Sunday, January 29, 2012

Slumber Party and Recontracting

I had a great weekend, but I'm PMSing today.  Great opener, eh?

Forgive me, but the PMS is severely affecting the tone of my post today.  Grab a bucket of Ben n Jerry's and share my pain. 

I expected to get facials Friday night with my friend Nichole, but we hadn't made a reservation and the place booked up, so we couldn't go.  It was actually kind of a relief.  I had dinner with Knox and Peter and played with Knox a little before it was time for him to go to bed.  I miss Knox.  I don't see him enough, and I hate doing all the chores and stuff at night.  I like it when the sun is shining and I have lots of time to do everything that needs to be done.  You might say, "Oh, sure, doesn't everyone?", but I don't think it's too much to ask.  These days, I get home from work and try to squeeze in something for me and Knox to do, then scramble to get just enough laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and/or exercise in.  I don't get to enjoy my baby.  Everything is always so busy...

Friday night, after dinner and play (which involved setting up Knox's stuffed animals and "bonking" them off of things with a baseball bat), I went grocery shopping.  It was relief for me not to get a facial because I was able to go grocery shopping.  That's kinda sad.  I do love a leisurely super market visit.  I had a good one Friday night, and I even had time to put everything away, not just the perishables.  I had time for a full shower and blow dry.  Crazy!!

I spent Saturday cleaning in preparation for my 2nd Annual Ladies of Oita Slumber Party.  I went to Judy's apartment to pick up many futons, then Judy and Lisa had to basically share one seat so we could get back to my apartment.  We had 14 ladies chatting, screaming, flashing people, playing games, drinking, etc.  We had gobs of girl talk and played Apples to Apples and Taboo.  Then came "the game where you write a question and put it in a bowl and then someone reads it and then everyone writes down their answer and then we all try to guess who's answer it was."  That got crazy.  The questions were as personal as they come, and for the most part we all came out with it.  I learned a few things at the party.  I learned that the peach wine is like syrup, many bedroom roll play scenarios, and that South Africans no longer have such an easy time moving to the UK, among other... details.  We ate lots of cookies, crab dip, macaroni n cheese, and soba, and drank lots of wine and jager, among other things.  My cycle definitely moved up a couple days thanks to being in an apartment with 14 women.  At bedtime there were people and futons everywhere.  Last year, one person ended up with no futon on the floor.  This year, everyone had a futon.  Progress. 

In the morning we ate cornbread from Nichole and blueberry muffins that Brie brought.  She was also kind enough to fulfill my odd request for hand soap as opposed to chips or wine.  (Hey, I had forgotten it the store and with all those people, clean hands are a must.)  It was good to get the girls together.  We MIGHT make it bi-annual, but I don't know yet.  I started it last year because January was slow and I hadn't seen many people due to the holidays.  The summer is too hot for a sleep-over.  We'll see how September is.  I was disappointed to be 30 minutes behind Brie and Jen all Sunday.  I had wanted to go to a new onsen with them.  Instead, I had a lovely lunch with Cheryl, Eilish, Judy, Brandy, and Knox at Sushi Meijin and then went to our old stand by onsen, Sama Sama.

It's Monday and I'm just about cleaned up from the party.  I still have to put clean sheets on the bed and the clean cover on the couch futon.  I put the kotatsu table back into the living room from the kitchen.  My living room rug was missing for a half day, but I found it under stuff in the kitchen.  I still have to shake it out and replace it.  The girls were great with helping to clean up.  Amelia did a boat load of dishes.  THANK YOU!!  Dishes are my most dreaded chore, just because they never seem to be done.

I had post party blues last night.  I woke up today with a new sense of ugh about work...

I think most JETs love Japan, but they leave because the job satisfaction is so low.  That's what I'm feeling right now.  I have been feeling it, but I have filled the many hours sitting at my desk with studying Japanese or for the GRE, writing this blog, paying bills, writing e-mails, reading, and the like... but right now I just have this sense that I just can't do it anymore.  I can hardly speak to the people I work with.  I've gotten used to the loneliness of working at this school.  I guess I feel kinda useless here.  I feel like there are so many better things I could be doing with my time.  I would so rather be home putting the clean futon cover on.  The papers to sign for re contracting were sent to our schools a week or more ago.  I'm invisible here, and they surely were placed off to the side somewhere and forgotten, since I still haven't heard a word about them.  I haven't asked for them because I'm not exactly sure what to do.  I love Japan and my life here, but I'm not sure I can show up at work to sit at this desk again and again for another year and a half.  I need some variety.  I need a work place that values what I have to offer and makes use of it.  I don't know what I'll do.  Peter wants to stay.  Knox is doing well, although I think we need more time together.  But I really need to shake things up.

