Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sad Cafe Shibuya,Tokyo

I usually do not do restaurant reviews. There are so many blogs out there which focus on such things like places to eat and things to see that I really feel it has been over done. Yet, sometimes I find a cool unique spot in the Tokyo Metro area which deserves mention. The Sad Cafe in the Shibuya area is one of those places which deserves taking a little look at. I have been going to this place for a while. I usually hit it up about once a month on one of my infamous Tokyo walkabouts. My buddy Jack of Jack's Vintage fame first passed the word on to me about this place about a year ago. He promised me a good lunch for under 2,000 yen. Well, any damn place which offers a decent lunch which will not clog my heart for under 2,000 yen is worth checking out.

About a week later I was damn hungry and had some extra cash on me so I decided to give the place a go. It is located half way from Harajuku and the central Shibuya area. It is in a food court slash mini shopping building right after the Auddi building. If you are not looking for it you will most likely miss it. Any damn way, when you walk into the place you are treated by a full on semi-sleazy 1970's theme. The slight sleeze is toned down with an up beat attitude and motto,'I can't help myself. I want to diet but with the sad cafe right around the corner...' At least they are honest that the food is good but maybe the so good for your health. Truth be told the good is actually pretty tasty. There are two items on the menu I would suggest are worth giving a go. The curry lunch plate is damn tasty and sure enough under 2,000 yen even with a drink. Not bad for downtown metro standards. Although the all time best is a straight up classic American hotdog. Be aware that most hotdogs in Tokyo are pure fucking shit. For some reason Tokyo is not good at making a decent hotdog. Lucky enough Sad Cafe makes a proper hotdog. I really enjoy having a damn good hotdog with a glass of beer at Sad Cafe. They also have tacos which are pretty good but can be a bit dry sometimes.

Despite the food, I think the main reason I keep coming back to the Sad Cafe is the overall atmosphere. The vibe is laid back and cool to say the least. The staff are very friendly but pretty much stay out of your way. They don't really come around asking you if you want more food or drink. You can sit at your table for an hour or more in total peace. There is also usually some cool 70's rock and roll playing in the background for your listening pleasure. They got all kinds of interesting 70's era posters and items on the wall to check out while you day dream. For those of you who like to view the city street while you gobble down some grub there is a long seating area which overlooks a busy Tokyo street.

Overall, the Sad Cafe offers something for just about anyone who loves good classic American food and 70's American culture. Hell, if you want to have a group party the Sad Cafe can be rented out for the evening. Just talk to the manager on duty for details.

You can get a coupon from their website for 10% discount!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some Folks Know Whats Up

In passing Japanese society looks like a very conformist button down group of people. Mid-day in Tokyo can be wall to wall suits and ties sometimes. There are so many social rules that box people into a certain lifestyle that few people break though the heavy cloud of authority. The average Japanese is going to do everything he/she can to fit in and not make waves. Despite this national fetish with conformity, some folks are able to see what is really going on. Truth in point is a student I ran across during a conversation period at school recently.

I walk into a larger than normal booth and two students stare back at me. One of them was an early 20`s something guy with a crazy stoner smile glued on his face. The other student was older, maybe in his early 60`s, hard noised and focused on something in his own mind.I really had no idea what to talk about with them so I simply asked them what they felt like saying. The old man quickly perked up and slapped a book on the table. He says to me, `you ever read this book?` The book was titled Confessions of an Economic Hitman. I read that book when it came out a few years ago and it only confirmed a lot of things a knew to be true. American is a modern Empire which takes control of other nations and uses them to get rich. What I did not expect was a old Japanese guy also being aware of such a fact and having the balls to talk about it with an American. The guy talked at length about such things as the NWO,9/11, and the Iran Contras. As interesting as it was, I could tell that the younger guy was hearing these things for the first time. It must have been one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had with anyone from Japan. The both of them asked each other questions about a variety of topics with me simply serving as a reference guide.

