Archive for July, 2009

So… who started the fire?

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

My friend Yuping sent me a funny link today, it’s a Singapore version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” it is called “I live in Singapura.”

Otto Waalkes does a good version of the song too, on the theme of getting wasted. If you can understand German, there’s the link:

Just to refresh your memory, the original is here:

Rock or not?

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

There’s an article in USA Today with the headline “Nobody Rocks Like These Harry Potter-Inspired Bands.”  I was intrigued with the possibility that there are bands out there that sing about Harry Potter that could be better than Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses, Faith No More, the Rollins Band, Guitar Wolf or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  So I thought I’d test this hypothesis with a bit of digging around.  Of course, there’s no accounting for taste, and one man’s meat is another man’s poison and vice versa; but I’ve checked out the Harry Potter bands on YouTube and have come to my own conclusions, inviting you to do the same.

Draco and the Malfoys vs AC/DC


Seems that Draco and the Malfoys play devil’s advocates and are the “pro-evil” part of the wizard rock universe, playing themselves up as the bitter enemies of Harry and the Potters (natch).

The Whomping Willows vs Black Sabbath


Check out the lyrics to Draco and Harry, they’re actually taking the piss at Harry Potter.

Harry and the Potters vs Led Zeppelin

The Remus Lupins (this guy is so cute) vs Guns n’ Roses

This next bunch is not Harry Potter-inspired (dear Lord, no…), but if you’re talking about so-called “wizard rock”, there’s only room enough in town for one band, and that’s Electric Wizard because they’ll take everyone else, tear them into little pieces and eat their putrid remains. Beware.

Zen misses Michael

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Today Zen was talking about Michael Jackson, talking about how sad he was that he had died. I think he’s sad that he missed out on the fame – that he didn’t know about Michael Jackson until he died, and then all the kids in the school started talking about him. Seems all the 7-year-olds in Singapore know who Michael Jackson was, even though they don’t know who Michael Jackson was.

We watched Star Wars Episode III tonight. I thought that Zen would be scared by what happened to Anakin, since until this moment Anakin has been his favourite character, but later he said that he hadn’t been scared. Actually, Naoko had been more scared (she said). When Darth Vader appeared, Zen went over to get our marvelous Darth-Vader-on-a-motorcycle toy and held onto it for a while. When I asked Zen what part of the story he liked the most, it was the part on Tatooine when the young Anakin first appears. I remember that part of the movie – when we were watching it, the kid came out and introduced himself to Padme, he says “hi there, my name’s Anakin Skywalker,” and Zen turned to me and said in a happy, surprised voice “Anakin!!” He also enjoyed the character of Watto, who is probably nobody’s favourite character (besides Zen’s). Kids, they say the funniest things.

Got a package from Matt today with some more CDs and DVds, including Afro Labyrinth and Yi Paksa (Epaksa/E-Pak-Sa). He does a couple of Komuro songs, as well as two by Okuda Tamio (Tamio!!!!!) and a Spitz song (“Cherry”).

By the way, Zen is a big fan of J-Pop band Arashi (so is his mum). Here is a video of him singing Arashi’s “Truth.”

Here is a pic of Zen with Darth Vader from a couple of years ago, and the pic of the infamous Darth-Vader-on-a-motorcycle toy.

Don't look now, Zen, but there's Darth Vader over your shoulder

Darth Vader on a motorcycle

Star Wars: The Jake Lloyd Episode

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Great weekend, very chilled out. On Saturday, Naoko and Zen and I went to Bukit Batok Nature Park and played catch… for five minutes. It gushed rain for 15 minutes, after which the ground was too wet to play catch any more, so back we went for a swim.

Last night we watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This was Zen’s first Star Wars movie, let’s see what his reaction is as he watches all six. Hopefully he won’t find out about the monumental moments of Episode III before he watches them, but everyone else out there has already seen it…

Japan trip 2009

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I got back from my mid-year trip to Japan almost two weeks ago, but have been so busy catching up on stuff – work, organising pictures, burning DVDs (3.5 hours in total, over three DVDs), putting CDs into my computer, writing reviews of books and CDs and movies – that I’ve left the blog to last. That’s okay, though, right?

I hardly remember the two weeks before my trip when I was living in the apartment alone; Naoko and Zen went to Japan on May 29th, and I was due to follow on the 12th. I think during those days I read a bit, played guitar a bit, worked a lot (at the company or at home), hung out with friends twice, went to the Prince of Wales twice (once to see a band, once to enjoy the 5th anniversary drink-a-thon), and was just in general quite lonely. And busy. But something interesting happened – my friend Mark invited me to join his band. He asked me to learn a few Bon Jovi songs and get ready for practice. Should be fun.

