Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20th

A couple of observations:

Restaurants don't provide napkins in the traditional sense. Instead of paper or cloth napkins left on the table, you're given a warmed towel in fancy places and a wet nap in noodle bars and those vending machine places. The first time we got one we were confused since you usually don't get wet naps until after the meal and only at BBQ and Ethiopian restaurants. Also, I have yet to go into a public bathroom with paper towels, they all seem to have air dryers. As a result of this, I think, people carry their own towels – Douglas Adams would be proud. They aren't full sized, just like a wash cloth or hand towel. It is a habit I am going to have to get into.

We've seen a good number of people walking around with hospital masks on. We thought it was because they were trying to keep from getting sick, but not so. One of Craig's co-workers told him that during this time of year people wear the masks because of allergies. I think that's brilliant. In the US people just use drugs that, according to their makers own research don't actually work (read Our Daily Meds), instead of actively blocking the allergens. During cold and flu season, though I suppose any time is fine, people wear the masks if they are sick in order to not spread their germs. That's even more brilliant. I don't know if the Japanese are as big of workaholics as Americans but, if they won't stay home, at least they protect others when they're infectious diseases.

Here are the top three most common establishments, based on my observations, in our neighborhood -

#3 Bakeries – They often have English names; Rhubarb is just one we walk past on our way to the train. Their fare includes green matcha (ground up green tea leaves) muffins, azuki stuffed pastries, doughnuts, hots dogs baked into rolls with garnish on top, muffins with hard boiled eggs inside, and excessively sweet rolls. They also sell loafs of bread that are usually a third of the size of a loaf in the US and look like lousy white bread. They have not figured out good bread here, yet. That's why you could easily eat rice with all three meals.

#2 Pachinko and Slot parlors – pachinko is apparently like a vertical pin ball machine. From the doorway they look and sound like giant video game parlors, which is basically what they are. Gambling for money is illegal in Japan so you win tokens. The tokens are then exchanged for prizes – pens, little toys, bicycles, gift certificates etc. According to Wikipedia, it is possible to exchange the tokens for cash but you have to go to a separate location that is not operated by the parlor. They are often operated by the Yakuza, Japan's organized crime. To Craig and I they look like hell. Sartre said hell is other people, I think adding blaring music and game sirens, flashing lights, and heavy cigarette smoke (smoking in public places is completely allowed here, you can usually smell a parlor) to crowds of people would be much worse.

#1 Hair Salons – there are five that I can identify on the one street we walk down to get to the train and the walk is only 20 minutes. Yesterday I talked about how shopping is a national past-time. Well, getting your hair done must be in second place. Maybe, because almost everyone's hair ground state is black and straight, they go to the salons in order to individualize. A lot of women and men dye their hair and get perms. Maybe it's more common in the states then I think because there is so much variation to begin with, but it is really obvious when you see a Japanese guy with dirty blond, curly hair that they've had their hair done.

Here is a limerick Craig came up with last night:

There once was a girl living in Rokko

who liked her some morning cocoa

one day in her mug

she spotted a bug

and then she went completely loco

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