Posted in Reviews and Rants

Mister Donut’s ‘Halloween’ Treats are…Fine

I love doughnuts, and anyone who says they don’t like doughnuts can’t be trusted. Yet, we can all agree that some fried dough confections are better than others. Being careful not to start a war here, I prefer Krispy Kreme over Dunkin’ Donuts, but I will admit I’ve grown fond of the Mister Donut chain in Japan.

For one, the grease is significantly decreased, which means the sweetness doesn’t come with a side of indegestion if you eat more than one. Also, these doughnuts aren’t coated in extreme amought of sugar toppings, they usually have a good ratio of frosting to dough in comparison to other chains.

With Halloween just around the corner, the speciality season items came out recently. I decided to try a couple out for breakfast after a morning meeting

When I saw the selection on the rack, I was a bit confused. The poster (of which I forgot to take a picture, apologies) seemed to have more variety than what I saw. But then I figured out that the reason was because the doughnuts were basically the same just different sizes or different coatings.

The two I chose were the chocolate creme and pumpkin ‘monster.’ When I bit into the chocolate one, I had creme for the first couple of bites, but then it was mostly just a regular old doughnut for the rest of it. I felt kind of scammed into buying a fancier version of the regular chocolate version.

Next came the pumpkin one, which didn’t taste like pumpkin at all. To be fair, I wonder if it’s only meant to look pumpkin like and not have a pumpkin flavor? I’m not sure, but once again I felt like I just paid extra for a half glazed regular doughnut, one that just kind of tasted like sugar on bread.

All in all, they were all perfectly passable doughnuts, but I wouldn’t say I recommend them to anyone. Just but yourself a standard choco-creme doughnut or a fully glazed one and just skip these limited holiday foods. It’s not worth paying nearly double for something you can get a normal version of that’s better.

Posted in Uncategorized

On #BendtheKnee

“The unity of freedom has never relied on the uniformity of opinion.” -JFK

Freedom is an interesting concept. The idea that we’re all entitled by birth to pursue happiness, follow whatever religion we want without governmental persecution, these are all relatively new ideas. The United States of America considers itself “free” and most of its citizens would say they have “freedom.”

Which is why I think when they see the Colin Kaepernick‘s #BendtheKnee movement, these citizens get pissed off. How could someone not #StandUnited for a song of freedom? How could you bend a knee to our precious flag?

And in turn, those who support bend the knee ask how could people be forced to stand and pledge for freedom that doesn’t include their skin tone? With police brutality caught on camera, when black bodies die because cops panic shoot, and nearly none of these officers see a jail cell? Here is a simple, powerful message done without violence to show their not going to stand for oppression anymore. Black Lives Matter, and they want to be heard.

Back and forth we go on the debate. It’s interesting to me that for so many people they find the kneeling so offensive. If we see North Korean propaganda videos of them all standing together and singing their national anthem, we would call that obvious oppression. No citizen in North Korea has the freedom to say no to standing or singing; it’s not their choice to do these acts. So how is it we’ve got a President of America that wants to do the same? Give no choice or freedom to protest?

Telling a group of disenfranchised individuals that they must “do as their told” for the sake of being “united in freedom” is oppression. Telling someone that they must be “obedient” to the government and its status quo isn’t freedom. Protesting, rebellions, these are the foundations of our country. Not liking this choice of protest might be understandable, but everyone has the right to freedom of expression and free thought.

In the end, there are two conversations at play. The #StandUnited conversation which argues for the total loyalty to a country that has served them well, and the #BendtheKnee protesters and supporters who want to shed the light on the country that had abused them. When it comes to the conversation worth having it’s the latter, because when one side of the conversation has people dying and being actively oppressed it deserves to be taken seriously. Dismissing and jeering at protesters is only proving their point: Their voices don’t matter to the status quo.

Until they are heard, they must continue the #BlackLivesMatter and #BendtheKnee movements.

Posted in Japanese Langauge

The Dreaded JLPT: A Necessary Evil

It’s the plight of many an English teacher here in Japan. We all want to do something else, but going home to our countries of origin doesn’t appeal to certain folks. Take for example, I dunno, me. I could theoretically go back to the good ol’ U.S.A…but I don’t wanna and you can’t make me.

