Saturday, November 18, 2017

Doing Nothing At All

Unlike most, I prefer to take my Netflix fix slow - so rather than frantically binge-fest over the newly streamed episodes, I basically drag them out painfully anticipatorily into a couple of weeks. An episode a week basically. Reason why it took me so long to finally see Clay Jensen figure out the entire thirteen reasons given by his tortured paramour on what drove her to put a permanent period to her life.

One specific cause of which is obviously our quietly ineffectual Clay himself. Hardly a spoiler since he received the iconic cassettes right in the beginning of the series. You would think someone like Clay would hardly cause a ripple, no?

Something I've noticed since high school myself; quietly reticent fellows such as Clay who tend to blend unobtrusively into the the general background without causing much of a scene. Unassuming, unpretentious, unnoticeable; till sometimes they don't even seem to be involved in anything that's happening around them.

Or prefer not to be.

Seems very little reason to irrrationally aggravate me but it does.

Maybe I shoulda done something.
Coulda Woulda Shoulda. 

Do they actually think doing nothing actually helps anyone? How many times have we seen people hang back from a potentially ugly situation, trying not to dirty their hands? Not realizing that backing away with their arms folded is almost as bad as causing the incident to happen in the first place.

Oft repeated statement that I've always found inspirational.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.
Sound familiar, David? 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Conservatively straight-laced they might all seem with their perfectly combed hair, impeccably pressed suits and excruciatingly appropriate behaviour ... but when you're a gay man like me, it's near impossible not to have a spectacularly warped idea of Japanese men; what with the dozens of raunchy Japanese gay porn where hitherto absolutely straight, impossibly beautiful college boys are titillated and seduced by a villainous handful of wickedly mustachioed men bent on getting their rocks off.

It's a thing. Really.

All the while the apparently unwilling victims of their pitiless ministrations whimper kimochi repeatedly under their bated breaths, inevitably followed by the final blissful surrender of an ikku. Hard to believe they are all so meekly amenable sometimes. Of course if you're foolhardy enough to try that out with any of the muscular cuties on the streets, I think there would be serious mayhem to follow.

Art by the amazing Silverjow
Doubt all of the boys are as amenable to having their banana played with as the porn suggests.

That's only the miniscule gay subset which is a teeny tiny portion of the entirely too open porn industry here. So you can imagine the thousands of titles available for the horny straight boys drooling wordlessly in the sex shops and computer dens of Akihabara. And we haven't even talked about the more peculiar underground fetishes brought to life by Japanese porn.

Though the majority of Japanese men look perfectly average like anywhere else in the world, still the beautiful boys are around if you keep an eye out; from the sleekly suited salarymen to the hipster collegiates. However one thing they all share, regardless of good looks, would be their tight butts. Really. Perfectly spherical with a dangerously sinuous curve that anyone would just want to slap just to get that wiggle. Easy enough to see where they get it since there's all the endless walking up and down the stairs practically everywhere.

Just like in Korea, they just want everyone to walk.

Makes it quite a pleasure to sit on their trains watching the men pass by.

An odd subset of Japanese boys that I can't quite wrap my head around are the shockingly deeply tanned boys; an oddity in these cool temperate parts. Quite a few to be found working as the amazingly sexy jinrickisha danshi, otherwise known as rickshaw boys, around the historical Asakusa area. Tall, attractive, well-built with friendly smiles and an intense passion for service, is it a wonder they have all become tourist hits. Lean muscular bodies I can understand since part of their job would be dragging the rickshaw around, which has to be a great cardiovascular workout if any, but how would that explain the deep all-over tan?

No tanlines I swear, and I really looked hard for them. Or are they all yankiis?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Candy Candy

Candy indeed! Impossible to miss the amount of confections and desserts in Tokyo; quite evident that they actually do have a specific, beautifully made wagashi for every occasion and celebration on the calendar. However despite the many namagashis and higashis waved temptingly in front of me at every confectionery store we walked by - and the numerous attempts at trying, I actually failed to develop a taste for them.

Perhaps it's a fondness that develops only if you've been brought up since childhood with these chewy sweet treats. For me, I found them... not much to my liking. And Charming Calvin, despite desperately wanting a quick bite, had to keep an eye on his precarious sugar levels.

That didn't mean we didn't love everything else since like everyone says, and rightly so, Japan is a food paradise, where it is nigh impossible to find a terrible meal. Even on purpose. In fact I am starting to believe those felons daring to serve a substandard, barely edible meal would probably be crowdforced to seppuku as an example to future restaurateurs.

Over here while Calvin has his tempura obsession, my weakness has to be ramen. Fortunately it's not that hard to find a ramen store just around the corner since they are quite universally ubiquitous here in Tokyo. Found one handily enough right opposite the hotel the moment we arrived.

Yes we did share meals - though in some sushi restaurants, it's definitely frowned upon. An understatement since we feared the stern sushi chef would throw the yanagiba at us.  

Ever the fan of super-maximising space, the closet-sized restaurant had diminutive seats closely spaced together squashed against the opposing walls with just enough manouevring room in between for the averagely slender Japanese gentleman. Fortunately with a bit of squeezing through, I managed to make that special grade.

If our space was uneasily tight, it had to be so much worse for the lady at the counter who had only enough room to stand at attention. If the unfortunate lass gained even half an inch around the waist, they would have to break apart the counter just to remove her.

Figuring that the austere lack of space would probably feel so much cosier with signs and placards, every available inch of the store walls, tables and chairs - heck, all the flat surfaces short of the ceiling - had to be covered with a shockingly wordy notice of some sort advertising the ramens available, the various stores nearby, the coming neighbourhood festivities in store, random sketches of note etc.

