Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hey! My Hashi!

Had a quiet weekend, cleaned the floor in the apartment. Actually Jeff and I mopped the floor. Imagine that.

Today at work was pretty good, actually did straight up Java most of the day. That was a nice change from that loosey goosey Javascript and plain ol' HTML. Wish I got to do more regular Java coding.

I posted some older pics on my flickr page. I have developed a strong fondness for that site already. It's great. Try it.

Usually I bring in my own lunch made from leftovers, but today I went to lunch with Peter and Moon-san at an izakaya they recommended. Nothing fancy, just normal set menus. These places typically have four or five daily specials, each coming with rice, miso soup, and a few other standards. As usual when I go out to eat I had brought my own brown, lightly laquered chopsticks along ("my hashi"). Got this ecologically friendly idea from my former roommate, Wong. I hate using and throwing away the disposables ("wari-bashi") that 90% of the restaurants in Japan provide. At our table, and every table was a plate of assorted Japanese-style pickles and a pair of public, non-disposable chopsticks to serve them with.

At length my food arrived on a tray, complete with plastic wrapped moist towelette and disposable chopsticks. I ignored them and began to eat with my own. All of a sudden they were snatched from my hand by a waiter who drew out the disposables I had received and began to walk away admonishing me to use those instead. Quite taken aback by this I managed a few words of protest while Moon-san helped me to convince the waiter that I had not been eating my meal with the public chopsticks. He quickly realized his mistake and gave mine back, taking away the disposables, and apologizing to me. He didn't seem very enthusiastic though.

My guess is that since this place is very close to the US Embassy, they must get clueless gaijin in there all the time. Still, I'm surprised he was even on the prowl for such problems. That'll teach me to carry more distinctive reusable chopsticks with me. That and to watch for suspicious waiters.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Takadanobaba Samba Festival

My little neck of Tokyo put on a small samba festival today. It was a good time, but I'm glad it only ran from 3pm to 6pm. Our building sits right on the main street, and even with the windows closed it was really loud.
Other than that it was a quiet day at home. I also bought some goldfish for my fishtank recently. It's a small 6 gallon/23L tank, so I only bought six fish (neon tetras and some similar species) and three tiny shrimp. I need more plants in the tank now, so the fish have some place to hide. They seem rather nervous. It also looks like one of my shrimp is laying eggs!

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I finally got around to posting a bunch of my favorite photos from Minako and my trip to Kanazawa, in Ishikawa prefecture. It was a late "Summer vacation," because my company wouldn't let me take a break any earlier. It was a lot of fun despite the late date.

We took the shinkansen as far as we could, then transferred to a plain old express train for the rest of the way. It's so nice travelling by train. Just show up at the station and off you go. No haul to the airport, no security wait, no buying tickets in advance (unless it's a holiday). This train ride took us through the lush rice country of Toyama prefecture.

We got off to a late start, so by the time we arrived and checked into our ryokan, we only had a little daylight to look around the Higashi Chaya district. Really spectacular. I'd only seen these districts on tv, never in person before. Kanazawa had the lucky coincidence of being both a historically wealthy area and too lacking in industry to be worth being bombed during World War II. Thus there is a lot of great traditional culture and architecture to be found. It still remains pleasantly rural though.

The next day we started off with a visit to the local fish market. Shrimp seemed to be in season. Large blocks of ice scattered about the market kept things a little cooler. The sushi was great. After that we went to the "Ninja" Temple, which was quite interestingly outfitted with trick doors and traps, but prohibited photos. Next we visited a local kiln. It really made me want to get back into pottery. It's just so expensive to do around here. This place let you paint your own designs, but that's not enough for me.

Following this we made our way through the Nishi Chaya district. Four more cool buildings I saw on our way back to the ryokan: a house, an inn, a fu shop, and another old house.

The next day we had coffee with gold leaf in it (gold leaf is one of the local specialties), then headed to the local traditional park, Kenroku-en. There were many tourists there. The trees were nicely trained and there was a great deal of water as well. Then unfortunately it was time to go home, after a quick stop at the souvenir shop to take care of coworkers, roommates, and family.

I felt very relaxed the whole time were out there, the air felt cleaner, and people didn't seem frantic to get somewhere. Almost enough to make me want to ditch Tokyo and go teach English in the countryside. Almost.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bike Reg

Here's a tip for anyone thinking of buying a second hand bike in Japan- make sure you get the name on the bike registration changed by the seller. Otherwise you're setting yourself up for a headache. Twice now I've been stopped by the police at night to check my bicycle registration. Every bike sold (I think) gets a yellow registration sticker on the frame with the part of the city it was purchased in and a unique ID.

The police checkpoints are fairly irregular and not difficult to avoid if you keep to the small streets and don't bike late at night. If you're trying to avoid them. My assumption is that they're trying to catch bike thieves, but I don't think they would have much success with canny thieves. I don't know what else these registration checks would accomplish.

I got stopped last night and struggled to recall the name of the Danish guy who sold me the bike. I couldn't come up with it right off, but while explaining to the police how I acquired the bike, it suddenly came to me. This was about 30 seconds before HQ responded with the name the bike is registered to. Thus they let me go with an apology for holding me up. Too bad I can't change the registration without the original owner on hand, as he has gone back to Denmark. At least I'll have his name ready on the tip of my tongue next time.