Monthly Archives: November 2009

Liftoff, Space Cosmoship

The electronic dictionaries that my students possess are so wondrous that yesterday one of those little hellions set to work on something nefarious, culminating in a freshman coup-de-grace: room silent between snippets of conversation, a digital female voice emerges and says, in English,

“Ecstasy”

and the kid and his buddy are losing it over there and I try not to, because dammit I’m a teacher. But I remember what high school was like, and if I had an electronic dictionary that said whatever I wanted it to say when I was in high school I’d have been in detention a lot more than I was. I couldn’t help it, I laughed anyway. It was a harbinger of sequelitis, certainly, this punk’s behavior validated, and later in the class we all got an “UHHHHH” from the same voice, in the middle of some kid’s speech. That one I tried not to react to, lest some real whoppers follow. What’s next after “ecstasy” and lascivious moaning? Scallywag? Consarnit? Poppycock? Actual cock? I dare not investigate any further.

This was after one of the students told me I was “lookin’ suave,” wherever the hell they learned that. I can barely conduct routine conversation in Japanese and these kids can say “lookin’ suave” in English. Obviously I need some lessons. I told the kid “nice pants.” He looked at his pants.

Despite my constant struggles with the language, I did manage to use it to do a Secret Special Order at Yoshinoya the other day (the popular beef bowl restaurant) by asking for my gyudon “tsuyudaku,” or with extra sauce. This was during the lunch break of my Mid-Year Conference, mentioned in the last entry. I hoofed it from the government building to Sannomiya and ordered up then walked back stuffed with beef and rice and onions. After that was over I stopped off and bought a Kirin six-pack and a bottle of Suntory Old Whiskey then went home and played Modern Warfare 2 for a long time. It was awesome! (take my word for it)

NEW WEEKLY FEATURE

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– One person’s perception that Hot Cocoa (which exists here) and Hot Chocolate (which apparently does not) are distinct and separate beverages, with Hot Cocoa being “really sweet” and Hot Chocolate necessarily being “even sweeter”
– The only clearance flavor of Hi-Chew candy that I’ve ever seen, and the flavor is “American Cherry,” not that I knew American Cherries had such a distinct taste as to necessitate their own classification as an artificial candy flavoring
– Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino speaking English on a Japanese evening cooking show on television and being the two celebrity judges in a cooking contest between two chef duos, consuming hot pot clam chowder, steak, and attempting to slurp noodles before imploring the viewing audience to go see their new movie “Inglorious Basterds” (actual spelling), which is about Nazis
– Guy outside main center street shopping area downtown standing on precariously balanced plank-on-cylinder while juggling knives to a huge audience of almost totally unenthusiastic bystanders
– Being corrected on my katakana-pronounced order of a “Quarter Pounder with Cheese” at McDonalds by having “Quarter Cheese? Quarter Cheese?” repeated to me (wrapper that sandwich arrives in says Quarter Pounder with Cheese on it)
– A 350ml bottle of cherry soda designed to look exactly like a Tabasco sauce bottle but saying Tabasco nowhere on it nor tasting anything like Tabasco

END OF NEW WEEKLY FEATURE

We used our Japanese Thanksgiving Day on Monday to take the ropeway line to the upper areas of Mount Rokko. Our cable-car-companions were a young, stylish couple, the man in which was being relentlessly teased by the woman for “being scared.” I couldn’t blame him cause the thing was honestly kinda fucking terrifying. I dunno maybe the girl has ridden all the perilous-looking fiberglass composite gondolas suspended from braided wire in Japan or something. From the top of the mountain you can drop a hundred-yen coin into those mechanical binoculars and really get a good view of the city. I could see our apartment complex from there, and tiny boats cruising around in the sea. Then we took the hiking path down, behind a few tourist retards including one girl who was literally wearing heels trying to hike down a mountain and failing miserably. I resisted the urge to help her down with a soccer-style ass-kicking. We saw a waterfall further down, a picture of which you can find over in my Twitter feed in my Twitpic. How twittly! Excited, I got to jogging so quickly down a stone path that I almost fell off the side, but reached out for a railing bar and grabbed it, flipping myself about upside-down.


