Tag Archives: food

Now they grow up sharing McDonald’s and Disneyland

I’ve taken to wearing a beard and mustache, which I prefer to spell moustache, for no explicit reason. Having never actually witnessed what happens when I do not shave my face, I decided to give it the old college try for the first time last November, a month that some people have taken to dubbing “movember,” perhaps because mustache starts with an m and they want a sanctioned excuse to not shave and look like filthy mountain men. It was a short-lived experiment, I didn’t like the way it felt. When I left for Thailand at the end of December I decided not to bring my electric razor cause it was bulky. I haven’t shaved anything off since then except for a little trimming. So here I am, kinda mustachey, kinda beardy. It took a while before people at my schools started remarking on it, but things are in full swing now. It came to my attention the other day, via one of my good co-workers, that “many” of the students have been asking “why” I am now wearing hair on my face. I told him, as I struggled to come up with an answer, that I was basically doing it to see what it would be like. They thought it was hilarious, a reaction I often encounter when I say something that is not funny at all.

I told them that Jessy liked it, that it was just kind of interesting to see, personally, how it would come in, if my mustache and beard would ever connect (they won’t, it seems), what I would look like. I asked them if they had ever grown a mustache or beard and they said no. One of them is probably sixty, the other is two weeks younger than me. I considered asking why they had never tried it, just to put them in my shoes. I did not ask them. In a way this minor act of growing hair on my face almost makes me feel more foreign, since nobody at the school has a mustache or beard–I feel like I’m slowly re-Americanizing myself in preparation for the move back home.

Speakin’ of America I accidentally got into a conversation about old times today and found some pictures that I had of my room when I lived in Pittsburgh, and it sorta depressed me because I looked at them and the first thing I felt was man, I miss living in that place. Like you always think about a time when you are most happy or something, and I really felt “I was more happy then than I am now” and it was kind of a sad thought. I want to be happy! I wonder what it is I need to change or do. Maybe it is just the impermanence of living here that is driving me crazy, not that anywhere else I’ve ever lived has been any more permanent. It kind of seems like the times I get the most depressed are when I’m sitting here at night school doing jack shit except thinking about things that I used to do, which is probably confirmation of my brand new and groundbreaking theory that idle hands lead to minds that wish their hands weren’t idle but don’t have the ambition to make them move. Yes that’s it

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE NOM
– Today’s gummy snack from the FamilyMart, featuring three different flavors of gummies: melon soda, cola, and lemon sour, and named “Cola up! &Friends”
– My distinctly non-romantic idea that because tomorrow is Valentine’s Day me and Jessy should go on a date “to the curry restaurant in the basement in Sannomiya that we both really like” but hey she was like OH MY GOD YEAH and I was like take that, someone
– The loudspeaker van that I walked past on the way to school that was yelling in the top of its lungs about Japan needs to REVIVAL!!!!! but he sounded so angry about it
– Ate McDonald’s MEGA MUFFIN the other day for breakfast, it was pretty mega if i am to be perfectly honest with you. It is part of their annual “Big America” series of strangely-themed “American” sandwiches like Texas Burger and Idaho Burger that are both nothing like anything available in America and at the same time a good reflection of what a global burger company comes up with when they want to portray “America” to the average Japanese person
mcdsTHE END OF FOOD IN JAPAN

I went to karaoke last weekend again with some pals, a kind of renaissance of karaoke after having not really gone in over a year or so. Evidently, somewhere along the line, the Big Echo place replaced all their ancient fuckin’ TVs and the horrible stock videos that play behind the lyrics with brand new widescreen TVs and newly-shot HD videos. It’s kind of a bizarre change, updating the old fashions for the new. The old videos were really amazing in a way, most of them obviously shot at-or-around the turn of the century, full-frame, people in ridiculous clothes and dated storefronts, hilarious foreign actors recruited by Japanese companies to shoot these things. These new ones are sort of a strange anachronism, brand-new high-definition video matched up to goofy lyrics for Take Me Home Country Roads like some teenagers hangin’ out in an apartment eating pizza or whatever. I feel like there’s a short story in there somewhere, that whole scene must just be the weirdest goddamned thing.

