Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Boycott on Roppongi

I've enlisted Andy into my boycott of Roppongi. Good shit! Who else is in?

If you don't know what Roppongi is, it's the foreigner place in Tokyo. All these crappy clubs and topless bars and massage girls. Shibuya has better clubs, I'd rather drink a beer on the street while wandering around Shinjuku, and the massage girls are brutal. One actually punched me once.

Though... Roppongi does have the izakaya where they filmed that Orenishi yakuza scene in Kill Bill. So I might have to go back for that.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Yokohama -> Jail -> Buddas in the Mountains

One of those weekends....

Random shit happens everywhere in the world, but this was so very very Japanese.

Things started out when I finally made it down to Yokohama. Met in Shibuya first for some beers from whatever convini store was most... convienient. Also got a beer from the cool robot vending machine in whatever that hotel right next to the station is. Mags and her texas friends were there. She made us do print club. I got my nipple into the equation for the second time, so it was all for the best I guess.

Andy has a great little sports bar near his place. Replace "Andy" with "Everyone in fucking Japan but me". Got some compliments on my tattoo fom a local, who then pulled up his shirt to show a full backpiece. I guess there were some famous local soccer players in there too, cause the bar girls got all giddy when they left. Saw Andy's place. It's tiny with empty bottles of wine everywhere.

Sunday Andy gave the tour. Once again, the main attraction of this area is shopping. Branda (female) was outnumbered by me and Andy (male), so we just saw the biggest department store in Japan from a distance.

Lunch was at the Raumen Museum.

Basically, you pay to get in, and then choose a recreation of a famous ramen shop to eat at. We picked one with the description "Capturing the natives who are most particular about raumen." I'm pretty damn particular about my noodles, so it worked out well.

If you can read this sign, it poses a few questions. Who was the first Japanese to eat ramen? How is menma made? And so on. You want the answers? Too bad, this was the only English in the whole place.

Afterwards Andy took us by the Doll Museum. Thanks Andy!

We rode a roller coaster called Vanish. I didn't fit in the shoulder restraints. After seeing the waterfront and Chinatown, we headed to meet a few friends in Ikebukuro for dinner at Lockup, a restaraunt where they lock you in cages. Guys in jail stripes serve the food and girls with plastic miniskirts and lazer guns seat you. Then at one point they had a fight with monsters. Thank you Japan. The food was about the worst Izakaya stuff I've had, but I guess you go there for the atmosphere. They had one set of dishes called "Heaven or Hell?" where you get like 6 takoyakis and 1 of them is really spicy. So you and your friends are all supposed to eat 1 at the same time. I got a funky cocktail where you mix all sorts of crap together with a pipet. It tasted like snocone syrup.

On Monday I was feeling a little blue. Sunday night I gave Chris, the new teacher at my school, a quick tour of the stuff around the Kawagoe city center. And I realized... Kawagoe is pretty damn boring. Pachinko parlors, snack bars, and the urban expanse. Every friend of mine in Japan has a local hangout but me. Pout pout pout. So to get happy, I went for a ride. I rode to the mountains in the distance. No route, just looking for quiet, curvy roads. I found em. I got pretty lost too.

So then at one point, I see these huge white things on a mountaintop in the distance. I get closer and closer, and there are 3 ginormous buddas on the top of a mountain. And no one around. I made it a goal to get to em, and there was actually a little road that went up the mountain. It was like a 60 degree grade, kinda freaky on the bike. There were all sorts of shrines on the way as well. So here I am, on the top of a mountain with some 100 foot tall gleaming white buddas and no one around me for miles. Amazing. I hope after we blow ourselves up and our planet is discovered by some alien race 20,000 years from now, they find this shit first.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monkey Onsen!!!

One of the things I really wanted to do in Japan was hang out with monkeys.

One thing I really wanted to do in Japan was go to an onsen (natural hot spring).

Why not do both at the same time?

A bit outside of Nagano is a monkey park. It was covered in snow, and pretty cold, so the monkeys would chill out in the onsen. The monkeys were... well... monkeys. They did normal monkey stuff. Grooming their hair, eating bugs, yelling, fucking each other. Good stuff.

Monday I went skiing. I have much more skill as a skiier. Not mad skillz, but the kind of skills where I don't fall all the time. Except when the fog is 2 foot visibilty and I accidently go down a double black diamond. I fell then. It wasn't cool.

Maru, a local tattoo artist's dog Mon. Also my new BFF.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Riding Around Tokyo

The down jaket, aka the 80kmph parachute, and the felt gloves, aka why bother, needed to be replaced asap for riding on the bike. Someone refered me to a few places not too far from me to check out. Got a nice textile armored jacket and mathing gloves. Yoshu!

I wanted to spend the day exploring Tokyo, learning the roads. I'm usually pretty fucking good with a natural sense of direction, but Tokyo is screwed. I need me some GPS. Or just more practice. Either way I hit up some good spots. Lunch at a great little cafe in Omotesando, another funky cafe in Daikayama, rode across the Rainbow bridge.

The roads in Tokyo are nice and wide, but they need to put the lights on a timer or something. You could get through maybe 2 lights before having to stop again it seemed. And be careful, most traffic lights in Japan have 4 or 5 lights. I'm getting good at kilometer math too. I can accelerate to 50 without having to constantly watch the speedo. I know it's just a 0.6 conversion to miles, but when you are riding between traffic, trying to read hiragana traffic signs, and checking out which of the 5 traffic lights you should be paying attention to, simple math takes to the back burner.

To my Japan friends, sorry I couldn't meet up in Roppongi! Going from west to east places was easy, but getting back seemed way hard. I spent about 4 hours all around the waterfront. I was trying to spot Tokyo Tower to use as a landmark, but for some reason they shut off the bright oarnge lights that night.

Monday, February 05, 2007


About a month ago I started learning kana, which is the phonetic set of characters used to read and write japanese. There are 2 alphabets, hiragana and katakana. Hiragana is used for Japanese words, and katakana used for foreign words. Because apparently foreign words aren't cool enough to hang with the Japanese words. So now I can read all those Japanese menus and stuff, right? Not exactly. See, most hiragana can be written with a kanji character, Chinese style. So the only things that are consitantly in kana are katakana (foreign) words. And I don't know katakana yet. I'll start learning that one this week.

One of my students was happy I was learning, so she translated her new pencil case into hiragana for me. The case was covered with slices of cakes and other desserts with little cat heads poking out. One was "yummy peach mousse tiny cat cake" and another was "choco banana tiny cat cake." I have yet to see cakes with delicious cats baked in, but I'll keep looking. There was that feral cat colony that disappeared a few months back...

As for this weekend... meh. I had plans to ride with some people I met online, but the Chinese food I ate Saturday for lunch messed me up something bad. I tried to sleep it off, but it was not to be. So my sleep pattern got all messed up and I spent the whole weekend watching videos. I got caught up on Lost by watching about 8 episodes in a row, checked out some of The Office, and some movies. Children of Men and Babel. Everyone seems to love those 2 movies so I won't say anything bad. I've got time, so I think I'll watch Pan's Labyrinth in a couple minutes.