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I have returned.

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Well. I am sitting at LAX waiting for my flight back to St. Louis. Moved out of my apartment in Chiba on Monday night, was in a hotel for a few nights while I finished taking care of stuff and seeing people, then got on a plane Friday in the late afternoon bound for North America. The customs guy at Narita asked me if I was coming back to Japan and voided my visa and kept my Gaijin Card when I replied no. “Please make a new visa.” Hmm don’t know if I’ll ever really ever need anything other than the basic 90-day tourist visa in Japan but who knows.

So yeah I no longer live in Japan. It’s been a pretty hectic few weeks, from even before my trip to Hong Kong. I plan on writing a lot of catch-up blogs later for no one to read, but for now I figured I should at least write something to commemorate my return to the US. This is the first blog I’m writing back in the US, and I’m finally back to live rather than just a short trip for a week or two. Also, it will be the first time I’m “really” living in St. Louis since high school I think, with a couple of summer and Christmas holidays excluded. This should be a pretty interesting few weeks of getting readjusted to living in the US. I’m also going to need to get a cell phone very soon too. Possibly the iPhone?

There is actually a good deal of stuff to get caught up on here on the blog: HK, Bizzaro Y’s, Final party at the real Y’s, moving out of my apartment, and all of the other random BS stuff that comprises most of this website’s content anyway. Most of it will get done sooner or later, although if I wait too much longer it will be pushed back to super mega extreme later. I’ll try to avoid letting that happen.

Nothing’s really planned in stone right now. It’s hard to believe that I was living in Japan for almost 4 years. I definitely hadn’t planned on staying that long, but it was a great experience and I met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have ever met otherwise. It’s a weird feeling moving back to the US and leaving a lot of stuff behind in Japan. I think also since up to now, with school and whatnot, there were very natural breaks for everything. In high school and college there is always the academic calendar to kind of guide things, and after graduation it’s natural for everyone to move somewhere and start a new life. Even after I started working, things were kind of ruled by employment contracts, and since most of the people I went to Japan with arrived around the same time, we were all on more or less the same schedule.

The previous few sentences probably don’t make a lot of sense, but what I’m trying to say is even though I am technically coming back to go to grad school/university (albeit very part time) at the end of the month, my return to the US in mid-August doesn’t feel like a natural break to me. It feels in some ways that I just abandoned (left?) Japan at some random time. It also doesn’t help that it was just me leaving. Bryan and Saori, who were actually the first people I met up with in LA yesterday, left Japan about a month before me so it doesn’t feel exactly like we left at the same time. So even though I’ve known more or less for about a year that I would be moving back to the US, and have known for around 6 months when exactly I would be coming back, it feels very strange that I returned. Yes this is a lot of rambling that I’m just writing as I think, without much editing to clean it up for coherence.

So many people in Japan asked me “so when are you coming back?” as if it was guaranteed that I would come back. But I guess the more that I think about it, I will definitely be back sometime, although most likely just to visit. If I ever do end up going back to Japan to work I don’t think it would be for a few years at the earliest, plus it would have to be a pretty sweet gig for me to go. That being said, it’s not that I don’t want to go back, but to think about my future and career situation and stuff it didn’t make sense for me to stay for much longer. Japan doesn’t really feel like a foreign country to me anymore, and I was so used to living there that I was probably just as comfortable there as I will be in St. Louis. Even during my last week, it was so strange to think that I was packing up everything and jumping ship that it was almost unbelievable.

There’s a lot of “deep” stuff to think about and reflect on about the life-changing move from one side of the planet to the other. I’ll likely never really get to actually writing much more about that stuff, but I will end up complaining about America at least for a while. The grass is always greener or something overly used like that.

More to come later. It was an awesome 4 years in Japan, and I really want to thank all my friends (American, Japanese, and other) for making it such a great experience. If things weren’t so fun and interesting, I don’t think I would have possibly stayed for so long. I’ll be back to visit for sure, but look forward to hanging out with people in the US too. Let me know if you’re around anywhere and I’ll do my best to come meet up. I’m looking forward to starting a new life here in the US. And wow I just realized how Japanese that sounded.

Lotteria Meatwad Challenge

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ロッテリア期間限定 「タワーチーズバーガー」

Look at this beast.  This is Japanese fast food chain Lotteria’s special limited time only destroyer of arteries, the aptly-named Tower Cheeseburger.  Finally got around to conquering it over the weekend.  I don’t know if I should be proud or ashamed of that.  Probably a little of both.

I first heard about this behemoth last month from Gigazine, who compared it to KFC USA’s Double Down sandwich in terms of terribleforyouness.  Unfortunately (fortunately?) until the beginning of June the Tower Cheeseburger wasn’t available at the Lotteria near my house and I never got around to trying it anywhere else in Tokyo.  But yeah, Blanchard and I hit up Lotteria yesterday for lunch and each got the Tower Cheeseburger plus fries and a drink.  It was a disgusting and delicious experience.

Obviously, the thing is massive.  It’s kind of like eating an entire meatloaf only greasier and cheesier.  It comes wrapped in paper just like a normal cheeseburger, but it’s pretty tough to pick up and actually fit into your mouth like a normal burger.  Brian somehow managed to do so in record time, but I had to get a fork to finish the thing off bit by bit.  Surprisingly, the taste is pretty good overall once you get over the fact that you’re destroying yourself.  The cheese was really good, and the meat patties seemed like pretty good quality , although with that much cheese and meat the flimsy bun and skimpy condiments (only on the buns) make it a little boring to eat.

I hadn’t been to a Lotteria for a long time since their normal burgers are pretty small and their prices seem more expensive than McDonald’s.  But after this experience I’m likely to hit up Lotteria again in the next few months before I leave, although definitely not for a 10×10 ever again.

4 in 4

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For the most part I really don’t care about politics, including Japanese politics. But it looks like Japan’s first ever alien Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, is resigning from his post, so I will show some interest momentarily and write a blog post that really isn’t about politics at all.  But yeah Hatoyama is resigning over the Futenma “fiasco” that doesn’t really seem to be the disaster that all the media seems to be making it out to be.  Except for maybe a group of 100 old people down in Okinawa who seem to be protesting every (rare) time I turn on Japanese news.

Because of his “failure” to fulfill his promise and move the US military base out of Okinawa, Hatoyama is doing the “responsible” thing and resigning.  You have to say those things in quotes with the Dr. Evil voice and gestures because otherwise it might sound like you believe this BS.  Rather than actually taking responsibility for what really isn’t a huge failure, Hatoyama’s decided to throw in the towel after 8 months in office, which unfortunately has been around the standard tenure for a prime minister in post-Koizumi Japan.  This is the same Japanese mentality behind the big public apology press conferences and subsequent resignations from CEOs and other company leaders when they don’t actually want to deal with a problem.  But I’m not going to go much into that here.

No, instead here is a stupid list of things.  Yes, Japan has had 4 prime ministers quit in less than 4 years which is pretty sad when you consider that in that time…

  • I’ve had fewer cell phones
  • I’ve lived in fewer apartments
  • Fewer Harry Potter movies have been released
  • There have been fewer generations of the iPhone released
  • All of the current-gen video game consoles came out
  • McDonald’s Japan’s Mega fad came and went
  • 4 Kamen Rider series have ended (Hey!  Same number!)

 

So prime ministers here are rotating about as often as the childrens superhero programs.  Interesting.  So much for political stability.  I think I’m more surprised that he convinced big boss Ozawa to resign too.

Chinese APad/iPed

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Saw a Japanese news report earlier today on YouTube via TokyoMango about a Chinese iPad knockoff called the APad (or iPed?) that’s been popping up recently.  The reporter goes to the big shopping center in Shenzhen to check out the device at a shop selling it.  To be honest, I think I’d be more likely to buy one of these than a real iPad, especially since I’m thinking of heading over to HK or China sometime before August anyway.

The device’s casing looks almost exactly like the iPad, and it has a camera and full touchscreen.  To make it even better it also runs Android meaning that the thing is probably super customizable and would give you more freedom than a real iPad ever would without maybe jailbreaking it or something.  Sure the specs might not be as good as the real thing, but considering that it costs less than USD$100 I’d say it’s not a bad deal.  I’m not likely to spend 500 bucks on an iPad that I realistically wouldn’t use that much, but if I have a chance to get an APad I think it’d be worth having another toy to play around with.

On a side note it’s funny how often Japanese news has stories on Chinese knockoffs and counterfeits.  I always get the impression that rather than just providing information they’re trying to just point fingers at China for “being bad.”  Knockoffs are an awesome alternative to people who can’t or won’t by the original devices, and it’s hard to believe that the APad is actually going to have any effect on iPad sales.  Especially considering the iPad isn’t even officially available in China  yet.

Bob Loblaw

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I don’t have anything especially in mind to write, but I figured I should write something before this blog becomes super stale and dead like so many of my friends’ blogs have *coughNR70000cough*.  Ha.

Golden Week came and went here in Japan, the week-long national spring break that seems to exist only to give airlines and other travel-related business an excuse to hike up rates times one billion since the majority of the country has vacation during the exact same few days.  I really don’t understand why they don’t get rid of Golden Week and just allow people to actually take off.  Then again, based on my limited experience, even with an extra 5 or 6 vacation days a lot of people here just wouldn’t use them.  Why not?  You have vacation days, right?  Oh, but it would be such a hassle to everyone else. Ugh.  Is it sad that GW might be a necessity here to actually get people to take a vacation?  Of course please also note that many “hard working Japanese office workers” spend half their day in pointless meetings, stamping forms, chain smoking, and writing e-mails with super polite language that makes simple communication a chore.  And then they wonder why they have to work overtime!

