Tag Archives: yoshinoya

Liftoff, Space Cosmoship

The electronic dictionaries that my students possess are so wondrous that yesterday one of those little hellions set to work on something nefarious, culminating in a freshman coup-de-grace: room silent between snippets of conversation, a digital female voice emerges and says, in English,

“Ecstasy”

and the kid and his buddy are losing it over there and I try not to, because dammit I’m a teacher. But I remember what high school was like, and if I had an electronic dictionary that said whatever I wanted it to say when I was in high school I’d have been in detention a lot more than I was. I couldn’t help it, I laughed anyway. It was a harbinger of sequelitis, certainly, this punk’s behavior validated, and later in the class we all got an “UHHHHH” from the same voice, in the middle of some kid’s speech. That one I tried not to react to, lest some real whoppers follow. What’s next after “ecstasy” and lascivious moaning? Scallywag? Consarnit? Poppycock? Actual cock? I dare not investigate any further.

This was after one of the students told me I was “lookin’ suave,” wherever the hell they learned that. I can barely conduct routine conversation in Japanese and these kids can say “lookin’ suave” in English. Obviously I need some lessons. I told the kid “nice pants.” He looked at his pants.

Despite my constant struggles with the language, I did manage to use it to do a Secret Special Order at Yoshinoya the other day (the popular beef bowl restaurant) by asking for my gyudon “tsuyudaku,” or with extra sauce. This was during the lunch break of my Mid-Year Conference, mentioned in the last entry. I hoofed it from the government building to Sannomiya and ordered up then walked back stuffed with beef and rice and onions. After that was over I stopped off and bought a Kirin six-pack and a bottle of Suntory Old Whiskey then went home and played Modern Warfare 2 for a long time. It was awesome! (take my word for it)

NEW WEEKLY FEATURE

Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– One person’s perception that Hot Cocoa (which exists here) and Hot Chocolate (which apparently does not) are distinct and separate beverages, with Hot Cocoa being “really sweet” and Hot Chocolate necessarily being “even sweeter”
– The only clearance flavor of Hi-Chew candy that I’ve ever seen, and the flavor is “American Cherry,” not that I knew American Cherries had such a distinct taste as to necessitate their own classification as an artificial candy flavoring
– Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino speaking English on a Japanese evening cooking show on television and being the two celebrity judges in a cooking contest between two chef duos, consuming hot pot clam chowder, steak, and attempting to slurp noodles before imploring the viewing audience to go see their new movie “Inglorious Basterds” (actual spelling), which is about Nazis
– Guy outside main center street shopping area downtown standing on precariously balanced plank-on-cylinder while juggling knives to a huge audience of almost totally unenthusiastic bystanders
– Being corrected on my katakana-pronounced order of a “Quarter Pounder with Cheese” at McDonalds by having “Quarter Cheese? Quarter Cheese?” repeated to me (wrapper that sandwich arrives in says Quarter Pounder with Cheese on it)
– A 350ml bottle of cherry soda designed to look exactly like a Tabasco sauce bottle but saying Tabasco nowhere on it nor tasting anything like Tabasco

END OF NEW WEEKLY FEATURE

We used our Japanese Thanksgiving Day on Monday to take the ropeway line to the upper areas of Mount Rokko. Our cable-car-companions were a young, stylish couple, the man in which was being relentlessly teased by the woman for “being scared.” I couldn’t blame him cause the thing was honestly kinda fucking terrifying. I dunno maybe the girl has ridden all the perilous-looking fiberglass composite gondolas suspended from braided wire in Japan or something. From the top of the mountain you can drop a hundred-yen coin into those mechanical binoculars and really get a good view of the city. I could see our apartment complex from there, and tiny boats cruising around in the sea. Then we took the hiking path down, behind a few tourist retards including one girl who was literally wearing heels trying to hike down a mountain and failing miserably. I resisted the urge to help her down with a soccer-style ass-kicking. We saw a waterfall further down, a picture of which you can find over in my Twitter feed in my Twitpic. How twittly! Excited, I got to jogging so quickly down a stone path that I almost fell off the side, but reached out for a railing bar and grabbed it, flipping myself about upside-down.


(not my photograph)

Speaking of physical pain, I had my second encounter with the Japanese health-care system on Saturday morning, having slowly developed agonizing inner-lower-left back pain that flared up whenever I’d engage those trunk muscles. I wanted to let it be, but it hurt even worse after waking up, and so that inconsiderate live-in harpy who’s hogging the air in our apartment (hi jessy) insisted that I go to the hospital (virtually across the street) to make sure I wasn’t going to die or something. As it turns out, I am going to die, but probably not because of this injury, which is just some kind of muscle sprain or spasm caused by my getting drunk and subsequently dehydrated Thursday night at the Sky Buffet (which was as awesome as I predicted), waking up Friday, going to Mid-Year Conference which involved walking four miles, and wolfing down an L-size beef bowl in the meantime. They gave me an ultrasound and discovered I am not pregnant, then “prescribed” me four tiny shitty painkiller pills that don’t work at all. Still, for my appointmentless 8 AM emergency room visit (with an English-speaking doctor, and including the aforementioned ultrasound, blood pressure tests, a urine-check (can’t be too sure I guess), and the cost of my medicine), I only paid about 3,000 yen, or about twenty-seven bucks at the current exchange rate. Thanks Japanese national healthcare system, for your questionable success rate but affordable peace of mind! Anyway it’s mostly feeling better now as long as I don’t do the Locomotion or anything or practice my hula hoop skills out in the yard (I don’t have a yard).

Other things I don’t have: the day off tomorrow, unlike all you lame-guys back in the States, during which you will gorge yourself on roasted bird, stuffing, and whatever other gruesome spreads you are able to secure for yourselves. My Thanksgiving lunch will literally consist of a special-school-prepared government-supplied calorie-rich rice and grain combination, somewhat flavorless miso and seaweed soup, vaguely room-temperature high-fat milk from a glass bottle, a lightly mayonaissed salad likely containing some kind of root or pickled vegetable, and a main dish that odds support being heavily stewed vegetables or fish in some type of sauce. Handily offsetting this (I hope) seems to be the endeavors of one of the western locals, who will be hosting an evening meal more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the occasion. I’ll bestow upon her a Pot of Dumps, dumplings in the true spirit of my mother and her mother and all other dumpmakers back in that rich line, flour and egg and the tiniest bit of water and salt all boiled up hot and tasty. I will eat them all myself except for one, and then as it is reached for, snap it away with adept chopstickery and flick it into the air like a flipped coin before plucking it from the air with my prehensile lizard tongue. It will be my most memorable moment ever, and probably the greatest and best of history.

Tonight I’m going to have the kids play Battleship, only it’s English Battleship where you can only attack by putting together parts of sentences instead of a letter and a number. So instead of a room full of people saying C-5 I’ll have a room full of people saying I would like to… walk to the store (or “remain totally silent with fear”). Anyway, because regular Battleship is lame, I’m making this into SPACE BATTLESHIP, which is fucking rad. They will have Space Battleship, Space Cruiser, Space Cosmoship, Space Ferry, and Space Guppy. The Space Guppy is obviously the one-square ship. They will say “You sunk my Space Guppy,” and things will be okay for me, for tonight at the very least.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , ,