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An Aussie in Japan

Monday, October 13, 2008


It's time to say goodbye, I think. I have neither the time nor the motivation to continue writing posts for this blog. 

I originally starting writing it as a way to chronicle what I was doing in Japan primarily for friends and family back in Australia, and I had fun doing it. Now, it seems like the only thing I have to report is that I'm busy. More to the point, it seems like the only thing that I'm willing to report is that I'm busy. The rest of it is something I'm not prepared to publish.

The blog served its purpose, and now it's time to move on. I'll be deleting it soon.

Thank you for reading, and goodbye.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Twilight Zone

I don't get it. I just don't get it. A year and a half ago, after having moved from one end of Tokyo to the other, I had to reregister my address with the local council and the national public health insurance scheme. I did this on the very day I moved and was told that my new health insurance card would be issued to me with the updated information. In the meantime, I was told, if I needed to charge any medical services to the insurance scheme, I was to use my current health insurance card. So I did. Twice.

I recently got a letter from the former insurance office (near where I used to live) instructing me that I have to refund them 8,000 yen for services I charged to their office after having moved. Today, I called up my current local insurance office and told them about the letter that was sent to me from the former office, and said that seeing as I was already properly reregistered with the current office at the time I incurred those fees, I thought that I wouldn't have to pay up. Not so, apparently.

The following is the essence of the phone call I had with a person from the local insurance office earlier today.

[Bureaucrat] You need to pay the other office the requested fees.

[Me - perplexed]

Because we won't be able to reimburse you until you pay the insurance scheme the outstanding amount.

[Me - perplexed]
Huh? But I thought I was covered?

You were. You were properly registered with this local insurance office at the time you incurred the fees at the former insurance office. However, at the time you incurred the fees, you had that former insurance office listed on your insurance card, and they paid the fees on your behalf.

[Me - perplexed]
But when I called the insurance office at the time, I was instructed to use that old card until the new card was issued. It took you 6 months to issue the new card, and I couldn't wait that long to get treatment.

That's correct.

[Me - perplexed]
But you're going to make me pay anyway?


[Me - perplexed]
But it's a national health scheme. The other office is 20 minutes away by train. Why can't you just resolve it internally?

... (pause) ... Please pay the amount by the stipulated deadline.

[Me - perplexed]
But hang on. I don't understand. I reregistered on the very day I moved, I was covered at the time I incurred the costs, I confirmed that I was still allowed to use the insurance card, I used the insurance card, and yet I am still be asked to pay the amount of money.

Yes, but you clearly don't understand. We're going to reimburse you. It's ok.

[Me - perplexed]
So you want me to reimburse the insurance scheme in order for you to then reimburse me?


(Intellingent observers will note that Kallun is still perplexed by the logic)

[Me - perplexed] And this doesn't strike you as strange?

... (pause) ... Please pay the amount by the stipulated deadline.

[Me - perplexed]
How about this? How about I forgive your debt to me, and you forgive my debt to you, and we call it even?

But you're going to get your money back. All you have to do is go an pay the amount, get a receipt, then bring your bank account details and the receipt into the office, and fill in the paperwork, and then we will reimburse you.

[Me - perplexed]
And who is going to be responsible for paying the fees?

What fees?

[Me - perplexed]
The fees I'm going to incur when I have to withdraw money via an ATM in order to pay the amount, and the costs I'm going to incur in order to get to your office, and the time I'm going to waste in order to complete the entire procedure.

... (pause) ... Oh. Well... we won't be reimbursing you for that.

[Me - perplexed]
So, tell me if my understanding is correct - essentially, I abided by the rules, I did what you told me to do, I used the card as instructed, and now I'm going to have to pay you for something you should have paid for in the first place only to then have you reimburse me for it less the transaction and other miscellaneous costs?

... (pause) ... Please pay the amount by the stipulated deadline.

At this point, Kallun is sure he can hear the theme music to the Twilight Zone ringing in his ears.

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Monday, July 07, 2008


...and how better to do so than with a post about a phallus. As my very humble contribution to the debate re: theories about skyscrapers and their phallic symbolism, I submit an artistic representation of the soon-to-be-opened "Cocoon Tower" in Tokyo.

Well might one argue that the graphic depiction of the design is simply innocent, and that I am decidedly perverse, but I think the following photo of a poster I saw on the train this morning advertising said phallus (and adjacent gonad) highlights my point - the graphic designers clearly have a wicked sense of humour.

I mean, seriously, why else would you advertise the opening of a new building by presenting its image horizontally if you were not trying to be a smartarse?

It gets marginally better, though. As I was trying to send this image from my Japanese mobile phone (with which I took the offending photograph) to my computer in order to upload it onto the blog, I was prompted with two menu options/messages. The first screen (on the left), provides the option of attaching the photo to an email (to then be sent to my computer). The second poorly translated screen message (on the right), though, points out in a double entendre-esque way that my photo of the phallic building might not be sent because the "other phone may not play as the size is large".

Needless to say, this kept me amused most of the day... clearly, I have no life.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Starbucks - Act 2

I'm at Starbucks, standing in line behind a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls with no concept of volume, waiting to order. Having finished ordering, they exit stage left, and I step up to the register.

[Starbucks Dude] Hi. Welcome to Starbucks.
[Me] Hi. Can I have a cappuccino, please.
[Starbucks Dude] Certainly. Is that to have here or to take away?
[Me] To have here, please.
[Starbucks Dude] I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you can't - all the seats and tables are taken.
[Me, teeth firmly gritted] Well, then, I guess I'll have to have it to take away, won't I.
[Starbucks Dude] Are you sure?

In the darker recesses of my mind, I proceeded to commit horrible, unspeakable violence against Starbucks Dude...

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Monday, December 31, 2007

The Starbucks Spasm

I was fortunate enough to be a witness today to a new dance that I have appropriately named the "Starbucks Spasm".

I'll explain the moves, so that you too can bust a move the next time you're off to get a hit of caffeine.

The man sitting on the couch next to mine took off his shoes - I'm not sure if it's important for the effective performance of the dance, but if at all possible, you should also probably try to mismatch the colour of the socks as best you can... the man who performed the dance today had a clever and attractive mix of neon pink and navy blue... each a different styles of sock too, of course.

Step two apparently involved throwing each foot up onto each armrest of the chair opposite the one you're sitting in, much like a woman would place her feet in stirrups before giving birth. I assume step three involves gyrating your hips and rotating your neck in clockwise and counterclockwise directions respectively, because the guy started what seemed to be a mid air yoga routine... or at least that's what I thought it was until I realised that his impressive 50 year old contortions matched the timing of the moderate-tempo Spanish music that was playing over the sound system. At this point, I concluded that it was either a clever new dance or an impressively elaborate epileptic fit.

I doubt it'll be a dance crazy that'll take the world by storm, but then I was wrong about the Macarena too...

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Considered Reflection
on a Considerable Period of Time

This post is a manifestation of a confluence of events - the end of 2007, my 1000th day in Japan, and my not having anything better to do. It seems to me to be an apt time to reflect on my time in Japan in general, and on 2007 specifically.

One of the more notable events of the year, I think, was that on March 20, I was living in a concrete box with a double-glazed window that could generously (and reluctantly) be described as a dormitory room; and on March 21, I was not. My move to an apartment on the other side of Tokyo was not simply a geographic relocation, it was a fundamental improvement in my standard of living.

Whereas before, when I was living in my concrete box, I would be awoken from my slumber by the melodious sounds of metal grinding against metal when the 6:02 morning train rumbled past my window; now, the only sound, if any, is the squeaking of rust wheels of the walkers used by the grandmas in my 'hood' to perambulate impatiently back and forth in front of the store on the 1st floor of my apartment building, waiting for it to open.

Whereas before, when I was living in my concrete box, I had to remind myself to close the curtains before getting out of the shower so as not to give the students in the high school directly opposite my window (on the other side of the train tracks) an unexpected biology lesson in gaijin genitalia; in my new apartment, I found myself one day looking out the window at the old lady in the building opposite mine looking back at my recently showered, wet and naked body, and it occurred to me that I should probably buy some curtains and then keep them closed.

Life is a learning curve, I have since discovered, and the occasional accidental expose of naked flesh makes it all the more interesting.

Something else I learnt (sans the exposure of naked flesh) was always to measure the width of the hallway into the living room before ordering a 2 seater couch. This lesson derived from my realisation that I am, in fact, utterly incapable of manipulating the fabric of time and space in order to bend the corporeal world (namely my narrow hallway) by the sheer force of my will. My creative mind lurched into action, and I conjured up the fantastical solution of energetically hurling the couch out the window of the building opposite mine and through the curtainless window of mine. However, after considered reflection, I arrived at the rather sensible conclusion that rocking up at the house of the old lady I had exposed myself to not a few days earlier, only to then ask her to if I could eject a couch out of her window, would be a considerably big ask...

Part 2 to follow tomorrow.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

A milestone

The end of 2007 pretty much coincides with my 1000th day of living in Japan (this time around, at least), so I'll try and get something written for that day...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Language War - Part 3

After not having heard from Aunty I in a while, I arrived at the conclusion that she was recovering from the last devastating exchange, and so I decided to launch what I thought would be my final assault.

(Here are the links for part 1 and part 2.)


Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 5:05 PM
To: Aunty I
Subject: Language War

Dear Ms. Aunty I,

Your prolonged silence has led me to believe that you have been humbled by my superior language skills. This is understandable.

I would like to make two amendments to two previous emails. I feel that I am entitled to make such changes as the Law of Language War, Article 17 stipulates that amendments to a previous email are permitted only if the recipient of such email has yet to respond. As such, my amendments are as follows:

1. Email sent to Ms. Aunty I dated September 19, 2007 at 11:53.

"As to you first comment," will be amended to "As to your first comment,"

2. Email sent to Ms. Aunty I dated September 19, 2007 at 15:57.

"After having reviewed the substance" will be amended to "After reviewing the substance"

That is all. I await your surrender.



