Tag Archives: famicom

Many foreigners have come and gone

I’m eating a piece of Pumpkin-not-cake-not-bread baked thing, prepared by my “head teacher” who speaks shocking, disorienting, English that would be almost perfect except for the occasional times he just doesn’t know a word. Imagine conversing with a good friend of yours but then every now and then you bust out a sentence like “My sooth-saying has been verily challenged by your keen insight,” and then your friend says “what is keen?” He got the recipe off a website of some girl from Iowa who apparently posts recipes for baking things on the Internet. Remember when I used to post things on the Internet? The baked thing is not bad. I am eating it while drinking a paper container full of “abundant milk cocoa,” which tastes sort of like semi-notable chocolate milk. In the refrigerator are two ham and lettuce sandwiches, I am going to eat them later after the novelty of pumpkin thing wears off.

I took a really long trip to Thailand and Laos over the winter break, it was a thing. I only wrote anything down once in my notebook, because writing full on out my brain with a pencil and paper is too slow and I cannot keep up. This is what I wrote. I was gonna write more later, but then I did not, and the longer I don’t write something the more all I do is think about writing it instead of writing it. So here is what I have got from my trip, typed directly out of them pages and onto this screen.

STUFF I’VE GOT FROM MY TRIP

The first person we meet in Luang Prabang, which is a city in Laos, which apparently is a country, before anyone that seems interested in checking us into the hostel we’ve strolled up to, is a shorter, slightly more pathetically facial-haired version of a beanie-wearing young Matthew McConaughey, Dazed and Confused era, named Reuter, or Rutger, or Ruben, maybe it was Ruben, or something.  He says yeah mate a lot and cheerses our 10,000 kip (~1 US dollar) beers over virtually anything it is possible to cheers, even the act of clinking the bottles themselves together, yeah mate what a nice sound I will cheers to that.

He is on holiday with his “crew,” literally all of which have followed him to this very hostel, ten or so of them.  I recognize the types but cannot be sure if they are merely emulations of the filthy backpackin’ hippies we all know from movies and Woodstock reels or if this is what passes for one now.  As we talk about our lives submerged in a bit of drink I notice for the first time in my life that I feel acutely older than someone I could theoretically consider a peer.  I think the phrase is “I remember when I was your age.”  I don’t say it but wonder if my relaxed disposition gives it away–I don’t have the energy necessary to chameleonize anymore, and I’ve seen where the roads lead.  The mystery of the unknown is gone.  Or maybe that’s just it, I can just make it out up ahead like a familiar billboard.

LiORdjf

When Rooper begins laying down “the rules” of what goes down here at the $3 a bed per night dorm-style hostel I feel like I’m actually back in college, I am eighteen years old.  I check out, my brain turns in the keys.  They go off to smoke and drink, I hit the sack at 8:30, the day after my New Year’s Eve in another country entirely, off a handful of zs.  Then I am awakened by a baby, or two, screaming and screaming.  And a rooster squawking so hard its voice gives out, which I did not know could happen.  And the tuk tuk drivers, who are insane, parked outside the place, revving their little motorcycle engines like if they do it hard enough some tourist will jar himself loose from the sky and fall into the back, pay him 500% the normal rate for a trip across town.

The next day most of them leave, a thing I am sure of because of the elephantine stomping that echoes through the old house.  I know it is old not only because it is old but because there is a handwritten sign in the lobby, pieced together presumably by the owner, using the English phrases that seemed appropriate to him at the time.

We shall never replace the building with modern luxuries like concrete and steel, it says, we will not alter the building and will preserve its natural history.  This note is glued to the wall, written in permanent marker.  Up around the top of the room, where the walls meet the ceiling, I can just see some ornate decorative painted designs that have at some point been painted over, I step on a hastily repaired piece of wood as I pace the room to check them out. It creaks a little bit.

WELP THAT IS IT

We did other things on our trip too. For instance, I took a propeller plane and tried to not be scared of anything, because my New Year’s Resolution this year was “don’t be afraid.” I tried to clarify the resolution with explanatory conditions but can’t quite get it perfect the way I want though. Don’t be afraid of anything!!! seems a little broad, we should probably fear some things. But then if I start making exceptions I have to consider each time I am afraid of something if it’s a thing I am allowed to be afraid of, which is just bullshit so maybe I should leave it, don’t be afraid. Anyway I lived, on the propeller plane, then I bought some Valium without a prescription and a half-hour before my next flight I took some and woke up in the air with a mere half-hour to go, that worked pretty well.

