Tuesday, June 30, 2015

13. Toke, yo (aka really mature humor)

Japan is full of a lot of weird culturally different things.  Maybe not as many as I expected, but once you start seeking them out, they are there, waiting for you.  Sometimes I suspect that because it has this reputation, they need to keep upping the ante to satisfy the cravings of tourists (me) who want to see whatever new weird stuff they have to offer.  And nowhere has more of that than Tokyo.

Tokyo is a big city.  It has roughly the population of ...Canada.  Yes, the whole country, packed into a space as big as Connecticut.  The three busiest train stations in the world (in terms of people who pass through them daily) are in Tokyo.  In fact, the 23 busiest train stations in the world are all in Japan. In the busiest part (Shinjuku), the population density is about 50,000 per square mile.  This means everyone has about a 20 ft x 20 ft square to themselves, including roads and public spaces.

If you look closely, you can see a familiar face (and claws) in the background.
The first time I went to Tokyo, it was with a super cool friend visiting from the US.  We got off the night bus at 5:15 AM, and had to wait for the subways to start running.  Our first stop was a giant robot statue on the waterfront, because how many giant robot statues do you get to see?
Two.  The answer is two.
Tokyo version is on the right.
We accidentally snuck into an antique car show that just happened to be going on, where I got to see my first Delorean (from Back to the Future), along with a motorcycle with a hearse sidecar.
If the doors flap fast enough, it can take off.
This one isn't the Delorean.

I later learned that we missed seeing the Statue of Liberty that is prominently displayed in that neighborhood.  My worries were set to rest, however, when I learned that Japan has two more replicas of the Statue of Liberty, so I would have more opportunities.  Walking around Tokyo, you are sure to find interesting events wherever you go.  At other times, I saw a ninja demonstration in the park (complete with awesome sound effects) and a Michael Jackson impersonator performing at a Japan-Cote d'Ivoire friendship event.

After the car show, we pretty much spent the rest of our trip going to weird restaurants, a surprisingly awesome pastime.  We went to one that was prison-themed, where we rattled the bars of our cage to call the attention of a guard who served us very phallic food.  Another was a restaurant where we caught our own fish and then decided how we wanted them cooked.   However, we were not especially talented fisherman, so it did take a long time.  They also had great English on their signs:

Oops.  I crapped my hand when I wasn't supposed to.

One night we spent at the "Robot Restaurant," a place that actually wasn't much of a restaurant at all - they served us a boxed lunch like you would get in a convenience store here.  While you ate, dozens of women and men dressed like robots and dinosaurs (among other things) performed a show a few feet from our faces.  The entire show made no sense and mostly revolved around the fact that they had cool props and a lot of energy.  Needless to say, one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen.  Also the whole building was bedazzled in sparkles.

After I saw the sheet music, I began to doubt whether they were actually robots.
Robot boxing: not just the packaging stage at the factory.
After my concept of reality was sufficiently distorted from watching scantily clad robot-women ride larger robot-versions of themselves while robots in gyro-scooters did laps around them, we went to another bar.  And that one was the strangest of them all.

Meet Kagaya, a bar whose mascot is a frog for reasons we found out later, and at first appearance seemed to be very normal, despite the strange things we had heard about it on the internet.  The man (there was only one employee who was cook, waiter, and manager) invited us in and sat us down on the bamboo mat flooring.  We waited for about five minutes before he gave us our hot towels that usually come before a meal in Japan.  This consisted of him coming up to me and bursting into "the Imperial March" from Star Wars sung in a ear-piercing falsetto, right before he got out a little remote control anime character and drove our towels four feet from the closet to the table.

Throughout the night, we were subjected to various penis jokes, a menu written in crayon with options like, "I'm hungry!  Master, please feed me!", and the dude dressing up as a frog and making thrusting motions at everyone while pretending a smaller frog puppet was his penis.  I felt very immature and amused at the inanity of all.

No, I wasn't kidding.
For contrast, at one point he put on a hat and striped shirt and drew everyone's picture.
I think it ended up looking a lot like a smiley face, but I don't really remember.
EDIT: For the record, no, I don't know what stripes are.
The next time I went to Tokyo (much longer this time), I met up with some friends from college that I was overdue to see!  It was great, and I felt like I had built some lasting friendships with these people.  I even took my first picture in a girly photo booth (these are all over the place) with them.  These make you more beautiful (allegedly) by giving you big doll eyes and ultra-smooth skin.  Unfortunately, it wasn't until afterward that I realized I had forgotten to zip up my fly.  Therefore, a lot of the pictures look like this.  "Cawaii" at the bottom there means "cute," just in case the first three adjectives didn't do it for you.
I had to squat because I was too tall.  Hopefully it doesn't make my legs look fat.
Tokyo has a lot of strange-looking buildings, and unfortunately I could only document a few of them.  I went to a building with plants growing all over the outside, and a rice paddy in the lobby.  It's a farming office, so they decided to build a farm in the office...
You can get a whole six bowls of rice from this plot.  Totally worth it for the downtown Tokyo office space they have.
Disclaimer: I know nothing about rice.
I also saw the world's first capsule-style building.  Capsule hotels are pretty popular in cities in Japan.  They're hotels with shared bathrooms and other amenities, combined with a small capsules that are just high enough for (some) people to sit up in.  They're often used by people who work long hours and miss the last train home (which is around midnight, despite Tokyo having a super active nightlife).  Here is their predecessor in all its run-down glory:
Some dude does an AirBnB out of here now. Not kidding.
And of course since I've been really mature this post, I'd like to balance that out with a building many refer to as "the golden poop."  I can't imagine why.
I'll leave it up to you to figure out which one it is.
I ended up couchsurfing with this great guy from the US, who ended up showing me quite a few spots around Tokyo I definitely wouldn't have seen otherwise.  One of the weirder ones was a shop that makes the plastic models of food that you find outside of restaurants.  They even had some artwork in their store window.

Noodles don't have any right to do that on their own.  Call in the exorcist.
The last place I went to was one of a kind.  Actually, it made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, although the person I asked to take my picture was not aware of that fact.  Meet...


Look at the peasants taking the stairs on the other side.
It's weirdly located in an uncrowded corner of a department store, which is maybe why they decided it didn't need to be too long.  You might ask, "Why have an escalator that only carries you halfway down the stairs?"  I did.  It seems like a nasty surprise for people who can't take stairs on their own.  I'm surprised there weren't any stranded there when I arrived.  The good thing is that it's short enough they probably know what they're getting into.  On the other hand, since it's not in a lot of use, it doubles as an urban stairmaster for obnoxious people like definitely not me. 

OK, I'm done.  Weird Japanese commercial for a facial strengthening device, probably the equivalent of the shake weight in the US:

Picture/video credits: 
Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain
Pao Facial Fitness (ft. our hero Cristiano Ronaldo)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

12. Backstage at School (aka Ping Pong and Smashing Pumpkins)

My blog may give the impression that I am freely wandering around Japan and taking pictures of weird products all the time.  In fact, five days a week, I go to schools in Tamba and teach English to children who, for the most part, could care less.  I thought I'd take the time to fill you guys in on the less glamorous side of my time in Japan.

Here are some things that are also not glamorous:

This is a sandwich with the crusts cut off and
the sides pushed together.  In this case, the
inside is filled with salsa.
This is the name of the building, not the menu.

I go to middle school on Monday through Thursday, and generally I just think up some activities for the students to do during the first part of class.  The teacher in charge of the class teaches the next part of class, and calls on me to repeat words with my soothing and masculine voice every once in a while.  Every so often, I feel like a cult leader that is brainwashing my minions with repetitive chants ("I am a Korean girl.  I like listening to J-pop better than K-pop. Arashi is my favorite J-pop band.").  Unfortunately, we go on less field trips than most cults.

I did get to fly kites with these elementary school children, though!
In one class, the teacher decided that I should read them a story.  It started out innocently enough, with a tree standing by a road.  Then an atomic bomb went off in the nearby city of Hiroshima, and a young boy and girl took shelter underneath the tree after the blast.  The girl sang to the boy through the night as he died, and then she died just before morning.  The teacher told me that the last foreign teacher that he made read that out loud started crying too much to continue (thanks for having me read it too, then!).  He then asked the students if they loved America despite this event.  About half raised their hands.  In reality though, everyone seems to have forgiven America completely, which is pretty astounding if you consider how long Asian countries hold grudges against each other.

In certain classes, the students don't repeat that many words, so I am forced to stand in a corner or resort to other activities.  If some students are being disruptive or asleep, I usually step in.  Some students have figured out that they don't actually have to do anything, though.  There is no detention, calling parents, or even getting held back a grade if you choose not to participate.  There's even one student who says his back hurts too much to sit in a chair, so he doesn't have to go to the majority of his classes (except the ones he likes, of course).  I occasionally am told to go play basketball with him in the gym, which is better than sitting around.

Or crouching around.  When the other teacher pictured saw this,
his reaction was:  "I need to stop wearing blue and white together."
Speaking of sitting around, most teachers here only teach 3-4 periods a day.  They have 22 teachers for 140 students at the middle school I work at, and the class sizes are still about thirty students to a class, because each class has 2-3 teachers in it always (even though only one really does anything most of the time).  This doesn't mean that they're not busy though.  The teachers assign worksheets and other gradable assignments to the students at an alarmingly high rate, and teaching club activities is practically mandatory.  Most teachers are at school from 7am to 7pm.  Fortunately, I get to leave at 3:45, which is very good compared to a lot of other foreign English teachers in my position.

Sometimes I try to bond with the kids, but mostly they don't want to talk to me.  In order to help this situation, I have done various things, including arm-wrestling every middle school boy and playing ping-pong against the middle school girls.  While I would generally lose most arm-wrestling matches I entered, and win most ping-pong matches, the result was the opposite here.  The coach had me play all the girls from worst to best, and I won the first ping-pong match handily, won the second after a heated deuce, and lost the next 20 without the girls breaking a sweat.

This was in my dreams for weeks.
I also made this, to encourage students who hate talking (everyone) to write to me:

My first letter: "Dear Nate, please correct my English. SDFLS DF KJF
BDFEI VNZ QOI EI FNV.  Thank you, Tsubasa."

In school, there are a few noticeable differences that still get me.  For example, the students stay in one class, and the teachers change classrooms.  Also, I need to change my shoes constantly.  I have a pair that I come to work in, a separate pair for inside the building, a pair that I use if I want to run around outside with the kids, a pair that I use for any event in the gym, and I have to change into the provided slippers when I use the bathroom.  Also the bathroom is a squat toilet, which I still have trouble pooping in.

I still haven't run into a situation where I would need to use the ones on the left.
The relationships within the staffroom can be strange as well.  The youngest teacher in the staffroom is forced to do all the work that no one else wants to do, so he is always working late.  Once, he was told by a co-worker: "You know on Tuesday when you left (after tennis practice and grading papers) at 7:45?  I was making copies for my class on Wednesday.  You should have offered to help me."  I would probably not do well in his position.

When my power got turned off because I failed to recognize my bill in the mail, I turned to one teacher and said, "now, I don't want everyone to know, but my power got turned off..." at this point I was interrupted as she shouted, "Nate's power got turned off!  Does anyone know what to do?"  The principal then called the board of education, the power company, and my landlord and angrily conferred with each one.

People try to do what they can to help me, to the best of their ability.  One teacher will always make sure I know what's going on, because despite studying Japanese constantly, I still have no idea what they are saying at the morning meeting every day.  Another teacher always tries to make conversation despite my limited ability to reply intelligently.  One day she asked me, "Do you like pumpkins?"  I replied that I did, and when I came back from the next class I was teaching, a large and green pumpkin was sitting on my desk.  I had never cooked a pumpkin before, but it was a good day to learn.

Speaking of pumpkins, I did attend a halloween party, a holiday which is not widely celebrated in Japan.  I came with no costume, and was gifted various items of cloth which were pinned to me by a helpful old lady.
Yes, we have racist costumes here in Japan too.
As fall wound down, the squash and pumpkins that lined the halls as decorations needed to be smashed and composted, and one day I found myself hacking pumpkins to pieces with the help of a pickaxe and the autistic kid at school (which each helped me in different ways).  He was incredibly excited but didn't quite understand what we were doing, and although I left with my work clothes covered in pumpkin flesh and sweat, it was one of my favorite random things that has happened to me at school.

This guy with autism is one of my favorite students at school.  He is always happy, no matter what happens, and always greets me with:

 "Hello. How are you?"
Me: "I'm great.  How about you?"
Him: "Why thank you!"

I eventually started changing my answer to "I'm great.  You look good today!" so that his answer would make more sense as a reply.  He always finds me wherever I am so that we can walk into the lunchroom together.  When his grade is signaled, he either holds my hand or wraps his arm around me and we proudly walk in to the lunchroom as a team.

