Archive for March, 2004

I hate to sound like the typical gaijin, but…

…Ever since I came to Japan, I’ve been craving a GOOD
burger. I’ve been to the Redrock Pub in Nagoya and had the biggest
burger I’ve laid eyes on, but it wasn’t that tasty: a reasonable meat
patty, half of a tomato, and a couple pieces of lettuce enveloped in a
football-sized bun. When I was eating it, I could taste tomato and
bun… I knew the meat was there, because I saw it, and I could feel
it, but I just couldn’t taste it.


I'm hard, like a rock

Today, I had the opportunity to go to the Hard Rock
Cafe in Nagoya.

This was actually my first time to visit this brand of
establishment. Ever. It never intrigued me, before. But I had
expectations of a decent burger. The atmosphere was great. The staff
were good looking, and spoke decent English. The music was good; I
liked every song. It was busy. All these things did not matter to me. I
was only interested in the burger.

Hickory-Smoked-BBQ-Bacon-Cheese-some-thing-or-other.
1500 yen? Bring it on. How would I like it, she asks? Medium rare. I
knew it would be good. I mean, I just had to look at the amount of
flare the staff were wearing. The place was decorated with autographed
guitars. They played Elvis. It *had* to be good!


It was fucking delicious.

It was fucking delicious.

I had finally found my holy grail, and could put down my sword
and shield. However, I decided I’d play it safe, and visit the import
store, as well. I bought corn chips and salsa with great plans of
avocado, onion, and cheese soon to follow. Oh yes, this will be the
“epic-er” nachos, and I will even take pictures of them BEFORE
ingestion!


The End

fin

Blessed is thee Ketai Machine

Recently, I was reminded of how amazing my Japanese mobile phone,
really is.

On Sunday, the weather was nice (and I want to lose weight), so I
decided to go for a run. I generally like to listen to music while I
run. Okay, I could take my CD player, just as I would have done in
Canada.
But I was also expecting a call. Hmmm.. No problem, I
have quite a few songs on my phone!
(Much more than can fit on a
CD, actually….) Plus, the songs are in solid state memory (no
skipping) and the phone is much smaller than my CD player! Cool. So I
had my music and there was no way I was going to miss a call.

As it turned out, I ended up totally abusing the functionality of my
phone! While on the way back, slightly exhausted, I thought I would sit
beside the river and reply to a couple email. (Somehow, I always manage
to let them build up.) I even took a picture (with the built-in camera)
and attached it to one of the emails. Eventually, I received the call I
was expecting, as well.

Wow! Talk about convenience!

Every morning, my ketai wakes me up and ensures I don’t miss work. I
can set 5 different alarms with varying sounds and lengths and times. I
use two of them for work days. If I think I’m going to be a little
late, then I email the people I usually walk to work with. Prior to
purchasing a PDA, I actually used the calendar functionality
extensively, as well. Often, I find myself needing a light. Where do I
turn? With two quick clicks of a button on my ketai, I get an extremely
bright light that makes my 100yen flashlight furious with envy. When
doing simple calculations, I use the built-in calculator. If only
it could display HEX…. But then, that could be done with a Java
application!

Some random observations of my phone (yes, I’m bored):

(+) LOTS of functionality in
one compact, sleek device.

(-) If
you want to do anything serious, you’re going to need a new,
specialized device.
  A camera, for example.


(-) Any
extended functionality will have to conform its interface
to
the primary interface: the phone.

(+)
Able to store lots of music (and pictures, and recordings, and java
applications, and…) on removable SD media.

(-) Java
applications do not have proper access to SD memory.
  This
has positive security aspects, but prevents people from making a a
“real” mp3 player in Java.  I looked into this.  🙁
(-) Storage formats are proprietary,
and make the user’s life a real
pain if they want to do anything with the data. Oh wait, that’s the
point of proprietary formats….

I wish I could plug my phone into my laptop as a USB mass
storage device, or something… and I could drag’n’drop mp3s into my
phone. Instead, I have to play music and record it on my phone in
real-time, which digitally encrypts it. Once encrypted, I cannot play
on anything other than the phone. Chotto lame….

Hello.  My name is Steven, and I’m a ketai whore.

Note: I really don’t use my ketai that much (for
outgoing calls).  I
have a “value pack” year-long plan, and I never go over my 4000yen
monthly bill.  I’m just really impressed by it.

Weekend Update with ….

Friday: went to an izakaya with
,, Alex, and a
coworker. drank many “ichigo pine” drinks – (strawberry pineapple,
unanimously agreed upon as the number one drink. period. I claim
discovery credit.) We had sardines! It was almost exactly how it
sounds: a heated can of sardines with the lid peeled off, lemon and
spice on top. It was actually quite good.


Saturday: went to Nagoya Hilton with other
interns (,,, Alex). Mission: to
become fat, gorging on their delicious curry
buffet
. Items of sin included Thai Curry, Lamb Curry,
Japanese Vegetable Curry (didn’t get to try that one), Beef Shimeji
Curry (I believe), an awesome salad bar that included many seafood
dishes, fries, fish fillet, white bean soup, and a large dessert bar.
We sat in large Western style chairs that were extremely comfortable,
but forced us to lean over to eat from the table. Well, we were not
going to be outsmarted so easily, and when it was evident that we
needed the extra real estate in our stomach, we began holding the
plates. I believe
had it optimized: eat
enough curry so that your stomach is large enough to be it’s own table.
:p
Anyways, we were all very satisfied after that experience, and I’m
pretty sure we all want to go again.

We split up into smaller groups, and ended up wandering around
Nagoya, shopping, and (of course) trying on lots of hats. I played a
demo of Custom Robo. That game will be fun with a
controller that isn’t crap, and a little time to figure out the play
mechanics. I think it’s a cross between Virtual On
and Smash Brothers. I dunno if it’s possible to be
as good as Smash Brothers, though… that game kicks so much ass.
decided we sucked, and went home. Just me and
doing the bura bura thing. I bought a bottle
of Tantakatan (Japanese shouchuu) from Family Mart
and milked that for the rest of the evening. We ate kimchi fried rice
and gyoza for a late snack/dinner. After leaving Nagoya at around 10:30
(early, by any account), we were reminded of how sometimes it sucks
living in the Japanese country side: we missed the last train the went
to our station and had to walk the difference. Oh well. To say we
needed the exercise would be a severe understatement.


Sunday: I slept in. Met a Japanese guy who
I met on the train ages ago. He drove 2.5 hours to come and pick me up!
Holy crap! Good thing he likes driving, or so he says…. He wears
skater clothing and listens to rap songs that contain choruses that go
something like “suck my d#ck and I’ll lick your
cl*t.”
Well, at least he referred to it as “funny,” and…
the rhythm was kinda catchy. We ate tonkatsu, went
on the glorious Solar Ark tour, and saw the tail end of the plum tree
flower festival in Anpachi. The rest of the day was mostly
relaxing.


Today: is monday. bleh. For some reason, I
made a point of getting up extra early, had a shower in the
morning and even ate breakfast in the dormitory
cafeteria! I haven’t done that since my first weeks in Japan! The
scrambled egg is really quite good. The ladies serving thought the
earth stopped turning when I asked for no rice. heh

Note: Mission:
Accomplished. I’m getting fat. Need to snack less
and get more exercise. Mission:
Impossible.

I saw a Kitty-chan snow cave on the weekend….

I started this entry thinking it would be
brief… wanting it to be brief. Oh well. You get this,
instead.

So, my weekend went a little like
this:

Friday:

Left work early. Got back to dormitory to do some panic laundry and
packing. Left the dormitory on my bike at around 8:30pm, and caught a
train to Nagoya around 9:00pm. At 10:30pm, we (Lance and I) met up with
the rest of the group (there was about 30 of us, in total). In a bus
that had chandeliers, we left Nagoya with our sites set for Nagano. Our
first stop was at a konbini to acquire liquor. Almost every one of us
had two seats to ourselves. Introductions were made and all was
good.