(not my photograph)

Speaking of physical pain, I had my second encounter with the Japanese health-care system on Saturday morning, having slowly developed agonizing inner-lower-left back pain that flared up whenever I’d engage those trunk muscles. I wanted to let it be, but it hurt even worse after waking up, and so that inconsiderate live-in harpy who’s hogging the air in our apartment (hi jessy) insisted that I go to the hospital (virtually across the street) to make sure I wasn’t going to die or something. As it turns out, I am going to die, but probably not because of this injury, which is just some kind of muscle sprain or spasm caused by my getting drunk and subsequently dehydrated Thursday night at the Sky Buffet (which was as awesome as I predicted), waking up Friday, going to Mid-Year Conference which involved walking four miles, and wolfing down an L-size beef bowl in the meantime. They gave me an ultrasound and discovered I am not pregnant, then “prescribed” me four tiny shitty painkiller pills that don’t work at all. Still, for my appointmentless 8 AM emergency room visit (with an English-speaking doctor, and including the aforementioned ultrasound, blood pressure tests, a urine-check (can’t be too sure I guess), and the cost of my medicine), I only paid about 3,000 yen, or about twenty-seven bucks at the current exchange rate. Thanks Japanese national healthcare system, for your questionable success rate but affordable peace of mind! Anyway it’s mostly feeling better now as long as I don’t do the Locomotion or anything or practice my hula hoop skills out in the yard (I don’t have a yard).

Other things I don’t have: the day off tomorrow, unlike all you lame-guys back in the States, during which you will gorge yourself on roasted bird, stuffing, and whatever other gruesome spreads you are able to secure for yourselves. My Thanksgiving lunch will literally consist of a special-school-prepared government-supplied calorie-rich rice and grain combination, somewhat flavorless miso and seaweed soup, vaguely room-temperature high-fat milk from a glass bottle, a lightly mayonaissed salad likely containing some kind of root or pickled vegetable, and a main dish that odds support being heavily stewed vegetables or fish in some type of sauce. Handily offsetting this (I hope) seems to be the endeavors of one of the western locals, who will be hosting an evening meal more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the occasion. I’ll bestow upon her a Pot of Dumps, dumplings in the true spirit of my mother and her mother and all other dumpmakers back in that rich line, flour and egg and the tiniest bit of water and salt all boiled up hot and tasty. I will eat them all myself except for one, and then as it is reached for, snap it away with adept chopstickery and flick it into the air like a flipped coin before plucking it from the air with my prehensile lizard tongue. It will be my most memorable moment ever, and probably the greatest and best of history.

Tonight I’m going to have the kids play Battleship, only it’s English Battleship where you can only attack by putting together parts of sentences instead of a letter and a number. So instead of a room full of people saying C-5 I’ll have a room full of people saying I would like to… walk to the store (or “remain totally silent with fear”). Anyway, because regular Battleship is lame, I’m making this into SPACE BATTLESHIP, which is fucking rad. They will have Space Battleship, Space Cruiser, Space Cosmoship, Space Ferry, and Space Guppy. The Space Guppy is obviously the one-square ship. They will say “You sunk my Space Guppy,” and things will be okay for me, for tonight at the very least.

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The middle of somewhere

This one is an irregular week, a classification of week which I endorse–often heartily. My next two days involve a “mid-year seminar” through the board of education (with generous lunch breaks and located much nearer to my apartment than my school is). The term is a bit confusing, “mid-year,” especially since I’ve only been here for three-and-a-half months, and I can’t help but wonder to which people this is the middle of anything except November or maybe one of the three school terms.