On one fateful day though, we were late to lunch and he changed his grip right as we were walking through the door.  This caused me to look down and forget to duck under the door.  As all the other students had already sat down, the resounding THUD! that my head made on the doorframe drew quite a bit of attention and "are you alright?"-type-responses from everyone.  Although it wasn't the most comfortable moment, I walked away with my ego bruised more than my forehead.  Now this guy makes sure to duck along with me whenever we go in.

I feel like this is a great time to randomly insert a commercial for my favorite Japanese face-muscle-strengthening beauty product.

On that note...

Here's some quotes from students in their journals about winter break:
-I ate crab together.  A lot of bodies were jam-packed and were very delicious.

-I had a three day soccer expedition for winter vacation.  I did my best more than before.  The result was not good.

-I went to the house of the grandmother today.  At first I informed everyone of the New Year when I arrived.

-I went skating with a friend.  I fell with all one's might, but was fun only once.

-It is very happy this winter vacation.  Winter vacation of good-bye me.

-The older brother gets railroad work.  I have a crush on my older brother.  So I want to become a station employee.

-December.  My family was cake.

That about sums up my December as well.  T shirt and I'm out!

Huuuum indeed. Huuuum indeed.
If you write them down, your goals are more likely to happen.

Ping-pong photo credit: cartoonbrew.com

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

11. The Authorities (aka Police and Power Rangers)

Japan is a very safe country.  I left my nice bicycle at the train station for two and a half weeks with the wheel locked to the frame (not even locked to a rail or anything!) with a lock I bought at the dollar (100 yen) store, and came back to find it sitting right where I left it.  That would have been gone in a day in any other place I lived.

However, this lack of (unorganized) crime doesn't mean I haven't had my run-ins with the authorities.  My first experience begins with a lovely excursion to a grassy meadow with a friend to do some photography.  Turns out that a billion Japanese people had the same idea.
It would be even more meta if someone took a picture of me taking this picture.
 If there is one thing I have learned about Japanese people with hobbies, it is that they will always have the best equipment.  Some of them even had remotes controls for their cameras, to avoid any blur from pressing the button (and therefore shaking the camera slightly) with your finger.  This is completely unnecessary during the day, I am informed by a photographer friend. It was very beautiful, though. 

Not as impressive when you realize this is a picture of a poster I saw.
We hiked around for a little while, and stayed after dark to take some long exposures, which on my end just involved running around with a flashlight trying not to trip.
There was supposed to be an "I" in the front, but my flashlight
skills were not up to the task. The last two symbols are "sun"
and "origin," which together mean "Japan."
When we went back to our car, we were surprised to find the parking area cordoned off and a car with its headlights on parked right in front of ours.  As we cautiously approached, we saw it was the police.  We started talking with them, thinking that perhaps we had overstayed our legal parking limit.  They asked us if this was our car, and when we said yes, they were immensely relieved.  Turns out that "wilderness" areas are popular places for suicides (suicide is about twice as prevalent in Japan compared to the US), and they had a search party out looking for us in the forest.  We apologized profusely once we understood what was happening and they called off the search party (our Japanese skills helped us less than the pantomime of someone hanging done by one of the cops). We fortunately left without any citations for anything.

Random, unrelated picture of a razor that comes with a doll action figure:
You too can brandish this razor like a sword and
fight off the demons of unwanted facial hair.
My second run-in with the police occurred when an unnamed passenger in my car decided not to wear her seat belt during a trip back from the grocery store.  As we drove past the police station, a man holding some orange sticks waved me into the parking lot in a way that made me feel like I was a 747.  After it became apparent we were foreigners, eight officers swarmed our car in a misguided attempt to flood our ears with what they thought was simple Japanese.  Clearly the Tamba Police Department is a busy place.  What's even better is that they were filming some commercial with the Chief of Police and a guy in a phoenix costume.  We couldn't get a great picture because we were being interrogated by police, but this one isn't bad at all.
This grand animal symbolizes rebirth.

 They told us to drive back to our house and get our passports, and we returned with them shortly after.  They then held us hostage for half an hour while they asked me why I didn't have an exit stamp from Bolivia.  I told them about the international drug cartel I run, and after they spoke to my boss they decided it was OK and everything was in order.  Actually they just eventually gave up and stopped caring but what kind of story is that? 

Here's a picture of an annoying locust from Tamba.  I really like taking pictures of bugs.
These are about as long and as offensive as my middle finger.
The next story doesn't involve the police, but instead the emergency radio in my apartment that some of you avid blog readers may remember from chapter 4.  I had just gone to bed, when suddenly the loudest sound I have ever heard in my apartment comes from the radio, even though I have the volume turned all the way down.  It's a siren, and I immediately jump out bed ready for anything from an earthquake to a rogue Blastoise (it is Japan, these things do happen).

I try to understand what they say in the announcement following the siren, but I can't make anything out except "volcano" and "fire."  Needless to say, I am not comforted, and I go outside to see what is happening with my neighbors.  Lights are turning on in the apartments, and everyone's radio is freaking out just like mine.  The nearby fire station is doing its best to wake everyone in the district with an air raid type siren.  I've got a lot of adrenaline, so I don't really stop to think.  I throw all the food in my pantry and fridge into my bag, along with some water and warm clothes, and I head out the door.  I notice no one seems to be leaving though.  I eventually track down someone, and they inform me it is just a drill, albeit one that involves the whole neighborhood in the middle of the night, and we don't have to do anything.

I proceed to be thoroughly awake for the entire night for some reason.


Random picture of "A True American Tradition":
Nothing says America like fruity marshmallows.
I have had some great encounters with Power Rangers in strange situations lately.  Both at dinner parties, actually.

The first time, my Japanese teachers (the people who teach me Japanese) decided to have a dinner party with their students.  I was surprised to see some people in Power Rangers costumes, who turned out to be the uninvited roommates of one of the teachers.  I say uninvited because later they specifically told us that those people had not been invited and were not welcome back again.

My favorite moment came when the green ranger went outside for a moment, and returned with a violin case.  He then opened it, put it on the table where his plate had been, threw a few coins in, and started playing.  Terribly.  After every song he would point to his case and jingle the coins around like it wasn't a dinner party and he expected to make his daily living this way.  He did make around $18 USD from demanding money every time someone took a picture.  I didn't pay.
You think Power Rangers don't need to eat too?
The second encounter was at a year-end party that the Board of Education threw for us.  Usually when I go to a party for work, it ends up being at some super-fancy place and afterward they ask me for $50-70 USD.  This time we split a cabin rental cost and bought food at a convenience store.  Halfway though the night, the guy who is apparently the highest up in our department excuses himself for few minutes, and comes back... in a pink ranger suit!  And immediately tackles me.
This ranger was a lot friendlier (and thankfully smaller) than the last one.

In an amazing turn of events, he jokes that he should demand money for pictures with him!  All of us who went to the previous event think this is the best thing ever.  We spend the rest of the night talking about Power Rangers of course.  Apparently "Power Rangers" is just the american reboot of "Super Sentai," a Japanese TV series that's been going on forever.

And of course, a few great English examples:
This one didn't fit me.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

10. All the Small Things (aka squid and perverts)

And no, this post isn't about public baths in Japan. 

Before coming to Japan, I had heard all sorts of things.  I had heard that used schoolgirl panties were sold in vending machines, and that everything was super technologically advanced.  So far the vending machines have been disappointingly food-oriented for the most part, and some of the teachers at the schools here think email is unnecessary.  However, I did find a vending machine that sold beer without requiring an ID, which I still think is hilarious.

Here you go, kids! $1 USD
I have seen my fair share of unnecessarily high-tech things and total cultural disconnects, but a lot of what surprised me was the little things that I didn't expect to be different.

First up.  Groceries.

It's impossible to find anything, because all the writing is in Japanese, first of all.  I found this thing next to the jelly that looked like peanut butter, but turned out to be peanut-flavored frosting.  Not as delicious as you think.  I eventually did find peanut butter, but it was roughly the same price per kilogram as cocaine and similarly difficult to find.

The fruit here can be pretty expensive.  I've seen watermelons go for $50 USD a melon, but usually they're closer to $20.  Often the fruit that we would normally buy is a lot more expensive, but also dressed nicer.  Many apples have their own (usually pink) sweaters:

Oh honey.  Pink is really not your color.
Mushrooms here look like they're from fern gully, or at least from a cave in a video game or something.

I tried mixing these with a Daedra heart,
but no restore health potion so far.
I still check for fairies in these
before I cut them up.

 I've bought things that looked strangely like candy, but turned out to be dried fish.  Because seafood is so readily available and cheap, there are quite a few dried seafood products on the market.  This includes squid jerky, which unfortunately tastes just like you would imagine.  Speaking of seafood, here are a couple of my favorite examples that you can buy in the grocery store right next to my house.  This squid was inkless, and fairly easy to get the "spine" out (really just a cartilage feather-shaped thing).

