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.