Posted in Poetry, Travels in Japan

A Future Made

I knew psychics couldn’t be trusted when

a woman read some cards upon a cloth,

“You will be married!

Three children and a man,

what a happy home!”

And I promptly replied,

“Oh? That’s all?”

Her eyes widened in shock

that I would dare

to want more.

 

“When will you get married?”

asked my cousins when

I told them of plans

to move across the globe

and teach children

in a foreign land.

“Not a priority.”

The sheer dismay displayed

as if I’d chosen to

opt out of  happiness

forever.

 

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

asks a clueless salaryman

as I walk with my travel bag

to Terminal 1 at Narita

to catch a fight.

“You’ll never know,”

I tell him before

I head off to

Sapporo.

 

“Do you think you’ll marry a Japanese man?”

asks a student in class

with well done intonation.

I laugh at the sudden query

caught off guard in a lesson

on Japanese matsuri and

festival food.

“I have no idea.”

I say in truth for my next plan

involves a weekend away

in South Korea

with old friends and lots

of beach, sun,

and fun.

 

“What are your dreams for the future?”

she asks me with a smile.

My heart beats loud

in my ears.

“I want to be a writer,

and I want to travel the world,”

and I want to do it

with you

but no, don’t say it.

“Sounds like you’ve got it made!”

Yes, but maybe, or no,

who knows?

 

But better a future made

than a planned path

meant to serve

some mystery man.

Life demands action

so be true to thy ambition

and not some archaic

expectations.

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Travels in Japan

Our Last Day: Tokyo SkyTree!

In the morning after Tokyo Rainbow Pride adventures, Rebecca got to sleep in and pack while I headed off to work. I only had two classes in the morning, so I could ask off for the rest of the day. I’m really glad my school was so understanding. Around noon I picked her up and we headed back into Tokyo for one more small adventure before she headed off back to the good ol’ USA.

I chose the Tokyo SkyTree for a few reasons. One being that I’d never been to it, and two because it’s a staple for Tokyo tourism. Also, in Tokyo SkyTree Town there was a Ghibli Shop, and Rebecca wanted to try and grab some things there before heading home. So it was a win-win all around.

When we got there, I was shocked to find there wasn’t a line. Usually I would hear stories of people having to wait hours to get in, but I guess since we waited until after Golden Week was over and on a Monday afternoon, not a ton of people wanted to go there. We bought our tickets and went straight up the elevator.

The view was spectacular! You could walk around and have a 360 view of all of Tokyo. Just nothing but city all the way into the horizon. It was a clear day, but unfortunately we still couldn’t quite see Mt. Fuji. I’ve been told under just the right conditions that you can.

To my surprise, Tokyo SkyTree had a new exhibition featuring the “Attack on Titan” anime. It was called “Attack on SkyTree,” so of course I took the opportunity to take pictures with a Titan. There was also an Attack on Titan Cafe on the lower level, so we stopped by there so I could grab up some Levi swag.

We journeyed through the two top levels, looking out over the landscape. I suffered from a hit of vertigo that through me through a loop once or twice, but I survived. Rebecca was brave enough to go over the glass floor, but…I was not that brave.

I am terrified of heights, so that’s not the kind of thing I can do. Sorry, not sorry.

After we went through Tokyo SkyTree, we headed downstairs to the SkyTree Town to the Ghibli Store.

Th Ghibli people yelled at me for trying to take pictures inside, so I can’t show you how cute it was, but trust me. There was a Calcifer skillet that I wanted to buy, but I know me and I know I’ll never use it. It’ll just sit there in my kitchen being adorable and taking up space. Rebecca got some Princess Mononoke items, of which there were only a few. It’s unfortunate that the more adult films don’t have a lot of merchandise. Lord knows there was enough Kiki’s Delivery Service in there (I nearly bought another Kiki’s apron).

It was a nice short and sweet little trip. We ran over to Shinjuku for some last minute souvenir shopping at Don Quiote, and also so I could point out that yes in fact we do have Godzilla in Tokyo.

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And then it was time to say goodbye. I took her to the Nartia Express (NEX) area in Shinagawa. We hugged and said goodbye. It’s always bittersweet to see old friends when you know it’ll be so long before you see each other again. I’m glad that we managed to do so much in just that short week, but I wish we could’ve done more.

Until we see each other again! Matte ne!

Posted in Travels in Japan

Golden Week Adventures: Back in Tokyo!

