Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cats and Coffee

I took the gal out this Friday for a little fun. I decided to meet up with her at Ikebukuro after she got off work. I took her to several places and she had a good time. Usually when we are out and about we end up going to a few random places that we just happen to run across. This time we ran across a place I had only heard of but never experienced first hand; a cat cafe.

In Tokyo many landlords will not allow animals. I have never understood this policy because Japanese people love their pets. Anyway, due to the mean spirited policies of many landlords some businesses have found a great way to make some money and provide unlimited happiness for a countless number of people. A neko cafe is a place a person can go and pay a small fee(around 1,000 yen an hour) and drink plenty of free coffee while spending time with lovable, cute beyond words, cats. I have been wanting to take my gal to one of these places for months but I could not find one. As luck would have it we just happen to run across one in Ikebukuro. Actually, there are several cat cafes in Ikebukuro so finding one should not be all that hard.

The majority of the customers were women. This does not surprise me considering the cute factor involved. There were a few guys there with their girlfriends. A cat cafe is the perfect date spot. There is no Japanese gal who would refuse an invite to a cat cafe.

I did notice this one guy who was totally into the cats. He was talking to one of the gals who worked there about the shop`s blog. He was very excited about one of the cats having a birthday. It was a pure white cat named pudding. It seemed like spending time with the cats was the biggest thrill in his life. He was taking pictures of the cats and seemed to treat them as his personal friends. He loves those cats like family. My heart really goes out to people like him. I am willing to bet that he has a really bad job, does not make a lot of money, and lives in a very small apartment. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for such gentle simple people. The cats are a big part of his life. They give him a reason to live, provide him a lot of happiness, and prevent him from tossing himself in front of a train.

I guess I understand those kind of people. I have lived in the gutter and know all too well how even the most simple of pleasures can bring so much happiness. At one time in my life I lived in a pure shit apartment working as a dish washer. I had a mattress on the floor, a PC, microwave, play station and a stack of books. The town I lived in had a high number of stray cats. Once every two weeks I had just enough extra money to buy a bag of dry cat food. I would go to the local park late at night and feed all the local stray cats while smoking a joint. It gave me so much happiness. Feeding those cats while burning a joint late at night in the park got me though the hard times.

Overall, the cat cafe experience remained me of the simple pleasures in life. It really is true that the more we have the less we have in life. There are people living in Tokyo whose biggest trill in life in being able to spend an hour with a few cute cats. It also reminded me of how all the struggles in my life are now being rewarded. I think that I will visit a cat cafe again soon. Tokyo has its own unique kind of stress that I have never experienced before. Cats and coffee may be a simple pleasure but it is one which should not be passed up for sure.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Brewing Problem in the Gaijin Sub-Culture

I have always considered Tokyo to be a pretty safe place. The city has a slight problem with train suicides and crazed mass murders from time to time, but overall it is safe to go about your daily life. Well, it seems as if an odd wind is moving the air as of late. People are starting to act really strange.

I have been noticing some really odd behavior from other Gaijin as of late. Some kind of inner chaos has been brewing up from the depths of Tokyo and infecting the hearts and minds of those caught in the spider`s web. I don`t know how many people have noticed this, or even give a flying rats ass, but something is rotten. I smell shit. I smell the kind of shit that I have only smelled in good old West Virginia. A kind of extreme discontent which hollows out people until nothing is left inside of them except anger and madness. I know this kind of social ill well as I grew up surrounded by it everyday. It slowly grips the minds of the people. At first, it is wrote off as just another random nut who forgot to take their meds. Soon enough you start to see it everywhere and few people can pretend it is not happening.

I will give you a good example. When I got off work this past Tuesday evening I met up with my wife in Ikebukuro for a few drinks to unwind. Well, around 11:00 pm we made our way home. Well, all was fine and dandy until we reached the Joban line. A middle age looking Gaijin was standing a couple of feet away from us. He was watching us from the corner of his eye and attempting to listen in on our conversation. I could smell trouble on him but wanting to enjoy my evening I did not pay him much mind. When the train arrived, the wife and I, squeezed into a semi-comfortable spot and started chatting a little. We where not being all that loud really. We where talking about random stuff and making jest about our experiences of the day. I noticed out of the side of my eye that this guy was still watching us and listening to every word we were saying. I found this odd but I still was foolish enough to not pay attention to him.

Out of no where he starts going off on me like a dog with rabies. He was talking pure shit to me for no good reason at all. From what I was able to understand he said the following: `I don`t like you motherfucker. Who do you think you are? You can fool the Japanese but there is a fellow Gaijin on the train with you. I don`t like you motherfucker. I have lived in Tokyo for ten years and I can have you snuffed out. I know people in Kita-Senji so you better watch yourself asshole. You just shut the fuck up now before something happens to you.`

In this kind of situation a lot of people would tense up and dirty a pair of pants. I on the other hand grew up around this kind of redneck behavior so I was able to stay cool as ice. The important thing to remember in these situations is to not show any fear on your face. Even if you are about to crap all over yourself do not show any fear on your face or you might as well bend over and get anal raped. The whole damn mess was made complex due to the fact that we are on a crowed train and I have my wife with me. If I start a fight it would be really nasty resulting in many people getting the hell beat out of them. A southern boy and a Yankee only one wrong move from brawling on a crowed train in Tokyo is not a good situation to be in at all. My only real option was to keep this guy at bay until I reached Kita-Senju and could get the hell out of the situation. He wanted to fight me real bad and there was no way in hell I was going to back down from this dick. Although, I had no desire to fight him but if he threw a punch I was going to knock him into next week.

My wife just gave me the `Ryan don`t it` look which is often confused with the `Please don`t get into a fight in Tokyo`look. The last thing I want to do is anger my wife. She controls the sex and I do not want her to take that away. Plus I actually love her and do not want to put her in a dangerous situation. Everyone else just stood frozen hoping that these two Gaijin are not going to fight on the train. So, I told the guy I have no problem with him and stared him down until we got to Kita-Senju. I got off the train but he did not follow me. I guess he really did not want any after all.

I am noticing this kind of shit happening more and more often in Tokyo. There is a section of the Gaijin sub-culture who are losing their damn minds. Maybe I am a magnet for these kind of people or I just give off a smell that says, `Come over here and whip you ass on my face.` Every so often over the last two months some other Gaijin will come up to me and say or do something totally crazy. Like the old drunken Irish guy who ruined my lunch break one day when he would not stop following and talking to me.

I really have a hard time understanding where all this anger and insanity is coming from as of late. Gaijin in Japan live in a sub-culture on the edge of society. Maybe some people just cannot handle being different and after a while they just lose their marbles. There is also the fact that because Gaijin are in a sub-culture some people who are already mentally unstable view this as an open window to raise hell with other Gaijin who have attained any type of social integration within mainstream Japanese society i.e. marriage.

For now I have no answer to this growing problem. The best I can do for now is to give this some deeper thought and deal with these insane people as they come. If you can offer up some kind of game plan to deal with this problem please feel free to leave a comment. Maybe we can figure this out together.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hanayashiki Theme park in Asakusa--Get Some Old School Action

I always expect the unexpected in Tokyo. Sadly, I learned that lesson the hard way. I am the kind of person who learns his lessons well. When on a walkabout in Tokyo remember two things; always have a digital camera on hand and never be afraid to explore something which looks odd and out of place. While there are pitfalls to the above advice it will increase your enjoyment. With these ideas in mind I noticed something really out of place while wondering in Asakusa recently. I saw a crane type of thing gently spinning some hallow metal boxes in a circle a good distance off the ground. Now that is something you don`t see everyday for sure. With a gun ho spirit I walked from Sensoji temple in the direction of the strange crane. What I found was the Hanayashiki theme park!

If you looking for some old school carnival action then Hanayashiki is your location of choice. I knew that I should not have been surprised but I was taken back at the sight of such a place being in Tokyo. If I laid eyes on a 50`s style theme park in the more country side places in Japan I would not feel all that surprised. Tokyo is a very post-modern city providing little place for such things like Hanayashiki; or so it would seem. Yet Tokyo has proven to me time and time again that there is room for just about any whim to find quarter.

