Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Different Kind of Art

There's a little shop in Shimokitazawa that I love. I call it the box store, but that is not what they sell. Small-time jewelry makers and artists, probably people who just do it for a hobby, sell their wares in little wooden boxes that are stacked up to make a few aisles in a dimly lit store. It's all very cute and kitschy and wonderful, just as unique as the merchandise.

My favorite thing at this shop is the post card rack. Local artists draw or print up their own postcards to sell for about 150yen each. Each one I've purchased so far has come with the artist's contact information, like an email or website, so I know these aren't mass produced and available at LOFT or something. I know I won't find postcards like these anywhere else and I've been sending them to friends and family for a few months now.

I apologize for the terrible lighting in these photos, but the postcards are amazing.

Maybe it's lame but I've had a lot of fun choosing and sending each postcard. Writing them at work has also allowed me to look busy without actually doing anything! Yay productivity!

In other news, GOLDEN WEEK is upon us once again! Mama and Papa will be visiting me, I'm excited to see them and show them around my second home.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Sakura Post

UGH ALMOST 10 DAYS AND NO NEW POST?!?!?!?! Terrible. So here's a bunch of pretty sakura from two weeks ago in Omiya Park.

Only in Japan would you have a karaoke set going on in a little
dinky drinking shop in a park.

I also went to Ueno Park too early for good sakura viewing, but there was good eatin'!

What do you call sake and orange juice?
Not quite a screwdriver...

On this baked potato:
Mayonnaise, miso sauce, and butter.


K srsly tho next time I'll do a proper post. I'VE BEEN BUSY. Oh yeah and it was my birthday or something. Shit, that's another post. I'LL GET TO IT EVENTUALLY.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Conversations with My Students: Second Buttons

I've been watching a lot of videos from MEGWIN, a hilarious Japanese YouTuber who uploads videos daily of him and his buddies doing stupid things. They're quick and easy videos that don't require a whole lot of language skills to understand, but there was one that I didn't quite get.

I understood the words spoken even without the help of subtitles, but the cultural tradition he's referencing was completely unknown to me. You give your second button to someone? Or they ask for it? What?

Good thing I teach English to two Japanese boys who just graduated from high school! I asked each of them about this second button tradition.

Me: You know MEGWIN?
Mittens: Japanese comedian? Yes, I know him.
Me: Yeah so I was watching one of his videos and he had this thing about the second button on a uniform. What's that all about?
Mittens: Um... I think boys give their buttons to girls.
Me: (remembered Mittens goes to an all boys school) Ah, so you didn't give yours away. What do girls do with the button?
Mittens: I don't know, I'm not a girl.
Me: OK smarty pants. Why the second one? That's stupid, you totally ruin the look of the uniform. Giving one from your sleeve or maybe the last button wouldn't be as noticeable.
Mittens: I don't know.

Me: OK Slightly Racist Teenager. Explain this second button business.
Slightly Racist Teenager: Girls ask for buttons from guys they like, or boys give their buttons to girls they like.
Me: Why the second one?
SRT: I don't know.
Me: Did you give your second button to anyone???
SRT: Um uh eeehh... I gave it to my friend.
SRT: Ah eeehh... yes?
Me: Uh huh, ok Slightly Racist Teenager... what do girls do with the buttons?
SRT: I don't know.
Me: You don't make like a cell phone charm out of it or put it somewhere?
SRT: I don't know.

Frustrated with the boys' answers, I asked Brohei-sensei about this as well. I realize this is not a conversation with a student but it's informative!

Me: I asked Mittens and Slightly Racist Teenager about the second button thing, but they didn't know what girls do with the buttons once they get them.
Brohei: Yeah, I don't know either.
Me: Did anyone ask for your button? You had a girlfriend in high school!
Brohei: Actually... I don't think she asked for mine! Maybe she asked for someone else's button?
Me: LOL THAT IS TERRIBLE. Why the second one?
Brohei: I think it's because it's close to your heart.
Me: AAAWWWW that's cute. Do some girls try to get as many buttons as they can? Like to brag about later? I think I'd try to collect as many as I could then make a cell phone strap!
Brohei: LOL maybe! I don't know. But it's an old tradition since a lot of uniforms have blazers and not the kind with the collar and buttons.

What uniforms on real teenage boys tend to look like.

I think it's a cute tradition! Brohei asked me if we did anything similar in America and the only thing I could think of was giving your class ring to someone. Someone tell me what the girls do with the buttons!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Kis-My-Ft2 Tokyo Dome OMG

Carly has a new favorite j-boy group.

Found on Google Image Search.

I know it seems like I suffer from shiny object syndrome and I have a new favorite every week, but I'm serious this time! I was lucky enough to score tickets to Kis-My-Ft2's big Tokyo Dome concert and I was beyond amazed and enthralled~ They put on a spectacular show that was entertaining from beginning to end with THREE encores. IT WAS CRAZY AWESOME.

I'll be honest, this was a big gamble for me. I know nothing about this group - I don't know their names, I only started listening to their album about a week ago, and I certainly don't have a favorite member yet. I bought tickets because I'm never going to see Arashi in concert, so I figured I might as well settle for any major JE group, and I've been wanting to see Tokyo Dome for FOREVER. I didn't have high hopes for the show; I figured it'd be fun but we'd get stuck in the nosebleed seats and just spend a lot of money.

To my extremely pleasant surprise, WE GOT FLOOR SEATS RIGHT NEXT TO A WALKWAY. I was close enough to hear them actually sing into their microphones and not hear any sound come from the loud speakers (lol lip-syncing). I could see every sparkly bedazzled detail on their costumes. I got waved to during each song. I WAS SO FREAKING HAPPY.

Lights everywhere.

The show opened to their three major hits to date, and the boys managed to keep the momentum going through the first hour with no breaks. All music, super happy fun roller skate time, fireworks, acrobatics, dozens of Juniors running around in ill-fitting suits. It was everything I'd expect from a JE show... everything I'd ever dreamed of.

Kis-My-Ft2 started the show suspended by wires and doing acrobatics
from the strange blue balloon there.

Before the show~

The second hour was their variety bit where take a break from performing and show off their personalities. My Japanese is still terrible so I didn't understand most of it, but they promoted their dramas and had some strange comedian give them a big jar of rice crackers. A.B.C.Z, another JE group, made an appearance in the audience. Kisumai dressed up in drag and did a comedy routine as their female alter egos, something about things you'd say to seduce your boyfriend.

The final hour consisted of more music, fireworks, a monster truck, balloons and acrobatics. More waves and smiles to my section. Oh you charming Kisumai boys, making me want to spend more money for your stuff~ They "ended" the show with a song about saying goodnight instead of goodbye, and they "went to sleep" as they descended from the stage. But then we heard complaints of, "I can't sleep! I'm not tired!" so they came back for an encore.

I forget during which encore this happened, but I believe the one named Kitayama smiled and waved HELLO to one of the girls around me. Two of the girls in front of me turned to each other and KYAAAA'd, Marissa turned to me and said OMG HE LOOKED RIGHT AT ME (EDIT: Apparently she was making fun of those girls, too. OOPS!) and for all I know he was looking at my crazy wig. So hey Kitayama, you made all of us feel special for just a moment~

Yet that was simply not enough for the fans. Kisumai left the stage, but no one sat down. All these crazy j-girls spent big money to see Kisumai and they wanted another encore, which they got. I believe one of the guys (Kitayama?) was shirtless through this one, not that I was complaining. I thought this was the *real* end.

NO OMG I WAS WRONG. WE GOT A THIRD ENCORE. A.B.C.Z came up and horsed around with them onstage for the final encore, it was cute.

Then we all left in an orderly fashion and went home. IT WAS SO GREAT. OMG.

I even left with some loot! The streamers exploded out of the sky at some point in the first 10 minutes and once they landed girls started fighting for them. I caught mine fair and square, but I wasn't about to get nuts trying to get one of every color. The girl across from me was a Kisumai super fan, she was kind of scary and actually pulled a streamer out of another girl's hand.

I was disappointed with the goods for sale, notably the over-sized shapeless tote bags, though I did impulsively purchase a pen light. Every big JE show (or tour?) in Japan gets a special pen light that you have to hold and wave to the beat. I felt like the biggest dork waving it around! IT WAS SO FUN.

It's like the transformer pens from Sailor Moon.

