Thursday, April 24, 2008

Slot Girls and Gutter Balls

Most people go to Japan in search of cherry blossoms, shinto shrines, remnants of the bomb we dropped on Hiroshima or those infamous street vending machines with used little girls' underwear (okay, not most people, but I've heard of those molester types in search of a different sanctum). Sure, we wanted to see the pretty trees and maybe eat some udon, but Jocilyn and I were on another mission altogether -- to find Hello Kitty's mouth.

A few days before we left, we had decided that we were traveling together but didn't have a plan in mind. Then one night in the DJ Booth, as we punched numbers into the karaoke machine, it suddenly became clear -- there must be a factory where they make Sanrio products! Our mutual love of Mexican food and shared disgust of all things sour apple flavored was now trumped with our realized joint-obsession with Hello Kitty. Though the internet was at a record slow, we soon discovered that Sanrio had an entire amusement park in Tokyo. And as the page downloaded at the speed of a peddled rickshaw, we slowly uncovered the much anticipated highlights -- dancers, unicorns, boat rides, and photo ops.

Our introduction to Japan (well, sorta, it was my second time) was appropriately chaotic and repetitious, both themes that would follow us throughout our incredible journey. We jumped on the port liner in Kobe, got off at the local rail station, then high-tailed it into Shin-Kobe, the major train station only to discover that the Japan Rail Pass can only be validated at a few stations, the major one with routes to Tokyo NOT being one of them. So, we headed back to the station we came from, waited in a massive line, then after all that, got on the one super-express train our $285 pass didn't work on. Not to worry, we moved from car to car until we finally got in trouble, though there was no follow-up.

I had spent my foggy day in Shanghai - ADJ making reservations for Japan, but lo and behold, the Trojan family came through in unexpected ways. Hanzie's friend and fellow alum, Michiko, sent me an email with the incredible offer of staying with her in Tokyo, so we obliged for one night since we couldn't get out of our first night's reservations. Why wouldn't a trojan invite a complete stranger to stay with them in Japan?

Getting to the Hotel Sakura was an adventure on the trains, for if there is one thing I can say about Japan, it is this -- their train system gives new meaning to the word "clusterfuck." Never in my life have I been so utterly confused by a map, nor I have I jumped on and off of a train three times only to still not get to the right stop. Local. Express. It apparently doesn't matter if you're trying to get to Hatagaya on the New Keio line. The mere thought of the Tokyo rail map can bring tears to my eyes, but moving on to our first night in the city. 

Our room: small and filled with oddities; the perfect microcosm. The lights were controlled by a switch in a nightstand on the opposite side of the room, the bathtub was fit for an oompa loompa, and the fridge could hold about a single forty. So it was off to find some food shortly after checking in. We were equipped with a xeroxed map of the hood, though we couldn't find a noodle stand nor food operation capable of handling our lack of japanese characters until we finally stumbled upon, what appeared to be, a Japanese diner. The menu had lots of suspicious looking items and concoctions involving fish parts, but we were able to communicate enough to order a pizza looking thing, a salad, and something involving avocado. When we ordered "Malt's Beer" on draft, and the animated waitress asked if we wanted small, medium, or large, we both agreed on large, thinking that the mugs were probably fit to japanese sizing. However, our gallon-sized mugs soon came out. And all throughout our scrumptious meal, we noticed that nobody else was drinking large beers. Not even the men in suits with loosened ties. Oops.

I'll get to the level of hospitality that Michiko truly provided in my next post, but upon our arrival at the Hotel, we were greeted by faxes, telling us where to bowl, how to get to Puroland, and she even called us. So cute! We had serious intentions of bowling, so she directed us to an alley that was only a few subway stops away. After another hour on the train, we walked aimlessly around the block, finally stopping in this gross burger joint called "Lotteria" to ask for directions. We simulated the motion with our hands, and they indicated for us to go around the corner, next to a porn shop called Slot Girls. Of course when we walked up to the place, it was not only written in English, but had two GIANT bowling pins protruding from the building.

The lanes were a little shorter, the shoes were measured in centimeters (so we had no idea what to order) and came out of a coin-operated machine that swiveled, thus we had to take our best guess. At a size 10, Joci is a little larger than most Japanese, but I was glad to see such small finger holes in the bowling balls. I suck at bowling, so much so that my little muslim sisters in Malaysia accused me of being un american. Somehow. Someway. The gods decided to swoop in and make me look like a liar. I kept bowling spares. Kind of like my Uno curse, no matter what I did, the ball hit the pins. I honestly don't know how. And I mysteriously bowled a 126, which is my birthdate and kinda freaky. Joci had a date with the gutter, which was kinda fun since the screen would explode with "gutter" written in english and animated donkey figures. She seems to think I keep a bowling bag in my jeep back at home. I keep trying to convince her -- only croquet mallets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You look so happy and healthy! Nice balls shot. Happy adventures. Love, Knorky