Friday, January 29, 2010

At a fancy Italian restaurant the other night:
"What kind of wine is the house red?"
"It's Italian."

Thanks, brother. I am by no means even an amateur wine drinker (seriously, I know diddly squat), but even *I* could do better than that.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

trend of the second

A bulletin was sent out and it specified that girls will, from the new year, rock brown knee-high leather boots, and frilly flowered floaty Laura Ashley-ish skirts over black tights. (Not at the same time.)I would like to know where to sign up to get these memos. I'm not saying that I will adhere to the strict guidelines therein, but I think I'd like some advance notice.

I think these will be finished about tomorrow, especially the skirt thing. Reminds me of 7th grade. But then so do scrunchies. If only it were pegged pants and neon.
(Pictures from some website called Fashion in Japan.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Softbank was very unhelpful. (Rant alert.)

I'm mad at Softbank. They may be hip, with their dead-eyes Cameron Diaz ads and their Smappery, but their customer service sux big nutz.

I bought a prepaid phone when I first came to Japan. At the time, the service was operated by Vodafone. Prepaid phones are more expensive per minute than phones with plans, but no contract is necessary. I just needed a phone number and didn't use it that much so wasn't too bothered by the high usage fees.

(crap vodafone phone)

After awhile, I settled in and got a phone with a plan. I chose au because some of my family already used that carrier, and you get discounts when calling family. But I kept the prepaid around, because it's handy to have one when overseas visitors come to town.

(crap au phone)
I used it like that on and off for a couple more years. Then, a year or two ago, Softbank bought out Vodafone and took over service. Fine. Didn't seem to affect me much, I didn't pay attention.

After awhile, I started getting notices that Softbank was switching to an all 3G network. My phone being 2G, I was going to have to upgrade my phone. Yes, okay. I kept getting these postcards with notices saying that 2G service was going to completely stop at the end of March 2010. The postcards came with ad campaigns that promised discounts on the new model I was going to have to buy.

Today I finally went in to my local Softbank shop to do the obligatory phone upgrade. My plan was to get the cheapest English-able model that they had. I don't use it much, but my out of town visitors generally wouldn't be able to cope with a Japanese-only model. I brought the phone, the postcard, ID...

The first shop told me that they couldn't help me. They didn't, they said, have any of those phones.

What the hell??

I asked the clerk where I was supposed to go. He muttered something about Omotesando as he ushered me to the door.

I live in Machida. It's going to take me almost an hour to get to Omotesando from here. How fucking stupid.

As soon as I got out of there, I called the customer service line. There's a three digit number you can dial from the mobile, a sort of hotline to service. I pushed all the necessary menu buttons, then when it asked me to press "2" for English, I did so.

The phone went dead.

I tried again. Again, requesting English cuts the line. Nice. So I did the same thing, but instead in Japanese. I got through to recordings but no humans. I tried to call the 0800 number, but it wasn't allowed from a mobile. So I went to a payphone and dialed the free number again.

The guy on the other end told me to call another number.

I called the number. Repeat the above experience.

I called back, this time determined to keep someone on the line. I told the agent my problem, and asked him where I should go to replace the phone. (All the human transactions are taking place in Japanese. Although there seems to be some sort of English option available in theory, in practice they just spit in your face.) He gave me the numbers and locations of two more Softbank shops in the Machida area.

I hoofed over to the next nearest one. I went in and took a number, and someone asked me what I would need when I got to the counter. I told him, and showed him the postcard. He said, "oh no, we can't do that." I told him that the customer service rep had instructed me to go to this shop. He went in the back to check, then told me that there was one phone and I would have to pay about 9,000 yen. Fine. More than I really wanted to pay, but. I took my number and sat down. And waited. For 45 minutes.

Finally my number was called, the phone was presented. But the person I was dealing with went on to tell me that there were no SIM cards for prepaid phones in the shop, and so they couldn't actually give me the phone. He said that though there was a week left on the "campaign", they probably wouldn't be able to get anything in for me before the campaign and the offer expired. I explained that I didn't particularly care what model I got, just that I wanted to switch my phone because, well, I HAD to. He said that there were only the three models available, except none of them were actually available.

He then recommended that I try again next month, for there would probably be another campaign.

Fabulous. What a fucking waste of two hours. Way to insist that I get a new phone, not have any available, give me the runaround, and treat me like gutter trash along the way.

I learned a new word, though.

Musical chairs, washing machine... getting the runaround.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

night bright yokohama

Walking around Yokohama with this lovely lady a few nights ago, it was all lit up.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Amuse Museum in Asakusa is six slender stories of good stuff. I cottoned on to this place when Kim recommended, nay insisted, that I see the Boro exhibit.
I'm so glad I went. Boro loosely means rags, and this exhibit features old patchwork kimono, mats, and other clothing made from piecing together every little scrap of fabric the makers could find.The pieces were collected by ethnologist and archaeologist Chuzaburo Tanaka, who found most of these articles in Aomori prefecture in the '60s. They have since been designated a national treasure. And Akira Kurosawa recruited Tanaka to provide him with authentic Tohoku costumes for the fox wedding scene in the amazing film Dreams.
(Storyboards for the film in the Dreams room.)

A big theme running through this exhibition is もったいない, mottainai, or waste. The exhibitors really want to stress the rare and priceless nature of each scrap of cloth and each needle (which explains the needle memorial day that I've mentioned before), and show sashiko kimono (made with hemp and precious little cotton) and sakiori (裂き織り), which is rags and old clothing torn into tiny strips and woven. I've been just a little obsessed with sakiori ever since my Japanese teacher showed me a piece a year or two ago. I am enthralled by the idea of cutting barely usable, tattered cloth into tiny little pieces and making something sturdy and new from it. It appeals to me immensely. So I was really excited that there was not only a sakiori display, but a demonstration room.
Called the orihime (織り姫)room, after the weaving princess in the Tanabata folktale, some lovely women dressed in kimono were doing sakiori on a 200 year old loom. I was drooling. There were even pieces they had made on sale, and they welcomed you to have tea and a chat, or even to try out the loom.

There's a Boro book out, and if you like this kind of thing, I highly recommend this exhibit. The pieces are really artfully and whimsically displayed, in a more imaginative way than is usually found in museums. There are also a few floors of ukiyoe including reproductions of the Tokaido road checkpoint pieces. All told, it was an excellent use of 1,000 yen and a few hours of my afternoon. The exhibit runs daily until the end of February.

And, won't somebody please teach me how to quilt? I'll provide hot chocolate and muffins.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I really enjoyed my vacation. I got to see family, friends, meet new babies, and see movies for four dollars in old indie theaters. But mostly, I ate.
Corn muffins.
It's a Beautiful Pizza.
Mexican take-out.
Oh, with freshly fried tortilla chips and super spicy salsa.
Ethiopian food. (I found an Ethiopian restaurant in Tokyo! More on that later.)
Delicious, delicious Stumptown.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My mom taught me the best word today:

Means gobbledygook, talking nonsense, incomprehensible...
I have a feeling this is a word I'll need a lot.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

perfect on paper, or, Just Because You're Vegan It Doesn't Mean You're Not a Dipshit

I like to make lists. Sometimes they help remind me what needs to be done. I'm a scatterbrain and get distracted by the details. Lists can go wrong, though. Talking to my girl T the other day, she mentioned that she was looking at a vegetarian dating site. She found a guy who seemed to have all the right characteristics: vegan, a dancer, into antiques and fashion, etc.
Upon further investigation, however, she discovered that it was someone we know well: an ex of a good friend of ours. A total manipulative cheating douchey jerk.
That's the problem with checklisting life. If you're too strict about finding all the things or qualities you think you want, you're likely to miss out on something you didn't even know you needed.And end up with a scummy scumbag instead.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Last year, I read Tracy Kidder's amazing book Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Dr. Paul Farmer's work establishing the organization Partners in Health, building hospitals in rural communities in Haiti.
The book moved me to make a donation at the time. And that's where my donation will be going now, especially in light of the shenanigans the Red Cross has pulled over the years.
I recommend the book and the organization heartily.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A word I like today:


Of or pertaining to twilight.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Cooper has skillz.

This is a friend of mine. He has become pretty famous in the last year or so for his photographs. Some of them are very cool.He's a really sweet guy and I had a chance to visit with him a few days ago.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

can't sleep

A few things from the old year.

Friday, January 01, 2010


I am in AMERICA (cue spaghetti western music and flag waving), where random strangers strike up conversations all the time, and where eye contact and small talk don't necessarily mean flirting or insanity. I think.

At Fresh Pot: I'm at the condiment station sugaring up my small double latte.
My age-ish guy holding a cup of regular coffee: "That looks really good. Better than this."
Me: (thinking, what does he WANT?) "Um, yeah. It had a beautiful fern leaf, but I stirred it."
Him: "Really? Beautiful fern leaf, huh? Wow, that's cool."
Me: "Uh, yeah." (Give him a confused but friendly smile and back away to find a table.)

At a donut making party hosted by my friend, where I know exactly one person.
Standing by the garbage bin, I'm bent over scraping dough off my hands. A girl comes over and deposits something.
Me: "Wow, the embroidery on your sweater is so beautiful!"
Her: "Thanks! My friend did it..."
Me: "You know, standing here like this, I was at exact eye level with your boobs and it just jumped out at me."
Her: (Gives me a strained smile and walks away.)

In line on New Year's Eve to get into a discotheque on the East side. My friend and I are decked out in some over the top spangled baby blue dresses.
Woman behind us in line: "Wow, you guys are wearing ball gowns!"
Me: "Yeah, we're going to a powder blue party after this."
Woman: "You look great! People in Portland wear too much fleece and clogs."
(Conversation ensues about flannel, polar fleece, and fashion.)
A girl that I recognize from the donut party (not embroidered boobs) comes out of the club. I smile at her and give a little wave.
Donut Girl: "Hey, do you want to get in for free?"
Me: "Well, sure!"
DG: "I have a plus one, I'll tell the door guy. What's your name?"
Me: "Selena."
DG: "I'm Kate. I'll tell him."
Me: "Thanks!
Woman behind us: "Hmph! I wish *I* could get in FREE and be on the LIST without a NAME."
I feel her eyes boring into the back of my sequins. Just when I was getting better at the small talk thing. So much for our burgeoning friendship.

I just know that I am going to get really good at this again, the art of chatting up people on the corner, just in time to go back to Japan. I can imagine the scenario. I walk up to some dude at Doutor:
"Nice hair. Do you use Mod's wax?"
Him: (Scrabbles away from me in a panic, spilling his royal milk tea on his handbag. And has a story for years to come about the crazy lady who accosted him in the coffee shop back in 2010, and how he was lucky to escape unscathed.)