Saturday, September 30, 2006

Week #3 Update: "So an Aussie, a Yank, a Brit and a Canuck walk into a pub..."

Well, here we all are again. It's nice when we get together like this, isn't it? All nestled up next to our screens chatting away about the daily gossip in Japan. I really like our time together, don't you? What was that, I didn't catch it? Hmm, so you don't enjoy our time together. You think you should see other blogs? Uh, I don't exactly know what to say really...Do you think you could give me another chance? It's not me, it's you?!? Oh really now, that's the oldest line in the book! Are you cheating? Have you been looking at other blogs?! You have haven't you! Or worse! You've started your own blog! Oh god, I would be crushed if you did that behind my back...Fine, leave it like this...How about one more weekly update, just for old time's sake.

(Three hours later, I came back to that opening and realized what an odd man I must appear. I think the Japanese water is filled with something that's making me slowly insane. Or maybe it's NOT filled with anything!)

So here goes my Week #3 update:

The work week went off without a hitch. It's really weird being in such a small branch because you see a lot of the same students constantly and you can really judge their progress, or lackthereof, from memory. I've had a lot of students revisit and I am just amazing at their steady increase/drastic decline! I think after a long period of time that's going to get very tiring and I might have to transfer just to get some variety in my life. Can't fall into a rut in Japan, now can I? The problem is that if I do transfer I won't have access to the park. Oh, it's not just any old park like Kinsmen or Downsview back homes, oh no sir! This park is a massive forest smack dab in the middle of Yokohama! It's truly amazing! It's filled with more wildlife than many of the places back home: there are tons of birds, stray cats roam about the grounds freely and the amount of massive, hideous spiders along the footpaths is enough to make anyone's arachnophobia flare up into panic attack bursts! I wandered through the place today for the first time and, silly me, completely forgot my camera. Tomorrow on my lunch break I'll take tons of pictures and show you this amazing landmark within a stone's throw of my workplace.

With this week came the promise of my first real two-day weekend! Tuesday night was hyped by Andrew, the roommate, to be the all-out shindig of the Century. When I woke up on Tuesday, ready to face the work day, I opened the curtains and found...torrential downpours. Oh, that was a kick to the bollocks (sorry, been watching a lot of Shaun of the Dead and British comedies lately) to say the least! The day passed quickly and I got back to the apartment to find Andrew texting people on the phone to say that everyone has cancelled and that we would have to postpone the night. Shit. That's alright, it's not like I turned down margaritas with a bunch of co-workers just hours before thinking that the party was on for sure. Oh wait, I DID do that! Shit! Oh well, can't control the weather...yet.

With the disappointment of Tuesday came the excitement for Wednesday! I had been asking a lot of experienced co-workers what the coolest palces to visit were and found Tokyo to be the resounding collective. Akihabara and Shinjuku were the frontrunners so I made both of those locations a main point in my travel plans for Wednesday. Unfortunately, I didn't get out of the apartment until 2 PM due to a late night of watching stand-up comedy and recovering from the early wake-up calls of my alarm clock beckoning me to wake up for work, so Wednesday's trip to Tokyo was called off. What replaced it though was ten times better! Andrew suggested a trip to Sakuragicho (the main tourist trap of Yokohama due to the proximity of Landmark Tower, the massive ferris wheel and easy-to-blow-the-entire-bank-account mall district) which was a great idea. So we head over, check out a few things, hit up the greatest ice cream place in the world (more on that in a minute) and took a few pictures of the nightlife.

The ice cream store in question is called Cold Stone Creamery and it is, for lack of a better adjective, amazing! The process of making a delicious ice cream treat is half the fun! You stand in line, IN LINE!, for the menu just to be handed to you! How crazy is that! And when you get the menu you see an assortment of ice cream mixtures that just sound heavenly: Chocolate Devotion, Apple Pie A La Cold Stone, Cookie Minster, Paradise Found, and Coffee Lovers just to name a few! All of these concoctions come in foam dishes or, for 50 cents more, a made-on-site waffle cone. Who in their right mind would not shell out 50 cents for a waffle cone?!?! Exactly! No-one! Alright, maybe a diabetic but they shouldn't be having ice cream anyways, the poor bastards...Anyways, back to the treats. So you place your order at the main counter and a Cold Stone employee scoops a hefty ball of ice cream out of the freezer, plunks it down on a cold stone and proceeds to mix in the ingredients of your choice in front of your eyes! It's like watching your own pizza being made except the pizza is ice cream joy! On this day I chose Cheesecake Fantasy: cheesecake ice cream, blueberries, strawberries and graham cracker crumble. If your mouth is watering now wait til I start describing how it tasted! Oh snap, it was good! I challenge you to find me an ice cream creation that tastes more like cheesecake! Needless to say that Cold Stone Creamery is my favourite snack place. If you ever come and visit me in Japan, we're totally going! There's some incentive for ya!

Anyways, back to the night. Andrew called up friends of his who lived in the area, Adam and Emma. If you recall, Alex and Emma were with us during the infamous missed train all nighter. So with them along, something funny and story-worthy is bound to happen. And guess what! It happened! We wandered around a new area of Sakuragicho that was less populated with tourist-friendly shops and more with small pubs. We proceeded to have our own little Pub Crawl, hitting three pubs in less than an hour. The first was an English-style pub with comfy leather couches and lavish orchestral music piped over the in-house speakers. The mood was set by candles rather than lights and the bartender was a friendly Japanese chap who had been to England more than the three Brits with me that night. Amazing how that happens! The second pub was a classic sports bar except without the English sports. The four of us grabbed a pitcher and watched Japanese soccer. Yokohama won and we left on a good note! The third, and final, pub is what we affectionately call the Pirate Pub. With the Jolly Rogers flag posted on the sign and door, we entered a tiny bar that looked like just below deck on the Black Pearl. All it needed was a device to rock the entire bar back and forth and I would've felt like an old salt. After beers in all of these bars Andrew was ready to head back to Kamiooka and hit a few more pubs. Alex and Emma split due to overspending and headaches so we bid each other adieu and headed off to take part in the second half of the night.

Once we arrived in Kamiooka, Andrew took the lead and led me to a dingy bar near the subway station that held two NOVA teachers from the Kamiooka branch. They were already tanked and ready to tell a good story at the drop of a hat. The two guys, an Aussie and a Yank, took Andrew and I, the Brit and Canuck, to a really great restaurant and we fulfilled the perfect bar joke stereotype. If anyone can take the title of this post and turn it into a suitable joke, I would be more than grateful. So after some interesting food (most good save for the potatoes baked in fish sauce. Ugh. Those potatoes will play a part in the story later) the Aussie headed off and left the three remaining members to find a bar open at 1:30 in the morning. Unfortunately for us (but fortunate for our livers!) there was only one bar open: a hostess bar. A hostess bar is a stlye of bar in which salary men (business men with lots of cash) spend 40 bucks to have very, very, VERY hot women chat with them and pour their drinks. That's it! 40 bucks an hour for nice company. Frankly, I'm not spending 40 bucks for conversation I can't understand and drinks that I can pour myself, thank you very much. Defeated, tired and very drunk, we split with the American and headed back to the apartment to crash.

Sleep was very difficult with the beer and potatoes waging war in my stomach. It seems that there was no winner since they were all rushed off the battle field sometime around 7 AM. Finally sleep overcame my lifeless body and I drifted off into a nice coma. I woke at 11 AM the next day with nothing but a sore throat and a lust for food. Andrew awoke a little while later and since the weather was nice asked if I wanted to head to Akihabara. I was all for it and we hit the road after some well deserved Yoshinoya. Yoshinoya is like the Japanese McDonalds but with great food. Pork strips in a lovely sauce, salad, miso soup and a massive bowl of rice for under 5 bucks can't be wrong. We travelled via train to Tokyo, my first real trip there since landing so very long ago. We got off at Akihabara and were immediately surrounded by Japanese electronic stores as far as the eye can see! It was amazing! So many video games and DVDs, so little time and money and understanding of the Japanese language. After perusing various stores I realized that I could not purchase anything in fear of leaving something out. So I bought a Super Mario Bros. cell phone charm and called it a day. After Akihabara, we travelled to Shinjuku. It was here that I began to feel not so great. I took my leave of Andrew and the gang of people we had gathered and headed back to the apartment. Considering I had work early the next day and no panchant for drinking beer as heavily as the night before it was for the best. Andrew actually returned to the apartment at 9 the next morning, so it was definately for the best.

And now here I sit, one full weekend older and planning the adventure of next weekend. I think this will be a solo adventure revolving around some traditional tourist places and my camera. Wish me luck!


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah Good Times! Those Ice cream shops are also popular in Australia, Claire and I visted them on a regular basis! My fav was the passionfruit! It can't be beat!!!


At 1:53 AM, Anonymous Heidi said...

This is why you just can't help but love travelling - those random events are priceless!

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Justin said...

Well my friend it seems that we each have had to take time out of our hectic schedules and habitual drunkeness for the sake of communication. Its always great reading about the things that I enjoy doing happening in other countries. Keep up the fantastic drinking!!! Might I suggest a lime/kiwi mix for the ice cream? I also expect to be treated to one the next time I stop by Japan.

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew's Pedantic Japan Fact #20X6: Zen Buddhism, the severe meditative style that was popular with American mangerial types in the 1980s, derives from Chan Buddhism in China. The word Zen is mistranslation of a Chinese word which is a mistranslation of the Sanskrit which might have originally ment something like meditation.


It glows, just as the scriptures say.


At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You drink more in Japan than you ever did here.

Just saying


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