Monday, June 25, 2007

Last days in Tokyo...

Artistic buildings down back alleys of Tokyo.

And a new friend.

Of course, Saturday was one of the most beautiful days in weeks. I enjoyed it from an open window in my classroom. Sunday and Monday, my days off, were kinda poo, so Fuji didn't happen. What did happen? I took some awesome naps! Rainy day, music playing, windows open type naps. Good times. Good times.

Next: I might not write anything for a while. The next couple weeks will be packing, shipping stuff here and there, training the new teacher, blah blah just chill. After that my 3 week super adventure will begin. I'm going all over the place, and as long as it doesn't rain, everything will be awesome. Hmmm, I wonder when the rainy season in Japan is...

P.S. - I just cut my finger with one of those things you use to peel carrots. It's really gnarly, there is blood pooling out of the center of my finger nail.

Friday, June 22, 2007

This and That in Tokyo

My time in Tokyo may be coming to an end soon. In about 2 weeks I will leave Kawagoe and take a 3 week trip around the country. After that I will report to the head office in Okayama, where I spent a week when I first came to Japan, a year ago. I have a week of Emergency Teacher training, followed by Obon week. I have no clue what I'll do during the Obon vacation, probably hang around Osaka and Kyoto if I'm out that way. I will be bike-less at that time. I've decided to sell the CB400 after I take my 3 week tour. After that I'll be placed somewhere in Japan. Not sure yet.

So anyways, I managed to check out a few remaining places that I had wanted to see. The Tokyo National Museum, Koenji, Kichioji, and Ebisu was the tour Suwen and I took. We even managed to get some bomb ramen in, and we went to a live house to see a friend of a friend's band play.

**Side Note**
It's 2am, and there are bears having sex on the TV. And romantic music. When they were catching salmon a minute ago there was normal music. Just thought you'd like to know that.
**End Side Note**

Last day to see the Annunciation at the National Museum in Tokyo. This was a temporary exhibit of one of Da Vinci's famous pieces. Just one piece, and about a mile of explanations in Japanese. It was hella crowded, we waited in line 45 minutes to see the piece. I had already seen it at the Ufizi in Florence a few years ago...

Other than that, the rest of the place was OK. Pretty much every guidebook says this is the one museum to see if you see any in Japan. It had a good representation of traditional art throughout Japanese history. So that was cool. Lots of swords and armor too. So I guess the guidebooks are right for people who aren't really into going to museums every weekend.

**Side Note**
The new show on TV now is testing the tensile strength of different deserts... then it tested the tensile strength of a baby's hand. Mochi came in at 25, while the baby's hand was 20. This got a big Sugoi from the host. Erm...
**End Side Note**

Koenji the shit. It's all laid back looking people. Some good cafes, tons of used clothing, and... a poo dispensing gotcha gotcha machine. Rock on Koenji.

Mmmm... fruit and dairy fat. That's clotted cream on those scones. Booyah!

No bomb-om-rice for us today! That shit is closed on Sundays!

Next: Mt. Fuji?


I had my best motorcycle date to date. Suwen really seemed to enjoy riding. Other passengers have been freaked out by speed, or it seemed like they were going to fall asleep. Japanese people can fall asleep almost instantly on a moving train, so I'm sure the back of a motorcycle is no challenge. Suwen would actually talk to me and comment about the scenery. Yay!

We took a few hour ride up into the Chichibu mountain range in the west of Saitama prefecture. As soon as you hit the end of the congestion and pollution, there is the great little organic cafe that we had to stop at. Last time I was here it was packed because of some festival. Today it was just chill. Sit on wooden lounge chairs on a deck over the Koma River and just relax. And the food is top notch.

Vegan donburi. Different veges over rice.

This soy milk was damn good!

Nice little road up in the mountains. Most roads in the local mountains are nice. Nothing super awesome or anything, just nice. If you want details, we took the 299 up to the top, then cut right onto the small mountain roads. Somehow ended up at 299 a bit later and went home.

Suwen thought maybe she could fly after some open throttle on the straight aways.

Next: Finishing up in Tokyo

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Apartment Videos

Didn't go up Mt. Fuji. Bus schedules are whack, the weather was shitty, there is still snow on the mountain, so we called it off. Maybe in a couple weeks.

Since the weather was kinda shit, didn't get into much this weekend. Just some general hanging around type of stuff. I spent an above normal amount of time in Yoyogi park on Monday. It's gorgeous. 5 minutes away is Harajuku, packed with people, and then this park is just empty. These pictures are from the "nature" side. On the other side is a place where everyone just chills. Lots of skateboarders and musicians.

Just past the acres of green, there is Meiji Shrine, which can get crowded on weekends, but it's always a nice place to walk by. There is usually a Bonsai or flower or rock display.

So I made this video a year ago of my apartment. Here's where I've been living for a year.

For contrast, here's Andy's apartment in Yokohama.

MC Hammer o suke desu ka?
Hai! Hammer wa sugoi daiyo!
Oakland wa represent desu ka?

Next: Cucumber flavored Pepsi?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Congratulations Dave and Rie

We all knew it would happen... just not this soon! I met Dave at our company's initial training in Okayama almost a year ago. Dave told me about Rie the day I got my cell phone in Japan, so about 1 week after we had arrived at the schools we would be teaching at.

It would be funny if neither of them spoke each other's language, relying on hand gestures and crappy phrase books to communicate. With some underlying plot to gain dual citizenship and fuck the country out of some sort of welfare or something. Or some sort of thing like he insulted a Yakuza boss up in his town and has to help save face by marrying his wild daughter. But alas, it's a pretty vanilla relationship as far as I can tell.

