Monday, October 09, 2006

Week 3 - The Novel

Wow...where to begin.

This week has certainly been the most fun I've had in Japan. After Joey's birthday dinner (Tuesday night) I began working on my presentation. I hadn't really realized how insignificant all my past research was until I had to do a presentation about it, so naturally I spoke about my bulldog George, South Africa/The Kruger Park, and the University of Florida for about 8 minutes before basically saying "uh yea...I mean I kind of did stuff." Luckily there were very few questions, which was mainly because there wasn't much to ask. Kuboi did grill me for a bit however, and I have to say for the first time since I've been here I was pretty happy someone had no clue what I was saying, though there have been times I've been a bit embarassed that people do know what I'm talking about. Who would have guessed that the Japanese words for "velour" and "miniskirt" are the same as the English ones...luckily they haven't caught on to badonkadonk yet.

After the presentation Wednesday finished off like normal. Thursday I went in to the lab and had a chat with Hiro about what the hell I'd be doing. He basically told me that Tuan-san and Tasaki-san had projects that I could help with, and he explained to me the projects. We decided that the following Tuesday I would begin working with Tuan-san, which would last about a week or so, after which I would begin working with Tasaki-san.

Friday rolled around and ended about as quickly. That afternoon I decided we were going to all go to Bar Orugan, the bar the grad students had taken me to after the welcome party. It was also the bar we were looking for the night of our pizza-gouging incident. Luckily Tim and I had spotted it while wandering around one day so we knew where to go. At about 6:00PM we headed over to the bar (Chris was going to meet us later) but decided it was a bit too early to drink, and we were a bit hungry, so we stopped by McDonalds.

Seriously, if you want to see the 3 or 4 fat people that live in Japan (and are natives) stop by McDonalds. It also seems to be a particularly popular place for teenagers to hang out/eat. I've gotten the ordering down to a science now:

Me: "Um...bigu macu...seto...ginga ayil-o...furenchi furieso, ookii"
Translation: "Um, I'll have a big mac combo meal with a ginger ale and large fries"
Jap1: "ano...bla bla bla, japanese japanese"
Translation: "Uh...that'll be Y560"
Me: "Aragatto gozaimasu!"
Translation: "Why thank you noble employee of the finest establishment in town"

We usually go eat upstairs because the smoking section is downstairs (really it's because that's where all the teenage girls are and Tim insists we go there). We finished up dinner and I realized we pretty much did the exact same thing last week: went to a bar and ate McDonalds on the way. Not being one to break with tradition, especially those involving burgers and alcohol, I declared that the following Friday we would return to said procurer of the finest beef this side of kobe and let the tradition continue.

After dinner we made our way over to Orugan to get our drunk on. All the drinks are Y300 so we decided to make it an evening of experimentation.

We started off with beers.

After our first beers we looked through the menu to see what other choices we had and Tim and I ordered. A few minutes later the bartender comes over with another two beers which certainly was NOT...

...the Tequira Sunrise I had ordered (I actually ordered kamikazes, but I figured this would be a nice segway to the picture posting). Not long after Chris managed to find the place, despite my awful directions, and the festivities continued

The night progressed as usual; everyone continued to get drunk, the Vietnamese/Inbred Redneck/Jew jokes flowed like wine, and we made Joey recoil in uncomfortable silence after a 10 minute long conversation about balls. At about 9:30 Tim decided we should go home because the bar was empty, and Chris and I decided we should go get more McDonalds and then come back to the bar. We ordered some cheeseburgers and ice cream, wolfed them down, and returned to the bar whereupon it had gotten a fait bit livelier. There were a bunch of people sitting at the table we were at before so we decided to go speak to them. Turned out they were all english literature majors who were at the "2nd party" for their teacher who was leaving for another school. Why an english speaker would become an english literature major is beyond me. Why a japanese speaker would become and english literature major is absolutely incomprehendable.

We chatted a bit longer before Chris and I decided to head home. We hopped on the train and I decided I wanted ice cream, so we stopped by the local Lawson's, a popular chain of Japanese convenience stores, and I got some rum and raisin. While standing in line at the counter we also caught a glimpse of their strategically placed breaded chicken and cheesy chicken balls, so we decided to get some of those too.

We continued walking home blissfully, cheesy chicken balls in hand, at which point I decided to try my rum and raisin ice cream. This had to have been THE RUMIEST rum and raisin I had ever eaten. Now I was pretty drunk at this point, which usually masks the taste of liquor, and this shit was STILL the rumiest rum and raisin I had ever eaten. I'm almost tempted to go back and buy it while sober but I'm a bit scared at this point. Needless to say I finished it, and we made it back to the dorm without incident at which point we both went to sleep.

Saturday was a waste of a day. Seriously, a complete waste. I would have liked to have seen some of Osaka but unfortunately I had to find out first hand just how meaningless Kuboi's "meaningless discussions" are. I had a meeting for 1PM, so being the punctual guy I am I get in at 12:15, and since he was in a meeting with someone else I just decide to go grab some lunch. I get back, 12:50, and he's still in a meeting. Ok, that's cool, I'll just wait a bit. Unfortunately I didn't bring my laptop because, reasonably, I assumed that a 1PM meeting was a 1PM meeting. Unfortunately it turned out to be a 4PM meeting. A 4PM meeting that lasted 20 minutes and really accomplished nothing (meaningless?) so I just went home and lay in bed for a bit.

