Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Nikko is Neato

Kind of last minute, Lacey said that her fairy godmother woud take us to Nikko. fairy godmother, aka FGM, is this nice lady who knows Lacey's family or something. So she hooked us up with a touristy style tour of Nikko. Bus ride, tour guide with the flag, lunch with the other gaijin, and a trip back. I had a little taste of home when this fat kid from Los Angeles, maybe 11, started complaining about being hungry on the ride back. It was precious.

So Nikko is a bunch of temples and shrines. Notice how in my blogs some words are links? Thats cause I don't want to bore anyone with the details. Just click to be taken to wikipedia.

Yup, this is the home of the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil monkeys. Also, let me just vent for a sec... there were supposed to be mischevious monkeys in Nikko. It's known for that shit. They were supposed to be beating up old ladies and stealing food from children. It was going to be fucking funny. But... NO MONKEYS!!! Fuck that shit. You don't understand how much I love monkeys!

So shrines and temples and a really nice waterfall.

After the tour we hit up Roppongi with some of Andy's friends. They made me steal an Irish flag from a random pub, then we made our way to Vanilla. Vanilla was pretty dead, being a Sunday night, but we didn't care. We danced to stupid trancey type music, screaming "hey hey hey" with all the other Japanese. We heard the same songs on the hip hop floor 3 times. We (well more like just I) got laughed at for our freakin sweet dance moves on the floor. But it was a great time none the less.

New plan... no more multiple all nighters in Tokyo on the weekend. Thats 2 weeks in a row with 2 all nighters each weekend. And no more freakin Vanilla! It's like spending every night at Slims, when the DNA Lounge is just a couple doors down. I gotta spread myself out a bit more!

The looooong weekend

Saturday was the fall equinox, so it was a national holiday. I didn't really notice any sort of fanfare involved, the only sign that fall has come is that there is a special "seasonal" beer I can buy. FYI, it's like 2% stronger than normal Japanese beer, which is like twice as strong as American beer. So..ummm...beware the seasonal beer.

Anyways, we got into some karaoke on friday night. I don't want to post too much about it, to protect the people involoved. Lets just say you pay a single cover for all night karaoke and all the drinks you want. No beer though, just hard liquor. You do the math... drunken antics...

The next day I hit up some museums. 6 of them to be exact. It was a grand marathon of me, in all-nighter zombie state, taking the shortest possible path to get around. It was a huge sucess.

1st up (because it openned at 9am as opposed to 10am) was the Institute for Nature Study. Basically a ton of local flora growing wild. More for the amateur botanist I think. Nothing was tended like a garden, but it was nice to feel like I was in nature.

I got my 2nd wind after a short nap, and headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. This was the residence of Prince Asaka. The thing about it, it's all Art Deco style. Very cool, very sugoi. No photos though...

I got my 3rd wind after a short nap, and headed to the Matsuoka Museum of Art. That was my last nap, because this next museum woke up my mind. It was beautiful. An L shaped building, in the L space was a beautiful Japanese garden. In the building, 5 rooms. Egypt art, Budha art, modern sculpture, Japanese screens, Japanese paintings. Each room was the perfect size.

Not too far away was the Ebisu shopping mall, with the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. But what's this? In the shopping mall? Do my eyes decieve me? They don't! It's the Yebisu Beer Museum!!!!

Funky little place. Some cool multimedia stuff, old advertising posters, free entrance. At the end is a tasting room. 400yen gets you a sample of 4 great brews. I felt wierd drinking by myself, but fuck it... this is research!

The Ebisu shopping mall is nice. Very open air kinda feel. Live jazz music. 39th floor restaraunts with a (free) view of Tokyo. Good stuff. The photo museum was... interesting. They have a serious exhibit, costs like 2000 yen to get in, then the had the one that my pass got me into. It was a little exhibit about computer imaging. It was special, but then again, I didn't have to pay.

Last museum of the day was the Meguro Museum of Art. Photos, calligraphy, pottery, it had a very interesting feel to it. Kinda like maybe all the stuff was made at retirement homes in craft class. Not that that's bad or anything.

