Monthly Archives: September 2010

The mute appeal to sympathy for our decay

I wrote an essay last week for the high school’s English journal, where my pieces are frequently accompanied by a silly bishounen pretty-boy manga-style drawing of myself, done, I presume, by some commissioned student. The teacher before me had one of her too, and they are both too caricaturely spot-on to be stock illustrations, unless someone’s got a folder titled “goofy gaijin clip-art” sitting around on a hard drive somewhere. In the essay I talk about how invigorating it is that summer, that bitch, is finally gone, and how nice it is to be able to breathe the crisp air again, and how I really love not losing 5% of my body weight in sweat every time I walk to work. I do not know if anyone read it, but I told them this is their chance for a fresh start! A chance to take a nice deep pull on that grassy breeze and re-evaluate their lives! So I did it, and things are mostly the same, but with minor adjustments. For example, the other day I got rid of nearly all the non-jeans clothes I came here with, cut for big wide western boys instead of slim Japanese boys, and noticed how 92% of my wardrobe is now comprised specifically of clothes to be worn to work. Then I decided I want a good kitchen knife, and conned Jessy into asking me what I wanted for my birthday so I could tell her the exact model number and specifications of the knife. Then I ate potato chips. That doesn’t have anything to do with the essay.

Anyway, it’s all true! My favorite time of year is finally starting to show its head and good god is it ever overdue. A couple days outside of October and we were finally able to put the air conditioner off (for good?) about a week ago, opting to just keep the sliding doors open. Our increasingly brave feline also enjoys the change, and it allows him to plop down and stare longingly out through the screen doors at the pigeons, which I am sure he dreams of brutally, mercilessly murdering. This makes us fast friends by default, though he has taken to rubbing and brushing and head-nuzzling at all opportunities he has anyway in case I didn’t get the picture. The other day when I was achieving a 90% completion rate on Space Invaders Infinity Extreme my eyes fogged over and I dreamt again of catching one of those birds and tying it up, only this time I would put it in a cardboard box and then drop the cat in and close the lid and treat what happened in there as our little secret, our dirty evil secret don’t tell your mother or father this is just between us and it feels so nice.

And how about that cat. In about a month’s time he’s gone from refusing to emerge from the couch at all to coming out when beckoned to coming out at the sound of shaking food, to just staying out unless he’s sleeping during the day. Things he is talented at: laser-focusing on every rug in the house and messing them up, eating all his food within seconds, losing his toys, licking toes, getting in the way of your feet while you walk so that you accidentally step on/kick him, refusing to sit still for two goddamned seconds so I can take a picture of him with my slow cell-phone camera. I worry sometimes about the decision we made to adopt this Kiki, because I, unlike Jessica, sometimes think about the future, and the enormous day-long plane ride in the cargo hold that he’ll need to endure, and the ways we’ll need to care for him as we transition back to life in the States ourselves. But those things, like most things, can be overcome, and for now it’s nice to have our occasionally psychotic and always loveable magic cat prowling the apartment.

We left him alone for a day last weekend to go with a group of friends to Universal Studios Japan, a hop/skip/shuttle train/staircase away from Kobe over in Osaka. Universal Studios Japan is sort of horrifying as an American because it is done up to look like some bizarrely idyllic America itself, which is one of the major draws to Japanese tourists. I tried to imagine what something like “Hello Kitty World Minneapolis” would look like, but couldn’t stop thinking of the other Japanese amusement park I had recently attended for the third time, Costco. In the spirit of this situation I decided to kick off the morning by eating a chicken sandwich from Lawson and downing it with an 8:15 AM Asahi Super Dry (which I casually referred to as “vitamin B,” my finest hour). PROTIP: The B stands for beer.

It had been over a year since I had seen a traditional red stop sign, but they’re everywhere in USJ, lining the fake streets where there is no traffic, and where I felt paranoid walking because I was afraid the non-existent cars would run me over. At one point I saw an honest to goodness blue United States Postal Service mailbox beside a fake store; the lid was welded shut. Even our sort-of-bartender at the sort-of-Irish pub Finnegan’s was cut from the American mold: born in Bangladesh, speaking conversational Japanese, and using his naturally-accented English but strange phrasing on us, he offered us green beer (in September) to go with our plate of beef stew. Accompaniments: four green beans, three potato wedges. Across the street was a hot dog cart and Spiderman’s ride. In the middle of the park Peter Pan and Wendy floated around with wires, and then I sat in a fake DeLorean while Japanese-dubbed Christopher Lloyd screamed to me that I needed to stop “Biffu! Biiiiiffuuu!” My friend thought that later in the day I was just screaming “beef” for fun even though I was impersonating Japanese Doc Brown. At the end we watched scenes from the early 1990s movie Backdraft, with videos featuring director’s commentary from a dubbed Richie Cunningham, and then an enormous million-lightbulb freak parade happened. It was a weird day.

