wanderlust


:8/31--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

goodbye august

i took otto to the hospital today and paid the 4600 baht to get his blood tested for AIDS and STDs, along with mine. just a wee bit paranoid after reading in the paper that 1 in 60 thai people has AIDS. (....p.s. in case i forget to write it, the next day we were both found completely clean :) ).

unfortunately we had to go back to white sand beach two more times today, running errands for ot's boss lamom. at one point we borrowed a friend's truck to go pick up cases of alcohol, and otto realized the horn did not work too late- he hit a little doggie at the side of the road. i freaked out on him, thinking he had killed it, but it turned out to be ok, just a bump on the head. thai people look at animals as meat or labor, not as pets, so he didn't quite understand my sympathy for the dog.

another night at jah bar, which is the only thing to do here now as the old nature bar is closed and the new one doesn't open for a week. i spent most of the night staring adoringly at ot from across the room.

:8/30--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ot playing bartender

i woke up this morning and ran for the beach, where i swam for about two hours. i bought otto a camera to take pictures of us and a notebook and pen so he can write down his good ideas from now on instead of letting them float past in a stony haze. he took me to the new night market on sai khaew to buy some snacks (boiled peanuts, khao lam, quail eggs, rambutans). ko chang is picking up quickly in that area- it's already far too developed for my tastes, and the travellers on that beach tend to be the rich package tourists or the boring american kids with their parents. we stopped and had some isaan food (typically gristly with an occasional surprise bone chard) with our friend pan and his girlfriend.

later headed to ban bao (fishing village) for a big party which ended up being very small, but on the water with a nice thai family and some little hippie tots wearing viking helmets that a farang girl brought along to play music. we ate free seafood and ot played his jambe arrogantly with a couple of shy thai kids and an apparently mute japanese hippie boy, and all was well.

:8/29--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

steps to jah bar
ot spent the day building a new kitchen room for himself, which entailed his hauling huge fallen tree trunks and various construction materials up the side of the mountain. so i made myself scarce and wandered around the island until it was time to make dinner. i have again fallen into a little routine here that i love. see previous and following days.
:8/28--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

me in my bungalow
i motorbiked happily to sai khaew today and bought a couple of blow up fish floats for me and ot. we spent a blissful hour swimming together in the translucent blue water outside my door. then we fell asleep together curled up in my hammock under a motherly palm tree. later we watched some poor cambodian kids fish with a makeshift rod in the sewage-filled pond under my hut. i sat sifting through the flawless white sand for awhile until i developed a gorgeous collection of odd-shaped and weird colored shells. was jumped at by another hand-sized spider under my backpack in my room. taught little cambodian tom at the jah bar some english and math. realized i desperately love life here and all thoughts of japan or home seem entirely trivial.

:8/27--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
'x' wrote me today asking if i would consider being his flophouse-mate when we both inevitably have to go home to work. i said sure. we have been flophouse mates before when circumstances led us to new places - once in san francisco in a "residence hotel" full of toothless, withered, barechested old men in tattered bathrobes (who had a bad habit of peeing in the communal sink), and once in portland oregon where the guy next door often beat his girl to a pulp, people would routinely wipe snot on the walls, and junkies would pass out in the hall with bags of shite in hand. lovely circumstance to look forward to. unfortunately there is not much in the way of cheap accomodation otherwise in bigger cities and we don't have families to return to. what goes up must come down... for a bit, and then it always goes back up. at least that is what i am trying to tell myself. it is not easy to start over again. though if i didn't love my life the way it is i am sure it would be rather more avoidable.

jah bar party tonight. i must add that all recent rumors about the jah bar are completely blown out of proportion, and that the guy who posted his story on the thorn tree blatantly lied. [skip ahead if you don't care] i spoke to the british girl who was there that night and who has returned (she is the one who was supposedly tied up, but according to her she was flirting, it was a game) and she said it was the farang kids that overreacted and provoked lucky. not that lucky is innocent, but there are definitely a lot of stupid farangs that come to jah bar, and i witness daily misunderstandings taking place between thais and farangs. both sides really need a lesson in cultural understanding. farang kids think it's funny to say 'fuck you' in jest to a thai bartender, in polite thai society that is grounds for your immediate ass kicking, as is something as innocent as staring too long at a thai. i suppose thai people need to be a bit more tolerant in some cases too, though to me it is the visitor that has responsibility, not the thais. no wonder their smiles are fake; between the european girls wearing string bikinis in to dinner with thai families, the drunken shouting louts who demand free drinks with every kind word, the obnoxious self proclaimed thai gurus on their third trip to the country trying to explain thai people to themselves.... what is with some travellers? anyway the jah bar is lovely. it's basically a big open air house, and the staff is all like family. they may smoke a bit much and one or more of them is a horrific philanderer, but other than that there is not a single bad thing i can say about them. especially ot. so there. i suggest people get to know the staff before passing further judgement.

i drank with rich (cute british guy) and teased ot with his new nickname- manout tom (caveman). he followed me home at 4am and passed out immediately. he worked from 8am to 4am today- fairly typical for him. poor kid.
:8/26--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

my porch
i finished 'a prayer for owen meany' in my hammock this morning and pondered what i want to do now that i have spent every bit of my money other than the amount i reserved to go home with. i have gotten a few emails about jobs in japan but they all refuse to let me work until my work visa takes effect, namely 3 months. there is no way for me to financially deal with tokyo for 3 months without income, so working in japan has become out of the question for me, for now. overall, i have realized that as an american, you definitely have a disadvantage when looking for work abroad. we are not entitled to working holiday visas like other countries. thus all the canadians, australians, and british kids snatch up the good jobs first. if someone american were to ask me how to get a job in japan at this point, i would suggest applying from home to one of the major recruiters (nova, jets, ecc), and then sit back for a couple of months until your visa kicks in. don't do what i did and expect to go over there and get a job immediately.

anyway, between that and the apparent incompetence of the taiwanese school recruiters, i have suddenly become interested in teaching in thailand again, so i spent today applying. a last ditch effort to stay in asia....again.

tonight i had barbequed chicken in front of a movie on the beach and then traipsed through tidepools to the nature bar to see my friends. i met a gorgeous british guy with blond ringlets and downed 3 sangsoms in about ten minutes of talking to him. wobbled up to jah bar to see ot and spent the rest of the night projectile vomiting through my blurred, dizzy vision in the corner. not sure if it was bad food or the alcohol, but as i am a pro sangsom drinker i am tempted to blame the former. ot was impressively patient and kind to me.
:8/25--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

