Monday, December 28, 2009

Red Red WINE

Sometimes I wonder if I moved to Japan because of labels like this. You know what I mean? Maybe that's what I should tell people when they ask!


is a fire hazard

so warm!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter's Bananas

I don't like cold. I don't like coats. I don't like afternoon sunsets. I don't like winter. My instinct is to hibernate. I lose all my living urges. It takes a huge effort to get out of bed in the winter. Winters in the Pacific Northwest are especially long and dark and I have spent many unfortunate months sleeping through the cloudy mornings and afternoons until my waking moments are a dull zombie haze, like a perpetual 4:58AM on a Tuesday.

I need constant distraction and entertainment to feel safe from my seasonal inner zombie. So I am way into the holidays. BAKING and PARTYING are my winter coping mechanisms. According to my tradition, November to April should consist of gallons of cheap champagne, parties from 8 to 4, and wild-eyed sprees of baking ten pies at a time and 6 hour monster cinnamon rolls.

Tokyo has never left me under-partied, but the lack of ovens in Japan means baking requires some kind of new effort -- not really my strong point. Last night, alone on Christmas day, I decided to try making banana bread in a rice cooker. How long I've been astounded by the concept of baking with a rice cooker!

DUDE! What! Amazing! It took forever because I didn't know what setting to use. Normal was too slow, but okayu worked well.

Rice cooker! Ticket to Cake City! Population delicious!

Aya came home and we had supermarket roast chicken and banana bread and listened to old Christmas music. It was a fine holiday. Too bad my winter coping mechanisms are, as usual, threatening to pump me up like a sneaker.

Or pass me out in the genkan, respectively. Those boots are like, way hard to take off sometimes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Last Christmas Eve, I was sitting alone on a rock in the middle of the river in Yamagata.

Seriously! I mean, it was a good day, in a Yamagata way.

This Christmas Eve, I was sitting alone on a bench by the pond in Inokashira Park.

I had hot cocoa and a book I didn't read. Look how beautiful the day is. It's been like this all winter.

This guy came and set up behind me. He struck up a really great Mr. Bojangles. I got emotional for a minute.

Anyway I would call this Christmas Eve an improvement. I might be starting to like spending holidays sitting alone on things around bodies of water.

When I got home I decided to make rocky road. My great-grandma used to make amazing rocky road every Christmas. Hers was some out of control fudge masterpiece, but I played it simple & cheap. Guess why! Because I'm lazy & poor. This way, you just buy chocolate bars, walnuts and mini marshmallows.

Chop up the chocolate and the walnuts. Melt the chocolate. Stir in the walnuts and mallows. Spread it out, let it cool, and slice that shit. I thought such an easy recipe could only be so-so, and I thought I used too many marshmallows because I was too lazy to measure anything, but I was wrong and wrong again.

HELP, other people must eat this as soon as possible!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Shinjuku Ni-chome is Tokyo's gay entertainment district. There are like 300 gay bars and clubs packed into like a five block area. In the last 20 years it's been maturing as an LGBT social and cultural hub, with pride parades, an LGBT community center, and other events and hot-spots for queers in Tokyo.

I finally made it out to Ni-chome a couple of weeks ago for an electro party at a small club I liked a lot. Like most such neighborhoods, Ni-chome isn't exclusively LGBT. It's got a festive reputation and attracts a wild, open-minded crowd. The area is compact and it felt like a block party, noise and movement in the narrow streets all night until dawn. But all I have to show for my first night in Ni-chome is this creepy restroom photo. I take an awful lot of self-portraits in restrooms, you don't have to tell me.

How are you?

I hate being sleepy at work. When I'm on the verge of passing out I make posters and drawings to keep myself awake. I draw weird when I'm exhausted and those ones are sometimes my favorites.

This would have been a FEELINGS poster, like hungry, sleepy, happy, bored, sad, nervous... but I don't remember drawing it and can't figure out what the fuck I could possibly have been trying to illustrate.I don't know if you can see it but this fellow in his winter hat seems to be holding a closed hand to his chest while staring at... what?

P.S. Don't drink that Tully's coffee. It was the worst ever.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Last Sunday

I got up early because Ayabean suggested we go to a great cafe in Shimokitazawa.

Perfect drinks and perfect donuts from a famous shop across the street.

We went looking for biscuits in Kichijoji. We walked through the park and walked home. Two persimmons and two birds!

We went to a sausage shop because we wanted American breakfast for dinner! We had eggs, home fries, toast, and biscuits & gravy. With chamomile tea and The Beatles!

For dessert we baked apples. Baked apples are ridiculous. You just bake the apple, and it becomes even more delicious. It's out of control.

sweet mood

It was freezing cold today, but so clear and pretty. The train ride home was nice.

I didn't consider the weather when I moved to Japan and it's been the most pleasant surprise. The amount of sun I've seen this year is astounding (I'm from Oregon, though).

