Monday, March 31, 2008

Draw her with bigger eyes and greener hair

You may remember my last post was a bit rushed, as right after I put it online I had to run to Ina for a large going away party. The ones the week before was for English teachers while this one was a big one for everyone at the school that was leaving. Much like the graduation I had to chose one or the other: Tatsuno or Yayoi so this time I went with Yayoi thinking it would be a bit more fair as I went to Tatsuno’s graduation. I ended up missing my train anyways and was half an hour late for the party.

When I got there, there was delicious food and many beverages waiting for consumption, and plenty of friendly people to talk with. So many friendly people in fact that it was hard for me to shovel my face, as I hate doing that while talking with someone. Luckily I’m a fast eater so during the brief reprieves I managed to do a lot of damage to the table’s food supply (delicious! My favourite was the medium rare steak they brought out; so good it didn’t need BBQ sauce) Speaking of which, one of my friends told me when he worked at a restaurant that most people don’t know what they’re asking for when they get medium rare. Most restaurants in that case will cook it longer just so the customer won’t complain when they get a steak with an inside pinker than they thought.

We went out for karaoke after, of which I sang a couple songs but mostly was there for the tasty desserts and socializing. I tried to get more of those Mario voice box things from a coin machine only to find out it was sold out! I ate and sang until it was time to catch the last train home so I could crawl in to work the next day… needless to say I was feeling pretty good when I got home again so I played video games with my older brother John until 3 or 4 in the morning instead.

Most of the rest of the week was some form of suffering… ranging from not eating/sleeping right to stressing over reservations that somehow got lost. On the upside I got a free 40 of whiskey and lots of sake :) My caretaker Uchiyama sensei brought in her kids to help her clean an old English room that hasn’t been used in years because of declining enrollment and found those treasures for me. They told me to be careful when drinking it because it’s old and was covered in dust. It’s new enough that the seal hasn’t been broken and alcohol doesn’t go bad right? “ya, I’ll be careful” muhahaha ;)

Friday was kind of eventful, I got fiber optic Internet hooked up and now my speeds are easily 20 times faster. I cleaned up my house really good for the upcoming visit from family and said goodbye to my Kocho (principal) who is also my neighbor as he was transferred; apparently it’s common practice for principals to change out every 2 years. That would explain the large selection of former principal portraits hanging in his office. As he was packing up his house to move, the baseball team jogged over and helped him load up the truck. Needless to say they were done in 3 or 5 minutes; it was really fast, almost as fast as my new fiber optic internet!

I went to bed kinda early after packing to be gone for the next 2 weeks and bused to Tokyo early Saturday. First thing I noticed while entering the massive sprawling metropolis (besides being in the metropolis for over an hour partly due to traffic and party to it being just so big) were the pretty pink trees everywhere. Ah yes, the season of sakura (cherry blossoms), a famous symbol almost of Japan itself. I have been excited for this for a while now and since Tokyo is warmer than my prefecture you can see it. I met up with Neal and John from Saskatoon and we headed out for the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2008!

We got out to our destination and there were no lockers! I needed to lock up my luggage somewhere as I packed for the next 2 weeks. We figure we can try and risk finding one later and head to the Tokyo Big Sight complex where the event was held. There was a line for the event at least ½ kilometer long, I am not kidding. It stretched so far and took so many bends and curves. The line moved really fast though, we got inside after 15 minutes or so, as fast as the 6 lines for tickets could sell them out. Before we hopped in line we needed to grab some food and nearby conveniences stores had been absolutely ransacked. We had never seen shelves so bare; I was lucky to snag the last two corndogs they had though, as this would be my breakfast and lunch until 7 pm; even the fast food vendors had lines out the doors.

It was neat being in line; that is a really beautiful part of Tokyo with the sprawling space surrounded by massive buildings. We saw many of the early otakus leave with their anime shirts and big bags full of swag and many other excited people dressed up marching their way through the line. I was so nervous walking with my somewhat big bag of luggage rolling behind me, especially considering the crowds. Luckily the venue had locker space inside and I practically bent the door just getting my bag to fit inside. When we got inside we were treated to a huge room about 1/3rd the size of the Tokyo game show that was packed with people. The temperature was a bit high and so was the shoving in some of the more crowded areas. (so happy I found that locker)

We walked up and down the rows mostly with the flow checking out all the exhibits and cosplay, again much less than the game show but it was still fantastic. With John with us this time, he was much more bold in walking up and getting pictures together with the pretty ladies. I saw many exhibits for old shows I had watched briefly in years past and could only remember how bad they were, which left me in confusion as to why they were here. Some of the more popular shows like One Piece, Bleach and Naruto were missing their own exhibits and cosplay, which I found confusing.

All’s well I suppose. We covered the whole place quickly and looked over our photos. The venue was pretty dark so I was lamenting most of the day how most of my pictures weren’t turning out and were blurry. I suppose I have taken over 8000 pictures with my camera… I wonder if it’s just getting tired. There were creepy guys there again with huge elaborate cameras getting personal with the ladies being paid to stand there and smile.

The one camera looked like Darth Vader’s Tie Bomber and each picture he took made 5 different flashes in different positions to fire in different sequences… I’d hate to imagine looking at that thing while it blinds you. A lot of the fun was just watching the mobs form semi circles around the scantily clad ladies and take pictures. John was great in that we broke up their fun by busting in there and getting group photos with the ladies; I heard many of them grumble too, but they didn’t have the courage to walk a meter and get a picture with the girls too so their loss I guess.

