Friday, 31 July 2009

Genghis Kong vs. Dodgy Internets

Argh! my last few days in Japan and the internets at my dorm have completely died!

A bunch of Koreans have just moved into the dorm, and apparently one of them downloaded something malicious/exceeded the download limit or something, and now none of us has any internets. Bugger!

So I am currently using a computer at school. Unfortunately all the computer rooms are closed because it's summer holidays now, so I'm using the totally crap, slow useless computer in the corridor near the computer rooms. It's dreadful.

So considering my difficult IT situation, and the fact that I'm supposed to be spending the next two days climbing Mt. Fuji, this may turn out to be my last post from Japan. I'll try to at least post one final update when I get back - let you know how I got on with Mt. Fuji - but that doesn't really count, so I've decided to make this my de facto goodbye message.

I've been in Japan for almost a year now, and while there have been bad times and difficulties and stress, I think on balance I'm prettypleased with the year. School has been utterly crap. I've learnt less than nothing, but I do actually feel like I can speak Japanese rather betternow than I could before, which I suppose was the whole point on the excursion. However I must say that my life here in Japan has been pretty stressful. I don't even know why it's been stressful - there's no one single source of stress - but I feel extraordinarily tired and run-down, and I am really looking forward to getting home to a country where I understand everything and everything is easy and everyone speaks my language. I'm tired of the heat, tired of trains, tired of washing machines that don't wash and tired of everything costing a fortune. Tokyo is a tiring place to live.

I'll definitely be coming back though. Without doubt. Although I think I might try living in a different city. Osaka is supposed to be pretty fun, and Hiroshima is far more relaxed and peaceful. Maybe I'll go and live in Okinawa for a while, get myself a nice tan.

Tomorrow will be my 22nd birthday, and I will be climbing Mt. Fuji. Hopefully. It sounds like the climb is pretty hard work - 7 hours up and 5 hours down, overnight. The success rate is less than 50%, and last month a climber was killed by a falling rock, Add to that altitude sickness and twisted ankles, and it's all rather worrying. And the weather forecast isn't good. Also, I may have to abandon the climb altogether if it sounds like a I can't get back down in time to sign for my scholarship at school. So it's all a little bit up-in-the-air whether I even attempt the climb or not, let alone actually complete it. Still, if it doesn't happen in the end then I've got an idea in mind for an alternative - all drinks are half-price all day at the English pub. That's right: my birthday is half-price booze day in Japan. I think they should make it a national holiday.

Hopefully the internets will come back on in the dorm, and I'll be able to write you an all-singing, all-dancing, lights and music goodbye postarama before I leave, but if not then I guess this is goodbye. I'm sorry if it's a bit of an anticlimax - no pictures, no triumphant fanfare - but in a pinch I'm afraid it might have to do.

Thanks for reading,
See you all back home in Blighty.

Love love love,
Genghis Kong


Monday, 20 July 2009

Genghis Kong vs. Koreans

Hello readers,

I've been meaning to write to you for some time, but just didn't manage to get around to until today. Much has transpired since last I wrote, possibly most significantly I finished Japanese school. Well, tentatively. I may decide that I actually haven't yet finished Japanese school, but we'll get round to that in a little bit.

Over the last week or so of school, rather than studying hard I was mostly fooling around and doing a few fun and exciting things, but to be brutally honest since school ended I have spent most of my time going to awful parties where I have a fairly rubbish time but get very drunk. This has led me to be feeling awful and miserable most of the time, and now that I have just got out of my nocturnal alcoholic cycle, I've picked up a bloody cold from one of my friends. Bastards.

In terms of fun things I've done recently which were actually worthwhile and memorable, there are a few. A couple of weeks ago I took part in the TKY Centurion event - a large, organised, (spurious) world record attempt at the largest centurion drinking game ever. For those of you who don't know, the centurion is a fairly simple premise - one shot of beer every minute for 100 minutes. "A shot of beer? Pah! That's less than nothing!" I hear you cry, and you are correct. However 100 shots of beer really is quite a lot, especially as a hundred minutes is not a very long time. Assuming the shots are 25ml each, this amounts to 2.5 litres of beer (about 5 pints) in one hour and 40 minutes. However I have a feeling that a standard shot in Japan is actually 35ml, making it more like 6 and a half pints in 1h40. Needless the say, the levels of drunkenness were quite high that evening.

