Japanese Adventures

So i’m actually in the Hong Kong airport waiting to head home, but i’m going to be talking about Japan because i’m falling behind.  Hong Kong, briefly though, has been pretty excellent.  From a distance (with its awesome skyline of skyscrapers), it is one of the most beautiful scenes that i’ve ever enjoyed.  Just like the view of the Pacific that you see when you are driving from Muir down to La Jolla Shores, i lose my breath every time i see it.

anyways, so here are the promised stories of my visit to a maid cafe, a capsule hotel, and (i forgot to mention) a CAT CAFE (as in meow).

First off, the maid café is located in an manga/anime town in Japan (called Akihabara), and there are tons of such cafes that are popular with manga fans, natives and tourists.  (Note: moon suggested i go!) Basically, you go to be served by women dressed up in anime maid outfits who just act really cutesy and treat you like a king (calling guys master and girls mistress).  You start by ordering a package which includes a drink, snack, either a photograph or game-playing time with the maids (I chose the photo), and candy.  Then, they bring out your food and do the stuff with you that you signed up for.  For the photo, they do a Polaroid and have all these props and you get to pick your own fobby pose and stuff.  Also, when they bring out your food/drink, they make you do these chants and hand motions with them as they put “cuteness” into it.  I think sometimes they even feed you your drink (but didn’t happen with me, thankfully).  It was surprisingly more fun than it sounds.  However, it was kinda sad seeing some old guys there by themselves, but for the most part it was younger people (male and female) in groups who just wanted to laugh and experience it.  One of the weirder things i’ve done in my life (as are all of these).  Hrmm…. it sounds kinda shady when i read what i wrote.  but it didn’t seem shady at the time…. hrmmmmmm.  oh, and no pictures were allowed (Except for the polaroid that they gave me, which i can’t scan right now).

Next up is the capsule hotel, which i stayed in over the last night (the rest of the time i was hosted by my awesome friend, Leonard, who was an old suitemate from undergrad).  But yeah, the capsule hotel is exactly as it sounds.  Basically, you pay to rent out a little capsule (looks like a large dog kennel or a hyperspace chamber in movies) which has a bed, tv, and alarm clock.  The room had maybe like 40 of them (two rows of about 10 each on both sides).  There are communal showers and lockers to put your stuff in.  It was actually not too bad, and I slept pretty well (although I always sleep well).  It was a little annoying though because you can still hear the other people whether they are watching TV or eating food.   My friend explained that it’s popular for people who got out of work late (or were partying late, HOLLA!) and just need to find a place for the night.  The only (significant!) downside is that there was some “adult” TV programming, and it kinda made the whole place seem a bit seedy.  Not sure if that is the norm for capsule hotels.  Otherwise, it was a surprisingly pleasant experience, although I could see it becoming tedious over a span of days (and the TV thing is a huge negative).

And lastly, I stopped by briefly at a cat café!   I had randomly read about them when reading online about things to do in Tokyo and it was fascinating to me that Japanese people would pay (i think it was $8 for 30 minutes, and like $12 for an hour).  They had about 15 cats and all these toys to play with them, and you order drinks and you get to play with the cats (flash photography is prohibited, as is holding the cats).  You had to start off by taking off your shoes and washing your hands, and then you get to go in to see them.  They had a wide variety of cats, and some of them were really ugly and cute (and ugly-cute).  Unfortunately, the cats were kinda skittish, but maybe if I were there longer than 15 minutes they would have warmed up to me.  (The minimum time you pay for is a half hour, and people stay for an hour or more, but I was actually in a hurry and just wanted to see it).  I did see some other people buy food that you can give the cats, and then the cats were like crawling all over them!  It seemed like they took good care of the cats (with the emphasis on hygiene and stuff), but the cats’ skittishness made me think that maybe they weren’t that happy.  -=(  I also saw a sign for a dog café, but I wasn’t sure if it was the same thing or if it was just dog-themed.  Oh yeah, and while looking for the cat cafe, i ran into another type of cat cafe, where you drink in a room with cats.  However, there you weren’t allowed to touch the cats (so that’s why i left).

