Oh, but I keep forgetting to mention, on Thursday we went to the science museum in Odaiba and saw Asimo! For those who aren't in the know, this is one of the first robots that can run, and he's on permanent exhibit at this science center. So he came out, did a little dance, ran from one side of the room to the other, and then went back to sleep. He actually looked like a little boy running, which was kind of fun.
After that we went to this crazy mall that looked (on it's upper floors) exactly like a Vegas mall – even down to the painted sky. There were horribly upscale and expensive shops there (none of which we could afford, but window shopping costs nothing) and some great places to have a little lunch. We whiled away the four hours we needed to spend before we could get back on the buses and head back to NYC (since our check in time was 4 pm).
Thursday night we tried to recover from Mobara
Even those who had a fantastic time at their homestay were emotionally and physically exhausted by the time we got to Thursday and we got back to NYC. They ran us all over the place during the last week, and by the time we were back with our suitcases and our room keys and our identically folded sheets I think everyone hoped we'd get the day off on Friday. Instead we had class.
So the way we protested against that? By sitting up in our common room doing the sex talk. You know, it's that talk where you kind of surprise and sorta titillate each other by talking about what you've done and haven't done, what advice you give and why you're giving it. It was John (now apparently going by Johnny), Andrea, eventually Megan came out, our RA Sarrin, and me for most of the time, with short appearances by others every once in a while. We were sitting up until probably 2 am just talking, laughing, and acting like normal kids instead of the foreign exchange students we'd been all week.
Friday night was Karoke night!
Yep, I've actually now (finally) sung my heart out to bad 80s tunes in Tokyo! What started out as a plan for dinner spawned by our resident boy-cheerleader Cal turned into a party of 15 of us out in Shinjuku. Megan, Molly and I all have a very similar perspective on the whole group mentality. We get frustrated by it, and we'd much rather be in a smaller bunch of people. So we raised eyebrows at each other and then headed off into the forest of lights to find somewhere quiet to eat that just might serve a glass of wine.
And we found it! A couple of alley ways over and a couple of right turns down even smaller streets, and down a set of steep stairs we found the cutest little restaurant of about six tables filled with only Japanese people. Their menu was red-meat based (hamburgers served without buns in esoteric ways, sizzling plates of beef, and scrumptious dark curry), they had the kanji that meant they served alcohol, and a table for four available. We ate, drank, and talked all kinds of lovely politics. And sure, a little bit of gossip crept in, but the best part was getting to talk about our personal histories and learn a little bit more about these lovely women that I like so much.
After that, though, we didn't want the night to end, but we didn't want to stay forever, so we paid our bill and went in search of … karoke! Hey, when in Japan, right? Shinjuku happens to be the most fantastic place to find clubs like this, and there's one on every corner, so we picked a likely looking blue neon sign, waded through the nighttime crowds crossing the street and the yakuza who seemed to stake out their own segment of pavement and then create a silent bubble of challenge around themselves (although, honestly, I didn't know they were yakuza until Megan told me – I just thought they were well dressed boys looking quite pretty on the corners. Yes I am a little naïve sometimes).
We got to the club, agreed on an hour, were given our room, and then… couldn't figure out how to work the controls! They're quite serious about their karoke here, and the remote control was incredibly complex. Well, except for the button that read, in English, DAMN. This, of course, was the button one pushed to make the songs come up. It was a revelation when we figured that out! And then we were off – drinking peach fuzz (yep, that's what the drink was called) and signing horrible songs from the 80s. And laughing at pretty much everything. You may already know this, but they have Japanese videos that play with even American songs that have videos – they were amazing and scary all at once for every song we chose.
At the end of the night we giggled our way back to the first floor, paid everything off, and then managed to get our selves home through the strange complex that is Shinjuku station, looking forward to sleeping in.
And then there was Saturday and the Ni-Chome district
I thought that I was going to be good on Saturday. Gabriel (my friend from UT who's acting as an English teacher here in a small town about an hour's trainride outside of Tokyo) was coming into town, but had other plans on Saturday and so we were going to hang out Sunday. So I did my laundry, and was planning on starting on my homework for the next week, when Tebo suggested we go to Outback for lunch.
Evil woman. After all the Japanese food we've been eating lately the idea of Outback sounded freakishly delicious. Gabriel called me just at the right time, and he was wandering around about a trainstop away from where the restaurant was, so we agreed to meet and the four of us headed out from NYC.
I didn't realize that your stomach can change in a couple of weeks, but apparently it can because none of us were able to even get a quarter of the way through our steaks (well, except for Johnny, but he practically fell asleep at the table afterwards from meat coma). We split up after lunch and Gabriel suggested that instead of going out tomorrow night with him, we should both just head down to Ni-Chome now.
Ni-Chome is the Tokyo gay district. Gabriel had found this little bar called the Advocate that had a bunch of lovely people who were willing to be friendly with strangers (and they were now his friends, some of them), and they do a $10 all you can drink beer thing from 6 pm – 8 pm. Sadly, I don't drink beer, so that wasn't really a deal for me, but it was really fantastic to get out of school for a little bit, be away meeting new people.
As we were leaving we'd told Andrea the name of the bar, and about a half an hour after we arrived and were chatting with Gabriel's friends Andrea appeared out of the blue. I was incredibly impressed because finding anything in Tokyo is damn near impossible unless you've been there before, or you happen to catch the right person who's also been there before to give you directions.
We spent a couple of fantastic hours drinking and talking to Gabriel's friends (and friend's friends) most of whom were Brits or Australians (with a couple of Japanese included) either teaching or working in Japan. Lovely bunch of people, and Andrea and I had the chance to actually talk a little with each other too in a way we hadn't before.
And then Sarrin (our RA) and two of the boys from our program (Nhut and David) showed up – but of course they wanted to go dancing. Gabriel's friend mentioned a dance club a couple of blocks away and so off we toddled.
Name? Arty Farty's. Yep.
It was a tiny little club filled with the most adorable people – didn't matter if you were gay or straight, everybody was happy to see you and wanted you to dance and be silly. Instantly we grabbed a table, stashed our stuff, and then were off to dance. The only other difference between this and American gay clubs? The air conditioning – there was none. So we were a sweaty, giggly, mass of dancers having a great time.
We managed to keep our eyes on the clock and get the last train back to the NYC! The other IES people stayed behind and decided to take a cab, and apparently got into further trouble as the night wore on. As it was, the dancing, the drinking, the grinning, and the sense of welcome was perfect for me, and all I needed.
Woke up this morning and headed out to grab some kaiten sushi (it's a restaurant where they have a conveyer belt of sushi that you then grab plates off and eat and are charged for your plates at the end of your meal) and do a little book shopping. Still haven't made it to a real bookstore, because Gabriel's passion is instead for manga, but I'm getting closer.
Today was mostly spent doing the homework I put off yesterday and reviewing the lesson plan for tomorrow. This week's plans are pretty mundane – I'm going to ask my professor to help me find a way to increase my kanji knowledge outside of class, I'm going to try to take a field trip to the Diet Library (since their catalogue includes every book ever published in Japan), and finally there's a bookstore in Shinjuku that's 7 floors high. I'm going to take the list I make at the Diet and go on a spree … at least, that's the plan. This weekend we're doing one of our field trips and heading to Nikko, which is temple and waterfall city according to our other RA.
Lastly, though, I want to thank everybody who's been checking in and letting me know they're reading. I'm really sorry I haven't been able to respond to comments – I won't do the internet rant again but it's not much better now. But I am reading every one and it's great to know where y'all are and how you're doing and what you're thinking, so I didn't want anybody to believe that I wasn't paying attention. I miss you all like crazy, since at the moment I'm pretty much under forced vacation from LJ as much as I am from the states.