Archive for category Hello House
I hadn’t been back to Noborito for a while, and was looking forward to catching up with Okonomi and the rest of the Hello House people who were still around. Okonomi had recently moved to an apartment near Shin-Yurigaoka station, and had promised me a place to crash for the night. I packed up my Canada flag backpack and was on my way.
Okonomi and I met at Shin-Yuri station, where I stashed my bag in a coin locker. I have become a huge fan of station lockers in my time in Japan. It was great not to have to carry my stuff around for the evening. After that, we took the Odakyu line to Noborito, paid a quick visit to Hello House, and then went for dinner. Naturally we had Okonomiyaki and a few beers.
(Author’s note: If you are going to Japan, eat Okonomiyaki – it’s amazing)
While living in the area Okonomi had made some Japanese friends in the neighbourhood, including the owners of an “antique shop and bar”. I had walked by this interesting combination of businesses regularly, but had never thought to go in. The two of us hung out for a bit and had a few drinks with the owner and his wife. Our next stop was a small bar with karaoke. After a few drinks we were surprised to see the owners of the antique shop come in after closing for the evening. We took this as a sign that we were going to be best friends, and proceeded to karaoke our lungs out.
I had been out for beer and karaoke many, MANY times during the year I lived in Kawasaki. Like most English teachers, I had stayed to the safe, welcoming environments of the big chain izakayas and karaoke rooms. The Noborito area is full of small character bars which I had walked by many times, but I had never thought to try any of them. Okonomi was one of those intrepid explorers who decided to jump into life in Japan with both feet, and had done her best to improve her language and hang out with locals instead of exclusively with teachers.
We left karaoke sometime around 3:00am and started looking for our next venue. I followed along to about 3 different bars that I had never heard of before, but due to the busy pre-new year season, everything was still full. At this point, Okonomi asked me if I had ever been to a hostess bar before. That’s when the evening took an interesting turn.
Today is Halloween! It was also my last day living and working in Kawasaki. After work I went out for a final beer at Kiosk with Anzac. I thanked him for all the good advice he gave me as a teacher and wished him the best. It was good to have one last Kiosk beer, but it only served to start my packing later.
Every time I move I realize just how much crap a person can accumulate. I spent a few hours packing by myself, then Okonomi joined me. We packed and worked on a bottle of shuchu. In retrospect, the shochu probably didn’t help productivity very much. The end result of packing was:
- 2 large suitcases
- 8 moving boxes
- a computer
- one futon mattress
- a TV
- my awesome floor couch
I also made some donations to the dozo table of things I just had no room or reason to bring with me. By the end I got two and a half hours of sleep. I hate packing!
Tonight was my Hello House farewell party. It was a lot more subdued than the previous evening’s activities, but was still a lot of fun. Yes, more beer and karaoke 🙂
(2014 Update) One of the residents of Hello House at the time was Dan Bailey, who was an English teacher at the time. Dan has now gone on to fame and success as one half of Tokyo Dandy, a pair of influential fashion party blogger guys. Dan was good friends with Lux, but I always got the impression that he didn’t like me. It turns out that I was wrong, and Dan did a lot make sure I had a well organized and fun farewell party. Thanks Dan!
If I could sum up my entire day in 2 words, those words would be sleep and hockey. I am not exactly making the most of my time in Japan, but I am okay with that.
If I could add a few more words (and I can because it’s my blog), I also watched some CSI with Okonomi. After the demise of Twin Peaks night with Zoe and Lux, Okonomi and I have been hanging out and watching CSI often, usually over a few beverages.
Another schedule update at work. This month I will be working Sundays at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA. Sunday is one of the busiest days, so it’s fantastic to be at Keikyu which is more relaxing than Kawasaki NOVA.
After work, Archie came back to the Noborito area with me. I showed off Hello House and we went for beer with Lux. A good time was had by all!
Today I made very good use of a day off. I watched a bunch of episodes of CSI on my computer, worked on the website, and played video games.
Zoe is one of the few people with an internet connection at Hello House. She has been using her connection to download TV shows. Today she hooked up with CSI season 1. Thanks Zoe! (note: downloading TV shows is bad, don’t do it!)
I am very excited about my new game – Total Extreme Wrestling; a wrestling management simulator. You run a wrestling promotion, hiring wrestlers, booking events, and deciding who wins and how. In addition you create storylines and characters, and try to keep your promotion profitable. It is incredible addictive for pro wrestling fans or business simulator fans. So much fun!
(2014 Update) Some people might be reading this and wondering “Hey, why did you spend your time in Japan watching TV shows from back home and hiding in your room playing video games?”. My first reason is money. Staying in my room watching TV and playing video games is relatively cheap compared to the limitless opportunities to spend money in the Greater Tokyo area. I am getting to see a lot of cool things in Japan, but I am also trying to send some money home to pay off student loans as well.