I ate lots of food out of dirty filthy street carts and paid almost nothing for it, except my life. I drank lots and lots of beer and slept in beds next to strangers. One day I took a “cooking” class and didn’t really learn anything. I saw three movies. On New Year’s Eve, a neat band rocked my head off in a small bar while we drank Coca-Cola and gin out of a literal plastic bucket with straws, maybe four of us to a bucket. I was propositioned by suit tailors approximately eighty-five times. Before we came home to Japan I bought a cheap duffle bag and went to the supermarket, then filled it with food and checked it as my piece of luggage.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE LAST HOW MANY FUCKING MONTHS HAS IT BEEN NOW
– There is a new convenience store next to the exit for my usual station, it is a FamilyMart which is maybe my favorite kind, and I actually thought “finally, a new convenience store” even though there are already two of them on my way to work within three minutes walk of each other but I am so damned sick of them ooooohhhhh
– The yen is tanking because everything in the country I guess is turning to shit
– One of my short stories that I like got translated into Japanese by a couple friends of mine, I would show you it but it’s all in Japanese
– I bought a new kind of gum, it’s called “Megashaki” and inside each huge piece is a reservoir of sour Pop Rocks goop and you are like “yowza” when you bite it
– You can buy 7-Up here now
THAT IS OK I GUESS

I added up all the words in every Nom a Day I have ever written the other day, it was some crazy number like 132,000 words which would be really great if it was anything worth a damn!

But it is just this stuff.

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Ace’s guitar flies through space

Friend,

Maybe I should have changed the name of the page to Nom a Month.

The truth is that I’ve been occupied with real, honest-to-goodness stuff! I started reading an enormously long book called 1Q84, written by a pretty notable Japanese author named Haruki Murakami. In Japanese you pronounce it “ichi kyu hachi yon,” and it’s kind of a fun little pun because in Japanese the letter “Q” and the number 9 are both pronounced “kyu,” and a q and 9 look kinda the same and the book is sort of about an ALTERNATE 1984. But in the book’s English-translated form it doesn’t mean shit. Also I got this game for my Playstation called Rocksmith, and how it works is you hook any electric guitar up to it with a special cable, and you can learn to play songs along with it. I’m getting pretty good. Just last night I played a four-song set at the “Mouse Hole” and even performed an encore. I asked Jessy if she liked my “whip-ass bends,” but she did not seem to notice. The calluses on my left fingers are becoming formidable. I plan on using them to light strike-anywhere matches pretty soon, and once they are lit I will set fire to Jessy and ask if she likes my whip-ass bends now.

Work’s also been busy. We had exams last week, which meant I got to check and grade 320 separate English composition essays for the communication class I lead, in addition to 320 more essays that we wrote for a “presenting your opinions” review project we just finished. It was a pretty frantic time, during which I was alarmed at how not-bored I happened to be when I had work to do.

The weather is getting colder yet, with us, nearing the end of October, having finally entered the realm of temperatures that are routinely in the mid-60s during the day. Aside from a couple freakishly warm days last week, I can say that I’ve been unequivocally pleased with the general state of nature in my life lately. Sometimes we have the doors open, and the cold autumn wind rolls through, and I imagine how all those people who love summer must feel, and then I laugh a vengeful cackle as my black bones chill to their iron cores. It is my time! MY TIME

AMAZING, NOTABLE THINGS ABOUT ME AND THE THINGS I DO
– I went to the “Hard-Off” store about a week ago and got a ton of old Famicom shit for about 20 bucks, and it was the greatest day so far in my life
– On Monday I forgot to bring lunch, and when I got home I made linguini with homemade tomato sauce and a pound of burger in it and ate it with a huge chunk of crusty garlic bread like a savage and it was the greatest day so far in my life
– Got some beer the other day
– Captain America was a pretty awesome movie
– My birthday is in a couple weeks, I will officially turn 13 years old and finally outgrow this childish video game phase
– Jessy’s leaving for America pretty soon and while she is gone I will give her half of the wine bottles I open to our cat, who will not be seen with me around our friends when I act like this what is your problem
– One of my students wrote a review of Eric Clapton and called him “her god” and I thought girl you are too good for this country

MMMMM goodies

My work-snacks today have been based around three cans of clearance mandarin orange drink I got for fifty yen each at the Yoshiya store, they have little bits of orange pulp in them. Also I ate a rice ball with a slice of egg and a slice of bologna on it, and Mom always used to tell me there’d never be any market for the Eggy Meaty. Who is laughing now? It is me, I am the one laughing.

