Tag Archives: nitori

By means of steam one can go from California to Japan in eighteen days

Firmly into the first week of summer’s taskless days of work, tonight is exam night at school, which sets my schedule for me. You have undoubtedly read it here before, whether you remember it or not: sit at the desk for a long time. Take a couple five minute breaks to go read something to the class, then come back, then sit around for a little while, then go home. Today I have written this, eaten a half a sandwich and a small hamburger, drank a Blizzard-L soda, and started reading Jurassic Park. My row is the one with the air conditioner, and I’m almost cold! When I get home tonight, I’m cooking some chicken and buttered peppery corn. Life is good, cause I say it is. Even though outside it feels like you are covered with a wet towel in the jungle.

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it is time to retire the curious Japanese shit of the week section of my weekly entries here and replace it with a “things which probably used to seem weird but that I can no longer differentiate as such” section. For example:

-Right now there is a man squatting down on the ground in front of the office refrigerator–in much the same way a resident of this country would squat to take a dump in an old-fashioned toilet–drinking milk tea straight out of the carton. This is basically fine with me.
-Last week I ate a “choco cookie” ice cream sundae at an ice cream cafe, and it contained yogurt and corn flakes.
-Later in the week I went to a “darts bar” (this is a bar based on the gimmick of playing darts) to play darts, and the bar had a cover charge for staying there past 9 PM, which they did not mention until we were paying our bill as we left (the cover charge included a free dish of crackers and nuts).
-Just the other night, I watched part of a show on TV where a group of eight people stayed at a restaurant for over fourteen hours, with the goal of guessing which 10 of the 86 items on the menu were the restaurant’s top sellers, and in order to file an item as a guess, they had to first order and eat it.
-About an hour ago, I was cut off on my walking path to work by a remarkably sized turtle, on whose shell was painted in white the telephone number of some salesman.

Does this kind of shit happen back home? I feel like it may, in some sort of waking hallucinated nightmare, but I can barely even goddamned remember anymore. I know the TV was a lot less consistently entertaining, and I don’t remember any turtles.

I wonder occasionally what my Pittsburgh life would have been like if we actually lived in a place like Kobe, with essentially limitless entertainment, drinking, and dining options–a place where our late-night post-bar food choices may have rested outside the realm of “Laffy Taffys from the Uni-Mart.” Every time I try to let it play out all I can see is destruction: handfuls of breaded, spicy chicken, video games, mayhem, cheap liquor, public intoxication. Basically the same as Pittsburgh. But it wouldn’t have been exactly the same.

In fact, life here in Japan was really different and strange until it just wasn’t as different and strange, which is becoming a bit strange itself. This all manifests itself in a variety of ways. About five months ago I finally got the most efficient route home from work down. That cut what I used to perceive as a 50 or 60 minute trip from office chair to apartment couch down to precisely 38 minutes, if I seriously haul it through the station to the gates for my island. It seems fine to me that I now can estimate my trip times to the minute, and do not in the slightest ever consider the fact that the trains might be late, because they aren’t. I now pay phone bills with my fiberoptic rolled into the current plan for maximum savings. I am okay with the fact that I pay my bills by taking them to the convenience store. I renew my transportation passes without incident, with cash, by sliding upwards of three hundred dollars at a time into a vending machine. Again, this is no problem.

We schedule packages for redelivery by phone, and order pizzas, books, playing cards, and trinkets over the Internet. Often times the men bring the things we’ve bought to the door, and we pay them for them right there. We juggle point cards like professionals, transfer money home at the best exchange rates through bank transfers on the ATM, and even know the best routes to a variety of restaurants we have learned to call our favorites, depending on the desired cuisine. I can pinpoint the locations of at least eight video game stores within easy walking distance of Sannomiya station. I can cook gyoza like Emeril Lagasse, and I don’t even need to say BAM while I do it. I own and carry more things that are electronic and magnetic than things that aren’t.

And still there are some things: what is this random mysterious package of pickled food items for and in what meal context am I supposed to use it? How do I reserve a bowling lane at the Round 1 game center? How and why are FUNKY MONKEY BABYS still performing the same song on TV that they were last August? Why are there so many Pachinko parlors? What the hell is the deal with this variety show talent person who dresses like a school girl with her eyebrows shaved off and replaced with huge ridiculous fake ones, and is she actually a man cause I think she might be?