On June 11th, I worked until 7:00, took a cab home, ate, packed, jumped into another cab and got to the airport. I think the plane left late. We got into the air, they served drinks. I drank and drank and drank, didn’t sleep, tried to watch the Watchmen movie (Q: Who watches the Watchmen? A: I did, and so did millions of other people.) but the sound was fading in and out, it was just unwatchable, so I shut it off after 25 minutes (I watched the rest on the flight home 17 days later). Slept about two hours or less, got to Kansai International Airport in Osaka early (despite taking off late), got through customs, got to the bus stop. Bad news, missed the bus by two minutes; good news, there’s another bus in three minutes; bad news, it’s going to Kobe; good news, Kobe is on the way to Himeji and the bus has seats. Sold. Got on the bus, slept, got out, went to Sannomiya station in Kobe, bought a ticket, went up to the platform, realised I had forgotten my suitcase, went back, got it from the bus stop attendant, headed back up, took the train, watched an ugly girl apply her make-up for 20 minutes as I read a book I wasn’t interested in, got to Himeji, Naoko and Mr Fujino picked me up, I went home and ate and slept. Then around 3:30 in the afternoon I got woken up by an excited seven-year-old shouting “papa, papa, papa.” What happiness to see Zen again. Naoko later told me the story that around 3:30 she was downstairs, then she heard the sound of furiously running footfalls, Zen came tearing in and asked her in a loud voice, “Where’s Papa?!?” So we had our reunion, a great dinner, and some sleep. Saturday, June 13th We went to Yuuta’s sports day to eat a nice picnic lunch and to see him run a bit, then Naoko and I went downtown and Zen went off with his friends while Naoko and I went downtown to hang around. Sunday, June 14th was Zen’s own sports day, so we woke up very early, Naoko and I went off to see him. I took a bunch of video, there was Nanaka running, there was Haruka running, there was Naoko’s chubby brother Masayuki running for his PTA jog (looked painful), and then there was a nice lunch. It was hot and sunny, but not too hot and not too sunny. Once when we were walking, Naoko overheard some girls staring at me and saying to each other “hey, look – it’s Super Mario!!” Do I really look like Super Mario when I’m wearing a baseball cap and my hair is kind of grown out?
DSC01140_21.jpgSuM.jpg
After lunch, Zen had some more events, and eventually there was the giant ball roll where the kids passed a big giant ball around their half of the track, and the team that could coordinate their hands best would get the ball into the giant-ball-holder first and they’d win. Yay! So we went home, ate, packed, and went to sleep early for our trip to Hokkaido. Monday, June 15th, we woke up early and were at the bullet train station for our 11-hour journey from Himeji to Hokkaido. We did our first four hours to Tokyo by bullet train, then another four hours or so to Hachinohe by a different bullet train, then onto a local train to go to Hakodate. The train from Hachnohe was something new for us, since we’ve never been to this part of Japan before, and the territory started to look very rural. Zen was reading his Beast Quest books, he was also doing homework:

I was reading the Detroit Metal City comic book, Naoko was reading something or other, we were all napping, or eating, or I was drinking Chu-his. The tunnel from Honshu to Hokkaido was very interesting: the longest tunnel in the world, it is 54.85 kilometers long, of which 23.3 are underwater (and the other 31 are part of the ramp down or ramp up). At its deepest, it is under 140 metres of water and 100 metres of rock, i.e. 240 metres under sea level. There is a station that is part of the tunnel, presumable to help people in case something is blocking both entrances. When we got to Hokkaido, we could see that the territory was very different: the hills there are rounder, the open spaces more open, and the houses more like big shacks on broad ranges of land rather than neat houses on small plots like you’d see in the rest of Japan. The train also ran along the coast for a very long section, something which is not really common in Honshu (the bullet train gets near the sea in Atami and in one other place near Kobe, but it’s never there for long). I took pictures of farm houses, acting as if I’d never seen farmhouses before.