No but seriously all my time lately is being used on being at work, reading during my commute, cooking and eating supper at home, and playing guitar or some old video game with the time I have left. The last two weekends Jessy and I have packed up the picnic bag and took it down to the harbor and had a little picnic and it’s been pretty nice. It rained last Saturday and I wanted to go to Osaka and prowl around for a copy of The Goonies for Famicom but then it was raining and I was like nah I don’t wanna go to Osaka. No big adventures, no big trips, very few biting insights about Japanese culture here during my 26th month of life in Japan. Life continues.

Fondly,

You

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A part of nature

We think about it but only for a second, as is our wont, brain-service, pretty ideas. Apparently there is a large typhoon coming to meet us as we vacation in Tokyo, it’s gonna shake our hands a little bit, tell us what is up. Because we have not looked it up on the Internet or watched about it on television, it exists only in the real world, where nothing is real. Ignoring reality I go to Akihabara and buy a couple Famicom games at Super Potato, which is a name that makes no sense in any language. Jessy goes to Shibuya for clothes shopping at the trendy Shibuya 109 department store, where it is a virtual certainty that even the maintainence workers dress better than me. I’m gonna meet her in a few hours to give her time to buy stuff, but before we split up at Akiba station, my woman idiotically suggests that we spend money and buy some decent umbrellas, because it “might rain.” I tell her it is a stupid idea because carrying umbrellas is for rat finks, but fork over the clams anyway and tell her to get me a nice one. One hour later, as I push past the Gundam Cafe, which is deserted, I witness a teenage girl’s umbrella being ripped from her hands by a massive gust of wind. It implodes on itself forty feet in the air, metal pieces and vinyl careening end over end like it just bit the end of Char Aznable’s MS-06 Zaku II machine gun. She emits, as though a weak-battery klaxon, a pathetic whimper, and is instantly soaked from head to toe by sheets of rain. I pretend in my mind that she also explodes cause of the force of the rain and another, tinier her is forced to eject from within, to safety, to refuge. To avoid her same fate I let the spring down on my umbrella so it collapses shut around me like a comically large hat, point myself down, and proceed under heavy fire. Suddenly, for the first time in history, I am a rat fink.

Amidst this ridiculous tropical storm, I missionize: I’m off to the Akiba Mandarake store, a multi-floor complex of rare games, anime, figures, toys, comics, and freaks like me (the freaks are not rare). The store is named “Complex,” which is a fact you could find out if you visited their website, where you would also see that on this very day, they are closed for store inventory and renovation. My sneakers, over five years old, slosh with each step as the water seeps in through sole holes. There is no more room for the water to go. When I arrive at the Mandarake I already expect it to be closed due to the weather. Instead it is closed due to the pre-existing condition, which somehow dampens me from the inside. I turn around to meet a like-minded kindred spirit behind me, a homely boy with pudgy fingers gripping his tiny shit umbrella desperately. Exchanging no words our faces droop in soggy disappointment. It is time to take refuge in the least terrible place to be stranded: the greatest arcade in the world!!!!!!…? It is called HIROSE ENTERTAINMENT YARD. It has an entire floor just of shooting games, and the floor above that is entirely fighting games. In the arcade, which was teeming with people yesterday but is essentially my vacant playground today, I drop 100 yen into Night Striker, a sit-down cabinet with flashing lights on the sides and the loudest bass, man-shaking bass, of any video game I have ever played. It is one of the greatest experiences of my life and is over in six minutes, “ha ha ha.” Here is a video of some other schmoe who is lucky enough to have one in his garage playing, which will convey to you a fraction of the greatness. Look at the sides of the monitor frame, there are MOTORIZED FUCKING LIGHTS that zip around as you pass through the streets. This game along with Hideo Kojima’s 1988 Snatcher to me is the complete typification of late-80s cyberpunk Japanese animation and gaming and owes no small debt to Blade Runner and by no small debt I mean “massive debts.” I probably need one of these in my house whenever I get a house. Anyway here is a video, oh my god. (This is the U.S. cabinet but they’re pretty close whatever.)

