Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dears for Heaven to Lovers Keep Inversed

At least, that's what it said on this girl's sparkly pink shirt today on the subway. Huh?? Nothing like stringing together a bunch of English words just to have a hip saying on your shirt.

So many things have happened in the past few days, I'm going to string all these impressions together because I have no idea how to make a cohesive post out of this...Working at Toppan all week has been very odd. Anytime I ask about anything (for example, an internet connection during the day so I can get work done while I'm sitting around waiting on the next page for approval), there is a fucking 20 minute discussion in Japanese around me. Then 5 OTHER people come in the room to discuss the situation. It's embarrassing and irritating, and makes me not want to ask for anything 'unusual.' Or, another examples: getting a file off the FTP site. This should take, seriously, 10 minutes. They could not get it together to do it, so I ended up downloading the files for them from the Visionaire server and copying them to a portable hard drive for use. I mean c'mon -- it's a printing house! They should KNOW how to handle files, better than me with my slow-ass laptop....There is a mandatory 5 minute exercise period at lunch time for the Toppan employees. This goofy kids show sounding piano music comes on the loudspeaker at 1:55, and a voice starts barking out instructions and counts for stretching, I'm guessing for toe touches and things.

Reading international papers every day is no fun. I realize this sounds retarded and cliche about Americans and international affairs, but unfortunately it's true in my case -- I simply don't read this much international news in NYC. I prefer trashy gossip mags and the Wednesday food section of the Times. I told someone last night that I didn't have enough time to read the Times every day, and he laughed in my face! I deserved it but still. Anyway, the whole damn world is going to hell in a handbasket, everyone hates each other, there are like 10 wars, Americans are real assholes, and reading English-language papers overseas is super-depressing....And on that note, today is the 61st anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. Reading all the coverage about the hibakusha (A-Bomb survivors) and all of the horrible after effects from being near to the blast make me proud to be an American. Yes, I know it was effective in ending WW2 and crushing the Evil Empire but still, there are people 61 years later who have serious problems on a daily basis because of it, including their own government refusing to acknowledge or compensate them for their illnesses..... But then again, the Mel Gibson "story" got 25 minutes on CNNj every night this week. Who the hell cares?? He's apparently a big anti-semetic drunkypants, and why does this affect my life as a "news" story? He's probably no different than half the anti-semetic world and I don't want to hear about them either....Two gorgeous, amazing peaches in the grocery store are "on sale" for about $7.50. They are big as softballs, and supposed to be the "best peaches ever"(according to a former Japanese co-worker) but I have yet to spring for them and find out....Hardly any Japanese wear sunglasses. So not only am I Girl Godzilla, whacking my head on the hanging grips on the subway, having to duck through and get then blindly get stuck and claw my way through the cotton curtains that line most doorways into restaurants, or ramming my knees into the underside of every table causing it to move 6 inches when I sit down, I do it with sunglasses on so I look like a bigger freak. I look cool in my shades, though.

Things are much better here in general after a rough first week. I went out Friday night in Harajuku with Fumiaki, the guy who handles the Japanese distribution for Visionaire. (We are popular here, as evidenced by a graphic designer I met randomly at Toppan this week. I gave him my card, and he almost fell over with graciousness and compliments) We had yakitori (grilled chicken of all kinds) while chilling, talking and having some much-needed beers. Fumi worked in NYC for Visionaire over 10 ago, and has lots to say and much insight into the people we work with. He's trying to score baseball tickets this week, so I can take in a Japanese baseball game, and see the Yomuiri Giants (aka the Yankees of Tokyo).

Yesterday, Saturday, I was SICK of being nice, bowing, trying to talk slooooooow and simply wanted to be myself again. I needed an AMERICAN day. So I spent the day at my hotel pool (its about 90 degrees with 70% humidity), then went to a proper meal of steak/mashed potatoes/pinot noir at the Oak Door in the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi Hills. The steak was only okay (a little tough), but I was so happy to sit there, and listen to other loud, ugly American voices and have something to eat that really stuck to my ribs. I thought I could eat Japanese food for days, but I was REALLY craving some solid meat. Truly made me happy beyond belief.

Then it was off to the Irish/ ex-pat bar, as is always my M.O. when in foreign countries when the isolation caused by difficult communication gets to be too much. You know there's going to be other people who can speak English, sports on the TV and a place where you can semi-relax and feel like you are at home. As I pretended to watch cricket and talked to the bartender from Texas, I started chatting with Jonathan, a former rugby player with a PhD in Biochemistry, now-turned financier from London via 17 years of previous residence in Tokyo (how's that for a list! I was impressed.). He was all smarts, very funny, generous with the drink buying and made the rest of my evening loads of fun. Although after 17 years of only dating Japanese girls, he thought it was okay to tell me that I had "the biggest hands for a woman" and, after gaping at my feet, to not lose my shoes, as I wouldn't be able to get any replacements. (Why I would start suddenly losing my shoes, I don't know...) While we shared a bottle of wine at this swanky bar called Maduro, a woman serenaded the room with a piano bar version of "The Way We Were". In Japanese. Hands down my best night in Tokyo.

One of the more interesting things I got from both Fumiaki and Jonathan is that I'm should be more aggressive with the printers. Based on everything I had read before coming, I was trying to be respectful of their culture, and not TOO obnoxious and demanding (while still getting everything I need done.) It's a slippery slope and has been difficult to walk, especially with the language barriers. Both of these guys who have worked in Japan for years told me I should go balls out, and even throw a tantrum (Fumi's suggestion being: kick the table, then go out and get lunch alone, coming back in with a Big Mac in hand) so that I don't get taken advantage of. I guess Japanese clients expect 120% from their vendors but they think Americans are 'easy' and thus they won't work as hard for an American client. Hmmm... tomorrow should be interesting. I'm gonna give this a try and see if get better results.

Drums at the Meiji Shrine

Prayers and wishes at the Shrine.

Finally did a little sightseeing today after trying to shake off my hangover. I walked up to see the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi park, a quiet place full of songbirds and dense underbrush. Stopped to stare at the teenage hipsters hanging out on the bridge to the park in their cosu-purei (costume play) outfits. And made a stop in Kiddyland, a 5 story department store only devoted to toys and cuteness of all sorts before having a ridiculously cheap dinner at the kaitenzushi (conveyor-belt sushi) place next door.

Even the police station sign is cute.

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