So much happens in a month, and when I go without posting I don’t even know where to start.
Today I went to Rikugien. It’s a garden with a beautiful pond in the center and paths all around it. There are 88 scenes from classical Japanese/Chinese poetry reproduced in miniature throughout the park. For example “The rock splitting the river,” where a small pond to the side of one path was fed by a small waterfall that flowed down and parted into two streams.
My phone battery died shortly after that last picture. I spent the rest of the time contemplatively, considering my perpetual desperate need to capture moments instead of just living them. Even the desire to live mindfully, fully in the present, is just another manifestation of that need. One day I hope to be comfortable in the knowledge that all existence, even each moment, is impermanent, and then live in the true freedom of that awareness. Or, to put it another way, in the words of my hero:
Recently I went to a drinking and eating establishment where you got to catch your own fish and eat it.
Today I set out to be a tourist again. It’s amazing how quickly anywhere in the world can get comfortable and boring if you don’t take it upon yourself to go out and see what’s around you. So I found the One Day in Tokyo itinerary on Wikitravel and decided to sort of follow it.
I started off strong by waking up around 9 therefore abandoning the whole “go to the fish market and have sushi for breakfast at 5am” part of the plan. No thank you. If clocks were people their butthole would be 5am, and fish for breakfast sounds like something that is illegal to do to prisoners.
Check out the incredible process of woodblock printing. Step 1 is on the right, and each step adds more detail. I was impressed.
Next I went to the Meiji Jingu temple garden. That was a nice walk in a park which was frequented by the Emperor and Empress themselves when they were alive.
Then I walked through Shinjuku’s Harajuku and found a place called Calbee Plus, dedicated to nothing but treats made of fried potatoes.
Masaaki Yuasa spoke along with some other folks I didn’t know (but that probably just makes me the Philistine here, not them the unknowns). Here they are discussing the episode he was given free reign to create in Season 6:
OK then I came home and burned some gyoza for dinner and wrote this.
Today I put a pin down randomly in the middle of Tokyo on Google Maps:
Then I hopped on a train and went there.
I guess they can’t all be winners.
Then I found a cafe nearby called the Bookshelf Cafe. The sign seemed to say they were open on weekends from 10:00 – 18:00, but the closed sign was up. The door had an automatic “wave your hand here” panel, so I tried my luck and it opened. I stepped in and woke up a dude lying on his stomach sleeping in a booth inside.
「Excuse me, what time do you open?」I asked in Japanese.
「Oyasumi desu」he replied. In Japanese, “Oyasumi” can mean a rest, nap, vacation, time off of work, etc. So thanked him awkwardly and left wondering what kind of answer “I’m taking a break,” was to a customer who wanted to come in during normal business hours.
It turns out according to the website they’re not open on Sunday at all. And while I still wonder what led that guy to come into work for a sleep in a booth, I realized what his sentence meant: it’s our day off. We’re closed. Like the sign says, jerk.
My coworkers haven’t been able to give me a good Japanese word to use in place of “oops” yet.
Anyway, the title says “Rakuten Tech Conference,” which I attended yesterday. Had a great time, and most of the talks are on Youtube. I gave a “lightning talk” about successfully implementing process changes on your team. In lightning talks speakers have a strict 4 minutes to talk on their topic, so I had to rush, but it was a good experience.
Afterward I got to hang out and talk with Nathan LeClaire of Docker (super smart guy working on and showing off some really neat things for a cool company) and the accomplished Jim Coplien who’s been in the software biz for decades, is well-read, and has strong and intriguing opinions on many things from scrum, kanban, & agile in general to organizational patterns and international politics, all of which were extremely fun to discuss with him over beer and Japanese food.
Now for some images and videos I’ve made recently.
The look of horror as this train realizes he’s about to kill some people.
OH GOD NO NOT AGAIN
Finn, Jake, and the Ice King keep me company at work.
Indian Prime Minister feels a 40% success rate = “near impossible.”
This picture would disgust Japanese people. 1. It’s microwaved rice. 2. I poured soy sauce all over it which is unheard of and generally thought to be pretty gross. 3. The chopsticks jabbed into the rice is a funeral thing, so it’s pretty damn rude to do. I do this at home by myself and enjoy being bad where nobody knows.
This atrocity is Burger King’s limited-time only black burger. The black is mostly food coloring but the cheese has squid ink in it. Try one today! hlgrk…
Open mic at Ruby Room
I probably drink one of these per day. And now you can get them from the vending machine hot!
Ate some delicious Italian style pizza here at Massimottavio.
Ate some delicious Italian style pizza here at Massimottavio.
To our customers who have food allergy and can only read English: fuck you! (At least now you know there’s something you don’t know about our food.)