The hardest part was getting them to
hold still for the picture.
You are no match for my sword,
vile beast!

The next time I bought squid, it was not so inkless and looked quite different.  Squid is really tough to cook - you put it in for about 60 seconds, and it can get really rubbery if you leave it in too long and really slimy if you leave it in too short.

Only $2 USD?  That's like 2.5 cents a tentacle!

You can also buy big ones, but I was worried about my ability
to defend myself if ever met one of their relatives in the ocean.

Octopus, apparently, is supposed to be barbecued or put in an oven.  Having neither of those things, a sandwich press had to do.

You can buy the same size you would see in
a zoo, but somehow that seemed more wrong.
Probably my favorite breadless sandwich
I've had yet.

There are a lot of things out there that I have no idea what to use them for, but this was one of my favorite.  Maybe you put them in soup?

Not so roly-poly in real life.
For some reason, both of these had
drastic price reductions.  Can't imagine

There are a lot of strange things about groceries in Japan, so I'm sure I'll keep you periodically updated with more.

People in Japan are often very worried about people being generally creepy towards women, and rightfully so.  Interestingly enough, one word for "pervert" in Japanese is the symbol for "foolish" followed by the one for "Chinese."
Trains are one of the biggest places where people worry about these "foolish Chinese."  Apparently some men try to brush against women on crowded train cars to get some human contact.  This has led to a number of harsh punishments for real or perceived unnecessary touching, as well as...

This is a train car, as my exceptionally well-planned
photography is unable to accurately show.
Another strange result of this widespread perv-phobia is cell-phone camera sounds.  When you take a picture with your cell phone, it makes a shutter sound on full volume, which is a feature you cannot disable.  This is supposed to make it harder to be a subtle pervert.  My friend Alejandro says he saw some dude take a video of a girl on a train though, which makes a lot less noise.  Where there's a will, there's a way!


For some reason, everyone always backs into parking spots here (except us foreigners!).  Everyone I've talked to just seems to think it's safer.  People have very strong instincts to do it, even when there are no other cars around.

Spot the foreigner!
Instead of signing papers with a written signature, everyone carries a wood-carved stamp with a slightly artistic representation of their name.  Most people carry inkpads, but often inkpads are provided in places where people often sign.  Mine is written in English, so it's a little different, but it's still kind of fun and interesting to use.
Forging signatures in Japan mostly involves being good at whittling.

Speaking of which, someone assigned a set of Kanji to my name!  It is 音人, which means "sound" and "person."  Pretty cool, huh?  Also, those Kanji are relatively easy to write, so I don't have to write my name in Hiragana like a kindergartener would.


But back to things you might care about.

I've run out of good general ones, so here's a few other miscellaneous ones:

-FM radio stations are tuned differently.  In the US, we have frequencies between about 88 and 105 MHz or whatever the units are.  In Japan, it's about 76-92.  In practicality, this means that my American alarm clock can only pick up one station in Tamba, the station that plays classical music in the morning and smooth jazz at night.

-Things are super hard to throw away!  Everything is separated into "burnable trash" and "plastics except bottles and egg cartons," which doesn't leave you a lot of wiggle room to throw out miscellaneous stuff.  There is a considerable amount of large junk in my apartment that I have not found the means to throw out yet, but will probably get to in the next 7 months.  Or I will make the next dude deal with it.

-Soy sauce is plentiful here.  It's all very good, but there is some that is exceptional.  This was expected.  However, for some reason it is an abomination to put soy sauce on your rice.  When I tried in public, people told me, "Nate... you can just eat it plain, you know."  They then offered to get me some new, unsullied rice.

-Japan is super cash-based.  No one uses a credit card to pay for anything, so when I travel I'm often carrying on my person more money than I've ever seen in my life.

-ATMs need their beauty rest.  I live in a town that is mostly a farming community, but there is a shopping center, so it's not that rural.  However, ATMs go on vacation at night.  They are still physically accessible in some places, but because the actual bank closes its ATM doors from 8pm-8am, you cannot withdraw money.  This happened after the ATMs all unionized in 2005.  Once they went on strike, it was hard to find the resources to oppose them.  Seriously though, it would be super easy to give me money at nighttime.

And the obligatory strange English T-shirt to finish things off.  I will note that this one is technically grammatically correct.

How inspirational.  And then outspirational.  And then inspirational again.

Picture credits on the Hanko stamp: