Archive for August, 2009

31
Aug
09

I feel like a hundred grand!

As my blog hit count approaches 100000 I want to take a moment out to thank all of my readers for continuing to support me. You guys and gals have been great!

I’ve been a Japan blogger since November last year and during that time I feel like I have learned a great deal about myself as a writer and as a person and it has helped me tremendously. I didn’t realize keeping a  blog would have such an effect. I knew it would be cathartic. I didn’t know it would feel so rewarding. I work very hard on most of the entries, trying to dip a little deeper into that well of truth we all try to draw from…it’s not an easy task, telling the truth. The truth often has to face down my desire to entertain. This blog has helped me to find the balance between the two.

It has also helped me to moderate my feelings to a certain extent, and engage. Whereas venting and whining can be entertaining if done with a great deal of style, I’ve learned there are other ways to express complaints, or express feelings like anger or disappointment, without blatantly complaining,  ranting, and raving which I’ve found is not only uninspiring but also a little reckless and immature. Yes, the creativity factor derives from taking the time to choose your words carefully while expressing your feelings and formulating your opinions and concerns without spewing them all over the page- like the difference between penmanship and chicken scratch or merely pouring a bottle of ink on a page, I think.

The life of an ex-pat in Japan or any country can be a trying one…It’s great to have an outlet. It’s even better to have a creative outlet. That’s what I’ve strived for with this blog.

And, reading many of your blogs has helped keep me  get and remain grounded. I’m awed and humbled by the creativity of many of my reader’s blogs. They inspire me to work harder and spark my innate competitiveness which I’ve also found to be a useful motivational tool.

I realize that my responses to your comments as well as my comments on your blogs I’ve visited have gotten shorter and shorter recently, mainly because I’m hammering away at the book I’m trying to finish in the very near future. I only hope my book will be similarly if not far exceed the success of my blog thus far. A success no doubt due to all of you, so I want to say thanks. Thanks a lot!

Anyway, all of this is to say I take my blogging rather seriously (though not too seriously, I mean it is just anther blog after all) and I respect my readers’ intelligence and the time spent reading some of my rather long posts.

I hope you continue to read and enjoy Loco in Yokohama.

Sincerely,

Loco

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PS: And don’t forget to vote /rate my posts as you read them even if you don’t leave a comment. It helps me to know what my readers are thinking.

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30
Aug
09

China via Japan pt. 7: Pics from the Middle Kingdom

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Immigration:”Is this you?”rate

Me: “Of course that’s me!”

That little white box in front of me is a box for rating her.  I gave her a satisfied. She was just doing her job…I suppose.

P1140383Looks like Shinjuku…

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Starfish and Lizards and Scorpions…oh my

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Lebron James and I in the Beijing Subway

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Ok…I’m not going that way….not without an oxygen tank

wallIt just keeps going and going and going doesn’t it?

CIMG0957Which line is for tickets??? Wait a minute…is that 1 line or 6?

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Give a hoot, don’t pollute!CIMG0981

The palace of supreme something or other

28
Aug
09

Funky Ningyou: Japanese Girls “Popping”

I remember when I was a kid I used to go with my homies to Manhattan and “Pop” in public for donations. I couldn’t pop well so my duty was to carry the boom box and protect it with my life (-: But my friends were maniacs…I mean, they were really good. Mind you this was in the early 80’s and popping and break-dancing was all the rave.

So, today I come across this video of two Japanese girls popping and it reminded me so much of those good old days of making easy money dazzling people on the streets of New York.

They’re pretty good. They would have made a bundle in NY in the 80s. Hell, maybe even now.

Loco

PS: Ningyou means “doll” by the way

27
Aug
09

China via Japan Pt. 6: …And then there was the food

I fell head over heels in love with Japanese food. It’s one of the reasons I’m still here. Whenever I seriously contemplate returning home I start weighing the pros and cons and the con that gives me heart palpitations is the thought of not having access to authentic Japanese cuisine. Usually my ruminating comes to an abrupt halt after that consideration. Food is that important to the quality of my life. I mean, I spent the first few years here missing soul food (especially Mama’s cooking) and wondering why doesn’t someone open up a decent soul food restaurant in this area. But, after a while, I stopped even missing that. My annual trip home seems to sate that craving and more often than not I come to the realization, with a mouthful of baked macaroni and cheese or some potato salad that, yeah it’s delicious and all, but it ain’t nothing to move back home for.

And, sure, maybe if I had been weened on Japanese food from birth I would feel the same way about Ramen, Yakisoba and Okonomiyaki. But I wasn’t weened on it. And I don’t feel the same way about it as I do about soul food. I am totally infatuated.

Then, what happens? I go to China..the birth place of many of the staples on the Japanese menu (let the truth be known) as well as a staple back where I grew up in NY. I mean, I’ve eaten about as much Chinese food in my life as I’ve eaten soul food. Definitely more than McDonald’s or any other fast food. Chinese food is that ubiquitous in NY. And, I loved it.