At 7 or so we decided to go back to Orugan for the evening which we did. It was pretty empty again so we decided to walk around to see if there were other bars in the area. After a quick detour into a side alley so I could silently protest the size of Orugan's restroom, we found another bar that turned out to be a bit more upscale. We each got a beer, drank it, and decided to head back to Orugan where we saw that some people had taken our seats. We wound up sitting near this guy I had seen there before we left who was sitting alone.

I ask him if he wants to join us and he says sure, at which point he sits down and Tim asks him where he's from. "Ya, I'm from Johannesburg South Africa" he says in the familiar accent, to which i respond in my poor excuse for an accent "No fucking way, I'm from Joburg too!" I was pretty excited so started asking him some questions, turned out he was visiting some friends. Unfortunately my excitement soon faded after we realized that yea it was pretty cool that this guy was from South Africa, but it wasn't so cool that he was a bit of a douche. Regardless, before we left we took a quick photie

and made our way back home.

Sunday was the international student bbqthat the chemical engineering students were having for us, so at about noon we made our way over to the building to begin. They had a couple garbage bins full of beer and wine coolers, and charcoal grills with a LOT of meat/vegetables/noodles. I wasn't quite in the mood for beer yet, so I found a wine cooler instead, which was awesome, because it tastes like fruit juice and gets your drunk at the same time! The japanese style of bbq from what I understand basically involves grilling meat and using dipping sauce, so people pretty much crowd around the grills with chopsticks and eat thin strips of meat off the grill like so:

The guy that coordinated the thing was pretty awesome. We all crowded around in a circle and he started giving a speech, and then randomly he just yelled "KUNPAI!" and everyone clapped, yelled, and drank their drinks. A bit later he asked all the REU students to give a quick speech

Not long after we began, one of the students arrived with his wife, his pimp-ass son, and their dog that would run for its life every time it saw Clare.

At some point we let them know we wanted to play another game of soccer that day, so two of the guys took off their shirts and started playing drums on their stomachs while one of the others played with a soccer ball and they picked teams

As is often the case with me, not-in-the-mood-to-drink-Dane became hey-do-you-guys-know-what-chug-is-Dane.

"Do you guys know what it means to chug?" I asked the eager onlookers
"What's Chuck?" Hama-san naively replied
"" I said as I downed a beer.
"oooooooooooh sugoy!" (sugoy means great)

They informed me that it was called iki, so I handed everyone a wine cooler because that was all that was left, told everyone to quietly gather around, and then yelled:


...and we iki'd.

A bit tipsy at this point, Hama-san and "Sexy-boy" decided to teach me the "Sexy-Boy-Pose."

The party carried on and people suddenly started dropping like flies. It was at this point where, for the first time, I realized what a detriment I am to peoples' health.

At this point, people had literally disappeared, so the few of us that remained went over to the field to play some soccer. People slowly trickled in and eventually we had a 11v11 game. Soccer was fun as usual, and I made some new friends with my random Japanese. A couple hours later the game ended and we basically went home and all passed out.

Monday was a national holiday (National Sports Day or something) so we didn't have to come in. We decided to make our day trip to Nara. I'll let you mull this one over for a bit and I'll post that one when I can. It's basically a lot of pictures of temples and shrines.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Day I Lost Count - Joey's Birthday


Tuesday was Joey's birthday. I knew something was up when I caught a glimpse of his instant messages, one of which said "dad says happy birthday as well." A bit later one of the people in the lab mentioned to me that they were doing something for Joey's birthday on Friday, and I later realized that he was the one who brought in all the souvenirs that day (as I've mentioned, when people come back from a trip or have something to celebrate they'll bring in what they call souvenirs...usually chocolate or pastries or something).

I went to the other lab and told Clare and Tim that it was Joey's birthday, and they asked me to wish him happy birthday for them. The labs are about 10 feet away from each other. Real sweet guys.

Naturally I ignored the request, and a few minutes later they both popped in to say hello. We decided to go over to Shinsaibashi to celebrate by going to all you can eat pizza at "Shakey's," one of the places Ashley raved about.

At about 4 I had my english lesson and met Leno, an electrical engineering student from the Phillipines. We chatted for a bit, and at 5:15 Tim came to get me cause they had no clue where we were. We waited a few more minutes for Dr. Williams to meet us, and Clare lead the way (she had been there a couple days before).

Roughly 45 minutes later we got to Shakey's and parted ways with Clare. Shakey's was a far more successful venture than our last pizza expedition, though it did cost about an entire train card to get there and back. The pizza was excellent, which I guess is quite a relative term when you've given some of the other restaurants you've eaten at names such as "Yucky Pancake Place." It was certainly worth the trip though. Between the "fish flake" pizza and the "mystery-meat-is-this-tuna-or-(elipses)" pizza I managed to find some corn and green peppers pizza and some regular cheese. I don't know who decided to put corn on pizza but it was a rather brilliant decision. Perhaps the best part about shakeys though was the fact that they had potato wedges. It would have been nice to have some sauce to go with it, but man for a meat and potatoes kind of guy, mystery meat and potatoes is about the best I could hope for.

