Saturday, July 31, 2004

Ka La O.K.!

Jelani, Liang, Manny, Mike, Tina, George, Yuki, Ilan, Ian, and I met at Yokohama for dinner last night. Unfortunately the group was too big and disorganized, and we ended up splitting to three different restaurants before regathering for karaoke (my first time in a karaoke bar). I had a pork bowl at an authentic even came in a porcelain bowl and had kimchi on it. Now that's what I'm talking about!

Along the way, some dirty old man walking in the opposite direction reached out, grabbed Tina's ass, and kept on walking....WTF? There's a term for gropers on crowded trains, called ちかん (I've been told it is also a general term for molestation). Jelani says he has seen signs on the trains that say "even if you feel the impulse, please refrain because it is still a crime" with a big arm with a slash through it. haha?

Karaoke basically consisted of Ilan hollering the words on the screen into the mic at the top of his lungs. It was hilarious at first and really got the crowd jump-started, but it got really annoying after a while, especially when he started messing up songs like Utada Hikaru's "First Love", one of my favorite Hikki songs.

I think a crowd of 10 is way too big for karaoke. It got to the point where three different factions were vying to queue up songs that they knew and that nobody else gave a crap about. I think the trick for making an ideal karaoke experience is to go with a group of four or so, and also to make sure to pick songs that gets everybody interested. Indeed, it seemed like the outrageously funny songs ("Super Freak", the intro to One Piece, etc.) were the most successful last night in getting everybody involved, because even if you hate singing and are only there because your friends dragged you, the funny lyrics will have you laughing your butt off.

On a different note, Chibi Moon in Sailormoon live action has blue hair and acts like a cat-girl. WTF?!?!

Quote of the Day: "WE ARE, WE ARE ON THE CRUIIIISE! WE ARE!" --"We Are" [1st intro], "One Piece"

Thursday, July 29, 2004


I went with my group to a nomikai (drinking party) last night.  IBM is an American company, but as Liang pointed out, "looks like your group is Japanese after all."

Nomikais are something I've been worrying about ever since I thought of the possibility of working in Japan, since I do not touch alcohol.  It wasn't the peer pressure I was worried about, since I will never let peer pressure crack me, but rather that I would offend everybody by not participating in their culture.  Those worries were solved in two seconds when I told them that I don't drink and they said it was fine. 

Nevertheless, I was expecting it to be a dreadful and boring experience where I would just sit there and watch people drink, but it was actually pretty fun.  Did I mention this was the first time I ever went to a pub?  I kanpai'ed with the other 15 or so people with my glass of orange juice, which was pretty funny.  There was a lot of joking around and it was a fun crowd to be with.  Since I was the new guy in the group, a bunch of people asked me questions.  At one point my manager, a woman in her late 20's, asked if I had a girlfriend and teased if I was looking for a Japanese girl.  Another guy pointed to a random female in her mid 20's and deadpanned in broken English, "how about her [are you interested]?  You can try."

I was expecting people to be drinking sake, but they actually downed big mugs of beer.  People seemed a little tipsy after two hours, and one guy had his head down on the table, but everybody seemed to be in good spirits. 

Quote of the Day: "Older women are good."  --a group member's opinions/advice on girlfriends

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Oh Snap

So like, all the toilets at the office have these built-in water sprays that you can supposedly use to clean your butt. I wanted to see how they worked so I stood sideways away from the seat and pressed the control panel button. The mini nozzle thing aimed up and shot water over the seat (!) and hit the stall door! While panickingly searching the panel for the off button, I noticed that the dial was set to full pressure. The next person who uses that stall's gonna find a puddle of water on the ground! I made a quick escape before anybody noticed.

