Tag Archives: gashapon

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.

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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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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

THIS WEEK’S NOTABLE THINGS NOTABLE FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN BEING NOTABLE
– 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
PERHAPS THAT IS ENOUGH

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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The backbone of America

This was a busier week as it seems retrospectively than as it occurred: I had essentially the entire span free of classes because of end-of-term exams.

My out-of-work free time remaining as it does normally, I did make it a point to pick up an old-style vertically scrolling shoot-em-up game for the 360, densely titled Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5, which (I think) translates to Two-Persons Honorable Beetle Princess (Version 1.5). You basically shoot everything and sparkly jewels fly out of them and they shoot so many bullets that the genre of game is referred to lovingly as “bullet hell” and you try not to get hit by the bullets. It was kind of expensive but it came with a limited edition 2 CD soundtrack and a fancy box.

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Other crap I bought this week:
– A bunch of Final Fantasy stuff in anticipation of the upcoming game including two tiny “trading arts” mini-figures, an electronic Chocobo which chirps when you touch its feet, and several cans of Final Fantasy XIII Elixir, a promotional beverage that you can read my review of over at N-Sider.
– A Robocop Kewpie charm for my cell phone
– Evangelion 2.0 calendar from Lotteria burger restaurant and small gashapon figure from the machines on the way out of massive toy/game/electronic/appliance store Joshin
– Two new Wii Remotes for multiplayer New Super Mario Bros. (pink and baby blue)
– Wireless adapter for my 360 so we don’t need to have a cable running directly across the middle of the apartment floor for it to be online
– Another work shirt, sweater, and some t-shirts
– A huge box of American Blu-rays during Amazon’s crazy Black Friday online sale
– A big chunk of debt pay-off from my Pittsburghian credit card

Obvious and apparent necessities that I should have bought instead of all that stuff, but didn’t:
– A couch
– A sukiyaki hot plate and clay pot
– Some self respect

Jessy has made a sort of bargaining agreement with me to the extent that if I stop buying little 300/400 yen gashapons all the time and get rid of many of the ones that I already have, I can save the money I would have spent on them and instead buy nice bigger figures that don’t fall apart and are actually capable of being (somewhat) tastefully displayed. Maybe some of you can look forward to receiving my offal in gift packages.

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Friday night we visited the Kobe Luminarie, a once-per-year ten-day-longish exhibition in memorial of the Great Hanshin Earthquake (January, 1995). This Luminarie thing is pretty impressive. They set up massive archways entirely made of lights hung over one of the big streets leading from the Motomachi area into downtown Sannomiya. Once you finish walking underneath them you enter a large area with a sort of light-castle set up and scads of booths selling snacks, souvenirs, and hot beverages. This trip was prefaced by a trip to the once-elusive Mexican cafe “Gitchi,” which we had failed to locate on prior occasions but located this time. I had the distinctly fusion-Mex Taco Rice, and Jessy had a barbecue chipotle beef taco plate. Mexican food is such a rarity here that I can hardly remember if it was even good. What it was was Mexican food, which speaks for itself.

We had the pleasure of going to a Vissel Kobe soccer match on Saturday, a day that started really cold and shitty but ended up cold and pretty nice. You may recall my last post wherein I mentioned that I might need some mental lubrication to really enjoy the game: this was true, and after a nice big paper cup full of fresh stadium Asahi Super Dry I was quite pleased to be there. Of particular note (more so than the game itself, which was a 90-minute affair during which each team scored once ending the game in a tie) were the food offerings, my favorite of which turned out to be Cup Ramen. Yes, you can buy hot cups of ramen at soccer games here, and for only 200 yen they are an incredible and delicious bargain, massively shaming the extortion-class prices for food at ball games back in the states. The brand name of the ramen we got was “NOODLE GOO!” which means basically nothing in either English or Japanese. There was even a little speech bubble coming out of the ramen on the package which proclaimed “GOO!” I have never seen this brand of ramen before in my life.

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Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– Five girls dressed as tall human-sized Pikachus hopping around in the Luminarie courtyard in a circle
– Passing a couple of youngish students who neither Jessy nor I believed to be ours, as they waved at us and said “hello!”
– Noodle Goo
– A man at a ramen shop we went to yesterday suggesting the garlic shoyu and then becoming so enthusiastic about greeting another patron that he proceeded to somewhat humorously sound like he was having some sort of seizure (this one is hard to describe but is surely rooted in the perceptible projection of seeming subservient to the customer re: irrashaimaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee etc.)
– Baking a refrigerated pizza at 230 degrees Celcius (447? Fahrenheit) in my microwave oven, with mayonnaise sauce instead of tomato, and teriyaki chicken, cheese, and corn toppings
– Paying 295 yen for one large pear, wrapped in weaved foam
– Beginning to watch the excellent program Mad Men and finding myself being personally alarmed at “how good their English is” (this is an American TV show)

With winter break and the closing of schools impending the question becomes exactly what will we do with our time off, knowing fully that all the other poor overworked salarymen of the country will be flocking to everywhere anyone would want to go? I don’t think either of us know quite yet, though we have essentially convergent periods of time off from around Christmas till several days after New Year’s. We indeed will stay in Japan this time around, but that’s about all we know.