In continuation from the other Golden Week post, Rebecca and I headed back to Tokyo after our three days in Kyoto. We woke up early and headed off to Ginza to meet up with a mutual friend, Keni. We wanted to eat at a well known sushi restaurant called Sushi no Midori. The seafood and fish are brought in fresh there everyday, so as you can imagine, it was supremely delicious.

The lunch menu allows for a more than reasonable 2,000 yen plate of sushi, all freshly made by the chefs on order.

These plates came with ten different kinds of sushi. A maguro (tuna) roll, a long eel sushi, ikura (fish egg), different cuts of salmon and tuna along the top, oyster, ebi (shrimp), kani (crab), and sweet eggs. Honestly, it was the best sushi I’ve ever had in Japan, and the price couldn’t be beat.

Rebecca and I left aft our sushi lunch for Shibuya. Of course, we did our obligatory pictures with Hachi as well as the Shibuya crossing.

But the main event for this adventure was Cat Cafe Mocha. Nestled on the 7th floor down the street from Shibuya crossing is an adorable little cat hideaway.

Although most of the cats were just sleepy kitties, there were a couple of very chill cats that allowed petting and sought out human attention. Of course, the people who bought the extra snack packs got more love than us snack-less humans.

As adorable as the cats were, I really like the layout of the cafe itself. There were so many cool looking cat trees were the cats could leap up to nap, and the neat birdcage like places for them to sleep above the customers. The stairways also had these nooks with small doorways for cats to walk in and out of. Basically, everything was designed in the place with cats in mind, and I enjoyed that architectural idea put into practice. When I’m an old cat lady, I’ll keep this place in mind for my home layout.

After we spent a good couple of hours in there, Rebecca wanted to head over to this specialty green tea restaurant.

Green Tea Restaurant

1899 Ochanomizu makes everything in their restaurant with green tea. They even have a selection of green tea beer, which was what she wanted to try out. We ended up getting the darker variety of beer along with a savory seasonal green tea egg custard recommended to us by our waiter.

The green tea beer was bitter on top of bitter, which somehow worked out deliciously. Even though the hops were a bit poignant in that combination, it was still refreshing and settled well on my tongue. The egg custard’s green tea was more of an under-taste, really the saltiness kind of cut through the bitter aspect of the matcha.

It was already a full day, but oh we weren’t done! I was set up to volunteer for Tokyo Closet Ball that night (because I like to stress myself out, apparently). We zipped over in a taxi from the restaurant to the venue Gyoen Sound in Shinjuku.

Tokyo Closet Ball is a drag and also off the wall sort of entertainment show. This particular show was a part of Tokyo Rainbow Pride Week.

And boy-howdy, did it ever! The performances were phenomenal. We even had an Austrian drag queen come as a guest performer, and she was AMAZING! We had a fantastic rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as some great LGBT comedy in between with the M.C.s Tatianna and Eric Shaw, and even a little burlesque featuring the Pride flag!

By the end of the show, Rebecca and I were exhausted. Having been run ragged from hiking through Kyoto, we were all set for sleep. We would need it, because the next day we’d be up in Harajuku for the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Festa!

Posted in Travels in Japan

Golden Week Adventures: To Kyoto!

It’s been awhile everyone! Yes, I know, sorry. I should’ve put out a post before I left on vacation, but I had literally NO TIME. From the second I posted my last article to now has been just non-stop, can’t stop, all the things!!!

See my friend from high school, Rebecca, came over to visit me. She’s super cool and going to be a doctor pretty soon. I’m still thinking of calling her Dr. Becky with the Good Hair, but then I’ll have to have my coffin with me when I do it (She’s never liked that name and it’s only gotten worse with time).

She wanted to go to a lot of different places in Japan, with my original list including fox village and cat island with a possible Hakone excursion. However, we only got about a week to do all the things. In the end, she decided the number one place to go to would be Kyoto.

And I agreed. Hakone in Golden Week is terribly, oppressively crowded. Fox Village and the nearby Cat Island up in Miyagi are a long trek from my area. With only a week, Kyoto and Tokyo seemed the best course of action. I had to be back in Tokyo on the weekend for Tokyo Rainbow Pride.

We headed off as soon as she touched down. Poor thing had already flown for over 30 hours and here I was forcing her onto a Shinkansen. I mean, it’s a comfortable train, but still added 2 hours to her already long travel time.

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“Proof of Shinkansen!”

When we arrived at Kyoto station it was pretty late, so I opted to just get a taxi and head for the apartment. I found this pretty cheap place through Agoda.com, an apartment that we could stay at near Kinkakuji for only about 3,200 yen per night (plus a cleaning fee). Wheat a steal, right? The place was really nice, too. My only worry had been that maybe the apartment would be hideous in real life, but instead it was just a typical Japanese show box apartment.

The next morning, we headed right out to Kinkakuji. The Golden Temple was a bit packed at the beginning, with a lot of tourists using selfie sticks to try and get some good angles. I expected as much, Golden Week meant that everywhere would be either packed or super packed depending on the time of day. I was just surprised that so many were there so early in the morning.

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Rebecca wanted to buy some charms and some yatsuhashi (famous Kyoto style mochi that’s in the shape of a triangle…that you can also totally buy at grocery stores, but shhhhh). She wanted to get some marriage good luck charms as well as some studying/knowledge charms.

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We also stopped by the fortune area. Omikuji are like lottery fortunes, you put 100 yen inside a machine and then a random fortune pops out. I think only in Kinkakuji and maybe a few other main shrines can you get the English versions. Usually, I have to give my fortune to the nearest Japanese person to read and translate. Rebecca and I both got the “Good” level fortune. There are actually several levels of luck with these that range from “Awesome!” to “Absolutely wrecked.”

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Via Next Stop, Japan

After Kinkakuji, we ran off to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. As it was getting to be around lunch time, high noon and very sunny at that, there were less people milling around. I like the Palace mostly for the gardens. In the spring there are cherry blossoms and in the fall the leaves change colors, so I definitely recommend those.

We stopped there for some udon, and discovered to my horror that Rebecca is a pod person because she didn’t like the udon. Everything I thought I knew about her is a lie. In case you didn’t know, kitsune udon and soba are a staple in Kyoto. Everywhere you do there is an udon and/or soba place.

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My version of fine dining

After resting up, we figured out the bus to take to Kiyomizudera. Just as an FYI, the bus schedules are a bit hard to navigate without Japanese translation assistance. I discovered much, much too late that there are actually bus maps in English available online through the Kyoto Tourism site. There’s also a whole PDF that you can easily download to your smartphone or tablet. Don’t use Google Maps, it’s all kind of wrong and confusing.

At Kiyomizudera, it was super packed again. Ladies were running around in yukata, kids were playing tag on the steps, couples were holding hands and taking selfie shots. Rebecca and I did the whole purification ritual before entering, and discovered unfortunately the main temple is under construction for the 2020 Olympics. There is scaffolding all around it for the foreseeable future. If you’re planning to go, just a heads up.

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Not terrible, but not as picturesque as normal.

After walking around, we waited in line to drink from the spiritual waters from the waterfall. Each stream is different, and you’re supposed to drink from the one you want and make a wish.

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The one on the left is for knowledge, the middle for love, and the last for a long life. 

I chose knowledge, because living long is fine and love is alright, but I would rather just be smarter in general. Rebecca chose the same, because future doctor, it’s kind of important for her.

After a full day, we walked around to find dinner and had a couple of drinks at a bar before heading back to the apartment. We planned to hit up the Fushimi Inari Shrine as well as Heinan Temple the next day before heading back to Tokyo the next day, with possibly squeezing in a tea ceremony if we could manage it.

We did one of those things, that being the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and that’s kind of my bad. The morning started off with us checking out and then getting on the buses. We were only supposed to transfer once to another bus in order to get to Kyoto Station to drop off our stuff. As it was, we transferred onto the wrong bus, and had to get turned around.

Once arriving at Kyoto Station, we discovered that everyone and their mother had taken the lockers. I managed to get lucky and find one, but then Rebecca had to do a baggage check instead. By the time we finally got on a train and hit Fushimi Inari, the day was already half way eaten up.

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Fushimi Inari Entrance

And of course, it was congested with people, so going up the mountainside of tori meant slowly meandering our way towards the top. I felt really guilty for getting us on the wrong bus, so by the time we got halfway up the mountain, we had to turn back so we could get to Kyoto Station for Heinan Temple.

But then I messed up again, and we went down a wrong path. According to the map it was supposed to take us back to the main area, but it didn’t. Instead, it brought us into the suburbs surrounding the mountain. We got lost, not for terribly long, but still too long in an already crunched timetable.

