2010 (full set on flickr)
So in 2010 I flew to San Francisco for GDC (game developers conference) not because I had a ticket or was a game developer, just that everyone else was going and I wanted to hang out. My flight home was booked on United, and I have a personal rule to never fly on U.S. carrier, so I had no choice but to cancel it and on a whim fly to Japan instead...
So I show up in my dirt-cheap, hastily-booked hotel. Shared bathrooms on each floor, shared showers on the first floor. And huge, spacious rooms. Only 2700y/night though.
This time since I was alone and had no plans, I decided to walk across Tokyo. Usually when you're in Tokyo, you take the trains everywhere, so you're just going underground and popping up somewhere else random, and you completely lose the connection of where things are in relation to each other. By only walking, I hoped to find more context to my surroundings. So I started in Akiba, popped on some headphones, grabbed a bottle of Fanta Moo Moo White, and headed south. Even though a lot of Tokyo isn't very intersting, I could still spend days just staring at architecture and random shops, masses of wire, etc etc.
By night I managed to get some touristy postcard photography done
It took 3-4 days, but I managed to circumnavigate central Tokyo by foot, still having time to wander around Akiba some more.
As I said before, Yodobashi camera have everything. Including a $500 audiophile-certified power cable
Or why not an Idolm@ster-painted airplane figure (this wasn't at yodobashi sadly)
On facebook, a friend saw that I had arrived and he happened to be in Tokyo for work at the same time, so we met up for me to show him round and get a few drinks. Walking to Harajuku we came across a mass of protesters (against a combination of anti-war and anti-privatization of JR). They had this cute police car watching over them.
I had now been in Japan for a week, and suddenly my cell phone stopped working. I had been roaming using my home carrier, and I thought I had been careful about data, only turning it on to use Google Maps when I was lost, or a quick refresh of Twitter/Email every now and again. But when I called my carrier about being cut off, they informed me that I had racked up a $1000 roaming bill, and that they wouldn't reactivate my service until I paid it off. I paid it off over the phone, and then right after that, ordered a docomo rental SIM with unlimited data...
This was also the first time I went to a club in Tokyo. I had another friend on FB who has recently moved here to work for Google, and he suggested we meet up at one. In Tokyo, the nightlife has two time periods: 8 PM - midnight, and midnight-5 AM. This is because between midnight and 5, the subway stops running. So you get to choose if you want to get home, or if you're going to stay up until the first train. If you get tired at 3 AM, you have to settle for a capsule hotel or pay for a taxi.
The first train is kind of interesting. Half the passengers are revelers who have been out all night, the other half are businessmen all suited up to get to work. Makes for an interesting contrast.
Having learned from that how the convenience store ticketing system worked, I now went wild with awesome club events, going to one every weekend.
This was also after I had gotten my eyes opened to AKB48, so a shrine visit was required. This was right before super enpou was created.
That capsule event was in Osaka, so I went for a few days, this time with my newfound unlimited data powers I could spend my train time online.
NON SMORKING ROOM PLZ. ALSO WHERE CAN I FIND A MICHLOWAVE?
Osaka means... Takoyaki down by the river
... every day.
And of course, going to see capsule, in a neat club down by the docks. Every club needs a takoyaki tent!
Since I was down there anyway, and sakura season was getting started, I took a day trip to Kyoto just to take some touristy photos. Way too much people though.
So now I had been in Japan for two weeks, and it was time to think when I need to go home? I realized, I don't need to go home at all! Why not just stay here for as long as I can? So I found a place called Sakura House that rents out apartments to foreigners on a monthly basis kinda like a hotel. You pay once a month in their office using a credit card, and then you can move out with a couple week's notice.
I thought, if I'm going to live in Japan I need to go full-weeaboo, so I narrowed down my selection to only apartments with a tatami room. There weren't that many options free, so I got an apartment out in picturesque Kichijoji. Futon-riffic!
They make very certain you know how important recycling is, and that you have to crash all your bottles. "Please be aware that your manner of disposin of household garbage is one of the most important issues in the neighborhood". In kichijoji-city, they tax the garbage in a pretty smart way. They'll only pick up trash that's been placed in special garbage bags that are sold at an inflated rate. Different colored bags are for different kinds of garbage, which cost differing amounts to get taken away.
I imagine they make a big deal out of the recycling situation to foreigners since a lot of people come from places where recycling is optional, but I'm from Sweden, and in the town where my parents live, they have recycling nazis who slap you with fines if you throw away things that could have been recycled, so I was used to it.
