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Friday, January 31st, 2003: What's that noise? Well, with this being the eve of the Lunar New Year, I thought I'd share my Chinese astrological info with youse. I've known since my visit to the KFC near the Great Wall in Beijing that I was born in the Year of the Horse, but this week I discovered that I'm actually a Fire Horse, a rare breed that has come along but twice in the past century. Check it out:

"Hi ho Silver! The Fire Element ignites a pilot light of leadership in the Horse Sign to make the Fire Horse the absolute and undisputed champion of the herd. You are more than willing to fight everyone and anyone, metaphorically or literally. You lead by doing, and never look back to see if anyone may be following you -- you never infer loyalty in others, as you generally don't require it -- you are an army of one.

Freedom is the most important thing for you, and woe betide the lover who wishes to hobble you, or, even worse, inadvertently bores you -- you'll have kicked them to the curb in no time on your way to fresh horizons and the inevitable greener pastures. It is important for you to cultivate your latent kindness, however, as otherwise you will be marked as unpleasant company by those who hover about you."

So in the spirit of cultivating kindness, I've uploaded the rest of my Tokyo videos...

Thursday, January, 30th, 2003: Toronto needs more comedy shows like this...

A former student of mine invited myself and three other improvisers out to the Oasis last night, for a live show where you play poker, drink beer and tell disgusting stories. A debate on the proper definition of a "Dirty Sanchez" pretty much set the tone for the evening (if you really want to know what it is you can look it up for yourself -- don't say I didn't warn ya!). But the beer was free, the ante for each hand a mere twenty-five cents and you weren't allowed to reference the audience at any point -- to me, that spells "dream gig"!

I have to admit that I'm a bit overwhelmed by the mass of photos I took in Tokyo, so rather than sift through each and every one of them I'm just going to dump 'em all in front of you, starting with the ones from my rented DoCoMo phone.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003: One more thing I forgot to add to my last entry: If you click on Joanne's photo you'll get a link to her doppelganger...

So last night a friend dragged me down to the Horseshoe to see Kiwi singer Bic Runga. The show itself was great -- not a single man-bashing song in the lot! -- but I was quite saddened by the amount of digital cameras going off throughout. It seemed like folks were more interested in owning a record of the evening than actually experiencing it. A sign of the times, I guess...

Monday, January 27th, 2003: Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Joanne O'Sullivan to the Macintosh tribe, followed by the distinct displeasure of trying to figure out why my Dad couldn't download photos from his digicam to his Windows PC -- blech!

As for myself, I've upgraded my iBook to Jaguar, and am loving Apple's built-in browser and email apps. The dream of a Microsoft-free computer is one step closer!

Thursday, January 23rd, 2003: I've uploaded another video, starring a virtual subway ticket agent. And I've got a better link into the world of Japanese Love Hotels, courtesy of Date Pia magazine, or as the locals say, "Date-a Pee-a". The entire site is in Japanese, so be prepared to hunt around a bit for love hotel photos.
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2003: Sorry folks, the next few days are all about the movies!

There's been a couple of changes over at SecondCine.com, and for most of this week I'll be editing a video for Camaro, who have shows this week and next at the Tim Sims Playhouse. You can get details on the show by downloading an PDF version of their postcard right here!

If I get an idle moment I'll do my damnedest to post some more Tokyo photos and/or videos. Patience, grasshopper...

Sunday, January 19th, 2003: So I'm back, trying my hardest to adjust to the cold weather, so cold that my car battery died in an underground garage while I was away!

A friend at Air Canada tried to get me upgraded to business class for my flight home, but the section was full. As an apology I was offered an invitation to the ANA lounge -- free beer! -- and was escorted onto to the plane by the Air Canada manager for Japan... Classy!

It was a different story when I touched down on Canada's west coast. If you're visiting our fair country, try not to enter it through Vancouver. This was my second time through customs there, and the welcome ain't exactly warm. Officers are downright nasty with Asian visitors, demanding passports right as they deplane, and asking them rather inelegantly "why did you come here?"

When my number came up at the customs window, the query put to me was: "Why do you travel so much?" I bit my tongue to prevent a knee-jerk response -- to get away from people like you, witch...

Friday, January 17th, 2003: My last entry from the land of the rising sun...

Sean and I decided to honour our country by having our last dinner at Good Honest Grub, a joint in Ebisu run by, of all things, a Newfoundlander! My Time Out: Tokyo Guide singled out this place as one of Tokyo's few hearty breakfast spots. Unfortunately this diner's dinner menu is a different story, with vegetarian this, and wheatgrass that -- pass!

We also spent about half an hour trying to track down Planet Smash, a Blade Runner-style bar all done up in neon lights. When we finally found it, it hardly seemed worth the trouble, so we hoofed it back to Shibuya. You don't wanna know where we ended up eating...

Today we're slumming around Shibuya until we catch our train to the airport at 3pm. And thanks to the International Dateline, my flight arrives in T.O. a scant 54 minutes after it leaves Tokyo!

"You know, for a little extra..."

Thursday, January 16th, 2003: We got off to a late start this morning, and headed to the suburb of Yokohama for Japan's biggest Chinatown. A robotic duck (think I'm kidding?) beckoned us towards an indoor mall, where we decided to splurge on a traditional Chinese foot massage. The masseuse's play-by-play (in broken English) went something like this:

Sharp pain on the ball of my foot: "That is heart."
Sharp pain under my big toenail: "That is eye."
Sharp pain between my two smallest toes: "That is shoulder."

And after ten more minutes of torture, when a thousand Yen came out of my pocket, I thought: "That was rip-off!"

Of course, as I walked away I immediately noticed an improvement in both my posture and mood, but a crowded subway ride back to Tokyo quickly took care of that noise...

I'm not one to sleep and tell...
Whoa there, big guy!
Wednesday, January 15th, 2003: If you look back at my 2001 Tokyo photo gallery, you'll see a pic of me on Love Hotel Hill, outside of Hotel Lios... Who knew that a year and a half later I'd be spending a night within its soundproofed walls?

And why, you axe? No clandestine encounters with Japanese ladies, unfortunately -- though I got plenty of offers while walking alone around Shibuya at 11:30pm, and they all knew exactly one word of English: "massage". But on this night I wasn't looking for love, only a respite from Sean's snoring, which has been growing more unbearable over the few nights we've spent sleeping in the same room -- well, trying to.

So anyway, after dodging the working girls and striking out at the top-rated love shacks, I stumbled again upon the Lios, whose front desk attendant didn't judge me for checking in alone. And since I was alone there was no need to splurge for an expensive fantasy room; what I chose and got instead was a small, clean unit, whose only remarkable feature was the vibrating bed that didn't work.

As I drifted off to sleep I could faintly hear a love ballad starting up in the suite next door. No problem, I thought, that's what the joint's for... But when the vocals kicked in I quickly realized that this was no love-making soundtrack -- it was karaoke!

I still managed to drift off without a hitch and checked out this morning refreshed and ready for our visit to the Godzilla Exhibit at the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Tonight, I'm buying earplugs... If they don't work, I'm trying a capsule hotel!

Tuesday, January 14th, 2002: If it looks, sounds, smells and walks like a tourist...

What with yesterday being a national holiday and all, I decided to embrace my gaijin-ness by buying, then donning this headband in the Asakusa market, marked with the inscription "Number 1". I figure if people are staring anyway, why not?

After posing for this picture with my favourite okonomi-yaki chef, some youngsters begged me for a photo opp of their own. I even got some smiles from kimono-clad coming of agers!

Monday, January 13th, 2002: Wow, this place is crowded!

Yesterday Sean and I followed thousands of Tokyo-jins to the Big Sight Convention Centre for a Manga show. We arrived shortly after the opening hour, and were shocked to find huge crowds of people already waiting. So many in fact that they were sectioned off into grids of a couple of hundred each, then marched in a grid at a time. And it turns out that this wasn't even a manga convention proper, but a showcase for fan-produced comics!