I was doing ok until the winter break, but when I had to come to work, day after day, with no students at school, no classes to attend, and just sit here for no good reason.  I really kinda lost it.  I could've used that time with my child and just getting refreshed.  Instead I felt more weighted down by the day, by a system that doesn't have reasons for what they do.  By the time classes actually started again, I was ready for another vacation.  I heard that teachers used to get more days off, but that people on the community complained that they were off playing Pachinko all day, so they were chained to their desks.  I don't know if that's true, but who cares what people do ON THEIR OWN TIME as long as it doesn't impair the job they do at school?  Pachinko isn't illegal.  Apparently, enjoying your time is slightly illegal when it comes to teachers who are at school from 7am to 7pm plus every day except Sunday. 

I don't want to be this complaining person.  Maybe it's the PMS.  Maybe it's the winter.  Maybe it's a down in the culture shock cycle.  Can I shake things up?  Will I stay?  We shall see.

I need a hug.  I want my mommy.

From Japan,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The map... the road... to Grad School

You know, when I applied to the JET program and I was waiting for the response, I remember telling my doula that I could not imagine- could not fathom- getting that call and hearing someone tell me I was moving to Japan.  When I thought about it, it was like my brain couldn't go there.  I felt like an invisible force pressed itself up against me and that I couldn't move on. 

But, I did get that call and here I am, in Japan.  Now I feel that same way about the GRE and the application process to get into graduate school. 

I have to pass the GRE somehow.  I'm sure I'm exaggerating the difficulty and maybe even the importance of it, but this is how I feel.  And then the rest of it... letters of recommendation, choosing my writing sample, writing the letter of intent, ordering transcripts, and compiling all of this stuff from far away in Japan.  I guess I'll get it done somehow.

I wanted to go to graduate school in THE SOUTH.  Really, I wanted to go in Tennessee or North Carolina because the schools most attractive to me are in those places and because I have friends in both of those states.  Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina just don't appeal to me, and Louisiana, Arkansas, and the rest REALLY don't appeal to me.  Don't know why.  Arbitrary feeling or intuition, I don't know.  I like the idea of Massachusetts.  I like liberal, intellectual snobs.  They are my favorite.  But, my soul is more southern and I want to be closer to home.  BUT, Peter wants to be in Florida, and I want Knox to be with his daddy AND me.  So, I might go for the University of Florida or the University of Miami.  I have very close friends in Miami, too, so that might be cool... I was just looking for a more relaxed setting.  A place where, when I walk around the corner, I might find a pasture of horses.  Maybe some piggies.  A place without so much neon.  Miami... I do love the ocean, and I can't feign that I wouldn't like to shake my booty to some decent music on the weekends.  I'm sure Miami could provide that.  Oita sho nuf can't.  

I feel a little stuck.  A little like, what should I do when?  I'm a lounger and a dreamer; not very good at organizing myself.  That's why my mom did my college applications.  LOL.  I need someone to keep me moving.  My mom was that person most of my life, I had friends in LA that helped me figure out how to be proactive and get organized, Peter helped me a lot along the way, Kimberly keeps me blogging regularly, and I'm sure there have been other friends who helped keep me motivated in small ways that all added up to big things for me.  We all need a little help from our friends. 

I'll get there, even if it takes me some time. 

From Japan,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Today n' Stuff

Oh yeah, printer?  You're あいどりんぐ?  Well QUIT idling and do your damn work. 

I'm having a nice day.  No really!  I don't know what it is... well, I kinda do... but I look tired, I feel tired, my clothes are an interesting mash of things that I put together and didn't have the time or resources to improve upon, I should really take a shower, I ate this pastry this morning that I thought was simple メロンパン,but turned out to be this sugary mess of melon bread, cream cheese, an unidentifiable but not altogether unpleasant colorless jelly, and a ring of something that reminded me of a diaphragm...  It was sweeter than cake and I couldn't eat it all.  I think it will take me days to recover from the surprise melon- bread- breakfast- cake.  Despite all of this, I've got a kind of momentum about me today and I'm pumped for my five classes.  Last week I was a little depressed about my five classes cause it was my first day back to the normal schedule after a loooong holiday and period of having zero classes.  Today?  Let's go, baby.  I'm ready for ya. 


