Monday, March 31, 2008

Another one bites the dust

Alas, my neighborhood video store has gone under. I did my best to support you, Remember. I'll miss you, nerdy clerks. I guess there weren't enough porny men and messy-haired foreigners to keep it afloat.

Friday, March 28, 2008

lion café

Up on Love Hotel Hill there's a little café tucked away. It has a funny façade, and you wouldn't really know what lies within from looking at the outside.

What lies within is a queer little place, done up in a gothicky style, all red velvet and dark wood. The quarters are close, and the air's a little smoky. This is the Lion Classical Music Lounge.

Enter and find a seat. Downstairs has better acoustics, but upstairs it's fun to look over the balcony. All the seats face forward and are carved like church pews.

Every seat faces what amounts to an altar: a huge, floor to ceiling alcove holding enormous speakers, a record player, and a bust of what looks like Beethoven.

Order a coffee or a matcha latte from the waitress. Please whisper! Otherwise you'll get dirty looks. Most of the other patrons are alone, and there's no talking in loud voices. If you must speak, whispering is essential.

The waitress will make your drink and send it upstairs in a tiny dumbwaiter. Sit back, sip, and relax, awash in the musical stylings complete with scratchy record noises, at this shrine to classical music in the midst of sexed-up Dogenzaka.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A new view

Thanks to T&M, I've discovered a new place to look out on the city in which I live. It's the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Now, their observatory is on the 45th floor rather than the lofty 60-something of Roppongi Hills. But it's got a can't-beat-it price of free, as opposed to the rather spendy admission fee at RH, which admittedly includes a good museum. And the TMGB looks cooler than Roppongi Hills, too. Plus, there's no Gas Panic in the vicinity. Always a plus.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Heart of Rock

I found a few more places to like in Shibuya lately. One is Rokku no Cocoro: The Heart of Rock. A metal bar in Shibuya, in the Manhattan Records building, this is a metal bar for those who like it thrashy. Upstairs and good view of the Heart of Shibuya.

Also, the restaurant Paradise Macau in Udagawacho is pretty nummy: I've passed by this place many times but never stopped in. Outdoor seating, dark wood and nice design indoors, occasional live music, and a rockin' caramelized banana ice cream desert.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mala Memoria

Mala Memoria
by Julieta Venegas

¿Cómo puede ser posible
que te hayas olvidado?
si lo nuestro apenas fue ayer,
como puede ser posible
si tú siempre me decías
esto es como la primera vez.

How could it be possible
That you have forgotten?
If only it were yesterday
It would be possible
For you are always telling me
This is like the first time.

Tienes tan mala memoria,
tan mala, mala, tu memoria(x2)

You have such a bad memory
Such a bad bad memory

Hoy que estás tranquilo niño,
con tu vida y en tu nido,
dices que no sabes recordar,
no te hagas el tonto niño,
si tú siempre me decías,
esto es como la pimera vez.

Today you are fine babe,
With your life and your nest,
You say you can't remember,
You aren't stupid babe,
You always tell me,
This is like the first time.

Tienes tan mala memoria,
tan mala, mala, tu memoria(x2)

You have a really bad memory
So so bad, your memory

Que ya no me conoces
que no tienes historia,
que tu mala memoria
no sabe recordar...

Oh that I no longer knew
That I had no history
That I didn't know your bad memory

¿Cómo puede ser posible
que te hayas olvidado?...

How could it be possible
That you have forgotten?

tienes tan mala memoria,
¿como puede ser posible?
tan mala,mala tu memoria...
¿que te hayas olvidado?

You have such a bad memory
How could it be possible?
Your bad, bad memory
That you have forgotten?

tienes tan mala ......

You have such a bad...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nagi Shokudo

in Shibuya is so, so yummy. And vegan! And cheap! And yummy! It has a rad atmosphere and sells zines and indie books - the owner-chef is a hipster with a record label. We have many friends in common, like Kinya and Kao and Dwayne and other Portland folks. I added them to Happy Cow. Ooh, my new favorite.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm not your brain

so quit asking me what day of the week it is and what you did yesterday and shit like that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

hanazono shrine and yoyogi park

JR is in town with his band, so we met up in Shibuya for a day of bura-bura. Starting off on a sunny café patio, we decided to check out the flea market at Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku. Though it's closest to Shinjuku 3-chome station, we were in the mood to walk, so alit at Shinjuku station and meandered over to the shrine.

The flea market, alas, was less than impressive. There were about five ratty blankets spread out with a few dusty items - old dolls, prints, and kimono for sale. They were all ancient looking Japanese things instead of plastic crap, which was a bonus, but overall it was pretty weak. The shrine itself is pretty, and there's a mini fertility shrine on the premises, complete with a large carved wooden penis adorning the alcove.

We decided to walk back to Shibuya instead of taking the Yamanote line three stops. On our way, we went through Yoyogi Park. This park was hopping with activity on Sundays back in the day, and then there was a crackdown on public performers. Happily, they seem to be back: the place was chock-full of singer-songwriters, rockabilly dance troupes, bad mime acts, and wannabe hiphoppers. We walked the gauntlet of talent, occasionally drawn astray by the aromas coming from the food carts dotted around the park: yakisoba, crepes, octopus balls, other meats-on-sticks. The park was also lined with scruffy folks hawking more crap on blankets. It was the Hanazono market times ten. Let this be a lesson: skip the crappy publicized flea (furii) market and get thee instead to the free-form chaos that is Yoyogi Park on a Sunday.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

My Favorite Married Gay Man

I'm a regular at the local, indie video store. They don't have a very large selection, and I'm certain that they stay afloat because of the not inconsiderable porn section in the back. In fact, it's rare that I see a non-porn-buying customer in there. I'll enter the store and it will seem empty save for a lone, nerdy clerk. I browse the aisles, checking the new releases and scouring for something I haven't seen yet, the store to myself, but then suddenly a balding guy in a bad suit will bump into me as he emerges from the back.

I try not to look at any of these guys, because they often seem embarrassed at seeing me and I don't want to make it worse by making eye contact. I do, however, look at the shop staff. They're all guys and all about the same age: early- to mid-twenties. There's Nerd Guy with Great Taste in Music, and Jock Guy with Horrible Taste in Music, and Nerd Guy Who Is Probably Back There Reading Comix, etc.

I go in several times a week, as it's only about two blocks from my house. I usually get two flicks, one in English and one in Japanese with subtitles. I always request No Bag, since they put the videos in these useless little black bags that aren't even big enough to be reused as bathroom trash bin liners.

I've worked in quite a few service industry jobs, including several in food service. Coffeehouses, a bakery, cafés, a sandwich shop. And as fellow pastry-pushers and sandwich-slingers know, the workers have nicknames for the regulars. Sometimes they're simply related to their regular orders. For example, we had

Mr. Large-Coffee-Double-Cup-Guy
(hard-nosed blue-collar guy, who snapped at new employees and growled when we didn't get his order from memory, but who was clearly pleased when we remembered and started pouring before he reached the counter)
Mr. Bacon-on-Everything-Guy
(bacon on ham. bacon on cold cuts. bacon on tuna.)
Ms. Extra-Extra-Extra-Mayonnaise
(tell me when to stop, mmkay? squirt. squirt. squirt. squirt. squirt? squirt! two inches of mayo, one slice of turkey, NO vegetables, on white bread)

Sometimes it's more a part of the behavior, a sticking part in appearance or personality that informs the nickname. Like

Mr. Large-Coffee-with-Refills-Poops-A-Lot
(brought in his study materials, but looked like he'd come straight from the gym. would sit for hours and make multiple trips to the can)
My Favorite Gay Man
(the nicest customer, sweet and clean-cut guy with a stud in one ear, who became My Favorite Married Gay Man with a Bitchy Wife. she was so rude, and he looked at us like he knew it, and I was disappointed)
Mr. Lots-of-Foam-Cocoa-Hits-On-Alice
(a pretty nice guy, kinda geeky, who seemed to be smitten with my friend and kept offering her jobs as a personal assistant - except he was about ten years her senior, which is not a small age gap when the younger party is about seventeen)

Oh yeah! That reminds me! There was

Mr. Icky-Robert-Who-Gave-Me-His-Sweater
(the TOTALLY middle-aged man who would hover around with his bald spot on my break and watch me do crossword puzzles. i was 19, he was at least 45. one day he brought me an old sweater of his as a "gift". i hid every time he came in after that.)

Having named all these regulars thusly, and having names for my video store clerks, it makes me wonder: what do they call me? I don't want to puff myself up by assuming that they talk about me all the time, but I'm a really regular customer and a foreigner in a pretty non-foreigner area, as well as one of the only females I EVER see in the shop, so it must come up SOMETIMES. Bad-taste-in-movies-girl? Messy-haired-chick? Get-a-life-foreigner?

Guess I'll never know.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Kawasaki Daishi

Kawasaki is so close yet I so rarely go there. It was only a few stations away from my old stomping grounds at Tama Plaza, and now it's about half an hour by train, closer as the crow flies.

There's a big famous temple there, called Kawasaki Daishi. Had a day off so thought I'd check it out. Exiting Kawasaki Daishi station, you follow an old fashioned shopping street lined with noodle shops and trinket peddlers of the mostly Buddhist varieties: shops dedicated to daruma dolls, incense, altar supplies...

From a few blocks away, you can see the spire on the top of the five-tiered pagoda peeking up from the grounds. Rounding the corner, there's a gauntlet of temple-related shops before the entrance. The specialty here seems to be taffy, similar to the salt-water variety, made of rice and malt syrups, and flour. There are big taffy pulling machines on display, and the candy makers tap out an infectious beat on the cutting board with their knives. Two guys were making music this way at one stand and totally reeled me in, especially after sampling the taffy and some ginger candy.

Inside the temple grounds, there was a small festival. The paths were laced with food booths: yakisoba, takoyaki, crepes, and my favorite, cotton candy. I got an overpriced bag printed with the bottom-biting-bug.

The temple itself is quite large, and you can take off your shoes and enter and be dazzled by the shiny objects on the dais. Some monks chatted in the anteroom while I offered a few yen and said hello to my ancestors.

Outside, there are some beautiful golden statues that look almost like angels in their postures. I usually find gods and priests depicted in a more solid manner on temple grounds, so it was lovely to see some that were more ethereal...

Toward the back of the compound is a white building that looks curiously mosque-like - this is the prayer hall for safe driving.

There's also a tiny shrine building on the premises, where I was able to deposit a Shinto New Year wreath for holy burning. These kinds of objects can't simply be thrown out, but must be ritually disposed of, much like they do, I guess, in the Catholic church.

Kawasaki Daishi: locals only, but worth your while if'n you're in the neighborhood.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


A version of this story was posted over at hitotoki.

Hitotoki — A narrative map of the world