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Oh No 2009

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THESaw a lot of ol’ Nick “NR7000” Roberts the past few weeks. You remember that guy, right? He’s still down in the boonies of Hyogo spending most of his time with literally thousands of young children. First he came up to Chiba at the beginning of the Japanese Obon holiday week in August. As soon as he arrived in Tokyo we went to make a long overdue visit (pilgrimage?) to our good friend the Mayor. No, no – I don’t mean the mayor of Tokyo. I of course am referring to the Mayor of Namja Town, who is way cooler, has his own army of Namderbirds, names his districts descriptively by the foods they serve, and wears a monocle. Also he is a cat. And not a bigot like the mayor of Tokyo – oops!

Nick’s visit up here was pretty much just for eating and drinking, which we did pretty much constantly when not sleeping or playing video games of some kind. Nick was skeptical about the sweet all you can order pizza place at first, but after trying it I think he realized why me and Blanchard talked it up so much. Teriyaki chicken pizza, even with the weird Japanese mayonnaise on it, is awesome. The next night we took him to Y’s, followed by karaoke until 5AM, which effectively destroyed Nick’s body (and stomach) for days to come. A job well done, everyone.

Then almost ridiculously soon after Nick’s visit up here, I went down last weekend to check out the NR7000 home field down in Ono city, Hyogo. There is a very descriptive Wikipedia page for it here. Got to check out Osaka and Kobe as well, so it was a good weekend visit to Kansai. As with most reunion trips, we were mostly gorging ourselves the whole time I was down there, primarily at the Ono favorite kushiage and yakitori places. Both were way awesome. Kushiage I got to try last year, but the Ono yakitori place was closed for renovations or something last year so I got to try it this time. Nick was very disappointed that they didn’t have the fried cheese he always orders, but everything else was way good. I think all shop keepers in Ono automatically give Nick an offering of a huge plate of french fries wherever he goes, cause it seemed to just show up without even getting ordered.

Also went to quite a few of the local hangout “snack” bars, which were a lot less sketch than I had originally assumed. You know it’s a fun weekend when there are so many nicknames created or at least used. Big T, Sidekick, the principal from GTO (myyyyyyy crestaaaaa!!), yakuza dude, and cake nazi. And quite possibly the best nickname/backfire of the whole trip: “juicy.”

I end this post with the best Nick Roberts picture from my trip:

click for a really embarrassing zoom
Click to zoom in embarrassingly close.

Now onto the weekend of April 4-6, an action-packed three days full of events ranging from ridiculously awesome to just ridiculous. On Friday morning I headed into Tokyo to discuss a full-time position offer, and after that I headed back home to get ready for the big day. Steve checked out of his hotel and met me in Chiba, where we cabbed his luggage to my apartment, where he would be staying that weekend. That night was the first 2008 reunion at the rightfully legendary Y’s Makuhari. We had a pretty good turnout, with A-Team representatives, old friends, new friends, and of course a big grilled fish head.

Y's Mug ワイズバー 幕張テクノガーデン店We showed up before opening at 5:30, hanging out in the lobby with a decent number of middle aged salarymen, all waiting to enter paradise as well. Matsushita-san opened the place up and gave us a wave. He was telling some of the staff (Kanda students) that we’re the ones responsible for popularizing Y’s with the foreign students and probably Kanda students in general. Amazing. The place was probably busier that night than ever, since April is the start of the academic and fiscal year, meaning there were a lot of companies having welcome parties for new staff members. All of the private rooms were full, every table was packed, and even the counters were populated by tons of young Japanese workers all wearing the same suit. We weren’t able to get the usual middle counter, but I guess it was permissible this time. Steve and my friend Jini were the only ones who had never been to Y’s before, and they were both very pleased I think. It’s hard not to be.