From: Aunty I
Sent: 12 November 2007 18:38
To: Kallun
Subject: RE: Language War

Dear Mr. Kallun "You Are Not Worthy" [Insert surname here],

I am not familiar with the Law of Language War, Article 17. I strongly suspect that the reason for this unfamiliarity is that said Article either does not in fact exist, or exists only because you created it arbitrarily and without mandate or consent from any recognized legislative authority (and far worse, without damn well asking me first!)

I do not accept your purported revisions to glaring mistakes you previously made, which have been carefully saved for posterity in my Outlook folders, and therefore should be considered set in stone. What is done is done, and you shall bear the consequences.

At this point, I have no intention of surrendering, except in disgust.

Yours sincerely,

Aunty I
Worthy Opponent


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Language War - Part 2

Here is part 2 of the Language War (part 1 is here). I should point out that Aunty I is not an actual relative, but a friend from university.


Sent: 19 September 2007 15:57
To: Aunty I
Subject: RE: Language War

Dear Ms. Aunty I,

Pitying you as I do, I made a concerted attempt to 'infect' my email with certain, intentional failings for two reasons:

(1) to test you; and
(2) to give something to comment on, lest you collapse into a crying pile of self-doubt.

As to you first comment, I consulted my copy of the the Macquarie Dictionary to ascertain whether you were correct or woefully, hopelessly incorrect in your assertion that "Ms." was a stylistic practice unique to the United States of America. Sadly, again, you are mistaken. In fact, "Ms." is an honorific employed in Australia.

Unfortunately, you did not 'find' all of the 'Easter eggs' I left for you. This saddens me. It really does.

Additional comments on the erroneous usage of punctuation and grammar in the pigswill of an email you wrote (dated 18 September, 2007) are forthcoming.

This list is too long for me to deal with at this time.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. Please note that "Nahni nahni nah nah" is actually spelt "narni narni nar nar". That is all.


Sent: 19 September 2007 15:57
To: Aunty I
Subject: RE: Language War

Dear Ms. Aunty I,

After having reviewed the substance of your invective-filled email, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to address certain elements raised by you that are inexcusably incorrect.

First, I would like to direct your attention to the 'em-dash' point in which you stated "dashes were used incorrectly in place of em-dashes." This statement is inherently self-conflicting. Were I to perform the mental contortions necessary to understand the flawed logic of this statement, I would have no choice but to conclude that 'dashes' and 'em-dashes' are mutually exclusive concepts. This, I'm sure you'll agree after considered reflection, is not the case. What I suspect you meant to say was that "en-dashes were used incorrectly in place of em-dashes." I reach this conclusion because it is obvious that the em-dash is a type of dash, as is the en-dash.

The basic premise of your argument, however, is incorrect. Please refer to the following website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Em-dash#Em_dash

Of particular note is the following passage:
"The Elements of Typographic Style recommends the more concise spaced en dash – like so – and argues that the length and visual magnitude of an em dash "belongs to the padded and corseted aesthetic of Victorian typography". The spaced en dash is also the house style for certain major publishers (Penguin and Routledge among them). However, some longstanding typographical guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style still recommend unspaced em dashes for this purpose. In practice, there is little consensus, and it is a matter of personal or house taste; the important thing is that usage should be consistent." (sic)

One could thus conclude that the en-dash is preferable to those of us who choose to converse in British English. Given your particular situation in life, I suppose you may be forgiven in your misguided belief that the em-dash should prevail in any and all circumstances.

What is particularly striking, however, is the unrestrained glee with which you articulated your disdain. Were I to diagnose this, I would assume that you suffer from 'premature elation'. I suspect that there may be an ointment to remedy this affliction, and I wish you well in your treatment.

Finally, you inappropriately indicted me as a "pedant who does not appreciate the intricacies of modern English language usage, including the appropriate use of relaxed grammatical standards in informal e-mail correspondence." This is unwarranted, as you were well aware that a formal declaration of language war had been issued prior to the offending e-mails. Accordingly, any "relaxed grammatical standards in informal e-mail correspondence" constitutes a poor tactical move on your part. Needless to say, Napoléon Bonaparte would be appalled.

I await your surrender.
That is all.

Yours sincerely,


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Language War - Part 1

On September 18, 2007, I declared Language War on Aunty I. I was compelled to do this as a preemptive measure to what I was sure was going to be an imminent syntactic assault on the grammar contained in an email I had written her.

Two and a half months have since passed, and it's a merciless and bloody battlefield out there in the digital ether! The serenity of Tokyo proper has been scathed and scarred with the malicious mêlée of missives back and forth across the broadband spectrum. A multitude of violent verbs and nouns and adjectives have been volleyed at yours truly, and all I've had to defend myself with from Aunty I's attacks is my copy of the Australian Macquarie dictionary and the confidence I have in my (some would say "superior") English language abilities.

I submit, as Exhibit A, round 1 of this semantic scrum!
(I've used pseudonyms for the email exchange. Also, my comments on her previous emails are the ones in red, unless it isn't already obvious.)

