August 07, 2010

A Walk

Plans today called for rest, studying and doing laundry.

It's 10:40 PM and none of those have been acomplished yet.

I went this afternoon to try to find an ATM machine that would work. My plan was to hit the big post office in Tokyo but on the way I noticed a huge post office outside , and, never having gotten off at this stop, I hopped off, ambled over to the post office and found that I am having some larger issue with my acount, which is worrisome, I may not have gotten my vacation pay on time. Nevertheless, the post office ATM machines do indeed seem to work with most US cards including my Visa and Cirrus. I did get 10,000 yen out ( about 83 dollars.....yes the exchange rate sucks this trip )and spent a fraction of my loot at a CoCo's Curry.

I dallied before returning to the station and wandered around the area near the station, getting quite thourougly lost, in part because I walked the wron way after hitting my head on an underpass for a road....yes the clearance was 1.4 meters for an underpass used by cars.

I bought a tomato from an old lady in an open air grocery and got directions back to the station. The directions took me to another, smaller station near Sekiya Station. I noted that there was no english on any of their schedules, indeed the stops were written in Kanji with no furigana so I decided to see where the line went, confident that I could get off again at the current station with no problem.

The second to last stop was within a thousand feet of the new Tokyo Tower construction site so I had to get off and get pictures. This is one impressive structure. It is already over 400 meters high (it will be 600m when finished).   I can't see at this stage of construction what precautions, if any are being taken to deal with the posibility of attack by collassal caterpillers, winged reptiles or giant apes (mechanical or otherwise). Still it is a supremly awesome site. From there I wandered down the creek that runs adjacent to the structure and eventually ended up on a bridge overlooking the Samuda RiverFrom there I followed the road signs to Ueno, taking a detour in Asakura to take pictures of a big temple and pagoda, where I was able to confirm via an area map that Ueno was only 1.7 more kilometers distant. "whew!" Anyway I'm in Ueno as I type this about to hit the train for home...where I still must do laundry.

 

...gotta leave before the trains shut down!

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As a Public Service I Must Warn You Not To Click On

this hyperlink.

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August 06, 2010

Tell Me a Scary Story

If anyone has any horror stories to tell on any of the following subjects:


Aeon, ECC, Berlitz, Geos and related....

....please relate them in the comments. 

(Happy stories are good too.)

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Still No Pictures

  I'm taking it easy today and tomorrow, mostly studying Japanese, and trying not to exacerbate my sunburn, which, as it peels on my bald head looks like mutant dandruff...or something and seems to be scaring people. The intertubes went out at the guest house so I'm again at the sublime geek heaven that is N-Cafe in Akihabara, where I took care of some online stuff for the university (and I took a few moments to kill some Zombjas)  I note that in seven days, I've been to Akihabara twice and haven' gone to any of the anime, CD or manga stores....hmmm.


  My Blackberry is still stubbornly refusing to give up its pictures, even on my laptop, which has the Blackberry ap. I suspect the USB connector I bought here the other day is slightly 'off'. I may have a work around...in the form of having my camera and blackberry cables mailed to me. 

Assuming I can get my ATM card to work I hope to be in Nagasaki on the 9th and possibly wait in the hell line at Comiket sometime during the weekend of the 12th. If I can't then I'll be down to one meal a day and be limited to day trips, ( no hotels) though the Shinkansen and rail pass still mean I can journey pretty far afield. I'm going to try and purchase a used bike in the next few days. 

  Finally, Reeces cups notwithstanding, sometimes good things do not go together. Case in point:
Hamburger curry.
Hamburger curry is unfair...it is unfair to the hamburger, unfair to the curry and unfair to me. 

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That's New

I returned today to find that the comment spammers had left their spoor during the night..........and had actually gotten into a flame war with each other.

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August 04, 2010

The Wallpaper on My Blackberry

Just to keep me from getting cocky...

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August 03, 2010

Technical Difficulties

  Yesterday I got a text from Verizon informing me that I'd incurred over a hundred dollars in roaming charges.

Eek.

I shut the phone down and called Verizon...and got put on hold. Since my total phone time in Japan has been under 6 minutes and 4 texts time on hold was really disturbing, so I turned off the phone, then called my folks to have them go to the Verizon store and find out what was up. 2 dollars a minute and 50 cents for texts does not =100 bucks. It turns out that although I'd gotten the phone switched over to an overseas plan, this did not cover internet or E-mail. Everytime I recieved an E-Mail I was incurring large roaming fees. I did get my plan changed but later in the day I recieved a text to the effect that I had exceeded 200 dollars in roaming fees before the new plan kicked in.

