Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

Optimizing time

I still can’t believe I’m leaving in 3 days after being here for close to 3 months.  There aren’t words to express this feeling of sadness for leaving, yet a conflicting level of happiness for returning to where I call my home.  Japan has burrowed, setup living quarters, and ordered extraneous furniture in my heart.  I will never forget these beautiful days here, and I want nothing more than to come back.

My lack of writing has been evidence of how much I’ve been optimizing my time absorbing the atmosphere and hugging the ground.  I picture a little cartoon character flat on the soil trying very hard to give the Earth a big hug by wrapping his arms around the unnoticeable curvature, while at the same time, smiling with content at this unspeakable bond.

I love you, Japan.  Thank you for the wonderful time.  I’ll call you; and I’m not saying that so you won’t feel bad – I mean it with all my heart.  I promise we’ll be together again in the near future.  Don’t hold your breath for me.  Continue to sustain your family of millions, and keep up the good work with the hot looking girls.  You’ve left me satisfied so many times.  It won’t be awkward.  My tears are sweet, not salty.  The taste reminds me of our times together, which have always (and will always) leave me with a smile.  Let’s not make this any more difficult than it has to be.  Farewell.

~See Lemons Live

PS – this is not about a girl in Japan even though it’s almost convincingly enough to be

PPS – I will post more often when I find time between the beer and spirits

Harajuku and Shinjuku for an afternoon

crazy posers in harajuku

crazy posers in harajuku

Random Observation/Comment #58: People in Harajuku are just desperate for attention; I think they’re doing it in the most disturbing way possible – these freaks that don’t care if they’re shmoiling as long as they look badass (and they do look pretty badass).

After Akihabara, RJ and I went to meet up with the rest of group for dinner. Finding someone in Harajuku is a lost cause because the streets are too busy and crowded. Everyone walking around fit into two categories: gothic freaks wearing all black/white with chains, and tourists taking pictures of gothic freaks wearing all black/white with chains. We fit into the latter category. The exit of the train station facing the street with the large crowd of people looked like a large distraction. It’s like people only walk that way because there are so many people walking that way, which makes more people walk in this vicious cycle of confused tourists looking for more rockabilly picture moments.

Instead of getting uncomfortably squashed around following the very tempting shopping path, I suggest walking towards the bridge near the performers and posers. They sit around talking about how cool they are or some shyt like that. I think they try to look as embarrassed as possible, as if this were not a regular occurrence and they’re being misunderstood in their actions. If this incorrect, please enlighten me: Why do you dress up like this and sit in a group, smiling at some pictures and hovering around in your little circles? I mean, are you talking about politics or some foreign affairs? Or would an intense conversation just ruin your image of this badass rocker or cute little maid? Please excuse my criticism and continue following this routine so others can benefit from your oh-so self-sacrificing love of the poser image. Rock on.

The zoo was entertaining for a few pictures, but we eventually moved on in the hot weather to the shrine and toris around the park. It was so hot and muggy that we had to stop half-way through the walk and grab a beer at the restaurant. “Nama o futatsu,” or “two draft beers,” became a very common saying this trip. The walk to Shinjuku was underestimated, but I did wind up buying orange juice and drinking it from a straw out of a carton. I felt pretty ghetto, but I just said, “Word life, New York status” and everything was alright. They recognized.

Shinjuku station is ridiculously big. Think of the Macy’s in the city having a train station in the middle of it. You have a 5 minute walk from one side to another and the top floor is covered in girls’ clothes. Meeting a group is quite difficult when there are multiple exits, but we managed to locate the meeting destination. To get a better view of the only JR exit on this side, we went to the top of the overpass and looked over the lockers to the sea of people below. Although we were looking for a Japanese girl leading some Australian girls, we kept getting distracted by the cute groups of Japanese girls that never stopped exiting the gates.

Dinner was not quite dinner because we went to a bar-type place on the roof of the station/mall. We bought pitchers of beer and ate beer snacks (fries, fried chicken, and bite-sized stuff). The novice drinker had quite a stomach. He impressively drank a pitcher and a half in under an hour and didn’t upchuck. Since the drinking started at 8PM, he was already out by 9. This is the problem with new drinkers – they don’t understand that the purpose of drinking is not to get drunk. The purpose of drinking is to more enjoyably speak with friends and joke around. If you forget the night because you passed out in front of a Walmart, you drank too much. There were worse things that could have been done to RJ to teach him this lesson, but I think a few pictures should be okay. I think he’ll just need more experience in the matter.

Since I drank the same amount as him, but in the span of two hours, I had a nice buzz (but the room wasn’t spinning) when visiting one of the towers for night sight-seeing. The view was a little difficult to capture with the camera because of the glare from the well-lit tourist area behind, but you would remember it if you were there (and not really drunk). Thank you, Yuka, for taking care of him. Fancy pants J.

~See Lemons Drink Sociably

That's what happens when you don't pace yourself

That's what happens when you don't pace yourself

Akihabara Craziness

Maids in the street!

Maids in the street!

Random Observation/Comment #57: French maid dresses worn by Japanese girls have been added to my fantasies. It’s not perverted (or dodgy), honest: They’re just so damn cute in short skirts and high stockings.

R.J., compared to my uber-Otaku nature, is a level 3 at best (it’s not supposed to make sense). He’s gone above and beyond by getting the Gundam Seed Destiny tattoo and watching all of the Gundam series (which is about 400 episodes or something ridiculous like that), but he hasn’t watched all of the underground anime that is not on adult swim. He plays a lot of Japanese PSP and DS games as well, which might be a different nature, but his anime and manga skill level needs some upgrading. If he follows my teachings, he will also become a master, but until then he’ll need patience and training (hours of anime watching). The power is within him, but it will take time to tame the beast.

Keeping this obsession in mind, Akihabara sounded like the best place to go. He said that he wanted to buy a $200 cos-play maid outfit for his gf (of 2 weeks), but I thought he was just joking. Little did I know that he basically spent money like a kid in a candy store (except the candy here was much more expensive and his budget seemed to know no bounds).

My vision of Akihabara was very different from what it actually looks like. For some reason I pictured a lot more flashy things capturing my attention instead of a few major strips, lined with malls for electronics. Most of it was expensive, but I really enjoyed the variety. I didn’t have the money or space in my luggage to get some of the really cool things, but the pictures will have to do. There was a large amount of hentai porn in plain sight and a few major sega arcade areas, but the hype built me up for something like a golden bridge or arc with anime girls flying around you for personal selection.

The one thing that did come true was the larger number of normal (maybe normal) girls dressed up as maids in the arcades (and even out on the streets), passing out fliers and waiting tables. They were absolutely adorable and I felt bad not taking one of the fliers from them even if I couldn’t read it. The maid cafés that we passed by looked pretty interesting, as well. From my conversation with Chris, Otakus basically go to these places to have lunch and talk with these cute girls in maid outfits. You pay to have them play games with you, and they draw little smiley faces with ketchup on your food. The games, such as rock-paper-scissors, would be a betting game where the loser drinks some tomato juice, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and raw egg concoction. The weird thing is that these guys actually are trying to lose to seem more chivalrous when they have to drink it in front of them. I don’t think I will ever be that desperate for attention.

Overall, the street looks like any ordinary street surrounded by maid outfits. The hobby and gadget places have a large selection, but unlike Hong Kong, have only one store to choose from. It doesn’t really make a difference to shop around if you find something you like. Be hopeful that you’ll stumble upon something you like, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t wind up living in a girl’s dormitory with girls of all ages that slowly start to fall in love with you as the episodes pass.

~See Lemons in Otaku Heaven

Impressions of the Tour

Friendly faces I would come to love and miss

Friendly faces I would come to love and miss

Random Observation/Comment #56: There seems to be much less time to write since being a tourist takes so much work and effort. It’s also nice to learn more about other people instead of typing on my laptop like an antisocial during long ferry rides… wait a minute.

We are 9. I would grow much closer with all of these people (including myself) in the next two weeks. Bits of information about our personal lives would be revealed when relating to the travel spots and random observations. Conversations would jump from hobbies and careers to goals and aspirations. Every peek into someone’s outlook let me review my own. Though my plans are broad, each brain offers years of experiences of which I could have never found through my own observations. In many cases, I cannot begin to empathize with these stories, but I try my best to imagine my life in their shoes. I’m surprised how many doors can be closed, yet how content one can be without any more choices. I think most of them have already walked through their door. There’s really no reason to look back and work out these other possibilities that never were and never will be.

My observations started as generalizations in a categorization or hash, but this little conversational tool is shortly replaced by specified questions to unique topics. Every detail stuck in my mind and absorbed into a sponge of interest. I’d often squeeze out information to make connections about their lives. Sometimes this person’s representation does not form in its entirety without the full story, so my words slowly pry the lid. I hope I did not seem too curious or even suspiciously cautious about seeming too curious. I tried to hide my shifty eyes.

I’m about 6 days behind on entries so the initial impressions of the tour have already been replaced by my secondary or lasting impressions. I’ll try my best to capture the range of emotions I first felt when joining.

I’m partly optimistic with a chance of paranoia. My mind is open to new ideas and it is quite flexible, but small actions cause premature conclusions and stereotypes. In fact, I began this tour feeling that the cost of the trip was not worth our experiences. The numbers did all the talking – first and last day were free days; about $2300 for the tour; about $500 for the 21 day rail-pass; $200 for the tour guide before the tour even started; about 24 hours spent just for traveling on boats, trains, and buses; probably $500 for meals and other expenses. I was expecting royalty meals and set tour-bus itineraries for that price. Others doing the math would have probably felt the same shafting draft.

One quick glance at the itinerary and an irrational conclusion could have cost me one of the most fun tours I’ve ever been on. Each remote island destination would have been completely impossible to plan or survive without a guide for the logistics and translations. The places I’ve seen have only been experienced by the privileged, and I see that it was worth every penny. The set tour-bus thing would have been filled with elderly people and constantly stopping at these off-the-road tourist shops so the tour could make money on the side with their connections. This Intrepid tour, however, felt much more lively and robust. It was basically a backpacking adventure with a group of friends, which would beat any set tour-bus any day of the year.

Yuka, our tour guide, has been open to all questions and fed my every curiosity. Although all detailed plans were not completely revealed to my comfort, I learned to trust her. Our short time together is one that I will remember. A small obsession with cats; a beautiful karaoke voice reaching notes I didn’t think were possible (perfect for Japanese songs and Blondie :P); a blend of an Aussie accent that keeps me completely captivated; a passion (maybe not an understatement) towards drinking beer; a playful attitude towards life – all of these little quirks I’ve used to shape her unique and kawaii aura. Many observations and conclusions dive deeper and can borderline as psychoanalysis, so I’ll just keep those to myself J. I’ve probably done this for everyone in the group.

R.J. was the first person I met from the tour. His blue hair and Gundam Seed Destiny tattoo made a very interesting first impression. He is a 19-year-old who is as lost as all 19-year-olds are lost these days. I saw a lot of myself in his personality, but it made me wonder when I grew out of his phase. It’s a phase of recklessness and dependency, but I’m not too concerned because it will pass for him as it passed for me. His trip reminded me of when I went to Hong Kong by myself after high school; a blind obsession towards a girl and a lack of reality and responsibility drilled into my brain. In no way is this phase avoidable, but it’s interesting to observe his actions and see those gears turn. My mind does not think the same way anymore, but I could imagine his chain of thought. Driven by the textbook principles of psychology with “right and wrong” judgments; R.J. has only reached the 2nd stage. He’s got a head on his shoulders and good intentions, so I think he’ll be fine.

Chris and Melani: the sisters from Melbourne. Chris is wise with stories that she just itches to share. It is special when these moments arise, for they usually spark a series of questions in my mind. In no way have her stories revealed the hardships or joys of her life, but yet her presence remains calm and serene. Melanie is a great daughter and a wonderful person. She probably makes as many observations and connections as I do, but keeps most of them to herself for a sly smirk or offset stare of thought. I’ve caught every witty remark and they could not have been made without completely understanding the subject and situation. I expect this much from a fellow engineer. Her gaze and smile in my direction hints nervousness or admiration. Conversations with her could last for days and hours, but I’ve often let them drift silently. My actions remain passive; perhaps if our circumstances were just a little different. I’m seeing more and more that I protect myself from others for their sake rather than mine.

Amanda is very interesting. She’s quite noice :P. I feel as though her perspective had changed quite a view times during the trip. She seems to need a lot of her own time to just soak, but also gets these urges to follow different group activities. There are many frustrations unsaid, but her eyes and ears just seem to be open for the next cultural shock.

Helen gave me a dose of that Sharon personality. I am not obsessed with her, as I am with Sharon, but it’s a level of straight forwardness that I missed when I was surrounded by Japanese flexi-straws (stop saying “Yes” even though I’m wrong). She is quite clever with witty remarks about interesting observations during dinner conversations. More than most, she wants to make the most of this vacation as a memorable experience before starting her new career. It’s like she’s engrained with many stereotypes of each culture that she’s looking to confirm or deny through her experiences. She is a very strong person that has seen much that does not require repeating. Even though conversations of this matter were not shared, there is a part of her presence that gives such an impression. It has all been put aside to follow her new goal though: See the world and live the life.

Isabel and Sebastian were the only couple in this tour. Their cuddliness made me smile and wish for something similar. I can tell they’re very much in love with each others’ personalities and they were meant to be together. The little jokes and even matching snort-laugh reminded me of a connection. “That’s my girl” is always followed by an indescribable chill of happiness for finding an embodiment for simple amazing-ness. Everything fits like a puzzle piece as they celebrate a start of another phase in their life. This trip seems like their final hurrah as love-birds before the turning point propelled careers or raising children. To their next phase in life, one of which I envy and cannot wait to start: Kanpai.

Although it has only been two weeks, I feel as though everyone has become more than just travel companions: they have all become my friends to lend and receive a helping hand. Domo arigato (Mr. Roboto). All the best in your future travels and I hope our paths pass again.

~See Lemons Part of a Temporary Family

Kinuya hotel view in Ueno

Kinuya hotel view in Ueno

Ueno Park: Blitz through the museums

My artsy fartsy picture in Ueno Park

My artsy fartsy picture in Ueno Park

Random Observation/Comment #55: Science museums used to be so much more fun, but now that I know all of the physics involved, it’s not as much of a mystery. It’s like watching a magic show where you’ve already learned all the tricks. Damn, how could I have been so impressed by simple concepts like magnetism, pullies, air pressure, and optics?

Dragging that stupid luggage early in the morning made me loathe its existence… Mendoksai. I don’t really mean it though – it holds all my precious belongings. I just wish it would sprout legs and follow me like an obedient dog that doesn’t need a leash (Or a gullible person that lost a bet).

Kinuya hotel was very close to the station and I give it a very positive review. The room was normal, but the doorway heights were a little low. The height was 6 ft, which left my hair grazed every time I passed through the doorway (I guess there are other tight fits in Japan). The itinerary said we would meet at 6PM, but it was only 11AM. After reading the sheet, the only thing I could think was “Shyt, I should have gone out the night before.”

Ueno Park is a recreational center, dating spot, tourist attraction, and even a home. There are quite a few fountains and statues sprinkled throughout the park that act as landmarks and gathering spots for street performances. The museums in this area are not ridiculously large, but running through the art, nature and science, and memorial museums can take a few days. If you follow the route I took and skim through the artwork, however, you could probably walk it in about 5 hours.

The museum experience should not be about pictures – it should be about learning new facts and admiring the mysteries of our past that foreshadow our future. It’s about the beauty of centuries of art that captures the hidden story of an evolved civilization. The science and nature museum was interesting since they tried to cover as much of our world’s life as possible, but in the end it’s obviously an understatement. I moved from floor to floor quickly because most of the mysteries of these animals had already been sorted in my mind. It used to be my interest, yet now I felt nothing – not a sparkle or a tingle of captivity. It disappointed me, which lead me to read in even more detail and look even harder to see something that would amaze me; something that I had not already learned. One of the few things I found incredible was the 360 degrees theater. It showed a short film about dinosaurs, which really made you feel like you were immersed in the film. My attempts to take videos of this just turned out to be a dark mess.

The Tokyo National Museum was a little different from the Science and Nature museum. It was filled with a lot of Asian sculptures and artifacts with brief explanations of each. I think combining these two museums in one day would be like walking any one of the museums in the city. Pictures were taken and descriptions were breezed over. The history is interesting, but once again, I did not feel it as a part of me. It’s not even the fact that I couldn’t understand the text or talks; it’s more that the facts were not new. There were some beautiful pots and swords that fit the timeline of events very nicely, though. Every new piece gave a more vivid video of this historic playback. In my mind, the recreation of battles included these samurai armor and swords. Different angles in this battle followed the small snippets of graphics through the display case. I guess if it was only for that, I’m glad I continue walking through each exhibition.

While wandering around the park, I saw a street performance that kept me mesmerized. The performers here are much more entertaining than those in the city because they don’t just break-dance or play music (not that any of those do not show extreme talent); they actually get the crowd involved like in a real stage performance. It’s a combination of humor, interaction, and practice which makes these people a great show. Unlike most Americans, the audience of Japanese children and adults feel an obligation to show support of his hard work with bills. Often the performers would incorporate into their routine the volunteer of children to help their effort. The particular guy I saw did everything skillfully and left everyone laughing with happiness and clapping in amazement.

From the street fair, I walked towards the pond and found the early blossoming of the water lilies. The pond was filled with them ready to blossom, and the density of the lily pads made the whole lake look like a field. My hotel room actually had one of the best views overlooking this beautiful scenery.

All in all, the park was an incredible journey through culture and I definitely enjoyed it. It doesn’t cost too much money, and I think it’s worth spending a full day there.

~See Lemons go museum hunting

A view of the tokyo national museum

A view of the tokyo national museum

Tokyo Day 1: Take advantage of being a tourist

cool shopping district area

cool shopping district area

Random Observation/Comment #54: My first hostel experience is a positive one – I did not get killed (Because living is good, and dying is not as good).

The packed suitcase, backpack, and messenger bag became a nuisance very quickly. In Shinosaka, I boarded the Nozumi train, unaware of the restrictions of the JR pass. This super-duper express looked slick and had reserved seats. With my large luggage and foreign look of confusion, the English speaking attendant let me stand and get off in Kyoto without paying the extra charge. I wanted to stand there and take pictures out the window anyway, so it really wasn’t a big deal. The shinkansen took about 15 minutes from Osaka to Kyoto, so this cut my commute down. From Kyoto to Tokyo, I took the normal Hitari for 3 hours and typed my long-winded journal entries.

Arriving at Tokyo at 3PM, I was completely unprepared for the level of complexity of the JR and subway tracks. I thought that Osaka was complicated, but now I saw a larger monster of confusion. There were rails everywhere and it made me feel like I was in the future – Japan is only a few hours ahead, but you’d be surprised how much they can accomplish with those few hours. I was expecting flying cars or floating traffic signals accompanying the transportation beast. With the heavy luggage reminding me of my homeless situation, I followed the shabby directions towards my hostel for the night. The poor planning on my part left me without a place to stay for a night. I had a few backup plans with capsule hotels and random hostels, but I went to the one that was closest to the station.

It was obvious that I was lost. I stepped on and off trains looking around for a guardian angel to lead my way. This angel wore jeans and read a manga with black rimmed glasses. He spoke very little English and we communicated through broken Mandarin and Japanese. I am very grateful for his kindness.

My coffin accompanied 15 others on the fourth floor. Although the wooden cabinet was not painted or built with much precision, the mattress and pillow felt like a cheaper version of the space technology beds. There was a little window cut out with a lock, but the carpenter forgot to account for the fact that the piece of wood was not thin enough to just cut two perfect squares in the wooden panel and expect it to open. It’s like making a double door where the doors meet exactly in the middle such that the thickness obstructs any of the sides from opening. I bowed my head in shame and embarrassment for such terrible engineering.

After leaving my things at the hostel, I boarded a train to Asakusa and did the touristy walk from one giant lantern to another, through the dense crowds of foreigners looking for gifts for loved ones back home. Because of the size of the lantern, I found a new angle to hold the camera (vertical with my head on the bottom and the lantern scenery on top). This should be an added variety to the normal “myspace profile picture pose.”

I must have taken at least 300 pictures in 3 hours. The sun was setting behind the shrines, temples, and pagodas so it was a field day for lens flare. Just outside the temple was a large cauldron with lit incense. It is said that rubbing the smoke onto your wounded areas will help them heal, so you see many locals wafting smoke into their face and then washing themselves with this fluid (it actually looks really funny). The burning sensation in your eyes means that it’s working.

The inside of the temple was not anything particularly unique from what I had seen in Kyoto, but there were 100 yen fortunes on both sides. In order to pray for the success of my family and friends, I shook the box of sticks with numbers written on them. After a single stick fell out, you get the unique fortune corresponding to the number written on the stick. I got the “Best Fortune” and it basically said that everything bad will be good, everything would sick will be cured, and everything unhappy will become happy. I think it’s time to buy a lottery ticket.

After feeding my camera’s 2GB stomach, I had to fill my own. I found this little place that let me cook my okonomiyaki and just sat on those tatami mats for a while. The little part of the town could be walked in an hour, but I stayed for four because I didn’t know where else I could go that would not be repeated by the tour. Pity I was so disciplined. I could have followed those British fellows and hot girls from the hostel to that club. My Mom’s nagging about being sure not to miss the tour got me paranoid. Oh well – just another night of catching up with my internet usage. TED talks continue to amaze me =).

~See Lemons annoyed at his luggage

Beautiful Lens Flare

Beautiful Lens Flare

Osaka dai gaku Reflections – Farewell party

drinking with the guys

drinking with the guys

Random Observation/Comment #53: May all of the projects at Osaka lab work according to spec and do so in a timely manner. With the Japanese-speaking group, we grab lunch and talk about how weird American culture is – often considering my American input on the situation. In contrast, the English-speaking group takes prolonged ice cream breaks to vent frustrations about Japanese customs. It’s all quite healthy.

Wednesday was my second to last day, but instead of finishing documentation for code or troubleshooting the features added to the system, I wound up playing ping pong for two hours with Kadir. I had hung out with this Turkish fellow the night before; chatting about hobbies and career paths. His work ethic is through the roof and he has a very ambitious schedule of personal goals. It’s great to see other people with such passion for the field and interest in advancing its projects. We are the same age and the conversation jumped amongst quite a few subjects to pick each other’s brain for information. It was a symbiotic sharing of personal experiences. He taught me about biking and religion, while I taught him about whatever random stuff I know.

Anyway, ping pong was a lot of fun. The dried sweat stains (that we tried to hide during our farewell party) were an indication of the ping pong intensity. The edges of the wet areas from the sweat left a white salt residue when dried, which just looked straight-up unsanitary. Although this situation often occurs from my backpacking daytrips to Minoh or Kyoto, it’s usually in front of Japanese strangers that already give me funny looks by default. In front of these new friends, however, my embarrassment forced an idiotic smile.

The farewell party, like the welcome party, started at the same bar/restaurant with the same all-you-can-drink menu. Liters upon liters of beer were poured into the bottomless pit that is my stomach. After one bar kicked us out, we migrated to another. Drinking ensued with the same level of interest. Native Japanese speakers spoke in broken English and slurred Japanese, while English speakers spoke in slurred English and slang Japanese. It’s fun to randomly say “majide?” or “oo-so!” in response to anything they said. Beer advanced to sake, which advanced to shoju. Although I didn’t remember much from the night, it was still a memorable night.

Thank you all for reinforcing my positive opinions of Japan. Let’s grab some drinks when I come back to Osaka J. Good luck and all the best.

~See Lemons Grateful



That’s just straight-up crazy

Anastasiya is crazy

Anastasiya is crazy

Random Observation/Comment #52: Models never take normal pictures seriously. She just looks like a crazy girl in this picture.

I spent Monday morning finishing some documentation at the lab while Chris went to Osaka Castle. If I knew it would have rained so hard, I would have brought an umbrella to lunch. The intervals between lightning and thunder became shorter and the cracks of brightness made me cower in fear. Every crack and grumble felt like an empty threat because not a droplet of water had touched me (perhaps I should have taken it as a hint to walk faster). The sounds were indeed foreshadowing a dreadful storm. The slow drizzle started and evolved to entire buckets of water splashed over us.

While some ducked for cover under a flimsy tree in hopes that the hardest part of the rain would pass quickly, others did the smart thing and ran towards the post office. From there, we dodged for a few minutes and then borrowed umbrellas from the other lab. Those who hid under the tree soon found that their fickle shelter turned into a funnel – helping as an enemy rather than a ally. The walk back to our lab felt like the old gym game of lava except without props. Huge puddles had formed blocking most of our routes and waterfalls were created from concrete stairs. The conditions of my shoes and socks worsened with every step, but we trekked on with hopes of dry land. It was quite the adventure.

Back in the lab soaking wet, I wondered how Chris was doing in Osaka castle. I imagined that he would spend the extra money for a cheap umbrella to protect his camera and JR rail-pass. Unfortunately, my imagination was smarter than he. Because of the never-ending rain, I decided against going to Nara with Chris since the deer would probably be hiding in warm shelter at night times. Instead, I got a message from Yohann asking to go out to dinner with him and some of his model friends. Alcohol would be involved by default.

When I met Chris in HEP5, he looked sullen and panicked. He had already walked around the mall to find a new set of clothes for a reasonable price, but we were shopping at a fairly fancy area in the heart of Umeda. What he really needed was dry, inexpensive clothes that looked good. His taste was odd. The skinny body structure fit into tight jeans and oddly colored polos. He looked mad homo. I think you can tell by the pictures that this was the image he was going for. As a model from America, I would probably wear something similar (it’s okay, he can just pretend to be a hand, eye, or beard model).

Dinner was reasonably priced at an Italian restaurant with 20 or so 18-year-old models from around the world. I was one of four guys and we were surrounded by really pretty girls. We made a lot of small talk amongst ourselves, but we did find a few that were not stuck up, snooty, or air heads. Red wine was ordered and finished between me, Chris, and Yohann (of course this was before the two 500ml Asahi pregame beers).

After the wine, we just went back to his place to buy beer and chat about random stuff until the morning. Anastaysia (the model in green) was also there to make the conversations more interesting. She was very bright in languages and humor. It’s interesting how much you could tell about intelligence and thought tree depths just by the response time to certain jokes. Within fractions of a second, the joke is understood, enjoyed, reprocessed, and a proper question (based on an odd observation in this thought-tree) is responded. When you’re talking to someone (especially of the opposite gender), it’s very good to reiterate certain questions and clarify points to show interest in the topic. Anyway, this was the impression I got from her. The quirky behavior and playful spirit brought out more than a physical attraction. It would be impossible to describe this intuition of judgment (or maybe I was just really drunk).

Like many of the previous nights, the partying lasted until the first train. Chris and I exuded a level of exhaustion that became contagious in the train cars. I felt like a decrepit man stuck in a gorgeous, young strapping lad’s body (^^). Only two months out of college and I’m getting too old for this game. Let’s drink like fish during this last month ::smirk::.

~See Lemons Party it Up

A French and Russian model

A French and Russian model

Taking it easy for a day

mmm.. delicious

mmm.. delicious

Random Observation/Comment #51: Drinking for 10 hours gives a nasty hangover and ruins all planned events for the next day. I guess Osaka Castle and Nara can wait.

We got back to the dorm around 8AM and slept until 4PM. We were planning to go to Osaka Castle, Nara, or Kobe, but it had already been too late in the afternoon. Instead, we went to Umeda and ate for the first time since 6:30PM the day before. We decided to eat sushi, so we had a little bar food on the train. This great little shop in Ishibashi station sold some of the best yakutori I’ve eaten. There was a large selection of meats and we just bought one of each (all of which I took pictures of).

While we recovered from the hangover with the help of cartilage, chicken skin, gizzard, other organs, and assorted meats, we decided to spend an hour at an internet café to get more information about the next few days. There were a few important matters to take care of and we had some time to kill (although there were no pictures that I could post, or Counter-strike I could play, I had plenty of work to do catching up on emails and gadget news.

I didn’t really remember how I got to the sushi place I had the first time because it was raining and I just ran across many streets to find shelter in a normal shopping district area. Nothing looked familiar and I played it off as if I had the slightest clue where I was going. I had a general sense of which direction to walk towards, but what were the chances I would reach the same place? The backup plan was to just find a random sushi conveyor belt restaurant or shabu shabu place and just sit for a meal.

In the moment of my most pessimistic state, the crosswalk appeared to me as if I had conjured a spell from my scroll. The red flag and familiar seats slowly painted themselves before me, and we had stumbled back upon my first sushi conveyor belt experience. Although the chefs passed the same warm smiles and welcoming shouts, there were new pieces of unique sushi and an extra stomach to share a larger variety. Since each plate had two pieces of each sushi, we just had one each and aimed towards diversity.

The meal was extraordinary, but for some reason (probably the alcohol withdrawal) we did not have the desire to go out drinking or sight-seeing. We wound up going back to the apartment and playing some ping pong before it closed at 10PM. Chris was pretty good, but I don’t think he expected me to play as if I were in a competition. There was an ongoing challenge between me and Jiang. Unfortunately, he always won from his unpredictable serves and ridiculous paddle – I think if I had brought my own, he would have had needed to up the difficulty level.

The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, but we planned our upcoming adventures and finished the extra food I had in the apartment. I gave Chris a lot of my maps for Kyoto and Chris told me different places to visit in Tokyo.

He ate all my edamame. You bitch.

~See Lemons Eat Sushi for a Day

that guy in the back is blending quite nicely

that guy in the back is blending quite nicely

So the entries continue…

I have written a lot of stuff – probably an entry for each day I have been on the tour.  I’ll post them when I have time next week.  The Intrepid Lost Japan tour has been absolutely incredible.  My entries will be more than detailed of these little inside jokes and help readers experience a somewhat hidden beauty of Japan.  It would be a little difficult and complicated to plan the trains, and there is quite a lot of time for transportation, but I think it’s worth all the trouble.  Happy reading :).

~See Lemons bid farewell to his new friends