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He ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends

If there’s a single decent thing about summer it is that it reminds me that life isn’t always this shitty like it is now, that no matter how much I hate sweating to death and being sapped of energy and moving, at all, things by default will be better when winter rolls around again. You ever heard of that made up mental illness called “SAD” which is short for seasonal affected disorder only I think they say it is from people who have no sunlight? Maybe I am the opposite of that. TOO MUCH SUN. Anyway, I don’t know how long it took me, in my life, to realize that I had seasonal preferences. Maybe it wasn’t until I even came to Japan that, like with my declared religious belief, favorite food, “hobbies,” and other menial answers to frequently asked questions, I firmly decided to Ultimately Choose that winter was my favorite and I hate summer. It just makes things easier, since nobody understands my ambling, self-exploratory responses that play around the edges of answers like people fingering the ridges of a quarter with the end of their thumbnail. One word answers are king here, where people would rather not have to work to understand what I’ve just said.

Maybe part of it is that there is literally nothing I would ever enjoy doing that would be much better in summer than it would be in winter, appropriately clothed at least. Beach party? Pf. WINTER beach party? Sign me up. Grilling outside in the scorching heat? Fuh. Cooking a pot of stew over a log fire while exposed to the elements? YEAH! What I mean is just that unless the occasion is “being scantily clothed outside,” and actually enjoying it, I will take winter, especially this pussy willow Kobe winter, where At Freezing makes people bitch and complain, and I am like “ah, this is great.”

On my sweaty walk home from a small office party last night, some crazy man followed me and my coworker through the ticket gate (he ducked under the barrier to avoid paying), then followed us onto our train, and for a few stops repeatedly gestured toward me while speaking to other random people sitting down, trying desperately to ignore him. He was saying stuff in Japanese like “hey, check out this foreign guy, don’t you want to take a picture of him, I bet he is American, they sure beat us in the war, they sure did their best in that war didn’t they, look at this tall gaijin, he sure ain’t Japanese.” I told me coworker that in America we have a nice phrase that goes something like “fuck off” that we would say to annoying idiots like this, but in Japan it is generally accepted that if you pick a fight, absolutely nobody else is going to help you, look at you, or say anything at all. I turned my back to him, occasionally making eye contact with other horrified passengers, a stupefied grin on my face, shrugging my shoulders like Michael Jordan hittin’ ethereal threes. “Sorry dudes, I just am so foreign.” then i killed the guy

WEIRD SHIT THAT SHOULD SEEM WEIRDER THAN IT DOES TO ME BUT I HAVE BEEN HERE TOO LONG
– Didn’t have my hanky yesterday cause I washed it and it needed to dry, felt tangibly uncomfortable all day with no hanky to dab my forehead with
– I ate a cow’s tongue last night and actually thought it was delicious
– Drinking almost exclusively green tea, am beginning to be able to tell the slight differences between different types
– Fake bands made of fake high-school girls wearing real bikinis continue their relentless popularity, “obviously”
– Of course you can’t buy beans in the grocery store, why would they need strange ethnic foods like beans in the normal supermarket
ENOUGH

I’m taking three days off next week for summer leave, during which I plan to cook awesome food and visit a local beer brewery. For some reason I am thinking that the perfect accompaniment to my vacation would be a viewing of Doctor Zhivago, I am truly becoming insufferable.

Love,
Brandon

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Gluttony, ammunition, and shopping

Thanks to my selective video capture, the presentation I give to my students once I’m back in Japan will likely elucidate the following things about The Home of the Brave: we eat huge, extravagant meals, shoot guns, shop in stores where there are fifty kinds of cheese and an entire aisle of potato chips, and our houses are enormous. Is this America? Well.

The story of the trip has been shopping, and going to places to shop, and being in stores and not shopping, and buying stuff anyway. America is truly the Land of the Deal, and the perpetual promise of weekly sales, deep discounts, and huge stores with shelves full of items keeps the hunt entertaining if totally unnecessary. I have acquired enough Blu-rays and PS3 games to last me longer than I’ll ever have to watch and play them. I have three new card and board games, a bag of stuff for Jessy, plenty of exotic snacks, and fifty pounds of flight allowance on a second checked parcel, should I choose to exercise the option. Currently I am leaning toward wrapping a box with string and tape and filling it with mac & cheese and Triscuits then lugging it awkwardly all the way back to Japan.

With a Spanish .380 pistol in my hand the other day I found myself squeezing off a few rounds at the Buena Vista Gun Club, an impossible novelty after a while in the Central Land of Reed Plains, where guns are like lasers, or ninja stars to Americans–Hollywood inventions, manufacted nethecite. Surely I am better a person for knowing how to load and discharge a variety of firearms safely for entertainment or self-defense. I often run into arguments with people from other countries or those who support the total abolishment of guns. I don’t ever have much to say to them because handling both sides of the guns/no guns debate is like juggling handfuls of sand in a wind tunnel. But shooting guns ain’t as easy as you see in Hawaii Five-0. You don’t hear anyone arguing for the abolishment of bows, and I saw this TV show the other day where a hunter shot a balloon from like two football fields away holy shit. Anyway we are all still alive, and the guns didn’t jump out of our hands and murder anyone for drugs or because of a baby mama, because we are not idiots.

Last night was New Year’s Eve, which we spent watching the hometown Sioux City hockey team playing like total amateurs (which they basically are), compared to the Pittsburgh hockey I am used to seeing on television. I drank two huge cups of cheap draft beer from a plastic cup and swore more loudly at the ineptitude of the passing game as time bore inexorably on. We lost, poor bastards, and to celebrate I came home and ate buffalo chicken wings and mozzarella sticks.

To make a list of all the stuff I’ve eaten here that I can’t eat without a struggle or can’t eat at all in Japan would be an exercise. Can I remember it chronologically? Doubtful. Giant Culver’s mushroom and swiss burger with cheese balls and a root beer, beef burrito from Estas, Red Hot beef burrito from a gas station, chicken Pad Thai from Thai Kitchen, pork chops, steak, big bowls of soup, a country-fried steak and gravy biscuit from Hardee’s, Chic-fil-a spicy chicken sandwich, spicy Pad Thai in Storm Lake, some Taco John’s burritos, a few frozen pizzas, delivery pizza, chicken and noodles, curry rice, deli chicken, mac and cheese TV dinner, and a bunch of other totally unhealthy garbage.

Today, as retribution, we are having cornish hens. This makes up for it because they are entire hens, and each person gets their own.

They are cornish, which must count for something.

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Sake it to me

Thanks to the overnight sleeper-bus “Southern Cross,” we arrive here in Hiroshima at an unprecedented hour: 7:00 a.m. or thereabouts, standing at the base of what they call quite descriptively “the Atomic Bomb Dome.”  Not too far from the hypocenter of the blast, this place has been meticulously preserved to remain precisely as it was left on the day of the bombing, and I can’t imagine too concretely that it doesn’t.  Over there’s the target, the T-shaped bridge used as a sight-up by the pilots from the air.  There’s barely anyone around this early, not even the swarms of American cruise-line tourists have arrived yet.  We joke about how many of them will pose in front of this thing with a thumbs-up–check it out, look where I am!!

While we wait for the museum proper to open we chomp on donburi at nearby order-from-a-ticket-machine 24-hour establishment Nakae, where at 8:15, to commemorate the exact moment that the thing exploded, I eat gyudon in a modern building in an area that even an educated bystander would be unable to recognize as one where anything out of the ordinary happened. In the museum they talk about how people were instantly vaporized, run demo reels of atomic bomb tests, show scale models of the blast range before and after. You can even touch certain artifacts recovered from the debris (you can touch these, they are safe), convenient Japanese/English placards read.