Though the weather is getting nice again, my schedule is unfortunately unable to say the same things about itself. I am now bogged down with obligations, owing in no small part to the resumption of my Japanese language classes, which I was first told I didn’t get into, and then was later told I did get into. That means I lose Monday night and Thursday night every week for the negligible benefit of a two hour language class, with Wednesday night always gobbled by my night school, giving me Tuesday night and Friday night free (conveniently, the very same two nights that Jessy has her own Japanese lessons). This virtually ensures that we will rarely, if ever, see each other, and is a blessing for the continued sanity of us both.

– My new Nintendo Game and Watch, which is a reproduction of a 30-year-old electronic toy, and which Nintendo had made by the actual guy who made the original, working from only original units and virtually no documentation, and which I love
– A new orange beverage I got at the Daily Yamazaki called “Morning Rescue,” which I figured contained vitamins and stuff, but which I didn’t read closely enough to see that it actually contains ukon, an anti-hangover drink, and which I believe has caused the people around me to believe I may be drunk, which I kinda wish I was
– A promotional video for the new video game Dead Rising 2, which consists of a somewhat weird-faced woman wearing a bikini and sitting on a yoga ball while playing the game and bouncing up and down, the camera doing wild zoom shots on her cleavage instead of the actual game the video means to promote
– I’ve been to not-my-favorite ramen place several times recently for their tomato ramen, while my favorite place, with WILD BOAR COUNTRY RAMEN and a frozen lychee, remains neglected, and I need to change this immediately
– The old-ass NEC laptop on the desk next to me, which looks really, really old, and which, merely sitting there idle, sounds like an electric pencil sharpener
– Fucking McDonald’s, which has still not brought back the Juicy Chicken Akatogarashi sandwich, and which I am going to get very mad at unless they do it soon
– Sofmap clearing out a lot of their old PS1 games, which means that yesterday for fifty yen each I got Cool Boarders, Bust-A-Move, Ridge Racer Type 4, and Parasite Eve all in immaculate condition
– My Japanese PS1 game collection in general, on which I have not spent more than a dollar for any individual game, and now numbers fifteen titles
– A new fashion trend among dolled-up young Japanese ladies, which involves hanging a fox tail from your belt loop regardless of whether you are a professional trapper of wild game or not

On Friday it’s my school’s sports day, a bizarre and confusing event in which participation, like English education, is compulsory for all students. They grunt and slave together through a variety of strange events and then a class is rewarded for their crushing victory. Though not officially compulsory for me, this marks the second year now that I’ve been asked to run in a relay race with other teachers. As with last time my only real prayer is that I manage to find a good seat in the right place, enjoy watching the events of the day, and most importantly don’t fall down when I am running. Dear lifeforce just keep those feet pushing off the ground and don’t get overanxious. I don’t even care if I slow the whole damned group just keep my face off the gravel please. And when I am done, I will drink beer, and it will be delicious, and it will be the weekend, and I will try yet again to light my goddamned coals.

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I’m Pat Sajak and Vanna White

I can always tell when someone’s from somewhere else cause I get stuck on the escalator. Yet another unwritten rule of Japan: in Kobe you stand on the right and walk on the left. When I’m parading down the left side all “la-dee-dah gonna miss my train” and see a traffic jam I look ahead to whomever’s in front, comfortable in the knowledge that they are not one of us, that they are the outsider, and that even if they don’t realize it, they understand how I once felt here. For the tiniest moment, I have something significant in common with a random stranger passing through, and I want to tell the poor shit to take a step to the right you dumbass, and open your fucking eyes. But I usually just exchange glances with a surly looking elderly person nearby, glances which say “normally we would hate each other, but let’s hate that person screwing up the escalator instead, together. Man that guy sucks.”

