Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Past 36 Hours

The past 36 hours have been about some of the most random but fun hours I have had while in Japan.

Yesterday, I woke up, happy to be rid of the headache I had acquired the night before and faced what looked to be an extremely sunny and nice day. I got out of bed, took a bath and then did some laundry. For the first time since coming to Japan, I am totally caught up on laundry duty. The cool part about living in the States people is the ability to find a dryer in even the most humble of living spaces. If you are really behind on laundry, you devote a half a day or so and get caught up. In Japan, the goal is to not get behind because the act of drying clothes takes a tad of forethought and time. If I get really behind on laundry, every surface or place to hang stuff in my apartment has damp clothes on them. It makes the apartment humid and kind of smelly and I lose precious space that can be used for other stuff. In general, drying a lot of clothes at once sucks.

Anywho, while doing laundry I also cleaned my apartment. This was also something that needed to get done because while I had my cold, I really wasn't into cleaning and for three or four days, I let garbage stack up. The cleaning being completed, I was pretty much caught up on any administrative duties that come with my apartment. I still need to do dishes but lets not talk about that. :)

After doing my tasks, I went to teach class and that was okay, nothing special to report other than the bike ride there was very nice.

I finished teaching a little before 5pm and came home to a clean place but had nothing to really do. I got bored. So I did what any reasonable adult in Japan would do, I went to the arcade to play some Tekken 5 and hopefully, show off my skills to some Japanese guys, thus representing for gamers from the United States. This did not happen. I played one game against a guy who beat me, although I put up a good fight. While not humiliated, I still did not beat the guy but I have an excuse for that, he was pretty good. In Japan, it goes without saying that video games are more advanced than anything the US has to offer. Take Tekken 5 for example, it is your standard fighting game but there is one twist. Players can get cards that chart their win/loss ratio, keep track of character statistics, and let the player change the appearance and name of the character after they reach a certain level. The really cool part is that when these players put their cards in, their customized fighter is uploaded to the arcade machine and stored in its memory. So when I play a single player game, after a while I start fighting player generated characters that play like that player does. The game learns and remembers peoples' fighting styles and aggressiveness. It makes the game a ton harder but a lot more fun. I have never seen this in the States before. Then again, each game cost $1.00 to play so they may generate more revenue in Japan and are able to afford these options on the Japanese games.

After the arcade, I looked around the adjoining bookstore and then took off. I figured I would ride b my favorite bar and if there were a few people in there I might stop by and try to be sociable for a bit. It has come to the point now where I go to bars in hopes of talking to people, the drinking is not that big of a deal to me anymore, I just want someone to talk to. I rode past the bar and there were a ton of people in there, mostly women, so I figured maybe this was my lucky day and went into the bar. The only seat in the house, as luck would have it was sandwiched between two guys and two ladies. Almost immediately, the guys start talking to me. One of them was named Soichi and I forgot the other dude's name but they were really cool. After a bit, the two guys start talking to the two ladies and it turns out they knew the same people or something. About half an hour into the conversation, I mentioned I had never sang karaoke while in Japan. Soichi and his buddy then made it their personal mission to make sure I got that chance, that night, at 1am.

They talked the two girls next to me into joining us and then gave me a ride with them to easily the biggest karaoke bar in Fukuchiyama. I think one of the reasons they wanted me to sing especially was because being a fluent English speaker, I could at least say the words to, if not sing their favorite American songs correctly. This thrilled them to no end. Before I go on, a word on karaoke in Japan.

Most karaoke bars are actually set up like apartment buildings or hotels. You go in and approach the front counter, letting them know you want a room. A host takes your group to your room and makes sure everything is satisfactory. In the room, there is a good sized television, a massive speaker system, two microphones, a air conditioning remote control, a karaoke remote, and volumes of catalogs from which to choose your songs. They take this stuff seriously. There is also a telephone on the wall so you can call for the staff to bring drinks and whatnot. Karaoke in Japan is cool because of a few reasons. First, it is very personal, you are not in a huge room with strangers like at karaoke night at a bar, it is just you and your friends and a room. Everyone cheers for each other and everyone is supportive, no matter how sucky your singing. Second, there are more song choices than you can shake a stick at. There were several thousand songs just in the English section, as for the Japanese selection, there was a book thicker than a bible and bigger in size. Also, when choosing songs, you do not what to sing a song performed by a female artist if you are a male. They seemed very touchy about that for some reason and with each song I picked, they made sure that I had no need for female vocals.

Anywho, I start with Loser by Beck and that was ok. Over the course of the night, I went through some Green Day, Rancid, Frank Sinatra, Blue Oyster Cult, one Beatles song, 50 Cent, Eminem, and ended with Nine Inch Nails. Reasons for my selections were this, they wanted to hear me do a couple of rap songs because no one they knew could speak English fast enough to keep up with them. One of the girls and Soichi's friend were big on Green Day and apparently, my rendition of "Basket Case" didn't suck so I did two more of their songs. What really got them excited was when I did "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. I usually sing The Chairman's stuff while in the shower so I know "My Way" by heart and if I do not say so myself, can sing it pretty well. These guys thought so too and toward the end of the song, I had a chorus of Japanese backup singers. Listening to Japanese people sing American songs has got to be one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed. It is truly comedic gold.

Anywho, the night ended at 3:30 this morning and I got back to my place around 4am. After sleeping for about six hours I was awakened twice by people at my door. First time was a Takumin guy delivering my train tickets and hotel coupons for my business trip to Kyoto on Tuesday. They are paying for me to ride the nice trains, YES!
The second time, it was the mailman delivering my GP2X. If you don't know what it is, I will explain in a post soon but just know, its my new toy.

After getting up and around, I went to a shrine to take some pics I have been meaning to take for a while and then went to the electronics store to buy a new memory card for my GP2X and some rechargeable batteries. I then went to Jusco to look around and while I was there I had a bacon, egg, and cheese pizza that was very tasty. When I go exploring I like to try something new to eat and was surprised by how good that pizza was.

Now I am back at home, I am going to play The Sims and watch a movie. Its been a good few dozen hours. :)


At 2:41 AM, Anonymous dustin said...

heh, I read about an earthquake in southern Japan and instantly went for the maps to find out where exactly Fukuchiyama is in Japan. Judging from the news story, you probably didn't feel anything, but it'd be nice to know how you're doing anyway.


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