Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cat Cafe

Japan is a country with many wondrous, exciting, and strange things. It is a land of (mostly) cute creatures that magically disappear into balls, where a man made of bread rips parts of his own face off to feed to children*, and 14-year-old school girls transform into planetary heroines after school. It is also a place where you can pay to play with cats and drink coffee at the same time.


I wanted to meet up with an old buddy from Sophia days and I half-jokingly suggested we go to a cat cafe. I did not think in a million years she'd take me up on the offer, partly because I wasn't sure what kind of person goes to a cat cafe. Is this the sort of thing "normal" people do? It's not going to be like a maid cafe where some girl in a French maid outfit uses all sorts of fancy keigo I can't understand? Or one of those cafes where girls dress up as male anime characters and flirt with female customers? It's not some strange cover for a snack bar (not what it implies in English) but with cats, is it?

He knocked that box over twice in the hour we were there.


Thankfully it was none of those things. The staff seemed normal, not crazy cat lady types; most of the people there were couples and toward the end of our visit a little girl came in with her grandmother. They had a nice little set up going: the "cafe" was like a big living room filled with stuffed animals, boxes, and cat toys, with some couches at the back and a counter with chairs at the window. You could pay for non-alcoholic vending machine nomihoudai and order from a menu of pasta and sandwiches (they'd give you lids for your drinks or big glass cake covers to put over your food). They were playing some sort of baby Disney instrumental CD and had a TV on low volume showing a variety show. It was a very homey and I would've loved to curl up on a couch with a few kitties next to me.

I thought he and his male friend were there on their own.
"Man, I totally wanna go to that cat cafe..."

My cat cafe date~

Most of the cats were full-grown, but even though they weren't cute little kittens like how you see on Cute Overload, they were all gorgeous and well-groomed. The "mama-san" of the cat cafe could shout at any of the cats and they'd take her seriously - if she called a cat's name, it would respond in some way. Before we officially entered the cafe, the staff did warn us about one problem cat who has been known to bite, but he didn't act up while we were there. Overall it was a nice experience and if I were SUPER ENTHUSIASTIC about cats maybe I'd pay for a membership card.

And of COURSE, I managed to get at least one potential lolcat:

Maybe the Rubik's Cube one on FB is funnier...

*I was told Anpanman does this. And mother thought Ren and Stimpy was bad.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The hilarity doesn't stop

In the time that I've spent in Japan, I've never seen the police DO anything. The crime rate is incredibly low (at least for your more everyday incidents, excluding yakuza activities) and the most I've ever asked of a cop is to give me directions. Police boxes are always really small, even in the popular areas like Shibuya and Harajuku, and I'm sure the fuzz in my little town don't get to see much action. But last night I went out to dinner with my co-worker, who goes by Caroline on the internetz, and we were walking around when a first happened for both of us: witnessing an arrest!

And it wasn't even a rowdy gaijin!

Some salaryman was making a scene outside an izakaya by the station. There had to have been at least 10 cops all over the poor guy, but he was drunk and yelling at the top of his lungs. They shoved him into the car and drove him off somewhere. Where do you go when you're arrested like that? Japanese version of a county jail for the night? Does Japanese yakuza Dog the Bounty Hunter come and bail you out for a hefty price and the deed to your house? Does his crazy Japanese yakuza wife have boobs as big as Beth's?

Gawkers at the scene

And there were people standing around for a good 15 minutes after Drunken Salaryman was driven off to his doom. Must be a rare thing for that many Japanese people to wonder what's going on.

Today was more or less a normal Saturday at English school. I'm the busiest in the evenings and on Saturdays since that's when most kids are available to take lessons. I always end my Saturday nights with a typical high school jock, who speaks English fairly well and could probably achieve fluency if he keeps studying. I like to bring in supplemental material for his class because, given his age and ability level, the textbook is pretty boring. I don't always like teaching from the book and I'm sure he gets just as tired of it as I do, so I'm always looking out for short and fun things for him to read.

For tonight's class I showed him an article about ninjas (he thought it was funny) and this article about the new words added to the Oxford dictionary. I skimmed the article earlier in the day and I figured he'd be amused at learning things like LOL, OMG, and BFF. I didn't read very carefully, though, so I ended up teaching him the phrase "muffin top" as well. Heh. I asked him about his BFF and he said, "Ah, he has muffin top." I TRIED SO HARD NOT TO LOSE IT. He now has a special place in my heart for that. What a wonderful student.

