July 21, 2007 (3 Responses)
WHILE THE REST OF THE WORLD is going Harry Potter mad today (and judging by the empty shelves in my local bookshops I’m guessing it’s the same everywhere) I decided to intentionally ignore all the wizard related stories and instead had my attention grabbed by a muggle related item in my most favourite alien place on this spinning rock of ours. That’s Japan for anyone who wasn’t paying attention!
I’ve written previously about how weird and wonderful that country is and in fact have an entire category dedicated to my time over there if you’re interested. I can state categorically that it’s the most alien and unexpectedlyÂ magnetic (in the sense that I feel the need to go back)Â place I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. It’s about a year since I was there and my intial shock and surprise at the seemingly endless list of differences and weirdness experienced while there has since receeded into a more palatable longing to return and give it another whirl. I’m sure it’s still as insane, as weird and as alien now as it ever has been, but I think I’d be better prepared next time; well I certainly hope so!
Anyway, what caught my attention today was a story over at Reuters about how lonely Japanese men are turning to sex dolls for solace. It seems that they regularly invest in more than one rubberised companion and spend money dressing them up, pampering them, watching TV with them and even just talking to them for company (rather thanÂ the obvious uses). The dolls themselves range from your basic plastic crappy blowup variety to expense life-like creations which actually have moving joints and silicon implants too. Trust the Japanese to take sex dolls to a new level!
Japanese men are seemingly feeling more and more disenfranchised and (strangely enough) alienated within the traditional Japanese culture. Rather than remain miserable and lonely, they turn to doll makers to help liven up things a bit, but is this the start of a fracture in the otherwise strict society? Read more
April 11, 2006 (2 Responses)
I’VE GOT SIX MINUTES LEFT on this internet kiosk thingy at Narita airport so I’ll have to be brief (while using up the last of my Yen currency). Japan was mad.. alien, unexpected, crazy, insane and much more besides… but mostly mad!
I’ll post some more coherent observations when I get back to Dublin and get over the inevitable jet lag, but for now let me just say this…
That was one hell of a holiday… and the best bit is I’ve still got some time off before I head back to work, so I’ll be getting the site back to normal over the next few days. Until then – Sayonara!
April 9, 2006 (2 Responses)
THE LAST (OFFICIAL) NIGHT of the tour finished on April 7th with an all you can eat/drink affair followed by what can only be described as a night of weirdness, but great fun. I sort of passed up a lot of the “all you can eat” in preference for an “all you can drink” night – and it showed!
After copious amounts of alcohol at some student type eatery we headed out into the chaos that is Shinjuku at night. It’s a very Bladerunner-esqe affair, and hard to take in at first. We were assaulted by neon madness, a cacophony of shouts, adverts, screams and music and of course the endless ebb and flow of human traffic through the narrow back streets of this wonderful nightmare.
Every sort of weirdness was on display, from girly maid outfits and three foot vibrators to sex advert shops, private nude clubs (Snack Bars!!) to puppies for sale in windows and the promise of much much worse if we succumbed to the endless invitations from street touts into more “private” establishments where anything was possible.
After the dizzying and alcohol fuelled wandering through this multicoloured Warshank world we ended up at a kareoke joint and of course had to participate – it would be mad to come all this way to Japan and not sample the unique pain that is kareoke. The beer kept coming, the songs became a blur and I have some vague recollections of a gang of us standnig on the chairs moshing to Bohemiam Rapsody at some point,Â and one of us getting a bit naked to Iggy Pops “Lust for Life“, and I seem to remember a very very dodgy rendition of “Baby’s Got Back” in there as well. Needless to say the photos will tell a sober story but I can’t upload them as yet…. probably just as well
The next day we had tickets to see the Chiba Marines play the somebody Hawks at the Chiba Marine Statium so SusiQ and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a baseball game. It was a mad affair, where the crowds provided more entertainment than the teams for the most part, but I’m glad we trekked out via the infinitely complex (but annoyingly efficient) rail network to do so. The hero of the game was Benny Agbayani, who drove in a home run in the 10th inning (with two runners on bases) to settle the match.
That was yesterday, and today we decided to take things a bit easier so a quick wander down to Harajuku was called for. If the drunken madness of Shinjuku could be described as the lunatics taking over the night time in Tokyo, Harajuku is whereÂ other lunatics come out in the day time.
Goths and punks of every description litter the place but with weird dress combinations like little bo peep or some cross between an 1870s maid and broadway hooker. It has to be seen to be believed, but a stroll through the park in Narajuku will pretty much give you a view of every convievable type of weirdness Tokyo has to offer, from fake sword fighting to bands trying to outplay each other,Â from dance-offs between bongo beating peace-nik types and sad 1950s rockers who really should know better then to sport “those” hair styles in 2006, and much much more besides.
All in all I have to say Tokyo is a very special kind of lunatic asylum and I really do believe there is some kind of weirdness here for everyone, no matter what your tastes are. We have one more day here and then it’s time to hit the airport and trek the long way home to Ireland and some semblance of reality/normality again.
Tomorrow we intend to spend the day in effort free mode as we wander through the local Disneyland. We’ve had enough shopping, enough drinking, enough singing, enough dancing, enough everything at this point… it’s a good time to go home and recover I reckon!
April 7, 2006 (11 Responses)
FINALLY I got backÂ to tinyÂ hotel rooms instead of tiny Ryokans as we ventured into Hakone for a couple of days. In fairness, the hotel we stayed in was decent enought, even though it was a throwback to colonial tmies (very old world, very stiff upper lip) but it did at least have big rooms so no more headaches and bumps in the night. The day we arrived the sun was shining and everything was fab, but we were so knackered from all the travelling we opted for a lazy afternoon and another nights fantastic food and beer.
