Friday, March 20, 2009

Black Cat Magic

I'm moving to Tokyo tomorrow. Come 1:00 tomorrow I'll be sprawled back in my big shinkansen seat with a tasty bento and a tallboy of Asahi blowing sayonara kisses to Yamagata.

Moving in Japan: Today I sent one huge 40-ton suitcase, one medium 20-ton suitcase, and one medium box to be delivered to my Tokyo apartment by tomorrow night. It only cost me 3,600 fucking yen. $36! JAPAN I LOVE YOU. If you ever need to travel in Japan and you want your hands free, go on and make some sweet love to TAKKYUBIN.

Yesterday was ridiculously warm! I stepped outside without my parka for the first time in four months. I felt like a stone-ager leaving my winter cave. Someone took me to a supermarket with lots of imported foods and I ended up sitting in a sunny park in a fucking tee shirt crunching on dill pickles and drinking root beer. It was my best day in Yamagata. Perfect note to end on.

I don't know what my internet situation is down there so I hope you'll be okay without me for awhile. Wish me luck settling in and feel free to send me housewarming gifts.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

That's so yaki-da!

Apparently no one remembers this song but me. Which is awesome because it made me look up the music video on YouTube and now I have everything I've ever wanted to laugh at all in one place:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Note from student.

Dear Beth,
Thank you very much でした。
Are you legend?
You are legend.
I think so, too.
See you goodbye.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

- 4 Days

I'm getting fat and loaded with free stuff this week. Some favorites so far:

Giant bouquet from my students.

White Day chocolates.

This adorable drawing of me. (Can you spot my new slogan?)

Junior high graduation is a big deal in Japan. I remember JHS in America being 3 years of bullshit where no one could wait to get to high school. Here, high school is where the hard work begins. In their last year of JHS, Japanese students study their brains out for high school entrance exams. I was really surprised by how hard junior high school kids work in Japan, and they'll only work harder from here on out.

One of my favorite students showed up late to graduation and missed getting handed his diploma. Shocking! He's a sullen little thing, too cool for everything but video games and J-Rock. A few days ago he broke dress codes by slightly lightening and spiking his hair, and he got a lot of shit in the teacher's room. I wouldn't be surprised if his obviously calculated tardiness at graduation was an act of revenge. You know what I say? You go on, little J-Rock. Stick it to 'em while you still can. I will never be a real teacher, haha.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I got a bottle of DHC Deep Cleansing Oil as suggested by Julie, and liked it so much I went to 7-11 and got the sample set of DHC's olive-based 4-step system for 1,029 yen (~$10US).

If you're having trouble figuring out skincare products in Japan, get yourself to the convenience store. They carry affordable sample kits of some of the most popular Japanese skincare lines, and some of the major beauty brands have made cheaper versions of cult products to be sold exclusively at convenience stores: 7-11 carries DHC and Kose stuff, and Lawson's, Save On and Family Mart carry a special Shiseido line. The sample kits are all under 2,000 yen (~$20US) so it's an excellent way to experiment with reputable Japanese brands instead of having to take expensive chances on random things at the drugstore. Plus, is there anything more satisfying than travel-sized things in cute little bags? (No!)

Beauty Box has a review of the 7-11 Sekkisui line, and information on other higher-end Japanese products. As for this DHC stuff, it's only been a couple of days but I am in love with it. I swear the morning after I used it my skin looked and felt 50% better. If it keeps working out I'll have no choice but to shell out for the whole set at regular price, but at least we can all breathe a sigh of relief when my cuteness is safe again.


A Yamagata delicacy.

It's green peas boiled in some kind of sweet flavoring. I had some for the first time today and loved it. The texture is soft and crumbly, like simmered kabocha or daifuku filling, and the flavor has that lovely, mild sweetness of other traditional Japanese treats. I'm not sure you can find fukimame easily outside of Tohoku. If you're ever in Yamagata, you can get some at a shop downtown called Yamada-ya. It's famous for fukimame and sells out every afternoon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Well, I wanna die."

