October 30, 2012

Back2Buddha

If you'll recall from a previous post, the giant Buddha in Kamakura closes at 4pm and I therefore missed it during my last trip to the beach town. I was unsure why an outdoor statue closes and now after visiting, I am still confused. The 93 ton statue is in no danger of being stolen.

Anyway, I happily travelled back to Kamakura in order to check a goal off the list. I had been enchanted with the place when Kelly, Taylor and I visited a few weeks ago, so I was eager to do a bit more exploring.
One of the reasons I love Kamakura: a surf town/cultural landmark
In order to get to the Buddha, I took an old electric rail-car that has become somewhat of a landmark itself. It crept into the station, squeaking and coughing until it came to a very ungraceful stop. Hundreds of school children swarmed into the cars and I found my place between a group of adorably dressed youngsters.
New friends
The train arrived at the station and I hopped off, eager to find the giant Buddha. I followed

October 29, 2012

If it's Meant to Happen...So it Goes.

After a few hours exploring Tsunashima, I found my way to a peaceful café/massage parlor that I pass every day on the way to the station. I wanted to finish Slaughterhouse Five and enjoy a cup of tea.

I did both of these while also enjoying a warm neck pillow and the musical stylings of (and I swear this was the order in which they played):
1979-The Smashing Pumpkins
Push- Matchbox Twenty
Possibly, Maybe (live)- Björk
Wannabe- The Spice Girls
Lucky- Jason Mraz
Pyramid Song- Radiohead
I stopped taking notes after Radiohead because I was too deep into my book to listen to anything else. Plus I was worried they'd play more Mr. AZ.
Come for the tea, stay for the obscure playlist.
What the world does not need is another review of Kurt Vonnegut's most celebrated and best selling novel. I believe I am one of the last humans in the Western world to read the story of how Billy Pilgrim became unstuck in time, so instead of sharing my thoughts on the book, I will instead

Somewhere That's Green

Monday was starting to look like Sunday. I realized it was already past 1pm and I was still lounging around Kelly's. I had gone for a run in the morning and realized I hadn't explored the neighborhood much, so after a much needed Skype session with a beautiful woman back in West Hollywood, I put on a coat and decided to set out for somewhere green.

Last time I set out for something beautiful, I opened up my Maps application and looked for a green blob. My first attempt had brought me to the Imperial Castle but all that Tsunashima had to offer was a park. I was sold!
Wandering through the green
Before my trek, I decided it would be wise to get some food. Who knows how deep this forrest lead! And to top it off, I decided to redeem myself in the battle against single serving Haagen Dazs cups. Well, I'm proud to say that this time I proved victorious! If "Milk Café" makes it way to the states, I highly recommend picking up a large tub; it's delicious!
Amazing how much more enjoyable/less humiliating this process was with a spoon

After I filled my belly, I headed towards the green. The main road split and I decided to

October 28, 2012

Halloween

It's 7pm on Sunday and I'm just waking up. Granted I've woken up a few times in the last 24 hours, but this last nap most resembled actual sleep (bed, no pants, minor REM). Last night was another stay-up-until-5am-to-catch-the-train night.

Those past three sentences, along with the following two, will serve for my blog post about Sunday: I'm going to spend the evening planning my November. I'll enjoy myself around the Tokyo area this week and then start out on another rail adventure that will take me South to Kyoto, then Osaka to be with Kurumi, followed by some time on the Kyushu island for Sumo, a guy from the Pacific Northwest, and then a 25 hour ferry ride to Okinawa.

Now onto Saturday:

It began with what was supposed to be a quick trip into Tokyo to secure pieces for my halloween costume. The plan was to all get dressed up and go clubbing in the evening.  I had a few ideas kicking around my head for a costume and decided I would go with the first item I found:

A Totoro shirt would have lead to Totoroe V. Wade, which would have also included a mini Totoro stuffed toy attached to my stomach via a plastic. Totoro fetus!

