Monday, October 31, 2016

Weekend (9.30 - 10.3): Birthdaypalooza 2016

Our birthdays straddled a weekend this year, so here you go, yet another weekend post! The level and quality of the giftage was very acceptable and pleased us. Yes, precious, pleased us.

Double birthday bouquet? Yep, he went there!

I'm not sure if my centerpiece game is strong or if it's just indicative of the fact that I have too much stuff and am all over the place.. The former? Yes, yes, I think the former, too. 

Hannes surprised me with the Luna bag I've been wanting! He remembered that I'd mentioned it!  Of course it's not one of the originals, because those are like 200 bucks and leather, and both those facts make them kind of terrible. He gave me a Sailormoon makeup pouch for Valentine's Day so obviously they need to be carried together from here on out. Also wine. There's always wine. And whisky. I got Hannes a bottle of Auchentoshan, after a few minutes of careful consideration, and it ended up being his new favourite.

The package from Germany was predictably stuffed with goodies, and they were... all for me!

Well, that 3-litre box of gin is for both of us, but mostly it was intolerant-to-normal-human-food-allergy-retard snacks. Look at them all!

And of course my mom sent a box full of goodies as well, including books that I'd asked for for both of us and a Halloween bag.

Adorable Charmander plush I can only assume Hannes' parents picked up when we stopped at the Pokémon Center together, sitting on top of the lovely lillies Hannes got.

We stay home a lot on the weekends to save money, because I've hardly been making any and living here is very tiring, so I came up with some options that I thought would be fun and presented them as a choose your own adventure-type thing, which was a pretty big hit. 
Also a ridiculous new tote and cool socks.

Saturday Caturday did indeed come to pass; we did ALL the things.

Delicious nnengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles with loads of spicy sauce) with makgeolli cocktails to start..

Stopped into Seoul Ichiya, the Korean supermarket on the main street in Koreatown, and found these outrageous new neon sojus.. As if this shit wasn't deadly enough already..

Hotteok, or stuffed fried pancakes, for dessert..

... makes for a happy cat! 
And I guess I always just look like I'm sick of everything, like, as a permanent state, but alas! that is not entirely accurate. Plus, the day was still just getting started. 

Found a couple of good air conditioners I hadn't noticed before as we wandered into central Shinjuku from Koreatown.

I had an Earl Grey soy something or other with liqueur in it, and this alcoholic royal strawberry milk tea was super amazing.

If you're following the Saturday Caturday laser pointer trail to your destiny as instructed then you'll notice that Pizzakaya in Roppongi was the final stop. Having just eaten quite a lot, we definitely weren't ready for pizza, and decided to give the hedgehog café a shot. I'd tried to make a reservation online but it wouldn't work for some reason; I was surprised to see they had openings on a weekend at all. After all the international press this place got, they were booked up every weekend for like 6 months. But we only had to wait outside (the place is predictably tiny and cramped) for 25 or 30 minutes until there was space for us.

Having never been around hedgehogs before, we were completely unaware that they're constantly doing this little chuffing thing that sounds like they're sneezing and that they jump like you've startled them every time you touch them. It's really weird (but adorable) and I don't think they like human contact all that much. I read online a while back that they're not wired to bond with people at all, the way cats and dogs are, but I'm sure there are some super chill or interesting exceptions that people who've owned them would be happy to refute that with.


I'm just a little guy (-ω-)

I got a larger and more rambunctious blonde one, because most of the prickly little shits were curled up and trying to sleep, so I felt bad about waking one up to be prodded and oggled further. I mean, I know that's the whole point of an animal café, and as you might expect, my good intentions were met with very subtle snorts of derision from the staff and also disaster, because this guy really just wanted to snuffle around hyperactively and make his great escape at the first available opportunity.

Hannes' was calm and adorable and basically ideal. Probably his personality and excessive body heat help them relax, too, while they probably sense and absorb my anxiety or whatever. As the one staff member said, though, they basically just sleep all day and are fine with sleeping in your hands, too.

Ah ha, the escapist continues his dirty tricks and dashes for the exit!

Forget the entire aforementioned theory, mine was just an agent of chaos.

I mean, like, this is what they're supposed to be like. Resist the urge to boop the snoot! 
Their teeth are sharp and they'll have a go at your fingers if you let them.
Also they eat live mealworms and it's kind of gross. I'd never fed a live thing to another live thing before and it felt kind of odd.