800 or so pages

today was like the old days on ko chang, which feels like home. wake at a comfortably late hour with hot sun shining through the cracks of my bungalow walls, read the bangkok post over a plate of fruit and a cup of coffee. check email, relax on the beach in my hammock. ot finds me and i clutch him frantically from behind as he races with me on a motorbike to the other side of the island. buy food at the friendly market, a guilty stop at the new 7-11 for midnight snacks, a chat or two with some thai friends, and back to lonely beach where we make dinner for everyone, play pool, and relax in front of a movie at jah bar with a pack of energetic, affectionate kittens and a few random squawking chickens. at night the crowd pours in, the music gets loud, the altering of consciousness proceeds, and i watch ot do his sexy bartender thing until it gets to be too much and i have to drag him home and attack him.
:8/24--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

footbridge to beach
a day for reconnecting with disconnected ot and beginning the long process of unwinding. it takes at least 3-4 days for me to relax completely, but it helps that there is virtually no one here other than my thai friends. i finished my book on my hammock, walked barefoot on the beach curling my toes in the sand, and made thai food with ot in the jah bar kitchen. at night there was a huge storm that managed to slam the jah bar even at the top of the hill under the seclusion of thick jungle brush. i huddled in a candlelit corner talking to a british lad and feeling slightly paranoid from a combination of the first joint i have smoked in a long time and my irrational, fantastical imaginings of impending tidal waves and flooding.
:8/23--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

hello again (ko chang)
being thoroughly sick of bangkok (especially khao san road) and missing my sweet thai lover ot whose 29th birthday happens to be today, i hopped on a sweltering minibus this morning for a guilty escape to ko chang. i spent some time reflecting back on my soap opera life in bangkok; a land of shifty insecure ladyboys, sweetly persistent child street hawkers, pimping gamblers, scruffy cab hustlers, flamey gayboys, prostitutes masquerading as girlfriends, the rather nice police, western idiots learning to walk again post-whiskey bucket, the motorcycle mafia kids racing through at insane speeds, the trendy, curious students, imperious expats, the polite clerks, decidedly impolite sellers, dramatic waiters, hippie shopkeepers and easygoing rasta drummers, the smelly middle eastern scam artists, the twisted dirty beggar families.... i could go on. bangkok can truly be underrated- it is probably the craziest, most fun city i have ever been in.

anyway after a few stops for noodles and sodas and a good conversation with an english teacher in japan and his japanese girlfriend who were my uncomfortable seatmates, i finally got to ko chang. ran into ot's thai friend pan, who rushed immediately up and informed ot i was here.... thus i barely finished my cold shower when ot peeked shyly around the door at me, scruffy and looking like a crazed caveman. we haven't seen each other for almost two months and a lot has happened in that time (ie. the jah bar fiasco, my infatuation with taka), but it only took a few minutes of our being in each others' physical presence for things to go right back to normal. i gave him a good shave and we spent some time chatting in my hammock while the sun set.

so, back on my very favorite spot on the loveliest beach in the greatest and most wonderfully discounted bungalow... my hut is surrounded by a mystery pond, a moat, & a trickling stream that leads a few steps away to the beach. there is a rickety footbridge crossing the moat and leading over the road and up the hill to the jah bar in the jungle, which of course provides my soundtrack at night (not always a good thing). there are assorted strange sounds and several rustling bushes from which i constantly expect something with a lot of teeth or legs to spring at me. but the air is warm and balmy with a slight breeze, and there is almost nobody in sight other than the lazy thai massage ladies sipping coconuts beneath their wide brimmed hats. the weather is perfect and.... i am home again.

i had a friendly sangsom with my nature bar friends and watched them showing off a few new firedancing tricks on the beach, then headed up to the jah bar with a bag of gifts for ot's birthday. i gave a bottle of sake and a box of izakaya snacks to the bar boys and a few other little knickknacks to ot, including a candle which sang happy birthday when he blew it out. he seemed overwhelmed and embarassed and i realized that so many gifts may have been a little inappropriate for someone who has no interest in material possessions and has never gotten a birthday gift in his life, but he was grateful and sweet nevertheless, and after getting drunk on the sake we traipsed down the hill hand in hand to bed.

:8/22--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

gum hawker's wheelless toy
someone referred to my website as a "trashy romance novel" today, which i actually found rather hilarious. it's unusual for me actually, i am not so "girlie" as a rule. i have met some great boys on this trip though. excuse any silliness, i am having fun. :)

another person i spoke to referred to japan as being rather "soulless", which i also found a very apt description. it's a very repressed country and i suppose one of the major draws for me is the challenge of bringing a bit of life to it, showing my japanese friends a fun time, getting them to open up a bit more. not sure that's a good excuse to go there, but i don't want to change their culture, i just want to make them happy. like i said before though, i think it just takes time to get beneath the surface. maybe they already are happy.

i hung out drinking with mr. kool (otherwise known as mr. "check it out"- a permanent khao san fixture) tonight, who tried his best in his denim cutoffs and scandalous middy to convince me to be his representative and go to sell various things for him in europe or brazil. obviously tempting, but even though he is fairly rich he has a bad gambling habit and i don't trust him. he left me without paying for his drink too.

:8/21--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

dog begging near siam square
it was pouring and gray in bangkok today so i paid a visit to my favorite massage house, and lucked into my favorite masseuse- pee lum. i only had him once, maybe 2 months ago, and i have been hoping to get him again ever since. maybe we have chemistry, i don't know, i am not visually attracted to him. but the last massage he gave me was incredible slow, sensual and strong, and i left wanting to marry him or make him my slave. today he was quite masochistic. :) he pushed and pulled and twisted (ouch! jep!) very hard and i was in horrendous pain the entire hour and a half, but he is really intuitive with pressure points, and he works everything out. i felt like spaghetti afterwards- infatuated spaghetti. :)

i turned down the teaching contract in taiwan today because the agency is being rather sketchy and refuses to answer basic questions such as where the heck i would be living and how many hours i would teach. the only thing they will seem to tell me is that if i back out once i have signed the contract i am fined almost $1000 US. bull honkey! i didn't really have much interest in taiwan anyway, to tell the truth. it is just close to both thailand and japan (it's in asia anyway!), and i guess it had the novelty factor going for it.

that does leave me rather depressed though because once again i am faced with only one realistic option and that is going home to NY. too soon! i still have tons of applications out to anyone and everyone in japan and am crossing my fingers, but i am not expecting much.

:8/20--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

last life in the universe

i saw a great film today... it was made by a thai director, in bangkok, but it was mostly in japanese with japanese characters. it had good timing in my life, as i can relate these days to the awkwardness that communicating with the japanese constantly presents. anyway, beautiful film, 'last life in the universe', go see it.

later my scruffy thai friend tom and i took the chao phraya express boat to have great thai food at a set of street stalls. i only wish i could tell you the names of the dishes, i have no idea. one of them was super salty egg yolks cooked with fresh chopped vegetables. it was so delicious. i almost have orgasms eating some thai food.

later we went to a thai place on pra athit road and listened to acoustic guitar. thai people love their popular music, and quite often the whole room starts singing along. they really are happy fun people. tom and i had good conversation- his looks are a bad representation of his personality, he really is a smart, motivated, cool thai guy (filmmaker).

however i told tom that i value honesty above everything, so his response was that he honestly would like to have sex with me. ugh.

:8/19--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

more japanese fun (tsubasa, tom, and jyo)
my friend tom called me tonight and i met him on khao san, where i was drinking sangsom with a group of thai kids i had met before. we sat in a big revolving group, people watching and gossiping, until i felt a tap on my shoulder... tsubasa! an artsy, peculiar japanese guy i had met in tokyo! and his brother. they are both sweetly shy, like taka, and very self conscious of their english. tom and i decided we should try to get them to loosen up, show them something new. it seems many japanese people come to thailand and spend all their time on khao san road. however it was tuesday night, nothing happening that wasn't the usual depravity or alcoholism so prevalent in this city, so we settled for adhere the 13th, my favorite blues bar in banglamphu. we listened to georgia wail and the saxophone player croon, and i made uncomfortable half understood conversation with tsubasa for awhile. then he and his brother left abruptly with no excuse. tom and i shrugged, frowned at each other, and settled back to enjoy the music.

:8/18--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

on the wall of a go-go
'x' called me tonight knowing i wasn't doing much of anything. i made a rather embarassing solo trek down soi cowboy to meet him at the moonshine joint. ta, the girl he had liked previously and who in turn liked me, was working there. she gave me a big lingering hug and free drinks as i handed 'x' his bag of pop culture gifts from tokyo. apparently they had a falling out, so she did her best to make him feel bad and to flatter me as we sat drinking at the bar.

eventually 'x' had enough so we traipsed to a beer bar nearby to play pool (at which i must mention i excelled tonight). 'x' wanted me to try ja dong- an herbal thai whiskey brewed at the bar in big vats. we shared shots with the ladyboy bartender and the sexy, overly friendly bargirl, chasing the shots with some sort of sour grapes. strange effects, that stuff. you don't feel drunk, just rather hallucinatory. until later in the evening, when it suddenly hits you that you had 6 or 7 of these harmless happy shots and they don't feel so harmless and happy anymore.

to my later discomfort i went home with 'x' and passed out on his extra bed. he passed out right along with me, and we woke up at about noon the next day, groggy and squinty. fun fun.

:8/17--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

fun at the saxophone bar, bangkok
i was offered a teaching position in taiwan today. it sort of came out of nowhere, i just emailed them an inquiry and suddenly i am supposed to buy a ticket, sign a contract, and be there in 5 days. it starts immediately, offers free accomodation, a decent salary, vacation time and health insurance. sounds almost too good to be true...? i am thinking i might try it though. i know little to nothing about taiwan but i have a couple of friends there now. it's new to me, maybe an adventure! and the best part is i don't have to go home to a sluggish economy yet... waiting for specific details though before i shoot off, but i did splurge on a lonely planet to read up on the place.

my thai friend tom and his french girlfriend celine called me up tonight and invited me to go to the saxophone bar, near the victory monument, with them. i have wanted to go there for awhile, and tonight they had a well known ska band (t-bone) performing, so i was pretty excited. i had forgotten (quickly) just how much fun thailand is! the music was great and we met some friends of tom's, all thai, who came to sit with us. one man was about 50 (pee chum), and rather eccentric and artsy. he does 3d animation, worked in NY for 20 years, and wants me to talk to him about working with him on a project. we'll see. he invited me to a party this friday.

:8/16--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

last shot of ikebukuro
it was haaaard for me to leave tokyo today. isn't that strange. the first week i was there i had a bit of culture shock and wasn't in to it at all, but the last week has been great... i had a lot of time to think, a lot of really special time with taka and his friends, i re-evaluated some of my perspectives on japanese culture as i have gained a bit more understanding since i arrived... and in the end i found myself feeling constant ecstacy being surrounded by so much novelty and fascination underneath such cold, solemn disguise. i didn't have nearly enough time or money to really get a handle on this country, and that is such a seductive thing to me. it may the the hardest place for me to understand (and thus to leave!) in the world- the people especially are a complete mystery. anyway going back to bangkok doesn't even appeal to me (or the rut that i will inevitably find myself in there). i am crossing my fingers that some job will come through here and i can just go right back.

i trudged to ikebukuro station, dragged my bags onto the yamanote line to nippori, and caught the keisei skyliner from there to narita airport. i listened to my music as loudly as possible (to the shock of the frail old japanese lady i sat next to) as i watched tokyo flash past and felt wave upon wave of gratitude for my life, my luck, the chance i had to see this country.

i bought some sake, some of my favorite izakaya snacks (fried sardines and small shrimp), and a gift for 'x' at the airport, and hopped on my plane. egypt air has a bad rep in japan (maybe because it is cheap?) but i have to say it is great. i had some really good food on the way back. other than that, my day was made up of takeoffs and landings, recorded movies ('the recruit'), smelly seat partners, and long boring customs lines. i met one sweet thai guy on the plane, training to be a pilot for the king of thailand. he gave me his name card and asked me to keep in touch. back to khao san, for now.

:8/15--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

los cabos
egypt air called me to let me know a seat had opened up so it looks like i'll be on that flight to bangkok tomorrow after all. just when i was really starting to like it here in japan!!!! but it is a relief because i really can not afford to stay much longer, and during the summer holidays there is virtually no chance of my finding a job. i spent most of the day using my free internet connection to send applications out to language schools anyway. keeping my options open- i can always come back. i really want to come back.

it rained and poured all day again today, thus the fireworks show i was supposed to see tonight with taka was cancelled. i really had ambitions to wander around tokyo on my last day, but the weather put me to bed in front of strange japanese game shows and horrible, dubbed movies from the 40s. eating bentos and drinking green tea in my deep tub is one of the things i like best about japan though, and hanging around in my yukata and slippers is good too.

taka called me later and told me to meet him at 'los cabos' for a last goodbye. neither of us felt like drinking much, both of us were sad, and we didn't at first have much to say to each other. we watched the very adorable bar boys teach the girls how to dance salsa and ignored 'the mexican' on tv.

finally i took a deep breath and just started confessing everything to taka... how much i liked him, how much i thought about him, how frustrated i was with him... and to my surprise he suddenly opened up and said the same. he swears he is not gay, he swears he likes me and that all of his friends have known that he likes me since the first day he met me and sent them an excited email... and that being japanese he is just unable to show it. hrmmph. nice of him to let me know last minute anyway. i feel like i am in high school all over again. i am crazy about the guy but it is so awkward despite an obvious connection.

i can not do tonight justice in retrospect. i do have to admit to a certain amount of delirious idealism, but the night ended impossibly beautifully for me. for the sake of certain readers' feelings i won't go too heavily into detail, but mine and taka's last goodbye kiss in the rain was probably the most poignant and romantic girl-movie moment i have ever had in my life. i was literally so happy i cried (so did he :) ). i went home and had great dreams.

