During the week of valentines day I received my first couch surfing request. I accepted as I thought it to be pretty rare to get people asking to stay in Kazo. Also it would show that I was willing to give and not just using the site to stay at people’s houses for free. So the following week I had a 33 year old American from Seattle turn up at my house to stay for a few nights. I will let you form your own opinion of him from a few quotes and anecdotes. One time I was cooking some pasta and had made my own sauce, using some fresh cream. He did not understand what cream was and was adamant that you can not get fresh cream in America. “So is it like thick milk?”. No it is cream. When making his bed, he said “Oh yer, I am a temperature nudist. I practice nudism when it’s warm enough. I made up that term myself”. When asking him why he came to Japan, he basically replied “with the intentions to get myself a wife, but Japanese women are seemingly to conservative”. All in all he was nice enough, but his personality slightly resembled that of a presently latent mass-murderer. He was just a bit weird. Also he was really intrusive with his music taste. Which pretty much consisted of break-core or some equally scatty electronic music. We actually ended up producing a song together with some of his home made samples. I can only describe this as frustrating as it was like regressing to some primeval form of creativity. I had just got back from a long day from work, desperate for a cold refreshing beer, and he said “Can you not drink alcohol tonight as it will affect your concentration when we are making the song”. I assured him that he could not tell me what to do and if anything it would enhance my creative concentration, or numb the creative regression. He left on the Friday after asking for some money, which I thought was the final straw after staying at my house for free for 3 nights.
Anyway the fact that someone strange had been living with me was quickly made up when, the following day, my two mates from my home town turned up, Rolfe and Wazza. I was surprised by their ability to make it to Kazo station straight from the airport. I met them early in the morning and got them settled into my place. I then headed off to work. Although I was itching to do stuff with the guys, I had a really good day at work as we started some new lessons at a local community centre. All of the kids were great fun and were really refreshing to teach. After finishing work, me and the guys headed straight into Tokyo. Our first stop was Shinjuku and I took them to Kabukichou, almost like the red light district of Tokyo, as it is a good example of luminescent and animated Japan. We were stopped by numerous African guys offering services at their girls bar. They were offering a all-you-can-drink system and it was quite tempting as we were dying for a drink. I assured the guys that we could go another place that would probably be cheaper and less scatty but we got reeled in by our “we only live once” attitude. We were swiftly taken into a building and up an elevator. When the doors opened I could sense that everyone instantly thought “what are we doing here”. We were greeted by two scantly clad and badly weathered women and sat down on the only booth-like table in the bar. The bar was tiny and there was nowhere to escape. We just had to wait out our allotted drinking time and make the most of our constraint free drinking. The bar tender was obviously trying to get us truly smashed as each drink we were given probably contained four times the recommended daily intake of alcohol. After a couple of drinks in, the girls homed in and started their masquerade of flirting. With a couple of quick wide-eyed glances at each other we empathized that shared thought of “really…what are we doing here”. The girls started asking for us to buy them drinks, although, only from a special menu that only served drinks priced ¥3000 upwards, so I am not sure what else that would have bought us. We just tried to enjoy it as a drinking session and tried to block out the girls that were drooped over you, which I think was quite a good tactic. When our time was up, we left without any inhibitions of awkwardness from the hasty exit, and a hell of a lot less sober that when we entered.
Next we headed to Shibuya so I could take them to an izakaya for a less invasive Japanese drinking environment, and it was my intentions for us to stay at a capsule hotel that I knew there. We instantly felt much more relaxed and debated why we did not do this in the first place. After a few beers we got talking to a group on the table next to us, they introduced Rolfe and Wazza to sake, which then gave them the bright idea to order a couple of bottles for our table. This definitely pushed us over the edge, and with me unaware the others sneaked off to release it all over the toilet. I thought it best we made another hasty exit and head for the capsules. However to our great disappointment we arrived only to be told no beds were free. By this time trains were no longer running, thus we sought out as many places to rest our head, although turned away at every possibility. We just had to face stumbling around the streets of Shibuya awaiting for the first train back to Kazo. Despite it not being the most successful night possible we still were in high spirits, laughing all the way, which was definitely helped by the man worse off than us passed out and completely sprawled on the floor of the train. I thank him for our entertainment all the way home. Back in Kazo, me and Wazza crawled straight into bed but Rolfe refused to sleep as we had planned for a day of sightseeing. So around three hours later we were back on the train heading back for Tokyo. We went to Harajuku with the intention to go Meiji Shrine but due to our little setback it was closed before we arrived. So we roamed Takeshita street looking at all the crazy shops for as much as our depleted energy would allow us. We decided to rest in the cheap izakaya I knew there. For ¥160 we thought it worth it to push through our tiredness and enjoy ourselves. A group of the Harajuka rockabilly bikergang sat on a table next to us and did not fully appreciate that Wazza was trying out his new frog mask. One of them started drunkenly harassing Rolfe and Wazza but luckily the others were more forgiving. We stayed longer that I thought we would, as it had be a long weekend. We went home and completely crashed.
