Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Settling In - Not Settling Down

I feel like I should write something. I’ve had this feeling for several days now, but circumstances have conspired against me to prevent words being put on paper. As a former wannabe journalist and one-time author this is not a new phenomenon, so as I sit here and forego the opportunity to watch TV to instead write to you my dear reader…I hope you bloody appreciate it.

But what to write, what to write? Well, I could tell you about my first weekend in Japan. I’ve not said much about that yet have I? Truth be told there isn’t much to tell. On the Friday I went to the town of Oyama, which is a 25 minute train journey that I negotiated all by myself, met Darrell and had a few drinks. We went to a restaurant that initially turned us away at the door because they were full, only for a waitress to chase us down the street to tell us two people were about to leave and we could take their place, if of course we still wanted to. That wouldn’t happen in London now would it?
Japanese Restaurant - bring your own chair legs
A few beers, whiskies and wines later and the night came to an end. Nothing major to recount, although we did find a telephone that looked a bit like a face, which was a highlight. The rest of the weekend was spent living what can best be described as the life of a gay couple. We went grocery shopping together. Took some (not very) scenic drives. Cooked each other breakfast and even made my bed together. It was pretty strange...but I can confirm that we at least slept in different rooms. Just like the Royal family.

Not long after that was the Sake night with work. That was pretty unusual. Straight from the office and into “Nikkoken” the restaurant over the road where my boss eats, I think, every single meal. It’s good stuff too, and on this particular occasion we feasted on Sushi (did you know that the word ‘Sushi’ actually means rice with vinegar? Bet you didn’t – you thought it was fish related didn’t you? Heathen.), but before we even had a chance to pick up the chop sticks we needed to “Kampai” everyone.

Now I thought Kampai was just Japanese for “Cheers”, which for the most part it is, but the literal meaning is ‘Dry Glass’ or so I was told. So as there were eight of us, and all needed to be “Kampai’d” before we could even sit down, we were all eight shots of Sake down before 6:45pm. Needless to say it went downhill from there. My boss ended the evening with his tie around his head, and one of my development officers literally fell off his chair before running to the bathroom. They enjoy their booze over here; that much I have discovered. Darrell did warn me that “no good can ever come from drinking Sake” and given how I felt the next day he was probably right.

Man down...but worse was yet to come
During that week I’d had my boss over from the ICC office in Australia which was very useful in terms of work and learning more about what’s expected of me over here. The week after a chap came over from Cricket Australia and basically did my job for me for a week, so that was helpful too in that now I know how to actually do it…kind of.

The weekend I had to myself and concentrated on some running (more on that in a separate post), making the flat look better and catching up with a few folks on Skype. If you don’t have an account yet, get one, otherwise your chances of talking to me are slim (which of course, you might be thankful for). alan.curr is the account name and the picture is of me in front of K2. Don’t be fooled though, it’s not the one that says I’m in Japan. That’s my work account, for when I have my professional trousers on. When I talk on Skype you’ll be lucky if I have any trousers on at all.

Those of you with more than a passing interest in cricket may be aware of the politics going on right now. Essentially three countries are trying to take over the world game, and what this might mean for me is anyone's guess. For now I’m trying not to think about it*, but rest assured I’ll update you as and when I learn more.  

That’ll probably do for now, I’ll finish by telling you that this last weekend I went to Tokyo for the first time in two years, got roaringly drunk and slept in an office somewhere near Shinjuku. Woke up in the morning completely freaked out as I had no idea where I was or how I got there, let alone how to get out, so I did what any sensible person would do in such a situation, and went back to sleep. Like I said, they enjoy their booze in these parts, so it seems only right I do the same from time to time.

Until next time....Mahanimashte.

*When I say trying not to think about it, I do of course mean reading every article on every website I can find - this one being perhaps the most interesting.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Early Days of Sano Life

Two weeks have passed since I landed in Japan so it’s probably time to share a bit about what life is like over here.