Quote of the Day: "If I die, I hope to come back as a straw." --"Ichigo 100%", Volume 1, Chapter 7

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

JPOP Jamboree

CDTV 2004 Special (Channel 6, 9PM, Tuesday) just aired, where they showed some significant news events from each year, followed by the memorable musical hits of that year, from 1997 to 2004.  I'll mention some of the artists I recognized and some trends I noticed:

- Glay, KinKi Kids, and B'z seemed to have made memorable hits every year.
- Southern All Stars had a strong series of hits starting in 2000 and are very strong this summer with two hit singles right now that I keep hearing everywhere I go.
- Hamasaki Ayumi came in strong around '99 but they didn't list her on the memorable hits list the last 3 years.  She currently has a single that's in the top 10 on the CD charts though.
- BoA had one hit listed ("Valenti"), but her newest single is ranked #4 on the CD charts.  My Japanese still sucks too much to know how good her Japanese is, but she seems to be significantly popular in this country (she has been one of the top KPOP singers for a few years).
- A lot of the artists I've been hearing in stores and stuff came in around 2003.  Some of them include EXILE (a boy band, but they are pretty good, and they have a black guy with them, which I guess makes them kakkoi) and Orange Range (they made the 3rd ending song for Naruto).  No telling how long they will stay popular, but I'm enjoying the music while it lasts.
- 宇多田ヒカル (Utada Hikaru), one of my favorite JPOP artists, didn't have any songs make the list of memorable hits!  I was quite disappointed, until they had the current CD charts countdown and listed a re-release of "Automatic" as the #1 CD right now.  (WTF?  "Automatic" is one of her oldest songs, I'm amazed it's still so popular).  She has slowed down her musical career the last few years while studying at Columbia University (she entered in 2000) and with a recent marriage (nooooo), but she is already working on an official single for the upcoming Olympics! 
- I also noticed that for the "memorable news events" for 2001 that they didn't list the WTC attack.  Heh.
- Where's Two-Mix?  hahaha.
- I didn't recognize a single song from anime in the list of hits.

It's interesting to see what's popular while living in Japan, because even though I listen to JPOP in the States, it's very hard to follow the industry and cultural landscape when you're not actually in the country.  I'm pretty sure CDTV isn't a definitive or even an accurate source, but at the very least it gives some sort of an idea on the pulse of the music industry here.

Quote of the Day: "Which way are you supposed to face on the squatter toilets?  I alternated because I was never sure..."  --Juny Kim MIT `05

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Missing Link

Over the past two weeks, some of the MIT guys and I have wondered where all the girls our age are at.

They're not at work, because people in the companies are at least college grads, unless they are other interns. 
They are sometimes on the trains and subways, but seriously, my Japanese isn't good enough to start a meaningful conversation, and everybody on the train would be like, "WTF is this ero-gaijin doing hitting on this girl."  It also doesn't help that Japanese women look a lot younger than they really are, so you could be talking to somebody much older than you.
They might also be taking summer courses at college, but what are you gonna do, go to Todai and start harassing them?
There was reason to believe that they might be found at Roppongi Hills and other popular night clubs, but Jelani confirmed that only 16 and 28 year olds are there, as well as 40 year old women who grab your arm and ask if you want a "special massage," in addition to other assorted skanks.
They don't seem to be in random areas like Kichijoji (a few stops west of Ogikubo) either, where Liang, Jelani, and I had dinner last Saturday.
They are definitely NOT in Akihabara.

So where the heck are they?!  It's an honest question, and we are completely baffled.  It has come to the point where I remembered this picture  that was posted on Something Awful a while ago.

Well tonight, I believe the missing link has been partly found, and that link is Shibuya.  The place is like Times Square, only better, and tons of young people hang out here.  It's not a dirty or sketchy place either.  Liang, Jelani, and I came for Sawaka-san's singing performance, where we met some of the MIT-Japan alumni, but before that we walked around enjoying the *cough*scenery*cough* and took a trip up the Shibuya 109, a multi-story building filled with tons of girls' clothing stores and, well,....girls.  And as one of the random Michigan State girls I met in Kyoto said, "DAMN, they are HOT; Japanese women REALLY know how to dress!"...and this is coming from another female.  According to Albert Su MIT '05, Shibuya apparently gets even more crowded with girls on the weekends.  We believe him. 

Quote of the Day: "Why couldn't the hokage have just pulled out Orochimaru's soul a bit harder....that way instead of just lopping off the arms part of his soul, he could have gotten a bit of lung."  --Kevin Su MIT '06, on "Naruto"

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Best Show Eva' hands-down, without a doubt, 「TV チャンピオン」 (TV Champion)!!!!

