Archive for the 'Life' Category

On Hold

Monday, March 30th, 2020

The situation in Tokyo is strange. There is still no official lock down, but the governor of Tokyo is suggesting that we don’t go out to bars or nightclubs for another week or so. We were also asked to stay indoors this weekend, but with no legal force behind it many people still had to go out to work or they decided that their thing was essential.

The show I was directing, that was due to take place in May, has been postponed. It was getting much too difficult to hold rehearsals and there was no way to get the cast of 34 together in one room. Nearly every project I am involved with has been put on hold. It’s an odd feeling, but one that people all across the world are feeling.

Moderate Changes

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Just over a month ago I wrote about the small changes that were being made to life in Tokyo. Today things are much more uncertain. The schools are closed, museums and theme parks are closed, many more people are working from home, and there are shortages on papers products and hand sanitizers.

I have had to suspend my studies as I have no students to teach in March. The Youth Theatre program I work for has cancelled classes, and I keep having to reschedule rehearsals. I am working on a show that has a cast of 35 people, but we can no longer have that number of people in our rehearsal space, and some of the bigger spaces are run by the local government and have been closing. My freelance work is greatly reduced and I only have one day of recording work this month.

We can still buy most things at the local supermarket, but there has been no toilet paper, tissues, masks, or hand sanitizer for quite a while now. There are also changes in how things are displayed. We used to have a bakery section where the bread rolls were displayed in a basket, and the cabinets were full of fresh pastries. Now every individual pastry is in a plastic bag.

I have been doing my best to avoid traveling on busy trains, but sometimes I still need to do this. I have been hearing that there are fewer people on the trains, but given how full Japanese trains get it’s not possible to stay a metre away from other people. And if I walk to places I still end up walking through crowds, and some evenings these are crowds of thousands of people as I need to walk through areas like Shinjuku.

The building I live in has closed most of its communal areas, and the gym is closed. There are signs in the lift showing good coughing etiquette and how to properly wear a mask. There is an alcohol spray at the doors and signs about keeping your hands clean

COVID-19 does not appear to be spreading as fast in Japan as it has in South Korea, but then the two countries have very different testing criteria. By the 10th March Japan had only carried out 9,600 tests, compared to South Korea which had carried out nearly 200,000 tests. (I tried to link to the Japanese website that listed the figures, but they have been overwriting the page with new reports, and the new charts no longer show number of tests, just the number of positive results.) The government tell us everything is improving and that the Olympics will go ahead, but the cases of COVID-19 still increase and I’m starting to see articles about hospitals being under pressure and not easily able to deal with the outbreak. We are expecting to hear more from the government on the 19th March, and it will be interesting to see if the current restrictions are lifted or if we start to fall in line with the rest of the world.

Small Changes

Friday, February 7th, 2020

I have been asked if coronavirus is having an impact on life in Tokyo.

Some things have changed for tourists, such as enhanced quarantine procedures at airports and ports. Japan is no longer allowing foreign nationals who live in Hubei province or have have visited the province recently to enter the country. As of this morning there are 61 confirmed cases of the virus on a cruise ship that is in quarantine in Yokohama.

There is no doubt that coronavirus is a topic of conversation and mentioned in every news broadcast. It’s become difficult to buy masks or any sort of hand sanitizer as people have been panic buying. On Sunday we tried to buy an alcohol sanitizer for rehearsal, but gave up after trying multiple drugstores. As masks have become scarcer it is noticeable that fewer people are wearing them when walking around outside, but that nearly everyone of the train is wearing them. I assume that, like me, people are keeping them to wear when they are in places that are overcrowded. I am aware that wearing masks can’t stop the spread of a virus, but it does offer some protection and in a city like Tokyo people expect you to wear them in overcrowded places.

My hands are becoming dry as I have been washing them more often, as now I make sure to wash them every time I change location. I always washed them when coming home, but now I do this when I arrive at any venue.

I have started to buy more food. It’s normal for me to go to the grocery store every day, but recently I started to stock up on rice, pasta, and canned foods. I’m not buying loads of food, but I realised that I usually keep very little extra food in the house, because going out and buying what I need is really convenient. Now I’m starting to think about what I would do if the government introduced social distancing measures in the city.

At the minute I would not describe us as being overly concerned about an epidemic, but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that the virus is spreading through Asia and that we live in a city where we can come in to contact with thousands of people in a day. I live within 15 minutes of the busiest train station in the world, which is used by around 3.5 million people a day. For now we will continue to pay attention to the situation.

Year’s End

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

The years do seem to move faster, now that I’m older, and I am still coming to terms with the fact that it’s nearly Christmas. 2019 has been a very full year.

I started the year visiting family in Northern Ireland. I made it back a few times this year, and it’s always an adventure catching up with friends and family. This year I also managed to go on two holidays, one with a friend and one with M. I absolutely loved Canada. It was so beautiful.