4pm-ish and I needed sleep. I went home. I hate to brag, but I have almost perfected the Japanese skill of sleeping on the train. I can totally sleep without falling over in a seat, and am able to wake up almost right before my stop. Mad skillz people, mad skillz.

I'll write about the rest of the weekend later...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

All night in Shinjuku... again

This past weekend was good... and bad. The bad I already covered. Doing a faceplant off a speeding bike kinda sucks. Anyways... the good.

I did some street chilling with Eric Saturday night. Checked out some shibuya bars and clubs, nothing much happening. Sunday we went to the Open Air Edo Tokyo Museum. This place was tight. It was out in the countryside a ways. A full village made from actual old buildings. If you are a fan of the anime "Spirited Away", this place was the inspiration for the village in the movie. Oh yeah... and free rickshaw rides!

Lots of nice old buildings with some good history. After a few hours there it started raining and we headed back. To Shinjuku.

So I didn't really want another all-nighter in Shinjuku. But Eric, Andy, and I met up with Mags. Actually, we spent about 2 hours trying to find each other. Meet in "Lumine", a shopping store. Turns out there are 3 of these 10 story massive department stores. We hit up an Izakaya, and 1 hour turned into 3 or 4. And 2 beers turned into 7 or 8. And 7pm turned into "looks like we missed last train". So we hit the streets.

The entrance to Shinjuku is packed with hustlers trying to get you into their karaoke bars. I think if you are Japanese, they try to get you into the brothels, but gaijin carry diseases, so we don't get the invite. Oh well. We hit up the arcade for some print club

You snap some photos then customize them with cute graphics. It's cheap and kinda fun when you have a few beers.

Mags was in charge of photo distribution.

Afterwords, we wandered and checked things out. We almost went into a bar, but a couple of us got a bad feeling. Ooo, found this gem:

Not sure what was in there though.

Anyways, we wandered, drank, took care of a passed out Andy. Good times. Then I rode back to Eric's... and we know how THAT ended!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Local Lore

I need to see some local stuff. If someone came to visit, I'd be like, "so I think theres some stuff north of here, not too sure, lets go to Tokyo." So anyways I decided to hop on my bike in the middle of the night and hit up the sights. Well at least I could maybe get to know where these places were. Turns out there are a TON of temples and shrines. I made it to the most famous one. Turns out to be a really nice park type place, not far from my apartment. After getting back I read a little on it. To make a long story short, here's the local story that... well... is kinda freaky:

"On the grounds are the famous 500 statues of Rakan, a disciple of Buddha. One creepy story has it that if you feel among the 540 statues in the dead of night, you will find one that is warm. If you mark it and come back in daylight, you will find that it resembles you. No one we spoke to knew what brave soul first tried this, but one can imagine it generates a lot of double- and triple-daring among the local teenagers."

Next month is the big local festival, I should have a few visitors for that. I'll see if I can convince them to do this. Might take a few bottles of sake though...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Brian's Face - 0... Tokyo Sidewalk - 1

I'll post about my fun adventures from the last couple weekends soon. But first...

So we were out all night, doing random all night things in Shinjuku. Eating cake, batting cages, print club, the gay district... you know, normal stuff. So first train comes and Andy and Mags take off. I was gonna crash at Eric's place, a short bike ride away. I was borrowing his bike.

So we are riding up a gradual hill and the chain just snaps off. If you can imagine pedalling uphill with all you got, putting all your wieght on one pedal at a time, and then the chain coming off... so yeah, I bit it. I flew forward, braced my fall with my forearms, and smashed my chin on the sidewalk.

I was right near a Koban, and they rushed over to help. I wasn't in much pain, nothing broken, but the chin when cut open... that motherfucker bleeds! I might need stitches. Not sure, I might go have it checked out tomorrow. Hooray!

Monday, September 11, 2006


This weekend was the start of the 15 day sumo tournament in tokyo. There are 6 tournaments a year in different place. We got our tickets and headed down.

Here's the deal though. You show up early, and the place is almost empty. Matches start at 8:30am, but it's all low ranked guys that no one seems to really care much about. So you show up and plop yourself right in the front row. Ring side seats baby!!!