I was planning on taking a few days during GW off myself, but things didn’t work out as planned when the Wednesday before I got hit with some kind of nasty flu or something that knocked me out for a good 4 days almost.  I’ve had colds before but this was something much worse.  Headache, congestion, fever, chills, fatigue, loss of appetite, all that fun stuff.  Usually I’d welcome the chance to lay in bed all day watching TV but I couldn’t even enjoy it this time around.  It was pretty bad.  But I recovered.  Just in time for Golden Week to be over, too!

I don’t really watch Japanese TV anymore, save for a few shows that I just download anyway.  American TV has been pretty good recently, and I’m looking forward to some awesome season (and series) finales coming in the next few weeks.  Not looking forward to the summer drought of new episodes, but that’s to be expected.  Lost has gotten pretty disappointing and I’m honestly just hoping to get it over with.  Maybe they’ll surprise us with something awesome in the end?  House has been fairly good all season although I miss the better season-long story arcs they had in past seasons.  The Office and Family Guy are just kind of there, although still good.  Fringe probably has my vote for best show at the moment, especially with the season finale coming up that should tie a lot of stuff together and really drive home the long-term arc they’ve been working on for the past two seasons.

Let’s see, what else is there?  Work is still work, for better or worse.  I’m hoping something pops in the next few weeks/month or two.  Either way right now I’m looking at moving back to the US (for reals this time) sometime in the fall.  St. Louis here I come!  It’s hard to think about packing up everything here in Japan and moving back to the other side of the planet.  It’s been a great time, but I think that four years is a lot longer than I had originally planned to stay here.  Yeah I just realized that come September it will have been four years.  Yikes.  I have no regrets about moving to Japan after graduation, but I think it’s time to start planning for the future.  That will be much easier in the US.

Paper? Plastic? Ignorance?

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Japan is famous all over the world for the excellent customer service, but of course bad and horrible service does exist here at times.  In particular, there’s a woman named Iijima at the Seiyu grocery store near my apartment who has always been just terrible.  I’ve never seen her smile, she mumbles, she gives you dirty looks, and I get the impression that she feels inconvenienced by having to check customers out even though that is her primary job function.

Tonight was no different.  Seiyu (which, just for the record, is owned by Wal-Mart) has some eco-initiative where you can choose to not get plastic bags for your groceries.  They don’t have paper bags at all, so it’s either take the plastic bags or use your own carrying device or bag.  I’ve never actually seen anyone use their own bag, but whatever.  The slight incentive to customers for doing this is that you receive 2 yen (2 cents) off every item.  There are little tags at the register that you can throw into your shopping basket when you check out that signify you will be using your own bag.  Despite this, every single time you go to the register they ask you if you want bags or not.  There is no point to having these “no bags, thanks” things if they’re going to ask you anyway.  But that’s a minor complaint.

The problem tonight was that the guy in front of me, an Asian man maybe in his 40’s, did not speak any Japanese.  So when Iijima the butch checkout lady from hell mumbled to him “do you need bags?” he didn’t understand her and gave a kind of “no” shrug.  So after paying for almost 3000 yen in groceries, he’s standing there wondering why he doesn’t have any plastic bags to carry his purchases home.  (Japanese grocery stores always make you bag your own groceries, making a checker’s job even easier.)  He clearly doesn’t speak Japanese, but was very politely signaling that he’d like some plastic bags.  Iijima clicks her teeth like old people here tend to do when annoyed, then goes to explain to the guy that she already asked him if he wanted bags and he “said” no.  She then takes one of the “no bags, thanks” tags and uses it to try and explain the no bag thing in quick, mumbled Japanese, to a (probably Chinese) man who doesn’t understand a word heshe is saying.  She then shows him on his receipt that she gave him the no bag discount, but he understandably still has no idea what’s going on. He is then over at the bagging area standing there wondering why the gross checkout lady didn’t give him any bags,  justifiably bewildered.

OK I mean come on!  When he came to get checked out he never used one of the  tags to signify he didn’t need bags.  He wasn’t carrying a backpack or anything, so how did she think he was going to carry his groceries home?  And the time she spent futily explaiing to him the no bag initiative could have been better spent just giving the guy a few plastic bags.  But no, she would rather “follow protocol” and hold up the 5-customer deep line while trying to tell this foreigner that he didn’t follow the poorly thought out rules of the store.  On my way out, I gave the guy one of the unused bags I had received, but I really regret not telling Iijima to just give the poor guy a few bags when I had the chance.  I would have even paid the few yen or whatever to do so, if the money was really the issue.  It was just a pathetic thing to watch.  Especially with the no bag signal tags, the default for every customer should be “yes, they get bags for their groceries.”

I don’t know why this annoyed me so much.  Probably because this checkout woman always pisses me off.

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