Compared to the Jin Akanishi show in LA, this was a far better experience. Cheaper, far more spectacular, and I have a copy of all the songs I like and don't have to wait two years for a crappy album. All in all, I had a great time and I now I have seven more j-boys to love! YAY!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Shameless Purchases Post: New Glasses~

Inspired by the Surviving in Japan post, I decided to write about my new glasses!

Back in 9th grade, my geography/social studies teacher sat me at the back of the classroom in some sort of strange alphabetical order that did not make sense to me. I could see NOTHING written on the board and asked to be moved to the front to take notes, even for just a little while, and that bitch didn't even try to compromise. "I haven't learned your names yet so you can't move!" she told me. So I had to get glasses.

That was over 10 years ago! DAMN I AM OLD. I've had my current pair of glasses for about eight or nine years, partially because my eyesight hasn't gotten all that much worse but also because getting new glasses in America is a pain in the butt. That first pair was super mendokusai -  I had to make an appointment with the eye doctor, go down to the office, wait for someone to see me, do the eye exam, and then wait another week to get my glasses. And they make you pay for everything - the doctor's visit, the eye exam, the frames, the lenses, insurance. One pair can easily cost hundreds of dollars.

Not so in this wonderful country of Japan!

I went with a friend a while back to pick up his glasses and asked him about the entire process. He said he paid the sticker price, the eye exam was FREE, and he got his glasses the same day! I didn't believe him, but he convinced me when he took me back to get my own pairs~

Clear lightweight plastic, super snazzy!

More respectable brown spectacles!

Two brand new beautiful pairs of glasses! I walked into the shop, filled out a form (in Japanese, but it was only my name, phone number, and age), did the FREE eye exam (with a hiragana chart), and left in less than 3 hours with new glasses. All for less than $200, too! They're even insured for 6 months in case I accidentally gaijin smash them.

These J!NS shops are all over the place, every big mall or shopping area has one. I happened to go to the one in the Odakyu department store in Shinjuku and one of the clerks speaks enough English to get by. I don't know what the process is at other shops, but I assume it's about the same.

According to one of the commentors on the Surviving in Japan post, shops like J!NS have a stock of ready-made lenses they pop into different frames. It allows them to keep costs down but it also means their glasses aren't ideal for everyone. I don't have any eye conditions, I'm just a bit near-sighted and I can't drive without my contacts or glasses, so they're okay for me.

I don't have any complaints about the glasses, but I do notice they sit higher on my face than other pairs I've had. I'm really happy with the clear ones! I remember a classmate in high school had clear Dior glasses with crystals on the side, and while these are a cheap substitute they're pretty close to the ones she had. The brown ones are more ideal for wearing at work, although I'm not crazy about the floral pattern on the side.

I might go back and get another pair heh heh...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ridiculous Japanese Candy

So there's this certain Japanese YouTuber, RRcherrypie, who posts all kinds of amazing candy videos. I am nowhere near as talented as that guy, but I tried my hand at some of the easier (and cheaper!) candies he and other YouTubers have made.

First, this weird Neru Neru Nerune grape sprinkley maddness. One tray, 3 powder packages, one spoon thing. You mix the first two packages in one side to make this sugar paste and then dip it into the sprinkles from the third package. Fun and didn't make a huge mess, but it wasn't that great.

Rip-off Jigglypuff/Kirby thing going on.

Next, a gummy-maker set! This one was far more complicated to put together but the gummy candies it makes are in fact pretty good. Top left package is the one I made. The tray with all the flavors mixed reminds me of a watercolor set from Crayola. I don't think I'd ever buy this one for my kid, the potential for a mess is far too great.

Advertising vs. reality.

Finally, the least delicious but most entertaining candy! You make the strange green liquid and pink foamy stuff in separate trays. Then in the green liquid you pour in some magical powder and slowly pull up a strip of candy. Dipping in the pink foam is optional.

I also did a different Neru Neru Nerune tray. This time it was peach paste with a peach dipping sauce, which was much more delicious than its grape counterpart despite its blood-like appearance.

Pretty good time for less than 500yen total. I found all of these at my grocery store and Seiyu in the candy aisle, purposefully located on the bottom shelf so kids will find them.