:8/14--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

hakone, japan



tiensiang, hide, and taka of course
rainy season is supposedly over in japan but it is raining torrentially and cold. it does make for a nice trip to an onsen though, and that it what i did today. met up with taka (whose potential alcoholism is beginning to show, as he once again went drinking last night until early morning and never went home to sleep), and his friend tiensiang from taiwan and her japanese boyfriend hide. at first i was grumpy that they were coming along because they have a tendency to speak only japanese (though they speak good english) all day and be fairly exclusive, but as the day progressed i realized this is because they are shy and afraid of making mistakes with their english. we took a train to hakone, taka sleeping soundly on my shoulder for the hour and a half it took to get there.

we headed for an onsen not too far from the station. once there we had to buy towels (the size of hand towels) for 350 yen and it cost about 1200 yen to go in. at first i was afraid i'd have to walk out nekkid in front of the boys, but to my relief the men and women are separated. an onsen, by the way, is a hot spring. the japanese build large, beautiful bathhouses around them. tiensiang and i giggled nervously as we got naked and tiptoed into the bath area. it had three large pools, two indoor and one out. there is a row of mirrors with little booths along the wall, and at each one is a little stool, a spigot, and soap. you sit on the stool and soap yourself up, then wash off with the spigot before you enter the baths. the baths were divine, i could have stayed there all day! the japanese girls all put the towels over their heads. i had a nice conversation with tiensiang while we soaked, which made me feel better about her.

afterwards we took a little train up the very gorgeous mountain to gora. the train has to zig zag to get up the hill, and it took about an hour. the whole area was brilliant green and shrouded in fog. lovely. at the top we hiked to a friend of taka's (an ex-model of course) who owns a photographic museum with her husband. her space was really simple, well designed, and classy. she made us great coffee and we looked through the art.

we were starving then and went in search of bentos but found only small packs of fish balls stuffed with cheese and herbs. this sounded disgusting to me at first but they turned out to be delicious. we munched them on the train back to tokyo, and slept again.

back in ikebukuro, we met up with yoko, a model whom i had met before. she is really friendly and funny. we went to a japanese place to eat, which served stomach in a big hot pot cooked with lots of herbs. i was reluctant to try it at first but it turned out to be delicious. i also tried some very small whole shrimp fried in some kind of marinade, very tasty. they ordered me some cold japanese sake and i left very bubbly and not a little horny (it does that to me :) ).

at the next bar the conversation was made up of mostly japanese and chinese with a sprinkling of english but somehow was understood by all. i love situations like this. we sampled just about every cocktail in the bar, everyone passing them around to taste test. i braved the gin, which i usually stay away from, and it was sort of a mistake as i instantly felt like i would fall off my chair. to make things worse everyone started teasing taka and i about why we hadn't become a couple yet. i was embarrassed and sleepy, and though they all wanted to continue the fun at a gay bar in ebisu across town, by then it was almost 3am so i begged off and went home in the drizzle.
:8/13--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

pop art
the first thing i did this fine morning was call egypt air to confirm my flight back to bangkok on saturday. egypt air only flies two times a week and according to the girl on the phone they are fully booked for the rest of the month... argh. this is one thing i never anticipated, to say the least financially. let's see, a hotel room at approximately $50 a night for at least another two weeks plus food and transportation, not to mention drinks, equals.... fuck! i called up the nearest gaijin house which is very near to taka's home and which rents for about $575 a month. they have exactly one room left vacant, though not until the 30th. i hope to see it before someone else does... the way i figure it, i have two options now- i either get a place and any job i can find asap, or i buy a new ticket back to bangkok on a different airline. i am not sure at all what to do. both options are prohibitively expensive. i just want to go sleep in a hammock by the sea- is it too much to ask?

i did pay up until the 16th at my hotel though and made use of the free superfast internet connection in my room today, looking for jobs and accomodation. i got sidetracked by some great sites on tokyo though. there are aspects of this (and any big) city that i definitely appreciate-- i like the hipness, i like the prevalence of art (thus galleries, lounge bars, music events), i like the energy. i can't write off what i have seen of tokyo. here is an eloquent quote about this city that someone named kenji eno said:

"if I look at only the the Statue of Liberty and say, "New York is a wonderful town truly!", what do you think? For example, if I look at only Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and Big Ben and say, "I've really enjoyed the travel in Britain!", what do you think? Although I have many foreign friends, when I know that their sightseeing in Tokyo is the same, I am disappointed extremely: Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace, Kabuki-za. Maybe I will not go to such a place more than 3 times in a lifetime. It is the same as giving only kiss, although you are married. It is the same as playing only Tetris, although you have Playstation2. It is the same as eating only sausages, although you ordered a jambalaya. Traveler, Taste more! American! Play Japan deeply! You should marry Tokyo! Tokyo, I think almost every country is the same. It depends on you whether Tokyo becomes interesting or less boring. You can encourage the man of past 40 who was fired from restructuring in the public bath called 'Sento' and You can be mistaken for a molester by a high school student girl who operated orthopedically in the train. You can eat the sushi which the robot made in the dance-club. You can say "You are a person really kind" to the cute pet in a mobile phone at the capsule-hotel. After that, you will know the merit and poorness of Tokyo. Meritorious and poor - When you love it, you are already a Japanese about 24%. No, you don't need to worry if you become so. You can be original you again."