That’s all!  I’ll post more pictures later on FB (but maybe not my maid cafe polaroid).

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Thoughts from Japan

So I’m on the airplane back from Japan to Korea, where I’ll be staying the night before heading back out to Hong Kong.  The days have just been flying by now at this point, so it’s hard to sit down and write my thoughts down.

Japan was a pretty awesome place, though!  When I get around to posting pictures (either on Facebook or here), I’ll do a more thorough play-by-play breakdown of the things I’ve done.  But, in the vein of my last post, here’s a list of some of my thoughts on Japan.

1) What Do Japanese People Look Like? – So one interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that, in my opinion, the Japanese are much more diverse in their appearance than most other Asian countries I’ve been to.  I’ve seen some Japanese people that look nearly Caucasian, some that definitely look Korean, some that look Chinese, some middle eastern Japanese people, some Hispanic-appearing Japanese people, and some that look super Japanese (the one that I always pictured in my mind).   I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there seems to be much more mixing of bloodlines here, as Tokyo is more of a Global city than Korea.

2) EXPENSIVE! – The Yen is really deceiving because the smallest Japanese bill (as in piece of paper) is 1,000 yen (roughly equivalent to $10).  For you Korean folk, that’s one digit removed from the won (where 10,000 won is roughly equivalent to $10).  But anyways, so if you have 9 US dollars worth of yen, it’s just change in your pocket!  There’s even a 500 yen coin (~$5), and it’s commonly used, like a quarter in the US (and NOT like the dollar coin or half dollar coins).  This valuable change kinda blocks your awareness to the fact that you are just constantly bleeding money.  Sodas are 100-150 yen (1-1.50 dollars), cheap fast food meals are like 600 yen (~$6.50), subway rides are like 200-500 yen (2-5 dollars).  The cost itself isn’t so bad relative to the US, but it’s just the fact that you feel like you’re not spending a lot because you pay with coins.  I constantly found myself checking my wallet to find that I was out of money, and needed to exchange more.  Where does it all GO?

3) Food! – To be honest, some people that had previously gone to Japan told me that the food was unremarkable.  But I loved the food!  I think I might have lucked out, though, because my host, Leonard (an old college suitemate), has been living there for the past 4 years, so he knew his way around and showed me to really good restaurants (the cheaper, but tasty ones).  Since I was only there for 4 days and he worked during the day, we’d eat 2 dinners every night!  And then, for lunches, I got my fill of cheaper but yummy food (yoshinoya, McDonalds, and Lotteria – a Korean version of McD’s).  But yeah, I’m typically not a huge fan of Japanese ramen (at least at that one place on Convoy that supposedly tastes very “authentic.”  I think it “authentically” tastes bland!), but the 2 ramen places I went to here were very flavorful and very filling.  They gave free refills of noodles too! Also, we went to this sushi place where the pieces of fish they put on the sushi were tasty and huge (think like a blanket on top of you, sleeping.  You = rice, blanket = fish).

4) Walk the Walk – So, everybody knows that in Japan, the cars all drive on the left side of the roads and that the steering wheels are on the right side of the car.  And some people have deduced that this means that oncoming traffic comes from the opposite side, meaning that buses come from what seems like in front of you (but they are coming from behind, from their perspective).  (side note: young choi told me also that the windshield wipers are on the right and the turn signals are on the left of the steering wheel, so when he drove in Japan, he kept on turning on the windshield wipers when he wanted to turn).  On top of this, everybody walks on the left side of the street, and the slow people on the escalator are on the left side (I later found out this not the case in all of Japan).  So everything is reversed, and I kept on getting confused/lost. It really threw my man-compass off quite a bit, and I found myself getting lost more than normal (because I guess I subconsciously use the flow of traffic and people to know where I am).

