the remainder of the day until about 9 or 10pm. I ended up making a nightcap meal of spinach, tofu, shrimp soup.

Six Months

pap_0020.JPGA lot has happened on this side of globe but I just have not had the time, the mood, or the energy to document, mull over, express or describe much of it. But I did finally pass my first 6 month anniversary date of coming here last month, on October 26th. Six months just like that. Time flies.


Yes, I think I have been stressed the past few months. Ever since the summer and starting work I developed some sort of strange skin rash on my back. It doesn’t hurt nor itch but dry patches had appeared. It may have been the result of a culmination of factors:

– the possibility of an unclean matress from the previous tenant,
– the high heat and humidity of summer here,
– the sweating and excessive salt on the skin,
– the hardness/softness/mineral properties of the water,
– the fact that I showered at least twice a day in the summer,
– using a cheap soap that was harsh because.. Well, it was cheap,
– the long work day,
– the poor diet and odd eating times,
– adjusting to life living in a room with 6-7 other people/personalities/psychoses,
– the lack of good conversations,
– the lack of private space and quiet space to think,
– adjusting to a new environment and
– trying to build a life

have all probably raised my normal stress levels as compared to life in Vancouver.

Moreover, about a week and a half ago I strained my jaw by yawning. As odd as that sounds, it happened. With more pap_0029.JPGinformation now it seems that it was possibly caused by clenching or grinding my teeth while sleeping thereby exhausint/straining the jaw – again perhaps a sign of stress.

This jaw problem had actually happened before in Canada though so it is a pre-existing condition. It seems I may have inherited this from my dad as he grinds his teeth in his sleep too. I worry about my dad though since he also has sleep apnea.. And he had a heart attack at such a young age! Is the writing on the wall?

The doctor prescribed me an anti-inflammatory for 7 days so I’m taking that now to relax the jaw TM joint (Templar Mandiblar Joint). If things still are troublesome I’ll probably go get a mouth guard made by a dentist for use at night. Without a dental plan here, that equates to about $300.

img_0272.JPGAside from the Cabin Fever though, I have found time to have fun here and there. I went to Kyoto for a few days with Vince, Ena, Taka, and other people last month. Have gone out for dinner with people here and there too.

But it’s getting colder and colder here as we’re now into late November. The colder it gets the more relaxed I feel actually. It reminds me of Vancouer. I had a great time about a week and half ago. It was pouring rain and a bit cold. Some of the streets were empty and I went out with my 65cm umbrella in hand, walked the empty streets in the crisp, cool, wet weather and felt right at home. My roomies thought I was loonie but I told them “Loonie” is our $1 coin, I’m not Loonie, I’m Canadian. As a Vancouverite, there is something about the rain that is very img_0284.JPGcomforting. It’s in my bones I suppose.

Well, I think the first half of my Working Holiday here has been largely a setting up and adjusting phase. Now that I’m into my second half, there will be more to consider and think about. Do I stay or do I go back? The quality of life in Vancouver is definitely hands down, much better but there seem to be things here that still make me want to, need to find out or experience before I return. It was nice to see MW in town for a few days.

But who knows? If it turns out that my body seems to be taking a beating here for whatever unexplicable reasons, I may need to choose my health over my overall desires to stay in Japan.


BTW, having come here, I can really appreciate the quality and level of medical care we get in Canada. Which gets me started on this HORRIBLE “dermatologist” that charged me $120 for his “CONSULTATION”!?!

I walked into his office and I already smelled trouble. Trouble, as it were, manifested itself in a nervous, twitchy looking doctor in his late 40’s consulting an old dusty medical textbook on skin conditions as I walked in. Can you hear my internal groan? I can understand somewhat, what Edward Munch was thinking when he started his work, ‘The Scream’.

He took a look at my back and said, “I think it might be a fungal infection.” I said, no it’s not, the previous GP took a look, said the same thing, (WHICH reminds me of that horrible visit!..) did a fungal test on some skin samples and the tests came back negative. But the Derm goes, well, lets test again to be sure. OK, sure, I’ll try it. The tests came back negative.