A Doraemon mask would have lead to Doraemon the Exploraemon, a combination of Doraemon and Dora the Exploer.

A Duffy hat would have lead to Duffy the Vampire Hunter. I think you can imagine that.

But nothing presented itself.  I began to wander in circles, often getting on the wrong line, walking in the complete opposite direction (thanks Apple Maps) and sometimes circling a block and then walking into a store I had just exited.

It was not a good situation.

My feet began to hurt, the straps of my backpack started to cut into my shoulders, and the sudden sunshine was not agreeing with my jean jacket/hoodie combination. If not for these three discoveries on my trek, I think I would have just collapsed from disappointment:

No one batted a lash
The very rare monkey/Kangol hat combination. 
Someone was displaying a Lisa and Macintosh I in their home window. What?!
I became a zombie aimlessly rambling through the city in search of

October 27, 2012

To All That Read This Happy Blog, Welcome

A few weeks ago Kelly asked if I would like to join her and a friend at Disneyland. I'm not sure why she felt the need to inquire.

Halloween is right around the corner, and because the Japanese youth have an inexplicable desire to dress up, most of my time at the park was spent snapping photos of guests in costumes.

As for a written description of my day: I spent the day at Disneyland, does more need to be written?

The 3rd happiest place on Earth (Behind Disney and Kraftland)
The gentleman in the front really makes this photo
We made friends on Splash Mountain

October 26, 2012

A Day of Boston

I have hit a low point in my life.

But first, my excellent day!

This morning I got coffee with a gentleman from Thousand Oaks named Ben. He went to Berklee College of Music and has been living out here for ten years as a drummer. He just completed a contract at the Park Hyatt Hotel Bar (from Lost in Translation) and had some interesting observations about music, specifically Jazz, in Tokyo. We spent and hour or so getting to know each other, talking about Boston (a subject I love), our observations about Japan and other things you'd expect to expat musicians to discuss. He said he'd let me know the next time he was having a great jam session. As always, it's fun getting to know people on the other side of the world who shared a similar experience as myself in Boston.

From there I killed some time in Shibuya before my Gaba interview and resisted the urge to purchase a beautiful burgundy suit. I will eventually create a post about fashion in Tokyo, but my bank account should be thankful that I have such long arms. If 3/4 length sleeves were the hot look, I'd be taking this city by storm.

My final Gaba interview was with someone with an important sounding title, but I

October 25, 2012

Norwegian Wood

One of the driving forces for booking my ticket to Japan without work or much of a plan, as well creating these goals, was my friend Mark Danielewski. Over a series of breakfasts this Summer, he told me about a similar adventure he had taken to Paris shortly after graduating college. He said he read the entire works of Shakespeare and it stuck with me that not everything related to my trip had to be about the place. This was a time to better myself. One thing I have always wished was that I was more of was a reader, specifically of fiction. So I set goal 57: 3 books, 3 authors, 3 months. And they are:

Kurt Vonnegut: I have been told many times how much I would love his work.
Haruki Murakami: Perhaps Japan's most famous and celebrated modern author, made sense to read while I was here.
Mark Danielewski: That should be self-explanatory.

Today I finished Murakami's Norwegian Wood. Taylor has been urging me to read it for years, so that is was where I began my literary adventure.
Ill give you a moment to judge the cover
Here's my two sentence plot summary.

Coming of age story narrated by Toru Watanabe, a college freshman in Tokyo during the 1960s. Watanabe learns about love and death as well as

October 24, 2012

Northern Exposure


 Very little to report today as I spent 10 hours on the train from Sapporo back to Tsunashima. Have to get back for my 3rd Gaba interview

When I woke in the morning, Bob had already left, so I gathered my things and set out to the train station early in hopes of finding special Hokkaido edition Kit Kats. Alas, none were found.

I did wander into a store that sold ninja throwing stars and dildos. I would have provided a picture of the two of them as they were quite comical next to each other, but this seemed like the sort of place where if you took pictures, they'd use the ninja stars on you. Or worse, the dildos.

