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latest posts
All good things 8 years ago
Pictures of the solar eclipse 9 years ago
Failure at the JLPT 9 years ago
avg weekly posts since return(target 5): 0.1

Hey, welcome to j0hn.jp, where I'll be documenting my life in Japan over the next few months. This site is here mainly to stay in touch with friends and family back home, but feel free to take a look around if you're interested. If you'd like to contact me please login for my e-mail address.
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All good things
12 April - 8 years ago
This chapter of my life is over, at least for now. Also, I'm never writing my own blogging platform again (seemed like a cool idea in 2006). I still blog occasionally at john.taipei. Thanks for reading!
Pictures of the solar eclipse
23 July - 9 years ago
Unfortunately there was nothing to really take pictures of. In Tokyo it was supposed to be a 70% eclipse, but it was so cloudy/foggy/rainy/dark in the first place yesterday morning that the eclipse didn't really make a difference. I was looking out for it and although I knew the exact time it was supposed to happen I didn't notice it get darker at all...

Better luck next millennium, huh (;^_^A
Failure at the JLPT
20 July - 9 years ago
aka 日本語能力試験大失敗

Two weeks ago, most people from my class and me went to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, Level 2.

Requiring the knowledge of most general use grammar as well as 1000 Kanji, just like the ones in the title, and comprising listening, reading, kanji, grammar and vocabulary sections, the JLPT is one of the most widely recognised qualifications for the Japanese Language.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I failed this time. Everyone I have spoken to about it said it was difficult compared to the past tests but, the pass mark stays the same regardless of how many people pass/fail so that doesn't fill me with much hope. Still, I'm thinking of skipping level 2 and going straight for level 1 in the winter. See how badly I can fail that one too, lol

Us on the train on the way home. We may look happy, but it has a more to do with tequila than our feelings about the test...
(image redacted to avoid awkwardness - 2018)
Comments fixed
20 July - 9 years ago
Today I looked at the site for the first time ever in Internet Explorer.

I didn't get around to fixing the broken IE layout, but comments should now work from IE, and any other browser.
20 July - 9 years ago
Healthy Pizza! (apparently)
4 July - 9 years ago
Just recieved this e-mail from Pizza Hut Japan

Mapley John 様 こんにちは!

チーズママ「もちろんピザに決まってるでしょ! チーズも



Hi John Mapley!
It's Pizza Hut's mascot, Cheese Jr. hereô
It's gradually getting warmer, which means Summer's finally come, huh.
If you want a fun summer of playing by the sea or by the mountains, you're going to need to be in good health and good stamina™
So Mama, what should you eat at a time like this?

Cheese Mama: "Why, pizza of course! Actually Pizza Hut pizza, with its plentiful toppings of cheese and vegetables, is a very nutritious/balanced meal, you know. In Summer you need to eat more pizza."

Ah, I see! Not to mention right now at Pizza Hut you can win that popular new game, "My Summer Vacation 4"! Let's all have a fun Summer with Pizza Hut this year tooô

Isn't there some kind of law against this?
Coca-Cola - now with Green Tea!!
4 July - 9 years ago
Due to popular demand Coca-Cola Japan recently came out with this:


Coca-Cola No Calorie Plus catechin - Green Tea Flavor...catchy name!

While it smells a little of Green Tea, it tastes of Diet Coke. As for the catechin, I'm not sure what that's supposed to do for me, but I'm not feeling the effects yet.

They were on sale at 7-Eleven for 100‰~. Which is guess means it's already discontinued?!
I lied about the popular demand
j0hn around Tokyo
4 July - 9 years ago
Seems like I'm practically a household name these days...


Back (for sure)
4 July - 9 years ago
Just finished fixing the site and adding a new feature. Hopefully you got a mail about it but, you can now get mail notifications of new posts on the site. To edit your settings make sure you're logged in and click your username at the top of any page (or click here).

I also reverted back to the old j0hn.jp domain name, since the katakana version (ƒWƒ‡ƒ“Djpj was causing some people problems.

Fixing the site turned out to be a lot quicker than I thought - made me wish I did it sooner!

Looking forward to getting blogging again...
Back (or is it?)
4 July - 9 years ago
Looking back, I know I haven't exactly kept all the promises made in the last few posts.

But I've made the decision to keep this blog as updates as possible for my last 8 weeks in Japan.

So today I'm fixing all the broken code.
Major Problems
7 February - 10 years ago
Something happened to the source code for the site.

It's mainly my fault for not having a recent backup. I think it's also fair to say that if SmartFTP had uploaded the latest code fully, rather than just the first 479 lines (out of...well, a lot more than 479), it would've been nice. Grandpa John and Robin let me know a few days ago (thank you!) but the source was already long gone from my computer's temporary memory. I guess this is the price for using the "Edit with" function in SmartFTP rather than downloading and keeping regular backups of code.

I'm currently looking into getting a backup from my host. If that's not possible, I may switch to off-the-shelf blog software like Wordpress. The code currently in use is very old and it would take a long time to manually re-code up to what I had before the loss.

If you can't log in or comment right now, that's because of the old code. I don't have as much time for j0hn.jp as I'd like at the moment but I'll get it fixed asap.

Break Time and photos...and Happy New Year!
13 January - 10 years ago
Yet again. This time it's not because of lazyness but because of all kinds of reponsibilities...

the secret's out

I'll be back this time next week with regular updates.

I've also decided to upload all my photos and videos (or 95% of them) to flickr... I'll start next week, with about 100 new photos/videos a day until they're all published. There's a lot of cool (albeit blurry) shots of Tokyo and some outside of Tokyo, people I hang out with (and some I used to), and more.

When I get time there's also going to be e-mail updates and j0hn.jp radio.

Maybe I'll even get around to disabling the obnoxious xmas design!!
Merry Xmas!!!!!
24 December - 10 years ago
I made an ecard. Couldn't send it 'till now 'cos my internet connection wasn't (and still isn't) working...

Anyway, click here...thanks!
Unique Japanese Drinks I
19 December - 10 years ago
Oh all I want for Xmas is White Yoghurt flavour Pepsi.

Devoted Japanese Shopkeeping
19 December - 10 years ago
There are some stores, even in central(ish) Tokyo, which genuinely appear as though they lack the relatively key necessity of customers. This doesn't seem to bother them, though, and while stores in my home town of Loughton, Essex may open and close after only a couple of months, Japanese stores tend to resolve to staying open longer and longer hours in the hope of catching some foot-traffic, at, say


5am on a saturday morning, when this photo was taken. I'd just walked home from Shibuya, taking about 90 minutes and had seen hardly a single person on the streets the whole time.

But hey, if I had wanted to buy some women's clothes imported from Europe on my way home, they might have had a customer.
Which is stranger?
19 December - 10 years ago
Part of a new campaign promoting politeness on public transport.

The text in the middle reads "Which is stranger?"

I know what some people may be thinking - is that kind of poster campaign really necessary in Japan? Well, while people are generally a lot more polite over here, the Japanese youth are apparently becoming less and less so, and I have seen people who can barely stand clinging to the handles while kids in school uniform stay sitting. Not to say it's common though.
I went to Kamakura a month ago!
19 December - 10 years ago
I've been slacking off again...ending now.

A few weeks ago, when it was still relatively warm - I guess similar to English summer - I went to Kamakura with two guys from my old class at school, and their new classmates. Although I wasn't paying attention to the names of any of the places we visited, and I didn't have my camera, it was a lot of fun.

We left from Shibuya 10am, early for us afternoon students, and we were in Kamakura by 11.30. After arriving at the train station we went straight to the first temple grounds

We all found it interesting that I was the only one given the English info book with my ticket - the others, all foreigners, got nothing.

My classmates

The grounds we visited were more commercialised than Kyoto, and after the initial entrance fee there was an extra fee for almost every area. That said, the amount of money they receive was reflected in the amazing condition of the grounds and gardens.

Then we headed to a street market

and ate sushi for lunch

before visiting a famous temple (anyone know the name) on a mountain


Then it started to get dark


and we headed back, too tired to do much else.

Great day!
This guy is gross
15 December - 10 years ago
I know people of many faiths read this blog (just joking, I know no-one reads this rubbish><), but anyone think this guy is not gross? (I'm talking about Ted Haggard, not Richard Dawkins)

You might wanna skip forward to 4:30.

Don't worry, this is the only religion related post I'll ever make here.
Oooo, it's the obligatory tacky xmas design...
13 December - 10 years ago
やばいなあぁぁぁぁ...not available in lite mode, sorry Gpa :-(
11 December - 10 years ago
All videos on j0hn.jp require flash

This was a little while ago now, but I went bowling with friends from school.

We played guys vs girls, and the guys lost...by a long, long way...

Cute train
9 December - 10 years ago
It's the train where the drivers are required to speak to themselves, there's no fixed timetable. The seats are too small for almost everyone, the pass-card has a mascot that's best described as adorable, and paying to board is practically optional.
Oh, and almost every day on my way to school we have to stop to wait for traffic lights - the road has a higher priority than the 世田谷線 (Setagaya-line) ^_^

Dear Landlord
30 November - 10 years ago
Suure, just go ahead and come into my apartment while I'm out. Not like I'd appreciate a warning of any kind. Besides, like all foreigners I'm too stupid to notice when the garbage disposal info sheet on my wall suddenly changes one day.

I'll be back with more interesting stuff than this, starting after my big test...
8 November - 10 years ago
Well, looks like I'm a big disappointment to a certain parent(父).

Since I came to Japan I've had intermittent rashes on my chest and back, and even a little on my face. It can get kind of depressing at times, and I've been trying to work out why. I eliminated my soap etc, bedsheets, clothes detergent, and to a certain extent the food I'm eating. I realised I didn't drink enough water and drinking more helped a little but not entirely.

So I'm now pretty sure the problem is ...

(sorry Christie)

The reason? It seems to get worse at the weekends, except last weekend when I barely went out, let alone drink. During the week it gets better then I wake up on Saturday/Sunday morning (or afternoon) and it's worse again. I've looked it up on the internet and it doesn't seem to be a particularly uncommon allergy. Thinking back, the rash seems to correlate pretty well with beer drinking, even in small amounts.

Last night we went to karaoke and we all had, you could say, an above average quantity of beer. This morning I have a rash down both my upper arms, my chest and back, my shoulders, and face.

I think it might just be certain kinds of Japanese beer to which I'm allergic, but of course from now on I'm totally quitting, at least until everything clears up. I shouldn't be drinking the stuff here until I'm 20 anyway...>_<

As annoying as it is, I'm actually hoping this is the solution I've been searching for. Anyone else have anything like this?
j0hn.jp lite now available
31 October - 10 years ago
j0hn.jp lite is no longer available. Sorry!

This blog was initially designed to be easy on the eye, functional yet simple. The initial design was done in about one hour on a free afternoon.

Since then a lot of extra features and clutter have come into the site. When I redesigned it a couple of months ago I chucked the whole simplicity thing out of the window and maybe the design went a little too flashy.

So, for those who were having problems reading the site, I've created a "lite mode", with larger black text on a white background. You can enable it at the top of the page, or by clicking here. You don't need to be logged in for it to remember your preference for this.

It's not pretty right now but when I have too much free time on my hands I'll make it look a bit nicer.

Oh, and you shouldn't have to log in as often now - the site is finally using cookies ^_^
2am Snack
29 October - 10 years ago
This happens occasionally nowadays. A result of living alone, studying in the afternoon, and having no set "bed time".

So I end up not feeling like sleeping, and instead really wanting some juice and cookies at 1 am. Well, this is Japan, land of the 24 hour convenience store. For better or worse, the closest one is 15-20 minutes' walk away, so tonight, after 40 minutes I return home with this...

Chu Chu Rocket
29 October - 10 years ago
After forgetting about this video for maybe 8 years, what had been, for me, one of the greatest mysteries of the Japanese language was revealed to me tonight.