First of all, it’s seriously cold. When I arrived in my flat bright rays full or warmth were streaming in through the glass doors in my living room, but within minutes of the sun setting the temperature tumbled to the floor…much like what happens to me on a night out.

There’s no central heating in Japan, and the houses have basically no insulation. It’s freezing in winter and boiling in summer (I'm told). My only friend is my air-conditioning unit, which conveniently packed up on day two. I had some stern words, hit it pretty hard a few times, then replaced the battery in the remote and all was OK again by day three.

Having landed on a Tuesday I started work on the Wednesday and set about getting to know my team. Alex is the boss; he speaks fluent English and has a Scottish mother. He’s one of 4 brothers who all have a Japanese name beginning with N, and an English name beginning with A…apart from the youngest, who’s called Quentin. Yep, Quentin Miyaji. Couldn’t make it up.

My new desk...needs some decorating
Alex is the only person who speaks English fully, but there are four other chaps here, one of whom I can converse with reasonably well and the other two we’re managing. There’s also a girl who works part time but we’ve not got beyond hello and goodbye yet so I can’t really tell you much about her I’m afraid.

The two chaps who work for me, who I like to think of as Cricket Ninjas (Crinjas?) are both good lads and we went out for a team meeting on the Thursday. I suggested we get out of the office and go for a coffee somewhere nearby, and before I knew it we were in a car driving 15 minutes into the distance. This might tell you a little about the town of Sano.

By the Friday my old Uni pal Darrell arrived (he who has been living in Japan about 12 years and is basically my lifeline), and I think that weekend deserves a blog of its own, so will come later. Suffice to say that despite our best efforts, there is no denying that Sano is a pretty quiet town. I was fully prepped for that before I got here so am not surprised, and it’ll let me get focussed on training for the London Marathon and perhaps not washing all my hard earned cash down the toilet.
The view from my balcony - that's Mt Fuji in the distance
I don’t want to crap on for ages so I’ll cut it there and be back sometime soon.

Cheers folks.
Ps – those of you on Twitter can check out the hashtag #SanoLife for general musings about life in the Cricket Epicentre of Japan.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Japan? Cricket? What? Really?

I suppose I should probably clarify, for those who do not yet know, why I packed up my life and moved to Japan.

Back in September I was having a pretty average time at work, and while I was on my Thames Walk I gave some serious thought about what to do next. Back in 2003 I knew that my two great passions in life were Travel & Sport. Since I was a fat slob back then, the chances of me breaking into the world of elite sportsmen seemed pretty slim, so I went down the travel road instead.

Ten years on and I felt I’d got the most out of what the industry had to offer. I’d had some amazing experiences, been to places I would never have visited and met some brilliant people. I’ve no doubt that I could have kept ticking over, having more great experiences, but it just seemed that I’d reached a plateau and needed to challenge myself again. As such I put word out to a few people I know who work in the sports industry that I was looking to change careers, spoke to a few others and began applying for everything I saw.

The very first place I looked was the website for the International Cricket Council (ICC) and they were advertising a job as ‘Project Manager – Junior Participation’, to be based an hour or so outside of Tokyo. Without giving much thought to the whole thing I fired off my CV and cover letter and two interviews and four weeks later I’d accepted the job. More on the specifics of that next time.

So here I am and it certainly is a change. Those who know me well enough will recall that I tried living abroad once before and didn’t last all that long, but I feel infinitely more prepared this time and it doesn’t half make a difference moving to a country with a job, place to live and good mate already over here! It’s definitely scary and I’m definitely sad about leaving people behind, but it’s also exciting as hell and I really do feel like I’m putting myself “out there”.

I don’t want these posts get too long and boring, so I’ll do another later this week about how the first couple of weeks over here have gone. Those of you on Facebook may have seen the album I posted yesterday with a few pictures that may amuse you. More of those to come I’m sure.

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