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The things you can do on the net! July 16, 2007

Posted by urbanblue in Adventures.
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I have just discovered Facebook and am having hours of fun. This guy here is supposedly me, can you see the similarity?… You can find me at http://www.facebook.com/p/Steve_Penney/667306803

My Meez

And he’s back! June 23, 2007

Posted by urbanblue in Adventures.
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Well for crying out loud, it’s been well over two months since I last updated this blog, and I have absolutely no excuses. Hmm, except for being exceptionally busy with the (not-so) new job.

So here’s a run-down of the last nine weeks:

- Family birthdays: my mother (8th May), my twin nieces (6th May), my sister’s partner (30th April – I think… sorry Micky if that’s wrong!!)

- Friend’s birthdays: Emma (also 8th May), Andy (13th April – again, I think, and apologies if it’s wrong), and quite probably three or four others that my memory did not allow me to remember (including Robin probably, as I never seem able to recall when that is…..)

- Weddings: Joannie and Ben – CONGRATULATIONS!!!

- Job going well, moved to a new office, got promoted to Manager,  placed 5 people in new jobs (one of whom has since been sacked though!…)

- Found THE most humungous spider in the kitchen a few weeks ago, which I since found out was a wolf spider (look it up on Wikipedia, it’s a bloody monster). That was NOT a good day.

Apart from that, not much else has happened really. I’ve become a bit of a recluse what with having to work so many hours and all, so no one has seen a lot of me recently. I am incredibly relieved that I left my last company when I did though, Nova has been headlining the National newspapers with tales of corruption and lying to customers. They have been banned from signing on any new students for the next six months,  existing students have been apparently quitting in droves, and several branches are being closed down) including Toranomon and Shibuya Miyamasuzakashita for those who were here and remember such things.

I’ve shaved my head because it’s summer and very hot so I look a bit fearsome at the moment what with the goatee and all. People are not wanting to sit next to the great big hulking 6’4″ skinhead on the train, which is understandable I suppose. I’ve toyed with the idea if wearing a sign saying, “I’m actually a big ol’ softie”, but I’m not 100% sure how to translate that into Japanese.

And that’s about it really! Apologies for the unnecessary lack of contact with everyone. I’d love to make my usual promise of vowing to write more often, but you all know what I’m like by now.

Don’t forget me! :)

NEVER shop at Ikea!! April 22, 2007

Posted by urbanblue in Announcements.
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You know, from time to time shops give you service that is less than the expected level of customer satisfaction. That kind of thing never drives me to write a complaint, but I have just finished writing an extremely long and angry letter to the IKEA store in Kohoku.

Last weekend Masaru and I went there to buy literally all the furniture for his new apartment. And I mean everything – bed, sofa, dining table and chairs, rugs, lamps, mattress, pillows, garden furniture – the lot. We spent over three hours choosing it all, and when we arrived at the checkout to get it all delivered, they told us we had to go fetch it all first. We told them how much stuff it was, and they STILL said we had to go get it. Just us. Two blokes were supposed to go collect an entire apartment’s worth of furniture without any assistance. We literally had to shout at them before one of the staff begrudgingly offered to help. So that put us in a foul mood to start with. Then they said that there was no garden furniture in stock, which we understood because sometimes that happens. So we asked them how to order it, and they said we couldn’t. I asked them to call the Funabashi store to see if they had it, they said they couldn’t. Which basically means they were breaking the law by advertising something they could not supply and that is totally unacceptable. So after having to drag four trolleys the size of cars up to the checkout, we then had to queue again to arrange for it all to be delivered. The dining table Masaru got was the shop display one because they didn’t have any more in stock – yet he was offered no discount for this.

Yesterday the stuff was delivered, and lo and behold the dining table was missing, and the mattress that the staff had got off the shelf last week was the wrong size (we checked our order sheet and it was definitely not us who made the mistake). We called Ikea, who told us it wasn’t their fault and we should call the delivery company. We said that was absolutely outrageous and that they have to supply the missing items today (otherwise Masaru would have nowhere to sleep). They said they couldn’t do it until tomorrow, i.e. today. AND they said that this kind of thing happens because Ikea isn’t a Japanese company, which I found unbelievably racist and offensive.

Moving is always a stressful thing to do, and this company made what should have been a happy day into one of anger and disappointment.

So, with my anger still very much in tact, and as I promised I would do in my complaint letter, I am making an absolutely genuine request to anyone who reads this blog entry – DO NOT EVER SHOP AT IKEA. THEY ARE CROOKS AND LIARS.

OK, rant over. :)

Keep your hair on!! April 11, 2007

Posted by urbanblue in Day-to-Day.
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Oh… too late. Man on train I thought the wicked side of you might enjoy! hehehe…

Carry on…

Cherry Blossoms April 1, 2007

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Did you know that the majority of the Cherry Blossom trees in Japan don’t actually go on to produce any cherries at all? This weird revelation (which I only discovered this year) makes me wonder how they can actually be classified as cherry trees… hmm.

Cherry Blossoms

Anyways, the whole world knows that the Japanese LOVE their cherry blossoms (sakura in Japanese). The one weekend a year when they are in bloom results in hoards of people flocking to their local park to drink beer, eat snacks and generally act the giddy goat. This year was no exception for me. Myself, Masaru, Ben and Kazu headed off for Negishi Shinrin Koen for a spot of hanami (literally “flower viewing”). Started off wearing a T-shirt, and ended up wearing a hooded sweater and a jacket by the end as it became colder and colder. The festivities ended with that other great Japanese tradition. Karaoke. James Blunt is very difficult I have discovered.

Paddy’s Day March 24, 2007

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Japanese go Irish

St Patrick’s Day Parades. Do they actually have them in Ireland? Well anyway, they have them in the UK, in the US, and also (bizarrely) in Japan also. Not sure exactly how many Irish there actually were, but the flavour was decidedly Japanese, as shown here by the green rickshaws. Also lots of American military bands, some representatives of the local Irish pubs, and a giant inflatable Guiness.

Good day out though!

Happy Birthday to my Brother-in-law! March 15, 2007

Posted by urbanblue in Announcements.
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It’s been a while since there was a family birthday, and from May they’re gonna come thick and fast! But in the meantime, it’s the turn of my sister’s husband.

Have a great day Mick, the weather’s pissy here so I hope it’s nice and sunny for you over there in the Motherland! :)

Yuki-Matsuri in Sapporo February 12, 2007

Posted by urbanblue in Adventures.
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Arctic PalaceHokkaido “kani”The Ice Bar

I have just returned from the Snow Festival in Sapporo. This is a festival that I have wanted to go to ever since I came to Japan, and finally this year I did it. Sapporo is right in the north of Japan in Hokkaido, where the below minus temperatures ensure a winter full of deep snow. And they create a whole range of absolutely incredible ice sculptures and display them in a long street-like park called O-dori koen. About two million people visit each year (the festival is only a weekend long), and it really is worth it. I wanted to put a lot more pictures here, but it’s difficult to know which ones to choose. So I’ve put what I thought was the most amazing one, the Arctic Scene. This isn’t actually the best picture of it, but I wanted to show the scale of the thing, it is gargantuan. There were also sculptures of castles, palaces, comic book characters (including three Thomas the Tank Engines), animals…. hundreds of stuff.

The food was also out of this world, including the famous Sapporo kani (crab) and the Genghis Khan barbeque (lamb cooked on a hot griddle at the table). And there were even bars made out of ice to have a drink at after. I am so glad I went, and am also so glad I didn’t go arse over tit on the ice, which was a distinct possibility.

Thank you SO much Masaru for taking me!!!

Where’d he go?! February 12, 2007

Posted by urbanblue in Adventures.
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Sorry! It’s been weeks since I added anything to the blog! I’ve been very wrapped up with work and various other shenanigens since the New Year, and there really hasn’t been a moment to sit down and write about anything! OK, a very belated New Year’s resolution. A Chinese New Year’s resolution maybe. I WILL write more often.

Starting now.

Osaka January 2, 2007

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Umeda Sky BuildingNorthern view of OsakaOsaka Castle

This being Japan’s second city, I always felt it was somewhere I should visit one day. So this year, I decided to take an impromtu visit seeing as one of my friends was already taking a holiday there. Only two hours and twenty minutes away by shinkansen (the famous bullet train), it’s a large and impressive city on the Kansai coast. I was staying in the Umeda district in the north, where you can find the Umeda Sky Building. You travel by glass elevator to the 35th floor, then tale an escalator through a glass tunnel to the 39th (that’s what those two diagonal tunnels are at the top of the building in the first picture). If you refer right back to my Hakone stories in September you’ll know I am not good with heights, and the thought of this was frankly terrifying. It wasn’t actually that bad though. And the view was worth it.

I also visited Osaka Castle (which if truth be known was the only landmark I actually knew of before visiting the city). Most temples, castles and shrines in Japan have been destroyed over the years by earthquakes, wars, fires, typhoons etc., so a lot of what you see today is a “modern” reconstruction. This Osaka Castle was reconstructed in 1928. It’s a beautiful building regardless. The grounds also contain a Time Capsule that was buried during Expo 70. It’s designed to be opened in the year 6970, and is said to contain over 2,000 artefacts from around the world representing culture in the 20th century. Don’t think any of us will be around to see that being opened!

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