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Thursday, 21 February"please die"
At many hotels in Japan, the mini-refrigerators have sensors built in, so if you remove one of the snacks or beverages, the front desk immediately knows about it. And immediately after you remove said snack or beverage, the slot immediately locks so you can not replace it.
Ayako and I were staying at a love hotel in Shibuya and she went to inspect the snacks. She pulled out some salami in a can and found she couldn't return it. She took out a Calpis calcium drink that she did imbibe. She left for work early the next morning and alone I went to the front desk to return the key and resolve these matters.
"Please guest sir, 500 yen."
I figured a quick return trip to the room, returning with unopened snack in hand would resolve the matter. Upon reentering the room I found the refrigerator door had been remotely locked!
I returned to the front desk with my hat in my hands,
"Okay you have won. I will pay."
and I gave them the money (nearly 4$).
Please believe me, in Japanese, is "Shinjite kudasai" something I have never said but I should be able to grammatically construct. Instead, flustered and frustrated at the front desk, I said, "shinde kudasai" which translates to "please die!"
Desparate for cheap constant access to the net in Akita I bought a "Air Edge" wireless card. Now I can get online at about 28.8k modem speeds from Yokote burger joints, moving subway cars under Tokyo, windowless love hotel rooms. Between that and my phone, it's all facilitating mobile reporting.
So without regard for venue, ever able to depart the stimulation of my surroundings for halting digital production, working on Chanpon.org; the new issue is set to launch February 28. The same day as the deadline for the Mileage Giveaway! Bring it on!
Tuesday, 19 FebruaryTokyo is a beautiful vision - the sun is shining, busy people in fashionable clothes ride efficient transportation to marvellous restaurants. There is no sight of snow.
Today I took too long to order food in a katsu restaurant in the building housing NTT DoCoMo. In the Japanese countryside, they didn't care so much about speed; most restaurants seemed to want people to stay longer not leave faster. I like telling Japanese people that I was living in Akita. All she knows about Akita she saw on TV, she said, Yes! The Kamakura, those little snow houses. Earned a smile and abnormal customer recognition from the girl serving this morning at the front desk of the Shinbashi capsule hotel.
With help from the FCCJ, I found a capsule hotel within walking distance of the Press Club. 4000 yen per night, about $30. I slept in the same room as twenty men, each of us in a plastic cuccoon separated from each other by a fabric screen. In America I imagine there might be some sort of fear or reason not to share accomodations with so many men at once? The only trouble here in Japan was snoring and farting and wheezing and so I wore earplugs.
I stayed up last night until 3am working in the club jamming an article for TheFeature and working on Kamakura pages. I took a short break to have my first Go game against a live human, during the Press Club's every-third-Monday Japanese chess meeting.
Today I put in a full day on two tasks:
I have no apartment. I live out of my suitcase. Actually, I live out of about seven suitcases. Some are shopping bags from "DonKihote" the Japanese Walmart (a cheap version of everything you need, in extremely narrow asiles). Most are at Ayako's house, where I am not permitted to enter except under cover of night, when Grandma and Dad are asleep and they would not know that I have entered. Still her father helped her carry my things from her car into her bedroom. My bag loaded with long underwear and thick socks for a writing winter I have left for a freelance spring is parked in a large locker in the Tokyo train station. The half of my books that are not at Ayako's are in a tiny locker (inside and piled on top) here at the Press Club. I've got one nice outfit (grey Carhardt pants purchased in south Manhattan with Wilson in May, rich blue colored button down shirt that's too big for me from the Goodwill on San Pablo, Issey Miyake nehru collar jacket christmas present from Mom). A nice outfit I packed in case I wanted to honor someone with nice clothes in Akita. It's a nice outfit, but I'm on my third day in it. I think, people around the club are going to notice that I do not change my clothes. And then I think, I'm too busy to care. I have time to type this as I ride the Ginza line from Hibiya to Shibuya to meet Ayako for dinner. I'm sweating and not enjoying the usual eye contact. But if I finish, I can drink beer and talk to a nice lady with a clear mind, no intention of returning to my computer before bedtime.
The thing I most want to change about myself is my shoes - I elected only to bring/wear insulated hiking boots for my winter time in Akita. So now I clomp through Tokyo with abnormally warm sweaty feet, in the least practical shoes in Japan - something with laces, expected to be laced up to the shins no less. I yearn for light svelte shoes. And they are in bags three five and six, in Ayako's closet.