Oh, and you are not allowed to stand up or leave your seat for any reason. Expecially not to urinate. This can put a significant strain on the ol' bladder, as I'm sure you can all imagine.

You can visit the official website here (if you scroll down to 'photos' and click on 'kato' there's a bunch of pictures of us in there), and see my name listed among the victorious centurion champions. I know for certain that more people completed it than are listed there, but either way it was a world record attempt fail. Firstly, it was not very closely policed so people could have easily cheated, and secondly Guinness said that it was irresponsible and dangerous to encourage this kind of drinking behaviour. Which is true.

Anyway much merriment was shared by all at the centurion. Incidentally, our centurion team included a pair of very sexy Japanese identical twins. Yeah - that's not just an Austin Powers joke, there really are sexy Japanese identical twins out there. I was just surprised to learn that they hang out with me, of all people.

Anyway, centurion finished, two from our table finished it successully. (Possibly three, actually, but I'm not sure. The third guy spent so much time snogging another guy that was with us that I think he must have missed a few shots along the way, but I think he made it to 100, sort of). Everyone's drunk, party's over lets head home. The two gays head off for the gay district, the two twins head home, leaving me, my (American) friend Nate and his (Japanese) girlfriend Mana. Mana at this point is very drunk. So drunk that she can hardly walk, and is tumbling around the street shouting that she hates us.

Now unfortunately this does not look good to the casual observer on the street: two large and relatively sober Gaijin leading a completely drunk Japanese girl home, and the Japanese girl shrieking and hitting them. In fact it looks to passers-by very much like we were trying to date-rape her or something.

Just then a small asian guy (presumably Japanese) comes up to us saying "Hey Gaijin! Where you going? What you doing with her?" and then asking Mana (in Japanese), "Hey girl, where are going. Do you want know these Gaijin?" to which Mana responded with a loud "FUCK YOU!" in English. (not very helpful)

It's worth pointing out here that Mana is completely crazy and can be rather a belligerent drunk.

The guy continues pestering us and we try to explain ourselves - with Mana continuing to be distinctly unhelpful - and eventually he leaves us be, but as we approach the crossing I look over my shoulder to see he is still following us. Mana is still reeling about the place and occassionally shouting or hitting Nate, and can't stand on her own so Nate is holding her own to keep her up, and the little asian dude comes up to us again while we're waiting for the lights to change, and is being really quite aggressive now, grabbing at Mana's arm and pushing at Nate, so I just stepped up behind him - I don't like fighting, I was just hoping that my bigness might get the little scrote to fuck off - at which point he goes off on one: shoving my chest screaming in my face and just generally trying to start a fight.

Just as I was thinking that it's particularly ballsy for one little asian dude to pick a fight with two big Gaijin, two of friends appear who had apparently been waiting across the road. What a fucking set-up! Clearly their game is for the one guy to pick a fight with a big guy, and then the other two guys come in to back him up and have a jolly-old beat down on the guy.

Fortunately, though, it seemed that one of them was willing to throw the first punch, and I sure as hell wasn't so eventually I managed to talk them down and we just walked home, but it still rattled me a fair bit.

Obviously we were a little pissed off with Mana, who could have easily just explained to them in Japanese "No, this is my boyfriend, this is my friend, we're going home", but afterwards when we asked her why she hadn't done this she just said "I don't wanna talk to him. He was a Korean anyway, so he's a Gaijin too!"

Well great! Thanks Mana, just as long as we don't get beaten up by Japanese people you're totally willing to let us get beaten up by Koreans? You're so thoughtful!

She was very apologetic the next day, and as I understand it Nate is actually pretty good at fighting, so had it come down to it we might not have actually been on the receiving end of a beating, but still - a very sout end to an otherwise very fun night.

Still - I'm putting that down as the first time I've been the victim of a racist attack! Cool - I can tick that one off the list of 'life experiences I never really wanted to have'.

But anyway, no harm no foul, I guess. It could have been worse.

Ignoring that, I carried on doing to do (like Betty Boo) and eventually it was the last week of school and I was taking all my final exams. The exams were all pretty easy, I would say. The only one I have got back so far I scored a fairly respectable 98% on, although that wasn't a language class taht was my Manga and Anime class.