Chu Chu Rocketto
Nezumi wo tasukerou
Chu Chu Rocketto
Neko ha kowai
Chu Chu Rocketto
Rocketto sugoi

Chu Chu Rocket
Let's save the mice
Chu Chu Rocket
The cat is scary
Chu Chu Rocket
Cool Rocket

I guess Sega were already starting to feel desperate, "Chu Chu Rocket, 2800yen, CHEAP, DREAMCAST!", as it says at the end. Not to mention the free copy they gave out to most owners in England to try and get them playing online.
久しぶりですね - Long time no post
29 October - 10 years ago
I haven't had time to do much at all over the last few days apart from revise. And when I say revise, I also mean learning the first two chapters from the class book from scratch...

Also came the realisation that despite having my own plan when it comes to Kanji, I will have to at least understand all the Kanji in the test. That's what I've been trying to work towards.

The test was today...the Kanji and grammar (or "grammer" as it's written in the English section of the biggest bookstore here in Tokyo, Kinokuniya) were not too bad, but when it came to writing the essay, it was 800 characters on the subject of 私の趣味, "My Hobby", or 私の町, "My Town". I picked to write about my town, but being the quiet, dentist and clinic filled little place that it is I livened it up a bit...well, quite a lot. My main concern is just that I made too many mistakes to retain (yep, at my school you start with 100% and go down from there with each mistake) enough marks to pass.

That said, I won't know the result for two days and there's nothing I can do about it now, so it feels kind of good to at least have got it over and done with, after I would guess over 20 hours extra revision over the past few days alone.

What else...oh yeah, anyone else looking forward to the new season of 24? I'm hearing different dates from different places, but Kiefer Sutherland is going to jail for DUI now, albeit scheduled to interrupt the show as little as possible...so who knows...
You know you're losing your English literacy when...
25 October - 10 years ago
You stare at the word "what" for 5-10 seconds before you work out the pronunciation and meaning. Yep...
Assorted Observations 1: Trains
24 October - 10 years ago
I was on the cute train and an announcement stated that we would have to stop briefly, and they were very sorry for the inconvenience. The train stopped and in less than 5 seconds started again. The same voice said "We're very sorry to have kept you waiting".

I queued up as normal to board the Den-en-toshi line train to Shibuya. I'm 3rd and last in this particular line. As the train doors open a middle-upper aged salaryman cuts straight in front of me, giving me a sly "I win" kind of looks as he boards. Then he stands directly in front of the door so me and a few others have to squeeze around him to board the train.
I got blogged
20 October - 10 years ago
Guess I'm not the only one who blogged about my haircut:

From Santie's Blog at Goo (English translation attempted by me)

僕と、田口と、ジョン。Me, Taguchi, and John.

ロンドンから来日。He's visiting from London

日本語を勉強中。He's studying Japanese

まんじゅうを食べさせました。We made him eat/gave him to eat (indistinguishable which is intended) Manjuu (Steamed yeast bun with bean paste filling)

「おいしいデス!」"It's delicious!" ("desu" here is written in katakana to signify my bad Japanese accent)

と言ってくれた。He said. (kindness implied)

かわいいヤツだぜ。He was cute.

カット&パーマをしました。We did a cut and perm.

グレイト!ビューティフル!エクセレント!Great! Beautiful! Excellent!... (written in English, but phonetically)

を連発していました。...went the barrage of comments

うれしいヤツだぜ。He was glad.

Japanese Proficiency Test
19 October - 10 years ago
It's really simple. Just read this mail I got today. Level of disgust=~Japanese proficiency

当<裏SEXクラブ>の企画・主催者、土屋 美帆と申します。







These started about a month after I got my phone. They stopped for a while when I blocked all e-mails from yahoo addresses, but now they're coming from everywhere :/
Haircut オッケイ!
19 October - 10 years ago
On Friday night I went for my haircut. I went to the same store as before, which had actually moved to a bigger better location. When I e-mailed the guy from last time, Ryota, he offered me another free haircut if I didn't mind being a ヘアカラーモデル (heyakarah moderu). I considered it, and apart from a free haircut I wanted to help out... but in the end I decided against the hair colouring.

So instead I showed the guy who cut my hair last time, Nose(i), this photo

and asked if it would be possible (at first they somehow thought it was a photo of me). Since my hair was still kind of straight from last time, he suggested to do a "wavy" perm. After thinking for a minute I thought "why not?"

So, here's the before and after:


From the photos you can't see such a huge difference, but there really is. And I can see now!

As last time, the whole thing was also a lot of fun ^^
I ♥ Japan
16 October - 10 years ago
This is the 100th post on j0hn.jp since I started the site on the 20th March 2008. In those days it looked something like this.

In that time, I've posted over 200 photos, written over 20,000 words (average word length 4 letters - yay for my writing skills><) traveled over 20,000 miles, had the adventure of my life and, thanks to you, received almost 100 comments from friends and family here at j0hn.jp.

So here's a few of my favorite memories looking back:

Arriving, getting lost, Meeting Manolo, meeting Marion, and my class, getting intimate with a cockroach, getting weird requests on the street, meeting Masa in Kyoto (video), Tateyama (video), when I got overly-sentimental because I thought it was all over, when I got the opportunity to come back.

That said, for any one post I've made on this blog I've had more amazing times than I can remember hanging out with everyone from school like Cho, So, Kang, Park, Tei, Kay, Bettina, Huang, You, Sam (Rin), Lawrence (Ryo), Yen, Angelica, Stefan and Sis, Erwin, Hector, as well as Marion, Manolo, Masa, and all you other nice people ^_^

And since this is a special occasion (for sad me anyway), here's a photo that I'd forgotten about long ago until today...NamjaTown photo get!

Note about photos
16 October - 10 years ago
From now on I'm planning on I'll be using flickr for most of my photo hosting, but as was the case before, most of the photos I take will not be posted here at all but will be available only on flickr. You can see the most recent photos and videos from my phone on the right there, and click the link to go straight to my flickr photostream (gallery). All the images in my posts are also viewable in higher res there, except ones I'm hosting on my server (just the one's I don't strictly own the copyright to)
My Walk to the Eki 2.5
16 October - 10 years ago

As in Saginomiya, there's a big construction site next to my apartment :-/ ...but as before there's been no noise so far.

As much of a tourist as I already looked taking photos of the area, I chose not to test anyone's patience too far by taking photos in the whole graveyard traversal section of my journey at the end of this road.

Maybe you can tell from the blurring that I was getting late for school.

At this point I get on the かわい電車 (cute train) until the end of the line at Sangenjaya.

Sangenjaya is a pretty lively place with a really nice atmosphere, and, as you can see, a lot of junk food if you're into that sort of thing. And I am. At Sangenjaya station I board the Den-en-toshi line to Shibuya.

By this point I was later than I had expected and didn't have time to take photos at the other end in Shibuya. I'll try again tomorrow.
Crazy band video (finally)
15 October - 10 years ago
I said a long time (6 months?) ago that I'd post this. Well here it is. Brings back some real memories of my first weekend Japan when I watch it now.

Funny Sega Song
15 October - 10 years ago
I decided to go for it and upgrade my flickr account. With flickr pro, I can upload videos and unlimited photos, as well as a load of other nice stuff. I'm also thinking of giving in using my own blogging software and installing Wordpress. I'd need to think of a decent way to transfer the existing posts though.

Anyway, here's my first (of many) videos on Flickr. Recorded at TGS last weekend, it's from Sega's end of event stage show.

And funny Taito song:
Denshi Jishou
15 October - 10 years ago
So now I'm studying Japanese long-term there's a few things I have to face up to. I can't continue to ignore Kanji to the extent I've so far managed. It's no longer acceptable to forget the easy vocab, or any vocab I learn in class for that matter.

This means a much greater proportion of my time here will need to be spent studying.

Yesterday, though, I bought something that will hopefully make things a tiny bit less stressful. I decided to buy a Denshi Jishou, or electronic dictionary.

There's a bunch of different brands, but the Casio Ex-Word series seems to have the best dictionary, and a small touchscreen for writing in Kanji as well as the larger screen also being a touchscreen, for, I don't know what exactly. So that's what I went for.

It was pretty pricey, about 29,000yen, but it makes life so much easier when faced with a page full of kanji and kanji compounds that would otherwise be pretty difficult to look up.

Spider Problem
12 October - 10 years ago
I mentioned the nasty looking spider I saw outside my neighbour's apartment. Well, hopefully I'll never see anything like that in my apartment, but I have been getting small black and white spiders that can jump several centimeters at a time.

Generally I just try not to think about it too much. But it seems like their favorite place to be is on my bed...Whenever I see them they are either climbing towards or over my bed. Still, I haven't been losing much sleep over it.

However, where I would ignore or relocate them before, they have now made my kill list.

Sounds to me like it may be one of the many spiders belonging to the family Salticidae, better known as Jumping Spiders. They are my fave spiders, due to their inquisitiveness, lack of fear, and athletic ability.

Traits..Jumping Spiders are active hunters and do not build webs to catch their prey, but like the Wolf Spiders, will hunt them down actively. They are very easily identifiable as they have a row of four large eyes, two of which are exceedingly large, and above them, there is a row of four much smaller eyes. The two very large eyes, will positively ID the spider as a Jumping Spider. Jumping Spiders have very good eyesight, for a spider. There are almost 5000 different species of Jumping Spiders, and most of them are quite small.

Inquisitiveness,,,Unlike many spiders that will run and hide when approached, a Jumping Spider will sometimes advance towards a hand that is placed in front of them and will often hop right on. They are fearless, and will not flee, even if a finger is waved in front of them, but will rear up their front ends with legs in the air in a defensive posture. Jumping Spiders will not bite unless they feel threatened and almost all Jumping Spider venom is harmless to humans and will only cause a localized reaction, similar to a bee sting or mosquito bite.

Acrobatics...Jumping Spiders have the ability to jump very long distances as compared to their size. When jumping off of a ledge, a Jumping Spider will leave a web strand tag line just in case it's leap becomes errant and they wind up where they don't want, or miss their target completely. They can simply climb back up that tag line and try again.

The most amazing thing about Jumping Spiders is the way that they jump. If you look at their bodies, their legs do not have the muscle tone that you would think necessary for them to propel themselves for such great distances. Jumping insects like grasshoppers, and crickets all have rear legs that are both muscular and allow them to apply leverage in order to make their great jumps. Jumping Spiders do not have these type of legs. The fact is, is that these arachnids do not use muscles to propel them into the air, but have the unique ability to regulate their blood pressures. This is unique in the entire animal kingdom. By pressurizing the blood vessels in their legs, they are able to use a type of hydraulic pressure in order to make their legs move with such a force that would propel them into the air.
It is quite amazing.

Bottom line...Jumping Spiders are not dangerous and are as interesting to watch and even handle, as they are beneficial. They rarely bite, and even if they do, it is only mildly painful, like a bee sting. I love looking into those two big eyes, and wonder what that spider is thinking of.

Well, I'm thinking that probably explains the mysterious mosquito like bites I've been getting at night. They may only bite when threatened but then I do move a lot in my sleep. So I've decided they kind of have to go.
Tokyo Game Show
12 October - 10 years ago
After both Marion and I changing our minds both ways and frankly (but temporarily as it turned out) not being bothered to make the 1 hour journey, we eventually left for the Tokyo Game Show at 2pm.

The show was at Makuhari Messe, closer to Chiba Prefecture than to Tokyo Station. On the way the train stopped at "Disney Station", where most people got off. Disneyland Tokyo (or "toukyou dizunirando"), looked really good. Just have to convince some friends that it could be worth the journey.

After finding the hall (by following the swarm) and buying our tickets we finally got into the show at about 3.30pm.

1 1/2 hours of the show left. In this time we took a look around most of the major booths, but since the queuing time for most games was from 40 to 90 minutes we didn't really have time to play much.

We did queue up with the kids and get a try at the new Naruto game, though, which was a lot of fun, even though I got seriously beaten by Marion...

It was good to see another Gyuakuten Saiban (Phoenix Wright:Ace Attorney) game on display, and unsurprising to see another iteration of Monster Hunter. Also happened to see the NXE and Playstation Home in their current beta versions.

We also saw the Mirror's Edge booth, and that game is starting to look really interesting.

Then it was time for some X-rated (well, 18+) previewage, so we went through the ID check booth to find on the other side that all the games (Biohazard 5, Killzone, and all the other [bloodthirsty name]+[high number] games) had closed their queues, apart from "Way of the Samurai 3", for which we got the last ticket.

