Posts Tagged Hello House
Last night I went to a farewell party with Kim and Kame before crashing on their couch. In the morning we all woke up hungover, and lurched our way out for breakfast like 3 zombies. Fortunately the restaurant we went to sold coffee in one liter pitchers.
After feeding and caffeinating ourselves, we took a nostalgia tour of Noborito so I could take some pictures of Hello House and the new and improved Noborito station. I lived in the area for a year, and the station was under construction almost the entire time. The completed station looked great! Around the station area there were also a lot of changes. Nothing ever stays the same in the Greater Tokyo Area.
Kim and Kame accompanied me to Asakusa for souvenir shopping. The shopping area in front of Sensoji temple is a fantastic place to get souvenirs: I had been there so many times that I already knew which stores I wanted to hit. This was possibly my last chance to do souvenir shopping in Tokyo, so I made it count. I ended up leaving with a fully loaded backpack and several shopping bags, looking like a pale pack mule.
After parting ways with my friends, I decided to take the Tokaido Line home, stopping at Kawasaki station. My first English school was near the station, so I was very familiar with the area. Like Noborito I was shocked at all the changes around the station area that happened over the past 2 years. Hostess bars and pachinko had been replaced by and supplemented with new stores, game centres, and movie theatres. As I enjoyed a delicious burger at Becker’s I realized that Kawasaki would likely be unrecognizable to me when I returned the next time. Kawasaki is usually not near the top of anyone’s Japan sightseeing list, but I’m really going to miss it.
As part of my farewell tour, I went to Kawasaki today to meet up with my old housemate Kim. We went out for okonomiyaki in Noborito before meeting up with her fiancee Kame.
Kim was one of the most fun people I had met during my time at Hello House, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that Kame was a pretty cool guy as well. We all went to Yoyogi park to join up with a Hello House leaving party for someone who had moved in after my time there. Living in a dorm filled with English teachers means lots of people coming and going. You never really get to know everyone well, but you do get to attend a lot of farewell parties. Almost every farewell party I have attended in Japan was at an izakaya, so an outdoor party was a nice change of pace. I’m really going to miss the ability to drink legally in public when I return to Canada!
Eventually, like with every other party, we ended up at karaoke. I introduced Kame and Kim to Sad Cows Song which they instantly loved. We got back to their apartment late and I spent the night on the couch. It was a very fun day but the morning is going to hurt.
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!
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.
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.
Today The Penpal came from Numazu to visit me in Kawasaki again. We hung out in my room at Hello House and listened to music. Afterwards we watched my Pixies DVD. I also practiced my Japanese by trying to retell the story about Green attempting to eat 20 Frosties at Wendy’s in Japanese. The Penpal understood my explanation of the story, but couldn’t understand why someone would try to eat 20 Frosties at one time. If I can’t explain it in English, I have no chance of explaining it in Japanese.
After she returned to Numazu, I went to the video store and rented American Beauty and Silence of the Lambs. I had seen both before, but they were both excellent.
(2014 Update) The ending of Silence of the Lambs continues to be terrifying even years later.
When the guys got back to Hello House, we organized the sleeping arrangements. Hippie would be staying on the foldy floor couch in my room, while Flounder, Code Red and Green would be sharing the extra room that I rented for their stay. Fortunately for them, the extra room had a bed. Flounder and Green agreed to alternate nights in the bed and on the floor, while Code Red set up a futon in the closet.
After unpacking, the travelers got their first experience with Hello House’s coin operated showers. After showers and a quick tour of Hello House, we set out in search of beer.
Since it was Friday night, all of the izakayas in the area were very busy. In my first three choices I was told that there would be a two hour wait, which didn’t work for us. As we walked from place to place looking for a beer, we attracted a lot of attention from the locals. It wasn’t often that they saw five enthusiastic gaijins walking around the Noborito area. One of the highlights came when I was not paying attention to where I was walking and managed to walk directly into a pole designed to separate the street from the sidewalk. The pole was just at the right height to hit me in my lower nether regions as I passed over it. The other highlight was a very drunk girl who started talking to us in English while her boyfriend held her up. When we told her we were Canadian she proudly replied “My friend is Canada!”.
We eventually ended up at an izakaya on the other side of Mukogaokayuen station that was full of hard drinking Japanese people. When I say hard drinking, I mean stumbling to the bathroom, puking, then coming back to finish their beer drinking. The frat guys approved. We ordered beer and izakaya food. Flounder and Green tried sashimi for the first (and probably last) time. After the bar we returned to Hello House to watch a bootleg copy of Wrestlemania while drinking some of the ample supplies of alcohol that the guys brought from Canada. It was a great first night!
(2014 update) It turns out that the izakaya staff were trying to tell me that there would be a 2 hour limit on our table, not a 2 hour wait. My Japanese was still pretty bad at the time.
Another night of 30 Seconds to Fame in the Hello House common room. Good times!
Tonight in the Hello House common room people were watching Ally McBeal. I hate Ally McBeal. To fix the situation, I busted out my homemade VCD copies of Friends Season 9 that I brought to Japan. I was very proud of my VCDs – I took a lot of effort to make a menu title screen with graphics and everything.
The good news was that I watched 9 back to back episodes before calling it a night. This was much, MUCH better than Ally McBeal. The bad news was that I lost 500 yen in a bet with TimTam that she couldn’t stay awake for the entire 9 episode marathon.
The wild times never stop in Hello House!
What a productive day! I slept late, picked up my dry cleaning, got pictures developed, got my hair cut, watched an hour of Simpsons, cleaned my room and washed my dishes immediately after using them (for a change).
Upon preparing this entry for publishing 10 years later, I notice that I have not yet explained the terrifying experience of getting your hair cut in a foreign language. It is something definitely worth more than the few words that I used in my original post.
My hair is very annoying. It doesn’t grow long like most people, it just gets thick and poofy. While growing up I have had several people suggest that I grow and epic white guy fro, but that’s not going to happen. In order to prevent the fro, I usually need to get my hair cut every 4-6 weeks, with 8 weeks being the absolute maximum. I got my hair cut ridiculously short before leaving Canada, but a few months after arriving I was badly in need of a haircut.
I asked some of the guys in Hello House if they had any recommendations for a good place to get a haircut. Most people suggested a barber shop near Mukogaoka-yuen station, and I also got a few suggestions to buy my own clippers and just cut my own hair. Since I didn’t trust my ability to cut my own hair without turning my tatami mat into a hair carpet, I decided to test my Japanese skills at the barber shop.
At the barber shop there was exactly one person who spoke English – me. I got into the chair and was asked a question which I assume was “what kind of haircut would you like”. I had some instructions prepared, but forgot them all in the moment and managed to say “zenbu mijikai” (everything short) while making a confusing gesture around my head. The barber responded in Japanese by confirming that I wanted a really short haircut (probably). I agreed and proceeded to get a military quality buzz cut.
Having someone cut your hair when you can’t fully communicate is a scary experience. Having someone cut your hair when they have never before worked with hair the same colour or texture as yours is even scarier. As scary as this was for me, it was worse for women who can’t speak Japanese. Many of my female coworkers would go very long times between haircuts, and then would only get their hair done in a very expensive salon where someone could speak English.
I did get better at communicating with barbers over my time in Japan, but always got really short haircuts because it was the easiest thing to do. If you are planning on spending an extended time in Japan, plan ahead for your hair cutting needs.