5) Subway/Railway System – Confusing!!!  The subway system in Seoul is pretty genius (some say, the BEST, in fact…), and anybody can pick it up in a matter of hours.  It’s colored and numbered, the signs are all very easy to read and written in Korean, Japanese, and English.  In Japan, however, it’s a whole different story.  The subways are given names (which all sound like video game or car companies), rather than numbers, which makes it hard because the syllables are all hard to remember.  And although there are colors, there are so many colors that it goes into Crayola-type differentiation (midnight blue vs navy blue vs dark blue vs etc).   And on top of that, in Tokyo, the railroads are NOT listed on the subway maps (that took me a day or two to figure out) and the bigger transfer stations are ginormous, some with 4 or 5 lines meeting.  Even by the end of my trip, my knowledge of the subway system was only novice at best.

6)  The Tower of Babel – I realized quickly in Japan how awesome my Korean is, how awesome my Spanish is, and how HORRIBLE my Japanese is.  I still (and now I’ve left Japan) don’t know a single word in Japan except Hai, and definitely can’t read a single letter (or syllable, or character?  What is it?!) I thought there’d be tons of English written everywhere, but this was not the case.  While there were some in places like subways and airports, many stores and restaurants had absolutely no English on them.  (I did learn that the trick is to ask for a separate English menu, which some places have).  Thankfully, I feel like people were able to speak English better than Koreans (but not well, by any means.)  This was the first time I’ve been in a country where I didn’t know a lick of the language.  It gave me more appreciation for God’s infinite wisdom in creating different languages, because it really makes it hard to communicate and interact with other people.   Makes me really think that the most important class I took in college was Korean.

don’t worry, i got lots of other good stories to tell from Japan… like my experience at a maid cafe and capsule hotel!

Interesting Things About Korea (That I Like or Dislike)

this is like a grab-bag post of my thoughts about Korea.  many of them were first originated from previous trips to the Motherland.

1) “Koreans are the best at…” – Whenever you talk to korean people about anything and the issue of comparing comes up, they always say, “Koreans are the best at ____.”  Whether it’s the subway system to airlines to traditional dress (cough cough, YOONJEE and SUSANNA) to cell phone design to food, Koreans claim to be the BEST at it. (Although i must admit, the subway system, food, airlines are pretty awesome. .)

2) Option to Deselect Elevator Floors – if Serendipity were filmed in Korea, the movie would be about 5 minutes long.  On most elevators here, if you press the floor button a second time, it will deselect the floor.  Man, Koreans are the BEST at designing elevators.

3) Obesity PANDEMIC – So in previous visits, i was always shocked by how anorexic thin everybody in korea looks.  While there are still quite a few such people still around, it seems like there are more chubby people around than before.  I think high fructose corn syrup and larger portions are being exported to Korea.  U-S-A! U-S-A! Make everybody fat!  Oh, and pandemic as opposed to epidemic because pandemic refers to larger populations like the WORLD.  Ryan Chan and David Yun (both MPH’s) would be proud of me.

4) FOB Fashion? – in previous visits, i’ve had a fob day where i buy an outfit of fobby clothes and then where it for a day.  Not sure if it will happen here because yoonjee and susanna unintentionally celebrated fob day yesterday.  HAHA.  but anyways, i’ve noticed that the fashion (esp guys) is not so far removed from American dress.  Although i do see quite a bit more skinny jeans on guys here, and i’ve noticed more flamboyant shoes (with the pants tucked into them) on some people.

5) Toilet Hole Squatter Things – So there are very few toilet hole squatter things in the ground these days (at least in seoul), so praise God!  however, i did come across something interesting yesterday.  At a rest stop on the way to Gyung-joo yesterday, in the men’s bathroom, there were over 10 toilet stalls, all marked with the picture of a western style porcelain seat toilet.  BUT, the last one was marked with the ominous and threatening hole picture.  If the ratio of seat to hole bathrooms was 1:1 or 2:1, i would understand that maybe they couldn’t afford to switch all the toilets.  But 10:1 makes me think some people prefer the hole.  What!? Koreans are NOT the best at designing toilets.

6) Korean hygiene – so it turns out i am more Korean than i thought.  So some of you may know that i’m not the most hygienic of people (but in the hospital i am!).  I would fit in perfectly here!  There are rarely any toilet seat covers (sorry Richard).  And… more people don’t wash their hands after they go to the bathroom.

7) Food – seriously… i just love having korean food, drinks, ice cream at every street corner.  nothing profound or original, i know, but it’s just… so… beautiful.  koreans are the best at FOOD.

8) Korean modesty? – koreans are not known at all for their modesty, and are rather known for their massive amounts of pride.  But i’m not talking about THAT type of modesty.  I’ve noticed that purity and lustful thinking are much easier here because the way the ladies dress here.  Obviously, we all know Korea is a super superficial (heh heh, super x 2) society, but walking around makes me realize how scandalous some people dress back in the US.  This modesty might be exaggerated by the fact that the weather is relatively cold (50’s) and that we haven’t been hanging out in Gang-Nam much, which is the more rich and clubbin’ population.  (it also helps that i don’t find the native korean fob look very attractive)

9) Shiny Suits – i’ve noticed a significant amount of people wearing shiny suits around.  it’s like suit material that has a reflective shean to it.  like halfway between normal suit and polyester.  i can’t tell if it’s just because the suits are cheap or if it’s intentional.  i think it might be intentional, though, because i notice quite a few of them.  Maybe this is already popular in the US.  I’m not so fashionable.  Steven Hong, thoughts? (not because you’re fashionable, but because you THINK you’re fashionable)

10) Man Purses – Seriously… So many man purses abound here.  Actually, my prediction is that the iPad will make the man-purse acceptable.  I actually think i’m gonna rock one in the hospital and church.  iPad, a few papers, some adapters/cables.  That’s it!

So I Almost Beat Up a Korean Guy

so yes, i have a wordpress… i have many things that i’d eventually like to blog about (my review of my nutrisystem diet, my pre-ordered iPad, some holier thoughts), but for now i figure it’d be a great place to blog about my trip across asia. so yeah, it’s super ugly right now and stuff, but i’ll get around to beautifying it when i get home.

crazy story number 1 actually happened to me morning i arrived! i almost beat up some korean guy!

well, something like that… so i arrived in korea super early, and got to my hotel at around 7AM on Sunday morning. My mom and I were kinda hungry, so we walked around looking for a place that was open. The only place that was open was this random hole in the wall place (that was SUPER ghetto – like some old lady’s kitchen and 3 small tables. no joke. she even had her bed there). There was this guy there that was kinda looking at us funny, and he finally turns around and says to my mom, “are you from Japan? you have an interesting accent.” and so my mom says, “no, i’m Korean!” and he says, “but you speak differently, are you sure you’re not from Japan?” and my mom says, “no, i’m Korean” and he says, “well, you speak in a very beautiful way.”

so we’re both kinda creeped out and not really talking to him too much and stuff like that, but he keeps on looking over at us and my mom. And since i’m like trying to look out for my mom and stuff, i’m kinda keeping an eye on him, hoping he’ll get a hint and leave us alone. At this point, we notice that he’s drunk (at 7AM!) because he offers to pay again, after he had already paid! So anyways, he leaves the place and then comes back again like 5 minutes later. He then starts asking my mom AGAIN if she’s from Japan, and my mom is more annoyed and says “i’ve already told you, I’m Korean.” (This whole time i try not to say anything to make it obvious that i’m not very good at korean). Then, he’s like, “is that guy from Japan? he keeps on looking at me funny” as he points at me. She keeps on saying that we’re not, but he walks over and grabs my shirt and lifts me up!!! At this point, i’m seriously annoyed and not sure what i should do. I really (really!) think i coulda taken the guy myself, but i didn’t know if i should defend myself and push him off and throw down and show him what’s up (you know, open up a can), or if i should hold back and let him keep his life. My mom grabs me and the lady that owns the place and another male patron are kinda holding him back telling him to sober up and leave us alone. I’m just standing there assessing the situation, thinking whether i should activate RAGE-mode or just let it pass. Finally, the other people forced him out, and me and my mom just finished eating. My hands were shaking for about 5 minutes afterward. (Not out of fear, but just out of sheer adrenaline).

It was quite an intense welcome to Korea. And really, i really was about to beat him up. No joke. You mess with my mom, i mess with your LIFE.