The experience got me thinking that maybe there are more people in Japan who are aware of what is really happening in the world than I thought. Though all the pressure to conform and `fit in` there may be a growing number of Japanese who are simply not buying the bull shit fed to them everyday. I wonder how many people are sitting at home at night researching things and trying to get to the truth of things around them? With the way the world is these days I am willing to bet there are more folks like that old man around.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ryan Vs. The Japanese Health Care System

By now all of yall know I really don`t like socialized health care. I have experienced it first hand and while there are some advantages, the negatives make it an overall raw deal. None the less, this is what I have to deal with in order to live in Japan. I pay for the National Heath Care insurance every month like a good little slave. Considering that I am paying for it as I might as well get something out of it from time to time. Well, my dearest wife has been nagging me to get a `health check` for about two months with the wonderful reason of, `You are 30 now so there is risk you might get sick and die.` While I really doubt my days are numbered at 30 the gal sees things very differently. To make her happy, and shut her up about it, I scheduled myself a trip to the hospital for a `health check.`

As you might have guessed, a `health check` in Japan is a bit different from what you would expect in the states. First of all, I had to go to a annex of the main hospital. That was a little odd but no biggie. When I finally got to the section I needed I felt like I had just walked into a mad house. There were gals in cute uniforms running around leading people to a variety of rooms for all the different tests to be carried out. There were people(mostly old as dirt) sitting in the waiting area looking at each other with uncomfortable expressions. The admins at the front desk were cold and all business. I thought about doing something funny in an attempt to get a smile out of them but they would most likely had none of it. They simply checked my paperwork, informed me of the price(26,000 yen! So much for socialized care), gave me a key to a locker so I could change, and told me to wait. Oddly enough the motherfuckers charged me for the damn medical outfit I had to change into for the `health check.` From the get go I felt like I was getting scammed!

After about 20 min. my name was called, correctly oddly, and the gauntlet began. Apparently, Japan must have a lack of general practice doctors because every section of the test required a different doctor. I personally thought it was a huge waste of money to have that many doctors to perform a simple health check. I must have got poked and prodded by at least 12 different so-called `specialist.` Socialized health care must be sucking the Japanese government dry. A general practice doctor could have almost done everything it took 12 doctors to do. Hell, it took three people to just take a blood sample, check my height and ask me a few basic lifestyle questions! The amount of people getting in on taking the Japanese government for a ride is amazing sometimes.

I would have not minded the scam happening right before my eyes so much if they had not been so damn out in the open about it. The whole ordeal went down along one long ass hallway with rows of small rooms on each side. In each room one small part of the `health check` was completed. In between checks you were ordered to set down on a kind of comfortable green sofa. Every Japanese I sat down next to stared at me harder than usual. It may have been the first time any of them saw a gaijin getting a health check. Such a fact would not be surprising considering most of the big employers of westerners do not offer a health care plan. The national coverage is a bit out of price range for your average gaijin to afford. It would have been nice to have a buddy with me because it was super awkward having a gang of old people wearing ugly green hospital gear staring at me with odd expressions glued on their faces.

To be fair, one of the bright moments was being lead to the next room by a cute early 20 something gal wearing a cute checked outfit. They had entire team of these gals assisting every single person to their next room. it was surreal to say the least. It was like being on some Japanese game show from hell, `Okay folks! Our next lucky player will take the liquid metal in your stomach/fun with X-rays challenge!`

Seriously, I am not joking about liquid metal being involved in the whole ordeal! At one point in the `health check` I went into a X-ray room. I have gotten plenty of X-rays in my life but nothing prepared me for a Japanese style X-ray. When I went into the X-ray room I was greeted by the muscular looking man holding a cup of scary looking thick liquid. He smiled and said to me. `Please drink this whole cup of Barium so I can check your stomach and intestines` My first reaction was of course, `What the fuck! I am not drinking that! We use Barium for rat poison in the states!` He did not care that Barium is rat poison and I ended up having to drink a whole cup of that shit!` After I forced myself to drink it he made me hold onto a rotating bed while he got a few live shots of my guts. I felt like pure shit the rest of the day. Matters were made worse by the fact that he also instructed to me take two very strong laxatives to get the Barium out of my system. I thought I would be strong and not shit my pants before making it home. Well, these were pretty strong laxatives and I only made it three stations before the shit in my ass could not wait any longer. I rushed off the train at Akiba station and right into a bathroom at the platform. I suffered though 40 minutes of explosive diarrhea before I was able to walk again.

After finally being able to transfer from JR to TX I must have been the most happy person you could ever see on a damn Tokyo train. It just felt good knowing that I would soon be safe in my home. I am sure that some of the folks on the train noticed that I had just survived a rough morning. It was kind of written all over my face. I remember sitting there thinking that I left the hospital feeling worse than when I arrived. A `health check` has got to be one of the strangest experiences I have had in Japan so far.

I really cannot blame the Japanese for this wasteful and inefficient system. The government and greedy health care industry must take the lion share of the blame for a such a money sucking system. Yeah, I got a pretty full on `health check` but at the same time I was over charged and way too many doctors poked and prodded me. It will be a long ass time before I do that again!