Monday, December 10, 2007

My body disagrees with my optimism

I find new meaning to “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” all the time; maybe I just need to get more sleep. Anyways, Wednesday was a good day; Neal’s tutoring group threw a cooking Christmas party. I stole some of the show by whipping up some super quick and easy rice crispy cake that I learnt from the thanksgiving event a couple weeks back. (butter, marshies, rice crispies) Although rice crispies are hard to find in Japan, I settled for crunched up chocolate corn flakes… which might have been better than rice crispy cake thinking about it now. We didn’t have an oven so traditional foods were out but we did have things like curry, salad, nan (tasty bread) and so on.

Thursday seems to be my busiest workday, usually I have 4 classes and a tutoring thing after school which I usually extend much longer than I have to or it should be largely due to me enjoying talking to the students so much. They are a lot of fun and I like to joke around. Mentioning that I usually stay longer than my contractually required 4:15 largely because I like just talking with people or vising the sports teams as they work hard. On that note, maybe one of the cutest things I’ve experienced is a gym full for girls warming up for volleyball practice. The soft chorus of “hai!” “hai!” going off like sweet melody as they pass the ball, it was so cool.

Friday I had classes again and one student asked me how old I was (standard question, I don’t mind) “ni ju yon sai” (24 years old I say) she seems surprised so I ask how old I look “san ju said” (30 years old)

Ouch. “kanashii” (I am sad) I reply and hang my head. Maybe I need botox? ☺ Ah well, Jake or Neal tried to cheer me up saying they were maybe complimenting me as girls like older men kind of deal here. Nah, damage was done I think.

Friday went to that cool restaurant where the owner translates song lyrics for people like Eric Clapton and Neal Diamond. We had some tasty food and watched some old DVDs that he had of Johnny Cash’s TV show from the 70’s I think it was. I never even knew Johnny Cash had his own show, nor that it was so groundbreaking. It was funny how people would walk out with the guitar in their hands like a weapon and immediately start playing it, or seeing somewhat older performers in their prime and with fashionably long hair that was pretty cool for the time. Jake and I drank and played video games until maybe 2 in the morning even though I had to be up at 6 ☺

So I woke up at 5:30 getting maybe 3 hours of sleep and walked a good half hour to catch my bus to Tokyo. I got more sleep while on it and when I got there I proceeded to explore after eating a Wendy’s bacon burger for breakfast (what can I say? Need a taste of home sometimes, anything but Crap-Donalds will do) I knew there was a Square Enix store somewhere around Shinjuku so I proceeded to… walk. This was the theme of my Saturday.

After asking around a couple game shops set up and getting a map, I finally found it! It was on the other side of the large highway kind of hidden. For those who don’t know, Square Enix is a rather large game company that makes mega sellers like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. I half ran up to the door with hungry anticipation…

It was closed.

Oh man, it felt like I just got punched in the gut. This was too much, seeing a store for one of my two favorite game makers (other is Insomniac based in the US) being right in front of me for the first time in my life and not being open. The store was well lit with big glass windows just taunting me with all the cool loot inside. I took a bunch of pictures and some other people came around. I got out my phrasebook that Patty gave me and tried to piece together how to ask when the store opened (kono mise wa nan ji ni hirakimasu ka…?) The book wasn’t very good about asking that stuff… but it sure tells you how to tell people if you do drugs, what kinds of drugs… maybe Patty was trying to tell me something ☺ Oh and there is a hilarious section all to itself on what to say when having sex and what not “I can do it myself” and “easy tiger” among others. But nothing on asking when something opens.

While this is going on I see movement inside. Could it be? Sure enough, at 11 a.m. the store finally opened. That is something I just don’t get about Tokyo mostly, but to some extent the rest of Japan. How can (one of?) the largest city in the world not be open until 10 a.m… and close down at midnight? Maybe I should visit New York sometime and see if it really sleeps. I easily spent an hour inside looking around. The store wasn’t that big but it was a certain level of cool that I had achieved for the first time, one of those childhood dreams sort of deals. They had a large TV showing videos of games I wish I had time to play and trailers for games to come that I will buy mostly out of principle if nothing else.

Sitting there, I couldn’t help but feel like I abandoned a part of who I am and what I love. My passion. There was a couple times I was ready to just go home and play video games for the rest of the day and enjoy the experience it provides. There is a lot of talk now how gamers are defined and it is largely 3 groups. One group tries for perfection and high scores, one is for casual, and the other one I am probably in is defined as “new art”. We don’t play to get tested or frustrated, we play to experience what is there; to see the next level. I never was much for paintings per say but when it comes to graphics and enriched worlds I explore and my eyes linger on all parts of this immersive world that I am allowed to live in and affect; my own little rich world. Thinking about it now, maybe being in Japan is my way of experiencing my love for exploration and new worlds. Except in a video game you don’t have to walk as much or spend as much money moving around… oh and saving and loading is always cool, not to mention gaming exploits!

Anyways so the store had a really cool life size Sephiroth character encased in the floor. He is one of gaming’s more famous villains, stared in Final Fantasy 7. I bought a couple things but the biggest thing I spent money on that weekend was a chocobo black mage doll (the one with the purple coat and hat, looks like a chicken). A chocobo is like a steed in the final fantasy games, you ride them around the fields. It’s so cute. ☺

I explored Shinjuku some more, saw cool arcades like stand up Mario kart racing games linked with each other or big pods you sat in to make you feel like you were piloting a mech. Walked around and took pictures (now uploaded in my photobucket under TokyoDec07) It was fun to just explore, being alone like that gave me such a rush as I’m achieving new levels of independence and confidence once unknown to me. When the rush started going down though I realized how tired I was so I decided to book into my hostel.

