November 5, 2012

Guns with Grandpas, Baths with Buddies.

What a day!

So many exciting adventures and happenings that it's hard to even know where to begin, but for the sake of continuity, we'll go in chronological order.

The morning began with a call from an unknown Japanese number. I didn't bother picking up because I wasn't awake. So it was less me not picking up and more me not being conscious.

When I arose from my slumbers I saw a message from my friend Angela, who has also just recently moved to Japan. I'm telling you, this is the place to be! Angela is an Emersonian and has just started working at an NGO out here that deals with... nature? Recycling? Sustainability? We met up for lunch, along with her friend Sisca, and delighted in a strange blend of Japanese and Italian. I guess the noodles/pasta are the common thread?

I ordered a side pizza and was instructed to cut it using scissors. I will never use a knife again. This system is brilliant:

Besides the joy of seeing a friend from the States, it was also nice to be with someone who is learning Japanese. It's probably more useful to learn from someone in a similar place than you than it is from an expert. This is actually a principal called "The Zone of Proximal Development" Makes sense that two people in similar places would be able to understand one another's needs more than an expert who has long been removed from the struggles of learning. 

We shared many of the same struggles and observations about Japanese, one of which being the need to add spaces to written word: Canyouimaginehavingtoreadlikethisalldaylong.AndyesIdidjustuseaperiodratherthanaquestionmarkbecausetheydonthavequestionmarkshere.

Bostonians in Shibuya
After lunch we split ways and I returned to Odaiba island, which as you may recall, is a man-made island that boasts a Little Lady Liberty. Come sundown, I was going to meet up with a bunch of friends for another onsen experience, so I decided to use late afternoon to catch up on some correspondence.

So odd...
On my quest to find the perfect spot to write, I walked through a mall and found a shooting gallery. I watched from behind the old Western saloon-style swinging doors and was amazed to see the average age of participants hoping to win a Hello Kitty piggy bank was 60. And they were men.
Debating whether or not to live up to the stereotype of gun totin' Ameican
Old men love Hello Kitty
The American in me decided to show these freedom-haters how to operate a gun, so I paid my yen, received 10 corks, found a spot at the counter,
and prepared to blast my way into the hall of fame. Knowing the Statue of Riberty was only a few hundred feet away gave me the boost I needed and helped me win 5, count them 1 2 3 4 5 toy prizes. I didn't see another soul win even one.


Like most everything in this country, a vending machine dispensed the cork bullets.
10 chances at glory
Taking aim
First shot! A new friend,
Second shot and I hit the Doraemon (you can see the attendant's hand pushing it towards me)
As they fall, a stick pushes them towards you and they drop right at your place.
Come to me, sweet Doraemon
My new friends.
The manliest thing I've ever done 
I may or may not have found one last cork below my station...
At home with my winnings
This was one of the proudest days of my life. Now that my modeling career has ended I think I may take up some profession where I can shoot foreign characters all day. Border patrol agent maybe?

Being incredibly awesome really took it out of me, so I continued with my original goal of finding a nice place to sit. I ended up at an American diner that was playing Jack Johnson. I sat outside, away from the music, and got comfortable next to Little Lady Liberty while sipping my all time very ginger ale.
Cheers to lax gun laws
The evening ended and turned into night at Odaiba Onsen. 

My first few onsen experiences were in quiet towns and were often tucked into the sides of hills or nestled between large trees and big skies. They were the sorts of place you'd expect to find a naturally occurring hot spring. I had seen my fair share of naked asian men, yes, but the baths I chose in the past were relatively empty so it was easy to avoid eye contact.

Odaiba Onsen is not tucked into a mountain, nor is it a naturally occurring hot springs. It is the Disneyland of onsens in that every piece of experience is artificially created, starting with the fact that it's designed to look as though it was built during the Edo period. There is nothing zen-like or traditional about this place. 

But I'm not complaining, I absolutely loved it! 

Like a moth to a flame...
I was drawn to this manufactured paradise.

When you first enter the lobby, you are given a bracelet that contains a key to your main locker as well as a barcode. This is used to charge food, spa treatments, games and souvenirs. Only when you are completely finished with your onsen experience do you have to pay. 

I lied. When you first enter the lobby, you see the following three things:

1. A warning about tattoos. Since the Yakuza are clad in ink, most onsens prohibit them.
The face and the tat don't quite match
2. A warning about booze. They allow you to drink in the onsen, but if you're too trashed to enter, you're too trashed to bathe.

3. For reasons that are comprehension, the very first thing you see after entering the lobby is an alien from Aliens. 
I was able to confirm that this was not an Alien from the Edo period
While the actual baths are separated by gender, the common areas between them are shared. These areas include two great rooms with plenty of food stands, candy, ice cream, and shaved ice vendors, bars and an arcade. From there, you and your loved one can head to relaxation rooms (aka large rooms with sleeping people scattered everywhere), the spa, an outdoor foot bath (more on that later) and if you feel the need to be entertained, there's a stage with hourly shows. I was treated to an overly excited balloon artist.

By far the best part about all of this was that everyone was wearing a Yukata, which is essentially a lightweight kimono. I had missed the memo about wearing underwear beneath, so I got to really be one with my friends and let it all hang out. There is something exhilarating about being with a bunch of practically naked strangers. The whole kids running around thing nearly ruined it, but they tended to keep to the arcade.
Traditional Edo period Nintendo DS and Claw Machine
The center of the grand room
Various food options
A looner in action
Admiring my new look
Does Rag & Bone make Yukatas?
Lizzy and Catherine ordering soba
A large dining room that is definitely not called a dining room as we all sat on the ground.
Shaved ice with sugary goodness

The night ended with a group trip outside to the "foot spa". There were advertisements for various treatments, but we were headed to the reflexology pool.

I don't eat seafood, but I would let seafood eat me.

What is a reflexology pool, you may ask? It's a series of shallow pools that you walk through. What makes that a reflexology pool? Well they have decided to cement tons of sharp rocks, pebbles, and various other uncomfortable elements to the bottom of the pools, so as you walk through, you are "treated" to a "massage".

I personally think the owner was like "I bet if we call this thing a reflexology pool, dumb Americans will pay us to walk across sharp rocks and then tell their friends about this ancient way to alleviate foot problems." Either way, because it was outside, we discovered a new piece of clothing that is best described as an halter-top kimono jacket. Needless to say, very fashionable!
Andrea "enjoying" the "reflexology" pool.

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