Saturday, June 26, 2010

6月26日 Day 94: Yokohama & Trump Room

Saturday was spent on my feet. A few friends and I went to Yokohama to see Chinatown, Cosmo World, and shop.

I have to say in all honesty that Chinatown was a bit underwhelming. *This coming from someone schooled in San Francisco, mind you. I mean, yeah it was cool seeing all the better Chinese architecture and decor and food, but it was WAY over-priced and a little repetitive after a few blocks of restaurants.

The GREAT thing about Yokohama Chinatown (and most of Japan) is its cleanliness. How unauthentically awesome X]

Definitely made me miss SF Chinatown and my favorite dim sum place down the street from my apartment with the softball-sized jendui.

After eating lunch in Ishikawa-cho, we headed to Sakuragi-cho to go see Cosmo World and all the great Yokohama shopping we had heard so much about.

Cosmo World is a theme park in Sakuragi-cho, one stop away from Yokohama station. It's basically like a mini-carnival... the closest thing I can harken it to is Santa Monica Pier... but better because the rides don't suck.

We didn't go on this, but we did go on the Ferris Wheel!

WE WERE SOOOOO HIGH~ and Lisa and Joelle were a little scared... but that's ok because we made it off alive!! ^_^

Photo by Lisa

Greatest moment: seeing a couple in the next gondola sucking some serious face. PDA in Japan is a HUGE no-no, so I think the false sense of privacy this couple felt in this glass enclosure was too much to handle and they just went for it while my friends and I watched, pointed, and laughed.

Oh, Japan and your sexually repressed masses. Gets me every time.

(It was raining when we went, so I clearly didn't take this picture)

After we went to Cosmo World, we went to this mall by the train station. I think it's called "Diamond" but I could be wrong. I scored some serious swag at this place because THE ENTIRE MALL WAS HAVING A 30-50% OFF SALE.

New sandals... from Top Shop ;)

New belt from Top Shop ;)

Then we ate dinner at a soba place inside the mall. I got tempura. DELICIOUS.

On the ride home, I was debating over whether or not I should go to Trump Room, a super posh night spot in Shibuya, and stay up until 5am. I had been up since 9am, walking all day... by the time we got home, it was about 10:30pm. I decided to go out to make sure no opportunity remained un-seized. I downed 2 coffees, threw on some make-up and my zebra print dress from the Flee Market and my friends and I jumped on the shuu-den (the last train).

(Obviously, not my picture)

Trump Room was a surreal club... there's just no other word for it. The interior was basically a baroque wet dream. The walls were covered with ornate gold-framed mirrors of varying size and you couldn't see the ceiling because it was obscured by crystal chandeliers and 2 gigantic disco balls. Red velvet, leather and velour chaises lined the walls while some serious Euro-trash trance music lit up the dance floor and dual-facing stages.

The atmosphere was by far the most interesting one I've felt in Tokyo but the music was undoubtedly the worst... I'm still not sure if the place was empty because the music was so crappy, because we showed up late or just because there wasn't an event going on, but it was a little deader than I expected it to be at 2am on a Saturday...

By the end of the night, everyone had passed out on some kind of chaise and we rode the first train back to Heiwadai bleary eyed and beautiful. CARPE... DIEM'D.

Friday, June 25, 2010

6月25日 Day 93: Older Women, Older Men, and Me

No moments wasted here. As the end of this trip draws nearer, I've been jam-packing my weekends to make sure I'm making the most of my precious time here (only 34 more days). The week literally offers me no opportunity to explore Tokyo, or the places around it-- so this weekend involved very little sleep.

On Friday, I was treated to all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ by a 31-year-old woman I met at Hub 2 weeks ago (I'll explain later). I went to Yokohama with my friends yesterday-- all day. Then I went to Trump Room and stayed out all night. Sunday morning, I went to Shimokitazawa and interviewed 2 complete strangers and Sunday night I spent drinking with my German and English friends while we watched the Germany vs. England match of the world cup.

And now I'll break it down for you.

Two weeks ago, I was at Hub, a British pub in Shibuya with my friend Kana. We had just come from all-you-can-eat Indian food in Shimokitazawa and wanted to have a little night cap before parting ways. Since Hub had very limited seating because everyone was watching the World Cup, we sat at a table with a bunch of strangers-- real bar-like and all that.