After that long train ride, we finally got out of the train in Hakodate at 7:00 at night. We booked a room in the Toyoku Inn and then walked over. Hakodate is famous for its night view – you take a cable car or bus up to the peak to get a view of the peninsula that Hakodate is on (the peninsula is punctuated by the summit), but that night was cloudy, so we didn’t bother since we figured we’d be unlikely to see anything. Pity, but we’re planning to stay here on our last night in Hokkaido so there would be another opportunity to go up (fingers crossed, hope the visibility is better on Thursday night). Instead of going up, we walked to a sushi carousel place and just ate and ate yummy fresh Hokkaido sushi. Then we walked around the town a bit and saw some of the old port buildings and the silly little streetcar trams. Nice. Went back, drank Chu-hi and slept. Tuesday, June 16th – Since we were up early, we went to see the morning fish market, which is a tourist thing. We were one of the first people there, and it looked really sad and lonely. We watched some Nissei/Sansei American tourists sampling grilled crab, and Zen walked up and grabbed a piece for free (cheeky), and we wandered around there for a while observing the lovely squid swimming around their tank. Then we left Hakodate and went up past Sapporo to Otaru, a town Naoko has wanted to see ever since she watched the Iwai Shunji film “Love Letter” starring her idol, Toyokawa Etsushi. Sheesh. The trip was nice, we passed along some lovely scenery, I got out in the town of Mori to take a picture under the Mori station sign (“mori” means forest, it’s a strange name for a station), we got to Sapporo and during our ten minutes there I took a picture at Sapporo station with a Sapporo beer in my hand, then off we went to Otaru. Nice ride out there, along the southwest coast of Hokkaido (following the Sea of Japan, we’d been following the Strait of Tsugaru and the “Naiura” bay, on the southeast coast of Japan until then), past strange rock formations, and on to lovely little Otaru. The train station was on a hillside, we walked down the hill to find our lunch, in a famous fried chicken place called New Naturo, then further downhill to the dockside area where old warehouses have been converted into special little boutiques. Well, we weren’t interested in the boutiques, so on we went, to another street full of old houses, and then on back to the train station and on another train. Back through Sapporo and then on to Asahikawa. This trip was along flat lands, although we often saw mountains in the distance. Great scenery, great clouds, wonderful sunsets. Got to Asahikawa and tried to get our hotel. There was a convention in town, so we got the last room in town at the Business Hotel Fuji, an old-school kind of place that was a bit run down. The staff were professional and friendly and we had a choice of a Western room or a Japanese room. The Western room was one of the strangest I’ve ever seen in my life – it was jammed with three beds and a big leather sofa so that there was really almost no room to move about (it also smelled funny), so we took the Japanese room, which had the opposite problem – it was too empty! We showered and slept. Wednesday, June 17th we woke up early, had our breakfast, checked out, went to Asahiyama zoo, checked out the seals, polar bears, penguins, lesser pandas, wolves, chimpanzees, orangutans, spastic spider monkeys, swinging gibbons, giraffes, a lonely rhino, lions and tigers and bears, and tons of other cool animals. The best part of the zoo were the seal and penguin habitat, because both of them had water tubes. In the seal habitat, people were in a basement room, and the seals darted through plexiglass tubes that went from the floor to the ceiling; in the penguin habitat, the people walked through underwater glass tunnels that passed through the mid-level of the penguin pool watching the penguins dart in 360 degrees. Trippy. We left there before 2:00, went back to Asahikawa and booked our hotel for the next night at… Toyoku Inn! Still early in the afternoon so we had time for a short excursion; we got on another train and went out to Furano where we could experience a real flower farm. Arriving in Lower Furano, the station guy asked us if we wanted to go to the flower farm, we said yes, and he said that a train was arriving in two minutes that could take us closer to there. We were expecting a 30-minute walk, so that was nice. We had our JR pass, so the train was free, and off we went, 1.5 kilometers down the track to a temporary train station in a fruity tourist train that was full of students – local or on a tour, I’ll never know – and we were deposited neatly just down the road from our farm, an angry sky looking like it would rain upon us at any moment (although it never did). The farm was very pleasant, we just wandered around looking at the just-about-to-bloom lavender (a highlight of a summer visit to Hokkaido and one of the island’s prime drawing points in July), and lots of other groovy flowers whose names I don’t know. A nice farmhouse had been converted into a shop selling dried flowers and other junk, it was attended by well-groomed and earnest young Japanese people in smocks who were attentive and diligent. Off we went to catch out train back to Asahikawa, walking along the Furano streets, observing run-down dormatories and funky off-season mini-ski slopes. Lots of interesting old buildings near Lower Furano station, including one that looked like it was covered with mosquito netting; took lots of pictures, but accidentally dropped my video camera and it busted open. Tragedy! I thought it was broken permanently, but after some fiddling and massaging, I got it working again. Whew! (In the end, I only lost a few seconds of film, I was lucky.) Went back to Asahikawa, observed the lovely sunset, checked into our hotel – the room they gave us was actually decked out for handicapped people so it had extra-wide doors, nice, separate bath and toilet, also the room was bigger. Went out to eat in a Japanese-style eatery, which was okay but a little pricy; I had wanted to eat the grilled lamb that Hokkaido is famous for which they call Genghis Khan (named after the shape of the grill, which is apparently round and pointed like a Mongol warrior hat of Genghis Khan’s time), but neither Naoko nor Zen can take lamb so I had to give up that plan. Too bad. Went back to the hotel, drank Chu-hi, slept. Thursday, June 18th we woke up, ate, showered, went to the train station for another mini-excursion – cycling in Biei, a charming little town on the road to Furano. Rented a bicycle from a kind uncle who recommended a simple but pleasant route. Zen got a kids’ mountain bike with gears, so he learned how to manipulate those for the first time. The weather was perfect – not hot or cold, and brilliantly sunny – and we went through the pleasant town, over the bridge, and up along a tidy road to the top of one hill. Gorgeous, pristine farm fields on one side of the road, farm houses, cafes, grassy lots, barns, and birds chirping like a cliched Bugs Bunny cartoon – the rural Hokkaido soundtrack. Wow. Came down the hill, took a left and investigated another hill, where we saw wheat fields, vegetables growing, and more great views of the nearby hills. Stunning, pristine day. Went back to the train station, returned our bikes, and then headed back to Asahikawa, where Naoko and I took a picture in front of the Simon-and-Garfunkel-are-coming-to-town poster (What? They’re crazy enough to tour after all these years?). Got to Hakodate, went back to our favourite hotel Toyoko Inn (our third night in a Toyoko Inn on this tour), Zen greedily ate a big plate of their free curry dinner, and we quickly went off to Lucky Pierrot to get some food. Lucky Pierrot is a Hakodate-only mini burger chain that is totally decked out in gaudy clown stuff, mirrors, swing seats, and all sorts of other stuff. They played cool old garage rock from the Sixties – while there we heard the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” and a bunch of other Nuggets. Naoko ordered the Chinese sweet and sour chicken burger that had been so highly recommended in her guide book (she loved it), and I ordered the Genghis Khan burger, since I hadn’t been able to eat it in Asahikawa. It was smothered in mayonnaise and totally yucky… YUCK!! So I ordered a cheeseburger, it was much better. Zen had gulped down a free dinner at the Toyoko Inn, so he just had french fries (nice). We bought mugs, and then went for a stroll. The evening was even more cloudy than Monday had been, so once again we were out of luck with seeing the night view from the top of the hill (crap – that means we’ll have to come back; no problem, though, I don’t mind since it’s a nice town). Went up the hill, saw a bunch of churches (Evangelical, Catholic, Greek Orthodox), wandered to the old city hall, took in the lovely old buildings in a charming neighbourhood, and enjoyed the evening air and the cool views of the city lights from the hill; then back to the inn to drink Chu-hi and sleep. Friday, June 19th we woke up, had breakfast, went out into the city, took the tram to the end of the line and climbed up the hill; saw the foreigners’ graveyard, went along the roads looking at the old rusted-out houses, saw houses that were Japanese-style, Eastern European (Russian Siberian) style, or a blend of both. Saw Japan’s first concrete electricity pole (?!?!), went back to Lucky Pierrot for an ice cream, then bought some “yakitori bento” from the Hasegawa Store. Although “yakitori” means grilled chicken skewers, this shop serves grilled pork skewers and calls them “yakitori. Pretty funny, we bought a few of those for the train ride later and then went along the harbour area; saw the old European-built red brick warehouses and all the other groovy old houses, then back to the hotel to check out. We went to the fish market again for our donburi: I had an uni-ika donburi, which is a bowl of rice with a layer of sea urchin layered on top and over the left half, and a layer of salmon roe over the other right half. Naoko’s was salmon roe and grilled salmon (sha-ke oyako donburi), and Zen’s was just the salmon roe on top of the rice. Great food. Went to the train station, caught a train, and back we were, going through the tunnel to Honshu. During the trip, we finally ate our Yakitori Bento…