By the time we righted ourselves and headed back towards the station, it became fairly obvious we couldn’t do the other temple or a tea ceremony. Rebecca wasn’t super upset about it, she’s kind of really laid back like that, but if I ever do another tag along to Fushimi Inari, I’m going to just stay on the main paths. No adventuring out to short cuts, it’s not worth it.

Right across from Kyoto Station is the Kyoto Tower. We didn’t go up for the view, but instead did some last minute onomiyage (souvenir) shopping, because I needed some for my co-workers.

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At the base of Kyoto Tower there’s a mini-souvenir shop. You can buy Kyoto sweets and the yastuhashi I was talking about earlier, along with other specialty Kyoto things. I bought some matcha cookies, because Kyoto is pretty famous for green tea.

And from there it was back to Tokyo. All in all it was a good trip, but next time I will be better about planning for certain things. However, in the next post I’ll talk about our Tokyo adventures, and then of course about Tokyo Rainbow Pride, so stay tuned!

 

 

Posted in Travels in Japan

A Dark Arcade: Kawasaki Warehouse

The day started out fun and sunny when Gina and I left the art show. We had just watched a woman have the most stylisticly amazing breakdown via dark comedy and shadow puppet space hippos, so I assumed (as one would in that situation) I had reached peak awesome for my week. Boy howdy, was I wrong.

Gina’s girlfriend had told her about this retro-arcade, which I figured meant sweet Pacman and Galaga. We figured we’d check it out, if it was good we’d spread the word and maybe have friends come see it with us later. I expected to just have a few cool old games, maybe get some nice nostalgic moments, and that’s about it. 

And then I turned the corner. 

This impressive five story structure immediately made me wonder what exactly I was walking into, because even though I was still down to play games, I didnt want to get into a high priced themed thing. We went through the entrance, but no cover charge or bouncers to be found. Instead, I got a very distinct horror movie vibe. Red lighting casted shadows along walls with faux aged posters citing the “dangers” of the warehouse. 

I loved it, as any fan of scary films would. If you like Halloween, amusement haunted houses, this arcade is for you. It’s got the creepy vibe down pat. And the games are retro, which was oddly enough like a nice bonus to the cool atmosphere. 

I got to play a game I hadn’t in years, the Silent Hill Arcade Game , and man was that fun. I hadn’t shot monsters and Pyramid Head with a gun controler in so long. It was the cherry on top of this spooky sundae. 

Racing games were tucked away into dark enclosures, between sets of “food vendors” with plastic dead rats. On the third floor, you could see faux apartment balconies set in dystopia. 

But not everything was creepy, there were older versions of DDR in a more well lit area on the second floor, as well as typical crane games in every Japan game site. The top floor hosted the gambling areana, as well as funnily enough an area to play Pacman and Mrs. Pacman. A little something for everyone, I suppose. 

Eventually we had to leave of course – we lost hours in there somehowand  leaving held a new experience for us. The back exit was through a low tunnel, that led into a radioactive looking moat. I had to step over “stones” to get out. 

I adore little kind of unknown places like Kawasaki Warehouse, places that are so finely detailed to set the mood, and this mood is taking you into Resident Evil territory. If I could have a house like this entertainment venue, I would, it’s that kind of love for me. I also enjoyed that even though we went on a Sunday, the place wasn’t packed, and we could play games pretty quickly after only a short wait maybe once or twice. 

For sure check it out if you’re in the Kawasaki area, it’s only about a ten minute walk from the station. You won’t regret it! 

Posted in Travels in Japan

Kawaii Monster Cafe: Part Time Nightclub?!

I knew that the Kawaii Monster Cafe was, well, a cafe. From the decor to the food, everything is all about the kawaii culture. Pinks clashing with neon greens, red lips on the walls, rainbow spaghetti noodles, a freaking carousel in the shape of a cake whirling around, and dancers dressed up in cute outfits dance on that cake. It’s a definite dinner and a show sort of place.

The place is fun, right in the heart of Harajuku (Tokyo’s notoriously awesome fashion district), and made to entertain. During the daytime, you’ll have a sort of cute, kid friendly atmosphere. I went last year with a bunch of friends. I got the (Non) Drug Cocktail, which comes with test tubes featuring different liquor flavors. My friends got the Colorful Poison Parfait, which is a ton of cake and ice cream towering high inside a glass.

What I didn’t know was that sometimes the cafe becomes a nightclub! Saturday I went to a Tipsy event, a popular girls only party group (i.e. lesbians, bi gals, trans, etc.), with business suits as a theme for the night. The line was long, but it moved smoothly enough that I only stood for a grand total of eight minutes.

Upon entering the now Kawaii Monster Club, the music was pumping and the lights were dimmed low. It was a surreal experience of seeing something that was once so cute it was borderline childish turn into a cool venue to get down and party. Clustered between giant mushrooms and tea cup booths were shadows that once featured loud colors, with people moving about in clothes straight out of fashion magazines, and the animal heads that hung from the ceiling took on a slightly sinister feel. It was, in a word, awesome!

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Dancing in the space was a bit tight, since the entrance area serving as the dance floor had the carousel right smack dab in the middle. Nonetheless, people endeavored to keep going, even though it got tough as the night wore on and more people piled in through the front door. The DJ’s kept a constant stream of top hits going, so people felt pumped up all through the night, even if they couldn’t move as much as they wanted. Everybody stopped dancing when the performers came on.

In the day, the cafe is severely brightly lit until the performers get on the carousel to dance. At night, the dancing area remains dark until the performers come onto the “stage” to dance with strobes and spotlights on them.

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The performers were definitely the highlight of the night. They were up there about five times, and each time they kept coming back to perform with zeal. I’ll be honest, I really admired how they kept coming back, appeared to have fun, and just kept moving to the beat without hardly slowing down. I wasn’t performing and by the end of the night I was exhausted, but they did their last show with huge smiles as if they weren’t tired at all.

I think if the performers had been half-hearted, the whole rest of the event would’ve been only slightly better than an average night out. See, as much as I loved the atmosphere and the performers, other parts of the night were a bit hit and miss.

Drinks were a big disappointment for me. Even though the main bar was encapsulated with towers of blue columns depicting flowing flowing ice cream coming down from the roof, the drink list itself was surprisingly mundane, with only about seven drinks in total. I suppose I expected something like the (Non) Drug Cocktail I drank last time, but instead I had to choose between Sky Blue or Smirnoff bottles, unless I wanted to do a Jagger shot for the same price as a regular drink (¥700 yen, by the way for all of them). I suppose maybe I was just expecting too much, but it is a shame to have such a cool place with very few drinks with no flare to them at all.

The only “specialty drink” there was a Love Shot. What’s a Love Shot? It’s a container of some alcohol, which can be opened on both top and bottom. Two participants in this (sure to backfire and ruin shirts) experiment try to blow the liquor into the other’s face for them to drink.

I suppose they were going for something risque and sexy, but really it just seemed kind of silly. If there was even one really cool, really expensive signature kind of drink available, I would’ve paid for it just to have the experience. Instead, yay Smirnoff.

In case you’re wondering, yes they did serve some cafe food! A whole big section was marked off for people wanting to eat (with about a half hour time limit to sit). There were only four menu items to choose from, colorful noodles and a Valentine Cake being two of the choices. Since we already drank too much for heavy food to sit comfortably in our stomachs, my friends and I chose the simple “Friedo Potato” (french fry) snack . The interesting thing about it was the sauces: ketchup, mustard, wasabi, cheese, sour cream, and chocolate.

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Oddly enough I really liked the wasabi flavor, as it was so mild it just tasted a little spicy. I discovered that I’m definitely not a choco-fry fan, but the other flavors were fine in my opinion. All the same, a bit underwhelming in comparison to the food available in the daylight hours.

I was also bummed out that the ticket entrance price itself was ¥3,700. I was under the impression that if I wore a suit the price would be cheaper, but nope. Only if you called ahead and made a “reservation” did you get money off. The reservation, by the way, was just advance ticketing. Everybody who showed up at the door got that same price, suit or no it didn’t matter. If I’d known that, I would’ve opted out of wearing one entirely.

All in all, I had a fun time, danced and watched some great ladies shake it until dawn. It makes for a great experience, and an interesting compare and contrast from what I knew the Kawaii Monster Cafe to be versus how it is on a Saturday night. The atmosphere and mood, 10 out of 10, definitely great. Everything else, like the drinks and the food, are only maybe 2 out of 10. I would recommend it to least try it once, but every single weekend? Maybe no.


If you know of another cool themed restaurant or venue for a night out, put it in the comments below!