And now it's time for your regular reminder about that earthquake and tsunami we had a few weeks ago!  I found another charity that I'm kind of excited about, although I admit I haven't gone through their entire website to learn about them. They're called Shelter Box and they send crates filled with tents, cooking sets, blankets, and even coloring books to areas hit by natural disasters. I believe one Shelter Box could help up to 10 people, which is SUGOI. And some links in case you don't want to scroll:

Charity shirts available for purchase, proceeds going to a variety of different organizations

Donations can be sent to:

Mercy Corps via Peace Winds Japan
Convoy of Hope --- text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate $10
The Red Cross --- text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10
Save the Children --- text JAPAN or TSUNAMI to 20222 to donate $10
The Salvation Army --- text JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888 to donate $10

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finally, some fun~

This past weekend I FINALLY went out to drink and be merry! I've been in Japan a month and I'm kind of sad that the whole earthquake/tsunami/genpatsu-kun thing put a damper on such activities*. But there are many more weekends ahead of me where I'm sure I can make up for it.

On Sunday I went with two of my fellow trainees to Harajuku. Wandered around, bought a lucky bag at Liz Lisa that I probably didn't need (was only 5000yen and I got at least 15000yen worth of stuff!), almost got lost outside of the Meiji Shrine. There were some interesting prayer boards around the tree:

Most of these mentioned the earthquake and tsunami.

I hope that doesn't say anything bad.
I thought the KEEP IT REAL was funny.

Later I met up with my long lost relative! For a number of reasons, I've come to the conclusion that we are actually not related. I'm not sure how much information he'd like me to post about him on this blog, especially since he probably can't read it. He lives in Tokyo with his family though he's originally from somewhere else in Japan. He's older than I expected him to be, but I'm terrible at guessing ages.

We met up in Ikebukuro (since that's where he saw my tattoo three years ago) and I told him to take me to a good restaurant that served some kind of alcohol. We ended up at a little izakaya, where I promptly put my DS and some scratch paper on the counter so we could have some way of communicating. I don't speak a lot of Japanese and he speaks even less English, yet in spite of the language barrier I had a good time. He's a cool guy so I'll be keeping in touch.

On Monday I met up with more fellow trainees and hung out in Ikebukuro again. They showed me a little sports/amusement center with darts, billiards, a bowling alley, and batting cages, which was really cool though absolutely packed so we didn't get to do anything there. Instead we ate a late lunch and hung out for a while. I caught the wrong train to Yokohama and went drinking with Tracy, her co-worker, and a friend of a friend from Hawaii. SO FUN. I miss going to little hole-in-the-wall izakayas and getting kinda rowdy late at night. But I'm totally lame and forgot to take pictures. OH WELL.

And remember how my dear mother sent me 29 cans of tuna in the mail? Got that box this week.

It's now 28 cans of tuna.

*In case you were wondering, TOKYO IS FINE. STOP TALKING ABOUT RADIATION AND IODINE. There are way bigger problems up north. Last I read, there are 26,000 people dead or missing as a result of the double-catastrophe and still almost half a million people without homes. There are a lot of great organizations trying to do good, but it seems that the infamous Japanese bureaucracy is bottle-necking a lot of it with red-tape and RULES RULES RULES. Please keep donating money or buying shirts or whatever, this situation is not going to be resolved for a long time. I've been jolted awake by some pretty strong aftershocks the last few days and Sendai is still getting hit with earthquakes. Don't forget about those in Tohoku.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Short and sweet

I had an awesome weekend that I will have to post about later, but for now I wanted to put this out there:

Life is what you make it.
If you have a negative outlook on life, you'll make yourself miserable.
If you try to be positive, you'll have that much more fun.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Back to Work

Despite the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis, the corporate whip continues to be cracked and I returned to work yesterday. I know many people in the company wished they had more time off to deal with everything, but just for myself I was kind of happy to have something to do other than watch the news all day. The trains aren't running at full capacity so I don't feel comfortable going really far into Tokyo, and the blackouts just make life so much more hectic than necessary. Complain complain complain, I know.

