Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Lockup and the Manga Cafe

First of all, Shibuya was teeming with next to a bajillion people. Like seriously, busier than I've probably ever seen it. Coming out of the station, you couldn't even shove your way to the Hachiko statue to meet anyone, so I had to go and wait over by the police box for my host brother and his girlfriend to come get me. Chalk it up to a Sunday night towards the end of Spring Holiday I guess, but it was madness. Luckily, host brother had made us a reservation and knew where the place was so we were secured a table once we got there. The Lockup is down in the basement (of course it would be) of a building full of restaurants, and you find yourself crossing over from a regular, well-lit staircase to a dungeony type of cave staircase where the only light, and really, there was hardly any, were sparse blacklights. You push your way through an eerie, metal door with warnings splashed on it in paint which have since mostly chipped off. You're so focused on not tumbling down the stairs, that as you begin to wind your way through the almost pitch black labyrinth leading to what you hope is a front desk, when things start jumping out at you from the walls, you of course jump. The entrance is long and narrow and like any spookhouse you'd see in the USA, except for a very shifty and needless spot right before you get to the real entrance, where they've removed a patch of the floor and inserted a padded trampoline instead so that you feel like your falling when you take that last step forward.

So we pushed through to the waiting room where a young girl in a skimpy policegirl's outfit (complete with hat and handcuffs), is waiting to take your name. (I might mention here that all the girls are dressed likewise, whereas the male waiters are dressed in comfy-looking black and white striped pajamas made to look like stereotypical jail uniforms, complete with a serial number). So we sat down to wait, since we were a bit early. Underfoot are those disk-like things you can get at Spencers, where you touch them and the little lighting bolts follow your fingers. From time to time, alarms would go off and guys dressed like masked murderers or monsters would come barreling through. And yes, the one with a Jason mask, dragging chains behind him thought it would be clever to fall on me. I found it neither scary nor clever.

So finally our turn came up and the scantily clad hostess girl whipped out her handcuffs, clapped one on me and one on my host brother, and led us off to our 'cell,' with his girlfriend trailing behind, snickering. Rather than just tables, you get your own cell. And it's really cool because it's its own entirely enclosed room, with only the metal-barred sliding door exposing you to the outside. I liked it because it made it quiet (the music outside was blasting), and rather intimate. Also, rather than chairs, they had a low table and just cushions, so you sat cross-legged (and you had to take your shoes off at the door). Once we were seated (his girlfriend and I steated away from the door), we perused the menu, first selecting our drinks (all themed after mad scientists and served in test tubes or beakers as seen in the picture), and they picked out about 9 dishes (literally), for us to all share. I might note that last night was half price night. So, once we'd decided what we wanted, we pushed the order for the waiter and a rather strikingly tall and handsome young man in his striped pajamas slid open our door and took our order. Not long after, the food started rolling in. The drinks, while novel, were not at all worth their price. It was hard to believe there was alcohol in them at all, as they seemed more like soda mixed with flavored syrup. Everything, for whatever reason, was spicy-based, most things containing kimchi, which wasn't looking good to my stomach, though it turned out alright in the end. We had: nachos, cheese/beef fried tofu, seafood salad, another kind of salad, bread with curry sauce, vegetables with three types of dipping sauce, Taco rice, Spicy kimchi ramen, and this funny little dish where they bring you five small bowls that all look identical, with soup in them, about four soba noodles each, and on top, hiding the contents, fried tempura batter bits. What was interesting about this dish, is that 3 of the 5 dishes were fine and tasty, but 2 of them were almost entirely wasabi. So we all chose one and while my host brother's girlfriend and I looked at each other, satisfied with the taste, he started howling out and crying, because he'd gotten a wasabi one. There were two left, so she and I tried again and this time it was she who got the bum one. I'm just lucky I guess.

