more japan

By this time, we’d settled into a novel routine in Tokyo: wake up between 6 and 7 am to utter chaos (complete with people falling down the stairs – the record was three different falls on one morning), shower, raid the food supply for energy, then get out of the house by 9am. We had big, big plans for our third day in Tokyo, so after a quick stop at 7Eleven for strawberry sandwiches we were on the subway and heading towards the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Ali is a planning wizard and had arranged for us to have lunch at Sky Restaurant 634, the ultra-fancy restaurant some 345 metres from the ground. Our reservation was at 11:30, so we basically ran from the station to the lobby of the Sky Tree. This was difficult, because the Sky Tree is attached to an AMAZING mall, complete with Pokémon Centre. I confess to being utterly distracted by the Pokemon store gashapon machines, and had to be dragged out to make our lunch reservation on time (complete with promises that I could come back after lunch and spend money – yes, I am a petulant 7 year old cosplaying as an adult woman). We met up with our group, and before long we were seated by a window in the middle of the sky:

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dang, that’s dense

The view was pretty cool. The food wasn’t too bad, either:

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appetizer trio: in-house bacon, sea urchin stuff, seared tuna

I’m damning with faint praise, here – the meal we had at the Sky Tree was phenomenal, and I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Everything we had was ridiculously good, including the scallops that made me cry tears of deliciousness. The entire experience was a total treat, from the crazy view to the amazing food and service and the excellent company. We’re not foodies by any stretch of the imagination – we’d happily eat strawberry sandwiches all day long – so we (okay, me – I’m the only one in our group who hasn’t experienced dining like this, mostly because Ed won’t take me to Art of the Table in Seattle) almost never get to have Fancy Eatings. I totally loved it. Ali is a genius with excellent ideas.

After we ate, it was time to see the rest of the city from 350 metres up. We explored the observation deck, which is something I will be doing again for Reasons:

  1. We rushed our way through window-looking because it was hella crowded and I was getting mall rage
  2. We had to be clear across town by 4:45pm, and we (not just me) really wanted to go shopping in the mall downstairs
  3. There’s actually another observation deck a little higher up that you can go to, and normally I would – I love city views from High – but see #2
  4. I neeeeeeeeeed to see Tokyo at night, from super high up

The views were absolutely incredible, but I didn’t get enough time with them. Definitely doing the Sky Tree again, as soon as I can.

Then we shopped. It was fun. Things were purchased.

We hopped the train around 4pm to make our way to Shinjuku – we had a date with some robots:

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the calmest, most serene part of our trip

So, here’s the thing about the Robot Restaurant: I could write a million words about it, but it wouldn’t do a lick of good. You need to see the show for itself. This was another Ali idea, and it was a great one – yes, the show is a total tourist thing, but it’s hilarious and so bizarre and just generally a really good time. And you can drink sake or beer while watching it, which I can only assume makes things even better. A word of caution: calling it a “restaurant” is being extremely generous with the definition of the word. Go for the show, bring money for booze, but skip the food. Trust me. Plus, the area the restaurant is in is wonderful for exploring. Go find Godzilla Road! Look for the guy who grabbed Ed’s crotch! Find the game centre with the sympathetic attendant who rigged a claw machine so I would win a stuffed fox after trying a half dozen times and failing miserably! Shinjuku is awesome.

The following day was Wednesday, and our group diverged a little. Those with kids went to Tokyo Disneyland, but I had a list of things that I needed to see so we split up and tackled different things. First on my list was Shibuya, for the station, Dogenzaka Hill (because of Jet Set Radio Future), Hachikō, and the Scramble (because of The World Ends With You) – I didn’t have enough time to really explore Dogenzaka and the myriad of love hotels, but I definitely recognized it and that made me go eeeeeeeeee. The scramble and all of Shibuya Station was also great, and I could have easily spent an entire afternoon just people watching. It was really fucking hot outside though, so we ducked into the famous 109 for air conditioning, a bathroom, and Sailor Moon-esq socks. We walked around the area for a bit, visiting a Japanese McDonald’s (teriyaki burgers were great. cantaloupe milkshakes were weird as hell.), and just generally enjoyed life and sunshine and the thrill of being on vacation times. From Shibuya we went to Meiji Shrine (which was going through renovations, so most of it was inaccessible – the forest was beautiful though), then into Harajuku for some more exploring. It was an exhausting day, but a great one. I really like Japan. Have I mentioned that? If only they had Diet Coke.

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shiny boys and robot girls

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a good dog, bront

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wall! of! sake!

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harajuku puppy man

tokyo day two (i should probably go faster)

I could have happily spent our entire trip in Tokyo and still not seen everything there is to see. We did a ton of things in the 5 days we had available, and the things we didn’t get to will be waiting for us when we return. We know better now, too: book in advance. Always book in advance.

One of the top items on my list was to visit the National Art Centre in Tokyo, specifically to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. The museum was close to our Tokyo base, so we enjoyed a ridiculously beautiful walk through Aoyama Cemetery on a gorgeous spring day to get there. The museum and exhibit were amazing, and I’m so glad we managed to fit it into our schedule. The Infinity Room was hands down my favourite piece, but there was so much to see! Ed and I took so long in the Kasuma exhibit that we didn’t get a chance to check out any of the other exhibits going on, and apparently we missed some equally great ones. There was no time in our trip for a return visit to NAC, so that’s another reason we need to go back.

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imma live here now.

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giant hall, giant art, dapper man

After the museum, we hopped on a train and headed .. somewhere. We desperately needed to find food, but it was more difficult than anticipated – many restaurants in Japan are open for lunch, then close at 1430 to prepare for dinner. We arrived after 1500, and finding a) a place that was open and b) could accommodate 14 people was nigh impossible. We eventually managed to find an open place, but had to split up into three groups. One lost child and some really good curry later, it was time to explore the Sakura Festival going on a block to our right:

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stupid beautiful tokyo!

I bought Pink Zima, because I was in Japan goddamnit. Sabrina had some sakura champagne, and we roamed the canal gaping like tourists at the pretty pretty pink trees. We saw hot dog bros, strawberry everything, sexy time girls, pretty little mochi on sticks, and thousands of people. I think it was a Monday, but it was packed with bodies – can’t imagine what it would have been like on a weekend (but I’ll go find out and report back).

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Like all places everywhere, there was a huge line so we didn’t stick around to see what they had

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siiiiiigh

That evening, there was an epic thunderstorm over our house. It was incredible, and so cozy. We ate experimental Japanese snacks and candy while listening to the pouring rain and thunder. It was pretty fucking magical.

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like a boss.

day one: tokyo

I have several friends in Japan right now, and the pictures they’re posting are making me sad and wishing I was there too. This in turn is making me feel guilty, like I’m forsaking my beloved London for another country. While I’m fully aware that it’s possible to love TWO (or more) places, you can only really live in one place at a time – so where’s my heart? Is it in London or Japan? I’m living in a Sweet Valley High book, except instead of choosing between handsome, sensitive, steadfast Brody and handsome, hot-headed, impulsive Chad, I have to (hypothetically) decide between beautiful, comforting, elegant London and beautiful, intriguing, inscrutable Osaka. What’s a girl to DO?

Luckily, I woke up this morning homesick for London, so I guess I don’t have to decide right away. Also, all of this is entirely in my head – it’s not like I have an opportunity to relocate to either Japan or the UK, but I can pretend it’ll happen some day. And I do love a good list, so I’m amusing myself by itemizing the pros and cons of each location while I wait for documentation to import. It’s the little things.