So we waited for a while, saw a lot of Cosplay entusiasts walking past, and eventually got into the preview booth. I probably spent more time looking across at the people playing Biohazard 5 than putting effort into Way of the Samurai, although the latter seemed to be shaping up OK for a budgety kind of game that unfortunately likely won't get released outside of the Japan.

Then we took one last look around, caught Sega's closing show which featured some inexplicably psyched American guy singing a song with the usual awful lyrics- "If you fight for what is right, together we can save the world, この歌は日本語から翻訳したよ and so on, accompanied by an embarrassed looking guitarist and a recorded backing track.

Then chicken and tacos for dinner, and back to Shinjuku we came.

While we got there a bit late, and the queues were even longer than expected, it was fun to get out of the usual Tokyo area a little and visit, even for a little while, this show that I used to follow from thousands of miles away. Thanks for putting on a brave face Marion ;)
Okanomiyaki and Takowasabi
12 October - 10 years ago
It's been a really nice weekend so far. On Friday after school I went to a all-you-can-eat/drink Okanomiyaki place with friends (Kay, Bettina and Huang) from school.

The food was nice and the catching up was even better. The people working there laughed at the apparently outdated Japanese we'd been learning for the week (「あいにく」とか「さいふをそうだんする」など and even taught us some modern equivalents, which I think we pretty much forgot><.

Yesterday I had a much needed lay-in that lasted until about 4pm. My "body clock" has been really messed up for the past week but I think I'm pretty much back in sync with JST now.

Then at night I met Marion in Shinjuku. We saw a lot of hosts wandering around looking shifty, ate a long overdue Zeppin Cheeseburger, played some Taiko no Tatsujin, then met up with Marion's friend Buchan and went to an izakaya.

Good times with good friends ^_^
Need a Haircut
8 October - 10 years ago
I'm going to see if I can get a haircut this weekend. So this could be the last picture ever of me with long (kind of) straight hair...

...so maybe you can even forgive the awkward posing, just couldn't help it...
School Nightmare
7 October - 10 years ago
School has been really tough for the last two days. Not only is the new term more difficult in general, it might not have helped missing the first two weeks either...

However, it's amazing to see everyone again. I'm actually in the same class as many people I know from last term, which I had thought would be unlikely since they were splitting the classes up as much as possible.

I'm still finding it surreal to be back here for some reason. Not much time to dwell on that with the amount of work I have to catch up on though. Not sure I'll even have time for TGS this weekend, but more about that geekiness later.

I went out for an awesome, though perhaps slightly overpriced, meal with friends today after school, which I pretty much just got back from. So much for getting much work done tonight, it'll need to be an early morning instead... I'll get some photos from people if possible and put them up ^_^
Scary Spider
5 October - 10 years ago
I saw this outside my neighbour's apartment today, hanging from their vent intake tube...thing. I didn't even like walking past it, not sure what I'd do if there was one in my room.

Definitely the biggest I've seen in my life, and I didn't like the look of the white pattern on it either.

Still, I'm not too worried as this is only the 2nd spider I've seen in Japan. Never seen one in my apartment(s)..yet.
new beginning.
5 October - 10 years ago
I should have posted this a long time ago, but here we go.

Thanks to the support of a lot of very cool people, I have been able to defer my University for another year. I'll be spending the next 11 months in Tokyo again, learning Japanese.

In fact, I'm already back, since Friday. You might wonder why I left it so long to post. Just the same as my friends here are wondering why I lost touch over the past week or so.

Preparing to come back was something that caused a bit of anxiety. After having a few little health problems at the end of my last stay in Japan, I had to get my health cleared by doctors. I applied for a working holiday visa, which wasn't guaranteed to come through until I received it on Monday. Then it was a matter of booking the flights and accommodation as soon as possible. Luckily my school let me join in the semester which began two weeks ago.

So I arrived last Friday. Paying forward the help given to me by a guy called Patrick who I sat next to on the plane last time, I gave a guy called Matt some help getting from Narita airport to central Tokyo.

When I arrived at the apartment office I signed all the documents and asked them to wait while I went across the street to withdraw some extra money I needed to pay my first month's rent. That's when the machine told me I had an "Invalid Card", and to "contact [my] card vendor". So I went back to the office and they kindly let me make the long distance call to HSBC in the UK. Several hours, assurances, and calls later, my card would still not work.

Again, thanks to the nice people at Sakura House (I know what I've said in the past), once it got to 7.45pm they allowed me to pay half my rent and move into the apartment that night.

The next day I went to an HSBC branch near Tokyo station. My card would not even withdraw money from their machines. They put me on the phone to a special 24-hour emergency help line, who told me that my card had been blocked by the "Fraud Prevention Department", because of the sudden withdrawal attempt from Japan. Even though I had called them a week earlier and was assured at the time and also during my first bunch of calls from Japan that there was a marker on the card that would definitely allow me to use it here. She unblocked it straight away and it worked again.

I just consider myself lucky that Sakura House and Marion were both kind enough to help me out at the time when it looked like I just wouldn't be able to pay for my apartment. Thanks!

So, after a slightly tricky beginning, I'm now really enjoying being back in Japan. I've spent most of my time since getting the card working trying to catch up on the school work I've missed in the last two weeks. I had to turn down the opportunity of meeting Marion so I could finish going through all the new stuff, which sucked as I could have used a break from my apartment and it would have been nice to meet.

Actually I should get back to work, I still have a couple of hours' left I think. I'll put up some photos of my apartment in a little while.

To anyone who found out from this post that I'm back in Japan...sorry I couldn't contact you personally and I wish we could have met up beforehand.

As always, if you e-mail my phone I'll get it straight away, wherever I am: johnm[at]softbank.ne.jp

I now have a working webcam so you can add me on my gmail address if you want to talk ^_^

PS: From now on I'm aiming for at least 5 posts a week on this blog. People may get sick of reading but I'm also doing this for my own sake so I can remember my time here. cya!
the end.
3 September - 10 years ago
Tomorrow I pack my bags. The next day at 9am I board a plane and return to England.

It's 1.30am now so I can't write a long post - that comes later - but I can say a few things.

I thought I was coming to Japan to have a laugh for 3 months. It turned into 5 months of not just fun, but the discovery of an amazing place, and friends I now can't imagine my life without knowing.

Japan has changed my life forever, and although it definitely hasn't made it any simpler, it has made it more interesting. I've never felt more alive than the past 5 months.

Soon I return to England but I will always have memories of my time here, the people who made it so special, and the desire to return...hopefully sooner rather than later.

And thanks everyone for reading my blog and encouraging me to write here. Sorry there were such big gaps, but it's been a lot of fun writing here and getting people's comments.

To my friends in Japan, thank you and if you're ever in England send me an e-mail! Hope to see you all soon! To my friends and family in England, see you sooner ;-)

A little creepy
16 August - 10 years ago
So after my haircut my modeling offers ran pretty much dry for a little while. Then I got an e-mail from a guy who came up to me like maybe a month ago, asking me to do a job. The same day a different guy who I'd never seen came up to me in Shibuya. I'd never seen him before. But he knew my name, and asked me if I regularly went to yoyogi park on my own to read a book. I did do that once, a couple of weeks ago, and I guess he saw me. He asked me to do the same job. They seem to be pretty efficient.

Then, this morning, from an e-mail address that started "fromlondon_j"...

Hello John.

I am fashion stylist's assistant.

Do you remember?

How long stay in Japan

I'm looked John in Sibuya.

It is good-looking and I want to make it to the candidate of the model.

Wow, I feel quite literally objectified.

"It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose ag'in"
4 August - 10 years ago
(Update: Thanks to ‚䂤 for pointing out how bad this is. I think the written version had a few less mistakes at least...)

I'm not sure if this is worse for people in the US and UK who can't read it, or people who can actually read it and know how bad my Japanese is. Either way, here is my report on the trip that I wrote for homework last night. Seems so short when you look at it like this...The full English version is here.


‹à—j“úVhƒoƒX‚É‚Ì‚é‚æ‚Ä‚¢‚Å‚µ‚½A‚¯‚ê‚Ç‚à‚æ‚­‚³‚ª‚µ‚½‚̂ɃoƒX‚Í‚º‚ñ‚º‚ñŒ©‚Ü‚¹‚ñ‚Å‚µ‚½B­‚µ‚±‚í‚©‚Á‚½‚Å‚·A‚¯‚ê‚Ç‚à‚¤‚¯‚‚¯‚ðŒ©‚Â‚¯‚ăoƒX‚ɂ܂ɉ‚Ü‚µ‚½B“y—j“ú‚Ì’©‚Æ‚â‚Ü‚Å—F‚¾‚¿‚É‚ ‚Á‚āA‚¢‚µ‚傤‚ɃoƒX‚Å—§ŽR‚֍s‚«‚Ü‚µ‚½B



Tateyama Video
4 August - 10 years ago
To go with my last post, here is the downloadable version of the video I made from all the photos and videos that Masa took during the trip. I'll get the streaming version up when my internet connection starts working properly again.

The music is –³d—Í Mujuuryoku ONEWAY SHUTTLE by LAST ALLIANCE. The panorama video of mountains about half-way through basically shows the path we walked - all the way up at beginning, along the top, and down at the end.

Download the video>>

If you missed my Kyoto post and video, they're a little way down in the archives.
4 August - 10 years ago
Wow, this was a while ago. I keep meaning to post about it but I keep getting delayed by stuff, the most recent of which happened to be writing about this very trip, in Japanese, for school.

Last weekend (not yesterday), I went to the North Japanese Alps, or Tateyama as they're really called, with the friend I met in Kyoto, Masa.

As I only had the weekend off school, I took the 6.5 hour nightbus from Shinjuku Station to Toyama at 11.40pm on Friday night. I actually nearly missed the bus, thanks to Shinjuku Bus Terminal being a little more big and confusing than I had realised.

I met with Masa, who had traveled from Kyoto the night before, the next morning at Toyama Station. He'd brought the food, tent, sleeping bags, coats, everything we'd need that I couldn't have brought from England even if I'd known I'd be going camping/hiking during my time here. Together we took another bus to Tateyama.


I was surprised by the number of tourists there, but maybe even more surprised that they were all Japanese. You'd think that'd be kind of obvious it being the Japanese Alps and all, but experience from Kyoto and even Tokyo now we're in the Summer has shown how close Gaijin can come to outnumbering Japanese people in some places. In fact, in the two days that we were there, we saw one couple that may have been Chinese, and apart from them it seemed like I was the only foreigner there.

Aanyway, when we arrived at Tateyama we left most of our stuff lying somewhere, once again testing the honesty of Japanese people, as if it needed testing anyway, and went off into the mountains.

When I told my classmates I was going to the mountains the general reaction I got wasuŽ€‚É‚½‚¢‚Å‚·‚©Hv("do you want to die?"). Their reason for asking was the weather forecast: over 30C in Tokyo. What they didn't realise, and neither did I, was how much the altitude would affect that temperature. When we got off the coach it was a perfect temperature, with the sun shining through the clouds and a light breeze. There was even still a lot of snow on the mountains, which was a worrying sight for me with my no-grip trainers which can even cause me to slip on the streets in Tokyo if it's been raining.

The first day we just went for a warm-up walk for a few hours, up the side of the mountain a little. A little way up we saw a Thunderbird, which is apparently very fortunate, as they're famous in the area but rarely seen.

Unfortunately for this first day it was so cloudy that the thunderbird was about all we could see; looking left, right of behind we could basically just see a thick fog.


When we realised this wasn't going to clear up we headed back down. After our practice hike we took a look at the source of the strange smell we'd noticed since we arrived.

As we experienced on our second day, sometimes it goes kind of crazy and there's so much poisonous gas that it's unsafe to walk through the area. Most of the time it just smells bad and causes a slightly worrying burning feeling in your throat.

We slept early, at 9pm, and got up at 4am the next morning to beat the forecast rain at 3pm. Kind of sucks to be hiking a big mountain in the middle of a big thunderstorm. We went all the way up to the highest point in the mountains, at over 3200m,

and walked along the main section of the range before descending in 40 minutes through the altitude we'd gained in the past 6-7 hours or so. That was a little scary, as was crossing the snowy parts - everywhere that gets little or no sunlight thanks to being in the shadow of the mountain was covered in slippery snow, sometimes with a steep, long, snowy way down if someone were to slip.