After closing the place out around 10, we headed out towards Kaihim to try and find a karaoke place. There was a slight mishap and delay due to Steve’s glasses, but it was temporarily remedied with some 7-11-purchased scotch tape. Unfortunately, all those new company employees wanted to do karaoke as well, meaning that both King Arthur near the station and the place in the new shopping center were totally packed, and we were out of luck. We ended up cabbing to the big place near Hongo station and doing an all-nighter there. The group had been reduced to about half since a lot of people didn’t want to stay out all night. It was a fun night but the cold walk to the station at 5AM is never pleasant.

On Saturday after waking up in the afternoon we had a pretty lazy day in Chiba. We took Steve’s glasses to the Megane Super (メガネスーパー) glasses shop and they did a free and quick repair job that was of course not perfect, but it was a lot better than scotch tape. Went to Bochi Bochi (ぼちぼち) for dinner, letting Steve try okonomiyaki and natto. I don’t think he was a big fan of the natto, but most foreigners aren’t. I sure hate the stinky stuff.

Sunday was another busy day, waking up around 8AM to head to Kawasaki, which is south of Tokyo. It was the first Sunday of April, meaning that it was time for the 2008 Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り), the Iron Penis Festival that I went to last year when Ari was in Japan. I didn’t think I’d end up going again, but with Macie and Steve both here, it was time to go see the giant pink penis float again. This year was very much the same as last, but it seemed like it was a lot busier. There were people all over the place, it was super crowded and still just as loud and lively as before. Konosuke had never been to this before either, and even being Japanese he was pretty surprised that such a weird, messed up event happens in his country. It was my second time and I’m still finding it difficult to believe. And hey, let’s make a quick collage!

川崎 かなまら祭り 2008 金山神社

So that was that.

Mayor of Namjatown ナンジャタウン 池袋 餃子スタジアムAfter the Penis Festival, we headed up to Ikebukuro to go to Namjatown, the “Golden Saucer” of Tokyo. In addition to the usual zones like Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream City, there was a Cheesecake Expo going on and some other new stuff. It was great to see the mayor and the Namderbirds. Going with a big group to Gyoza Stadium is always a good idea because that way you can try a lot of different kinds of gyoza (pot stickers/Chinese dumplings). There was an awesome one made with a beef filling that I don’t think I’ve had there before. We walked around some of the amusement areas that I’ve never looked at before, and they were kind of interesting. Not interesting enough to pay for, but they were free so it was all good. After Namja we went across the street to The Lockup Ikebukuro location, giving the visitors a taste of a weird Japanese theme restaurant/bar.

So pretty much after that there wasn’t anything as special, at least with me. Macie left on Tuesday and Steve headed down to Kyoto on his own. He came back at the end of the week and left the following Saturday. I was still busy doing work and job interviews and stuff, but I was able to make it to the airport with both of them.

It was good to have visitors! It is tiring though, haha. But anyone else who’s going to come for a visit, let me know and I can help you out. I’ve got a decent amount of free time until June when I start the new full time position and have to go into Shinjuku everyday to work.

If you want to see some pictures from the places we went, there on the Pictures page.

Tadaima

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So I’m back home in St. Louis now. I left the Keio Plaza on Japan time Monday at 11:50AM, and after a 25-hour series of bus, flight, layover, flight, and car ride, I was back at home. To be honest, I’m not really sure what everyone means by “jetlag” because I think some people mean different things. If jetlag means not being adjusted to the different time zone, then yes I have a serious case of jetlag since I slept yesterday from about 5PM to midnight. Stepping into the Wayback Machine for a moment, my last weekend in Japan was spent mainly hanging out with people, buying souvenirs, packing, and sleeping. I’ll go into a bit more detail, but I’m in a kind of lazy mood right now so this won’t be as painfully long as a lot of my blogs tend to be.