We spent the first 5 days of our trip in Tokyo, staying in a house in the Minato district. It was a great location: nestled in a maze of cool houses, two blocks from a magical 7Eleven, around the corner from a train station, and more. Much of our first official day (which was Sunday the 2nd, as we didn’t make it to the house until around 8pm the night before) was spent exploring the area: we found a Tokyo Swallows game about to start, a newly-opened Shake Shack, an enormous cemetery lined with cherry blossoms, an architecture museum, and so much more. In the evening, we went to Akihabara to see the fabled Electric Town for ourselves. I spent many yen trying to win something from the numerous claw games (spoiler: I failed), the kids explored every floor of Animate, and we had our first (and best) bowl of ramen in a tiny joint down a dim side street:

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in his noodly name, ramen

It was an excellent (and exhausting) first day.

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6 floors of delicious chaos

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MEAT (and a cat cafe, in which the cats were girls)

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something for everyone: the second floor was a cat cafe, the third floor a shooting range, then a bar/karaoke club, maid cafe, and night club

on japan (part 1)

Things I Will Miss About Japan (alternative title: things to import from Japan):

  • ROBOT. TOILETS.
  • .. with taps, for convenient and eco-friendly cleanliness!
  • Vending machines EVERYWHERE, with recycling bins attached – so you can always find a drink, and always recycle the empty
  • Canned/bottled milk tea
  • Vending machines that deliver hot canned coffee and tea
  • Ticket restaurants! Pay up front, present ticket, receive food.
  • An amazing country-wide rail system that runs with eerie efficiency
  • Tokyo Banana! It’s delicious.
  • Gashapon! You do not want to know how much money I spent in vending machines in Japan, and not just on water/milk tea/corn
  • Tiny 600cc city cars. It’s like a scooter with walls!
  • Wet rooms and the art of sitting down in a shower. Makes for good, warm sleeping (even if you shouldn’t).
  • Japanese 7Elevens. “7Elevens are universal”, I foolishly thought before our trip. “You’ve seen one rancid hot dog at 3am, and you’ve seen them all.” Oh, how wrong I was. Japanese 7Elevens are EVERYWHERE and they are AMAZING and they are the true epitome of “convenience store”.
  • Onsens! More on this later.
  • Baby wall seats so you can put your baby down while you pee or wash your hands. It’s genius, and I don’t know why we don’t have them in North America. I don’t even HAVE babies, but I can immediately see how brilliant this idea is. Travelling solo? Don’t have someone to hold the baby while you do your bathroom business? WALL SEAT. Baby is safe, happy, and most importantly, off the bathroom floor while you allow a robot toilet to blast your nethers with warm, pulsating water. It’s like a gentle hug for your anus while you make silly faces for your wall baby.
  • In Japan, roaming trucks play jaunty tunes. Is it an ice cream van? A truck that delivers red bean paste and soy sauce? No! It’s the garbage/recycling truck, playing music to announce their approach! Forgot to set the trash out? No problem! When you hear the familiar tune, you can rush outside with your neglected waste. Smart *and* hilarious! Also, ice cream vans aren’t necessary because ice cream vending machines are totally a thing that are wonderful and so much cheaper in Japan.
  • Speaking of ice cream, you can buy soft serve waffle cones in the freezer section of convenience stores (including my beloved 7Eleven). They’re delicious, and like ¥130 (just over $1US/$1.50CDN).
  • Solar panels everywhere. If a tiny mountain town in the middle of Japan can have solar panels atop almost every damn building, why are we still arguing about them here?
  • Whiskey Ice. You can buy bags of crystal clear ice meant for whiskey sippin’ (or in my case, water) everywhere.
  • Cream puffs the size of my hand (which is admittedly small, but still large in terms of the mighty cream puff)
Things Japan is Missing:
  • Diet Coke
  • Me (don’t be jealous, London – I have so much love to give)
  • Every hotel room shower cap in a 4-city radius (sorry Japan, but I need them when I dye my hair)
  • The automatic Canadian reflex to apologize when you bump into someone (there are so many people in Japan that being walked into is just a way of life)
  • Escalators in most train stations – I have never walked up and down so many goddamn staircases in my life, but damn if my calves don’t look great

