Sunday, February 27, 2005


Shimokitazawa, my beloved stomping ground, is home to a yakitori restaurant that serves rather stiff lemon sours. Last night we each ordered one with our dinner, but Girlfriend took one drink of hers and decided she didn't like it, so she gave it to me. Two stiff lemon sours later, I became capable of taking god-awful photos of myself like the one seen in Figure A.

After dinner, Girlfriend and I made a routine stop at Golden, a video arcade and UFO catcher haven that usually has good prizes (like Ogura Yuuko idol DVDs and toasters in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head), but on this occasion they didn't have much. Instead, we spent our hard-earned 100 yen coins on the print club machine. Figure B: Girlfriend smiles next to some marginally cute bears.

And, lest we forget, next door to the stiff lemon sour yakitoriyasan is a new hair salon with the cryptic moniker Axe Pure: Hair Chips (Figure C). I don't know what "hair chips" are, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to eat them.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Hugs & Kisses All the Way to Wisconsin

When people ask where I'm from, I now think twice about what to say. Not because I ashamed of my hometown. Not because I'm embarrassed by people's reaction. Only because I am sick of saying, "Yes, as in B'Gosh."

Oshkosh, WI is a city in the "Fox River Valley" (although the entire state of Wisconsin is arguably one big river valley) with a population of about 63,000 people. Its claims to fame are but two: 1) The Experimental Aircraft Association's annual convention, which most people have never heard of; and 2) OshKosh B'Gosh Inc., maker of family apparel. This provokes people to refer to me as Jesse from OshKosh B'Gosh, which is one of the worst nicknames in the world.

It could be worse. I could be from Detroit, prompting reactions like, "So, have you ever met Robocop?" Or I could be from Tallahassee, prompting reactions like, "So, are you of lower-than-average intelligence?" But the B'Gosh thing wears thin, and I need a change. That's why I entreat OshKosh B'Gosh to change its name. My nominees for the new name include:

  • OshKosh For the Love of Christ
  • OshKosh Goddammit
  • OshKosh Dontcha Know?
  • OshKosh You Jerk

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bush unveils new 2005 wars

WASHINGTON - Just in time for spring, President Bush announced plans for new wars in a press conference today. Dozens of journalists jostled for a better look at the new spring line, which is poised to take the world by storm.

"Following our victory in the War on Terror, which should be pretty well wrapped up by mid-March, the US and our allies will launch new campaigns to rid the world of other impleasant [sic] abstractitudes [sic]," announced the Commander in Chief.

Bush went on to name specific targets in the upcoming American crusades, citing a "War on Horror," in which the US military will take steps to counteract the negative effects of movies like Final Destination and Leprechaun, as well as new wars on jealousy, disappointment and "nuditry" [sic], none of which were explained in today's press conference.

Bush appealed for unity in the months to come. "We need to stand together and tell the world that we will no longer allow our children to be targeted by people like Freddy Kruger. We need to sleep at night, knowing that our loved ones are free from the hardships associated with Child's Play II."

Bush also hinted at future plans for a "War on War," of which no details are known at this time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Doomed Megalopolis

Last week (Thursday at around 5 a.m.) there was a startling earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Shindo scale in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo. How do I know it was a 5.8? Well, just have a look at my gatcha-pon figurine corner, which very accurately measures earthquake magnitude by the Shindo standard. As you can see (maybe you can't see, but just shut up and take my word for it okay?), the tremor knocked over Alternate Costume Jam, Slayer, Ingrid, Juni and Akira. That makes five. Now add 0.3 for Venom, who usually falls even if there's no earthquake, and 0.5 for Ibuki, who began to fall but was saved by Lei Fang who didn't budge. Pretty neat, huh? SCIENCE!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


The thing about being concerned for your health is, you start eating the damnedest things. When I came to Japan, I wasn't crazy about sushi and sashimi. But with a little fear to help me along, it has become a major part of my diet. Kaitenzushi restaurants, in which a conveyor belt circulates plates of sushi continuously among the customers as a handful of chefs keep it stocked, are something I will miss when my time in Japan has ended. The competitive chains are cheap, charging 100-120 yen (around a dollar US) per empty plate you've stacked up in the course of a meal. My personal record is eight plates in one sitting, but I invariably end up sitting next to some scrawny university student who puts away nineteen or so.


First I stop by Bic Camera to buy a case for my new electronic dictionary. 70 dictionaries worth of information in that baby! Then, with some additional time to kill before work, it's off to Kabukicho, my favorite part of Shinjuku (and easily Tokyo's most colorful area, by most definitions of the word "colorful") to get some lunch in me. Kabukicho has a negative reputation for being seedy and dangerous, but that's by Japan standards. It's still safer than, I don't know, Wisconsin Dells. Now then, where to eat in this wonderland of urban fun?

Tokyo Tochou Building 2

Ja-jaaaaan! (That's Japanese for "ta-daaa.") When you see the triple towers of the Tokyo Government Building Part II: The Revenge, you know you're in Shinjuku. And Part I would be in this photo as well, if I hadn't elected to put my giant, stern-looking head in the frame.

MOVIE FUN: Get your hands on a copy of Battle Royale II. But whatever you do, don't watch the whole thing because it sucks. Just watch the first five minutes or so. You get to see this building, along with half a dozen other of Shinjuku's trademark skyscrapers, sink inexorably into the earth. Do yourself a favor and see it on the movie screen before it actually happens.

Family Catcher

Still following Highway 20, also known as Koushuukaidou, east toward Shinjuku. You're just going to have to believe what I told you before, about claw machines being called UFO catchers. This one has the ominous title "Family Catcher." But I'll bet that wimpy little claw can't even catch a Winnie the Pooh doll, much less my family. Stupid, stupid claw.

Recycle Shop

In this picture two things are happening. One is, I am thrilled to have found two recycle shops (Japanese-English for second-hand stores) within 100 meters of each other on Highway 20, where I have never ventured before. At the same time, I am panicking and ready to bolt headlong from the store because I just realized the song I'm hearing on the loudspeaker is Avril Lavigne...and in her song, she has just treated the four-syllable word "actually" like a two-syllable word not writable in the Roman alphabet.

Speaking of unwritable words, how do you spell that sound people make when they imitate a "sorry, that's incorrect" buzzer on a quiz show? Something like, "AAARRRRRNNHHH!!!"

Walking to Shin-J

Okay, everybody! It's a beautiful day in Tokyo Setagaya-Daita. The sun is warm. The sky is blue. The grass is singing, the birds are growing and the sap is running away with the spoon. So strap on your armor and paint your face with the blood of your vanquished foes, because we are walking to Shinjuku!

Behind me is a cheerfully-decorated concrete wall doing its part to brighten up the otherwise apocolyptic landscape of Kannanadouri. Don't give up, o happy wall. I believe in you.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Will You Use the Magic Book of Location?

Shortly after my farcical walk home from Shibuya last month, I invested in this very handy pocket atlas covering most of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. My new book of maps reveals, among other things, the reason I got lost trying to cover the relatively short distance between Shibuya Station and my apartment: All the little side streets in that area conspired to get me lost by gently curving 180 degrees over a course of several hundreds of meters.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Let's Karaoke!

My walking endeavors have continued with great success. I may have even lost a little bit of my gut in the last couple weeks. But all this talk of diastolic heart rates was making me hungry. On Saturday I went out for an evening of food, drinks and karaoke with some students and co-workers. School functions at izakaya are over-priced and sometimes awkward, but they always end up being more fun than you expect. And they usually end up with someone bellowing the strains of "Sekai Hitori Dake no Hana" by SMAP.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Here I am, taking a moment to regain my sanity after narrowly surviving one of my weekly kids' lessons. This window, located in the men's room of my school's Tamachi branch, overlooks Mita: a bayside area that many people don't realize is close to the bay because the it's completely hemmed in by office buildings. As a result, most of the students at this branch are company workers with no free time, and thus nothing interesting to talk about during a lesson.