Monday, May 8, 2017

Tokyo - May 7


I was going to write about this awesome unreal day I had in Hankone and Lake Haji. Like the chillest most peaceful, beautiful day I've had in years. A 10/10 awesome day that I won't soon forget. It was DOPE. But last night was one of those stars align nights that you really only have like a few times in a lifetime. 


This post just isn't going to flow. Period, full stop. I have a bunch of things to say and they're all fractured. It's kind of like Tokyo. Everywhere you look is something totally unique, separate from its surroundings. 

  • I got yelled at for standing in line incorrectly at a ramen place. 
  • Twice. 
  • The line girl is my Japanese nemesis. Kevin thought if we had one more disagreement I was getting tossed like Ron Gardenhire. 
  • We got pulled to the front or the line to order and you order on a pop machine basically. It was so bright and loud and the world felt like it was collapsing on me. I felt like an alien. I had no idea what to do. I ordered the number 1 because that's what you do. 


  • The ramen place was so efficient. I was boggled. There was a wait of about 30 mins to get in, the line was out the door and around the corner, the place full, and the cooks? Ho hum. No big deal. At home, the place would be in chaos. 
  • I'm bad at social interactions in general - that goes tenfold for Japan. I know two words of Japanese. You can see how that may be an issue.

  • I had a Kevin Malone moment at Starbucks. I like forgot how the coins work and unsuccessfully tried to pay. The cashier took them from my hand for me. 

  • In Shinjuku, a waiter was asking us whether he should bring the check for us. The place was closing. He walked over and just started into what felt like a diatribe. My brain recognized it, roughly, as “bejdhebdkdbejfbdjdbdkfbdidbrkfb?” I just said, “I don't know what you just said, dude, but I'll give you some money.”

  • A lot of people wear what I call SARS masks here. It's weird but I'm getting used to it. I bet wearing a SARS mask is like when your mom makes you wear a bike helmet. 

  • No one seemed stressed out that it was Sunday night at Tokyo Central. I was kind of stresses out by how not stressed they were. 

Kevin said he was out of gas.  Cooked.  He was Mel Clark in Angels in the Outfield.  Laboring in the 8th, 156 pitches.  We were walking back from Shinjuku toward our 2 square foot airbnb after getting one drink.  Sunday night, everything was closed.  We got to a bar at 10:30 and they served us, but not before letting us know that last call was 10:45.  Drink up, get the fuck out.  Right after, he called it.  I was disappointed to be honest.  I still had some juice left in the tank.  But i could see going home.  Long day ahead.  Check out of airbnb. Train to osaka.  Find the new airbnb.  Yeah yeah yeah.  

And then it hit me.  I’m just going to Golden Gai solo.  Figure it out.  I still wanted to get into some shit.  

We separated about 11:00 pm.  I walked into the first bar in Golden Gai from which I heard English.  The rest is history.  Truly a night to remember.

I don't know if I've explained Golden Gai yet. 

It's like the footprint of one or two city blocks at home. I'm a rich American who has never set foot in a slum, but it feels like an ideal version of a slum. Narrow. Dense. Bars only. No food. Each place seats less than ten people. The doors stay open, but there really aren't windows. They're really dark. The bars are like if a booth at CC Club was a whole bar. It's gritty and grimy and scanned knees and dirt under fingernails. It's touristy, but in a good way. My favorite type of people are attracted to it. 

I drank sake and smoked cigarettes with a Czech guy. It was his last night it Tokyo before heading back to reality. He was a quieter fellow and often times sat in the background and just took in the scene, only piping up if he had something meaningful to say. 

He had a YouTube video with like 2 million views of him playing piano “Skyfall” in Prague. The bar owner let him get the aux going to listen to it. 

I drank beers and ripped menthols with a couple who were about 30 years old. Guy lived in London, grew up in Crimea. He had, no hyperbole, the most delightful accent I have ever heard. I felt like I was in a bar drinking with NPR. The woman was from Florence, Italy. She lived in London too. Both people were really inquisitive about American culture. We talked about Hibbing. We talked about the States as a whole. We talked about how Trump happened. They asked where my Bible and gun were. Ha, ha, ha. 

