Tag Archives: playstation

How happy he who crowns in shades like these

Like the workings of regular, timed machines, Japan yesterday found itself overrun with 850,000 (according to the news) fresh young graduates clad in brand new suits all pushing themselves confused off to their first day of work at the company that will slowly murder them over the next forty-five years. Unlike businesses in America, most Japanese entities coincide their hiring period with the exact end of the school year, and the first day of work is right when the schools start back up again. That means that every year on April 1st they all march off like little superheroes in costume. I like seeing at what point you can no longer identify the seas of new hires, the more stalwart will continue to wear suits until well into the summer, while the people with some free-thinking generally switch to cool-biz attire (ha ha, as mandated) once May or June rolls around.

Last night on the news broadcasts they showed footage from the welcome ceremonies at Mitsubishi and Panasonic, two companies that happen to have huge headquarters and factories in Kobe and Osaka. A typical component of these ceremonies is all the new hires singing the company song–yes, the companies have songs–together, pledging their undying fealty to the emperor company president. Also, you can never leave the company or you will be ostracized and blacklisted from other big companies forever, ha ha april fools, we are just joking, but no that is also a joke do not come back

TREE STUFF

The cherry blossoms are in pretty close to what I’d call full bloom, I read somewhere that it happened almost two weeks earlier than has ever been noticed since official cherry blossom blossom records started being kept in like the mid 1950s. I think it is because my French/Japanese waifu Christel Takigawa is in all kinds of new commercials this season, and she is SO HOT THAT THE TREES ARE BLOWIN OPEN nah she is really just kind of cute not really hot, not as hot as duckface Tomomi Itano who still drives traffic to my website via bizarre google search results even though she has left AKB48 now, Tomomi Itano Tomomi Itano. P.S. sorry Jessica

but you knew it was coming

8636353-755725

I AM A TOUR GUY

I led my mother around Japan for like the last two weeks as she visited us here, I have never been such a tourist in my entire life. We went to Chinatown and Arashiyama and Kyoto and sumo in Nanba and Nara and Awaji Island and all this stuff it was crazy. I cooked all the food that I am best at and we went to our favorite restaurants and watched Japanese television and Ghibli movies, did karaoke and went to a game center, ran through MEGA DON QUIXOTE and supermarkets, got our book signed at temples and shrines, drank under them cherry trees and oh so much more. It was great but also a little wack somehow, I felt like a tourist again since when there are three foreigners people will speak to you in English, a weird feel. Some old man who smelled like rotting coffee told me he loved New York, I was like that is nice dude I have never been there.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK OR MONTH, WHATEVER
– I bought a copy of Battle Arena Tohshinden for PlayStation because of its psychotic English text on the front, which says “Waw!? And now, what’s going on!? Toh Shin Den is about to present to you a super hot virtual battle, like one that you’ve never seen before at a rate of 90,000 polygons per second!”
– Rode a bus in Kyoto in which I was more squished than I have ever been squished, ever
– Have become totally hooked on kitsune udon, udon with sweet fried tofu on top, just in time to only have four more months to eat it all the time before I leave Japan forever
– Mad Men starts next week, oh god oh yes oh man this is not Japanese but
CURIOUS ENDING OF JAPANESE WHATEVER

I was tasked with changing places in the staff room yesterday, the first time I believe the foreigner has ever not sat in their original seat, the shittiest one in the staff room: right in front of the door where all the students bug you and you get hit with the drafts from the hall and you have people always walking by you and behind you and all this crap. They moved me back a row so my back is now to a wall, which means essentially I don’t have to worry about anyone jumpin’ up behind me or kids asking me weird questions I can’t understand. I am also next to the refrigerator, so all my refrigeration needs are covered.

Lots of new teachers in fresh brand new suits came here yesterday. I wonder how long the suits will last.

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I played in Joe Louis in a playoff game

My predisposition to “just going with it” has led me somehow to, through a series of 23% understood entirely-Japanese conversations with the principal of the night school I work at on Wednesday nights, register Jessica and I for a volunteer, 250-person chorus that we must attend practices for ten times between now and December. It culminates in a December 8th concert at a music hall in neighboring Akashi, where I will, surrounded by legions of middle-aged Japanese men likely possessing far greater vocal ability than I (though their karaoke skills are no indication), sing Beethoven songs for the locals while wearing a black suit. This might sound enjoyable if I had ever been a part of any choir in my post-fifth-grade life, or even enjoyed singing when not completely inebriated. According to Google’s automatic translation of the event page, we are to be the “protect food Jiro response rate” chorus.