From: Kallun
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 3:00 PM
To: Aunty I
Subject: Language War

Dear Ms. Aunty I,
Please be informed that as per the email exchange dated August 24, 2007, I have compiled the following emails, and will now proceed to highlight what I believe to be failings, flaws, and other offensive foibles in the language contained therein.
That is all.
Thank you.

From: Aunty I
Sent: 14 September 2007 17:06
To: Kallun
Subject: RE: The silence is deafening...

jesus. this is really very bad!!
[Comment] Ignoring the blasphemy, both sentences violate capitalisation protocols. Additionally, "really very bad" is either a redundant (ie: double) hyperbole, or it is missing a comma.

From: Aunty I
Sent: 13 September 2007 16:42
To: Kallun
CC: Aunty M
Subject: RE: The silence is deafening...

I am lost in the world of paperwork. Good times!
Actually, going quite OK.
Sorry for the long silence.
How are those housewarming party plans coming, you two?!
[Comment] The sentence - "Actually, going quite OK" - lacks a subject. Please rectify this at your earliest convenience, as I am still quiet unsure as to 'what' is "going quite OK" (sic).
Finally, "you two?!" can be either a question, or an exclamation. It cannot be both.
Aunty I responded with the following: (I've replace my surname with my first name.)

From: Aunty I
Sent: 18 September 2007 21:44
To: Kallun
Subject: RE: Language War

Dear Mr Kallun,

You are a pedant who does not appreciate the intricacies of modern English language usage, including the appropriate use of relaxed grammatical standards in informal e-mail correspondence.

I would, however, have been able to accept your comments with good grace, had it not been for the sad lack of attention to basic rules of spelling, grammar and consistency in your message below.

First, in your e-mail below, you referred to me initially as "Ms. Aunty I", suggesting that you proposed to adopt the spelling and stylistic practices of the United States of America. If this was your intention, then in your first comment in red, "capitalisation" should have been spelt "capitalization", and "ie" should have been spelt "i.e.".

Second, please re-acquaint yourself with the use of colons, as "(ie[sic]: double)" demonstrates incorrect use of the colon, you ignorant loon.

Third, in the comment, "[Comment] The sentence - "Actually, going quite OK" - lacks a subject.", dashes were used incorrectly in place of em-dashes. If you are, at this moment, asking yourself, "What the hell are em-dashes?", then perhaps, you young whippersnapper, you will find it necessary to admit that you have chosen to declare Language War on a formidable opponent.

Finally, please clarify the meaning of "quiet unsure", as used in the sentence below:
Please rectify this at your earliest convenience, as I am still quiet unsure as to 'what' is "going quite OK" (sic).

In short, Mr Kallun, your scathing comments on others' alleged failings would be better received, and far more persuasive, if delivered in a manner free from basic errors. Your pitiful effort below begs the inference that the writer is patently unqualified to form judgments on the correct use of the English language.

Nahni nahni nah nah.

Yours sincerely,
Aunty I

Stay tuned for further developments... Victory is in sight!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

What? Me? An idiot?

Anyone who knows me in any capacity will readily attest to the fact that I never admit to having done something stupid. Today, here on this blog, I am going to make history.

I am sitting at Sydney international airport right now, all alone in the departure terminal, looking suspiciously at the janitor who is looking suspiciously back at me. It's almost like we're in the O.K. Corral, staring each other down, about to quickdraw our guns, or mobile phones, or whatever... I'm waiting for a tumbleweed to casually bounce past. I suddenly see a flash of movement! ...Phew, it's only the barista popping his head up from behind the coffee cart. Deep breathes.

I'm waiting here at 4am, amongst broom-weilding, detergent-slinging cowboy-janitors, a mere 6 hours before my scheduled departure for Japan. One might be forgiven for thinking that I'm an overly eager, excessively anal traveler. Not so.

As I was packing yesterday, my mum asked me what time the flight for Japan would be leaving. I glanced at my e-ticket and thought my flight was leaving at 7:05am. As such, I made arrangements for my parents to wake themselves up at 4am for no other reason than to call my mobile phone (I was staying at a hotel in Sydney) and make sure that I was awake.

As it turned out, I didn't need them to because between checking into the hotel at 11pm, and checking out at 4am, I was fortunate enough to have been an audience to an (almost) half-hourly performance by La Orchestra de McDonald's Carpark Hooligans with their rousing rendition of "Honk-Honk-Fully sic, bro-Honk-Honk-Get out of his car, ya f$#king slut-Honk-Honk" in G-Minor. Needless to say, I was in no danger of falling asleep and missing my scheduled check-in and departure time.

So I finally get to the airport, and discover that my flight does not leave at 7:05am, but 10:25am. In fact, the 705 number was the flight number...

And so it is, without further ado, that I hereby announce that I am an idiot.

That is all, thank you.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Hermit mode

Where have you been?

Well, you see, I have a secret! Well... not so much a secret as an explanation! Well... not so much an explanation as an excuse. I have my final round of exams next week that I have to pass in order to be admitted as a solicitor (lawyer) in Australia. Accordingly, I have entered Hermit mode... no social activities, no fun, nothing.

