The bloggings of an Upstate NY-born Tokyoite. Now with 20% more verbosity!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Only in Japan...

I left my apartment today to go to the gym when I saw a guy in a work uniform eyeing the building. I thought maybe he was trying to deliver a package or something, but shrugged it off and left. Two hours later I came back and...

There was a brand new vending machine installed outside the front door of my apartment building!

It's funny, because I had been thinking lately how I have to walk a whole 30 feet to get to a vending machine from my house and all.... o_0

On an unrelated note here's a few pictures I never posted from a trip to Akihabara a while back:

"Retro-Gaming" - There was a copy of Street Fighter 2 out front for all to play.

The current Prime Minister, Taro Aso a.k.a. "Cool Old Dude" is very popular amongst the nerdy crowd.

That's all for today. I'll keep you posted on whether or not a canned coffee vending machine appears on my roof or in my room any time in the near future.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One of the most popular movies in Japan this summer

was Detroit Metal City:

The intro roughly translates as: "I wanted to create a nice pop band, but my current band is..."

There is apparently also an American adapation in the works. There is also a series of comics and anime of the same name, which are both hilarious and awesome. I would call it Japan's equivalent to Metalocalypse.

Troy, NY

With all the fuss I make about the 20+ year-old musical sub-genre affectionately known as troycore, I thought I would give everyone some valuable insight into the city behind the name. The original home of Uncle Sam, it is coined rather accurately in the first video I have linked today as "the city that modernization forgot." From the boarded-up buildings and the various bums meandering the streets downtown, to the unflattering nickname of "troylets" for its citizens and the rumors that there's "something in the water," it seems not exactly the friendliest place upon first glance. However I have known many stand-up individuals who call this place home, amazing bands who were birthed here - Stigmata, Burning Human and Dying Breed, just to name a few - and it's a city rich in history and it's own bizarre underbelly of subculture.

To start off this video tour de force, a hilarious mockumentary on the sights to see in lovely Troy, NY:

Deserving more than just an honorable mention, stand-up individual and all around cool dude Mike V. owned and operated the Hudson Duster, an amazing and ultimately weird little hole in the wall venue. With a regrettably short lifespan of only 3 or 4 years, it closed down due to some unfortunate circumstances. I remember being upset at the news, not only because it was such a rad place, but because this was merely weeks before my 21st birthday. I had been waiting to tackle the "Brick by Brick Burger," a huge houseburger that could win the buyer a free pitcher of beer if completely consumed. Sadly, I never got to attempt this feat.

The Hudson Duster was one of my favorite venues ever, second only to Valentiens which is still thankfully running to this day. Being a mere 14 feet wide and sort of a narrow hall with a second-story stage, it housed many awesome shows in its hayday. Inevitably the loose regulations and allowance of completely and total chaos in such a small area played part in its downfall although I think we all knew it was too good to last forever. I remember some great shows, such as the Brick by Brick and Save Yourself show which is highlighted below, and a last-minute Walls of Jericho and Bury Your Dead gig due to a huge snow-storm which stopped the bands from making their Buffalo date (this was of course before both bands turned into almost completely unlistenable crap, in my humble opinion). I saw people moshed into fireplaces, kids jump off of bars, dive off of pool tables, and so many things that made it incredibly dangerous by undeniably awesome at the same time. Here is the best video I could find that really captures just how nuts this place could get, big props to the creator of it:

R.I.P. The Hudson Duster, the only venue I've ever known run by hardcore for hardcore.

And lastly, just for laughs:

Troy is full of individualistic citizens whom hold firmly to their freedoms.

It's not where I grew up, but it's just a short drive away. Troy has been and always will be an historic city, but much like the rest of Upstate New York, it is most likely doomed to relative obscurity. Here's hoping for a new wave of insanely talented musicians

Modern troycore bands of note:

Brick by Brick

Murderer's Row

Last Call

P.S. I don't take credit for any of these pictures or videos, I just wanted to compile them for those curious. I highly recommend checking out all the bands I mentioned, because even 6000+ miles from home I'm still representing Upstate!

P.S.S. Stigmata and Burning Human are playing with my old band Damnation Alley back home in a next week, and I expect all my friends reading this who are going to mosh in my absence. Thanks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Philosophical quest

Disclaimer: Philosophical ramblings. I'm full aware of how ironic a post this is after my Xbox rant.


I believe that every man or woman on this earth who has the ability to think beyond the most intrinsic needs of food, water and shelter has to grapple with their own philosophical quest. Even people who hate the idea of philosophy do. So do hardcore religious fanatics, staunch atheists, school principals and bus drivers. No matter what you've been taught, you question it inevitably. No matter what you believe, you have trouble believing it at times. Freedom is a wonderful yet simultaneously stifling thing when we have so many directions to go in the world that we stand still, horrified.

I think that a fear of thinking about why we're here, what we're doing and where we're going is why some people love their jobs. It's also why some people love their hobbies, their dogs, their kids, their books, their wardrobe, their games, their computers, their room, their social life, their late night television dramas, their loud music, their crowded bars and their camping trips. The modern world is such a confounded place, full of voices telling us where to go for ulterior motives, full of new diets to try and new items to buy. When does owning the product equate to the joy you got in anticipating it? When is enough actually enough?

I think about things like this a lot; I'm sure many of us do. I see myself trapped in an endless cycle of consumerism, but feel reliant upon it and helpless to stop it. I love philosophical ideas but can't stand reading dry, technically worded documents about things that no living person can ever know - I'd rather read a good work of fiction. I'm a self-acknowledged hypocrite but I can't help thinking about how the world goes round and round with or without me. I think about how if there's such an overpopulation problem already, wouldn't it be better if I never procreate anyway? I think about the future and the past that lead me here, how no one will know of me or remember me in 100 years time. If you had to choose immortality or an early death, which would it be? If you had to give up all your earthly possessions and move Sudan or get skin cancer, which would it be? If you could kill 1 to save 100, would you do it?

So many questions and conundrums in life. I feel a stirring inside of me a never-ending struggle: The hedonistic and primitive instincts of fucking and feeding versus the weight of the wonders and woes of the modern world. Aesthetics and synthetics. There aren't enough words to encapsulate life, to wrap it up neatly, put it on a page and succinctly explain it. That's why I keep writing.

"From pissed off to pissed on
mostly dead to died
quote found on the full moon
but it left with the tide" - End of a Year

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MORDOR (warning: sheer, unadulterated video game nerd content inside)

There once was a gaming console called the XBOX 360. This system was the Playstation 2 of its generation, coming out with all the latest and coolest games, the best graphics and cutting edge on-line play. The ease of this global network of gamers made being a computer expert with all the latest overpriced digital rendering software that would be obselete in 3 months a necessity for internet gaming no more. Gone were the days of "oh my computer can't run this" or "I left AIM on so my game crashed" or "my system randomly lags because I haven't reformatted my hard-drive in the last 2 weeks." It was a simple time when people who just enjoyed casually playing games could share their joy together, without excessive hassle. There were also numerous live updates, downloadable content for renewed vigor in games you loved, even $5-10 arcade games that were cheap and fun. Sounded like a perfect system, right?

Not quite perfect.

When the light was green it was all gravy. But as time passed, load times got longer and the fan got louder, something had to give. I owned a launch-model 360, the original which has an estimated 60% chance of dying at some point in time - dem's not good odds. Of course it had to happen 2 months after I moved to Japan, making things far more inconvenient. Why, you may ask?

Well, for those who don't know, due to the huge amount of complaints (and possibly even some lawsuits) that Micrsoft received, they announced they were 2007 extending the warranties of all consoles to 3 years. I personally know several people who've been through 2 or 3, and it's not at all uncommon. MS has literally lost millions of dollars fixing their own consoles due to poor beta testing and some serious design and material faults not considered before the initial release.
If you are at all curious about the extent of 360 blunders (they have even been sued over their discs scratching too easily), I recommend this succinct Wikipedia article.

