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My apartment complex would have yelled at me if I’d actually done this.

My apartment complex would have yelled at me if I’d actually done this. published on 2 Comments on My apartment complex would have yelled at me if I’d actually done this.

Text of the sign I came up with for my door:


(“I don’t want to become a Jehovah’s Witness.”)

チーズをたべることができない。 ピザショップのチラシが必要ない。

(“I can’t eat cheese. I don’t need an ad for a pizza place.”)

日本に住んでいるから、 携帯をもう持っているよ。 買うわけがない。

(“I live in Japan, so I already have a cell phone. I’m not buying another one.”)

I just thought of this because Jehovah’s Witnesses actually showed up at the house a couple days ago, which never happens because we live in a place sufficiently nowhere-like as to have at one time had ostrich farmers. Mom possesses the ultimate weapon for repelling Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is, being somebody who used to be a Jehovah’s Witness. She can’t be converted a second time, so they’re not supposed to talk to her.

She held her hand, and just told them, “I’m not interested.” It’s sort of like how Battle Angel Alita doesn’t pull out the solenoid quench gun for every little thing. Being an ex-Jehovah’s Witness is too dreadful a power to be used lightly.

Today was Eccentric Old People Day in Tokyo, I guess.

Today was Eccentric Old People Day in Tokyo, I guess. published on

This afternoon I tried to go to the Fukugawa Edo Museum, but when I got there, it was closed for renovation. This is about the third time this has happened to me – apparently Japan’s economy really is based on construction work. Since I’d gone all the way out there, I looked at some maps nearby, saw that the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Garden was just down the street, and went there instead.

I’d just taken a bunch of pictures of koi (in accordance with Japan’s Park Visitation Act, which requires that all park-goers take a minimum of 4 pictures of pine trees sculpted to trail their branches artistically over the surface of the pond, 7 pictures of moss-covered man-made structures representing the impermanance of human artifice in the face of the persistence of nature, 3 pictures of stones softly rounded by wind and water throughout the ages, and a bunch of pictures of koi), and was sitting down at a table resting, when someone behind me said loudly in English, “Living in Tokyo?”

It was an old woman in a really big hat, long sleeves, a scarf, and a poncho. It was eighty and clear today – this is the official uniform of tan-phobic old Japanese ladies. (She was also carrying an umbrella.) She said the phrase in a way that I associate with rote learning, so I answered “Yes” in Japanese.

She said excitedly in Japanese, “We should get together and talk sometime!”

I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m actually going home next week…”

“Oh! Where are you from?” She became even more excited by the news that I was American. “Where in America? Kentucky-shuu… is Kentucky near California?”

And she dug her wallet out and took out an electoral map from last year’s election, which she had clipped from a newspaper. There were a bunch of other clippings in there, and they all looked America-related. We successfully located Kentucky on her map. “I like Obama, but most Kentuckians don’t,” I said, feeling vaguely compelled to apologize for my state’s red color. I’ve found that Japanese people are often disappointed in Kentucky over this failing.

We talked for a while longer before she decided to go walk around some more. She asked me about Kentucky and how I liked Tokyo and so forth, and I asked her if she’d ever been to the US – she’d been to Hawaii and Alaska, which she felt was a funny juxtaposition. I would be more surprised by the whole encounter, except that the common advice for Japanese people who want to study English is to find an English-speaker to go have coffee with once a week. Some people accomplish this by personals ads for “language exchange,” and some just do it by ambush. I’ve only been ambushed once before that I can think of, but I know it happens. She seemed nice enough.

When my legs were no longer trying to fall off, I got up to walk around some more. I passed an old guy in a baseball cap with a big DSLR camera around his neck. He looked like a typical old vacationer guy, of the type that you always see hauling DSLrs around landscape gardens. They usually occur in twos or threes, with their wives or with other old vacationer guys, and tend to be pretty quiet unless commenting on the size of a koi or the probable age of a tree.

As I walked past him, I felt him giving me a look, which I assumed to be the What’s That Foreigner Doing Here look. Then, he burst into song.

It sounded vaguely like a Buddhist monk saying a sutra, which is just to say that it was kind of tuneless and I couldn’t make out any words in there – it could have been a Shinto thing. For all I know it could have been in Cambodian. But it definitely sounded like religious music, anyway.