After dinner Tim and I decided to walk around Shinsaibashi a bit more so we went down the street and stopped by Loft. This place was freakin cool, not to mention it had a plethora of engrish.

Since Halloween is just around the corner there were quite a few interesting costumes including the HardGay one. We considered making this

Joey's birthday present but we figured he wouldn't get much use out of it. Walking on to the next floor I spotted this

No way!! Japanese play Sudoku too?!?

The next floor had some of my favorite items including this ashtray

and this height chart.

Apparently Japanese height charts stop at 150 centimeters, and with good reason too. Perhaps my favorite item in the store however was this trash can that I feel like I've seen before (Ashley?)

I would have gotten it too, but I stopped taking existentialist advice from trash cans around the same time I quit mushrooms. Just kidding mom!

...I never really quit.

We left Loft and just walked around a bit more. We crossed the street

to check out what was on the other side but it looked like most of the stores there were closing so we decided to head back. We stopped by the coolest Apple Store I've ever seen but my pictures didn't come out too well, and stopped into the Swatch Store.

They had a pretty cool selection, though I wasn't aware that Ugg-Swatches had come back in style

It was getting pretty late so we decided to head over to Umeda to take the train back home so that I could get started on my presentation.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Week 2 - In Brief

So as you may have noticed, the updates have become a bit less frequent recently. This week has been a relatively bland one, and frankly I'm a bit surprised it's over already. The last 5 days have pretty much consisted of me waking up anywhere from 6:30-8 and, in order of importance, a) checking my mail and possibly making some phone calls, b) eating breakfast, and a distant c) showering. I'm in the lab by 9:30 where I spend another hour or so speaking to people online, reading news and checking e-mail. That gives me a good hour if I'm lucky to do some real work like reading papers, until about noon rolls around at which point everyone simultaneously gets up and goes to lunch. About 12:45 I'm back in the lab and I decide to check the news and such again for a bit until about 1:30PM where I sit down to try reading a bit more literature. Add a few breaks in between and suddenly it's about 5:00 and it's time to go home.

It typically takes about 30 minutes to get home, at which point I offload my stuff, plug in my computer, and usually watch some of the TV shows I'm missing while I relax. 6:30 rolls around and it's time for dinner, so Tim and I usually meet up and go downstairs for our incredibly hit or miss free food. I finally let them know I don't eat pork so when it is some sort of pig dish the kitchen staff will prepare me some chicken nuggets and pseudo-salad. Now while I do question the nutritional value of multiple chicken nugget meals a week, I must say I can't least chicken nuggets don't have eyes.

After dinner it's about 7:15 and I'll usually go back to my room for about 45 minutes or so at which point I'll hop in the shower. This week Tim and I picked up running, which is very likely to get us arrested for jaywalking, being creepy gaijin who get lost in childrens' playgrounds, or being even creepier gaijin who like to play "race that sweet old lady riding her bicycle alone on this vacant street at night" (to Tim's defense, I'm really the only one who likes this game). We're hoping the running will last, though we did take a break on Friday and, due to soccer injuries sustained by both of us, may have to postpone it indefinitely.

After the run and/or shower I'll usually head back to my room, peruse the "Intahnehto" a bit more, and go to sleep by 10 or 11. There are a ton of things I'd really like to start doing, such as learning a bit more Japanese, but for some reason it seems like as unproductive as I may be on a given day, I don't really have the time for it. I'm hoping this coming week I'll get started on some experiments.

The Weekend:

Friday most of us didn't have any lab work to do so we spent a large chunk of the day deciding what we were gonna do that weekend. We had decided to stay in Osaka for the weekend, and planned to go to the aquarium at some point. Friday night we wanted to go to Shinsaibashi, which I guess is one of the other big downtown-like areas in Osaka (Umeda being the other). One of the problems with going out over here is that since the trains stop running at 11PM and cabs are prohibitively expensive, you either go out pretty early, as in 7PM-11PM, or ridiculously late, as in 11PM-5AM. We settled on the 7-11 run and decided to meet up in Umeda at about 6:45.

4:55 rolls around and one of the guys in the lab tells me that he's practicing his english presentation at 5:00 and would like me to watch. Alright, this shouldn't take long. So he starts the presentation at about 5:10 at which point his computer crashes and he has to restart it. At about 5:20 he begins the presentation again, and finally after the presentation/questions are over (5:45) I tell Tuan-san I had plans and I can't see his presentation and I leave. I get back to the dorm at about 6:10 sweaty from running to make it, change, and we're out the door a few minutes later. We get to Umeda about 15 minutes late, and then learned that trying to find an asian person in Japan is like trying to find a needle in a haystack...all rook same!