In another store I found this shirt, which I considered buying for myself, but swoopy necks don't look great against my chest hair:

One of my favorite discoveries in the world of Japanese food has been the bakeries that fill the train stations and street corners. When you walk in, you grab

October 23, 2012

札幌市は, あなたおあいして

This should help you...

I am absolutely in love with this city. I got some bittersweet news today when I found out I have my 3rd (and final) Gaba interview on Thursday, which is great, but means I must leave Hokkaido tomorrow. I would have stayed through the week if not for that and explored both Sapporo and the rest of this island. The Japanese people I have spoken with on the main island tend not to come up this far North, which is really a shame because it's such a welcomed departure from the hustle and bustle of the major cities on Honshu. And I can only imagine what this place is like covered in a blanket of snow... I don't want to just imagine though, I plan on coming back as soon as it starts snowing. This place is magical.

I'd have been very curious to have come to Sapporo without knowing it was Portland's sister city because it was the first thought I had this morning when I left Bob's apartment. Something about the width of the streets and the layout of the city, not to mention being surrounding by fall leaves and blue/gray skies with occasional showers, made me feel right at home. Except all the hipsters were replaced with Asians and the fixed gear bikes were replaced with... well no, they have those here.
Change the architecture a bit and you've got Portland!
I left the apartment in search of some boots. My blue suede shoes didn't seem appropriate for puddle jumping. There were a number of pairs I liked, but unless I take Jeanne Becker's advice and get my feet binded, I wouldn't have been able to fit into any of the pairs. I suppose that's a shopping spree best served in Tokyo.
I did manage to find this baby though.
The shopping was very Portland as well. I walked into a mall that consisted of

Where Am I Going? Sapporo

I started my travels from Yokohama where I found an empty window seat on the Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Shin-Aomori, which is located at the Northern most point of the Honshu island. The 3.5 hour trip was marked by napping and a very sore neck. I expected the Japanese to solve the problem of sleeping in a reclined chair, but this riddle has apparently stumped the ingenious society that brought us robots, rice alcohol and hentai pornography.

After transferring to a rapid service train that would take me under the ocean and to the island of Hokkaido, I decided it would be wise to start looking for a place to stay on Couch Surfing. I looked into a few cities in the area of my destination but found the majority were in Sapporo, so that would indeed be where I spent my time. I was writing complete strangers and asking to sleep in their homes with no more than 4 hour notice, and while I've always been able to depend on the kindness of internet strangers, that even seemed like a stretch.
The gateway to the unknown.
My first transfer at the Northern coast of Honshu.
Passing Time Schedule for the underwater tunnel.

The train emerged from the underwater tunnel and ran along the coast. We passed through small

October 22, 2012

Where Am I Going? Prologue.

It's 6:13pm on Sunday and I've found myself in Olympic Park watching what appears to be a high school futbol game; it seems like the whole community has come out to watch and cheer on the players. At around 6:10pm, I decided to take the Shinkansen tomorrow. To where? I did not know. 
In the last three minutes I've checked online to see how far North I can ride with my rail pass. I'll be headed South in November, first to Osaka to spend time with Kurumi and then further south for a sumo tournament and then hopefully to Okinawa. Now is my time to head North.
The end of the line is Sapporo, which is located

Ugly Ducklings

Today was another Keither Powell:

I've always been amused by swan boats, yet I never had the chance to pedal one. The Boston Public Garden is famous for the swan boats that shuttle tourists across the pond, but they aren't the classic kind that you steer yourself. So when Kelly told me her church was located directly across from a lake with true swan boats, I immediately added it to the list of 89 things to do.

The two of us got an early start to our day as we wanted to allow ample swan and nature-taking-in time. It was a gorgeous, cloudless day. As we made our way to the lake we found a local baseball game between rival elementary schools. I would peg the children to be about 6 years old, but I'm so much taller here that everyone looks like they're 6. One thing that I was sure of though is that small asian children in pinstripe baseball outfits are always adorable, and when you combine that with awkward running and fielding, it's a gold mine of "awws".