I'm down four classes.  One left.  I don't look tired anymore, but I'm suffering from the after lunch slump... sleepy... so sleepy...

I'm teaching the game Balderdash today.  It's very complicated to explain this game to the students, but they are really interested.  It is rare that I have almost everyone's attention even when they all have an activity to be doing, but today I have most everyone's attention even though all I'm doing is standing up front on the stage explaining the game.  I mean, that's not really ALL I'm doing.  I'm writing on the board and holding up the supplies for the game.  I'm giving them Japanese translations of things and handing out little papers to some people so that we can do practice demonstrations.  I'm giving examples of ways they can answer.  If you know the game Balderdash, you might think that it's simple.  You would not believe how complicated it is to explain that you don't have to know the word, you are trying to figure out what the word means, you do not need your dictionary, but that you ARE trying to listen for the correct definition once the definitions are being read.  They are responding really well to me handing out cards to the students who's definitions are chosen, and to students who get lucky and choose the "real" definition. 

Lucky for me, I played the game with my English club on Wednesday afternoon.  They showed me where my explanations were inadequate and where I straight up needed to translate things.  They helped me choose the best translations from my Kotoba application on my iPhone.  They were awesome.. I totally owe them magic cookie bars.

TONIGHT:  I am absolutely plan free for tonight.  I will be ALONE all night.  There are many people in my life that I am very, very fond of, but this is something that I have not experienced in recent memory... for real... and I am looking forward to it like it's my birthday.  My eyes are burning right now, but when I get home, I will be free to sit on the couch and close them.  This alone is magnificent.  This is sad, but I am so, so happy to have time to vacuum.  I am THRILLED that I will be able to work out before 9pm, and that I will be able to take a shower early enough that my hair can dry before I go to bed.  I will be able to watch, perhaps, more than one episode of some show I'm following... Castle?  Yeah.  I'll finish the Castle I started two nights ago, that I had to abandon to squeeze some sleep in between all of my errands, child rearing, social demands, and teaching, of course.

By 10pm tonight I want to have exercised, cleaned my entire apartment including vacuuming, all dishes, and all laundry, eaten a healthy dinner, taken a shower, and watched TV.  I can't hope to do my shopping, paint my nails, organize my paper work, or read, but alas, we must prioritize, and I can do two of those things at school.  I just won't have the energy or focus to read.  I need a mental pablum.  TV over books tonight, my friends. 

TOMORROW:  I'm getting a hair cut!!!  I'm really excited about this.  I love getting my hair done.  Love it!  I have long hair, so I don't get to do this very often.  The last time I got a haircut was August 16th, 2011.  I've been talking about going to my salon, Mellow (on 5th Avenue -or music street-, across from K9Zoo; Yusuke is fabulous), since November.  I need some major shaping up.  Getting a hair cut is one my sure fire beat PMS/depression fixes (as Amanda knows).  The other is buying new shoes.  Maybe I'll do both tomorrow.  And I'm not even depressed.  God, I'll be floating.  ;-)

After that I know for sure that I am playing Beer Pong into the wee hours.  Does college ever end?  Not for a JET.

From Japan,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I wrote this 7 months ago.  I'm about to get into a book that will help me see these topics more clearly, but I haven't read it yet.  My thoughts on the following keep evolving, but here's what is done:

Time is a funny thing.  Lately I've been feeling like time is moving so slowly.  Something will have happened and I will think of it as happening weeks ago, though it has only been a few days.  That's great when I'm enjoying the weekend, but it sucks when I'm waiting for something.  The moments and days creep by, and yet I'm bemused by the arrival of June, it seems to have come so fast.

I'm intrigued by time perception.  What makes the days seem like lifetimes when we are young and what changes as we age to make them fly us by?  Maybe our perception of time isn't the issue.  Maybe the issue is time itself. 

Is the future out of our reach?  Is now all we have?  Is the past the past?  Can we know?  I guess these answers lie in the answer to the question What is time?

Four or five years ago, when I lived in LA, I lived about 4 blocks from a glorious entertainment and shopping complex, including a Barnes & Noble... 