We finally found Clare in the shoe store at the bottom of Hep 5, our meeting place, and I was rather surprised she didn't fly into a fit of rage at the very sight of us. We had a bit of trouble finding the train line so we stopped by the standing room only McDonalds (chris bought the Shrimp McNuggets) for some dinner and to figure out where to go. Being the ever frugal college student I had made some screwdrivers prior to our departure, and so I gave thanks to Buddha for his lack of open container laws and chugged away.

After finding the train we headed over to Shinsaibashi and decided to walk around a bit. The initial plan was to stop by Cafe Absinthe but no one remembered to bring directions so we just walked around a bit. Much like Umeda, I feel like Shinsaibashi is more of what people imagine Japan to be like.

Crazy and busy with lots of lights.

Apparently they have homeless people as well.

And we stumbled upon this.

I have no idea what it is, but I do know that I see the picture in almost every map or promotional material I see for Osaka.

After walking around for a bit we noticed Tim getting increasingly irrate as he mumbled things to Chris under his breath (that's right Tim, we heard you!) so we decided to stop into the first place we saw which happened to be a brewery/bar. We sat there and grabbed some overpriced beer that made me happy I had planned a bit ahead of time with my cheap vodka, though rather unhappy I had just paid 7 bucks for a beer

Afterwards we decided to stop by a bar called the Pig and Whistle which we had read about in Frommers and had seen along the way. Much like the previous place it was also pretty expensive (about 500-700 yen per drink on average). While we were there I got up to go ask some Westerner if he knew where Cafe Absinthe was. He informed me he'd only been there 2 or 3 days and so I offered for him to come join us. Ewin, an English teacher from Scotland, spent the remainder of the night drinking with us.

Not long after Ewin joined our table some random older Japanese man said hi and asked if he could join us. I didn't really speak to him or catch his name, but as it turned out the Japanese have something in common with the Scottish

Bad teeth...

After taking a couple more pictures with our Japanese friend

and speaking a bit to the group of people next to us we decided to head back home. Once we got to Umeda station Clare went on her way to her dorm and we went back to Ikeda. We decided to check out the Japanese Denny's so we got there and I ordered some fries which Tim and Chris ate because I fell asleep. After eating they woke me up and we headed home to sleep for real. I still maintain that I was simply resting my eyes.

Saturday, after ignoring the phone, I was awakened by Joey and informed that we had meetings with Kuboi-sensei (meetings that like most other things, no one informed us about). I headed over to campus around noon for the meeting, and since Joey was in the middle of his I decided to just get lunch. After lunch I came back and had my meeting in which Kuboi-sensei spent his usual 20 minutes telling me absolutely nothing. After the "meaningless discussion" as his students like to call it, I decided to stay on campus for the next few hours because we were due to play soccer at 4 with Chris and his lab.

Soccer time came around and after finally finding the group we played the game. I make it a point to mention stereotypes and I must say we all represented our country quite perfectly in being the living proof that Americans are poor soccer players. We played on a dirt field about half the size of a regular field, and it was some of the most fun I've had since being here. Every time one of us would do something remotely decent or as was more often the case, completely pathetic, everyone would cheer and laugh. It was all fun and games until I went to block a pass, slipped on the ball, and sustained what I like to call "my ass injury."

After playing for almost 2 hours we called it a game, and Tim and I went to the cafeteria to grab some food. My back was covered in dirt so Tim lent me his extra shirt, and it wasn't till I sat down that I realized the extent of my injuries. I finally found a sitting position that didn't pain me greatly, finished my food, and embarked on an excrutiating walk home. I was pretty exhausted so I went to sleep early on Saturday.

Sunday we were going to go to the aquarium but the weather took a turn for the worse and I wasn't too excited about the prospect of walking around all day so we took a rain check. Tim and I got breakfast (basically a bunch of assorted pastries and an egg sandwich) and I spent the rest of the day watching Studio 60 and scrubs, and basically lying in bed. We got some ramen for dinner, but that was about it.

It's now Monday, my ass is feeling a bit better, but my request to begin some experiments clearly wasn't understood because I just spent the last couple hours updating my blog.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Day 7 - 10 - Our Somewhat Successful Trip to Tokyo Part Deuce

So after going to sleep pretty late (about 3:30AM) I woke up a few hours later at about 7:00AM, a tad later than my planned 6 o'clock wakening. Tim was kind of awake as well, and after making a bit of a raucous so was Joey. Chris was falling in and out of consciousness and Clare was sleeping like a rock. I told Joey I wanted to leave by about 7:45, and between one of Chris's semi-conscious states I told him the same. We went back downstairs to pay for the second night, as well as a luggage lock for our bags, and started getting ready.

At about 7:50, which was about as close to target as I could have expected to get, we left the hostel and made our way to the train station. About 8:00 rolls around and we're rolling. We had made plans the previous night to meet at one of the exits of Tokyo station, the station pretty much in center of Tokyo which happens to also be the station we would need to transfer at to get to the Tokyo Game Show. We get to Tokyo Station and begin walking to the other train line we're supposed to take. We walk. And walk. And walk. And then see a sign.

900m to Keiyo line.