Scaryness aside, the weather was perfect the second day, and the views, as you can kind of see from the photos, were amazing. The climbing itself was also a great experience, my first real encounter with mountain climbing.

Luckily we got back to the campsite a long time before the forecast rain, because the rain also came two hours early. We decided to run for it, packing away the tent and carrying our bags over a small mountain in the heavy thunderstorm to avoid the afore-mentioned poisonous gas which was by this point erupting thick and fast.

We got back to Toyama with a few hours to spare before my bus back to Tokyo - Masa was returning the next morning and had to find somewhere other than in the street outside the station where he could sleep the night. Having not had a shower since climbing mountains for two days, we went to a public bath and then went to a nice izakaya for a few hours.

When it came time to catch my bus we weren't 100% sure from where I was supposed to be catching it. After getting increasingly worried about the bus not being in sight in any of the places we were checking, we noticed it was stopped in the dark just a few meters from our main waiting place. Yeah, at this point even I find it difficult to believe that I can go for a weekend trip and almost miss my bus there and my bus back.

Overall it was an amazing trip. Big Thanks to Masa for suggesting it and arranging it - maybe one day we can even go again :-)


My internet connection is being not so fun, so I will get the video up as soon as possible.
31 July - 10 years ago
So I'm not sure what timezone this server it operating in (still the 30th?), but today, the 31st, is my birthday. I was surprised in a really nice way to receive actual physical birthday cards from so far away, and I also received some really nice e-cards so thank you everyone!

For the first time in my life I'm going to school on my Birthday. But at least I get to see my friends, and afterwards we're going to an Izakaya somewhere in Shibuya. Yesterday was the birthday of another classmate, Park-san, so we're having a kind of joint party. There will be photos!

Tomorrow I'll post about my trip to the mountains, which was awesome by the way.

Thanks again!
Going to the Alps
23 July - 10 years ago
The Japanese Alps that is. Masa, my friend from Kyoto, suggested we go hiking in the North Japanese Alps for a weekend. Sounds like an awesome idea to me.

If the weather's good, or even if it's not, there should be amazing views and a lot of well-needed exercise - the small amount of fitness I gained in Kyoto is pretty much gone by now.

Expect regular "live" photos from places with cellphone reception, but no blog posts.

^I stole this photo...sorry^
23 July - 10 years ago
Yep, that's a dreamcast (Sega's last games console from 1998/9) you see in my apartment. I'm a geek, remember?

The games are so cheap here I almost couldn't afford not to though. Anywhere from 100円 to 4000円 for the rarest, the average game is about 500円 (less than £2.50).

I got Power Stone (again), Blue Stinger (again), Biohazard (Resident Evil) Code Veronica, Space Channel 5, 東京バスシム (Tokyo bus sim), and Shenmue 1 for like half the price of one new game in the UK.

hmmm, 僕はほんとうにおたくになりましたね。−_−
Comments fixed (I think)
22 July - 10 years ago
Got around to fixing the comment submission code which wasn't working in some cases for a while. I'm pretty sure it should work now, but let me know if anything goes wrong.
I Moved
22 July - 10 years ago
I guess I mentioned this, but never really gave any detail. I had to move out of my old apartment since someone else had already reserved it for the extra two months I wanted to stay in Tokyo.

You can see my old apartment here and my old neighbourhood here.

This is my new apartment and neighbourhood.

It now takes half the time to get to school. The neighbourhood is pretty convenient, although as I mentioned the only supermarkets are either wholesale or a ripoff. But I do have a convenience store 2 minutes walk away. All in all, great place.
J-Rock 1
22 July - 10 years ago
So since I came to Japan I've been looking for good J-Pop (Japanese Pop) and in particular J-Rock (Japanese Rock) bands, from checking the charts to stopping and looking at street acts (street acts are done pretty much strictly for publicity or cd sales here in Japan, you hardly ever see someone just asking for money).

Here's the ones I'm listening to right now (*=J-Pop):

ナイトメア (Nightmare)

A visual-kei band, so their appearance is...interesting. But the songs are great. リビド is an amazing album from start to finish.

マキシマムザホルモン (Maximum the Hormone)

A little heavier than I'm used to but their combination of heavy stuff and nice melodies is something I've never heard before, and a bunch of their songs are very catchy. I love Zetsubou Biri.


Saw this promising new band performing at Station Square in Shinjuku. Maybe not completely original, but great anyway. A little like Nightmare, but the guitar solos may even be cooler. Not sure if they realise their name sounds like some kind of fizzy drink containing viagra.

the brilliant green

Just started listening very recently. The only band here with a female lead singer, and also slightly softer than the others but their recent single "Ash Like Snow" is great.


Check out their latest album Mont Blanc.


Get over Gackt's slightly unusual singing technique and there's a bunch of amazing songs to be heard. He's a guy.


From what I can tell they sing pretty much only in English. Clearly influenced by bands like sum 21, but still a nice band.

Genki Rockets*

I don't think I'm necessarily the target audience, but good when you need happy music after a long day.

There's previews of all these band available on the Japanese iTunes.
22 July - 10 years ago
A while ago when I was telling my friends in England about my plan to learn Japanese, someone (Lucy?) asked me, like as an example of how the language worked, how to say "The cat sat on the mat".

Before I came to Japan I studied the language for maybe 5 hours, so I didn't really have much of a clue. Something in school today made me remember this for some reason, so here is (I think) the correct answer.

The cat sat on the mat



neko ga matto no ue ni suwarimashita

sentence order
cat did mat on top of sat

neko=cat, matto=mat, suwaru=to sit, suwarimashita=sat, ue=over/on

The particle ‚ª/ga indicates that the cat is doing the verb (I'm not so good with object/subject etc...anyone?)

The particle ‚Ì/no indicates that it's the top of the mat.

The particle ‚É/ni indicates the thing the verb is acting on.

À=suwa=to sit

The other characters are hiragana with the exception of ƒ}ƒbƒg, which is written in katakana as it's a borrowed word from english:


The small ƒb adds the extra "t" in the romanised version, and means the "t" in the pronunciation should hang for an extra beat.

Of course that's the school taught reasonably polite version. Among friends you might say:

neko ga matto ni suwatta

or something like that, and in very polite speach...well, that's a whole different story.

Any other requests? Not that I'm likely to be able to translate them.
Otaku Quiz Time
19 July - 10 years ago
While I should have been studying or sleeping:

Final Fantasy Character Test

Which Final Fantasy Character Are You?

Final Fantasy VII

What Death Note Character Are You?
What Death Note Character Are You?
Hosted By theOtaku.com: Anime and Fandom

I'm so like Fry!

I'm Fry, who are you? by Lexi

Which 24 Character Are You?

You are Milo. You are the ultimate geek. You prefer to follow other people's orders rather than come up your own set of rules. You are very responsible and prefer to work behind the spotlight, although with enough recognition you might be better than the other people in the group. You have immense leadership potential and talent, but it is up to you to go explore the unexplored.

Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com

Which Family Guy Character Are You?

You are Brian. You are smart, sophisticated, and somewhat of an alcoholic.

Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com

Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Character Are You?

You are Donatello. You are reserved and intelligent. You favor the use of brains instead of brawn.

Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com
19 July - 10 years ago
Oh, by the way, I got a haircut. I guess I forgot to mention it here, even though you probably noticed from the photos.

I was walking in Asagaya, near my old apartment, when a guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to be a hair model. Hearing the word "model", just like in Shibuya, made me immediately start my escape routine - pretending I don't speak any Japanese (not that far from the truth) and keeping walking. But then I realised this was different, so I stopped to listen.

This guy is an apprentice hair stylist. They don't let him cut hair yet - not for a long time apparently, but he needs to practice his semi-permanent hair straightening, and he was looking for people to practice on. With my "yes" policy I couldn't really refuse.

So I turned up two days later at the hair place to see what would happen. I turned up at about 8:30pm, and the straightening and cut (which the supervising guy did for free afterwards) took 4.5 hours. So yes, until 1am. It was no problem though, it's surprising how fun it can be spending time with people who speak hardly any English when I also speak very little Japanese. It turned out like this:

Okay, so not a great photo, but you get the idea. It's now very straight. Like, when it gets really wet it hangs down in such straight clumps that there's stripes of apparent baldness inbetween. This was kind of scary for me the first time I saw it, after having all those chemicals and stuff put in my hair, but I'm not losing hair as far as I can tell.

My opinion on the straightening is that it was fun to try, especially for free, but I'm not sure I prefer it to my usual wavy hair, and I don't know if I could bare to spend over 4 hours in a hairdresser's every 2 months. It was a fun time though ^_^
j0hn in Kyoto video download
16 July - 10 years ago
Since someone requested it here is the downloadable version of the kyoto video.

The soundtrack is Aqueous Transmission by Incubus from their album Morning View. I included a sample with the video download, or the album can be purchased (in the UK) here. But bear in mind it's very much atypical of Incubus as a song.

Download video>>
Goodbye and Good luck...
16 July - 10 years ago
The other day Marion and I met up with Manolo to say goodbye. For reasons I won't go into he returns to Mexico tomorrow.

He's been an amazing friend and oniisan to us both for over 3 months, and we hate to see him go.

Something tells me he's not done with Japan though, and I hope to see him back here one day.

Manolo if you're reading this, ‚ ‚È‚½‚Í‚Ú‚­‚Ì“ú–{‚̈ꂩŒŽ‚ß‚ð‚Æ‚Ä‚àŠy‚µ‚­‚µ‚Ü‚µ‚½B‚ ‚Ì‚Æ‚«‚©‚ç‚Ù‚ñ‚Æ‚¤‚¢‚¢—F’Bi‚»‚ê‚É‚¨ŒZ‚³‚ñj‚É‚È‚è‚Ü‚µ‚½B‚¢‚ë‚¢‚ë‚Å‚ ‚肪‚Æ‚¤‚²‚´‚¢‚Ü‚·I

(Manolo, me, Marion, Linda)

Please don't ever give up on your dreams ^_^
Root Beer?
14 July - 10 years ago
A while back I posted about being...pretty happy to find mountain dew in the vending machines at school. The taste is a little different but it's still delicious, especially now in the summer.

Well, the supermarket across the road from my new apartment, "Meidi-ya", is pretty much useless. They have mainly very expensive wine, but also 9" pizzas for as much as 1800yen (’9), a caviar cabinet, but no basics like rice or even vegetables. It's getting to the point where I'm going to have to take public transport out of central Tokyo to get to a useful supermarket.

I did happen to make a nice discovery in Meidi-ya, though.

Yay! And it's pretty authentic tasting too.
Thank you
11 July - 10 years ago
I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who gave me the support I needed to stay for this extra time in Japan. It really means a lot to me! This new site, and the following video, is dedicated to those people.

It's not the greatest, I didn't have too much time to put it together and the pacing is a little slow. Not to mention the awful spelling error at the end (but I'm betting only one Japanese reader, if any, will ever watch it ^_^). But here is the video of my trip to Kyoto:

Click here to watch video >>
You may need to give it a few secs to buffer, if it's too jumpy then pause it for a while.

Also remember my last post had just a few photos from my trip.. The rest are in my Flickr feed and in the video.

Thanks again everyone!
Welcome back...
11 July - 10 years ago
Hey, welcome to the new j0hn.jp, or ƒWƒ‡ƒ“.jp as the new domain is called.

The new design may be less the perfect in terms of practicality (mainly because of the huge header), but I like the way it came out. Be sure to let me know if you have any problems with it; I'm sure I overlooked something.

So enough about that. People (2 to be exact) have been asking what I've been doing for the past 3 weeks since my last post. Well, a bunch of stuff.

This is going to be a long post. Definitely the longest yet. Sorry. If you find yourself drifting off to sleep or something then feel free to skip this post. Seriously.

First was my end of term test at school. Once I had decided to stay on for another term at Naganuma School I realised I'd need to do well in the test, which involved revision. Much of it intensive and last-minute.