Later, after I have exhausted all possible avenues of primarily non-moving entertainment possible by myself at 1 PM on a weekday in Akihabara, I hop on the Yamanote line and meet Jessy in Shibuya. We decide to leave Shibuya for Yokohama and stay at the hostel we have booked, and fast. Curiously, however, virtually every train out of town has been closed due to wind. So we rush to the one that hasn’t and buy a ticket. And then, as people smash out of the gates and toward the gates, they announce “yep this train is closed now hoo hee hee.” And I feel like I am at a concert again, surrounded by a thousand people, no literally probably more than a thousand. We decide it would be nice if the group “ebbed” us over in the direction of that stairway, but have little choice in the matter, like the flakes of Oreo left over in your coffee mug of milk. We go only the way we are sloshed, and finally emerge broken mans. There is no refuge–even the walls of the jewelry stores are packed with people who cannot stand around outside cause of the rain and wind, and cannot leave cause all of the trains are closed. Having nothing to do we push up the street into Shibuya, away from the station, where it is getting dark but the lights make it bright, and notice a huge tree in the middle of the road. This tree is special because it has landed on a taxi. Instead of trying to clear the debris or help in any way or even allow support personnel to the scene, dozens of Japanese do as the Japanese do and huddle around, trying to grip their umbrellas tightly so they don’t blow away, holding their cell phones in the other hand, pushing around each other to snap the best picture. This is so insane that I laugh out loud like a diseased banshee, the deranged caterwaul of a pleasure-seeking feline echoing in the streets. But not before I take a picture like a serious piece of shit.

Burgertime

In order to waste time, maybe thinking that if we wait around long enough the typhoon will hurry up and magically disappear and all the trains will open up again and we will somehow need to go somewhere in Tokyo and stay the night despite having no place to stay anymore on account of we had to cancel our hostel reservation in Yokohama since we could not get there, we decide to pop into a little ramen place and eat so much food that I literally split in half down the middle and all my guts come out in the street and I die and I am now dead as I type this. But after we eat, the hot reality sets in. In our hands-off approach to our vacation we have been thrust into adventure, exactly what we desired! Stuck in Tokyo, weather-a-ragin’, people all around us, and no plans–nowhere even to sleep! Gracious!

There are a few ways to sleep overnight in a Japanese city that you cannot leave and do not live in. You can rent out a karaoke box all night, or go to a manga cafe and lie in the room while your body stink drugs you to sleep, or (generally, only if you are a male) visit one of those fabled capsule hotels where you doze in a little pod in the wall like at a mausoleum. But if you are On The Double, and maybe want somewhere to shower and relax, which is to say if you are looking for a hotel, you are probably going to find something that calls itself a hotel but is not actually a “hotel.” Yes, you will invariably stumble upon the infamous “love hotel.”

Can I tell you what a love hotel is? A love hotel is an infamous part of modern Japanese culture, a generally ritzy, tacky affair with ridiculous, usually themed interiors and exteriors where you can go in and get a room for you and your new(est) honey to share. The trick is that you might only want to share it for a little while, know-what-ahm-sahn, so you can choose to “rest” rather than “stay,” with a “rest” coming at a reduced rate. The only reliable way to actually differentiate a “real” hotel from a love hotel is seeing if they offer a rest rate. If they let you pay less to stay less, bingo! It’s a love hotel. Stranded in a foreign city, looking only for a place to stay on short notice? Good news, world-weary traveler–you are about to sleep somewhere that people mainly use to fuck!

Price of admission

Conveniently, we are stuck in an area of Shibuya called Dougenzaka, affectionately nicknamed “Love Hotel Hill” because of the concentration of love hotels on the hill up behind Shibuya 109, where Jessy was just purchasing clothing hours before. The decision is made easily–tonight is love hotel night–but the matter of selecting a place in which we are allowed to pay small fees for the privilege of performing the duties of consenting adults proves a trickier task. I personally am sort of into the idea of staying at the most depraved-looking one we can find, with the bright lights and the weird names, but we end up stumbling into one that has an exterior decorated like a Japanese rock garden, and I figure this could be it. Any doubts I have are allayed when, as we ponder the selection of rooms (each one has a picture and prices by it) on the large selection wall, I notice a classy, suit-wearing middle-aged man emerging with his elegant middle-aged lady from the elevator. Having, presumably, just finished his business, he stops in front of the payment window, which is barred off so you can see only a glimpse of the elderly woman behind it, offers two crisp bills through the slot below, and says “thanks for every time we visit.”

