Ah, now concludes one of the stranger days I’ve had in some time. I’ve mentioned it before, but Amy and I have found that we have a knack for finding or attracting weird shit. I described my life as me being fairly normal and well-adjusted (all things considered), and most everything around me being a swirling tornado of crazy. “You see,” I said, “I live in the house in the hurricane.”
Let’s walk through a not-untypical day at the house, shall we?
I started off today by going to the laundromat. The owner saw me, started talking to me in pretty broken English and heavily-accented Japanese (the local dialect, Ibaraki-ben), and was so taken by the fact that I know any Japanese at all that (unbeknownst to me) she decided to feed me. So she disappeared for a minute when I wasn’t looking and reappeared with a fancy serving plate, carrying green tea, seaweed with powdered sugar on it, and little gummy seaweed candies. Professional presentation, pulled out all the stops. Lesson learned? Seaweed candy is friggin’ nasty. But when someone’s giving it to you, you better eat it all up.
Next, Amy and I went into Tokyo and met up with Ananda. I wanted to do some Christmas shopping, and specifically was looking for a shop called Super Potato. It was there, at the station, that we came across these guys. Or rather, these girls. Turned out that none of them knew where Super Potato was, but they were interesting nonetheless — you see, they dress like guys and go on dates with people, for money. They were funny and cute, and let us take pictures with them. I went to get everyone to pool some money and go on a huge, confusing group date with all of them. Failing that, we can just buy a couple hours for Shawn for Christmas.
After that, wandering around Akihabara, we came across this cool arcade game which I took video of (and describe) here. Basically, you have these physical trading cards, which, I presume, have some sort of computer chip in them. You can move them around this mat in front of a computer screen, and, in that way, control your armies. It’s a pretty interesting interface for playing games. The place was mobbed, with people lined up to play, so there’s definitely a pretty decent community for it. What tickled my fancy was that they actually have a wall where people can post cards they’ve got and are willing to trade. Pretty neat. Nobody here knew where Super Potato was either.
After that, we perused the cafes that the random maids standing outside of Akihabara station (there were dozens; some looked like they were dead) were advertising. We found a cheapish one, Chocolatte, and went there. The food wasn’t amazing, but it was a cute little shop, and, true enough, the waitresses were dressed like maids. They purposely had their skirts up a bit too high in the back, so you could see what… I think was supposed to be underwear? It looked like pantaloons. The girl who waited on us had the most formal bowing procedure of any person I’ve met so far here. They wouldn’t let me take pictures inside, but I did get one of the entrance.
After asking several more groups of people where Super Potato was (and receiving no useful answers), we gave up and decided to go to Yoyogi Park, right by Harajuku Station. On the way, we had to cross the GothLoli bridge, where every fashion-obsessed dilettante in Japan makes her start. Well, while there were fashion-minded folks hanging out there, the ones that got more attention from us were the 6 random Japanese people holding up “FREE HUGS” signs. So we RAN to them and started hugging each one of them in turn, sometimes two or three times. It was great fun. I think we were the only people hugging them the entire time we were there. Sadly, no time for pictures, we were too busy hugging.
Thereafter, we started wandering around Yoyogi Park, which is always a trip. First thing we saw was a bunch of guys fighting with lightsabers. These were expensive ones, too — at least $200. The newer kind. I asked if they were practicing for some movie or something, and they weren’t; it was just their hobby. There’s just a group of around a dozen goobers who fight with lightsabers at night in the park, in the middle of Tokyo. I was endlessly charmed by them.
Next we came across a big drum circle set up by a fountain. It was way too dark for video, but I made a pretty long recording of it. We talked to the guys for a bit, and found out that one of them (a Japanese guy whose name was Shoe, or, more likely, Shu) has a fantastic grasp of English, is a professional drum circlist, sells incense, is skilled at African dance, and is a fire spinner. He actually thought Amy was Japanese, in the dark. Nice guy. We plan to go back early one Sunday to learn fire spinning.
Finally, on our way out of the park, we happen upon a cute young woman playing violin by herself. Well, mostly by herself. She seemed oblivious to the fact that some sketchy, weird-looking guy with crazy hair and crazy eyes was approaching her from behind… with a single rose. So we stopped and watched this bizarre love confession (kokuhaku) unfold. She seemed extremely uncomfortable, and he seemed oblivious. He never did actually give her the rose, that we saw… he was just leaning in over her, talking to her and asking questions, to which she would occasionally play a lick of music. While standing there, I took this picture.
After that, we wandered into Harajuku, and met up with Amy’s friend Ryo. Ryo is a fashion designer at a small store named “SEX POT.” Ryo is the kind of guy who pierces his own tongue with an ice pick, listens to Slayer all the time, and knows every English swear word there is, although not how to use them correctly. He’s a huge fan of Spawn, about 5’6″, and designs shirts with logos like “POISON KILL YOU” emblazoned across them. However, my favorite shirt in Harajuku I cannot attribute to him — that honor belongs to a shop three doors down. Take a look. Anywho, he was great fun, and we have tentative plans to go see a concert he’s doing later this month in Kabuki-cho.
So, Kabuki-cho. I’ve mentioned it before. Kabuki-cho is the red light district of Tokyo, but honestly, you wouldn’t know unless you’re really paying attention. It’s clean and full of high-rise buildings everywhere, and looks just like any other part of Shinjuku. Amy had an adventure here around two months ago where her insane friend Felicia got them nearly ganged by a bunch of scary Nigerian guys, and they ended up flagging down an off-duty prostitute, who helped them out by taking them to a secret hooker bar.
I’m not making this up.
So that’s where we went after leaving Ryo — Harvest Cube. We went there a bit early, so nobody was really there. We ended up having shots of Habu-shu and Awomori, both highly alcoholic Okinawan liquors. Habu-shu in particular is interesting — it’s very sweet, very strong, and has a dead snake at the bottom of it. It’s actually laced with the snake venom, and is supposed to be able to kill you if you drink enough of it. Amy’s had six shots in one sitting with no adverse effects, though, so I’ve yet to witness this firsthand.
So, after leaving the bar, we went to the main host hang-out corner of town. Hosts are basically the modern-day equivalent of geishas. You pay them, and they will spend time with you and eventually sleep with you. They’re well-groomed, nice-looking folks, both male and female. We actually saw more male hosts than female ones. They get really pushy as the night goes on, cornering any women wandering around and offering their wares.
So we, being more than slightly insane, approach a group of loitering hosts, and proceed to have an incredibly weird 15 minutes of conversation. Highlights include:
- Us determining that I’m the oldest in the group. The hosts range from 18-22.
- The hosts telling us anti-American jokes, in Japanese. Most of which are pretty lame.
- Amy and I realizing we can’t tell any of our jokes very easily in Japanese, and, in place of telling jokes, proceeding to sing Bohemian Rhapsody in unison.
- Us teaching them Ibaraki-ben insults. Ibaraki is the prefecture we live in; it’s basically hickville. Ibaraki-ben is the dialect. We know several hick insults, so we feel the need to spread the love.
- Getting five or six hosts to line up and do a cheer, ouendan-style.
- The hosts running away from us when we start showing them how to do the cheer.
- Us flagging them down and getting them to do it anyways. Twice.
At that point, we were all pretty beat, so we were on our way out of Kabuki-cho, when some random yakuza-looking dude flagged down Amy and asked what was on her mask. The entire time, she’d been wearing a sick mask with å¤©ä¸‹ç„¡ç‚º written on it. You may recall Yuusuke’s hand tattoo, which reads “å¤©ä¸‹ç„¡åŒ” — “no equal on earth,” which is a well-known quote. Well, Amy switched that up to “å¤©ä¸‹ç„¡ç‚º” — “no purpose on earth,” or a fancy way of saying “completely useless.” She got a LOT of stares and people thinking she had no idea what she wrote, or was wearing. Reverse Engrish. It was hysterical.
So this guy flags us down, and asks us what it means. He can’t read it. In fact, as we’d find out, a lot of people couldn’t read it correctly. The guy was quickly amused by our bizarro antics, and offered us drugs. We declined, saying we were good kids and didn’t do anything like that. The guy laughed and just wandered off.
We went to the station and resisted catching this fairly peculiar train, as it didn’t go back home.
We ended up back at RiRa’s, in Ryugasaki. Back at ease with our hometown crew of yakuza, sumo wrestlers, mentally retarded midget dart prodigies, gay acupuncturists, schizophrenic shoe designers, and perverted weirdos. Back at the house in the hurricane.