...Hmmm, now that I mention it, I wish to diverge:  There was a mall with everything you could want (except Banana Republic, which I usually went to Glendale for), three AMC movie theaters with a combined 30 screens, a shopping street with boutiques, restaurants, and an Urban Outfitters, and 2 Starbucks stores book-ending the magnificence, not to mention my gym, the police station, and a post office.  Burbank, CA, where roses grow like weeds, is freaking perfect...  (See Ayne, I'm a consumerist-materialist-shame of a pseudo-hippie.)

Anyway, I was childless and, especially during the Hollywood writer's strike, I had some leisure time on my hands.  I had Natalia next door and 5 cats between us, but all 6 of them preferred to stay home.  I spent hours at that Barnes & Noble perusing the shelves and sipping my chai at the cafe, where I had to endure the baristas' constant deviations from the Starbucks chai latte recipe.  I read lots of Tom Robbins, Jane Austen, Philip Pullman, Stephen King, and various fantasy collections.  That Starbucks cafe is also where I met my Eastern European stalker.  I'm too friendly to strangers, maybe, or perhaps he mistook my affability for flirtation.  This guy sitting at the next table was studying for his pharmaceutical examinations.  He turned to talk to me and comment on my selections, which at the time were several books concerning time, including Einstein's Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, and Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and several others concerning spirituality and philosophy.  Time and matters of the spirit.  (For one to divine their own spirituality, which I have done constantly since college, I think one must also attempt to develop an understanding of time, and decide what they believe time is in itself and in relation to how we perceive reality.)  Well, I told him all about what I was reading and the nature of the conclusions I hoped to glean about the nature of time and how it relates to our lives.  I couldn't help but notice that every single time I went to Barnes & Noble after that, he was there.  Opening at 11am or closing at 11pm, he was there.  It didn't matter when I went, and every time he would come over and tell me all about how much money he was going to make as a pharmacist.  So, of course, I took different routes home, watching my back (as I caught him following me out a time or two, at which time I walked right up to him and asked him where he was off to), and avoided my beloved personal library for weeks.  (I'm not only a loiterer, I bought plenty of stuff, too ;-) )

What did I learn about time?  Did I find out what it is?  I wish I had those books in front of me, but they are not at my disposal.

What do I remember?  I learned what a few people think about it, at least.  I don't think that there is one clear perspective of time that permeates science and culture, despite a consensus among scholars from several fields that time is temporal and illusory.  People are still figuring it out, and maybe it's one of those unanswerable questions.  I didn't have to turn to a book by Einstein because time is simple.  I couldn't very well rely on Madeleine L'Engle's explanation.  Time is a very complicated thing, as demonstrated by the self destructive human tendency to live anywhere but now, and by the ongoing debates between the most brilliant scientists to ever live and die. 

There is a difference between being aware of something and actually understanding it.  I think we all ebb and flow in our understanding of our own essence, nature, and purpose, and when I have taken the time to ponder that fluctuation, I find that my indecisiveness and uncertainty is directly related to my lack of a solid handle on time. 

I think the primary motivating factor of our thoughts and emotions is time, a thing that we don't really understand.  Most of the things we do in the present, we do because we assume we have a future.  Here comes the cliche, What would you do if you absolutely knew you were going to die tomorrow, or next month, or next year?  Your thoughts and emotions and all of your subsequent actions would probably change pretty dramatically in relation to your new perception of time.  The change would happen all because of your perception of the time you have, or the time you lack.  And what for the past?  It makes us think, cry, laugh, reflect, learn, grow...  Again, our thoughts and emotions from memories arise out of our perception that those times are gone. 

Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down.  Either end of the flux can create a muddied perspective that clouds one's abilities of self reflection.  So, it's the up and the down that creates resistance and therefore a state of dissatisfaction.  The ups and downs happen in time, and if you believe time to be on a line, then that can be very depressing because it's easy to see our now as very limiting.  Something that has already happened is gone forever.  It's very permanent.  Sometimes permanence is comforting.  Sometimes it's suffocating.  Everyone has been sad about something that happened.  Everyone.  ...The Dali Llama.  Jesus.  Harry Potter, if he existed.  (Wedding Crashers... anyone?)  Everyone has been anxious about something that might happen, or "will" happen.  Everyone. 

