Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Done Properly


I don't know if you guys remember the debacle that was last year's Halloween, but we were not about to let that happen again. First of all, I was not going to have D sick on Halloween for the third year in a row, so I started fortifying him with Vitamin C a week before. I am happy to say he made it.

Despite the typhoon-y weather, we had a a proper Halloween party this year, costumes required. Some people were lame and didn't bother (I won't mention any names, okay, Helen), but most of our friends made an effort at least. Jeff was especially proud that he did the Ramen-Snack Panda right this time, having been planning it since last Halloween.

It was a great night. It's funny how we can have a successful party in Japan and I can't even talk to half of the guests. But everyone seemed to have fun. There is one way that parties in Japan are superior to those in the States: no driving. Most everyone takes public transportation and that stops running around midnight. So what does one do then? When you are d one drinking for the night, find a couch or a futon or a nice bit of floor space to crash out on for awhile, or until morning. No drunk driving, no worries. I'd like to bring this practice back to Seattle, but people in the States are perversely attached to their own beds.

Anyway. Since giant Western-style pumpkins are a novelty in Japan,

Japanese pumpkin (you can hold it in one hand)

Western pumpkin

Jeff held a pumpkin-carving contest. Actually, he carved them all, the contest was for the design of the two not being designed by the 3 kids present. (Another funny thing: pumpkins do not like this climate. Within a couple days, the carved pumpkins started growing white and green fur inside. No gradual appearance of black spots here, no. Full-on fur and a really bad smell.)

It was a relatively normal party, people eating a ton, drinking more, listening to music, talking, la-di-da.

And then the sudden appearance of the guy in a horse head and tighty-whities. This guy had earlier told me, when I had demanded to know where his costume was, that he had a "secret costume." I thought he was just being lame. I was wrong. This one goes in the Top Ten Most Surreal Moments in Japan. To drive it home, he pulled down his tighty-whities to expose -- another pair of tighty-whities.

Later in the night, lots of costume-trading was going on, most notable of the items making the rounds were the horse head and the wig. Both of which we have ended up with, post-party, along with some other random bits of costume and clothing (yes, Martine, we have your sweater, jumper, or whatever).

These shenanigans are well-documented by the party's own Event Photographer:

Martine actually set up portraits, Prom-style. Check out all her wonderful photos here.

Inferior, but still amusing, pictures from my camera can be found here.

Somehow, because it was Jeff's mission, we got up the next day (which was new-washed and gorgeously sunny) and went to Kawasaki for the Halloween Parade. Totally worth it. Jeff said he actually got tears in his eyes three times, because he was so proud of their efforts on his favorite holiday.

More pics of the beautiful mayhem here. Do yourself a favor and watch the slideshow. Once again, the Japanese beat us at our own holiday.

On the day before Halloween, the kids received their annual Halloween Package from Aunt Karla (thanks Aunt Karla!). She outdid herself this year. I only wish we had gotten it before the party, because the body-parts from the Cannibal Store would've been great props.

Jeff spent the night before Halloween packing goodie-bags full of candy, because he was not about to be shamed again. He took this very seriously.

The neighborhood will soon be full of little Japanese kids bouncing off walls because of all the super-sweet American candy he got on the base.

The neighborhood moms love Jeff.

If you don't have a kid as an excuse for trick or treating, you can use your dog.

M helped

Kumi came, too.

So, Halloween is over for another year, and we have redeemed ourselves in the eyes of the Japanese, I hope. Now Jeff goes out of town for 10 days, to return for D's Birthday. I plan on watching a lot of movies at night. Any recommendations?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sunday in the Park With Hakan

Do you remember Hakan? The teacher who took us to a Turkish restaurant a few months ago? Last Sunday, we returned the favor and gave him a slice of Americana: Sunday Brunch at the New Sanno. Such a spread. My eyes were WAY bigger than my stomach, but I discovered that I do, in fact, like Eggs Benedict. I always thought I didn't. They also had a drink called Russian Brunch: champagne, vodka, and OJ. Packs more punch than a mimosa. Yum.

After, we walked off the brilliant amount of calories by strolling to the Imperial Palace East Gardens. It was a ridiculously sunny day, and everything was overexposed and green.

Apart from the usual gardeny stuff, there was a section that had small stands of different varieties of bamboo. I thought these two interesting, especially the green-stripey one:

There was also a Music Hall. If it looks really out-of-place and kinda 1960s, that's because it was built in the 60s for the Empress. It looks cooler up close, where you can see all the neat mosaic:

I thought it looked rather pretty against the extremely blue sky.

After, we strolled through the Ginza and ogled all the must-have handbags and chandeliers in stores we could never afford. We found a place for early dinner that was quite good, or at least my sandwich was: pumpkin and mushroom. Sounds weird, I know, but it was so intriguing and delicious that I've decided to recreate it for our Halloween party. Pumpkin, right?