So we finally finished our food and were just sitting around, which I found odd since it was apparent we were done eating, so why weren't we leaving? Naoki then explained that it was only 8:30 and the trains would be packed. Then he offered to take me to a mangakisa, or manga kisaten which is a Manga Cafe/Internet Cafe. Just when we were getting ready to buzz for the check, (I might mention that my host brother's girlfriend had switched and was now sitting next to him, by the jail door), all the lights in the entire place went out. Over the loudspeaker came sirens, then red flashing lights, like cop lights, started whizzing around on the ceiling and a pre-recorded, fervent male voice came on saying that "there had been a break out and that monsters and murderers were now on the loose. Don't leave your cells. We're on the pursuit." A few black lights came on, and the sound of loud, and I mean LOUD slams started echoing all around as the 'monsters' were going through and throwing the barred doors open and shut. From my vantage point in the far corner, I of course could see whenever any of them were coming, but his poor girlfriend could not, and all of a sudden, a guy in a mask would throw our dow open and leap in (and I literally mean hurl himself into) our little cell, such that if you didn't leap away from shock, he might just barrel into you. This went on for a good 15 minutes or more, always catching her off guard, though my host brother was ready with the camera most of the time. At one point they tried to get the monster/murderer to hassle me, both of them pointing my way, but thankfully that's when a voice came back onto the overhead saying that the cops were closing in, so all the masked spooks started going back down the mainhallway to the break room while fake gunshots on the intercom let us know the cops were shooting them down, and then promptly after, a police girl came by with a flashlight as long as her arm, looking in at us, asking if we were okay. And that was that. We got the check and left. It was quite fun, despite me not being the spookhouse type.

After that we went one building over, up one floor through an arcade and into a pachinko parlor where buckets upon buckets were piled on the floor filled either with pachinko chips or real, legitimate coins. Then through there we passed into an elevator, and up to the sixth floor and out into what looked to be a quite posh VIP club, but which happened to actually be the Manga Cafe. Naoki paid our way for an hour and requested a booth for 3 (they have all sorts of rooms, even ones with massage chairs). On a nearby computer they looked up the Manga "Fruits Basket" for me and took me up the escalator to the next floor where the girls comics resided. They also explained to me that at this place, and perhaps all Manga Cafe, I don't know, the drinks are nomihoudai and the ice cream is tabehoudai, which means all you can drink and all you can eat. And sure enough, when we went back down the escalator, all the vending machines we saw showed a $0 for the prices. (I might note here that not only does Japan have regular vending machines, but some that brew your coffee for you, add sugar and milk according to how much you imput and then push it out to you, just like a Starbucks barista). So I got a milk tea, he got coffee and she got ice cream and we went back to our room/booth/cubicle. Again, you take your shoes off and enter the little cubicle space where there are leather floor chairs (since you're sitting on a waist-high raised floor), and pillows, hangars, a closet, a TV, a computer, super expensive headphones, and a playstation...all there for your use. Many people who cannot afford an apartment, or who are visiting and don't want to bother with a hotel, will stay in these cubicles because they are clean, comfortable and relatively cheap, comparatively. It had the feel kind of, like a cross between a VIP lounge and a library. So we read for an hour. They'd pulled 4 volumes of Fruits Basket out for me, but I only made it to four chapters, since my reading in Japanese is slow. After our time was up, we took the manga/magazines and reshelved them and left. How the people at the desk know who left on time and who didn't, I'm really not sure. And that was pretty much the end of my adventures.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Well, today I dipped into true fangirlism. I did what only a groupie would do. I became a true fan girl for a day, and even I think I was insane. Let me set the stage. Probably the coldest freaking day of the freaking year: overcast and windy and me in a thin top, a coat and leggings. You see, I was going to Harajuku because Alice Nine was going to be at a taping of a radio program there, and as it’s only like 10 min. away by train, and as I promised myself that while I was in Japan I would do everything fan girl/see Alice Nine as many times as humanly possible, since I may not get to ever again, so I went. You see, the studio is a station called Ameba, which is typically a blog hosting site (for famous and non-famous people alike), and they have a radio station which they tape and stream online. Well, they’d been advertising for some time that Shou, Hiroto and Tora were going to be there today for a show from 5:30 to 6:15, and if you wanted, you could potentially get tickets and watch. Awesome, right? Well, we’ll see.

