Wednesday, September 11, 2013

natasha nakamura's diary

A test was recently given to all elementary-school students, just to see how they were doing, and on the 7 o'clock news tonight we got a ten-minute rundown of the results, broken down by prefecture. Scores ran 65-75 percent, which was judged not bad.

Then we got a look at one of the questions, which involved the geometric spaces that could be created when straight lines were drawn through oblongs whose dimensions were known. A dozen teachers from around the country were asked the answer, which some got right and some flunked.

Then we were told the answer and shown how it was derived. The answer required no special knowledge, only an ability to reason. (I didn't get the answer myself.)

All this took ten minutes, as I say, on a prime-time evening news program. Would this happen in any other country? South Korea, maybe.

Natasha will be travelling in Europe until the beginning of October and has decided not to take her iPad with her.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

natasha nakamura's diary


Home late so drop by a local "British Bar" with football jerseys and London street signs on the wall. Order fish and chips for ¥580, even cheaper than a bowl of ramen. It comes with a bottle of malt vinegar, a small side dish of ketchup for the chips and a small side dish of mayonnaise for the fish. It is served in a wire basket lined with a Xerox copy of a page of an English newspaper.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bardyl's surfboard, which he polishes every morning.

natasha nakamura's diary


Friends are curious how I can afford to so often fly from Tokyo to Paris and Vienna (the Paris of Eastern Europe) and to New York and San Francisco. They know I don't otherwise have a lot of money: my one-room apartment in Roppongi is certainly modest and when we go out it's very rarely to a place with an elaborate menu and an evocative wine card. The fact is I eat better on planes than I do on my own, because I always fly First Class.

How can this be?, you ask. This seems to you against the rules of nature.

Well, I can do this because Father finds himself in the extraordinary position of caretaker of the standards of the service offered by the international airlines. His meishi reads: Vice President Operations, Amalgamated Air Transport Organisation (AATO), with headquarters in Amsterdam.

My father is responsible for seeing that (most) airlines flying internationally maintain a level of service that ensures that flying is recognized as a comfortable, even enjoyable, way to travel and that no airline which belongs to AATO is allowed to compete by cutting back on service in order to allow it to offer cheaper tickets. He has a small staff whose job it is to fly and report whether airlines' service meets the AATO standard. I've taken over a small part of this job. It's my job to fly First Class and report. I can pretty much do this when I want as there is inevitably an empty seat in First Class. I am told it's best to have a single person keeping an eye on First Class service as she will apply the same standard (her own) to all airlines for purposes of comparison.

It's gotten so I'm beginning to get to know the First Class cabin stewards of the various airlines, who are usually those the airlines figure are the most charming of its staff.

Next Wednesday I'm off to Berlin on Lufthansa, whose First Class I know to be first class. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

natasha nakamura's diary


A motorcycle the size of a small horse rumbles by. It seems to be clearing its throat. The rider, sitting bolt upright the better to inspect the scenery, wants to give everyone a chance to listen to his wonderful machine. He wears an immaculate black t-shirt and lettered in white in an insistent script across his back: