A note for violent snorers

Posted in Uncategorized on 15/09/2009 by littleowl87

Please, please please try not to stay in dorm rooms. Here’s an excerpt of an email I sent about last night’s sleep:

“…and then it all got worse, because some fat hairy lump bashed into the room at 3.30am, woke everyone up, and then proceeded to do the most horrible snores I’ve EVER heard. I decided, with my pillow over my head, my earplugs in, and gritting my teeth, that it was like an elephant in chains pulling five bags of rusty scrap metal and three heavy doors over some jagged rocks…struggling through a mucus-y wind. Truly utterly disgusting and made me want to hit him over the head really hard with something”.

A bit shocked at how violent I was feeling last night but being unable to sleep sends me into sleep RAGE. I feel really bad because the man in question is actually really polite and nice when awake. Damn that snore.


Emily, Japanese youth, and Ponyo

Posted in Uncategorized on 15/09/2009 by littleowl87

So here’s my second attempt at this post. Maybe it’ll be even better this time…? Like mature cheese, wine, or expired film?!

On Saturday I met up with Emily, my friend from Cambridge who has come to Japan for a year as part of her Japanese degree. We had a much needed catch-up before heading to have dinner. We had something called Onamiyaki (I think..), possibly the best thing I’ve eaten since getting here! It’s like a sort of omelette thing, with veg and stuff (we had shrimp). It’s partially cooked by a chef before being brought up and plonked onto the hotplate in the centre of your table, so that you can add herbs and spices and sauces, yummy yummy yum! So we wolfed that down with some plum wine and watched a group of rowdy businessmen having what we supposed was some sort of group date with some giggling young women. The businessmen were impressing them with their smoking skills and fat wallets. I’m never sure if I’m jealous of Japanese women; they look pretty and slim but must spend so much time getting ready each day. Some of them definity go over the top; in an icecream bar downtown we saw three girls dressed up to the nines: formal dresses, glitzy expensive jewellery, hair in elegant up-dos, lots of makeup, shawls, clutch bags. This was at about 3 in the afternoon, I think they had just dressed up like that to go shopping! In fact most girls that you see in town, and many men, look like they’ve spent AGES styling themselves: doing hair, wearing heels (women only..). This to me is VERY strange, but among young people here there’s great pressure to look good, like the right things, say the right things and conform within one’s friendship group or peer group. Emily was telling me that this pressure and competition is so intense; they learn dance moves appropriate to the group’s chosen style, they wear the exact same shades of makeup and to stay the same weight. So much is about image here, and that’s one thing I hate about Japan. I’ve decided I love Japan AND I hate it, and this is something I hate. Young women often act a certain way; putting on a high pitched “cute” squeaky voice, shuffling along in their high heels because it’s meant to be endearing, and wearing 10 inches of makeup, even using skin whitening cream, eek. And I’ve seen some pretty bad mullets and pointy shoes on boys: foul. I think the growing popularity of tattoos is just an extension of this fashionable image creation, which goes back a long way. Tattoos used to be similarly fashionable before they became taboo.

I bought a book called “Shutting out the Sun- How Japan created its own lost generation” by Michael Zielenziger. So far it’s really good and well written; a great insight into the current Japanese zeitgeist, focusing on “disturbing social trends” amongst youth including over one million (mostly male) hikikomori: “young men who shut themselves in their rooms, withdrawing from society” and “parasite singles”; more and more young men and women who can’t get jobs or refuse to leave home and marry or bear children, or who sponge off of their parents far into adulthood. Emily did say that often the parents are keen to keep their children dependant until marriage, and expect to be cared for in return; by living with their children in their old age as was done traditionally. Anyway the book should help me a lot with my dissertation.

Speaking of which, after dinner, Emily and I headed to A bar, a grungy little bar featured in the LP which proved very difficult to find even after asking locals for directions. I had heard that it was next to a tattoo studio, and it was. The crowd inside were appropriately raucous. It felt more relaxed than pretty much anywhere else I’ve been which was refreshing. Over a glass of sake on the rocks (how’s that for glamour?) I finally plucked up the courage to accost a moody looking smoky Italian, who had been leafing through a tattoo studio flyer, who after some conversation revealed that he might be able to talk to a friend who knew a traditional tattoo artist. This sounded good, especially because my previous lead on a traditional tattooist was a bit of a
flop. Japanese traditional tattooists are a very closed group, understandably perhaps, to maintain the exclusivity of their skill and to protect the identities of their customers: mostly Yakuza. Essentially we were not welcome without an invite. I’m still deciding if I want to push it and see if I can get anything.

We also met some very nice people at the bar- Japanese friends of the Italian, friends of theirs, one of whom was going to improve his English in Oxford, and a very strange guy from New Zealand, who, simply put, was a sleazebag, but the giggling girls he targeted didn’t seem to mind. The Italian also told us about a Yakyza gang against gang shooting that occurred in a shopping mall, which incited public outrage purely because the conflict was not settled in private. To say sorry for the killing occuring in public the Yakuza went around to the local residents and gave them chocolates and an apology. That’s how accepted they are here as part of society! The area of my hostel is apparently a Yakuza area. Although EVERYWHERE is really a Yakuza area..

On Sunday we basically chilled. We went shopping. My head hurt from the previous night’s sake and plum wine! We enjoyed a DELICIOUS matcha and white chocolate drink, perused Muji (I bought a battery powered electric toothbrush, yattaaa! And some drool-worthy stationary), and I got some posh tea cups. We found Katie, got back to Emily’s room, and went a bit mental. I for one was hyper, shrieky and excited by being in the presence of more than one English person at the same time (first time in 2 weeks)! We slurped my tubes of peach “sherbet” while standing in Emily’s deep Japanese bath. I even sang a song with a rap about washing my feet. I think these outbursts were simply a reaction to the stress of trying to be socially acceptable in Japan. I’ve recently started to care less: I found out about not showing your (erotic?!) shoulders but frankly would sweat to death if I didn’t so they can stuff that rule. I’m trying hard with everything else; taking my shoes off, eating sushi and eel, etc!

We finished the chilled day by watching Ponyo, the new Studio Ghibli film, in my hostel. Sooooo sweet! Can’t wait to watch Totoro 🙂
Studio Ghibli on Wikipedia:


Photo descriptions;
Strange products; overpackaged apples?!; strange mythological Japanese creature rumored to have large testicles that is EVERYWHERE and even more scary for its squiffy demented eyes; moistage= the worst word ever?; powder either FOR baby pigeons or made out of them; dont invade my personal Spase; the glorious matcha&choc drink; sweets that look like medicine = bad idea; cute baby GAP; Escarator? Have also seen Cathoric churches; drinks kept HOT at the cornershop; I read this as 24 limes; Emily; and the inescapable Foucault.

Pure unbridled fury

Posted in Uncategorized on 14/09/2009 by littleowl87

Oh I am ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS WITH THIS BLOG APPLICATION!!!!!!!! I wrote you the LONGEST best post EVER and it’s just decided to delete it!!!!!!!! ARGH I’m so fuming, I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to rewrite the entire thing right now, it took me HOURS. Furious. Seething.

Totally kawai Japanese photobooth; Purikura!

Posted in Uncategorized on 14/09/2009 by littleowl87

It made our eyes bigger and rounder automatically, it bathed us in flattering light, we could choose from a range of skin tones: pale to tanned, it squeaked at us, gave us time limits, and told us to choose between cool panther or sweet kitty; we responded with appropriately OTT Japanese poses, fake demented grins and hysterical squeals. We then got to edit the photos by drawing and stamping all over them with gaudy colours and squiggles and stars and x100 cute stuff. Like a musical rainbow strawberry flavoured cardiac arrest.

Sorry they’re rubbish quality, will have to scan them in when I get home.

The incredible robotic squirrel

Posted in Uncategorized on 12/09/2009 by littleowl87

Thanks to Katie: a video of the aforementioned disappointing squirrel

Tea ceremony, imperial palace gardens, tacky photobooths

Posted in Uncategorized on 11/09/2009 by littleowl87

Today we ran through a sleazy/weird and loud arcade, went to learn the art of the casual tea ceremony (not casual at all and fairly stressful but very fun), walked through some of the Imperial Palace gardens and took silly photos in several crazy tacky Japanese photobooths. I then had a nice wander around downtown at night before hanging out in a riverside starbucks (sorry sorry sorry) which was actually one of the nicest starbucks’ I’ve been in with a river-view balcony, before heading home on the Keihan underground train line.

We also went to some traditional shops and I bought some washi (lovely origami paper), matcha tea (powdered green tea), an antique Japanese painting, and bookmark.

Sorry this is brief, I’m pretty tired!

Photos (I think it’s put the photos in backwards..)

the nicest starbucks ever and downtown lights; plastic crap/crepes; my name in lights; gran-pie? Watch out grannies; the imperial palace gardens; a piece of yum sushi I dropped on the floor 😦 ; a skanky cafe which hadn’t changed since the 1970s with net curtains; dressed (modest?) ancestors; Stone foxes at a shrine- foxes are seen as mysterious sacred creatures that can “possess” people by entering their bodies by getting in under the fingernails

Pick ‘n’ Mix (mostly cats in silly outfits)

Posted in Uncategorized on 11/09/2009 by littleowl87