We continued towards the lake and decided to walk the perimeter while we waited for Catherine to arrive. We moved in and out of the trees and bamboo groves, admired some shrines, and made friends with the local wildlife:
Koi not acting coy. 

I haven't been here long enough to get bored with bamboo. What a beautiful plant.
Kelly mapping out our swan journey

Once Catherine arrived we made our way to

October 21, 2012

An Apple a Day Keeps the Yen at Bay

This morning I sprang out of bed. Not because I was particularly awake, but because I was meeting Catherine and Kaorina at the Tokyo International Film Festival to catch the premier of "Japan in a Day". My lack of prep time left me hungry as I walked to the train station, so I popped into the supermarket and was quickly drawn to the apples. While my experience with Shinshu Apple Kit Kats was less than satisfactory, I was told by many people that the apples in Japan would blow me away.

And they'd better, because they cost $3.50. Each.

A normal looking, $3.50 apple.

And you know what? A normal tasting, $3.50 apple.
"Japan in a Day" is a documentary filmed one year after the Earthquake and Tsunami that hit Japan in March, 2011. Much like "Life in a Day", this film

Burning Man

For the diehard readers out there (mom), I must apologize for not posting yesterday. I found myself working on another animated sign late into the night (or is it early into the morning?) and then crashed.

Here's the signage I was working with:

And my interoperation:



Friday began with my second interview at Gaba, which left me with more questions about my life than ever. It was my first real interview and

October 19, 2012

Domes & Dragons

I had my first interview at Gaba today and was invited back for a second interview tomorrow. Goal 24 has begun!

Unlike some other companies I've researched (and another where I interviewed in LA), I felt a good connection with Gaba. They hire independent contractors, rather than employees, so every month you create your schedule for the following month. The process is essentially blocking out when you're available to teach and then waiting to see what students choose you. It's sort of like a video game in that you create a profile and sell yourself, and with new students and attending teaching seminars comes pay raises and other rewards. It looked fun!

But there is something else in the works for goal 24. It's much too early to say anything, but if things go the way I've already played them out in my head, I'll be working in film and television production here! And hey, one step closer to goal 11!

But back to Gaba. My favorite part of the interview process was a section of the application that required matching idioms with their definitions. Despite Megan Woram's voice in the back of my head completely butchering every idiom in the English language, I aced it. I realized in the last few days that one of the best things about not speaking the same language as someone else is you have to figure out how to explain certain things, whether that be through pantomime or using different language to convey the same meaning. I found it uniquely challenging to explain "puns" to some Japanese girls a few nights ago and look forward to more challenges like this, should I become a teacher.

I was told I'd have to wear a suit to work everyday. #Shopportunity

Speaking of not speaking...

Taylor informed me that our new friend Masashi's status this morning translated to something about going to a baseball game and having an extra ticket. Masashi, who is Catherine's cousin, speaks less English than I do Japanese, but I didn't let that stop me from inquiring. Through some rough google translating, my minimal

October 18, 2012

The First Rain

A French accent woke me up from my sleep this morning. The voice was familiar, but I had a hard time placing it. I was alone in the apartment and there were words in my head belonging to a Frenchman. Something about cheese. And suffocation. It took me a moment, but I finally placed them and suddenly the words became very clear. They belonged to Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, a marketing specialist who once narrated a video I watched in class.

...in America the cheese is dead… is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag. You can put it in the fridge. I know the fridge is the morgue; that's where you put the dead bodies...
Why were these words ringing in my ears? What message was Dr. Rapaille sending me from his multi-million dollar mansion?

THE KIT KATS!

In an effort to preserve my prized treats, I put them in the freezer the previous night. Who doesn't love a cold Hershey's Bar or Reese's Peanut Butter Cup? Something about the cool chocolate compliments the rich flavor. But I was wrong. These special edition works of art are living, breathing entities that would suffocate should I keep them in the freezer.
I had inadvertently sentenced these treats to an icy prison. How Dostoyevski of me!