Every week, the show focuses on a different topic/competition in which contestants try to beat each other to become the week's TV Champion and earn the right to climb up a fake volcano and raise a floating boulder above their shoulders.

Last week I caught the last half of the show, where three artists were making these amazing miniature models (one was a high-tech, futuristic Kyoto temple).

This week's theme was the 東京地下鉄 (Tokyo subway).
In the first half of the show, they gave five contestants landmarks scattered around the Tokyo region to visit, and the players had an afternoon to visit as many as they could by planning the shortest and most efficient subway routes.  This was a great part of the show, because I got to see the areas surrounding a ton of stations.  I went on my AIM list, 'cause I felt like telling all my friends in Japan, "watch this!!!  it is the *perfect* guided tour through Tokyo!", but nobody was on.  This was such a great portion of the show that I really feel like any of my friends not watching it missed out.  It was really fun to watch too, because I would sometimes be like "hey, I've been there, I recognize that!"  I was happily surprised when they visited the station a minute away from my apartment, 四谷三丁目 (Yotsuya-sanchome), not once, but twice!  Apparently the fire fighting museum 30 seconds away from my apartment and a random restaurant elsewhere are famous enough to appear on national TV.

After the scavenger hunt, they narrowed down the field to three contestants and put them into a final speed-buzzer trivia showdown where the hosts:

  • played the familiar sound recording of a woman saying in Japanese, "the next stop is coming up, the exit is on your right, etc." and asked the contestants to identify exactly which subway line that specific variation of the recording can be heard
  • blindfolded the players, put a limited edition Hello Kitty Boxcar stuffed animal in front of them, and asked them to identify what it was by nozzling it with only their face
  • revealed a board where pictures of 20 subway conductors/staff faces were posted, and the contestants had to dash to the board, grab a picture, name the person in the picture, and specify exactly which subway line or station the person works at
  • played a soundclip of a train running across some tracks and asked the contestants to identify exactly which line and station that sound is heard
  • blindfolded the players, made them eat a cream-filled bread bun made at a certain pastry shop inside a specific station, and asked them to identify the name of the station, the name of the shop, and the name of the bun
  • showed pictures of three special stamps made several years ago commemorating three different train stations and asked the players to name the station each picture represented (one example: picture of a bunch of fish in a net)
  • quickly showed screenshots of five separate Ueno station exits and asked them identify the exits in the order they were shown
  • blindfolded the players and asked them to reach into a huge pile of ticket stubs and find the stub from a specific station

....I'm sorry, but Jeopardy can't even compare.  Indeed, if there is one word for this show, it is "OWNSAUCE."  The guy who ended up winning is a true Tokyo-ite and a true 「のりかえ マスター」.

Haha, you know you've grown to love a city when you have something as dorky as a favorite train/subway line.  What's mine?  The akai-sen tikatetu of the 東京メトロ, 丸の内 (Marunouchi) 線!!! 

Quote of the Day: "なつは地下鉄でLET'S ENJOY! (this summer, let's enjoy the subway!)"  --this week's TV Champion

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


A commercial for "Suikoden IV" just appeared on TV....looks like it's coming out 8/19 here.

Naruto's got a new ending that fits well with the hot summer only question is who is the 3rd girl who's shown? (i.e. Sakura > Tenten > ? > Hinata) It can't be Ino because the drawing shows dark hair.

Prince of Tennis, that supremely wacky yet amusingly entertaining show, seems to have gotten Tezuka back...I wonder when that happened. Did I mention those two Taipei college girls sitting next to me on the shinkansen were reading PoT manga? Apparently it's popular in Taiwan too (they said it's called "wahn cho wan tze").

