One thing about the Culture Shock! Japan book that my company told me to read that is turning out to be true is the fact that just about every party and night of drinking inevitably comes to a karaoke bar. Now, I probably know what you’re thinking. “Mark? Out on a night of drinking?” Well, most of my coworkers are a pretty subdued crowd. “A night of drinking” for us generally just means the Chinese restaurant up the street. If you want to go drinking, you’ve got to find the folks who work for our distinguished competitors. Now they’re a drinking crowd. But that always proves to be a problem for me, as I’m one who likes to go to the karaoke bars and sing as loudly and badly as the next person, but doesn’t need the liberating effects of alcohol to do it. So, karaoke for me is turning into a rare and special occasion, and generally comes after several hours of just saying no to the request, “C’mon! Have just one beer!” But the benefit to this, by the time we get to karaoke, I’m the only sober one, so they’re just too drunk to complain about my bad singing.
Continue reading What I Like About Japan #2: Karaoke Bars
There was this real bastard that I went to school with. I’ll never forget how he was bragging around the fifth grade or so how he had his name legally changed to something very feminate. He was one of the meaner kids, always picking on me and the like, kicking me in the ass when I was bent over to get some things out of the bottom of my locker, stuff like that. I’ll never forget the last conversation that we had. It was in Grade 11 or so, we were screwing around instead of doing our math assignments, and talk soon turned to what to do after graduation. I said something like, “Well, don’t you want to travel? Don’t you want to go anywhere?” He said, “Like where?” I said, “Well, I don’t know, like New York City.” He looked at me with horror. “New York City?” he said. “Are you nuts? With all the crime and stuff that goes on there? As soon as you get off the plane, you’d get mugged! You’d get your ass kicked in some dark alley. And Mark, you’re also so gay, that if you ever go to New York, you’d probably be raped. DON’T LAUGH AT ME! It’d probably happen…to you. So, fuck, I’m never going to New York.” So now, whenever I’m walking the streets of Tokyo, I can’t help but laugh at him.
Continue reading Go to Hell, You Bully
Ever since I arrived in Japan, one of my goals has been to visit an onsen, or Japanese hot spring. I often regaled my students with tales of my beloved Miette Hot Springs back home, so I was quite often given recommendations as to nearby places to visit. (Although one student advised me that the better ones are up north in Hokkaido.) So, when one of my fellow foreign teachers started putting a day at an onsen together for the entire staff, I readily signed on board. But, there was one thing holding me back. There was one tiny thing giving me a slight reservation about going along. For you see, tradition dictates that one goes into an onsen naked.
Continue reading The Full Marky
Hey, folks, I hope you don’t mind if I take a break from my wackadilly Japanese adventures to bring you a little rambling about the Christmas season. Longtime fans will recall there was no Christmas rambling last year, as I was still embroiled in recounting my Vancouver adventures. My stars, that seems so long ago now. One year ago, I was still in shock at the biggest trip I had ever taken in my life, which was a measly hour-and-a-half flight to the coast. Now, I live and work in a foreign country, and I take it all as the norm. Sadly, there are some things I have to learn to live without. For example, there are no Cool Ranch Doritos in Japan. So, as I write this, I’m munching on my sister’s Christmas gift…a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I guess the one thing that you can appreciate about being in a foreign country is that you become cheap to shop for.
Continue reading Christmas 2002
I’m sure that when most of you think about Japanese food, your mind fills with images of rice, noodles, and sushi. At least, that’s what I was thinking when I first arrived in this country. Soon, I was slowly exposed to more and more Japanese food by my co-workers, as we occasionally go out to dine some nights. At first, most of my suspicions seemed to be confirmed when the usual hangout was the Chinese restaurant up the street. (I know, eating Chinese food in Japan. Saying the words sounds kind of odd.) But then, one warm summer evening, one coworker suggested something that the gang hadn’t done since I arrived. He suggested going to the yakuniku place two blocks down the street. Naturally, I was intrigued. What is this yakuniku?
Continue reading What I Like About Japan #1: Yakuniku Restaurants
One of my most treasured possessions is a little plastic dinosaur. It’s a triceratops, to be specific. It’s greenish in color and glows in the dark. It looks exactly like one you would get at a dollar store, or for 99 cents in some museum gift shop. In fact, that’s exactly what it is. Now, why do you suppose that this little dinosaur is special? What vast, emotional attachment do I have to this beat-up old toy that I hold on to it dearly? Well, it was the first token of affection given to me by a woman. Actually, it was given to me by four women. And, more to the point, they were girls. Hey, it all stems from that emotional turmoil that is known as the fifth grade.
Continue reading Little Plastic Dinosaur
When Star Wars: Special Edition hit theaters a few years back, I read the statistic that the average man has seen Star Wars 7 times, and the average woman 5 times. You can imagine my shock when someone mentions that they’ve never seen Star Wars (or, as it is now called, A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I doubt that they have never seen The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, as they were pretty big movies the past few years. Now that the summer of Episode II is behind us (and with all the columns I have stockpiled, it probably just came out on video by the time I publish this), I thought I would take a moment to sit back and reflect on the phenomenon known as Star Wars and how it’s affected my life
Continue reading The Long Awaited, Eagerly Anticipated, Star Wars Rant
Author’s Note: While the events outlined in this story actually did happen, and while these events did lead me to have three phone conversations with Whither, I feel I must point out that that roughly 90% of the contents of these conversations have been fabricated so as to properly tell my tale. It’s what you call “dramatic license,” folks.
The place: Vancouver International Airport
The time: Mid-June, 2002
Continue reading The Last Canadian $10
It’s Sunday night. I had a very filling dinner of ramen and curry, but when 9 o’clock rolled around, I was starting to feel hungry. Since it’s just a 5-minute walk away, I went to McDonald’s for a Big Mac. Japanese McDonald’s are amazing places. Firstly, they sell hot dogs. Only here, they call them “frank burgers.” Secondly, don’t want to buy the happy meal to get the toy? Well, you can get it from a vending machine next to the front counter. And all the different hamburgers! There’s the “Mac Star,” which is like a bacon double cheeseburger. There’s the “Bacon and Lettuce Burger,” and that name is pretty self-explanatory. There’s the Teriyaki McBurger, which is a pork patty smothered in teriyaki sauce, and right now, they’re serving this burger with a fried egg on it. Well, not a real fried egg. That imitation fried egg thing that they make Egg McMuffins out of. When my coworkers hear of this fascination, they fear that I’m getting all culture shocked. One of the signs apparently is eating a hell of lot at McDonald’s. But I’m not culture shocked. I just love fast food.
Continue reading Slurp n Burp
Author’s Note: Your planet, welcome! Here’s the dealie. I watch a lot of TV and make a lot of observations about pop culture. Normally, I e-mail these observations to friends, but every once in a while, I compile these observations and rants into a column. And here’s the latest installment!
Wow! First midnight rambling from Japan! I’ve been trying to keep up to date on movie news and stuff while I’m over here, but for the most part, I’ve been distracted. My main distraction today has come from the classic video game Need For Speed II: SE. You know, I’ve had that game for at least two years, but today I finally figured out, “Hey! If I play this game on knockout mode and win, I unlock tracks! If I play this game in tournament mode and win, I unlock cars!” So, by sitting and playing it all afternoon, I’ve unlocked one track and two cars. I love the track I’ve unlocked. It takes you racing through a Hollywood back-lot. There’s something surreal about racing Ferraris down the Death Star Trench.
Continue reading Midnight Ramblings XXI