But we too, are bastards, here under false pretenses: though we are intrigued by the dome, the visiting of the memorials and the museum, the park, the paper cranes–and perhaps because of them–we really want to drink.  You see, though we may have come for the depression, we stay to also blow it to oblivion with lots of sake at the annual Hiroshima Sake Matsuri, a ridiculous extravaganza of which this is the 20th, and admission to which costs about fifteen bucks and gets us each a tiny sake cup.  From here the massive hordes walk around a tremendously crowded park-turned-fair, with occasionally placed booths separated by regions of Japan (Shikoku, Kinki, Chubu, etc).  At each one you hold your cup out and have it filled by an attendee with Some Kind Of Sake.  Apparently there exists some sort of method to determine which of the literally several hundreds you have already tried.  It seems a feat so counter-intuitive in its implementation that it must simply exist as some sort of elaborate Japanese joke–after eight or twelve or fifteen gulps of sake you cannot remember (or care) which ones you’ve tried, or how many, or from where, and to attempt to chart your progress would be an endeavor most meaningless.  I imagine fair organizers laughing heartily as they black-magic-marker off certain wines from the entrance list, organized by call letters and code names most menacing:  “Yamanake-san! H-32 is all gone!  Sure it is!  AHAHAHA!!!!” while the solemnly OCD checklist makers weep silently in the corner, then stop caring cause they are all so blitzed they don’t even know what checklists are anymore.

At and around the vicinity of this fair, we eat steak on a stick, deep-fried battered chicken meat with skin still attached all hot and bubbly, a tray of yakisoba, an ice cream bar, and maybe some other stuff?  I drink lots of sake.  As I wait near the exit for Jessy, I witness one stumbly-Joe drop his tiny sake cup and immediately stagger backwards, stepping right on it, while his friends try to hold him up.  One younger woman bends over to pick up the two halves of the neatly destroyed cup and I wonder maybe if the souvenirs from past Sake Matsuris are perhaps more quaint if they are left on a shelf busted in half: here’s the one from the year I drank a lot of sake, and here’s the one from the year I drank really a lot of sake, and here is the one that etc. etc. etc.

Deftly navigating the trains half-catatonic back to the city proper among hordes of like-minded individuals is a feat justly rewarded by our viewing of music-oriented stage production Blast!, which is performed by a cadre of talent including a way-back trumpet-playing acquaintance of Jessy’s. Meeting up with him outside the venue afterwards has to rank up there with the experiences I’ve had most resembling those I would have if I were in some way notable or famous, as simply Looking American while hanging around talking to him ensures I am accosted by swarms of schoolkids, elderly music enthusiasts, and passers-by tugging on my jacket to say “burasuto!” or hold up their program and a pen for an autograph. No, no, I’m nobody, do I even resemble anyone you’ve seen before? I should have signed their programs anyway, if only for the amusement. “American guy,” the most famous and rare of the Blast! entourage!

I have considered including a feature in upcoming Nom installments in which I recap notable tweets of the last week or so. It occurs to me that I often merely throw up a quick picture or tweet of items and events that maybe are worth writing about, but are relegated to a recent-few notification list on my sidebar or a fleeting stint as a Facebook status. I have been informed that however revelatory, my grandmother is now reading my Internets by way of a family member who creates printouts of this text and delivers them in person. (Hello from Kobe, Grandma!) She probably misses a good amount of the short Twittery updates, as do more infrequent readers or fly-by-night Google searchers inexplicably pointed in my direction.

I assure the rest of my readers that this knowledge will not do a disservice to my speech or content. I think Grandma is familiar with colorful language, even in black and white!

This weekend we are taking part in some sort of community luncheon/dinner, which I believe operates thusly: all participants prepare some portion of what could be considered a meal, and leave it stable in their apartment while they meet up with everyone else. From here, the swarm moves from place to place, cutely complimenting each abode while munching on the food they prepared. I am not one to take such a challenge lightly, and will be straining my culinary skills of experimentation to the breaking point by preparing a variety of totally bizarre sushi rolls. I see this meet-and-greet as a perfect opportunity to experiment on my own secret project in the form of a long-planned and carefully guarded sushi-roll secret recipe. To execute it carefully would be to ascend to the highest echelons of supreme notoriety, while to let the information fall into the wrong hands could be disastrous. The only question is where am I going to find American-style processed cheese in Kobe? I might need to do some exploring.

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Chewy noodles and modern art

I am primarily drunk (and partially sunburned) in a hotel room on Shikoku, an apparently oft-forgotten section of Japan composing its midsection, an island just off the coast of the mainland, accessed by a four-hour trip on “Jumbo Ferry” from Kobe. We caught it at 5:00 on Wednesday, and that’s not P.M., after sprinting across the bridge over the bay from Port Terminal, where we thought the ferry would be docked (but it wasn’t).