Said party is tonight. Jeff at first resisted the idea of a having a bunch of drunk people in costume at our place (his party side at war with his don't-piss-off-the-neighbors side?), but Macky and I wore him down in the end. Too much hassle and last-minuteness to try and have it in a bar or somewhere. Don't have to find a sitter, drive, or worry about other people getting home (plenty o floor space). Costumes are more difficult, since there's no such thing as Display & Costume here (someone should open one), but we'll do our best. So next post's pictures will be undoubtedly bizarre, and hopefully we will have gotten through it without souring our relations with the neighbors.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Sorry, the bar was called King Pelican.

and here's some more pics of us getting digitized.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Something to Blog About

I kept putting off posting this week: all I had to offer was a couple party and BBQ pictures, and that wasn't really inspiring me. Then Macky sent us this email:

abbey brought this talk. A certain foreign game company will hold a rollout tomorrow nite. free booze and a meal arrive and can be given it of XXXX yen. There is the photography, too. they want to make some promotion video maybe. its gather at Omori Station in 7:30pm. A bus comes to pick you up. Do you participate?

We were intrigued, although not really sure what he was talking about. Macky said he would babysit, giving us a rare night out for the two of us, so we said what the hell. Free food and booze, and a possibility of making a little cash on top of it, so why not?

The next day, he emailed more information:

I confirmed the details.

The set is Omori Station during half past 7 from 7:00. If arrive; of xxx-xxxx-xxxx please talk on the telephone. Mr.Tagami (the master ring charge of abbey's company) and a saying human being seem to go to it to meet you by car. There is the game that a company called MOZOO gives in Microsoft system for Europe and America and seems to want to record movement as the part of visitor of the scene to play in that. It is have fun by the performance in what a band comeand seem to play U2. Therefore beer and a light meal seem to come. So it seems to be different that there are a lot of foreigners else and seems to have a party. The guarantee is XXXXX yen by around 10:00 from 8:00.

The only thing that was clearer from this message was that Macky was using an automatic translator. Was it a premier party? A video shoot? A trick to round up gaijin and put them in a camp? If I'm going to be filmed, what do I wear? Tattoos showing or hidden? Tho I made sure I washed my hair, at the current state of growing out mind-of-their-own curls, I'm never sure how it's going to come out. Would it look cute or frizzy today?

Happily, my hair looked pretty good. We didn't know what was coming, but we took the train to Omori.

We called the number we were given and we were given instructions by Pete, a helpful English speaker at the site. We got in a cab and handed the phone to the driver, who received directions. We drove for quite aways from the station, into a very warehouse-y area. We understood that we were going to a studio, so we weren't too nervous that we were going to be locked up in a warehouse. The driver found the place and we were met outside by a Japanese guy who paid the driver and showed us inside.

It was a huge black space. The first thing I noticed was a band out on the floor. Their instruments were flat black (pretty cool), and they were dressed in spandex, dotted with little silvery balls. I knew immediately that they were outfitted in those CGI mapping suits, or whatever they are called. I saw it in the behind-the-scenes of Lord of the Rings. It's how they did Gollum.

We were ushered to a corner with comfy seats and met two other guys: Pete from NJ/NY, and Adam from Cleveland, of all places (Lakewood, specifically, no, he's not gay, for those of you who know that Lakewood has the largest gay population in the US outside of SF). They are both young guys in the gaming industry, working as translators. They've been here for years.

We were given beer and snacks, sat around a bit, and learned a little bit about what we were going to do. We were going to be a "crowd" at a U2 concert, for some Guitar Hero-like video game. They wouldn't tell us the name of the game, and we don't know if it'll be used for promo purposes, or the actual game, or what. Apparently they wanted foreigners because our body dynamics are different from Japanese. Having seen Japanese girls at shows "dance" in their cute-cute way, I believe this absolutely.

Then we learned that we were going to be outfitted in CGI spandex, too! With helmets. So much for the agonizing over wardrobe. And so much for my cute hair!

We all got suited up in three layers of the tightest things I've ever worn. Worse for the boys, tho, who are totally unused to wearing tight clothes in general. Adam, Pete, and I got balled-up (Jeff was an alternate and a background crowd filler).

We were photographed in various poses, and then the real fun began. "U2" came out (a young Seattleite with a Robert Sean Leonard smile was the lead, the rest of the band Japanese), and we jumped around, danced, clapped, woo-hooed, and generally acted as if we were seeing U2, our favorite band, live (I'll say your band is my favorite, too, if you pay me enough). It was just the entrance, a verse, and goodbye-thank part of the show, like 4 or 5 times. We altered our show-watching and dancing styles (rocker, hippie-trance fan, whatever) each time. I am going to be a thousand women!

That was pretty much it. The whole thing took like 2 hours, and we got beer, bento boxes, and and yen for it. And a blog entry. Sweet.

Group shots. The "band":

all the players:

Adam and Pete said they'd keep their geek-feelers out, so they can find out what game this is and our part in it, and let us know what they find out.

Jeff and I went to a funny little bar in Kawasaki after, and then to Namamugi, to an Irish pub called King Crane. Jeff somehow got Tomoi and Norichan to show up (they live like a minute away from the bar), tho Tomoi had said he was sleeping when Jeff called. I'm kind of hurting today, but it was worth it.

Anyway, here's pics from the 2 BBQs and the party last weekend. One school BBQ:

one BuzzBQ (this guy was already sleeping on the bench when we got there to help set up, and woke to a full-swing party, poor guy):

and Shingo's birthday party. Helen and I gave him the mask-tiara-boa set, and everyone had to try it on:

And this, just because it's funny, is James Brown rubber ducky from the Kawasaki bar.

Oh, and apparently we are having a Halloween party. Wish I could've kept the CGI suit for a costume.