Due to the intense weekend the guys lounged around my place while I was at work for most of Monday. I gave them simple directions to the temple in Kazo so they could do something interesting at least but they only reported getting lost. That evening I took them out for sushi where I forced them both to try “uni”, the dreaded sea urchin. As I had wished they both hated it. Unfortunately I had a long day at work on Tuesday, so I encouraged them to have a day by themselves in Tokyo, although I think the weekend was still haunting them. I got back from work to an ill Wazza and a snoring Rolfe. Wednesday, they managed to get themselves to Ueno while I was at work, where it seemed like they had a good cultural day, nonetheless I was a bit disappointed to hear that they narrowly missed eating pig rectum. By this time Wazza illness was setting in a bit more, so he did not join me and Rolfe at the local Okinawan style izakaya, Tiida, that I have become fond of. The staff enjoyed having not only one, but two gaijin at the bar, teaching us some Japanese slang and letting us try some haboshu, the snake sake. Come Thursday Wazza was not feeling great at all and despite my constant suggestions and eagerness in showing them places to go they did not spend much time out of my flat. Although that evening they met me at school at the end of the day, and got put on the spotlight by some of my junior high students and afterwards Teru kindly tooks us all for some dinner. Rolfe even almost volunteered himself to eat the beef tongue. Later, Wazza crawled into bed but me and Rolfe popped down the local again for a couple.
When Friday arrived I was keen to get into Tokyo and have a good day of sightseeing and doing things. Unfortunately we were delayed on the way there as a plastic bag had got on the roof and apparently this is enough to immobilise a train. We first went to Asakusa, to visit Senso-ji temple, and took a walk to the Tokyo Skytree, as it is a good sightseeing route, cramming several things in one. After this excursion we headed into Akihabara so I could show them the wackier side of Tokyo. We played some games in the 7 or 8 story Sega arcade but got just a little outperformed compared to the local gamers. Amazingly the urinals were even a game. A computer screen was mounted in front of your face with a sexy women posing as a weather reporter and you had to piss on a target in the urinal. The aim was to piss as much as you can to increase the speed of the wind forcing the clothes of the pretty weather reporter to fly off. I wish every time I went to the toilet it was like a game. After enough gaming we went to “プリクラ” (print club) to pose for a set of kawaii snaps, which I can say were probably some of the best holiday photos.
Although the main event in Akihabara was a “maid cafe”. We approached one of the many girls in the street dressed like they have just jumped out of a slightly racy manga comic, then led into the cafe. The whole place was strew with crazy decor to make it look like a scene from a fairytale, but in fairness it did look like a high end nursery. Before we were led to our seats a quick jingle was played on a colourful xylophone hanging on the wall. It was quite odd at first because we were the only ones in there and it is the least to say it is a surreal place. I think a little bit of the substance was lost as everyone seemed to have a bit of a story, however this was a bit lost in translation. One of the girls was “the pumpkin girl” and kept going on about the pumpkin wand hanging around her neck. One of the other girls asked our names and upon asking for hers she boldly said something along the lines of “TM03254” as if it was the most natural thing ever. Each time we got our drinks we had to sing a little chant and clap our hands, “cha cha cha!” and to accompany the drinks I ordered a “space lunch box”, a bento box shaped like a space shuttle with the little treat of a R2D2 soya sauce pourer. The guys got some cake, which the maids had trouble explaining that it was magic. It even came with it’s own song. In the meantime some other customers had come in, some middle aged businessmen and even a guy on his own, and it made us question really what these place are for. It seems to much of a novelty for someone to enjoy and casual drink or a bite to eat and too surreal for someone to feel like its an appropriate place to wind down after work. Anyway when our time was up this pretty much was the end of the guys, what felt like a whistle stop, tour of Japan. I had to bid my farewells and continue my adventure on my own, which as I write this now has come to its 6th month, it really has gone fast.