Friday, July 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
After a night full of drama and trauma, my friends and I decided to unwind by going to a cat cafe called Nekorobi in Ikebukuro.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Today, I went to Mori Tower in Roppongi with my family friends. We at kaitenzushi at Roppongi Hills which was DELICIOUS and then went to see the view from the observation deck. Sadly, there was a high risk of lightning storms, so we couldn't step out onto the famous helipad to see the most awesome view of the greater Tokyo area.
Instead, we saw this cool exhibit called "Seeing Nature" featuring all these cool pieces that had to do with seeing the environment in new ways. It's been so long since I've been to a museum, so I really enjoyed myself...
Feathers and fluff disguised as snow.
Paper mache gopher holes.
Since it's my last weekend in town, I decided to go to my favorite place in all of Tokyo, Shimokitazawa, one last time. I walked around, visited all my favorite stores indie/hippie/trendy second-hand stores, and left knowing that I will someday return.
Later that night, my dorm friends and I decided to go to Golden Gai, a cool bar district in Shinjuku. The first bar we went to was a drag queen karaoke bar. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves watching Japanese drag queens in green wigs drunkly slur their way through "My Way" whilst trying not to disturb the contents of their stuffed bras.
Then we went to a significantly smaller bar called Ace's. It sported a 6 seater counter and a wooden shelf full of brightly colored spirits and mixers. The bartender was a stone-faced Japanese guy in a pageboy hat who didn't know how to make a Manhattan. I got a Beefeeter on the rocks instead.
Around 3:30am, I was talking shop with the bartender for a while, getting a slightly self-satisfied "I'm-so-hip-with-my-Beefeeter" kind of buzz when I decided we should start thinking of our next destination. The other two people seated at the bar, a white girl with her Japanese boyfried, overheard this comment and immediately asked us where we wanted to go and if they could come with.
We didn't know, we wanted to see where the night was going to take us, we insisted. The girl was persistent, she kept asking, probing, interrogating (in English, but she spoke to her boyfriend in Japanese). Her boyfriend sat next to her uncomfortably as she kept at it. Finally, I said we were on a tight budget because we were students and didn't want to go anywhere expensive. She insisted on paying for our drinks at Ace's so we could accompany her to her friend's bar afterwards. She tried to pay with credit because she didn't have cash, but since it was a small bar, they only took cash. Her boyfriend paid for us all. I think the total tab was about ¥6500.
Frugal and stupid, we accepted the free drinks and proceeded to follow this crazy girl to her "friend's" bar. She started walking towards Kabuki-cho, the red light/yakuza district and we hesitantly and cautiously followed behind. While she babbled on about how she had graduated from UCLA, how she was the lead singer of some hardcore band, and how many host clubs she had been to in the past year, I tried to practice some Japanese with her boyfriend.
In the 10 minute walk from Golden Gai to Kabuki-cho, I found out that this guy was a 35-year-old film assistant for some anime studio and that this girl had picked him up at the Nerima train station that very day. It was their first date. I grew increasingly worried as we drew closer and closer to the heart of the red-light district. My friends knew where we were going and kept saying, "We should just run, let's just run for it right now... this is so weird, she's so crazy... Where are we even going?"
Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, we watched the girl ask a Nigerian guy for directions to "Hiro's place." The Nigerian led us to an underground entrance, the girl ran straight in with him, her boyfriend that she had just met didn't follow. Neither did we.
"I'm going home," he said.
"Why?" I asked nervously.
"Well," he said scratching the back of his head, "I've got work in the morning and don't really want to stay out that late."
"...Are we in some kind of dangerous place right now?" I quietly queried.
He looked in the direction of the underground entrance, "Well, I'm sure if she's taking you in there that it's probably safe..." he trailed off.
"...But?" I said.
"Other places around here aren't."
After explaining this conversation, my friend Alex said "Let's get the FUCK out of here!" So we ran out of Kabuki-cho, hid in a Matsuya, and then decided to walk from Shinjuku to Shibuya to kill time and catch the first train home at 5.
Definitely one of my more memorable nights here. Great way to spend a Sunday morning!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Today, my friends and I went to Ginza for our last yakiniku tabehoudai trip.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Hollllllly crap. Just got back from summer sales in Harajuku-- only one word can describe it: CLUSTERFUCK.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Today, I went to FujiQ Highland-- a theme park right next to Mt. Fuji that boasts the world's most hardxcore roller coasters like Fujiyama, that has the highest vertical drop in the world: 90 f*ckin' meters!!
Other memorable rides included Fujiyama, your standard fast paced, huge vertically dropping loop-less roller coaster, and Eejanaika-- the world's scariest mofuggin' ride... ever.
The closest thing I can harken it to in the states is "X" at Six Flags. But the difference between all the rides at Six Flags and the rides at FujiQ is the fact that they last for at least a minute if not two. Rides in the US are a 2 hour wait for 30 seconds of, "Well, I guess that was cool," whereas every ride at FujiQ has you screaming for your mommy on the verge of pissing your pants wondering when it will ever be over/if you ever want it to end. I seriously thought I was going to die on some of these rides because I could feel myself hanging from the harness. Like this ride. I don't even know what it's called but I wasn't aware that anything could reach this sort of height... safely.
All life-affirming rides aside, I was really glad that the clouds parted long enough for me to see Mt. Fuji. I actually saw it while riding backwards on Eejanaika before the first drop. I remember thinking, "Wow, I'm so glad I get to see Mt. Fuji before I die."
Nothing will ever compare to the sheer beauty and terror of this day.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Today I went to Shin-Okubo, the Koreatown of Tokyo, with my family friends. Literally... every shop was Korean boy-band oriented. Every corner was covered in shops upon shops of both real and fake boy-band merchandise ranging from coffee cups, pencils, frames, posters, umbrellas, DVDs, shirts, underwear... you name it.
I felt bad that I had no idea who any of these people were, but it was interesting to see that they had such a huge Japanese following considering Koreans hate Japan and vice versa. Although I suppose getting middle-aged Japanese women to buy all their andro K-pop merchandise is a nice way of saying "F-you!" and taking all their money... way to go, Korea!
Which brings me to what I did next...
I went to Minato Matsuri at Yasukuni Jinja. For those of you who don't know what Yasukuni Jinja is, you're lucky I just did a report on it and went on a mandatory field trip. Yasukuni Jinja is a temple that houses the souls of all those who died in service of the emperor. This includes waaaaaay back to the 17th century up until WWII. It's a super controversial place because Class A War Criminals (those directly responsible for starting WWII) are enshrined here alongside the war dead.
Yasukuni also boasts a museum with all the war artifacts and fun little history about what the Japanese think happened during WWII. The exhibit (which I went to a few weeks ago) fails to mention the atrocities the Japanese committed in both Korea and China-- referring to the Rape of Nanking as "The Nanking Incident," and neglecting to mention the use of Koreans as comfort women for the Japanese army. *Fun little note: the descriptions of what happened during WWII never exceeded more than 2 paragraphs.
Btw, if I hadn't gone to this exhibit with someone who spoke Japanese, I wouldn't have known that the Japanese translations and the English translations are verrrrrry different when it comes to the WWII section.
Probably the most unbelievable aspect of Yasukuni Jinja is that government officials (i.e.: prime ministers) pay homage to the place; sending flowers, droppin' off some money, clapping twice and ringin' the bell-- the whole shebang. These visits rightfully piss off China and Korea because it makes it seem as though Japan condones the depiction of history and the enshrining of Class A War Criminals... and they never say sorry!! X_X
So you're probably thinking, "Kate, if you knew that this is what this place represented, why the hell did you go to their matsuri? You're just as bad as the prime ministers!" Let me just say-- you're right. I feel awful and I'm a horrible person for buying food and essentially supporting that matsuri and vicariously supporting the Japanese interpretation of what happened during WWII... but I wanted to go to an actual Japanese matsuri and see just how nationalistic Japan could be... boy. They're nationalistic alright.
If you didn't know the history behind the place, the matsuri would have been 10 times more enjoyable. It had all the flavors of obon season back home in LA: lots of fried Japanese food, games, inflatable prizes, haunted houses, taiko, odori-- the works. I had a pretty good time, I was sorta drunk-- so I joined in the bon dancing ^^. But the 209672087603+ lanterns with the names of the war dead around were a constant reminder of exactly what the place was supporting so at the end of the day, I felt kinda guilty.
...and another thing to add on my list of "Why You're Going to Hell."