Having class was kind of nice; I had some of my favorite students come in so it wasn't a hard day. One of the girls came in with her stuffed animal dog, and none of her other classmates came so I had her bring the dog into class and I had two students. Around 5:15 one of my Japanese coworkers started running around like a mad woman, and it wasn't until after my class ended at 5:50 did I find out we were going to have a blackout in 30 minutes. GREAT. I left and ran home to make dinner before the lights went out. Power was out for about three hours, which meant I had electricity in time to watch Arashi on TV!!!

Yes, this is a weekly segment on the show.

I was flabbergasted to find out at least two of my fellow trainees will be leaving Japan, one of whom will be gone maybe two weeks. Of the ten in my group, they live THE FARTHEST from the disaster areas. Did I mention I live the closest and I do not fear for my life because there is no reason for me to be afraid? Because I am 150 miles from the reactors and will probably never be evacuated because the *radiation* will have almost no effect on me where I am? That this has been repeated by authorities in and out of Japan? Well I just did so now you know. I can understand leaving for good more than I can understand leaving for a week and coming back. Pardon my French, but shit is not going to magically get better in two fucking weeks. You will, at some point, have to develop the mental and emotional defenses for dealing with the crisis because IT ISN'T GOING TO GO AWAY ANYTIME SOON. If you can't do that and decide to leave, that's one thing. Going home and coming back "when it's better..." you'll be gone a damn long time.

Adding to the panic is also about the worst thing you could do. The western media is hyping this up and stirring up as much fear as they possibly can, and I feel like a lot of people are overreacting. There is no panic in the streets of Tokyo, people aren't developing third arms or fifth eyes. Nuclear Reactor Boy has not taken a poop yet. Y'all in California and Hawaii need to be sending all that iodine you bought to Fukushima because it isn't going to do anything for you over there. I don't know how the airports are right now, but even if I were thinking about leaving, I'd do it a little later. Embassies are trying to get their nationals out of the affected areas and I'm not about to take up a seat on an airplane that someone else needs more than I do. 

And in this FEAR and HYPE, I honestly feel that some people are forgetting about those who have been most affected. Pray for the people you know and make sure they're okay, but don't forget about the people you may never know who desperately need your support. Keep buying the shirts and the wristbands, keep texting the charities. Those things make a difference, no matter how small or insignificant you feel you contribution may be.

My own mother sent me a whopping 29 cans of tuna yesterday, even though I've told her I'M FINE I'M FINE I HAVE FOOD I HAVE MONEY DON'T WORRY ABOUT ME every time I've talked to her. I will eat each can feeling very loved~ I hope she sent me a cookbook with all those cans.

Charity Shirts

Want to support Japan and the charities helping with the relief efforts, but think texting is totally lame? Buy some awesome shirts designed by celebrities! Let me tell you, I WANT THE AYU AND SALVATION ARMY ONES SO BAD but the post office isn't working very well in Japan so they'll have to get shipped home.

Ayumi Hamasaki + ViVi collaboration shirt - 1500yen
The Japanese LOOKS scary, but I promise the important parts are in English.
EDIT: No longer available :(

IDK if they'll ship international,
but if you find a WC store you can buy it!

And if you can stand to text money to the other charities or make donations, please keep doing so! But you don't get a cool shirt out of it.

I had my first official blackout last night and I do want to write a post about yesterday, a first hectic day at work (though it did have its good moments). I'll have to make another post about that when I come back home to a hopefully lit apartment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ikebukuro in the Dark

I ventured out of my town for a little while and went to Ikebukuro. It's one of the big cities closest to my town, so I'd be less likely to get stuck there than somewhere farther out like Shibuya or Shinjuku. My blackout was scheduled for about 6-10pm, probably the worst time of the five groups since that means NO LIGHT and NO HEAT. I wanted to get out of the apartment so I wouldn't be sitting in the dark freezing.

I thought I'd go for a stroll through my old station, wander through Seibu department store and Loft (one of my favorite Japanese stores), maybe walk up to Don Quixote and feel like I'm back home for a little while. I caught the train a little early so I could hopefully see some of the big department stores before they closed. Instead, the town was half dark.

Don Pen in the dark.

One of thee Bic Cameras close to the station.

Up by Sunshine City. Even the arcade was closed.

Sorry it's fuzzy. Coming down from Sunshine City.