Despite all this, the 360 still remains the "next generation" system to have, in my opinion. (I'm totally leaving the Wii out of this one, because while it an awesome console in its own right and of course much more stable, it is lacking in HD and graphical abilities) Why not the PS3? Two simple reasons: game selection and friends. As for games, some of the few video game franchises I follow have exclusive 360-only titles, such as Tales of Vesperia or Beautiful Katamari. While it's true that there are many dual releases between the PS3 and 360, I'm actually not interested in the majority of the First Person Shooters that come out (save the Orange Box), but prefer RPGs and other more unique games.

And of course there's the simple fact that, in America at least, the 360 pwns the PS3 in popularity by a hefty margin. Things may be slowly moving in Sony's favor, but by the by if you want to play on-line with some of your buddies back home you to have MS's hardware. There seem to be more diehard PS3 fans in Japan, and perhaps since Blue-Ray won the format wars PS3's ability to play BR movies will eventually lead to a popularity shift, but for now this is the way things are.

Anyway that's enough about console or format wars - I've probably already lost more than half my regular readers on this post - but bear with me here. This 360 that broke is also one that I cracked open laborously and modified, the upside being that I can play games on backup discs, the downside being that I am at risk of being banned from Xbox Live if I play on-line, and my console is no longer covered under warranty. A fair trade-off in my opinion. Sadly after many fun hours with this toy it broke, and although I'm currently looking at some super top-secret underground solutions to get it fixed, that is pretty up in the air.

So I bought another console! A legitimate one that I bought the game Blue Dragon for because Akira Toriyama is a God among men when it comes to character design, and I enjoy old-school RPGs (and they're long). Long story short I had it shipped to a friend on a military base to save on shipping costs, and on the day I gleefully brought it home I plugged it in and saw, to my horror:


That's right folks, apparently it was damaged in shipping, because this sucker was broken on reception. The real kicker here is that I signed up for insurance, but to file a claim I'd need access to a USPS location, which I don't have since I don't live on a military base. The whole thing was turning into a ridiculous headache - all I wanted was to play a stupid game! And if it was possible to get the console fixed here I didn't want to bear teh slings and arrows of having to send it back. So, I did what any logical gamer would do: called Microsoft.

After trying to communicate over the phone with little success, I was told in Japanese to e-mail customer support if I wanted support in English. So I did, and thankfully the 3 year warranty extension on all consoles was announced in Japan too, so I'm sending out my console to get fixed today! This means soon I can play on-line with my friends, enjoy these new games and hopefully leave behind the evil eye of Mordor forever. I'm seirously considering getting a PS3 in a year or 2, when they've dropped in price a bit and have more good games on the roster.

This concludes my uber-nerd post. Until we meet again!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

3 months later.

Can I actually believe I've lived in this country for three months? What is time and where does it go? Why did Microsoft have to make their 360s so damned breakable?

"We're all here with questions, left unanswered" - Guns Up!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I work hard for the money

So I can blow it on stuff like this:

I spent 700 yen at a UFO catcher (or as we call them back home crane machines) getting this sucker out. These things are so addicting that I usually stay away from them, BUT chopper with a dragonball sent my dork-senses into a frenzy. He now hangs proudly above my television screen.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We have a saying in my family: eat.

Even if it isn't actually said by anyone but me, the fact remains that I come from a family of eaters. We love food and life itself, but especially the food part. I always have and always will eat quite a lot. That is just another reason that Japan is great: the diverse selection. I had Indian curry with all-you-can-eat Naan yesterday and tried something called bibin which was a surprisingly good combination of kimchi (korean spiced cabbage), pork, seaweed, rice and ginger, with a cold egg on top last night. Both delicious!

I have come to find that even the canned tunafish is better over here.

