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Merry Christmas, flist. Hope you had a good day!

This week was a very strange un-work-filled one, with the national holiday for the emperor's birthday on Tuesday plus my holiday I took on Thursday the 25th.

Satchan came to meet me at Tamachi station on Monday after we had a kind of fight on the phone about going to a club (he said I'd promised to go that week, I didn't remember making any such promise - stubbornness and accusations of selfishness and dota-kyan ensued) to have a make-up lunch. I only have an hour for lunch, but after queuing for 25 minutes to get into a ridiculously popular katsu/osoba restaurant next to the station, I resigned myself to taking half an hour off my pay that day. We drank a mini-beer (250ml) and were the only people in the restaurant consuming alcohol. Sasuga!

That night I had arranged to go drinking with Hide and a couple of his friends - a momentous(ish) occasion, as up until then I'd never met any of his friends. Uchitsugu was super-nice - one of those guys you just KNOW would be a great boyfriend the minute you meet him. Ouya was a bit more of the cool 'ore ore' type, but warmed up a lot once we got talking. The weather was absolutely foul - freezing rain - so Ouya drove us home (he wasn't drinking) after we'd finished at the delicious yakitori-ya where we ended up at about 12.30am. I remember discussing Pokemon, Dragonball, and the huge grey original Gameboy. Some things transcend cultural barriers!

The next day was spent with Hide feeling hungover and awful due to the recurring cold from last week, so we didn't venture out but stayed in and generally ゆっくりしてた. I was planning vaguely to go and check out the Shinjuku 101 sale before going to find a present for Hide, but felt too blah in the end, couldn't face the insane national-holiday crowds, and just went to Shibuya instead around 4pm. I went to Beams, the hip department store, and found a cool ring for Hide for about 8000 yen which you can wear two ways - it has a removable black rubber band which turns it into plain silver. Hard to explain but very cool. I actually ended up buying two rings, one much cheaper (3150yen) because I couldn't find the Accessories floor of Beams initially and went to another men's shop next door... duh. Oh well, I figure I'll give him the cheaper one for Valentine's/White Day in Feb/March.

Christmas Eve I went to a party at my friend Yuki's apartment in Gokokuji, ate delicious foods and met new people. Result. Yuki gave me a DVD of the film 電車男 (Train Man), a somewhat odd choice, but I've been wanting to see it for a while, so yay.

Christmas day I woke up around 10 and got myself ready for CHRISTMAS DATE, Japan-style. Hide came round at about 12.30 and we decided to go to Yokohama - to Motomachi-Chuukagai, or China Town. We were planning to go to Odaiba, but it would have taken over an hour to get there from Unoki, so that will happen another time, preferably when it's not below freezing. We went there, did some fun things, saw some illuminations as well as a gaijin magician guy who frightened a small child, ate dinner in Chuukagai - delicious, including suigyouza, which I love, and good ol' ebi chilli - and then came home for me to talk to the family on Skype and open the copious presents my mum sent me. This over, we exchanged our own presents and drank champagne. Now I have a grown up person's wallet! ♥
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A post from last week: of boy shopping, bounenkai and efficient transportation

It rained ferociously all day today, and I found out shortly after leaving the house that my shoes, which are now ぼろぼろ from walking miles and miles around Tokyo subways in the course of my working days, have holes in them. Wet, cold feet all day do not make me a happy bunny.

Yesterday (Thursday) I went into work at hour early so that I could leave at 5 in order to meet Hide in Yokohama at 6 to go and look at Christmas presents ♥. We met up in huge confusing Yokohama station in the usual spot, next to Beams (expensive department store) and then went into another department store to look at things for him. When we went to Ikebukuro the previous week to see Red Cliff (Chinese language film with Japanese subtitles - I was exhausted by the end) I'd already seen an Anna Sui purse in Sunshine City which I fell in love with immediately, and as my previous wallet was labelled 'childish' by someone who shall remain nameless, to to mention the fact that it had served me faithfully for two years, I thought it was about time for a more grown-up saifu. So we were looking for things for Hide, who thought that he might want a ring or something. First, though, we went into this men's clothes shop to look at a jacket. Hide tried it on - double-breasted, grey with a hood with fur on it, very cool and looked great on him - and decided to buy it. The shop girl was really nice, had piercings and a tattoo of a butterfly just under her ear (apparently it hurt a lot getting it done). She asked us 「どういうつながりですか?」('What type of connection do you have?') which is a bit of a weird way of asking 'How did you meet?' It turned out she'd been to London and liked Camden a lot, which I could have predicted just by looking at her. He ended up getting the cool jacket for only about 16000 yen, having signed up for an 101 credit card which gave some kind of massive introductory discount. I need one of those...

Hide had this cold which included a pounding headache, so we decided to cut the visit short and go back to his place in Centre Kita, only 20 minutes away. We ate dinner, watched some scary short horror films (from a series called 新耳袋, shin mimi fukuro, which contains about 50 DVDs of super-freaky Japanese horror shorts that WILL NOT BE ERASED FROM MY MEMORY NO MATTER WHAT I DO!!) and then went to bed early-ish.

Work the next day was followed by the company 忘年会, or end of year party. It was OK, but obviously the boss and his wife being there put an inevitable damper on things. It was a bit like eating a rather formal dinner with some older, conservative relativesm, being plied with wine but trying really hard not to get drunk because there's stuff that you've been thinking for three months that you just might out and say by accident... The food was a slightly strange fusion of Indian and Japanese (think curry spaghetti with crab - nicer than it sounds, though undeniably odd) and came in such quantities that everyone ate way too much. Emi, Romi, Yuko and I wanted to do a 2次会, or second round, at karaoke, but all the karaoke places in the vicinity seemed to be full. It's that time of year. Romi and Yuko went home, unfortunately, due to an insanely long commute (Romi) and getting up habitually at 4am (yes, that's right, four in the morning) and therefore being dead on her feet (Yuko) and Emi and I decided to walk leisurely to Shibuya and see if we could get into my izakaya of choice, 月の夢 (of the 1500 yen 2-hour 飲み放題, all you can drink thing). We did manage to get in and were seated at an amusingly tiny table right next to the entranceway shielded from view by a surprisingly effective beaded curtain... but the two of us had eaten so much at the previous place that we literally could not drink alcohol. She ordered a ginger ale and I ordered a Coke. Probably the first time ever that my first round at an izakaya was a soft drink... We had good chat right up until it became ぎりぎり for the last train, at which point we parted ways in front of the station and I ran for it and just made it. The train was 4 minutes delayed at Shibuya station, which meant that everyone intending to switch on to the Tamagawa line at Tamagawa would have missed the last connection at 00.18 had the station staff not (thank god) held the train for us. Before we reached Tamagawa everyone around me was checking their watches/keitais and muttering things like 'chikusho'. The guy behind me said 'Fuck!' quite loudly - I don't know if this was expressly for my benefit or not.

This weekend is going to be lazy and thrifty, as money is extremely tight given I have to pay Yuki back that 100 000 yen for the ticket to Canada...
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Make my paycheck bigger, please

Eating: dried squid with togarashi. Mmm! Resisting the urge to make rice...
Today's foods: osekihan onigiri (again); kitsune sushi rice bento

For the last couple of months I've been going into the office in the afternoon when I don't have anything on in the morning. This all began when my first paycheck came to over 290,000 yen because of all the overtime I did throughout September and my boss made the unconvincing 'kind' offer that I should come in at 1pm sometimes because 'you must be exhausted'. Well, at the time yes, but to be honest it's not too much of a strain to get to the office by 10am, and I've been thinking lately - given the fact that my salary was only 222,000 yen last month, including 543 yen (that's right) overtime pay, although I was off sick for four days with a swollen intestine (! lovely, I know) - that I should get out of bed and get in there on Mondays and Thursdays. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are an 8.30am start waaaaay across town in Kojimachi, so that means getting up at 6. Fridays I figure I can lie in, since Hide and I usually go out on a Thursday night.

Career Fair on Sunday in Akiba was pretty interesting. Hide and I went to Harlem, this club in Shibuya, the Saturday night before (too crowded for fun. WAY too crowded. Like the Den-en-toshi line at 7.45am, except with more jiggaz and girls who may or may not be prostitutes.) so we got up late, ate the delicious curry we made the week before whose flavour had only improved (that curry was proclaimed 大成功!!) and then I had some headshots taken in the booth beside the supermarket in the pouring rain. This booth had an English option, which was surprising, and I selected it out of curiosity. It wasn't the usual standard nasal American woman, but a Japanese female voice speaking English with a very heavy Japanese accent, complete with some classic grammar mistakes. This was so Unoki-esque, I loved it.

At the Career Fair I spoke to someone from JAC Recruitment Tokyo, someone from the online shopping outfit Rakuten, and a few others. A lot were electrical engineering firms and makers of machines, which I'm 100% not interested in, but it was worth going. I got hit on twice: once by a really fucking shitsukoi oldish French(? European, anyway) guy who followed me around making retarded comments, and the second time by a quite charming Italian guy, a wine importer, who gave me his business card. I have almost no male gaijin friends here, so it was quite strange and natsukashii being exposed to gaijin nanpa once more.

The 25th of December is just a normal day in Japan, which this year happens to fall on a Thursday. Hide told me he happens to have the day off, so I emailed shachou to request a holiday in insane keigo (もし社長の方はよろしければ、休ませて頂けますか)and was duly granted it with a reply saying 'OK! Have Fun!' in English. So yay, Christmas date. And I can open the three boxes which my mum sent me. Which reminds me, I really need to send those Xmas presents to my family...

Today Kako-san, one of the guys I instruct in business seminars at Kanematsu KGK in Sakuradai, Nerima-ku, asked if I wanted to go clubbing this Friday night with him and 10 (ten, that's right, ten) of his friends. The company 忘年会 (end of year party) is that night, but it should be an early-ending affair unless Romi-san and Yuko-san want to go to karaoke as a 2次会, which is a definite possibility. If I go clubbing with the boys, I plan to bring another girl for backup. Should be fun, though, since Kako-san and I get on really well, to the extent that we were once discovered by his boss playing enthusiastic Mario Kart DS. Awkward. He speaks really great Kansai-ben, and is my tutor in all things Kansai.