I have since removed the bars and am happy to report that

Oh My Okonomiyaki!

I licked another goal today, number 19: Eat Okonomiyaki.

Lizzy and I decided to grab dinner at a place her coworker recommended. It was an all you can eat restaurant that served amazing Okonomiyaki. I believe that translates into "what you want grilled" but a far more accurate translation would be "There's no way that's going to taste good, pancake".

The style of restaurant is very similar to Yakiniku, as each table is situated around a small grill, but differs in that most of what you cook is batter-based. We had a Lost in Translation moment when it came time to order. Our waiter's English was limited to "hello" and our collective Japanese could not piece together "Hi, we'd like the all you can eat Okonomiyaki as well as some chicken but please make sure nothing you bring us has fish in it since the blonde one doesn't eat sea food. Also, how do we cook this food?" But we were able to point and continually say chicken until he left and returned with way too much fowl. We also ended up with something really tasty but I cannot remember the name, though I'm sure it translates to "what you want slightly grilled but still a little gooey".

We had been discussing Ethiopian food earlier (standard "get to know" you topic) and were delighted to find that this style of restaurant was very similar in that you eat mainly with your hands. They also have not embraced the chop sticks or the fork, but rather some sort of chisel device, which is really only good for scraping the grill and cutting meat.

They brought us bowls of liquid and chopped vegetables and we were completely lost. Were these toppings and dressing for our pancake? I guess our faces showed the confusion as a waiter ended up coming and cooking for us. It allowed us to continue our conversation, but I did feel a little like a child, unable to cut their own food.

Here's the Okonomiyaki process:

Step 1: Look pathetic and wait for a waiter to come empty a seemingly random bowl of ingredients onto your grill.



Step 2: Be incredulous that

October 17, 2012

The Past & The Future

I woke up today to an email from Gaba. Not Lauren, the company. The application I submitted the previous morning had been processed and they wanted to schedule a preliminary phone interview. How exciting!

I spent about 20 minutes talking to a very kind American woman who works out here. She wanted to screen me to make sure I was committed and able to work for the company, should I be hired. I passed so we set up an in-person interview for Thursday. She also ran over the list of things I needed to supply, including my diploma. Not a copy, but my actual diploma. But, you know, when I was packing for this trip I had to choose between my diploma, which is something you obviously bring wherever you go, and the latest GQ. The latter was awarded precious backpack space.

Then, soon after, I received a Facebook message from the Australian gent informing me he had spoken to the woman at his company who is in charge of hiring. Apparently she's half Japanese and half Scottish, which means there will be absolutely no way I'll be able to decipher a word she says. But they're looking to hire, so I submitted my resume. Rather than Gaba, which is a one-on-one school for adults, this company places native English speakers in nursery schools twice a day for 90 minute English lessons. So if I get that job, be prepared for a blog filled with cute asian children.

Caught a small glimpse of what my future here could be and I became excited. There are still plenty of obstacles to overcome, but it has become apparent that

October 16, 2012

The Beauty of Getting Lost

There's nothing terribly exciting to report today, but I'd like to post once a day, so I'll either make something up or pull together miscellaneous stories and photos from days passed.

But the bulleted version of the day goes something like this:
  • Woke up. Nothing too surprising there as almost everyone starts their day the same way.
  • Decided I'd be productive today so, among other things, I applied to Gaba and set out to turn Kelly's porch, which was covered in pigeon droppings, into a Japanese oasis.
  • After a bit of cleaning I found my way to the Japanese equivalent of the 99 cents store to buy some bamboo floor mats. A few things to note:
      • It was actually a "100 yen" store ($1). I don't think the Japanese have embraced the brilliance of 99 cents.
      • Wose than that, it was a "100 yen +" store, which is the equivalent to the "Dollar & Up" stores we have in America. Here's the thing, all stores are a dollar and up. They should really call themselves "Cheap Crap & Candy" stores.
  • While on the way to the store I got lost. I was able to ask for directions in Japanese, but when I saw a tall white guy walking near me, I decided to ask again, to start conversation. He's an Australian gentleman who has been here 10 years. He teaches English and said he'd be happy to introduce me to the person who hires at his company. Also invited me out to beers this Thursday with him and his "mate" who lives in the same town as Kelly. The great things that happen when you are lost...
  • Went for a run along the river that runs parallel to the street that Kelly lives on. What made the run hard was not that I hadn't exercised since breaking my foot, but was instead the incredibly pungent smell of fish and seaweed. Or riverweed. 
  • I'm a third of the way through finishing a third of goal 52. I'm more than 100 e-pages into "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami. Currently reading on the newly remodeled porch. Well not currently, I'm currently typing this sentence. I've never been one to read fiction for pleasure but I'd like to change that. It's fun reading about the characters going out to the same places I've been visiting. Have yet to reach the chapter where Watanabe and Naoko sit together and compare different flavors of Kit Kats...


Here's a Kit Kat Update (KKU):

I've found a few new flavors lurking in convenience stores, but none come in the beautiful packages that Taylor and I found on our first mission. This leads me to believe these newly discovered flavors are year-round treats, rather than the specialty ones that are so elegantly crafted and packaged. Regardless, a goal is a goal, so:


Vanilla Ice: You'd think a flavor named

October 14, 2012

Swimming in Kamakura

Nearly checked off three goals in one day, but apparently the giant Buddha in Kamakura (61) closes at 4pm. Your guess is as good as mine as to why a statue has visiting hours.

I did learn though that Kamakura is a fantastic day trip from Tokyo. It took only 30 minutes by rail and we were able to explore jungles (slight exaggeration, but there were giant spiders) and see some exquisite temples and shrines. I will be returning soon, not just to check off number 61, but also to spend more time exploring this delightful town. Here are some highlights from our day trip:

Taylor directed us down an alley where we were delighted to find one of the best smelling stores my nose has ever entered. We treated ourself to a pre-breakfast snack of moist fig bread and citrus bread.



Ignore the weird effect the panorama mode created on everyone's head and instead enjoy the view
"Jungle" trek

Kelly crossing coy infested waters



I spy a Light

A shrine tucked into a cave.

By washing your money, you welcome good fortune.

Ancient money laundering

Worst. S'mores. Ever.

Hand & Soul store of gifts and knick knacks, all carved by the owner and his wife.

Perfectly tucked into the hill


The sun began to set as we walked from this area of Kamakura to the beach. I asked Kelly if Kamakura could be considered the "Venice, California" of Japan and she said "Definitely not". But then we ate at a hemp cafe:
Not the Venice of Japan? Bullshit.

The cafe was a perfect place to chow down after we worked up an appetite swimming in the Pacific Ocean (60). By the time

The United Nations of Shibuya

The rail system here in Tokyo closes at midnight and I already had one experience darting through the streets of Roppongi to catch the last train back to Kelly's. This early closing means that most people are presented with the choice of calling it an early night or staying out until 5am when the rail opens again (option 3: Pay $100 to get a cab home). It was decided that for Taylor's last night in town, we'd go with option 2 and meet up with Catherine, some of the people we had met while swimming at the Swedish Embassy, and a whole new cast of characters.

We found them at an izakaya. There were about 14 in total, hailing from all parts of the world including Hong Kong, Italy (by way of Paris), London, Atlanta, and Stockholm. Truth is, I didn't have a chance to meet everyone, but it sounded like a few other nations were represented as well. If there was one thing we all had in common, it was that we weren't entirely sure how we all ended up there together. Some of the people were current or former employees of Gaba, which is a Japanese company that runs English language schools, some had met in clubs, and others were there for the first time and were unable to explain how they arrived.

