Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kronenberg / Alcatraz ER

What? HO, another post in February!? See how dutiful I’ve been in keeping up with this blog and aren’t you proud? I’ve been pouring over some of my older entries and it seems like my most commonly used words/themes, other than ‘Japan,’ are variations of ‘unintelligent’ or ‘abnormal,’ themes which make waxing any esteemed readership fairly impossible. So I might as well take this moment to further degrade the integrity of the content on this blog and have you know that if you Google “fish in man bum,” you’ll find my blog among the results. And if that wasn’t true a moment ago, it certainly is now.

On the long weekend Takasaki got its first heavy snowfall this winter. I was itching to go somewhere, so we drove off into the mountains in search of Kronenberg, a German village right in the middle of Gunma. I was intrigued by the idea of a lost German town situated in the middle of a landlocked prefecture in nowhere Japan, of all places. Apparently, Kronenberg was the result of a series of regrettable decisions made by local governments, blithely unconcerned with whether or not their financial investments proved productive. This was back in the late 80’s, when Japan enjoyed an opulent economic bubble.* Now, the village stands as a kind of theme park, hopelessly advertised to promote tourism in rural areas.

More ignoring the rules at face-in-holes.

I didn’t know what to expect, but there was no reason to suspect that it wouldn’t be anything other than AUTHENTICALLY GERMAN IN EVERY WAY. (There ended up being a nutcracker there, and I’m pretty sure they have those kicking around in Berlin everywhere.) Enhancing my German experience was easy: a reputable looking website with slutty cartoon ads told me that my German name is Heike Inge. Other famous Inges include Inge I of Norway, who was also called Inge the Hunchback, who was great grandfather to Inge the Elger: former king of Sweden, who was buried in Vreta Abbey, which is in Östergötland, and that’s a very silly name for a town indeed. What we may gain from this knowledge is that I am neither German nor hunchback, and I’ve forgotten where I was going with this, so here’s a picture of me kissing a llama:

When we got there it was snowy and deserted, so we mostly had the place to ourselves. Cheerful German music echoed eerily as we frolicked through the abandoned park. After that we bought sausages and beer and called it a day…. in Germany.

Watch Germans ride dinosaurs in 3D Realistic Dinosaur World, just like real life!

The next day Adam and I went to a theme restaurant in Tokyo called Alcatraz ER. By definition, theme restaurants should have a cohesive theme that they use as a scheme to overcharge customers. Alcatraz ER couldn’t really decide on what theme it wanted to be, though I feel I wouldn’t be remiss in describing it as “Haunted Hospital Meets Jail Horror Kitsch.” It’s decorated in such a way that you might suppose you’re an extra on the set of some sort of gruesome splatter B movie, directed by a hot lesbian, shot through a grubby Tupperware lens.

Before you can go in, you’re met with an unnecessarily complicated blood typing device that consists of 4 large red buttons. Supposedly pressing the one that matches your blood type will allow you to enter the premises, though nothing was labeled and I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which I’d have to prove anything, so I chose arbitrarily and the door opened.

We were then greeted by a sexy nurse, who stamped a number on our hands and put us in handcuffs. She lead us to our jail cell, where we were instructed to please take off our shoes and clang on the metal bars with a stick should we need anything. Enclosed in the little cell, Adam and I were left to ponder over offensively named menu items such as ‘Brain Dissection Salad,’ ‘Miss Russian Feel Good Medi-potion.,’ ‘Blood Clot pizza,’ and the deeply confusing ‘Western Cheese-Rash Russian Roulette.’

At one point, all the cells were opened and patrons were encouraged to do some boot-camp style exercises. If I may get off topic here, every Japanese person knows how to do this. It’s called radio calisthenics (ラジオ体操) and it’s a 15 minute national broadcast that unites millions of people (mainly children) all across Japan for eerily militarized full-body stretching. Usually kids will wake up at the crack of dawn during summer holidays and collect somewhere in their town to listen to a crackly 1930’s recording tell them what to do. They will obediently and uniformly submit to their exercises for a paltry stamp on their attendance card and possibly a free snack. I opted not to participate and took bad photos instead.

At one point, on my way back from the bathroom, everything got all dark and strobe lightey, and I was grabbed from behind and accosted by a man in a Voorhees mask. I screamed and slapped at the air around his face pathetically and then clambered back into our cell. Later, one of the kitchen staff brought us free drinks. One can only assume it was because the staff felt bad that they scared me so easily badly. Overall, kind of fun:
Service: 10
Food: 6
Atmosphere: 7-9, depending on how much you enjoy things ironically

The weekend ended splendidly with karaoke until 5 am, Japanese Language Proficiency Test N3 GET, and celebratory ramen/napping.