I must admit I knew nothing of the place until I just happened to be drawn to it by a strange crane(which later turned out to be called `Bee View` or something). Hanayashiki reminds me of all those fun summer carnivals in West Virginia. They were always the best places to find girls to hang out with; only later to make out with them behind the roller coaster. Although, from what I could gather Hanayashiki maintains a more family friendly vibe. There will be no make out sessions behind the rollercoster...dammit!

The whole place had got the 50`s carnival vibe down to every detail. It looks like the place has not changed all the much since its opening in 1853. It is a time warp right in the heart of one of Tokyo`s most visited wards. All the pastel colors, the arcade, and cotton candy just takes me back to a more simple time in my life. A time in my life when all I cared about was making it to school on time, building a fast car and scoring with fast girls. Although those days are long gone for the most part I can still enjoy some old school carnival action in the form of Hanayashiki Theme park.

While the ride selection is very limited it still has all the classic rides that we all love. They got a rollercoster(not very fast but very fun), an interesting and relaxing sky view called Bee View(I think that is the name), horror house, frog jump, terror ride, live stage, arcade as well as some food and a few other extras.

I visited the place during the day so it was pretty lean as far as the crowds go. I am sure that the place gets a lot more busy in the evenings.

I give the place a five out of five just for the memories it brings to mind. It is a fun little place indeed. It is the perfect date spot for that Japanese girl you have been trying to impress. Any cute gal will be all yours if you take her to Hanayashiki Theme park. I saw several couples there and the girls were all shits and giggles about being taken to Hanayashiki. Give this place a try you might actually like Hanayashiki. It does not come even close to the likes of Tokyo Disneyland but it is cool all the same. You can relax more and take your time at Hanayashiki because it is much smaller and shorter lines. Give it a try the next time you are in Asakusa.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

There is a bright shining MoonPie over Tokyo Tonight

I slightly giggle as I begin to write about a food that is about as hillbilly and southern as you can find. A food which is loved by drunk rednecks and truck drivers alike. Yes friends, I am talking about the one and only Moonpie!

I know what a lot of you must be thinking, `How does such a redneck thing like a moonpie relate in anyway, shape or form to Japan?` Well, I had fully accepted the fact that Tokyo has everything and them some. Although, I thought that Tokyo was beyond finding any joy in eating a Moonpie, I have been proven wrong yet again. I never expected to find a damn Moonpie in Japan but I have a family size pack in my apartment right now.

I had been sent on a movie snack run by M.K. Usually I would not drag my ass to the store after coming home from work but I was in a rare mood. I found myself just wondering how aisles looking for anything which would fill my stomach when I spotted them. I really could not believe my eyes at first. I just kind of stared at them at first. My eyes were saying, `Look! Moonpies! Grab them now!` while my mind was saying, `We are on drugs again right?` One phrase repeated itself in my mind several times,`I can`t believe that the Japanese like Moonpies.` Well, the Japanese must love the stuff because they store had several size options to choose from. Being the crazed bastard I am I got the family size. I quickly finished up shopping and made my way back to the apartment.

It is the simple pleasures in life that keep me in a constant state of wonder. For example, when I showed M.K. what I had found she flipped out with happiness. She grabbed the pack ripping it open. It was like watching a women infused with the devil. She attacked the first Moonpie like it owed her \6,000. I just started laughing as she contently munched on a Moonpie while smiling from ear to ear. Yes, it is the simple pleasures in life which keep me a constant state of wonder.

So, the Japanese like the Moonpie but I am willing to bet that they have no idea how to eat it correctly. If your gonna eat a Moonpie you first have to put it in the microwave for about a minute so it melts a little. Then you can eat it with a little ice cream. When they figure that little trick out I am sure that Moonpies will be the next big snack food in Japan. Until then, I am just amazed that Japanese like a stupid ass Moonpie.