That explains nothing! Why the hell haven't you been posting?

It's a mixture of not having anything interesting to write, no time to write it, and simply not being in the mood.

Liar! I have it on good authority that you just went on an all-expenses paid trip to Thailand! Explain yourself!

Ok, ok, that's true, but it wasn't all that interesting.

Oh really!?! I heard that you got food poisoning, and were on your death bed.

Again, it is true that I did get food poisoning, but it wasn't really that interesting or blog-worthy... and I'd be interested to know where you got your inside information from.

Never you mind, fool! When do you plan to write something new?

In two weeks time, after the exams... and after I get psychiatric treatment for this predilection I seem to have in arguing with myself.

See that you do!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I know, I know...

I know - I haven't updated this blog in ages, and it doesn't look like I will until next week at the earliest. In the mean time, I have finally managed to obtain photographic evidence of the Curious Cuff Links that I posted about O so many moons ago (early September). I was accused of fabricating the story - not so!

I hereby submit the following as Exhibit A.

In order to take the photo, I had to fool the sales assistant into thinking that I was actually keen on buying it on behalf of a friend who, for whatever reason, couldn't make it to the shop and would not buy it without seeing it for himself/herself. He reluctantly obliged. Fool.

In case you're wondering, they cost about AU$100... and no, I didn't buy any.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

It still makes me laugh...

I posted this before - in fact, it was one of my first ever posts, but that was in the pre-YouTube era. I'm posting it again for no other reason than it still makes me laugh.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

There's a storm a-brewing!

Typhoon No. 9 is about to hit Tokyo - but it's ok, because I have my snorkel, my floaties, my flippers and a nifty little swimming costume prepared.

Presumably, there were eight other typhoons this season, but they clearly weren't as bad-ass as this one, because this is the only one that caused my company to start issuing warning bulletins to us by email. If we don't receive any more bulletins, we can assume one of three things:

(1) that the danger has passed, and that we're all going to be ok;
(2) that the management don't want to alarm us, and to keep us working and make as much money out of us for as long as possible before we get blown away to the four edges of the world; or
(3) that the typhoon has already affected the internet servers for all of Japan (it happened not too long ago with an earthquake), all 'imminent impact' warning emails have failed, and we're all doomed, DOOMED I SAY!

Now I sit here blowing up my floaties - waiting, blowing, waiting, blowing...

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Curious Cuff Links

I was at a upmarket clothes store the other day, buying a shirt, and I went over to the display case to look at their cuff links. They had three pairs, each with a picture and a title to go with each picture.

The first set had a picture of a muffler and a beaver.
It said "Muff" and "Beaver".

The second set had a picture of a donkey and a little boy. It said "Donkey" and "Dick".

The third set had a picture of a puppy and a lady model. It said "Doggy" and "Style".

The sales assistant couldn't work out why I broke out into a fit of laughter...

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It's ok, I'm ok - recall the emergency rescue services and cancel the search party. I'm alive, and I survived the bar exam. Thanks to those people who contacted me out of concern - no, my pile of trust accounting notes did not collapse on top of me, thus drowning me in a sea of accounts receivable and office receipts. And no, sadly, the criminal law practical component wasn't nearly as interesting as being asked to commit a crime, get caught, and then circumnavigate the tortuous criminal justice system - the first checkpoint, ideally, would have been seeing how long you could last detained in custody with a disturbingly affectionate cell mate named Bubba. This, of course, does not mean that I can't take a crack at it, but simply that I won't be getting credit for it.

No, the bar exam program comprised of an utterly unoriginal combination of written exams and mock trials, dragged out for a yawn-inducing two weeks. The best part would have been on the second Friday - the last day of exams - when all us budding lawyers stumbled out of the exam hall, jaywalked across the road and waltzed straight into the pub conveniently located just opposite the law college to suck up any unassuming law students who happen to be passing by, and into a mire of alcoholism.

So there we were - now budding alcoholics regaling each other with faux modesty about how 'difficult' we found the inane exams, and interrogating each other with our newly acquired cross-examination techniques to find out who amongst us was single and on the prowl... or maybe it just me doing the interrogating... and maybe it was just me who was single and on the prowl... three hours of solid drinking with no food has made my memory of the event somewhat fuzzy...

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Bar Exam

I'm busy. So stupidly, insanely busy.
I'm back in Australia studying for and sitting my bar exam for my qualification to practice as a lawyer.

I'll write again once that's all done.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I'm taking a class at University on Professional Ethics for Lawyers. There are several subtopics, and the one that I've elected to focus on is "whistleblowing" - as in, to report something when you see something unethical/illegal taking place. In researching my subtopic in preparation for a submission to the class, I noticed that the submission of one of my classmates for a different subtopic is directly copied (in part) from a speech given by some expert in the area.

Now, is this not irony?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Don't drop the soap!

"Whatever you do, don't drop the soap!", he said.

My boss was ever so clever with his witticisms, such that when I told him that I was going to visit the local jail as a part of a university field trip, he came up with this brilliant adage on bathroom behaviour.

