Saturday, May 29, 2010

5月29日 Day 65: FML

God, today was just all kids of fail.

I guess it all started last night err-- really early this morning. My dorm mates and I were all pretty sloshed, and decided to make a massage train after a long night of low budget drinking courtesy of Circle K and McDonald's. What seemed to be a nice, relaxing, and likely one of the most surreal experiences of my life ended up being the most painfully rude awakening this morning.

Since I'm always the one giving massages rather than receiving them, my shoulders were in complete and total agony from actually being attended to... and I was slightly hungover, which didn't help things. -___-;;

Then I got a haircut. Going to the salon was fun-- I spoke nothing but Japanese, got my gray roots covered and was talking shop with a lot of the girls, explaining how there are only 2 months left in my trip with sooo much left to do. They all seemed so nice and understanding, telling me places I had to see before I left and how much better my Japanese has gotten, yada, yada, yada. More like...イヤーだI must have dropped some sort of bomb that caused THIS to happen:

God dammit, I look like a freakin' soccer mom. I'm praying that it looks better when it's wavy-- and doesn't make me look like a drive a minivan. I look like I'm 20, going on 40. GAWD.

I think I said something along the lines of,

Me: My friends from out of town are coming tomorrow, I want to show them how "Japanese-y" I look.
Hairstylist: What do you mean, "Japanese-y?"
Me: Well you know, cute and fashionable.
Hairstylist: *Bwahahaha... foolish kid thinking she's knows what it means to look Japanese...* cough cough I know exactly what you mean!!

Or something like that. Nah, just kidding. They were really nice, but it's COMPLETELY different from the picture I had shown them which looked something like this:

Ugh. Whatever. As the Japanese would say, しかたがない。Shikata ga nai. It can't be helped.

After that amazingness, I went to $hibuya and decided to go aimlessly wandering around for a while since it was about 1:30 and all the rest of my friends were still sleeping off their chu-hai and beers. Plus, there are only 2 months here and I've basically gotten myself into a painfully predictable groove of going to the Sendagaya Flee Market or Shimokitazawa every Saturday and cleaning my room and doing homework on Sundays (and you all thought I was blowing off this blog because I was doing something interesting...)

First, I went to Loft, my favorite "everything" store. It really makes me feel comforted looking at their beautifully designed furnishings and housewares. Shit-- this hairdo might be more fitting than I'd like to admit... Anyway! I bought some new green headphones because I thought my old ones were broken. Turns out, my iPod is what's broken, not the headphones. So not only did I waste money, I found out my iPod only plays music in my left ear! YAY.

Then I went into Shibuya 109, hoping to finally have the stamina to see all 9 floors of frilly, overpriced goodness. Got through 6 floors and 70 bucks and decided to call it quits.
It's weird how many boater hats I tried on today. Of course, none of them fit really well, and of course, they all looked terrible on me because I'm not a brown-haired 60lb Japanese girl in a floral romper and a jean jacket. But somehow... I wanted one. It's really weird how seeing everyone wearing something makes you want it... and it'll be something you'd NEVER wear-- like this flippin' boater hat.

Click this to make it bigger.

Another thing I can't stand about Japan is how you basically get bullied into buying things with kindness. People are so nice to you, so flattering and so accommodating, that it's basically impossible to say no once they've caught you gawking at something. In these types of situations, my friend Jordan simply says, 高すぎる(taka sugiru) "It's too expensive," and just walk off. I admire her complete shamelessness. And her spine.

Today, this really nice (slightly cross-eyed?) girl saw me eyeing a lacy 60's looking top. The conversation basically went like this:

Wonky-Eyed Shop Girl: Irasshaimase~
Me: . . . *touches cute top*
Wonky-Eyed Shop Girl: Do you like it? We just got it! It looks just like what you're wearing right now. You have such a cute style. It goes with your leggings. I'm wearing the same one in pink! I'm wearing it as a dress, but you're taller than me so you can probably wear it as a shirt! And since summer's coming soon, it'll be perfect! You should try it on! What color would you like? Pink? White? Navy? You're already wearing Navy~ is that your style!? Is that your favorite color?! It's cute, isn't it?!
Me: . . . yes, it is cute.
Wonky-Eyed Shop Girl: Oooooh you should try it on, I can tell it's your style!
Me: . . . Well . . .
Wonky-Eyed Shop Girl: The fitting room JUST opened up! You can try it on now!
Me: . . . Well . . . ok.

In the dressing room.

Me: Goddammit, how the flip am I going to get out of buying this?
Wonky-Eyed Shop Girl: How does it look, oh honorable customer??
Me: Uhhh...
Wonky-Eyed Shop Girl: Let me look at it.
Me: *Hesitantly opens the curtain*
Me: Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Well, here's the shirt that goes along with this awesome story:

Yes, it's hanging from my water heater controls. I'm in college and am getting increasingly more broke by the minute. Don't judge me.

Beautiful craftsmanship... better be for frickin' $60...

Well, at least I have an outfit to meet the Inouyes with.

( ・_・)

Monday, May 24, 2010

5月24日 Day 60: Shabu Shabu Shibuya

My friends Keith and Harriet took us to this awesome tabehoudai shabu shabu restuarant in Shibuya on Monday. The weather's been rainy, depressing and HUMID so we all thought it would be the perfect occaision to get shabu shabu before it's hot, rainy, depressing and humid.

The way we cooked shabu shabu was a way I've never seen before-- and with sauces I've never used either. We cooked one side of our veggies and meat in soy milk and the other half in spicy stock. The sauces we used were the regular ponzu and daikon sauce, with an additional goma (sesame seed) sauce that was thicker. FLIPPIN' DELICIOUS-- you should all be very, very jealous.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

5月20日 Day 56: Geriatrics and Gambling

So, I finally tried pachinko for the first time in celebration of the fact that I don't have a torn ligament and that my friend Joelle got medication to combat her nasty cough! Hurray for modern medicine! Too bad all my make up got washed off and my hair got all messed up in the rain without an umbrella so I look like a psychotic hobo!!!

Pachinko is a game that is essentially stand-up pinball-- and you're controlling how hard the ball gets flung around. The object of the game is to try to get the ball to land in this little hole at the bottom of the table you're looking at. If you get enough balls to land in the hole, you get more balls, and more holes open up for you to shoot more of your balls into. The more balls you have at the end of the game, the more money you win!

Balls, holes, money-- make your own joke.

Too bad I sucked! I couldn't figure out the strategy. Honestly, it didn't feel like I really had control over all those little metal balls. The just sort of did their own thing while I watched in agony. Although, I only lost 500, and Joelle lost 1000.

Like everywhere else in Japan, the pachinko parlor reeked of beer, cigarettes, and salary men. And since pachinko is a gambler's game-- there was no shortage of grinning, toothless old ladies. The machines' gambling music is DEAFENING; every time you landed your balls in the hole, your eardrums would fill with this jaunty tune that would somehow convince you to keep playing. We left the place screaming,



It was an interesting atmosphere to be in, but I'm still not 100% sure I understood what was going on... or if there's even a strategy to winning. I'm guessing that you have to find a sweet spot that guarantees your ball to land in the hole, but that requires some serious trial and error... and some serious yen as well.

Friday, May 14, 2010

5月14日 Day 50: Meet the Beatles

On Friday after my religion quiz, I went to Sweets Paradise in Harajuku for well deserved ke-ki-houdai (all you can eat cake). Yes, it was as amazing as it sounds... for people who like cake. I could only eat about a plate and a half whereas my other friends engorged themselves on 3, 4, and 5 plates of cake, creme brulee, and other various sweets and ice cream.

The thing I loved about this place was the fact that they anticipated having customers who had to eat something savory with their sweets. They served pasta, sandwiches and curry rice to combat that craving. I had 2 savory plates, which was probably the reason why I didn't go hog wild on the cake.

After that adventure in obesity, a few friends and I went to go see The Beatles at the Cavern Club in Roppongi.

Please forgive the shoddy picture, it was taken on my cell phone.

The Cavern Club was something I read about before coming to Japan, and I knew I had to see it to believe it. It's a club devoted to the Beatles, and Beatles cover bands. Friday featured the best of the cover bands... I think they were called the Beatles (or the Beatres). You can't tell from the photo, but the place was PACKED with Japanese Beatles fans who were singing, dancing and drunkily crapping, err-- CLAPPING throughout the set.

The "Beatles'" outfits represented the early 60's Ed Sullivan Show time period, but they played music from all stages of their career. The guy playing John was by FAR the best one of them all. He had the voice down, the least 'L' and 'R' confusion and was even sporting some high quality Beatle Boots! Talk about authentic! Paul hit the notes, but I'm pretty sure there are no Beatles songs by the name of "Ret it Be" or "She Rubs You." George's guitar skills were spot-on but Japanese Ringo sucked probably as much as regular Ringo during "Yellow Submarine."

Entrance fare was one $10 cocktail so I chose one called "Here Comes the Sun," which was basically crappy sangria. It's ok though because I also snatched this cool coaster from the place. That's what they get for making me pay that entrance fee!

We ended up leaving the Cavern Club at around 11:30, which was a close call to catch the last train. Too close in fact. The boys in our group had a dispute over which trains to take home while we girls were forced to tag along. We followed the stupid boys down to the Oedo line, but we ended up getting separated down at the tracks. We got off at a different stop, taking an alternate route that only got us as far as Ikebukuro, 5 stops before Heiwadai, where we live.

It was scary knowing that there were literally NO trains running and that we were stuck. We had 3 options, 1.) Walk 2.) Taxi or 3.) Wait in a 24-hour restaurant until 5am when the trains start running again. In an effort to save money, my two girl friends tried option 1 first. Big mistake.

I'd like to think that Japan is pretty resourceful and convenient in most aspects. However, their city planning has something to be desired. It would have been easy to walk home in theory-- it was only about 15 miles or so...(-___-) Unfortunately, Tokyo isn't built on a grid, it's structured like a maze to get people lost trying to find the Imperial Palace, so there's so such thing as right, left, up down, etc. As I said in a previous post where I got lost, unless you know THE WAY to a place-- YOU WILL NOT FIND IT. It also doesn't help that all the street maps (that are supposed to be helpful) are oriented in different directions and don't always point north, so it's even easier to get lost.

After 20 minutes walking in the completely opposite direction of our dorm, I told the girls we should just give up and pay for a taxi. Walking around the streets, we saw nothing but drunk salary men stumbling around trying to find their way home or to a McDonald's. It wasn't dangerous, but it was gross. I saw one guy peeing against a building, one guy puking against a building, and one guy just collapse on the ground in a drunken stupor... no thanks.

It ended up being about 円1000 each for the ride home, so I felt like it was completely worth it. I'm never missing the last train out again... or following stupid boys down a longer train route.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

5月13日Day 49: Nonchalant

Hi all, sorry for the long wait for updates again, there hasn't been much to report as of late so I'll condense most of the week into this post. It's the week of a regular Tokyo-ite.

On Monday, I accidentally took the wrong line to school. It was ok though, because I still knew how to get there. With a shortcut.

On Tuesday, I renewed my train commuter pass for 3 months. Yeah, no big deal. I live here.

On Wednesday, I wandered around Ebisu with my friends Kana and Jordan. No, we didn't go to the infamous Beer Garden. Kana told me it's more like a beer hall, so we're not really missing out on every man's version of heaven. Instead, we went to the Tokyo Museum of Photography and saw the work of Jeanloup Sieff.

My favorite photo:

Afterwards, we enjoyed some acai smoothies, shopping in Harajuku and then GYOZA for dinner at this famous hole in the wall. The place is so famous, it doesn't even have a name! You have to just know where it is and be there before the line starts building. It's only open for dinner, and the line builds like a Disneyland ride on the weekends so only locals and jetlagged tourists are there for the perfect time to eat: Wednesday at 6:30.

My pictures don't really do it justice, but the gyoza was to die for. I had 2 and a half plates, or 15 pieces of sheer gyoza goodness. They only serve 2 different types of gyoza: boiled or pan fried. Personally, I liked the pan-fried because no one can ever make boiled gyoza better than my grandparents'. You can also get rice, moyashi (bean sprouts), cabbage and cucumbers for side dishes, but who wants that when you can have GYOZA for 280円?!