Speaking of upcoming media, here's some more info I've found on upcoming anime, shows, and movies:

Pokemon movie #7: 7/17 (already out)
Mahha (Mach): 7/24 <--the crazy fighting movie with the dude with his leg on fire Naruto movie: 8/21

Inu Yasha (犬夜叉): Monday 7:00PM, Channel 4
Tokyo Wankei (東京湾景): Monday 9:00PM, Channel 8
Shuukan Pokemon Housoukyoku (週刊ポケモン放送局): Tuesday 7:00PM, Channel 12
Prince of Tennis (テニスの王子様): Wednesday 7:00PM, Channel 12
Naruto (ナルト): Wednesday 7:30PM, Channel 12
Matthew's Best Hit TV: Wednesday 11:15PM-12:10AM, Channel 10
Pokemon Advanced Generation (ポケットモンスターAG): Thursday 7:00PM, Channel 12
TV Champion: Thursday 7:30PM, Channel 12
Minami-kun no Koibito (南くんの恋人): Thursday 9:00PM, Channel 10
Dotch Kitchen (どっちの料理ショー): Thursday 9:00PM, Channel 4
Batsukare (バツ彼; Second Time Around; drama): Thursday 10:00PM, Channel 6
Sekai no Chuushin de, Ai o Sakebu (世界の中心で、愛おさけぶ; Shout Love at the Center of the World): Friday 10:00PM, Channel 6
Pretty Guardian Sailormoon (live action): Saturday 7:30AM, Channel 6
Tenka (天花): Saturday 9:30AM, Channel 7
Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (鋼の錬金術師; Fullmetal Alchemist): Saturday 6:00PM, Channel 6
Huyu no Sonata (冬のソナタ; Winter Sonata; Korean drama that Tina keeps talking about): Saturday 11:00PM Channel 1
One Piece: Sunday 7:00PM, Channel 8

I keep hearing a song called 「夢に消えたジュリア」 by サザンオールスターズ (Southern All Stars) on TV and in random places, like in the train station. It's got a Spanish feel to it and is quite good.
Also, it seems like Utada Hikaru is doing an official single for the upcoming Olympics. She's been looking really weird lately with strange makeup and hairstyles, but the song will hopefully be good.

Meanwhile, I posted some pics from Kansai at Lisa has some pics up at, and Mel had some nice ones as well, but she took them down for now. I'll make a nice thumbnailed index when I get back to MIT and move this blog to my usual webserver, but for now this will have to do.

On a totally separate note, Shaquille O'Neal went to the Miami Heat last week and had some fun with the press:
Shaq Quote of the Day 1: "I'm like toilet paper, toothpaste and certain amenities -- I'm proven to be good. I've still got five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years left." --on being 32 years old
Shaq Quote of the Day 2: "I will be walking naked on the beach. If you take pictures of me naked on the beach, don't sell them to the Enquirer unless I get 15 percent." --on buying a home in South Florida
Shaq Quote of the Day 3: "I play my best ball at 345. I need my meat because I'm going to take a beating. If you put a guy in front of me who eats salad and cucumber and baked chicken all day, I'll kill him." --on his weight
Shaq Quote of the Day 4: "That has nothing to do with basketball. That's just because I'm sexy.'' --on the 1000+ people celebration surrounding his arrival in Miami

Monday, July 19, 2004


I just got back from my 3-day trip to Kansai.  I hopped on a 2.5 hour shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Kyoto on Saturday 6AM and came back Monday evening (Monday was a national holiday).  Sam and Kalvin were nice enough to let me stay over at their apartment for two nights.

Some highlights of the trip:
- Ears popping every time the shinkansen went through a tunnel.
- Getting to Kyoto station and meeting up with Melanie, Joel, and Lisa.  My two hosts overslept after playing FFXI all night and didn't meet up with us until two hours later.
- Noticing that Kansai people hug the right side of the escalator and save the left side for people rushing up....which is the opposite of Tokyo people.
- Watching the Gion festival parade on Shijo-dori, one of the three big annual festivals in Kyoto.
- Standing in an absolute gridlock of people in the train stations and on the streets while watching the parade processions.

- Our group getting flagged down by two NHK Radio correspondants who wanted some gaijins' thoughts on Kyoto and the Gion festival.  Kalvin, Mel, and I hid behind each other while Joel, Lisa, and Sam got "volunteered" to go in front of the mic.
- Meeting two random girls from Michigan State and an Irish guy here on some exchange programs.  They joined our posse for the rest of the day.

- Walking 6 miles around Kyoto and visiting various shrines.
- Getting 4 huge mosquito bites on my left arm alone.
- Buying drinks at every other vending machine we encountered.  Damn this humidity.
- Watching Kalvin hunt coffer keys in Eldieme Necropolis (FFXI) for two hours in Melanie's apartment.  Only one key dropped the whole time, and I was reminded of how slow the game was.
- Getting to Universal Studios in Osaka 40 minutes late with Sam, Kalvin, and Mel....while Lisa waited.  >_<
- Cyberdyne actress doing the "evil anime girl laugh" several times in Terminator 2:3D.
- Noticing that people still walk on the left side of the road....even though the roads are painted American-style inside the park. 
- Girl sitting behind us on the Jurassic Park ride screaming her head off randomly (even when nothing scary was happening).  "That screaming made my ride much more enjoyable."   --Sam

- Hearing Iron Chef's 'Kitchen Stadium' theme song, which was stolen from the Backdraft attraction.
- Discussions about Spiderman, MIT West Campus vs East Campus, love triangles in "Peanuts," and more while waiting in the two-hour lines.
- Jaws popping out of the water, girls screaming, and Sam laughing uncontrollably.
- Mad dash from Jaws to Jurassic Park at night to sneak in one last ride before it closed. 
- Missing the last train (12:17AM) to our apartment. >_<
- Sitting shotgun in a taxi going 40 mph through residential zones after midnight.
- Saying "screw it" to a morning Nara trip and going back to sleep.

- Noticing that exactly 17 "clicks" occur every time my shinkansen passed another one racing in the opposite direction.
- Finding out that the two girls sitting next to me on the return shinkansen were Taipei college students on vacation.  I started a conversation with them in Mandarin, which surprised them, but they didn't seem interested in talking so I went back to sleep. 

The weekend was a blast, and I had a lot of fun hanging out with the Kansai folk.  If any of you plan to visit Tokyo and need a place to crash, gimme a call.  :D

Quote of the Weekend: "Nan da kore?!????!?!?!!!!!?!"  --Japanese guys sitting behind us on the Back to the Future ride when it started bouncing.  [we ended up shouting this the rest of the day whenever something interesting/exciting occurred]

Saturday, July 17, 2004

climbing the corporate ladder

If you live in Minneapolis, you get paid less, but it's OK because everything costs less there.
If you live in Seattle, you get paid more, but everything costs more there.
If you live in Tokyo, you don't get paid much, AND everything costs a lot.
I've always tried to find out as much as I can about both the local and corporate environments at my internships.  A discussion popped up during lunch yesterday with the two main guys in my group with topics including how much a fresh-out-of-college entry-level programmer gets paid at IBM Japan, how much a guy with a PhD gets, how much a 14-year company veteran gets, and estimates on how much a manager gets.  I also found out how much houses cost in the Tokyo-Kantou area.  It's good to know these things, and knowing is half the battle, right?
Quote of the Day: "The truth is that there are a lot of people supporting the IBM Raleigh operations....Japan, Taiwan, India.  You just don't see them.  It's object oriented programming.  It's encapsulation.  They tell you to give them the methods; they don't care how it's implemented.  Who cares what's going on underneath, right?"  --Hassan Hajji, regarding one way of viewing IBM USA vs IBM operations in other countries

Friday, July 16, 2004

regarding food (part 2)

I had some KFC last night. There was this poster of The Colonel which depicted a person who looked very much like the usual white, old mascot but upon closer inspection was actually a Japanese guy. The eyes gave it away.

It's common knowledge that the Japanese eat in small portions. What I didn't expect was ordering a ~$7 chicken burger meal and getting what we in the States would consider kiddy portions; the fries and drink were the same size as what you would get from a Happy Meal. While I was mournfully munching my small supper, it dawned on me that it isn't that people get ripped off here, but that Americans eat too much! The fact that the Japanese population has the longest average life-span in the world is no coincidence. Indeed, I now believe that it isn't that the portions here are too small, but that they are normal, and that American portions are too large.

To further my point, imagine somebody who has lived in Japan for 30 years. If he moves to America and adopts American eating habits and starts eating our usual portions, it's not hard to imagine that he will become very unhealthy, very bloated, very fast.

Quote of the Day: "Kansai or bust" --Ai-ris Yonekura MIT '05, regarding her plans for the upcoming 3-day weekend

Thursday, July 15, 2004

regarding food

In the week that I've been here, 80% of my meals have been some form of curry or ramen. I think it's because they are both cheap and tasty, and also that I'm familiar and comfortable with them. Another reason is that I can actually read "curry" and "ramen" but usually can't read the really complicated kanji on menus. Half the time, some really tasty food will be displayed outside a restaurant, but I'll have no idea how to read the kanji. If I'm lucky, there will be a picture menu somewhere inside, and I can do some pattern-matching. Usually that's not the case, however. What am I gonna do, pull the waitress outside and point at the food like the n00b gaijin I am?

And thus, I've been filling my belly with curry and ramen. Not that it's all that bad, but I think I'm gonna make that extra effort to try new foods. Sekkaku desu kara...

Quote of the Day: "This past weekend was our first [onsen], so we didn't quite prepare ourselves. Joel and I had the pleasure of swimming nakedly....among other naked men (@_@*)~ while Lisa had her share of fun (I envy~~~ @_@) ^_^/! So if you people who want to come to Kyoto for onsen as well, if you mind sharing sights of your privates, bring a big towel, cause the towel they sell can only cover either your buttcheek or your front at once (^_^)!" --Sam Kwei MIT '05

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Matthew's Golden Show!

You know that crazy game show that Bill Murray's character goes on in "Lost in Translation", the one with the blonde Japanese game show host? I just saw it on TV as of 8:35PM Wednesday night, Channel 10. I thought it was a fake show the movie made up to parody Japanese variety shows, but it is for real! @_@


The subways and trains here get so crowded during rush hour that they actually employ "pushers," guys in uniforms with white gloves who do nothing but cram people into the trains and make sure the doors close fully.

When a sweaty old businessman got pushed against me, that was not very fun.

When three giggling schoolgirls got pushed against me, that was a different story. =D

Quote of the Day: "Muri da yo!" --people getting pushed into my already over-crowded train

Monday, July 12, 2004

けいたい フリーク

I didn't think it could happen. I am a keitai freak now.

Back in Cambridge I have a cellphone, but I rarely ever use it. Who needs a cellphone when you've got Athena and wireless hubs all over campus?

It's a much different story in Tokyo. When I'm standing in the subway for 50 minutes and have nothing else to do, the free keitai email is a great way to pass the time. When a bunch of my friends and I plan to meet at some place like Shibuya Station but aren't familiar with a specific landmark location to meet at, phone messaging is an excellent way to find each other admist the tens of thousands of people rushing through the station. Actual talking on the keitai in these types of situations is out of the question, because not only is it way too loud to hear anything, but it's expected that you switch your phone to silent マナー モード ("manner mode").

There are a good number of Americans who talk on their cellphones all day. I can never relate to them because for some reason, despite all their talking, they ironically feel like very superficial people to me. "Clueless" gave me a sour impression of cellphone addicts when I watched it ~10 years ago. I think the key difference in Tokyo, however, is that the cellphone technology is so much better and there are so many more utilities & services that people don't carry a cellphone around for incessant chatter but rather because keitais are simply great tools. I've only been here for a few days, and I already use mine all the time, for instance, to look up routes between train stations and sort them by fastest, cheapest, most convenient, and other parameters. Indeed, I almost never see anybody actually talking on their keitai here, but I always see a good number of people punching away at their machines.

Some guy was playing Super Mario 3 on his cellphone while I was riding to work. He eventually got told to turn off the noise by a train conductor, but the music was amusing while it lasted.

