Archive for category Shenanigans
An uneventful day relaxing at Hello House was followed up with an eventful evening out in Kawasaki.
Code Red, Green, Flounder, Hippie got on Nanbu line headed towards Kawasaki, where we would meet up with some of my coworkers and friends. On the train, Green asked me how to say “you are beautiful” in Japanese so he could talk to some ladies. I got an evil idea, and then spent the rest of the train ride practicing Green’s new Japanese phrase, which was absolutely not “you are beautiful”.
We met with Jem and Rivers and went to a nearby izakaya for some food and drinks. By this point I had informed everyone except Green the meaning of the words that I had been teaching to Green. We were all having trouble containing our excitement. Green practiced a few more times to try to get the pronunciation correct, and then waited for his opportunity.
We pressed the order button in the izakaya – a wonderful invention that summons your waiter or waitress to your table. An attractive female waitress arrived and took the order for our group. At this point Green spoke up with the phrase he had been rehearsing for the past 30 minutes.
“Excuse me” he said in Japanese. The waitress turned and looked at Green. You could cut the anticipation in our group with a knife.
“I have a small penis” said Green proudly in Japanese. The waitress looked confused. Green, assuming his pronunciation was bad decided to repeat the phrase slower and more clearly.
“I – have – a – small – penis!” he repeated, again with a smile on his face. At this point the waitress started laughing and walked away, which caused our entire group to crack up laughing hysterically. Green realized what happened “I just told her it was small, didn’t I?” he cleverly guessed.
Green asked me how to explain to the waitress that it wasn’t small, but actually very large. I taught him how to say “very small” instead. His BS detector went off and he decided to give up on the whole idea.
After the izakaya, we went out to karaoke again. Karaoke quickly became the fun activity of choice for our group, mainly due to the incredibly cheap drinks. We spent a few hours rocking out and making liberal use of the all you can drink policy before heading back to Hello House on Nanbu line. The trip home was not boring – one very drunk member of our group started walking up and down the train cars with a condom in his hand. This presented the other passengers with an excellent opportunity to pretend that he didn’t exist, which they did very well. Never a dull moment!
To recover from our long day out in Tokyo, we decided to walk around the my school near Kawasaki station. Our first stop was my usual internet cafe. The guys had never been into a manga / internet cafe before, and were impressed by the setup and the free drinks. If they could read Japanese we would have likely spent the day reading comics. Everyone made sure to send email to friends and family back home. Remember young travelers: always make sure your parents know you are safe and healthy, especially when it is your first time to be on the other side of the planet.
After catching up on email, we went to the big Yodobashi Camera near Kawasaki station. As we walked in, we passed a security guard who casually made a comment into the radio on his shoulder. He then proceeded to follow us around the store to keep an eye on us. Apparently when five young gaijins walk into an electronics store, they are up to no good.
Being five white guys who live in Canada, none of us had ever been followed around a store by a security guard before. I think the guys would have been more upset about it if they weren’t distracted by the huge selection of cool electronics in every direction. We literally examined EVERYTHING in the whole store, from TVs to video games to musical instruments. Generally the consumer electronics you can buy in Japan are at least several months ahead of what you can buy in Canada.
While walking around Yodobashi camera, you can’t escape the horrible store theme song, which is the famous “Battle Hymn of the Republic” aka “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”, but with lyrics about the store and what they sell. This also happens to be the same tune that Delta Upsilon Manitoba borrowed and turned into a song called “I Don’t Want to be a Phi Delt”. Phi Delta Theta was the second largest fraternity in Winnipeg, and were sworn rivals of Delta Upsilon. As we walked around, the guys started singing the modified lyrics. I won’t post the lyrics here, but there are verses about Phi Delts not being very fun, insinuations of what happens at a Phi Delt initiation, and derisive comments about Phi Delts’ skill with the opposite sex. I was happy that most of the people around us couldn’t understand English.
We likely spent almost two hours exploring Yodobashi camera, with our personal security guard casually following us around at a distance, but trying not to be too obvious about it. At one point we all turned and waved at him, which actually got him to crack a smile. We paid for our purchases and left allowing the security guard to return to his post and wait for the next batch of suspicious looking foreigners to follow around.