My mind races with questions!! Is this woman he’s with just “today’s woman?” How often does he come here to be on such friendly terms with the payment lady? Doesn’t it make the woman embarrassed that her man has, in front of her, thanked the love hotel payment lady for ALL THE TRIPS HE HAS MADE HERE? None of the questions matter on any functional level though, for I already have all the information I need: for one reason or another, this literal mother fucking man has a favorite love hotel. He has been around the block, he’s seen what’s out there! And he’s made this his go-to, his number one. Must be a classy joint! If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me! We push a little electronic button on the wall next to our lit-up room, and it de-lights. The lady slides a key under the window. In our room on television there is a laminated plastic card that informs us the adult cinema channel is channel A2. I push it immediately, and see a woman being used somewhat how a cow works, except you put all the milk inside the cow first and then it shoots it out. Good christ did I type that? We change the channel after about 30 seconds, fully 18 seconds longer than I was mentally prepared to watch. At the head of the elevated bed, in our room decorated traditionally Japanese and the air heavy with the stale smoke of years of post-coital fumes, there is a small paper package containing two condoms. I feel sorry for anyone who has entered this room in the past, finding themselves wanting for one more or left with another to spare. I think about it only for a second, as is my wont, long enough not to forget.

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SUPERMARKET FANTASY

I have taken to occasionally enjoying a cigar on my Tuesday evenings, just a small one. I usually pick one out from the pack tenderly like I’m examining a flip-top coffin full of grasshoppers, confused but interested in its grotesqueness. The ritual is still new to me. They are just little guys, the size of golf pencils, and finish in something like ten minutes, if I am paying attention to what I am doing. I always wanted to be a cigar smoker, but never a smoker. There have been times in my life when I’ve smoked, though I never considered my smoking making me one who smokes, just a man who at this time, and during times occasional in the past and future, has and will do the same.

It is a strangely isolated pursuit for me, most chiefly because of how I must do it. I can’t just curl up in my chair with a tiny implement and a game controller, or puff away in the kitchen. I need to proceed outside to my balcony, structured more for utility than enjoyment, and drag on among my drying clothes and air conditioning vent fan. I sit on the concrete, back against my sliding glass door, and peer between socks or undergarments out into the evening. On floor seven surrounded by monolithic apartment buildings I feel totally alone but also as though I am being watched–by anyone, by everyone, by someone, at least. But I am also low enough to the ground that I can peer over the railing at the people biking or walking. They are surely oblivious to the tiny man up on floor seven having a novel Cuban cigar and barely peeking through his railing. A miniature thrill.

I focus on the tastes that I notice: warm flavors, the tinge of wood, of sweetness. On the Internet they tell me that people often associate their cigars with spiciness, and it becomes immediately apparent, like eating chocolate with chilis in it. You are supposed to swish the smoke around in your mouth but not inhale it as you do with other smoked material. I do it wrong the first few times and realize my error.

This is my solitude, my Japanese isolation. I stream music through my Playstation and pump it out the screen door for something to break the ambient distance-grind of whining motorcycles.

I usually make it about seven minutes before going back inside.

It’s 27 degrees today, which is much hotter than it sounds to someone used to Fahrenheit, though I cannot give you the exact number without working to discover it. Me, I haven’t been fully able to internalize the conversion scales, both due to their complexity and owing to the fact that all it would do would be allow me to transpose one meaningless number for another. Instead, what I do know is that 27 feels about like this: uncomfortable, moist, the absence of pleasantness. The Firm Awareness that spring is over and I don’t want to be outside anymore. Each degree higher adds another level of discomfort. When we get to 30 or 31, as we were upon my arrival in Japan, the repeated cries of “hot, hot” throughout the office will be the only things I hear from the staff members that aren’t blowing days of paid time off in a row.

I have made it another week without turning on the apartment air conditioner, a minor achievement since I would have done it last night without Jessy’s unreasoned, threatless warnings not to. It is both my failing as an independent man and my escalating success as a future husband that I credit with this blind, defeatist patience. I have recognized that it is worth even less to get what I want than it is to preserve the effort I would need to expend to argue with that beast in my own defense. Hi, Jessy!

Things are as busy as they have been for a month or so now. The day job, evening Japanese classes, teaching night school, social functions of all sorts, and natural human fatigue are all working together to keep me from cooking up any magnificent schemes, the kinds of things testament to the potential of guys with too much time on their hands (can openers built from LEGO bricks, balloon-popping laser guns harvested from CD drives, pizzas topped with cheeseburgers). I tell myself on occasion that it is for the best, that this routine busy-ness will allow me to cherish the times I do have free. But it is a lie. When I find myself with nothing to do I am compelled merely to enjoy a beer and my wild cherry incense, staring blankly at the match-up screen for Super Street Fighter IV. True relaxation?

So what I’ve ultimately decided is that I am probably happier busy, but just get tired too quickly. I’ve gone from compulsively waking up at 6:45 to waking up at 6:00, and the last two days it’s been 5:15 with no desire to go back to bed. This usually results in my getting home from the day around 9:20 and immediately falling asleep on the living room rug while Jessy idles away on the PC until one a.m. for no reason. Did I mention it’s really hot right now?

As if to make matters somehow better, I received in the mail yesterday two video games I’ve been waiting on for a while, 3D Dot Game Heroes, and Super Mario Galaxy 2. A joke! A cruel fucking joke from the universe to me. The bright spot at the end of this ridiculous tunnel is that Japanese classes go on hiatus beginning at the end of the month, and so do classes for summer break, leaving essentially the whole of July and August rather stress free. I will go in to the office as usual, but need not do any teaching or studying, and things will be good except for the Brutal Humid Heat!

As I mentioned last week, I did indeed make it to Osaka’s Nipponbashi (or Den Den Town), the Kansai area otaku’s holy Mecca of all things anime and retro-gaming. Inside one store, Englishized from the Japanese as “Retro TV Game Revival,” I found my Famicom, modified with AV cables so it can work on modern TVs. Work it does–and reminds me of the better (worse) times, when the mere display of an image on the TV was good enough to classify your system as working. The picture this thing puts out is Not Good, especially compared to the flawless output of my magical homebrewed Wii retrobox paradise. But it does output, which I suppose is all I ask. The controller cables are also a comical length, maybe three feet? And hardwired directly into the system. Joy!

JAPANESE BEE’S KNEES
– The new Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, a man who is known mostly for being not from a political family, and for being prone to irateness
– Goddamned McDonalds, who took my favorite menu item, the Juicy Chicken Akatogarashi (red spicy deep fried chicken sandwich), which has been a regular menu item since I arrived last August, off the stupid menu and replaced it with nothing of any value
– The new Evangelion 2.22 movie finally coming out on Blu-ray and being the highest selling Blu-ray in Japanese consumer history
– A man in the station today, who on his bag bore a rubber keychain with an emblem reading in all capital block letters, “SUPERMARKET FANTASY,” and the consideration mentally of what exactly such a thing might be
– Online shopping in Japan, a process during which you select not only the exact day but the down-to-the-hour time range that you want the goods to be delivered (up to 9 p.m. even on weekends), and then pay the courier in cash for your stuff when he arrives
– New Cup Noodle flavor “MEAT KING,” which is loaded with chunks of dehydrated, brown-colored salty meat, and little bits of dehydrated chickeny meat, and which is really delicious, at least about as delicious as Cup Noodle can get
– The vending machines, which all humorously were switched out to stop offering the hot versions of their drinks on June 1st just as all the office workers changed their wardrobes
FEE FI FO FUM

I managed to order a random grab bag of ten Famicom cartridges with my cell phone entirely in Japanese last week, and they were delivered COD to my apartment tonight. More and more I come under the impression that my Famicom will be used less as a legitimate gaming device, and mostly as the tool with which to humorously cruise through these grab bags of cheap games. I am surprisingly okay with this. Inside this first bag, among the original Super Mario Bros., Tiny Toon Adventures 2, and some mahjong game, was a copy of a game literally translated as Princess Tomato of the Kingdom of Salad. It got an English release in 1991, the accomplishing of which I am sure involved some sort of miracle on the part of the guy pitching that one to the board (okay, you are a princess, and you are a tomato, and you are in a kingdom made of salad, and the game is a text adventure entirely in Japanese, and I want to translate it and sell it to kids for fifty dollars each). I will tell you what the man likely did after the board of directors gave him the go-ahead for that one: sat on his balcony and smoked a nice cigar, even if he wasn’t sure why.