What was it about me that made the old tourist man suddenly begin singing a hymn? I do not know. He kept doing it for at least five minutes after I was gone, so I’m assuming this wasn’t something he did purely to mess with the foreigner. I saw him walk by the woman from earlier, still singing – she jumped and nearly dropped her umbrella.

The Happiness Realization Party

The Happiness Realization Party published on

I wince and have to leave the room when American politics does stuff like this. Not so with Japan, apparently! I guess I don’t take it so personally.

Japan’s Happiness Party plans to attack North Korea

Urging the “immediate” amendment of the pacifist article 9 of the constitution, Mrs Okawa, 43, said: “So-called pacifism in Japan will let other countries easily kill Japanese people. We believe that we have a responsibility to protect the lives of the people in Japan.

“If we think about our goal for creating global utopia on this planet, pacifism won’t help.” Such an amendment would pave the way for Japan to deal with the growing military threat to national security presented by its neighbours, added Mrs Okawa, who according to the organisation’s literature is a reincarnation of Florence Nightingale and the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

They’re sort of like if the Libertarian Party and the Scientologists merged to form a bigger robot. My understanding is that they started out as a religion called “Happy Science” (Ohkawa Kyoko’s husband Ryuho being the reincarnation of Buddha, with whom Florence Nightingale is apparently down) made a lot of money selling books, and then went into politics. The sort of politics where you blow up North Korea! Ohkawa Ryuho claims that Kim Jong Il’s guardian angel has betrayed him and is reporting Kim’s plans to him (Ryuho). I hear he got the idea from Phantom-Thief Jeanne.

They send out gaisensha (街宣車), or sound trucks, which are basically trucks with loudspeakers mounted on top. If you look the word “gaisensha” up in EDICT, it’ll say “right-wing propaganda truck” – they’re used to advertise more normal stuff, too, but my impression is that the outlier political groups are particularly enamored of loudspeaker technology. Most gaisensha are pretty aggressive-looking, with lots of black and yellow and stuff. The Happiness Realization ones have a soothing blue color scheme, like they’re selling handsoap. Judging from the description, the person who posted that video thought the truck was pretty funny.

There was a really alarming truck going around Shibata in the spring that ended half its sentences with “Tomerarenai!” I generally can’t follow what the gaisensha are saying, but “Can’t stop! Can’t stop! Can’t stop!” kind of stood out. I never got a good look at the truck itself, but the speaker was a woman, which is unusual, so it might have been a Happiness Realization truck. There are some videos of them on YouTube – if someone with a working sound card wants to look at them and tell me if they say “Tomerarenai,” I would be interested in knowing who or what they cannot stop. I’m assuming that whoever that was was not, in fact, referring to hammer time.

They also made an ad that’s a “hypothetical story” about North Korea nuking Japan. As the little doomed salaryman peers out the window at the oncoming nuke, he thinks, “If only I had voted Happiness Realization!” It’s classy stuff.


Stuff published on

Successfully acquired rice cooker off Craigslist for 1000 yen. (Not from the guy before, from another guy.) The rice is soaking, and shortly I shall test it.

Went to Koishikawa Kourakuen. In January, during my assault on Tokyo’s Important Landscape Gardens, I went to Rikugien, Kyu-Shiba-Rikyu, Hama-Rikyu, and Kyu-Yasuda. I thought Rikugien was the prettiest of those. But Koishikawa Kourakuen? Has magical powers. I will post pictures later – I killed my phone’s battery taking too many (which was almost a problem because I was meeting the guy with the rice-cooker after). I’m beginning to regret my failure to replace my old Canon camera. My cell camera is not up to such things.

Every single person on the train who had a DS was playing Dragon Quest IX. McDonalds here have a WiFi connection for DS use, and if you go in one, you will invariably see a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting around with a small drink and their DS out, playing Dragon Quest. Some of them will have white DSi’s they’ve put decals of the Apple logo on.

From what I understand, the game’s aim is to be WoW for the DS. I can’t be allowed to have it; the combination of short quest-based gameplay and Toriyama art would cause me to cease to be. I’ve been engaging in douch-y power-leveling in Disgaea instead. (Though I kind of feel as if I should dig out my Pokemon Pearl game and beat it already. To get into the spirit of things for the Arceus movie! You know!)