It is at this point that I realize how truly large this station is.

And how truly fucked our plans are.

I make a mental note to leave from the Game Show about 45 minutes earlier than previously planned to give us ample time to make it to the station and find the meeting spot.

We finally get to the line we're supposed to take. This is the first stop the train makes and there are literally hundreds of people there, including a few westerners wearing the tshirts of some gaming website. We get on the train and after a few stops I decided to ask them if they were going to the Game Show. They said "yes we are" in a French accent and the rest just nodded. I asked if I could follow them to which they just nodded again pompously. How did I know it was a pompous nod and not simply a noddish nod? Well a) they were French and b) they kind of ignored me after. Fucking pricks...I guess centuries of military defeats and being best known for a fried potato that arguably never came from France at all will do that to a people.

We got off the train about a half hour later and frankly, didn't need to follow them at all. It seemed everyone that got off the train was heading to the convention and swarms of hundreds of people made their way to the show. We stopped by a booth quickly to buy Chris's ticket, a stop that probably set us back in line about 500 people.

We walked out of the train station and passed by a building with a menu/directory on the front of it which I decided would be a good place to meet.

Dane: "Ok guys, 3:45PM we're meeting right here ok?"
Minions: "Ok!"
Dane: "Ok, so where are we meeting?"
Minions point
Dane: "Good, here's a treat"
Dane gives Minion1 a pastry and Minion2 a new Tom Clancy book.
Minion1: "Wait, 3:45 right?"
Dane sighs...
Dane: ""

Taking great misery in the foreshadowing of future events, I decided to ignore it and plunge on ahead. After seeing this

on the way we started to get a bit excited, partly because for the first time all weekend a plan had actually worked out flawlessly, but mostly because we knew we were going in the right direction. Finally after about 10 minutes of walking we reach the line to get in. It's about 9:15AM and the show didn't start till about 10AM, but already we were over a thousand people back, and thousands more seemed to be piling in. The sun was out in full force which didn't help much, but I killed some time watching two of the people behind me engaged in a vicious Pokemon duel to the death. It seemed like almost everyone there was carrying either a Nintendo DS or a PSP. There were also a ton of foreigners there, this picture in particular made my day. Where's Waldo?

At about 10:15 our line started moving and not long after we were inside. I have to say I was pretty overwhelmed at first, kind of like a little kid in a candy shop. I just walked around the place for a good 20 minutes with a huge grin on my face bowing to all the booth babes (or booth companions as they're called in Japan)

. I guess that's kind of creepy. Many of the big companies hand out these huge bags that are meant to hold all the junk people hand out to you (promotional flyers and press kits and such). After walking around for a bit this guy pulled me over to one of the booths. The booth basically had a few benches with a Japanese girl sitting on each of them.

They would hand you a phone and teach you how to play the game, and even though I couldn't understand anything, I managed to pick up the word Jan Ken and figured the game would be pretty self explanatory (rocks paper scissors = Jan Ken Pon). I lost the first game to which my Japanese girl gave me a sad face and a sumimasen. We then played another game which i didn't understand so I just pressed buttons and must have done something right because afterwards she started clapping her hands and cheering for me, at which point she said "win!" and handed me something that was in Japanese.

I walked around a bit more and then decided to head to the other building. The building is separated by a little outdoor walkway, so I passed through that and went in. I went over to the square-enix booth at about 11AM and waited an hour in line to see the Final Fantasy XIII presentation which was freakin amazing. Again while waiting in line everyone was just chatting away or playing their PSP's. After leaving the presentation room I walked by a little fenced off area where people would just sit down and play their DS against each other which I thought was kinda neat.

This room was far more crowded than the previous one, and it was almost unbearable at some points, so I decided to leave and head back to the other building. I entered the walkway and saw this

For those that don't know, this is cosplay. Basically, people dress up as anime characters/video game characters and the outfits range from awesome

to just plain ridiculous.

I probably spent about an hour out there taking pictures of all the cosplayers at which point I went back inside. I had kind of seen all I had to see at this point so after pacing around a bit more I decided to just go over to the meeting spot to look around. I went to the pastry store over there and got something to eat, and then just happened to pass Chris at Subway. He'd pretty much been TGS'd out as well. Alright I thought, 2/3 isn't bad, maybe things will continuing going as planned!

Maybe not.

3:35 rolls around and we head over to the meeting spot to wait for Joey.
3:40 no Joey...
3:45 a very pissed off Dane

After pacing back and forth around the building with the anger building up inside of me I finally catch a glimpse of Joseph Kotarek.

4:20 upon making I contact with Joey I throw my hands helplessly in the air, give him a passionate "Dude...what the hell?!" and as he's about to say something, turn around and start walking. At this point rather than being at Tokyo Station half an hour early it looked like we were going to be there 5 minutes late. We get our tickets and hop onto the train, and luckily no one said a word because I'd had 35 minutes to prepare Joey's eulogy (I would later inform him that he is "not allowed to speak to me for a very long time").