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says that nothing exists outside of the moment that is now.  It seems to make sense.  Now is all there is, right?  Memories and imaginings of the future exist only as chemicals and electricity in our brains, right?  Well, either we humans are really jacked up, having so much emotion about the past and future, which technically don't exist, or there is another answer.  What if those time are not gone?  What if it's all an illusion?

Einstein thought time was illusory.  If it's good enough for Einstein, it's good enough for me.  Einstein had a really great friend named Michele Besso.  At Besso's funeral, Einstein said, "Now Besso has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me.  That means nothing.  People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."  Einstein proved that time is relative.  That means it depends on where you're standing.  The truth of time that you experience depends on the angle, literally and figuratively, that you see it from. 

An aside... I met Einstein's great (or great, great) granddaughter at the Warner Bros. movie studio in Los Angeles.  She had a name tag on and I saw the last name "Einstein."  Sort of as a joke, I referred to her tag and said, "Einstein.  Any relation?"  She was really friendly and said that yes, she was his (some number of greats) granddaughter.  She had the crazy hair, too.  Maybe this is weird, but I told her that I had to touch her and I hugged her.  She was cool with it and really friendly.  Good hugger.

Eckhart Tolle's take, that nothing exists except now, is not mutually exclusive with the explanations of major physicists, because the physicists say that the past and future are illusions, and that everything that has ever been is now.  Following from Tolle's take, it's never our reality that causes us pain (or joy), it's the thoughts we attach to it.  When I went to Shikoku, I saw a Japanese girl carrying a bag; it said, "It's not where you are or who you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy.  It's what you think about it."  Some people's thoughts help them create success in their lives.  Other people's thoughts make them miserable and hold them back because the thoughts happen within a context of time, and their perception of their place in time is negative. 

Perhaps my view of time is not obviously practical, but it is also not self-servingly pragmatic.  I don't discount the pragmatic usefulness of a statement such as "the past is past."  But I am seriously adverse to excuses, and I can't separate the usefulness of the phrase from it's catalyst; some sort of event must have happened to elicit the utterance of such a statement as "the past is past", maybe some event so small that it's spoken as a trifle, or maybe something big, so that the statement becomes necessary to the future well being of the speaker.  It serves several functions, not least of which is the believer's ability to move on with their life once they accept that statement as an axiom.  Every single human being has experiences that tug on their hearts and imaginations, calling forth questions ranging from Have I ruined my life? to Well, what will I have for dinner now that this is charcoal?  The past is past:  He's gone.  The past is past:  Toast some new bread. 

Lots of questions. Amidst all of the questions and questing for the answers, it's good, in the mean time, to remember stuff like this quote from Einstein:  "In addition to all the ordinary and predictable events, like the sun rising in the morning, there is each day also a chance of something extraordinary happening."

Gonna go now.  Time has gotten away from me.

From Japan,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tokyo 2012

Bad-ass photo of Tokyo Tower
I left for Tokyo on December 28th.  It was a bit of a long trip because I took an overnight bus, but still enjoyable.  The first bus took me from Oita to Fukuoka; I checked out Hakata station and mall, and then caught my night bus for Tokyo.  It wasn't so bad, except that it was really hot and they didn't let you off throughout the night, so I got claustrophobic.  There were enough daylight hours, but I never had a window seat and the windows were seriously foggy, so I didn't get to watch the landscape at all.  I brought a novel with me and I have an iPhone, so I was well entertained... until I finished my book and my iPhone died.  Then I was stir-crazy.  I stripped down to my leggings and a single shirt in the middle of the night, but I was still freaking out, especially cause I thought I had an extra water bottle in my bag, so I didn't buy any at the one night stop we got, but I was mistaken, which meant I was flippin' dehydrated.  I know, poor baby. 

I got to Shinjuku station in Tokyo on the morning of December 29th.  My friend Melissa met me there.  She's the reason I went, actually, and to see Tokyo while I was catching up with her.  I had free vacation days over the New Year holiday, and I wanted to do something valuable with them.  On the first day in Tokyo we were in the Karakuen area, where we saw Dome city, which is a sports dome surrounded by rides and a mall.  We went there because I love gardens and I wanted to go to the nearby Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, but it was closed.  This is something that is very counter intuitive about Japan, and very different from America:  During the holidays museums, gardens, and ATMs (ATMs!!) are CLOSED.  A friends of mine had to house a friend of hers because he was on holiday in our area, forgot about the ATM situation, and simply could not obtain enough money to get home until the ATMs opened the next day.  Ah, well.  As we say when cultural quirks cause things to go awry... "Oh, Japan."  Melissa and I rode the giant Ferris wheel and got our girl talk into full swing.  Melissa and I are fabulous at girl talk.  We tore up the girl talk.  You wouldn't stand a chance.