We compared weed in Colorado and Washington to hanging out in Amsterdam and just learned about like casual drug culture. He said he was on a bachelor party in Amsterdam where they were biking thru the city. They got to a place, one went in to order and the others stayed outside locking up their bikes. 

They forgot whether they were coming or going. They stood next to the bikes with locks in hand for an hour. Their buddy drank all 4 pints and then came outside and said “what the fuck, you guys?”

(Aside) You know how they say “mate” in Australia? Or “chap” in England? For us, it's buddy. I was visiting a buddy. My buddy this. My buddy that. It never occurred to me that it's so cultural. Perspective snuck up on me last night. 

Anyway, I told him the story of me getting unbelievably stoned and going to a CU-CSU game at Mile High Stadium and being afraid of falling on the field. Trading war stories for the extremely privileged. 

I met this dude Jason who was from SF by way of Athens, GA. He is a musician. His bands are called Marathon States and Hard Girls. The past year or so I've gotten so much more info music than I ever was. I've started going to shows and listening to stuff that I've never heard of. Like I used to just listen to a lot of Drake. 

Anyway, I love music people. They're so goddamn nice and chill and welcoming and unpretentious. They're like the opposite of country club people. 

Jason is the nicest dude I've maybe ever met in my life. First gen American with Vietnamese parents. He went there with his family on a trip and hated it. 

He's friends with the Menzingers and was like baffled that I know who they are. He asked if I think they've gotten too commercial and I was like “bro, I really only discovered them like 6 months ago.” Hahahahahaha. 


We all drank and bullshit. Drank and bullshit. Smoke cigs. Drank and bullshit. Etc. Etc. 

Time was bending its pace. Speeding up and getting slower all at once. My memory of last night feels like it's both 2 weeks and 25 minutes at the same time. I had my most unique social experience of my life last night. 

I think I'm going to be way more confident in myself, the man™, because of it. I beat myself up over a lot of things and I think I have weird social interactions and I generally don't think I'm the best version of myself. But now, going forward, I don't know if I care about that kind of perfection as much. 

I love how present I am when I'm here. I'm consumed with what is in front of my eyes. I'm not worried about career, money, love life, death, my existence. I'm just here in a vacuum. It is like taking a sauna for your brain. Clearing out the pores of my life. 

Like I think I will be more comfortable with the bad, with like rejection, with failure, because whatever it is, it's like “I've partied with really interesting people in Tokyo by myself, and they LIKED me.” Like, who cares if someone in Minnesota doesn't. The world is big. The further I go, the bigger it feels. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tokyo, Day 1

4:48am: Wake up in a panic, realize it's not 10 am. Sun is bright like mid-day. Watch Cubs game on MLB At Bat. 

5:15am: Walk to 7/11, drink a premade coffee drink called "Mt. Ranier." PNW appropriation. Background music is a Beatles/Super Mario mashup. The music never makes any sense. 

7:00am: Fish Market. 

So cool. So strange. People as far as the eye can see. Guys on electric pallet jacks running people over with no regard for human life. Sample wasabi. Shop for knives. Eat breakfast at a counter that's on the sidewalk with people buzzing all around - Tempura with soba. I know a lot of people are into Japanese food but I'm really not. I didn't even know what it is. There's something invigorating about ordering something and not knowing what you're going to get. The food came out basically instantly. Pour your own drink. Clean up after yourself. Very intimate experience. Probably top 10 favorite meal I've ever eaten. 


Assorted fish market photos below. 


9am: Tsukiji Buddhist Temple 

I was nervous about taking photos. Other people were too, though. 

It was really peaceful. People were lining up to go to the shrine and when they got to the front they were tithing. I think it's weird that Westerners were just watching. Tourists don't watch me take Communion. I felt off about it. 


10am: Imperial Palace. 

They didn't charge anything for it - they should. A beautiful park with a huge grassy area, awesome trees, surrounded by a moat (!!!). 


Me: "I'd love to have a moat."
Kevin: "I think you may have to leave Minneapolis-proper for that."


It had a very San Diego vibe where there was some wide open space and also some trails that break off with some serious tree cover. 

Former military base from like the 1500s (among other things). It's mind-blowing to me that that area was in use 200+ years before the United States existed. 

There was a big concert hall there too and it's never been open to the public. That's kind of baller. 

They also had these ice cream cones that made me gasp when I saw them. 


12pm: Financial District

It's so strange because the Imperial Palace is very calming and slow-paced and just a quarter mile or so away is the Financial District which is a neighborhood that's probably twice the footprint of Downtown Minneapolis with buildings as tall as IDS seemingly as far as the eye can see. 

Tokyo's neighborhoods, when you're in them, feel like they go on forever. 

12:30pm: Tokyo Central Station and surrounding hood. 

I started really feeling a beer and we tried going to a bar to have a couple, watch a ballgame, and regroup. Pretty standard stuff. Except no. Nothing is open. Saturday, mid day, biggest city I've ever been in - nothing open. We finally found an Italian place. No bar. So we sat at a table and had beers. Music scene - Eminem Rehab album and Weezy F. Baby and the F is for what a fucking weird place. The music never fits the scene. 

1pm: Ginza. 

Ginza is pure excess, the likes of which I've never seen before. It's the Mall of America, Rodeo Drive, and the Miracle Mile all together, buffet style. There was a goddamn De Beers diamond store. We didn't go in. 

Highlight: macaroons from Laudree, which only has like three locations - London, Paris, and Tokyo I guess. Maybe NYC. I don't know. 


2pm: Hooters.

I saw a Hooters near Ginza on the way to the train station and we had to go in. A Japanese imitation of an American bar is really weird to a couple Americans. When you walk in, every employee no matter where they are in the establishment say "hellowelcometoHooters." It's eerie. 

There were locals there which I was surprised by, but I guess. 

There was Japanese baseball on the tv and Phil Coke was getting rocked, obviously. 



2:45pm: Shibuya.

My favorite populous neighborhood. It's like Shinjuku but less tacky. Good shopping, bad food. 

We saw this gem in a hole in the wall apparel shop. 


I thought about buying some Ultra Boosts at the adidas store. Bought roadies instead. Rich taste. Relaxing time. 


After, we walked toward Meiji Shrine and on the way we found what I think was a stadium hosting a boy band of some sort. There were THOUSANDS of women all dressed the same and almost no men around. It was surreal. 

I honestly think I was too dumbfounded to take a photo. 


3:45-5pm: Meiji Shrine. 

I know I've said everything is my favorite, but this was actually my favorite. Some seriously dense forest, beautiful green, right in the middle of a 40 million person metropolis. 

Unbelievably beautiful. 


We were the perfect amount of drunk for this. Kevin asked a Japanese girl to take our photo, she did, I said "arigato" really slow and she burst out laughing and imitated me to my face. I will never criticize a tourist in the US ever again. 



5:30pm: Shinjuku. 

We needed dinner and went into some place. At this point we are drunk, sunburnt, loopy, and hungry as fuck. We pointed to the steaks on the menu and five mins later, they bring a grill to our table. Oh fuck. I'm way too drunk for this. 

Everything is so weird. Every time we do anything, something extremely out of the ordinary happens. So now we are grilling our own food. And I'm happy we did it. It was just such a hilarious scene. And the people here probably think we are stupid as fuck but you just have to roll with the punches. 


6pm: Hacks

I was tanked and sunburnt and decided to hit the hardest cage which was 130 km. There was no timing mechanism. Just wasn't a good performance. Maybe hit the ball hard three times. 

I wish there were batting cages everywhere in the states. I LOVE just popping in, taking a few hacks, and moving on with my day. It's such a great reset button. 


7pm: shower, regroup

8pm: Golden Gai

We went to Golden Gai again. It's the best. The perfect spot to sit and get down to business. Figure it out. What are we doing next? What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong?


We chilled and drank sake in Albatross with a Brit who lives in Singapore and works in shipping. I caught a "I'm rich as fuck" vibe from this dude. He was smoking probably the most obnoxious cowboy murdering cigarettes I've ever smelled. I'm usually down to smoke cigs when I'm drinking but I'm pretty sure I would have bong-coughed for 20 mins. I passed. 

9pm: Shibuya. 

At train station in Shinjuku, a guy heckled us basically. 

He grabbed me by the arm and said shit in Japanese as if I knew what he was saying. Another guy comes up to me. Excuse my diction. 
Me: "Whats he saying?"
Him: "He say... "fuck you""
Me: "He's saying "fuck me?""
Him: "Fuck you"
Me: "No - fuck him."


Wise words of World Wide Wes - "You can't chase the night."

I chased the night. 

I tried to handshake a dude we were talking to and then knucks him and then handshake him and it will haunt me until I die. It was cringe-worthy. I had to call it a night. 

1am: back to Sjinjuku. 

Trains are stopped at 1 am Saturday. Uhhhh what. Cab to Shinjuku station. Crawl home. Dead. 

I'm living my best life.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Tokyo, Day 0

**I'm going to be jotting down some thoughts regarding my Japan trip in here. Welcome back to the worst hands in the 2007 NFL Draft. 

Day 0 was super awesome and super strange. Tokyo feels like you're walking around in a video game. 

Everything is smaller. Streets are narrow, doors are lower, stairs go straight up. Our Airbnb is probably 300 square feet and I've hit my head on the tops of doorways like 5 times already. I'm basically a power forward now. 


Finding the place was a DISASTER. I'm sure there's a system of some sort and I'm just stupid (because I am stupid) but I'm pretty sure the streets don't have names and the buildings don't have numbers. It's weird as fuck. "Take a left here *inserts photo of a random street corner*" Google maps is no better. "Walk 40 M" "Cross the street." All of this with like 35 pound backpacks. Note to self, pack lighter next time. 

The apartment building itself is right out of Call of Duty in the Chernobyl level. It's strange and I can't imagine living here. No place to stretch out. 

We went to Golden Gai after a shower and change. Alley bars. We sat at a bar that seated like 6 max and drank yellow beers, which were situationally maybe the tastiest I've ever had even though they were basically Mich Golden Lights. It was 7 on Friday night and I asked the bartender basically "where is everyone" because the 'hood was empty. Bank Holiday, I guess. Still didn't make much sense. 
There was a dead snake in a Mason jar right in front of me when I sat down. A Japanese guy asked us how old we were, proceeded to tell us he was 40 - he did not look 40. He thanked us for the compliment. 5 min later a couple from the States walked in. Like clockwork, how old are you? I'm 40 (I'M A MAN, I'M 40). Ohhhh, thank you. Must be his party trick. 

There's a goddamn batting cage 1 block from our crib. It was an impromptu laser show last night. Had to redeem myself from dropping the Dozer home run on thursday. 

The inside of the batting cage. 

We ate in "Piss Alley." Bourdain world renowned neighborhood. Fucking alleys 4 feet wide with restaurants as far as the eye can see. Depending on your disposition, they're either cramped or charming. I find the small apartment cramped but the small restaurant charming. We ate some fried chicken wing stuff and asparagus. And beer.

After dinner we were about to call it a night around 10:30 (24 straight hours of travel is no joke) when we saw a department store looking thing. It was a pachinko parlour. I've never felt so much like this is not real life. I put in 1000 yen and played. It's like a cross between slots and plinko, only if Pokemon music was in the background on 78 and the screen was trying to give you a seizure. I still have no clue what the point of it is but this lady was trying to explain in broken English in my ear. I asked her to turn the volume down. No comprende. I probably deserved to lose just for being an American asshole.


Anyway. We're going to get into some weird shit again today. I can't wait.