about Japan

My eyeballs need cocaine.

My eyeballs need cocaine

I have been fighting this horrible sinus infection for a few days where not only am I congested and suffering from rough-grit sandpaper throat, my eyeballs have been snotting green mucus.  It’s pretty terrible because if the mucus clouds aren’t sporadically rendering me blind, they are leaking out the corners of my eyes and making me wear hurtful crusty eyeliner as a result.  Gross.  And ouch.

Which reminds me of working with my Japanese friend at Toraya* (a fancy-schmance Japanese tea room) on the Upper East Side many, many years ago.  I don’t know how we started talking about cocaine but we did.
And his take on the drug:
JF: It can be really helpful.
Me: Really?
JF: Ya, eye doctors use it all the time in Japan.  It stops pain very fast.  It’s very good.  You don’t have that in America?
Me: I don’t know…I haven’t been to the eye doctor for really bad eye pain.  I haven’t heard of anyone getting cocaine eye drops; most people here use it to get high.
JF: nodding pensively…Ya, in Japan too.

So I’m sitting on my tatami floor, squinting at the screen through swollen eyelids and thinking those coke drops would be really useful about now.  Actually, any Japanese eye drops would do the trick; they are marketed like Jolt cola was back, back in the day.  Working your twelfth hour of overtime this week, and it’s Monday?  These drops of liquid menthol and speed will carry you through hour 32, no problem!

My current state of misery might trump my childhood memory of wanting to claw my eyeballs out from the very wrong burning sensation caused by said drops.  My uncle promised the drops would give my tired, red eyes soothing relief.  Said uncle also survived on three hours of sleep, woke up every morning at 5:00 without fail to start his exercise routine and worked seventy hours a week at one company for his entire work life.  Why would I trust this crazy person?  Well, I was nine.

The hypochondriac in me thinks I’m growing cataracts as my vision won’t clarify, no matter how many times I blink.
Yep, time to revisit that memory and see if this time I won’t welcome the fiery, mentholated sensation of crack drops.

*Sadly, post-9/11 Toraya had to shut its beautiful brownstone doors.

Standard
about Japan

Shit like this

This shit

happens to us all.

I’m always ギリギリ (gi-ri•gi-ri=just on time) to work.  Just yesterday, after descending many spiraling steps into my subway station, my sandals turn into fucking reverse flip-flops because the inner sole has peeled away from the bottom sole.

Awesome.

I noisily clap-clap around and see if my vintage Marc Jacobs will be able to make it many more steps and stairs to final destination and back.  My poor sandals are falling apart more and more so I call my boss because, yep, I’m definitely going to be late tonight.  He asks if I can work at all and I think he thinks my foot is broken (his Engrish, not so good) so I’m like, yeah, I can work.
WHY I didn’t take this opportunity to take the night off is beyond me.  Remember when I said I do dumb shit?

I backwards my steps and go to the conbini (Japanglish for 7-11 type place) to buy superglue because there’s at least one (if not three) outside every station.

Then I sit and try to heal my beloved sandals.  That they’re in a pathetic state makes my heart sniffle because they were a lovely birthday happy from my right-hand bitches.

So this is what I’m dealing with:
This shitExcept they’re even more peeled apart than the pic indicates.  I use the whole tube of superbondo but the leather is jerky-dry and it’s not sticking(!).  I stand up, put all my weight on my feet and wait.  After a few minutes it seems like the soles have bonded- hooray!- so
I start spiral stair descent #2.  

I get- I swear- to the exact same sandal doom spot when- clap-fuckingclapclap.
Are you kidding me?!  I used the whole tube for fuck’s sake.  No, not a situation where I used too much; too little if anything.

I call my boss again because my 15m delay= as if at this point.

He’s excited: “Oh Rumi-san, you speak good Japanese!”
Really it’s that I speak better Japanese than he does English.  I normally do the English with him because he likes to practice but I don’t want to be misunderstood so I go native. He suggests that I buy some cheap sandals at the conbini because conbinis sell everything.

Except shoes.
Or sandals.
Or even a pair of house slippers.

Dammit.

At this point it’s quicker to backtrack two stations (4min), buy some much-needed flats at the second-busiest station in the world and GET ON already.

30s away from the underground electronic turnstile is huge department-store-land and I escalate my ass up to accessories, 2nd floor.  I pass Coach, Hermès, Sergio Rossi without pause as this is no time for fun & decadent retail splurging.  This is 100% practical fast!fast! shopping, which panics my heart.  I’m suddenly overwhelmed by 100’s of pairs of studded, leopard, neon, wedged, pastel, strappy you get the idea.

Crap.  Ok, quick scan- I find a potential pair of muted robin’s egg blue flats with many symmetrically punched-out circles.  Except I don’t want to drop $150 on a preppy-meh pair so I keep looking.  Got it!  Perfectly sensible patent seafoam flats.  They don’t make my heart sing like a new crush but my gut knows they won’t let me down.
This shit 2

Total shopping time= 12min (4 to pick and 8 to check out*).
Total delay= 60min

If there’s some lesson to be had in your beloved shoes getting busted mid-commute in a walking city:
Sometimes you just have to throw money at the problem…so always keep a globally preferred CC or the equivalent of $100USD on your person.

*Of course the retail experience is full-service, meaning I don’t move from cushy mod ottoman while CC is run and old shoes are wrapped and bagged.

Standard
about Japan

I have a confession:

I have a confession

I keep my AC on. All. Day. Long.

I cringe.

So lots of heat, hot, humid, hot, muggy, steamy rain, so damn hot talk happens and I let it slip to my friend-type-person that I leave the fan on overnight.
FTP: Wait, you leave it on overnight?
Me: Um…yes.
FTP: You don’t use a timer?!
Me: No.  Oh, the impending judgement.

He is incredulous.  He fears for my electricity bill.  Yeah, me too, dude.  Me too.
He hasn’t even used his AC yet.  It’s 35+°/95+°.   I visit people’s homes and even with the AC on, in the coolest room of their house, sweat steadily trickles down impeccably made-up faces.  Because they conscientiously turn it on just enough so that glasses don’t fog, babies stay alive and old folks don’t stroke out.

I can’t keep up with the stoicism.
And I can’t confess my 24-hour AC usage.

Does it assuage my guilt that I at least turn it down when I leave for hours on end?
Uh, no- so stupid wasteful American.

Okay, so I might as well confess all of my wasteful habits:
I don’t turn off the faucet when I’m not actively using it, I don’t air-dry my clothes when the weather is that kind of sunny and slightly windy perfect for it; I use my walk-in dryer room instead, I have the TV on mute and play music at the same time, I left all the little knobs and controls to heat the toilet seat, control bidet water pressure etc. on waaay past frigid winter and on maximum, respectively (the kanji that I can’t read did play a part but I’m also that oblivious, therefore unconscientious), I’m pretty sure I use more water than necessary for small loads of laundry because my washing machine still confuses me and I can’t let go of my paper towel habit.

Crap, I have a lot of ecological growth and improvement ahead of me.
And this confession thing doesn’t make me feel better; in fact, it makes me feel slightly worse because I know these habits warrant tsk tsk.

Goddammit.

I’m working on it, y’all.
Three words: progress not perfection.

Standard
about Japan

You are a slutpuppy

You are a slutpuppy

if you show your condoms.
That’s what Japanese guys think.
(This is strictly hetero as people here aren’t too open about sexual gay politics on the real but I’m working on honesting that relevant and interesting part of Japanese life).

Yeah, they don’t think you’re responsible. They aren’t appreciative of your efforts to prevent STDs and pregnancy. They think that you’re a total slutpuppy, regardless of how darn cute you are or how much they want to do you. As my fiercely independent acquaintance succinctly summed it up, “They don’t like it.” And if they don’t have one? Then there’s (usually) no sexing. Apparently, the guys are okay with being 100% responsible for the condoms, which is simultaneously sweet and sexist to me.

On a side note, 1 in 4 women (or 3, depending on your stat source) have had abortions here because that’s way more socially acceptable than being on the pill (which was legalized in 1999). Wanting a birth control script isn’t as difficult as it was a decade ago but not all doctors will write one and all are low-dosage. Heck, prior to 1999, the pill was only available for menstrual disorders, not birth control, which meant they were extremely high hormone doses that were probably proven to feed and cause cancer.

Weird, right? At least to an American who’s used to abortion being such a reliable hot topic and waaay more stigmatizing than taking birth control.

If you’re the type that like facts and figures, check out details here.

Many Japanese guys also sum up having a girlfriend in a word: 面倒くさい (めんどくさいor men•doku•sai)
Literally it translates to: annoying, tiresome, troublesome, you get the idea.
Really what the guys mean is this: bitches be hi-may so no thanks.
And the ladies are none too impressed with their attitude as they think guys these days are emotionally weak and immature.

This plays a huge part as to why folks here aren’t getting married so much or not until way later in life and they sure as hell aren’t having kids.

Standard
about Japan, random love

I own this bitch, y’all

I own this bitch y'all

and she’s purtier and easier.

It’s makeover day, which means I have a new header and domain, which is: mybfturnedmelesbo.com (faster to type than with that wordpress thing in the middle).  

This domain is mine…hooray.  Y’all are really fucking sweet and encouraging so I thought, hell, might as well own this for real.  So let’s see what kind of trouble and embarrassment I can recollect and get into over the next 12 months.  I guarantee shenanigans that meet various degrees of disapproval, foreign discomfort, some more emotional paralysis (and growth) and some plain dumb shit because I have a knack of doing some really dumb shit.

For instance:
It’s hot here.  Really fucking hot.  It’s the equivalent of 95+°F, I haven’t stopped sweating for 13 days (and counting) and the oppressive heat is literally suffocating me (I crane my neck upwards on the sardine trains to catch air- not exaggerating) and killing old people.  Which is why weather-appropriate food is de rigueur here.

Cold-on-cold foods like cool soba or somen dipped in refreshingly chilled broth (freshly grated ginger is an especially nice addition) is typical summertime grub.  Noodles here are seriously delicious; the texture is amazing and Japan has probably destroyed my standards for the rest of the world.

So my friend and I are moaning about the heat, looking for a place to eat…
My friend: Oh, look at this.
Me: Oooh…pork shabu-shabu?!  I’ve never had that…
MF: Well, that decides it then.

I am so excited.  I’ve had beef shabu but not pork because America is scared of serving beautiful, paper-thin slices of raw pork cooked tableside in a vat of boiling water with herbaceous veggies and tofu.

We sit, order beers and my friend’s body temp has mysteriously risen for being inside.  Strange.  He immediately asks the server to turn down the AC; I can tell from the eyes that are cut that it’s not going to happen.  I feel bad because he’s dressed all Tokyo proper from fancy-pants work meetings.

And we are stupid.  Because shabu-shabu entails sitting nano-inches away from a steaming hot-pot where we boil meat for hours.  Wait, that sounded weird.  The meal takes hours (and the veggies are simmering the entire time) but the individual slices of pork-cook only lasts a few seconds because the gorgeous cuts are sliced so pretty-skinny.  Once it’s cooked to your preferred doneness, get you some delicate greens and dip in yum sauce/broth.  Basically, shabu is quality ingredients at their best…mmm.

My friend asks the server to turn down the AC again and annoyed dude is looking at us like, are you for real?  You’re eating cold weather food in the middle of a heat wave and we’re still in energy-conservation mode from the earthquake, fuckers.  He is so not turning the shit down.  I point out the words I see in server’s head and my friend is like, right…we’re the ijiots who have chosen to subject ourselves to a pork steambath.

Yes we are.

But these are my people: damn fools who, in their excitement to share a new experience with me, abandon foresight and suffer sweating balls for hours.

I love when I find my people as they are the best.  Like y’all.
Seriously, thank you for the love and support.
Cheers!

 

Standard
about Japan

I am so racist

I am so racist

about nail art.

As in, my homeland fucking rocks and aside from eating my weight in fried chicken (Alli-G, I swear I’ll have the KFC Tokyo report yesterday) I am adding another category to global reviews: nail art (inspiration: Holly Woods).

Y’all, I have a secret weapon.  I will call her M.  She is my friend, personal nailist and she ROCKS.
I would say don’t be J but honestly, you should be.

Here’s my amazing situation:
M recently switched salons and currently works in upscale Ebisu (think Harajuku’s grown-ass sister who looks so effortlessly beautimous that your instinct is to hate her except she’s so damn cool that you can’t, which hurts).  So you can already guess that Ebisu ladies are not to be bullshitted, which means your nail art technique better be perf-ect.  Which means M needs someone (me!) to be her practice person during her seemingly never-ending training at new salon.

So, yes, I am in the enviable position of receiving mandated gel manicures on the regular to help my friend be the best. nailist. ever.  Being her practice puppy means I don’t get to choose how my digits are decorated but no matter because M makes them look amazing.  Take the most difficult princess of manicures- the French.  Omg, bitch is so damn demanding because you cannot hide any imperfection (think nail tip length, perfectly smooth nailbeds, 100% symmetric everything) and there is no tinted basecoat here, just meticulously sculpted clear gel.

And the training whip is cracked harder than any dom I’ve seen in action.  Wow.  My last visit resulted in a solid bright coral (summertime punch!) and poor M got seriously reemed.
Nail Dom: Hmm…the base is a little thick.
M: I applied it in…なになに* technique #47…
ND: I suggest technique #39 because なになに more perfect なになに..
M: I see…yes, will try that next time.
ND: Her middle→pinky looks good.  Just work on the index and thumb.  And your filing. You’re shaping too close to the edge.
M: nodding, taking mental notes.

Poor M.  Nail Dom is so matter-of-fact that I wonder if my nails’ inherent imperfections are to blame for the harsh critique because M has passed all five levels of Hades-esque nail exams.  She’s got mad skills but this is just how standards are maintained in Tokyo.

Harsh, right?

Which is why Japan is kicking America’s ass.
Next up: Korea.

*なになに (na-ni-na-ni)=blah blah

Standard
about Japan

Tokyo train etiquette

Tokyo train etiquette

is fucked up.

It’s like this:

  1. NO talking on cellphones*
  2. Position your backpack to your front so you’re not unwittingly whacking people with it.  Place briefcases & cumbersome bags on the racks above the seats (if you can reach them)
  3. NO eating
  4. NO drinking
  5. No loud convos
  6. Guys should put their hands where we can see ’em°
  7. Don’t cross your legsª
  8. Give up your seat to: old people, pregnant women, hurt folks
  9.  WAIT in an orderly line, just wait until everyone has gotten off before getting on
  10. Tetris your position so you’re not rudely pushing past people when it’s your stop.  Even if it’s sofuckingcrowded you didn’t know it was possible for ten people to push into you at once, bruising your ribs in the process¹
  11. TURN OFF your damn cellphone
  12. God forbid you touch someone

So I’m running late but I’m on a train which makes me debate: do I suffer the wrath of my boss (for not calling and giving a heads-up) or the multiple death stares of the general public?  I choose the former.  Thrice.  I get that this is probably just plain dumb on my part but people on trains are scary, silent bullies.  I’d rather my boss think me deeply imperfect and unprofessional because open hostility just isn’t my bag I’m mental like that. 

° Otherwise you could be accused of feeling up some cute Japanese girl and she will embarrass the fuck out of you.  Also, silencing the shutter sound is not an option on ALL cellphones sold in Japan.  Because men like to take panty shots on trains.

ª Built-like-a-bouncer Tokyoite told me: “It makes me VERY angry.  I might trip over your feet.”  Yikes, just talking about it makes this dude pop forehead veins and see red.  When I say, “Oops.  I’ve totally done this,” it makes his eyes bulge something scary at me.  

¹ Good luck keeping your hands in the air, guys.  

♥ I horrified the crap out of a 40-50 year-old businessman when I accidentally slammed into him during a particularly jerky ride.  I apologized but his unflinching face told me I sure as hell wasn’t forgiven.

Tokyo paradox #78:
No eating or drinking on trains but retching and pissing happens on the regular.
I’ve stepped over it and sat in it.

P.S. If you’re a foreigner most infractions are forgiven.

Standard