Anyway, Thursday rolled around and my friend Joelle and I went to Starbucks in Shinjuku to study for our religion test.

Seriously, who wants to study in quiet little Heiwadai when you can study in bustling Shinjuku with a perfect view of Isetan?! I made myself quite comfy and only missed 2 questions on the quiz. YAY FOR ACADEMIA!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

5月9日 Day 47: Sendagaya Flee Market


A group of us went and raided the place! My friend Mehron bought fur boots, a sacrificial monkey skull, a grandma earring and a wooden prawn.

Lovely rings!

Kick ass shoes.

My friend Kana didn't find anything but she was lovely company to my purchases!

Afterwards, Kana took me to a bomb INDIAN restaurant in Shinjuku. I MISS INDIAN FOOD SO MUCH! (and Mexican food, please don't get me started)

Tiger shirt: 900円
Leather purse: 500円
Lucky strike lighter: 300円
Uniqlo cardigan: 1900円 (Yeah I know I bought it new, we went there afterwards... whatevs!)

Today was relatively productive, I utilized my kitchen for the first time in a while!

Mmm stir-fried cabbage, bean sprouts and pork.


Then I did my homework! HOORAY FOR PRODUCTIVITY!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

5月3日〜5日 Day 40-42: GOLDEN WEEK IN KYOTO!

Hey everyone, sorry for the horrendously long wait for an update-- I've been busy enjoying the beautiful weather! FINALLY! (The last 2 weeks have been doom and gloom)

So Golden Week was kicked off with some excessive partying (see last post) and finished off with doing lots and lots of touristy things around Kyoto. I swear, I must have seen about a BILLION temples and shrines!

Golden Week is Japan's only national week of holidays. It starts with Showa no Hi on April 29th, and then has Constitution Day on the 3rd, Midori no Hi (Green Day) on the 4th, followed by Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day) on the 5th. Yes, we had to go to school on the 5th and 6th... what kind of retardedly placed holiday is that?! Anyway, my friends and I decided to spend our one and only holiday outside of Tokyo-- to get a glimpse of the other side of Japan: KANSAI!

We took a 7 hour bus ride from Tokyo to Kyoto for about ¥12,600 round trip, which is less than half the price of a shinkansen ticket. Talk about student travel. IT SUCKED. It was so cramped and I barely slept, but at least it was cheap.

We stayed with Yuko-sensei, my mom's kick ass Japanese tutor. She was the absolute sweetest because she literally showed us everything Kyoto has to offer. Unsurprisingly, we saw everything in 3 days! (That's why I'm glad I'm studying abroad in Tokyo... hehehe.)

One thing we saw in Kyoto that we didn't see in Tokyo was STEVEN SPIELBERG. YEAH. We saw him getting off the train in Kyoto Station with Cate Capshaw, totally nonchalant. CRRRRAAAAAZZZZZZY! We were so completely tripped out that we had seen Steven Spielberg that we didn't even ask for a picture. It was also really clear that no one else recognized him, and he was enjoying that.

Anyway, here are the less exciting (jk) highlights of the trip:

Photo © Jordan

The first thing Yuko-sensei did was take us out to lunch at this place called ODEN. I've never been a huge fan of udon, but this place made me change my mind... fast. It also had the greatest gobo I've ever tasted. (Sorry, Grandma)

Kyoto Tower! It's shaped like a Japanese candle! Did you know that? NEITHER DID I!

Yasaka Shrine. What an awesome view of greater Kyoto!

Walking through Gion to get to Yasaka Shrine-- holy balls it was crowded! I think everyone pilgrimages to go to Kyoto during Golden Week to feel more Japanese.

Hence, why touristy girls pay tons of money put on geisha make up and strut around Gion. (Notice how they're being directed) Lots of tourists take pictures with these posers thinking they're real geisha, but REAL geisha don't waste time on petty tourists, as they have real (refined) work to do.

Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion. It was gorgeous! I bought 3 omamori (good luck charms) from here for some very special people who will receive them in the mail in time for their birthdays ;)

The only thing I didn't like about Kinkakuji was the fact that everyone was just there to take pictures of it. The whole experience can be summed up as, *CLICK CLICK CLICK* leave. The guy directing the masses of people around Kinkakuji even said, "Please take your pictures quickly so others can have a chance." Hm, I guess the history of the place isn't as interesting as the fact that you've been to it.

Trying to get coins in the dish for good luck.

I'm sure these buddhas had faces at one point, but the constant misses in that bowl have cost them their identities.

I think this long market street was called Nishiki, but I could be wrong. It was full of every type of Japanese food, spice, ingredient, herb, etc. that you could think of. Somewhere my mom could have easily spent 5 hours in.

Here are my friends, Jordan and Joelle, looking at some nuts. Nuts in Japan are VERY hard to find!

Heian Jingu: The Biggest Torii Gate in Kyoto!

On Wednesday, our last day, we went to Yuko-sensei's parents' house. They told us there was going to be a big parade/festival that came right in front of their house so we made sure to go.

They carried a mikoshi (portable Shinto shrine). There was one carried by all women (for some kind of female kami) and one carried by all men-- which was probably the more important one.

The one the men carried had no support whereas the female one was on a cart. The men carried their mikoshi all the way to Inari Jinja! We ran into them later! I couldn't believe they had carried it for so far-- it was SO hot! They also had to bounce it up and down on their shoulders which looked REALLY painful!

Anyway, Inari Jinja was our last touristy stop. Inari Jinja is the shrine you see on all the postcards, with the endless path of torii going up the mountain. I CLIMBED IT!

Outside the shrine, we saw lots and lots of foxes. Foxes are some kind of guardian for Shinto Shrines. I would tell you why, but my stupid religion class isn't really teaching me anything.

Hand drawn foxes outside the shrine.

Me and the gates. I always thought they were red, but guess what? They're orange!

After we got back from that hot hike through the Senbon Torii (Thousand Torii), we came back to Yuko-sensei's parents' house and had snacks and lunch. They insisted on getting something delivered!! X_X

Photo © Jordan

Photo © Jordan

MOUTHWATERING KAWASHI MOCHI! It's seasonal! It's wrapped in oak leaves! BE JEALOUS!

Photo © Jordan

BENTO FROM HEAVEN. GAHH I don't even know how I can thank Yuko-sensei's parents! They sent us home with cake and green tea too! (X_X)

The saddest part of the trip was saying good bye to Hal, their dog.

Right before we left, Yuko-sensei took us to a local shrine where they had tons of carnival-type games, FOOD, and horse riding demonstrations.

All the games involved scooping something out of water and winning goldfish.

The horseback riding was interesting because all the guys were trying to do tricks down this long track. Not too many successes though...


ZOMG TAKOYAKI *droooooooool*

Then we had to leave for our 7 hour bus ride back. NOT WITHOUT SOME OKONOMIYAKI THOUGH!

Photo © Jordan

Kansai people get really pissed at the way Tokyo people eat okonomiyaki. Yuko-sensei said she didn't mind, but I'm glad she told us the proper way to eat it. Tokyo people eat okonomiyaki like a pizza, cutting triangle slices from the middle. Kansai people cut it into vertical strips, starting from one side, moving to the other. I guess eating it the Kansai way is better considering okonomiyaki was invented there. Eating it the Tokyo way would be the equivalent of eating a taco with a fork or something...

Photo © Jordan

We finally left Yuko-sensei's apartment at about 10pm. I had to admit that I sort of enjoyed sleeping on the floor with my 2 friends. It was like a slumber party! A tatami slumber party! ^_^ Don't worry-- I made sure we cleaned up~!

The trip was so much fun, and it was a great escape from Tokyo. Tokyo can make you feel so claustrophobic with all of its buildings, neon signs and lack of greenery. Going to Kyoto was a nice change of pace and perspective, but it also made me realize that I can never be too far from bright lights and a big city... I'll always have a piece of my heart in Tokyo.