On the subject of food, I talked about Thanksgiving in my Jr. High class today. Even though they are usually pretty uninterested (I even heard one girl say "I'm SOOO tired" in Japanese), I attempted a warm-up exercise of asking what Americans eat for thanksgiving. The only actual answers I got were turkey and fried chicken (har har) and I'm not sure that they understood what mashed potatoes were.

I was in a rotten mood yesterday which seemed to stick with me overnight, so naturally I wasn't feeling very motivated today. My funtastic kids class seemed to pacify me of this grief however, as I got to play my weekly games of pictionary and "shoot the basket." I know not all kids classes can be this fun (or well-behaved) but I'm sort of hoping for more kids' classes next year. They are very enjoyable and hands-on, a great break from what can become a rather tedious human-tape-recorder shtick at times.

Everything is becoming pretty habitual, from catching the same trains at the same times eeach respective day (bear in mind I work at 4 different schools each week) to buying bread or milk every couple of days at the store. I always drag my Japanese textbook along with me, and lately have taken to either studying on the longer train-rides, playing Final Fantasy 4, or listening to music or audiobooks. I've never lived on my own before - much less in a big city - and besides a few hickups here or there I'd say things are going rather smoothly. I think too much time in the concrete jungle can seriously embitter some people, and I understand this now much better than fore. At times, It feels like you are surrounded by nothing but strangers, and the people that do know you only do so for the sake of the almighty, yen. Today the only people I saw who I knew were my students and the Japanese staff at work (quite a friendly bunch on the whole), and this kind of "isolation" can really get to anyone if you're not careful. Despite my periodical reclusive tendencies, I do value human companionship (and I miss you blowholes back in the 518). I'm grateful to have made some good friends in such a short period of time here, and am excited to go to Ian's place this weekend for some BBQ! (yes, and to pick up my 360)

I dropped my guitar off at BIG BOSS in Ochanomizu on the way to work the other day, as it had a few dead frets and needed repairs. Ochanomizu (literally "tea water") has a main street full of guitar shops, it's pretty damn cool. I can't wait to get my baby back and get to practicing these FID songs and writing more. Speaking of music, my former band-mate Justin started doing some Elliot Smith-style acoustic songs, and I think they are really good. Check out Justin Joseph.

I am also greatly anticipating Kevin's arrival next month and a Japan-tour via bus (the cheapest way possible) to Hiroshima, Kyoto and Nara! (that'll be 20-some hours of transport too, by the way) Should be a time to remember.

Until I feel the urge to post again folks!

"Ice-age heat wave, can't complain.
If the world's at large, why should I remain?
Walked away to another plan.
Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand." - Modest Mouse

"I drank a river to forget
To forget about the coming storm
The curtains are down
The lights are off
And the doors are closed
I think about this life I've known
And I hope this time
I won't let it go

Will you catch me when I run
Will you stop me when I'm done
When the day is through
all I want to do is slow down." - Ignite

Monday, November 10, 2008

Act first, think later.

While not my philosophy, when I'm in a rush I sometimes suffer from this unfortunate ailment; My body sometimes acts quicker than my mind. And so, on what would have been an ordinary Saturday morning, I found myself locked out of my apartment, full suit on and bag in hand with no key, no wallet, no money. Sometimes I amaze even myself - maybe I just have a subconscious need to give my blog readers something interesting to look at?

So naturally I started panicking a little. Dayn, my upstairs neighbor and good friend has a spare key, but he had left for work already. I tried calling around to see who if anyone wasn't at work that I could bum 500 yen from for the train, but to no avail. I felt like such an idiot, but there was no time to be sulky about the situation, so I did the thing that I feared most: I called my job for help.

After responding incredulously to my situation, the guy said he would call me back in ten minutes. I looked out the window, wishing I knew more people in this town, or kept a spare bill in my work bag or anything, when a neighbor I have never met before walked past me to attend to his laundry. A lightbulb went off in my head. I swallowed whatever pride I had left and addressed the guy nervously in my best polite Japanese, fully aware of how rude it was to ask for 1000 yen ($10) from a stranger no matter what country you live in. I stumbled over my words and he seemed confused, until he said in English: "You need money?"

