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I went to the shopping in the Tokyo

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Yes, those grammar errors are on purpose; I hear that exact sentence at least 3 or 4 times a week from students when I go through the formality of asking how their weekends were. Anyways, after a fairly normal week at work, it is yet again the weekend; the oasis in the desert wasteland of having a regular job. Actually, before I get too far into the weekend reports, I should mention that the one irregularity of this past week was that one of my coworkers caught the Norovirus, which is apparently becoming more and more of a problem here in Japan, and was out of work from Monday through Friday, which included a three day stay in the hospital on an IV. I did a quick search online for the norovirus earlier in the week because I wanted to know exactly what it was; it’s some kind of stomach flu I think, and is likely to outbreak in places where there are high concentrations of people. Cruise ships, for example, seem to be having tons of norovirus outbreaks. Of course, working at an AEON school where you have students coming in sick ALL THE TIME (seriously, I don’t want you coming to class if you’re sick, even if you wear a stupid face mask), I’m not really surprised that someone caught this sickness. I think Matt, the other foreign teacher at my school, might have had a norovirus a few weeks ago also when he was really sick as well. The amazing thing is that no one else at my school caught the norovirus, since when we had the Christmas/year-end party last week we shared a lot of dishes at the Korean restaurant and I’m sure germs were passed around through that. I seem to be perfectly fine, which may very well be helped in part by the fact that I’m conscious of sleeping a lot every night (mainly out of laziness), and also because I keep a bottle of Purel sanitizing alcohol gel in my desk drawer. It doesn’t seem so OCD now, does it!?

Oh, right; weekend. After reading through my Japan guidebook randomly this week to get ideas for the upcoming Kansai trip, I started feeling more adventurous and decided that it would be worth hitting up Tokyo this weekend, something I haven’t really had any desire to do recently. Anyway, for 1910 yen, I can buy a JR Tokunai Pass (都区内パス) from my home station that will take me to and from Tokyo, and also allows for unlimited train travel within the city. Which actually is a pretty good deal as long as you’re going to 2 or 3 places in the city. Woke up insanely early for a Sunday, 10AM, then met up with Blanchard in Chiba, and off to Tokyo we were. Embarrassingly, our first stop was Akihabara, mainly because it is the closest part of Tokyo but also because it was lunch time and I wanted to go to the Oedo kaiten sushi place I used to go to whenever I visited nerd town. The cheap sushi place is in the Akihabara Department Store connected to the station, which is being demolished at the end of the year so they can build a super futuristic new department store. It was probably my last chance to eat at that sushi place, but it was busy so we decided it wasn’t worth the wait and instead got cheap ramen. It was not a bad alternative at all. By the way, if you didn’t know this, I love ramen. And miso ramen is absolutely amazing. And if it’s cheap, even better.

Other reason for Akihabara was that I needed some blank DVD+Rs, which for some reason seem much rarer in stores here. I need the +s because those are the only kind my laptop’s burner will accept, which is a pain. I figured of all places, Akihabara, the famed electronics area of Tokyo, would have mountains of DVD+Rs for my burning pleasure. I was finally able to find some at the super giant mega Yodobashi, although couldn’t really even find a 50 spindle. I asked the worker guy and finally learned why +Rs are so hard to find here. It’s an American standard! That makes sense, and I am slightly less bitter about having to hunt for these rare +Rs to amass my burned DVD collection. It might be worth either having spindles of +Rs send from the US, or maybe even buying a new DVD burner for my laptop. Either way. Oh yeah, and Akihabara has really lost whatever appeal it had a while back. The maids, weirdos, and anime otaku have really warped that place from it’s semi-warped state a few years ago. There are very few stores in the area that I even want to go to, and even less stuff I want to buy. I doubt I’ll be going back there very much; it’s just too nerdy and desolate. The super giant mega Yodobashi, however, is a good electronics store if you ever need one.

All you can eat jelly and good time!After Akihabara we headed to Shinjuku to check out some stores, mainly Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands. Not much to report, although it might be a good time to mention just how many foreigners there are in Tokyo. I think I’ve gotten used to Chiba, and definitely Goi, where you’re more likely to spot a man dressed as a giant stuffed animal than see another foreigner. So speaking of foreigners, we saw the worst group of foreigners ever while waiting in line to get into Tabasa in Harajuku for dinner, the “all-you-can eat pizza, pasta, hip-hop, goodtime, pancakes, and jelly” restaurant that is cheap and delicious. The quickest way to explain them is to use a certain American slang term for white Eminem-type clones. I don’t think I want to offend anyone, so I’m going to call them “wee gars” in this blog post. However that isn’t exactly correct since only 4 of them were white and the other was some kind of Latino. I think you get the picture though. So yeah, like 5 of them, all dressed in the same way – sweat pants, t-shirt or jersey, stupid hat cocked to the side or something angled. They didn’t speak normal English let alone Japanese, spoke really loud, and acted like they were the baddest mofos in Tokyo. We tried to figure out what their deal was and why they are in Japan, but I think the conclusion was that they’re probably military brats, since they didn’t seem to be of working/teacher let alone university student classification. They had cell phones, so they must live here, so I’m going to assume military kids who have nothing better to do but pretend they’re from “da meen streetz.” The worst was this little blond kid who needed a good throttling, but the funniest was this dopey looking kid who was wearing the surefire sign that you are a social outcast and don’t belong in Japan – the shirt that says, in Japanese “I’m looking for a Japanese girlfriend.” Come on. If you wear this shirt, girls aren’t going to be like “oh wow, he’s looking for a Japanese girlfriend. I am a girl, and Japanese. I should have sexual relations with this person right away.” Listen up mister wee gar; when the people in the restaurant, mainly the young couple, were looking at your shirt and laughing, it wasn’t because they thought you were clever.