(2014 Update) Looking back, I have mixed feelings about the whole experience. I understand that theft is a big problem for stores, and they should be able to take reasonable precautions to protect their assets. Also, our personal security guard was never in our face, he was always a reasonable distance away, casually walking nearby. In my three years of living in Japan, this was the first time that I was ever followed around a store. I think I would feel a bit better if I knew that he followed us because we were a group of young males and not because we were a group of foreigners, but I will never know the true motive for sure.
There is racism in Japan, just like in every country. Being a white guy in Canada, I have never obviously been “profiled” before. It is an unusual experience to say the least. My friends and I simply ignored it because we were all short term visitors in the country and wanted to enjoy our vacation. However, if I was living in Japan full time I would not enjoy this kind of experience at all.
I wish I had some kind of clever way to end this post, maybe something with an uplifting message of peace, unity and brotherhood for the people of the world. Unfortunately I don’t, this whole topic is way more than a simple travel blog can handle.
Be good to each other.
After our long day out in Tokyo, we got a very slow start to our Monday. We were all hanging out in the room that Flounder, Code Red and Green were sharing, talking about our upcoming plans. The room had a Japanese style closet with sliding door. Code Red moved his futon into the closet and turned it into a private bedroom. There were a lot of “in the closet jokes”. Code Red didn’t care, because the sliding door gave him some relief from Flounder and Green’s horrific drunken snoring.
In the previous evening, we purchased a number of sex cans (that’s the nicest way I can describe them) from Don Quijote. We opened one of them up to inspect it, and in doing so accidentally removed the label. It was a plastic can with a pink sponge on top. In the middle of the sponge was a hole. Inside the hole were various flexible bumps and other textures, as well as a lubricant. If you need a description of what a sex can is used for, you are too young to hear a description of what a sex can is used for.
Lux and Katsuragi came to hang out with us and ask us about our plans for the day. While we were talking, the plastic can caught Katsuragi’s attention. She asked what it was, and nobody said anything. She then put her finger into the hole on top. At this exact moment, one of the guys caught the fantastic picture above of Lux’s expression of horror. Katsuragi came to a sudden realization of what the product was for, and then chased me down the hall attempting to rub the can lube from her finger on my shirt.
Totally worth 600 yen!
Tonight I went to Hobgoblin pub in Shibuya. It is a pretty cool pub with a wide selection of food and drink. Everything is bilingual so it is popular among foreigners.
During the evening I was talking to different people in the crowd. An attractive young Japanese woman started talking to me in English. Let’s call her Keiko for the sake of the story. Keiko and I were discussing studying languages and noticed that usually the first words people want to learn in a new language are the “bad” words. She had an impressive knowledge of English curse words. I told her that I knew a few good ones in Japanese as well. She asked me to tell her the worst word I knew in Japanese.
Some time prior to this, The Penpal and I had the “what are the bad words in your language” conversation. We went through the usual ones, and then she taught me an absolute shocker. This particular word is not commonly heard anywhere, and is extremely rude.
I told Keiko that I knew a really, really bad word, but didn’t want to tell her what it was. This made her more curious. I tried to back out and tell her that she would likely be offended by the word. Keiko assured me that she wouldn’t be offended. I tried to change the subject. This make Keiko even more determined, and insisted that I tell her the word.
At this point I thought “why not”, leaned in and said the word into her ear. She instantly looked shocked, not just regular shocked, but shocked like someone had just slapped her grandmother.
“WHERE DID YOU LEARN THAT WORD!?” she asked incredulously. I told her that a Japanese friend had taught me the word. She still couldn’t believe that I had the nerve to say the word, and found the next excuse to leave the conversation.
To all of the travelers and language exchangers out there: when someone asks you to say the worst word you know in their language, don’t. Also, if you insist that someone tell you the worst word they know, don’t be shocked when it is worse than you expected.
No, I will not tell you what word it was. I learned my lesson already!
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Other than the common living room area, there was one more hub of social activity at Hello House: The Stoop. The Stoop was the unofficial name of the front steps from the street to the main entrance of Hello House East.
Since smoking in a room with a tatami mat floor is very bad idea, the stoop was the de facto smoking area for Hello House. In addition to smokers, other people would hang out and chat, watching the residents come and go. I spent many nights hanging out with Lux on the front steps.