Interestingly enough, this year when I stayed with my GF in Kagoshima, I found that the recycling rules there are far, far more lax (basically just toss everything recyclable in one bag, separate from burnable waste). So whenever someone ways "OMG, they're so nazi about recycling in Japan", keep in mind that may just be Tokyo (where most foreigners go), and it varies by city, just like in the rest of the world...
AND THAT'S MY STORY ABOUT THROWING THINGS AWAY.
When you live in an apartment, you get to do awesome things like go grocery shopping... IN JAPANESE. This is done slightly different from home, where you pack your bags on the other side of the belt. In Japan, they transfer your purchased items into another basket, and then you take that basket to a separate table where you can pack your bags at your leisure. I like the Japanese system the best.
It's also interesting to note the difference in what they sell in supermarkets. In Sweden, we have a aisle full of just different kinds of olive oil. An aisle full of tex-mex fixings. In Japan you instead find an aisle full of different soy sauces, one full of different kinds of miso.
Random Swedish café between my apt and the train station. Never went in there.
CLUBS! Plingmin, who I learned about the year before at Rock In Japan Fes just by wandering around between stages while bored.
Yoyogi park during Hanami is a zoo. Was not fun. Also, being alone for hanami is depressing^2
Looking up what was going on online, I found one of those fertility festivals you always read about on the "kuhraaaazy japan" sites. It had the usual, loli's riding big cocks, handmade pussys and cardboard dongs. It was also way too packed, and felt like mostly foreigners so I got out as quick as I could.
I love rain in Japan, since I love those clear umbrellas.
So... there were a few things I was still missing in my household, such as a viking-sized bath towel, so I took the train to my home country for a few hours.
Had Swedish Meatballs... paid for with my Suica!
Katakana Swedish, not every day you see that...
ROBOT BULLDOG ATTACK!
So Sakura were now in full bloom. Kichijoji is right by a very nice park called Inokashira. Actually, you find out if someone is from Tokyo or not by saying you're staying in Kichijoji. A Tokyoite will be impressed (it's a nice place to live, lots of well-to-do families with Volvos), someone not from Tokyo will wonder WTF you're talking about. Anyway, I digress. From this park comes a long-ass river. I decided to walk along the river one day. I never made it to the end, after walking for a couple of hours. I got a shitload of photos of Sakura though, so here's some tedium to scroll past. It's way too engaging to take photos of these damn flowers, and it's hard to filter out just a handful...
This was during the release of Kamikyokutachi, so I checked out what was up at the now-closed Shibuya HMV. They had a signed shirt, and a raffle for everyone who buys a copy there, with prizes including an exclusive handshake event and a poster. I got the door prize :( (namashashin)
Here's slutty acchan in a kinda ghetto neighborhood.
I wanted to see Shinichi Osawa, so I went to the super-hippie Nagisa Music festival. Had never seen japanese girls dressed up in hippie gear before. It was pretty hot.
Since I was staying here so long, I wanted to get back into Jogging. To get shoes in my size, I had to order them from Amazon Japan. I ordered the biggest Japanese size on the chart - 30. They were maybe half a size too small, so uncomfortable but doable. I then had a friend mail me my jogging shorts from Sweden...
I also started cooking real Japanese food instead of just pasta/etc. Turns out Gyuudon and Yakisoba are like a million times better when they doesn't taste of fast food-style MSG.
I love japanese convenience stores. I love them to the point where I started buying plane tickets from them.
Random shit from the small Yodobashi near my apartment
Egg vending machine.
Went to Sendai for another capsule live. This girl wanted me to take a photo of him for her with her phone. Photography was STRICTLY forbidden, enforced by flashlight.
I also went to see a Morning Musume concert in Sendai, rounding off my fanhood of them. I had a shitty seat in the back so it wasn't that great :/ Shortly after, JunLinEri left the group, and so did any care I had for them.
LAST PHOTOS OF FLOWERS I PROMISE.
I met some random people at the capsule gig and asked them what I should see when I was here. They recommended Matsushima, which is on the list of the 3 top great natural views in Japan, along with Mt Fuji. It wasn't that amazing, but interesting nontheless. Basically it's a bunch of islands that look kinda funny that have bridges connecting them.
You also have to keep in mind to No Get Over a Forward Fence Please.
This was one of the places hardest hit by the tsunami last year. I wonder what survived of the islands, and how it looks now... Last year, this sign I took a picture of thinking it was cute may have actually saved people's lives.
During the disaster, I followed the Mixi of one of the friends I met here, and it was extremely fascinating. She works at a pharmacy, so she detailed all the long days of dealing with no electricity, no gas, no water, no supplies, and rationing who in the long long lines gets medicine or not.
Who is my boss?
Another superpower I gained during this trip was konbini payments: paying your bills at a convenience store.
Let me take this moment to gush about how I *LOVE* courier services in Japan. When ordering online you can pick the day and 2-hour window when they'll deliver, and they ALWAYS make the window on time. And if you didn't pick a time or if you weren't home, you get a note like this, and you can go online right away and rebook to another timeslot THE SAME DAY. No more fuckign calling FedEx's useless asses and rescheduing to tomorrow, when they'll come "some time between 7 AM and 6 PM". God I hate couriers back home. But in Japan I want to marry them.
Understanding konbini payments meant I could start paying for subscriptions to stuff in Japan that didn't accept credit cards, so I went wild joining fanclubs (AKB48 and Perfume) and buying stuff online I couldn't before.
As a fanclub member I had greater chances of winning theater tickets, which I one day finally did! I got to see a Team K stage. I'm a Team B oshi, but B4th was closing out its final weeks, so getting tickets was completely impossible as people tried to see it for the last time before it ended.
You can now see the giant AKB48 signs and pillar not present in the 2008 photo:
Back to the topic of garbage. Remember how important they said your manner of dealing with trash was? Well, my neighbors were all retarded gaijin and didn't follow the rules AT ALL. We CONSTANTLY had rejected bags of trash piling up in front and they never fucking learned. Meanwhile, not a single one of my garbage bags was refused. I was sooo embarassed of my flatmates, couldn't look the obaasans down the street in the eye because I knew they were judging me by the garbage refusals :'(
Look I made a pun! マスゴイ
I have poor taste, so I love the microwave pasta bowls from 7-11
For Your >> JUST
I had been here for 2 months, and it was time to leave back to Europe. My friend Mike from the original 2008 trip was in Boston for work, and also didn't want to go straight back to Sweden, so he flew to Japan instead and we met up for some mischief before going home.
The friends I met in Sendai notified me of some random festival going on, so we flew up there to check it out.
I checked out of my apartment on Saturday. I had too much crap so I decided to mail a box with half of it home. Only to realize, the post offices are fucking closed on weekends! WTF! So I had to drag this godforsaken box around until monday, checking it on on domestic flights as a second bag like some idiot... I also kept dropping it so I was sure the contents was gonna be destroyed.
At the festival, they had a ustream broadcast of dancing lolis.
Beef tongue weiners SO GODDAMN DELICIOUS I COULD EAT THEM ALL DAY
Also, I was introduced to japanese beer that wasn't piss(!). Iwate beer.
Mike also happily enjoying Real Beer. And a whistle.
Some of the guys in our group were ESL teachers (of course...), and they had a gig the same day at a "talking party". It sounded interesting so we got to tag along. This is a deal where English students get to meet up with native english speakers in a relatively informal setting to practice conversation. In exchange, they bring free booze for the native english speakers to get sauced on. So everybody wins. Of course, this is "an informal setting" by Japanese standards, so there were mandatory games like "personal questions bingo", where you have a scorecard with things like "is 27 years old", "is from Sweden". Yes, they actually had that last one. In addition to Mike and me (at this point Mike was my flatmate in Sweden), there were three other Swedes there... Swedes are freakin' everywhere...
Anyway it was fun and after the event we went out for even more drinking, ending up in someone's random apartment. Good times.
I love Japanese plane tickets/boarding passes. Instead of those retarded huge ones you get in other countries, theirs are perfectly sized to fit in your passport! Brialliant.
Pokemon airplane lol
2010, continued since I had too many pictures for one post...
We then flew to Fukuoka, and had a STUNNING view of Mt. Fuji from our plane
Also had a stunning view of the nosecone of the 747, as we flew business class 8)
I haven't actually taken pictures of them, but I enjoy collecting local transport cards in Japan. In Fukuoka, they have the Hayakaken card.
In Fukoka we stayed in a hostel and met cool people and had a good time. This hostel has a weekly takoyaki party. Lots of booze and takoyaki -> happy kalleboo. We got to hear the story of Estooooonia from a drunken estonian, and I managed to insult some Singaporean girls by saying that "the brits really turned your country into something great".
They also had the switch to reboot the internet.
I love hamburg steak with cheese in it.
And then we left to continue our trip in Singapore. This meant our flight path was FUK-SIN. It made us giggle.
Anyway, all in all an AMAZING FUCKING TRIP. It felt like I had actually LIVED in Japan. I had an apartment, a train station I could call home, I cooked for myself, had to do laundry at home, all the trappings of actually being there for REALZ. A shame it only lasted 2 months. At this point, I knew that my goal in life is to make this a permanent situation.
A catalyst to that may have occured in 2011, which is the next installment...