I ended up talking to this Japanese guy next to me because he heard Kana and me speaking English. He asked if we were from America, told me his favorite band was Green Day, and how he always wanted to live abroad, blah, blah, blah. It was all a very feeble pick up attempt. I was getting a little uncomfortable when he mentioned that he was 30. He definitely didn't look 30.

Just as I was wondering what I could say to escape the conversation, 2 women sitting across from me and this 30-year-old man saved me. He had asked me what kind of Japanese bands I liked, and I told him I liked Arashi, Japan's biggest boy band knowing that most 30-year-olds hanging out at Hub wouldn't like them. The 2 women across from me heard Arashi and immediately interjected, "Sorry to eavesdrop-- but we heard you like Arashi?"

"Why yes, I do. Thank you for providing me with an exit from this Green Day-loving manchild." I thought. Then we started talking, and the 30-year-old guy felt ignored and rejected (so I thought) and he left. These women were so nice, they asked us questions about where we were from, where we were going to school, really sweet. Then they started talking to us about how guys like Mr. 30 don't eat meat anymore, they're sissies. Then they invited us out to eat pork with them (and that's why we went out on Friday)!

Then the 30-year-old guy came back, placed a new lighter in front of me and said, "Here, this is for you." O_____o

Odd. I actually meant to blog about this 2 weeks ago when it happened... but wasn't sure it would lead to anything so... that's why it's so late.

Anyway, when I met Junko, the woman with the cool bun for dinner and NOT ONLY did she treat me, she brought me a gift.

ADORABLE. I felt like such a jackass for not bringing anything. God, Kate. Didn't you read Lisa's post about gift-giving in Japan? >_<

Believe it or not-- the night gets weirder. Junko had brought her friend Aya, a tomboy coworker of hers who I really liked. After we had finished eating, Aya's friend Misato had just finished work and wanted to join us, but our dinner was already past it's time limit (yes, the dream of tabe-houdai usually only lasts for 90 minutes). So what did we do? WE ATE AGAIN. At a nicer restaurant too!

After a 10 minute walk, we stopped at some washoku place (still in Shibuya) and met up with Junko's 60-year-old friend, Kin-chan, the owner of Ton-chan (the restaurant where we had just finished eating). Kin-chan was really sweet-hearted old man; and a little mumbly chain smoker with 1-year-old triplets. YEAH. He told the restaurant to hold a table for us and had a 99% empty bottle of sweet potato soju with his name on it waiting for us when we arrived.

I was really full from our FIRST dinner and was worrying everyone else because I was physically incapable of eating a second time. I forced down the most delicious eggplant I had ever eaten in my life, while trying to keep down the side of pork I had feasted on earlier, plus 4 or 5 mugs of beer (hey-- those Japanese OL's can DRINK). Then Kin-chan offered me some of the soju. IT WAS MIND-BLOWING. Because I'm only 20 and don't really have a sophisticated palette, I only got a little taste, diluted with water, but THOROUGHLY enjoyed it... wow.

This time, Kin-chan treated. He made sure to drop me his meishi (business card) to contact him if I ever wanted to come over to his house to have his daughter do my nails.


Who knew strangers could be so cool??

Monday, June 21, 2010

6月21日 Day 89: DISNEY SEA

As a typical Angelino, I've loyally bowed my head southwards towards my Mecca, Disneyland, since my infancy.

Now at the ripe age of 20, I've decided to convert. TO DISNEY SEA.

My friends on the Disney monorail. Note the handles and the window!! Japan goes APE for Mickey!

The center of Disney Sea. Have no idea what movie it's referencing-- but damn, it's cool. PS: That volcano is hollow and full of a Journey to the Center of the Earth ride.

The Main Square of Disneyland looks like old America. The Main Square of Disney Sea looks like old Italy. LOVED IT!

The Aztec portion of Disney Sea: complete with an Indiana Jones ride replica and other flaming coasters.

The Agrahba Sect of Disney Sea. Yes, it's from Aladdin. Which takes place in "Arabia" but this land has some Indian influences as well. Not like Japanese people would notice or care about the difference.

Felt like I was in Turkey!

Here's Ariel's Castle. Aka: every little girl's dream.