I have to assume everywhere else in Tokyo looked kind of like Ikebukuro did -- half-closed and half-dead. Most of the big stores were open, like Bic Camera, Don Quixote, and Matsumoto Kiyoshi (Japanese Longs), but I hadn't left early enough for the department stores. I found a flashlight in my closet but most of the batteries were sold out at all the stores. Thankfully I bought a little one from Bic Camera, and I knew just enough Japanese to hear they were selling them on the 4th floor!

Ate dinner at McDonald's, because I needed to feel a little bit more like an ignorantly fearless American. I couldn't tell if this was the regular crowd at McDonald's or if there were people like me trying to stay away from the blackout areas. Some guys playing DS games, some business men, a few couples. There was another girl on her phone by herself, but she didn't look too happy.

I got called into work(!) this morning. I don't know what exactly I'll be doing with no classes to teach and not enough Japanese skills to perform other office duties. Maybe I can convince someone to check up on our new hire, a Japanese guy who is apparently from Sendai.


Donations can be sent to:

Mercy Corps via Peace Winds Japan
Convoy of Hope --- text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate $10
The Red Cross --- text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10
Save the Children --- text JAPAN or TSUNAMI to 20222 to donate $10
The Salvation Army --- text JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888 to donate $10

Lady Gaga is selling wristbands on her official site. HOW AMAZING IS SHE. These are being sent out on the 25th so buy now!!!

That's just a short list, you can Google to find more.

If you are IN JAPAN, don't feel helpless! You can do plenty:

- Conserve electricity. Blackouts may not be necessary if we use less.
Donate blood. There will be a few stations with blood donation rooms, including Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Machida stations. (Please note there are restrictions)
- Give some cash at Lawson. They are accepting donations for Japan Red Cross until the 26th.
- Stay positive! We're all doing our best, so let's continue to do so until this crisis is properly dealt with.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Update Post-Earthquake

In my humble opinion, the situation in Japan has not gotten any better. 

Experts continue to say that we're probably going to experience more strong aftershocks, 7.0 and higher on the Richter scale and above a 5 on the Japanese scale. I don't even know what's going on with the nuclear power plant in Fukushima but it's not under control yet.

The government had scheduled blackouts for most of the Kanto area, which is made up of Tokyo prefecture and the surrounding areas. There are currently five different groups that each have different scheduled blackout periods. The blackouts were supposed to be about 4-5 hours long, but the government didn't enforce most of them today, thankfully. My area had three different groups listed, way to be specific TEPCO!

Maybe I won't have power ALL DAY *yay*.

I think all of these things combined sent people into a bigger panic than necessary, because the convenience stores and grocery stores have absolutely nothing on the shelves. Even the vending machines are all out of water. I was with Tracy yesterday, wandering around Yokohama station, and all the food vendors didn't seem to have any problems. Starbucks' bakery in the station had more than enough baked goods, certainly more than I'd seen in one place since the earthquake. All the restaurants were open for business as usual.

Today was a completely different story at my grocery store. I don't think it gets this bad in Hawaii when we have tsunami or hurricane warnings.

Prepackaged soup aisle.

No fresh meat products.

A group of lonely Pepsi bottles.

There were some things still stocked but these are the three photos that wanted to upload properly. There was no rice, instant ramen, pasta, meat, seafood, or water. Most of the frozen food was gone. The dairy section had some cheese and butter left. Some juice boxes and small bottles of soda were left (I got two bottles of C.C. Lemon). LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOZE I was tempted to buy some and get drunk by myself, but I held myself back from the 1000yen gallon-sized bottle of sake.

I went up to the second floor to see if people bought up medications, but the pharmacy section was already closed and covered up. There were no baby diapers and most of the feminine needs aisle was empty (did buy two little boxes JUST IN CASE). I was kind of curious to see if the condoms had all been bought out, since blackouts tend to provide population booms haha.

I am hoping that in the next few days rescue and recovery efforts in the northern region continue and we get some happy news of survivors. I read one man was rescued nine miles out at sea, he is on my list of BAD ASS PEOPLE who are AMAZING. Things desperately need to get better, I don't know how I'll survive if the current situation continues. I have enough groceries to last me a while, I have power and heat and everything I need. But at some point I will have to buy bread or catch the train somewhere or SOMETHING. 

Trying my best to stay positive!