I had such a relaxing day. I substituted at a junior high, just grading speeches until 3PM. I was in the mood for nature poetry. I've barely studied Wordsworth at all! It's absurd. The preface to Lyrical Ballads had a predictably terrific effect on me, so I don't know how I've neglected everything else he did. I love Dorothy Wordsworth, his sister. She kept beautiful journals, and her descriptions of the landscapes they traveled through fed his poetry. So far I've been much more absorbed in her journals than his poems. But today I got into "Lines Written in Early Spring" so maybe I'll have a W. Wordsworth phase now.

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Men/Boys/Girls #1

Remember when I was always complaining about being broke, and then I didn't complain about it anymore? Did you notice?
A sugar daddy is a rich guy who showers a younger girl with money and gifts in return for companionship. My sugar daddy "hired" me as an "English teacher," which meant he wanted me to look pretty and meet him twice a week to walk around arm-in-arm, go to the movies and have fancy dinners. He paid me a fixed amount every time we met, sometimes extra, and usually brought me flowers and gifts. I never so much as kissed him and I got about 120,000JPY/month. For like a month.

Sugar Daddy was a Japanese CEO in his 60s. He was handsome enough, fit, and he wore good suits. Not my favorite suits, but tailored and Brooks Brothersish. I love suits and read GQ and critique them on trains, but I can't say what a suit says about a man. Every older man I have ever known who wore a suit all the time was boring or an asshole, usually both. Foreshadowing.

It was the hardest job I have ever had. We had nothing to talk about but he wanted me to talk the whole time. He was always acting mildly displeased by random things I said. I mentioned that I did taekwondo and he said "I don't know about such a strong womans!" I said I liked art and he gave a strained smile like he knew my kind. He liked Mariah Carey and romantic comedies. If I couldn't think of anything to say fast enough he would lean back, look at me critically, and ask, "Bess, are you tired?" I'd have to smile big and cry, "No! Just relaxed!"

The outfit and face I wore the first time we met (I know, brillz)
He spoke English well, but the gap between his speaking and listening skills was incredible. I've been doing classroom and private lessons for a long time now but it was enough to put me at a loss. Every single thing I said had to be repeated so many times. Once on the train I almost cried because he made me say something like "I ate pizza there" in a loud voice for almost five minutes. But he never wanted anything that would actually help his English.

He was always suggesting shopping trips and gifts for me. It's unbelievable, but I didn't take advantage. His money saved me, but gifts, I couldn't deal. Once he took me to an amazing stationery store and told me to pick anything I liked for me and my friends. I was so uncomfortable, but he started acting irritated that I wasn't picking anything, so I took two cards. He was pissy for like ten minutes and wouldn't stop asking why I don't like gifts.

Don't just say it with flowers!
One night over blowfish he asked me what he should give me for Christmas. As always I got super awkward. Under pressure, I finally confessed that I like art supplies. He decided that because I'm a writer, I need a fountain pen. I have no use for a fountain pen. I tried to explain that I am the kind of "writer" who scrawls 50 pages in cheap notebooks every night (then sobs "NO GOOD, NO GOOD, NOT A GENIUS" and goes to bed), and the pen would waste ink and soak through the paper. But he just got really patronizing and said I didn't understand the value of nice things.

I decorate bars with nice things.
The next time we met, he took me to Tokyu Hands. I was done for. The thought of him buying me gifts was nauseating until the gifts were art supplies. So I picked a sketchbook, and then I went to pastels and started choosing colors I needed.

His reaction was crazy. "Bess! What's this? Why you want such a things? It's such a small things." What?! I was confused by his irritation so I quit with two colors. He asked "How about pencil?" I didn't realize he meant pen, so I was like, sweet, graphite pencils. But of course he was even more disgusted by those. Finally he steered me to the pen case and basically bullied me into this 17,000yen Waterman fountain pen. Then he bought me a leather case. He spent so much money on me but he just wanted to buy what he wanted to buy for me, whether I was interested or not. I imagine that's how it often is with sugar daddies.

(Not that I wasn't happy with that bag of stuff once I got on the train, and the pen is very pretty and I bragged to my friends, but I never use it. Then there are the bears)
Sugar Daddy worked me to my last nerve. I was always waiting for the Moment. On our second date he couldn't find the restaurant and when we went down a street with a few love hotels I almost had a heart attack. He had a habit of starting sentences with "So, Bess..." followed by a long pause and my stomach dropped to my heels every time. It's not that the thought of sex for money freaks me out that bad, but not knowing what I was in for made me anxious.

Still, he was generally civil and polite to me and supported me when I was down to my last 1000 yen and rent was due, so I did my best. I never gave up on trying to get to know him, looking for things we could talk about. And after the pen, I was even thinking I could try to roll with some more shopping.

Then, one day, Sugar Daddy tried make a date with me a few hours in advance. I don't do same-day meetings because at any moment I might be passed out in a bed across town next to my dead phone. By the time I caught up with my messages, he had called me twice, left messages, texted, and sent two emails. The last email said, "Beth, do you live in the Mars? How can I reach you quickly?" UM, TRIPLE MY PAY IF YOU WANT ME ON CALL, IDK. I was really soothing though and wrote him that I can't always get my calls right away and that's why I don't do same-day appointments and I'm really sorry blah blah, and suggested a meeting the next day. He replied, "Sorry, I'm busy. Maybe another time." I wrote him another apology and never heard back. That was the end.

I was mad and offended, which is how I can make such a shameless post! I think he was unreasonable and unprofessional. He offered me a long-term arrangement and then dumped me when I didn't answer the phone fast enough. One more jerk in a suit!

Clearly I am not cut out for the Sugar Daddy business which is a great disappointment. I always wanted to try it and thought my dream had come true, but it turns out I can't cooperate with it. I tried so hard and it was frustrating. How difficult can it be to let someone buy you things? Does anyone want a pen for 5000 yen? Because I'm broke.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Went to a Host Club

It was inevitable. I've always been intrigued by hosts, but I never really cared to go to one of their clubs. I love all things shady and beyond the fringe, but the thought of paying boys for attention never sat well with me because I am vain and uptight. Plus, I wasn't confident with my Japanese, so I thought I'd say something wrong and buy a $20,000 bottle of champagne or something. Anyway I ended up dating and befriending so many hosts and former hosts that after awhile there didn't seem to be any point.

Buuut I knew I had to go at least once. So the other night, a friend and I got dressed up and set out for the part of Kabukicho where the hosts prowl. We sauntered around conspicuously, making eyes in all directions. The first few advances came in broken English and dissolved into quick retreats. Whatever, wimps. Still, it didn't take long before a boy from Club Joker spotted us. He was the only one who came on energetically and checked our Japanese. Once he realized we could communicate, he turned on the charm full force and we followed him back to his lair. We were super nervous but he kept us talking and laughing with quick, flirty conversation and smooth moves. By the time we got to Club Joker we had gone from "We're just doing this to get it over with," to "OMG and after this one we can go to ANOTHER ONE!"

I'm wearing a kimono, writhing in the name-cards I received from hosts. It's like THUG LIFE translated to GIRL IN TOKYO. Hahaha. Anyway, for two hours we sat in a cushioned corner while a couple dozen boys came two or three at a time to entertain us. Apart from the first ten minutes with a couple of totally incompetent, presumably newbie guys who barely said anything to us, our experience there was flawlessly fun. It didn't feel phony or weird at all -- it felt like a fabulous party with extremely witty, glamorous hosts whose only concern was to keep us in the best mood possible. And now, in those terms, I completely understand the appeal of host clubs.

The most interesting part was seeing each host's angle. Some boys were lighthearted and cute -- one had a medley of perfectly honed adorable faces and poses just to make us go AWWW! Some were all jokes and wicked grins and kept us laughing. Some flirted and flattered and swooned over our beauty and charm. Some were just clever, friendly and easy conversationalists. They knew how to work together, too, and I think their chemistry and familiarity was largely what kept the atmosphere from feeling phony. I hadn't expected that. My favorite host was a blond who sat down near the end. As soon as I met his deep, concentrated gaze, my very tested and reliable instincts said this guy is sooo in love with me... The magic of hosts!

The best part was the bill. Host clubs always have a first-time special, usually 3,000 - 10,000JPY for 1-2 hours depending on the club. We thought we were paying 3,000 each for a two-hour, all-you-can-drink visit, but in the end, that was the cost for both of us! For the price of one expensive cocktail, I spent two hours guzzling booze with a bevvy of pretty boys bending over backwards to entertain me. Best deal ever?

IN CONCLUSION, I think host clubs are fab. I love that there's a place catering to female vice/desire that's clearly way more awesome than the sports bars, strip clubs, etc. that men have for refuge/comfort. If you speak at least conversational Japanese and are not a lonely person with an addictive personality, you should go to a host club. I'm pretty sure you can dig it.

Story of my Life

Sometimes I just want to remind you how much I love Tokyo.

I ask for an interesting life. I go out alone, turn random corners, follow eye-catching people, loiter in restless places, accept invitations, wander down alleyways, miss the last train, sit on curbs, take different routes and stop at new stations. At some point I just started treating the world like my bedroom. Tokyo is the best place for me, or the worst. I'm frequently exhausted but I keep going out for more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Kind of odd, but I just bought a kimono. There are a lot of places in Japan where you can buy old kimono/yukata for 1000JPY or less. Often they're boring or damaged, but I love interesting old prints and fabrics so I check them out sometimes.

I have no idea what to do with this, but it's pretty, and the guy who works at the shop is a fox.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Okay, kids, your turn.

Great job!