Saturday:

Arrived at Kurohime Kogen Snow Park at 6:00am – just in time to catch
the sun rise. The only sleep I managed to get was on the aisle floor
where Suntory whiskey had previously been spilled – a little sticky,
but it was well worth the precious-few hours of shut-eye. We stayed in
a lodge called Kitchen PaPa’s. Earlier, we were told that there were
going to be 4 people per room. All the rooms looked quite nice: 4
western-style beds and hard wood floor. However, the room I was in was
Japanese style and had FIVE (western) people designated to it. Lies!!
Anyways, we had a good laugh about what we were gonna do about sleeping
arrangements (more on that in a bit), and rested as much as we could
before breakfast.

8:00am: Ate a well suited, light-but-filling,
pre-ski/snowboard breakfast, probably made by PaPa, himself. Thanks,
PaPa. It took a while to get organized, but eventually we all got our
equipment and hopped in a bus that took us to the slopes. I was using
rental boots, board, pants, and jacket. Lance and one other guy had the
same rental outfit, so we all looked like we were part of a team, or
something. Team Suck.

A little more prep at the base of the mountain, and we
naturally just kinda split off into groups. Considering I’ve only been
snowboarding 2 times prior, I was not very confident in my abilities…
but I didn’t want to stick around at the base of the mountain while
getting pointers on how to stand, etc. At this point, I met Yoko, who
had similar intentions. As it turned out, we met 2 other girls from the
group, who were better than both
of us. I followed them down our first run and waited for Yoko. Yoko
never came. At this point, I lost Yoko. Yes, that was rather quick. =/
Catching up with the other girls, I boarded with them for most of the
day.

The mountain was quite nice. Instead of tickets, you got a
token that you had to wave across a sensor at the gates before getting
on a lift. This could safely be put in your pocket, so you just had
move your jacket pocket in front of the sensor. The line-ups were the
best part! There were none! The longest I had to wait in line was
probably 4 minutes! Ridiculous! I’ve sat in 45 minute line-ups, before!
Never again…. (not that I can help it).

4:30pm: We all meet at the parking lot and go back to the
lodge… with a couple people missing. :-O (they went night-skiing, I
believe, and thought it was a good idea not to inform anyone). Next on
the agenda was… the ONSEN! Our lodge didn’t have very large
facilities (2 person bath…) so we all piled into the bus, once again,
and headed to a nearby hotel and borrowed their facilities. There was
even a masseuse who gave a quick massage to a couple of us while we
were waiting for others to come out! *adds ‘willingness to give
(sensual) massage’ to list of requirements for girlfriend.*

Dinner at 7:00pm. Corn soup, wine, a couple french fries and
marinated steak – by far, the best chunk of meat
I’ve had in Japan. Reminded me of meals from home… would just need a
big helping of caesar salad. So… dinner was awesome. 😉 Despite the
fact that we all could have slept at 8pm, a night of drinking, games,
and the obvious combination of both ensued.

I already mentioned the sleeping arrangements. By the time I
returned to my room, I saw four futons laid out on the tatami. It was
dark, and I didn’t want to wake anyone, so I chose a bed I was sure was
empty and laid down. Yes, only four beds could possible fit on the
floor (table removed). So, when the next guy came in to go to sleep, I
was going to help him squeeze another futon onto the floor. However,
when he opened the closet, there was a pause….

him: “What the… someone’s sleeping in
here!”

me: “…huh? In the closet? What, are you
serious?~!”

*Lance groans from within the closet.*
We burst out laughing and head out into the hallway so as we don’t wake
up anyone else in the room.


Sunday:

I finally was able to have a good sleep. Breakfast was at 8:00am. It
was raining, so only one person wanted to go skiing. Almost everybody
else decided to get on the bus, once more. First stop was what was
referred to as a “soba doujou,” where we made soba noodles and ate
them. Then, we did the ONSEN thing, again! This time, different onsen.
After that, we went back to the lodge, finished packing up, and left
around 2:00pm. We made two 20 minute stops on the way back, and arrived
in Nagoya at about 7:00pm.

I had an awesome weekend. I met lots of new people and had
lots of fun. I will try to go snowboarding more when I get back to
Canada. This trip rekindled my desire to travel, and I picked up a
couple Okinawa brochures, today. Anyone wanna come take diving lessons
with me? 😉