Urp...

I'm currently in a ManBoo Internet cafe in Ueno, charging my Blackberry via USB and trying (in vain thus far) to get at its pictures.

While purchasing the time, I was informed that Tokyo has passed a new law covering internet cafes. All internet cafe customers must now get membership cards and provide contact information to be turned over to the government. I'd missed this at N-Cafe because it was one of the few that had always required a membership and ID. I had a membership already and when they asked for ID to issue me a new card I'd just assumed it as because my 4 year old card was ragged.

All foreigners using internet cafes now have to provide their passport number!

Internet cafes used to be a neat way to travel on the cheap as you could get a 6 or 8 hour time block and sleep, for far cheaper than you could a hotel room. Now, I'm just going to avoid them as my passport# is not something I wasnt floating around in multiple sketchy establishments.

This is a large hassle aside from the privacy issues, one used to be able to duck into i-cafes to avoid rain, upload pictures or make quick blog posts, now one has to deal with filling out a rather intrusive form for each one, even though one may never visit there again. I gather that this card will not be good at any other ManBoo.

I also note that several internet websites are blocked at both cafes I've been to on this trip are blocked and this is particularly true of thumbnail links, that is you can look at an art site but clicking on the thumbnail gives you the BLOCKED SITE page.

I assume this is in preparation for a crackdown on pirates, but given Japans sliding obcenity scale of late, the potential for abuse is great. The potential for identity related woes is really worrisome as well.

In other news, I made sure that my ATM Visa would work in Japan before I left. Yet every time I've attempted to use it I get "SERVICE TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE". This is also worrisome but on a personal level only.

Finally, the inscrutable apostrophe problem seems to have been limited to those two keyboards at N-Cafe. (Seats 33 and 6) I have no apostrophe problems on this machine as shift+7 works just like the Japanese keyboard says it should.

Food wise I had a Sailsbury steak and salad at a Jonathans and I ordered a 450 yen tempura bowl from a tempura shack outside Taiteshi station.

I'm back to trying to get my Blackberry to let go of its photos.

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August 01, 2010

No Fires, No Earthquakes, No ATM Snafus, Yay!

 Anyone who has any idea how to type an apostrophe on a Japanese keyboard please chime in in the comments. SHIFT plus 7 gives me the & symbol for some reason.

 Earlier this year I pondered the wisdom of going overseas again. I decided that IF tuition was paid up and IF classes were proceeding in line with my graduating next year and IF I had enough money to not be in a constant state of worry that a Japan trip was at least defenseable.

I had lost all my Japan pics when my camera memory cards were lost in the destruction of the trailer. Rather more importantly, last semester I had been forced to drop all my classes including Japanese. The next Japanese class in sequence is only offered in the fall and I will have to wait another YEAR to take it if I can(insert apostrophe here)t test into it this fall. My teacher said she would let me take the placement test this fall, so imersion training seemed like a good idea. Adding to this is the fact that I have had to drop that same class because of familly illness, trailer destruction, mobilization or a work schedule change...I am getting REALLY tired of this course and I REALLY want to move forward...of course we just switched to a new book, which is rather different, which means that its not REALLY the same course, so immersion study is an even better idea. Of course shortly after I bought the ticket, I ended up in the hospital accruing hospital type bills while simultaneously missing over a week of work. This hit to my cash flow was too much so, as I had purchased trip insurance, I attempted to cancel the trip....alas, it was too late to do so.

My friend BOBtm was most helpful in getting an expedited Rail Pass through his travel agent, and I nixed the plans for staying in the Fujimino guest house and instead am staying in the Yotsugi Crib.

Yotsugi Crib is only about 10 minutes by foot from Taiteishi station. Note that this increases dramatically if one leaves the from the wrong station exit and dutifully follows the instructions on ones map ( which will put one approximately 30 degrees off course, but provide one with many of the same sorts of landmarks that are on ones map ie: gas station, police box, bank, post office....just the wrong ones). This is further increased if ones 74 pound suitcase has its towing handle break and then has its wheel seize up, and then its carrying handle break and one has to carry it on ones shoulder in 98 degree heat while going in the wrong direction. A good way to add further to ones time in transit would be to knock ones own glasses off with ones suitcase breaking then and then taking time ti dig out an eyeglass repair kit. Actually, this travel time can be increased to over 4 hours if one has not been informed as to the nature of the Yotsugi Crib and naively think it is an apartment with a name on the outside....

