I live in Tokyo now but most of my friends and family do not. The main idea here is that I can tell these people about interesting things that happen and are seen.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Does Your Nose Got A Lot Of Blackheads On It. You... you can tell me.

These things are huge here:

i.e. little bits of sellotape that you stick on your nose to get rid of NOSE BLACKHEADS. If the cultural importance of a thing may be judged by how frequently it appears in train advertising, blackhead nose strips are right up there with Tokyo Disneyland and women dancing in their undies. One can scarcely glance at any surface without seeing some model's enraptured, angelic face beaming at you with a big black strip over her nose. And now that I've been prompted to notice, I can see that people here have got hell of blackheads all up on they noses. I'm intrigued. On what principle do these strips work? Is it a chemical treatment? Or more like removing a band-aid from a hairy leg - you just yank the thing off and it rips them shits out? How would that feel???

My own nose is much like... Ferrari - a by-word for classic styling and elegance, but all too frequently bright red in colour. Also it typically has more blackheads than a Ferrari, so I consider myself a valid test subject. Next time I'm at Don.K! and I remember, I'm a grab me some nose strips and risk my most noble protuberance for the sake of Science.

You may expect a Report.

PS: Why didn't anyone tell me R.L. Burnside was dead? And has been dead for months? Why did I have to find out from one of my students? I nearly blew the lesson I was cold struck with grief. Sure, people expect old men to die but.... R.L. Burnside?


Bin listening to "A Ass Pocket of Whiskey (And A Front Pocket Of Gin)" all night and just poured out some of my Japanese fake beer (made out of fermented barley or green beans or some crass shit) onto the ground to commemorate the dude.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

in soviet russia, cockroach steps on YOU

well shucks so i gets home in the middle of the night and open up my bedroom window and pull back the insect screen for all of three seconds, straight up gotta close me the storm shutters else all kinds of sunlight be splattering across a dude's face at all of 5:30 in the AM on account of the japanese not down with daylight savings and don't know them a thing about curtains besides

little somnabitch COCKROACH fly hisself in through the gap that exist for those 3 seconds like he been just POISED there all evening waiting for a dude to come home on he train and can't even get no beer from the vending machine on account it be switching itself off at 2300 to preserve public order. most times a cockroach can't even fly much worth a damn so you know bastich has made a special effort to come inside and be molesting my personables, sucker is about as big as my thumb, no doubt

a dude don't want to touch no cockroach with he bare skins so i wrapped my hand up in a dirty t-shirt and cold punched that roach in he eye, roach falls onto the bench and skittering around on he back all deathdance 2: electric boogaloo

NOW FOR THE COUP DE GRACE says i, no doubt mangling my french pronunciation as per, partly from ignorance but mostly from wanting revenge about the rainbow warrior

but brer cockroach - who, being punched by a dude some thirty thousand times he size and weight, oughta be dead - he backspin about so speedy and quick i can't hit him for no "coop dee grays", necks thing a dude know he back on his legs and jump to the floor, cold run up in my cabinets

cabinets ain't go nothing ins them so i'm all throwing the doors open real hard BANG BANG BANG and trying to fix my deathly gaze on that roach while he skittering about with a most definite quickness takin' every sort of evasive action, but there nowhere to hide because ain't no objects in the cabinets on account i ain't own no objects yet

roach decide to cut right across the floor, faster than i can believe, but i chucks a towel on top of him, he feels real safe under a towel and don't go running nowhere, so then i'm stomping on the towel BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG lift up the towel and do you know what:

that ol' roach don't give one fig for my stomping and he off on he way again, so's i drops the towel on he head again, this time jumping up and down with both feets BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG

lifts up the towel...

...and he on he way again, across to the other side of the room. i still don't want to get no kind of roach guts on my skin so i grab a plastic coathanger and stabs at the roach: the coathanger stone cold breaks in two, can you believe it

so, i got my jagged shard of a coathanger, rough and sharpish like a stake such as a dude do drive into the heart of a vampire, finally gets a mean bead upon old roachy and STABS RIGHT THROUGH HE ABDOMEN so the roach is kind of in two pieces

all this time i been cussin' the roach out and emitting many choice phrases that my grandma don't know i can say. one more choice curse at the remnants of roach, and i finally get changed out my work clothes and into my casuals. i looks about for a kerchief to scoop up the bits of roach in, finds one, heads back and WHAT DO YOU KNOW: sucker is dragging hisself across the floor, great big hole in he middle, still going hard in the struggle to find a thing to lay he eggs on or whatever. i could kind of hear mr elton john singing "circle of life" somewhere in the back of my head or nearby.