Donations can be sent to:

Mercy Corps via Peace Winds Japan
Convoy of Hope --- text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate $10
The Red Cross --- text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10
Save the Children --- text JAPAN or TSUNAMI to 20222 to donate $10
The Salvation Army --- text JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888 to donate $10

Lady Gaga is selling wristbands on her official site. HOW AMAZING IS SHE.

That's just a short list, you can Google to find more.

If you are IN JAPAN, don't feel helpless! You can do plenty:

- Conserve electricity. Blackouts may not be necessary if we use less.
- Donate blood. There will be a few stations with blood donation rooms, including Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Machida stations. (Please note there are restrictions)
- Give some cash at Lawson. They are accepting donations for Japan Red Cross until the 26th.
- Stay positive! We're all doing our best, so let's continue to do so until this crisis is properly dealt with.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I survived the seventh strongest earthquake ever recorded. HOLY SHIT.

I don't remember exactly what time it hit, but I tweeted about it shortly after it stopped at 2:55pm.!/carlislenoriko/status/46086902855643136

It lasted a good long time. It started out like every other earthquake I've experienced in Tokyo, sort of mild and motion-sickness-y.

Then it got a little stronger. Oh well, that's kind of fun.

Then it got A LOT stronger. Fun over.

And it didn't stop :( PANIC.

I started freaking out, the Japanese staff started freaking out, and I saw people leaving buildings. Everything outside was shaking, trees, power lines; I was shaking. I thought, "If it gets any worse we are all going to die."

It's about 10:00pm right now, I'm still feeling slight aftershocks. So far, about once an hour we get a long aftershock that makes me want to get up and RUN.

But I am alive and I am well, if not a little on edge. I'm LUCKY. My Facebook blew up with people commenting on my updates and generally making sure I was okay. I FEEL SO LOVED <3

I'll try to update my blog and Twitter with charities and things like that. Don't know if anyone else saw the entire freaking town get washed away by one wave, but I'm sure they will need something more substantial than good thoughts.

Stay safe~

Sunday, March 6, 2011

They're paying me to teach kids English. Oh lawd.

I have successfully (for the most part) completed my first week at work. Oh what, I didn't post anything about training or my awesome days off? Meh. Recap:

Training was intense but ultimately worth it. I never learned how to deal with kids - I was an only child for most of my life and I never took much interest in kids younger than me. Honestly I had little interest in kids my own age, even now, because I am just anti-social like that. Training gave me the tools to teach, or at least enthusiastically play with, kids, and maybe slip in some education here and there. I'm not a certified professional, I work for a private company that advocates only its own teaching methods. I still feel like I know next to nothing, but it was less than nothing before training.

Tracy and I went on a little day trip to Hiroshima before training started. It was a gorgeous day, not too cold or windy. We wandered around the Hiroshima Peace Park, visited the museum and the Genbaku Dome, and made it just in time to take some fabulous pictures at Miyajima Shrine. Checked all those off the bucket list.

Bomb detonated about there.

Letter of protest over nuclear testing to Obama. Political sad pandas.

So instead of a shit ton of nukes, maybe we just have a ton.

Ignore that it's sideways. LOOK AT US AT THE SHRINE.

I met some cool people in my training group, yet only a few of whom live in greater Tokyo so I won't be seeing most of them until... forever. I met someone with MY NAME (my nickname, Carly), so we had to differentiate ourselves by our favorite food. I was Spam, she was Steak. We had a third Hawaiian besides Tracy and I, who maybe sort of stalked us at customs. And a Canadian. If Canada is filled with Canadians like her, I might consider moving there and be constantly entertained by crazy shenanigans and cute accents eh. Also made friends with some of the Japanese trainees staying in the dorm, a few guys hoping to be teachers and a bunch of girls going into management. We did model lessons for each other~



I had one really bad baby class but the rest were all right. I'm sure I'll be absolutely drained next week, physically and mentally, since I'll be teaching ALL the classes rather than a few of them. I've already got a list in my head of some of the more bad-interesting things I've seen and heard. Also have a list of initial favorites TEE HEE. I'm sure even professional teachers have favorites, right? And I'm not even a professional so pshhh I'm totally allowed to like the cute ones more.

There's other photos on my camera that I can't be bothered to upload right now. I AM TIRED. GOODNIGHT.