Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yes, it's a post about my dinner.

This is my car. It’s a used Mitsubishi minica. It has a dent in it. It turns out that fixing the dent would cost more than the car is worth, so the people who had it before me just bought another one. And now it’s mine. I think it kind of looks like the car Postman Pat used to drive before his mid-life crisis compelled him buy a motorbike. Anyway I’m calling it Kowalski.

And in answer to your question: Yes, it does have retractable wheel saw attachments.

I drove off in search of One-Eyed Willie’s treasure new eateries and found a neat kaiten zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) place. Most places like these are usually self serve to some degree, but this one was almost completely automated. So much so that the only real human contact I had was paying for my meal. The place very well could have been operated
lights out, except that people generally don’t like eating in the dark... or if everyone who ate there was blind I suppose that’d be less of a problem. Anyway, you get my point.

Right. So. The first thing you do is sign in your party at a computer which spits out a paper with a number on it. Your number is called and you are assigned a different number which corresponds to your table, which is easy enough to find as both the bar seats and booths are conveniently arranged with Sesame Street-like simplicity. Then you’re free to pick your sushi off the belt as it comes. Making your tea is pretty intuitive. You’re provided with cups and matcha powder, and the hot water dispenser juts out of the wall. How very civilized. If you want to order something, there’s a touch screen display at your table where you can specify what and how much of it you want. All special orders are placed on the belt to eventually make their way to their respective customers. (I suppose it’s an unspoken courtesy not to take someone else’s delicious looking order as it creeps by you.) Your touch display will start flashing when your order is inching towards you because there are microchips in the plates. TECHNOLOGY FTW.

Automated awesomeness aside, kaiten zushi places are fun because some other inventive items totter their way around the belt:

orange juice


chocolate cake

My Japanese friends claim that the sushi in those places is made by robots. I’m inclined to believe them, but only because the idea of sushi robots makes me happy. Based on my scientistical evaluations, I can only assume there’s something like this going on in the kitchen, despite all impracticalities.

…10 years from now I’ll be getting my sushi from a replicator.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's fun for all ages! *Except if you're a baby

Again, a huge delay between posts, I’m starting to think this may be a trend. Or the norm. I’m not to blame, really, as I was sick this past week. Maybe I should stop eating all that free candy they hand out in public toilets.

I’m recently 25 and I celebrated my birthday by going to Yokohama, a major city south of Tokyo Metropolis, yet still considered to be in the Greater Tokyo Area. Yokohama has an awesome factor similar to Tokyo’s, in that it’s essentially the urban equivalent of 150 Red Bulls snorted through your nose, only it’s on the water and that makes it more susceptible to giant squid attacks. Two generally agreed upon places worth seeing: Minato Mirai and Chinatown.

This is the much ballyhooed giant Ferris wheel in Minato Mirai, touted as the tallest in the world by most Tokyoites. (A quick Wikipedia check reveals that there are 12 wheels even taller, two of them in Japan.) Anyway, it’s still pretty big, and even though we couldn’t ride it because of the rain, it makes for a neat picture.

Yokohama’s Chinatown is hailed as the place to visit if you’ve ever wanted to go to China, but don’t want to go to China, and it’s one of the world’s largest Chinatowns. (Supersleuth Chelsey says this one checks out.) The place had a credible enough authenticity and the night-time atmosphere is lively. Adam and I embarked on a gastronomic inquiry of the place, ducking in and out of restaurants, ordering a couple dishes at a time, and pairing them with warm sake. There were also tons of streetmeats to be had.

Tourist attractions aside, it’s a pretty cool city to walk around in at night:

On the way back we stopped into Tokyo to check out the Nakizumo (lit. ‘crying sumo’) festival which had been the whole reason for the trip in the first place. Every year Senso-ji temple in Tokyo holds an event where sumo wrestlers pit babies against one another in hardened competition with the desired result of making them bawl. The whole thing goes like this: 100 or so proud mothers parade their babies around and then hand them off to a sumo wrestler. Said sumo wrestler takes offpsring into a ring, faces off against another baby brandishing wrestler, and then the babies get jostled around like little Jell-o bobbleheads. The baby that cries loudest is declared the winner. Occasionally, the babies fail to recognize the unpleasantness of the situation and start enjoying themselves. In such cases, three officials wearing oni (devil) or Groucho glasses come to heckle the babies by repeating nake, nake (cry, cry).

Typically, watching grown men shake babies around until they cry is not on everyone’s birthday wish list. But as you can see, this event was too high-brow to pass on. As we all stood around swirling our brandies and twirling our moustaches, I reflected on whether or not this kind of thing is good for babies. But hey, I'm sure I've been shaken around a lot as a child, but I sorted myself out relatively quickly and by the age of 19 was a halfway normal person, a state which I have maintained with varying success since...

...Though it explains why I can't do simple math in my head.

And for those people who are quick to point the SBS finger, this festival has an ostensibly long, culturally significant history that totally makes everything okay and stuff.

I forgot my camera, and my iPhone pictures just don’t do it justice, so here are some pictures that I’m borrowing from elsewhere on the internet.

Photo credit: Koji Sasahara

Photo credit: vyxle on Flickr

Photo credit: vyxle on Flickr

In other news, Adam just got back from getting a haircut at a random place in our neighbourhood. This is what happened:

Shampoo Lady: Are you an English teacher?

Adam: Assistant Language Teacher.

Shampoo Lady: CHELSEY?

Adam: My name’s Adam, but, yeah, she’s my girlfriend.

Shampoo Lady: Eeeeeeeeh?!

Adam: …….

*Shampoo Lady leaves and her daughter appears out of nowhere*

Daughter: Autograph?

Adam: Sure.

*Daughter gets shooed away by her father*

Barber: After the haircut! By the way, teacher’s boyfriends get free shampoos.

So the moral of the story is that I’m famous and people who know me get moderate favours. Like the Oprah of the Takasaki High School Community.