In other news yesterday Japan made the bold political decision to do nothing regarding the selection of their current Prime Minister to the office he already holds, a leader who they did not elect, but who they have now elected merely by striking everything they said last year down and admitting that no, we thought change was good when we chose the LDP, but Hatoyama was a nutjob, and then we got Kan, and Kan’s okay right? it’s easier to just leave it this way, change is bad, Yes We Kan(‘t), let’s enjoy Hokkaido butter. I agree with all of that except the Kan stuff, which I basically have no opinion about because since I am a dirty foreigner I can’t vote anyway so who gives a shit. The yen is now at a rate of 82 for a dollar! I’m rich, or would be if I could actually save any money and didn’t have to send tons of it home every month to make the minimum loan payments.

Speaking of using money wisely, on Friday after work I’m hopping on a bullet train to Tokyo, from where I will zip along the bay to Chiba for my first trip to the Tokyo Game Show, a dream I’ve had since I was but a wee young lad. As N-Sider’s Japanese correspondent I will deliver a variety of articles under the guise of journalism. At the Tokyo Game Show an attendee is surrounded by lines of people who are waiting to play the brand-new barely-ever-seen unreleased games that he would like to play, but cannot because there are too many people. I assume. Also there is a thing called Cosplay Alley, where young males and females of varying levels of attractiveness exhibit the costumes they’ve spent fortunes on by dressing up like characters from anime, manga, and video games, 10% of which are mainstream enough for a person to recognize. Am I making it sound like I have been to TGS before? I haven’t. These are just guesses, like how I am guessing that tomorrow will still be not cold.

With the secret of the pressure-activated ass-blasting nozzles now firmly revealed (I read an article about them, during which I discovered that the bidet people found the “best angles” by collecting data from upwards of fifty seriously devoted company employees), there are now precious few mysteries remaining as I continue to persist here in this off-beat land. I set about tackling a couple of them in tandem the other night: special giveaway contests and online Japanese auctions. See, in Japan you can participate in a giveaway contest for almost every field and with nearly every product. They are usually targeted to obsessive otaku geeks like me (I am in the process of sending away five “special stamps” from limited edition packets of Cup Noodle for a shot at one of a thousand special Cup Noodle plastic Gundam models). Another easy target is shut-in losers with nothing else in their lives to look forward to or derive pleasure from but a contest win, a category I don’t particularly desire to place myself in but well.

Invariably these things are called “campaigns,” and they will always successfully terminate with a “present,” the number of which will be given away always being clearly stated. The word campaign used to make me think of only politics or military war events before I moved to Japan, and now all I can think of is photographing QR barcodes on the backs of gummy packages and limited edition Yoshinoya beef crossovers with Daily Yamazaki convenience stores for special gyudon steamy buns. For kicks, I sometimes imagine these are military activities anyway and that the Japan Self Defense Force is secretly manufacturing Coca-Cola sandals in an effort to protect themselves from North Korea.

My personal vice is gaming, and so one of the first courses of action I took when I arrived in Japan was registering for Club Nintendo, a point-accumulation reward program that delivers menial amounts of points to you as you spend godforsaken amounts of cash on Nintendo products and type in the special codes that are included on little papers that come inside the box. Accumulate enough points in one October to September campaign period (400), and you reach “platinum status” for that year, entitling you to a free, mysterious present that they announce and ship out roughly six months after the period has ended. In the past they have given out stuff like special-design accessories, a TV remote that looks like a Wii controller, plush Mario hats, and last year an exact replica of the first Nintendo Game and Watch (Ball). For dweebs like me the elements of fan-servicey fan-service combined with the knowledge of a proven track record for platinum gifts along with the mystery (oh god if I don’t hit platinum status I won’t get the free prize even though I have no idea what it will be but I am sure it is going to be GOOD!) synthesize a brutal cocktail–there was simply no “deciding” whether or not I was going to get platinum status, I Must.

Therein lies the rub. Despite going out of my way to this year purchase three Wii Remotes, a MotionPlus accessory, two Classic Controller Pros, Mario Kart Wii, an extra steering wheel, a black nunchuk accessory, Wii Fit with a Balance Board, Sin and Punishment 2, Captain Rainbow, Super Mario Strikers Charged, and some other shit I am surely forgetting, I now have (two weeks from the end of the campaign year) a paltry, insulting 285 points, relegating me to pathetic “gold” status, for which I will receive the shittiest calendar known to man.

