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.

13 Feb 2008

involved in london 2012!

Great news came out to our practice. We have won a project for Olympic!! We will be named in the development of Olympic facilities with other prominent architects. We will rather “take care of” them all!

It’s actually a project of sewage plant that will treat the drainage from the Olympic facilities like Zaha’s Aquatics Centre or whatever. Even for such plant buildings aesthetic is usually well considered in this country, not like in Japan, so it will be a very exciting project. Even if I will not be involved in the design team this will be a good memory!

28 Jan 2008

public consultation

Recently, I had a couple of opportunities to attend public consultations for the project I’m currently working on. It is a master-planning project for some developments of housing and some other public facilities in a new town developed in the 1950’s. Same as we do in Japan, the public consultations are organised in order to explain the schemes and to listen to people in the area. They were organised by our client and a developing consultant, and the role of our practice was to present the proposals.

It was actually very tough! And at the same time, it was really interesting and even exciting. I was just doing some supporting works but it was really a good experience. There were some, and quite many at one consultation, very very vocal people. It’s just the same in Japan! The meeting was just endless and impossible.

The people here seemed to express more personal opinions than those in Japan. And they even seemed literally more conservative – majority were keen to maintain the existing living environment. I’ve also realised people here are more concerned about privacy than we Japanese generally are. Some neighbours raised overlooking issues to their bedrooms or even to their gardens. I had already known overlooking issues are very important in this country but it was more than that I had expected. Those opinions were understandable to some extent but seemed a bit too greedy.

I’m still not a project architect for this project, however, I am at least entrusted with most of the planning works of it. I’m really enjoying it and realising how different the urban planning principles are in the UK and in Japan. Particularly, the feedbacks from these public consultations are really important. I’m sure this experience will help a lot to my future work in Japan!