so it gets a bit graphic at this point but i will only tell you that i had to mash on that roach pretty hard to finish him off. i scoops up the remainder and heads out to the kitchen, where my flatmate mark is all "hey what's up was you talking on the phone to your parents" and i am all "what the hell mang how the hell do you thinks i behave towards my parents"

can you imagine in it, on the phone, all cussin' and pounding my feets upon the ground and slamming things 'cos maybe my folks said i gotsta come home from the j-pan and wash up some dishes or whatever. what a thought

mark's dog got so scared he completely ran upstairs to his Safe Place and circled about on the spot being fretful and making supersonic noises

i will not forget that roach anytime. in the end the score is Man: 1, Cockroach: 0, but best believe that shit was GLADIATORIAL

we don't got roaches like that in new zealand

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Keeping myself amused

Okay, this is not a story about my life or anything except inasmuch as when I saw these things in my life, I did emit much laughter.

Versions of the He-Man & The Masters of the Universe intro...
In German
In Italian

I guess I am kind of showing my stripes here but I never claimed to be cool or anything. Well, not recently.

Oh also, my job is okay. I have a house to live in now.

Monday, August 14, 2006

how much toothbrushes could a dude possibly need

Okay so there's two dudes living here (not counting me), but we got SIX toothbrushes at the washbasin... (not counting mine - I have, oo, ONE toothbrush) ...and THREE more toothbrushes in the shower.

What is going on here. I don't know if this is something that I should talk to the guys about or not. What do you think?

Friday, August 11, 2006

oh man i just ate something extremely crass for dinner

As cuisine goes, I am still at the stage of pointing at things and saying the equivalent of "oh, I pray thou render it me!". This strategy is facilitated by the fact that most menus have photos of the food, or at least the specials. Thus I am very dependent upon a general policy of "honest appearance" for food, and, generally, I have managed okay. Things that looked delicious have been delicious - things that looked mysterious have typically turned out to be surprisingly good, or at least inoffensive.

That was until earlier this evening. Tonight, I will be studying how to talk to waiters.

For dinner I popped into a little place nestled under a railway overpass in the Ueno area - the smooth jazz muzak within was drowned out every three or four minutes by the rumble and clank of a train passing overhead. It was located where someone's apartment would be in a movie where "it cold sucks to live in the city" is one of the major themes.

Near as I could tell, it was a ramen joint - I mean there are heaps of them around, the pictures of the food mainly featured bowls of soup with noodles and other stuff floating in them, there were faintly Chinese-looking decorations. In fact, I'm pretty sure they DID serve a basic and probably quite acceptable ramen - I merely failed to order it. I've eaten plenty of noodly broth with slices of pork, and bits of compressed crab meat shaped into asterisks and so on - Let's mix this shit up, I said to myself let's choose this one here. It's like a ramen with some kind of brown stuff on top - looks like maybe it will even have some vegetables in it.

When my chosen dish arrived, I flinched a little. The brown stuff was beef mince. Ramen with mince poured on top? Mince? That's kind of twisted. OKAY WELL MAYBE IT WILL EXPAND MY HORIZONS dude didn't you come to Japan on account of worrying about your narrow-ass horizons is that not true. The first bite revealed additional information - it was cold.

No, not cold - the word is clammy.

It was that most insidious of dishes - a meal that is, at first, seemingly palatable, but is cumulatively disgusting - a dish that only reveals how truly foul it was after you have mostly consumed it. If you took out the bok choy, it would be like something an especially slovenly, British university student would eat when they have a hangover. Three day-old chili con carne from out of the fridge, mixed with instant noodles in a brine of cooking oil, peanut butter and cold tapwater. Not even heated up because Brian broke the microwave last week when he used the nice plate with gold trim to do his cheese sandwich.

By now well aware that I was going to have to write this one up, I attempted to ask what in hell I was eating. I'd like to see what a web search would turn up - recipes, official warnings on embassy websites (OKAY MY DOGGS WATCH OUT FOR THIS ONE IT IS COMPLETELY NOT RAMEN JUST SOME KIND OF CRAZY GUNK gross-out LOL - luv, NZ High Commission to Japan), et cetera. Unfortunately I fudged the phrases for "what is this?" and "what is the time?", and ended up asking the waiter what his personal ideas about the concept of "now" are. Naturally I had to invoke DAIJOBU and send him on his way. For all I know, it may not even be meant to be served cold - but hell, I didn't want to be equivalent to the boor who sends his gazpacho soup back to the kitchen you know.

