Friday, May 29, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Home

So yeah, we're back. Mixed emotions, as expected. As great as it is to be home, I'd give anything to be back in least another week. I'll get to posting the photos as soon as I can. There are many.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Live from Vancouver

It's hot as fuck in here. That is all.

Journalizing Japan: Final Thoughts Before Boarding the Plane

  • Narita Airport WiFi = not free. Sucks, but whatareyagonnado? I'm writing this with the "Notes" program.
  • I'm missing the silly-ass/cute commercials already.
  • There's a Lawson location here. May need to pay 'em a visit. I was really stoked to go to the Sevs out here, but Lawson became my favorite kombini chain. I love their blue, white & pink color scheme, the milk jug logo, and their chicken nuggets (cute packaging included). The selection of stuff is pretty cool, too.
  • Sarah is here with her sushi. I'm off to Lawson. Peace.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Sayonara.

  • Our last day in Japan. Did I mention that I don't want to leave? I don't. Really. If I didn't love Winnipeg so much and had no real ties to it, I wouldn't come back. I'm sure Sarah would have something to say about that, too. Life is gonna seem a lot slower.
  • We're in suite 902 of the Citadines in Shinjuku. This is one fine hotel, and I hope to return.
  • I oughta have my head checked for coming back with so little manga. I have, however, found some kick-ass illustration books and magazines. And yeah, I've barely drawn anything while in this country, but I have many photos that will provide years of inspiration for drawing.
  • I was planning on going to the Animate location in Ikebukuro to pick up one hentai title, but opted to hang out in Shinjuku and Shibuya. For some reason, I'd feel like a bit of a perv for having a filthy Japanese comic in my luggage. Can't put my finger on why.
  • The next time I go to Tower Records Shibuya (if there is a next time), I'm just gonna give 'em all of my money. The bastards. I need the entire seventh floor (books and imported magazines) in my living room.
  • At Tower, I picked up the new soso & Kutdown album, which is available through Japan's Hue Records. Gotta support my homies.
  • I listened to healthy portion of the new Eminem album at Tsutaya in Shinjuku, just to form an opinion of it. I now have one: it's mediocre.
  • Vinyl heads: if you didn't know already, the Osaka location of Tokyu Hands has a ton of second-hand vinyl. Some jazz, a lot of 70s rock, some classical. I suspect that the Tokyo location has the same, if not more, but I missed that section.
  • Bed is where I should be.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Koyasan and Random Japan Thoughts

  • Went to the town of Koyasan today. While a place like Takarazuka is described as a town in Lonely Planet: Japan, I'd prefer to call it a suburb. Koyasan is a town in every sense of the word, in my opinion.
    Koyasan possesses a huge Buddhist cemetery (Oku-no-in) that has to be seen to be believed. Again, Sarah was way more into the whole thing than I was. As a person that has trouble confronting his own mortality, I was kinda down*, but still fascinated. Koyasan is a mountain town, and they have the tallest trees I've ever seen in my freakin' life. I was asleep for a good bunch of the trip to Koyasan's outskirts , so when I had to suddenly awaken to transfer to a cable car, it was rather jarring. Moving to an uncomfortably packed bus to get to the cemetery/temple wasn't exactly the most fun moment, either. I did, however, get to enjoy the slow and winding ride back. Such dense, lush forest. Truly amazing.
  • A note about the Kyoto Manga Museum's hours: they're open until 8 from July to September. We were mistaken about them, and got there at 5:30, leaving us with only 30 minutes to view the goods (Sarah reasoned with a staff member to let us in, as the final admission takes place AT 5:30, and we were a couple minutes over the line). We had enough time to blast through the new Moebius exhibit and view most of the geisha illustrations that were on every floor of the museum, each by a manga luminary.
    You must see this place. It used to be a primary school, and you can read the titles that were donated to the museum. There's tons of 'em. If I didn't know better, I'd swear the museum was a lazy college campus, complete with students chilling on its (fake) lawn.
  • While looking for the elusive Ring Soul Cafe in Kobe, Sarah and I came across these folks lining up outside a butcher shop. Turns out this shop was selling fried goodness out of a little window. Chicken, beef and pork cutlets, plus deep-fried shrimp. Naturally, we got in line. I don't need to tell you how good this stuff was. I was going to come up with a naughty simile about how our taste buds were pleasured, but this place is worthy of better praise.
  • At the Kyoto temple where we ate soba noodles, we were given kudos by one of the shop's staff over our chopstick use. Sarah and I felt rather proud at that moment.
  • I've got a shitload of Facebook birthdays to catch up on. I've just been doing the occasional status update. Don't get me started on Twitter and Google Reader. Or my e-mail.
  • The trip is winding down. We're spending the last day in Tokyo, doing our own activities (shopping). I'll probably hit Books Kinokuniya and Animate one more time. I clearly don't have enough manga, or hentai. And Freshness Burger is calling me.
  • I bought the new Tanya Morgan and DOOM albums here. Y'all can't say I don't do my indie rap shit on a global level.
  • We went to a killer Italian place for dinner in Kyoto. Best Pasta Carbonara I've ever had. Don't knock the idea of eating Italian in Japan. We've had some dope French pastry here, too.
*I slept badly, and bumped my head rather nastily on a low ceiling overhang that morning, so that contributed to my whiny/cranky pussy baby mood. I fully acknowledge my lameness.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Kobe and Kyoto

  • One correction and two disappointments: The Tezuka Museum is Takarazuka, not Kobe, like I had mentioned previously. It's described as a town, but it doesn't seem very town-ish. The first of the disappointments? It was closed. Looks like it may re-open on Monday, so we might make a little trek back there. The second disappointment was that the wrestling/MMA-themed second floor of the Ring Soul (Rinso) Cafe in Kobe was closed. I'll get back to that later.
  • Before heading to the Tezuka museum, we decided to get some Mister Donut goodness at the mall across from the Takarazuka train station. Sarah and I aren't in the habit of talking to strangers, but we ended up having a nice conversation with an expatriate English prof from the U.S. named Mike over donuts and Fanta Melon Soda. Of course, we talked about the extreme politeness and order in Japan, and just how refreshing it is. Admittedly, it was also kinda nice to speak English for a fair length of time with someone other than ourselves. When we were done with the donuts, he walked us to the museum, since it was on his way home. Nice dude.
  • We spent ages looking for Ring Soul, only to find that the second floor wasn't open (as I had mentioned), and that we couldn't read the menu. Our kanji skills are wicked poor. I suggested that we go to a steak house that we passed during a walk through Kobe's Chinatown. This may have been one of the best decisions I've ever made. At Ruke, Sarah broke her bad steak streak (long story), and I had one the best steaks of my life (top 3). This place was perfect; from the design of the joint, all the way down to the music he was playing (Aaron Neville and Marvin Gaye).
  • Funny story: I told Ruke's owner that we had passed earlier in the day, and that I made sure that I remembered the name of his place. He said he saw us. I guess we're pretty memorable.
  • In Kyoto, we hung out with my homie Kenji, who chauffeured us to three of the city's many, many temples. Sarah is quite interested in Buddhism, so this was quite a treat for her. I've never climbed so many fucking hills in my life, but the sites were worth it. At one temple, we partook of some zaru soba, which really hit the spot. Later, we had some tonkatsu at a mall, which was great after a day of climbing a ton of stairs. Kenji rules.
  • We also had Sukiya for breakfast, which made me feel like myself again (we started too early for my brain to properly function).
  • Tomorrow, more Kyoto!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Kobe!

  • Turns out we have Internet here. I'm over the moon on that.
  • We're off to Kobe for a short spell. The Tezuka museum is there!
  • Hiroshima kicks ass, but I can't say I'm all that jazzed about nearby Miyajima Island. It's nice, but it's mad touristy. Can't say I blame 'em. The torii gate, which Sarah wanted to see, was pretty amazing.
  • The deer on Miyajima are rather aggressive. One tried to eat Sarah's map.
  • There's a new anime series with a heavy Jamie Hewlett influence starting, and I can't remember the name of it. It's killing me. I was so taken by the ad, I forgot to write down the name. Fuck.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Journalizing Japan: An Erostika Tale

If you're a Rockin' Jelly Bean fan like myself, and find yourself in Harajuku looking to pick up some of his cool-ass products, don't follow the directions to Erostika in Tokyo Underground.
Sarah and I found ourselves following conflicting directions in the book and the ones we got from Google Maps. We got to the old place, and saw a bunch of discarded "we've moved" fliers. We also noticed a final move date within July, so we thought we were out of luck. We doubled back and used the newer directions once we realized that the move took place last year. I would've been pissed to get back home and realize that I missed the place completely.
I totally got this here poster, man.

Journalizing Japan: Okinomiyaki

  • I've decided: okinomiyaki is now my favorite egg-based dish. Y'all can keep yer omelets and souffles, sucka. Okinomiyaki is the shit, Holmes. My friends Hiroe and Steve introduced Sarah and myself to this delicacy, and we've some kick-ass servings here (props to Rokutsubo-ya, the place where we had it Hiroshima-style, with noodles. They have a fine selection of manga and men's mags to read while you're waiting for your order) and in Himeji. Where can I get this awesomeness in Winnipeg? Shit, it may be up to us.
  • There's a lot of dudes out here with big hair around here. Like, Hanoi Rocks-big. I just kinda pulled their name outta the air, but it fits.
  • In Tokyo, we don't get stared at, but in Osaka, we get a few.
  • Today, outside of the A-Bomb Dome, we had a small class of grade five and six students ask us questions about ourselves in English and take pictures with them. That was kinda sweet.
  • The A-Bomb Dome is rather sobering, but the surrounding area and Hiroshima itself is quite lovely. It's a testament to being able to pick up and start all over again. Hiroshima is one fine, bustling city.
  • As much as I love home, I'm gonna miss seeing characters everywhere.
  • Everyone reads comics here. Everyone. It's refreshing to not have comics written off as mere kids' stuff. That's fucking heaven to me, thank you very much.
  • Our running around has often left me too tired to draw, but my mind is churning creatively, and it feels great. Plus, I've been able to hunt down these Pilot Drawing Pens that I've loved for years, but haven't been able to cop in Peg City for way too long. I also bought a couple of these Pilot hard brush pens that the awesome Scott C. uses. Regrettably, they aren't refillable.
  • Every second person we come across in Osaka is wearing a mask. Neither of us have felt compelled to do so.
  • Looking forward to sleeping in a Western-style bed for a night. Our backs aren't really suited to traditional Japanese bedding, but we've survived, despite some fitful nights. Still, I wouldn't change a minute of our experience. Our constant sight-seeing movement and the resulting fatigue usually negates any discomfort we might feel. Sometimes.
  • Tomorrow, more Hiroshima exploration!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Hotel Granvia Hiroshima Edition

We just checked into the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, and we're severely under dressed. This place is swanky. The control panel by the bed is straight out of the late 60s - early 70s and it comes with a Seiko digital clock. I just turned the air conditioner to 18. Heaven. I don't want to go outside...but we will.
I'm watching some sort of detective series, and Sarah is eating cola-flavored Mentos. Be jealous right

Journalizing Japan: Hiroshima!

I'm typing this from the info desk at the station (free Internet is among the greatest things ever). Gonna take the tram, get ourselves a hotel room, then see the sights. I need to cop some Hiroshima Carp trinkets before I leave.

Journalizing Japan: Change of Plans

We got back to Izumi City crazy late last night due to a train accident (not our fault), so we decided to get some shut-eye and head to Himeji for the day. Well worth the trip, and healthy hike to reach the castle, which is an amazing structure. You must pay a visit before you die.
I'd also like to mention that the ramen house mentioned on page 400 of Lonely Planet: Japan is everything it says it is. If pork is your thing, Ramen-no-Horyu is the place.
Five minutes left at this stupid @Station terminal. Off to Hiroshima...fingers crossed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Nara Niceness

Hi! This is Al (duh), feeling beat like a rented mule yet elated, comin' at you from Nara, where sacred deer have the run of the place.
The Todai-ji temple is a must-see. Not only is it a dope structure, it's got a shitload of school kids hanging around, taunting the deer...and the foreigners. Actually, they were really cool. I was one of three black folks I saw all day, so I could easily say that me and my white wife stood out easily among the many tourists. We were kinda treated like rock stars. I could get used to that.
Off to bed, then Hiroshima!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Osaka Internet Kiosk Edition

Hi. Sarah and I are having a blast. Just got out of the Osaka Aquarium and off of the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel. At an internet kiosk with eight minutes remaining. I'm out of 100 yen coins (for the moment). All y'all need to know is that we're alive and eating. Yo, Kenji! I got yer number, homie! I'll try to reach you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Sensory Overload

  • Our time here so far in one word: overwhelming. But in a good way. There's so much...stuff. Lots of it.
  • Just came back from a jaunt that included New Japan wrestling merch, a sumo tournament, and the amazing Shibuya crossing. We're crazy tired. Not as tired as yesterday, though. Yeah, we're taking a ton of JR trains and Tokyo Metro subways, but we're also hoofing it quite a bit, trying to find these obscure/not-so-obscure places to satisfy my esoteric jollies. Sarah's been saying that I'm getting my revenge for all of the estrogen-laced shopping excursions I've been dragged to.
  • For the record, Brad Pitt is your gaijin-to-go-to for SoftBank, and Beyonce is representin' Crystal Geyser. Apparently, it's "her water".'d have to watch the commercial. It's kinda boring.
  • I just watched Lily Allen get asked somewhat personal questions in a 2001: A Space Odyssey-type environment by a disembodied voice. I wanna get that famous. I fucking love this country.
  • If you're wondering why I've been stingy with the links, it's because I'm faster at placing those with a mouse, and I'm using a Eee PC. Me and the keypad don't get along very well.
  • I spent 98 bucks on an issue of Arkitip (that Evan Hecox issue). I don't feel bad about that at all. Domo arigato, Tower Records Shibuya!
  • I fully recommend a trip out here to anyone, but if you can't handle cuteness, well...I don't know what to tell you, jack. Japan has an endless supply of it. Characters and mascots are everywhere. If you can't deal with that, I suggest visiting a country where things are less kawaii.
  • I'm surprised at the amount of black people I've seen out here. It's not like I was expecting to be the only black Canuck among the nihon-jin, I just didn't plan on seeing more than 20 in my first couple of days.
  • For the record, there's no fade-to-black between commercials or programs out here, so what you get is a non-stop barrage of television. I find it strangely comforting.
  • I've been drinking everything under the sun, mainly because I can, but also because it's hot, so there's a method to my usual madness.
  • In Tokyo, vending machines are pretty much everywhere. It'll be interesting to see how Osaka compares.
  • I've got some e-mail to write. Peace.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Healthy

I forgot to mention that we were thermographically scanned before getting off of the plane. We were each given a yellow paper certifying that we were free of hog cooties. I shall celebrate by eating bacon.

Journalizing Japan: Arrival!

  • We're totally here. It feels kinda weird. I like it.
  • Hunting for the right train totally beat the shit out of us mentally and physically, especially after the cramped limo bus ride.
  • A very kind, English-speaking elderly lady helped us find the right station, and told us how to purchase tickets. She ruled, needless to say.
  • Our room is all cute and cozy. We're watching some weird-ass variety show.
  • Just got back from the Sev down the street and a Lawson's location. The buying of exotic beverages has begun.
  • Bought a plate of sausage and wedges from the previously-mentioned Sev (or 7-I & Holdings). So far, not a mistake. My stomach is pleased. We'll see how the cheesy bread thing with the meaty bits and the sausage n' pasta fares in the morning.
  • Kirin commercials are fun to watch.
  • Bedtime.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Journalizing Japan: Vancouver Layover

  • Managed to kill an hour of our over 4-hour layover by eating and wandering. Thanks, Pizza Hut.
  • Sarah is off stretching her legs and buying something from Starbucks.
  • Watched The Wrestler during the flight over here. Air Canada tried their best to keep me from enjoying it by cutting out most of the violence and all of Marisa Tomei's nudity. Despite that, I thought it was great. The spot planning scene with Necro Butcher was hilarious.
  • Nap time.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Out of Office AutoReply 3

My wife and I are heading to Japan to see if Sarah Jessica Parker is still shilling for Diet Coke out there. Plus, I'm sure Nicolas Cage's pachinko machine commercials are WAY more humorous on home turf. Only one way to find out!
So, that means I'll be away from the 11th to the 29th of this month. [supervisor] and [supervisor] will be glad to assist you while I'm off purchasing manga and photographing vending machines. [supervisor and dude I work with] are your Naylor Net-issue folks.

Y'all thought I was gonna end with a Godzilla joke, right?

Nihongo wa wakarimasen!

Peace, y'all.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Random Thoughts: May 2, 2009

Citadines Tokyo Shinjuku (photo courtesy of the good folks at Citadines).
Can't wait to see this place for really real-like.

  • Japan-bound: Just sittin' here, listening to the last episode of Keep Risin' on 101.5, counting the minutes. Our first five days in Tokyo are going to be overwhelming, I have no doubt about that. I just found out that there's going to be an Audrey Kawasaki exhibit going on while we're there. Perfect! She's so damn good, and the chance to see her work up close must be jumped at.
    I finally put my Rebel together, and I'm enjoying using it. Of course, I'll be using that to document the trip along with my trusty Canon PowerShot A520 (pictured here).
    I also picked up a Moleskine Watercolour Notebook, inspired by Luis Mendo's Tokyo y Yo. We'll see how dedicated I'll be to this. I'm considering drawing everything I eat (props to Riki Takaoka).

  • A Pleasant Surprise: Apparently, my tea-drinking gorilla is part of an orphanage mural somewhere in Zambia! Hey, how can I be mad at that? Here's a closer look.

  • The Toronto Comic Arts Festival: If I wasn't going to Japan, TCAF would be my destination. Seriously...if you live in or around Toronto and you love comics, you'd be crazy to miss this. And it's FREE. I don't want to hear any excuses! GO.

  • Gone: Gotta go. Errands and projects to handle. And my laundry's done! Peace.