Well we walked around and took pictures for 4 hours or so, then headed back for some ramen and beers. Sitting down was just heavenly as I reflected on when I sat last; it had been when I was on the bus, about 8 hours earlier. I think I might have damaged something during that marathon, as my right hip hasn’t been the same since; only noticeable during these more punishing occasions. We ate some delicious spicy food for very reasonable prices (ramen is famous in Japan, so is Tofu) and John had to catch his train home. Neal and I browsed the bustling area for an hour or two before it was his time to part as well. I love the large neon lights and the sense of energy in the air… then we saw a man passed out sitting up covered in puke. I guess he had a bit too much energy that night.

I slept in a cube again like when I stayed for the Daft Punk concert and tried to sleep in to give my body some reprieve from my overzealous spirit, missing out on the nightlife again. Alas morning came and I wanted to go see stuff again (Tokyo does that to you, you want to get out and try to tame this wild beast; make its secrets your own). I went to a park that is famous on Sundays near Harajuku. Here is where cosplay and other events take place. What started as a way for girls to express themselves freely from overbearing school rules and punishing bullying has turned into a large cultural attraction. You might remember me mentioning this place in my last Tokyo adventure.

Apparently many Goths will make the commute and just hang out for pictures and what not, but I seemed to have trouble finding it. I went in to the park to discover a shrine nestled inside. I went their briefly but didn’t stay too long; knowing I would see similar things with my mom later and still feeling the pains from yesterday’s ambitions. For me when you see one temple/shrine you have seen 90% of every other temple/shrine out there.

This park was pretty special I thought though. There were soft gravel roads surrounded by large trees and overall relaxing atmosphere. Inside a couple had just got married and they were together for a family portrait; Kimonos are always a treat to see. When I left the park there were 2 foreigners dressed up in pink outfits posing for pictures, which got me somewhat confused again. A guy was going around looking for donations for a fundraiser so I threw in some money while prodding for information. Fundraisers are great that way, in that you’re almost obligated to help the stranger out that just threw into your hat, much like when I asked that dude how to find Tokyo Tower however many months back.

So I found out that I was in fact in the right place, but it simply was a bad time of year and bad time of day to see any action. Neal and them had told me to not bother on rainy days but it was only overcast. So I walked around a bit to kill some time, not helping but notice just how crazy busy this area was. There wasn’t any standing room on the sidewalk; you needed to keep moving. Nearby was maybe some sort of famous street, takeshita dori, for shopping, as it was wall-to-wall people.

Unfortunately the shopping involved was for clothing and if you know me it’s hard to drop off my interest faster than a clothing section… I mostly walked straight through the place. There were many vendors for crepes and the displays were mighty tempting, but the lines threw me off. Eventually it got to the point where I just needed to sit down and let my legs recover for the last two days and I found a buffet restaurant. This was a real treat as they are so rare they practically don’t exist.

I went back to the park later but in vain. There were some Goths putting on makeup I guess but nothing really exciting. The 10 year old girl walking around with a barbwire fence running through various holes in her bottom lip was more entertaining… unless if those were piercings?

I headed back to my hostel and wrote this blog for most of the afternoon. I was in pitiful shape when I started but sitting down for a couple hours gave me some life again. I brought my laptop on this trip for the first time mainly for this blog. I went out for some half decent pizza in a country filled with pizza you want to cry for it’s so bad. Later I was hustled by some Johns standing on the corner again wondering if I wanted to follow them down a back alley for a good time at a premium price. No thanks, I thought; wish I wasn’t alone that night so I went back to the hotel early, those jerks kinda ruined the spirit of the night, as they tend to do.

I slept in real late Monday and trekked out to the Playstation store as I was finally in Tokyo on a weekday and they’d be open! I got there but was somewhat disappointed by how small it was… and most of the games were sports/racing orientated. A genre I usually stay away from thanks to its mind-numbing repetitiveness. I still played PSP on a large screen for an hour and had a good time but easily recognized I couldn’t kill a day here playing games like I though I could earlier, so I took a trip to Shibuya. This is one of the young centers in Japan and one of the busiest. My book said it’s not really for the “not young” crowd and went on to explain people over 25. It occurred to me that I’m on the razors edge of falling into the “not young” crowd! Something unsettling about that...

The intersection is maybe one of the busiest in the world with 2 million people crossing it a day. I watched it a couple times and was in awe at the throng of people. Outside of the station is a statue of a dog waiting for his master to return. Apparently back in the day a man would go to work from that station and his dog would wait for him to return. One day he died at work and never came back, but the dog kept waiting each and everyday until he died himself some years later. A statue was built in his honor. I took pictures and saw statues nearby of naked little boys wrestling… I wonder what their story is.

I perused the area for a while longer and happened upon the love-hotel capital of the city. It wasn’t really what I expected but maybe they would be cooler if I went inside. I went back to the hotel to post this and relax for the night as my mom comes in tomorrow. I might go out later but it’s looking unlikely. It’s fun being alone, sure, but for some things it’s just more fun to have someone with you, like going to a techno club tonight.

So ya, here I am in Tokyo writing my blog! I think there aught to be some readers mailing me thank-you chocolates right now… nah, it’s all good.

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." -Helen Keller


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