Enter mystery number two: Yahoo! Auctions! I mean, why not? There have to be lots of people who are addicted to selling stuff in online auctions instead of chasing impossible contests, right? As it turns out, yes! A cursory Yahoo! Auctions search turned up a man who for the low price of only about 15 bucks was willing to sell me a full 400 points worth of Club Nintendo codes, enough for me to hit platinum this year and get me damned close next year. So I bought it! (Well, after I spent thirty minutes making my Japanese Yahoo account, registering it for the auction website, and figuring out how to actually bid.) After I won the auction I realized there was a problem and that problem was that I had no idea how to pay the man without a credit card. So I sent him an insultingly simplistic Japanese language e-mail asking “where does the money go” and he responded with a list of Japanese banks and numbers and his name and all this shit that I tried and failed to type into the ATM last night and so I haven’t given him his money yet but I sure will try again soon. In conclusion I am doing some stuff in Japanese that I didn’t think I could do but I seem to be capable of doing (sort of). Mysteries obliterated! Was that interesting to read? I doubt it.


Here, look at my fucking cat:

Man Kiki is just the coolest. He is comfortable enough now to actually be out and about as long as we don’t make any crazy sudden movements involving our scary legs. The other day I found him just chillin’ in the bathroom sink, all like “what.” He sometimes comes up on the couch now, he plays with his toy which is a little fuzzy thing on a stick, and he also really loves it when I give him this special meat snack thing which is like a big hunk of moist fish jerky. Also, when the fatass runs out of food and water at 3:35 in the morning, he walks into my bedroom, plops down on the floor next to me, and meows until I wake up and refill them. Surprisingly enough this doesn’t fill me with rage and hate like it used to do with other pets, perhaps because I know that this one is my pet, and this apartment is my apartment, and if I refuse to be kind to the cat there is nobody else for him to bother except Jessy, who is more of a loose cannon. I heard her saying “shut up shut up shut up” to the cat yesterday morning at 3:35, which is just stupid since he is a cat and he can’t understand you because he is Japanese and doesn’t speak very good English you twerp.


I guess I should be proud that I made it through twelve weeks of this year at night school before not really knowing what to do anymore–my kids here are of such disparate skill levels that to play any game that implies or requires English ability is essentially a wash with most of them, and a game that requires equal participation from everyone is equally futile since generally none of them want to be here. The best games are of the kind where students are prompted for no more than a letter, number, or word of their choosing, and after Pictionary, a number counting game, a mystery word game, hangman, vocabulary bingo, Jeopardy, and a few other things, I am all but tapped out. Tonight I will take a big leap to a new game I have made up called hot seat, where I will present the class with a basic list of adjectives, and then for the first half of class I will describe simple objects using basic adjectives and get them to try to guess what I am talking about. For the second half I will force a sampling of students to describe a mystery object themselves to the rest of the class, which will likely fail miserably.

Or I’ll just play hangman with point values and call it Wheel of Fortune then drown my sorrows in vending machine beer on my walk home.

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Keep an eye on the cat and another on the frying pan

I have harbored our new cat Kiki for the last four days now, but if you entered the apartment you’d be hard-pressed to believe me if I told you (were it not for the litter tray and dishes of food, which let’s be honest, I could be using myself). You see, the cat is in my home, but he lives so mysteriously! Like a sun-allergic breakfast sausage he spends the entirety of my waking hours tucked into the empty, cloth-covered space behind the couch, unreachable, invisible, uncoaxable, unresponsive to everything. To that end, following in the footsteps tread by the best footage suppliers of America’s Most Horrifying Security Camera Videos, I have today engineered my computer to act as a motion-detecting video recorder, trained on the main area of the living room in an effort to monitor this secretive beast while I am out humpin’ for yen as a tool of the Japanese public school system.

I’m not sure what I expect to see when I get back home and Go To The Tape. The only things routinely disturbed are the handful of anemic flowers which sit inside a ceramic vase on the table, and they’re not even so damaged, just knocked around, a single joint in the stem of each flower. Will I see him nuzzling the television? Rearranging all the furniture with his head then pushing it back to normal two hours later? I left a small, catnip-stuffed squishy mouse in direct view of the all-seeing eye in an effort to coax him into providing entertaining viewing, but am unsure if my efforts will yield watchable television.