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Congratulation this story is happy end

You can tell it is summer because Cool Biz is in full swing, kicked off for this fifth year by then-Prime Minister Hatoyama yesterday. Cool Biz is a humorous government initiative which is so subversively lovely that I cannot believe it actually was rendered into being. In 2005, one of Koizumi’s cabinet lackies somehow got this initiative going, which says that instead of wearing a suit and tie all summer and sweating your face off, employees of companies should wear light, breathable pants, shirts with starched collars and the top button undone, and no ties. Apparently this baffled workers, who, when confronted with the idea of needing to vary their wardrobes, simply locked up: many people brought their jackets to work anyway and kept their ties in their pockets. The other part of the initiative is that of eco-friendliness: as part of this deal, offices should keep their air conditioners at no lower than 28 degrees Celcius, which according to useless statistics produced by the Ministry of Something or Other saved Millions and Millions of units of measurement of CO2 emissions. The necktie companies–understandably–were pissed.

It was so interesting to the media when it first started in 2005 that people speculated about instituting something that would be called Warm Biz, which I guess would involve wearing turtlenecks? It was a stupid idea and never happened, presumably because it is easy to be warm in a three-piece suit and tie and offices never turn their heat on anyway.

Anyway, like I said, Cool Biz was officially kicked off on the first thanks to Hatoyama, who, in his humorously final effort as the Prime Minister of Japan, showed up to be photographed in one of his famously bad fashion sense trademark ridiculous Okinawan floral shirts, cool as a fucking cuke. Today, of course, the goon announced his resignation on public television, most chiefly many believe as a result of his continual failure to “solve the Futenma issue” (relocation of some United States army bases in Okinawa), whatever solving that would entail. Also there was an issue of tax fraud by one of his cabinet members, and a scandal about inheriting lots of money from his mommy early in his tenure, and the fact that he is a weak, shriveled carrot, weeping in the rain. One thing that probably didn’t hurt him but should have is his verifyably legit wacko wife, who is on record as saying she derives powers from consuming the sun, among other bizarre assertations.

All of this led to a frantic and confused scene as I passed through Sannomiya station on my way to work today, with big camera crews asking people what they thought as the bored elderly pretended to be surprised at this shocking turn of events for their chance to show up on the news. Giant one-shot newspapers were taped up on the support columns as though not every single person in the fucking country owns a cellphone that likely immediately informed them of this as it happened. I saw some people walking up to the paper distributors to secure a copy of this newspaper, ostensibly for their records, as a memento of that one time when the fourth Prime Minister in five years vacated office.

What does this mean for Japan? Only that soon it will be time for new McDonalds sandwiches, I will need to drag my sweat hanky out of storage, and a variety of seasonal beverages will assault the convenience store shelves. Just like that, the first circle nears completion: four whole seasons in Japan, the only country with seasons (didn’t you hear?). It was not so long ago I would fall asleep at 5 P.M. and wake up at 3 A.M., confused that I was still in Japan and annoyed that I had no clothes washer, air conditioner, dishes, Internet, television, or food.

In an exciting contrast, I am currently of 66% of a mind to take some of the small amount of money I have left after being reamed by my student loans and paying for my new three-month transit passes and go to Osaka on Friday, which happens to be a compensatory day off for me. I am peculiarly thinking of going after something I really don’t need but really do want, as it goes with most things: an original Famicom system and a handful of games. A piece of technology released four months before I was born, designed to play games taking up data space no more than one of the images on this page, outputting signals through RF modulation to my high-definition television. This, despite the fact that I can already play every Famicom game ever made and then some on my Wii, with progressive D-terminal video and sound, wireless controllers, and save-anywhere options.

But the problem is not in functionality, the problem is that I grew up in the States, and not in Japan, and so I feel like I missed out on something (even if what I got in its place was just great). I feel the underpinnings of some desire, some element of society seeping into my mind, the urge to connect, the voices of a sub-culture that doesn’t exist anymore, preserved in password books and old magazines and circuit boards in cluttered stores. It’s not the same picking the game from a menu and holding a Wii controller! I missed out on brightly colored hunks of plastic! I wanna flip the little red lid up and slam in a Famicom game! And why shouldn’t I be able to?

