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The Asian ApertureBack in Japan 2012: Day 5: Road Trip
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, April 15, 2012    Share

Woke up on Saturday and really wanted breakfast from Daily Yamazaki. How many times did I get breakfast there back in 1999-2000? Too many to remember now but the basic staples are engraved in my memory. I generally got some type of sweet bread, some kind of pudding, and a drink. Today I get sweet bread that has custard crème on one side and chocolate crème on the other. Also I pick up strawberry pudding and a flavored Georgia coffee in the can and CC Lemon.

I have no idea what to expect today because my friend is off. I do know that I am meeting him for a graduate ceremony. Jessica is about to graduate from a local kindergarten and move on to a different school. I get into my friend’s van and we drive to 7-11. Then we briefly step inside for a quick drink. It is raining outside and my friend gives me an umbrella. We leave 7-11 and walk down wet roads to a quaint school building with lots of funny characters in between slides and monkey bars. As I look at all the recreational equipment I remind myself that being a child is great and that being an adult is just a terrible thing.

I get inside and my friend and I wait in the back. He is wearing a red jacket that is out of place for this somber occasion and I am a strange foreigner, so we stay in the back. Cameras are set up in the back and to the side of the stage. I look around at all the bright colors and cartoon characters hanging on windows and walls and think that this must spark creativity and imagination that are both needed for anime and manga. This is where it begins. Years later, if someone has talent and the right connections it can lead to good things. Sadly, most animators do not make much money and live frugal existences, always hoping to become a big name in the industry.
Now I see a Buddhist priest walking to the center of the stage, turn around, and face the audience. He says a few words then he calls out names. When someone hears his or her name, that person walks rigidly down the center aisle and up to the priest. The priest hands out a diploma that the child takes in both hands and walks back to the right chair. After everyone goes through this process, the priest says a few words. I caught a couple that I could translate. “Work hard, study well,” and “Help to make Japan strong.”

Next, the entire graduating class stands up and lines up in rows across the stage. Someone, maybe a teacher or the principal, walks over to an old piano that had better sounding days back in the 80’s and plays a simple song. The kids all sing the school song in unison. Now it is finally over as the priest walks back and sits down off to the side. I did take many good pictures and a few people stared at me because of the flash and the fact that I position myself right at the front of the center aisle. My friend told me that if I got into trouble for doing this to say in English, “I don’t speak Japanese,” and everyone would leave me alone.

There was a party inside for the graduates and future movers and shakers of Japan. I stood outside and said goodbye to Jessica and Kaori. Then it was back to walking in the rain. I was cold and hungry so I wanted 7-11 oden or ramen. We got into the van and drove off to pick up Joshua and July.

Next, we made a brief stop to the house. I watched Joshua playing Biohazard, the Japanese name for the Resident Evil series on a 3D TV. My friend handed me glasses and I briefly saw a horror movie called Scary True Stories. I was skeptical about the 3D at first because 3D movies always give me such a headache but I tried it out. I saw a schoolgirl who was right in front of me. I could reach out and touch the space where she should be standing and expected to touch something that wasn’t there. The 3D was that good on this TV. Then blood splattered all around me and I flinched a little, half expecting to get sprayed. I would never leave home if I had a 3D TV this good.

A few minutes later, we were sitting inside a ramen restaurant eating ramen noodles. These are not the cheap ramen noodles that can be picked up at any US supermarket for a few cents. Ramen in Japan at a restaurant generally means homemade noodles, a rich savory broth that has been cooking since morning, and lots of vegetables, meats, eggs, and seaweed. It was so good.

After eating we all got back in the van and drove the kids back home. My friend told me to stay inside as he took the kids in. I went in anyway to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes, they always make me feel emotional and gloomy.

Finally we were off. We stopped to pick up his friend, Kato, and then we got on the highway to go to Tokyo. We were going to a friend’s bachelor party in Yokohama. I always wanted to visit Yokohama to see Chinatown.

We stopped at a gas station and the service was amazing. The attendant runs over to your window and all you have to do is hand over your gas card. Then, he fills your tank, checks the tires, and fluid levels and that’s it. You never open your door to do anything yourself. On top of that, everyone who helps, stands in a row and bows as you drive off. That is quality service.

We experienced a brief traffic jam in Tokyo around 3pm. That was a slow traffic jam, due to the sheer volume of cars and trucks.

Arriving at the hotel, we went off looking for the right station. At the station everything happened so fast. I remember running and trying to keep up. Running up and down stairs, various escalators and in between so many people all doing the same thing. Then we found the right department store and made a mad run to the top where the restaurants are. It was an upscale yakitori restaurant.
Before the guests arrived, my friend told me that I looked like his friend Takao and that I should introduce myself this way. He also added that if I got into trouble to say I am Takao, Takao desu.
So I met a few more people. Their friend who was marrying a high class girl who has never ate anything from a convenience store or Yoshinoya cheap gyudon or anything common. We were all curious about how they met because he is not high society.

Now was the time for serious drinking and to get crazy. Beers kept coming all night long. A plate of raw chicken came out and the table had two small grills that got really hot. So someone near each grill would take chicken and vegetables and grill. There were lots of funny stories told and we all had a good time. Someone played a joke on me by ordering fried chicken and fries from the American menu. The yakitori was too good to eat anything like that.

After eating it was time to go to a classy champagne bar. We arrived there for pretzels and champagne. I drank some more Korean white wine that looked like milk. It was strong. Everyone encouraged me to drink up. I ordered an Oolonghai, which is Chinese black tea mixed with alcohol. My friends wanted to embarrass the bachelor by telling funny stories. Mostly about playing sports together or hanging out. Then it was my turn. They wanted to know what I liked about Japan and I said going to lunch at the maid café. This caused everyone to laugh. Then my friend said tell them what you like about Japan.
So I just answered, Gundam, video games, Sonny Chiba movies, Sukeban Deka the fighting high school girl TV series and movies, The Ring series, anime, and manga. Again I got the otaku label but it was probably the Korean wine because I didn’t care.

After that it was time for another bar. This time we went to a girls bar. You go in and a girl comes out and drinks a beer with you. I wanted to show off so I sang Morning Musume’s Love Machine in Japanese on a mike that could be heard all over the bar. My friends sang backup. The female bartender was amazed that I could read and sing Japanese. Next I tried a rap song that was too fast so I had to quit. Then I sang Linda, Linda, a punk song, by the Blue Hearts and the whole place went crazy. My friend asked me what girl group was singing on the video on the TV and I shouted out Momoiro Clover Z. Again people were amazed that I even knew that. Momoiro Clover Z is a girl group that dresses up like Power Rangers and fight different monsters and rival henchmen.

Leaving that place, we were all stumbling around the local nightlife of Yokohama in a drunken daze.

We stopped for ramen. Then we made it back to the hotel. My friend Kato was drunk and he just started speaking English to me. I think that drinking caues Japanese people to relax enough to speak English.
We ended the night by going to the hotel’s onsen. An onsen is a hot spring. You take a quick shower and wash up before getting in. The water is treated with chemicals that are good for your skin. Then you sit in hot water, a lot like a Jacuzzi. I think the onsen water is hotter. This was an artificial onsen. You can also go to the natural onsen with really hot water.

After a long day of drinking and laughing it was time to go to bed. Our room had three beds lined up and I took the one near the window and went to sleep intermediately.

One more day left, find out what happened on Sunday.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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