So they rules, or guidelines if you like, were to line up at 11 am, at 12 noon they let everyone in line pick a number out of a box, and the people with numbers 1-350 got a chance to watch. Okay, an hour isn’t so bad, right? Well, of course, being the OCD person that I am, I show up at like 10:30, but there’s already a line, so whatever, right. Freezing my butt off. Freezing my butt off. Freezing my butt off. And we hit 12. Still nothing. Two young men dressed in snazzy black jackets and scarves (one who was the spitting image of Lee Jun Ki but with deep blue, almost imperceptible streaks in his hair), come down the line with one of those clicker counter things, and looking behind me is a line of probably 900 people in all. (So 1 in 3 get to go, right?) Anyways. These two young men spend another 40 freaking minutes sporadically telling us to scrunch up, or move back, or move over out of the way (since we’re on the sidewalk). Also, from time to time they come by to explain the rules, though in the most polite Japanese there is, so I don’t understand a word. And I’m freezing my butt off. Freezing my butt off. A lane of traffic beside us is cordoned off and then a very strange procession makes its way down the street: a few dudes dressed as ghosts howling, a few people waving flags that I’m only guessing had to do with graduation (it’s that time of year), and others with megaphones making some fervent speech about something I couldn’t catch. It was all quite strange. And I’m freezing my butt off. And I’m freezing my butt off. Freezing… Finally a girl comes up with a makeshift box with a hole in the top and I’m told to pull out a number. I look down at it and it has #197 written on it, a time (16:45) and a bunch of rules in Kanji I can’t read. So, I’m assuming they have the winning 350 numbers up somewhere (at this point I thought it was just a regular luck-of-the-draw lotto you see. So I go up to the Ameba front window (it faces onto the street), but instead of numbers, there are only polaroids signed by celebrities. I notice how everyone else has broken off and are going all ways, so I go home to wait it out til 4.

Come 4:30 It’s now even colder. I go, expecting a line or at least people checking some sort of board with numbers on it and still I find nothing. I walk around until the allotted 4:45 and notice a huge line of about 350 people that somehow I’d missed before. It still has not dawned on me that people who drew numbers under 351 were good to go, so I went up to a girl managing the line who worked there, showed her my ticket and asked where the crap I was supposed to go. Evidentally we were lining up in order, and after a few tries, I found my place. And we waited and it got dark and it got colder and I’m freezing my butt off again. Freezing my butt off. Freezing my butt off. It’s 5:15, the show starts at 5:30 and nothing’s happening and I’m freezing my butt off. Why aren’t we going in? Freezing, freezing, freezing, 5:30, freezing, freezing, 5:35, what-ho we’re moving. But… Alas… We’re not going inside. Now previous to this last 2 + hours of standing, I had wondered to myself just where they were going to fit 350 people in such a small looking building. Oh where indeed. I was in for a bit of a disappointment. Rather than getting to go in somewhere, sit down and watch the entire 45 min. performance, they were cutting us into groups and moving us in front of the window for 5 min. spans of time. Oh yes. 4+ hours of waiting for 5 min. I was slightly saddened at this discover. My toes were numb, my cheeks chapped, my hands now red with cold and I was freezing my butt off. It was dark by now and colder than it had been and I could have sworn I felt miniscule raindrops. Was this really worth it? Was it indeed. I was leaning towards no. And then, my turn came and we got to up to the window and there sat Tora (ever cool, with his shades on), Hiroto and Shou, all smiles and laughter, as close as if we were sitting on opposite couches. By the way yes, I AM a lunatic/dork/insert-word-here. Of course they were answering questions fans had sent in, and while Hiroto went on about his spoilt Pomeranian (which admittedly made me love him a little more), Shou spent his time looking at the crowd, each and every one, and being the overall sweetheart that I find him to be, even taking time out to get up in the window and read some letter a girl had plastered up there for him to see. What was really so cool about it was, first of all getting to see them upclose (and yes, they do look just as good as they do in the pictures), but also to actually interact with them, making eye contact, waving to each other, etc., which you don't get to do really at lives.