And so I was miraculously saved by the kindness of a neighbor. I was also saved from making one of my superiors take a 45-minute train ride just to lend me 5 bucks, which is an experience that i'm sure we are both better without. I promised I would pay him back tomorrow and sprinted out the door faster than I have ever ran in dress shoes. When I got to the station (usually an 8 minute walk, I cut it down to about 3) my train was already pulling in. I would have caught it on a normal day, except my Passmo card (swipe card) was in my wallet back at the apartment, and I had to print out a ticket from the machine. This meant another 8 minutes of waiting to see if I could somehow squeeze not getting to work late and salvaging what had been a trainwreck of a morning. Everything did work out though, and despite how much I stressed about my stupid mistake I was really grateful my neighbor (whose name I still don't know) was willing to help me out. I wonder if the same situation would have played out much differently in New York? Perhaps.

I was at a school I had never been to before doing a "sub duty a.k.a. twiddle your thumbs for 6 hours" shift, and it turned out the staff were very cool. It was a smaller school than the busy places I'm used to working at so I was actually able to talk to the staff, not just watch them working franticly and feel slightly guilty about my veritable hours with nothing to do. The school manager was a riot though, she kept commenting on the Japanese I was studying and asked me how to say Mendoukusai in English, a phrase that literally means "troublesome." Of course no one actually has "troublesome" in their vernacular anymore, so I suggested "what a drag" or "what a pain" on the vague recollection of an anime character who had that word as his catchprase.

After work Dayn was back at teh building and therefore unlocked the gates to the small room I call home, and made a move to Shinjuku where I was to meet Makiko the singer of FID! I found out a few things that night, firstly that if you walk out the wrong exit in Shinjuku station, re-enter and try to cut across to the other side without bording/coming from a train, they will charge you a 130 yen entrance fee. Highway robbery! But going around the station is like a mile walk and rather confusing, as opposed to 1/4 of a mile going through the meat of it, so what's another 130 yen anyway.

Secondly, Makiko is just as awesome as the rest of FID. She speaks great English so we were able to communicate with ease, and talked about everything from Neglect to their shows abroad to musical ideas to Mucopus etc. etc. That last one being that FID played with Mucopus, a death metal band from my area in NY that features the current singer of Skinless, in the Czech Republic at a grindocre festival. As it turned out I also booked one of Mucopus' first shows when I was like 16 and lost around $200 to a touring death metal band from Texas due to a low turn out.

It's a small world.

At any rate we got along great and we are all really pumped to write songs and practice soon. Things are a bit on hold because (as I may have mentioned before) the drummer is currently with child, but we should be able to start having real practices and playing shows in the Spring. Until then, it will be practicing to a pre-recorded drum track. Should be interesting. I've already got loads of ideas for writing anyway. I have to go get my guitar fixed at a shop some time this week though, I've got a few dead frets. (dead frets are when you get a buzzing sound on the fretboard) I also need to invest in proper strings since this band tunes to B.

And that's it, today has actually been incredibly uneventful and I am totally OK with that. I could have seen Melt Banana but the ATMs are closed on Sundays so no go for me. My sore throat is still coming and going a bit so I need to take it easy anyhow. Para el post de grande finale, here are 3 variations of curry-based foods I have made in the last few weeks + 1 Italiano. All delicious:

Curry Udon - Udon are those big fat noodles. It's cheap, easy and delicious!

Eating spaghetti in my underwear makes me feel like a man.

Simple instant curry, rice and veggies.

Todays meal: Tomato-curry with broccoli, carrots, red peppers, beef and a potato cake.