Things I Missed from Vancouver:

  • Cats
  • Soft beds/pillows
  • Being naked all the damn time
  • Bacon

Things I Will Miss, Period:

  • Being on vacation
  • Travelling with friends
  • The stillness of Takayama
  • The hustle of Tokyo and Osaka
  • The jaw-dropping beauty of Japan in full cherry blossom season
  • Vending machines

Trip Highlights:

  • The amazing lunch with an equally amazing view in the Tokyo Skytree
  • The show at the Robot Restaurant
  • Stumbling upon a Sakura Festival
  • Staying in a ryokan
  • Having an onsen completely to myself
  • Osaka Castle Park
  • The small bit of Kyoto we saw
  • Shibuya Station and the Scramble, where I got my Jet Set Radio Future and The World Ends With You fangirl on
  • The Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the National Art Centre in Tokyo
  • .. especially the Infinity Room
  • everything.

Things I Regret:

  • Not having enough time in Kyoto
  • Resorting to American food when exhausted
  • Not attending Kanamara Matsuri
  • Coming home
  • Not buying more gashapon items
  • Vending machine corn chowder

Things I Drank Instead of Diet Coke:

  • All the water (Japanese tap water is delicious)
  • Milk Tea
  • Canned cream puffs (okay just once)
  • Water
  • Pocari Sweat
  • Coke Zero (gross)
  • Coke (even grosser)
  • Coca-Cola Plus (Coke with fibre. Why?)
  • Water
  • Melon Fanta
  • Orangina
  • Qoo
  • Mango in any form I could find
  • So much water

Devastating Life Lessons Learned:

  • I will never be a flight attendant.

Hope you’re not tired of photos from Japan, because I’ve only been posting pictures taken with my phone. There are still the camera pictures to go through. #kimlichiwa

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bite my flesh for delicious juice

I can’t get a complete inventory because counting makes me itchy, but based on what I HAVE counted and can see, I have over 70 mosquito bites. It sucks, and is not at all embellished for the internet: I am gross all over. I have ten bites on my left kneecap alone, and the back of my legs is an utter horror show. My arms are a nightmare. I look pox-ridden. 

But! I had an excellent time in Orlando! My coworkers are completely awesome, and far less scary than my anxiety predicted. There were 20 of us down for the week, and instead of hotels, we stayed in two 10-bedroom resort homes in a fancy gated complex that were super fance: each room had its own ensuite (I lucked out and randomly picked a room with a soaker tub), the living rooms had nice squishy leather couches, each dang house had a pool and hot tub out back, the kitchens had ample counter/table space for laptoppin’, etc. Apparently, this is how people do Florida. I could get used to it (maybe without the mosquitoes though). 

Also, I was never without Diet Coke or ice cubes, for which I am absurdly grateful. I don’t require alcohol or specific food stuffs or special treatment, but DAMN if I don’t appreciate being accommodated. I was delightfully caffeinated all week long! I am easy to please. 

There are very few good things to be said about a total disregard for the environment, but I had forgotten how glorious a shower with epic water pressure is. I tried to keep my showering short (not in part because the water was stank with swamp), but daaaang. Every morning it was like sandblasting the previous evening’s bad decisions off my person. Loved it (but still feel bad). 

I ended my trip with a minor catastrophe in the air: I lost my passport. I remembered having it at the gate when my boarding pass was scanned, and then .. nothing. I emptied out the bags I was carrying, tore apart my seat, disturbed every person in a three seat radius, but nothing: my passport had simply vanished. The flight attendants called the airport with their fancy airplane phones and had the ground crew check the gate and walkway, but there was no sign of it. I tried to remain calm (and did a pretty good job of not losing my shit [no pun intended]), but I knew I was facing a difficult time at YVR customs .. oh and also I leave for Japan in a week and can’t do that without a passport. Fuck. And who the hell loses important documents along a 10′ walk in a straight line? Me, apparently. 

After I had disturbed people as much as I could, I resigned myself to staying on the plane until everyone had left so I could check the other seats. The flight landed, people stood and gathered their things, and then the best goddamn thing happened: the woman sitting behind me spotted my passport in the overhead bin above my head. HOLY SHIT WHAT A FUCKING RELIEF. I didn’t think to check the bin above me during my search because my carry-on bag wasn’t in there – I had placed it in the bin across from me, and checked that thoroughly. As near as I can figure, when I got on the plane I hoisted my bag into the bin then set my passport and boarding pass above my seat – in the bin – to arrange myself and stash my tote bag. In my haste to sit down and get out of people’s way, I utterly forgot that I had put my documents down above my head. It was fortunate that the lady was taller than I, because I’d have never been able to see into the overhead bin and would have missed it entirely during my search. Stressful as fuck, but it ended better than I could have hoped AND I didn’t have to beg Canadian Border Patrol to let me in. Score!

All in all, a great week (passport stress and bites aside). I had some great conversations about work and music and video games and Japanese sex acts, finally met most of my coworkers in the flesh, successfully escaped Mars, and wasn’t eaten by an alligator. A++++++, would #cycleweek again. 

Oh, and I have fully embraced the fact that I am a Ravenclaw through and through, and own the robe to prove it. 

stranger danger

I have pretty severe social anxiety. Meeting new people is my kryptonite; strangers are terrifying and rhyme with dangers for a reason.  They often have candy and vans with blackout windows, and according to the year 2000, every single person on the internet is a deranged sex pervert who wants to chop me up for some sweet Canadian stew. Pretty scary stuff, right? It only makes SENSE to be wary of people you’ve never met. Every one of them is chockfull of BAD DECISIONS.

I’ve been experiencing a low-grade panic attack for the last three days, and it’s getting worse. On Monday morning at 4am, I’ll be making my way to Orlando for a week of meetings. I’ll also be meeting my co-workers in meat space for the first time. We’re all staying in a couple of resort houses, so socializing will be done in a hot tub. And I’m the only woman.

So, let’s recap:

  • Flying to a country in political turmoil
  • With skin an indeterminate shade of brown
  • For work
  • To meet people for the first time
  • In a swamp
  • Filled with alligators
  • Staying in a house with 9 men I work with
  • That has a pool and a hot tub
  • So bathing suits are happening

I am legit terrified. People are scary. What if everyone hates me. What if I say really stupid things and people think I’m an idiot. What if I forget I can’t go in hot tubs and pass out and break my head open on tiles. What if Florida has no Diet Coke. What if crocodiles eat me. What if I get brave enough to put on my bathing suit and everyone laughs at me. What if people realize I have no idea what I’m doing at work and out me as a big faking faker who fakes. What if I didn’t pack enough cardigans. What if I forget my medication and revert to my original form.

WHAT IF.

I hate anxiety. It is a twat.

we are judging you

make your whites whiter

swag

This gif if bringing me a great deal of joy, but even so, I have ass marbles.

The kids in the original video are half-Korean. The woman that desperately tries to wrangle them is their mother, and is Korean. However, every (adorable) piece of art about the now-infamous video depicts the children and family as white, as though people couldn’t possibly be entertained by the shenanigans unless skin tones matched their own.

This on the heels of the upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie in which the Japanese main character has been replaced with a caucasian Scarlett Johansson (and scene of a delightful marketing campaign that is backfiring spectacularly), a Bruce Lee biopic focusing on a fictional white guy instead of, you know, Bruce Lee, Tilda Swinton (love her, but come on) playing a Celtic mystic to replace the original Tibetan mystic in Dr. Strange .. all within the last year.

It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s disheartening.

So, yeah. Even when it comes up in a fantastic gif that makes me happy, I can’t help but feel a twinge of “this too?”.

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ETA: see?

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