Only 5 can ladder

Having now mostly fully recovered from my snowbound cavalcade of injury-ridden assclownery in the frosty northern regions of Japan a couple of weeks ago, life has essentially returned to normal back here in Kobe. Yesterday having been the day that signals the monthly launch of the board of education’s salvo of yen into my bank account makes this return to normalcy all the sweeter: the travel damage is done and now I’m able to tackle a few lingering projects.

The first one required only a little green and thus was finished last week during “Foundation Day,” (yet) another national no-work holiday. I got the impression that it was roughly correlary to our 4th of July back in the states, only nobody does anything special. I copied a few hundred gigabytes of data and reinstalled Windows 7 on my laptop and set up an XMBC media library so we can watch all our crazy shows and movies on our big TV with ease. It was a far less exciting process than it sounds, if that is actually possible.

The others are more open ended: finding a couple of frames for our bitchin’ new 1930s-era reproduction Sapporo beer posters, finally tracking down a decent new coat (just in time for spring), and, in consideration of somewhat upcoming school closing ceremonies/graduations, attempting to buy a nicely fitted black Japanese suit that doesn’t hang off me like a bedsheet in clothesline land. I think the weekend will accommodate these endeavors nicely.

We become more adept at the bizarre on a daily basis here, Jessy and I. Just last week we managed to successfully get me in and out of the eye doctor (no appointment, in and out in thirty minutes, 900 yen for the check-up and ten bucks a pair), I’ve managed to make my way quickly around town checking for an out-of-stock PS3 game and then order it on Amazon.jp and pay for it at the convenience store the same night, and we are becoming surprisingly capable at identifying satisfactory restaurants and deciphering their cryptic and wondrous menus.

To bring up the rear, our deft mastery and striking precision with the numerous varieties of prize-awarding arcade games has yielded a bounty of cheap crap recently, including Jessy’s 400-yen crown achievement of a Gurren Lagann Yoko (you may remember her from a previous journal about our figure by the TV). This one is a bit more diminutive and is dressed like so many objects of otaku-envy as a maid holding a tray with a plate of donuts (the plate and two tiny plastic donuts are actually individual pieces that you place yourself). The getup makes our big Yoko’s wardrobe choice look exceedingly suited for violent intergalactic combat by comparison, though at least maid Yoko isn’t carrying around a massive gun. (There are other subdivisions of anime fandom devoted solely to maids with guns, but I digress.) One of my wins was a more modest prize, a somewhat-cool Evangelion print in the cheapest frame known to man, but I won it on my first try and with perfect placement of the little automated pincher. I was riding so high that I almost plunked a credit into the machine next to it, which had instead of Evangelion prints a variety of adult DVDs featuring women of this country in various states of undress on the cover, but Jessy seemed non-committal on the pursuit and our bags were getting full of crap already (I’ll be back! maybe).

The real score of the night was this little guy, a 6 centimeter tall stuffed feller known as Mr. Saturn (or Dosai-san in Japan), a cult-popular character from the cult-popular (in the U.S.) game series known there as EarthBound, and here as “Mother.” To be specific, this toy is Mother 3 branded, and is virtually the only piece of licensed merchandise related to this game that has been made available. Humorously you can’t even buy them, only get them in game center prize machines, and this one took me eight tries on the “Barbercut” machine, in which prizes hang from the ceiling on little strings and you get one chance to expertly slide over and then push forward from the back a little pincher with a tiny mechanical razor blade inside that snaps shut and clips the string, dropping your goody down into the pocket below. In my case it didn’t clip the string until try eight, but so determined I was that I’d probably just have kept at it until I won. The interesting part comes in some cursory research about the little Banpresto-manufactured wonder: them U.S. fans are hungry for some weird stuffed Japanese keitai Mr. Saturns and have been bidding upwards of $30 each for the ones that are available on eBay. I think a pilgrimage to Namco Land with a baggie full of 100-yen coins might be in order this week, and then I can master the weird process of mailing out lots of squishy toys under the Japan Post network’s small packet program for discount rates.

We also are keeping routinely busy, caught up on a mostly weekly basis with drunken Sannomiyan endeavors involving other teachers and their accomplices, one of which placed us in a delicious Italian restaurant last week called something like Atlanta Atlanta or Allegra Allegra or Oregano Oregano or some other two-identical-word title that I can’t remember on account of cheap local spirits (the spicy mushroom/sausage/broccoli pasta was so good that when I first started thinking about how profoundly scrumptious it was I looked down and had eaten it all). Yesterday we celebrated Pancake Day with a fellow who yearly celebrates this day, as do apparently many people from his European area of origin, and the exotic festival was marked by cooking pancakes, and eating them. It was a good holiday. What’s tomorrow? A tofu-diving contest in a cave made of ice? A potluck dinner based solely on pork products and byproducts? A gymnastics competition conducted on moving trains? Who goddamned knows.

One of the better parts of being where we are is that there are often excuses and reasons to do things that we would have no excuses or reasons for in different circumstances. In our case, the prevailing excuse has become “because here we are,” and no excuse is necessary. Many of the non-existential stresses and hairy menial annoyances of prior times have become life footnotes and it is refreshing and liberating like a carbonated William Lloyd Garrison.

Sometimes I sit up late at night after Jessy’s gone to bed and just listen to the sounds of our apartment–the little standup fan outside powering our AC unit’s heat function, the whirring of the electric heater’s oscillation in the other room. I take in the peculiarities of comedians on TV Asahi speaking endearing Osaka dialect and trying to complete obstacle courses or move a ping-pong ball from one side of the room to the other with only the heat from a hair dryer. In the microwave there’s a 99 yen frozen packet of Spaghetti Neaporitan, the Japanese ketchup-based take on pasta, and to my side a bottle of C.C. Lemon soda and my cell phone with a tiny kewpie doll dressed like an ear of corn hanging off it. Once I pass one or two in the morning it’s like I’m so far ahead that I start crossing back into home territory, the daylight hours of America, nine, ten, eleven a.m. and even the weird things that surround me feel more and more like it all used to.

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4 thoughts on “Only 5 can ladder

  1. Trish says:

    Your mention of Spaghetti Neaporitan, the Japanese ketchup-based take on pasta, reminded me of the days back in college when I was completely broke and totally hungry. We would buy a big package of ramen noodles and put ketchup and grated cheese on top and call it a dinner. I still can't believe that was one of my dietary staples throughout college. When I landed my first job, I celebrate the idea of having real spaghetti with a jar of sauce (even if they were generic brands, at least they taste kind of authentic.)

  2. Dan Bowerman says:

    We're booked — April 20 to May 4th. The four of us need to get a chat together sometime soon about what/when/where we're gonna do stuff!

  3. mom says:

    It sounds as though Japanese holidays are much like American…lots of eating and drinking just because you can! I'm looking forward to trying out your dining discoveries (and winning a kewpie-corn=doll)!

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