"M! A! D! We live in a MAD world. So they call this progression, feels like world regression" - Stigmata

"Welcome to the new dark ages, yea I hope you're livin right these are the new dark ages, and the world might end tonight" - Bad Religion

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My brain is trickling out my left ear

It's amazing how a solid workout in the morning followed by a full day's teaching can leave me utterly and completely drained. Even bringing a good amount of food with me to school - a sandwich, 2 or 3 pieces of fruit, nuts, chips etc. - the sheer amount of mental energy I expend to give 100% at my lessons really takes it out of me. By the end of the day I feel like taking part in activities that require little to no hard thinking, like reading, watching TV or mindlessly surfing the internet (and that last one happens more often than I would like to admit). But all in all I am happy, I work hard but it's worth it when I see students trying their best as well. Although on occasion I have to teach students that are just goofing off, killing old "lesson points" they had lying around or just not giving it 100%, so I gauge accordingly.

But the peeves are really minimal. I feel that my work situation is top notch considering my education level and my age, and also the fact that I am for now where I want to be. Not a week goes by without some surreal moment of: "Hey, I'm really in Japan. Wow." I've got the ball rolling on one or two musical projects, and I get to do pretty fun stuff every weekend. Yea, life is pretty good. And so is this instant Curry Udon stuff I've made for the second time this week. UMAI~~ (YUM!)

On the subject of the whole Eikaiwa (English Conversation) Industry here, I'm sure there are plenty who think their job is a complete joke. They got in with X company, they are in Japan, they will skirt by and get to experience the holy grail of disorienting First World countries for a year and go back home. Well, not me. My original plan was to stay for at least two years, and so far I feel fairly confident that I'm sticking to it. Not to mention I like teaching, and actually aspire towards it as a not only viable but ideal career option in some way, shape or form. So maybe not this particular way, shape or form, but this is good experience and at the very least a start.

Ah well whatever. Another day another dollar as they say, I keep my nose clean and try to save save save before the vacation in December. Winter is coming, and I can hardly wait. Until next time my faithful and beloved readers.

"The author looms above his page
and thinks it strange that at his age
he can not find the proper words
to describe his only world.
One would think that in a life
where no two snowflakes are alike
one would have a brilliant rhyme
for each and every bit of time." - Clutch

Monday, November 3, 2008

From spooky stuff to Santa-san / Grinding a Culture Fest

Just like in the States, the end of Halloween marks the beginning of the "Christmas season," where gleeful images of red and green that say "money = love" abound in the subways and on the streets. It really kicked in yesterday while I was sitting at Matsuya, a popular "fast food" joint that sells an awesome beef and onion rice bowl with miso soup for 380 yen. I heard Jingle Bells, and it hit me.

While I could go into the whole sphere of how I have gotten the occasional bouts of homesickness, and how it is a bit odd having my first Christmas away from my family, I have much more enthralling matters to discuss today. Like when I was at the Hub (an English-themed bar) last night and some guy kept chanting "Yankees suck!" after I told him I was from New York. I was at the bar with my future band-mate Kanako, but let me back up- no wait, before I even back up, let me go off on an extreme tangent that you've no doubt come to expect from my erratic writing style:

Japanese people and their reactions to foreigners speaking Japanese.

As my flatmate Dayn so notably pointed out to me the other day, Japanese people tend to react one of two ways when you exhibit any kind of speaking ability:

1) They say "Wow, that's amazing!" even if you only utter one word improperly. This kind of over-reaction is incredibly common, and while I do love being complimented on my speaking skills, let's not kid ourselves here: I've scarcely studied more than 2 years, and I have a long way to go. I would rather be corrected than given blind praise.

2) They stare at you blankly, perhaps feigning comprehension or in total disbelief, even if you use perfect grammar. I haven't gotten this reaction so much, but it does happen. Why you may ask? I really can't wrap my head around, but despite their immense fascination with English, some Japanese are not comfortable with the idea of foreigners speaking their language, especially older folks. Talk about a paradox.

So we have a dichotomy of innacurate reactions. Perhaps a good reflection on the indirect nature of the Japanese, and their tendency to avoid stating things directly? (For example: "your grammar is sucks?" or "Don't you dare speak my language you non-Japanese heathen?")