Tiffany and Melissa: Purikura

In lieu of the closed city garden, we headed toward another garden that Melissa knew about so that I could get my garden fix, and we passed through some city areas and another garden on the way.  It's hard to go anywhere in Japan without seeing beautiful things and scenes, and I am a very lucky girl to have a friend like Melissa that is so knowledgeable and resourceful.  We made our way to the Bunkyoku area, home to the luxury Four Seasons Hotel and it's garden.  We strolled through the garden which had it's own shrines and sculptures, a famous well that kept people alive after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, streams, and a waterfall that has a path underneath for entrance to the hotel.  Nice!  The garden was setting for good conversation, which in my opinion, Melissa and I always have.

Asakusa Shopping after the people had gone

After Bunkyoku we took the train to Asakusa to check out a famous shopping area and to see Senso-ji, a huge temple.  We met up with another friend, Mike, who lives in Oita prefecture with me.  It hadn't occurred to me to ask, but that area was bustling as though a festival was in full swing, but I think it's just like that every day.  I wonder.  I had some yummy sake with mochi inside while I was there, as well as some other Japanese sweets.  YUM.  From the temple area I caught views of the Asahi Beer factory (a jet black building with a big gold (sperm-esque) flame on top, famous also for its architecture), and the new Tokyo Sky Tree, which has the coolest matte silver finish, and is now the tallest structure in Japan.  After the temple we went milling the streets looking for eats.  I wasn't in shopping mode, for once, but Melissa hit upon what appeared to be a shoe-shoppers mecca.  We ended up having a delicious meal of... udon?  I think it was udon.

Tokyo Sky Tree
 At this point I had been up all day and I had travelled all the previous night, and Melissa had stayed up very late the night before I got there and had gotten up early to meet me at the train station, so we were getting silly with exhaustion.  After sitting in the restaurant for what might actually have been hours, we set out to the street again, all a giggle.  The dancing mechanical cats?  Hilarious!  The dead Fugu fish in the tank, bumping against the walls and the other fish?  HILARIOUS.  Mike using the Tokyo Sky Tree mural as a stand in penis?  OMG.  We had a good time, snaking through a gorgeous Asakusa street, down a yaki-tori (meat on sticks) tent street, past Asakusa station... good times.  Melissa and I got on the train to Tsukuba and eventually got to sleep.


On my second day, I woke up in Tsukuba without the assistance of an alarm OR a child!!  It was divine.  We did some serious vegging this day.  Melissa fixed me up on the trip with healthier food than I have been eating lately:  We started the day with blueberry and maple syrup infused oatmeal and made a lunch of tuna/carrot salad scooped up with nori, accompanied by boiled eggs and mustard.  We ate lunch in front of a duck pond on the lawn of the Tsukuba planetarium.  It was really pretty.  I say lunch, but we didn't actually get out of the apartment until the sun was on the way down.  That kind of day feels so right to me.  The rest of our day consisted of browsing and a little buying, especially at Loft, a pretty cool store that has lots of cute/fun/uniquely-Japanese stuff.  This is the day I got Roland.  He's my new friend.  We finished up the day with a trip to the purikura!!  Purikura is what we call the Japanese photo booths.  You choose layouts and backgrounds, take your 6 or 8 pictures, and then go to a screen outside the booth where there is screen.  You use a digital pen to decorate your pics with tab after tab of pictures and symbols.  It's really fun!  We stopped in the park on the way home to look at the stars while we talked.     

Tsukuba Planetarium

 We woke up on the third day kind of late, I think, and on our own time, but got out in decent time to see the town and prep for New Year's Eve celebratory activities.  We went to the Hotel Mentels (what kind of name is that?  Oh, Japan) in Otsuka, Tokyo.  We dropped off the stuff, chilled, did a photo shoot with our silky animal print bed spread, and head out to hit the town.  We went to check out Harajuku, Tokyo, which had awesome shopping!!  I didn't want to bring a bag out to the club, so I had just given Melissa my ID and enough money for the night.  I had not planned on animal-eared winter hats, Max Hedrome sun glasses, the best selection of phone and key straps in the land, or T-shirts featuring pigs who were sad to see ham on a plate.  It was glorious, but alas, I had no money, and of course the ATMs were closed, not that I had my bank card.  Oh, well, next time.