While I filled out the papers, trying my hardest to conjure up the Japanese necessary to say I really couldn’t do it, or anything whatsoever, I had to mark whether I was a tenor or a bass, a point of self-knowledge I do not even slightly possess. Principal marked bass for me because he said “it sounds like this” and then sang “la la la la” and then marked it. There is a seventy dollar entry fee! Ostensibly it covers the costs of some big party we have or something, but I couldn’t figure out when the party is. We also get a CD and some sheet music or whatever, I don’t know how this shit works. I can’t even read the damned paper. I guess I’m supposed to go to this place on the map next Thursday after work. Someone might call me or something? It’s on the second floor of a building in a place I’ve never been. Jessy will be off to goddamned Australia so I will be going it alone the first week.

“fuck”

It’s getting to be summer which means it’s time for that annual tradition of “Cool Biz,” the guilt-mandated effort to wear dorky short-sleeved dress shirts with no ties or jackets so that we can keep the air conditioner barely running and sweat to death in the name of conserving energy for our soon-to-be-powerless country that has no nuclear reactors running. Another thing that it means is that it’s time for seasonal Pepsi, and this year it’s a doozy! “Salty Watermelon Pepsi,” which releases July 24th. Signs you’re in Japan: a soda release date is announced almost two months in advance of the product launch, and it finds immediate coverage all over the news.

I’ve been playing a game lately on my home video game console called Yakuza 4. It’s kind of a open-world game that takes place in Tokyo, and you play as some hardass and you run around and do minigames. I spent probably four hours last night doing a minigame that isn’t even really a game, where you click some buttons to set a training regimen for your virtual dojo’s virtual recruit, and his stats go up, and then you enter him in tournaments and he fights, only you don’t even get to fight with him you just WATCH HIM. But for some reason I couldn’t stop. Before I knew it it was like the old days, hammering away at the button to make the number go up, but why, why?!

It reminded me of my first experience in life where I was fully able to rationally recognize I had “wasted time.” It was when I was maybe ten years old or so and I had rented Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball for Super Nintendo. I got it home and spent all day playing. After a while I had figured out how to break the game, just had to keep grinding away. I think I needed $3 million to buy Bill Laimbeer himself. The whole time I remember some of my family was there, they were playing in the other room or watching a movie or whatever, and I was like “hey sounds fun but the job has to be done,” and so I kept playing to get money to buy Bill Laimbeer. Hours passed! Hours! Playing Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball! And then, eventually, I got the money to buy him. Oh! How sweet it was gonna be. I bought up that old white turd and stuck him in the fuckin’ game, he sure was the best player. And then I went out to check the other room and see what fun everyone was having, but it was too late. It was time for them to GO HOME. I ground the gears for a second. “What have I been doing with my life? All this shit for Bill Laimbeer?” I suddenly realized the ultimate futility of my actions, of the actions of humanity as a goal, in microcosmic space: burning my life away doing the same thing over and over to get three million dollars so I could buy Bill Laimbeer. Obviously I learned my lesson and never spent time on video games again.

Look at that piece of shit!

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WHAT
– Today’s beverage of choice, which has for reasons I will never fully comprehend, become a totally normally-named grapefruit-tasting drink to me, called “POCARI SWEAT”
– The lady who called me on the phone last night and said like “hi mister ryota ishikawa” and I was like “that’s not me chigaimasu chigaimasu” and she was like “oh that’s not you” and I was like “nope not” and she was like “well do you have a minute to talk about insurance” and I was like “aha excuse me” and I hung up even though we don’t really “hang up” anymore we just push a button and it isn’t even a button anymore just a picture on a screen that says “end call”
– The lesson I’m currently teaching on Japanese haiku and English haiku and how we can use the haiku form to make English poems, during which I write a haiku poem in Japanese on the board to explain it and then someone points out that I should have made this one line before the other one in stroke order even though I don’t bother to point out that when they say “I like to watch birds frying” it doesn’t mean what they think it means
what what

The other day in front of the elevators some young kids were waving these wands around to make big bubbles and then running away, leaving them suspended in the air. A lady and I happened to cross paths where the bubbles floated, and for some reason both of us stopped right there in the middle of the sidewalk, separated by this wall of shiny orbs, wondering if it really was safe to just walk right through and pop the bubbles, these temporary little things with no feelings or emotions that took less than a second to create. I walked around the side, on the grass, to avoid the bubbles, wondering for a second how many little bugs I was stomping to death in the name of beauty! A perilous existence up here in me.

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Even in the bathroom, I can save

DRAGNET INTRODUCTION

Sound off for Nomaday.

Nomaday…. the only usually-weekly blog about Japan to give you premium quality in both regular and king size…

brings you Nomaday.

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. You’re a bored Internet user, a relative or friend of the author of this website. You’re trying to waste some time at home or work. From the link you clicked you expect this website may or may not be entertaining. Your job… read it.