I have spent the last 12 hours delighting in how familiar this experience was for it was almost identical to my first week at Emerson. Everyone is eager to meet everyone else and find new friends in a strange place. While you may not find your best friend in the beginning, you'll certainly meet good people who may lead to new adventures and new faces. We were all united by a common bond: at Emerson it was that we were new to college and to Boston, while in Japan it was that most of us didn't speak much Japanese and were fairly new to the country. And we were all young and eager to have a great experience.



We arrived at the restaurant just passed 11 and gobbled

October 13, 2012

A Guide to Japanese Kit Kats

Today was a monumental day for my mouth. Just shy of two years ago, during my second trip to Japan, I discovered that the fine folks at Nestle make Green Tea Kit Kats. I bought two boxes figuring they'd make good gifts, but quickly found that the greatest gift of all is giving, so by both giving to myself and receiving, I was in essence getting twice as much bang for my buck!

I was not the only person to benefit from this last minute, duty free purchase: Taylor, who is a tea enthusiast, immediately embraced (and subsequently finished) the boxes of Green Tea Kit Kats.

Flash forward to a few days ago when my good friend Claire suggested an addition to my list of goals, "eat as many weird flavors of Kit Kats as you can". While this is a somewhat open-ended goal, I have chosen to interpret it as "any time you see a new flavor of Kit Kat, you have to eat it."

Challenge accepted!

I spent the morning researching where to find Kit Kats. It turns out that there are over 200 different flavors in Japan, many of which are seasonal. There are two main reasons the Japanese have embraced so many deviations from milk chocolate; The first is that Nestle has done one hell of a job creating flavors for different tie-ins and seasonal events. The more interesting reason though, is that "Kit Kat" sounds like the Japanese phrase "Kitto Katso" which doesn't translate well but could be taken as "good luck" and is often said to school children before exams.

What does that all mean? It means Nestle realized they could capitalize on children taking tests by creating hundreds of different flavors to celebrate each new quiz!

My research was a bit discouraging though, as most people who have attempted to snatch up as many treats as they could have failed due to the seasonal nature of the product. One person on a Kit Kat forum (yes, they exist) mentioned a store in the Tokyo subway station, so Taylor and I set out in search of some chocolatey goodness.

And what did we find?
Kit Kat Kingdom

We were truly giddy. Our very first location on what was supposed to be a 3-stop journey and we had already hit the mother load. "Good luck" indeed!

After securing our booty, we

October 12, 2012

Swedish Fish

Yesterday marked the one week anniversary of my arrival in Tokyo. There were no flowers or chocolates from myself (that second part is a complete lie) but it was a jam packed day with many highlights. Here are 3:

1. Swimming in Sweden

We connected with Catherine today and were invited to go swimming at the Swedish Embassy. The invitation was too good to pass up because, what?! Taylor and I threw our swimsuits in our backpacks with the assumption that "go swimming at the Swedish Embassy" was not a euphemism for some weird Japanese sexual fetish. It was hard to comprehend why an embassy has a pool, much less one that is open to complete strangers. We tend to think of government buildings as being pretty secure, but that's apparently not the Swedish way.

The reason they have a pool, and the reason we were invited, is because there's a number of young interns who live there and Catherine has befriended a few. One of the perks of being an intern at the embassy is access to the gym facilities, which include a squash court, some exercise machines, and a lovely pool! We spent a few hours there swimming and talking with the embassy kids (who were more or less our age). And if you subscribe to the belief that embassy soil is that of the motherland, than embassy water should be no different, so we swam in Sweden!

Do Swedes play "Sven Hedin" rather than "Marco Polo"?

The conversation was so good that we nearly missed the last train back to Tsunashima. For whatever reason, the Tokyo rail system closes at midnight, so when the clock struck 12 and we began to turn back into pumpkins, we rushed out the gates of the embassy and made a mad dash for the station.

2. Finding mini putt in Hawaii

Our morning was spent in Yokohama and we

October 11, 2012

Pet Shop Boys

Today got off to a very ominous start: Taylor burned some toast. Apparently the microwave oven was too hard for him to figure out:
It clearly says "toast" right below that yellow button.
Much like the Oracle reads bones, so too do I read burnt bread.
It was not the way we wanted to start our day so we quickly gathered our things and left the apartment. Every moment spent in the presence of this foreboding loaf was time wasted.

When exploring a city, there are many different ways to discover new places. Some people like guide books while others prefer asking friends for advice, but the mystery is lost when you've read or heard about your destination. So instead, Taylor and I got on the Yamamote line (which is a giant circle around Tokyo) and picked our target. We decided that wherever that person got off, so too would we.

What we first found was a very quiet area of the city, shielded from the noise and bustle of some of the other districts (though there were still plenty of people). We walked through beautiful little neighborhoods with streets barely big enough for a Mini. We passed school children, community gardens and the site of one of the lesser known Ernest films:
In this film, Ernest must battle ninjas.
By far the best part of the day was discovering a small pet store in

October 10, 2012

To The Sky!

It's a wonderful feeling waking up and not having a single plan on the horizon. So far our ability to make quick decisions about what our day is going to look like have turned out well. Today was no exception.

We had a concert in Shibuya in the evening as well as a meeting with the head of Live Nation: Japan, but our morning and afternoon were wide open so we decided to head to the sky. Or more accurately, Sky Tree!

Taylor and I have reached the point where we feel pretty confident navigating the rail system with minimal care, which is nice in that it's good to feel confident in a new place, but there are some major drawbacks. (This literary device is known as "foreshadowing".) We made it to Sky Tree without any problems though and quickly discovered that accompanying the tower is what is known as "Sky Tree City".

To the casual observer, STC is a mall, but we liked to think of it as a city of the future. You'll see in the map below that the tower, mall and adjacent building all have their own subway line. Yes, it's that big. I assume the number of people working there today was greater than the population of many cities:

No city is complete without its own rail

We ventured through the mall in search of food, which allowed me to use a new phrase: Do you have an English menu? I was delighted to find I could actually understand the answer, "no." A defeat in the menu category, but a victory in the having a full conversation with a Japanese person category! It gave me a chance to translate the menu and find pork for me and tomago (egg) for Taylor.

As with most cities, you'd expect to find one "must have" food item. New Orleans has gumbo while Philly, the cheesesteak. Sky Tree City has

October 8, 2012

We're in Hot Water, Now.

October 7th, 2012

Taylor and I spent the afternoon in Shibuya and Harajuku, two districts known for their shopping, crowds, and woman who dress as all sorts of colorful characters. I've been learning some good things from him about traveling alone, for example: We found a great clothing store and the young man working took a liking to us. When we were leaving, Taylor asked him for some restaurant recommendations in the area, figuring we'd have similar interests. It seems obvious, but it would never have crossed my mind to have inquired. Apparently most of his adventures alone have been as a result of asking for guidance and then discovering helpful and friendly people. Lesson learned.

After an afternoon of walking and talking, we returned to Kelly's so we could all take a 90 minute train ride towards Mt. Fuji, to a town called Hakone (ha-ko-nay). The onsens in this are are consistently rated as the number in Japan. It is nice to be using public transportation again. The pace of life is different than in Los Angeles. The freeing up of mental space that comes with not driving allows you to be productive in so many ways or simply take in your surroundings. That and you don't have to worry about crashing and suffering a painful death. It's the little things...

Riding/Writing while traveling. Very hard to do while driving.

By the time we got to Hakone, the sun had set and the stars began to poke through the clouds. Our hotel, which resembles a traditional Ryokan, is also an onsen, so we immediately stripped down and enjoyed the hot springs (number 3 on my list). Luckily for you, there are no pictures of this, but I can share pictures of our room and the walk up to the hotel:

Kapa Tengoku Hotel & Onsen

The lamp-lit walk up to our hotel

One of many friendly faces during our travels.

Sleeping beauty waking up after a peaceful slumber.


When we returned from our dips, I flipped on the TV and to my delight, found