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Ramen truck by Ikebukuro Station

Ramen truck by Ikebukuro Station

I admit that I’ve always loved “ramen wagons”.  Like any other mobile food vending cart, it parks in areas of heavy foot traffic, and has stoves in there so that the owner can make up some fast food to serve his hungry customers.  Unlike most other mobile food carts, however, the food is not meant to be taken away, but eaten on the spot.  The walls of the wagon fold down to become the table that customers eat at. 

Some “ramen enthusiasts” (this is Japan — of course there are “enthusiasts” dedicated to ramen) will tell you that the only true ramen is that which comes from the back of a truck.  I won’t go that far, but I will say that I do really enjoy these trucks.  There’s something about sitting at the oasis in the middle of the heavy foot traffic in front of the station, warming yourself up with a nice bowl of pork ramen, and chatting away with the other customers, most of whom are..  well-lubricated.. after a night on the town.  For some reason, eating at one of these ramen trucks comes with the expectation of joining in whatever conversation is happening around the tables — each truck turns into a sort of “mini party”, so there is almost always some fascinating conversation to be had, such as the following that happened last Friday night:

Drunk Guy #1: So where are you from?

Drew: [usual smart-ass answer] Nerima.

Drunk Guy #1: No, before then.

Drew: [pointing to "Canada" hat] Canada.

Drunk Guy #1: And you’ve been living here for…

Drew:  The better part of 5 years now.

Drunk Guy #1: Oh, you must be on a tourist visa then.

Drew: No, I have a job, I work.

Drunk Guy #1: [to Drunk Guy #2] Hey, this guy here is from Canada and he has a job here!

Drunk Guy #2: [comes over] You’re from Canada?  That’s great!  I know a lot about Canada!  I have one thing to tell you, a catchphrase from your home country.  Are you ready?  [puts his hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eyes]  ”Yes we can!”

Woke up this morning to a rare treat, an actual ground cover of snow! It was so unusual for Tokyo that I had to take some pictures while doing my walk from Nakamurabashi to Fujimidai to get my traditionl weekend-morning coffee and muffin.

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My moped, which I had parked right outside my building because I was doing some pre-sale maintenance, had a generous helping of snow.

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Some poor guy doing deliveries on his moped for the local drug store. Doesn’t really look like a very fun day to be riding.

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The show is so wet and slushy that this guy might have been driving for miles and miles and still have this mountain of snow on top of the car.

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As a Canadian, I still find it bizarre to see Japanese people carrying umbrellas when it snows. It makes sense, I guess — snow is, after all, just frozen rain — but I can not bring myself to do it. I wonder if the people who live in parts of Japan where it snows often carry umbrellas when it snows.

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Japanese snowmen have only 2 balls. Somebody explained to me that the “model” for snowmen here is some religious guy who is always kneeling, not standing like North American snowmen. Note the snowman in the background is shaped like an Oni, to celebrate Bean-Throwing Day.

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Getting the forts ready for battle. Note that it’s only adults who feel the need to carry umbrellas — kids out for a bit of a play in the snow with the other neighbourhood children know perfectly well that a bit of snow never hurt anyone.

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Ah, snow chains. The perfect driving accessory for a day with a little bit of slush on the road. Well, now I know why the roads here are forever being resurfaced…

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When all you have is a broom, everything looks like a dusty floor.

Japanese to English, as translated by Cookie Monster:

Google

Somehow, the Narita Express always manages to evoke the same blend of feelings from me.

For the uninitiated, Narita Airport is about an hour outside of Tokyo. There are of course many different ways to get to and from the airport, all with their own merits and drawbacks, but really it comes down to “where in the city are you?”. Airport Limousine Bus is great for people who live in Minato, Chiyoda, Shinjuku, etc. For those who live in the Northeast, Keisei Skyliner is for you. And, for the Shinjuku/Ikebukuro/Omiya crowd, there is Narita Express.

The Narita Express runs alongside the Yamanote Line from Ikebukuro down to Shinagawa or so, and then comes back up underground to Tokyo Station, before heading East and following the Sobu line out of the city. Now, I am fully aware that no country in the world puts its most expensive real estate right along the train tracks, but somehow the Narita Express is especially drab. The thing is, you should be excited to be on the Narita Express! You are, after all, leaving for some sort of trip. Maybe you are going home to visit family. Perhaps you are off to seal some business deal. You could be going to rendezvous with a special someone in some tropical destination. Or, on the other hand, you could be heading the other direction, glad to be back in Tokyo, looking forward to seeing friends again after a couple weeks away, or at the very least, looking forward to your nice comfortable futon after traveling for hours.