We get to Tokyo Station and it's 5:05PM and, just as expected, we have no idea where the exit we're supposed to meet at is. We start walking frantically around the station walking up almost every exit we see until finally at about 5:20PM we decide to go above ground and walk around the station from there. After a minute of walking, in what had to be the biggest stroke of luck I've ever had, I spot Tim waiting on a pedestrian light. He said they couldn't find the exit either, which made me happier because technically if everyone's lost then no one's fucked up.

We went to go meet Claire who was sitting down across the street and all decided to head over to Roppongi for dinner and drinks. We had dinner at a decent restaurant over there and were contemplating going to a bar, but Chris was on antibiotics, Tim had had a rough evening a few nights before, and Joey was never a big drinker to begin with. I was really not in the mood to argue about or plan anything at that point, but I had printed out a Roppongi pub crawl equipped with the times of all happy hours, so we decided to go for it and made our way over to the first bar we saw

Geronimo's! Sounds awesome. We went in and there was no one there yet so we started to get the party rolling. After a few beers a Japanese couple came in. Roppongi is known to be a very popular foreigner hang out, so oftentimes Japanese will come to practice their English and meet foreigners. Either these two were no different, or my boyish charm transcends all boundaries, language barriers included, but we wound up talking most of the night and they even invited me to a sake bar next time I'm in town.

10PM rolls around and we all decided to leave. We're all walking to the subway station when Clare and I decide we aren't quite done yet, and we have about a half hour more before we need to get back to the station, so we go find another bar to grab one last drink at. We cross the street and the first bar we see that I recognize happens to be Bar Sheesha, a Hookah Bar. I thought I'd convinced the guy at the entrance to give us half priced beers but it turned out it was happy hour anyways. The place seemed really chill, and I kind of wished we'd gotten to spend a bit more time there. We took some pictures with the bartender

drank our beers

and made our way back home to pass out.

Sunday was pretty much spent checking out of the hostel, looking around asakusa a bit (unfortunately I didn't get any great shots of the temple)

and going to Akihabara. Akihabara is Tokyo's electronics district, which was cool to see, but I didn't really see anything I needed and there weren't really any great deals there. After Akihabara we decided to go home, bought our shinkansen tickets, and left Tokyo.

I must say though, I will return.

Tokyo is freaking awesome.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Day 7 - 10 - Our Somewhat Successful Trip to Tokyo Part 1

I woke up Thursday morning and was surprisingly not hung over from the previous evening. I went to the lab that morning, put my stuff down, and went to ask Matsumoto-san a bit more about the Tokyo Gaming Show. I had decided that we simply couldn't make it to the press day that Friday, so instead we would aim for Saturday morning. Joey was out somewhere so I walk over to our desk and begin to plan our trip. All of a sudden I catch a wiff of something gross and I have no clue where it's coming from. I'd just taken a shower that morning so it couldn't have been me. After looking around the room and breathing through my mouth for a few minutes, Joey waltzes over, gives me his usual "Oh hey Dane," and sits down. A few seconds later he begins telling me about his experience the previous night.

"...yeah, when we were leaving the bar they asked if anyone wanted to the squid jerky so I took it. I left it in my bag overnight and woke up this morning and realized it smelled, my room's probably gonna smell for a bit."

I put 2 and 2 together and determined where the foul stench was originating...

Fucking squid jerky.

Much of that day was spent not doing what I was supposed to and planning the trip to Tokyo. At about 5PM Chris, Tim, Clare and I decided to head over to Ishibashi and get some dinner. After our first walk through the only place we could see that we were comfortable ordering was McDonalds. It was getting late so we walked through again and settled on a pizza place. After all, what can go wrong with pizza?

Oh how naive Dane-san, how naive.

We get into the restaurant and naturally they don't speak English, so finally they show us to a table and hand us a menu. We start looking at the menu and aside from the headings (pizza, pasta, drinks) everything is in Japanese. That wasn't so bad since we figured we could pick anything on the pizza menu and we'd probably order a pizza of delicious, unconventional, and certainly questionable conent (really after delicious it's best you don't inquire about the unconventional and questionable). We make this decision, look at the prices, and realize we're about to drop a lot of money on some pizza, so we decide to get 2 pizzas instead of 4 and split them.

This was our first mistake of the evening. Firstly the pizzas were scarcely of medium size. Secondly, I have decided that if something's 3-4 times the price of a big mac, and is of unconventional and questionable content, you'd probably be better off with the big mac. Being very frustrated we decided to go ahead with the 30 dollars of pizza. We decided the cheapest thing on the menu would probably be cheese so we make the safe bet. We then randomly pointed at another pizza and made the adventurous one. The lady takes our order and walks off, only to come back about 5 minutes later.

After some poor Japanese, poor English, and failed hand gestures she calls over the manager. After more poor Japanese, poor English, and failed hand gestures we finally decide that they're trying to tell us we're 4 people and thus we need to order 4 things.

