2 Feb 2009

(I’m a) Japanese Man in London

Today in London, we had the heaviest snowfall in 18 years.

This morning, as I’d expected, it was a complete chaos in transport – all trains and tube were running with delay or disrupted, or even suspended. And…. No buses at all! It was told that it was the first time in the living memory.

I was watching TV this morning and it seemed most of the employees in London would stay at home, and I was thinking of what to do. Then, I’ve realised the overground train line near me was running, so I forced myself to the office. I’ve actually got stuck on a train on the way for an hour!

When I finally got to the office, I was surprised… Almost everyone was there!

I was already informed from my friend that her office was closed today. The city was apparently quiet. However, my office was as normal

“Is this an office in Japan?”

As there was a severe weather warning and also I’ve already experienced a trouble, I really thought we should go home early. The office finally decided to close at 4 pm. Today, I came in the latest and left first. I didn’t feel like a Japanese today.

13 Jan 2009

Two Lives

It’s already a bit too late, but...Happy new year!

It was the sixth time of visiting Japan since I came to London, but, as always, during the stay it was very difficult to imagine my everyday life in London – I’ve realised (again) Japan is such a different place from Britain and I felt as if I was living in two different worlds. I didn’t think I would easily get back to my normal life in London, particularly to my work.

However, I didn’t feel any difficulty when I dived into the office yesterday morning, just after the day when I came back to London. I’ve found myself speaking just as normal. This might have been the first time I’ve felt that I can speak English just ‘naturally’. Maybe I can be more confident about being a real cosmopolitan.

At the same time, I felt the people in the office were very welcoming. It’s really difficult to explain about the feeling of this but I have to say this is something I would never experience in Japan.

24 Dec 2008

Do You Celebrate Christmas?

This is the question I’ve been asked hundreds of times in the past few weeks. Yes, European people are interested if we do so. As now I’ve almost got used to the same question, I would just answer “Yes, we do, particularly the young people and families with kids. Yeah, it’s a bit funny cos most of us are not Christians at all. I actually don’t care, although I used to celebrate when I was young.”

In fact, this is the very first Christmas for me in the UK! In the past three years I was always in Japan. For some reason, I had to go to the very quiet office this afternoon, and I’ve realised the town was really quiet. Yeah, Christmas is the time people stay with their family.

I just wanted to say that since I came to London, I started feeling strange about the attitude of Japanese people about Christmas. You don’t have to feel lonely even if you’re alone on the Christmas day. Just meet your family in the new year, that’s all you have to do!

So, I’m just having some champagne myself, at home. And tomorrow, I’m gonna visit my Japanese friends living nearby and we’re gonna have some nice Christmas dinner! Yeah, I don’t really care… but I actually care!

1 Dec 2008

Unexpected Bonus

It’s not from my company, but from HM Revenue and Customs. I’ve just realised I’ve been overpaying income tax since I’ve changed my job an year ago!

Due to the huge and sudden drop of British Pound (200 yen to 140 yen in just two month!!) I was now in a very very difficult situation as I’m sending quite a lot of money to Japan almost every month. So, this unexpected bonus is such a good news!

When I changed the job just an year ago, the amount of tax deducted every month had risen very much, but I just thought that was because my wage had risen. However, this weekend, I just happened to see HM’s website and tried to work out why my tax had risen that much. Then, I’ve seen something about Personal Allowance (the non-taxable amount from our salary) and realised I hadn’t got the benefit since I changed my job.

Today I’ve talked with our office manager and he assured he’d try to sort it out. He told me I’ll get some money back with this month’s payment. I’ll also get some money back for the last tax year separately.

Sorry to say this but this is a sort of thing which happens in this country – Japanese people never make such mistakes! But, now I’m really happy with this mess. This is gonna save my life. I’m having a nice wine tonight, first time in two weeks!

(Yes, only two weeks)

15 Aug 2008

get ready for V!

Yes, it’s this weekend! It’s V Festival! And it’s The Verve and Muse!

This is gonna be the first proper music festival to go for me since I moved to London, but will be the second V – the first one was back in 1998, where I saw The Verve just before their second split-up! I’d never thought I’d see them again at V.

I’ve managed to get weekend tickets with camping very luckily on the first release, and was gonna camp with my friend. But…..

He has bloody escaped!! I just can’t get hold of him. I have to go just myself again! I had to give up camping as well, though I was thinking this would be the very last festival with camping. Yes, it’s because of my age.

I’m a bit worried about the friend but my friends say this is not unusual for him. So, I was forced to sell the precious ticket. But I’ve managed to sell it through Gumtree to a young English guy. I was pleased to sell it to someone who actually goes to the Festival, not to a tout. His response was only after 5 minutes after I put an ad! Gumtree is really useful. I was actually struggling putting an ad on eBay, but I was rather happy to have sold it with the original price! I hope the guy will enjoy the Festival.

So, well… now that everything is ready! My torn calf muscle is now healed well enough, I believe. I’ve already finished the weekend washing as well. I hope I won’t be too bothered to write about the Festival, see you then!

6 May 2008

a new project

Finally, after six months since I joined this practiced and started working on a project, I’ve started with another project today.

It’s almost like a temporary helper for that project as I’ll be on holiday in two weeks time, but it’s very nice to do something totally different from what I’ve been doing. The project is already at the detailed design stage and I was asked to develop some detail designs. Actually, I was feeling a bit nervous about starting with this project as all the members of the project team were new to me. However, it was quite easy as everybody didn’t seem to have as good experiences as I’ve expected, even the project architect!

I know that I should be confident with myself as I’ve got almost 15 years’ experience, but I was pleased with the fact that I could be confident in this kind of situation. I’d like to enjoy the next two weeks!

18 Mar 2008

character of english and japanese seen through the design of toilets

About a year ago, when I went for lunch at a pub with my colleagues, one of them said, “the toilet in this pub is without a entrance door, which is a nice design.” In fact, as he said, a door-less toilet is unusual in this country, even in larger public buildings.

In Japan, nowadays, door-less design for toilets is commonly used particularly for public buildings. As Japan is full of newly built modern buildings, it is understandable that it hasn’t yet happened a lot in England. However, I assume this is partly because of the difference of people’s character in both countries.

It seems that, people in England are more concerned about privacy, whilst Japanese are more concerned about cleanliness. When we design a door-less toilet we have to consider the things such as visibility from outside and soundproof, and if a toilet does have an entrance door you have to touch it even after you disinfect your hands!

I also think the difference is reflecting the reliability on ventilation. In England, generally, mechanical ventilation system is relatively poor and not reliable, so people tend to rely on natural ventilation by opening up the windows. So, probably from the fear of spread of toilet smell, architects may not be keen to design door-less toilets.