Maybe the idea to go to where the hedgehogs flow like wine was subconsciously ingrained, because for whatever reason, they were also included in both gift packages. Coincidence?!
Most likely. -shrug-

We did eventually make it to Pizzakaya, which is near Mori Tower and just down the street from Harry Hedgehog (a play on the Japanese for "hedgehog", ハリネズミ, and an appropriate name for one in general) Café. It has an American owner and looks like a place that would've been preserved and rendered virtually in Ready Player One.

I went full bird (thank you again for everything, Hannes!) and ordered my mushroom pizza both gluten-free and vegan while Hannes just went for cheese fries and garlic knots. He's been pretty strict with himself and has gotten into great shape, so he deserved to carb it up. Remember to treat yo-self!

It was delicious and I could only eat three of the thin little slices. 
It was just as delicious reheated the next day.

Finally, Hannes' birthday is also German Reunification Day, when the East and West got back together and the Wall came down and everything. He and his friend and coworker were invited, by virtue of their association with the political organisation they work for, to a party at the German Embassy that night, on the 3rd. 
We'd been looking forward to it for a while and felt pretty fancy as we took a cab there, but it was raining (quelle fucking surprise, there's almost never a 24-hour rain-free stretch here), it was still uncomfortably swampy out on top of it, and the shindig wasn't very well planned. There were so many people crammed in there that it was impossible to move about, and they didn't have any air conditioning or fans. Even if they had originally intended for everyone to spread out and wander about the Japanese garden, they would have known perfectly well beforehand that it was going to rain.

We wandered around the garden anyway, because getting rained on was more comfortable than being in essentially the same situation we find ourselves in at least twice a day on the massively overcrowded trains, and it was nice enough I guess.

Poor Akim had a migraine and cut out after having been there for only an hour or so. There was a long dorky announcement about some entertainment that never happened and the melodramatic singing of the national anthem. Some loud and annoying young Japanese guys who were obviously there for the free food sat down next to us, smoked, and stuffed their faces. We had an interesting but very brief conversation with a pair of married former diplomats, but they also cut out early, having also picked up on the there-are-hundreds-of-peasants-here-for-the-free-food vibe, and because it was swampy and miserable out.
It was a big let-down, sadly.

I made myself sick - as usual lol - eating a few of the small pastries, because even the lentil soup had meat in it, which we both felt pretty confident would not have happened in Germany. It wasn't actual sausage, either, but what the Japanese call "sausage" which translates to "hot dogs".

Hannes was invited back shortly after that, though, to join a discussion and dinner with the German vice minister of defense, and that went much better. Even though the final event on Hannes' birthday was a total drag, it was a great weekend, and there are still several Saturday Caturday Sunday Funday entertainment cards that have been left undone, so maybe I'll get to make it up to him.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekend (9.24 - 9.25): I'll Have a Blood Rite Vol. 12 With Some Art on the Side Please

We experienced a near-perfectly-coordinated Saturday when a small art exhibition I wanted to see at Takashi Murakami's gallery spaces in Nakano Broadway came into celestial alignment with the last installment of Matt's Blood Rite concert series before he returned to the States after several years in Japan, at Moonstep, just a shortish walk away from the famous pop culture shopping arcade.

Taking the bus to Nakano from where we live is the easiest and cheapest option, and I grabbed a couple of these for the ride because of the Halloween label and freebie attached

The exhibition I wanted to see was that of a long-time SF Bay area street artist called GATS, or Graffiti Against the System. Before going I read this interesting interview that explains his history and what these shamanistic bearded dudes represent, which is something like a universal image of humanity that celebrates how we're all basically the same and should probably stop fucking each others' shit up.

Murakami and his Kaikai Kiki school/company (that I was like really into at its height a decade ago) rent a number of different spaces on different floors of the Broadway, and I really want to go back because Mark Ryden is showing there right now. But anyway, this particular space is just a mural on an outer wall plus another contained within sort of a glass display case. You can't go in or anything.

Here's the main gallery. It was all totally free, too.

And that one. That red skateboard. Is totally Bart Simpson.

GATS also (read that interview and see more pics of the other exhibition it links to) uses objects found in and around the Bay to create dioramas, driftwood art, and so on. 
Since Hannes used to be into skating I thought he'd enjoy this too, and he did for sure.

Oz Zingaro, yet another tiny Murakami gallery space in Nakano Broadway, was showing something totally different called the Pragmata Collection that consisted mostly of ceramic art.

It had a very sunken-Spanish-galleon-long-lost-treasures-of-Atlantis kind of feel.

Pretty postapocalyptic, right? Approved.

Right across from Oz Zingaro is this very anime-like cluster of tiny bars and snack places, but you need a key card or something to get it, so I guess it's only for curators, artists, special guests, and other people who aren't us.