To progress to the next term we needed to score at least 60% in the test. Less than 60% and you retake the test, less than 50% and you retake the term :-o

Luckily I ended up with about 80% across the writing, reading, speaking, listening and kanji tests (thankfully the kanji test only counted for 5 out of 300 marks), which means I am now studying the 2nd part of the course :-D

Soon after the end of term I was due to move out of my old apartment. This involved a lot of tidying and cleaning, again, too much of which was left too late, but in the end I got only 2000yen taken off my 20000yen deposit, for limescale in the bathroom. As far as I could tell, the bathroom was a lot cleaner when I moved out than 3 months ago when I moved in - I remember being pretty surprised by dirtiness of the bathroom when I first arrived...however I didn't feel like arguing and I was happy he didn't notice I forgot to clean the AC filter.

I was happy to be out of the cockroach place, but slightly worried about where I was going to sleep. I had made a reservation for the same night at the capsule inn in akihabara, but I was effectively homeless and wasn't sure what to do from the next day.

I met up with Manolo in Akihabara and we talked for a long time about both of our futures in Japan. Basically we don't have them, at least not for a long time and without a lot of difficulties. Then, when it was time to leave I headed for the inn.

It was an interesting experience. The Akihabara Capsule Inn is the only capsule inn in Akihabara. The concept of a capsule hotel is to provide the bare minimum space required for a person to sleep the night, with the most convenience and least cost possible.

This particular inn has 169 capsules, in roughly the same space as, say, 30 very basic hotel rooms would need. It costs 4000yen (just under ’20) per night to stay, including the capsule and access to the public bath and washrooms. The clientele seem to be about 30% foreigners and 70% Japanese salarymen who were out drinking and missed the last train. As I stepped out of the elevator on my floor the first person I passed was an old Japanese man who made no effort to hide his sigh of frustration that the place was overrun with gaijin.

The capsule is not quite as small as you might think; while I couldn't lie with my legs totally straight, the height of the capsule was about half my height, and the width was about the same as a single bed. It's reasonably comfy and the capsules have TV, radio, clock, light, mirror etc, although there is no door, just a semi-transparent blind to pull across the opening of the capsule. This becomes a problem when people start snoring, and when the salarymen who have to get in to work early start getting up at 5am. For these reasons I guess it could become stressful to stay multiple nights in a row, but it was cool for one night and I'd definitely go for it again if I missed the last train in Akihabara.

The next morning I got up just in time to use the inn's free internet access for 15 minutes before the 10am checkout time. It was a fairly frantic 15 minutes of finding out whether, if I went to Kyoto, I'd have anywhere reliable and affordable to stay that night. I quickly found as many ryokan (traditional style Japanese hotel) as possible and e-mailed the contact details and maps to my phone.

Then I had some thinking to do. I went and sat in Starbucks to work out what I should do next. I had 40000yen cash (about ’195), and 4 days until I had to be back in Tokyo, at Tokyo station, to check into my new apartment. I wasn't entirely sure where I wanted to go but all (15 mins) research I had done was for Kyoto. It was also somewhere I'd wanted to visit as soon as I thought of coming to Japan. I starting trying the phone numbers of the ryokan that I'd found on the internet. A few of them were fully occupied, or only had double rooms available. Others had only one room but wouldn't reserve over the phone without a credit card. Eventually I phoned the awesomely friendly Ryokan Kyoraku, who couldn't 'officially' reserve a room but told me that if I went there that day, chances are there might very well be a room reserved under my name.

So I went to Tokyo station and bought a one-way ticket to Kyoto by Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train) (13000yen ~ ’63). I took the next one to depart, which was just 15 minutes later. Traveling by Shinkansen was a really cool experience, and even though it's more expensive than traveling by bus, or other rail lines, it's anywhere from twice to 4 times as fast, and it's something everyone who visits Japan should probably do once. I got to see some rural Japan, and some smaller towns and cities, and it felt good to finally be getting out of Tokyo, as much as I love the place.

I arrived in Kyoto and found the ryokan pretty quickly, about 8 minutes walk from the station. When most people think of Kyoto, the first image that comes to mind is probably of old Japan, traditional temples and shrines, etc. All this stuff and much more can be found if you know where to look, but when you exit Kyoto station the first thing you see is this:


And for a second you wonder if this place is so different from Tokyo.

So I checked into my room at the ryokan.


It was a small, family run place, and even thought I kind of wanted to practice my Japanese, they spoke really good English and our conversations seemed to be about 50% each language. My room was really nice - as with all ryokan (I think) it had traditional tatami and futon, for a fair price (about 5000yen per night, not so much more than the capsule inn).

It was about 6pm by this point so I decided, my my 11pm curfew in mind, to just explore in and around the station for now. Kyoto station is one of the stranger pieces of architecture I've seen, and there's a bunch of touristy stuff to do.


I took the time to visit a tourist office and find out where I should go the next day.

The next day, still with no clear idea of where would be best to go I decided to head to Arashiyama, location of the highest mountain in the Kyoto area, and a quiet and beautiful...I guess town? It's officially part of Kyoto city but it doesn't feel at all like it's a part of a city. The scorching hot sun and (at this point) dry air, along with the distant mountains and small narrow streets kind of reminded me of Madeira.


I started walking, trying, but not incredibly hard, to head for the site-of-historical-importance temple in the area. I did want to see it, it's just that the relaxation of walking in the sun with no map and no schedule was more important to me at that moment.

I saw a monkey sanctuary, and decided to take a look. After walking up a long but gradual track up the side of a big hill, I came to the first clearing, where a lone big monkey, which I didn't even notice until I was standing right next to him/her, was sitting in the sun. I continued up to the top where I came to the feeding station, and...well...a lot of monkeys. It was great to see them this close, not in cages, and not from the 'safety' of a car. When I was walking back down the track I had a really close encounter with a monkey, as well as a slightly scary experience with a snake sliding down the hill and across the track a couple of meters in front of my feet.

After leaving I once again had no idea of what to do. So I decided to keep walking. I didn't know exactly where to, but I was walking alongside a river and it seemed like a nice place. A motorbike came past me one way. I stepped aside and kept walking. The same motorbike came past the other way. I kept walking. A guy came running after me, speaking in English "excuse me, where are you going?".

"Reasonable question", I thought; "err, I don't know really..why?"

He explained how there was nothing that would be of particular interest in the direction I was walking, and asked if I'd rather go somewhere that might be more interesting for me.

And that's how I met Masa, the kindest, friendliest person I've met my whole time in Japan (and I've met a few). Studying at university, his part time job is as a rickshaw driver around the area (hand pulled carriage). Over the next 2 days Masa showed me all around Kyoto, some of the most popular tourist destinations, and some of the better kept secrets. We visited the Arashiyama Bamboo forest, then went for a walk around the area. Later we went around the more central Kyoto area.


At night we found a bar with 100yen beers :-D I arrived back at the Ryokan at 10:59pm.

The next day, among other places, we visited Kinka-kuji Temple (The Golden Temple)

and the Fushimi Inari Shrine (with its hundreds of toris, and long, hilly walking route). I saw too many places to describe in words, but I took a few photos along the way and I'll never forget these places.

My last day in Kyoto I spent the morning on my own, visiting Nijo Castle


and the Kyoto International Manga Museum, with its 350,000 (and counting) manga books. In the afternoon I met with Masa again and we went to the Ginkakuji area, where we climbed part-way up a mountain to one of the most amazing views I've ever seen.

That night we met with Masa's girlfriend and best friend, and went to a nomihoudai (eat and drink all you like). It was a great night with really nice people.

The next day I returned to Tokyo by bus. Not only is bus a lot cheaper (less than half the price) than Shinkansen, but I since I'd already experienced the journey by Shinkansen I wanted to try something different. By bus the journey takes 8 hours compared to the Shinkansen's 2.5 hours, but it was a pleasant journey and I got to catch up on some sleep too.

That came in handy the next day, when I had to move my stuff from Marion's apartment (thank you so much for keeping it for me!) to my new one. Since Marion was moving the next day and it was already night, I had just one journey - 25 minutes walking and about 25 train stops with 2 transfers - to get all my stuff moved. It took the experience of moving to realise how much stuff I've accumulated since coming to Tokyo. I came here with one nearly full-packed suitcase and a shoulder-bag. I moved with a very fully packed suitcase and shoulder bag. Plus 3 large extra bags of clothes, a dreamcast (yep...whoops), and assorted heavy stuff. I never would have done it without Marion's help, and managed to go the very last stretch by myself (station lockers were closed due to terrorist alert here right now so the (okay, Marion's) clever plan to leave a few bags there and come back was foiled)).

Anyway, I eventually made it here, and it's a great place. I may end up having to travel quite a long way to get to a supermarket which sells essential stuff like, say, vegetables (I'm serious, the local one doesn't sell them), but apart from that the area is nice, convenient, and the apartment is great.

On Tuesday I started the new term at school and so far it seems good. The pace is definitely faster, maybe because the term will be much shorter, but I'm still in the same class as my friends from last term, so, yokatta ^_^

Unfortunately Manolo, who was my neighbour for a couple of weeks back at my old place, and has been a great friend (and bro) to me and Marion for over 3 months, is leaving Japan in a few days. Tomorrow we're meeting with him to say goodbye, not forever, but just until we all return to Japan, or at least until I end up going to Mexico or he comes to England...heh.

So that's what I've been doing for the past 3 weeks. Now I just need to sleep for the next 8 hours so I can be up in time to meet Manolo in Akihabara.

If you're still reading then I'm really very impressed. Your name must begin with M, D or G, or you just really like punishing yourself. Either way, thank you for reading ^_^

Until next time~
Automatic Thievery Machine
21 June - 10 years ago
So I went to the ATM yesterday to withdraw 40,000JPY. This is quite a lot, but since there's a big charge for each withdrawal it's worth making a few big withdrawals rather than regular small ones.

I later realised that, unless I somehow lost a 10,000 yen note at some point (which is pretty unlikely as they were folded together in my wallet) the machine had only given me 3 10,000 yen notes. Which != 40,000... (-_-#)

Guess it's my fault for not counting it straight away, but still...ultimate annoyance/disappointment.
Still in Japan
16 June - 11 years ago
So it's looking like I may be staying in Japan for another couple of months, taking another term at Japanese school, and coming back to the UK in September. It's not certain yet, but in the next week I'll be trying to get stuff arranged.

The main reason for my decision is that this may be my only chance for a long time to stay in Japan for this length of time, and I feel I could benefit, both in recreational and educational terms, from another 2 months here.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little homesick. I miss my family and friends back in England. Mark, I'm sorry but if I stay here longer I won't be able to make your birthday thing. I'll also be spending my own 19th birthday in Japan.

So if I'm going to stay, I'll need to extend my visa and school, and find a new apartment, now that someone else has booked the (allegedly) cockroach "non-free" Sakura House Saginomiya apartment I'm staying in right now...oops.

I'll also be redesigning j0hn.jp and updating more often...really.
28 May - 11 years ago
I went into school in the end, about 90 minutes late. I missed the recap of yesterday but I caught most of the new stuff, so no probs there.

I'm just about to watch The Apprentice :D
28 May - 11 years ago
I don't think I'm well enough to go to school...but I also love going and I think I may fall quite far behind even from missing one day. And I have to decide in the next 2 minutes.

Incidentally this is the 1st time since I arrived in Japan that I haven't felt great in terms of health.
Half Way
26 May - 11 years ago
So 2 days ago was my "middle day" in Japan. Maybe there's a better way of putting that in English that I've forgotten.

But it made me feel a little unhappy to know I'm now closer to leaving than from arriving. I miss my family and friends in England so much. And they will always be the most important part of my life. But they are everything I miss about England.

I'm slowly starting to understand and speak Japanese. I can have a basic conversation with someone speaking friendly Japanese. I'm just lost when I go into a restaurant (even fast food) and I get hit with the really polite stuff. Or if I'm at the bar (there's some photos on flickr) or somewhere like that and someone starts using really informal language.

I can read and write hiragana and katakana, although I sometimes forget the less common katakana when writing. Kanji are kind of difficult, and though I've learnt quite a few now, I've forgotten most along the way, something which is very frustrating when you're trying to read something in which 1/2 the characters are kanji.