ON SUNDAY SOME MEN ARE BRINGING A BOOK SHELF TO OUR APARTMENT THAT WE BOUGHT ON A WEBSITE
It’s true.
HOW ABOUT THAT

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

As American as rotten breakfast soybeans

This is my second Japanese sports day, but surely my first “traditional” one, which is to say, the sports day which is a product of an entire body of students at one of the most prestigious high schools in the prefecture:

J-pop blaring, multi-dozen hundred meter relays, shirtless boys holding each other up like men riding on horseback lunging for each other’s hats, groups of students charging to grab tug-of-war sticks and pull them back to their own sides, a ten-minute club march with every person clad in full kendo/swimming/mountain climbing/tennis playing gear, a fully coordinated short-skirt dance-team cheering to the High School Musical theme song and spelling the name of my school with their pompoms while the gymnastics team tumbles to-and-fro.  Ceremony, oh god the ceremony, opening, closing, awards… but barely a time mentioned, and less made of the competition than of the teamwork: together you are everything.  There is barely condition for what to make of the individual.  Would the boundaries that maintain our physical shapes break down and render us goo were we to disband?  It is hard to say, but I am erring on the side of “probably, I guess.”  The sights and sound dash asunder any concept of togetherness or unity I ever could have conceived of as a member of American public high school.

I ran in the 100m relay with a “teacher’s team” made up of those of us who still feel spry enough in our age to sprint around a track for the amusement of a thousand teenagers.  All I remember of my half-track jaunt was taking off with the baton, hoping I didn’t fall down, watching my shoes stomp off the ground as I rounded the outside of the track, and the doppler effect of young girls screaming eeeeyaaaAAAAaaa!!!, then handing the baton off again.  Today my legs hurt, but the (male) gym teacher has now gone from a predominant casual indifference at my presence to a recent summons of one of my English-speaking co-teachers so that she could translate his remarks about me: I am so cool, so handsome, and how do they handle the conventions of Jr., Sr., the third, the fourth, etc. in American naming procedures?

My cafeterian lunchtime chopstick proficiency literally shames some of the people I eat with, who occasionally make self-deprecating remarks about their failures with them when it comes to more wet bowls of donburi.  Someone said their mother used to tell them they weren’t Japanese enough cause they’d reach for a spoon (this clashes expectedly with the stereotypical genki gaijin dipshit advice doled out to everyone who is about to move to Japan with a prior support network: “better eat every single grain of rice or they’ll think you’re just another rude American!!!”).  As it turns out, many people from Japan are actually people and not merely just a peculiar object of broad foreign projection.  Yes, some of them walk while drinking and eat while walking or forget to leave the train when it’s gone out of service or pay with the wrong coin cause those fives and fifties can be iffy sometimes.

Independently I might turn to goo, but as a part of society, I am everything.

(Menial daily-lifery recent developments and valuable first-time-resident advice: we went to a store called Nitori (ニトリ) and bought a TV stand (delivered to our door two days later for 900 yen), a washing machine shelving unit, a coat rack, a kitchen rug, a small bedside table, a garbage can, a stewpot, a spaghetti jar, and new pot holders.  It cost like 8000 yen?  Do not go to IKEA.  It is utterly idiotic and the goods are cheaply made and overpriced.  Go to Nitori.  If you don’t, basically you are a jackass.)

Also:

– The TV from Hard-Off that I bought a couple weeks ago is still awesome and used goods in this country are officially amazing,
– Japanese 360 controllers work on American systems
– I made Mabo Tofu but really thick and spicy and chunky and put it on rice and called it Mabodon and it was some delicious stuff to chomp on
– There is an enormous Category 5 “Super Typhoon” headed right for us to make landfall in the next day or two

Sometimes around dinner time, or during strange unrelated parts of my life, I remember what Triscuits taste like, and realize that despite this country’s culinary delights, you can’t ignore the fact that there ain’t a fucking Triscuit around.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements