Monday, August 30, 2004

A Wedding Party

Apart from a long night out at the bars with the usual crew on Friday, this past weekend was pretty quiet. The main event for me was the wedding party of my ultimate team's captain of some five years. Actually it was the "second party," the first having been a more formal affair restricted to family members.

About forty current and former members gathered at a slightly fancy bar near Ichigaya station on Sunday evening. The entry fee was Y8000 (US$80) which seemed a bit stiff to me, but is apparently a bit cheap by Japanese standards. Most men were dressed in suits and ties, the ladies in long dresses. Inside we had an all-you-can-eat/drink buffet. Unlike most crowds I've been to all-you-can-drink places with, my team doesn't drink much, so it seems individual orders would've been fine. We had arranged for team logo-branded frisbees as a gift for the captain- the first made for our team. We all signed one. Others were available for Y2000 (US$20) each to whomever wanted one.

The couple came in, Masao (the groom & our captain) dressed in a gray suit of a stylish cut, Harue (the bride) in a fancy white dress. We greeted them with little hand held "crackers" that launched confetti over them, then settled down to watch a digital "slideshow" of the lives of the couple. After dinner we had a round of bingo which seemed like a good mixer. Pretty much everyone there knew each other from the team already though. Strangely there didn't seem to be any friends of the bride's there. Everyone received a blank bingo card and was expected to go around and get other people to sign their name in one square. Then we all put our names in a box and played bingo with our randomly constructed card. The first prize was a trip for two to Tokyo Disneyland. Perhaps that's part of why the entry fee was so high.

We were also treated to a rendition of a current pop song on acoustic guitar by one fellow, while four others in wigs and silly glasses danced what I guessed must be the designated dance for that song. I can't find a good link describing Japanese pop song dances, but suffice it to say that every popular song has a requisite dance that everyone is supposed to do along with it. I have no idea where the sequence of moves first comes from. MTV perhaps?

The party was quite merry. It felt almost like a school reunion. There were some teammates there I hadn't seen in half a year or so. After 9pm or so we had been at the bar for three hours and our time was apparently up. We retired to an izakaya literally across the street. There most of our party continued on with the third party, albeit without the wedding couple. We drank and nibbled there until the last train was drawing near, then I went home. Apparently some people went on to a fourth party with karaoke until the first train. Say what you will about Japan, but the folks know how to party here! :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

Got a chance to see Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. It just came out in Japan last Saturday. Posters in the trains and in a prime location outside Shibuya station advertised its arrival.

Went with Daniel and Fabian to a theater in Ginza. Like all the movie theaters I've seen in Japan, it was high up in the building, was fairly small, and sold beer in the concession area. This place only had one screen, but usually they have at least two. We caught the "late" show, starting at 9:10, so it was only Y1000 (US$10) per person. The normal rate is twice that. The theaters don't run very late here.

The movie itself was quite good although I didn't learn much that was new. It was rather shocking to learn that anyone, Saudis or elsewise, could control more than 5% of the US economy. The images of corpses and wounded civilians were of course quite horrible to see, but good in that they re-energized my opposition to this and other wars. I did a little research on my favorite Wiki when I got home and found some critical analysis of the movie.

In related news, my first absentee ballot arrived in the mail this week. This one is for the Massachusetts state election, and as usual, three of the five positions on it are uncontested.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Hanabi & Phish

Sorry for the slow post. The weekend was busy as always. Saturday I went down to the Tamagawa (Tama River) for a practice game between the Beers (the local team) and my team, Fukahire, which means "Shark Fin." It was a good practice, but it ended early. I ended up just sitting around there, enjoying the open sky and waiting for the fireworks scheduled that evening.

That display, my fourth this summer, had a nice color scheme. Lots of white. One novel rocket I saw sent out a thick plume of smoke as it ascended with a brighter than usual flare. When they launched six off at once it was quite cool.

I sat in the dark, with the family groups filming their kids and the cuddling couples dressed in yukata, and listened to Phish's last show on my headphones. I had downloaded it via BitTorrent from earlier in the week. It was a very emotional and cathartic experience to listen to their final show at last.

Later that evening (and until the first train) I spent at a club with an open terrace with my trio of German friends. I napped on a couch for a couple hours, then we went out and played a little catch with my frisbee in the mostly deserted streets of Roppongi. It took us a long time to get to the train station that morning as we played around on every sculpture along the way. I'm going to miss these guys when they go home to Germany next month. I heard one of them mis-stepped leaving the train and ripped his pants as he fell half into the gap between the train and the platform!

After some well deserved sleep I went back down to Shibuya and played some more frisbee in the deliciously cool weather we had that day. Then I did a little shopping to upgrade my wardrobe. I managed to avoid buying any Engrish shirts. Somehow tshirts spawn in my closet as soon as I turn my back. I only brought a few to Japan but by now they've multiplied out of control again.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


The Japanese semis are huge, numerous, and above all, noisy. One landed on my messenger pouch this evening as I was walking home not at all wooded. "Semi" is the Japanese word for cicada. Here's a photo to give you an idea of their appearance. They make a real racket in even a small stand of trees. They also seem to be largely fearless. One flew into our apartment one evening (we have no screens) and it made loud protesting noises as I wrapped it gently in a tea towel and tossed it back out the window.

I travelled to Hiroo, near Roppongi, today to work on a server there. I managed to get it functional on this, my second visit. On my way home I stopped at the Café Prés for a croque monsieur and a Gargent (?) Stout. Perhaps I've got the beer's name wrong as I can't find anything like that on the 'net. The croque monsieur was rather pizza like, but the beer was served in the most interesting glass I have ever used. The glass was conical and when not being held, sat in a heavy glass cube with a conical depression in it. My camera doesn't quite do it justice, but here is the glass up and down. Without the base, the glass would not stand up at all. I commented on the interesting glassware to the waitress as I paid my bill and she told me that they only use that glass with that particular beer!

Apart from that, the heat has returned. Ugh.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Tsukiji Honten

My my my, so very full.

This weekend was another busy one, as usual. On Friday night my boss and his wife took me out to dinner and then to karaoke. I was pleased to discover a bar near my apartment that serves more than one type of beer! Normally at Japanese restaurants, if you ask for a beer, they will only have one to offer. This place, "Stockyards," had 10, including several I had never heard of. I recommend the Lion Stout, from Sri Lanka (US$7). The Guinness (US$9/pint) tasted pale in comparison.

The big hit of the night at karaoke was Always Look on the Bright Side of life, even though I was the only one familiar with Monty Python, evidentally.

Saturday I was supposed to go practice frisbee, in preparation for the upcoming tournament, but it was so beastly hot I couldn't move from in front of my fan for most of the day. I eventually went and got a haircut (US$10) and bought some geta (cheap at US$20) to go with my jinbei (somewhat cheap at US$20). (Sorry that's the best pic I could find at the moment. Jinbei are hot weather clothes, woven in an open pattern with loose stitching around the shoulder seams) Once I was so outfitted, I went to the very crowded Odaiba in Tokyo bay to watch the last big fireworks show of the year. Not bad but not as good as the earlier two I saw.

On Sunday I went, as always, to play ultimate in the park. We had had a lovely cooling rainshower in the morning that brought the temperature down considerably, for the first time in weeks. Great weather for ultimate! It was a good practice.

Afterwards I went to the local favorite sushi place, Tsukiji Honten, with my three German friends and proceeded to make a pig of myself. Initially I was very hungry, having gone to practice on a mostly empty stomach, but then I got carried away. I tied our group record with 18 plates of sushi! That's 36 pieces, but only US$18! A good deal, but after 15 plates it didn't taste good anymore. Amazingly, 24 hours later, I've had only minimal food and I'm still full! One instant ramen, a small yogurt, a carrot, and half a grapefruit later, I'm still to heavy to go for my normal evening jog. I didn't realize I could do this. I thought only reptiles could sustain themselves for so long on one meal. I've never overeaten so much in all my born days...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Some Mt. Fuji Photos