Plans for the weekend:

1. Go to Loft and purchase the necessary goods, then redecorate my keitai with sweets deco、possibly something like this.
2. Go shopping in Kanagawa to that awesome furugiya to get some bloody work clothes because I AM SO SICK of everything I own. Plus a dress for Christmas, and something to wear to that NDC company party at the Hilton next Friday.
3. Go out with Yuki who has finally handed in her graduation thesis and is free! Also, pay Yuki the 103000yen I owe her for letting me use her Japanese credit card to pay for my ticket to Canada in January.
4. Go to the AU shop and a) change who pays the bill from Yuki to me and b) up my plan from M size to L size, because I talk way more than I thought I did...
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I only like winter mornings when I'm in bed throughout the duration of them

It's 6.50am and raining. Ughhhh. Don't make me go out there!!

Actually, it's less the rain than the thought of the awful rush hour train and the hour of standing wedged between two slightly damp businessmen. I can't decide whether to take the Keihin Tohoku line (Pros: train is bigger and therefore a) less claustrophobic and b) it's more proportionally likely that I might get a seat, although I won't. Cons: standing at the top of the stairs and looking down at the platform is like looking at one of those Bosch paintings of hell. THE SEETHING MASS OF HUMANITY!!) or the usual Meguro line (pros: a) it's cheaper and b) the norikae is less of a pain. Cons: it's technically an 地下鉄 (underground) line, so the train is cramped and small and the air is bad). Choices, choices. But first I have to decide which of my continually rotating work outfits I should wear. I'm SO SICK of wearing the same clothes week in, week out, not to mention the same shoes - I can't even wear heels because I do so much walking in the course of a day. I almost think that's the worst thing about working: the not being able to wear what you want and not wanting to spend loads on a separate work wardrobe. It does make you value the sartorial freedom of the weekend, though. I might go shopping for skirts or smart dresses this weekend. My boss Emi at work is super-stylish and puts me to shame.

Better get dressed...

Dinner with Ippei and an as-yet-unknown friend of his tonight at Shibuya at 8.30 after I finish in the Ginza.
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JLPT

Took the JLPT today at Tozai Daigaku in Nishi-Sugamo in the back end of NOWHERE. Ate a banana and a pasta salad for lunch. Having not studied at all, I was pleasantly surprised to find it easy. It was actually too easy and a bit of a waste of time. I mean, I do have a Japanese MA. I felt a bit like a fraud and a coward for not trying the top level, 一級, but the difficulty gap is huge and the amount of study required does not tally with having a full-time job and working 12-hour days. Next year, 一級, next year.

So that was over, I gave Hide a call and chatted about the test (him, charitably: 'I knew you'd be fine!!' despite the previous day me having embarrassingly misread a menu item to a waiter. Fuck you, kanji). He had work again at 5. I got on the Meguro line at around 3.30, and realized that I could just sit there for an hour and it would take me all the way to Tamagawa, where I change for Unoki! I should really have realized this sooner, given that I take the Meguro line to work three times a week. Anyway, I slept on the train, head down on my chest, and woke up with a zip mark from my jacket impressed into my face at Tamagawa. I was tired and really hungry, but I decided to stay on the train and go to Hiyoshi, then change to Centre Kita (where Hide lives) to do a bit of Christmas shopping. I mailed Hide to tell him I was coming, and he said to come by his apartment for 20 minutes before he had to go to work. I did, and suffice to say he was late... mwa ha ha! (Disclaimer: his fault!)

I walked with him to work, then bought a few things in the department store and went back to Unoki around 7. I had made a date with my friend Rumi to have ramen at the best ramen-ya ever run by the cutest obaachan ever in Unoki, so we met up at the station at 7.15 and went to eat. 700 yen gets you a huge bowl of delicious shoyuu ramen plus a mini yakiniku with rice set, which we split between us. I finally asked the obaachan's name, and it's Hachiko (if I heard that right - Rumi says Sachiko, so now we're not sure!). She asked my name too and wrote it down for future reference (かわいい!!>x<) after telling us a slightly confusing story about a young man 'who's very thin and comes in to eat ramen often... and he always read a book! ALWAYS! Not manga either, but a real book! He's young like you two... maybe he's your friend? Can I ask him if he knows you?' A bit odd but charming nonetheless. I LOVE that ramenya so much. The obaachan is like my Japanese grandmother. She gives me umbrellas when it's raining and, even better, puts extra char shui in my char shui men for FREE!

Work again tomorrow. Going to try to get to bed earlyish, given than Yuki and I went to sleep at 3am (we get on too well and talk too much about everything) and I had to get up at 8 for the test. Might watch a couple of episodes of either Arrested Development (thank you Adam for giving me this!) or The Tudors (inaccurate trash, but I love overwraught historical drama. Actually LOVE it. Someone recommend me some historical novels in the vein of Philippa 'The Other Boleyn Girl' Gregory!).