No rims; must not be a YakFinished up the night in Shibuya, where we didn’t really do anything but walk around and look at the fancy lights and jumbotron video screens. It was getting pretty boring just walking around the streets, until there was a bit of an incident outside of Seibu. A Lincoln Navigator was parked outside of the store illegally, and was about a foot and a half into the street. A bus driver decided that he didn’t want to risk scraping this HUGE AWESOME AMERICAN SUV MACHINE so traffic on this road was pretty much at a standstill except for the occasional motorcycle. Lots of car horns were being honked, and finally the police were called. Tonight was a great lesson, or shall I say, reconfirmation, that Japanese police are absolutely useless. At first, after we started watching, two cops on foot showed up after, assumingly, someone in Seibu called them. They called fo
r backup, which brought another cop on foot and two in a squad car. The only sweet thing was that Japanese squad cars have the ability to raise their car-top sirens an extra two feet or so into the air. Other than that, they did nothing impressive. They wrote a ticket, took pictures with their digital camera, and documented the situation in a notebook. One of the cops used the megaphone and speakers built into the squad car to pretty much repeatedly say “Will the owner of a Lincoln Navigator with plate number blah blah blah please come and move your car?” After almost 45 minutes of us sitting around with a growing group of bystanders, I got bored and we went to find a vending machine. We were gone for less than 5 minutes I’d say, and by the time we came back the Navigator was gone and traffic was running normally. I really wanted to see how this situation would be resolved, but since it took so little time I’m guessing the guy showed up, apologized and bowed a lot, and they let him go. I was hoping for a yakuza shoot out! The morale of this story is that the police wasted about 45 minutes and traffic in a very busy part of Tokyo was interrupted by a mis-parked car. Why didn’t they get a tow truck!? If this were the states, a tow truck would have been there to haul the car away. There would have been no need for many cops, there would not have been a spectacle, and it wouldn’t have taken 45 minutes. Ah well, it was at least entertaining for a while. I do wish I would have seen the resolution, no matter how boring it probably was.

1 more day of the weekend; thank goodness. Then it’s a short (4 day) week because the entire country has next Saturday off for the Emperor’s Birthday. The only useful thing the emperor does!

This penguin is the future

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The Suica card, which looks like this: , is definitely a possible sign of the future. Basically, it’s a chargeable train pass/debit card. You can use it on the JR trains, and now you can use it in store to purchase stuff like a debit card. The nice thing about it is, instead of swiping and signing like a credit card, you just press it up against the reader, and you’re good to go. Takes literally 2 seconds. Maybe 1 if you’re a ninja. Most people keep it in a wallet or “pass case” with a little window on it. They just press their wallet/case on the suica panel and they’re good to go. Now, if you lose your card you’re screwed, but worrying about this stuff isn’t the point of progress.

This thing might actually turn Japan into a cashless society. Credit cards and checks couldn’t do that here. People literally still carry huge wads of cash with them. A lot of companies still give their employees their wages via big envelopes of cash.

I like Suica (the word also means watermelon, although I don’t know why their main mascot is a penguin). There’s also a campaign going on right now where you use your Suica at convenience stores to buy stuff, and you get a sticker. Collect 3 stickers, and you can send in to win stuff like a penguin pillow or a coffee mug. Here’s the link, if you want to see it for yourself. I found one of the conbini that just had the box of stickers sitting out, so of course I stole a handful. I’m going to send a bunch of postcards in and hopefully win something.

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Musashino Line trains stop running from Kaihim-Makuhari at around 11:40PM. If you miss it, you have to wait until 5:02AM to get another one. What do you do if you are lucky enough to miss the train, and are stuck in the Makuhari area for 5 hours in the middle of the night? Spend an hour or two walking, an hour at a weird Chinese restaurant with a 200 yen “Soft Drink Viking,” sleep on a bench outside of Kanda University, then wait outside the train station until they open the gates at 4:30AM. Then, get home finally around 5:30 in the morning and sleep for 12 hours. Good morning!

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