They even had a super mini washroom that suffice to say, the counter girl would find it hard to even manouevre in there!

It was fortunate they didn't have more staff since they could barely fit one there! As it was, the ramen shop had only two waitstaff with one cook; but as usual, everyone was hyper-efficient with their hands perpetually busy doing something or other. So even with a shop full of hungry customers outnumbering them by several times, bowls of steaming ramen still came out expeditiously with little commotion. Japanese Efficiency at its best.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Invader Invader

From the severe look on his face, one would have thought that we'd basically broken into his zen space without his express permission; though I could have sworn we had been pleasantly invited in. It was at that very critical moment of invasion that I wondered whether one of the gleaming sushi knives held in his obviously skilful hands would come flying at us.

Perhaps something lost in translation? Despite the overly polite irrashaimases that greeted us at the unobtrusive door - no doubt muttered by his inconspicuous minions, I wasn't quite so easily fooled since his stern combative demeanour spoke a different story and there was certainly no hint of the world-renowned Japanese hospitality in his deliberately precise, economical actions.

More like a certain sense of the haughty noblesse oblige in allowing a random ignorant peasant to stumble into his sushi palace for a meal. Kindly leave as soon as you are fucking done, domo arigatogozaimashita.

Nope, quite clear it wasn't a kaiten belt sushi store. 

Only much later, we came to realize that the majority of revered sushi chefs; quietly reigning in their concealed hideaways - whether buried in some dark sub-basement of a subway station or cleverly sequestered in a surreptitious nook of a nondescript office building, aren't exactly known for their good humour. Guess silently fuming sushi chef bearing knives didn't become a stereotype for no reason.

No doubt omakase actually means 'you'd better like it or otherwise...' In our colloquial Malay, it sounds a tad like Mother Gives so that's about the same meaning.

Quite an experience but one we didn't quite expect strolling through the streets of Japan. It was quite by chance that we happened upon this unassuming sushi bar, apparently a hidden gem judging by my online search later. Like most sushi places here, the seats were few which gave us the time to just relax and watch the world go by. Once seated, drinks were poured and a plain briefly worded menu cunningly placed right in front of us while the suspicious sushi chef watched us askance.

Since the knives seemed menacingly near right behind him, I figured we'd better start ordering quickly.

Remember what I said about omakase? Well it probably also means gulp it down fast too since the sushi rolls came... quite expeditiously. Though I'll admit the speed of delivery didn't exceed the sheer enjoyment of the moment .. and yes, the excellent food. Each sushi piece specially prepared for us, with instructions in case we looked totally lost. Tuna might not be my first choice anywhere else before but my brief time in Tokyo has certainly made me a true blue advocate.

And yes, I was tempted to play about the wasabi and the random soy sauces but a steely, uncompromising glance from the chef immediately halted me. Really, not even the fluttering geishas could stop me in my tracks with a single look but he certainly could.

One note of advice though - never ever, ever not order in a sushi restaurant. Not even if you've stuffed yourself to the gills with a selection of meats at brunch. Unless you'd prefer to be unceremoniously tossed out, you had better order a nigiri.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Harajuku Iyahoi

Of course no trip to Tokyo, Japan would be entirely complete without a misjudged acid tumble down Alice's Wonderland; and by that I mean a quick stroll through the wildly bizarre fashion-obsessed youth culture around Harajuku. Turns out every other camera-toting tourist had pretty much the same idea as we battled our way through the sad crush of fuming Goth Lolitas, squealing Japanese tween girls and oddly enough, hyper-aggressive African salespeople as we made our way through the neighbourhood.

Quite the peculiar combination of people but when it comes to Harajuku, I guess anything goes. And it certainly couldn't be more outlandish than some of the more... avant-garde creations on display in the minuscule boutiques huddled around the hilly steps of Harajuku.

But of course I wasn't there to try on a bedazzled leather jacket with a dozen zippers more suited for a futuristic manga than my day job; I was here purely for one of my guilty pleasures. Ignoring the mindless chatter of the adolescents queuing for a taste of crepes, I made a beeline straight for the mother of 100 yen stores. Daiso.

Really. Everything at the same low, low price. How could I possibly not love such a place?

Apparently every other tourist there had the very same idea since after the usual gawking, gasping and gaping over the beribboned Harajuku dolls doing their weekend stroll, most of them actually congregate in Daiso as well to purchase... well, all of Japan it seems. Judging by the dozens of identical items chucked into their shopping baskets, I assume they all have wildly optimistic plans to stock up their own 100 yen store back home.

For real. A few had cash receipts longer than my arm. And then some.

Can't blame them since we had quite a long list ourselves since hey who can resist? 

Actually though has anyone ever wondered what the Japanese cashiers say nonstop in a rambling monologue whenever they accept a purchase and payment? Since we have little way of knowing apart from picking up the local language in less than a week, we immediately made up several made up situations to explain the unintelligible babble.

Paul : Here are my items. 
Cashier : Fuck you. That's all you're buying? Damned idiot. I'll take your bloody change and stuff it up your face. 
Paul : What?
Cashier : Thank you for coming to Daiso. 

Paul : Here are my items. 
Cashier : I gave up a promising job in banking and finance to do this. Damn that idiot boyfriend of mine. 
Paul : What? 
Cashier : Thank you for coming to Daiso. 

Really, the wholly imaginary conversations that the cashiers might be having with us could be endless. Yes, we do know the entirely logical explanation; no doubt they are diligently telling us that they are gladly accepting the cash in exchange for the items and disclosing the proper change in return.

But fabricating wildly wacky scenarios is just so much more fun.