Thanksgiving in Japan

Japanese horse being led by men in traditional costumes

The Tanuki gingerly picked up a piece of shrimp sushi with his chopsticks, dipped it ever so lightly into the soy sauce, then promptly dropped the whole thing in his lap. He looked down dejectedly as it rolled onto the floor. I thought briefly of remarking, “Impressive chopstick skills,” since that’s what Japanese folks typically say to me, but instead I pretended not to notice and simply ordered us two more beers, plus a shochu for Imada-san. We Japanese are polite like that.

Thanksgiving in Japan started with a trip to Ten Thousand Fucking Poodles. That’s the establishment formerly known as Starbucks. Know how Europe has all these wonderful cafes with outdoor seating? Yeah, not Japan. If it’s 22 degrees Celsius, everyone’s all “atsui, atsui,” so hot. Or else it’s 20 degrees and everyone complains “samui, samui,” oh, it’s so cold. Japanese people love nature, as long as it’s exactly 21 degrees.

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COVID Japan: Venturing Into a Japanese Dive Bar

Ueno Tokyo, Pre-COVID Japan

I eventually made my way to the counter and ordered a beer, plus some cabbage with miso from the pickled Japanese geezer behind the clear curtain. His mask was pulled down into a decorative chinstrap.

“What?” he yelled into the plastic.

“What?” I yelled back.

So we stood and yelled “what” a few more times before he handed me a glass of potato shochu and a plate of grilled flounder. Well, those were my second choices, so good enough. I returned to my assigned space between two tall, translucent dividers.

A young Japanese woman from a nearby table leaned around a roll of plastic descending from the ceiling and announced in slurred English, “I’m a golf club.”

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Intermittent Fasting in Japan

Japanese Ramen

Nine months ago, an American friend in Tokyo introduced me to intermittent fasting, which might’ve changed my life forever. And while that’s good and all, it had the unfortunate side-effect of killing brunch. I was like, Damn, that’s the third-best meal of the day.

And intermittent fasting in Japan is kind of strange anyway, because when you tell Japanese folks about it, they’re like, “Okaaay … so you don’t eat breakfast. I never eat breakfast.” And you’re like, “No, you don’t get it—-I don’t eat for eighteen whole hours.” And they just stare sadly then mumble, “Yesterday I worked eighteen hours and didn’t even get up to pee.” Which is to say that in Japan, lots of people don’t eat, and nobody cares if you don’t also. It’s like trying to win a staring contest with a cat. Continue reading “Intermittent Fasting in Japan”

My First Month in Japan

Photo by Akita Ben

Guest post by Akita Ben

As night closed over my first month in Japan, I walked past the Lawson, Daily Yamazaki, and Iwai-san the barber until I got to the river. From the middle of the bridge, I stopped and looked down at the serpentine water and beyond to the three-story Itoku and rectangular old hotel that comprises my town’s skyline. Everything was tinged with purple and orange in the fading light. It was beautiful, but I felt alienated. My mind became clouded with dark doubts: “Why am I on a bridge in Northern Japan? I don’t belong here. This is a waste of time.” Japanese joggers trotted past, like, “Great, another gaijin going over the rail. Better pick up the pace.” But after a few more minutes of sullen reflection, I walked back to my prison cell. Continue reading “My First Month in Japan”

Plastic Japan

In Kenya, you get jail time for plastic bags. In the U.S.,  straw-shaming’s all the rage. Ah, Americans, how quickly you forget.  Cue balloon disaster.

Anyway, I can only imagine what a mind-fuck it is for Kenyans to arrive in Japan and find themselves surrounded, sometimes literally, by a sea of plastic. Because when it comes to being proudly able replicate everything on earth with its plastic counterpart, Japan rules the world. In front of the ramen shop, there’s a plastic bowl of plastic ramen. The curry shop has plastic plates so real you’ll be tempted to smell your fingers after Continue reading “Plastic Japan”