Monday, August 22, 2016

zTravelogue: Roots and Culture

I didn't just consume a bunch of western media on my trip to Japan, I consumed a lot of culture, albeit not as much as I wanted to. I missed my connecting flight from San Francisco to Osaka and had to spend the night in San Francisco. As a result, my jetlag acclimation/cultural exposure day was mostly consumed by my flight the next day. I never had a big block of free time to travel around the prefecture, so I mostly made brief field trips around my hotel. This limited my cultural exposure to shopping centers and train stations, but I think I developed a fair understanding of day-to-day life in the Kansei region based on what stores stock and thus what people buy. Here are my favorite mundane aspects of southern Japanese culture.

It's perfectly acceptable to carry, and use, a washcloth in public

Osaka is really fucking hot and humid in the summer. So much so that even people from India travel to Osaka and step outside from the airport into the Osaka air for the first time they say "Oh hell no, this shit is way too hot and humid." At least that's what my cabbie said.

It's so hot that everyone sweats their asses off constantly, even inside. Women carry fans and parasols. Men carry washcloths, sometimes even bar towels, everywhere including the office. It's remarkably common to be in a meeting with ten other sweaty dudes, all wiping their faces with small hunks of terrycloth. Aside from Jerry Tarkanian, John Thompson and Ford Prefect, you just don't see towels in the workplace.

After sitting in two days of meetings like this I went to the mall across from my hotel and got myself one of these washcloths. They're technically considered a handkerchief--one side of the washcloth has this gauzy cotton material called tenugui sewn onto it, but it's still a washcloth. Here's mine.

Yes, those are bears. Yes, one of those bears has "ZZZ" next to him indicating that he's asleep--I guess the bear doesn't speak Japanese because he doesn't snore in katakana symbols. And yes, another of those bears is wearing a small green fedora. All my other choices were more preposterous, this is what you get for ¥400.

Anyway, I can't say enough good things about these super-absorbant handkerchiefs and being in a place where it's socially acceptable to constantly mop your forehead with one.

Everything is connected by underground tunnels

Because it's so stupidly hot in Osaka in the summer, they built a series of tunnels to connect just about every important location. Sort of like how places like Montreal and Rochester have tunnels to avoid the winter wind and snow, Osaka has tunnels to avoid the summer humidity sun. Now, navigating these tunnels is no bargain. Here's an example.

The main tributaries mercifully have English signage and my iPhone worked everywhere (thank god for Google maps), so I was able to avoid the scorching sun without getting hideously lost. Unfortunately the tunnels are not air conditioned so I still had to constantly wipe my face with my bear washcloth. Nevertheless, being able to get around completely underground is a source of pride among Osakans, and when I told one of my friends that I traveled to a venue over a mile away and back using only the tunnels, he smiled and said he was proud of me. He then fed me some ridiculous food and drink, which I'll describe another time.

They still have record stores

There was a Tower Records 50 feet from my hotel! And it sold actual records! And it had a whole section dedicated to A Tribe Called Quest!

It also had a very very deep selection of hiphop CDs. Here's just a snapshot from the K's:

KMD, Kool G Rap, Kool Keith, Kool Moe Dee and Kurtis Blow!?! I don't know if there's a record store in Brooklyn that has a CD in stock for all of these artists. I was impressed.

The 69 bus is everywhere

Or so it felt. I saw these bus stops all over the place.

The bathrooms are fantastic and the toilets are divine

Japan is spotless. No litter, no gum on the sidewalk, no dog shit on the curb. Immaculate. This includes all the bathrooms, including public bathrooms at the train station. I have suffered through circumstances requiring me to move my bowels at the old Yankee Stadium, an Amtrak Northeast Corridor train, and the worst gas station bathroom in Cape Cod (even Ryan Lochte wouldn't shit there--filthy, no light, the door had no knob mechanism so it wouldn't close, and no toilet paper (which I discovered after I had shat my emergency shit, so I had to wipe with the discarded Marlboro Reds box I found on the floor--had Marlin been there I would've used my underpants but it didn't occur to me at the time).

By contrast, defecating in Japan is a pleasure. Think of the nicest bathroom you've ever used. That's what they're all like. But better. The toilets all have features to make shitting better. They have a fan that sucks away shitty smells and a noisemaker that covers your shitty noises. They have heated seats. And most importantly, they have a washlet, a faucet that pops out of the seat and washes your bung with warm water. It's like taking a shower after every shit, and it's divine. The toilets also have fans to blow you dry after the washlet does its thing, but the fans are often too weak to really dry you so you still need some TP to finish up.

We're redoing zbathroom soon and I'm getting one of these toilets. That's how life-changing they are (and who knew we'd use the "toto asswash" label again?). Anyone who lives without a Toto toilet is a filthy animal.

They love the Simpsons

I don't know if that's true, but I saw these socks at a department store that carried stuff from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and all those other fancy brands you see at high-end US malls.