So anways, there was lots of fun chit-chat and laughter and then, when our 5 min. were up, we were all ushered out of the cordoned off space, the fans (myself included) waving goodbye and the guys all waving back. And that was it. Yes, that was all. All that time in the blustery, wintery weather for a brief 5 min. But yes, it was totally worth it. I tell you now, it was worth it. That being said, it was the most fan-girly thing I’ve ever done and I probably won’t do it again, but still… I’m glad I did. Granted, by the time I got back to my apartment, I literally couldn’t feel my toes, but a piping hot bath and two cans of warm coffee took care of that easily enough.

On quite another note (and sorry, this post is turning out long), you remember my last post about old KimuTaku? (If not, refer below). Well, I’ve broken down and decided to watch one of his more famous dramas to see if it furthers or retards my liking of him. In fact, I’ve taken up two (Gift and Beautiful Life), but have decided to start with the latter, as, from the description of Gift, I’m afraid it would sully my already shaky impression of him (you see, I watched Million Stars Fall From The Sky, and that just wasn’t alright). But, much to my chagrin, Beautiful Life is a terminal illness storyline (you just knew it would be). At least it has the decency though, to tell you right at the beginning, basically, “I’m/you’re dead now, let’s reflect on our past relationship” rather than moving things along and then boom, hitting you with the low blow of surprise cancer/leukemia/insert-terminal-illness-here. (I didn’t mean that to sound harsh). So I’m probably setting myself up for a fall, but I tried Pride once before and since I don’t like hockey, I couldn’t get into it. Well, getting back to what I’d originally wanted to say, in the description of Beautiful Life, on top of saying she’s in a wheelchair, he’s not, they like each other and try to cope (which is the premise from the get-go), it says they’re drawn closer together by a terrible car accident. Well that’s just great! So I’m now halfway through episode 6 and for the first time, they’re in the car TOGETHER, and of course it’s raining and they’re fighting and I just know it’s about to happen and I’m finding it difficult to push through. I suppose I’ll find a way to muscle through it, but I really just don’t want to. Well, we’ll see what progress I make. Anywho… tomorrow my host brother and his girlfriend are taking me to what they call an Izakaya (which basically is a place where you go after work to drink and have appetizers, sorta like a bar but classier), called The Lockup, though from what I’ve heard about The Lockup, it’s not so much (or at all really) an Izakaya as it is a themed restaurant. I’m not so sure about this place. But they want to go so hey, if they’re willing to take me, why protest? Anyway, I’ll blog about that later. Above is a picture from the taping (which I nabbed from a person called mandramoddle, so thanks to her for that). Well, talk to you cats later!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

How does the song go... "I think I'm turning Japanese. I really think so." Well, maybe not TURNING Japanese, but I'm at least one step closer. I discovered much to my bafflement and surprise (and perhaps even an pinch of disappointment), that I've quite fallen for Kimura Takuya. For those of you who don't know him, old KimuTaku (as the Japanese affectionately call him), is pretty much the premiere talent in this country. Everyone knows who he is. He makes wads of cash and does music, commercials, dramas, movies, magazines, variety shows... you name it, he does it. And he's been doing it since...just about since I was born. I mean Bon Jovi let him sing "It's My Life" as a duet with him. So anyways, most of the people here love KimuTaku, and everyone knows everything about him, whether they like him or not. Except me. I was always that one exception. And then yesterday I watched a clip from SMAPXSMAP (the variety show he hosts with the other guys in his band, SMAP), and I finally got it. In a mere 20 min., everything just clicked. And I can't really say why. It's like some mysterious power that is inexplicable. I mean, he's not a great singer, he played a weirdo/creep in the only drama I've ever seen him in, he's not what one would call conventionally handsome and he's much, much older than myself. But still... there's just something there. So, I have taken yet another step to being absorbed into the living organism that is Japan.

