Sunday, 25 June 2006
9am: Hil, me, and the girl from Ringgu ride the metro. Surely there is something wrong going on here. The underground train was empty and when Ringgu girl got off, another girl came and instead of taking a seat, stood in front of me and started reading mangga. That was freak yo'.
10am. Hil was more than happy to be dumped in Shibuya to go shopping while I went to the Hachiko crossing to meet Aubrey, my old school nemesis/crush. She was the Beast to my Beauty. The Ike to my Tina......the Thorn to my Rose. Who would have thought that after a very bitter and bloody separation, we got over our hangups and decided that "Hey, let's meet up..." We met, hugged, and took a long walk. HRO Karl Willem however was hungry and picked some lethal fugu.
12pm. Ok WTF is this? Why am I eating this junk in Tokyo? Well, since Aubrey and I were reminiscing about our past life and violent shortlived relationship in Baguio, how appropriate that we stumbled upon Shakey's!! Suddenly we were back in the 80s! (Can anyone tell me if there is still a Shakey's in Baguio?)
2pm. Aubrey and I went to Harajuku (which deserves a separate diary entry because of the fabulous freak show out there) and took a walk in the park. We talked about life in general, how she has moved on, how I have moved on, and how most of the girls I've met since then were just after my money and good looks. (I'm vomiting as I write this.)
3pm: Shamed and Named for dumping The Nashman. Paparazzi shot of Aubrey. As you can see, after all these years, she is still fit. She quit her job in Sydney just to be with her boyfriend in Tokyo who is training for the 2008 Olympics in Judo. Now ain't that true love? They're also starting a web company of which I am now an overpriced consultant. I'm happy for her.
4pm. Aubrey and I went to Shinjuku. The old market was awesome. Lots of creepy crawlies from the sea and discount stores. I love this place. It's truly Asia.
5pm: Aubrey and I walked to the Ryokan in Asakusa and picked up Hil who was grinning from ear to ear from all the shopping she did.
6pm: We crossed the Azuma bridge and walked along the Sumida River to Aubrey's place in Morishita. That building is the Asahi Brewery HQ designed by Philippe Starck. I agree with the Japs, although it's supposed to look like beer froth, it's more golden turd to me.
8pm: The three of us had excellent Okonomiyake. The only Japanese food that Hil truly enjoyed. The chef was a very amiable man. We wanted to cook the okonomiyake ourselves but one look at Hil and the chef said something like "Yeah, right......I'm not going to let you mess this up. I'll do it in the proper way myself." After dinner, Aubrey's beau, Dave, joined us for coffee. Hil and I tried to explain to Aubrey and Dave why Australia is Chav-land but there was a big language barrier. They could not quite get it.
7am: I'm going to miss sleeping on the tatami mat but I'm not going to miss the boiling communal bath. I swear you could cook vegetables in it. Hil suggested we trash our room like true rock stars but hey, it's made of paper. It's just not fair.
9am: His Royal Orangeness Karl Willem boards the Narita express. We will be coming back next year for a longer stay - less business, more pleasure. At check-in, the counter girl took TWO minutes to sort our boarding cards and APOLOGISED PROFUSELY for taking TOO LONG to do it. Hil, being Brit, and me being Flipinoy, were just staring at her puzzled "Eh?". We're used to simple tasks like this taking three centuries to be completed. We tried to explain to the counter girl to put down the sword because she has not dishonored her family. Really, we were not that bothered that it took her 2 minutes........(blood splatter on my face as counter girl commits seppuku)
at 7:49 pm
Saturday, 24 June 2006
What could be in The Nashman's Shinkansen baon?
I just love customer service in this country. (Either that, or someone leaked to the public that I am a delusional minor royal/celebrity.) For the past 5 nights, I have entered the grand lobby of the Hotel Metropolitan garbed in tattered jeans, flip flops, Kikkoman dribble on my old t-shirt, and reeking of sake looking for an ethernet port. I was not booked in this hotel nor was I visiting the coffee shop. Yet on every ocassion, I got loads of bowing from the concierge and that crisp "Please feel at home smile" from reception. And I was NOT even trying to discreetly steal wifi reception by sitting in the lobby pretending to be a businessman. I had my loud YELLOW cat5 cable which I openly connected to the hotel's local area network. That was all I ever did in the lobby - sit there undisturbed till the wee hours of the morning and free internet. Bliss.