Here's King Triton on the inside.

On the inside, you can also ride these tea cups and spinning blowfish.

It's mostly for little kids, but that's never stopped anyone.

Here's the stage of the most amazing on-site Disney Show I've ever seen. It was basically the Cirque du Soleil version of The Little Mermaid-- I wish I was allowed to take pictures. There were spinning trapeze artists and a starfish doing interpretive dances. There was also a HUGE robotic Ursula head that BLEW MY MIND. I would go back to Disney Sea for that Ursula head.

We stayed until 10pm, closing... probably one of my favorite days here :]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

6月16日 Day 84: Kate Gets Sick

Well, it's official. I've managed to catch a cold... in the summer. I've got a sore throat, phlegmy cough, runny nose, and plugged ears. No fever though...

All these symptoms mean only one thing: mask.

Yes, that's right-- when you get sick in Japan, you HAVE to wear a mask. I would wager that most gaijin can get away with being sick without wearing one, but someone who is visibly of oriental descent like me would be publicly harangued unless I acted accordingly.

When I first got to Japan at the end of March, it was the outbreak of flu-season and thus everyone was wearing a mask. I thought it was really scary. I mean-- look at it! I look like I'm an incubus of plague. I thought the mask was sort of punishment for being sick. It's an outwardly visible sign that says, "HEY WORLD-- STAY AWAY FROM ME!"

Now I realize that it's common courtesy, really. When people are in as close contact as the Japanese, it just makes sense that they should do everything in their power to impede the spreading of illness. A lot of the time, people wear masks preventatively-- not necessarily because they're currently sick.

I've even seen couples walking hand in hand wearing masks and all I can think is, "I wonder who gave it to who?"

It's really weird when gaijin where masks at school though. You can tell they're all the kids that prayed they would get sick in Japan just so they could wear a mask to prove how culturally sensitive they are. -___-;; Sorry to be so judgmental, but it's true.

Anyway-- I can't wait til I feel better and don't feel obligated to wear this damn thing. It's too humid and the mask definitely isn't making my face less sweaty.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

6月15日 Day 83: The Best Midnight Snack EVER

Yesterday at about 11:45pm, my friend Nick and I were hungry. On our way to 711, we ran across a ramen truck and feasted. Epically.

The ramen truck is basically what it sounds like, a truck that sells and makes ramen. The trunk is essentially a huge hot plate with basins of boiling water. It was cheap, convenient, and ridiculously satisfying.

We were already about half way to 711 and the driver was kind enough to drive behind us all the way back to our apartment to make our ramen. He then told us to get our own bowls so we could take it back inside with us. He had cases of fresh chashu, bamboo, egg, kamaboko and onions. Delicious, and environmentally friendly. AMAZING. And it was only 600円, ALSO AMAZING.

To wash it all down, Nick and I watched some Frasier while we slurped away at our bowls of greasy Japanese goodness. Needless to say, we were very, very happy with our midnight snack. To think, American college students have to boil their own crappy instant ramen. WE GET IT DELIVERED--FRESH!! d(^O^)b


Today, to make up for that horribly irresponsible, yet strangely fulfilling midnight snack, I went for a run with my friend Jordan in 65% humidity. I felt sticky all day because my foot-length skirt basically serves as a portable steam-room for my legs, so I thought the running would cool me down and also make me feel a little less guilty about the ramen. I WAS DYING. The sun wasn't even out when we were running at about 6pm and I was sweating buckets. I also forgot to take my make-up off before we started running, so I'm almost certain I was racooning it all the way home.

Whatever, it was worth it for that ramen X}

Monday, June 14, 2010

6月14日 Day 82: OMG ONLY 7 WEEKS LEFT?!

It's dawned on me that there are only 7 weeks left here... 47 more days.


My friends and I have made a list, aptly titled, "List of Shit We Still Have to Do." There is indeed a lot of shit we still have to do, and a lot of places we have yet to see...

  1. Yokohama ~ Chinatown, theme parks, ferris wheel
  3. Nikko ~ supposed to be super nature-y and gorgeous
  4. Chiba ~ BEACH
  5. Odaiba ~ Super technological, futurist area. Newest district in Tokyo
  6. Azabujuban ~ chill district
  7. Koenji ~ other chill district; lots of second hand stuff :D
  8. Mt. Takao ~ a mountain closer, easier, and cheaper to climb than Fuji
  9. Enoshima ~ BEACH
  10. Trump Room ~ CLUB
  11. Ageha ~ CLUB
  12. Lock Up ~ Bar that looks like a jail. Your booth is in a cell!! X_X
  13. Tsukiji ~ FISH MARKET
  14. Cat cafe ~ I think there's one in Ikebukuro... you basically just pay to feed kittehs.
  15. Paddle boats in Kichijoji (or in Odaiba)
  16. Roller coasters (Yokohama, Tokyo Dome)
  17. Yurakucho Flee Market
  18. Imperial Palace ~ why not?
  19. Soba Factory ~ why not?
  20. Sendagaya Jazz Festival
  21. Doctor Fish ~ Letting fish eat the dead skin off our feet... tee hee. Can't lie about how excited I am about that one! XD

Let's see how I'm going to cross all these things off on my self-mandated $12 per diem...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

6月12日 Day 80: Buddha, Buddha, Buddha...

My friends and I went to Kamakura to visit the infamous giant Buddha and the infamous blogger, half-breed, Texan hottie (our friend) Lisa. We couldn't have chosen a better day ;)

We left cozy little Heiwadai around 9am and got to Kamakura at about 10:30ish. It was a long haul on the Shonan-Shinjuku line... we were standing for a while before some seats finally freed up around Yokohama (more than half way to Kamakura).

But oh, when we got there... I'm going to tell you all right now that if you're cool enough to get some omiyage from me-- it's likely going to be purchased in Kamakura! The shopping street next to the train station is STACKED. There are touristy, kitschy, buddha-y and foodie things by the TRUCKLOAD so I'm definitely making a second pilgrimage before coming home.

Buddha pillows! Haha!

Novelty senbei!

Gorgeous hydrangeas!

I FINALLY FOUND RAIN BOOTS. Just in time for the rainy season (which starts next week... ugh). They're exactly what I wanted: short, sweet, and leopard print! AND THEY FIT-- AMAZINGLY. Japanese people have tinier feet than Chinese people-- guaranteed. They don't even have to wrap them. You have no idea how desperately I searched in vain for shoes that fit my ogreish feet, and rain boots are especially difficult because not only do Japanese people have tiny feet-- they have tiny calves. Calves so small, I can't get my wrist into most boots. These boots were not only a find-- they were a flippin' STEAL. 1500円 baby! SCOOOOOOORRRRREEEEEE! Oh wait-- it's the world cup right now.


Here's some ice cream on the way up to the Buddha. Maccha means green tea... but this flavor is called Obamaccha flavor because Obama apparently enjoyed it when he was last here. It was delicious, so the President definitely has some good taste. He must also be able to eat fast because that ice cream melted faster than the polar ice caps when I ate it. (Hah!)

Washin' up before sayin' what up to the Buddha.

Look at the size of it! It's MASSIVE!

It really is a sight to see. For 200円 it's not bad.

Contrary to my photos, there were TONS of people standing in front of this thing taking pictures with it and of it. I must have been in about 20 peoples' pictures because of the insane photo crossfire that hits this thing from EVERY angle.

My friend Mehron commented that he didn't really feel spiritual standing in front of the Buddha. It was the same feeling I got while visiting Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto. Both these places were once spiritual grounds, but these days it only matters that you have a picture of them for your Christmas card. Think about that next time one of your Sansei friends sends one of those things over come November. "Look at how Japanese we are! Merry Christmas 2010!"


Then we went to get lunch at this cold udon place. MANNNN it was GOOD!

Mmm cold udon and dashi with green onions, ginger and sesame.

My friend Mehron ordered this unintentionally phallic lunch. This is called Daibutsudon, literally Buddha udon. Although in my opinion, it looks a little like something else... heh heh...

After that, we headed towards Fujisawa to look at the gorgeous place where Lisa lives. It was so breathtaking that I couldn't even bring myself to take a shoddy picture of it because it wouldn't do it justice. I was so happy to see the ocean though. Growing up in LA really makes you appreciate the healing power of the ocean. It was so refreshing to smell the sea salt in the air, to feel the sun warming my shoulders, and to be surrounded by good friends. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to be living in Japan.