However, I don’t particularly desire to keep teaching. Don’t get me wrong, my job is actually pretty great. I’ve got a sweet direct hire position that has bonuses, vacation days, a private healthcare package (yay, dental), but for all the perks I’m just really burnt out on this profession.

In order to get out of teaching English, generally most jobs require Japanese fluency to some degree. Most friends who knew better than me back in the JET Program hit the ground running on studying and taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), the number one test in Japan that employers trust.

The beginner levels are N5 and N4, which means you got the kanji basics down so good for you, but you’re not really employable yet. N3 means you’re probably conversational level, you’ve got a good sense on grammar and basic reading skills, but once again still not employable.

Basically, if you’re not Business Level (N2) or near Native Fluent (N1) then odds are no one is going to hire you outside of the English teacher or education sector. It sucks, but that’s just how it is here. For many people, N2 and N1 require years of studying and effort, which is something I sort of have…kind of not really though.

I attempted N4 about five years ago and didn’t pass by all of a few damn points. I didn’t let that stop me and continued studying, going to Japanese classes at my city hall, and just in general picking up conversation Japanese through my friends. Years passed, and I moved from here to there, switched jobs twice, and studying fell by the wayside.

Last December, I decided it was high time I got around to hitting the books again. I needed to memorize that kanji, get that grammar down pat, and just go take the N2 test to see if I could pass it at the level I currently am.

I failed so hard you guys, like face planting into asphalt hard. It hurt, it wasn’t pretty, and a few tears were shed.

Back when I was on JET, I figured that I’d always have time. There was always tomorrow, or the next week, or this vacation time, sure I can totally spend spring break catching up, and so on and so forth. I did study, but always with the attitude that I could get better later.

That attitude has come back to bite me right in the bum! Because the clock is ticking. I just got word today that my position is going to be officially declared part time next year. I mean, awesome incentive to study, right? Yet, there is more than a bit of internal screaming going on as I’m studying recently.

MUST PASS, MUST PASS, MUUUSSSSST PAAAAASSSSSS!

The JLPT is December 3rd this year, which gives me only a few months to get my shit together and study hard. In university it was somehow easier, I guess because my whole life was studying and learning. These days between work and everything else, forcing myself to sit the hell down for a few hours to go over kanji is tough, man, who has the energy for studying on top of working from 9-5 (or in my case today, 8:20 a.m. -7:30 p.m. which is gonna be the norm for a week or so).

I can already hear the people who’ve taken it and passed mumbling to themselves, “Psh! It’s not that difficult, you whiny peasant, just get the study guides and memorize them. It’s just that simple!”

And to them I say, “WHAT DO YOU THINK I’VE BEEN DOING?!” I’ve bought all the N2 prep books I could get my hands on and I’ll pick them up, cram for a good two weeks, but then stuff happens. You know the stuff, family vacations, sickness, event planning, work things, and on and on. I’ll go back to the books only to discover that I’ve forgotten most of those previous lessons and we’re back to square one.

Yeah, yeah, you don’t wanna hear my excuses. Would you be interested to hear how this test is only really useful in Japan? Oh good, because it is. The JLPT has Vocabulary/Kanji, Reading, and Listening as sections for the exam. What’s missing? Speaking, as in there is no interview process for this test. That’s also why the Imaginary JLPT Elitist™ from earlier could be able to read kanji well but can’t speak worth a darn, or could have just taken a JLPT intensive course at a language school to cram all that knowledge with no idea of how to apply it in a real life scenario.

In other words, the JLPT doesn’t really evaluate fluency, it just gets a general idea of what you could theoretically be able to do based on reading level. While it’s great for Japan employers and such, most universities outside of Japan will force you to write an essay in Japanese, and companies outside of Japan will have you do an interview in Japanese for certain positions.

In Japan, you’ll get an interview too, but you’ll never reach that stage without a JLPT certification. Hell, you won’t even have your application looked at if you’re lacking in that sweet N2 or N1 PASSED paper. All the networking in the world can’t stand up to the might that is the JLPT foothold on the employment line.

So, basically, if I want to have a job by this time next year, I’ve got to get at least N2.