A COOL ESTABLISHING SHOT

It was Wednesday, April 13th. It was warm in Kobe, Japan. I had just finished feeding my cat and was on the way out the door for work. My cat’s name is Kiki. My name’s Brandon.

(BEAT)

NO BUT SERIOUSLY

we started listening to the old Dragnet radio show before bed. It’s pretty great, especially the last one we heard where they had this big shootout in this hotel building. My favorite part is the very end of the broadcast though when the guy is like “this is NBC” and it goes donn dannn dooon but it sounds all scary and radio-like. They call this hobby “Old Time Radio” but mostly I am just interested in Dragnet and cigarette advertisements from when it was still legal to be all like “these fuckers are good for you man! i smoke two packs a day cause it’s the best for me! smoke them, nothing bad will happen!”

ON DORKERY

Have you heard about this new Nintendo thing? It is called the 3DS, it is their new system, and it shows you the games in THREE-D on its top screen. It has this feature in it called StreetPass, which lets you meet other people that you cross in real life while you are walking around. Basically, it gives you rewards in the game for being near other people who also have 3DS systems. This sounds silly, but has pushed me to some bizarre travel lengths lately.

The last two days after work I have taken totally unnecessary detours away from the station and down to Center Gai, the big crowded shopping street full of humans, in hopes of StreetPassing people. I catch myself creepily swerving not to miss but to hit large swarms of people while walking between trains, pushing through them slowly so that my system has a better chance of seeing other ones. The other day I went up and walked through the game store with the intention of buying nothing, merely enticed by the idea that there might be other gamers there looking for the same thing, then found myself genuinely upset when I only got one tag after getting five on Monday.

I’m even planning on going to Osaka this weekend, a trip that is in part motivated by the very real knowledge that I will likely cross paths with a ton of people that have 3DS systems, and even as I write this I am prone to obsessively checking my system’s StreetPass light while sitting at my desk in the teacher’s room, where nobody is likely to have a 3DS.

What is the appeal here! Basically I get to see the little cartoon representation of another person with their name and a few little messages, and then they can give me pieces to complete some puzzles, or help me win hats in another little mini game. If they’ve been playing Street Fighter lately we can compare our FIGURE COLLECTIONS. I feel like a little kid yet at the same time strangely compelled to always carry it with me. It also acts as a pedometer and gives “coins” to buy in-game goodies as you walk, and tracks all the data so I can see how many steps I take each day and how long I play games for each day.

It has, interestingly enough, shown me that I take about 6200 steps a day, which is roughly three miles according to various Internet converters. Thanks Nintendo, for allowing me to track exactly how awesome I am!

HOW ABOUT THAT SPRING

After a supremely extended Spring Break, today marks the first one of my classes (and that’s it today, just one) since February. Though my main school won’t start up again until the 25th, it’s still just the slightest bit worrying to get tossed back into it once more (this time around with mostly new teachers again, due to the Japanese school system’s obsession with moving everyone around between grades, sections, and schools every March). I have lessons pretty much down from last year, though my night school will as always be a little more challenging until I figure out exactly how to deal with the students and how relaxed my new co-teacher is.

Speaking of relaxing, last week was a good week all around Japan for hanami, which is a word that pretty much means flower-viewing, in this case the cherry blossoms. Yes, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom all across Japan, and unlike our nearly suicidal trip to Hoshino last year, we decided to keep it local this time around. We found ourselves in a park off to the west part of Kobe with several of Jessy’s coworkers, engaged in revelry that only tenuously had anything to do with the cherry blossoms, which I remember looking at maybe twice.

For hanami, the traditional thing to do is get a huge blue tarp, put it down on the ground, sit around it, and get shitfaced drunk while eating a variety of fried and grilled goods. That’s pretty much what we did! I brought a bag of homemade beef jerky that was perhaps illegally sent to us from the States and let them marvel at how delicious it was–it was decimated by tiny, slight women who could not stop saying how good it was. For me the food of the evening was from the heart, which is to say I literally was eating heart, more specifically grilled chicken heart and cow heart brought by another person. You wouldn’t think so, but the chicken heart was delicious and chewy, with the cow being slightly more porous. Would eat again!

Our neighbors at the park across the way, obviously accustomed to doing this, brought themselves a noisy-ass diesel fucking generator and surrounded their tarp with florescent neon light tubes, which they used for about an hour and then they left way before us. After it got real dark, maybe nine or so, I found myself in a “snack bar” for the first time with the others, which basically resembled the finished basement of an elderly woman, complete with elderly woman, who was the only person working there. We dined on bowls of tiny, mushy fish that tasted like goop, and plates of tiny, chewy fish that tasted like brown sugar. I drank whiskey and waters and we karaoked the Evangelion theme song, then laughed at another one of the teachers, who is way more of a dork than me or any of us, for dancing with hand motions to some female idol songs from the 90s. The next day in front of our apartment building Jessy saw some idiot barfing all over the place, which is pretty much the end of the cycle for Japanese hanami-goers without strong American willpower.

CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK

– The konbini by the train to Port Island still has Mont Blanc Pepsi, which is odd since it was the seasonal drink during the fall, but makes sense because nobody in the country liked it except me so they are probably just shipping it to Kobe so someone will buy it
– Got a little packet of yellow mustard with my lunch yesterday, only the yellow mustard was not Yellow Mustard but Wasabi Mustard, which instantly obliterated my sinuses as wasabi often does to me
– Saw a TV show late at night last Saturday where they ask fifty foreigners who are somehow really great with Japanese to answer questions Japanese people have about those crazy foreigners, mostly useful questions with interesting cultural implications like do you shave your armpits and is Japanese pornography any good
– Well over a month and a half since my Hanshin station escalators were cordoned off for repairs and they are still not finished, yet someone continues to pay the same man to stand at the top of the escalator every single day and direct people to the massive stairway immediately adjacent
– Ray Romano’s Japanese doppelganger is a new teacher at my night school, he looks the same as Ray Romano and he might have a good comedy act I dunno I can’t understand him
– Will never cease to amaze me how chicken breast is the useless chicken meat here and is sold for 33% or less of the price of dark meat, because the white meat is not covered in that desirable, fatty skin that gets all delicious when you fry it and is so juicy and good and oh god what is this country doing to my culinary preferences

END OF JAPANESE CURIOSITIES,

but speaking of culinary preferences I should point out that I bought a deep fryer off Amazon last week, and any concept that you might have about “deepness” when it comes to fryers is like the ocean compared to this thing I tell you what. It holds about 500mL of oil and is about the size of half a grapefruit. The first stuff we cooked it in was gyoza, which is absolutely delicious deep fried. Sometimes I like to make hashbrowns in it but you can’t really do more than one at a time. Other things we have fried, like true citizens of the western world: fresh mozzarella, Oreo cookies, Snickers bars. Wonder if I could batter and deep fry corn? That would really be great. The fryer’s name is TWINBIRD.

EXISTENTIAL ASIDE: ARE ALL HUMANS NOSTALGIC FOR THE PAST?

Sometimes I feel like there’s something a little wrong with my life, a little off, a little wrong all the time. In my apartment, in my living room, maybe inside my refrigerator, in my closet. I catch myself wondering what exactly I need to set straight to be happy, what needs to be what way for me to relax comfortably, what I have to do to make going home or being home really feel right. Sometimes I feel like I need a smaller room, a smaller house altogether and my apartment ain’t that big. Sometimes I think back on the days that we first arrived and had nothing, sleeping on our floor with all the cash to my name laid out in front of me, an incorrectly-assembled fan sucking all the air off me and replacing it with sweat, our eager, early meals cooked fresh every night with dashi and simmered.

Sometimes I remember when we got the Playstation 3, when we got our first ridiculous half-naked anime figure, when I took my first big trip to Osaka, when we traded couches, welcomed Kiki. Or further back, cleaning my deck and all its shit off, making me its king. Buying our rice cooker at the second-hand store under the tracks.

With so much done, it seems like there’s always less to do. But what do I do now, with all of it finished and still feeling incomplete? Is what life ends up boiling down to at any point an endless repetition of the same day with small variance each time? Chicken instead of spaghetti, Suntory instead of Asahi, the couch on the north side instead of the south side.

Maybe I just need to get out more. Either that or this is what CRIPPLING MENTAL DISORDER sounds like

FINALLY

I’ve got a haircut tomorrow, during which I will have five months of growth replaced with nothingness. I meant to do it today, before my first class, so that my kids wouldn’t be faced with the eventuality that now rests before them: no matter how much they remember what I look like after class tonight, I’m gonna look completely different next week. I get my hair cut lately at BILLY Hair Studio, which is named after their pet dog Billy, whose stuffed corpse greets you cheerfully at the door. They give a pretty considerable discount to foreigners, which is racism that saves me fifteen bucks. There are a variety of reasons that I have theorized they do this, none of which bother me because I am used to making money for being foreign. At it turns out, I am pretty good at it too.

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Big Hammer

Three days deep into the first workweek back and I’ve yet to teach any actual “classes,” owing to Monday being a holiday, yesterday being my school’s opening ceremony day, and today being the annual “mochitsuki,” a ceremony slash event where we beat cooked rice with Big Hammer into a stretchy goo and form it into balls and eat it, which is totally a normal thing to do. I’m not sure what tomorrow at the blind school will bring, but Friday is most definitely a class day, during which I will have to explain about my trip to America without the help of the pictures and videos that I took, all lost to a random and cruel hard drive failure three hours before my flight back to Japan (along with all other pictures and videos we’ve shot since April 15th, my last backup). Are you reading this, Brandon of the future? Have you signed up for one of those handy persistent online backup things yet? To make a long story short, I can’t replace the hard drive or reinstall an operating system until I get a couple spare parts from the States, and that probably won’t happen for a few weeks or so (I’ve still got Jessy’s to check e-mail and Internet when I need to).