Quote of the Day: "I like round things. I think that WoW should have more round weapons in it. Also, the people should be round....Also, there should be only ten armor slots. I like the number ten. I have ten fingers and ten toes, so it would be easy to count the number of armor slots....I think we need more races. Diversity is a core value of our society. Maybe we could have some black orcs and white alliance and they could fight, like in the old days." --"WoW should be more like what I want", WoW beta forums

Sunday, July 11, 2004


I'm trying to gather anime times/channels since I have a TV in my apartment.

So far, I know:

Prince of Tennis: Wednesday 7:00PM, Channel 12 (TV Tokyo)
Naruto: Wednesday 7:30PM, Channel 12
One Piece: Sunday 7:00PM, Channel 8
Full Metal Alchemist: Saturday 6:00PM, Channel ?

I'll update as I learn more.

Quote of the Day: "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." --WoW beta forums

Saturday, July 10, 2004


Met up with Tina and Jelani today in the afternoon at Harajuku, 2 stops south of Shinjuku on the Yamanote JR line. Even though this place wasn't as packed as Shibuya was last night, it still had a ton of people. After catching up, Jelani and I went to meet with Liang at Ikebukuro to catch Spider-man 2, which opens today here.

I've already watched the movie...twice...but couldn't miss the opportunity to see it at a Japanese えいがかん. The movie was 1800 yen (~$18.00), subtitled in Japanese, and had a pretty low attendance. I'm not sure if movies just aren't as popular here or if Spider-man isn't popular or both. Did I mention that we felt an earthquake during the middle of the screening? It was either that or the people behind us shaking our seats.

We need to figure out how to play pachinko, because even after Liang and his sister dumped a bunch of cash into a machine to start playing, we still don't know how it works. I'll do a google search later and then we will RAID THE CASINOS! And by "we" I mean I'll let other people waste more of their money while I watch and heckle Nelson style in the background. haahaa!

While walking around a 9-story arcade building, we encountered this speed-typing game where you type the words on the screen as fast as you can to blow up incoming enemies. Jelani "I type 158 words per minute in English...and 144 wpm in German" Nelson, TyperA extraordinaire, sat down at a machine and got hilariously manhandled as the machine asked him to speed-type the romanji versions of kanji and answers to math questions like "39 / ? = 13". We went to another machine that had more of what we were expecting, and the double-team of Jelani & Liang lasted a good 10 minutes before a series of 30-character romanji strings (often flying off the screen, I might add) forced a Game Over.

A word to the wise: Try to avoid catching the last departing train to your apartment. ROFL. @_@

Quote of the Day: "Haha, you just wasted 10 dollars!" --Jelani Nelson MIT '05 to Liang Hong MIT '06

Friday, July 09, 2004


It takes about 50 minutes on a subway & train to get to work. The funny thing is that I live near downtown Tokyo, but my office is to the west in a less populated area, which is opposite of most people. Not that it matters much, because I'm packed like a sardine on the train rides either way.

Spent the 1st day at work setting crap up. I'm in a small group working on a Java/kerberos/XML-based password management system. One guy in my group has been working on the IBM Thinkpad's BIOS for the last 14 years, and another guy is from Morocco who has been living in Japan for 8 years. Did I mention this building is where they primarily develop the Thinkpad? There's this corridor connecting 3 of the main big buildings on campus that is lined up with models of Thinkpads dating back to the '80s.

Takizawa-san, the very nice HR lady who recruited me, helped me set up a 56k dialup account that I can use from my apartment. I have to pay ~8.9 yen every 3 minutes before 11PM and 4 minutes after (basically ~$2/hr). 56k sucks ass, but I don't care as long as I have internet access for after work and weekends.

You know that scene in "Lost in Translation" with the big brontosaurus on a TV screen on the side of a building? That's Shibuya crossing, and I went there for dinner with Jelani and two Stanford girls interning at my company. Took a while to find everyone...thank goddess for cellphone email. This place is packed to the brim with people and resembles Time Square. We went to Cheese Cake Cafe, where I got promptly ripped off by a $5 small piece of cake and a $7 curry/coleslaw sandwich that lasted 3 bites.