Anyways, congrats Dave and Rie. He proposed at a 50m high waterfall in Okinawa. Good stuff.

Next time: I might not climb Fuji. People die this time of year. I read that it's covered with ice and the wind literally blows people to their death. Hmmm... blown to death...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ride down Boso Peninsula

Margaret had me penciled in for a motorcycle ride out near Chiba. I planned a little ride down south of Chiba, near Mt. Tateyama on the Boso peninsula. She sent me a text saying she was sick the night before, but when it came to my phone it was white background with white text. I dunno whats up with that. Kei-tai be trippin'.

So I showed up at her doorstep anyways. We grabbed some coffee, and on the way back ran into some sort of oxygen place. Oxygen bars were popular in Tokyo in the 90s. You would get hooked up to pure O2, have some drinks, and get bent off the oxygen or something I guess. I dunno, I never went to one. There was one in San Francisco, and when I finally made my way to it, it was shut down.

This place was some sort of chiropractor's office. In one corner he also had a massage chair with some weird colored bottles next to it.

You get hooked up, pick your aromatherapy scent, and just chill. The guy did some sort of measurement on my finger, and it showed 98. 98 what, I don't know. After 20 minutes of breathing oxygen that smelled like flowers, I was at 99. So I totally went up 1 unit of awesomeness. I guess I felt relaxed. I look like I'm in a hospital or something.

I took the bike solo on my trip. It was kinda far. But then I got to this.

It's an observation platform to see all of Tokyo Bay. It was some art type stuff, very cool. Japan always impresses with the weird massive... things.

Good view from up top.

From here, headed south and the decent riding began. Just decent, nothing too special. Turned inland at one point and rode in the hills. Rode out along the coast. Rode here and there. Hi and low. Fast and slow. Enjoy the show.

And I saw this in the remote mountains. A little old lady with her sickle. Just slowly walking home, after working the fields all day. When I rode by, she could have totally just did some crazy ninja move and decapitated me on my bike. I think I've been watching too many Takahashi Miike movies lately...

Lemme vent a little...

Expressways in Japan fucking suck! There is no rhyme or reason to these things. My town to the end of the line is 700 yen for about 15 minutes of riding. Then to Chiba it's 400 yen for about 45 minutes of riding. Hunh? Then some roads charge you when you get on, and some you get a ticket and pay a random amount when you get off. Lot's are incomplete, and you have to get off in the middle of nowhere, travel a bit on normal roads, then get back on... and of course pay. Within Tokyo, it's 700 yen just to get on. Every time you use it, 700 yen. That's like $6. I was talking with some seasoned riders out here, and I guess the plan was to charge, then when the roads were finished, the price would drop and eventually disappear. But wait! We can just transfer the roads from government to private sector. Let's do that! So now all the roads are private run. Hooray for capitalism! Someone get Mao on the phone, he'll fix this shit. Check out this one... The Aqua Line is a 15km toll road under Tokyo bay. It cuts a 100km trip own big time. But it costs 3700 yen for cars!!!! Well, at least it has an omiyage shop. I'm serious, you can stop before going under the tunnel and buy some gifts to show that you were there. So the idea is to cut time, and decrease the traffic in Tokyo. Traffic in Tokyo didn't change, and how the fuck does stopping at a gift shop speed up your commute? The saddest part is... I want to ride through this thing. I love tunnels!

Express ways are fucking awesome! Yeah they are! Driving on street level in the metropolis is a nightmare. Delivery trucks are everywhere. The air is massively polluted. The traffic lights don't run on timers, so you will most likely get stuck at every red light. Something that takes about 2 hours is cut down to 15 minutes on the expressways. They aren't usually packed, but when they are it's easy to split lanes. And there's an onramp 5 minutes from my apartment. Three cheers for expressways!

Next time: I try and climb Mt. Fuji. I can guarantee it's gonna suck big time. It's gonna be cold and probably overcast. I don't know why I'm going...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Organic Foods Fair

About 25 minutes away from my place, right where the mess of Saitama's congested streets end and the mountains begin, I had passed an organic cafe a few times. Figured I'd check it out.

Yeah, those are balloons. Turns out they were randomly having a an organic foods fair. With free samples, cooking lessons, and some DJ spinning a lot of Enya.

I talked with the owner for a few minutes... since he was white. They do importing and exporting of organic products. A few years back they opened the cafe and restaurant. Here's there website ---

The free samples were popular. Japanese people have some weird etiquette around a picnic table covered with food. Like pushing me out of the way and shit. Make a god damn line people!

Vegetarian Takoyaki.

Tasty stuff here, but I had some crazy gas the next day. On another note, I fart in front of my students all the time, it's great. On another note, there was no love for the Free Hugs people in Harajuku. Like 10 minutes and no one hugged them.

I like how they put the chick first. So when some poor Japanese person, who is conditioned from childhood to think that public displays of affection are inappropriate, musters the courage to hug her, then the scummy guys swoop in. Fucking jerks.

On to Ebisu.

Ebisu is nice relax-type area. There are a few really quality museums that no one goes to, lots of good cafes, back alley restaurants, that sort of thing. I think the whole southwest side of Tokyo past Shibuya is trying to be European or something. They try, but of course they fail. Still too much weird Japanese shit out there, like a massive building that looks like a Vegas casino, but it's actually a driving school where you pay about $3000 for the course.

Next time: I hate expressways, I love expressways, and I go to an oxygen bar...