And so I’m going to leisurely assemble over the next however many years a mini-library of my favorite old inexpensive Nintendo games, clad in Japanese clothing. I do not want to be a “collector,” to buy rarities and troll for garbage, just a game player! I can do it totally on the cheap, and it will give me a reason to frequent the retro-game stores and buy hundred-yen clearance pit specials, something I desperately need as an excuse to get my ass outside and feel the culture, especially since I moved on from dropping coins on gashapon months ago with the end of our torrid love-affair. Also a classic Famicom will look bitchin’ sitting under my plasma television. Just look at this tall glass of water:

Ain’t she a beaut? How could a reasonable gamer such as myself find no necessity in this? How could he pass up the opportunity to embark on such a quest now, in this country, surrounded by it? It is so obvious. I will type one-sentence reviews of my hauls, annotate them with photographs and prices, and force N-Sider to post them handfuls at a time, drowning any actual content that may have existed. It is going to be glorious and awesome, and on a hot summer night, seated under the air conditioner with a Suntory THE PREMIUM MALT’S (actual spelling), I will stay up until two, beat Super Mario Bros., hit an 8-bit home run, bust fools in Dig Dug, and get a zillion points on Galaga. And it will be great (?).

CRAZY JAPANESE WHOOPTY-DOOS OF THE WEEK
– New Baobab Pepsi, which has a good flavor that may taste like baobab, not that I (or probably anyone in Japan) would know what that tastes like since it is the name of a Madagascarian tree bearing a fruit that I have never eaten or even seen
– Also new Bacon Potato Mayo Cup Noodle, which tastes sort of like a theoretical “bacon soup” with ramen in it, and is really not as awesome as it sounds
– Today my office smells kind of like basement, which I think may be a result of them kicking on the air conditioners on-schedule, after several months of winter dormancy
– Seriously getting fucking tired of being given non-chopstick eating utensils at the convenience store with my bentos, like today I got a gyudon bento, which is strips of beef and onions on rice, and I got it to work and sat down to eat it and there is not a fork, not a spork, but a spoon, a goddamned spoon in there, like how on planet shit with dogfart clouds am I supposed to eat strips of beef and onions with a spoon, goddammit, and I had to go into my bag and find a pair of forgotten wooden chopsticks at the bottom that were age and moisture-warped into the shapes of fucking pirate-ship slats and it was still easier to eat my gyudon with those than it would have been to eat it with a damn spoon, like I mean is it cause I’m obviously a white person? cause if it is I mean I made it to Japan, you know, I am dressed in Cool Biz, I have a keitai strap, you idiot, I am making a living in your country here and I think I am obviously smart enough to eat with two sticks, like I most certainly must have encountered oh every day for the last three hundred days, and if you just are giving spoons to every Taro Yamamoto that comes in this store, what is your goddamned problem anyway? fuck
– Carrying the garbage on the elevator on my way to work and meeting two kind ladies in the elevator down from my apartment who greeted me with a konnichiwa, asked if I spoke Japanese, asked where I was from and what I did and where and made me feel really good about how my basic Japanese skills are progressing, then asked me in English if I knew the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I said yes I know them and they gave me a pamphlet and we said thank you have a nice day and it was a good thing I was already going to the dumpsters
– All television commercials, news programs, variety shows, and other programming
NO MORE WHOOPTY-DOOS THIS WEEK

Last weekend I went with one of my friends to play some darts, a place up on the fifth floor of some building in Sannomiya. The name of the bar was Club Bee, which a man on a loudspeaker pronounced “BEE-eh, BEE-eh, BEE-eh” whenever a new customer entered. Stepping off the elevator was a challenge in itself, as the entire entryway is clad in shiny metals, with no less than four distinct doors and no indication which is the correct one to enter. Touching any door handle actually causes the sultry voice of a female to exclaim, presumably in ecstasy, over the speakers: “Stop it!” or “Ooh, that’s sexy…” When we finally found the correct door, we were presented with a situation worthy of our efforts: hundred-yen dart boards, drinks, and air conditioning. In Cool Biz season, such simple pleasures are essentially all I require.

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