Yesterday a good friend got some bad news, something we've been trying to get around for weeks, which is now pretty inevitable. But I think he'll be fine in the end and if he ever wants to return here I really think he'll do okay.

Oo, kind of a depressing post, lol. I assure you I'm not depressed. I'm still having a great time, just in a slightly strange mood.
22 May - 11 years ago
Hi...it's been a while, I know. I've been really busy over here, and as high as this blog is on my list of priorities, I've had stuff that just had to go ahead of it.

No big welcome back post, but a promise. From now on I want to make several updates to this blog every day. It's not always possible to sit down and write a post every day, so I've set up a Flickr photostream. This allows me to take photos on my phone anywhere and have them displayed instantly, right here on the blog. If you click refresh and a new photo appears, I took it here in Japan literally seconds before.

I'm also going to be making an effort on the text posts, but in the meantime I'll be keeping the photostream up to date. To see all my photos on Flickr, click one of the thumbnails and take a look at my gallery over at flickr.com
We're getting somewhere
10 May - 11 years ago
1 hour ago I received this e-mail:

Dear all the tenants of [name removed] apartment.

We have got some notice from your apartment tenants about "Cockroaches".

So we would like to arrange the date and time to get rid of it.

Please let us know your convinient date or please give us a permission to goin your room without you.

Thanks for your time.

[name removed]

Suckura House
You're joking, right?
8 May - 11 years ago
So today I met up with my ex-neighbour and honorary big-bro Manolo in Shibuya (I know I haven't mentioned his name before, but I mentioned my blog today and he didn't seem to mind being included).

As we were walking near the Hachiko statue, one of the busiest parts of Shibuya, a guy came up behind me and started talking to me. I assumed he was advertising a restaurant or something, and tried to ignore him, but eventually we stopped and listened to what he had to say.

Apparently he is the understudy of a certain stylist who works for a company called Femme. Femme do photoshoots mainly for fashion magazines, and stuff like that. Generally pretty respectable stuff, and a well established company.

He said my face would be good for one of their photoshoots, and asked if I was interested. Manolo didn't bother to translate my answer of "you're joking, right?". Something like this is so far away from anything I would expect walking down the street, that I didn't know what else to say.

Having no real intention of going through with anything like that, but at the same time being really pretty bemused by the whole thing, I gave him my first name and (secondary) e-mail address. He also took a photo of my face, which I was a little less comfortable with but it's pretty much public domain nowadays anyway what with this website and facebook, etc.

He gave me his company's card, and said to call him if I'm interested. Being slightly suspicious of the whole thing, and never having really considered anything like this, I'm unlikely to do so.

I wasn't really sure what to make of it, but it kind of slipped my mind as the night went on. Until the same thing happened again, in almost the same place, with a different guy. I was kind of in a hurry to catch a train so I had to decline, but seriously, what's going on?

It puts me in kind of a dilemma. Back in England for several years I was...I guess you could say a less than outgoing person. I would never go for a night out unless invited somewhere by a friend, and a couple of times (years ago I might add) I even ended up turning down some of these invites, even just for a night in.

I vowed to myself that this would change when I came to Japan. I decided I would become a "yes" man, accepting every invite and getting to know as many people and places as possible. And I have. From the first time Manolo invited me to the local Izakaya to the bbq, to trying all the new food, and even just the extrovert act of having a blog like this in the first place, etc etc etc etc.

So in a way, I should also say yes to this. But I'm thinking no. Thoughts? (apart from 'lol')
Anyone getting sick of this yet?
8 May - 11 years ago
I know I am. Last night my neighbour saw a small cockroach in her room. Tonight she saw a large one near her bed.

This brings us to a grand total of 8 in 5 weeks - meaning at this rate we would have about 83 a year. However, that's not how cockroaches work at all. If you look at the increase in frequency, from a 4 week gap to a 1 week gap to a 1 day gap to a 18 hour gap, I think the urgency of the situation becomes pretty apparent.

So we bought cockroach motels. A lot of them. They're pretty cute actually, and come with cockroach bait which you stick to the center of a large (incredibly) sticky mat. The cardboard forms ramps which make it hard to get out.

The cockroach motel. Cockroaches check in, but they don't check out...I hope.

She's also e-mailing suckura house again and I'll be paying them a visit tomorrow morning, or afternoon if I wake up late. Which is likely. The two last nights I've got about 3-4 hours sleep each, and it's really starting to catch up on me.
And Another
7 May - 11 years ago
Just had another, bigger, longer, earthquake. I don't normally suffer from motion sickness but I started to feel kind of sick from all the motion. After 15 seconds or so the movement really peaked and I (mentally) prepared to get out of my apartment.

Completely unnecessary of course but it seemed at the time like it might be necessary.
Earthquake 2
7 May - 11 years ago
As I write this I'm experiencing my 2nd earthquake in Japan, and starting to feel a bit dizzy. It's stronger and longer than the first which took place the day after I arrived, but still nothing to worry about,
7 May - 11 years ago
Only a police force in Japan would have a mascot this adorable.
Police Inspection
7 May - 11 years ago
This morning a police officer came to the apartment block. He was really friendly, and I tried to facilitate a Japanese-French translation with my next door neighbour's friend...badly.

He asked to see our passports and for us to fill in a form and give it to him next time we see him. I guess this is normal...?
7 May - 11 years ago
I know there's been a lot of cockroach-based posts in the past few hours, but, well, here's some more.

It's definitely dead :-) and I took a photo to show the size.

6 May - 11 years ago
I'm finding it difficult to get to sleep. I'm pretty sure I saw another cockroach, but I haven't been able to track it down.

It's very likely at this point that it was just my imagination. I think the combination of mental and physical tiredness combined with the cockroach anxiety is starting to play tricks with my mind. I basically just need to get to sleep.
Golden Week
6 May - 11 years ago
I decided to get out and do as much as possible over Golden Week. So, no updates. Sorry about that. Blogging has resumed as normal >_<
E-mail from suckura house
6 May - 11 years ago
For the sake of completeness, the e-mail I received after the shoe incident:

Dear John san

Thank you very much for staying at Suckura House.

As we told your neighbor, in room 103, if cockroach is big size such as one you found, it is quite usual for us in Japan. ( for example, in my case, I find cockroach in my house at least one time a year even if I always tidy up my house. ) It comes from the outside through gaps in the house.

If you find small size of cockroach, it will be necessary to have a special extermination, because it must live in the house.

If you keep your room clean and dispose your garbage regularly, it must be fine.

In case you have the complicated situation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,

[name removed]

Suckura House Co., LTD.

For the record, my room is clean, I don't keep any food here anymore, and I take out my garbage whenever possible (there's very strict rules here about which type of garbage on which day).
Another Unwelcome Visitor
6 May - 11 years ago
So tonight I was minding my own business watching Hell's Kitchen when I saw a pretty large cockroach run across the floor of my apartment. It ran and hid behind my suitcase which was leaning against the wall.

After a few seconds of really not knowing what to do, I quietly crept to my front door, and searched for the cockroach spray which we normally keep just outside. It wasn't there.

I went back into my apartment and found the largest trap I could - a little plastic kitchen soap holder thing, and grabbed it. I gently pulled my suitcase away from the wall...no cockroach - maybe I imagined it. Then it suddenly scurried across the floor right next to me, trying to hide in my shoulder bag. I tipped it out and before it could hide anywhere else I slammed the trap down over it, just catching its 'antlers'(?) and the tip of its head under the edge. I could hear it fighting to get out from underneath, so I put the nearest heavy thing I could find on top.

Luckily my neighbour was awake. I contacted her on MSN and she brought the spray to finish it off. Then she told me why the spray wasn't in its normal place - she had TWO cockroaches in her room. Tonight.

Now the guys at Suckura House said its normal to see one a year in a clean apartment. Both our apartments are clean, and we've seen 5 in 3 weeks, 3 of them on the same night. That would make for, what, 80 a year? I think we may have a problem.

Some people may think it's stupid to worry so much over cockroaches, but having been in very close contact with a couple of them, I know it's an experience I don't enjoy very much. They're also pretty dirty, and if left untreated a cockroach infestation can get very nasty very quickly...and take months to recover.

So we both think it's time that Suckura House (I'm using this name mainly so my blog doesn't appear in a search for their real name, out of kindess to them - and a desire to not get evicted) sent in some professional help. If we've seen 3 in one night, I think it's safe to assume there's a pretty decent number in our rooms at this very moment that we can't see...and there's a lot of places to hide.

Tomorrow we will go and see Suckura House at the office, rather than sending an e-mail, and ask if we need to be worried yet, now that we're getting 80 times the RDA of cockroaches.

I'll post a photo of tonight's cockroach tomorrow, when I get the courage to lift up the trap...if it's still there in the morning, that is :-P

EDIT: In the meantime here's a pic of the cockroach in its current state...

I guess tomorrow I have to go back to checking my shoes before I put them on...although it's kind of a tough call whether I'd rather take it out of my apartment in my shoe or have it fall out into my apartment, on to me, as I shake the shoe (._. )
Blog updates and my walk to the eki
1 May - 11 years ago
So I was waiting for the new episode of The Apprentice, and decided to make the modifications I wanted to the blog. After 20 minutes of hasty, makeshift and incredibly bad coding, I can now post up to 10 images per post.

I also made a few changes that are going to make it a lot easier for me to layout and edit posts without worrying about html.

So to celebrate, here's some photos I took this morning on my walk to the station. They show various stuff along the 20 minute route I've walked both ways every single day since I arrived in Japan.

Dancing Speakers
1 May - 11 years ago
I couldn't find Livin' La Vida Loca, but here's a demo of the system. The song starts about 1/2 way through. Also on youtube there's a vid that was filmed at the same place I visited, in Ginza, with a Japanese song.

30 April - 11 years ago
The most anticipated game since...well, pretty much ever I guess. It's so tempting to pick up a 2nd hand 360 from Akihabara and play this game on my 19" tv in my apartment.

Of course, not only would it be a waste of money, it would be 50 hours down the drain when I could be using my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of Tokyo.

But still.........GTA IV...
More Photos
30 April - 11 years ago
Until I get time to work on the blog code some more I can only upload 3 images for each post :-(

So here's the extra photos from yesterday:

Hibiya Park

Shibuya has the modest Hachiko statue. Roppongi has this monstrosity.
30 April - 11 years ago
So yesterday I went with some people from college to watch a free Sumo wrestling rehearsal, at the official Sumo 'arena' in Ryogoku Kokugikan. It was really interesting to watch, and they even allowed photos. As usual, I forgot my camera, so this not-so-good photo is from my phone. (EDIT: OK, that photo is even worse than I realised. I'll see if I can get one from someone there who had a good camera with them) There were even a couple of gaijin wrestlers, although as far as I could see they lost all their fights, and some of the native wrestlers made them look like members of weight-watchers.

Then we went to Ginza, probably the most expensive place in the world in terms of cost per sq. foot. And that translates to the prices of all the cafes and shops exactly how you would expect. Although it was still cheaper than London...but I guess that goes without saying.

We looked at a flower festival there, although there's something kind of disturbing about seeing something like that consisting entirely of disembodied, therefore dead, petals. The theme this year is Olympics.

We also stopped by the Sony building, where all the latest Sony technology is on display. Can anyone find me a video of the dancing speakers I saw, dancing to Living La Vida Loca? They're speakers...and they dance...it's worth seeing.

We were kind of tired at point, so stopped for a (900yen!) drink in Hibiya Park (I'm not sure if that's the correct name).

By this point most of the group had gone home, but a few of us decided to go to Roppongi, the gaijin capital of Tokyo, maybe of Japan, to find some dinner. We ended up at a Mexican restaurant. At least, those were the words on the door. What we found inside was one table, and a 10 page menu, with half of one page devoted to mexican food. The rest of the small basement room was devoted to two large darts machines. Still, the atmosphere was nice and the food was good, so it was a great finish to a great day.
Proper Sushi
30 April - 11 years ago
I tried proper sushi for the first time today. Sushi from a conveyor belt, in a restaurant...with a name that isn't trying too hard to be cool (any English ones come to mind?)

Of course it was oishii, and pretty fair in terms of pricing - about a quarter of "Yo!".
Quite normal for Japan
30 April - 11 years ago
I just received a reply from the apartment letting agent about the cockroach.