Cool Harajuku Wall

Crazy Harajuku Dude

Me and Melissa in Harajuku

Mike and Melissa in
Omoide Yokocho
 We met up with Mike and went to Shinjuku, Tokyo, to eat close to the club.  We ate on a street of Izakaya restaurants called Omoide Yokocho, or Street of Memories.  It was very cool.  Melissa was sweetest most generous friend ever and treated me to dinner.  Thanks Melissa!!  I owe you one.  After that we walked to Club Axxcis, which had a great drink deal for women and featured DJ Kaori, who is pretty famous, I guess.  I went in with Melissa and got settled with our locker and drinks.  They were frisking the dudes, so Mike went to an alley to down his not-that-small bottle of whiskey and then joined us in the club.  He pointed out that if I had done what he just did, I'd probably be dead.  Ha.  The club was really fun.  I got three drinks in before the time cut-off for ladies free drinks, which was more like the equivalent of six:  I complained to the bar tender that my drinks didn't seem to actually contain any alcohol, so he up-ended the bottle of Skyy into my drink and just stirred until I looked shocked.  Awesome!!  That happened three times.  ;-)

The New Year's Party
we went to

So, obviously, that's when things start to get blurry.  It was a great, fun lovin time.  The atmosphere in the club was jubilent.  The strippers were sexy.  The pole dance was really, truly impressive; like, inspiring; and the music was freaking awesome... song after song got me movin' and groovin'.  Finally, the DJ lead the countdown -in Japanese- and we screamed in the year of 2012.  These two guys had been running around all night pouring champagne in our mouths.  They did that some more.  We danced and laughed...

On the way out, sometime before 3am, we ran into my friends from Oita University, who I had told about this Club Axxcis.  They were like, "Oh, you're leavin' already?"  Were you looking at me?  It was three in the morning and I could never have gotten myself home without Melissa.  Yeah.  I'm leavin' already.  Melissa ran me to catch the train, so when we got there I collapsed on the floor of the train, and luckily I was laughing my ass off instead of crying.  I'm generally a happy drunk.  There was a konbini stop and bed.  Good, good New Year's Eve in Tokyo.

Post Club Konbini Stop

On the fourth day, only about five hours later, I woke up and was feelin' fine.  My bounce back powers are healthy.  We checked out, dropped our stuff off in a locker in Shinjuku, where I would catch my bus that night, and headed to Odaiba Island where I caught lots of city sights including Tokyo Big Sight, Palette Town Mall (where I picked up some Tokyo Starbucks Mugs for my collection), the Toyota Design Center, Aqua City, and the Fuji TV Building.  I also experienced an earthquake right before we bought our tickets for the water bus back to Hinode Pier.  I love being on the water.  The views were gorgeous and I got great pictures of Rainbow Bridge and the skyline.  From Hinode Pier we walked to Shibakoen area to see Zojo-ji (ji means temple) and Tokyo Tower.

Rainbow Bridge

At Tokyo Big Sight

Ferris Wheel at Palette Town

After that, it was just getting back to Kyushu and Oita.  It is of note that the 2 hour bus ride from Fukuoka to Oita took, on this day, 5 hours.  My bus went under 15 km/hr for almost 4 hours.  And my phone was dead.  And I had no book to read.  And I couldn't really sleep.  Torture.

But, I don't remember my trip that way and I don't want to end this post that way.  I had a great time with Melissa.  I'm blessed to have such a generous friend who happens to be fluent .  I feel like I have seen Tokyo now, for though I had spent as many nights in Tokyo before, I had only seen the inside of the Keio Plaza Hotel.  ...Now, you know me, I always end up reflecting on something, and what comes to mind now is my lack of appreciation for where I am.  I have come to a point where I am taking Japan for granted.  I know this because although I just spent a really awesome four days in Tokyo, I'm still jealous of my friends who went to Thailand -a place I have already been to, and I'm moaning in my head about when I might get to go to Bali or Guam or even Okinawa.  I'm such a brat.  :-) 


From Japan,