54 days with Murasaki Shikibu


For my next do-whatever-you-want-while-you’re-happily-unemployed project, I’ve given myself 54 days to finish reading Murasaki Shikibu’s Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) – one day for every chapter. It’s certainly possible to read far more than just one chapter in a single twenty-four hour period (and I’m a pretty fast reader myself), but I think this is the sort of work that’s best savoured in small portions.

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New DVD Review Alert! – Voices of a Distant Star


Hop on over to Wolf Hurricane and read my review of ADV’s R1 DVD release of the 2002 OVA Hoshi no Koe (release title: Voices of a Distant Star), part of the two-volume Shinkai Collection first launched in 2005.

One step closer to the Empire’s borders

I’ve been planning a trip to the Land of Sakura, Sushi and Exorbitant Prices for a very long time, but all of my efforts would have come to naught if I failed to clear the first major hurdle: securing a visa.

Japan has visa exemption arrangements for over 60 countries and territories, but my corner of the world isn’t one of them. So unlike residents of, say, the U.S. or the U.K., the rest of humanity has to march up to the local Japanese Embassy and beg their Lordships for a Magic Ticket that will let them through Immigration without being manhandled back onto the first plane out. It’s not a difficult process, but putting together the dossier of documents required for a visa can be very time consuming, and there’s never any guarantee that your passport will return bearing the coveted sticker with the fancy paulownia hologram.

Fortunately, I just obtained my Magic Ticket, and I can finally start firming up my arrangements. I’ve still got a full two months before my planned departure date, but since I’m travelling during one of Japan’s peak tourist seasons I intend to finish bookings within the next week or so (lest I run out of reasonably priced accommodation options).

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Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou – first impressions (and a note on the continuing hiatus)


Hop on over to Wolf Hurricane and read my first-impressions post on the winter anime series Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou.

This blog’s extended hiatus is drawing to a close. I never actually thought I’d feel busier after quitting my job than before, but that’s precisely what happened: more intensive Japanese language studies, for a start, plus a parish activity that I’m now a regular volunteer for (which, incidentally, requires brushing up on my Latin) and running the odd errand for my mum (who, knowing that I’m happily unemployed, is fully aware that I’ve got no excuse for turning down her requests orz). Plus, there’s a major project that I’ve been putting together for the last couple of months; more on that once the final arrangements are made this week.

Regular blogging resumes next week, but I’ll start chiming in with the occasional brief post right about now.

Need a friend in Tokyo? Get ready to pay up.

News flash from the BBC: Money can buy happiness! If you’re a Tokyoite, that is.

Friendship has long been a free-market commodity in many parts of the world, but according to BBC correspondent Duncan Bartlett, the realm of the World’s Last Emperor takes things even further by presenting the lonely denizens of its capital with an astounding array of choices for paid companionship. Want to hobnob with female university students? Head on over to the Campus Cafe. Need to rent a relative to deliver the eulogy at Great-Uncle Shigeru’s funeral? No problem – just give Hagemashitai a ring and they’ll be glad to loan a third cousin or two. Heck, they’ll even throw in a part-time father if you need one:

The website says the “dad” will help the children with their homework. He will sort out problems with the neighbours.

He will take the kids to a barbeque or to a park. He could also appear at the daunting interview with a nursery school head teacher which parents are required to endure in order to persuade the principal to give their child a good start in life.

Of course, after a long week at work dealing with the worst specimens of humanity you may be fed up with your own kind. In that case, try unwinding at Akihabara’s Neko Ja La La, which offers a selection of seductive felines for lonely Tokyoites to stroke and pet to their hearts’ content. (Lola the Persian Cat comes highly recommended.)

But let’s face it: professional friends tend to last only as long as the money holds out – and then they’re off to lick someone else’s hand. (Though I suppose that’s also true for many so-called “real friends”.)

“When I look into his eyes, I think he’s my dog,” Kaori told me. “But when I take him back to the shop, he runs away from me and starts wagging his tail when he sees the next customer. That’s when I know he’s only a rental dog.”

C’est la vie. Just shake it off and try the next rent-a-friend place.

Source: Rent-a-friend in Japan (BBC News).

(By the way, the hiatus announced on 07 January is still on. I just thought this quirky bit of news was worth tossing out into the blogosphere.)

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Era, thy name is Seika

Countdown to the first day of the Heisei Era – night of 07-08 January 1989

Twenty years ago to this day, on 08 January 1989, the Showa Era passed into history and the Heisei Era began. The Showa Emperor had died the day before and his son Akihito was now reigning, and in accordance with tradition a new era name was chosen to mark the transition to a new occupant of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Announcement of the Showa Emperor’s death, followed by the unveiling of the new era name – 07 January 1989

(Note: Another version of the same video – with a running commentary/voice-over in English – is available here. I would recommend watching the original version before the English version, since the announcement of the new era name comes off a little more dramatically without the English-language script overlaid upon it.)

Now this anniversary would have passed quietly without any comment from me, were it not for an interesting piece of information that I picked up this morning on my usual visit to the Mainichi Daily News website.

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Happy New Year!

May your New Year’s Day be like his . . .


. . . and not hers.


Either way, Miko Tsukasa makes everything good. (^_^)


UPDATE (02 January 2009): Diego’s mum is dragging him and the rest of the family off to their country retreat for a bit of forced R&R and “quality time”, so this blog is going into a brief hiatus. Enjoy the New Year’s holidays, everyone!

FURTHER UPDATE (07 January 2009): I’ve been back for a couple of days, but the hiatus will continue while I attend to some urgent and not-so-urgent matters on the personal front.