Let's talk about the horror of navigating beauty products & other personal essentials in Japan when you don't read Japanese and don't speak all that much either. I'll go first!


You might be able to guess the story behind this horrible image. I ran out of my products from home when I was broke, which left me struggling to figure out which Japanese drugstore brands would do the least damage to my touchy, acne-prone, combination-type skin. I tried talking to clerks, but everything they recommended for any kind of special-needs skin was like twice the cost and I didn't trust them! Without a good girl friend in Yamagata to come shopping with me, I resorted to buying brands I recognized from the States: Nivea body lotion, Biore moisturizer, and Clearasil face wash. I was like, how bad can it be?

DUH, FUCKING HORRIBLE. The condition of my skin has just plummeted. Every day I'm more blotchy and dry and broken out and I'm starting to panic. MY CUTENESS NOOO! I seriously don't know how I thought I could get away with this. Only two things have ever worked on my skin: Clinique's 3-step system, and the Proactiv system paired with a good hypoallergenic moisturizer. I can get all that stuff here, but I was really determined to switch to Japanese brands for cost/simplicity. I knew that with my touchy skin this would have to involve a painful transition period, but this is unbearable. If I can't figure out some good Japanese products soon, I'm just going to shell out for imports.

Suggestions? HELP ME PLEASE.

And please share any stories or tips you have related to figuring out beauty/hygeine/health essentials in Japan. I wish there was a comprehensive guide online for all the expat girls kicking it over here...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not to be absurd

Hedi Slimane Diary

Le génie n'est que l'enfance retrouvée à volonté, l'enfance douée maintenant, pour s'exprimer, d'organes virils et de l'esprit analytique qui lui permet d'ordonner la somme de matériaux involontairement amassée.

"Genius is only childhood recovered at will, childhood now gifted to express itself with the faculties of manhood and with the analytic mind that allows him to give order to the heap of unwittingly hoarded material."
Charles Baudelaire. Le peintre de la vie moderne. 1863

"Folks who are soft and helpless sometimes make the most noise. They can obstruct you in a lot of ways. It's pointless trying to resist them or deal with them by force. Sometimes you just have to bite your upper lip and put sunglasses on."
Bob Dylan. Chronicles: Volume One. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Those days are over!

The snow seems to have stopped. The sky has been clear and more people are out every day. Suddenly strangers are talking to me all the time. I realize now that everyone was hibernating all winter. I was the only one dumb and antsy enough to go stomping through snowdrifts looking for adventure. It was kind of silly of me to judge Yamagata's entertainment value under those conditions, I admit. After all, I liked it a lot when I first got here, before the snow started. I'm willing to conclude that Yamagata might be a pretty nice place to be in the coming months. Not nicer than my place in Kichijoji with Aya, though!

If you don't like doing nothing at night, and you don't like small towns, and you don't like winter, I have some advice for you: try not to plan to stay in a rural northern mountain area from November to March, because that would be kind of dumb, hahaha, hahaha!

It is beautiful here, though, I don't think I've ever left that out. And I've found a nice coffeeshop by the river near my place. So these last days are smooth and pleasant. I won't miss Yamagata, but I'll remember it fondly enough, and with not a little amusement at what a silly disaster I managed to turn it into about halfway through.

Old news, but still:

Sometimes you're waiting for a bus around 5PM in the middle of snowy nowhere and the wind is flinging bits of ice into your face and the bus is 10 minutes late and you're like GOD I wish I had some hot cocoa right now, or better yet my choice of corn or vegetable soup,

and then if you're me you turn around and grab some out of the vending machine behind you because you're in Japan and that shit is just how it goes!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bedroom Eyes

It's a classic song but I just watched this video for the first time. I like the weird clashing vibes, how it's cool, kitschy, and punk at the same time. And man, would I hit that or what.

P.S. Can we bring organs back, please? I heard the reason they went out is that they don't translate well with modern recording methods. I say some psychedelic indie badass needs to tackle this in a sketchy basement studio, stat.