So on Sunday I worked overtime in Kawagoe, since it's close to me and I could use the cash. I've heard that it's a nice area, and there are some parts that look like Edo-era Japan, although I didn't have time to explore at all:

Just outside the station.

During my second to last lesson I started hearing some annoying voice on a loudspeaker outside, and sure enough on my way out of work I see one of those political trucks hanging out outside the station:

I'd vote for him.

All day I was looking forward to meeting the band I was going to try out for, the previously all-female grindcore act F.I.D. - or Flagitious Idiosyncracy in the Dilapidation. For obvious reasons, they refer to themselves as FID. Thanks again to Grizloch for telling me about them! They've played Maryland Death Fest in the States and even in the Czech Republic before, not to mention they're pretty damn good, so I was really excited about the possibility of joining a band with such prospects. I've also always wanted to play in a grind band, but the scene back home was lacking in this genre to say the least.

Unfortunately the singer who speaks great English was sick, so I met up with the bass player and the drummer, who speak good english and to little, respectively. For the most part though we were able to communicate between Japanese and English, and talked about stuff. Nothing is set in stone yet but things are looking good, we should be getting together to practice in the next few weeks, and I'll be working on writing stuff and learning their songs and all that.

Monday, I woke up hung over from the previous nights' drinking bout with the aforementioned bass player, and felt like doing something on my day off. It was also National Culture Day in Japan, where all colleges host Culture Fests on their campuses. I ended up meeting my Aussie friend Chris in Waseda, a university-town to check out the goings on. Things were inhumanly crowded by the end of the day, but here's an idea of what we went down:

Mother Africa in a can.

Between the signs and the throngs of people, it wasn't too hard to find.

First stop was the Art-section of the culture fest.

While it was pretty cool to see the exhibit, we were really just looking for the food stands the whole time.

Oh yes.

Chris and I decided to prove in the drawing room that gaijin can be good artists too - note the picture in the top was probably done by a 9-year-old.

Engrish or clever advertising against Anorexia?

The still life section. They handed us surveys, which we politely handed back and said "Muzukashi Yomemasen" ("too hard to read")

This lady was serving tea with jam!

This area of the festival was deceptively not crowded, and we soon discovered why - there were different areas of the 10k+ student campus housing the food stands, dancing and musical events. When we got there, things started to get tight, between the throngs of people on holiday and the various student club-run food stands all screaming to buy their stuff. In fact, two incredibly hyper dudes got in mine and Chris's face about their amazing yakisoba (fried buckwheat noodles) so we caved in and had that.

It was my first time, and it was really good!

Other foods I ate that day were gyoza (dumplings) and kind of potato cakes. There were also chocolate-covered bananas, pork wraps, okonomiyaki (a kind of pancake) - just about anything you could think of.

Not the most convincing Chopper costume I've ever seen.


It's hard to see, but his jacket says PHILADELPIA!!!!!!

What was everyone waiting for? (there were also hundreds of other people in queued-off sections just across the street)

"The Waseda Collection," a beauty pagent which lost our interest fairly quickly.

I don't have any more pictures, but around this time things started to get insanely packed, my upset stomach was catching up with me, and I thought it a good time to bail. This got me thinking about one of the things I do really miss from home - space. Unless one is in his or her own apartment, getting any kind of privacy seems damn near impossible. In public, the definition of ones' "bubble" or personal space is completely null and void here. People often bump, collide, push, etc. In fact, while boarding the train to leave Waseda, I was pushed onto the train by the throng behind me and almost rammed into 2 small children. Then a girl's oversized purse hit me in the balls.

So yea, I miss space.

The rest of the day was a quiet one, and I think I'll start drinking green tea instead of coffee, since I'm feeling a soreness in my throat on and off, and my job does require a fair bit of talking. And to finish, let me say I got my first celebrity comparison from Kanako of FID: "you look like Bruce Willis." HAH!

P.S. I used the word throng 3 times in this entry.

"I've got music and I've got friends, both always by my side. Convictions instilled in me, this is what keeps me alive" - Terror