As an apology for not posting on Friday (and to ensure that the Chronotrigger post truly was 号外), I’ll give you a double dose today starting with a smorgasboard (read: extremely bloggy) entry.
– I was down in Tokyo this weekend, carting down another load of crap from Fukushima. The preferred method of transportation between Tokyo and Aizu is, of course, the Sakura Bus. They started off as a small private company running buses between Naka-dori (中通) cities and Tokyo, but expanded to Aizu. Three years ago they had a one bus a day from Wakamatsu to Tokyo and one return. The bus left Wakamatsu at 7am and arrived at Tokyo station between 11 and 11:30, generally on the early side. Now they run at least three buses every day, and more on the weekends/Fridays. Last night I rode the newly introduced bus with three-seat rows. Very comfortable.
– I now have a TV-capable cell phone. I switched from docomo to au. When you join a new plan, you can get a slightly older model phone for 1 yen. Still, it’s a lot newer than my three year old phone, and the pricing plans are just about the same. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t switch to a new phone every two years, unless you were extremely satisfied with your phone. Additionally, au is giving 10,000 yen cash back gifts to all people who have an existing number switched to an au plan. I think this campaign lasts until the end of the summer.
– The place I’m living is about a 20-minute walk from Ooi Station (damn inability to find long vowel marking!) – 大井駅. I walked over there yesterday afternoon and was browsing Ito Yokado. I got to the top floor and was surprised to find a Café du Monde! The single most famous café in New Orleans, now accessible by foot! Apparently it’s been there over ten years. I knew there was one in Kyoto Station, but the lady said they also have one in Ikebukuro as well as a few other Kanto locations. Highly recommended.
– My new roommates are hilarious. I have four Japanese roommates and a Korean roommate. The Korean was studying Japanese when I got back from Ito Yokado, and one of my Japanese roommates asked what he was studying. He started talking about what patterns he was studying, including the pattern 「〜というと、」Another Japanese chimed in, 「夏というと、ビアガーデン」He then added, “We should make a pact. Whenever the temperature goes over 30 degrees, let’s go to a beer garden.” “Huuuuh,” said a third Japanese roommate, “It gets pretty hot all the time.” “Yeah,” the guy said, “It’d be like, aww, it’s over 30 again. I guess it’s beer garden time.”
– I’d like to direct your attention to the links on the right for a moment. If you’re not already reading Japan Navigator, you really should start. Ad Blankestijn, man of incredibly cool Scandinavian (? or Dutch?) name, has been blogging prolific about Japan, and, judging from the lack of comments (just like yours truly), it appears he needs either more readers or a more vocal readership. I will endeavor to comment on his interesting entries. Recent good reads include a review of Donald Richie’s The Inland Sea, a very nice entry about cup sake, and a look at Japanese ghosts and why the Japanese tell ghost stories during the summer. (Strangely enough, the Eiji Wentz movie-version of Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro was on TV Saturday night.)
– One of my new favorite spaces in Tokyo is just inside the Underground Central Exit of Tokyo, which is apparently called Tokyo Station City GranSta. I’m not sure exactly when it was finished, but it’s filled with gourmet bento stores, extremely high quality delis (Dean and Deluca, Burdigala Express, Bagel and Bagel), a nice liquor store, and a nice cupcake store (Fairycake Fair). If you’re looking for a lunch to eat on the train to the airport or on a shinkansen or bus ride and have cash to burn (it’s pricey), definitely check this area out. It’s in the basement under Yaesu Central Exit.
– Speaking of booze, the best place to access quality booze close to Tokyo Station is in the basement of Daimaru. It’s just on the north side of Yaesu Central Exit. Ride the escalator down and you’ll find a remarkable variety of local Japanese beers including Yona Yona, Karuizawa, Oedo, what must be the full line of Hitachino Nest, and a host of imports. Drink, drink, and be merry, I say!