Indeed, it was true that when my professor gave me a copy of the itinerary for the day at the bar after class, I mistakenly used it as a coaster for my beer and so I had no idea what the field trip would involve. I did, however, correctly suspect that my day would not involve showering with inmates, much less the handling of hygiene products of any description.

My boss laughed, amused at his excellent sense of humour... I chuckled nervously, and silently resolved that I would shower twice a day for the week preceding the field trip to decrease any likelihood that the professor would spontaneously suggest that I join the inmates in sudding up.

I made it through to the end of the day of the field trip with the biblical integrity of my posterior intact...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Bachelor Pad Discoveries - Part 1

Two months down, and I'm finally settled into my new bachelor pad. Since I first moved in, I have made a number of discoveries - including those of the unpleasant, olfactory variety.

I have discovered this - given the distinct topography of my suburb and the particular aerodynamic qualities of my neighbourhood, when I open both the door in my bedroom (that leads onto the veranda) and the window in my living room, I can create a wind-tunnel - the ferocity of which can be tempered in part by my repositioning of the sliding door that separates the two rooms.

This God-like power to summon a veritable tornado in my apartment is especially handy now that it's summer in Japan. The downside, of course, is that it is entirely possible that any posters I put up on my walls of naughty girls in naughty positions wearing naughty, naughty negligé (if any) could get sucked out the window, never to be seen again...

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Friday, June 01, 2007

People of the Polka-dotted Persuasion

Measles, measles everywhere, and not a spot to be seen...

It is to the eternal regret of my mother that I was never fortunate enough to contract measles or chicken pox as a child. Try as she might to 'socialise' me with the neighbourhood kids (each of whom were scratching, blotchy messes), her little boy's immune system was ever-so strong, and curiously insusceptible to the contagious trials and tribulations of other little boys and girls.

With my now advanced age, my immune system (my defense against the mercurial temperament of mother nature and her occasional tantrums direct at my person) has taken a battering of late through a combination of self-induced insomnia and sustained, yet moderated, self-abuse of the alcoholic variety.

And so it is that I, with my less-than-perfect immune system, find myself in a city that is now in the midst of an outbreak of measles on many of the campuses of its many universities... while some might call this a curious coincidence, I'm inclined to attribute it to the continued collusion of the malevolent fates conspiring against me... Supporting my theory of a damnable and malicious cosmic force, I am further aided by the evidence that whilst other universities have shutdown, mine has done little more than send out a half-hearted email to students (of which I was apparently not on the mailing list, and had to have it forwarded to me by a friend) urging those inflicted with polka-dots to stay at home... the rest of us, I assume, can be damned...

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thailand photos...

I'm too busy to write anything this week, so I thought I'd just post some photos that I took in Thailand. I've also uploaded two videos to YouTube - (1) a (almost) panoramic view of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, and (2) footage of traffic in Chiang Mai.

Boring, I know, but unavoidable...



Palace 3

------Night Markets-----
Night Markets

Chiang Mai 2

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sensibility versus Sanity

My master plan was brilliantly devised and yet deceptively simple. The strategy that I had cleverly crafted in order to survive the IT orientation presentation today involved supplies (an assortment of foodstuffs and carbonated liquid refreshments), various reading materials (designed to offset the mental numbness that would undoubtedly ensue) and prior planned seating arrangements towards the very back of the room (located to leave me partially obscured by a pillar and the heads of my fellow audience members). Supplies in hand, I marched triumphant into the classroom.

Or rather, the empty classroom.

Or so I thought, until a solitary head popped out from behind the lectern. “Good,” the head proclaimed, “lets get started with the presentation, shall we?”

My instincts screamed at me to run: run far and run fast. Just as the Forest Gump music started to play in my mind, the neurons in my brain fired into action, and explained that if I didn’t stay, I’d be doomed to yet another year of not being able to access the internet at university – no email, no law database, no YouTube…

The head behind the lectern (which I later discovered was attached to an actual body) stared at me, perplexed. No doubt confused at my sudden onset of paralysis; oblivious to my inner turmoil; ignorant of the war that waged within between my intellect and my instincts – the opposing forces of sensibility and sanity

Sensibility roared victorious: Sanity lay in tatters on the imaginary ground in my mind, limp and lifeless. I collapsed defeated in the nearest seat in the empty room, tears welling in my eyes.

“This is a table,” the bodied head exclaimed, pointing to a photo of what was indeed a table.
“You can put your laptop on this table. This is an internet connection. You can plug your laptop into the internet connection. In order to do so, however, you need a cable.”
A picture of a blue cable appears on the projector screen (see below). “But not this cable,” he cautioned, “this is the wrong type of cable. You need a different type of cable. Now this is a printer...”
The picture of the offending cable disappeared, and was replaced with a clipart cartoon representation of what could generously be called a printer. It’s really anyone’s guess what the correct cable might actually look like…

I think I died a little today.

----A picture of the offending cable----


Thursday, April 05, 2007

2 years on,
2 years late,
2 years to go...