Watching 2 guys stare each other down before the match from ring side is a surreal experience. There are no wieght classes in sumo, so you will get a 200lb guy against a 400lb guy. I'd love to say the underdog came out on top... but I saw some smashed up skinny guys!

If you ever make it there... don't miss out on the Chank Nabe! It's "sumo wrestler stew". Basically super protien grub with chicken, vegies, tofu, and a few mystery looking things floating in the broth. Hey, don't ask, it was delicious with capital D.

I also went to Asakusa (big shrine) and Akihabara this weekend. Akihabara is that place with all the 10 story manga and video game shops. It was shiny.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The rest of the weekend

Museums are fine and dandy, but what about the rest of the weekend! Yeah, this weekend was kinda crazy.

Went out Saturday night. David, another from teacher training, was coming to Tokyo for the first time. We all met up in... Roppongi. I'm getting kinda sick of this place. "whaddaya want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?" "I dunno"... Kinda the Roppongi theme. I commenced to drink on the street. Someone said Gas Panic (a club). I passed, letting them have their fun for a bit while I drank on the street with Eric. This is kinda the exact same thing I've done 3 times now. Luckily, I had Eric's extra bike, and his place to crash, so I could head there around 2:30am or so and not do the all-nighter thing.

Then we went to Vanilla. Dammit. Well despite my disdain for the places we were visiting, I was with my friends, had a few beers in me, so I couldn't really complain. Into Vanilla we went.

I drank my 2 free drinks. I was on track to dance a little, and be out. Then Margaret threw tequilla into the picture. Then my early night turned into the Roppongi all-nighter... again.

The next day...

Saw the museums in the day, then we all met up for Kabuki. Kabuki is a old Japanese theater. You can see a single act of it for cheap, so thats what we did. I couldn't understand really, something about these girls who turned into demons and then fought these samurai dudes.

So we got some dinner and headed to Mag's place in Chiiba. Headed to... but didn't arrive at. Somehow we got on the wrong train, then we lost the race against the clock, and had no choice but to head back to Tokyo. We were stuck.

I figured, fuck it, I'll just wait in Shinjuku for 4 and a half hours till the trains start again. Mag's, Dave, and his girl Rie took a taxi. Me, Branda, and Suwen hit the streets. I figured I'd tour Shinjuku at least. What a wierd place. The next day I looked up Kabukicho on the internet, turns out we spent our night in one of Japan's largest red light district. It seemed kinda quiet for that though. We did see a ton of host bars, where women can go drink with "hot" guys. Normally, you see a few hostess bars here and there, but here, there were literally a hundred host bars, all with "menus" of guys out front. Some random on the street said this was "gay town" or something. Oh, this is the area that Blade Runner is filmed in. Sweet.

Museums: Maritime Science and Miraikan

Sunday in the a.m., I went out to a few museums. With my GRUTT pass in hand, I headed to Odaibo.

Odaibo is also called the Bay Area. It's a fairly large artificial island. There are a bunch of skyscrapers, museums, parks, and a massive shopping area. The first museum I visited was the Museum of Maritime Science.

If you like boats, you could probably have a lovely time here. I'm so-so about them, so I just had a quick look around. Lots of models. You can rent an English audio guide, but I decided to save the yen. If you don't rent the guide... your visit will be over quick.

Next up was Miraikan. This museum is devoted to emerging sciences. Robots, DNA, "houses of the future", that sort of thing. Good points first:
  • English: All the exhibits are in Japanese and English
  • Good layout: Everything is clear and colorful and easy to get to
Now the less good:
  • Lines: When we first came in, we waited 30 minutes to get Tracy's ticket, 20 minutes to get mine, 30 minutes to get a coffee. There were other random lines going all over to.
  • Sold out exhibits: There are lots of little shows, and one big planetarium. Everything was reserved by the time we got there, so we missed out on all that. If we had got there early and reserved stuff, we could have spent another couple hours enjoying science.
Enjoy some photos:


Massive globe with 1,000,000 LEDs on it.

You can get cozy below the massive globe.

The view from below. Real-time satellite imagery on the globe.