In other news, I went with my host parents today to the family grave, as this time is when everyone goes to visit/pray/clean their family graves. The Nishiyama family's graves happen to be a pretty dang far way away, so I got to take a roadtrip (3 hrs. each way), into the rural, mountainous (if that's a word), country. It is, in just about every way, different than Tokyo. And yet it was so lovely. The mountains are very unlike our own in the US, because where as our mountains are kind of like large, rolling hills with even slopes that swell to a top, the mountains here are very sharp and tall and thin, as though jutting up from the ground like overgrown stalactites. Or rather like God reached down, grabbed up a handfull of grass and jerked it upwards, and things just stayed there. They're sporadic and not really connected to each other, and not rolling but jagged looking, though entirely covered with trees and shrouded in an eerie, Samurai fog when it rains. Also, in the country, there are very few towns, most of the land being used as stretching rice paddies with one lone, ramrod straight road running through them for harvesters. When there is a town, it's not much to speak of. Usually, but not always, there is a gas station, sometimes a grocery, inevitably a bunch of very towering, grandiose-looking houses built in the old style (regardless of whether they really have money or not, they look grandiose), and there is always a Pachinko parlor. There may not even be a gas station, but there's a Pachinko parlor.

We finally got to Batou, which is where my host father's family hails from and where the graves are, and stopped to by fresh veggies/fruit (it's Strawberry season now), and to have lunch. Though they did serve Horse Sashimi (yes friends, that's raw horse meat), we opted not to have that, and stayed save with soba noodles and fried tempura, which was good and nice and warm on a chilly, rainy day. Then we pushed on to the house of my host father's second cousin, who runs the shrine in that town and holds down the fort on the family's ancient land. For countless generations, the Nishiyama family has been a family of Shinto priests and, strangely enough, doctors. The aforementioned second cousin's father had died just last year and he had to give up being both a pilot and a cop to come back to Japan and take over being a priest. Talk about being dedicated to your roots. As such, my host dad talked with him for a long time about general priest stuff that I don't understand, and while he did that, the cousin's wife showed us around her house. As it is a traditional Japanese house, I'd never seen one before, so she showed me around. Of course all the rooms have tatami mat floors and no beds, but futons. Instead of doors, they have sliding wooden doors that are covered, not with paper, but with silk on which are hand-painted scenes of Sakura (cherry blossoms), sparrows, bamboo, etc. Most of the rooms were full of priest stuff (their Hatama leggings, robes, special offering stuff, etc.,) but in one room, where the big shelf/cutout thing is where they hang the scroll to the god, she showed us a bowl made back in the edo era (a LONG time ago, pre-USA), a fake samurai helmet made all of money, a display case of ancient arrows, and a real katana sword, which evidentally you have to have a special license to even own and it has to be tied shut. So that was cool. I also got to check out a real Kotatsu, which is a heated table thing. Let me describe. There is a deep cut out in the floor long enough to hang your legs in, as if you were sitting on a ledge. On the bottom part, where your feet are, under raised slats of wood, is a POWERFUL heater. Then there is a table covering it, and blankets thrown over the top of the table so that when you slide your legs in, you put them under the blanket. Hard to describe, but there you have it. Also I went to a Ukio-e (wood block paintings) museum and had a strange Japanese dessert with red beans, jelly cubes and soft serve ice cream.