As for Christmas, well. I can see no better way to spend it than with a traditional Japanese Christmas Meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken, some festive sparkling Chu-hi, and a Christmas cake (I am not joking, KFC is the Japanese Christmas food, Colonel Sanders has been dressed up in a Santa suit since Halloween).

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Little Shop of Horrors

“A little weird, so…”  He gestures to my nose, points what looks like an airbrush at my face.  To numb me, he says, to numb the insides, the nasal canal.

I have told him about the problems I sometimes have with my right ear, the way everyone’s voices become echoey, the way I can hear my heartbeat, hear myself breathe, that moving my jaw around like I’m some sort of dead-faced Mask-era Jim Carrey makes it occasionally start or stop.  I’m at a Japanese hospital, one that even touts itself as international.  Like all places and services tolerant of and/or designed for foreigners in Japan however, today I’m the only American there.

He sprays it up there, the little paint well filled with piss-colored anesthetic, some primordial nasal date rape to get me acquainted with the idea of his foot-long thick-spaghetti-sized endoscope travelling up (and then down) my nose/throat/whatever.  I literally see him lube it up in front of me, but I’m looking past the blob of viscous gloop and to the TV monitor, upon which is projected the image from the end of the endoscopic camera.  “Maybe we can even take a look at your vocal cords,” he says gleefully as he slides it in.  I watch him part the hairs of my nose from inside, a red sea, then vague images of pulsing matter.  “Your eustachian tubes are fine!”  A droplet of cold lube drips down from one nostril but I cannot speak or move, all Neo-from-the-Matrix only the fucking thing is down my throat instead of in a port at the back of my neck.  I can’t remember if I’m breathing, the images get stranger and stranger as I start focusing less on the TV and more on the fact that I just want the goddamned thing out, but he cannot get enough.  “Look at this!  Do you see this opening!  This is where blah blah blah whatever man I want it out.  I cough on it, feels like someone’s got a hunk of Twizzlers stuffed down there, but this man is all glee.

“Remember we said we’d look at your vocal cords!”  He shoves it down further and I’m being mined for precious ore, all I can muster is a vague gesture, an anemic dual-handed kung-fu push-off, a geriatric Hadouken, eyes half-squinted but transfixed on the peculiar images on TV, pull it out pull it out jesus christ!

“Look at the vocal cords!  Say one two three four five!  AHAHAH!!!!”  He is actually literally saying this.  He is a maniac.  Then he says “enough?” as he twists the fucking thing, I am gagging, there is a Wendy’s Frostie maker in my sinuses, then it’s out like a T-1000 metal rod, gel dripping out my nose.

All I can muster is a “jeez, sorry.”  His expert diagnosis: we don’t have any specific treatment, whoops!  I tell him, I need to, you know, I gotta talk to teach, I gotta hear the volume of my voice.  He laughs!  He laughs at me!  “Maybe your own solution works well enough,” he says, and I assume he’s referring to my swinging my jaw around like it’s connected with a slack balljoint.  I tell him no, no it doesn’t really, and that is it.  In Japan I pay only 30% of the bill for their trouble, a scant ¥810 for the privledge of violation.  I have, upon further review, made far worse personal decisions in this life than this.

Later, after being “cured,” I sought retail therapy with Jessy.  We came away with a festival bounty, Mark III, a ten-ton walrus stuffed with goodies:  UNIQLO clothing.  A book and DVD set about a Japanese cat named Maru (book title “I am Maru”) who is famous for being lazy, sliding in boxes, and doing stupid shit while looking cute, or in other words, famous for being a cat.  Two separate ass-whipping gashapons (Eva Unit 01 and a “Lunar Rabbit” girl Mina with a giant carrot weapon), the best ones of each set on our first try.  A bag full of snacks from “Donki,” which is a store which bears the actual name for some reason of “Don Quixote.”  Chicken and egg okonomiyaki, a variety of dumb shit from the 100-yen store, and a spicy homemade stir-fry donburi capped the evening.

At night, I listen for the wails of the doctor, and sense the slick black endoscopic plastic slithering along my tatami.  It cries “this is not the last time, this is not the end.”

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In My Life

This is every morning around 8:20, as I pass the shrine and crane my neck to see if the cats are here. There is a white one and a striped one. Sometimes the white one sleeps on the rock, sometimes he is just in the dirt. In the morning, the two of them rarely patrol the streets but today I catch the striped one crossing back from the photograph place. The Powers That Be seem to actively dislike the cats’ presence, putting up signs telling people who read Japanese not to feed them. They place full water bottles strategically around the perimeter, a non-confrontational approach designed to ensure the cats somehow see glimmering light or their reflection and are horrified to the point that they will never return. The same method is employed to prevent pigeons (hanging shiny CDs from string on your balcony), who to be fair are mostly stupid, and cats are on to your bullshit. It obviously does not work. I wonder what they are getting into when they are gone: rummaging through the impeccably bagged trash, terrorizing those stupid birds, snaking the hallways behind Mister Donut. At night on the way back to the station I take a look for them too, another seasonal fifty-fifty lottery chance like all the stupid gashapon machines I play. When they are there I’ve won for five seconds, look at the cats, look at the cats, time to keep walking.

In front of one of the alcohol vending machines (yes), there is a squishy green mat. I had walked over it every day for weeks because it was placed at such a nice break point in my walk, and it felt good under my brown work-things. One morning I was early enough to see the store keeper hit a button, lurch his metal garage door to life, declare his store open. At the door’s halfway he emerged with a squishy green mat and put it in front of the alcohol machine. I don’t walk on it anymore.

In the Sannomiya station sometimes there is a man with a traditional cone straw hat who seems inaudible until you are within fifteen feet, and then you hear the “ommmmmmmmmm” from his throat, the solemn gaze he gives out in front of him, through the escalator, like he’s eternally pondering the Sukiya menu, the gyudon or the cheese curry rice, what do I pick, oh jeez, omm. I am afraid if he makes his choice his glance will turn to me, and he will analyze the deepest faults of my inner character. For now it seems he is content to solicit donations for a cause that surely must be important enough to scare everyone who walks by. One day it was a lady, but I don’t think that helped.

Tonight my teachers are having a party for me at an “izakaya,” which is a Japanese-flavored drinking and snacking establishment where one pays a flat fee, and in exchange can drink mainly anything they want, and as much of it as they want, for a certain amount of time. There are also snacks routinely delivered to the table. In partial English muxed with worthless Japanese myself and another man made it clear to each other that we are individually Very Fans of The Beatles, and that the new remasters are excellent. One person said that he is very familiar with sake, and I think through someone’s errant translation he was told that I have a drinking problem. More alarming was his look of pleasure and excitement. I think tonight could either be really horrible, or really horrible.

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Oh My Gashapon

In the states you drop in your quarter (or two or three or four), turn the crank, and are delivered a totally worthless piece of shit: a sticker, a flimsy plastic football helmet with a sticker you must apply yourself, a capsule full of slimy goop that will stain the walls of all your friends’ houses.

In Japan, they’re called Gashapon, because of the noise the machines make when you turn the crank and the bubble drops into the receptacle for you.  Gasha… PON!  Here, you pay a little more, dropped into a coin slot like a gambling machine.  For the junky stuff, it’s only a buck (¥100).  This includes things like cute little dogs, non-licensed keychains and cellphone straps, and other stupid figurines.  For the better stuff, it’s 200–this will get you cool licensed stuff like small-ish Shinkenger keitai charms, little noise-making devices, one of a variety of ridiculously detailed Wii sets, one of eight Mario Kart power-up toys (I got the golden King Mushroom from a machine outside Toho last night).

Drop 300 and now we are talking: my favorite Evangelion ones come from 300-yen machines and are extravagant: a cellophane roll of painted and shaped body parts that come in large baseball-sized twist-open capsules, fitted with pegs so you can assemble your little treasure yourself. I am woefully pathetically unable to resist their calls, and the suspense of wondering which of the (usually six) possible objects of the set that you will get is simply too much. I’ve gotten a Ritsuko, a Rei, and an Asuka from those (Eva machines are kind of rare, surprisingly).

There are Mos Burgers, a set of Wii stuff next to a Sukiya near Sannomiya station, a whole array of goodies (including one of my known Eva machines) out the back entrance of Tsutaya/Yamada Denki on Center-gai, and something like ten Eva machines in the theater where we saw the movie (sadly out ten minutes from Motomachi station and too far to casually dump money into). There’s a set of machines near this big 100-yen shop that has Ultramans and monsters, Konami characters from Rumble Roses, and dozens of anime characters.

100-yen coins, I hardly knew ye. Let us hasten our search for a shelf that can contain the manifestation of my adolescent desire for tiny, cheap Japanese figures, and fervently pray (in inevitable vain?) that this distraction does not cross over into the realm of multi-thousand-yen PVC figures in various states of undress.

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I saw Evangelion 2.0, and it was really sweet

I feel as though I have accomplished something great!  But really all I did was go see an anime.  And bought a toy from a capsule machine.  And a little art book/movie pamphlet.  And downloaded a screensaver.  Oh, life!

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