They say the fact that it was big is very good. Apparently big cockroaches live outside and come alone. If you see a small one...well, you're really just seeing the one out of a hundred that's crap at hiding.

They tell me something like this is "quite normal for Japan", and most people see a couple in their house every Summer...
McD Shinjuku
28 April - 11 years ago
I have an early start tomorrow. It's a national holiday here which means no school, so I'm meeting up with some people to see a (free) Sumo wrestling rehearsal. Thing is it's really early in the morning, but it should be a lot of fun.

In the meantime, I went to Shinjuku on the way home today to delay my return to the cockroach-ridden (ok, we've seen 2 in as many weeks) apartment block. I remembered someone asking for a photo of the 'amazing' view from the McDonald's, so here it is. This was taken directly in front of where I was sitting (a window-facing bar table thingy)
I'll be back
28 April - 11 years ago
I was planning on starting blogging again tonight. I knew I was going to be in and since there's no school tomorrow I'd have plenty of spare time.

Then something bad happened. This morning I put on my coat and shoes, and left the apartment for school. I spent maybe 10 seconds locking the door and another 20 seconds walking down the road when I felt something hard in the end of my left shoe.

Anyone who knows me won't need me to tell you that at this point I was borderline late for school, so I thought I'd leave it until I was on the train. Then I felt it move. This kind of set off alarmbells in my mind. With the Japanese Red Centipede engrained in my memory I kicked off the shoes very, very quickly. Just as the shoe hit the floor, a cockroach, I guess 3-5cm long, fell out on to the pavement. I stood in shock for a couple of seconds, and it escaped down a drain in the street.

It was pretty bad, something I'd prefer not to happen again, but the worst part is that the cockroach got into my apartment in the first place, the only way it could have found its way into my shoe.

So tonight I'm going to go to the conbini, buy cockroach spray, then come home and go hunting. I also need to search for and cover any holes/drains/vents that go directly to the outside, or the drainage system.

Then, I'll get this blog updated...Until then-

EDIT: I guess it's worth noting that my apartment is clean, food sealed away, I haven't even used the kitchen yet, and my neighbour also had a cockroach in her room 2 weeks ago. I don't think it's my fault :-(

EDIT 2: Just for the record I don't think it's my neighbour's fault either...oh dear.
Last night...
19 April - 11 years ago
...was cool. I tried tempura for the first time, and we returned to the awesome place. Still no photos, and I still don't know the name of the place...but I really will remember next time. (is it really worth posting this?)
19 April - 11 years ago
It's the weekend again, and once again I've had a lazy Saturday morning in. I'm going out now though, to try and find some shoes that don't actually absorb water through the tread. OK, that may be an exaggeration but it certainly seemed that way yesterday and I'm going to have wet feet as soon as I put them on today.

Tonight I'll probably go to the izakara since I haven't been there for a week and it's a nice place. Then tomorrow I might even try to do something outside Tokyo :-o It really depends what time I get to sleep tonight...
19 April - 11 years ago
I love my new cellphone. I finally managed to get one thanks to the kindness of my neighbour, who came all the way to Shibuya to be my over-20 person. Thanks M!

I'm set up with a unlimited e-mail plan that costs about 300yen (about ’1.50) a month and lets me send and receive e-mails from any regular address. So I can chat with people in the UK for no extra cost :-)

In fact, starting now (if my code is working), all comments made on this blog are instantly e-mailed to my mobile.

It also has a handy camera and ‚É‚Ù‚ñ‚²‚Ì‚¶‚Á‚µ‚傤 (Japanese dictionary (not sure about the spelling there)). Means there'll be more photos on this blog, as I can still take them when I forget to bring the camera out. It makes an insanely loud sound when it takes a photo, which can't be disabled even in silent mode- apparently to comply with Japanese law...

And it has a "polite mode". Awesome.
Mobile Phone
16 April - 11 years ago
Tomorrow my neighbour's going to try and help me buy a mobile phone.

I've had a lot of difficulty getting my hands on one here. A bunch of new laws have been introduced in the past few years as an anti-terrorism measure. First they needed a student card and proof of health insurance. When I eventually got my student card, and they were just about to sell me the phone, they got around to informing me that as an 18 year old I'm not old enough to enter a legally binding contract in Japan. By the way, anyone who wants to explain to me exactly why a prepaid (pay-as-you-go) phone requires a contract of any kind, is welcome to try their best.

So apparently I can buy one if accompanied by anyone over 20. I'll believe it when I see it.

Still, I'm hopeful about it. I feel kind of out of place without a cellphone in the world's most prolific city for cellphone usage. More importantly it's getting kind of difficult to keep in touch with people I know in Tokyo without a mobile - or a phone of any kind, come to think of it.
Fussy Eater
16 April - 11 years ago
Back home I was a seriously fussy eater. One of my concerns coming to Japan was whether I would have to avoid a large amount of the food here and stick with something I liked (once I found it).

Nothing could be further from the truth. I have tried ‚·‚µ (sushi), ‚³‚µ‚Ý (sashimi), ‚µ‚á‚Ô‚µ‚á‚Ô (shabu shabu), as well as less authentic more psuedo-local stuff like omrice (omelette with curry sauce, rice and vegetables) and a kind of chicken teriyaki stew - and of course the world-renowned ƒVƒƒƒNƒVƒƒƒNƒ`ƒPƒ“...look it up. And I haven't found anything yet that I don't like.

Having said that, the idea of eating raw egg is still kind of repulsive to me, and I avoided the boiled egg that came with one meal. But maybe I'll even get over that lifelong dislike before my time here is up.

I'd love to blog with something more interesting than my eating habits, but that's all I got right now.
16 April - 11 years ago
My neighbour made an awesome discovery on Monday. Just 20 minutes' walk from our apartment block is the most amazing shopping/eating/drinking/walking place (my English vocab is really starting to slip) I've seen in Tokyo.

There's shopping malls that go on for what seems like miles, old-Japan style pedestrianised streets that look impressively authentic apart from some modern signage, as well as a little jazz club, a few cafes, and a fairly large videogame arcade.

I didn't have my camera when I went there last night, so I'll put some photos up as soon as I get some.
Still jet lagged?
15 April - 11 years ago
At home I get maybe 6-8 hours sleep a night, and I get by without ever feeling particularly tired (ok, I don't have the most active lifestyle).

But since I came to Japan I've been sleeping a lot more, like 8-12 hours or even more. It feels like I'm still jetlagged, but can that really go for over a week?
Shabu Shabu
15 April - 11 years ago
So today everyone in my class went out for lunch before class at a Shabu Shabu restaurant. This is where you're given a dish of raw meat and vegetables which you cook at the table by dipping it in boiling hot water/broth. It was my first time trying this and it was really good.

We all ended up getting to class late, which kind of confused the sensei, but at least we had safety in numbers.

The difficulty and learning curve of the lessons has really been stepped up this week. Not only are we expected to know all 46 Katakana symbols for a test tomorrow (we started looking at them yesterday), there's been a lot of sentence structure/grammar stuff, and tons of raw vocab to learn.

I'm one of a couple of people in the class that are really feeling the pressure of learning Katakana - most had learnt it before - but I'm getting there and hopefully a final few hours tonight will do it.

Friday night I returned to the izakara with my neighbour, and got a chance to practice some of my Japanese. And teaching a Japanese guy to say "L'arc du Triumph", which has so many sounds that are completely non-existent in the Japanese language (long story).

The weekend was less action-packed than I was expecting. I tried and failed (again) to buy a mobile phone, this time because I'm under 20 and can't legally enter a contract here. It's really getting difficult to keep in touch with people without the use of a phone. That was pretty much it for Saturday, as I got really tired early on and had to get home, actually falling asleep on the train and missing my stop by 20 mins.

On Sunday two of my neighbours and I went to Harajuku for lunch and coffee. It was surprisingly difficult to find somewhere nice, considering Harajuku is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Tokyo. Then we went to Yoyogi park for a stroll, and to see all the cosplay fanatics who meet there.

Apart from that I've been studying, and sleeping. Sleeping a lot in fact. More about that later. But first, some photos.

12 April - 11 years ago
I know there haven't been new posts for a little while. I'm taking a short break for the weekend because I have study to do and sleep to catch up on.

I'll be doing a recap and starting to blog regularly again on Monday. With photos :-)
10 April - 11 years ago
I'm ashamed to say I ate at McD's for a 2nd time today. Unfortunately it's by the far the most convenient and quick way to eat when you're cold, wet and hungry. I'm trying not to make a habit of it though. And the view of one of the busiest parts of Shinjuku, (just outside of Seibu-Shinjuku station) from the window-facing 'bar' seats at MacDonald's in Shinjuku really is amazing.

I loitered there for quite a while looking at the view and even studying a bit.
More rain
10 April - 11 years ago
It's now been raining for almost 72 hours, with a short break in the middle. My shoes are wet again, which is starting to seem like more of a design fault than my crap umbrella usage.

I just watched The Apprentice (UK TV programme) on my laptop, which was good as always. That guy deserved to go but the head chef is an idiot.

Completely unrelated to that (ahem), I just had the first opportunity to test the internet speed in my apartment. It seemed to max out at about 6MB/s, downloading 500MB in about 1.5 mins. :-O

Just like used to happen at home I've been watching TV and left my homework till 9.15pm, guess I'd better get started.

Anyone have any suggestions on what I should do with my first proper weekend here?
Raw Fish
9 April - 11 years ago
I guess I forgot to mention this in my post about last night. Since I arrived I've subconsciously been a bit worried about eating raw fish. Just that I'm a fussy eater and I've never got around to trying it.

Last night I finally gave it a try, and ate some raw tuna and breem, with wasabi and soy sauce, and it was actually really good. People seemed surprised I could eat the breem on my first attempt, but once it's dipped in wasabi and soy sauce there's really only a subtle difference in taste between fish as far as I can tell.

Still not too keen on the idea of eating squid though...
Bills in the post
9 April - 11 years ago
I get more post at my apartment here than I did at home, including menus, junk mail, and a few things that look suspiciously like bills. I've already dropped one off at the agents' office, so I guess I'll just keep doing that every time I'm in the area...
Mountain Dew?!?!
9 April - 11 years ago
I love this country more every day. As far as I know there's only one vending machine in the whole of Tokyo that sells it, but that just happens to be at my college, and also the cheapest machine i've seen in Tokyo.
Last Night
9 April - 11 years ago
Today and yesterday were fairly uneventful so I'm going to post about last night.

I left my apartment, planning to walk to the convenience store and buy a ready meal, as it was already 9.30pm and I didn't want to get on a train.

Outside I ran into the tenant of the room two across from mine. Turns out he knows an amazing local izakara where the food is great and foreigners are tolerated. He also happens to know everyone there and he's a fluent Japanese speaker. What followed was a pretty surreal night, trying (and failing) to speak communicate in broken Japanese and being told that I look like Dan Aykroyd, and Harry Potter. Oh, and Yagami Light from Death Note.

I dunno about that, but it was a lot of fun, and when we got back at 2am I was glad I skipped the convenience store for the night.

No photos unfortunately, I didn't think I'd need my camera when I left my apartment.
8 April - 11 years ago
With only a small amount of coaxing, the air conditioner is now blowing said warm air right at me. I'm rather happy.
First day at College
8 April - 11 years ago
Today I had my first Japanese lesson at college. My best intentions of getting up and into Tokyo early soon turned to lazyness (and the leftovers of jetlag) and I ended up leaving about noon.

The journey from apartment to school ended up at about 1hr 5mins, not too bad and that time includes a lot of walking (=exercise). Left me with plenty of time to spare for my 1.30-5pm lesson.

First impressions of the college are good. They use the immersion teaching technique, with anywhere from 0-5 words of English being spoken in the average hour.

After the lesson I suddenly became aware of how incredibly wet my feet felt. I have been using an umbrella, but it's been raining here for over 24 hours now and the cumulative umbrella missage has resulted in..soakage.