But the Narita Express is so depressing that it completely prevents any of these emotions from surfacing. All you can think of is the drabness of the surrounding buildings, the harried commuters that you see in other trains and on other platforms, the farmers out in the field struggling to finish a day’s work. Even the coffee, served from a pushcart in the aisle, seems drab and boring and lifeless and depressing. Oh, you get a flash of trees and nature — maybe 5 or 10 minutes’ worth — but there’s no time to let that sink in, as by then you are already in the phase of planning out what you will need to do once you get to the airport.

I wish I knew what the answer was. A trip should not start out or finish up that way!

Well, the folks at Tokyo Times posted a story about a fun party trick sold for Japanese salarymen to be the life of the party. It’s a costume kit called “Harro! Gaijin-san” that includes a fake pointy nose and stick-on round blue eyes.

I’m actually pretty thick-skinned about stuff like this, but I really do wonder how long a similar product would last in the west: the “Konnechuwa! Mr. Nip” kit that includes big fake buck-teeth and slanty-eyed glasses…

So I was in the plumbing section of the hardware store the other day, looking for something. An employee of the store came up and asked me if I needed any help:

Me: Yeah, I’m looking for a part for my washing machine… no, wait, that’s not the right word… Crap, I forgot the word in Japanese… But it’s what you use for cleaning dirty dishes.
Him: A hose?
Me: ….uh, no. You know, you put your dirty dishes into it and they come out clean.
Him: The sink?

By the way, the answer ended up being 食器洗い機 “shokkiaraiki”…

Bottle of wiper fluid—$4.99
Front bumper—$379.00
Getting pwned in front of the whole internet—priceless.

Basically, some guy posts to a BBS, “Some guy hit me in a hit-and-run, here’s his description, if anyone sees him please call the cops.” And minutes later, someone replies, complete with high-resolution photos of the accident and the driver peeling away, “You mean this guy?”

Yay for the internet!

[Edit: Apparently the news found out about it; the story is below:]

Just heard from drinking buddy (who only drinks orange juice) Blair Falahey who has just finished his second over-8000-meter mountain climb this year. The first was Everest this spring, and the second was Cho Oyu which he summitted (without supplimental oxygen) on the morning of October 1st.Cho Oyu was a special one for him, as three years ago, he lost most of his fingertips to frostbite on a failed summit attempt on that mountain, and was told that he’d never climb again. He’s nicknamed this year’s Cho Oyu climb “Unfinished Business”.

From Blair’s email about summiting:

just before the sun rises is usually the coldest part of the day. and this day was to be no exception. when i stopped to rewarm my hands i reached to touch my nose and realised i could not feel it. it was totally numb. so i spent 5 mins rewarming my nose. an italian friend passed by and i stopped him to ask what colour my nose was. he answered “red”.

“red is good i thought. red means its still alive”. i put my mitts back on and continued on to the summit. i could only take a few steps at a time.then stop and double over my trekking pole until i had my breathe back and had recovered.

finally at 7.44am.6 3/4hrs after leaving my tent i reached the true summit of cho oyu(8201m). you know you have reached the true summit because you can see everest. normally i would take out my sat phone and call my dad. but i was too tired and too cold to do so. the wind was whipping the summit and i had lost any desire to do anything other than absolute necessary.

Anyway, I encourage everyone to go and check out the photos from his Everest climb that are on his web site and to keep on watching for the photos from Cho Oyu that are bound to be up there once he gets back to Japan…

Christie’s underestimates Trekkies, pulls $7.1 million

The Borg model, which had intricate black latticework, was expected to sell for $1,500 at most, but one bidder decided it was worth $96,000. The captain’s chair, which belonged to the show’s Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, was expected to bring in $9,000, less than a fifth of its actual price: $52,000.

There are worse things to spend one’s money on, I suppose. It’s not really my cup of tea, but if you’re a rich Star Trek fan, why not?

The only thing I know about Star Trek is that there are giant hamsters named Tribbles… I wonder if they auctioned any of those guys off…

What more can I say?