Atleast I thought it was a hostel, turns out I found a capsule hotel! I slept in a cube for the low low price of $30. It wasn’t the cool space aged ones you see on the Internet with the glass doors. No, this one had a curtain you could pull to keep the light out of your cube. I wanted to take a nap but check out/check in wasn’t done yet so I didn’t have a bed. Back to exploring for a while I guess!

So this time I decided to visit the oh-so-famous Tokyo Tower. It was a long walk from any train station (there is that walk word again) and I saw cool things along the way of course which made the traverse time take even longer. For instance there was a fish in an aquarium that was as large as my torso. It was freaky being so close to that thing. Japan seems to have a thing for aquariums, there sure seems to be a lot of them, or maybe Regina just had a thing against them.

So at Tokyo Tower there were some children playing taiko (Japanese drums) and it was a really good show, video is up on youtube. (the show is much longer than what I filmed) I wanted to go up the tower, as there was good weather that day, good for sightseeing. Unfortunately the line was so long it went half way around the damn tower, and the line didn’t seem to be moving. That at it cost way too much to go up it, you couldn’t go up that far. Ya you hear me downplaying it now as I had to, to make myself resist the temptation of standing in that horrible looking line, I’m sure it would have been cool being up there.

I went inside the building underneath and one of the first things I saw was crap-donalds. Ugh that place was everywhere; there were 3 starbucks around Shinjuku station alone. I’m glad I don’t feel the need to spend $6 dollars on a small coffee that will never taste good. Anyways in the tower they had a Guinness world records style museum. It wasn’t too expensive so I went in and half guessed at what some of the records were for. I saw a spot for Terry Fox and thought it was nice of them to put him on the wall. There was a mannequin of Michael Jackson too and he looked like a damn werewolf, pretty ugly.

I wanted to see that super big and super cool Playstation store that I didn’t have time to see on my last visit so I headed to Ginza to ask the other Sony store how to find it as finding directions online with my Japanese ability is difficult, google or not. I got directions and was getting excited, but then the nice lady told me they aren’t open on weekends.

I mean come on, I had completely the wrong impression of Tokyo; you’d think things would be open. Maybe it wouldn’t be the most expensive city in the world (maybe Moscow is now) if it were open longer than 10 hours. It was getting dark and I really needed that nap/sit down now. I had been walking the last 9 hours straight after being up at 5:30 a.m. I was hoping to sit down in the Playstation store and play games for a while. I went to the hostel and messaged some other JETs in the area on my phone and took a nap for a couple hours, allowing my leg joints time to swell and then slowly recede. One JET suggested seeing a illumination show. I figured why not and headed out, and saw some cool lights. That nap did wonders though, it took the look of death out of my eyes and put a small spring back in my step, maybe that’s why I look 30 ☹

I had supper at a cool “American” style restaurant for some much needed beer and burgers and went back and relaxed for a while as another JET was taking the last train to a club that I now wish I went to. Apparently it was a monstrous rave but I would have had to stay until 6a.m. when the subway started running again and I knew I was going to need energy for the concert and more exploring.

Turns out not much more exploring was done as the concert group showed up and organizing the trip was a little more complicated, I’ll spare you the details. For sure next time though I will have to see Yoyogi park, Sunday afternoon is suppose to be amazing for cos-, martial arts and stuff like that. Also need to see Shibuya, it’s kind of like the busiest area of Tokyo with 2 million people crossing one street everyday.

So we went to the concert that started at 3 but had something like 4-5 hours of opening bands playing. I saw Daft Punk come out and it was amazing. I brought glow sticks and got caught up in the wave of rushing people. I was about 10 meters from the stage and could see everything excellently. It was a little more crowded for my style of dance (read: crazy and all over the place) but I still had a good time. Unfortunately I had to leave early (8 p.m.) to catch the very last bus home (9:30 p.m.)

Maybe the theme of the weekend shouldn’t be “walking” but instead “everything closes too early or doesn’t open” oh and running to make these inane times :S I left just as they started playing one of my favorite songs too. Ah, sacrifices. So I jogged back to the station to catch my 40 minute ride or so back to Tokyo station so I could run around the station for 10 minutes because it’s so big and hard to navigate to catch another train that takes 25 minutes back to Shinjuku. I started with a light jog and before I knew it was sprinting to make the times work. I have missed too many trains in the past (Chris and I missed a big one leaving Beijing) and I wasn’t going to miss this ride home.

Heavy footsteps pounding on the ground, body getting heavy. What does that sign say? Leave it, I wouldn’t understand it anyways. The familiar taste of iron enters my mouth, coughing hard wondering if the asthma is really gone. What direction am I going? There is an exit over there, take it. Maybe I can see something familiar, I’ve been here before. Stairs are hard to run up, just one more flight. This place is familiar, I’m close! Over there, one bus left! No time to think it through, gun it. Ignore people staring, ignore the no running signs. Just keep pushing.

Somehow with some stroke of luck I made it to my bus. The bus left at 9:30 and I stepped on at 9:27 according to its onboard digital clock. Sure enough when that clock rolled over to 9:30 the door closed and the bus drove off. If you miss your ride in Japan there are no refunds and everything is very punctual. I was still trying to catch my breath and didn’t even take my coat off yet as we drove off.

The ride back was ok, couldn’t fall asleep though lest I risk missing my stop after 3 hours. Got to my house at one in the morning, at work today running on 5 hours or so of sleep. This are crazy go nuts busy with Christmas coming up, I’m glad I already bought presents and mailed them out, it made my Tokyo trip a little more affordable and the mad running less punishing. I suppose I don’t have to always write about upcoming events, as you’ll hear about them in the next post anyways.

"I have failed many times, and that is why I am a success" - Micheal Jordan


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