Accenting the affair is a purportedly delicious meal on the evening of the first day at somewhere called “Sky Buffet,” which I could know nothing of outside its name and still endorse, whatever ventures may be involved: it is a buffet, it is in the sky, it is a Sky Buffet. As a divine bonus, a sort of ethereal gift, Monday of next week is a national holiday, making it quite a stretch of time where Brandon doesn’t have to teach any school. The flip side is that were I still in the States I’d have the whole of next weekend unspoken for cause of Thanksgiving, which they most certainly don’t even know about, let alone celebrate, here. I drew a turkey on the board last week, and some of my students converted it into a type of egg-laying robot with lasers before asking if it was a chicken. It is fair to say I won’t be finding any turkey for my non-Thanksgiving. Jessy and I have decided to compromise in a somewhat acceptable way: I will boil some cute Japanese chicken, cobble together some kind of gravy and mix it together, throw down some homemade dumplings and stewed veggies, and try to find some decent beer. It will be a weekend feast that would only be made better if for some reason our apartment had a fireplace, and I will give thanks by raining delicious hellfire upon my kitchen and all those who enter (t)here.

I have finally become confident enough in my passive spatial awareness to permit myself to listen to music during my train-and-foot commutes to and from school without the fear that I’ll miss an audio announcement and thus, my stop. Doing so has allowed forgotten wisdom to re-envelop me: life’s a lot better with music in it. The bee’s knees of this week is an album from a totally relaxing one-man band ironically called Ohashi Trio, who sings in both Japanese and alarmingly good English with some really melodic pseudo-classical jazz type shit going on at the same time. I accidentally saw part of a video on some bizarre late-night Japanese music countdown last weekend, and sought out some samples on the Internets as soon as I could. The commute is exactly long enough one-way to allow me to listen to the entire album (his newest, called “A Bird”), and I plan on nabbing his previous effort “This is Music” posthaste. Just for kicks I might even hoof it to the Tower Records downtown and see if I can find actual copies and pay Real Money for these. Maybe.

The entertaining side-effect of music while I go is all the new soundtracks for the stuff I’m used to seeing in much the same ways every day. Different parts of different albums come up at points during my walk, which allows me to look at the scenery in fresh new ways. What’s the bridge with Eleanor Rigby? Shrine Cats to Heaven? The other day I even had an unexpected feeling of excitement upon briefly reconsidering my still incomplete Edmund story. Maybe now, having left Iowa and written one section, I can write another section having left Pennsylvania. I can feel it all gathering up back there in little bits again and I’m just left wondering when it will feel like moving its way on out. It took a few months after the last move. Maybe it’s about time.

I went to Osaka last weekend for my first Japanese gaming event, an unassuming little guy called the Games Japan Festa. Your interest in such material may be minor, but you can view the article at N-Sider here. The highlights of the trip: people dressed up in costumes like anime characters, a prize drawing in which I won stupid bookmarks instead of something awesome, and a post-show meal at an Indian restaurant where I made the mistake of assuming I was in Japan, ordering the curry “very spicy” and receiving the spiciest food I have ever eaten in my life (painful but delicious).

It’s getting really cold lately, such to the extent that I personally have actually mustered up a desire to go shopping for clothes, a relatively rare event. I need a few more sweaters, and it’s probably about time to replace my winter coat. Surely mother if you are reading this you are likely rejoicing, but know that I got a good 6+ years out of it, and your purchase was not a bad one (even if you would have had me toss it to the street years ago in favor of something new).

