Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lost in translation, indeed

I gotta say, Japan is something else. Definitely a strange and different country, and I already live in a strange and different country. A couple random stories:

After landing in Tokyo and getting to the station where I had to change trains (and rail networks, requiring me to go outside) I saw a really hot girl, wearing a really short skirt, calf-length boots, and one knee pad. Just one. This was in a non-hip neighborhood at like 3 p.m. It was cool.

Once I was outside, I decided to smoke a quick cigarette. Smoking in Japan is basically the opposite of the rest of the world. Restaurants don’t have smoking areas, you can smoke anywhere, even in McDonalds and Starbucks. But, you can’t walk and smoke outside, there are designated smoking areas outside that you have to stand by. While smoking my first non-airport cig in Tokyo, I stood next to a large ashtray that had a “Smoker Team” logo on it. Just then, a minivan pulled up with the same logo, and two guys wearing matching “Smoker Team” caps and polo shirts hopped out and proceeded to change out the water and remove the cigarette butts from this large ashtray with the efficiency of an Indy 500 pit crew. Within 43 seconds or so, they were back in the van, on their way to the next stop.

Strangely, I didn’t eat any sushi on this trip. I know, I know, you can’t go to Tokyo and not eat sushi, right? But, I’ve had sushi in Japan before, so there was no novelty in it, and there’s a sushi place across the street from my apartment in Seoul, so it’s not like it’s hard to get. I did eat Japanese food, including an awesome beef and rice bowl that I am unaware of the name, as the restaurant had no English whatsoever. I also had pub grub, Haitian, French, and Mexican, all of which is much harder to come by in Seoul than sushi.

This could be a separate blog, but the Rupungi (Tokyo’s main club district) bars and clubs were chock full of security personal and touts, which are two concepts I just don’t understand. This is hardly a Japanese phenomenon, but it just doesn’t make sense. If I am in the mood to go to, say, a dance club, or a titty bar, or a bar, and some guy comes up to me in the street and says hey, come to my establishment, and attempts to give the hard sell to get people in, what are the odds that I am going to said establishment? I’d say zero. I don’t want to go to any club or bar that sends people out to the street to harass people. Security is another matter. One dance club that we did go to was chock full of security. If you go into a dance club, and there’s tons of obvious security guards walking around, do you feel more or less secure? I’ve only been to one club in Seoul that goes this route, and its also the only club in Seoul where I’ve ever felt less than secure. I had one beer and left, and I haven’t been back. This just seems like really faulty marketing to me.

I went to a Japanese baseball game, the Yomoyuri Giants (Ichiro’s old team) and that was pretty awesome. Much better skill-wise than the Korean league, and way more people in attendece. Of course, tickets and beers cost the same as in the US, so that was less fun. Easily the most hilarious element of the game is that the seat vendors, including the ones that carry 5 gallons or so of draft beer in a backpack, were all cute 90 pound Japanese girls. And, there were probably 100 of them there, and they all seemed to be really excited and happy to bring me and my buddy beers, despite the fact that the stairs were steep, the backpacks heavy, and we were sitting in the nosebleeds. I still can’t get my head around this. In Japan, there’s no tipping, so I can’t understand why these girls were so eager to haul 50 pounds of beer up to row 37 or wherever the hell we were.

Also confusing - I stopped to get a coffee in some high end coffee joint in Ginza, which may be Tokyo’s highest-end neigborhood. Playing on the sound system in said coffe joint - Gretchen Wilson’s Red Neck Woman. And the clientele seemed to like it. A song about shopping at Wal-Mart (which I don’t think makes Gretchen Wilson a redneck, by the way, I think it makes her a dumb cunt) at a high end coffee shop in the high rent district next to the Fendi store. In Tokyo.

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