For those of you wondering, “Well if you’re not going to teach, what’s the plan then? Translator, interpreter, exotic dancer?” The answer is: something in the tourism sector, and yes it’s that vague on purpose. I would love to work for a tourism agency or work as a part time travel writer with another part time job as something else.

Full honesty here, I would just love to get the change to write for a living, but that’s a high gamble dream, so I’m sticking with more down to earth things. Besides I can write whatever I want in my freetime, and I will, always and forever, amen.

Regardless of what I want to do, the fact is that hours upon hours of my life in the foreseeable future will be devoted to studying my butt off. It won’t be an easy road, but it’s a matter of survival, ya’ll. I got to get to it!

 

Posted in Japan News

All the Alarms and None of the Panic

I woke up at 1:00 a.m. to yet another alarm blaring throughout the city. It’s a normal part of living here, at least once a month either a phone alarm or city alarm going off to warn for either the typhoon smashing into Japan or an earthquake shaking things up. I groggily got up and listened.

For the first time ever, the alarm announcement was in Japanese and then in English. It took me a second to register, “There is a tornado warning in effect.”

Cue the Kentucky resident rolling out of bed, grabbing her purse, and settling into the bathroom for the next hour. The odds of a tornado touching down in the Tokyo and Kanagawa area is generally low, but Saitama and Ibaraki thought the same thing until they got hit with twisters.

I was just watching YouTube videos as the wind howls outside last night. I couldn’t do anything about the weather besides keeping an eye on the radar. I waited the hour as two different red splotches on the radar pass my area. During that hour, I tried to call and text friends to let them know about the warning. Only one person was awake, so, success I guess.

As I sat there waiting for the storm to pass, I supposed this would be the place I would go if I got a missile alarm. As I live farther down south, I have yet to receive one of the missile alarms, but with a navy base just a few miles away the odds of my area being a target wasn’t out of the question.

All of my Japanese friends and co-workers all respond the same way to how they’re dealing with the missiles: “Shouganai, yo.”

しょうがない is the idea that “it can’t be helped,” as in there is no use worrying over something because it’s out of your hands. It can be both a boon and a curse. In some situations, like earthquakes and tornadoes, shouganai makes sense. There is no use in panicking over nature, she’s going to do what she’s going to do, so just find a safe place and wait. Other times, it can be a great excuse for laziness, like say a co-worker can’t be bothered to speak English in class because he’s a twit, and when you tell him it’s a damn English class so SPEAK ENGLISH and his response is “shouganai-!!” That is just an excuse to not do something.

For me, I’ve adopted the shouganai attitude for the “missile crisis” (which is apparently what the Western media is calling it?). I can’t control what North Korea is doing, and I can’t exactly move and quit work over the possibility of danger and death. I could die from any number of things, like getting hit by a car on my tiny narrow street while walking home, so letting North Korea dictate how I live my life isn’t feasible.

When the missiles went over Hokkaido, my school and co-workers started talking about evacuation plans and possible bomb shelters. The truth is the best place would be somewhere underground, but what homes in Japan have basements? The answer is few to none. Ok, so what about subways? Great for inner city Tokyo, but all of the trains in our area are above ground.

My school eventually decided the best thing is the same as the earthquake drill: Get under a desk and wait. So basically, waiting to see if we die or not, which is morbid to say, but still true.

My co-workers and students keep focusing on other things. The Cultural Festival (bunkasai) is coming up and we’ve got to plan for it. We have a plan if the worst is to come, but until then there’s no point in driving ourselves crazy thinking about it. Japan and the Japanese people refuse to live their lives in fear, and I’m doing the same.

After the storm finally settled, my apartment was fine and I was just mildly annoyed at my interrupted sleep. I checked the Japan Meteorological site to make sure the warning was over before heading right back into bed. Whether it be storms or missiles, I’m not going to let fear control my life.

 

Posted in From Kentucky

A Letter to Transylvania University from an Alumni [UPDATED]

Paola Garcia is a current student at Transylvania University, my alma mater, and a DACA participant. Recently, she was a victim of getting her Facebook profile posted to a hate group by one Taylor Ragg, also a current student. Ragg told the members on the group to “go report this illegal at my school bragging about breaking the law.” Garcia is now being inundated with harassment, and the University has done nothing to protect her besides a “meeting to discuss social media sharing” and that’s about it. And so, I sent an email expressing my displeasure.


Dear Transylvania University Administration,

It’s come to my attention that a possible injustice is occurring on campus. Recently, I discovered via social media that a current student, Paola Garcia, has been subject to an extreme case of harassment by another student, Taylor Ragg.

Taylor Ragg
Taylor Ragg (Right)

According to the information provided by Ms. Garcia publicly, she is a senior working towards her degree who so happens to be enrolled with the now politically heated and news media buzzword DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). As she’s been in the United States since she was two, she knows no other country besides America and wishes to remain here. 

Paola Garcia.png
Paola Garcia (via CBSThisMorning)

Mr. Ragg, as I understand it, then proceeded to post doxing information about Ms. Garcia to a hate group called the “10th Crusade Enthusiasts.” If you aren’t aware of what the 10th Crusade Enthusiasts stand for, allow me to explain. 10th Crusaders are groups of people who believe they are on a holy, just, and “patriotic” mission to wipe out ISIS and all radical Muslims from the Middle East. Over the years the groups have become steadily more radical and hateful, often overlapping with other hate groups. These groups often target those they perceive as “foreigners” for harassment, abuse, and other less savory things.  

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When Mr. Ragg posted to this group, he demanded a call to action. To quote from the screenshot, “Everyone go report this illegal at my school bragging about breaking the law.” 

[Editor’s Note: What I meant to say here was that by posting this call to action to report her he must’ve known he would open the doors for harassment and abuse to get thrown at her. On a group that’s known for its xenophobia, he can claim ignorance and his words don’t specifically say to harass her, but he must’ve known that would be a consequence of his posting her Facebook profile onto the group.]

As I understand it, that call to action [i.e. putting her profile up] asked others from a hate group that demands the killing of thousands in the Middle East to then harass Ms. Garcia.  This harassment –according to Ms. Garcia’s plead for help on YouTube – included images sent to her private inbox of members from the 10th Crusade Enthusiasts “threatening her with ICE” and sending “tips to Homeland security.” 

Under the discrimination policy crafted by the university to protect students, as I understand it. Here is the first line from said policy: 

“Transylvania University is committed to ensuring that the institution is free of harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, color, citizenship status, sex, age, disability, pregnancy, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious belief or veteran’s status or any other category protected by applicable state or federal law or local ordinance.”

Ms. Garcia claims she went to the administration to report this harassment, but was met with a negative response. Somehow, Mr. Ragg’s actions don’t violate the discrimination policy, which I find interesting considering the very first line in the policy states a person can’t harass another based on citizenship status. Ms. Garcia quotes the administration’s conclusion as, “Mr. Ragg posted your comment with a recommendation to readers about how to respond to it.” 

If that is indeed the response the administration gave to a student who was clearly under threat from a hate group, I find it quite disturbing then that Transylvania University would condone the behavior of Mr. Ragg. Allowing a student to not only call for discrimination and harassment, but even deportation of a student attending the university seems point blank against the non-discrimination policy. As I recall, violation of the policy would require probation or expulsion from the campus.

However, as I am only an observer to the situation, I can’t claim that I will have all the information at hand to make the best call to action myself. Ms. Garcia would like Mr. Ragg expelled, and such an action would be understandable considering she fears that her and her family could very well be taken away without warning thanks to Mr. Ragg’s post. I would call for expulsion if indeed all of his actions have met the criteria for violating the safety and well-being of another student, one who would live the rest of her senior life in fear of being deported or harassed before completing her degree. 

Please review this case, interview the students once again. Just so you are all aware, the 10th Crusader Enthusiasts group has been closed down. Ms. Garcia claims to have screenshots of all the materials she gathered to make her harassment report. I urge and plead with you to rethink how Transylvania University wants to respond to blatant racism and xenophobia. In the past, we’ve had a tumultuous history on protecting the minority students on campus, even though at the same time we have heroes on staff willing to battle a man who comes to attack students on campus. Whether or not Transylvania will continue to fight for what is right, I’ll wait and see. 

Thank you for your time,

Jessica Gordon


Response from the University:
Dear Jessica,
Thank you for your email.

Transylvania University does not condone or tolerate hatred, bigotry, bullying or harassment in any form and will address any such behavior in a manner consistent with our policies, procedures, and values as a University. We value every member of this community on the basis of their humanity, not on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or legal status. As per University policy, however, we cannot comment on any specific personnel or student issue. 

Thank you again for reaching out. We appreciate you sharing your concerns.

Michele Gaither Sparks
Vice President for Marketing & Communications
Transylvania University


The Kentucky Herald Leader has now posted ‘Report this illegal.’ Student seeks help after classmate targets her for deportation.  which includes an excerpt from President Seamus Carey:

“It is essential to remember, however, that the way we pursue justice is as important as the outcome we seek,” Carey said. “If justice is to be lasting, the means by which it is achieved is as important as the achievement itself. As a country and as an institution, we are governed by laws. These laws protect the freedom to express one’s viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are different from our own. Thus, there are times when our laws seem like an obstacle rather than a support. If we want justice to endure, however, we cannot succumb to frustrations that would have us break the law or violate policies.”

I’m not entirely sure what he means by this. Did Ragg violate the non-discrimination policy? Or not? What will happen now? Is Paola Garcia going to graduate with Ragg? I expect that nothing is going to happen, which is immensely disappointing.

I would prefer President Carey and his administration create a safer environment for Garcia, and see this incident for the violation that it is against policy. Claiming, perhaps, that it’s just a “freedom of speech” issue is understating the danger Garcia could be in thanks to this post and the fallout from their own decision. 


Transylvania University’s President’s Email to the Community in Full: 

Dear Campus Community,

Over the weekend, one of our female students posted a YouTube video asking the community for help in having another Transylvania student expelled from school.  The reason for this request is harassment she has suffered online.  This harassment has come from viewers of a website known for white supremacist sentiments.  These viewers responded to a post by the other Transylvania student that included a statement from the female student that she is undocumented. We have received reports that viewers of the You Tube video are responding with similar vitriol towards the male student.

Transylvania University does not condone hatred, bigotry, bullying or harassment in any form. We will address any such behavior in a manner consistent with our policies, procedures, and values as a University.  We value every member of this community on the basis of their humanity, not on the basis of their ethnicity, race, disability, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or legal status. Actions are legal or illegal, not people.

As I wrote last week in my message to the community, we fully support our DACA students.  We are doing all we can to make sure that Congress passes sensible, humane legislation so that our DACA students and families can move past the uncertainty they are currently experiencing.

In a recent post addressing the controversy of moving Confederate statues from Cheapside Park, I emphasized that as an educational institution, Transylvania is guided by the pursuit of truth.  We are also guided by the pursuit of justice. A Transylvania education is characterized not only by the knowledge we create and share, but the values that shape our character.  Bigotry and bias are not among those values.  Compassion, generosity, and justice are.

It is essential to remember, however, that the way we pursue justice is as important as the outcome we seek. If justice is to be lasting, the means by which it is achieved is as important as the achievement itself.  As a country and as an institution, we are governed by laws.  These laws protect the freedom to express one’s viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are different from our own. Thus, there are times when our laws seem like an obstacle rather than a support.  If we want justice to endure, however, we cannot succumb to frustrations that would have us break the law or violate policies.  The pursuit of justice is a long-term battle that requires insight, endurance, and resilience.  We are here for the long run.

I invited both of the involved students to meet with me this morning to discuss the uses and impact of social media and ways we might move forward. The student who posted to the white supremacist website has been in contact with our office but has yet to accept this invitation. The student who experienced harassment did meet with Vice President Sheilley and me this morning. We had a productive and positive dialogue with that student.  We will continue to work together with the involved students to arrive at the best outcome.  

Sincerely,
Seamus Carey
President


As of September 13th, Taylor Ragg is no longer enrolled at the university. Herald Leader’s Linda Blackford reports

“Spokeswoman Michele Sparks said senior Taylor Ragg left campus following a grievance process performed by school administrators. Citing federal privacy laws, Sparks said she could not say whether Ragg had been expelled or left voluntarily.”

Taylor Ragg has since deleted his Facebook profile (oh, the irony) and left with only one quote to his name: “the Herald-Leader is ‘fake news.'” The MAGA and 10th Crusader Enthusiast will be running around to find a new university to graduate by next May, so…good luck to him on trying to find a campus in Kentucky that didn’t hear about this whole situation.

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It could be that perhaps Ragg left because he himself was doxed. His contact information was spread around, which included his cell and home phone numbers as well as his home address. Paola Garcia had this to say about it:

On doxing Taylor.png

Garcia will still have struggles ahead and possibly backlash from groups for the incident along with the subsequent leaving of Ragg. Already, her YouTube comment section is full of the words “wetback bitch,” “cunt,” “filthy illegal whore,” and etc. With the press releases, the story will only gain more traction in the next six months with DACA becoming more and more of a political talking point, so I don’t expect the comments to get any better. 

So many, many things went wrong with how the university handled this situation. 

First, by ignoring the blatant violation of policy on targeting a student for her immigration status that was concluded as not a violation. It was, it’s the first line in the non-discrimination policy. How someone could look at that post and not find it a violation is disturbing, because it shows the administration must have a pattern of avoidance behavior for other violations as well. How many other students have come to the administration and received similar results? It seems to me the administration could do with some reeducation on what it means to protect minority students and perhaps even some better training on diversity issues in general. 

Second, the administration failed Garcia in supporting her with the harassment and her fears of deportation. This young woman felt so desperate for help that she posted a YouTube video, because the administration essentially told her she was on her own in dealing with this situation, a situation in which she was terrified meant dealing with a virtual angry mob and their subsequent abuse along with the very real possibility of getting removed from the country before getting her degree. Why didn’t the administration assure her they’d support her? Why didn’t they connect her to campus security and get her set up with a report (you can inform them you fear for your safety, I did once, long story)? She was left bereft and scared, so she reached out to outside of campus for help. The administration should’ve done better by her. 

Third, they wanted her and the one who brought harassment on her to have a group discussion, as if this was some playground kindergarten fight. Now I could be reading the President’s email he sent out wrong, but it seems as if he’s suggesting everyone sit down and talk it out. No, no, no, sir, you don’t have a harasser and their target sit down to talk it out, whether the topic be social media sharing or what you’re all having for lunch on Tuesday, you don’t have the harasser meet with their victim. Two separate meetings? Fine, but having the guy who wants her deported come in so both of them can get a lecture as if they both deserve equal reprimanding for wrongs done. 

He tried to get her deported, she pleaded for help, the two are not on equal grounds for a lecture or discussion. No to mention, yes Garcia is a minority student and Ragg is a white student, that matters, especially when Garcia could be in a room with two white males versus herself. That wouldn’t be a room she’d walk into expecting good times to happen, and she’d come in ready to be dismissed, belittled, or otherwise harassed again. Not to mention, while Transylvania University’s history of predominant whiteness doesn’t mean it’s malevolent or intentionally racist, there is a system in place that favors the white over the others just by virtue of legacy students and through “traditional” ways of doing things there. Garcia is at a disadvantage, and trying to make it appear she doesn’t is problematic. 

From here, I’d like to see changes implemented by the university that better support minority students, especially ones like Paola Garcia, as well as protect them from harassment. We’ll see how things go, but I’m sorry to say, I’m not hopeful. 


 *Updates will continue as this story progresses 

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 LGBTQ in Japan

Tokyo Rainbow Pride Festa and Parade!

For the Saturday and Sunday of Golden Week, I volunteered to organize the Stonewall Japan booth. Pride events are our biggest draw in, both in terms of members as well as donations. However, I couldn’t do it all on my own. That’s where the awesome Stonewall Japan volunteers come in! We had a blast doing face paints for people, networking with other pro-LGBTQ+ organizations, and in general just talking with new people about Stonewall Japan.

For me, it involved a lot of phone calls and email responding, too. I never realized until I did this event just how much work people behind the scenes had to do. I was non-stop moving from nine in the morning until six thirty in the evening. At one point, we thought we wouldn’t have enough face paint to get through the day, so I had to run over to the DIASO and buy more. Takashita Street DAISO is crazy busy on a normal day, but with thousands of people attending the event? It took forever.

It wasn’t all work though, I had a one hour lunch break where I met up with Rebecca. We went to this place called The Taproom, which served some really awesome craft beers as well as good food. I chose the quickest thing I could think of for them to make, which was yakitori (chicken sticks).