...after surfing around this afternoon i got rather excited about being here, which made me realize just how quickly i adapt! i hope the lessons i learned in 3rd world countries don't just shrivel up and die in my citified brain. anyway here are a couple of great links i found as well-

*explanations of peculiar japanese emoticons
*an article on male hosts in japan! (counterparts to hostesses of course)
*strange things found in japanese vending machines
*one dimensional pop art by japanese artist takashi murakami
:8/12--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

edo period ad for japanese tea



japanimation in my room
i caught the shinkansen this morning from kyoto to tokyo. barely, as i got lost again and had to run for the train at the last minute. but i did manage to catch it and fell immediately asleep in my comfy reclining seat. i woke up what seemed like ten minutes later at tokyo station.

i called taka hesitantly, and he agreed sleepily to meet me on the corner of a main street near his house. $30 and about an hour later of being hopelessly lost, my taxi driver finally called him and got specific directions. i greeted taka cheerfully but i noticed he was rather cold. i followed him into his maze of a neighborhood to his house. after some nervous shuffling in front of his family, who looked me up and down suspiciously like i had worms crawling out of my face or something, i went with taka to the room adjoining his and dropped my heavy bags. taka informed me immediately that he had plans for the next 2 days (mainly drinking with friends) and they did not include me. i felt mildly offended by that though i understood... but we both became uncomfortable about the fact that i would be at his house when he was not. we sat on the floor, silently smoking, and staring at each other until i felt horrifically uncomfortable. i finally suggested we go eat. on our way out i presented his family with the gifts i had brought them (a bottle of black label and a thailand picture book translated into japanese), which they put aside with a gruff "hum". feeling totally insecure by this time i shuffled quietly behind taka towards a revolving sushi joint. (the sushi by the way is marvelous here. super fresh.) anyway, still quiet, taka decided to take me via cable car to some strange walking street where he informed me there were "many old people walking around". ahem, okey doke. we wandered around bored in the stifling heat until we found a little drab cafe to sit in. he ordered green tea and i had a coffee. we had nothing to talk about which is weird for us. finally i just blurted out "maybe i should just go to a hotel!?" and he said "yeah". argh! maybe he meant to imply he didn't want me in his house or maybe i am oversensitive, i dunno, but i feel uncomfortable sponging off of anyone anyway. an additional $250 on hotels for the next 5 days did not factor into my plans but off i went back to hotel new star.

i was a little confused and unhappy after this but i still faked cheerfulness. we met up with taka's friend from taiwan and her brother. we wandered around some part of tokyo i don't know the name of- sifting through quaint little fabric and traditional shoe shops, visiting a shinto shrine, and stopping in a comfy tea house for some ujikintoki- shaved ice with matcha green tea, adzuki beans, and shirotama mochi balls (dessert). taka left later to meet up with other friends, and i sent him an email saying i hoped he wasn't mad at me, that i felt a bit of bad energy between us, etc. etc. he gets his email via his mobile and i had just relaxed in the tub, rubbing my aching feet, when my front desk manager called saying taka had left me a message saying to meet him at the mexican bar on the corner. i jumped out of the tub and raced over to find taka teary eyed and rather drunk, alone at the bar. he apologized profusely, said he hoped he hadn't offended me, and wanted me to know that his being japanese totally affects his ability to communicate anything honestly to me. whatever that means. i felt better though and we drank a bit there with the cute staff, and then at taka's suggestion headed to a gay bar called 'hero' just down the street. the staff and customers in this bar were great, and by the time we left (well fed by the wifey flamey owner who made delicious hors d'oeuvres and sat drinking with us) at 6am we felt like we were part of the sisterhood.
:8/11--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

gion, in old kyoto



hrmmm, maybe there is sex in japan after all

i had a frustrating trip back to kyoto from osaka at 5am. i was totally bedraggled (masa looked horrified by my appearance by the end of the night which was admittedly pretty bad as i had not slept much recently) and i was too exhausted to expend the effort on transferring from train to train. it had to be done though, and when i returned to kyoto (after the requisite getting lost in the station) i collapsed immediately into bed under the down comforter in my ryokan. slept until 3p.

i had a hard time making a final decision as to whether or not to go back to tokyo, but as taka was expecting me at his house and we had plans to go to an onsen when i returned, i decided i should probably just go. i scoured the station until i located the bus ticket counter and attempted to buy an overnight bus ticket. sold out for the next 4 days. when i asked the regular JR local train guy, i believe (never can be sure with japanese) he told me they were sold out as well and i needed to buy a shinkansen (bullet train) ticket. this train goes super fast (it takes 2 1/2 hours to make the trip across country from kyoto to tokyo) but tickets are very expensive. i had to suck it up and pay $127 one way. argh.

by that time it was late so i grabbed a bus to gion, which is the older quarter of kyoto, all lit up by lanterns at night along the water, and populated by the occasional real geisha. it was a nice, if crowded, area to wander around in, with lots of little overpriced shops. i really wanted to see a show at gion corner, where the geishas still dance and perform tea ceremonies, but unfortunately after an hour or so of pacing back and forth i could not find it, so i gave up and went back to my hot bath and bed, with a stop on the way at a vending machine.
:8/10--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'golden pavilion' temple in kyoto



osaka's 'amerika-mura' area



my cute japanese friend, masa, at his bar

as much as i have been disappointed by japan, there is something about it, in the air maybe, which keeps giving me the occasional rush (as my mom used to call it) of ecstacy, as if i were on some kind of drug. it's strange and quite nice. i had one of them on my way in the early morning to kyoto station, where i realized they have a cafe du monde- a replica of my favorite place in new orleans, chicory coffee, beignets and all! with a caffeine buzz and a belly full of powdery sweetness i decided to take a bus to see the most famous temple in kyoto before i left to go to osaka. the buses here are nice and they announce the stops in a pleasant, automated english voice. kinkuji (i believe that's how you spell it) was, well, boring actually. it was built by a shogun and later sort of evolved into a zen buddhist temple. it looks like a gold plated cottage. it was sort of an in-and-out factory line for tourists, with several souvenir shops on the path, but i must say the perfectly landscaped grounds were gorgeous, and it made a nice picture.

back to the station to catch the 40 minute train to osaka. i immediately of course got completely lost in osaka station, and it took me over an hour to find a public phone to call masa, but i did and he met me smiling and all hugs right in the station. he's a very energetic, silly guy (who used to bartend and dj on ko chang in thailand, where i met him). he took me straight to amerika-mura, which is a great area with all kinds of little (and big) shops, super hip kids, and weird art in unexpected corners. this is by far my favorite area of japan thus far. osaka people are much less uptight and more interesting than tokyo-ites, from what i have seen, and osaka just has a better, less pretentious vibe all around. i could easily stay here awhile.

masa just opened his own bar 3 weeks ago, so after a pit stop at the local 'mos burger' joint (the name of which i love since it is a character from one of my favorite movies- the hudsucker proxy), we headed to see it. like most places here, bars are stacked on top of each other in elevator buildings of up to 12 floors. when i think about it, there must be a staggering number of bars here, all very small and private and i am not sure how the ones on the upper floors stay in business! his was back in the corner, on the 3rd floor. it is really quite nice. we sat talking for a couple of hours (when i realized i really don't know masa too well other than as a bar patron knows the bartender) and sort of got to know each other. his friends started drifting in and he let me dj for a bit. most of his friends were english teachers at Nova, so i grilled them on the specifics. basically, they said, english teaching is an easy job but doing it in super-regimented and corporate japan more or less sucks. also it doesn't pay a whole lot- about $24k american to start. not for me. i discussed hostessing with them as well and one of the girls totally turned me off of it with stories of the inane amount of alcohol you have to drink, cigarettes you are expected to smoke, and lack of sleep you get. and i thought the men would be the problem! anyway, thus disillusioned with the job prospects in japan, i decided to just relax and have fun. i missed my train back to kyoto (they stop running at 11:30), so i talked far into the night with the kids, who rolled a couple of joints and turned the music up. it was a great time. afterwards i cleaned masa's entire bar for him while he relaxed, and then i flopped down next to him and tried to not fall asleep and miss my train at 5am. i left reluctantly with a promise to masa that i would look for work in osaka, though i doubt that will come to any fruition.
:8/9--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

view of kobe from cable car



street percussionists
kyoto doesn't seem meant to be for me.... aside from the torrential rain and the frustrating fact that i waste hours of the day just trying to find my way from one side of the station to the other, i have slept through my alarm every day so far and not gotten up until about 11:30 (9:30 in thailand which is good for me, but....) i haven't seen much of the city. today when i woke up i decided to visit kobe, about an hour away from kyoto. i hopped on a local train and relaxed with the view of alternating concrete wasteland and beautiful countryside on the way. kobe is a very spic and span place, seemingly very affluent as well. it is set in the mountains over the bay. i took a cable car to the top and had a beautiful view of the city. there was a japanese herb garden at the top station. i wandered around sampling lavender cookies and herbal tea and bought some jasmine oil. i then headed to the main shopping area along the waterfront. it is made up of one main street and lots of branching alleyways filled with great little shops, lit with lanterns outside and lined of course with the requisite noisy pachinko parlors. i watched groups of roving teenagers (little rich kids with lots of style) and some impromptu bands on the streetcorners. kobe is famous for it's supreme quality beef, and even though i am not a big meat eater i heard of one place that was really good and went seeking it out. after of course getting lost numerous times (though i did run into a couple of nice shrines) i was starving and just decided to forego the bloody carcass and stepped into the nearest subway shop. i found a seat in the corner with my turkey samwich and perused the crowded room of trendy teens. the girls were wearing super spiked heels and tons of makeup (why??? asian girls have such beautiful skin!), miniscule clothing, and were even sporting wireless curling irons! they lined up in front of the mirrored wall primping themselves for the night out. the boys were all dressed like brooklyn gangsters with bleached blond hair (why??? japanese have such beautiful black hair!) and primped right along next to them. it was pretty amusing. finally the din of the cellphones ringing and the girls squealing drove me back out to the street. it was filled with spiffily dressed men in suits touting various bars and pretty women passing out free fans and tissues with advertisements on the package. i wandered around until i found a gaijin bar, hoping i could have a good conversation over a beer. it was not to be. i did find an irish pub (ryan's) on the 6th floor of a place, but it was crammed to the gills, standing room only. i managed to snag a pint of kilkenny (mmm) on draught and sat sipping shyly in the corner alone. i finally slipped inconspicuously back out to the street, and with not much else in the way of options, headed back to kyoto by train. i had raging insomnia and the vampire movie on tv in my room didn't help much.
:8/8--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

view of kyoto station from the top



my comfy futon in the seiki ryokan

unfortunately i hit kyoto at the same time as a raging typhoon, so i didn't have much in the way of options today. luckily my ryokan (japanese style inn) room is immensely comfortable, and it has free internet access so i could catch up on email. i lazed around on my futon in my yukata and slippers, sipping family mart coffee. finally i started to get stir crazy so i headed to kyoto station's tourist information office to see what i might be able to see that was indoors. unfortunately the information officers spoke not a lick of english and were of little help. i decided to walk around with my umbrella and hope i'd run into something. and of course got hopelessly, terrifyingly lost in the (beautifully architectured) trap that is kyoto station. it's huge!!! eleven floors of mazes! most of which are part of a shopping mall, so i perused all the stuff i can't afford to buy and sampled some of the free food at the little stalls. i decided to try a bento (boxed lunch set) and took it outside to sit and people watch for a bit. it was mostly inedible- unidentifiable parts of fish, some average sushi, and some horrid, horrid sweet egg thing. still starving, i headed for the standby ubon noodle bowl at family mart and went back to my room to watch 'stand by me' (a favorite of mine, i loved river phoenix even at 12). and that was that for today.

so far i think japan is fairly overrated, but after being in third world countries for the past almost 11 months that is not too surprising. it has the same consumerism as the US, and is very sterile, organized, modern, and sedate. i think it just takes a long time to get below the surface, but overall it really isn't my kind of place. i like the people but i find them very frustrating (partly because of the language barrier which is simultaneously my fault of course) and somewhat pretentious, with the same shallow priorities that americans have. my goal is to try to find work though (in an effort to prevent my going immediately back to NY), and to see something new. i needed a break from thailand! though i can't afford much of one!!! ...it is nice to have space to myself, in a country i don't understand. lots of time to think and just be....lost. i am really deliriously happy with my life, i think i am very lucky to have the opportunity to see this place whether it is up my alley or not.
:8/7--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

mural in harajuku


drugs in japan?



roppongi excess

i paid my hotel off this morning (deciding to pay an extra night since checkout was 10am and my bus to kyoto doesn't leave until midnight). i proceeded to wander around ikebukuro, which i love. i suppose there is nothing special about this area but there are lots of young students, conveniences like drug stores and ramen shops, cobbled alleys full of pachinko parlors (sort of like slot machines) and strip bars, a metropolitan art space, and bar upon bar upon bar. if i do end up staying in japan i would like to live here. i popped into an internet/comics cafe. these are great- for about 200 yen/hr. you get a private air conditioned booth with a comfortable leather recliner, fast internet with all the hookups, free drinks (including some delicious milk tea) and snacks, and they will even bring you pillows. they rent out manga books and dvds (porn) too, sort of like a library. taka mentioned that some people sleep in these places- hrmmmm. cheaper than my hotel room!

with lack of anything better to do later in the evening i headed to harajuku, past yoyogi park and to see taka at his art cafe. he was rather busy and couldn't talk much to me but he gave me free drinks. after an hour i grew bored and decided to go to roppongi, even though it was a bit early. roppongi is the center of nightlife (mostly foreign) in tokyo, and it has a crazy reputation. i didn't realize how big it was, and i only managed to wander around one area before it started to get late. it is not immediately interesting -lots of chains like starbucks etc. but when i looked closer i noticed a lot of small, happening bars, tons of gorgeous japanese girls dressed up like whores, foreigners toting cameras, and weird little shops. i stopped in a small bar and had a beer but that was as far as i got into it- i will leave further inspection for when i return.

i hurried back to ikebukuro to grab my bags and hopped on the train to shinjuku station, where i was to catch my bus. i got hopelessly, miserably lost. i tried asking several people for help but they all spoke japanese and we could not communicate. when i finally stumbled upon the correct terminal i had already missed my bus. hoping i hadn't wasted an $80 ticket, and that i wasn't stuck in shinjuku after the trains had stopped running for the night, i begged and pleaded with the gruff old attendant to let me get on the next (and last) bus to kyoto. he said no, flat out (in japanese). i turned away, trying to look as pathetic and puppydoggish as possible, and he reluctantly barked at me to come back to the counter, where he stamped something in kanji on my ticket and waved me towards a large door. somehow i managed to get the only remaining free seat on the overnight bus. i sighed with satisfaction as i settled into my comfortable reclining chair and fell asleep to my music with a smile on my face in the dark.
:8/6--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

prepared for a trepidacious night out



...with an intimidating roomful of japanese runway models

this morning i bought my overnight bus ticket to kyoto for tomorrow and met up with taka to drop my big bag off at his house. we hung around for a bit until later in the day, when we met up with about 10 of his model friends for a birthday party in the aoyama area.

i felt immensely insecure being around such beautiful people. the most striking thing about japanese models is their beautiful skin, but there is also the gorgeous hair, skinny long limbs, and impeccable fashion sense. i did not fit in in the least- they were all really pretty conservative and somewhat pretentious. we went to a very ritzy cocktail bar, where we each paid a flat fee of 4000 yen(!) for free food and drinks for a reserved 2 hour period. i had a hard time understanding anything as i don't speak japanese, but i did manage to have a relatively good time. i met a sweet girl from taiwan who is working here as a concert promoter, and an attractive guy named tsubasa who makes incredible jewelry and is a brilliant illustrator.

after the party my patience was a little tried since the language barrier makes things a bit boring, but i followed half of the group back to ikebukuro to go to an izakaya. one korean kid met us there and spoke good english, so i felt a bit better. he ordered me all sorts of strange food to try, including fried chicken skins, sweet bean and sesame balls, stir fried noodles and rice, and pickled vegetables. izakayas definitely are the place to go for good japanese food and cheap drinks. the girls drank some concoction of crushed passion fruits and weak vodka.

by the end of the night i was stuffed, tipsy, and could barely keep my eyes open so taka walked me through the ikebukuro alley maze towards my hotel. i was shocked to see many foreign girls dressed as prostitutes and hanging out in the corners, along with a couple of aggressive transsexuals and glaring pimps. they didn't seem to have a big clientele though.
:8/5--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

typical japanese room in the shitamachi museum



buddhist sculpture at the national museum



woodblock art

my adventure for the day was the ueno area, which is made up primarily of a huge park and dotted with several large museums. it is a nice, old, neighborhoodly area, though rather dirty and full of homeless people. after a peek at the large lotus pond i headed for the shitamachi museum, which tells about old tokyo (edo) in wartime. there are examples of merchants' houses, shops, temple areas, and bath houses- many of which include touchable exhibits. an ancient friendly japanese man volunteered to show me around for free, and a greedy loud american lady with her shy, embarrassed teenage daughter latched on. it was an interesting museum but the american woman drove me nuts and i didn't stay long.

the national museum was on the other side of the park. i was most interested in the japanese art- specifically the woodblock carvings (very intricate and beautiful), the sculpture, and most wonderful lacquer antiques inlaid with pearl and painted with beautiful murals. it was a nice place to spend the day wandering around, and it was surrounded by a couple of gorgeous gardens.

it was raining quite hard when i left, and running through the park without an umbrella i got completely soaked. i took the train home shivering. climbed under my comforter and napped until taka called me to go out. we went to a great basement mexican bar called los cabos, which just opened down the street from my hotel. somehow we managed to sit talking through 3 movies, until 6am. when i left taka squinting in the early daylight with a big hug, i realized we are doomed to being only great friends, because both of us are too damned shy and reticent. no complaints though, i love the kid and we have a great time.
:8/4--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

plastic menus


trendy shibuya


taka playing bartender

taka had to work today so i was on my own. i woke up late, hitting myself, and jumped immediately on a subway to shinjuku. my guidebook said shinjuku is the one place in tokyo not to miss. i was totally not impressed by it. half of the area is skyscrapers, the other half was nondescript shops piled six to eight floors on top of each other and accessible only by elevator (like in office buildings). tons and tons of people. i really can't say i saw a single thing of interest. i did stop in a cafe to have a 1000 yen sandwich and 400 yen drink- scandalous. maybe the area is better at night though, supposedly there are lots of clubs.

i booked it out of shinjuku and headed for the yoyogi station with the intention of seeing yoyogi park. this used to be famous for it's "culture parade" on weekends, where all the trendy kids would go and strut around in their costumes. unfortunately it is not at the yoyogi stop (?), and i couldn't find it... since i was so near i decided to head to shibuya again. it's the one area of tokyo i've seen that has any sort of energy to me. i sat and watched cute people while i sipped a milk tea and listened to a big painted van full of old men who looked like communists protesting some mystery political issue. i noticed the streets are clean, everyone puts trash in it's designated place. everyone waits for the light to change to green before they cross the street, even if no traffic is coming. the "punks" are fairly refined and tame... what this place needs is a touch of rebellion. or maybe i just haven't found it yet.

i decided to pay taka a visit since he was right nearby. he was all spiffed up in his uniform and gave me a free beer. he told me how to get to a gaijin (foreigner) cafe called 'las chicas', so i left him with two super skinny model girls hanging over his counter and went to drink there. it had great music and the staff was friendly but it was expensive so i couldn't stay long. i did notice they were hiring though.

i wanted to go to roppongi (big nightlife area) tonight but it was too early so i headed to ikebukuro to check email (a frustrating experience since i spend half my time trying to turn the kanji text back into english after i inevitably hit the wrong key). i ran back to my hotel, took a hot bath, and accidentally fell asleep in front of a documentary on afghanistan. woke up too late to go out. the trains stop at 12a here so you have to go out around 8p. everyone is drunk by 9 or 10 and back on the train home by midnight- quite strange. anyway i missed out.