Afterwards we headed over to the Decks Shopping Mall, home of the new District 1 Shopping Area, full of 60s-era Japanese memorabilia... And another couple of thousand Japanese folks. We tried to escape the crowds by walking all the way over to Mega Web, a Toyota-themed theme park, for a serene ride in an automated electric car. But when we got there, folks were lining up for said serene ride for over an hour.

We tried to take refuge in nearby Palette Town. Packed. Road the subway home. Packed. Even after 9pm when we popped out for a quick dinner, Shibuya square was as busy as it has been since we got here.

This almost complete lack of personal space might help explain the popularity of manga books, which the reader can lose themselves in while on a crowded subway, or the unusual video games we saw at Sega Joypolis, including one where the player does nothing more than walk a virtual dog down an empty street!

Sometimes it's all just a little overwhelming! Lining up for Manga... No room for a soccer field? How about on the roof? Virtual walkies...

Saturday, January 11th, 2002: If you've read my 2001 Tokyo travelogue then you'll know Harajuki as the place where new fashion trends are born. As Sean and I walked through its crowded streets, it was as easy to spot the camera-equipped fashion scouts as it was the new looks. So imagine how happy I was to be the centre of attention for a few brief moments when a design student asked me to model his thesis project for him!

Thanks for snapping the photos, Sean! Other highlights of the day included an unsolicited hug from a little girl after I asked her mother for directions. Lowlights included the shame of walking into a Denny's for dinner, which turned into an unexpected highlight when we found it served mostly Japanese food...

Friday, January 10th, 2002: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a five grand, courtesy of my rented DoCoMo camera phone!

How do ya work this damn thing? Shibuya Square at night... Shibuya skyline at dawn... Rush hour subway ride... See? The lens is there.

(Sean & I in Bermuda's
Crystal Caves...)

Thursday, January 9th, 2003: This here is Sean McLoughlin, my buddy who is meeting me at the Iris and hanging out with me in Tokyo for the next eight days. I showed this photo to my parents last weekend.

"Is he married?" my mother asked.

"Nope." I replied, at which point I could almost hear the wheels turning, because her youngest son hasn't brought home any nice girls in a while, and because he works in the theatre and he's sharing a hotel room with another boy who isn't married -- you get the idea.

Well mom (yes, she'll be reading this), you can relax. Sean isn't a "travel companion" or "lifestyle partner", just a friend... Who happens to take the occasional saucy picture!

Wednesday, January 8th, 2002: One more thing about that cell phone -- keep in mind that Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of Toronto time, and that those DoCoMo phones make a helluva racket when they go off!
Tuesday, January 7th, 2003: Be sure not to miss tonight's Second Cine!

Since it's going to be a late night at the old Second City, and I have to leave for the airport early tomorrow morning, and I haven't started packing yet, I'm going to attempt to stay up all night so I can sleep en route to Tokyo. Once there my iBook should work as it last time with my hotel's high-speed Internet connection. But if you want to reach me right away, here's how you can do it:

  • i-mode email address: jcr382.tyo@docomo.ne.jp (up to 500 characters)
  • direct dial from North America: 011-81-906-986-2231 (remember, this'll cost ya!)

My next entry will be from high above Shibuya Square, unless of course I sleep in and miss my flight...

Friday, January 3rd, 2003: Photos have been uploaded from my Christmas and New Year holidays -- and here's an extra one, from today's snowstorm!

Why is the type suddenly smaller, you ask? Because I'm finally taking those first baby steps towards committing to OS X and it's way-better text rendering, that's why!

Thursday, January 2nd, 2003: I probably shouldn't start off 2003 bitching and moaning, but despite all the kudos my drumming got at our New Year's Eve show, I was reminded of why I switched to acting when I had to pack up my kit and load it into the car at 4am the next morning.

On a less bitchy and moany note, preparations are continuing smoothly for my second trip to Tokyo; today I got confirmation on the DoCoMo camera phone I'll be renting!