Japanese Hospitality

Japan Day 3
Surprisingly I woke up at 7:00 the next day with no hangover and quite energetic. I cleaned up, packed up my things, checked out, and headed to Ginza to meet up with Arsenal and his uncle. After finishing breakfast we all loaded into a cab and made our way to the JR station to catch a bullet train from Tokyo to Sendai. There wasn’t much to do on the train ride to Sendai, we just chatted about what we were going to do (Arsenal wanted to go to the beach where the tsunami first made landfall) and figuring out what to do for lodging if our first choice fell through. I should probably mention at this point that Arsenal and I didn’t actually know if we were going to have a place to stay in Sendai. I had looked up a hostel before we left for Japan, but they only took reservations over the phone. We decided to call them once we got to Japan, but promptly forgot to do so after actually arriving in Japan.

Anyways, after getting to Sendai Arsenal and I bid farewell to Arsenal’s uncle and took a walk around downtown Sendai. There was snow covering the streets and many of the buildings here, making for some breath taking scenery as we trekked around the city. The first stop we made (well, I forced us to make) was a Tsutaya where I set about buying some light novels and other Japanese merchandise I had been wanting to get my hands on.. Since we had toured most of the downtown area we decided to head towards the neighboring town where our hostel was located. On the way, Arsenal shared his thoughts on the things we had passed by during our walk.

Arsenal: Man, I can’t believe how many beautiful girls there are in Japan!
Me: Really? It doesn’t seem that different from most countries. Though I guess coming from Beijing…
Protip: Beijing has an uncharacteristically low number of pretty girls.
Arsenal: What? No, everyone girl we’ve passed by so far has been hot!
Me: Well, good that you’re enjoying your time in Japan.
Arsenal: Man, if I lived here I would !()*@&# !@#* !@(*# on the street!
strategically putting some distance between myself and Arsenal
Me: …I’m pretty sure you’d get arrested for that.

Ogura Yuko

Upon arriving at the train station in the neighboring town, the station attendant supplied us with a map with directions to our hostel. The town itself was fairly small and made up mostly of houses with a few small shops dotting the streets. Turning down several side streets we finally arrived at the hostel, Dochuan. Passing through the main gate we made our way to the building and after knocking and ringing the doorbell for about 5 minutes… no one came out.

Me: Well, I guess we should’ve called them.
Arsenal: Hmm, let’s look around some more. There’s a house right next to this place, maybe they’re in there?

The next few minutes were spent with Arsenal and me running around the house knocking on different doors until…

Arsenal: It’s unlocked.

Me: Uhh… I’m not sure if this is the best idea.
Arsenal: Hello?
No answer.

Finally we called it quits and decided to head back downtown and try and find another place to stay. Well, tried to.

Me: I thought the station was this way…
Arsenal: Hey, there’s a vending machine over there! Think they have Banana Ole?

We stopped for a bit to buy some drinks and reorient ourselves. After finishing his drink, Arsenal ran off to find a trash can. While he was gone I started assessing our surroundings. I noticed there was a restaurant right next to the vending machine we had stopped at. Since it was almost lunch time, when Arsenal got back from his disposal mission we decided to go in and see what they had.

It was a fairly simple restaurant with a very homey feel. The menu had your standard array of home-style Japanese dishes along with a bookcase full of assorted manga. We ordered some set lunches and started discussing our options for lodging.

Me: Well, I guess we should go back downtown and look for a motel or something. Worst comes to worst we can sleep at a manga café.
Arsenal: Why don’t we try calling the hostel we were at?
Me: If they weren’t at the hostel, what makes you think they’d answer the phone?
Arsenal: Well, we might as well try right?

I couldn’t think of a good reason not to, even if I thought it was a futile attempt. I asked the people at the restaurant if I could borrow their phone. They pointed me to a pay phone lying on the counter. It accepted 10 yen coins.

I dropped in a 10 yen coin and dialed the number, to my surprise someone picked up after the 2nd ring.
Lady: [Hello?]
Me: [Uh, hi. Is this Dochuan?]
Lady: [Yes, can I help you?]
Me: [Yeah, I was wondering if you had room for 2 people?]
Lady: [When are you planning on staying here?]
Me: [Tonight and tomorrow.]
Lady: [OK, and where are you from?]
Me: [One from the US and one from Australia]
Dial tone
Me: Hello?

The money ran out. I asked the cook about how many coins I should put in for a 5 minute call. He shrugged and told me he hasn’t used the thing in ages, however, the phone would refund unused coins so I could just load it up with coins. I took out all the 10 yen coins I had (about 10, change from all the drinks we had gotten at vending machines) and following his advice I redialed the number and secured our reservations. However, the hostel didn’t open until 4:00 PM. It was about 1:00 PM so Arsenal and I had to find a way to kill 3 hours while lugging around our suitcases.

Me: [To Arsenal] So, good news, we got the reservation. But they don’t open until 4:00 PM so we have to kill some time.
Chef: [The hostel doesn’t open until 4:00PM right?]
Me: [Yeah, we’re going to have to wander around until then. Are there any places to see around here?]
Chef: [Not really, there’s a small shopping center near here. But you’re welcome to stay here until 4:00 PM.]

So Arsenal and I indulged in their hospitality and stayed at the restaurant until our hostel opened. We watched TV, chatted with the workers, and read some manga. At 4:00 PM we bid farewell to our hosts and went to the hostel. After completing the check-in and dropping our stuff in our room we went out to dinner, ate some cow tongue, wandered the town a bit, and then went to sleep.
-End day 3-

-After Story: Easy Peasy-
Note: Red is a Japanese girl studying at our school.
Red: [So how was your trip to Japan!?]
Me: [It was good, Arsenal really enjoyed it, he’s in love with Japan now.]
Red: [Ha ha, he must be a good person then! I want to go back to Japan too…]
Me: [Yeah, he really liked it, he kept talking about how pretty Japanese girls are.]
Red: [Really? He is a good person then!]
Me: […just because he thinks Japanese girls are pretty?]
Red: [Yeah! It means he has good taste!]
Me: […]
Red: [What?]

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Posted in Blahg, China, Japan | 1 Comment

Tokyo Marathon

Japan Day 2
Our first full day in Tokyo, Arsenal’s uncle had something to do, so Arsenal and I decided to run around and hit all the major tourist spots in Tokyo: Akihabara, Tokyo Tower, Ueno, Kaminari Mon, Shibuya, and Roppongi. I also came to the realization that it is incredibly easy to walk between all these places. We started out navigating the Tokyo subway system but eventually just started hoofing it between all the different places we had marked out. Nothing too eventful happened while we wandered around, saw some pretty buildings, stared at maps for a bit to figure out our orientation, grabbed lunch at a family restaurant, and just took in the sights and sounds of Tokyo.

Arsenal’s uncle had made plans to meet up with one of his friends (let’s call him Platypus) in Tokyo for dinner. So around 7 or 8 we headed back to Arsenal’s hotel to meet up with his uncle and head towards the meeting spot together. The person we met was considerably younger than I had imagined, he was only 1 or 2 years older than me. Platypus greeted us quite happily and introduced his girlfriend to us, after introductions had finished we headed towards a restaurant they had picked out. The place we went to was an Izakaya, the place was dimly lit but had nice furnishings. The food there was pretty good, we ended up ordering a bunch of different things and just chatted for a few hours. After dinner, we headed to a nearby bar for drinks and bar food.

I don’t remember a lot of the conversation, but I remember throughout the night Platypus’s girlfriend became increasingly drunk. Arsenal’s uncle, who had an early morning (well, so did we) excused himself early to return to the hotel. So the 4 of us kept drinking and chatting. After another hour or so we decided to pay the bill and head home. After leaving the bar we headed back towards Arsenal’s hotel while Platypus’s girlfriend made us promise that we’d keep in contact with her through email. Halfway to the hotel Platypus and his girlfriend split off wishing us a good night, I walked with Arsenal back to the hotel and then headed towards the subway station… only to find it closed.

I kind of stood there blankly for a few minutes considering my options. Crash at Arsenal’s hotel room? Too awkward. Take a cab? Too expensive. Walk? …we have a winner!

Since I had walked around most of Tokyo earlier today, I actually had a decent idea of where my hostel was in regards to Arsenal’s hotel. So I got my bearings and started walking towards Asakusa. I was kind of hoping to run into some crazy late night happenings but alas, there were none to be had. Other than some unconventionally unhelpful convenience store clerks, I didn’t have any encounters that night.

About the convenience store clerks, after trekking 95% of the way to my destination I found myself at the entrance to a subway stop one stop away from my destination. I stopped by to ask which direction I should go to get to Asakusa and was only met with a shrug of the shoulders. I was thoroughly disappointed. I ended up figuring it out by peering through the glass of a closed down station that had a map of the local area.

Anyways, after about an hour of trekking from Ginza to Asakusa I finally made it back to my hostel. This time, there was no one in the reception area. Which wasn’t too surprising considering it was ~2:00 in the morning at this point. I used my key to open the front door, cleaned up, and went to bed. As I drifted off to sleep I realized I still had no idea who my roommates were, both nights I stayed here I had gone to sleep after them and woken up before them. And I had to get up early again the next day; we were catching a bullet train north to Sendai.

-End Day 2-

Posted in Blahg, China, Japan | 2 Comments

Japan! Ole!

So, over a year since I promised it, here is a recap of my trip to Japan. I’ve actually written this story several times in the past, but I could never get the tone of it right so I kept deleting it and starting over. A lot has happened since then, and my memory of the trip has faded a bit, but now might actually be the best time to do it. So I hope you’ll follow along as I bumble down memory lane and think back on one of the best trips I’ve ever had.

Day 1:
This trip to Japan had been a long time in the making. Arsenal’s uncle is a journalist and had plans to go to Japan in order to interview someone who had survived the 2011 tsunami. Which I had been in Japan to witness, but I was so far away from it I never really saw the effect it had. The only thing that changed for me after the tsunami was seeing charity drives to help the victims and receiving a string of panicked calls from my mother about how Japan was about to melt in a maelstrom of radiation and political lies.
Anyways, the night before the flight to Japan we ended up staying at Arsenal’s uncle’s place (which was posh as hell). The morning of the flight I got up a little early, took a shower, and started reading through the copy of Oreimo I had brought with me. Arsenal’s uncle took notice.

Uncle: You know Japanese?
Me: Yeah, a bit.
Uncle: Well enough to read right?
Me: Yeah.
Uncle: Fluently?
Me: About 80%? There’s still quite a few words I have to use a dictionary for.
Uncle: Would you feel comfortable working as an interpreter for me?
Me: Huh?
Uncle: I have to interview someone in Sendai, if you feel comfortable interpreting I could pay you, you’d have to go home and get a suit though.
Me: I, uh…
Uncle: Yes or no?

I ended up declining. Though I’ve studied Japanese for the past couple of years, I still hadn’t worked up the confidence to interpret, especially when someone’s job was relying on it.

A few hours later we were on a plane to Japan. We arrived at night, and took a train from the airport the hotel Arsenal and his uncle were staying at. I had reserved a room at a hostel a short train ride away from where they were staying. Arsenal’s uncle bunkered down in his hotel room while Arsenal took the opportunity to explore the streets of Ginza. Arsenal fell in the love with the place.

Arsenal: Oh my god, this place is amazing!
Me: Yeah, it’s nice right?
Arsenal: This is my dream city, it’s like everything I think would be great to have in a city is here. I’m definitely coming to Japan next time I study abroad.
Me: Let me know when you do, I’ll come visit. (spotting some vending machines) You want something to drink?
Arsenal: Sure, what is there?
Me: Let’s see…
Arsenal: Banana Ole? Is that any good?
Me: Never had it before, you wanna try it?
Arsenal: Sure.
(I buy the drinks and hand the Banana Ole to Arsenal)
Arsenal: (opens the cap and takes a drink)
Me: How is it?

For the rest of the trip Arsenal would stop by every vending machine we passed to see if it was selling Banana Ole.

Banana Ole

We continued wandering through the rest of the town taking note of the stores and stopping by little stalls to grab some snacks. We ended up getting some donuts at Mister Doughnut and buying some Taiyaki of an elderly guy selling it out the back of a truck. After an hour or two of wandering we had become slightly lost.

Now, you might expect this to turn into another mini-anecdote, but being lost in Japan has never been a problem for me. Not that I have some kind of 6th sense when it comes to navigating in Japan (quite the opposite really) but the abundance of helpful convenience store employees has always made it fairly easy to figure out where I should be going. So a quick stop at a nearby convenience store and we were pointed back towards Arsenal’s hotel. On the way we also spotted some Cabaret Girls escorting salarymen out of their club and into some taxis. Oh Japan.

I parted ways with Arsenal at his hotel and took the subway to Asakusa where the hostel I was staying at was located. I got there after the reception desk had closed, but the ground floor still had a lot of people lounging around. I went up to my room, dropped off my stuff and cleaned up a bit before heading back downstairs. After making small talk with a few people I ended up sitting at a table, drinking shochu, and watching Japanese TV. I struck up a conversation with another person who decided this was also the best way to spend the waning hours of the day. After exchanging the usual pleasantries she told me that she was in Tokyo to take a certification test.

Me: [A test, for what?]
Girl: [I work with dogs] (she mimics cutting with her fingers)

Alright, now I have a question for anyone reading this. What do you think her job is?
If you said Dog Groomer, congratulations! You’re correct. And if you thought she had something to do with neutering said dogs, then you’re as f*#ked in the head as I am.

Me: [Oh, that’s pretty cool…]
Girl: [Yeah, if it goes well I’m going to go to Britain to work!]
Me: [Britain is a nice place, one of my friends really likes it there] (I didn’t know they needed to bring in people from overseas to chop of dog testicles though…)
Girl: [Yeah, it should be fun, I’ll get a lot of experience cutting hair too!] (mimics cutting with her fingers again)
Me: [Oh…oh! Yeah, yeah it should be a great opportunity ha ha ha]
Girl: [?]

After chatting for a bit the girl excused herself and went upstairs to sleep. I ended up watching a bit more TV and chatting with some of the other people until almost everyone had left. It was almost 1:00 at this point. I was supposed to meet up with Arsenal and his uncle at 7~8 AM the next morning. I excused myself to what remained of the group and lay down in my bed to try and get some sleep. I didn’t fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning…

-End Day 1-

Posted in Blahg, China, Japan | 5 Comments

Priorities

So, I take a look at Facebook and see everyone getting married, working on their next big project, buying houses, essentially taking that next big step in their lives. And what am I doing? Getting a bit teary eyed over the fact that Oreimo is going to end with the next volume (volume 12). And you know what? I’m perfectly fine with that.

Oreimo is an abbreviation of “Ore no imouto ga konnani kawaii wake ga nai” (俺の妹がこんなに可愛いわかがない). Now those of you who can read Japanese or Chinese probably just had a shiver run up your spine. For those of you who don’t speak either of those languages, come with me on a trip back in time.

(2 years ago in Japan)

Disclaimer: This conversation has been re-constructed from my very shaky memory.

(Chatting on Skype with my high-school friend Perks)
Me: So, I feel like I should be studying Japanese more. I’m trying to find some good shows to watch, any suggestions?
Perks: Yeah, have you seen Ore no imouto ga konnani kawaii wake ga nai?
My Brain: [Converting from Japanese to English…]
My Brain: [Complete!]
My Brain: [Translation: There’s no way my little sister can be this cute!]
Me: …what the hell have you been watching recently
Perks: No! It’s actually a really good show!

With some hesitation, I decided to pirate legally obtain a couple of episodes. And it turns out Perks was right. Afterwards (well, still am I guess), went on an Oreimo binge. After finishing the rest of the animated series I started reading the book series it was based on. This rabid fandom also led me to meet one of my best friends from China.

(Because this exchange was so earth-shatteringly awesome, I’ve decided to immortalize it in picture form!)

In the end, I guess what I really want to say is, I hope the world doesn’t end in 2012. Cuz then I’ll never get to see how Oreimo ends.

Posted in Blahg | 1 Comment

Salaryman Shuffle

So tomorrow I leave for Long Beach, California. I’m going to be there for most of October learning how to do my job, and consequently, what my job actually is. Well, to be fair, I have some idea of what they want me to be doing, but my job description (and job title) have changed several times between the time I applied for the job to when I actually received the job offer. I guess the basic idea was that I would go through kind of a ‘trial by fire’ in Hong Kong before going to Long Beach for proper training. So for the time being I’m going to be in California at the head office for training. And from the accounts I’ve heard, the training at the head office consists of a rigorous schedule of…working with the people at the headquarters. Hmm…

Posted in Salaryman! | 1 Comment

Hong Kong

Man…now I think of another name for this blog. I should probably come up with something more general though, like the “Misadventures of Cchan” or “It Seems Like I Hate America”. Meh, I’ll worry about it later.

Anyways, after spending a year in Imabari, Japan and then a year in Beijing, China I am now exploring the unfamiliar streets of Hong Kong, China(?). This relocation might prove more permanent than my other adventures considering I actually have a long-term job offer here. So, as long as I don’t crash the infrastructure of the company or some other drastic failure that gets me fired, I should be in Hong Kong for the foreseeable future.