\( ̑  o ̑ )/

*Apparently, in another spectacular display of excess cash flow, Gunma became home to a genuine 19th century Scottish castle, which was transported, stone by stone, from Scotland around the same time. This may also be worth a visit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Holidays/New Year!

This is New Years themed. I’m working on sending this post back in time so that you may read it as it was meant to be read… in early January. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I had a lovely winter holiday this year. I spent it with people I am enormously fond of, both in Japan and in Canada. I was SO SO jet lagged when I went back. That or I’m pretty sure all of Canada is in some manner of swirly time vacuum that nobody notices until they leave and come back again. I went on a gastronomic bender and attempted to eat everything on my food list in ten days, and I almost succeeded, though I started having to make some weird dietary concessions I’m not proud of. So if you didn’t already know, let me be the first to tell you that it’s inadvisable to eat a steak for dessert. That, and mashed potatoes don’t belong on salad.

Other highlights of my trip included a sit down dinner with my family, whereupon my sister gave the single most useful advice for anyone dealing with creditors I’ve ever heard, which I will be implementing forthwith, namely ,”I don’t even open the envelopes, I just send them a bunch of money every once in a while and then I don’t get bills for a few months.” Also I may have accidentally nicknamed my best friend’s dog Labiaface. Look at the picture before you judge me.

I decided that I won’t make any New Years resolutions this year because looking back, I haven’t kept a single one. Using self-guilt as a motivating force to better yourself only works if you hold yourself accountable for shit, and I simply can’t be bothered to endeavor toward whatever dubious honor there is in keeping a resolution that I’ll cheat on anyway. Take my last New Year’s resolution for example. I faked a small win on bag clutter by cleaning my purse out regularly, but all I’ve really accomplished is a steady transfer of rubbish to my car via my bag, and now my car is a slatternly hoboshack on wheels. I think there’s a nest somewhere in my backseat. When you’re bitterly aware that not only are you incapable of achieving your better tomorrow (if Scientologists can do it, why can’t you?), each broken promise regresses you into a swampy trench of moral decay and all of a sudden you suspect you’re a duck rapist or something equally as sinister. Trust me, it’s better this way.

On a happier note, this year’s Christmas wasn’t quite the wimpy Charley Brown affair it was last year. We went up to Mt.Haruna’s illumination on Christmas Eve, looked at the pretty Christmas lights and ate Kinoko Udon. Both of us were frozen, but Adam insisted on staying a while longer to make a snow daruma since he’s “been carrying around the soul of a snowman in [his] coat pocket for 2 years in the form of cardboard eyes and mouths” (I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions) so I pulled over to the side of the road on the way home so he could make a snowman out of the crusty road-side snow, only to have it collapse 2 seconds after he made it. He said it “had a short life, but at least it lived.” Then we drove down to KFC and waited a half hour for our chicken. The lineup was 70 people long and resembled a manic Wii lineup. Only instead of a Wii you get greasy chicken. I don’t know if that’s an anticlimax; I suppose it depends on who you are and how much you like chicken. Anyway we got back home and ate it while watching A Muppet Christmas Carol because the original’s too scary and I refuse to watch it.

Our Scotsman (by the by, we adopted a Scotsman, and yes you may borrow him but treat him kindly and brush him twice a day) got us tickets to an onsen in the north of Gunma for Christmas. This bento was supposed to make the trip with us, but I procrastinated starting it until midnight and I was up until 5 making it, so I slept through the morning and we didn’t end up going after all. And so it got eaten in the living room while we watched Korean soap operas all day:

It’s New Years themed, see? See the bunnies? Those are New Years bunnies. For New Years.


Check out what might be the most genius idea I’ve ever had: combining Word of the Day and The Band Name Generator to create awesome band names. Be the envy of all your friends. Directions: simply take the word of the day and slap it in to the Band Name Generator and pick and best one and you JUST CAN’T LOSE:

End Mansuetude And The Multiple Eleven

Sockdolager Ectoplasm And The Incredible Catalyst

Nostrum Democracy

Nth Anyday

Jungun Face

*You can’t use these ones because one day I’ll front my own nerd-core hip hop group and give Optimus Rhyme a run for his money YOU’LL SEEEE.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I think I can safely say that we’ve all been in a situation where there’s nothing left for you to do at work and all of a sudden you’re looking around for things to keep you occupied. You can’t just sit around picking at your bellybutton because it isn’t professional, and you think “I should really update my blog” until you’re filled with an overwhelming sense of dread, and for procrastination’s sake you root around in your purse in search of candy you HOPE you forgot you left in there, but there isn’t any candy, and there’s nothing left except to quit munting around and write some internet baloney.

I have no excuse for neglecting this blog. I’d like to say that I’ve been too busy doing awesome things like riding ostriches or winning at poker, but the truth is I spent most of my time indoors forming an unhealthy emotional attachment to my couch and wondering what Jeff Goldblum is up to these days. And so I intend to mislead you with this cleverly assembled photo montage of my doings since September, adding inventive elements here and there so you will be reassured that I am less of a social cocknuckle than my blog implies. Quite frankly, reconciling my dorky secret internet life with my real life is not something I feel is in my best interest, as I am unequipped with the mental capacities to judge what is appropriate in a given situation and would likely discuss Hampster Dance while making your wedding toast.

Anyway, get your scrolly finger at the ready…. GO.


Lovely fall romp in Nikko. More pictures can be found here.



My award-winning Halloween costume which landed me some approving thumbs-ups/back-pats. I know what you’re thinking. How can a costume be this sexy AND win the award for Best Makeshift Gunt? The world may never know.

Beer fest

Annual event in Yokohama where a huge selection of exotic brews were on sample.
Number of independent brewers attending: 300
Number of types of beers Chelsey ingested over a three hour period: 13
Number of disapproving looks amassed: Unknown.

Orange Cheese Drink

I feel creepily manipulated into ingesting whatever mingy seasonal delicacy my local convenience store has on offer.

Fujido Caves

Largest caves in the Kanto region. Took roughly an hour to walk though.

In other news, the following is what happens when Adam gets a new videogame and I am left to my own devices. With little else to occupy my twee brain, decorating his head seemed diversive enough.

I think it looks like he just climbed out of Roger Rabbit's laundry hamper. I can't be held accountable for this, as it's clear that I should not be the one making desicions about what constitues an appropriate use of my time.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! YEY

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Bunking off to Cambodia and Laos this summer was the best idea that I’ve ever come up with. We stayed in Siem Reap for 4 days, and I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation. The main draw of Siem Reap is, of course, Angkor Wat. It’s the biggest, grandest, best preserved temple of them all and it certainly commands some respect. It used to be a state temple built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Now it’s a collection of ruins slowly being swallowed bit by bit into the jungle. The funny thing is that it probably looks a lot better ruined than it did when it was new. It is an intricately carved stone relic entangled with massive trees whose roots bind and strengthen the entire structure, and the effect is rather beguiling.

The ancientness of the temples is hard to wrap your head around. It feels like you’re on some sort of elaborate movie set and nothing is real. It was hard to take it all in. Oddly enough, the best thing I can compare it to is the Vatican museum, where everything is so intricate and detailed and expansive that your eyes are over-saturated with awesomeness and you don’t know quite where to look, so you just stand there with your mouth open while street-kids root around unnoticed for valuables in your fanny-pack.

Each temple had its own draw, but I’ll spare you my take on each of them and instead offer you a couple pictures of each.

The above shot was taken while walking around on a ledge along the outer wall of the Angkor building. One of the best things about these temples is that they are 100% permissive to wandering. You can climb all over everything and poke around in tiny passageways and no one really cares. A stark contrast to other, decidedly less easy-going relic sites; try Googling “I got yelled at at the Parthenon” and see what comes up. (Consequently, “why are Greeks so angry” is a popular Google search as well.)

The downside was that for every temple you visited, there was a garrison of souvenir merchants and their children all waiting to harangue you into buying something. It was like Adam and I were walking piñatas full of money and if they shouted at us long enough we would explode and they could gather up all our precious money-guts. “Hey Lady, you want buy something? Look, you buy? Best price for you!” Sometimes the handicraft women would shove something into your hands and then refuse to take it back, hoping you’d feel obliged to pay for it. Lucky for me, having relented possession of all our collective monies to The Boyfriend, I escaped scot free by callously pointing at his pockets and deflecting their attentions onto him, while triumphantly scuttling away. I believe it was afterward that I paused to consider my lowly moral state.

Anyway, as for non-temple related activity, we chartered a boat to the floating village of Kompong Luong, which is a whole community of people who have built their homes and businesses on a massive lake. They have everything they could want: floating restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, hospitals, karaoke bars, you name it. At one point we saw a man in a motorboat casually towing his entire house behind him.

We went to the floating school and donated some floating food to the floating children:

We also went for some exotic Cambodian BBQ where we tried some snake, crocodile, and ostrich. They tasted like pork, chicken, and beef respectively. Afterwards we retired to our hotel and watched HBO, as we are deprived of American television as of late and were suffering from a raging case of meat sweats.

And then it was off to Laos…

I’ve set up a Flickr account so click here if you’re interested in more photo-ey goodness of the trip.


People were generally quite interested when I mentioned that we were going to Cambodia. “Angkor Wat,” they would say, and nod at each other and murmur generally agreeable things about vacationing there. Laos was met with only feigned interest. “Laos, huh? So… what’s in Laos? Frankly, I didn’t even really know the answer myself, but Laos turned out to be quite a boon.
It has a very different vibe than Cambodia, a lot more laid back. We stayed in Luang Prabang, a leftover French colonial town, and a World Heritage site. It’s absolutely picturesque and mixes French architecture and influence with East Asian culture seamlessly. It’s also lot cleaner than Siem Reap in general. And it has a particularly nice sky.

One of the best things about Luang Prabang is that there’s no shortage of Buddhist monks in saffron robes walking around the town, tending to their busy monk agendas and shaving each others’ heads or whatever it is Buddhist monks are into nowadays. Apparently most young Lao men voluntarily choose to join a monastery where they spend a few years as a monk, after which time they can choose to leave or continue living the ascetic life. They walk around the town stoically, but behind closed doors you see them drinking milkshakes and chasing each other around trees and dancing the Charleston, and other such frivolity.

One thing we did really want to see was Tat Kuang Si falls, which were supposed to be these gorgeous turquoise layered waterfalls about an hour north of Luang Prabang. They are so gentle that you can swim around in each pool, all the way down the falls. Adam and I wanted to have them to ourselves, so we opted to wake up before dawn to catch our tuk-tuk for the hour long, bumpy ride out. Because August had so much rain, Tat Kuang Si falls had churned itself into a muddy brown froth, so there was no chance at frolicking in turquoise crystal pools. Disappointed, (doubly-so because I had to put on the patently unfashionable Tony-the Tiger swimsuit I found in a Japanese department store*) I dragged by stripy Kellogg’s butt back to town. The falls were still nice to look at, even if they were brown:

Anyway, Tat Kuang Si aside, we had an excellent time. We enjoyed the scenery, poked around the town, got some massages, and ate some delicious food. Lao cuisine is an incredible amalgamation of Thai, French, Indian and Chinese... Like eating a hollowed out a baguette filled with beef vinadloo and dipped in coconut curry and oyster sauce. Definitely going back someday.

*the other option being something like this

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bento / Coming to a Theatre Near You

Frankly, this doesn’t really qualify as a post because I can’t be bothered to write anything interesting since it’s too bloody hot and I’m extremely lazy. Be warned that it’s entirely likely there may be more posts like this one in the future due to the adverse neurological effects the summer heat is having on my brain. It seems my logical, rational thought centres are being fried, and blogging without those always turns into megalomanic fits and nonsensical babble A LOT GIVE VERY JANKY COOKIES SINCE BECAUSE ENJOY OF IT, YOU TANGO YANKEE.

If this continues, the bright side is that I’ve worked out how to play it to my advantage, as displayed by this scientifically infallible sequence I just made up: 37°C weather → really fucking hot → heat stroke → irreversible neurological damage → behavioural abnormalities conveniently blamed on said neurological damage → convince overly sympathetic boyfriend that if I behave I get cake → free cake


Anyway, here are some more pictures of another bento I made:

I’m especially proud of the wiener sushi.

So in a recent movie-themed lesson I taught, I gave the students a copy of this screenshot from the movie Brazil:

If you’re unfamiliar with this film, it’s kind of like 1984, but on crystal meth and with more hallucinogenic dream sequences. Without telling the students the name of the film and with only the screenshot to go on, they were supposed to come up with a title they thought would fit best. Afterwards the class voted for their favourites.

Here are some of the epic movie titles they came up with:

Cannibal Soldier
Silent Muscle Dynasty
Mr. Nii of a Big Adventure!
Peach Boy
Middle-aged fairly white man
Angel FACE Demon’s BODY
Assassin Cook ~Milky is Mommy’s Taste~
Neo Armstrong Cyclone Jet Armstrong
Iron Beetle Man
Prince with Natural Curly Hair

I really hope someone makes Assassin Cook one day.