But before that, we went to the graves. Now, most people in Japan are both Shinto and Buddhist and celebrate both ways. When they are born, they have Shinto rites over them, when they die they have a Buddhist funeral. This is true for almost everyone. However, as my host father's family has always been Shinto priests, they're a little special and so you take care of their graves differently. The first set of graves we went to were very tall things with names and employment positions on them. Up until I think it was the Meiji era, though I forgot what I was told, Buddhism and Shinto were the same in Japan and so a person could be both a Temple Master (Buddhist) and a Shinto priest (Shinto). Some of the ancestors of the Nishiyama family were both. Moving on... So for the Shinto graves, you pour water over the top of the stone to clean it off, you light candles before the grave, you put mostly leaves or green plants in vases, and when you pray you clap twice. Also, you offer sake. However, there were some family members (more distant) that were buried Buddhist, and we went to see their graves too. As with the Shinto graves, you pour water over the stone to clean it off, and instead of candles, you burn incense, and instead of leaves, you put down flowers. Also, no sake and no clapping. So there's a crash course in that. Anyways, and that's really all that happened today.

I got my Kimono yesterday and wish me luck on figuring out how to do it. I've been shown twice and still seem to be quite lost. You wouldn't imagine how difficult it is. Just folding it back up the right way to put away takes 20 freakin' minutes! Even so, I'm gonna do my best to get it on tomorrow and go for my tea class. Also, my host brother's girlfriend just graduated and we're going on for dinner to celebrate. Then on Sunday I'm going to TRY desperately to get tickets (it's a raffle, so it'll take luck), to get in to see a taping of ALICE NINE!!! at the Ameba studio in Harajuku. Gosh I hope I get to go! We'll see. Then monday I finally have a day off, then Tues. meeting with my advisor and hoping, really hoping, that he can tell me what classes are offered this semester, when those classes are and... you know... when the first day of class is. I feel like I'm going to have a conniption most of the time. These freaking people. I hate my school. Then on Wed. I have a concert (The KIDDIE) and then on the 3rd, I'm going to Hanami which is sorta like a picnic/party where everyone takes time out to go and sit under the Cherry Blossom trees and admire them. They're just about to blossom here in Tokyo and everyone's already got lanterns strung up down the rivers and in the parks, pretty pinkish red and white lanterns for night viewing, once the buds finally bloom. So, not much longer for that! Anywho, I'll upload pics soon, though I didn't get many. Talk to you guys later! Wish me luck with everything!

Monday, March 22, 2010


What ho there everyone! So yet again, I've been slacking in my blogging duties. Lately I've been busy with a myriad of both good and bad events. First of all, a lady in my tea class died just the other day, which was rather upsetting as she was a lovely lady and it came as quite a shock to us all. Also, I underwent my first noticeable earthquake. It took place two prefectures up from Tokyo (sorta like states), and registered as a 6 on the scale I think, though it was strong enough here to shake the clothes in my closet. Suffice it to say, it was thoroughly unsettling and I'm hoping it won't happen again, though, as Japan is prone to earthquakes, I'm probably wishing
in vain.

On the more positive side of things, the neighbor lady's twins (3 yrs. old) have started taking hour long classes with my host dad, learning the basics like 1+1=2, sharing, not hitting, etc., and I've been enlisted to sit in on the class and act as English teacher. So far we've learned animals and nature terms. Really, more than anything I'm acting as babysitter than teacher, but they're good, fun kids so it's all good. Plus I get lunch out of it everyday. Also in good news, I went to
Alice Nine's first concert on their new tour and... they gave us all a special treat by playing a
song they're still in the process of recording in the studio. All I can say is, it has the potential to be my new favorite. As always, the concert was great, and because the venue was small, the sound was loud and pretty much awesome. Also, because it was their first tour performance in some time, all the guys were absolutely jazzed, which made the concert all the more fun. And, unlike in the other concerts I've been to, each one took time out to talk to the audience. So, to keep from boring you, I'll stop there by saying it was freaking great.

The aforementioned concert was in a place called Kawasaki which is actually not in Tokyo, but to the south of it, and the easiest way to get there is to use the Tokaido line. HOWEVER, this train is not like other trains and very nearly threw me for a loop. What I didn't realize was that the Tokaido line is used mainly for people who are going WAY out of Tokyo, and because of this, most of the cars are reserved seating (kinda like the Bullet Train), and you have to have a special ticket. The regular train is only in the first 3 or 4 cars, while all the rest are specially reserved. It even had a few double-decker cars. Very strange. It got me all confused. So, to those using the Tokaido line, beware, or rather be aware.

Lastly, I'm going the day after tomorrow to pick up my kimono, so that should be fun. I won't promise to update soon, but if anything interesting befalls me, I shall. I seem to be lazy nowadays so I don't want to promise anything. And I promise to take some more pictures pretty soon. The Cherry Blossoms are just about to bloom and then there will be an influx of pictures, I promise. Until then, check out the new song I'm obsessed with at the moment. It's by a Korean boy band called Beast/B2st, who I'm assuming are popular with the younguns, though I'm so out of touch with Kpop these days, I really am not sure. And you might have noticed I changed the layout again. I thought I'd make it fit the colors/feel of A9's new tour, "Reason of Geometry," plus I was getting bored of the blue and yellow. Well, until later, Ciao!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ginza and Re-entry Info

Hey guys! So it's been a heck of a long time. Sorry about that. Laziness doth overtake me. But I'm here to give you a real post now. So today I went to Ginza for the first time and was, naturally, impressed. It's the sort of shopping area where there are doormen at most of the stores wearing tails, tophats and white gloves, a place full of glass chandeliers and European-style architecture. I'm also told that a large and famous Kabuki theater is there. So my host mom took me to a very expensive mall for super rich older ladies and an enthusiastic young worker (25) there conned me into trying on a black kimono for him and the other spectators. This kimono shop, in contrast to the other I went too, sells kimonos that are either $2,000 or $20,000 (can't remember which my host mom said, but either is believable). We exited there and went to Japan's one and only Abercrombie & Fitch store, which was bustling and the most shameless place you'll ever go. It's as if A & F just called a male model agency and hired about 50 of their top sellers. And they were all dressed with their shirts open, greeting you at the top of every staircase (and there were many; 11 floors at least I think). And to top it all off, they take your picture with a shirtless guy with a six-pack before you leave. Oh it was so shameless. Also, I wanted to mention White Day, since the streets were packed because of it.

In Japan, on Valentine's Day, only women give presents (almost always chocolate, homemade if you really love the person). Presents are given to husbands, boyfriends, friends and coworkers. Then, one month later on March 14 Japan has White Day on which men return the favor giving gifts (traditionally marshmallows or white chocolate, though candy and jewelry are becoming more popular) to their wives, daughters, girlfriends, and coworkers. Thus, Ginza was bustling with very, very rich men in suits with briefcases.

The last thing I wanted to mention, and this is going to be boring so if you're not living or going to live in Japan, just skip it, was about leaving the country. When you first get here, you have to fill out a disembarkation/entry form, the former of which is stapled into your passport and ripped out when you leave for good. However, if you want to leave Japan before your final departure date (say, for travel to other Asian contries, or to go home for a stint), you have to get another form or they won't let you back into the country. So that means, you can get out, but not back in again. So what you do is go to the Immigration Office (for Tokyo I think it's near Shinagawa), buy a stamp at the convience store built into the Immigration building (one time re-entry costs $30), then fill out two forms which they have at the counter, take a number and wait for a very long time in the waiting room. Once it's your turn, you go to the counter, give the lady the forms and your red stamp and she'll take everything and give you a smaller card to take to the airport. Once your at the airport, ready to leave for your short trip, you present this new form (filled out of course) to the guy at passport inspection and he'll staple it in your passport. When you return from your trip you go into a special line at passport inspection, where they rip the card out and that's that. Piece of cake.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm Back

I'm back and still kickin'. Will post more later when I have the gumption. Think I might be down with something.