Right after lunch was over, I was running right back to the booth to make sure volunteers managed to find their way to the booth. Unfortunately, a few people got lost, so I had to direct them as well as call people to find the picnic that was set up in Yoyogi Park.

It sounds like I’m complaining maybe, but I did enjoy it. I was just so exhausted! After having gone to Kyoto for two days, then running around Tokyo the day before, working as a volunteer on the weekend running around yet again was just hard! Don’t get me wrong though, being a part of Pride was well worth all of the stress. I liked feeling I was being a part of a good change in things socially here in Japan.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take as many pictures because of the working things. I ended up just staying near the booth until breakdown at six thirty. Immediately after that, I got in line for the best pancakes ever! If you haven’t been to Cafe Gram, you really should. They have the fluffiest pancakes you’ll ever eat.

Rebecca and I managed to get the last order of them (see photo left). In order to get these fluffy pancakes, you have to show up at certain times in order to get the pancake reservation, and then wait another hour or so before you can eat. They only make these pancake in limited batches. We got the last order of the day, how lucky is that?!

The only downside is that you’re not allowed to share orders, so Rebecca had to buy something too. She chose the apple pancakes, which were not a bad choice at all. There were also kiwis and oranges between the pancakes, which was delightfully tangy and sweet all at once.

When we finished eating breakfast for dinner, we got also the last reservation for the Harajuku Owl Cafe!

I don’t know how we got this much luck, but it was awesome! The owls were super tame, very calm, and a joy to pet. That’s right, you can pet most of them. However, one spotted owl (bottom left in the photos) would like to bite at you rather than let you touch him. And there was a tiny angry owl you could pet, but he wasn’t pleased about it so much.

However, the larger owls were totally fine with getting picked up and petted.

When our hour was over, we had to run yet again. Stonewall Japan was doing a bar crawl that night in Nichome, and I wanted to catch up with the group just to say hello. Most of my friends intended to stay out all night, but I couldn’t do that as I had to get up early for the booth and parade prep the next day. Still, I did manage to meet some new people as well as see some old faces I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Bar Crawl.jpg

The Bar Crawl in Nichome is a lot of fun, and I really do wish I could’ve stuck around, but I was about ready to drop as it was.

The next morning, I got up early and prepped before getting on the train. I had decided months ago that I was going to do a really silly cosplay. Rainbow Brite was a staple of my childhood, and I mean a spunky girl with rainbows and magic, what’s not to like? So I got all dressed up and headed out.

Before I headed out with the Stonewall group, I made sure volunteers were set up at the booth with everything. I also took an opportunity to get some pics with various drag queens at the event as well, because hello fabulous!

Stonewall met up for a group photo around eleven so we could all walk together to the float area right after. Thankfully, a lot of people showed up to support the walk, even though it was a super hot day and the march was not a short one.

Pre-Parade

We actually waited just in the sun for a good forty five minutes before we actually started marching, it was a bit tough, but when we did start marching it was magical!

We managed to get behind a DJ float, which meant we got pumping music the whole way through! It was so amazing to see the support lining the streets. Everybody was cheering and waving, high five-ing people as they walked onward, and I swear there were way more camera people than the previous year.

The walk took a good hour long trek from Yoyogi Stadium, to Shibuya Crossing, and then back around through the Shibuya main highway area, and then we returned to Yoyogi Stadium. The police were allowing traffic to flow, so unlike in New York City and other Prides, there isn’t a standstill to let the parade go without a break, which is part of the reason for why it took that long.

We broke records yet again for both attendance in the Festa and the Parade, with over 6,000 attendees. How cool is that?! Here’s hoping these solidarity efforts will make some effective changes sometime soon. I would love for marriage equality to come to Japan before the 2020 Olympics. As it stands, I’m not sure it will happen, but at events like Tokyo Rainbow Pride, I have hope.

I’m proud of what Stonewall managed to accomplish that weekend, even though there were bumps along the way, it all managed to work out. Hopefully, next year will be even better.

After six(ish), Rebecca and I headed home to go plan out the last day of her vacation. We wanted to get one more sightseeing spot squeezed in before I saw her off to the airport. And so we chose the obvious one: Tokyo SkyTree!