We then sit down, and he tells me he thinks is blah-blah skin condition and that he would prescribe me something to which I asked what the cause might be. I wasn’t interested in just making it go away, I wanted to know why but he had no clue. The part that almost had my eyes pop was when he told me what he wanted to prescibe. “I’m going to give you a half fungal, half steroid compound ointment.” “Ummm, I thought the fungal came back negative just like the first time so why are you giving me an anti-fungal?” “Well, the tests were negative but just in case. Anyhow, I think you can expect your skin problem to be gone after this treatment.” Rolling my eyes and groaning internally again, I said, ok, ok fine. I was desperate and wanted a remedy and there were no other signs of help so far.

The fun session doesn’t end there though. I sat and looked at him expectantly and he looked back at me. I of course was waiting for him to give me the prescription he had just mentioned.. Until I realized he forgot or something and that he was staring back at me probably thinking, “I already treated this guy, why’s he sitting there staring at me??” After a while of that, I finally said, “Umm, are you going to give me the prescription??” “Oh! Right, yes.” He takes his pen from his shirt pocket, clicks it and realizes he doesn’t know where the prescription pad is. He rummages around and finally finds it, THEN.. The horror continues.

His pen hovers over the pad about 10-15 seconds and I again groan as I realize he has no clue what to prescribe. After another short eternity he finally says, “oh, please wait in the lobby, I’ll have the nurse pass it to you shortly.” So I wait in the lobby for 15 minutes for him to probably rummage through his textbooks. I shuddered as I took the prescription, having no confidence in whether he knew what he was giving me. I went down to the pharmacy and asked, “What is this stuff??” Having the assurance of the pharmacist, that it was a low level medication not likely to cause any problems, I took it. It made things midly better but never solved the problem.

Oh.. Going back to the other horrible experience. The GP that did the first skin test gets me to lie on the table so he can get a swab. He then gets this small bottle of something. He takes out the dripper, drips several drops in a couple areas and as the liquid proceeded to burn my skin, he then tells me after the fact, “Oh, it might sting a bit.”


The Sports Gym

Saturday, October 7th, 2006
9:16pm, Caffe Veloce

Nishi-Shinbashi, Tokyo

Beverage: Hot Cafe Mocha

Weather: Fine

The Sports Gym  pa0_0287.JPG

It goes without saying that some things, many things and almost all things here in Japan are different compared to in Canada. Some of the lifers in Japan would immediately tell me to, “Go home if you don’t like it!” Yes, some people in the land of the rising sun wake up on the wrong side of the bed a lot. I’m not saying I don’t like things, rather observations are what I make and making observations is a natural, subconscious or conscious, hard-wired function we all carry out. I suppose the difficult task in making observations is to be able to make the distinction between what are the facts and what are the pinch, sprinkle, dash or heaping handful of opinion, bias, and judgments. 

For some reason or other, people say, nay, must say, “sports gym” here as opposed to “gym.” So, while in Rome, I did what I was supposed to and have gotten into the habit of referring to the gym as the “sports gym” every now and then. It seems if you tell the local folks here that you will go to the gym after work, you may very well get blank stares, furled brows, raised eyebrows, and “heehhh’s” thrown at you. It’s not until you say, “sports gym” do you see the sigh of relief – good he’s been converted. 

So I went to the sports gym tonight but a single sport did I play not. A single ball did I touch not. Instead, I went for a swim in the 4th floor pool. Going back to differences, swimming is a very tightly controlled activity in Tokyo. There are strict parameters, rules. Firstly, Speedos and other “ass tight” spandex garb is preferred but if you have short shorts, that’s ok too. I opted for the short shorts – but not the hot pants type of short, the marathon runner type of short. Secondly, you must wear goggles and thirdly you must wear a swimming cap. Then there is the whistle blow and the scurrying and shooing of everyone out of the pool for the mandatory 10 minute rest break.  

pa0_0285.JPGI bought a 50cm to 55cm rated cap, size M and it was TIGHT so I was a bit concerned. Though, my initial concern was more in thinking about what a dork I’d look like with the swimming cap ridges imbedded into my forehead afterwards as I returned home. Second to that concern was the, I wonder how much this is impeding blood circulation to/in the head. I didn’t think my head was so big actually. Maybe I should stop telling myself, “You’re good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it people like you,” in the mornings as I brush my teeth and trim my nose hairs in front of the bathroom mirror. 

