Jun 27, 2011

Izu overnight

A quick getaway, just one night. Beach time, a good dinner, up for sunrise, and a dip at a famous hot spring. The last time we were there, it was so crowded that the "thousand-person bath" felt like it was living up to its name. This time, almost noone was there. Much better.
Beach season doesn't really start until rainy season ends, so prices are good and crowds are thin for at least another week or two. By August, all bets are off.

Jun 22, 2011

Fire and ice, in a can

I don't love canned coffee anymore. I still think it looks cool and it's neat that it exists, but I can't say I love drinking it. So I usually don't. But it's hot out. An icy "not too sweet" iced au lait might be just the thing...

Jun 21, 2011

Ice, ice Oreo

What does ice flavor taste like? In Oreos, lemon.
There's sort of an asterisk at the bottom (one of these guys: ※) explaining that "a cool-feeling creme is used in this product." As if to quiet the people complaining, "Hey, these Ice Flavor Oreos don't taste like ice!"

Jun 20, 2011

The other Tokyo subway manners posters

There are two separately administered subway lines in Tokyo. (I'm on one right now, so I can't look up the details.) As the manners posters on Tokyo Metro get cuter and cuter, the ones on the Toei line are getting punchier. Look at this. Kapow!

Jun 8, 2011

How many yen per meter?

Another thing I've failed to get excited about is the Sky Tree. It's a big TV tower. The tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure, after the Burj Khalifa. And, if I'm reading Wikipedia right, it's also the tallest structure on an island? Couldn't they just stop at "tallest tower in the world"? Anyway, yesterday they announced the price to go to the observation decks: 2000 yen to go to the lower deck at 350 meters and 3000 yen to the upper deck at 450 meters. That's almost 40 bucks, with the yen as strong as it is. On Twitter yesterday, Nikkei Trendy set off a wave of price comparisons for tall buildings around Japan when they calculated a trip up Tokyo Tower at 5.68 yen/meter and Sky Tree at about 6.67. One reader pointed out that the Shin Umeda Sky Building in Osaka was a bargain at just 4 yen/meter, but my pal Durf won the day with some back-of-the-envelope math.

Jun 6, 2011

You've seen someone like this

A single bound!
When we came back to Tokyo in the beginning of April, the first foreboding change I noticed was a big fat cat lounging around in the subway station. On the wall. The clever yellow “Do it at home” and “Do it again” posters had apparently been replaced by the lowest form of art: a cute cat photo. At the risk of alienating you: I hate cute cat photos. Was every month going to be a different cat? The new slogan is “We’ve seen people like this,” or, “You’ve seen this type of person.” The message of the fluffy fat cat was that you shouldn't take up too many seats on the train. Would they have soft-focus cats illustrating all the bad subway behavior? Shoving adorably to get on first, endearingly grooming themselves on board, slurping ramen with their widdle paws? The horror. The obvious answer to this concern was, of course, “Hang in there!” Luckily, May brought a sort of funny flying dog, (why are dogs okay and cats annoying? I don’t know. They just are.) and now June’s poster is totally appropriate and more cringey than cute: this wet dog shaking himself off, warning people about not splattering each other with their umbrellas. A timely message, since rainy season officially started here on May 27, a little earlier than usual.
The new manners posters are collected on the Tokyo Metro site.

Here’s a bonus page of umbrella-handling etiquette for those who read Japanese. I never thought about how to open and close and umbrella before - handy. People follow many of these already. Most folks almost always wrap their umbrellas neatly before getting on the train, and most adults are more likely to tap the points on the ground to shake off water than to pinwheeel them around. The worst offense I spot is people holding their umbrellas pointed almost horizontally out behind them, like swords they’re about to draw with a flourish. Not to give anyone any ideas.

Jun 3, 2011

Tokyo magic

Joker in a bottle

I wanted to do something fun for Jim’s birthday, but nothing too crazy for a Thursday night; a hangover on a busy, early work day isn’t much of a gift.

A few times he’d snapped cellphone pictures of lit signs outside of “magic bars,” saying “we’ve got to come back and check one of these places out sometime.” Magic bars are a thing in Tokyo. Sometime had come!
The bunch of people who agreed to come out may have had their doubts, but they all showed up at the fifth-floor bar in red-light district Kabukicho. The other establishments in the building looked like they’d make your money disappear with different kinds of tricks.

The cab dropped us off near the place, halfway between the only two places we ever go in the area: a loud, loud rock bar that we’ve never left any earlier than 3 am and a cheap karaoke bar that attracts all of the neighborhood's angriest gaijin. Jim said later he was sure we were going to one of these two and was secretly disappointed that this was the birthday surprise. But no! Up the steps of the shady building and through the door with the manga magician! The bar is called Calvados, but it says “Cuore the Magnificent” on the door. Hey everybody!

We sat at the center of a long, curved bar, and a young magician named Kokoro did close-up magic, like fork bending and card tricks. As promised, he made a birthday cake appear in a flash of fire. He took a group polaroid of us that turned out to be the end of another trick. Most confounding of all, he put a happy birthday card inside that bottle of green tea.
Another magician set up soon after with rope tricks, disappearing coins and mutilated 1000-yen bills. He taught us all how to do a disappearing tissue trick.

There was a short stage show with audience participation. It was all pretty good. Kokoro emptied a paper cup full of water that I was holding over my head. He “hypnotized” a friend into not being able to pick up a light wooden box. (Dan got him back, though, by accidentally swinging the box up to reveal the trick bottom.) The best trick was when he made a real bowling ball and pin fall out of a floppy paper notebook. Actually, the best trick was getting a guy who was in the middle of a long week and who’d had his vacation revoked, again, to grin like a kid on his 40th birthday. Shazam!
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