Did some errands in the morning and then Shimizu-chan from Roy Organization picked us up and we went to look at a bunch of apartments. The first one, in Mita, was the owner's own place on the top floor of a slick building. Stunning view; Tokyo Tower, private club's Japanese garden, 270 panoramic with nothing coming even close to the apartment's 16th floor. However, it was definitely a single-guy pad. Huge bathroom with window that looked into the living room (for unobstructed views), a steam sauna, a window in the bedroom looking into the tatami room next to it (again for unobstructed views), and one giant, square main room. With stunningly tacky furniture. Nice, for someone, but not us.
Next was Chanex; actually quite a killer apartment: huge balcony, huge carpeted master bedroom with huge walk-in closet, huge kitchen with all GE appliances, huge carpeted living-dining room, and all the trimmings like central air, oven, fridge, washer/dryer. Alas, the bathroom was one of those horrible unit-baths: a solid piece of molded plastic for the wallsfloorceilingsinktoiletshowertub. Totally out-of-place and just ruined the whole apartment.
After that we checked out a typically nice Japanese place right behind Ebisu Garden Place (a bit TOO close to work.) It was perfectly normal; air-conditioner in every room, dark wood doors and trim, nice Japanese bath. Narrow stair climb up to the 2nd floor entrance, quite residential neighborhood, nice Japanese "system kitchen" (no oven.) Not thrilling at all, but Hiroko liked it.
Then we saw an old apartment on the 9th floor of an old mansion (condo building). One of these typical old-school Japanese half-ass buildings: nice lobby, elevator up to 9th floor, then walk outside past all the front doors (like a motel.) Problem was this apartment was on the very end, and the overhead ended just before the front door, meaning in the rain you'd have to open your umbrella again just to get into your front door. Big place, but...strange. Huge roof balcony, except for the giant air-vent right in the middle, making the whole space impractical. Big main room with a ceiling split at inopportune places with massive ceiling beams. Two carpeted rooms, plus a 'walk-in closet' which was just a third small, windowless room (no racks for clothing or anything.) Typical nice bathroom. The kitchen was big and old; a long metal counter with a sink at one end, the stove at the other, and basically some old-school cabinets and a bunch of open space, in the middle of which must go the refrigerator.
Then we checked out a bunch of apartments in Roppongi. Location was right across the street from Roppongi Hills, and was kind of noisy. Apartments were okay; spacious, two bathrooms (one in the master bedroom) that were typical western toilet/shower/bath/sink but not horrible unit baths, and for some reason all the closets had locks with keys (but none of the internal doors had locks.)
Finally we headed to Motoazabu, a short walk from Azabujyuban, to check out Casa Blanca. As expected, it was white. The entrance hall echoed madly and even had a stained-glass window, adding to the church-like experience. Stepping through the front door there's a monstrous genkan (entrance hall) with cool wooden doors covering mountains of closet space. Then through a big glass door into the carpeted main living-dining. Huge, south facing, and lovely. The kitchen was...odd. Orange floor, red tiles, white cabinets that were probably original, washer and dryer, stove and oven that were definitely new. The first bathroom had brown wallpaper that could only be called heinous. The two bedrooms were carpeted and spacious, with good closet space, too. The bathroom was blue-tiled; sink, toilet, sunken recess with shower, and sunken tub. Could seriously use at least a shower curtain. The balcony stretched from the main room around to the master bedroom. It was spacious enough, but only accessible by climbing out the window. Central air, excellent light, I loved it. Hiroko would have nothing to do with it: kitchen and bathroom were unacceptable, carpet color and bathroom wallpaper NG. Location was perfect, size was great...oh well.
I love looking at apartments. Hiroko absolutely hates it, but she must realize by now that if she doesn't actively participate in the process we'd end up in Casa Blanca and she'd have to kill me.

slow and lame

Finally made it to Gosoke's friday evening practice -- haven't gone in a while because of snowboarding. Realized yet again just how painfully slow and lame I am, especially compared to Ohtsuka-san and everyone else who goes every week and practices every day. Luckily it's not a competition, but I'm bummed at how hard it is to progress, especially when I spend all my time teaching.
Also need to motivate Ted (actually Ted has to motivate his artist-hippie dude) to get my new sword furniture made so that I can get a new handle made. This short handle is killing me as I shred all the skin off my left thumb from having too small a grip.
Will be very psyched when the Honbu Dojo is open in April. At least then I'll have a place to practice on my own whenever I have time. However Gosoke's grand plans have to considerably scaled down; the interior reform costs are way higher than we can afford. Probably have to forget the tatami and all the nice touches, just stick to the useful basics like a good wooden floor and high ceiling. We'll also probably put up the mirrors ourselves; tenth the cost of having the professionals do it.


Good thing I just went home, ate, and slept last night! Seems the team was out for dinner, karaoke, and ramen, and didn't get in until 4:30am.
Folks started straggling in late-morning, looking and sounding like ass. Hani's comment: "I don't think Brad's been out until 4am since college." He's such a trooper. Moka's morning email was cute, too: "Overslept. Be in soon." I told him "Dude, it's not like you forgot to set your alarm clock, you were out drinking until 4 am! I didn't exactly expect y'all to make it in, that's why I came in early." He's still got quite a bit to learn about moring-after excuses.

last practice

With testing on Sunday, this was the last chance to run Takahashi-san and Presley-kun through practice. Nakayama-kun cranked on Presley-kun; poor guy, but Nakayama-san knows his stuff. His best quote: "I don't mean to brag, but I know of what I speak. After all, I'm one of the only members to have failed the shodan test!"
Also had three visitors checking out class so Sekido's wife gave them the explanation. First two guys where students at the dental college down the street, who probably just wanted to check it out but had no real interest in making a commitment to practice. Third guy was most likely a spy. He said he practices Eishinryu, so he's most likely ZNKR (All Japan Kendo Federation). We get spies every now and then checking us out; how many members do we have, what/how do we teach, etc. We had 4 4dan instructors in class so at the very least I think we gave him the impression that if they were thinking of doing some "dojo-busting" they'd be in for a tough time.

pullin' teeth

Nice weather from the weekend went somewhere in a hurry. Wasn't too cold, but wasn't exactly warm either, and the cold wind didn't help. Visitor from NY at work this week so pretty busy, and then practice after work -- bunch of folks testing this weekend so ran through a fake test and schooled on some of the finer points.
Came back and Hiroko had her upper left wisdom tooth in a little bag on the coffee table. Seems it came out with no problem, but the upper left one might be more trouble as it's in kinda crooked, and that's the side that got kind of messed up when she got hit by some idiot on a bicycle all those years ago. The lower wisdom teeth are a whole different issue. Getting those things out will require some gnarly surgery. Don't even wanna think about it.

nozawa sun and no snow

Well the weather continued to be fine, but the snow sucked and the gondola lifts were closed due to strong winds. I braved the lines for 45 minutes to get one slushy, crappy run in before calling it a day.
Most folks came back from karaoke between 1 and 4 in the morning, so they weren't really into the concept of hitting the mountain anyway.
We packed up our stuff, sent gear to Niseko in Hokkaido, and went into town. Took the Sketchy Chairlift down into town and hit the onsen before grabbing the bus back to Nagano station. Very cool town; steep narrow streets with old, local onsen all over the place. Hana-chan tried one of the little local onsen, and we headed up to one of the bigger ones near a hotel.
Made it back down to the bus stop and by 1:30 everyone made it on the bus -- no one bothered to stay the whole day.
Back at Nagano we knew we couldn't change our tickets so we just took over a non-reserved car on an earlier train, made nasty faces whenever anyone tried to sit near us, and we were back in Tokyo by 5pm.