Quote of the Day: "Your mom didn't complain when she connected to my server last night." --Penny Arcade

Thursday, July 08, 2004

damn it's so humid here

Went to the Shinjuku ward office and registered for my alien registration card, which won't arrive 'till the 23rd...this little detail will bite me in the ass as I spend the rest of the day searching for keitai (cellphone) and internet.

Went to Akihabara and made a point to visit the same ラメン屋 (ramen shop) and boba shop (yes, the same shop where the girls say "boba" in perfect Mandarin!) that I ate at back in Spring Break. I don't know what happened, but it seemed like the main Laox building is out of business...David is sad. Akihabara was hella cool the first time I visited, but then I realized that even though this place has all the video games I would ever want to buy, I won't actually buy any of it because: A) I already have game consoles back home and will not buy Japanese consoles to play the Japanese games; B) Why would I want to buy a Japanese-text game anyway? Even if FFXII came out today, I wouldn't buy it 'cause I wouldn't be able to understand 90% of it. I tried buying a keitai but every store here requires an alien registration card.

Next stop: Ginza. Apparently there is a Pokemon Center here at 3-2-5 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku. haha. This district is the exact opposite of Akihabara...packed with department stores instead of electronics stores...basically the kind of place I have no interest in. Except I had a lot of interest in the new 5-story Apple store here, just because it has 20 comps hooked up to the internet up on the 4th floor.

After a full day of unsuccessful cellphone/internet hunting, I finally came back home to Shinjuku and found a shop that didn't care if I was a registered foreigner or not. Got a sweet, sweet phone for 1 yen (~$0.01!!!) that has a built-in 1 megapixel camera (!!), TV (??!!!), web browser, free email, and crapload of other features like looking up the quickest/cheapest route between two train stations. Service plan is about $35-40 a month, which is what most of the other MIT students are paying. I also tried getting a PHS internet card for my laptop, but strangely enough my credit card didn't work for it, even though it worked for the cellphone.

So without further ado, here is my keitai info:
#: 080-3458-5926

Quote of the Day: "It's like that Simpsons episode when Maggie farted, and Marge said, 'How did you turn apple sauce into that?'" --WoW beta forums

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Finally arrived in Tokyo, after a 2.5-week delay!

The main concern that I've had all summer, the luggage-laden trip from the airport to my apartment, went smoothly.

My apartment is really freaking small but is pretty tight. It comes with everything, including a TV, bed instead of the expected futon, activated phone line, small kitchen with fridge and cooking pots/pans, personal washing machine (no dryer though), and a remote-controlled AC (the most important of all!!). There's a supermarket a 20 second walk away and a subway station 1 minute away...this is about as convenient as it can get. Surprisingly, out of the ~20 MIT interns here in Japan this summer, I'm the only one living in central Tokyo. My apartment is in 新宿 (Shinjuku), a very lively district filled with skyscrapers and shops. Remember the badguys' HQ in "X"? It's the government office here. =D

For reference, here are the nearest stations to my apartment and office:

apaato: Yotsuya-Sanchome eki on the Marunouchi tikatetu (3 stops east of Shinjuku)
kaisya: Chuo-rinkan eki on the Odakyu-Enoshima railway (50 min SW of Shinjuku)

Quote of the Day: "I rather be playing Counter-strike." --first words coming from the guy sitting next to me on the plane. [Sitting next to a hot girl on a 10+ hour flight: best scenario. Sitting next to a fellow gamer: next best scenario!]

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


My little hobby before Japan: World of WarCraft

Level 41 Gnome Mage

Completed Zones/Instances:

Dun Morogh
Loch Modan
Dead Mines
Red Ridge
Scarlett Monastary
Hillsbrad Foothills
Arathi Highlands
1000 Needles

In Progress:

Stranglethorn Vale

I am also, I believe, the first Gnome to reach level 40 and buy a mount (mechanostrider) for 100g. I could reach the current cap of 45 and be one of the first players to do so on the PvP server if I really wanted to, but I'd rather spend the last few days of my stay in LA preparing for Tokyo.

Quote of the Day: "Love propagates the species, but hate improves it. It is adversity that makes one stronger. Bon-bons only make you fat and lazy." --WoW beta forums