At the grocery, I saw a woman letting her daughter, who was too big for it, sit in a stroller-cart. They were both giggling madly. The mother said, “Beebi-mitai na [something] ne!” The meaning of this is roughly, “Aw, you’re just like a baby!” But this is how I know I’m not fluent in Japanese – I heard all of the sentence but the [something], and I know pretty much what it means, but I can’t figure out what the “[something]” should have been. My brain cannot extrapolate.

(The girl looked a lot like Mr. K and Princess, which made me kinda sad. Mr. K’s class should have started about fifteen minutes ago… I hope he’s being good.)


Milestone published on

Went to the doctor for the first time in Japan. I navigated it mostly-successfully, except that I just got a call scolding me for leaving without my medicine. I’d thought the nurse had just been telling me to pick up some at the drug store, but no, apparently they’d prepared some for me and I didn’t pick it up.

The whole visit was kind of silly, because the hospital I went to, which is forty-five minutes away, didn’t have a specialist for my problem (my problem is stupid and I don’t wanna talk about it), so they referred me to someplace else. That someplace turns out to be down the street from my apartment. I don’t think I’m going to do the hour-and-a-half round trip to pick up the medicine unless the specialist tells me to – I’m going to try and go see him/her before work tomorrow.

Anyway, I have experienced socialized medicine. Continue reading Milestone


Echigo-Yuzawa published on

Went to Echigo-Yuzawa and rode the skylift and ate soba and suchlike with Mo today. There may be mountain pictures later, depending on whether they look horrible when I unload the camera.

I brought Mo a box of Niigata-local-specialty-or-at-least-that’s-what-it-says-on-the-box-type cookies – this is a Japan thing – because she said she’d never been to Niigata city before. She brought me anko Peeps (about which, as I have previously mentioned, I am enthusiastic), Maisen tonkatsu (which is apparently famous and is incredibly good, and I don’t even normally like tonkatsu), and Sadaharu Aoki macarons (also insanely good and apparently both famous and expensive). I maybe feel slightly guilty?

I think the moral here is, if I mention that I can’t find pinto beans here and she asks me if I want her to bring me up a kilo, don’t say “no,” because she will come up with something even bigger.

I am a terrible kanji student – but let me tell you about OTHER people’s faults.

I am a terrible kanji student – but let me tell you about OTHER people’s faults. published on

In this post, I mutter about poor graphic design decisions to downplay my own laziness in kanji study.

Continue reading I am a terrible kanji student – but let me tell you about OTHER people’s faults.

Yukata and eggplants.

Yukata and eggplants. published on

I now own this yukata, and have learned how to put it on. Yukata obi are easier than Nagoya obi, but I still don’t have the motor skills for them. I’m also shaped like an eggplant. Kimono are designed for more cylindrically-shaped people.

I feel kind of rude about getting the yukata at Uniqlo. The shop where we went to for the class was also selling yukata for about the same price, and I kinda brought mine in still in the Uniqlo packaging? I’m not very classy.

Apparently, at least some Japanese kids get very excited about eggplants. In the grocery store today, I saw a little girl pointing excitedly to a display of eggplants, saying, “Mom, look, it’s eggplant! Get some eggplant!” I see kids doing this about strawberries, sweet potatoes, and curry (not together), but this is the first indication I’ve seen that eggplant is also a Kid Food in Japan.

Conspiracy theory

Conspiracy theory published on

I think Japanese grocery stores artificially scent their produce sections with whatever fruit they’re currently pushing. The Uoroku’s present strawberry scent is intense and pervasive. I keep accidentally buying strawberries.

So, uh, I understand the psychology of this – but I don’t know why this drugstore I went into yesterday smelled like myrrh. It was just a normal drugstore, not some kind of drugstore/head shop cross-breed. Is the scent of myrrh supposed to encourage spending on luxury items live expensive conditioner? Maybe someone just spilled something myrrh-scented.

lacrimawanders invited me to a kitsuke class with her last night, and loaned me a kimono to practice with – she is awesome! I wore a kimono properly for the first time! Almost all by myself the third try! (Except for the obi, which I STILL MAINTAIN is impossible to put on on one’s own.) lacrimawanders actually did do it all by herself, which awes me. This is an incredibly complex process.