In Shikoku specifically, we are in Takamatsu, the main northern port town, and the first step into a region most known for their special food: sanuki udon, a variant on the nigh-ubiquitous wheat noodle, more chewy here and served most often in what registers to this admittedly neophyte pallet as a broth a bit sweet when stacked against other udons. The shit we had the pleasure of chomping on shortly after arrival was something just barely short of what I’d call revelatory, with free tempura clumps topping it elevating it to the level of Emminently Consumable.

This is to say nothing of the not-Japanese foods we’ve eaten while we’ve been here, including (but of course, not limited to,) the greatest Indian meal I personally have ever tasted in my life, a multi-course affair including a well-dressed salad, deep fried curried-potato pockets with chili sauce, a tandoori chicken plate with still sizzlin’ onions, and the pietze de triomphe, dual curries of impossible flavor accompanied by both cheese-stuffed and traditional naan.

But on the topic of food I frequently digress, and it’s not the topic I intended at all–that is to say, we are on vacation for the national holiday called “Silver Week,” and it happens this year (as it does once every six) to comprise a series of national holidays that occur in rapid succession on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, with convenient work-free days also occurring on Saturday and Sunday, and for me anyway, on this following Thursday and Friday (and, by extension, the subsequent Saturday and Sunday), due to prior relief from would-be work commitments, re: compensatory vacation as a result of compulsory attendance at the annual school sports day and a carefully requested day of Friday “nenkyu,” which is the Japanese term for a paid day off (the assistant language teacher of my persuasion receives twenty per year, only a fraction of which might be realistically requested when considering the Japanese workplace and its resistance to one’s shirking one’s duties)!

As a respite from the domicile in Kobe, we have decided to Connect with other sections of Japan, and this trip has been most exciting: by design, in only a mere two days here, we’ve:

Ferried under the longest suspension bridge in the world,
Seen the most famous(?) park in Japan (Ritsuren-koen),
Visited the ruins of a decommissioned castle,
Rented bikes at a hundred yen each and used them to cart all over the city,
Eaten the tastiest udon and curry I’ve personally ever had,
Ferried to Naoshima, a tiny northerly island, and seen art by Monet (and an assortment of icey “Modern Artists”),
Said hello to cats wandering the streets,
Immersed ourselves in peculiar Japanese programming,
and a variety of other things.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Kotohira, a tiny town of no more than a few thousand residents, and most known for its famous Kompira-san, an ancient temple making up part of a complex that is reached after ascending 785 steps (so says this particular guidebook), which can provide an impetus to visit certain attractions on the way, including but not limited to Asahi-no-Yashiro, the sunshine shrine honoring the sun goddess Amaterasu. Tomorrow night we are staying in a ryokan, a traditionally-styled lodging, which contains six rooms, and where we will dine on also-traditional breakfast and dinner.

I’ll put pictures of everything up once we’re back, honest. For now, in front of me on television, people are hawking Wii Fit Plus and Monster Hunter Tri. Also, apparently season three of Heroes is on DVD, and Shiseido shampoo will transform you into an attractive Japanese woman? I am busy with my lemon-flavored alcoholic beverage, purchased for 190 yen from a vending machine right outside my door. Their efforts, sadly, may be a trifle in vein.

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Picture Pages with William Henry “Bill” Cosby, Jr.

Now that we finally have Internet at home, it’s time for a picture post! So here are some random images from the last few days.

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After initial cultural fatigue

2:00 PM, Nagata-ku, Kobe

On Sunday morning I spent the good part of an hour typing up an incredibly frustrated diatribe about how expensive everything in Japan is: ¥78,000 for a basic air-conditioning unit for example (roughly $780, just move the comma to the right a space to divine US dollar values for most yen amounts), 20,000 yen for a new futon, 28,000 for a clothes washer (not bad, but still…).  Because the basic household appliances that facilitate comfortable life were prohibitively expensive to us at the time, we had realized we were anything but comfortable… one pot, one pan, two bowls, and silverware, no way to wash clothes, to stay cool, no TV.  We were both so worn out and frustrated that we actually sought out Kobe Grocery, a foreign buyer’s club north of Sannomiya where we paid the US equivalent of $3.20 a box for two boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (we ate one and reserved one, “in case of emergency.”  Americans back home: please send Mac and Cheese some day). 

Because we have no Internet I couldn’t post it, and though I copied it to a flash drive to be uploaded once I did indeed acquire said access, I left the flash drive at home and it just wouldn’t be representative of my current situation and mindset to post it now!  (Perhaps once I get ahold of a copy I’ll backdate it and sneak it in before this one so nobody knows the difference until they get to this entry and notice the anachronistic remarks)!  (This way in normal chronology I’ll appear totally impervious to culture shock, but in retrospect allow my true colors to shine, a human after all.) (OK, I added it, just look below this entry! –B)

Since then I’ve been introduced to a natural wonder a mere two minute walk from my apartment, a little guy I had heard of but never really understood called “The 100 Yen Store.”  Unlike the gimmicky dollar stores of the United States, where things may or may not actually cost a dollar, and are actually frequently priced at increments wholly independent of our monetary unit, the 100 yen store most assuredly prices every object housed therein at 100 yen, with no discrimination as to the actual or perceived value of the item.  Kitchen knife?  100 yen.  (Well, technically 105 after the tax.)  Plastic spatula for our two new non-stick pans?  100 yen. Tiny useless trinket? 100 yen.  Wastepaper basket, deck cleaning bucket, scissors, hand towel, pasta strainer, tiny frog loofah, four-pack of clothes hangers, broom, door mat and more and more and more: 100 yen a piece.  At the end, when we went through the check out line, our items were rung up not based on any sort of barcodes or in recognition of what they actually were, but merely by count: ichi ni san yon go roku nana hachi kyuu juu juuichi juuni etc. etc. etc.

I think we spent 2,300 yen there and got more stuff than we had gotten at the hideously overpriced IKEA and the strangely Wal-Martian Izumiya department store combined for a fraction of the cost.  New residents: find and love your local 100 yen shop.

It doesn’t put air conditioning in our apartment, but reassembling the fan, which had been mistakenly put together backwards before we got to the damned place, has aided airflow in the apartment greatly.  We also made an exciting pilgrimage during the rain yesterday to an area of Kobe called “Motoko Town,” which is a series of kitzchy, flea-markety type trinket, antique, and “recycle” shops situated literally beneath the bridge on which the JR rail tracks run, where we saw all manner of goods running the gamut from used Famicom cartidges to American toys of our youth to brined pickled rat corpses illuminated under red lighting to better pronounce their skeletons (NO PHOTO PLEASE) to toy Shinkansens from decades ago to Kirin Cola to real live pets to dozens of racks of vintage and new clothing to what we were actually there looking for: a rice cooker that didn’t cost 5,000 yen for the most basic model like in all the stores we had visited.  Our (not) new cooker, a used model with more switches and buttons on it than any appliance I’ve ever owned, and which I have absolutely no idea how to use, was gotten for 2,000 yen, or twenty bucks, just a shade under what I paid for my Rival cooker back in the states that had one button.  It’s made by Toshiba, who now coincidentally controls the refrigerator, mobile phone, and rice cooking segments of my product life.

On our way home, we stopped at my first Yoshinoya beef bowl (gyudon) restaurant, where, for 380 yen, I almost instantly received an enormous bowl of rice topped with marinated thinly sliced beef and onions, as well as a once-refilled cup of nice cold green tea.  It was goddamned delicious. Wiki even says that foreigners don’t often realize that you can order free extra sauce and onions, which I now know, and will do, at my next convenience (after memorizing the requisite Japanese).

So, things are getting better.  I’m learning to use my phone, our apartment isn’t so brutally fucking hot (but is still hot), Jessy washed some of our clothes in the sink which was pretty awesome, we got a rice cooker and some rice and groceries and are making chicken curry once I’m home from school tonight, we’re learning the trains, seeing the city, and I met some of my students today who all thought it was pretty cool that I played the saxophone (they play drums, piano, flute, guitar, and harmonica, respectively).

