Here’s a video of me enjoying some interesting Japanese cuisine.
Here’s a video of me enjoying some interesting Japanese cuisine.
As it turns out, I’m born to be wild, as is evidenced by the hilarious video below. This somewhat embarrassing extravagance took place at a hotel resort in Ise, Japan, and my witnesses were my traveling companions, and a bunch of inebriated Japanese locals celebrating a wedding. The Japanese gent joining me towards the end was not arranged in advance. I think he really liked my leg.
By the way, I wasn’t drunk. I don’t drink alcohol.
Tokyo is an endless, sprawling megalopolis, a bustling sea of humanity, neon eternity.
Upon my arrival, I was blown away by the sheer volume of people in the station, and when I made my way via subway to Shinjuku to find a hotel, I was even more blown away. Shinjuku station’s daily traffic is one of the highest in the world, and one has to almost fight one’s way through it. Better yet, simply go with the flow. This place makes NYC seem like a farming community.
I was wandering aimlessly around Gion today, when I nearly blundered into a Geisha. It happened when I was crossing a busy street (Shijo-dori), and she sort of appeared out of nowhere. She could have been a Maiko, or apprentice Geisha, but I really don’t know how to tell them apart. As the next hour unfolded, I managed to spot a few more scurrying around, and even snapped up a blurry pic of one being escorted to Pontocho by her matron. This place is so surreal. It’s almost like living in a story. Almost, but not quite. The illusion got ruined when I walked a few more blocks and found myself in the red light district, surrounded by Japanese business men in their starched suits. Eyed warily by seedy sentinels posted outside various establishments, I quickly made my way back to the hostel.
My birthday came an went like passing clouds. It was an eventful day, complete with travels to a new city, new accommodations, and the feeling of independence associated with cutting out on one’s own.
After I did some sightseeing, I checked out Kyoto Station for some meal options. I found a place which allowed me to feed money into a slot and choose my meal by pushing a button. Then, a hostess came and seated me, and I looked around as I waited for my food. Most of the patrons were locals, but there a couple of foreigners inside. I watched carefully how the natives handled their chopsticks with their right hands and their spoons with their left as they deftly attacked the bowls of soup. When my food arrived, I managed to mimic them effectively, down to making the slurphing sounds characteristic of the eating style. However, I cant figure out how to do it without splashing my clothes with soup.
After I ate, I met Meri (a Japanese native, who is an acquaintance through my musician friend Jan Sebon), and we took the bus to the Kyoto Art Institute Student Festival, which was quite the event. There were beautiful student art works, cool bands playing, and great food. I had a blast. At 7 pm, I went to see Meri perform in an African dance performance, performed entirely by Japanese women. OK. I have seen, heard, and performed African dance and music. This was something else. I was blown away. From the first few beats of the dun-dun drums, I knew I was in for a good show. Imagine a group of attractive, young Japanese women playing African drums, while others danced skillfully to the music. Wow. There was one djembe player who could have given some of the drummer I know a run for their money, and she’s only been playing for two years! I told Meri they should seriously consider touring.
All in one night.
I went to a karaoke bar in this hotel (which, I might add, is a resort, on an isolated peninsula in the middle of nowhere) and we had no idea that there was a $12 surcharge per person. So our fricking bill ended up being $114 for 5 people, and only 2 of us sang. Fortunately, we got 3 video clips of us singing, which makes up for the feeling of being robbed.
This place is a trip.
Don performing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Don doing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”
Me doing Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild”
Drunken Japanese Karaoke Session
I slept well last night. It felt like I was up for a really long time, because we were travelling with the sun, and it didn’t set on us until we got to Osaka.
The hotel window opened to a low-railed balcony that overlooked the city from the 31st floor, which yielded some nice breezes. Breakfast was not traditional Japanese. It was a smargasbord of Japanese and Western foods, and allowed the diner a choice of pickled plums, okra, seaweed salad and other Japanese treats, along with bacon, eggs, ham, croissants and the like. It was a bit disconcerting to find Western foods there, to be honest. I guess they’re trying to cater to our tastes.
As I sit here waiting for our tour bus to take off, I’m reminiscing about some of the more interesting parts of yesterday:
When I emerged from the steamy shower, I could see myself in the mirror! Instead of finding a fogged-up mirror, I was surprised to see a clear, unblurred reflection of myself peeking back at me. Heated mirrors! Furthermore, the toilet has a heated seat (complete with high/low temperature controls), and features a built-in bidet and sprayer. In other words, your toilet sprinkles your tushie clean. America needs better bathroom technology.
Our tour guide is an interesting old Japanese gent who seems to insist on talking the whole time. Ok, not the whole time, but enough to make me check out for lack of patience. He has just informed me that Osaka is known as the “Kitchen of Japan.” Cool.
We visited the Todai-Ji Temple today. The scale of this structure was staggering. It is apparently the largest wooden structure in the world. There was a pillar with a hole in the bottom that people would pass themselves through, and I slid right through. People were cheering as I pulled myself out, probably because most of the people going through were kids, and they were probably amused to see a gaijin (foreigner) pulling himself through a tiny hole in a giant wood pillar. I also tried some strange, fried starchy balls, some octopus dumplings, and some tea-flavored ice cream. Yum.
Later, we had lunch at a hotel. Our meals came out in an obento box, which is a typical lunch box of assorted meats and seafood, accompanied by bowls of miso and rice.
Did I mention the incredible gel drink I had last night? Wow. It was like drinking slushed up jello in a squeezy container. Yum. I wish we had something like it in the USA. They had assorted flavors, and many of them had vitamin and mineral supplements added.
Later on our sightseeing trip, we visited Takamatsu Sensei’s grave. The whole process was a bit rushed to me. It seemed appropriate that it was raining. The world was crying for the great loss of a Ninja Master.
After a really long bus ride, during which the back of the bus got caught in a whirlwind of humor and proceeded to laugh ourselves to tears, wherein the simple mention of the word “splint” would send us into peals of laughter, and a delicious treat called Pocky – Men’s was passed around freely amid Indian/Sri Lankan accents aplenty, we finally arrived at our hotel.
The dinner spread was ridiculously huge. Even I, with my voracious appetite, was unable to completely devour what was placed before me.