They love sneakers

This wasn't a surprise. Tons of cool kicks. Here's a small sampling.

I should've bought those Takumi Sen joints but I didn't.

They love tchotchkes

Not Chochkie's, tchotchkes. Many stores have these things that look like bubblegum machines, but instead of bubblegum they dispense tchotchkes. For example, are you into Minions? They have a tchotchke machine for that:

Note that Dave, Tom, Jerry, Tim and Stuart (well, Stewart) are also the names of several of our brothers.

Are cats in beanies or babushkas more your thing? Japan has you covered:

It's a great way to get rid of your pocket change before you leave the country.

The greatest regret of my trip, and perhaps the past 10 years of my life, is that I used my last ¥100 coins buying Minions for zson and pink raccoons for zdaughter (they love Minions and raccoons, respectively) only to turn the corner (they have rows and rows of these things at Yodobashi Camera, which is a batshit crazy store deserving of its own post) to find this:

Sorry rob. Next time I'll get you some fingertip-sized flying squirrel tchotchkes.


Marls said...

Mr. Sparkle!!!

TR said...

Now that I work for a big Japanese bank, I may make the trip out there in '17. I can't wait to drop a dookie there!

Whitney said...

Many thanks to world traveler Zman-san for using his yen to buy me a Japanese Kool & the Gang compilation. See here. It's very smooth music, and greatly appreciated.

rob said...

with respect to squeak's late comment on their previous post, since when is oskar blues not an independent brewery?

Marls said...

Private equity investment in 2015

rob said...

got it. that's not the same as selling to inbev, though it might be a step down that road.

rob said...

reupping my previously-stated opinion that outdoor showering is on the top ten list of things.

Whitney said...

rob said...

so drink more dale's, squeaky, you hyper-elitist bastard

Squeaky said...

Said private equity firm has a practice, growing one at that, around buying breweries. Nothing wrong with capitalism. But in Oskar's case, the equity firm has a controlling interest. So they could sell them to inbev if they wanted.

zman said...

Drink more Dale's.
Eat more possum.

Clarence said...


TR said...

Adam Richman is back on the telly!? I don't like that.

Makes me want to revive my planned vendetta: Man vs. Man vs. Food. I'm his Christian doppelgänger, and I think I'm funnier.

rob said...

that needs to be a recurring gtb bit

TR said...

It will be. It will be.

(It won't be)

Hi Gheorghies. Scotch #3 on a Monday may prove to be a bad decision. And there is video of me eating competitively. I need to find it, right after I finish that baseball card blog series...

Danimal said...

Hi G's

TR said...

So Todd Marinovich still gets after it, huh?

TR said...

Couple more good signs for LB Luke Rhodes' chances of making the Bucs squad:

1) He had their only sack in last weekend's game, and

2) The team waived LB Cassanova McKinzy y/day.

It's like Ms. McKinzy couldn't decide between Casanova and Bossa Nova for her son's forst name.

Clarence said...

I'd like to see Adam Rich back on the telly. Some kind of Eight is Enough reboot.

Whitney said...

Metallica's new album is reportedly a return to Kill 'Em All, which if done right sounds promising. 1st single "Hardwired" bodes well.

zman said...

Yooooodge two day stretch at G:TB.

Squeaky said...

Interesting turn in the Mylan story, with the CEO being the daughter of a Senator. She was also their head lobbyist when a provision for a new law was enacted to get Epipens in every school.

Clarence said...

If Hope Solo is not just a name but an M.O., success.

Shlara said...

De La Soul is the soundtrack for Macy's back-to-school ads.
And they are billing the clothes as "throw back"
Not sure late 80s/early 90s fashions are smart to bring back.
Also, good grief I'm old.

zman said...

I can't wait for the return of Chess King and Staxx so I can stock up on Cross Colours gear.

rob said...

strong work, boys

Clarence said...

Aren't you on vacation? Idle time to blog? Come on

zman said...

Narcos season 2!! I didn't know there was another season!!

zman said...

I got my De La Souls USB! Mateo!!

Mark said...

I've watched the trailer for Narcos season 2 a half dozen times. Psyched.

And where did you get a De La usb?

zman said...

From their Kickstarter. I think I get a Tshirt too. I hope the album is on the USB.

zman said...

It's on the USB. If you pre-ordered the download emails went out too.

Clarence said...

Streaming Lockn. Ween is on.

If you have Apple TV, plunk down the $5/month for the Qello app and then watch this for no further charge.

Clarence said...

Honestly, people. Mister Would You Please Help My Pony, Baby Bitch, now Boys Club. The idea that you can mix raunchy humor and juvenilia with good rock and/or roll was tried by Random Idiots, perfected by Ween.


Clarence said...

Fat Lenny. I like him a lot.

God bless Ween.

My ex wife is at the festival and I'm watching on TV. We are texting each other. The world has turned.