The rain continues, a stalwart and dreary companion to this balmy fall weather. Temperatures continue to flirt with 20° C (70° F or so for my American audience), allowing the summer scourge of mosquitos to continue unabated. If you had told me six months ago that one must sleep under netting in bloody November in Japan, I would have called you crazy. Now, I just want to be able to sleep in peace without having to fear for my blood being drained during the REM cycle.
Yesterday, Lyani and I decided to thumb our noses at the weather forecast (17 - 19° with PM showers, as ever) and have a little fun. We met Ota at Jiyugaoka Station, one of the main stops on the Tokyu-Toyoku Line (which is how one gets from YOKUhama to TOkyou--hence the latter part of the name). We were joined there by two William and Mary students who are currently doing a year abroad at Keio University in Tokyo. I had met one of them before, a six-foot-tall nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) named Yuki (and no, for you "Junken Do" fans out there, this is not Yuki "No it's not a girl's name, the kanji are different damnit!" Ishibashi), but the other chap, Ed, a friend of Ota's from the J-House, was new to me. The five of us descended like avenging devils on Mo-mo Palace (did I remember the name of the joint correctly, Ota?), a tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) shabu-shabu place right by Jiyugaoko's main entrance (正面口, for those of you keeping score at home), determined to put the fear of gaijin into their hearts. (Note to readers: for some reason, Americans (and Canadians, Matthew) feel that it is our sacred duty to eat any all-you-can-eat establishment that dares open its doors in Japan out of business. Ask not why, for verily, I know not!)
90 minutes (Japanese all-you-can-eat places wisely have a time limit) and six-ish plates of beef later, we emerged once again into the daylight, blinking and holding our gorged stomachs in pleasure-yet-pain. Yuki set off to meet his cousin for yaki-niku, a promise made days before but certainly one that young Yuki would come to regret! The rest of us made for Hachiko, a statue of a dog outside Shibuya Station that is one of the most popular meeting places for young people in all of Tokyo. And we were, in fact, planning to meet someone: namely, Ota and Ed's friend Kami.
After connecting with the aforementioned Kami, we trudged out to Ota's place, which is not far (and by "not far", I mean "a miserable 15-minute walk in the goddamn pouring rain") from Komazawa-daigaku Station on the Den-en-toshi Line. His apartment (mansion?) is a 1DK with a loft and a giant television. The five of us removed our shoes, stowed our dripping umbrellae, and packed in. Some "Osu! Tatakae! Ooendan!" was played, fireballs were thrown, intestines were ripped out, and Ed's nipples may be sore. I will reveal nothing else.
We left Ota's before too long because Lyani and I had to meet some people in Shibuya, and Ed actually had to meet someone in Yokohama. Lyani and I arrived at Shibuya at around 17:00, and managed to locate "The Garlic Restaurant", where Lyani's friends were waiting.
These friends were two of Lyani's colleagues from Japanese Studies at Sofia University, Misho and Ani, and Ani's boyfriend Hiroshi. We had a smashing time at Garlic, despite the 30-minute wait for a bloody cup of coffee!!!! After a couple of hours, we decided to re-locate, and Hiroshi knew just the spot: "The Dubliners" Irish pub, just up the street from Garlic. Hot teas, pints, and chicken-and-chips were procured, and much merriment was had whilst watching the All-Blacks hand the Welsh their collective arses in a rugby fixture. After the rugby mercifully ended (I think the final score was 40-something to 3 in favour of New Zealand), Austin Powers 2 came on, sparking a heated discussion of the James Bond films, mostly fixated on the pros and cons of the various actors who have played 007. It is the calculated opinion of Misho that the next Bond is a "bloody git". As Misho grew up in Central London (yes, he is a Bulgarian who is at the same time a native English speaker, a great advantage in Japan, where 英会話--ei-kaiwa, or English conversation--is a sure-fire way to remain financially solvent), I'd say he is more than entitled to his opinion.
Hiroshi and I discovered that we had a rampant, out-of-control lust for soccer AKA football AKA サッカー (sakka-, the Japanese word for the sport) in common--both the playing and the watching. Ani, Misho, and Lyani exchanged news about Sofia University and The Bulgarian Connexion, which pervades modern Japan. Truly, you cannot seem to throw a rock in the Tokyo area without hitting someone who has: a) been to Bulgaria, b) knows a Bulgarian, or c) is themselves Bulgarian! To wit: one of Lyani's teachers at the IUC went to Tokyo -daigaku (AKA 東大--todai--one of the most prestigious universities in Japan), where one of her Japanese literature professors was none other than Tsvetana Krusteva, a Bulgarian. Another of Lyani's teachers had a good friend who went to Bulgaria to teach Japanese language--Hatakeyama-sensei, whom Lyani had at Sofia University for a year. When Lyani and I were married, a friend of mine announced this fact on the Tokyo Linux Users Group mailing list, and I immediately received an email, congratulating us, from Nikolay Elenkov, a Bulgarian chap that had gone to Sofia University with Lyani for a year. And he is not even the only Bulgarian on the list; there is also the illustrious Stoyan Zhekov! And while the examples I could offer you do not end here, suffice it to say that I ain' lyin': the Bulgarians are everywhere in Japan!
Anyway, we had a lovely time with Ani, Hiroshi, and Misho, and the hour of our parting came far too soon. Misho had to bugger off in a different direction, but we rode as far as Jiyugaoka (where the day's adventures began, remember?) with Ani and Hiroshi, before they had to transfer to another train line, bound for home. Lyani and I got back to good 'ol Ishikawa-cho just before 22:00, quite pleased that, in contrast with Ota, we lived just around the corner from the train station!
And this morning, I watched a couple episodes of "The Wire", a HBO police drama set in Baltimore. It comes highly recommended by Joe Zarick, my old boss from TFCC, and it is looking good after the first three episodes!
So while the weather outside is frightful, life in Yokohama is good.