Now the reason I say that I have finished school, but maybe not, is that I basically didn't do any of the work for the classes that I don't have to pass. The way the year abroad works with Sheffield University is that you have to pass all the Japanese language classes you take, and then you have to submit a 6000-word research paper, but any other extra classes you take at your host university make no difference - you can fail them or you can get an A, and no one will care. For some reason, unlike in most Universities I know of where the essays are usueally deu in the middle of the term and the exams are at the end, for my classes everything was due all in the same week - I had about 6 essays and 6 exams all in the same week. Putting aside the fact that my time management skills are miserable, I have also been suffering miserably with insomnia these past few weeks and I spent most of my last weeks of school in something of a daze from lack of sleep. Therefore I took the executive decision not to do any of the essays for classes I didn't need to pass. I did all the work for my Japanese classes and hopefully will have passed them with a decent grade, but I did none of the final papers for my three other classes, because it doesn't matter if i fail them.

So as it stands I have finished school (woop woop!) with 4 passes and 3 fails (boo!). Although I do quite like the fact that I have finished school, this rather lacklustrre ending has left a bit of a bad tastet in my mouth, so I'm thinking I might now write all the papers and submit them late. Even if they are so late that they can't be counted and I fail the class anyway, it might make me feel a little better about the situation. I've made a start on a couple of them actually, but i'm sure you can understand it's difficult to motivate yourself to write a paper which makes no difference to any part of your acamdemic career, except perhaps your self- esteem.

Yours nose-blocked-uppedly,
Genghis Kong


(P.S Sorry very wordy today - no pictures. I'll try to be more interesting tomorrow)

Friday, 3 July 2009

Genghis Kong vs. the British Council

Good Evening!

Right, well, it's now 4am, and I am definitely drunk, so I will keep this short.

I just got back from my drinks reception at the British Council. I may go so far as to say that my little speech went pretty well - I did forget what I was supposed to say, but I covered it well and carried on to -


- wha? huh? what just happened? I think I must have just drifted off there for a moment.

Actually it's been about 5 days since i started writing this post. You can't really blame me for giving up on it at 4am with an extremely high level of drunkenness. I was going to continue with it the following day, but it sort of turned into one of *those* weekends. You know, the type of weekend which seems to be over as soon as it started, leaving you confused, disoriented and with far less money than you started out with.

I'll briefly summarise it for you.

After spending ages scouring Tokyo for a shirt in my size (harder than you might imagine), I donned my suit and made my way to the British Council's office in Tokyo for a University of Sheffield alumni drinks reception, at which I had been asked to speak. It was a little awkward at first - I can do polite conversation pretty well, but starting up a conversation with someone I've never met before doesn't come very easily to me - but my little speech went well. Lots of people came up to me and said how good it was. Apparently speaking is something I'm rather good at. Maybe I should be a motivational speaker.

So everyone thanked me profusely, and I was given a CD of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos as a thank you (which I am sadly unable to listen to, because my computer's CD-Drive is on its way out), and I went to Roppongi with two men that I had met there. These two were Sheffield old boys and now fast friends in Tokyo, but in all honesty they were a pair of nigh-on insufferable arseholes. That said, they both seemed to be pretty successful in terms of making money in Japan, so I thought that it might be worth my while to hang out with them for a bit, pick their brains and maybe make some useful contacts for the future. Also, they kindly offered to bankroll me for a night on the tiles in Shibuya.

So that brings us to the exact moment at which I started writing this post - home from the British Council (and Roppongi), drunk, at four in the morning.

I woke up around noon the next day, feeling dreadful. I sat around in my underwear stinking for a little while, before remembering that my mate Scott had said something about a barbecue on the roof. I dragged my pale and trembling body up the ladder to the roof to find a dozen Japanese kids sitting around having a barbecue in the sun. Fortunately one of the Japanese kids was in fact my friend Scott, so I joined them for some barbecue. And some beer. For breakfast.

See? Here's some concrete evidence that I hang out with Japanese people. Occasionally.

Barbecue proceeded with much merriment and meat for several hours. Eventually someone had the idea of going to the shop to buy vodka, and we all got drunk. A few people left, some new people arrived, and eventually it became nighttime and we were still barbecuing on the roof. Night fell, and the decision was taken to go to Shibuya to rendezvous with the birthday party of our friend Bård. Bård is a Norwegian Judo player who smells incredibly bad and talks a lot of nonsense, but he's pretty funny (as long as he doesn't come so close that you can smell him) and a valuable addition to any drinking event.