This was not an experience to be quickly forgotten and laughed off. The dish would not let me go so easy. The frigid, ghastly oils in which the food was steeped tainted my lips and mouth, the lining of my throat - all that they touched. I could smell fumes from the stuff for an hour afterwards, seemingly emanating from my mouth, writhing up to offend my nose. I can still feel it slithering about in my guts - an evil-tempered, tumorous octopus, roiling about in its own ink.

In summary, it was pretty bad.

(PS: Japanese food is mostly awesome! But when you're a stranger, some times strange things inflict themselves upon you.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006


This coffee I bought from 7/11 is BULLSHIT.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Basic Status Update + new photos

A Dude's Flickr is updated.

Also I have a job and mobile phone now. Not bad going for a dude that does not know a damn thing about what he is doing from moment to moment.

HERE'S THE FLASH FOR WHAT'S NEW: I have enabled anonymous comments posting on this here blog so that one can comment without having to have a Blogger account.

Cheers to "Handsome" Ben for the prompting.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cold Maxxing With The Gothic Lolitas

Apparently Sunday is the day to go to Harajuku, around the entrance to the Meiji-jingu, and gawk at the people in funny clothes. So, I did. I got confused and thought there was some reason for me to wander around in Yoyogi Park for an hour so apparently I missed the bit when the "rockers" lay out traffic cones and then do some kind of dance. It's not clear to me what happens since, as I said, I wasn't there for it. I'll go back another time and hang around instead of walking quickly past feeling kind of out place.

Speaking as Today's Man, describing clothes is not something I excel at so I won't really bother to try. I ain't Gwen Stefani or nothing, so don't act like I am. One particular accessory really did astonish me though - a narrow strip of cloth or plastic, generally white, is tied around the face so that it covers the nose, and only the nose. Like the kerchief of a stagecoach robber who feels his only identifying feature is his schnozz (perhaps he has an exceedingly ordinary mouth).

I didn't take any photos because I feel it is kind of uncool to photograph people because you think they look weird. I might be missing the point - I mean it appears to be some regular Sunday routine, maybe having disturbed looking gaijins take photos of you is part of the kudos to be had, I dunno. Anyway I did do a quick web-trawl and find someone else's photos.

This is not my photo, but I did see this actual girl, in this actual costume.

You might as well go to http://www.gardkarlsen.com/japan_tokyo.htm and just pretend I took all the photos.

Oh, and here's what I missed. Next time huh.

I Went to the Ichikawa Fireworks Display

I almost didn't. The heat, new shoes, and the basic crappiness of my legs and feet have conspired to give me a couple of meeeeean blisters. But in the end the statistics convinced me - anticipated audience of 500,000 - 14,000 individual fireworks to be exploded - about 9 years since I last saw a firework more impressive than a Moon Traveller. I didn't come to Tokyo to sit around in Matt's lounge (though thus far there is plenty of evidence to the contrary).

I could set the scene here, but you might as well just go take a look at teh flickarrz. The fireworks display itself will bear a little more description, since I failed to take any decent pictures of it.

It was pretty astonishing. They started off with a bunch of individual rockets that would easily have provided the money shot of any previous display I'd seen at Waitakere Stadium or wherever. Then about twenty minutes in, a woman with an extremely high-pitched voice made some kind of announcement - she sounded like someone who would clap her hands rapidly and bounce on her heels when she laughs. Here is my attempt at a translation from the Japanese:

Well shucks look at you all getting worked up and gasping and applauding like a bunch of idiots over some little baby rockets that we only set off to test whether the lighter was working. It is pretty pathetic - maybe you ought to leave? I think you should leave. We could give you a sparkler on your way out and you could go home and look at that. You could write your name in the air. Wouldn't that be nice? See, we gonna let off some ACTUAL fireworks now and we don't no-one filling they pants or nothing SO IF YOU CAN'T DEAL - YOU LEAVE. DO YOU GET ME."

And the real jaw-dropping, sky-filling stuff began... and then ended, and we went back to individual rockets and sparklers for a while. I guess the thing about a fireworks display is that you can't just set off everything at once. They had to sustain a 70 minute display or something so it was structured as a series of climaxes interspersed with, well, filler. Overall it was amazing but, well, I'd have edited it down a bit myself. At least you knew when the good stuff was coming because the lady would come back on and say Well okay I suppose you have been patient I guess we can show you some real fireworks again now and stirring martial music would start playing.