Now, can you do that in an overpriced pretentious bawal tsinelas at sando sa lobby hotel in hellhole Manila?
Today, we took the bullet train back to the ryokan in Asakusa, Tokyo. I got some local delicacies for my afternoon snack. One rather nice treat which elicited an "I'd rather die than eat that" hissy fit from my Teutonic traveling companion Hil was a generous serving of locusts (Or were they big crickets? I could never tell the two apart once cooked.) Insects contain more protein per gram than any other edible animal below us in the food chain. Which is good for someone as fat and pregnant as me. The locusts (or big crickets) were prepared in the same way as the sweet pusit common in my beloved Las Islas Filipinas. Except that when you bite into the sweet locusts, you emit a crunchy sound, sorta like the sound of stepping on a big Claire Danes - Manila cockroach. Yum.
Do you want fries with that? My yummy organic protein snack. Rather than drinking those pricey synthetic protein shit sold in so-called health and fitness stores, eat insects instead if you want to grow muscle.
I should have known never to take coffee served in a metal cannister. This brand was a MAJOR diuretic, I kept going to the loo to take Niagara Falls-like pees. I could probably solve the drought problem in most deserts by drinking this super black coffee. Noah would be shaking in his boots at the amount of piss I expelled during the 1 hour trip from Nagano to Tokyo.
Shibuya Shopping District near midnight. Heaven for some, hell for me.
HRO Karl Willem visits Tower Records Tokyo. You gotta give the Japs credit, their musical tastes are so diverse. I had a field day shuffling through the large collection of world music. HRO Karl Willem is listening to a great live album - Otis Rush and Friends Live at Montreaux 1986. I got an Audrey Hepburn postcard to give me sweet dreams each night.
at 7:46 pm
Friday, 23 June 2006
His Royal Orangeness Karl Willem welcomes you to his Dojo.
HRO Karl Willem and Chav the Bear attend morning prayers at Zenkoji.
HRO Karl Willem in Suzaka.
HRO Karl Willem being serenaded by the Nagano String Quartet. By special request, they played Moonriver, The Nashman and Audrey Hepburn's theme song.
HRO Karl Willem tries out the new 'Accumulator' carbon fibre skis. They are extremely light and made by the startup company of a famous Japanese scientist. There were also some extremely light tennis racquets. The Nashman was approached for a lucrative endorsement deal which he is currently studying.
HRO Karl Willem is a patron of the sciences.
at 3:11 pm
Thursday, 22 June 2006
The High Priest arrives. You gotta love those umbrellas. The salvation of the world is too much for a simple man like me to bear. So I prayed for those who I thought needed it most - Ashley and Jo for their 'alternative' lifestyles and deviant sexual orientation; Lourdes for taking class A drugs from Mang Bogart; Josh for alcoholism; Josh (again) and Jux for accelerating the demise of our earth by driving gas guzzling cars; Lor for her extravagance and also for accelerating the demise of our earth for jetsetting too much; and for newly married Clifford (give me my Louis Vuitton folio you bitch) for a happily ever after life. I also prayed for my selfish intentions - me want a pretty and intelligent future wife who can go dirrrrty when the need arises.
Zenkoji temple contains the first Buddhist image to arrive in Japan. I woke up early to attend sunrise prayers. Sitting in the lotus position in the worshipper's hall, I meditated as the monks chanted from the holy texts. Buddhist chanting accompanied by a traditional bass drum has a very hallucinogenic effect on me. And when the high priest did his solo act, boy was his coluratura very very excellent. As someone who was educated in a convent, I know too well how a high mass can go oh so wrong if the Gregorian chanting comes from a priest who is tone deaf. (Try out the mass in Don Bosco Church in Baguio circa 1980s. I think the priest was actually doing poetry instead of chanting). Anyyyyyways, in Zenkoji, the high priest delivered those inter-octave jumps in perfect tones that were truly soul-shaking. There were seven monks on each side of him and it was no surprise that the most 'rotund' among them got to bang the drums.
After prayers came the most bestest part ever ever. Below the inner sanctuary is an underground passageway. It is an arms length in width and 8 feet high and pitch black. The goal is to navigate it blindly seeking a wall mounted 'Key to Paradise' that ensures eternal salvation if you get to touch it. I am mildly claustrophobic but I could not let this opportunity pass given the number of sins I have committed. It is a powerful feeling, you know your eyes are wide open but you can't see a thing. So you stretch your arms out and let your hands lead you along the winding 50ft tunnel. And when you finally near the end, catching the very first ray of light, the feeling is totally out of this world and you are thankful to the gods because no earthquake was sent your way while you were negotiating the underground passageway. After all, this temple is right smack in the ring of fire.
This ain't Japanese high tea but it was good. You know you are in a proper salon de the when it's served on a Wedgwood. Even in England, it's rare to get served tea with blue porcelain, especially if you are paying only 1.50 quid.
Atang for The Nashman
Being 3 months preggers, I get tired easily. It was a long day, Hil's pitch went well, and when it was all over, another pig out dinner....on the carpet no less.
Celebrating at the Cadillac ranch. I ordered the most bizaare cocktails ever while Hils settled for a bottle of red wine which she alone drank.
I wonder why the Japanese insist on whaling. It's not like they need it to survive. The current selection of fresh fish is plentiful and delicious.
And now check this out- Those retro tubes are giving me an engineer's hard on. Glad to know oldschool sound systems still exist in the land of the high tech...
Says right there on the label - Welcome to the world of a sound which trembles your heart.
at 2:46 pm
Wednesday, 21 June 2006
The Last Samurai lives here. Also performs circumcisions on Fridays.
There was a lot of bowing and verbal apologies from the pretty waitress at the St. Cousair Winery when she realised that I was served with the wrong tea. Nevermind that I didn't even notice and was then guiltlessly enjoying my second cup. I had requested for rose tea and got served jasmine tea. She took my already empty tea pot and came back with a bonus serving of rose tea. I really do not know the protocol for accepting an apology or emphasizing that I was not the least bit bothered and so there was a long exchange of bows between me and the waitress. Hils was of course was jealous of all the attention I got. She said they made the error on purpose because pretty waitress fancied me. Hey, I couldn't help it that I was mistaken for a celebrity. We were after all in middle of pretty nowhere eastern Japan, population 109. And God, Nagano prefecture is indeed the Alps of Japan. Forest cover is 80% and I saw lots of ski slopes at elevation 400m. I would have wanted to swim in the hot springs with the snow monkeys but I was told that they didn't bathe in the hot springs during the summer. Oo nga naman. Sayang, those monkeys could have happily checked my head for lice. Later in the day, I was able to catch a good ol' fashioned tea ceremony at a traditional Japanese house.
There was a banquet that night with the big guns in attendance - Government leaders, bosses from the iconic Japanese companies (Mitsubishi, Nissan, ....baakero, do I really have to enumerate them???). And despite the bacchanalian feast and the freeflowing sake, at exactly midnight I went to the Daily Yamazaki to buy my dose of mochi before staggering to my hotel room. I knew I got drunk and I hope I said nothing embarassing to the guys from Sony or NASA. Worse, did I really challenge that CEO guy from Toyota to a Judo Match inside the governor's Lexus as Hils claims? There is one thing I know, the Nintendo guy was not happy that I kept using my chopsticks to test the screen of their new game console. Touchscreen ngarud, eh di kahit ano pwidi....Oh well, I can hear echoes of "You will never work in this city again...."
The High Priest of Zenkoji Temple blesses the early morning risers. I woke up too late today for morning prayers. (That's a lie of course, I woke up very early to watch the first half of the Sweden v. England match.) Oh well, I will come early tomorrow to pray for the world's salvation. When meeting the high priest for the first time, do NOT say what I said - "My kendo skills are better than your kendo". PS. That banner is of course the Swastika, a holy Eastern religious (Buddhist, Hindi, Jainist) symbol that was corrupted by Adolf for his white supremacist crap. Here, it symbolises the Buddha's heart.
On our way to Suzaka City, Nagano Prefecture, we ate traditional Japanese lunch at a service station. Hils refuses to eat sushi, sashimi, or jellied sweets. Which is good, because I get to eat from her plate.
If you have ever played with a katana or a normal Japanese knife, as The Nashman has, you will quickly realise why those useless 'slicers' on the TV shopping network do not sell in Japan. I have done fencing, had a go with European swords, but only a Katana fits my small frame. Now, where is that last white samurai with a big nose? I want a go at him.
Tough times fall on former child star as he is forced to pimp on the streets. I have forgotten, didn't Astroboy sacrifice himself in the last episode?
Moer Japanese engrish. I robs it very much.
The Jasmine tea from St. Cousair Winery shop. Aside from sake, soba noodles, and mochi, Nagano and the Shinshu province has a fledgling winery. I don't know the history of this vineyard because I can't read Japanese. The whites have a sweet fruity aroma and Hils tells me the wines she tasted were good. But it was too early to drink, hence a traditional western afternoon high tea.
I could not pass on a traditional Japanese high tea. If you complain so much about how long it takes for the barista to prepare that piss of an overpriced cup of coffee at evil starbucks, consider that it takes 10 minutes in the Japanese tea ceremony for the hostess to even sprinkle the green tea into the cup. At least there are elements of theatre, art and balletic grace in the way the hostess moves...
I totally pigged out today. The governor of Nagano, who used to be a fiction writer, is a very funny man. He explained his stance in this 'post materialistic' era of Japan and why he allocated more money for education and culture than superflous construction of megastructures. Speaking of megastructures, I could feel my unborn baby kicking in my preggers of a belly as I gobbled sashimi, sushi, tempura, lobster, wagyu beef, cheese, wasabi, sake, beer, and sweets. I didn't even socialise that much because, darn it, this feast does not come to often too a poor hungry student like me.
Please don't mention the war......or is that an apology? Whatever. We belong to the new generation now. The past may be very painful for Flipinoys like me, but it was painful for everyone. On both sides, parents, children, and lovers never saw their parents, children, and lovers again even after the smoke settled.
at 2:35 pm
Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Yeah, baby. Power my beauty. There are a gazillion vending machines all over Japan. You can clench your fist, look up to the sky like Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the wind" and scream "As God is my witness, I will never be thirsty again!"
I have now started speaking Japanese. It's quite easy really, just emphasize the last consonant, add 'u' where you see fit, replace the 'r' with an 'l', smile, and follow through with a quick succession of bows. And so today at a 'resuturan', I ordered 'reddddddu wainnnnn' for my blonde trophy 'wife' Hil while I gulped down a cold 'coca coora'. I is local, ayt. And this is my 'hood.
People are staring at us on the streets. Not in a perverted or agressive kind of way but with the baffled look that says "What is a hot, sexy, and handsome young man like him doing with a girl like that?" My Okinawan celebrity/Koreanovela looks definitely trumping Hil's Nordic beauty in this part of the planet.
Because of my Anglo-adjusted body clock I've been taking walks around the city during odd hours. Nagano looks like any another concrete city in the Philippines. Except for one important difference that truly grabs your attention. It is spotlessly clean. Not a single cigarette butt or candy wrapper on the streets. I saw street sweepers at 3am and wanted to ask "What exactly are you sweeping? It's already clean, you can serve sushi on the pavement!"
I have relapsed into my 'mochi' addiction. The guys at the 'Daily Yamazaki' 24-hour store near our hotel now know me as the 'mochi man'. Seriously, who does not love that gelatinous rice cake with the luscious red bean paste in the middle? Give me mochi or give me death.
Iced coffee has kept me and my sanity alive in Nagano.
I went shopping. I was going for that 70s rock star look. Japanese fashion is very androgynous. I went to that 'depato' store called Comme Ca and got my own personal 'fashion' assistant. It did not matter that I was only ever going to spend no more than 20 quid and was looking for that classic 'Japanese Engrish' label.
Three Minutes Happiness.......nine months later, you get a baby....
That is whack yo.
Mini-Godzilla. The evil Shaider/Biomen nemeses have sent this monster to destroy the city. This was at 6am. And I stayed to watch for 30 minutes. Damn, I am such a geek.
Time Space Warp, ngayon dinnnnnnnnn! Alien leader unleashes 50-foot monster to destroy the city. Can Shaider, stop him? Tune in after the commercial break.........
There really is Suntory Whisky!!!!.....now to find my Scarlett Johansson.
at 2:22 pm