Second mistake of the evening. We order 4 things. We decide whatever, we're already here lets just get another pizza and some ice cream. At this point we probably should have just walked out rather than blowing some more money on food we new would not be worth the price. One by one the tiny pizzas come by and we devour them. The first two were just cheese (the second one might have had basil on it as well, it's difficult to tell) and the final one was cheese with some greens and proscuitto on the side. Finally the ice cream came out, which was actually very good and of a decent portion, but not worth the 7 bucks we paid for it. We devoured that as well and went and got the check. The grand total was about 60 bucks, which is a decent price for a set of neverending pasta bowls, but highway robbery for 3 quicklyending pizza pies and a cup of ice cream. As we left the place Tim told the waitress he was going to fire bomb the place to which she smiled and replied "Bye, Thank you!" We were all a bit ticked off after dinner so we went back to the dorm and decided to kill our bottle of smirnoff and go to sleep. In retrospect it wasn't that bad, especially since there are always zen barbers to make my evenings filled with happiness:

Friday - The Trip Begins...ish

Much of Friday morning was spent making sure everything was organized for the trip and that we knew where to go. 5PM rolls around, the time we usually leave the lab, and we decide to head out. Clothes? Check. Wallets? Check. Passports? Che...

Chris: "I was pretty sure I put it in my bag..."
Us: "Sigh..."

The original plan was to go to the major train station via one of the trains right next to the Chemical Engineering building on campus. Unfortunately to get to our dorm, and Chris's passport, we had to go to the train station on the other side of campus, and thus take a slightly longer route, as well as wait for Chris. We get to the station and see him off, after which we decide to get something to eat. After the previous night's debacle, Tim and I decide to head over to McDonalds (It would be my first since arriving in Japan. The second would come shortly thereafter). One of the great things about fast food in foreign countries is that the menus always have pictures, they sometimes have english, and that a "BigMacu" tastes the same no matter where you go (though I swear this one was more delicious than usual). Tim and I devoured these perfectly formed architectural masterpieces while the nearby a table of Japanese schoolgirls stared and giggled.

Incredibly satisfied, we left the golden arches to go find Clare and Joey, who happened to walk by at that very moment. We went over to the train where Chris would arrive. 6:30ish rolls around and Chris finally shows up, Joey wanders off to buy some pastries (it happens quite frequently), and the train rolls by. We all run to the train and start yelling for Joey so as not to waste any more time than we already have. He runs on over armed with 5 cups of some mushy coffee jelly that he gives to us.

At this point we're all in pretty bad moods because we were leaving 90 minutes later than planned, and it didn't help that the source of my next annoyance, Joey almost missing the train, was caused because he wanted buy us coffee jelly. I mean it's a nice gesture and all, except for the fact that I hate coffee.

So we get on the train, get to Umeda, and transfer to our final destination in Osaka where we all slide our tickets through the machines. All of us except for Joey. We turn around and all we can see is Joey walking back and forth around the train station, as if he's looking for something. He goes to the trash and is about to throw away his desert box, but then pauses to check inside of it. He then tosses it away and starts pacing again before checking his pockets again. After witnessing this for about 10 minutes we finally ask him what the hell he's doing.

Joey: "Uh...I think I lost my train ticket"
Dane: "So go to the freaking service counter! The sign's right on top of you, it's even in

30 seconds later Joey's reunited with our jolly, but at present time slightly more irrate, band of engineers. After this we walk on over to buy the shinkansen tickets and as usual have no clue what we're doing. We finally manage to ask an attendant in broken Japanese where we buy the tickets, after which he points to the ticket machine. Then after looking hopelessly for a minute more he walks by and presses the English button. Oh. We buy our tickets and make our way to the train where we all finally got a bit of peace, quiet, and separation from each other. The shinkansen is the Japanese bullet train. It's actually really nice. The seats are both comfy and incredibly spacious, and the ride is very smooth. I watched that evening's episode of Grey's Anatomy and read Frommers for most of the trip.

About 3 and a half hours later we got to Tokyo where we almost got off at the wrong station. The shinkansen stops in 2 places in Tokyo: one stop is in the southwest, and one is in the center. Not sure where we were, Tim used his best Japanese skills to ask a Japanese man sitting next to him if the next stop was Tokyo station, to which the man responded:

"Yes. The next station is Tokyo Station"

Awesome, we'd been in Tokyo barely 5 minutes and we already knew more natives that speak English than we do in all of Osaka. We asked him if he could tell us where to go to get to the Hostel and he said he'd come with us to the metro because his line connected to the one we had to get on. It was about 10PM at this point, and we immediately noticed how much busier Tokyo was than Osaka. The trains were more packed than I'd ever seen them, and so we squeezed into the train that would take us to our transfer spot. It was only 1 stop, and so we said goodbye to our guide and parted ways.

We made our way over to the next train that would take us to Asakusa where the hostel was, and prepared for the fun ahead: finding the place. I had printed out directions but we were a bit disoriented and they weren't completely clear. Leave the train station and head to some street (I forgot the name) and you'll see a huge red gate. We started walking towards what we thought was a gate but turned out not to be, so we decided to ask some people which direction the street was. It turned out to be the other direction so we started walking, and just when we thought this couldn't be right we saw it:

I guess it was pretty hard to miss. The next step in our scavenger hunt said to walk through the gate and we'd see a long walkway and to go through said walkway until you reach another gate.

After walking for quite a while we thought we'd done something wrong and so we asked a guy about the gate, which had a name, as well as the temple we were supposed to see. We decided to walk a bit longer at which point we knew we had to be in the right place:

that shot was taken in the day because my night shot was pretty crappy. The next step was to go around the temple and then go around a nearby amusement park. This part was a bit fuzzy, so we asked someone where to go and they pointed us in the direction of the hostel. After walking around some fence and through a dark alley we finally saw the hostel. We went in and it was actually really nice. We had an 8 person room to ourselves, and so after settling in I spent some time planning the trip to the Tokyo Game Show after which I passed out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Day 6 - Get Fucked Up

To quote Dr. Williams at lunch the other day:

"I mean how can you not like this? See if you take two things that are awesome by themselves and put them together, how can it be anything other than awesome?"

Take sake bombs for example. Sake is awesome. Beer is awesome. Thus, sake bombs are awesome. It doesn't work for everything though. For example special things are awesome, and the olympics are pretty awesome, but I wouldn't call the Special Olympics a winning combination. Same thing with the WNBA. I mean women are awesome, basketball is awesome, but womens' basketball is pretty unawesome. Oh and if anyone I've offended wants to pick a fight, bring it on. I never turn down a fight I know I'll win.

Day 6 (yesterday at this point) was my second day in the lab. I decided not to ride my bike, partly because Tim hadn't gotten his yet, but mainly because I hated every second of the experience, so we walked to the train station. It was fucking hot out and the huge hill we have to walk up to get to the lab didn't help things. I got to the lab and set up my computer at my shiny new desk and began reading/correcting papers.

At about noon we went to go get lunch. The Japanese won't eat until everyone's at the table and they can say Itadakimasu, which is kind of like their grace I guess. I've felt like an idiot a few times because I tend to sit down and start eating before I realize that everyone's looking at me funny. Yesterday I just felt kinda bad because it took me forever to get my food and everyone was sitting there being hungry. After lunch we came back to the lab where I continued to try reading those papers.

At some point some of the undergraduate students came to the lab and I met Ena-san and this other girl whose name I forgot. When people go on trips they'll bring back a "souvenir" which is a lot of times just a pastry or sweet or something, so Ena-san brought back these small cookie things with cream inside of them that were Oishii (delicious)! A bit later me Joey and Claire were sitting around and this sweaty disheveled kid walks in panting. We thought there was a fire or something, but turned out he just wanted to introduce himself (Matsumoto-san). He mentioned he was very into anime, and a bit later he showed me his collection of manga, and then he showed me some tentacle porn.

Just kidding.

He never showed me his manga.

At about 3PM we all went out for a coffee break where someone asked me if I watched any anime and, in a response that would earn me nothing but condescending looks in America, they were actually impressed. We spoke for a bit and all of a sudden Matsumoto-san mentioned the Tokyo Game Show. I thought it was just some crazy Japanese game show like the one where people have to say tongue-twisters and if they make mistakes they get hit in the balls, but it turned out it was a gaming convention being held this weekend in Tokyo. This got Joey and I very excited, so pending some further planning today we very well might be making our first trip to Tokyo this weekend!

After talking about our spare tires a bit (the Japanese are very weight's what they call their beer bellies) we went back up to the lab and did our thing for a few hours until the welcome party.

The Welcome Party...

was awesome.

We went to this nabe restaurant that was all you can drink for 2 hours. It was basically a huge pot in the table with a broth inside it, and you put chicken, vegetables, and noodles inside it. They also had a boat with sashimi and raw seafood on it, and a plate of sushi at each table. I was feeling pretty adventurous so I tried everything that didn't have eyes. Sashimi is very leathery and though I had some fish here that i quite enjoyed, this stuff was pretty shit in comparison. Perhaps the best part of the restaurant was it was all you can drink for 2 hours, and thus we drank a lot.

Everyone was drinking quite a bit. Tuan-san apparently does this thing when he drinks where he takes one of the huge bottles of beer and just goes from table to table making people chug their glasses with him. I can't say I was too upset by the ritual, and I began doing the same. After about 45 minutes Hiro-san came by and asked to switch seats, so I went to go sit with Yuji and got waylaid by Kuboi-sensei. I wasn't too happy, because even minor interactions with Kuboi-sensei turn out to be long drawn out philosophical conversations, but I decided to speak to him in Japanese. He was very impressed and offered me sake. I know it may seem obvious, but this Japanese sake I had was sooooo much better than the shit I've had at home (particularly the bottle we got for Dan's MIT party). I actually really liked it. After about 45 minutes speaking to Kuboi-sensei I finally got a chance to leave his table and go mingle, so I did and caught up on my drinking a bit with Mokato-san.

After dinner a bunch of us went to a nearby bar for some more cocktails. I kept forgetting everyone's name so they all wrote on me. They also brought squid jerky to eat which was interesting. Being that at this point we were all pretty wasted, naturally my Japanese and their English became a lot better, and all in all it was a lot of fun.


Wallen G - Legurate

A picture of one of the research papers I was reading in the lab today...