So, because of the lifestyle shakeup, I’m finding myself unconsciously acknowledging that I don’t have my friendly computer to sit comfortably in front of and sink time into, and am instead sinking time into other, valid pursuits: waking up and preparing breakfast, diddling around with some of the Playstation games I brought back, and endlessly tormenting my cat with the best $2.49 I’ve ever spent: a compact laser pointer that projects a single, emotionless red dot whereever there a surface be, unchanging like the bright eye of Lucifer, made manifest via three watch batteries and the souls of the Torment’d. Fixated upon it, the cat will spin circles on the ground as though a malfunctioning, indecisive Roomba vaccuum cleaner, ready to obliterate the particle of dust, if only he could catch it. And when he does, where does it go? Onto the back of his head, invisible to him, destroyed but perpetually revived, an eternal plaything and nemesis. I use it as mind control: just trace the path you want the cat to follow and watch him bend to your every whim, even leaping diagonally at the walls in an effort to strike the dot from its perilous arc up and off the floor.

Perhaps the biggest trouble I’ve had with re-integration to the society of Kobe is sticker shock, especially in the realm of fresh foods and produce. To go from paying 49 cents for a pound of apples to potentially 500 yen for a single, though surely tasty apple, is bizarre. The stores, devoid of any sales or discounts, are massively less exciting for bred consumers such as myself than the ones in the States; upon check-out from our local supermarket the other day I received an automatically generated coupon from the machine next to the register. It was for ten cents off my next single can of Suntory beer and lo there was rejoicing, and by rejoicing I mean I urinated due to pure glee so divine I lost my bladder control at the very sight of those two numbers one and zero right next to each other dear god ten cents off.

This is to speak nothing of course of the annoyance that comes at again being incapable of confidently conducting casual, reasoned conversations with shopkeeps, coworkers, and ne’er-do-wells in my vicinity. Right now I find myself in the somewhat annoying position of having about twenty pounds of coins that I’d like to deposit into my bank account, which I can apparently only do from the hours of 9 to 3 on weekdays, hours when all normal people are working. The one possible day I could do this is Wednesday morning, because I go into work late for night school. The idea of bringing two huge bags of coins into the bank and slapping them down on the counter by myself without actually being able to express any sort of thought related to “put the money in my account please,” assuming no possible denials of service or “count it yourself”s, is a bit unsettling, especially since I’ll have twenty pounds of coins in my possession and carrying them out of there once I’ve brought them in is not something I care to do. In the U.S. the process would be simple: call the bank and ask “can you put twenty pounds of coins in my account if I bring them in?” and then do it. In Japan, asking such direct questions is impossible, you are meant to divine the answers to questions through the careful reading of blood types, tea leaves, and phases of the moon. I think the etiquette for depositing twenty pounds of coins is to bring them to the bank, take a number like at the DMV, and then place them on the counter with your passbook while bowing and apologizing profusely for all this damned money you have. Then they will take it to the back room, make you wait for ten minutes, and return to the counter, saying only “we have intercepted your honorable money, is that okay?” Then they will wait for you to leave. Anyway I’m going to have these coins forever is the point. Hey future Brandon who now does the online backups of his data, do you still have the coins? Oh that’s terrible.

BULLET POINTS OF CONSEQUENCE
– I have now seen Tron Legacy in theaters three times, which is probably the most I have seen a movie in the theater since Mortal Kombat
– We made salads the other day from a whole head of lettuce, an apple, some carrot, chicken, and raspberry dressing, and they were way more awesome than you generally figure a salad to be
– We also watched that Baz Lurhmann movie Australia, and it was pretty alright despite needing some editing in the first third awful bad
– I’ve made breakfast burritos the last few days with some tortillas I brought back from the States and they are slammin’
– The sole literally fell off my shitty worn-out black shoes yesterday, and I sat in taffy in my newly dry-cleaned suit pants
– Somehow, the taffy came off the pants
WHOA GRIPPING

The best thing about being back in Japan is ironically that things are now “back to normal,” here in the land of good convenience store food, hyperactive nonsense television, tissue-packet distributors, ramen shops, and all-girl 48-member idol bands. It is thanks to Jessica that I find an anchor, as occasionally worrysome an anchor as it is, though not as worrysome as Big Hammer, which I have to be careful of tonight when the mochi beatings happen “because the splatter.”

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Out there blowing hard

Already the twenty-first of April, and quite admissible if the weather is any bargaining chip representing the relentless passage of time: it’s the nicest day we’ve seen in a good long while, and the shrinecats are out wandering, the chopstick salesman on Nagata’s shopping street is hawking, and I am seated at the right hand of the garbage, front row view of florescent light and this month’s schedule. Off to the side I can at least detect “brightness,” mostly because I know it is there, since I was out in it on my walk here, and such a thing owes no thanks to the heavy green curtains draping the walls like ceremonial rugs (in Japanese schools when the weather is horrible and freezing they leave the windows slung wide open, and when it’s nice, close all the windows and run the fans, I guess).

My personal conspiracy theory mentality suggests that by keeping the windows open in winter they are saying to the broken staff: “Look how shitty it is out there! Man, it sure is cold! All that cold air, and wind blowing around! Hey, why don’t you let this hit you for a while. Boy you’re much happier here in the office than you are out there, huh? Better keep these things open, just so you can see how terrible it is! Gosh it’s a fine day to be at work until nine in the evening!” In the spring though, they close the curtains and shut it all out: “Boy oh boy ain’t a thing going on out there in the sweltering heat is there. In fact it is so unremarkable out-of-doors we are just going to keep these pesky nature-holes shut. Feel that cool fan breeze on your face? Gosh it’s a fine day to be at work until nine in the evening!”

As the professional American around the workplace I have a handy resistance to such chronic overwork, though only to the extent that I recognize the fact that I needn’t work longer than my contract dictates, information so thoroughly obvious to many that the idea one might stay longer, Just Because, often baffles those who haven’t spent time as a member of the Japanese workforce. But it’s true. (Too long didn’t read version: workers are made to know they are tiny, show honor to their bosses by staying at the office for a dozen hours of unpaid overtime a week, then die of overwork, an affliction they even have a word for here: karoshi, occupational sudden death!) Not that I find this any kind of a super-interesting topic for my precious Nomaday, a venue best spent on telling my four readers all kinds of other dumb crap.

Let me get to the heart of what really matters: this morning in video game land, I picked up a street thug from off the ground I had just beaten him to, by his feet, and then proceeded to swing him around violently before crushing his back on a conveniently nearby lightpole. After this, I removed a crowbar from the possession of one of his friends by beating said friend with someone’s bike (it was just sitting there by the street) until it broke in half. Then I punished the lightpole man with said crowbar over the head so hard that it bent like one of Uri Gellar’s spoons. My name is Kiryu Kazuma, I am the former fourth chairman of the Tojo clan, and I am prowling the streets of Shibuya to totally remove the teeth and money from anyone who would dare Get All Up In My Face. (After a month of pointless bullshit, Yakuza 3 finally arrived at my house last week, much to my delight.)

Other sweet and awesome things I have virtually done this week: become a master at karaoke enka music, accumulated over one million yen in a few hands of super-high-stakes blackjack at a secret underground casino, skillfully won a variety of stupid prizes with nothing but my UFO catcher mastery at Club Sega, caught an enormous fish using an order of Smile Burger fries as bait, pushed down thousands of salarymen just for being in my way, and photographed an old lady flipping through the air on her moped with my cell phone.

Yesterday Jessy and I went to the Hyogo International Association building to take placement tests for the upcoming Japanese language lessons we are to be enrolled in. I consider it a placement test in the same way that you might consider a Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field starring your local tee-ball league compelling viewing. The only placement that the results of this test will indicate is that of “idiot,” an irremovable branding slapped across my Record: “Warning: fool” yet I actually fear that I may have guessed enough of the first baffling questions correctly that I will be placed in a section wholly inappropriate for a bumbling miscreant such as myself. I knew that I had reached as far as I could go when I got to a spot in our dialogue that asked me to select the appropriate conversational response for the question “Is this coffee squid?” and the only answers were “let’s eat,” “thank you” and something else that seemed to me like selecting it would be answering a question with another question so I picked that one, and then left immediately. That night, I had rice and a package of Japanese-style curry called LEE x20 SPICY that was so spicy I was physically exhausted by the time I finished. I have now determined that at twenty times the “usual” level, Japanese food is quite spicy indeed. I covered it with shredded processed melty-cheese, and ate it while watching a show on TV about some kid in China jumping ninety jumpropes at the same time 189 times in a row to set a Guinness world record. The sight and the taste combined to make me feel a little bit like Gulliver, suddenly topped with dozens of tiny fellows, stabbing at me with forks.

