31 May 2006


So, here I am, back in Toronto. A very mixed bag of emotions for me right now. I'd been in Tokyo for nearly four years, so it really did feel like my home. I loved getting up every day and dealing with the sheer insanity of it --the mass of humanity, the kanji, Shinjuku Station at five o'clock. As much as I complained about things, I never lost my sense of wonder and excitement for that awesome meat-grinder of a city.

In my head, I was trying to prepare myself for reverse culture shock when I got back, but as others who have come back before me have pointed out, you can never be really prepared. Toronto's three million people compared to Tokyo's 20 is seeming a little provincial at the moment. Well, if worse comes to worse, and I don't think I can hack it in Toronto, I can always execute my contingency plan, which is to decamp to Paris on a working holiday visa. Oh là là !

It hasn't even been 24 hours yet, so I am going to give it some time. Here are some things that I've realised in my short time back:
1. People aren't as fat as I was expecting them to be
2. The city is quite dirty (Uh, hello, it's called a broom people!)
3. Everyone and their dog has a tattoo —I feel like I'm at a yakuza convention.

29 May 2006

Departure is Imminentionifying

Less than 24-hours to go. This past few days have certainly been an emotional rollercoaster. I absolutely cannot believe that it's been three-and-a-half years! It feels like I just got here the day before yesterday.

For interested parties, I'll be on flight AC002, arriving in Toronto at 4:40pm Tuesday.

27 May 2006


One of my friends from Tokyo who moved back to Toronto about a month ago said that the most important thing I needed to do before leaving was go shopping!

The shopping in Toronto really sucks according to her. I think she might have used the term 'dockers wasteland'. Now I already knew that the shopping in Toronto was not great --too much skater gear and 'dope sneaks'-- so I felt at least semi-prepared. But after hearing from her though, now I'm freaking out!! Am I over-reacting? --Oh my God, I'm not am I-- it's even worse than I've imagined isn't it! I can picture it now; triple-XL sports jerseys, sandles with socks, and envicta backpacks. i can imagine the parade of horrors now. yuck!

Luckily, I managed to funnel my freak-out into a shopping expedition to 'Gotemba Premium Outlets Mall' near Mt Fuji with my friends .:C:. and 'K'. I did some hardcore shopping, but the girls didn't buy anything! I was certainly shocked and awed. I kinda felt bad making them watch me try stuff on, but in the end I got over that feeling and got some really nice stuff, including The Most Gayest Swimsuit EVER!© The swimsuit (seen below) is Yves St Laurent, regular price 40 000¥ down to 8000¥. Of course they're only suitable for the most gayest of occasions; ibiza, fire island, the pool at kylie minogue's house, etc., but I'm a sucker for expensive things marked down to low prices. I love them.

Now, I've recieved shopping commitments from Sly --hopefully others will follow suit-- but I'm still very worried about the calibre of what I'll be able to find. Reassurances anyone?

25 May 2006

It's the Final Countdown!

Well, I've dreamed about this for a long time, and now it's finally here; my last day at Nova. I can't believe it's over. It was a pretty normal day in terms of my schedule, my friend Clairasol brought some cake, pretty low-key. I thought I was for sure going to cry, though in the end I didn't. I was just so happy all day thinking 'This is the last time I have to use the crappy Level 3 textbook,' 'This is the last time I have to suffer through a dumb-dumb's incoherant and incomprehensible ramblings,' 'This is the last time I will ever have to answer the question 'Why did you come to Japan?''

It was very theraputic.

Only five more days!

Here you see me with my last schedule; me with my last student (Takashi Umeyama -a fungus researcher!); and me standing outside my branch for the very last time.

19 May 2006

"Some Like It Hot (Springs)" --A Tokyo Tintin Oriental Report

The other day, I went with my friend Scouser Ste to Ōedo Onsen –a hot spring in the futuristic Tokyo Bay area.

Now, you may or may not know that Japanese people love hot springs –and with good reason too. They’re pretty freakin’ fantastic! They are soooo relaxing. Now what, you may say, is relaxing about hanging out naked in a pool of boiling water with a bunch of other naked people? Well, the first time I ever went to an onsen (in a remote village south-west of Tokyo on holiday with Jase), I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing. As we were paying to get in, I became mildly alarmed. Then as we were getting undressed; rather panicked. As we went from the change-room to the onsen-room; wholly embarrassed. Then, about ten seconds later,.. everything became perfectly normal. I mean, it’s pretty hard to be embarrassed about being naked when everyone else is naked too, right?

I know some of my dear readers become despondent at the thought of even a swimsuit, much less the full monty. But really, hang-ups like that are just silly –especially when you consider that nine out of ten people are flabbier, wrinklier and harrier than you, whilst you are young and vivacious. I recommend anyone with said hang-ups to visit an onsen post haste to cure themselves, as I did, in less than a minute. Next stop: Hanlan’s Point –haha.

Onsens are Oji-san (old man) Central, so the whole thing is rather un-sexy in case you were wondering. Just hanging out, relaxing in pools of varying levels of hotness, letting time slide by.

The Ōedo Onsen is particularly nice because you get a lovely yukata (cotton kimono) to wear around the common area, which is done up like a turn-of-the-century Tokyo street market. You get a microchip bracelet that you use to pay for everything like food, beer and souvenirs, which made me feel very futuristic. All in all, at top-notch time! Thanks Scouser Ste.

16 May 2006

Four Gay Weddings and an Intervention

Alternate Title: "Why I Hate Stephen Harper So Much"

So, although I am a continent away, I still hate Stephen Harper and the asinine Conservative Party very much. Despite the fact that polls showed that the majority of Canadians supported equal marriage, and an even larger majority oppose reopening the issue in Parliament, our joke of a Prime Minister has taken it upon himself to make Parliament vote again on this issue.

Now, the pro-equal marriage side is likely win again, and even if it didn't, legal experts have said that taking away these rights would now be unconstitutional. But, it's important to let your MPs know how you feel. Mostly they hear from right-wing crazys, so letting them hear the views of the silent majority is key. Please take ten seconds to visit equal-marriage.ca which has ready-made emails to send off to your MP regarding equal marriage. I appreciate it.

On a lighter note, who do you think will get gay married first; Tom and Brandon, or Ian and James?

Also on a lighter note; check out "Brokeback to the Future". Awesome.

12 May 2006

Japanese for Half-Assed People II

Today’s word is very popular in Japan.

Kawaii: 可愛い かわいい: (ka-wa-iiiii —preferably pronounced with an exaggerated high-pitched squealy emphasis on the ‘iiiiii’): adj. Cute.

Japan is, in fact, a nation of cuteness. Think ‘Hello Kitty’ and ‘Pokémon’. Okay, now think ‘Hello Kitty’ and ‘Pokémon’ painted on the side of a 747 jumbo jet that flies daily to Frankfurt and you’ll begin to understand just how serious people here are about cute. Cute is everything; even the Tokyo Metropolitan Police have a cute little mascot smiling at you from every station —his name is Biibo-kun.

“That handbag is really kawaii.”

“Your pet chihuahua is sugoi kawaii.”

For advanced students only: “Biibo-kun is sugoi sugoi kawaii.”

Coca-Cola's Innovative New Pricing Strategy

I saw this recently on a vending machine near my work. Does this make sense to anyone? —Execpt perhaps as a sinister plot by the sugar industry to make us all fat.

FYI: 120¥ is about 1.20$CDN — Stupid exhange rate screwing me over! Damn those international money market fat cats! They're probably in it with the sugar people too!

07 May 2006

Let's Hear It For the Boys!

One of the many great things about being in Japan is that I’ve made friends with straight guys again. They’re sugoi! (except for the freakazoids of course). –I say ‘again’, but actually, for the life of me I cannot recall the last heterosexual guy I befriended. Nonetheless, the lads here are all really top-notch (pictured are Irish and J-Dub with yours truly at a Nichōme gay bar the other night). I get to learn about all kinds of useful things like changing flat tires, while at the same time playing Queer Eye for Shinjuku Honko telling people to wear tighter shirts (a large looks good on no one people!) and to exfoliate to prevent in-grown hairs when shaving. Who knew that straights could be so much fun?