I learned in China, however, that I’d never really had Chinese food before.

There were many strange things on the menus in China…

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But I didn’t sample any of them. I am not a braveheart. My first night in China I kept it easy peasy Japaneasy and ate Peking (Beijing) Duck at a safe restaurant recommended by a reputable Japanese travel magazine.

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The ‘chefs’ pull up beside your table with the ducks whole- looking like they ought to be quacking- and begin carving up your bird into thin slices.

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Then, they give you a little tray with their special sauce and some scallions and a saucer of soft taco like bread and you make little Peking Duck burritos.

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Man, that was some good eating. A duck will never be safe in my sight again. I’ll always be envisioning it as I had envisioned it that night in Beijing. And that was just the beginning…

There are many different types of noodles in Japan. My favorite is udon. It’s a thick noodle with a silky taste that usually accomplishes the unusual here in Japan and fills this capacious cavern of mine.

Living in Japan you get quite used to a little noise with your meal. If you go to certain sushi bars are yakitori spots the staff are always yelling, gesticulating and slamming dishes around though quite skillfully. So, when I strolled into a noodle shop in Beijing, that specialized in Chinese Udon, I wasn’t caught entirely off guard by the racket. They do a little routine, the waiters do, when they bring your udon, of adding all seven of the ingredients, various beans and veggies and what nots. It’s very noisy, but the result, as in Japan, is well worth the shell shock.

Add a couple of special Chinese sauces on the side and the Udon is off the charts!

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I also ordered some of my favorite Chinese dish (since I’ve been living in Japan, that is, and have acquired a liking for Tofu), a spicy tofu meat stew, rice and a Chinese brew and I was set! As you might expect, the Japanese version of the dish below is not the same. I can’t really explain the difference. Maybe it was partially psychological, I suspect. I mean, knowing I was in China maybe I predisposed myself to believe that the authentic Chinese version would be far superior. Whatever the reason, it was just that: far superior!

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On my final night in the Middle Kingdom, I got really daring and went to a VERY local restaurant. Maybe they’d not only never served a foreigner before but perhaps had never even seen one. The previous restaurants I had gone to had been recommended in that aforementioned travel magazine. But I wanted to eat what the locals eat (and at local prices) and by the final day I had become thoroughly acclimated to the Chinese style reaction to my foreigness (having been accustomed to a certain amount of it here in Japan), so I ventured out.

And I’m so happy I did!

It was a family restaurant, but nothing like Jonathan’s or Bamiyan (a Japanese Chinese food chain). More like an Izakaya but the emphasis was more on the food than the drink.

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The atmosphere was laid back…everyone knew everyone. There were no smoking signs on the wall but some of the customers were smoking  regardless and I got the impression that the regulation was imposed on them from on-high and not by the management. It was an unremarkable establishment. A hole in the wall.

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But, the food! I guess the best American equivalent of the dish I ordered would be Sweet and Sour shrimp, but this dish was crazy delicious!

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And I also ordered some Chinese gyouza (dumplings). The Japanese ain’t got nothing on their forebearers, I gotta tell ya. This was bar none the best gyouza I’ve ever tasted.

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The Chinese beer tasted like the malt liquor I used to drink when I was a teen. A cross between Olde English 800 and Schlitz Malt Liguor Bull. It was natsukashii (brought back fond old school memories) of hanging with my boys in the ‘hood drinking 40s and getting lifted and exorcising the munchies with some Chinese food (-:

I left that restaurant, and indeed, China feeling great! It was a very memorable experience and I hope to return someday, if for no other reason but to tear into some more of that fine Chinese cuisine.

Loco

26
Aug
09

It’s the little things #7: Ramen to die for

Ramen is some good eating. Some ramen is better than other ramen. All Japanese ramen is better than that crap that passed for ramen back in the States (which I used to love but now wouldn’t even give to my dog if he sat at my foot panting for it.)

And, yes, I too have my favorites. As far as Yokohama is concerned I can recommend two places.

1- First and foremost, I must recommend my favorite all-time Ramen spot. It’s called Yoshimura-ya and it’s located about 10 minutes from Yokohama Station. If you know the area, walk from the station past Vivre, past Tokyu Hands, and turn the corner. You can’t miss it. It would be the Ramen Ya with the benches out front filled with eager future patrons waiting upwards of 30 minutes outdoors just to get at the delectable dishes within. Yes, the lines can get pretty daggone long. But, I assure you, it is worth the wait. The flavor is worthy of the hype.

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There’s a whole crew of guys slaving over meats and veggies. Usually, watching how food is prepared for a cluster of people is not an especially pretty sight. When I was in the Army and drew kitchen duty the experience almost turned me off to eating altogether. I mean, watching some guy stir 100 pounds of pork in a roiling vat of grease, watching pink turn to gray, is not very appetizing.

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But, watching these guys do it, with all the zeal and professionalism of their trade, is another story.  1500 customers come through this place a day (and most of them seem to be waiting whenever I come here for some reason) and they relish the business in typical Japanese style.

And then there’s the final result:

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Oishi sou dayo ne.

I have what is known in Japan as Nekoshita. Nekoshita means a cat’s tongue or a sensitive tongue. So Japanese-style slurping is not something I can do easily. Sometimes I still have to blow first.

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But, nothing, least of all a slightly stinging tongue, can stop me from digging into some Yoshimura Ramen.

2- Okurayama’s Nanashi Ramen Shop: It’s across from the Okurayama station on the Tokyu Tohoku line.

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Though the larger-than-life sign out front screams, “RAMEN!” at pedestrians, it’s a small place and if you blink you might miss it… so don’t blink. Because if you do you’ll miss out on one of the tastiest ramens you’ll ever have the pleasure of slurping.

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If you’re wondering, Yep, it’ s as good as it looks. I’ve been coming here maybe twice a month for the past two years or so and it hasn’t let me down, yet. You can expect to leave here 1500 yen lighter (which is a little steep for ramen and a brew) but I’ve never felt bilked. Also on the menu is some great gyouza and their rice side dish (donburi) is all that.

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If you’re in the area try them both out when you get a chance. You’ll be glad you did. Tell them Loco sent you…just for fun (-;

Ramen: one of those little things…

Loco

22
Aug
09

Micheal Moore’s back!

Yep, he’s back. Micheal Moore, the man who has brought us the most intelligent and incisive documentaries of our time, is back with a new movie! Capitalism: A love story.

can’t wait!!!

Here’s the trailer:

Loco

Off topic I know but I just love the guy!

20
Aug
09

Skin jobs in the office

Last night I had the strangest dream.

At my job, one of my co-workers was an android…I guess “android” is really an outdated word. Showing my age I guess. Cyborg  sounds too sinister, though. Robot sounds too metallic. The point is it was not human. The strange part was everyone knew it wasn’t human but it had integrated so completely into the office that no one, including myself, took much note of it. It was like one of a hundred other things about my life in Japan that I used to think odd but now fly way below my remarkable radar.

She (it wasn’t an it after all; even I, in my dream, recognized it as a she) wasn’t hard on the eyes at all. I mean, she wasn’t a pleasure model, either. She was built to be a fully functioning attractive office lady. Not extraordinarily intelligent, but sharp. I mean she was no computer with legs. She was more like a woman who had been in the office for several years and moved up through experience and a proven track record of getting things done efficiently, and thus had the respect of co-workers and superiors alike.

Her personality was not inhuman. Damn, is she like one of those Replicants or “skin jobs” from Bladerunner? Maybe. Like the one Harrison Ford fell in love with. Sean Young, not the Darryl Hannah one. And, like them she seemed to know she wasn’t human, but not in a way that it should be of any concern to other people. Like, with every action, she whispered, “I’m just like you…” and had been whispering this message into the brains of staff so long that they’d actually stop hearing it and began seeing her as just like themselves.

Now that I think about it, though synthetic people from Bladerunner are about the closest thing I think of what this woman in my dream was, that doesn’t explain my feeling about her. She was not a person. She was not a machine.

It was a strange dream…

There was a memo going around the office email. I read it. It said something like: Due to the success of the current line of robots I’ve made a new line and one secretly sent one to China. Many of you might think it unwise of me to send our technology to China but I assure you it wasn’t my idea. It was Mr. Loco’s. However I think it was a brilliant one. I agreed wholeheartedly and I’ve gone ahead and sent it. Just thought you ought to know. It was signed some name I can’t remember but underneath the name it said: The Creator.

I call God, The Creator.

I woke up right after that. My cell phone vibrated me awake. The dream was still vivid so I started writing.

I mean, everyone in my current office is Japanese which leads me to think the cyborg skin job was Japanese, too. I’m pretty sure she was. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was speaking some English and some Japanese if it was any language at all. Language wasn’t a big part of this dream. Neither was race or ethnicity. It was all about the natural acceptance I would have of a co-worker who despite her artificial background was able to integrate so naturally into the office space. At least that’s what I felt strange enough about the dream to wake up writing, something I rarely do.

At one point in the dream I’m pretty sure I wondered what it would be like to make love to her, and I remember thinking she’d probably be just as unremarkable as some people can be, myself too at times.

Somehow I think this has something to do with my life here in Japan, but I’m not sure what the connection is.

It’s was a very peculiar dream.

Loco




Copyright © 2010 Loco in Yokohama / All Rights Reserved

Please know that this blog is my original writing and may not be reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of the author (that's me!) Thanks!

Words I love…

Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me
I love you for who you are
Not the one you feel you need to be
Ever catch a falling star
Ain't no stopping 'til it's in the ground
Everybody is a star
One big circle going round and round

Words by: Sly Stone

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