SOME THINGS THAT I ENCOUNTERED THIS WEEK WERE SORT OF PECULIAR, AND, TAKEN TOGETHER, CAN BE READ AS A COLLECTIVE STATEMENT ABOUT THE CURIOUS MINUTIA–THE POTPOURRI OF THE DAILY JAPANESE EXPERIENCE–AS IT PLAYS OUT IN MY LIFE, BECAUSE OF THE INHERENT STRANGENESS OR NOTABILITY OF THESE ENCOUNTERS TO ONE WHO HAS SPENT A PREDOMINANT PORTION OF THEIR LIFE RESIDING IN THE UNITED STATES OR A SIMILARLY WESTERNIZED COUNTRY, AS I HAVE. WHAT FOLLOWS IS A COLLECTION OF RECOUNTS OF THESE EVENTS
– Today’s bento, which I purchased immediately after reading the label (Hamburger bento Ba-Bi-Q sauce), despite being a simple 679 kcal affair, merely because I miss the flavor of barbecue sauce, and also cause it looks like there’s a little portion of fettuccine there under that hamburger and next to the curiously corn-enhanced potato salad
– My plastic container of snacks now sitting at home, purchased from the local psychotic madness retail store “Don Quixote,” filled with strips of dried smoked spicy squid, vaguely resembling beef jerky in appearance and texture, but definitely not beef
– A large, formal, ten-thousand-yen-attendance-fee party I went to with my coworkers from the school for the blind, at a big Chinese restaurant, concluding with yelps of glee and detailed English explanations that “at this restaurant, they will give you a special box that you can put food in that you didn’t eat, and take it home and then eat it later,” as though the concept of the “doggy bag” was as foreign to me as fermented soybeans with mustard for breakfast
– My ever-so-darling first year students, who, despite being the grade level and age equivalent of American high school sophomores, are uniformly terrified of the opposite sex, and sit as male and female groupings on either side of the room, with a column of buffer desks in between, if at all possible
– No longer finding it strange that I can go to my hair place and get a full cut, shampoo and conditioning with five minute scalp massage, a hot towel for my face, a styling, a free bottle of green tea while I wait for Jessy, and the business card of my stylist for 2100 yen with no tipping permitted (and when I am done having the door held open for me, being walked to the exit, offered my choice from a tray full of little pieces of candy, and then bowed to as my elevator descends from view)
THE PRECEEDING SECTION IS SURELY NOT A REFERENCE-LEVEL COMPENDIUM OF ALL THE NOTABLE JAPANESE EVENTS THAT I EXPERIENCED DURING THE LAST WEEK, BUT THE COLLECTION IS SUFFICIENT TO PROPERLY REPRESENT SOME OF THE QUAINT HAPPENINGS THAT DID INDEED OCCUR IN MY PRESENCE OVER THE SEVEN DAYS PRIOR TO NOW. IN READING THEM, YOU TOO MAY HAVE GAINED SOME IDEA OF THE DAILY MACHINATIONS WHICH OCCUR HERE, AND, IN DOING SO, FOUND YOURSELF ENJOYABLY LIGHTENED, A RESULT WHICH WOULD BE PLEASING TO ME

As I mentioned in brief last week, some friends from Canada will be visiting Japan for the next few weeks, and spending some time in our presence starting tomorrow. They are not newcomers to the country, which is to say that they previously toured a year or two ago for a bit, but I have faith that we can still do our best to present a variety of fun Japanese experiences. On my list are getting lost in rows of plastic robot models at Yodobashi Camera, drunkenly gorging ourselves on meat served on sticks–meat which may or may not have come from the necks of an assortment of animals–and, perhaps, seeing if we can catch any old men reading porn newspapers on the train. There are other things too, but who cares.

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I do declare!

There’s this one black cat that I see every day I go to my main school, and he’s usually hangin’ out in this parking lot where he sleeps under a car or lies in the sun or on the windowsill. Sometimes he’ll wander across the street to this empty overgrown lot and just pounce around on shit. I wonder sometimes if he is there all night, all day, every day, if the trash pick-up area right out front serves as his food source. What reason could he ever have to leave?

I’ve been trying to think of the reasons I’d have to leave (Japan), just to play the advocate of devilry. It is a mostly stupid hypothetical musing, because I have no desire to leave, and because here I have a job, and enjoy my life. But here are some things that I wish were more available: really spicy food, cheap pizza, huge packs of meat, American football and ice hockey, really good beer (these go together), Family Members (aw).

But most of the things that I miss (and I use the term miss loosely, only to mean things that I can no longer engage in on a level that I am used to) are commercial. Activities like
– reading the ingredient lists on packages,
– fully understanding the numerous “point card” shopper reward systems and how I might best take advantage of them,
– possessing full awareness of restaurant menus and the items contained in the offered dishes,
– and best utilizing the quirky and numerous technology based conveniences fully (including but not limited to cell phone GPS, cell phone e-book reader, cell phone wireless train ticket payment system, cell phone music player, and other various things having to do with my cell phone).