The second reason is my personality. I do like to spend time with friends and get out of the house. However, I also need a good amount of “me time” as well. Teaching English requires me to be happy and outgoing in the classroom. Some days this comes naturally, other days it is harder to do. After teaching I sometimes like to take time to recharge my social batteries by not interacting with anyone.
Today was the second day of my first two day weekend since all of my visitors came earlier this summer. I celebrated by sitting on my ass and relaxing most of the day.
In the evening I went to Gyu-Kaku near Mukogaokayuen station with Lux and Zoe. In addition to the regular slices of meat, we tried out some pan fried scallops. The waiter brought us a tiny cast iron pan that sat on top of our grill, and a pat of butter. SOOOO GOOOD! During dinner the conversation turned to TV shows. We started discussing Twin Peaks and how amazing it was. I have watched the entire series with friends twice from start to finish, usually in 4-5 episode bursts. We agreed that we should re-watch the show together.
Zoe was one of the few people in Hello House with an internet connection, and used it to find a slightly illegal copy online with subtitles in a Scandinavian language that we couldn’t identify. It was one of the languages that has a letter “o” with a line through it.
After working crazy shifts for the last month and a half, a two day weekend was fantastic.
After another busy day at work, I spent some time cleaning my room for a change. It’s amazing how messy a tiny room can get, especially considering how few things I own here.
I am still paying back shift swaps, but today’s was an early shift for Mohammad. Early shifts rule! You can actually do things with your evenings. I am not a morning person, so I typically sleep too late on my days with late shifts.
I used my evening to finally watch Schindler’s List because I had just finished reading the book. The movie was very powerful, but I still think the book affected me more. Regardless of the format, it’s an important story for everyone about an extraordinary act of mercy in a world of cruelty.
I have been reading a lot lately. I can usually read about 62 pages a day on the train – 31 on the way to work and 31 on the way home. Hello House has a big bookshelf in the common room full of books for the use of the residents. I am sure that when I leave Hello House someday, I will be adding some books to the collection as well.
A mere 19 days after I dropped off my University friends at Narita airport, I was once again taking the cheap trains to pick up visitors. This time I would be picking up my parents and sister.
My parents would have never considered traveling to Japan if I wasn’t living here. In fact, they have never traveled outside of North America before. My parents are in their mid 50s and live in a small town west of Winnipeg. My father is an air traffic controller – he was in the Canadian Forces for 27 years, retired, and then started doing the same job as a civilian. He is one of the friendliest people I know and has no issues starting a conversation with complete strangers. My mother is a teacher’s assistant at an elementary school. She specializes in helping hearing impaired and deaf students. My sister is a University student who lives in Winnipeg. She is in her early 20s, short, and very smart. However, she will believe almost everything I tell her, a fact that I occasionally abuse for comedic effect.
When I picked up my friends from the airport, I ended up having to wait a long time for them to clear customs and immigration after their flight landed. I had considered arriving about an hour after my family’s flight landed, but was worried that if they somehow got through early, they would be worried that they couldn’t find me. I got to the airport exactly when their flight arrived, and ended up having to wait about 90 minutes for them to show up.
At this point it had been 9 months since I had seen my family. My sister looked mostly the same, but my parents looked older. They all commented on how skinny I looked, since I had probably dropped about 5kg (12lbs) since moving to Japan.
We got tickets for the Narita Express and were on our way to Shinjuku from the airport. Just like my first train ride into Tokyo, and my friends after that, my family was amazed at the size and density of the city. Everyone always gets excited, and then they realize they are only in Chiba and things are only going to get busier.
We made a brief stop in Shinjuku to look at the skyline. The largest city my family had ever been to was Toronto. Tokyo is like stacking a few Torontos on top of each other. I taught them all how to use the train ticket gates, and we headed off for Noborito.
I couldn’t get the same guest room in Hello House East that my friends had, however I got a bigger, nicer room in Hello House West for my parents. They were impressed with the room (and the price), but were a little concerned about sleeping on futons on the floor. My sister was going to stay in my room on my futon, and I would sleep on my foldy floor couch. After giving them all of the key information on Hello House (where the bathrooms and coin operated showers were located), we decided to head out and get some food.
My dad can be pretty adventurous with food, but my mom and sister aren’t as much. To ease them into their Japan experience, we ate at a Spaghetti restaurant near Mukogaokayuen station. We walked from Hello House, and my family enjoyed looking at all of the different businesses along the way. Everyone ordered fairly non-threatening spaghetti (no squid ink sauce for anyone), and we had our first meal as a family in 9 months.
I really missed my family and was happy they came to visit me! It’s going to be a great few weeks!
(2014 update) My dad told me later that he had brought two apples to eat on the plane. He finished one, and kept the other in his carry on luggage. When the customs staff asked if he was carrying any fruits or vegetables, he pulled out the apple. The customs staff told him that he would have to dispose of the apple before he could enter the arrivals lounge. He considered arguing or eating the apple in front of the customs staff, but instead tossed the apple in a nearby garbage bin.