(I also sat seiza-style for long periods of time, which is very painful.)

And due to lacrimawanders‘s vast knowledge of stores in Niigata, I now know where to buy Dr. Bronner’s. This is incredibly exciting to me.

Persistence of location

Persistence of location published on

There used to be an empty lot I had to go through on my way to the mall. One morning at the end of March or beginning of April, still sleepy, I was walking to the mall, and found that there was suddenly construction in that lot. Cement had been poured, and the ground was higher than it had been. This seemed unlikely to me; for a moment I wasn’t sure if I was in the real world or in a video game. I tried to check my inventory.

Continue reading Persistence of location

I need to go to the grocery store

I need to go to the grocery store published on

but I can’t right now because I’m craving feta cheese, and in addition to making me sick, feta cheese is 1200 yen.

I also need to buy tea. Going home and drinking my Celestial Seasonings green tea has brought me to the unwelcome realization that the Japanese brand I usually drink is awful. So I’ll probably have to go to the special-special tea booth at the front of the grocery and let the Tea Lady look down at me superciliously from the block she stands on, as I squint my jet-lagged eyes at my DS stylus, fumblingly typing in tea terms. She’ll probably gesture with her apron.

It’s been a month, and I was doing fine. But the World of Warcraft withdrawal’s hitting me again. Every once in a while my fingers twitch out the keyboard shortcut sequence for Hunter’s Mark, then Serpent Sting, then Arcane Shot. At odd moments I find myself anxiously recalculating whether the blue neck attachment I’m wearing is really optimal for my DPS, trying to remember whether I still have my old green one in the bank.

Okay, guys.

Okay, guys. published on

There are some little windows in the classroom so the parents can watch classes from the waiting area. Obviously, when there are other kids out there, they come over to the windows and wave and pop up and down like prairie dogs and so forth.

So the other day Mr. Yodeler was in the classroom, and Mr. Weepy was outside waiting for the teacher for his other class to show up. Mr. Weepy came over and knocked on the window. Mr. Yodeler walked over to it, looking very solemn. They both pressed their noses up to it and kissed through the glass. Then they giggled, and loudly proclaimed one another to be “baragumi.”

I know that “bara,” which means “rose,” is used as a term for gay guys – I mean, that part of the whole interaction seems pretty clear – but I’m not sure about the “gumi” part. According to my dictionary it just means “group,” but I think I’ve only ever heard it used referring to military and police units. When I google for this in romaji I get stuff about the anime Sakura Taisen, which does, in fact, use the term to describe a (deeply offensive-sounding) all-gay military unit. But I don’t think a couple of four-year-olds are likely to have seen this show, since 1) the art makes it look kind of porny, and 2) Sleep-san liked it, which probably means it’s both kind of porny and too complicated for little kids. I could be wrong? Anyway, I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to ask the manager to clarify this one for me. His sense of humor can be somewhat lacking.

(The first google result in Japanese is somebody’s Second Life store, and I am deeply unimpressed by those dresses.)

I am accomplished.

I am accomplished. published on

I just spent the whole morning setting up an account at the delivery company’s entirely-Japanese website so I can make them redeliver my packages at times when I’m not at work. I used Moji a lot.

(I could probably technically have done this faster over the phone, but the company’s phone number’s voice-menu was so staticky I couldn’t figure out what it was saying when I called. I’d have to ask for help at work, and didn’t feel like waiting to do that.)

Look what I found!

Look what I found! published on

Pinto beans! And this teeny little bag cost 400 yen. I am soaking them and will make them into chili tomorrow.

“Pinto bean” in Japanese is “uzura mame,” which means “quail bean.” I assume this is because they look like quail eggs. So it seems like Uzura from Princess Tutu’s name must be “quail.” I wonder if there is some deep reason for this.

(Japan really likes quail eggs. They are boiled, and then breaded, fried, and put on a stick to eat as a snack at bars. I don’t really know how I feel about Japan getting a jump on the South in the frying-stuff game here. Anyway, quail eggs are cheaper than pinto beans here and that feels like a violation of the natural order.)

Also, here is a booth down the road which contains a sort of vending machine, which you can apparently use to have the rice you grew on your farm sterilized so your family can eat it. I found it very difficult to translate the kanji because it’s all brushy.