None of these are deal-breakers. Despite our modern conveniences, we live a relatively minimalistic life here, and are afforded great conveniences by being in the middle of a large, bustling city with an entrenched English-speaking community of like-minded peers.

There is one thing that I wish was a little more simple though:

– placing reservations/pre-orders for anticipated products, most specifically the upcoming mega-behemoth Final Fantasy XIII Lightning-edition PlayStation 3 system bundle.

To the uninitiated, who I would anticipate are in no position to know of or read this website, and probably should not for any reason, every few years a new video game in the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest series comes out here and the country is driven to a grinding productivity halt as enormous masses of people line up orderly and courteously for dozens of miles (ok not exactly) to get their hands on the juicy new title the moment it comes out. The newest one is the Thirteenth Installment in the Final Fantasy series, which I have been playing since the First Installment as a little tyke back in the early 90s on my big fat Nintendo. The makers of this game have seen it fit to create a special version of the PlayStation 3 system in honor of this bizarre milestone, and sell it together with a copy of said game. Having watched this madness from the outside through magazines and the Internet my entire life, and currently owning no PS3, I have decided that participation is the only choice!

If I already had a PS3 system and just wanted the game, I could be clinically retarded in a variety of ways and still manage to get one, probably. There are signs and advertisements all over the electronics stores, game shops, and even a variety of convenience stores, at which I could probably merely stumble to the counter, slap a ¥10,000 note on the tray, and say “Fainaru Fantajii SAATIIN GET ONEGAI SHIMAAAAAAS” (though such actions would likely cause my own body to self-destruct).

But I don’t, and so the only problem is figuring out how exactly one participates in the process of commercially declaring one’s intention to reserve not a copy of the game so popular that you can buy it at your local 7-11, but a Special Limited Edition System Bundle which is not pictured in any of the massive identical posters that hang from any number of surfaces and which I learned of due to my enthusiasm for specialist video game media. Jessy and I gave it a sporting conversational try (or should I say she tried, while I stood anxiously behind her trying to understand what was being said, biting my fingers and bobbing up and down), but had no luck until recently, when we discovered a new laminated placard in the RESERVATION KIOSK bearing a picture of the bundle and saying something like (we think) “orders for this item start on November 5th.” We got ourselves a membership card and I put the day on my calendar. The cashier said don’t worry, you will be able to get one, but I don’t trust him. I hear they are selling quickly, and I will be Damned if some punk gets one and I don’t (also I will murder him and take it).

So I guess I’ll just show up on the 5th and gesture wildly? These are situations in which a greater command of the language might be fortunate. Things like my actual job, paying bills, buying groceries? No problem! Popular but peculiar cultural pastimes: a bit more difficult. I figure, if I can get my students to bark with “woof woof” at each other like American dogs, I can figure out how to exchange money for this particular good. A suspenseful conflict awaits, avid readers!

Since I am already thinking about video games, perhaps it would be prudent to remark on the amount of free time I now have to play them. Let me just say that I took my fifteen-minutes-on-foot commute to work in Pittsburgh for granted. A fifty- to sixty-minute walk/train commute to work each way isn’t bad (and I can even get in a little time on the handheld games while I ride), but waking up early in the morning and going to bed early in the evening is certainly a bit of an antithesis of the way I had gotten used to living my life over the last three years, a life composed largely of strolling in for my ten hour workday at noon, staying up far too late with whatever happened to be distracting me, and sleeping in to my heart’s content, with Friday off and the weekends free. Now I have this thing called a live-in significant other (though the apartment is in her name, so does that mean I am the live-in?), a forty-hour five-day workweek, supper for two to cook (or otherwise acquire) every night, and one television (which needs to be either used at the same time or traded off). For some reason this combination of elements has resulted in my personal perception of having far less available “now I can be lazy” time than I am used to, and has led me to understand maybe why the handheld games are more popular in this country than the big TV ones: you gotta be home to play those, and your family in your tiny one-TV apartment wants to do something other than watch you shoot guys and level up (I have been watching Jessy level up her Lost Odyssey characters for over thirty hours in the last few weeks now, and it is a Disheartening other side of the coin).

Where is the time? How am I supposed to stay up late when I wake up at six, and how am I supposed to get up early to play before work when I wake up at six? More importantly, should it always be my goal to somehow find more time to play video games, when there are other things that I like doing too?

I think maybe that black cat has the answers, which is why I’m thinking that one of these days I’m going to sneak that can of tuna I got at the Daiso with me to school, then crack it open for him on my way home, and ask him what he thinks, how he is able to live such a totally chill kinda life. I know that a lot of people here frown on eating in public, but I saw an old man slurping some oden out front of the toy store today, and cats are just cats, and this tuna was already here, wakarimasen, sumimasen, I don’t speaking any Japanese sorry bye.

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