Athabasca Glacier

I’m finally at the stage where I tell new people I meet that I work in theatre. This year I performed and was part of the production team of a professional show, I taught youth theatre, and I directed community theatre. I spend most of my weekends and evenings working on some sort of theatre production. I’ve also been in enough recording studios that I can say that I sing professionally.

Cast & Crew of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I continue to study and I hopefully by next summer I will have finished my vocal qualification. The oddest thing I learnt to do this year was rock scream. This is not something I plan to do a lot, but it was interesting to find out how this can be done without destroying my voice.

2020 is looking like it will be a busy year, but I’m hopeful that it will be a good one.

End of Year Work

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

The year will end soon and it seems that this causes companies in Japan to go mad and to try to get as much work finished as possible before New Year. So suddenly I find myself recording more songs in a week than I recorded in the last few months. Being asked to record musical theatre songs makes sense, but I never expected to be singing backing vocals for a karaoke track of Khalid’s “Young Dumb & Broke”.

I’m also busy casting Cinderella for Tokyo International Players. The first rehearsal is this Saturday, so that part of the work is nearly completed. It’s going to be an exciting show. I’ll be blogging about it on my other website.

I have 10,000 words to write for my current module, but I’m struggling with getting started. I much prefer doing the research and the practical work, to the writing it all up part. But I will start soon. I’m looking forward to April, when this course will be completed.

Failing at Christmas

Friday, December 21st, 2018

This year, I am failing at Christmas.  My little Christmas tree is sitting forlornly without ornaments, none of my presents are wrapped, and my cards are not written.  Living in a place where Christmas is not a major holiday does not help as I have many other distractions.  I did manage to buy a turkey, as I do want to eat turkey on Christmas day, but given how expensive they are in Tokyo I did consider doing without.  I’m hoping once I finish working this evening that the Christmas spirit will kick in.


Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

We are moving apartments.  After being in Minami-senju for over 8 years we decided it was time for a change.  Shinjuku is certainly going to be that.  It’s loud and busy, but it’s also much closer to all the places I spend my time.  Google maps claims it will take me 22 minutes to get to Our Space by train, instead of the 55 minutes it was taking me.  I can also walk in 45, which is amazing.  Our Space is the rehearsal space used by Tokyo Comedy Store, Tokyo International Players, and TIP Youth, so at times I feel like I spend my life either at Our Space or travelling to Our Space.

Packing was a bit of a disaster, and far too much of it has been left to M.  I won’t be at home during the actual move, as I arrived in the UK this morning to study for a month.  It’s going to be strange when I arrive back in Tokyo as I’m not quite sure where the new apartment is.  Shinjuku is a big place.  I did see the apartment once, but I have no sense of direction so won’t find it again without help.  Life certainly feels strange at the minute.

New Goals

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Since it’s the start of another year I decided to update my “101 things in 1001 days” list.  I have reduced the number of travel related goals, as I don’t enjoy travelling as much as I used to.  I have removed everything to do with programming languages and tech conferences.  I will admit that it feels strange not to be planning to attend YAPC, but I want to attend different things in 2017.

I’ve added lots of new goals involving music and theatre, and kept all my writing, reading, and organisation goals.  At some point I really will tidy up all the cupboards in the apartment.



Thursday, January 12th, 2017

I forget that there are people who don’t enjoy reading books.  I was given a book recommendation at a course with the comment, “If you only manage to read one book this year, make sure it is this one.”  I read 132 books last year.  It wasn’t as many as I had hoped to read, so I will try to be more disciplined this year.  30 of those were non-fiction, showing my clear preference for fiction.  I’m hoping this year to increase the amount of non-fiction I read, helped by the large stack of non-fiction books I was bought for Christmas.


Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

I love traditional Christmas food. Tomorrow I’m going to roast a turkey, even though they are expensive and hard to find in Japan. Tonight I had mince pies and custard. I had to re-order our Christmas pudding from London as I couldn’t help but eat the one I had in the cupboard, which I ordered too far in advance. Thankfully the replacement has arrived in time for Christmas Day. I would make my own but the fruit is so expensive that it’s much cheaper to import a pudding than to attempt to make one.

I’m going to miss eating roasted parsnip but I did manage to find fresh brussel sprouts. We aren’t going to have ham, as it’s expensive and I’m not that keen on it. I also didn’t manage to find cranberries, so no cranberry sauce.

Japanese Christmas food is a little strange. There is a tradition of eating roast chicken from KFC, and we did do that one night this week. Our local supermarket is selling whole chickens, both fresh and roasted. I had never seen a whole roasted chicken in that shop before. They were rather small as Marty was able to eat a whole one himself for dinner, but it was really nice.

Christmas cakes aren’t fruit cakes, they are white sponges with strawberries and this year I saw quite a few chocolate versions. The little one I bought was lovely.

Japanese Petite Noel Cake

Japanese Petite Noel Cake

Merry Christmas!