My favourite Stoop story involved a night where I was hanging out with Lux and likely a few other people. Hello House was down the street from a Hostess Bar that catered to middle aged business men. It could be argued that most Hostess Bars cater to middle aged business men, but this one definitely captured a 40-55 crowd with almost no exceptions. On one particular night, the hostesses were saying goodbye to a group of about 3 very drunk business men. The men were walking down the street towards Hello House, when one of them stopped to pee on the wall across the street.
Public urination is not entirely uncommon in Japan, especially among drunk businessmen (or English teachers). However, usually most people will take the time to go down an alley or somewhere away from people. Not this guy, he decided he was going to relieve himself directly across from a group of English teachers who were sitting outside. Lux decided that this was not appropriate behaviour and decided to loudly let the man know.
“HEY! That’s disgusting! I don’t come and piss in front of your house! Yeah you! I know you can understand me!!”
This didn’t slow the man down at all. If anything it gave him a little bit of a swagger when he shook out the last few drops and walked away.
Most of the time hanging out on the stoop didn’t involve entertaining public urination, but it was still a fun place to spend some time and chat with the other Hello House residents.
A note about the picture: I took this picture during a visit to Noborito in 2006, right before I left Japan. I am glad that I did, because not long after Hello House East and West were sold and flattened to make room for a new development. Goodbye Stoop! You are gone but not forgotten.
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Marshall and I went out to a small local izakaya called Avenue. It was about a 5 minute walk from Hello House where the smelly alley meets the main street. Anyone who has ever lived in the area will know exactly what this means.
When I left Winnipeg there was a big push to cut down on over-serving. For those who don’t know, over-serving is continuing to sell alcohol to customers who are already (seriously) intoxicated. Coming from that environment, it was a bit of a shock for me to have to step over a customer who was passed out on the floor. He was on his side clinging on to a plastic bag to puke into. At that point we also realized that we had just walked into a place with character.
Marshall and I ended up having several beers at our own table, which was separated from a large group table by wooden slats that you could easily see through. We caught the attention of the large group of Japanese guys at the next table who were celebrating a birthday. They started talking to us, and thanks to the universal language of beer (and some basic Japanese), we were invited to join them at their table. We ended up having a little too much fun with our new friends. I snapped the attached picture of one of them as he was encouraging us to drink something out of a mysterious green bottle. The 120 x 120 pixel picture was the most my 2003 phone camera could handle, and it adequately represents what my vision was like at the end of the evening.
I love this country!
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In my continuing quest to find language partners, I set up a meeting with another Japanese girl to go for food and beer in Shimokitazawa. For the life of me I can’t remember her name, so let’s call her Natsuko. A few days before our meeting, Natsuko texted me to say that she was bringing a female friend, and she asked me to bring a male friend as well. A double date with two 20 something Japanese girls! How hard can it be to find someone to go with me?
Very hard apparently.
Due to the short amount of lead time, a lot of the single guys already had plans on Sunday evening. With hours to go, I got a confirmation from Marshall that he would come along. After work I returned home, got cleaned up and ready to go out, only to find that Marshall had decided to stay home and watch TV because the girls couldn’t speak much English and he couldn’t speak much Japanese. No amount of convincing worked, so I ended up leaving for my double date by myself looking like a guy with no friends.
After a few minutes of trying to remember the Japanese word for “north”, I was able to leave through the North exit and meet Natsuko and her friend at Shimokitazawa station. We exchanged greetings and I immediately started apologizing for showing up solo, trying to explain that something came up at the last minute. The three of us wandered off towards the bustling streets of Shimokitazawa (a cool place to check out). After some looking around, we decided on a fun looking Vietnamese restaurant.
The restaurant was crowded and fun, featuring cheap drinks and small food orders for 380 yen each. The highlight was Russian Roulette Gyoza, a plate of 4 dumplings. One of the gyoza was loaded full of chili peppers. One of the girls got this, and started shooting fire out of her mouth after one bite. Being a gentleman, I finished the rest of the pepper loaded gyoza. This was the least I could do for not bringing a friend along.
Natsuko and her friend had very limited English. We did manage to communicate and have a good time, but I realized that I was going to seriously work on my Japanese. It was a still a fun evening, and I can honestly say that I have been out on a date with two women before.
In case “Marshall” or any of the other guys I asked to come with me are reading this – the girls were both really hot and the food was great. You missed out!
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Had my first taste of Tokyo nightlife on Thursday (and Friday) with Marshall. The plan was to go to Shibuya, meet up with Mississippi Mike and his friends, and catch the last train home. Naturally we had a few drinks before we left, and got a “traveler” for the train. For the record, drinking beer on the train is legal, but generally frowned upon by other passengers.
We arrived in Shibuya with no idea of where to go and way too many options, so we decided to wander around the major streets and see what looked interesting.
1st stop – The Oil Bar – We went in entirely because of the name. Oil Bar was is a small pub that played hair metal. We were pleasantly surprised that the staff spoke English very well. It was a good to get a beer and make a plan for the evening. No communication yet from Mississippi Mike.
2nd stop – GasPanic – Depending on who you talk to, GasPanic is either famous or infamous. It is most well known as a popular place where foreign guys go to meet Japanese girls. There is no cover charge, and all drinks are 400 yen. There is a large sign on the wall informing customers that you must have a drink in your hand at all times to remain in GasPanic.
When we arrived it was very crowded, but welcoming and fun. Many beers were consumed, tequila shots were downed and chased with more beer. We met a group of Canadians and managed to have a conversation (as well as you can in a noisy bar) about hockey and Japanese women. Marshall and I left just after midnight feeling very good, and started heading for the station in order to catch the last train home. As we had the station in sight I finally got a text from Mississippi Mike to let us know that he and his group has just arrived in Shibuya.
Depending on your destination, the last train to leave most stations in Tokyo is around 12:30am. The first train starts around 5:00am. If you miss the last train you can either get an expensive taxi ride home, or decide to stay out all night. The beer and tequila in our system helped convince us to turn the evening into an all nighter.
3rd stop – Womb – Apparently one of the best dance music clubs in the world, not just Japan. The whole place was huge, but since it was Thursday night (technically Friday morning), the main dance floor was not open. It would have been cool to see all four floors open and busy. Cover was 1500 yen and drink prices were obscene, especially after coming from the economic GasPanic. Our group danced to live DJ music until the they closed down at 4:30am.
The trip home – This part was not very fun. Shibuya is a confusing place when you are sober and not exhausted. Nobody remembered the way back to the station, and for some reason everyone broke up into small groups going in different directions. All of the groups kept walking in circles and running into each other. After about half an hour, Marshall and I finally found Shibuya station, but due to our diminished capacities we could not find the Keio line. We finally gave up and took the Yamanote line to Shinjuku, switched to Odakyu line, fell asleep on the platform, then woke up to catch a train back to Noborito. There is nothing worse than seeing the sunrise after too much partying. I got home at 6:30, about 9 and a half hours before I needed to leave for work.
Despite the trouble getting home, good times were had by all.
After an eventful training class where I experienced my first earthquake I was just looking forward to getting back to Kawasaki for a quick beer at Kiosk before heading home. Mississippi Mark and I were on the train together – I was sitting and he was standing holding the train handle. Suddenly, a Japanese girl walks up to him and starts talking to him in English. I could only see the girl from the right side and she looked pretty cute.
The girl introduced herself as Momoko and started asking Mississippi Mark how long he had been in Japan, where he works, and where he has been in Japan so far (the standard questions).
When you are not from Japan, it is difficult to guess the age of the Japanese people you are talking to. Momoko was young looking and fashionably dressed. This meant she could have been anywhere from 15 to 35. Trying to help narrow down the age range, I asked her if she was a student. She answered that she was studying graphic design at a local art school. This meant that she was at least out of high school, which was a relief.
During the conversation, Mark mentioned that he wanted to go to Roppongi sometime. Roppongi is a well known foreigner friendly nightlife area in Tokyo. Momoko says “Don’t go to Roppongi! That’s where this happened”, pointing out the MASSIVE BLACK EYE she had on her left side. Mississippi had seen this the whole time, but it was not visible from my angle. She also pointed out her busted up lip and then told us “Don’t worry – the other girl looks much worse!”.
Well that’s a relief.
She insisted on getting Mark’s email address and told him she would invite him to Roppongi sometime and promised not to fight if they went out together. After she left, Mark told me that he would be bringing backup if he ever went out with Momoko because he was afraid of her. Man, I love this country!