They even had fireworks that can explode into a smiley face or a heart. So is fireworks technology now "complete"? I couldn't think of anything to do with a firework that these guys did not do, aside from some Gandalf crap that is not even real.

Afterwards I had to contend with the hundred thousand other people that wanted to catch a train back into the city. That was the sort of thing that, the first time you do it, you can chalk it up as somehow character building. But I feel there would be little benefit in experiencing it ever again.

Friday, August 04, 2006

My First Earthquake

It happened this morning. It was pretty gentle, and I have decided that it was lucky.

As earthquakes go, it was rather cute.

How To Tell A Dude To Just Laxxxxx Out


All you gotta say is "Daijobu".

And apparently saying "okay okay okay okay okay" really quickly is effective also.

There Is A Phrase I Really Need To Learn

I have decided that I am going to behave reasonably seriously about learning the Japanese language for a period of time, e.g. I am going to learn about those dumb squiggles they have instead of letters. Let it not be said that I will not engage with other cultures, their backwards customs, and their obscene, jabbering parodies of speech. I am a dude for the '90s.

Thus far I only really have basic manners, "please", "thank you", "oh dang I didn't mean to step on you AGAIN", etc - the sorts of things I never really bothered to say to people in English. Admittedly, basic pleasantries seem to go pretty far in Japan - but this evening I discovered a glaring, awful gap in my arsenal of stock phrases. I desperately need to learn the equivalent of "nah sweet bro don't worry about it nah man just leave it oh nah seriously bro - just... just forget it".

Here's what happened. I went to a local superette to buy various reagents that I later transformed into a soggy, weeping mass for my dinner. As I made my purchases - secretly revelling in my success at "going to the supermarket", planning a triumphal parade to rival that of bygone Caesars - something came unsprung in my wallet and a number of coins spilled out. So, I picked them up. The apalling thing is that the checkout attendant had heard something rattle off behind him, so, he immediately dropped to all fours and started searching for the wayward coin.

I mean, he had his face right down against the floor, peering under the ice-cream freezer. He was lifting up bags of bananas, his palms and knees were greyed with the dust of the floor. All the while, I'm standing there, aghast, jaw creaking open and shut to no avail, realizing that none of the versions of "excuse me" I have mastered is going to cut it in this situation. Wondering if I should just walk away, knowing that I cannot.

The crowning obscenity; he did find the coin, and it was a 1 yen piece. JAPAN - WHY DO YOU GOT TO HAVE A 1 YEN PIECE. The amount of anything that you can realistically buy for 1 yen is: nothing. I mean, I saw a small piece of driftwood for sale at Tokyu Hands today and it was still 154 yen (admittedly its suchness was hell of powerful). Needless to say, nearly everything costs like 117 yen or 273 yen, so you inevitably accrue these pissy little coins which you will almost never bother to spend. Hell, the smallest denomination acceptable to a vending machine is 10 yen. Surely this is eroding Japan's economy somehow.

Personally, I am saving up my 1 yen pieces to make a cosh.

Anyway, when I find out what the "nah it's cool just leave it" phrase is I will post it here so that others need not forfeit another's dignity for a single, useless yen.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Disproportionate Pride in Minor Achievements

Well shucks but I've been getting a swolled-up head over some extremely basic things since I got here about a day and a half ago. It is a thing about travelling that, since in many ways you are reduced to the status of a toddler, you can feel a toddler's triumph in minor tasks such as being able to read a street sign or knowing what the next train station stop is going to be.

For example, I caught a taxi cab down to the ward office to apply for my Alien Registration Card, since I am effectively a non-person until I get one. At first dude didn't understand me, and terrified me by grinning and waving three fingers at my face as if to say "Had I but a trident, assuredly would I stab thee". My instinct was to release a jet of ink and flee. Unfortunately, in a Japanese cab the passenger door is controlled by a lever next to the driver. In a Japanese cab, you are always at the mercy of the driver - I'm pretty sure they carry blades to deal with deadbeats. I mean why else would they have so much anti-macassars on all the upholstery.

Anyway, I used the courage in my heart to try again - and again! Ultimately it turned out I was mangling my "O" sounds I think. I was able to correct this using a system where I imagine Mako's face looking at me and then I imagine that I am wearing Mako's face over my face, and then I say the Japanese words again. IT MAKES MY PRONUNCIATION GO REAL GOOD.

Smiling is another of the many uses for Mako's face.

i learned how to order a couple of brews

nama futatsu kudasai

nama futatsu my doggs