Eventually got down through the Tohoku region to eventually get to Yokohama at around 9:30 at night. Nicole and the kids picked us up, and we chilled out at night at their place; the kids went to sleep – Zen slept over in Evan’s room, the first time he’d done that – and Nicole and Naoko and I chatted and caught up. Ralph came home at 11:30 or so from a business trip to Korea, and we talked a bit more, then off he went to sleep and soon enough so did we. Saturday, June 20th we woke up, ate pancakes, showered, got ready to go out, and off we went by bus to the big Yokohama harbourside park. Walked through the park, discovered yummy “yamamomo” fruits on one of the trees; although they were a bit tart, the ripe ones were really yummy, and while we were doing that we picked up a few fans, some local high school girls who had fallen in love with Lauren. Then we found the big spider monster part of the park and observed the mechanical monstrosity’s movements from a handy overpass. The thing was freaky and enormous.

We went to the red brick warehouses, rang the bells, saw the hundreds of Harleys that someone had put there to try to sell (good luck), and the kids played in one of those “tent-o-plastic-balls” that all kids like to romp around in. Then we took a harbour boat back to the far end of the park where we had started from. It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of beautiful well-dressed trendy Japanese couples on the boat. I guess it’s the dating thing to do for well-dressed trendy people. Ate lunch in Chinatown, then Naoko and Ralph went off to the nearby Yokohama Stadium to sort out our baseball tickets. Went to McDonalds for ice creams, then bought some groceries for the game and went into the stadium. We had good seats behind the batting plate, and the game was quite a good one – the Softbank Hawks were playing the Yokohama Bay Stars, which were – along with our favourite Hanshin Tigers – at the bottom of their division. It was action-packed – there were a dozen home runs throughout the game and the Hawks looked sure to win. We bought lots of drinks and ate stuff we’d brought in and had a great time. Highlights were the half-time show that used the song YMCA, since the nearby YMCA building was within our view, and the sumo wrestlers that we saw wandering around the seating area. It was also amazing to see the garishly-dressed ganguro girls working for a living, hauling heavy boxes full of cold beverages for the fans. Took off at the start of the ninth inning so that we could beat the crowd and get the kids home un-squashed and at a reasonable time. Found our bus, went back home, and Zen and Evan and Lauren were sleeping by 10:30 or so, exhausted. Sunday, June 21st, Father’s Day, we dads were supposed to get breakfast in bed, but we weren’t so keen on that so we got up and had breakfast at the table. The only task of the day, beyond the usual stuff, would be to get in our traditional Yokohama bowling game. Everybody ate and showered and then we headed out. The adults played one set in one lane while the kids played two sets in their own lane that had the gutters covered so that they could actually hit some of the pins. Zen did really well, and I think he won the kids’ second set. We wrapped up and went outside, coming across a temple festival with lots of rough-looking characters milling about, smoking, drinking canned coffee, getting ready for the festivities, which would be sure to go ahead despite the light rain. Went out for a ramen lunch, then they dropped us off at the train station, and off we went back to Himeji. Got there around 8:00 at night, our long journey over. This is the fourth year that we’ve done the JR Pass tour, and every year is just awesome. Monday, June 22nd and Zen went back to school, I met Yuki and Kazuo from the band Love Love and had a nice lunch at a very cool cafe that Yuki works at called Ten, then back home to help Zen with his homework. They told me about a good gig at Bears in Osaka on Thursday night and made plans to go there together. Great! Hung out at Book Off and bought a bunch of CDs (see reviews below) and browsed strange comic books, also rented a big big big bunch of DVDs. Bought another Detroit Metal City comic book for myself to read. Tuesday, June 23rd, had a great lunch with Naoko’s cousins that Mr Fujino paid for, at a lovely Japanese restaurant called Usagi (rabbit). Wonderful stuff. Watched a bunch of DVDs. Wednesday, June 24th I don’t remember what we did, but probably I watched a bunch of movies. Thursday, June 25th I hung out in the morning, then went at 2:00 to meet Yuki and Kazuo and we drove to Osaka. Hung out in Namba’s American Mura for a while, bought a few CDs at Time Bomb Records, met Matt Exile at Triangle Park, headed over to Alchemy Records so that I could buy a copy of Garadama II from Yamazaki Maso (Masonna) who runs the shop for label owner Jojo Hiroshige. Went to THE HUB, a corporate eatery; we mainly went there for the happy hour and the Long Island Ice Teas that Matt had recommended so strongly, and a burger. Good food. We swapped stuff (books, CDs, DVDs) and talked for a while, then headed over to another Book Off so that I could stock up on cheap used Spitz CDs (I’m aiming to round out my collection) and then to Bears. Mingling before the show we met a couple of cool people, and then Masonna himself showed up. I guess he wanted to see one (or more) of the bands. I had my video camera ready and was prepared to shoot 15-20 minutes from each band’s set, usually the first song or two, and maybe something from the finales (no need to record each band from beginning to end). The first band up was Shitayama, they came out blustering and blistering with guitar assult and feedback and lots of energy from the long-haired lead singer. The sound was fun for a while, but got a little bit boring eventually. At the end of the set, the guy jumped onto his drummer’s drum kit. I nearly got it on video, but just missed the crash, only got him when he picked himself up. No problem.


