Thursday, January 06, 2005


Had mentaiko, spicy cod roe, for breakfast. Eating this with a bowl of steamed rice was what I missed a lot in London. I don't wanna go back to London any more...

Today was the de facto last day in Tokyo (tomorrow's flight back to London departs at midday, which means I have to leave home around 8 in the morning). So I was busy going shopping. I bought size AA batteries, which is of better quality and cheaper (12 for 942 yen, or 4.75 UK pounds) than ones in UK; 20 blank mini-disks (10 for 1008 yen, or 5 UK quid), again cheaper than in UK; hair styling wax (75g for 1008 yen), with which I can set my hair much more easily than the wax available in UK; and socks (three pairs for 990 yen, or 5 quid), which are of better design and of better quality than ones available in UK for the same price. Also, my mum gave me hocho, a large kitchen knife much easier to use for cutting vegetables and meat, especially for finely chopping vegetables to cook chahan, or stir-fried rice.

In the afternoon, I met up with Misao at Roppongi Hills. Unfortunately, it was raining today. We missed a chance of strolling around this magnificent redevelopment area where art and design naturally melt into city landscape.

Misao is on a break in Tokyo from her life in Damascus, Syria. I asked her why she chose Syria to live. She'd been learning Arabic and wanted to brush up her skill by living in an Arabic-speaking country. Syria and Saudi Arabia are countries where people speak textbook Arabic. But it's almost impossible for a single woman under the age of 35 to get a visa to stay in Saudi. So she chose to live in Syria.

As Syria is a typical non-democratic country, she showed her interest in my research. It's interesting that many of my non-economist friends are curious about my research.

According to her, Japan is much respected by people in the Middle East, even though the Japanese Self-defence Force has joined the American-led coalition in Iraq. Also, Syrians tend to be despised by other Arabic people partly because the Syrian government opportunistically begged for money, sometimes from the United States, sometimes from Saudi Arabia.

Misao's dream is to engage in the provision of education in the Middle East. She visited Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, realising that refugee communities have already established the education system within camps. So her conclusion is there's no room for her potential contribution in Palestine. Her next target is Darfur, Sudan.

In the evening, I held an off kai (literally translated into "off-line meeting", meaning a party where people who usually talk online - via mailing lists, discussion boards, or instant messages - meet up face-to-face) for participants in the development economics mailing list. I set up this discussion group on the web as a means of networking with Japanese fledgling development economists, including Yamada-kun (see 24th December). Those who came to the party were Ono-san, Ikegami-kun, Shoji-kun, Arimoto-san (Congrats for publishing a paper on Journal of Development Economics!), and, as a special guest, Sawada-sensei.

We had dinner at Queen Sheba, an Ethiopian restaurant in Nakameguro. As I found Ethiopian cuisine delicious (see 14th November), I wanted to introduce it to my fellow Japanese development economists. Shoji-kun liked it, but Arimoto-san didn't like it. Personally, this restaurant adjusted Ethiopian dishes to the taste of Japanese people, about which I was a bit grumpy. But when I dipped injera bread (sour crepe) into wat (spicy meat stew) and put it into my mouth, I got extremely happy. :-) The restaurant also serves African cocktails (no Ethiopian one, though). I tried ashanti, Kenya Cane (Kenyan rum) blended with banana liqueur. The taste was gorgeous. Yet another revelation.

We talked a lot about a variety of things related to development economics. But one thing was clear: it's not a good idea to be in Japan if you want to be a development economist. However I like Japanese foods, the quality of Japanese services, the energetic atmosphere of Tokyo, and fashionable and cute Japanese girls :-), I shouldn't get a job in Japan after finishing my study at LSE.

That's a life.

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