In 48 hours I get on a plane to Thailand just before my 90-day Japan tourist visa expires. When I return Monday I will be in Japan as a visaed journalist. Thailand is a close switch off, nice because its warm and different, and Amy is living there with her family. It will be a great chance to see an old friend in a country she is just beginning to understand, or beginning to study. Thailand requires the diametric opposite of my packing for Akita - that was a large rolling bag stuffed with anything warm. Thailand calls for three things, all thin.
All the possessions that I need for a light winter in Thailand or a business meeting in Tokyo or a return to the States are spread across three locations, with the bulk inaccessible. I elected today to rent a storage space; my possessions will have a collective resting place for the next two weeks, even if I don't. And then? I hope I can bring everything back to America, and lose it all enroute so I can start over and pick only those posessions for my life that I can't carry-on without. Like one nice outfit and a laptop.
Undoubtedly the most involving thing I have been a part of in Japan was the struggle to push a wood and cloth phallus into an old temple up in the hills above Yokote. I was drawn to that town at that time, and through a friend I was able to participate somewhate in the culture I've been looking at in museums and books. It was drunken, singing, half-naked, sweaty, difficult, supportive, masculine and fun.
Monday, 18 FebruarySnow Aflame, the Yokote Kamakura Matsuri:
Friday, 15 FebruaryToday starts a full weekend of architectural and phallic festivals here in Yokote. Reports following fun.
Meanwhile, THE PANIC SPREADS in endless articles lamenting the state of the Japanese economy, ameliorated by conversation with Eamonn Fingleton a financial journalist.
Wednesday, 13 FebruaryI found fantastic lodgings in Yokote at the Plaza Hotel. A modern facility, warm, comfortable, well-appointed.
Having found a perfect place to lay low for a few days, I packed up my things and checked out. Left my bags in a locker at the train station and with only my backpack trudged across towards the outskirts of town to stay in the coldest indoor lodging I've experienced since Tsurunoyu, costing twice as much, where I have to walk two hallways to a shared bathroom. There's no other guests here now - it's too cold, too out of the way and too expensive. And it's the most beautiful inn I've stayed at in Japan.
It's too cold to type; I need fingerless gloves - got to go buy some gloves and cut the fingertips off!
The phone rings at 21:15 my first night at the new inn. It's the young female staffer here:
"Hello, honoured guest."
Tuesday, 12 FebruaryFewer than 8 proposals have been submitted for the Links.net Travel Giveaway. The deadline approaches, February 28.
You can win a plane ticket and share the results with the web! Good luck!
Today in Yokote I left my hat in my hotel room when I went out for a long noodle lunch with a delicious book of Japanese Folktales. Walking back, I crossed the street and turned my head to check the cars. The wind quickly filled my open ear with snow.
Now cradled in bed, bathed, here's what I can listen to.
Sunday, 10 FebruaryYesterday nearby Yuzawa was lit up with bright lights and fireworks above the artfully crafted houses and dogs made of snow. It was a rural Japanese festival to honor the snow gods.
Saturday, 9 February
For the Foreigner Eating in Rural Japan
Go to a restaurant in Japan. Order some food. When it arrives, eat three bites. Then look around the restaurant. Chances are, some of the staff are watching you eat. Smile, nod, make a positive hand gesture, and they will likely smile and nod back, with warmer feelings all around.
Then go back to eating and wonder if they were watching you to see if you would make a mistake with your chopsticks. Then try to keep from making a mistake with your chopsticks.
I typed all that yesterday until about 1.40am. I heard a rustling outside my door. I spied with the peephole a young lady working to enter a room across the hall. I opened my door to offer assistance. She required none. Not too much longer she knocked on my door.
More February - gosh what a month.
Tokyo: Love Hotel Bathing Bowl - Photo: Ayako
TheFeature: Mobile Reporting: Peer to Peer News
TheFeature: Can Old Designers Teach Our Phones New Tricks?
J@panInc: Seiko's New Pocket Monster Provides Speedy Japanese Translations
TheFeature: Where is Location-Based Marketing?
Links.net Mileage Giveaway
Japanese Homeless at Tokyo DisneyLand
Christmas in Japan
Too Much Walking?
Freezing at the Emperor's Birthday
Modern Madame Butterfly
For Men with Yen
Winged and Wired
Raving on Mount Fuji