Bright Lights, Big City.

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For the sake of continuity, I felt compelled to include this picture from Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. It was a nice day even if it was a bit cold for our first visit to a big city.

Parks like these seem to be plentiful in the Land of the Rising Sun. Of course you have to pay to get in (this one was only $2 USD). But as you can see, it’s worth the price of admission.

With the general over population of the Japan as a country, combined with tourism being the main money-maker at most city centers (Shinjuku, included). I’m sure the head honchos make a killing.

Conversely, having to pay for admittance also keeps the homeless out.

I’m not making some big statement about helping the poor. I’m just pointing out the contrast of entering a public park in Japan while it’s own less fortunate citizens have taken residence outside of the park gates.

It certainly made me pause and appreciate all that I have been given.

The Cat’s in the Cradle.

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Don’t be fooled: This picture isn’t showing you a simple story of mechanical claw prowess.

The morning of the photo, my wife was trying to shoo me out of the house. I had told her that I had wanted to go record shopping in a relatively close Tokyo neighborhood. That morning, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I woke up tired and semi-infected thanks to our children being incubators for all manner of disease. Catching a train (even though the rail system in Japan is superior to that of the States) that becomes a big petri-dish because of the amount of people that try to pile in, wasn’t something that I had wanted to partake in on that particular day.

As a compromise and to ensure that I got out of the house (because she had threatened to make me miserable if I didn’t), my wife suggested that I take the boy. I quickly reasoned that that option was the way to go. He used to be a train fanatic (and still is to some degree), he’s almost always good company, and he’s been having a hard time socializing with other kids his age.

His reluctance to socialize started before we left the states. On top of that, getting a straight answer out of him when it comes to expressing feelings is a Herculean feat. Unfortunately, he takes after his father in that respect. If I had to guess, I’d say that the impermanence of friendships when you live a gypsy lifestyle really sank in when he learned we’d be living in a  foreign country for a couple of years.

I digress.

So I took the boy on a train ride. A short train ride. We got off at Tachikawa, had lunch at McDonald’s, and I alternated between me, tripping on the generally laid-back-ed-ness of the city and trying to get him to participate in our semi exploration.

Then we found an arcade.

Arcades are plentiful here. Back in the states, they went the way of the Do-do bird. Personally, I think that they have survived in Japan because a large part of the currency is coinage (everything less that 10 USD is coin, you could probably apply my numb-but logic to the popularity of gambling here as well).

He perked up as soon as he realized what was before him.The video games he wasn’t interested in so much. Claw machines? That’s his shit.

Claw machines are even more of his shit when one of those machines has a clock in the shape of a cardboard boy. 25 dollars and a half an hour later, we had attracted the attention fo the Arcade attendant. Being amused by my dedication and my son’s fanaticism, he offered some pointers before going back to tending the other machines.

10 minutes laters the attendant came back to see us still at it.

Graciously, he opened the case, rigged the box to where a light breeze would have blown it over and said to me in perfect english, “Hit it right there”, while pointing at a crucial area of the box.

I did what I was told and everybody won something that day. My son got a good memory and a temporary object of desire, the attendant got to witness a father’s dedication to his son, and me? I made everyone involved in this story, including myself, a little bit happier.

SUNNY DAYS! SWEEPING THE CLOUDS AWAY!

It’s no big secret: there are a lot of people who call Japan “home”. Sunshine for most of the year, exotique experiences, the opportunity to find out why Jiro, really, dreams of sushi…

Who wouldn’t want call this place home?

Since the population has grown exponentially during the decades  of “post war” Japan, the need for “particular” services has become paramount. ENTER the Child Removal Services, CRS.

Not everyone should be a parent, not everyone can be a parent. LET CSR HELP YOU!

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Our trucks patrol the neighborhoods of lower, central Japan on a weekly basis. It is our goal to place your unwanted or unnecessary child in the right “hands”.

As long as your little “bundle” is properly bound and placed in the proper receptacle the night before a pick up, Child Removal Services will be able to take your prom night dumpster baby away!

EVERYONE’S A STAR WHEN THEY USE CSR!

Some Survival Tips Should You Find Yourself in Japan.

ONE

One of the first things that I learned about The Land of the Rising Sun is that if you are new here, and you want to do something on the weekend, don’t.

While I have no substantiated facts to support this claim, I can unequivocally state that everybody and their mother (with respect to the Japanese people) will be out and about, doing their “thing” EVERY Saturday and Sunday. They will not falter. If you are amongst the uninitiated Traffic will seem near catastrophic. Elevator rides, and train rides, will give you a glimpse of what life in a petri-dish is like. Shopping malls will be on par with participating in a human car wash.

My wife and I made this “mistake” within our first month of living here. She wanted to see what Joyful Honda was all about. Me, being the stupid white male that I am, I immediately assumed that it had something to do with cars given that we can see the building from 10 miles away. And, well, Honda.

Suffice it to say I was wrong. Ever wonder what it would look like if Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Target all existed within the same building? Picture that and you have what Joyful Honda is all about.

We went on a SundayDriving there, finding a place to park, and then seeing the entirety of the local population under the same roof imbued in me a fresh, new terror. I can imagine Moses didn’t see as many people when he was balls deep in the Exodus.

(ETA: It’s been almost a year since we’ve moved here. The shock of seeing so many people in one place has become routine. But if there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that the Japanese population, for the most part, are unbelievably patient and kind).

Can’t avoid the weekend rush? Plan accordingly. Find hours of operation for whatever establishment you’re trying to frequent. Consider walking, riding a bicycle, or taking public transportation. Most importantly, be realistic: you’re not the only one trying to accomplish something.

TWO

Travel, let alone living in a foreign country, is a daunting task. Supposedly, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I guess that this ‘ease’ comes from the repetitiveness of ‘doing’ and planning?

However, the best laid plans can go tits up for a variety of reasons.

When that has happened to me, I have had consistent success by being exceedingly nice.

That’s it, that’s all you have to do: just be nice.

If you’re in a country that is not your home, you need to make peace with the fact that you are now the minority. To put it bluntly, you’re now in a stranger’s home: don’t get huffy because you can’t deal with change.

Point of fact? Since I have started living in Japan, I have made it a goal of nodding/waving (while smiling) at any lookey-loos who’s path I may cross throughout the course of any given day. In doing so, should my plans go awry, the Japanese peoples are generally willing to be patient while I fumble with Google Translate, since they know that I am friendly (read: a shorter version of Clark Griswald). 

In doing so, I have maintained a success rate of 86% returned greeting from all I have interacted with. (The remaining 14% were generally Japanese males who appeared to be old enough to have served in WWII or were indoctrinated with the belief that all Gentiles were white devils by their father’s who had served in the very same war).

In short, when in doubt, be nicer than you usually are.

THREE

It has been my general experience that when Gentiles travel to foreign lands, they get all puckered up when it comes to figuring out the local currency and what the exchange rate is. This is totally understandable given that the majority of the world is monetarily driven.

When it comes to Japan and figuring out how the Yen exchange rate is going to impact your pocket book, there’s nothing to sweat.

All you have to do is move the comma over to the right one space, baby (Bootsy Collins voice).

So, if you’re out and about and something catches your eye that costs 1,090 yen, in American-ese, it’s going to take $10.90 out of your rapidly depleting checking account. Don’t worry about exchange rates, how much Yen is worth on any given day, and why it fluctuates so damn much. Just move the comma over to the right by one space!