For the most part, Japanese clothes are great for me, because I am thin, and the clothes here kind of just assume that you are, with the largess of the European geneset being the exception rather than the rule, and no such thing as “XXL” found in any stores I’ve visted anyway. Clothing is “slim fit” almost by default, which works well for me, and the nice, well-tailored pants right off the store shelves make my old ones look like they may have been owned by one M.C. Hammer. The only problematic areas are in the shirt sleeves, which to be fair barely were long enough for my freak monkey arms back in the states yet certainly aren’t any longer here. Most dress-shirt sleeve ends rest a comfy two-and-a-half inches above my wrist, rendering necesssary a little cheating: when it was warmer I could just roll them up and tuck them, but it’s so cold now that to do so is both uncomfortable and draws light indirect criticism from my coworkers: “You must be cold! Aren’t you getting cold?!” The solution is sweaters, bigger sized to fit over the shirts, and with the beneficial side effect of longer, stretchier sleeves. Still, if I could grind a few inches out of these bones it would probably make my life a little easier, the only negative being the inevitable destruction of my basketball career.

Perhaps the postal deities heard my whining in the last entry, because Modern Warfare 2 arrived three days ahead of schedule last night. After telling Jessy she could not have the TV and to get bent, she fell asleep at eight o’clock and I stayed up for five hours playing it. The advent of the coming “mid-year seminar,” and its subsequent weekend and Monday holiday, are bold and fortuitous Winbringers which shall be filled, daintily, with as much game time as I can muster while still maintaining some illusion of daily human function. This morning, after I had just finished a match and begun to fry my traditional Wednesday breakfast gyoza, some Jehovah’s Witness people came to the door, perhaps because their beacon indicating virtual military combat went off, and said some things in Japanese. One lady spoke some English and I told her I was comfortable with my beliefs. Perhaps sensing that she didn’t have the language skills to deal with what was about to come next, she repeated my answer, to which I replied thanks for visiting me please have a nice day thank you! Then, bowing frequently like one of those water-sipping plastic cranes, I allowed my door to carry itself shut, the tiny visible slivers of the Witnesses’ cute winter mittens shrinking, shrinking, shrinking like the temperature.

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The sauce to meat is ceremony

One of my kids the other day, when trying to tell me in English that a particular person was, as we would politely put it in the states, a little Husky, a little bit portly you know, rounded out, packin’ heat, used the matter of fact phrase “he wears meat,” which didn’t register as anything other than nonsense for a moment or two until I thought about it and deemed it logical. This fellow’s skeleton, after all, must find some level of comfort and protection in it, wearing it, all clad in meat as it were. The mental picture also conjures up images of scrumptious delights, full-body steak-vests embroidered with bacon highlights, fried chicken shoes and socks, turkey gloves, a real belle of the meat ball.

Somewhat bored recently with the idea of watching more animation to connect with our new culture, Jessy and I have turned to the delightful world of Japanese dramas, which are essentially what they sound like: hour-ish long evening drama programs that air on TV for ten or twelve episodes and then, their conflicts and issues resolved, drift away. Through the magic of the Internet (and conveniently educational English subtitles) we’ve given a few series the old evening run-through, an episode each night while we have supper. Last night we started a new one, “Kekkon Dekinai Otoko,” which means basically The Man Who Can’t Get Married. This show is about a very bizarre forty-something architect who is kind of a primadonna. Last night the episode ended with him about to receive a rectal examination from an attractive middle-aged doctor for his raging polyp, after having stressed himself out by climbing across a balcony wall three stories in the air to check on his neighbor and her dog, Ken-chan, who the man thought was the girl’s boyfriend. It is a pretty weird show, which is probably why I am going to like it. Last week we finished a show called “Gokusen,” which is about a 23-year-old female fourth-generation heir to a notorious Yakuza family. She decides to become a high school teacher and berate her deliquent students. It is impossible not to realize there was a certain personal enjoyment in projection for me in this case, though I am unlikely to punch any of my students in the face or fight large gangs barehanded to come to their aid. If television in the US was this good, I probably would actually miss it.

For my birthday dinner I decided it would be more satisfying to cook my own meal at home than to go to a restaurant, which kind of began as a tradition last year with our weekend retreat to the Pennsylvanian cabin and our gluttonous indulgence in all manner of foods including but not limited to stew with dumplings, pan-fried scallops with risotto and asparagus, and bacon-stuffed cinnamon rolls. This year I chose to tackle a new ingredient: wagyu (Kobe-style beef). Though there are a variety of articles about it on the Internet, this is Kobe’s “famous” food to the masses–expensive, delicately marbled beef that melts in your mouth and costs an arm and a leg. We ended up forgoing any thick, teppanyaki-ready steaks, instead grabbing a combination pack of thinly cut pieces of assorted qualities ranging from the more lean to the heavy marbled good stuff, just for variety. My inexperience with outrageously expensive meats notwithstanding, I think it turned out pretty well with a quick salt-assisted sear on each side and accompanied by some mixed stewed veggies (potato carrot onion mushroom) and a scoop of new autumn rice. Another new birthday tradition: why dink around with cakes when we live in the pudding capital of the world (well kinda)? We each grabbed our own special made puddings. Jessy went with a standard chocolate cake/mousse affair while I selected a more understated layered custard with a cocoa layer, thick whipped cream, pecans, mint, and chunks of powdered sugar cake on top. We even put a candle in it!

Reflecting my post-birthday ultimate downgrade I now sit at work with a tall grape Fanta, a package of ramune/cola gummies, and a hundred-yen packet of “consomme” flavored potato crisps. It is all pretty good in a nutritionless way, but depressingly steak-free.

One thing that I had naively anticipated for my birthday was a copy of Modern Warfare 2, the sequel to 2007’s stupidly popular first-person shoot-’em-up game for the 360. I take a certain amount of pleasure in virtually engaging a variety of individuals in simulated modern combat on my television over the Internet, and this particular video game software does it better than any other one I’ve used. The release date for the game was November the 10th, in the states anyway. Residing in Japan I am subject to the whims of the Postal Deities, who have passed down the law from upon high: All games that Brandon orders to be delivered to him in Japan will arrive precisely ten days after shipping! So for me the release date is November the 20th, and that is not very exciting because it’s nine days away! Modern wonders being what they are I’ve taken it upon myself to watch videos and read reviews and monitor discussions in online gaming forums, but I fear this is of little use. All it does is remind me that I have nine days to go.

Interestingly, I’ll be heading east to Osaka, the second-largest city in this country, this Sunday, for the Japan Game Festa. I don’t know much about it, but I think it’s some sort of Festa about Games in Japan. Probably I might get to play some of them, and put together an article. Excitingly enough it’s Wednesday right now, which means only a few more days until the week’s over and delightful pay day rolls around on its per-monthly basis. This time I get the pleasure of dropping maybe seven hundred bucks on new six-month train passes, which I’d be pissed at if it wasn’t such a massively good deal (refer to much earlier entry for information on multi-month commuter pass savings).

It’s rainy as all get-out today, but one of the shrine cats didn’t seem to mind. He was just sitting out in his parking lot like every day, getting rained on, camping the garbage pile for chow. Perhaps if he eats enough, he will start wearing meat.

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The Easter Bunny Vespucci

The time difference has introduced peculiarities into the measures with which I am to judge precisely at what rate I am decaying: though I took my first glance at this Earthy place at around four in the morning, in Iowa time, I suppose the demarcation of one’s “Birth Day” does indeed cover all hours of the associated unit.

That said, it’s my birthday right now, where I am, anyway, here in Japan, by Japanese time. But my body’s clock senses the lie. It knows that not for another hour will it have become the tenth in Iowa, where I came from, and it feels slighted. However, joy of joys: I will celebrate for all of my Japanese birthday, and then, at three p.m. Japan time, when it becomes the tenth in Iowan time, I will Start My Birthday Over Again, to fanciful effect.

I have spent the day teaching my children about Thanksgiving, the mysterious United States version of the holiday anyway, a compelling story that begins formally in the year 1621, when some people from England decided they wanted to believe basically the same things as the government said but a little differently, and then brought a bunch of diseases to the people of America as a present. One of my students, after having been told the story of Squanto (in English) had only this to say when I asked him “Who was Squanto?”:

Santa Claus.

Of course! The Famous Native American Santa Claus, who helped the pilgrims survive their stupid adventure and then took the next day off to drop presents in all their chimneys.

It’s okay if you can’t understand the history of Thanksgiving, I tell them. It’s mostly about being a pig and eating a lot of food, then maybe watching football on TV if you are ambitious enough to hit the power button on your remote. They also really enjoy it when I tell them what gravy is, and extol its virtues.

The last several days have been what I have come, generally, to expect, with a few exceptions: after a delicious stop at a ramen place in Sannomiya, Jessy and I popped into NAMCO LAND, which is an enormous video arcade with an entire wing devoted to UFO catchers, which I have talked about in here before I think. These are crane games, only in Japan they are actually popular, and have awesome prizes, and there are Arcade Attendants who monitor the machines and restock them right after you win stuff, and basically ensure a bitchin’ time. In fact I probably need to write a Nomaday some time about all the different varieties that they have. Anyway the exception is that I actually won something cool: an Evangelion statue figure thing.

When I won it went PING as the little claw flicked the ring holding the box up off of the peg, and then I felt like the most sweet and cool person alive and it was the best. Also this week I finally picked up Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii from the library of games I brought over and proceeded to get all the stars in it and unlock the Luigi mode which was pretty cool.

Tonight I think I might go out for that fabled delicious Kobe beef steak for the first time, as a birthday treat. If I never write again, know that it was because the steak was so delicious that I am comatose, or that I choked on it.

I have to teach a class in a minute, so this will be a little short for a Nomaday. In the words of myself, as I often end class, “See you next time! Okay you can go. Please leave now goodbye.”

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It’s not easy being green

It got downright cold here in Kobe this week following an unusually warm Halloween, almost as if the ghastly presence swooped in, leeched all the heat off everything, and zipped away. In a human sense, this is nearly what happened: we attended a Halloween event at one of the usual “gaijin bars” downtown called the Polo Dog, wherein hundreds of costumed foreigners (and native residents with an interest in foreigners) crammed themselves together in all manner of costumes running the gamut from Snow White to superheroes, proceeded to sweat profusely, barely able to move, then dispersed like the warm weather.

I was a frog, by way of that I wore a Frog Mask, which was acquired at The Daiso (you’re surely getting to know your hundred-yen stores by now), for one hundred yen. I use the term Mask loosely, as it seemed more like a green fabric hood with a couple of little frog eyes on top that did not want to stand straight up and kept falling down, making it look like I was just a green hood for Halloween. My t-shirt was kind of orange, causing one person to ask if I was a carrot. I could be a carrot, I said, and there was no reason why not, if it suited their fancy.

Jessy was some manner of hula girl, an impulse costume spurned by the fortunate sighting of a ¥1750 beginner’s ukulele at our nearest Hard-Off second-hand shop, the same one I got my Supreme Plasma Television at a few months ago. She tied it to some string and wore it around her neck along with an assortment of hundred-yen flower leis. As a member of an ignorant death-pact, wherein I was obligated to wear my frog mask so long as she remained inexorably in costume, riding the Port Liner train from our island to downtown was perhaps one of my most poignantly embarassing moments on record, a literal outsider in a goddamned frog mask failing miserably at Halloween even by Japanese standards and the fucking eyes wouldn’t stand up right.

You see in Japan, though they use Halloween as an excuse to buy cute seasonal candies and festively decorated packages, very few people actually dress themselves in costumes or do any of the things you likely English-speaking readers have come to associate with the holiday. Though my ego had already been crushed by the time we arrived in Sannomiya (the downtown district), Jessy let me take the frog mask off to go into McDonalds and try their new Bacon+BBQ Quarter Pounder (a scrumptious onion-bearing hybrid flavor experience eliciting a thoughtful consideration of the result of the theoretical breeding of a McRib sandwich with a standard Quarter Pounder). The damage had already been done, of course, but the sandwich made it mostly okay.

In an effort to mentally bleach this traumatic experience away completely, we spent yesterday with another couple in Kyoto, the fabled historical hotbed of the Kansai region (and most of Japan). It was the first trip there for Jessy and I, for some reason (Kyoto’s a ¥1000, 50-minute rapid train away), and we had a very cultural time! Fitting, as Tuesday was national Culture Day, an annual holiday celebrating a former emperor during which residents are encouraged to connect with culture! Mainly, as seems to be a trend in the more populated areas of this country, I spent more of Tuesday connecting with thousands of other people who all had the same idea as we did and decided to slam Kyoto in school trip buses, on bicycles, on foot, by car, by van.

But we got to see a pretty large temple holding 1,001 statues of Buddha (the Sanjuusangen-do, and that was awesome (in a historical sense). We also went to another big temple up on the mountain and got our stamp book calligraphied in and stamped by some monk-type dude. On the way back down the mountain to the city proper we stopped along the way for goodies (a famous cream puff, some chocolate crepes, and free looks at a variety of souvenir shops–and I even saw a real-life geisha just walking around).

Famished as we were we ignorantly stumbled into a misleading Japanese restaurant courtesy of some jackass restaurateur who beckoned us in with an English menu then proceeded to serve us the things we ordered only in tiny minuscule portions belying the prices we paid for them, the fellow having never mentioned anything about this bizarre divergence from usual dining establishment convention (highlight: a ¥1180 plate of “grilled duck with Kyoto green onions on a mulberry leaf” which turned out to be three bite-sized slices of duck meat with onions and no mulberry leaf). After our “meal” we got the bonus privilege of paying ¥500 each for a decidedly un-tasty Now and Later-sized cube of fish gelatin that we were served without ordering it shortly after we arrived. “Everyone must get it,” the waiter said upon our objection at the bill. I felt great anger well up inside me and wished for enough language skill to tell the tiny little man that he should be ashamed of himself for his deception, then for the sake of the harmonious Buddha, placed the experience out of my mind with the help of my friends Cheap Convenience Store Alcohol and Steamy Bun.

Today at work I have made the conscious effort to totally drown myself in cheap, filling, unhealthy food as a sort of mental remuneration for my stomach’s lingering disappointment, consuming in the last five hours:
– a shelf-stable packaged udon bowl with sweet kitsune-style fried tofu slice (¥200)
– a package of “Hokkaido Choco Potato” chocolate-covered crispy potato snacks (¥160)
– one pouch (27g) of average Daiso beef jerky (¥100)
– one pack of CRATZ brand pretzel and almond snack mix, bacon pepper flavor (¥100)
– a handful of festive winter chocolate-covered almonds dusted in fresh cocoa powder (full box, ¥180)
– a Yamazaki baking company cheese pizza bun, a hamburger-sized bun stuffed with delicious pizza filling (¥90)
– two 500ml cans of Fanta soda, grape and orange (¥100 each)

Total cost something like ¥1030? Which is way less than my three slices of grilled duck and gelatinous fish cube. Take that, random Kyoto restaurant whose name and location I can no longer remember (I hope you go out of business, and as you move your equipment out, are destroyed by a really pretentious meteor!)!

Outside the wind rages about blustery, tossing the trees and causing the shrine cats to huddle up. They even have a meteorological term for it here (kogarashi). They assign it to these strong crispy winds that gust in from the mountains, I think? and cut through our houses and cause coldness. I think when I woke up this morning around 6:00 AM it happened to be about five degrees outside (Celcius, as we do). In Fahrenheit I think that’s about 44?

Compared to the oppressive heat of Halloween, it’s a frosty revelation: Monday marked our three-month anniversary of arriving in Japan, winter is on its way, and time relentlessly marches on.

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