So I came back to the apartment, and I'm now just about to go on the lookout for food again, just as soon as I try and get these camera vids working.
Hontou ni ureshii!!
8 April - 11 years ago
I just worked out how to get warm air out of my Japanese-language air conditioner!
Bands in Shinjuku
8 April - 11 years ago
There were some awesome bands all day in central Shinjuku yestoday. A lot of familiar sounding J-pop/rock,

as well as a really original band which I can only describe as a Japanese Streetlight Manifesto, with a few lighter more jazzy songs.

I'll upload a video I took in a bit, and I'd be interested if anyone knows the name of the band, however unlikely that is.
8 April - 11 years ago
Previously on j0hn.jp (that I couldn't post because my internet connection stopped working).

So today was my first day at the Japanese college. I still couldn't find the place so in the end I took a taxi. When I turned up I joined the end of the queue...then another queue...it turns out the registration process happens in 6 different departments with 6 different queues. As confusing as that sounds, everyone was really nice and helpful and it wasn't too daunting. I was glad to hear some other people who could barely speak a word of Japanese.

I got away at about 3pm, and having nothing planned for the rest of the day I decided to try and find a mobile phone I could use for three months. I got turned away by a grumpy guy in one shop as soon as I said "three months", but a little flattery to the next guy "ah, anata-wa aigo-ga yoku hanashimas, ne?" and I was told to go to a Softbank store.

Softbank Shinjuku was out of stock, but rather than be smart and try Shibuya I decided to try my luck at the Akihabara Electric Market.

Which was awesome, and I eventually found the Softbank store, but ran into more complications. What I didn't know is that to buy a prepaid mobile in Japan you need to provide Passport and proof of visa (which I don't have as I'm here as a tourist), or student card and proof of health insurance. Guess I'll be going back in a few days once I get my student card from the college.

It was getting late so I came back to the apartment, and I'm just about to go out and try and find some dinner. And now I can't post this because my internet has just stopped working...so i don't now why i'm still typing...
Cold and Achy
6 April - 11 years ago
It's 8.45am. I've just woken up. And I feel like pretty much every muscle in my body is aching. And it's incredibly cold in my apartment, which makes me want to get outside straight away, but I have a lot of stuff to get together first -_-
English pub
6 April - 11 years ago
And Shaun laughed at the idea of there being English-themed pubs in Tokyo...

Back to playing hide-and-seek with mosquito-san...

edit: meh, noticed a problem in the blog code that prevents more than 10 posts being displayed. I'll fix it tomorrow night.
Lost all day
6 April - 11 years ago
Today I managed to get by without using a single map other than the train line map.

And by "get by", I mean I made it from my apartment to Shinjuku-ku, and on to Shibuya-ku. What I don't mean is that I found my school. That would be a lie. I was pretty much lost from 1pm to 8pm today, and walked pretty much non-stop.

At first I was trying to find my college but when it became clear that I was completely lost, I just kind of kept walking to see what happened. The result: I walked through most of Shibuya and the surrounding area, except the area of my college.

I did stumble across a huge reserve/shrine, with what seemed like more foreigners than the rest of Tokyo put together.

I eventually asked for directions back to Shibuya station, which was a pretty long walk by this point, and found my way back home.

Oh, I forgot to mention my first meal at a restaurant in this country: McDonalds. I'm kind of embarrased by my lack of sense of adventure, but I was pretty hungry and after spending all day hearing maybe one sentence of English, and seeing about 5 non-Japanese people (not counting the shrine), it felt good to have something at least slightly familiar. I went with the obnoxiously advertised shaka shaka chicken.

That's all for now, I need to sleep early to prepare myself for the ordeal of finding my college tomorrow.
6 April - 11 years ago
I'd heard a lot about Japanese insects before I came here. About the Japanese hornets with a wingspan of 3 inches, Japanese red caterpillars (you really must watch this), orb spiders (aka my worst nightmare), but when I got to my room I was happy to find it free of any kind of bug at all. Then I noticed a gnat.

Tonight I came home to this beauty (not actual size), and promptly, and safely, relocated it to the outside of my apartment.

At this rate from a gnat the first night to a beetle the 2nd, I don't want to think about what's going to be here in 3 months...
6 April - 11 years ago
I just experienced my first earthquake in Japan. Also the first earthquake I've ever not slept through. It was pretty similar to how people described the recent earthquake in England, although probably much smaller, depending on how much people were exaggerating.
TV Time 3
6 April - 11 years ago
ZOMG!!!1 Flightplan is on...dubbed.
TV time 2
6 April - 11 years ago
As I wrote the last post I watched a game of what looks like a variant of Chess, with a 9x9 grid.

They've just moved on to the Chinese game of Go. (22/07/08: Manolo told me this is incorrect. Not sure what game it is though)
The First Morning
6 April - 11 years ago
It's 11.45am here. I had meant to get out of the apartment around 10am, but I slept a pretty much solid 13 hours up until 11am.

Then came the problem of hot water. There didn't seem to be much of it. Takahashi-san, who signed the lease out and gave me the keys, said something about a switch I would have to flip when I got here to get hot water. Then he changed his mind and said I wouldn't need to...

So I ended up heating water in a kettle for my shower, the most water-efficient one I hope to ever have. When I find a payphone I'll phone the agency to ask about it, although it may just be because I got up too late for hot water.

Today I'm going to try and find my way to the famous Akihabara to take a look around there. Then I'll try and work out where my language college is to save the potential nightmare of finding it tomorrow. I also need to pick up a few things for the apartment.

I'll get going before it gets any later.
Tv Time 1 - pII
5 April - 11 years ago
And the winner is:


TV Time 1
5 April - 11 years ago
I'm watching a programme about a bunch of grown guys sitting in a classroom answering maths and grammar questions. Kind of like "Smarter than a 5th Grader". Without the 5th graders.

And it's long.

But I love it.

Vinegar Juice
5 April - 11 years ago
In all its glory...
I'm in an Apartment...
5 April - 11 years ago
...but not the one I thought I would be staying in when I wrote my last post.

Later that day I got an e-mail from the company who leases the apartment. I won't say the name of the company while I'm still living in one of their apartments. But it starts with S. And rhymes with Akura House.

The e-mail informed me that someone else had got in before me in paying the deposit, and now the only apartments they had left were 7sq.m. or one in Saginomiya. The one I'm staying in now.

Oh well, these things happen, it was really no-one's fault but mine. So enough of that.

I said goodbye to my parents and went through security at 12.30 pm yesterday. The plane was delayed by 1.5 hours including time waiting before boarding and time spent sitting on a non-moving plane. It wasn't a bad journey, I managed to get in 1 and a half hours' sleep through Hitman: The Movie, and watched Sweeney Todd as well as Superbad for the first time.

I was sitting next to a guy called Patrick. Originating from Ireland, he's spent the last 10 years in and around Tokyo apart from a few visits back to Ireland (from one of which he was returning). We only got chatting after 9 hours or so, but it turned out he was also headed to Shinjuku station. Difference is, he had a pretty good idea of how to get there. So another 30 mins of train delays later (Patrick swears it's the first time he's seen a train delay in his time here), and we were on the Narita Express, on our way to Shinjuku station.

Once there, we went our seperate ways, and I pretty quickly got lost. Determined to find my way I resisted the urge to ask for help until a kind, elderly Japanese guy asked where I was trying to go. I won't go into the details of how it took us almost an hour to find the Sakura House office, but let's just say I learned that there's a lot of Epson buildings in Shinjuku. What was awesome was that this guy asked me if I wanted help, and spent all that time trying to find the place with me, something that is pretty much out of the question back in London.

So after checking in at the office I was hit with the delayed realisation that I had to haul my 18kg suitcase and hand luggage to Seibu Shinjuku station. Luckily I found it without too much trouble. With the help of a policeman.

The slightly tricky thing about the trains I've used so far in Tokyo is that the stations don't have Romanised names on most of the signs. This means stop-counting is in order, which may be all well and good when you've had 2 hours' sleep in the past 24 hours. But yeah.

I found my way to Saginomiya Apts. eventually, after more of aforementioned hauling. I was helped at the last moment by an early 20s girl, and her boyfriend, who seemed very friendly until I heard him spit the word "gaijin" mid-sentence.

So yeah, way over 24 hours after arriving at Heathrow airport, I find myself sitting here writing this, when I should probably be sleeping. It's for that reason that you'll have to excuse the grumpiness of this post.

So I decided to get something to eat and drink before I went to sleep. But on leaving my apartment I noticed a distinct lack of light. Oh yeah, the hour hasn't gone back in Tokyo. Well, it was still worth a try, I had a map and it should only be 10 minutes walk. At first it was slightly creepy, walking though a deserted playground, hearing the creaking of the merry-go-round and also of a padlocked gate, both moving in the wind. I could hear sirens in the far distance and birds like I've never heard before. And mysterious shadows (which later turned out to be one of the many neighbourhood cats. Yeah it started out creepy. Then I noticed that a taxi driver had left his car in the road, with the keys in the ignition, the doors (presumably) unlocked, and the engine running; the guy was nowhere to be seen. So maybe it's not a bad neighbourhood. Or maybe it's almost impossibly to come across one of those in Japan in the first place.

I found my way to a local mini-super-market and bought a small supply of liquids and fruit until I can find somewhere that sells meals tomorrow.

I bought some "100% Orange Mikan Juice", a few oranges, and a mysterious looking drink that, having now tasted it, I guess would best be described as Vinegar Juice. Mmmmmm. Maybe it's an acquired taste. I guess I'll find out as I'm determined to give it a proper try now I've bought it.

I guess I should point out that while this e-mail may make me sound like the most ungrateful whinging bastard on the planet, I have actually enjoy every second of the experience so far. Even if only in my English, begrudging way.

I didn't manage to take any photos while I was out, so I'll finish with a couple of photos of my slightly messy apartment.

If it looks like it's not much, well, that's because it isn't. But it's a livable size and close to a station which gives pretty easy access to Shibuya, so it's fine by me.

I need to sleep now before I pass out. Goodbye.
4 April - 11 years ago
Looks like I'm finally close to getting my apt. sorted. I know, kind of late since I'll be there day after tomorrow, but it's been a long, difficult process getting it arranged, confirmed and paid. I'm now just awaiting the final e-mail confirming it all. The next time I post here, it'll be from my apartment in Tokyo.
Off tomorrow
3 April - 11 years ago
Looks like the time has finally come. Tomorrow I fly out of Heathrow for Narita airport. Tokyo
31 March - 11 years ago
Guess I'm going out for a little drive on my own this afternoon.
Driving Test Cancelled
25 March - 11 years ago
So my driving test was supposed to be this morning. Apart from a little nerves, I'd actually got myself pretty psyched up for it. That was, until I turned up at the center with my driving instructor, to be told by the one examiner working there that my examiner was on strike, and I wouldn't be able to take my test.

Apart from the disappointment, my initial thought was "how the - do I pass before I go to Japan now?!". When I got home I tried all the numbers on the apology letter the DSA had given me - all engaged - and looked at the site to find out when I could rebook my test for. May, apparently. THE 15TH OF MAY.

So they fail to tell me my test is cancelled until one minute AFTER it's due to start, hand me some form with no working numbers on it about how they're going to refund me (sort of), and now I can't get a test without dropping by from across the globe for a day? Perfect. Thank you so much DSA.

Meanwhile I'm still looking for accommodation in Tokyo, thanks to Leopalace and Kyouritsu ignoring my e-mails. How can you run a business like that without responding to people's e-mails?

Anyway that's enough for now, I have a feeling I'm not gonna be able to write anything positive right now.

First post
20 March - 11 years ago
Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, so here goes my first post, which I'm writing from home in Essex, England. I'll be using this blog to stay in touch with family and a few friends while I'm in Japan.

I'll be in Japan for 3 to 3 1/2 months, learning the language and seeing the sites, and attending a language school in Tokyo. I've wanted to spend time in Japan for a long time now and finally, pretty last minute, everything's starting to happen.

My course starts on the 7th April, so I'm planning on being in Japan for the weekend before. This means I have a couple of weeks now to confirm my accommodation and flights, pass my driving test and clear up my stuff at home. Should be interesting...

On a seperate note, I hope you like my blogging system, adapted from the blogging code at my (work in progress) flash animation/community site, dementrix animations. If you have any probs/feature suggestions, let me know and I'll have a stab at fixing it.

I guess that's all for now, I'll be back closer to my time of departure.