My latest cat cafe visit
Me and Cope had a good time drinking and eating and talking
Walking off the train, I have to take these baby steps and get knocked around by other commuters. Watch and feel my pain.
A kitten at a cat cafe wants to chew my phone cord (of course).
A man fights sleep outside of a McDonalds and loses. I have been this dude so many times.
Thanks to this walk to Doofles, the neighborhood arcade, I’m sort of OK at Tekken Tag Tournament 2 now.
It’s a beautiful, rainy day here in Tokyo. Let’s look at some pictures.
I’ve spent a few nights at Shibuya’s Ruby Room. They have a Tuesday night open mic, and I love open mic nights. There’s always such a variety of skill levels and musical styles, and I have a special place in my heart for amateur artists performing for the love of the music. For me the soul of lo-fi and live beats a polished and produced recording any day.
Apart from open mic nights, I also checked out show by The Casablancas there.
Good stuff. They actually opened for another band that night but in my opinion stole the show.
Also, had dinner with coworkers the other night. I love these folks! They really know how to have a good time together and have been super welcoming to me.
Check out this awesome studio that is a five minute walk from my apartment. I have this space to myself plus use of all the equipment in it for less than $8 an hour! It’s called Gourd Island Studio. I’m pumped: I can play drums again, I can record music and sing loud and plug into nice amps, all without worrying about bugging my neighbor.
Also, I finally went to the Ruby Room last night, which sounds like a strip club, I know, but is actually a pretty well-known music venue in Tokyo.
I had pretty lucky timing, five bands played and they were all really fun and there was a lot of talent on display. Met some cool folks, too. They have a Tuesday night open mic I’ll be back for this week.
My company is on break for the Obon holiday for most of this week, and I am determined not to spend it in my apartment watching South Park and Seinfeld on Internet TV. So I gave myself a rule today: out by 10am and back no sooner than 7pm.
I hopped on a train in a direction I never go and asked my girlfriend to pick a number between 1 and 30 (she picked 22). That’s how many minutes I stayed on the train.
And finally, I rounded the corner to witness a miniaturized horse race betting game. O_O
By the way, did you miss the fact that one of the jockeys’ bodies was horrifically snapped off at the waist? He was just a set of legs. I think that should disqualify him.
I was wandering around inside 3rd Planet thinking “This place smells just like the bowling alleys back home,” when I rounded the corner to discover:
I played one game. One sad little game.
Finally emerging from the incredibly fun and diverse gaming experience that my day had become, I grabbed a bite at the finest McDonald’s I have ever laid eyes on.
And now I’m writing this on the train at 7:30pm. Google maps says I’ll be home in 15 minutes, where I’ll upload all those pictures you just saw. My random train-riding journey took me to the opposite side of Tokyo from my home and cost me about ¥3000 total. Success.
If you’re ever looking for something to do, stop looking and just get outside. Something to do will find you.
Before you dismiss that picture above as just a screenshot of a weather app, please, read it. Look at that stuff:
There is 62% humidity and no chance at all that it will rain.
It’s 91°F (33°C) and it feels like 99°/37°.
It’s only July.
And I can vouch for that “feels like” bit, too. In the train station (where you don’t feel that 17mph wind), it literally feels like a sauna.
But enough about the weather. Speaking only an idiot’s version of the language and knowing practically no one here, it gets lonely in Tokyo too. I’m an introvert, and something of a loner too, but I’ve surprised myself by how difficult that level of alienation can be at times.
So today I’m treating myself to 3 hours at 猫の居る休憩所２９９ (neko no iru kyuukeisho 299, or “Rest Area 299, Where There Are Cats”).
Here’s what things look like as I write this:
Pretty nice. Also, here’s a cat licking my plastic bag. Some cats are into this sort of thing, including my kitty at home in America.
By the way, just outside of Ikebukuro Station, I found a warp pipe:
There were fireworks that looked like red hearts, umbrellas, smiley faces, stars-within-circles, Doraemon’s face. Think about that – somebody figured out how to make shapes made of fire in the sky. It lasted from 7:30 to 8:30 and I have honestly never seen anything like it.
I spent practically all day yesterday (and about $30 in train and bus tickets) traveling to and from Oume, a beautiful little city in western Tokyo.
Why, you ask? Because according to Tokyo-Park.net, Kabokuen park was in Oume…
…and Kabokuen has something American parks do not…
I rode this thing probably seven or eight times before I had to catch my bus and begin the 2 hour trip back home. Worth it! The trick is to crouch and ride on your feet leaning forward. Some of the kids rode with a piece of cardboard underneath them but I didn’t see the need. Can’t wait to visit another park and ride some more. 😀