Today is my second anniversary of chronicling the happenings in the life of "An Aussie in Japan". I find it perfectly poignant that on this day, my second anniversary of my arrival in Japan to pursue postgraduate studies, that I am now where I've always felt that I should have been two years ago. But I'm here now... if somewhat fashionably late...

Car 2

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cats and dogs...

Cats... dogs... hell, I had the entire friggin' passenger list of Noah's Ark rain down on me on my way home from work today. As it turned out, not only did I return in a soggy mess, but much of the books and paperwork in my bag decided that they'd prefer to be paper mache, and so I've spent the better part of the past hour performing surgery on my university transcripts and lease agreement. I feel like I've missed my calling. I should have been a neurosurgeon.

Tomorrow, I have the insurmountable joy of sitting through what will no doubt be singularly the most mind-numbing experience of my life - a special ceremony for new students being admitted into the various graduate schools at my university. Attendance is mandatory, but my undivided attention is not, so, other students' and their parents' disapproving looks be damned, I'm taking a book with me to read ... and I haven't ruled out taking my iPod either...


Monday, April 02, 2007

A reprieve... of sorts

Let the birds sing and the angels rejoice - I get a one month break from work.

For once, the incompetence that so accurately characterises the bureaucratic behemoth that is the Japanese government has finally worked in my favour. The filing requirements for visa and work permit renewals are so deliciously convoluted that I won't be allowed to work for the next four weeks - which suits me fine. I have reading to catch up on, university classes to attend, furniture to wrestle with and negotiate to the ground from lofty Ikea shelves... and what's more, my plans for world domination aren't just going to implement themselves… (my minions are few, and rather recalcitrant, and aren't aware that they are, in fact, my minions)

I predict a gloriously hedonistic month ahead.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

This is the beginning of something... smelly

There was something rotten in the state of Denmark, or, at the very least, there was something utterly rancid in my new apartment - there was a potent, god-awful stench that emanated and insinuated itself into every corner of every room in my new place, that waited at the door for me to return, like a lion waiting for the opportune time to pounce on an unsuspecting gazelle. I had simply assumed it to be little more than leaking sewerage pipes, or a dozen rotten corpses ingeniously and surreptitiously hidden away into yet-to-be discovered nooks and crannies.

After having tried attacking and cleaning what I had originally suspected of being the source: the forest of mould underneath the bathroom sink which I had only discovered (on day 3 after having moved in) when I had slipped in my metal bathtub, fell on my arse, only to look up and bear witness to my new indoor greenhouse. After that failed, I then tried to mask the smell by strategically placing more than a few room freshener thingamabobs around the joint. When that failed, I then set about triangulating the source of my apartment's aromatic discontent. Long story short, I am a genius.

My new place is great - for one, it's big... nay, huge...nay, gargantuan! It's at least four times larger than my old dormitory room. But then, I've always maintained that if you can touch the opposing walls of your apartment at the same time, then you are, in fact, enclosed in a prison cell, so my old dorm room doesn't properly serve as an accurate basis for comparison. To put things into context, you could have a reasonably decent conga line going on in my living room...

The only problem is that I don't yet have a fridge, a washing machine, my gas or Internet connected, a study desk, book case, table, seating of any description, or, for that matter, a bed! Admittedly, I do have a futon, but it's pathetically single (much like it's owner) and is, to my mind, a glorified, and decidedly uncomfortable, mattress. If I can get an Internet connection at the very least, I figure that I can survive indefinitely without the rest.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The end of an era

I'm moving to my new place on the other side of Tokyo today. I've got one foot out the door, and the other strategically wedged into the suitcase handle, dragging it along behind me...

Kokyo Sunset


Saturday, March 24, 2007

A pitiful excuse...

I have an excuse for not writing sooner. A rather unspectacular excuse that is completely lacking in poetry and imaginative insight, but an excuse nevertheless.

I am in the midst of moving house. It's a painful exercise that would try the patience of most self-proclaimed "sane" individuals. As such, I, who has no degree of patience to speak of, am picking fights with all and sundry. I absolutely went off at the lady from the bookstore on the other end of the phone the other day - I simply wanted to know if they had a particular book in store, to which she asked my name, phone number and address. Why? So that she could call me back to tell me whether they had it in stock or not... failing that, she would send me a letter. I asked why she couldn't just check the online catalogue then and there. She umm-ed and she aahh-ed, and then asked me for my name, phone number and address again. I completely flew off my canary pole (as Aunty M would say) and verbally abused the woman. Not 10 seconds later, I got my answer. Problem solved.

Needless to say, I'm in a tetchy mood at the moment.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


I'm off to Thailand for a week.
I'll either write again over there, or once I get back.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

It smells like snow...

It's past midnight, and I'm balancing precariously on my window sill, laptop in its rightful place on top of my lap, feet resting on a slippery balcony railing, with a rum and coke in one hand and trying to type an instant message to Aunty M with the other. I am doing this because I was told that it was going to snow tonight/Sunday, and so I sit here, defying gravity, common sense and risking the possible onset of deep vein thrombosis, in the freezing cold, waiting to see some snow flakes.

