Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Shifting from neutral four years after 3/11

It's 3/11 again. Apart from re-tweeting a few news stories and mentioning that it's been four years since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, I don't really have anything to say. But disasters are not something you can be neutral about. Neutrality is tacit acceptance of the status quo, not something Our Man is into.

Not that disasters care what Our Man thinks, to be frank.

And let's be frank. Our Man was here, in Abiko, not more than a couple of hundred metres from this cabbage patch above, back on this day in 2011. His story is pretty unexceptional. Thankfully.

But he is lucky enough to be heading back up the Joban Expressway at the end of the month with Our Woman in the co-pilot seat and we'll be stopping off in Ishinomaki and a couple of other places that the tsunami came close to wiping off the map. We're going to meet some survivors Our Woman has kept in touch with over the last four years.

I'm pretty sure their opinions will be worth listening to.

Our Man is taking his reporter's notebook and sketchpad, so you'll hear and see what he does.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Early doors

There is fast approaching a time when Our Man will have more to offer than his usual sketchbook dregs (this latest one titled "Afternoon drinks") and pseudo-philosophical empties. See, he's now published two more TEFL textbooks this year, and with only two more textbooks to go by April, he'll be relatively free to get on with the second novel that has been stewing in its first draft juices for nearly a year now. Once that's done, he's got a backlog of essays and short story ideas to churn out, all of which means he needs to get back into the swing of writing pretty words, pretty sharpish. He's running out of time to tell all that he wants to, but at least he'll not collapse on the newsroom floor. Only because no newsroom would have him.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Watanabe's stand

This is Watanabe-san's bicycle shop. It may not amount to much in the great scheme of things, but Our Man was reminded of how Mr Watanabe fixed up s bunch of bikes for free back on 2011 for tsunami survivors. Respect.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Man with the Golden Licence

Our Man figured out how to renew his Japanese driving licence at the Nageriyama Driving Centre this morning so you don't have to.

1. Go to Window 1. Say: Menkyo no koshin, onegaishimasu. "Licence renewal, pretty please."

2. They photocopy your old licence. You sign the photocopy, put your phone number on it and write two secret four-digit PINs in the top top right box in numbers legible from 10 feet.

3. Pay ¥3,100 at window 2. Stick the revenue stamps in the top right corner of the photocopy with damp sponge provided for your sticking pleasure.

4. Go to Window 8. Then when it transpires you didn't fill out or sign the back of the photocopy, go to Window 14, where a man shows you how to tick the "no" boxes to declare that you have caused no accidents to your knowledge.

5. Behind Window 14 perform sight test. Look at little horse shoes at 10 feet away and tell the man whether the gap in them is pointing up, down, to the right or left (ue, shita, migi or hidari). When you get one of them wrong make out it was your faulty Japanese not your faulty vision. Pass test with flying colours.

6. Rejoin the throng who have passed through Window 8, get in queue for window 10. Read a chapter of David Sedariss' amusing Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls collection of essays.  Hand in paperwork and declare you have not moved house, changed telephone number, religion or sexual preference to your knowledge in the last three years. Something like that. Say: "Zembu onaji." Everything's the same, dude.

7. Receive plastic chitty with three digits on it. Stand around until your number is called then stand in line some more to have your picture taken. Do not smile. Then go upstairs.

8.  Wait 20 minutes in Classroom 2 for a 30-minute drivers' education talk by an old man in a suit who has a very long bamboo stick which he uses to point at things on the overhead screen. Everything is over your head, so get on with a watercolour sketch of the backs of your classmates' heads (optional). Hide watercolour. Receive stamp to say you survived the talk.

9. Listen carefully for a different three-digit number on your stamped receipt hidden within a five digit number in the right hand corner. Didn't quite follow why this was so, but the watercolour came out quite well (see above). And they renewed Our Man's licence.

10. Now proud holder of a golden licence that means Our Man only has to do this whole thing again in five years, not three like the the plebs who got caught speeding on their old licences.