I’ve been in Hong Kong for about 3 weeks now, but most of that time has been spent getting used to my new apartment and job, so I haven’t seen too much of Hong Kong. The only place I have actually experienced in any kind of meaningful capacity is Wanchai, I’ve actually been there 4 times in the past 2 weeks. Mainly because of a Games Workshop reseller based there.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to escape from Games Workshop’s clutches…

Anyways, for the time being I’m alive and enjoying what I’ve seen of Hong Kong so far. More updates to come (probably).

Posted in Hong Kong, Salaryman! | 1 Comment

A Farewell To Arms

As I mentioned in earlier blog posts, Ongbak and I were roommates at the dorm. However, this was kind of a misnomer since neither of us ever spent much time in our dorm room. The vast majority of the time (and this includes sleeping) we were at Arsenal’s apartment. Arsenal had an open door policy at his apartment so people would just drop by whenever they felt like it to listen to music, chat, or do whatever else caught their fancy at the time. At the end of December Arsenal moved out of his apartment and this month he moved back to Australia to start college. So once again, I thought it would be appropriate to share some anecdotes that never made it into the blog proper.

On Beijing winter…
Arsenal: Man, it’s really cold… What’s the weather like in D.C.?
Me: Huh? I dunno.
Arsenal: What!? How can you not know? You’re from there!
Me: I’m from Washington State, not Washington D.C.
Arsenal: No, you’re from D.C.
Me: …are you actually fighting me on this?

On people I’ve never met…
Arsenal: Ah yeah, he was a cool guy. You should have met him.

On drunken decisions…
Arsenal: OK, don’t ask me why I did this, I was drunk and it was completely stupid.
Me: OK.
Arsenal: Anyways, my friend left her jacket at the club’s coat check, but she lost her number for it. I went back in and talked to the coat check lady but she didn’t help me at all.
Arsenal: So after she left I just snuck into the coat check to grab my friend’s jacket. Only, I couldn’t find it so I just grabbed a different jacket and ran outside to give it to her.
Me: …
Arsenal: But after I gave it to her I thought, ‘that was really easy’. So I said “Wait here”, and ran back into to get some more jackets.
Arsenal: So there I was going through the jackets at the coat check like I was shopping or something and, of course, the lady comes back and finds me going through the jackets. When she saw me I just ran for it. I was acting so stupid…

On restaurants in China…
Arsenal: You can’t just cross a restaurant off your list because you had one bad experience. Most of the restaurants in China aren’t very clean, you just have to accept it.

On living in China…
Arsenal: There’s a lot of things about China you never come to understand or get used to. For some things you just have to write it off as ‘that’s China’. It’s kind of sad in a way.

On people I’ve never met 2…
Arsenal: You met him right?
Me: Nope.
Arsenal: Oh yeah, he left a little before you came. He was a cool guy, you should’ve met him.

On food poisoning…
Arsenal: Yeah, I got really bad food poisoning at the chuar place by my house. After that I couldn’t eat chuar for a couple of weeks, it just seemed so unappetizing.
Me: So where are we going to eat?
Arsenal: At the chuar place by my house.

On drunken decisions 2…
Arsenal: So I was coming out of this club and I see a Chinese guy sitting on the stairs with his buddies. And the guy sitting down looked really sad so I went to go give him a pat on the shoulder to say ‘everything’s gonna be alright’.
Arsenal: Unfortunately I was really uncoordinated at the time so what was supposed to be a ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ pat turned into a light slap on the face.
Me: …
Arsenal: I didn’t really think too much about it though so I just kept going down the stairs. Then I noticed all of the Chinese guys chasing after me.
Arsenal: I turn around and throw a punch into one of the guys chasing me and then just booked it down the stairs and outside.

There are a lot more stories to share but some of them are ‘you had to be there’ ones and others are probably best not shared with the public.

Arsenal, best of luck in your university studies; and try not to get attacked by any drop bears.

-After Story: The Cycle Continues-

I was showing some new friends around campus who had come to study Mandarin this semester. Come dinner time we decide to go out and grab a bite to eat. After some consideration, I decide to take them to the restaurant that Arsenal and Ongbak took me to on my first night in China. There I happen to run into Rubix; I introduce him to my new friends and we sit around a talk for a bit.

Rubix: …but I can’t believe Arsenal is gone.
Me: Yeah, it feels a bit weird right?
Rubix: I’m gonna be honest man, when we said goodbye there were tears on this face. He was a really big part of my China experience.
Rubix: (turns to my new friends) Oh, you guys didn’t meet him right?
Friends: Nope.
Me: Oh yeah, He left a little before you came. He was a cool guy, you should’ve met him.

Posted in Anecdote, China | 2 Comments