Kiki must be so proud of his considerate handiwork. He seems to be an exceptionally harmless cat–he hasn’t broken anything or torn anything apart or bitten or scratched us during his secretive night-time exercises. Even when I ruined myself in his eyes forever by trying to yank him out of the couch and move him to a smaller room for his own comfort, he never once attacked or yowled or bit, just slunk further into the couch. He has begun recently to start acknowledging his strange new self-contradictory thought processes, which we figure go something like this:

“I am a cat, and my situation is very new and frightening, but I crave the love and attention of the two humans who inhabit this weird place! I will leave my safe and cozy tunnel now, and perhaps I will watch them sleep, meowing just outside the entrance to their bedroom as though I desire contact, but then THEY SAW ME OHSHITOHSHITOHSHITOHSHIIIIIIIIIIohshit”

The crux of the situation is that the cat eats, drinks, sleeps, and uses the litter box routinely, just not during any time when we are in view. He occasionally lets out a few tiny squeakmeows, presumably to say either “what the fuck where am I” or to verify whether we are or are not around by listening for a response to his yip. Caught between fear and desire, we figure it will just be a matter of time before the mere sight of us does not cause him to arch his back like the McDonald’s logo. I suppose the real question is whether the duration of that period will be a few more days, weeks, or months. I want to tell him “we do not want to hurt you, and in fact want to love you,” but I am having a hard time translating that into cat.

BONUS: security cam footage of the cat jumping on the table from today since I just got back home!

Oh god, have I become one of those people who talks about their cat all the time? I assure you it is only because my life is devoid of more exciting tropes at the moment. Close runner-up: classes are back in session, and I’ve already taught ten of them with two more on the way and it’s like I never left. In my English Speaking Society yesterday (a smallish club populated with two first-year girls and a boy), we were having a conversation about winter in Iowa, and then they asked me if I ever “burned marshmallows” before, and then I proceeded to tell them about S’mores (the word is short for “some more,” I explained, because they are delicious, and you always want some more of them). Being presented with the concept of the graham cracker seemed to be an Earth-shaking, revelatory experience for them.

“The graham cracker is a cracker, made with honey,” I tell them. They ask me “is it a biscuit?” “Well, no.”

In conclusion, we will be using the English Speaking Society’s meeting time to make S’mores at some point in the near future, once I figure out how to get big marshmallows and graham crackers in Japan.

All that most people in Japan seem capable of talking about right now is the summer and its associated phenomena: “it’s hot,” “it sure is hot,” “this is a very hot time,” “it is not a cool day,” and so on. It makes for a thoroughly boring societal experience, bombarded by uncomfortable, humid weather, unpopulated with any sort of seasonal festivities, and lacking the refreshing charm of a season that has now been dragging on for well over three months. The one thing we did have in August was a thing called Bon, a time period distinctly uninteresting to foreign people, during which the people of this country recognize the deceased family members they have known in the past. Their spirits return to the world and then leave it again. I personally am more fond of cherry blossom season, where you celebrate by sitting outside in “some shady” by a tree, looking at the tree, and drinking beer. Yes, I hate the summer. When will it be October? Oh, in about a month. Something in my life doesn’t seem as refreshing as it used to be, and I am blaming the summer and the fact that leaving my balcony door open would be like running a garden hose in the living room right now. It is the air, the air, the air. It’s gotta be! Maybe it is something else.


Oh hi! The other day Jessy and I went to a little party on the island with some new people on the program and it was pretty fun. I drank some gin and colas and listened to some relaxed and nice people talk about Dungeons and Dragons, whisky, the Sega Saturn, and other excellent things. Then on our way home while we were talking to a nice couple who taste wine as a hobby and play Jazz music together and who made couscous and ordered a piano or something, I made the mistake of asking Jessy about a facet of her “special” school, a topic which she brought up! Here is a representation of the conversation:

Jessy: “In my nakayoshi school (translator’s note: nakayoshi means “special friend”) the kids got injured while they were trying to make a human pyramid!”
Me, somewhat quietly, directly to Jessy, in total deadpan: “Retarded pyramids?”
The other couple, non-verbally, apparently, cause Jessy told me about this since I didn’t actually look at them since I was not considering their reaction to my stupid joke: Total mouth-agape shock
Other non-American friend, in damage-control mode: “Did you know Americans still use the word ‘retard’ seriously? It’s true!”
Me, American: “I had no idea.”
Mosquito: Bites me
Jessy, later: “Brandon you asshole!”
Me: What