As an end note, I took a personal tour and inspection of the facilities just to make sure that everything was up to snuff, this being my first visit to the complex. It was a shame I hadn’t had the foresight to bring my white inspection glove. My favourite floor was the 4th floor in the central building. I stood and waited, as the elevator whirred and droned upwards with no expectations or hopes of what I might find.  

The doors opened and I was in Hawaii; or if not really Hawaii, paradise none the less. I came upon a Hawaiin dance class in mid session. There stood thirty smiling, attractive women, row upon row, shaking handheld pom poms, wearing blue/yellow long floral skirts, sporting flower petal headbands and radiating in uniform white, ridged tank tops. Add a live rhythmic drum, the mesmerizing voice of Hawaiin chant/song, choregraphed moves, perfectly synched swishing hips, and delicately flowing arm/hand movements like ocean waves and the inevitable mesmerizing result was, “them’s the truck, me’s the deer.” It made me want to learn Hawaiin dance but I’m sure no one wants to see me in a coconut bra, though Halloween is coming up. <1h10>


Flat on My Back (Not a song title)

pa0_0222.JPGIt was a bad start to a wet morning. I found myself this morning at about 9:20am flat on my back, with my legs splayed and kicked up into the air on the subway station platform. You see, I was clip-clopping my way gingerly down the stairs when I heard the unmistakable call of an incoming train. (Squeeeeeiiel-squeeiieel.) I say clip-clopped because I recently bought a pair of shoes that have a wooden heel construction/core and which actually make clop-clop sounds as I walk along hard surfaces. But there I was in mid-stair flight, when I heard the train. I bounded down the steps, whipped out my commuter pass, and expertly slid said pass through the mouth of an open and awaiting turnstall.  

Everything was as clockwork. While I was negotiating the turnstall, the train had pulled in and the doors had opened and a steady stream of black, navy, and grey suits streamed out. The warning chime sounded, signaling that the doors were about to close. I knew that I had precious time remaining to make it through the door. Strangely, it was as if the gates of heaven opened up and my salvation lay at the other side. I had to get on! I was going to get on. I cleared the gate and made a dash for the nearest open door in front of me.  

This was to be my undoing. There was too much dash and too little grip on the underside of my brown, tanned leather cloppers. As I approached the door, my legs automatically reflexed in response to the speed and attempted to put on the brakes; put on the brakes on a semi-wet, slick, hard surfaced floor. My momentum coupled with all factors resulted in a big, hard, splat. As I lay on the floor though, there was just one thing on my mind – get through those dang doors! There was no way, I was gonna miss that train.  

Disoriented, I flopped, rolled, and recovered; stood to my feet and scrambled in like a drunken man. I just made it. I regained my composure, peeled off some of the loose skin from my scuffed hands and fingers and brushed off some of the water as well as some of the curious stares. Embarrassing I suppose but who cares. I was on the train. I made it. In some ways, it felt like rumbling down field and scoring a touchdown. Somedays, you just gotta do what you gotta do. 

Maza Famu

img_0101.JPG    img_0130.JPG

It’s a national holiday in Japan today. I went to the farm, the Mother Farm! Out of a seven-person panel I was the only one who voted no to going on a day when rain was forecast at an 80% chance. But who am I to argue against the majority.

img_0119.JPG  img_0138.JPG

And yes it rained. It dumped but that was part of the charm apparently. A good story to tell. All in all, I did enjoy myself somewhat if I didn’t feel so tired for some reason. I ended up keeping to myself a bit though opened up a bit in the confidence of the sheep who listened to me intently. Actually all they cared about was eating.

Since that was the way it was, I had no problem eating either – lamb that is. We had what was called a Jingus Khan lunch which is meat on a hot plate, Mongolian style.

A good experience I think. I petted several varieties of sheep, visiting semi-rural Chiba, watched a pig race, drank yogurt, milked a cow… and washed my haneds a lot.