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.


  1. for more ironic dining options, may I suggest the Christian theme restaurant in Tokyo, it's supposed to look like a gothic church.

  2. Harro old friend!
    From FB I had surmised that you were in Japan but I had no idea you had a blog until this post popped up in my newsfeed. Suffice to say I spent the entire afternoon reading it and was quite entertained by your wanderings and adventures. A question for you, how did you become so proficient at creating your own bento boxes? I almost want to make my own after viewing yours. Keyword: almost...I am still inherenty lazy. Please continue chronicling your superawesomeninjacool adventures!

  3. Congratulations on the JLPT! I'm taking N3 in December and am more than a little nervous.