But I do not mean to blame the victim-couple for having no sense of humor, or even for being from another country with vastly different political-correctness sensibilities (they elected a woman as Prime Minister, after all). In fact, the wife of the couple laughed at one of my jokes earlier (it was funnier than the word retard, and I cannot remember it). One time a while ago they visited our house to comment on the overbearing sweetness in a bottle of eight-dollar peach wine that Jessy bought and invited them over to try, because they like to taste their liquor. I thought that was pretty funny! (At the recent party, Jessy tasted “pretzels and licorice” in one of the wines, but I am not sure if those are valid wine-taster tastes to notice.) Anyway at that time I did a horrible thing by inviting them to the living room to play Mario with me and Brenden, then they got bored, and so I am a bad person because we kept playing Mario even though they were bored. I went from being a good host to being a jerk so easily! Should I too have attempted to detect pretzels and licorice?

I guess what I am wondering is, is it worth the effort to make friends? Or should I just spend time with people who are naturally disposed to being friends with me with as little bullshit involved as possible? Oh, what am I talking about, anyway!

I had better watch out what I say in here, this might end up like that time when I was drunk and I told someone at a party that I “couldn’t stand 95% of the people in this room” and some people overheard it and actually believed I was talking to them instead of the person I was talking to and then held unreasonable silent grudges against me until they actually talked to me and discovered I do not actually warrantlessly hate all people and that alcohol changes my demeanor from “says very little” to “will say dumb shit.” Besides, there were only like fourteen people in the room, it’s impossible to hate everyone and then just a fraction of someone else.

So, couple-who-I-said-retard-in-front-of, if you ever read this, please know that I did not intend to mine your political sensitivities and deliver a precision ‘tard strike in your vicinity. (I meant not to mention the word “retards” again and make another senseless joke at the hands of the impaired, but censoring myself in text is one of my handicaps and going back through to edit my personal journal is kind of mentally challenging)

I mean, the people who write all those offensive jokes for comedy shows are probably pretty nice people, right? You guys seem pretty nice too, and I also think it is nice of you to taste things in wine, cause all I can taste in Japanese beer is piss, and I stopped looking for it after a while. You guys should come over for some Scrabble, I will even accept Australian spellings! Also I am not a horrible person, honest! Well maybe a little horrible. I guess what I am asking is, do you hate me? I know what it’s like to hate, because after all it has come to my attention that I hate 95% of all people (but don’t worry, there are lots of persons with notable mental disadvantages in that other 5%, especially Jessica, with whom I live for christsakes).


More excitement this week: I didn’t get my application in lightning-fast enough this semester to get a spot in the impossibly popular (and free) Hyogo Japanese language classes, the first section of which I finished in June. This guarantees there will be plenty of spots for real achievers like the couple guys I had class with last time, who have lived in Japan for five years, are still speaking at an introductory level, and who have failed the last three times they have taken it, mostly because despite getting a spot they never actually go to the class. Anyone know a place I can take some lessons and learn at a good clip (need not be free)? Full details please, responses akin to “I know a guy who gives me lessons out of his basement for a hundred yen a month and he cooks me free curry and taught me how to massage my prostate with an ancient artisan calligraphy brush but he’s all booked up and no you can’t have his number lol” will be summarily the cause of me saying “I hate you a lot” and erasing you from my world (assuming you are already in it).

– Months after its release I finally got around to buying Bayonetta for my PS3 (you can read some impressions I wrote based on the E3 demo more than a year ago over at N-Sider by clicking this link). I bought the new edition, which has a cool reversible cover, and inside the case rests a fun game, and it’s fun partially because you can bite demons in half with your evil hair, which is also your clothing, yes I am saying your hair is your clothes in this game
– I have finally woken to the pleasure of Google Reader, an RSS management service that lets you read all the updates from your favorite sites in a handy aggregated list, and I bet that if you are the kind of guy or gal that is used to checking many different websites often and wants a faster way to see what’s new you’d really enjoy it, and also my site has an RSS feed so you can add it to be sure you never miss a gripping update
– The money exchange rate for the dollar is down to 1 USD = 84.84 yen, which means if you were planning on buying/importing stuff from Japan any time soon it just got more expensive for you to do it and which also means since the 23rd of August I’ve gotten a thousand dollar increase to my yearly salary which is mostly useless since all I do with US dollars is pay off the education loanwhores
– The Tsukimi (moon-viewing) Burger is back (back from where?) at McDonald’s, completing a yearly cycle that I wrote about last year, and making that two McDonald’s mentions in this very entry
– In the last week I have conned Jessy into watching Judge Dredd, Demolition Man, and True Lies, three movies she would never agree to see normally, and the latter two of which she really liked, further evidence that Judge Dredd is just no good no matter how bad you want it to be
– If someone tells you that you are eating a BLT sandwich in Japan and they hand you the sandwich, you know that they are liars, because what they call a BLT is not a BLT at all, but I eat them anyway and trick myself into believing they are
– I wonder what the cat is doing right now don’t you

Last week I for some reason agreed to go to Costco with Jessy tomorrow. If you have been reading Nomaday since May you know how I feel about Costco in Japan (summary: it is a outlaw ranch/family amusement park). I do not want to go, but perhaps I will be able to secure a few 24 packs of contraband American soda–a fine reward for braving the hellish gauntlet of culturally shocking warehouse shopping.

What can Jessy possibly want to purchase? Knowing her, cleaning supplies and nothing else. Maybe I will beg for another five pound bag of gummy bears. Maybe I will buy five more webcams, and wire the entire apartment to record the harrowing and mesmerizing adventures of Kiki, the scaredy-cat who watches me while I sleep. Maybe I will sit in the parking lot, gripping my knees, and rock back and forth, shrieking until the moon comes out (and then I will view it). When the employees ask me if I am okay, I will climb them like a jungle gym and defecate explosively, launching myself into space, where it is not summer, and where I love 95% of all people, and where my cat plays the keyboard and unlocks the mysteries of the universe.

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If I don’t fight, I’ll eat this planet

Go back to 1978 and clone Wal-Mart somewhat unsuccessfully with a drop of Japanese sweat thrown into the tubes and you’d end up with Kohnan (unrelated to Barbarian, Detective, and red-haired talk-show host), a self-proclaimed Home Center that sells everything from drinks to power tools, office supplies, and home decorations. Also they have forty gashapon machines. I went there with Jessy last night under the pretext of securing some supplies for our future-cat Kiki, who is now beginning to enter Earth’s atmosphere and will meteorically impact our apartment some time this weekend.

In the back of Kohnan there is a place called “Pet Land,” which sells all kinds of animals for totally exorbitant prices. The cats they have start at around 300 dollars, topping off at over a few thousand. For a mere $8,900 you could take home a genuine Harry Potter owl and watch him brutally murder your other pets to shreds then leave a rock hard excreted pellet of fur and bones on your sofa as he swivels his neck 270 degrees to watch you shit your pants.

Me, I enjoyed the fact that to purchase a prairie dog you’d literally have to shell out $3,800, and had past- and future-pity on any parents or outliers who were convinced by little Toshi that they really needed to welcome a prairie dog to the family. Is this the kind of shit that housewives spend their husbands’ money on, and is that why the suicide rate is so high in this country?

In my mind I played out a very real series of events beginning with a bunch of Midwestern folk loading their rifles, and ending with dozens of liquefied, mutilated prairie dog corpses littering the aisles while sobbing salarymen try to resuscitate them and protect their investments. Instead of gunshots ringing out there are only the clangs of cash registers, and at the end the Folk have subtracted a billion yen from the economy of Japan. While they listen to “More Than a Feeling,” the hunters construct World Champion Belts out of exhausted six-pack plastic rings then drape them around themselves like Persian silk before shouting “ya-heeeew” in unison and ejaculating wildly all over each other.

Though I steadfastly resisted the prospect of ever buying any sort of clothing items for my cat, one horrible decision was made in the form of a ten-dollar plush hat that velcroes to an animal’s head and makes them look like they are actually some kind of citrus fruit. I was powerless to resist Jessy’s tossing it in the basket, because I imagined my cat as a citrus fruit and it melted my decision-making center. I have spent more money on things in the past that brought results far less satisfying than photographs of my pet with a plush citrus fruit hat on his head will be, and that is a fact, as my limited edition Lotteria Evangelion hamburger calendar can attest to.

We also bought the cat lots of food that looks mostly like canned tuna, but it is in little pouches, and we bought the cat some meaty smoked snack sticks, which also look like canned tuna. I am not going to lie, I am wondering how long it will be until I taste the cat food.