The next day was suposed to be this amazing tour of the region taking in a volcano (sulphuric boiled eggs anyone?), a few cable car rides, some terriffic views of Mount Fuji, a ride on a pirate ship and much more besides. Unfortunately, the weather closed in… and this picture above of the pirate ship is as far removed from the reality of what happened. Pissing rain, strong winds, dropping temperatures and just total misery followed us around to the point where we gave up half way through, headed for another cool gyoza bar and watched the world go bye for a while chomping down stamina gyoza (mystery meat with lots and lots of garlic) and some local beers.
Then we stopped by Kamakura for a day/night and I was expecting another sleepy town with shrines and temples (in other words, boredom was setting in) but instead found some absolutely great amusement in the form of killer fish, big fuck-off mutant killer fish even!
To be more precise… we discovered ducks and pigeons who were afraid to go into or near the water of a large pond in one of these shrines. A closer examination revealed huge fish (possibly carp, maybe coy or something else of that variety)… I’m talking two to three feet and beyond per fish here! Not only huge… but mental as well. They slid beneath the surface like sharks, surfacing for a quick navigation check every now and then, only to finally attack whatever was on the surface from below and thse buggers actually leaped out of the water to a height of about 2 feet in the process each time. The result was spectacular.
These littleÂ vicious fishiesÂ were seriously quick and deadly (one second a duck, next second a few feathers on the surface)… no one was going near the edge of the pond…even little kids were scared away when the fish came close. It was pretty cool to just sit back and watch the chaos unfold. Still – we had only one day there and had to move on. As ofÂ now I’ve just arrived back in Tokyo for a few days before heading home.
Decent rooms, lots of space, some pampering and a lot of fun awaits over the next few days. More as it happens… until then, sayonara!
April 3, 2006 (3 Responses)
IT`S GETTING CLOSE to that time again, when we need to up and move on to the next venue. In this case, it`s a good thing because I`m totally not built for Ryokans and having just spent three nights in one… let`s just say I`m looking forward to a nice fluffy bed for a change in a niceÂ boring hotel room.
So – what of Kyoto then? Well – it`s a nice city and has some cute backstreets, districts and gardens (with the endless temples and shrines of course), but I guess Kyoto is best known for its Geisha district.
We did the tour thing around the Geisha district, led around by a so-called local expert who seemed to know more about the recent Hollywood film than the subject itself. In all honesty, I learned more about the Geisha from reading some guide books than I did from this guy (who we came to know as “Buffalo Bill” for certain creepy reasons which I won`t go into at this point; let`s just say I don`t want to see what`s in his fridge!).
He did confirm one thing though, which was the financial model used to hire a Geisha and as far as I can see it most resembles that of a pimp. The punter contacts the Geisha house, who arranges for the Geisha to do the business. The punter only knows what the price is when he sees the bill a month later. The House charges the punter and pays the Geisha. The Geisha never knows what the punter was charged… are you getting the picture yet?
Anyhow – time to move on and I think we are off to Hakone next for some fun and games for a couple of nights. Before then though, a last night on the town in Kyoto for some misadventures in dining and drinking, hopefully
April 2, 2006 (One Response)
IT ALL BEGAN with a night out in Kanazawa, on the town with the gang of reprobates on this Japanese odyssey. It had been decided to give the rice and stuff a break, so we headed for a local italian eatery and duly ordered whatever was recognisable from the menu. In my case, this equated to some lasagne.
This place wins the title of “Longest Lasagne” in history, as three hours later we were were still waiting on the damn thing, having had everyone else at the table served their offerings. We suspected at this point that it was either a) Let`s piss off the foreign devils night or b) the smallest oven in any eatery which was causing the problem. Still – we put it behind us and moved on.
We then spent a night in Nara where I encountered the worst meal ever, and the most work ever needed in order to feed myself short of hunting the damn meat down myself in the surrounding hills. The meal consisted of (due to an ordering error and some sublime japanese-engrish miscalculations) plate after plate after plate of raw meat, with some fish. The meat consisted in the majority of pretty unidentifable bits of offal and some relatively easy to spot joints.
The deal was that a grill lights up in the middle of the table and then we were supposed to cook our own food. Not too shabby really, until you take into account several factors; 1) it was mostly offal (euuuch!!), 2) The fat from the offal was sending the fire into inferno mode and 3) Beer had been taken at this point… lots of it
The result was predictable… burnt offerings all round. Still, we are now in Kyoto and doing the rounds (temples, shrines, geisha etc.) so hopefully the food here will improve as we go on. More as it happens…
March 30, 2006 (No Responses)
WE MOVED ON from Tokyo to Matsumoto, and from there to Takayama, and it was here that we experienced the weirdness that is a Ryokan.
The Ryokan is a traditional Japanese hostel/dwelling, with all that entails. I was expecting the paper thin rooms, the seating on the floor and lots and lots of ducking to avoid crashing into low ceilings. I even expected the communal bathing, the sleeping on the floor (futons) and more besides. However, what I did not anticipate was the curfew and morning call
If you are out late at night (I think the curfew is 11pm) and don`t make it back in time, you run into a little problem; that is you get locked out of the sodding ryokan. This can prove to be a bit of a challenge when you are out on the lash, sampling the local beers and foods.
Worse still, having stumbled back to the room before the curfew and collapsed (literally) onto the floor into your bed, the next thing you see is a small dainty maid standing over you at 7am in the morning, asking you to get out of your bed so she can put it away in the closet. As you can imagine this leads to all kinds of confusion… still it keeps things interesting.
We hit Kanazawa today and move on to Nara tomorrow, before heading in for another Ryokan stopover in Kyoto… so that gives me two nights to get some feeling and healing into my broken back from spending the last two drunken nights sleeping on the floor. Oh well -Â small sacrifice for such a great holiday I guess