I never realised that, other than sports and shopping, gay guys and straight guys have so much in common. I remember many an evening sitting around the 3-11 kitchen table, whilst Sly and Jenni griped about guys and occasionally interjecting “Why do boys suck?”, looking to me for some kind of enlightenment. I now must confess, in the cold, unblinking eye of cyberspace, that it was I who thought them crazy!

A sample conversation:
Jenni: “So, I was at this bar, and I see this cute guy, and he totally came over and tried to talk to me! What a jerk! Can you believe that!?”
Tintin: “Um, but didn’t you just say he was cute?”
Jenni: “Yeah, but I don’t want some loser to just start talking to me! Gawd! – I mean, who does he think he is!”

How you silly straight people ever manage to get anything done will forever remain an elusive mystery to me. Much less that men and women aren’t on the same page, you’re not even in the same library! I’ve never had a problem where me and whoever’s expectations were so different, or motives so incomprehensible as to cause me throw up my hands in a chorus of “Boys Suck!”

Now, do you ladies out there (and lads too), think that the men/women differences are so big as to be insurmountable, or do you think you’re just fast and easy with the “Boys suck” because it’s an easy and convenient scapegoat? –I’m genuinely interested to know what’s going on in those fine, foxy noggins of yours’, ladies.

05 May 2006

Japanese for Half-Assed People

Okay, per Jenni's request, here is ya'll's first Japanese lesson:

Sugoi: 凄い すごい: (su-goy): adj. Great, wonderful, amazing, terrific. Also; terrible, dreadful.

How oh-so-Japanese to have one word with two completely opposite meanings! I'd say it's probably the most used word in conversations with people under 35. In fact, it probably gets used in a typical conversation, oh, about every second sentence. So feel free to sprinkle it liberally throughout your converstation. I know I sure do.

A: "I just won the lottery."
B: "Sugoi!"

Those new shoes are sugoi!

03 May 2006


Now that I have your attention, I will be talking about penises, or more specifically the "Kawasaki Penis Festival"

Accurately known as the “Kawasaki Daishi Kanamara Festival of the Steel Phallus” is held every year, in the middle of cherry blossom season at a small Shintō shrine just south of Tokyo. It’s quite something —check out photos. The Japanese, while cultivating an image of being demure and refined, certainly don’t go to any half-measures here —“Hey kids, lets pick up Grandma and go down to the Penis Festival to watch some transvestites carry around a huge three-meter wang through the streets!”

Legend has it that long ago, a evil daemon possessed a young woman’s vagina, and set her about town, thusly biting off the sensitive bits of her lovers. (Most unladylike of her if you ask me). The Kawasaki’s menfolk felt a bit irked with this rather unsatisfactory situation, so a blacksmith forged an iron phallus which was then used to break the dæmon’s teeth. The dæmon was vanquished, happiness returned, and the phallus came to be venerated at the local shrine.

The festival itself dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867). At that time, Kawasaki's "ladies of the night" prayed not only for good business, but also for protection from syphilis (generally a good idea). Come cherry blossom time, they’d gather baskets of bamboo shoots and other sprouting delicacies, carry the shrine's phallic image in procession through the streets, and then sit down to a merry banquet on mats spread out on the courtyard of the shrine.

Today, the highlights of this saucy festival include transvestites in kimonos and bad wigs parading through the town's streets carrying a mikoshi (portable shrine) with a humungous shocking-pink phallus on top, as well as the spectacle of grandmas and little kids sucking on penis-shaped candy. Other attractions include locals carving penises out of daikon radishes, and people sitting astride penis-shaped seesaws for good luck and fertility blessings.

In a word, basically, it was nuts.

well, about time i'd say. i figure i spend enough time writing on other people's blogs, i might as well have one of my own. now you can all bask in the glory that is me as much as you'd like.