Because buying bunches of shit for a cat I don’t have yet soured me, I needed to buy something for myself which had strong and immediate ramifications: a small metal grill with fold out legs and an adjustable grill rack, along with two kilograms of “coconut charcoal,” charcoal shaped like little donuts which smells kinda like coconut. This is my first grill in Japan, and it only cost ten bucks, which is a marked value when you consider other stupid purchases I have made in the past, like a plush citrus fruit hat for my cat to wear on his head. I plan on buying some meat, heating the charcoals, frying some rice on the stove with garlic butter, MSG, a dash of soy sauce, and some peas, and then cooking the meat and enjoying it all with a nice frosty Coke. I say Coke now not wanting to think about beer, because in the spirit of the heat I drank four cold beers not long before bed last night, and now it is two in the afternoon, and I am at work, and I have the most shameful mini-hangover in history. I’m such a weak shithead that I barely have the motivation to insult myself, and doing that is a pretty core element of my basic mental functions.

Jessy, if you’re reading this as I write it, which is impossible because I won’t be able to put it online until I get home, I am sorry that our apartment looks like you snuck in while you were gone and destroyed everything and used up a hundred dishes and didn’t pick anything up. In the future I will try to leave the house looking more like you’re used to seeing it after I’ve been home for a while, and less like I’m used to seeing it after you’ve been home for a while. P.S. you left your iPhone in the closet, P.P.S. I love you

– Today is the first day of September, and although that signals the beginning of fall in my mind, it has no bearing on the actual climate or weather or temperature, which is still as hot or hotter than it was yesterday and has been for the last three months and which makes me hate everything
– Corn on the cob, which you can so rarely find in Japan, and which I bought at the grocery store this week for $1.25 an ear, and which I felt all nostalgic shucking, and which was so, so goddamned delicious
– The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy, a book by Bill Simmons (a.k.a. The Sports Guy), which is 734 pages long and which I just finished today after a week of reading, despite having no concrete interest in either modern or historical basketball, and which is fantastic, and which at one point concerns itself with a multi-hundred page list of the 96 players Bill Simmons considers to be the best ever, and which contains hundreds of footnotes that I read, and which I really do not know why I kept reading but I read six times more of it than I have ever read into The Lord of the Rings
– My shoes, which are falling apart, and which bear now-flaking black paint, ensuring that nobody can possibly believe these are leather anymore
– Simple pleasures like crunchy plums, juicy grapes, Chili Tomato Cup Noodle, corn on the cob, and Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages, made all the more special by the fact that like many other things in Japan, their appearances are rare and fleeting, their prices high, and their tastes exceptional

Classes start up again at my main school in a couple of days, which means that after two months of twiddling my thumbs I’ll be back in front of the kids, being sized up by every pair of eyes, evaluated, silently judged. I have already blown several of my good games and activities on them throughout the first term so I think I’ll start off strong with a tell-me-about-your-summer-not-vacation-cause-you-were-at-club-activities-every-day lesson, then follow it up with Jeopardy trivia the following week to re-endear them to me. After that I can probably have them work on filling in speech bubbles for comic strips for a couple weeks, which will result in dozens of “I am gay I love you” jokes for me to read, and that brings us into October! Look, I just did four weeks of work in one minute.

In an effort to change our lives, my younger co-teacher (the one who is prone to inserting superfluous fucking curse words) has suggested that we go into business together. The kind of business will be “burger,” he says. We will have one item on the menu, the burger, and it will be the only thing that people will be allowed to buy. I suggested that we sell some fried potatoes (the term they use for French fries here), but no, just the burger. When the people come to order, we will ask “how about a burger,” and the customer will say “ok,” and if he says no, that is too bad because do not have anything that is not the burger. The name of the store will be “Burgers of Tom,” which he claims will be a good name for a burger shop because it is like the phrase Peeping Tom, even though the only two people that work there will be he and I, and there will be no Tom. Burgers of Tom, meet world.

So averse to the idea of beginning to teach classes again after our two months off, he mentioned to me that tomorrow he will surely see “some scenes of hell.” Most people have a concept of heaven and hell, he tells me, but most of the time he only experiences hell. The one way to ease the suffering of teachers returning to work, preparing to meet with scenes of hell?

Surely a delicious burger from Burgers of Tom.

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