Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!

Aki the dorm manager...

And my new Theremin would like to wish you a...

Weekend fun (and not fun)

Last weekend was probably the most polarized weekend since I got here. It started off on quite a sour note, but ended up quite good and amazing.

There was a Temple University sponsored Halloween party in Roppongi. I've never done the whole 'nightlife' thing in Roppongi, as it's known for being the place for foreigners and nightclub. To me, it seemed like a place to go if you wanted to forget you were in Japan. It's also a place to go if you want to randomly hook up with someone. As of now, I don't really have a desire to randomly hook up with someone or forget that I'm in Japan, so it had nothing to offer me. In fact, I really didn't like it.

I found the whole place quite sleazy and disgusting. The club was a nice club, but it was too packed. It was so crowded, you couldn't move. I was really hoping to get to talk to some people outside of school for a change, but when you could barely move, it kind of kills the ability to have a conversation. It was poor planning on the student government committee's behalf to have Temple finance a club that couldn't hold everyone who they invited. There was also a costume contest that never happened.

The most fun, however, was riding the train with my friends who were all in costume. When this African dorm mate was riding the train wearing a skull mask, along with 2 friends dressed up as flappers were riding the train with me, it was a very humorous experience.

Well, once the annoying Friday was over, my lovely Saturday began. The original plan was to go to the Yokohama Thai festival, but since there was literally a typhoon and the festival was going to be outdoors, this plan was promptly scrapped. But, it was Saturday and I wasn't going to let a potentially deadly storm ruin my day.

So, I met up with a friend and she quickly became my "Hero of the Week". As this person went with me to Shimokitazawa to find the Theremin magazine/kit, she knew they were sold out. But, for some reason the store down the street from her had a few, so she bought me one! Here it is:

I can't thank this person enough for my wonderful, wonderful gift. She gets a gold star!

Anyways, back to my weekend.

So, what do you do when there's a typhoon outside but you want to have fun? You go to the Yokohama RAMEN museum! First off, it's spelled "Raumen museum" for some reason, and the concept itself is a bit silly. A museum based off on a food product is quite odd, but ramen is very much a beloved dish here in Japan and when I was making plans for the day I was quite hungry. Plus, it was indoors.

I was completely blown away by this place.

The ramen museum is supposed to be based on a 1958 Japanese town. I feel like I should mention that the 1950's and 60's weren't as good to Japan as they were to the US. I felt like I had stepped into the past once I entered the museum. It was really well done.

There were narrow alleys, shops selling old candies and toys, and a little game parlor where I had a great time struggling to communicate with the guy who ran the shooting parlor. He was a riot.

My friend was a masked man in a tuxedo.

And I am a guy in a loin cloth.

It was quite amazing. I really didn't it expect to be this much fun.

But, what about the ramen you ask? Well, it was quite delicious. What they did at this place is they took famous ramen restaurants from all over Japan and got their chefs to recreate their most famous dishes all in one place. You can get a half bowl of ramen and try more than one type. I got to try some tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) ramen from southern Japan and some miso and pork fat ramen from up north. Both were absolutely amazing and I only regret that I could try two types before I was full.

(notice how the color of the roof changed)

It was an amazing way to spend a terribly windy and rainy Saturday afternoon. After we left, we had little other option but to go home and wait out the storm. So, Saturday ended with me building my Theremin and having a fun evening at home.

Moving on to Sunday...

Sunday was a was a really lovely day. Unlike Saturday, the weather was absolutely amazing. I went out to the Thai festival that I planned on seeing on Saturday and met up with someone in Yokohama.

It was pretty fun. I found it a bit unusual that at a Thai festival in Yokohama, Japan there was someone on stage singing in English. Despite that, it was pretty fun. Good food and good people make for good times.

I did get to eat a large chunk of durian. It was quite tasty actually. The cutting booth was a bit stinky.

We did some walking around, some shopping, and had a great time. I was amazed to find that there were so many things that were also pens.

Then we enjoyed a roller coaster ride and a nice walk around town.

We walked by the Landmark tower, the tallest building in Japan.

I think I really like Yokohama.

The nighttime scene was really nice.

So that was my weekend. Despite the fairly poor beginning, it was quite an amazing and memorable weekend.


I got a haircut on Thursday. I got it done at one of those 1000 yen places. I had been very nervous about getting a haircut here. Despite it being a bit of an awkward experience, it seems my nervousness was unfounded.

But, don't believe me... Compare for yourself.



(fancy background provided by a parked truck)

Great weather in a great park.

I have yet again become sick. I seem to do that a lot here. While I can site the difference in climate and viruses my body isn't used to, I'm pretty sure the main reason of my illness is the dorms. Putting this many people in the same building, some of which drink with reckless abandon, someone is bound to get sick and once they do, it spreads like crazy. Also, as I may have noted, sleeping in the dorms is not the easiest thing to do, so poor health is imminent.

On the plus side, I feel healthier now than I did this morning, and I'm hoping that I'll be fine tomorrow. This isn't exactly how I would like to spend my Halloween, but it's not really a big deal anyways.

Today is not what I am here to talk about, so I'm going to move to the past. On October 20th, I had a lovely night at Sunshine City, the day was, well rather grey and cloudy. And as I wrote, Friday at Shimokitazawa, the weather was downright miserable. When I woke up on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to find nearly perfect weather. There is no way I could in good conscience stay at home, so off I went.

On the way to the train station I saw a friend. She was on her way home, but I didn't let her get there. As she'd never been to Harajuku on a Sunday, I forced her to experience the greatness.

I was a little disappointed that the crazy Harajuku people were not out in great numbers, however the rockers were.

I like the contrasting image of the 50's/60's dress with the cell phone.

We kept walking and on this street, I've seen a few bands playing. While normally I'd see one or two bands, on this day there were at least a dozen. I'm sure the weather had something to do with it.

Even businessmen were noticing them.

Some people were playing out of a crappy amp and some people had genuinely really nice equipment.

I can almost guarantee you that this would get stolen in any major city if it was being 'watched' by a distracted drummer.

It seemed that most people were just having fun playing. Bands were really respectful towards eachother, as they did not have a noise war. It was quite nice.

At the end of the sidewalk near the path, there was a big sign and a big crowd.

I'd seen these guys before at the same spot when my Osaka friend was in town. The sign was new though.

They also seemed to have a much larger crowd. Was it the weather or a growing fanbase? I don't know.

So, instead of crossing the bridge right away, my friend persuaded me to enter Yoyogi park. It was quite a lovely scene.

I've been told this is the largest park in Tokyo, and I'd believe it. It was qui

It was also quite busy on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

It was not uncomfortably busy. It just had a lot of people relaxing and having fun.

There was even a nice, well kept rose garden.

There were some quite unusual groups of people around.
The drum circle wasn't that unusual. No real surprises here.

The people practicing dance were a little strange, but that's fine.

The team of Santa Clauses struck me as a tad odd, as it was the middle of October. There is also a girl in pajamas, but she's a bit hard to see in these pictures.

I also saw, but didn't take pictures of, a man playing a wooden flute or recorder to a tree and a man playing the bagpipes on a bridge. It added quite a festival feel to what was just a good Sunday in the park.

We crossed the bridge and once again, I saw people buying and selling used goods, mostly clothes. The overwhelming majority of the people both buying and selling were teenage girls, and their wares reflected it.

There really wasn't much for me to buy.

On the other side of the bridge, it was a lot like the previously mentioned sidewalk. It was long and filled with bands. There were some more street performers.

Or, street something.

Finally, we walked to Shibuya and I introduced a friend to Freshness burger. It was quite a pleasant Sunday.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sunshine City!

Last Saturday was a blast. I was hanging out with a friend that I met a few weeks ago in Yokohama. As it was a convenient location, we met in Shibuya. I arrived before she did, so I got a chance to walk around and observe the locals.
Here was an interesting trio.

The girl in the Donald Duck outfit and the frog suit fit together, but the punk girl? They were all talking together.

My friend suggested that we should head off to Ikebukuro. Since I'd never been there before, I was happy to go. One thing that I noticed getting off the train was this neighborhood had a bit of a cruel streak...

They put cute puppies and kittens in a cage and force them to fight to the death!?! This place is terrible.

Well, despite the combination of cuteness and cruelty, Ikebukuro was a really enjoyable place. A bit crowded on a Saturday night, but what can you expect.

All over Tokyo, there are these giant TV screens all over the place. For the first time, there was one that was right on the ground.

After we wandered, we went to an arcade. They had all sorts of claw games and metal games. It was a lot of fun.

The money changer caught me as odd, though.

Surprise? I hope a money exchanger isn't surprising. I actually hope that's the least surprising part of an arcade.

So, we went off to Sunshine City.

Sunshine City is a big mall and entertainment complex in Ikebukuro. It was built in 1978, and it didn't really have a tacky late 70's, early 80's feel. It was quite delightful.

After a while of walking around and hanging out by Cold Stone hoping to hear them sing, we went up to the observatory. While it wasn't free like the one in the Tokyo Metropolitan building, it was really nice, and still less than $7.

It was quite an incredible view.

The amazing thing is here you could go out on the roof. It was really nice out there, despite the giant metal fence.

For a Saturday night, it was really peaceful up there. It wasn't empty, but it was not at all what I would consider to be crowded.

As we were leaving, there was a whole bunch of schoolgirls going up. They were all giggling and laughing in my direction, and I'm not sure it's because I'm a foreigner or because I was shocked to see them. Either way, it was quite humorous for everyone, and we left at the perfect time.

We did a little more walking around Ikebukuro before we left. Here's a fine lady in front of a pachinko parlor.

After a while, we headed to Shinjuku for some drinks. Shinjuku wasn't so interesting, but the company was quite fun, so that made it a great experience.

It looks like I need to add Ikebukuro to the list of places around Tokyo that I really enjoy.