After a while wandering around failing to get into nightclubs, we ended up at karaoke. On the way to karaoke, Scott and
Bård bought some novelty man thongs from a strange shop, and decided that we should put them on in secret and then do a karaoke striptease, much to everone's amusement/shock/disgust. For some reason, I felt that this wouldn't be an awful idea and agreed to participate. Fortunately, I have not seen any photos of that particular moment (although I fear they may actually exist), so here's a photo of me and Bård at the Karaoke, still with our clothes on.

Doesn't he just look smelly?

Anyway, we got out from karaoke about 5am, I think. The sun was up, people were on their way to work, the world was going about its business. More importantly the trains had started running again so we could get home. So we decided to go to a club. At 5am.

We spent a few hours in a little downstairs hip-hop club/bar, with me dancing ferociously and everyone else looking on in shock and awe. I've been told that mhy dancing was something rather special, but I don't specifically remember. There is, I believe, a video of it on the Facebooks for those of you interested enough to track it down, but I'm not going to link to it here because I'm a little embarassed.

Aaaaaaanyway, finally got home at 9am Sunday morning. All this had started out as a barbecue around lunchtime on Saturday, remember. Needless to say, Sunday was a non-event. I hardly saw Sunday at all. And that is how I went from Friday evening to Monday morning without getting anything much useful done.

[That's quite enough debauchery - ed.]

Important informations time now. Ladies and Gentlemen, my return to England has been postponed.

*Pause for dramatic effect. Wait for murmur to die down*

Yes, my return has been postponed, but only by three days.

*Pause and wait for sighs of relief to die away*

Due to slight complications regarding my scholarship, it turns out that I have to be in Tokyo on the third of August in order to receive my scholarship money. Curiously enough, I will actually receive the scholarship money on the 31st of July, but they won't give it to me then unless I will be there on the 3rd. You see, I need to sign for scholarship on the 3rd so that I can receive it on the 31st (of the previous month). Before anyone says anything - yes, this country is crazy.

However, this has probably turned out for the better, overall, as not only am I receiving a massive handful of cash (¥80,000! That's loads!), but I am now planning to spend my birthday climbing Mt. Fuji! I know this is quite a departure from my typical birthday celebrations of going to the pub then accidentally going to Moles, but I'm really looking forward to it. Although I am rather nervous - it's a 7-hour ascent, and I'm not the fittest man in the country. Well, I guess I've no choice but to do my best, eh? DYB DYB! DOB DOB! Ging-gang-goo!

(I was never actually in the boyscouts)

So I will now be flying home on the 4th. As mentioned before, this does mean that I won't be in Bath for my birthday, sadly, but I'm sure we can have some manner of belated birthday celebration, so you won't be missing out on anything. My apologies to anyone who had arranged me a surprise party and is now going to have to tell the clown and the conjurer that their services are no longer required.

Also, exciting news just in - there are flowers on one of my little tomato plants! Yay!

My ongoing tomato saga has been fraught with tragedies. My original crop of 6 tomatoes and 6 chilis is now down to 2 healthy tomato plants, 3 rather poorly tomato plants, and 3 very under-the-weather chili plants. Nonetheless, one of the two healthy ones has brouoght forth flowers! This means that at some point it should actually bear fruit! Unfortunately, that might not happen before I leave the country, but I'm still counting it as a win.

Here's the family portrait:

In the middle, two large and (relatively) healthy tomato plants, which will possibly one day manage to bear fruit. One step down, standing vertical, is the healthiest of the surviving chili plants. Believe it or not, this scrawny little thing actually appears to have some flower buds at the top of it, so we may even see some chilis before the summer is over! One step up from the centre, are the three ugly sisters. These three did not react very well to being put outside. They haven't died yet, but they have not grown very much and their leaves are all pale and droopy. I don't hold out much hope for them. Then finally there are the two reclining chili plants. Basically, when I put the chili plants outside, all their leaves fell off, but new ones started growing from the top. This led them to become very top-heavy, and ultimately unable to support their own weight. I had one spare stake, so I staked up the healthiest looking of my chili plants, but these two were not so lucky. Instead, I decided that if they were too top-heavy to stand up straight, I'll just grow them lying down! Seems like a perfect solution, right? So I've pegged them down into a second pot of earth, in the vague and unlikely hope that they will put down root from where the stem touches the soil.

Finally there are the two empty pots. These, along with the pots my chili plants are reclining into, stand as a solemn monument to those brave plants which did not survive this far. Rest in peace, brothers, and god bless.

I also bought a T-Shirt!

Isn't that tasteful? Yay! Hitler!

Much love,
Genghis xXx