Oh, and there was also a moderately terrifying old fashioned doll store that has nothing to do with anything I just talked about. o_o;

Shark fin soup

I insisted on stopping for a pic of this great pipe even though it was raining. Hannes is so patient. Leif says the stylised, splatter-painted "G" stickers might be by the Juicy Fatz guy, and I once found the guy who does the サンリオじいさん (a pun like "Sanrio-grandpa") ones online but can't now lol. Pretty confident that the snarky old merman is his doing.

Hannes and I both agree that, after Earthdom, Moonstep is probably our favourite venue, which I guess also sounds like the right logical progression. There aren't any Mars or star or galaxy ones or anything, though, in case you're wondering.
I've only been there twice, and if you remember, the last time also involved a really fantastic, drunken, multicultural, artistic experience as opposed to just another straightforward show. A lot of people, Japanese and not, showed up to both, this time because it was Matt's goodbye gig, as I mentioned. He had a going away do after that, but it was unfortunately when we were in Hiroshima.

Daigo of GO-ZEN and now of a new goregrind project he's doing with Jharrod was selling inari zushi together with his girlfriend, because, as he told me, he's "so poor". 
Obviously being well aware of how that is, I was his first customer, and he was pretty adorable about setting up a trash bag and offering me tissues if I needed any (because the fried tofu exterior is always oily). Matt and Jharrod both posted this on Instagram and collected a bunch of "awww"s; these two were just like kids with a lemonade stand and plan to do more catering in the future. It reminded me of the simple, cheap, vegan Indonesian/Malay food I'd had at Moonstep 6 months before. 

Interestingly, Crucem played without their keyboardist, and everyone agreed they were a lot better off that way, even though he also had all their merch and no one was sure what happened to him. I mean, he's probably okay. Right?

I enjoyed their set, but I enjoyed SSORC's even more. They play even better, more solid, old school black metal. Their front man is the hooded Crucem guitarist you can see in the foreground of the other pics.

It doesn't get much blacker. This guitarist you can see with the bloody-looking fabric hanging down was wearing an elaborate studded leather face mask and crown that made him look like one of the long-dead kings from The Lord of the Rings.

Hannes isn't really into Begräbnis, but I was pretty excited about seeing them yet again, even though they always play the same set/do the same ritual burial.

The sound wasn't the best for them at Moonstep, which they commented on afterwards, but it was still a great show.

The headliner was Funeral Sutra, who had just released a new album, and I was kind of disappointed. I can't really explain what fell flat, but I was completely unimpressed and uninterested right away, even though I'd been looking forward to their set. When I tried to put my finger on why later Jharrod offered the counterargument that the inconsistencies in their sound and the just-too-long-enough-to-be-awkward-and-kill-the-momentum-between-songs pauses actually do make them interesting, but I can't say I agree.
 All said and done, though, it was a most excellent night of metal of the blackest variety.

I also noticed this series of stickers on a doorjamb next to the bar, and like, I need to know who made them. Because they're, like, adorable.

Shamelessly stole this from.. Harima I think? 
The guy from Begräbnis on the right. He's super nice.

And speaking of super nice, Fumika gave me a CD when I bought their last black patch after I attempted to explain that I would've bought one but it's been a long time since I've owned a CD player. Also, the rest of the swag from earlier that day. Thank you!

It's too bad everyone got way too drunk to take the group picture I suggested at one point, but I guess it's better that we didn't bother anyway, because the air conditioner was broken (which is usually just another way to say "not on even though everyone's sweating their balls off") and the air was hot, smoke-filled, toxic, and deader than Fumika's ghostly stage presence. I didn't drink much and stopped a while before everyone else because I was so hot and sweaty and sick to my stomach from it. I don't know how anyone deals with these nasty swampy Asian climates.

A good time was had by all of the people crammed in there up to the rafters regardless, though, and I also had an unexpected chat with an artist based in Brooklyn who had spent several weeks camping out / living in the woods in Gunma prefecture while carving and sculpting a space for people to "discover themselves in" that I imagined as a sort of gazebo based on his limited description. The weird thing about him was that, at first glance, I thought he was Jordan, and then found out that he's also from Minnesota originally, so like, idk, maybe they're long-lost brothers. Coincidence?! Probably. 

The next day Jharrod told me that he may have slapped his small delicate new pupper of a roommate Griffin in the face really hard, but he wasn't really sure, but he apologised profusely, and then they had deep profound talks on the balcony until 7 in the morning. If that gives you an idea of how much everyone drank that night. It was a big success for all involved (except the missing keyboardist I guess), and I really hope I get to enjoy at least one more artsy, chatty, international, homemade food-y show at this venue before leaving Tokyo.