 

:8/3--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

kimonos


asakusa temple


vending machine havens

the convenience stores here have a whole range of delicious cheap prepackaged food. i bought a bowl of noodles with fresh vegetables, ginger, chopped meat and egg for about $2. delicious. i ate it with a jug of iced coffee in front of cute japanimation in my room.

afterwards taka met me at my hotel to give me the grand tour. taka remains shyly beautiful but after i spent a couple of hours going around tokyo with him i realized he is fairly common, as everyone is impossibly gorgeous here. and it really is true, there is a higher percentage of kids here with incredible style. we navigated the subways (which are very easy to use though you have to travel long distances to get anywhere), in a whirlwind day of neighborhood hopping. we did so many things that it will be hard to recap but i will try to keep it short. he took me to harajuku first, where he works in a cafe inside a huge artspace. very refined and expensive- taka fits right in. the area was a bit like paris; lots of art, ritzy salons, cobbled alleyways with boutiques and cafes. beautiful girls in high heels, tight pants, and long flowing hair. they wear tons of makeup and perfume and carry a lot of accessories, & they all look like models. most of the guys in this area seemed gay, but not overtly.

next was shibuya which was my favorite. it is the trendiest area in tokyo for the younger crowd. i was a little disappointed to find that there is not a whole lot of pop culture immediately evident, and most of the people looked pretty normal. but i got the impression that you just had too look a little deeper and longer and everything is there. the one obvious trend i noticed was (the 'ganguro' look) girls with deep tans, white eyeliner, and bleached, feathered farah fawcett hair. and of course spiked heels. it's sexy but it is one image that goes over better with americans than japanese girls. i did see a few super goth chicks, and another trend is big loose socks, almost like legwarmers, which many girls were wearing (they look pretty stupid). everyone seems to have a hat. i was further disappointed to see that the shops were normal shops, not stuffed with ultra modern manga paraphernelia and such like i thought they'd be. saves me money though.

asakusa was next. it retains the flavor of old japan with lots of long dark cobbled alleys filled with shops, people dressed in kimonos for the summer festival, and an old, dark buddhist temple. there is huge fire pit with some sort of incense that they believe heals if you stand in the direction of the smoke. also there is a shrine at which you throw money and recite prayers. overall the japanese don't seem especially devout though. it's more of a tourist attraction.

my feet were killing me and i was drenched with sweat so we headed back to ikebukuro (a very comfortable student area which reminds me somewhat of amsterdam with all the kids on bikes and the sex tourist alleys). i took a hot bath and met up with taka again to go to a club underneath his gallery. we got a discount on the entrance fee, only having to pay 1000 instead of 2500 yen. the drinks were about 700 yen each though (about $6), and very small with not much alcohol in them. the club was alright. one thing i noticed is that yes, the japanese kids have style (way more than plain old i do), but it's almost to the point where it is uniform; ie. they aren't so individualistic about it. the girls are gorgeous but they all look the same. the boys have a little more individuality but they seemed to lack personality. nobody let loose. the music was slow house (which i didn't know existed) and the people were, well pretty boring actually. in comparison to thailand, tokyo is lacking the crazy, sexy undercurrent that is everywhere in bangkok. tokyoites seem polite, aloof, and safe. in comparison to NY (to which it is otherwise similar), it is lacking the diversity, energy, and straightforwardness. it is a "cute" place though, and everything is new to me.

later taka and i headed again to ikebukuro to go to an izakaya (japanese pub). it was exactly like every japanese restaurant i have ever been to before, with the sunken floor under the booth. we asked for large beers and they brought us pitchers(!) but they were relatively cheap. we ordered a bunch of great weird food. taka's friendly boss (also named taka) showed up for two pitchers and some stuttered english and then paid the entire bill and left.

i decided not to grill taka on his preferences concerning me at this point. if he likes me he will eventually show it. or if he doesn't have enough guts to then he isn't my type anyway. it's nice hanging out with him as a pal. we hugged each other on a street surrounded by noisy pachinko (game) parlors and strip club touts and headed home around 3am.

:8/2--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

narita express train


japan out the window


my yukata

after quadruple sentimental goodbyes again from ot, some distracted grunts of acknowledgement from 'x', and a quick nod in the direction of khao san, i repeated all over again the process of leaving.

egypt air is fairly basic. i was not previously informed of my layover in manila on the way but as i could sleep on the plane in the interim it was ok. the snacks on egypt air are surprisingly yummy. turkey and tuna sandwiches and fruit. my steward (an egyptian man) noticed i was sitting alone and invited me up front to a better seat. little did i know that he would sit in front of me and stare directly at me the entire first leg of the flight. he even followed me to the bathroom to interview me. arrrgh. luckily in manila (which was gorgeous flying over) i realized i was in someone else's seat so i got to move back to my own, next to a very cute japanese guy who slept elegantly the entire way.

at customs i had to stand in line behind another egyptian man who absolutely reeked of body odor. i was choking and nauseous by the time i got through to the arrivals hall. i got a glimpse of a group of cute chinese students in uniform though, all with names like ying and xiu.

narita is a cinch. i heard horror stories about navigating it when no one speaks english but they were all exaggerated. it's a very user friendly place, and they even have an english information counter. i bought my 3300 yen ticket to tokyo and hopped aboard the train with no problems.

my first impression of japan is that it is a stern, sterile, hyper-organized place. all the men on the train had tiny laptops and were bent over them typing with furious scowls. nobody smiled or looked at each other. i put on my walkman and looked out the window at the beautiful landscaped vistas. another thing i noticed is that a lot of women here still wear pantyhose and pumps, which i have not seen since the 80s. and everyone has the exact same phone. they ring with tinny recorded music instead of normal ringtones.

after a transfer to another train, some regrets as to the amount of shit i managed to pack in my as a result horrifically heavy bags, and a frantic 20 minutes running around in the heat of ikebukuro unable to locate my hotel with the directions from the surly information booth staff, i finally just grabbed a 660 yen taxi which took me a block.

my hotel is great. i have slippers, a yukata, automated everything including a toilet which washes my bum after i do my thing, a deep bathtub, porn on tv (which i did not sample as you have to pay), a refrigerator, and best of all, a lovely queen size bed with a down cover. sigh.... oh yeah, and beer vending machines in the hallway. :)

i managed to find a subway shop for dinner. very american.

:8/1--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

byebye again khao san (phew!)

did nothing today but wring my hands in anticipation of leaving tonight for japan. i did last minute meet a beautiful goth-ish girl from tokyo
(hiromi) leaving for there at the same time i was, though on a different flight. she gave me her number and told me to look her up when i get to the city. strange coincidence.


 

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