Yesterday I even cleaned the deck.  It’s my deck, I cleaned all the pigeon shit off of it with a little 398 yen wooden deck brush, and it’s on the seventh floor of a high rise on an island in a city of Japan!  Soon we will be drying clothes on it just like the regulars, and the next pigeon I see I will literally capture and beat within an inch of its life before tying its wings and tossing it from the balcony.

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Finishing in Tokyo, Akihabara, and oddities

Every meal here in our hotel comes with a tiny, limp bread roll and creamy margarine that feels like salad oil in my mouth, and the eggs have a similar consistency–like instant, but creamy?  Goopy perhaps?  With pepper on them I have almost forgotten how fucked it is.  Random announcements pour forth from overhead speakers nearly everywhere I go.  My pockets are routinely filled and then immediately emptied of 100-yen coins, which are accepted in every single coin-slot-having machine (and there are more of them than even I had allowed myself to believe prior to coming here).

I just purchased a bag of snack chips called “Mammoth meat!?” and I opened the package and by god if it doesn’t smell like popping open a jar of dried beef.  Each chip pops apart into individual sections too.  I could write individual entries on everything I’ve done in the last two days.  I think the theme of the week is more or less sensory overload: overwhelmed, overburdened, overstimulated, overjoyed.

We got to Akihabara tonight by taking the JR Rail system, a feat so gargantuan it’s difficult to describe, but feels somewhat like what I imagine it is to be a salmon swimming upstream.  I went to a store called Super Potato, which I think must be the most extensive and cramped retro video game store in the world.  I ate katsudon at some restaurant and bought the new black Wii Classic Controller Pro at Sofmap.  Tomorrow I take the Shinkansen to my new home in Kobe. Life is pretty weird right now.

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A (brief) evening wandering Shinjuku

I suppose it’s painfully obvious to almost anyone on first blush, but to say that confusion is the order of the day when entering a foreign country is a bit of a misstatement.  You see, it’s not entirely confusion, but wonderment–as in, I wonder what the hell I’m doing?

Peculiarities I was unprepared for noted during our couple-hour stroll around evening Shinjuku:

  • Tiny umbrella sheaths that you insert your rain-stopper into as though a sword into a stone, then pull out from the side to detach from their holster
  • A multi-floored, multi building Yodobashi Camera megaplex
  • My peculiar desire to visit a McDonald’s (where I ordered a spicy chicken sandwich that truly was spicy)
  • Visiting a video arcade that contained dozens of games, UFO catchers, candy machines, pachinko games, and even a lower floor that consisted only of people playing Tekken 6, Street Fighter IV, King of Fighters 2002, and other games of their ilk, at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night

I’ve added another Picasa image gallery as is sure to become the norm.  I’ll have to add a link to the Picasa site proper eventually.  But for now it’s late and we have orientation early.  Oyasuminasai (おやすみなさい)!

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Off to Iowa: the ordeal begins

With this suitcase I will take two buses from my apartment to the Pittsburgh International Airport, then two planes from there until I arrive in Des Moines.  This is the unofficial beginning of the end: my time left in the US is now short enough to be comprehended tangibly, my remaining items-to-accomplish clear, the final monetary situations and storage of goods established.

I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this series of adventures so explicitly over the last several months that surprisingly I don’t even feel too anxious, which is a change of pace.  Instinctively however my brain really wants to be worried, because that’s what it’s most used to.  “Shouldn’t I be really uncomfortable?”  The upcoming events seem now less like semester-end essays and more like going to work: something I simply must do, damn the torpedoes.

I’ll be spending a week there that will be kicked off by a drunken evening with siblings and pals, and followed up the next noon by lunch at my most favorite restaurant in the entire world, Thai Kitchen.  To say that this is one of my most anticipated future-highlights of this trip is an understatement, shamefully: shouldn’t I be more excited about seeing my friends and family?  Of course I am, but they exist on a different plane.  Pad Thai is a sensory enhancement, a new form of awareness!  Family is Important, but you cannot chew them.

With this I begin to pack the laptop bag and prepare for the trek to the airport.  Watch the Twitter feed over there –>
for continued updates!  Bon voyage, Nomaday faithful!

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