It's not like I wouldn't be able to see them. Should they ever happen to float down, there is enough ambient neon light from the nearby shopping district to illuminate the heavens to give it a light bluish/purplish tinge.

While I wait, I thought I'd post some photos from my time in Australia, my spontaneous trip to Osaka and just some random pictures from the infuriatingly incessant light show that is my local shopping district. I have too much to write about and not nearly enough time to do it all at the moment, but I will get there eventually.

---There is something quintessentially Australian
about a country vista with a portable dunny---
Dunny at Dusk

---Australia's answer to Hogwarts... but prettier---

Antipodean Hogwarts

---Osaka Castle---
Osaka - jo

----3 steps to being "so happy" - (1) relax, (2) feel yourself,
and finally (3) enjoy yourself----

Comic Paradise

---The local red light district---
Red Light District

Homeless in Japan

---Problem gamblers watching problem gamblers---

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

I'm going home!

At first, I was lead to believe that clicking my ruby red slippers together 3 times would suffice in getting me home, but I tried and I tried, and then it just got too embarrassing... standing there in the little girls section of the department store with these shoes half hanging off my size 10 feet...

So I left, barefoot, and trudged home to call the travel agent I usually use for my constant cavorting across the globe to try and get back to the Land of Oz by decidedly more mundane means... flying.

The phone conversation went much like this:

[Round 1]

[Travel Agent] Would you like the cheap option or the stupidly, ridiculously "Oh My God, Are You High!?" expensive option?
[Kallun] The cheap option, please.
[Travel Agent] When would you like to leave?
[Kallun] It depends on when I arrive. I would like to arrive on Day X, January.
[Travel Agent] But when would you like to leave?
[Kallun] Whatever time/day I need to leave in order to get there by Day X.
[Travel Agent] I can't guarantee whether you'll arrive on that day.
[Kallun] Excuse me?
[Travel Agent] I can't give you that information until you book the ticket.
[Kallun] But how can I book the ticket unless I can make a decision given the details of when it actually leaves and arrives?

(Kallun is having a "chicken or the egg" moment here.)

[Travel Agent] Well, how about this... what day would you like to leave Australia for Japan?
[Kallun] I want to return on Day Y, February.
[Travel Agent] No, no. What day do you want to leave Australia?
[Kallun] ...

(Kallun's sense of humour is being sorely tested.)

[Kallun] What airline will I be flying with?
[Travel Agent] Umm...
[Kallun] You can't tell me that either?
[Travel Agent] If you take the expensive option, I could tell you.
[Kallun] So... to recap... you can't tell me when I leave, or when I return, or what airline I'll be flying with?
[Travel Agent] Right.

(Kallun has a mini-breakdown.)

So I spin the wheel of aviation Russian roulette, and book a flight on Air Who-The-Hell-Knows to arrive at 10 minutes past God-Knows-When p.m. and return to Japan at a quarter past I've-Lost-My-Will-To-Live a.m.

[Round 2]

Having bitten the proverbial bullet, the next step is to go into the agency to recompense them for their stellar customer service. Although I had little confidence in giving them my credit card details over the phone - what, with all those digits, something was bound to go disastrously pear-shaped (why, just getting them to spell my name correctly was a feat of extreme linguistic contortionism) - such a method of payment would just be far too logical and efficient for this company to even begin contemplating, and so I was forced to front up in person and pay in cash. So I do, and the lady with whom I had been speaking the day before wasn't there... in fact, it turns out that they'd never heard of her. After a few minutes of frantic arm waving and guttural growls (I speak perfectly fine Japanese, but my ability to form words is directly inversely proportional to the degree of fury I'm experiencing at any given time), the collective brain power of the 20 or so people in the room brilliantly deduced that my booking had, in fact, been made with another branch of the same company.

Yes. As it turns out, though I had dialed the phone number for this branch, what I failed to realise, due to my complete inability to read the mind of the person on the other end of the phone, was that the switchboard had surreptitiously redirected me to another branch elsewhere in Tokyo. Upon learning this, I was not fully capable of articulating the depth of my elation... no.. wait... that's not the right word... RAGE! (there we go... that's it...)

[Kallun] Can I pay for it here, at least?
[Travel Agent] No...

(Kallun, already steeped in the traditions and quirky idiosyncrasies of Japanese bureaucracies, knew better than to argue the point.)

[Travel Agent] But you can pay for it through a bank transfer... you just need a form.
[Kallun] Fine. Can you please give me one?
[Travel Agent] No...

(Kallun is beginning to shake... maybe a 4 on the Richter scale...)

[Travel Agent] You'll need the lady from the other branch to send it to you.
[Kallun] Fine. Can you please call the lady to fax through my payment form?
[Travel Agent] No.

At which point, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had nothing on me. I went all biblical on the bastard, and then calmly went on my way to work. So, thus far, I have managed to book and pay for my ticket... all that remains is to see what special surprises await me when I go to the airport this afternoon to collect my ticket 2 hours before my flight departs.

Round 3... ding, ding.

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