I finally realized that the train tracks on the map were on the wrong side of me. I backtracked, crossed the tracks and after a bit had gotten my bearings. However, I could not find the guest house despite thinking I was at precisely the right place, so I went to a police box and asked directions. The officer did not recall a guest house in the area but everything else on the map was legit so he gave me directions that took me through an alley, down a side road and put me exactly where I had been. So I quartered the area looking for the words Yotsugi and Crib (or Clib even). At this point a young man riding by on a scooter took note of the fat bald man carrying a briefcase half his size and asked if he could help, I asked him for directions and received a blank stare, but he ran over to a local Cannibal Cat warehouse and asked for directions. He also graciously let me rest my suitcase on his scooter. The directions put us.....exactly where I had been earlier. After some perplexidness the young man ran up to the Crest Star Apartments and looked in the window. Sure enough Yotsigi Crib is actually two single family apartments that have each been divided up into 9 rooms and sublet. None of the rooms have windows. 6 of the rooms are 'Rukia Specials'.....that, is they are a shelf in a closet that has been fitted with bedding, over or under another err...room.

I am living high on the hog. I have a room I can stand in. It is about 6 and a half feet long and around 4 feet wide, windowless & un-airconditioned it has a wooden bed over a desk and chair and just enough room to put a the carcass of my suitcase and have it open.

A slim majority of the tenants seem to be 20 something European tourists, the rest are Ethiopian and Philippine guest workers, a few   Japanese tenants and, of course, there is now one American.

As spartan as the place is, its price cannot be beat and it has 2  full sized showers with changing rooms. This latter is important as the place is coed... which I discovered when a really attractive French woman named Clementine popped out of the shower. There is a single window AC  that cools the communal kitchen but this does not affect my room in the least. My only complaint aside from the heat is the fact that I did not bring bedding which means I am sleeping on bare linoleum, however, as it gets over a hundred degrees in the top of my room I would end up wringing  out and washing the bedthings every day. I am going to pick up a pillow and a fan this afternoon. Aside from studying, I am not going to be in the apt. much as I am going to be out doing things, so this is not a bad place to stay.

If anyone chooses to use this place remember: As one exits the train station exit so that the tracks are on ones left as you face the station stairs at the main entrance...also bring a fan, and some bedding...and one might consider not coming in August. Yotsugi Crib is very austere and one of the refrigerators smells like a bait locker (so use the other one) but +-300 dollars a month in Tokyo is astoundingly cheap and it is only a few minutes by train from Ueno, which is a major transfer point for the Tokyo train system and the home station of the bullet trains.  There is a laundromat 5 minutes away and a really impressive looking bath house right down the street, which I hope to partake of tonight.

My big gripe is that I left my camera and my adapter for my blackberry. Earlier today I scuttled out to buy an adapter and left early to beat the rush hour and the "pushers" but the stores don't open till later.

As for food, I had breakfast yesterday at the Hotel in Ueno which consisted of toast, a salad and a soup that appeared to be chicken broth with fish in it. My first attempt at lunch was a blind purchase of the 450 yen special at a bento box store. It turned out to be steak, the first bite of which was delicious, all subsequent bites were canceled when a kids tennis ball removed the bento box from play ( I thought the poor kid was going to have a heart attack.). Second attempt was a piece of fried chicken from a Lawsons. Dinner was a Teriyaki Burger from McDonalds which always begs the question WHY DONT WE HAVE THESE HERE? 

Today, as I type this I am at I-Cafe in Akihabara eating vending machine fried rice while waiting for Electric town to open up so I can try to buy an adapter for my now dead Blackberry as well as my laptop.. If I draw a blank there I will head out to Shibuya this afternoon and pick up some supplies from Tokyu Hands.

My 21 day rail pass kicks in on the 8th and I will head out into the wilds of Japan then. In the meantime I am studying, interacting with the locals and trying to uncover the mystery of the apostrophe.

 

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