Spend the day Friday hanging out with Sayoko; went to LaLaPort but realized that there really isn’t anything to see or do there. Defaulted to lunch at Saize, which is awesome because I haven’t been there since last year. That night, met up with Yoko, Tomomi, and Shigeru. Went around Tsudanuma and I just barely made it to the very last train back to Shinjuku. I don’t think I’ve run that hard in a while. There’s a lot more effort to running when you realize the penalty to not making it is having to sleep in the streets for a night. Next day, Bryan made the long journey from Ibaraki. We went to Akihabara where Bryan tried to find a store shady enough to sell a modded PS2, but was unsuccessful. We also tried to go to a Maid Cafe, but there were so many otaku in line that it was totally not worth it. Also, we walked past one and saw inside but it was just pretty boring looking. Like the insides of a McDonalds, but the waitresses just happened to be wearing weird costumes. Akihabara has definitely gotten weird these past few years.

We went to Makuhari that night, saw some of the old sights, then went to Hana no Mae with Sato san. Shin san was supposed to hang out that night, but he didn’t pick up his phone all day, so I’m assuming something came up. Sunday, Bryan went back on his quest in Akihabara and I went to Takashimaya Times Square to finish purchasing souvenirs for people, etc. That night met up with Bryan again in Ikebukuro Sunshine City’s NAMJA TOWN, also known as the happiest place in the world. In addition to Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream City, the place has grown impressively since last year. Good job Mr. Mayor. Cream Puff Town has been expanded into the Tokyo Dessert Republic, there is now the completed Relax Forest, and they even added Fortune Tellers Street. What an amazing town. Here are some pics:
NamjaTown
That night, I was able to do my laundry in the apartment complex coin laundry I found the other day. It was only about a 10 minute walk, and surprisingly the machines not only had hot water, but they actually got my clothes dry! Quite amazing for Japanese laundry equipment. I was almost positive I would have to hang-dry my clothes that night. Anyways, I packed up my suitcases and a 29 kilogram box of my clothes and stuff to ship off to the AEON school. Luckily, there was a takkyuubin delivery service within the hotel, and it cost me less than 2000 yen to ship the box next day to Ichihara. What a bargain.

There weren’t any real problems with getting to the US via air, thankfully. There was of course the “no liquids or gels” rule with carry on luggage, but otherwise things weren’t any different than normal. Lines at Narita were a little long to check in and then go through security, but that might have just been because it was Narita Airport, and not necessarily because of terrorists.

Golden Saucer still amazes

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Ah, Namja Town. Quite possibly one of the happiest places in Japan, and for sure one of the tastiest. For those who don’t know what it is, pretty much this place is the Golden Saucer from Final Fantasy VII, only instead of fighting in the Stadium, you eat gyoza (pot stickers). Tons of different variaties of delicious gyoza. There is also Ice Cream City, and a Cream Puff Town, and rides, etc. It’s like a food amusement park. Amazing indeed.

Going along with my recent abundance of free time (ahem), I’ve started exploring Mixi quite a bit. It’s like a Japanese Facebook or MySpace. The groups/communities on there are really kind of cool, because they’re more like mini message boards. Going along with the whole “community” title, you also have event calendars and other things in each group that you can use to communicate with the other members. Of course I joined the Namja Town group, and saw an event posting earlier today for private event at Namja Town, on Sunday at 4PM. now that's a giant puddingJapan time-wise, this is already going on as I type this. At the Sokkuri Sweets Museum, they have a 3.5 LITER GIANT PURIN! Holy crap. Japanese purin is pretty much the exact same as flan, but 3.5 liters of it?? Absolutely amazing. Apparently they’ve done this in the past before, but I don’t think it’s available all the time (these pictures are from past events). It costs about 6000 yen (about $60 USD), and you’re supposed to split it with at least 6 people, so you’ll pay less than 10 bucks to stuff yourself with pudding. Who’s up for the challenge?

Special thanks to Air-Wind-san, who let me use his pictures.
the major approves

Links:

Namja Town official site
Mixi site (if you know Japanese)

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