Week 11 – In which I become cute suddenly


For Blade Runner, Ridley Scott had his art department create futuristic clothing and accessories for the extras.  Many of them carried umbrellas with neon handles.  Why didn’t someone market these in the real world?  Because this week, it has rained and rained and been so dark and gloomy that at times it has been difficult to see other pedestrians until you get hit in the face with their umbrella.  Shibuya on Wednesday evening was just a mass of tangled umbrellas.  In fact, even if you didn’t have one you could have walked up to the Dogenzaka and stayed dry under the mass umbrella canopy.  Nobody does the Edo tilt any more, whereby you are supposed to tilt your umbrella at an angle so as not to clash with other pedestrians.

On Wednesday I was in Shibuya to see The Great Gatsby in 3D which I enjoyed in spite of the slight grating of the Hip Hop music.  I could see what the director was probably trying to achieve though, to make a comparison between the hedonism, drinking and drug-taking of the 1920’s and today.  And I think it worked pretty well in that way.  I also thought it was the first movie I have seen to really make use of the 3D.  Earlier in the day, I had told my students that I was going to see it and they said that Di Caprio was ‘getting old now’. He’s 38 and I thought he was a very good Gatsby and gave Robert Redford a run for his money.  All in all, the movie was like a ‘Great Gatsby Show’ with lots of different gorgeous scenes – rather theatrical.  Go and see it.

Before that, I proctored a couple of exams at lunch-time and then did a double graduate school Britcult in the afternoon. I did music and then humour.  My second student had to go home early so I was left attempting to explain the Mersey Beat, Punk, New Romanticism, Britpop, rave culture, and drug culture to a man in his sixties who I suspect fell asleep half way through.  Although afterwards, he did say that he was surprised at the link between drugs and the smiley face.

On Thursday, we started PowerPoint presentations in both Intercult classes and that all went well except that another student’s father had died so she had been absent for 5 weeks.  Nevertheless, I can’t possibly fail her.  When I was a high school teacher, it was mothers who died, generally of breast or ovarian cancer.  One of the female teachers also died from it.  Now that the students are older, it seems to be fathers who are dying, generally of smoking-related diseases.

On Thursday evening, I was taken out by a colleague for a goodbye dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant. It was the kind of place where, when we were leaving, the chef ran out from the kitchen and joined the waiter and the sommelier in bowing us all the way back to the main road. My colleague, an elite, highly-educated Japanese, was rather glum because his students gave him low evaluations for his lectures.  “One came up and asked me why my Powerpoint slides weren’t in colour”, he complained.  He teaches economics.  He has lectured all over the world to great acclaim but our students don’t seem to appreciate it.

On Friday,  I was teaching the afternoon writing class when a group of girls started chatting to each other and then looking at me while they were writing on the whiteboard. I was sitting on a desk at the time and I assumed that they were taking a dim view of it. When I first came to Japan back in the early nineties, I was warned on no account to sit on a table or desk as Japanese think this is disgusting.  Placing your bottom on a surface where people eat food and place books and other personal objects is – or was – considered to be filthy behaviour.  Nowadays, I think people are more relaxed about it although I still haven’t seen any Japanese do it, only foreigners.  So when I saw them whispering I figured that I had better stand up – I had only sat down because my ankles are swollen in the heat.  Then one of the girls marched up to me and announced,

“Sensei, we think you have become cute suddenly”.

“What, in the last 5 minutes?”

She pointed to my dress.  It was a rather figure-hugging safari dress.   (It hadn’t been figure-hugging when I bought it but the humidity is doing nothing for my water retention.)  I usually wear a suit but the weather is tipping 30 degrees most days so to hell with that.  I had bought the dress in 4 different colours so that is all I am wearing now.

After that class, I sprinted back to my office to pick up the stuff I needed for the next two classes and when I returned to my classroom, some students had drawn cartoons of me on the board.  Note the messy hair. Two hours later, I went to the hairdressers and got it all cut off to relieve the heat rash on the back of my neck.  I look a lot less cute now.  Then I walked back through Omote Sando in the darkness and rain, until I reached the Luis Vuitton window (see below) where shining in the night was a golden dinosaur carrying a handbag.  Now that is cute.

Golden Dinosaur


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