The second band out, Doburoku Kyodai, were much better, three rockin’ bluesy guys with a great lead guitarist, they heated up the place with their song intro, then out came the lead singer, a piece of work – groovy facial hair, extra long locks, leather jacket with sleeve tassles that nearly reached the floor, smoking a cigarette and belching brandy-soaked rotten growling blues vocals. Loud and fun!




Last up was Mondo Diamond, a garage band that played quite a few covers. Great, great fun – the lead guitarist was a skinny old guy with long hair and a big bushy beard, lots of grey hairs, a spangly tuxedo jacket, a nifty-looking guitar, and really great guitar licks. The bass player and vocalist was a sexy lady who looked really good onstage, and the female drummer also wore some sort of silver spangly dress. They kicked out the jams for a while, then the go-go dancers came up. Among the songs they played were a few by the Ventures, nearly unrecognizable, and then the go-go dancers came back with schoolgirl uniforms on and t-shirts that said “big tits” on the front in Japanese; the drummer and guitarist turned their instruments over to the respective guys from Doburoku Kyodai, and they jammed out a bit. My video cassette ran out near the end of their show, so I missed a bit of the action, but I got most of it. Good fun.



After the show, we were waiting around for invitations for the three bands’ post-gig drinking session but Matt, who had to get home on the last train, pulled us away to a 200 yen pub – everything on the menu was 200 yen – and we drank there for a while. The people in the pub had a lot of character – GEOS teachers from the nearby language school, some Japanese salarymen, and a Japanese lady who seemed to want to be everybody’s friend. Had a lot to drink, and Matt was pretty wasted by the end of the evening. Left so that he could catch his late train home, which he nearly missed, then we had a slow walk along the Dotonbori-suji, over the Dotonbori bridge, and back to the car for the long ride home. Got back to the home at 2:30 AM, roughly 1.5 hour before Michael Jackson died.

Friday, June 26th I woke up and heard that Michael Jackson was dead. Didn’t he sleep in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber that was supposed to make him live forever? Wow. Now that the King of Pop is dead, I wonder who will succeed him on the throne? It was Zen’s last day at school, and when he came home we went off immediately to sing some karaoke. Sang a few Michael Jackson songs, an Imawano Kiyoshiro song (since I love his music even more than Michael’s), the Ramones (RIP Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee), and a few others. The system was terrible, though, very bad versions of the songs, but never mind. Zen had a lot of fun trying out his favourite tunes by Arashi and Chibi Maruko-chan, although he certainly needs more practice. Went home, had a “farewell dinner” with all of Zen’s cousins, Naoko’s brother and two sisters-in-law, and we laughed our butts off at some of the crazy performances that the kids put on. Naoko and her brother had a bit too much to drink and were singing Kiyoshiro songs. What a nice night. Saturday, June 27th was our last full day in Himeji. I went for a long bicycle ride since I had basically nothing to do, saw the castle, went to River City, enjoyed the lovely Japanese early-summer Saturday afternoon vibe. At night, Naoko’s mother took us and Zen’s two girl cousins out to a sushi conveyor belt place, that was good fun. Sunday, June 28th we got up before 5:00 so that we could leave the house at 5:50 and be at the bus terminal before 6:20 to catch our bus to the airport. Got there way early for our flight, had over two hours to kill, did some shopping, went in, ate our lunch, got on the flight. I watched the rest of Watchmen, as well as a Japanese film called The Handsome Suit. Got to Singapore at 4:00, cabbed it home, had a couple gin ‘n’ tonics, unpacked, put CDs and video into my computer, answered emails, and started to re-adjust to life in Singapore. Ahhh… Singapore.

At the end of it all, Zen gave a very funny interview of us all: