Wednesday, June 29, 2011

... And then I got older...

I generally hate birthdays. Way too much excitement and anticipation for a single day of heavy drinking and carrying on with a lot of people you may or may not know very well. This year was a little different, in the sense I did genuinely have a grand ol' time, but I'm still left with that nauseating hangover with a feint tinge of fear and regret.

Birthdays mean you have to acknowledge that you've used up another year. Your birthday forces you to be somewhat pensive surrounding your achievements and failures of the previous year, and that usually results in the self-promise of better actions and results for the coming year. New years eve is just a party with champagne compared to the resolutions I make every time I successfully rotate around the sun. I somehow feel like I have to live up to all the unreasonable expectations of the year on the day that I "get older."

Lose weight. Exercise more. Learn and master a foreign language.Pay bills on time. Achieve enlightenment. Make tons of money. Grow wings.

The pessimist in me usually forces me to feel unfulfilled in all these respects. But this year I have to take pause; I HAVE accomplished some of these things. I've lost weight (25 pounds and counting), I am (VERY slowly) learning a new language. But I will never really appreciate exercise. Nor will I grow wings. And paying bills on time will always be a mental challenge for me. But there has been steps in the right direction. And I supposed that's something to shake a stick at. So, inner-pessimist be gone! This year, it's not so bad after all.

Here are some of the pictures I can't seem to stop taking;

That's right, folks! It's wine in a can! Slightly more disgusting that wine in a box, I'm sure it gives you that metal after-taste that you would expect from WINE IN A CAN.

This pretty much speaks for itself. Japanese people thing English is hilarious. I'm beginning to agree.

I will personally high-five the person that can give me a reasonable explanation for this sign of excellence in understanding English. This is a golf store near my home with possibly the worst (read: best) sense of humour I have ever seen.

On a bit of a sad note, this is an example of the little after-effects of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima. No one will touch these perfectly ripe raspberries this year, because they are probably full of radiation, and therefore, not the best choice for an afternoon snack. All local fruit and veggies have been tarnished by the radiation poisoning from a couple months ago. Even though the half-life of radiation is short lived in the air, it lingers in veggie farms and local wild-life, rendering them totally uneatable. But on an up-note, here are some pretty flowers!

This fell out of the vending machine the other day with the bottle of water I bought. It says "happy can" on it, and the top popped off to reveal a pair of headphones! A little 'happy birthday' from the universe, I suppose!

I recently spent some time in Shinjuku, Tokyo for my birthday, having a great time with the locals. I also notice this little convenience store in Nichome that sold very colourful boy's underware. Oh, Tokyo, how I love you.

Many tourists to Japan often say how the men here are exceptionally effeminate, what with their fantastic hair-dos, perfect skin and tight pants. Here's an advertisement celebrating the pseudo-homo lifestyle of Japanese men!

My wonderful parents sent me a gift basket of goodies for my birthday, which included lots of fruit, flowers, booze, cheese and chocolate. I haven't eaten pineapple or mango in about 6 months because the prices here are so inflated, and I'm over the moon now that I have it again. Thank you mom and dad! C'est parfait!

A bein tot!

Things to Conquer in Japan

I've compiled a somewhat tentative list of things I need to do/experience whilst in this glorious country;

Item One;
Mt. Fuji. Because you can't have a conquering list without a mountain involved. This August, I will climb this thing. Fuji, you're officially on the bucket list.

Item Two;
Kyoto and Osaka palaces, temples and other pretty things found in the southern part of this island. It's so pretty there, and I really have no excuse not to visit.

Item Three;
Sapporo beer! I hold very fond memories with this particular brand, and the brewery is situated in the north, which gives me an excellent reason to travel up there.

Item Four;
Nikko national park. Crap-loads of nature.

Item Five;
Tokyo fish market (best sushi in the world... Some still served twitching). I hear that you shouldn't visit Japan without checking out this place... and I have yet to do so.

Item Six;
Find a f*cking beach... This an island! Where are the f*cking beaches??? I didn't realize it until I left Canada, but we have an abundance of beaches at home. Here, I can't seem to find one. There are a couple on the west coast of Japan, but that requires a 3 hour train ride just to wear a bathingsuit that I'm already second guessing to wear.

More items to be added later.

On a totally random note, I just found Coors Light beer in Japan. I am both disgusted and intrigued by its existence outside of North America. We have a joke back home;

"What do Coors Light and having sex in a canoe have in common?"
"They're both f*cking close to water."

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! Try the veal!*

*There is no veal in Japan.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Watashi wa Ido! (私は移動!)

For those of you not up to snuff on your Japanese grammar (shame on you), there really isn't a way to properly convey the difference between 'I am moving' (active present tense) and 'I will move' (future tense). Japanese really doesn't have a future tense, which can be quite troubling for those of us who grew up learning to conjugate verbs this way. My theory is that Japanese people don't believe in the future tense because they constantly LIVE in the future. But my theory is a little ridiculous at best.

The end result is the same. I have moved. I traded in my inexpensive apartment for a slightly more (yet still reasonable) expensive one. There are multiple reasons for this choice;

1. My new apartment is not directly between a highway an overactive train line. For someone who occasionally enjoys sleeping, it is not an ideal situation to be living between two loud modes of transportation.
New apartment 1, Old apartment 0.

2. There are stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and other social venues nearby (including a great jazz bar). A 20 minute bike-ride is not required to go to the convenience store. It's now a 30 second walk.
New apartment 2, Old apartment 0.

3. There is a significant lack of screaming babies next door. Again, this is beneficial for the beauty sleep I so desperately need. In fact, my new next-door neighbour is a fellow white person who will drink and entertain me.
New apartment 5, Old apartment 0.

4. Fourth thing!

So the math is there. For an extra 100 bucks a month, I get sleep, social activity, drinking buddies and genuine convenience. I win this round of the real-estate game.

Here are some incredibly invasive pictures of my new place;
 It comes with a bathtub! Good so far...
 Japanese sentient toilet... I'll live with that...
 Okay, it's a little small...
 But there's a balcony! With a view! (View to be added later)
The adorable flat screen TV was an added perk... but this is by far my favourite part;
It's a gimp closet! A little walk-in closet where you can probably keep up to 3 Japanese people captive, if you so desire. It's so adorably creepy and inappropriate! New apartment +10. I'd also like to point out that my bed is no longer 10 feet off the ground. My old place had a bed-loft that practically kissed my 10 foot ceilings. Makes getting up to pee in the middle of the night less dangerous. This was the drop from my old bed;
So in short, I'm pretty happy with the new living situation. I might even go as far as "stoked," although I really hate that word.

Pillow in a bag! Side note; this is actually how I bought it.

And this is a beautiful sunset I saw the other day;
I've also gotten very good at making paper cranes;

We had some down time at work, so I kept busy...

And then there's this;
"Please stop stabbing our children in the face with your giant man-sized tobacco sticks."

Japan has recently begun villainizing smokers, in an effort to keep people from smoking on the streets. In 90% of downtown Tokyo, it is now ILLEGAL to smoke on the sidwalks, and smokers are confined to predetermined corners to get their fix. Now, as a smoker myself, I find this decision a little ridiculous, but I conform to the local customs. I stand with the huddled masses and politely suck on my death-stick like a good little girl. The goal of keeping smoking to a confined area is good in practice, until you consider the application. This is Japan. There are more people on this tiny island than most countries in the world. These areas (especially in Tokyo) simply cannot accommodate the sheer VOLUME of the smoking public. So the end result is huge mushroom clouds on street corners that are completely unavoidable for non-smokers. The more delicate "anti-smokers" are now forced to inhale our second hand smoke periodically throughout Tokyo. Suck it in, pansies! (kidding).

On a completely unrelated note, tomorrow I will be going to "Home Center," which is just as exciting as it sounds. I am determined to domesticate my little postage stamp apartment as best I can.

おやすみ !

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tokyo is Better Than You.

This is an ipod. It is just slightly larger than my thumbnail and contains more memory than the average computer.

So... a couple days ago, my fellow employees and I were shipped back to Tokyo for the day for more training. The actual training itself was a joke, just re-hashed material that everyone already knew, but nobody's complaining about the free trip to the city. Not to mention that we were paid for 6 hours of work, and got let out just shy of 4. I'm all for training. We decided that we best spend our time wisely for the remaining two hours and got slightly inebriated at a bar across the street from head quarters. I met some outstanding individuals that teach in the city. I've decided that if I decide to renew my contract for next year, I will be living in Tokyo. I am completely in love with it. Join me in basking in it's awesomeness;
 This is a small, 8 story building dedicated to electronics in Akihabura, the technological center of Tokyo. I've been here before, and it never ceases to amaze me. This is where I found the most adorable ipod known to man (see above).
 This is an ad on the subway for beer. There is no debating the awesomeness of that fake mustache.
 An ad for the android phone. MAN, those penguins are creepy.

 The daily umbrella parade. It's just the beginning of the rainy season, so there's a small rainstorm almost everyday. Everyone is always prepared, and has an umbrella on-hand. But be careful not to leave your umbrella unattended! Casa (umbrellas) are considered fair game if you leave yours behind. It's the one thing that's socially acceptable to steal if you find it. On the other hand, no one would touch your sunglasses if you dropped them.

This is my train line back to Utsunomiya from the city. I start at the red line at the top of the map, and end up at the lower left hand corner, at the very end of the line. From downtown to home is about 90 minutes on a bad day.
Some American fellows I met at "training."

"No smoking giant, people-sized cigarettes."

Yes, that's a bathroom. I don't know why I took pictures of it.

Later that night I met up with some old friends that I really missed. We went to a club in the heart of Shibuya... but it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. The place was really, really gross and not at all busy. It was supposed to be free, but the door-lady charged us a 1000 yen (basically a two drink minimum). The floors were so sticky my shoes came off every time I tried to dance. THIS is why I don't like clubbing. If it wasn't for these two, I wouldn't even have gone in. To those of you thinking of clubbing in Tokyo; the Camelot's a sh*thole. Avoid it all costs. After an hour of me wrinkling my nose at this herpes-fest, we went to a little restaurant closer to Sangenjaya, where the girls (and I used to) live. Much MUCH better;

One of my favourite pastimes is walking in the rain listening to great music. Lucky for me, it rains a lot in Japan, so I get to do this quite frequently. Looking kinda haggard in this picture with no makeup on...

There are some beautiful rose bushes on my walk home in Utsunomiya... thought I should share them.

So... how much do you pay for a mango? Is it close to 20 bucks? No? That's weird, Japan seems to think they're worth 20 bucks. WHO WOULD PAY 20 BUCKS FOR A MANGO?!?!?! ONE MANGO!!!!

If mangos made from solid gold aren't your thing, maybe you should try a claw-game meat stick. Of course, it's three feet long and you have to spend several dollars trying to get it, but I'm sure it's totally worth your time. Note the difference between the two games. In the first, there is a large plastic ring attached to the meat stick to grab onto with the robotic claw. I can only assume this is the child's version of the game. Nothing says "fond childhood memory" like that time little Timmy won a 3 foot long 10 pound meat stick at the arcade. And then when Timmy grows up, he can try his hand at the more difficult "no pull-cord" version. They really love their meat sticks in Japan. Just look at this guy;
That's enough sodium for a lifetime, right there.

And with that, I say goodnight, beloved blog-readers.