Call Me Selfish

I know I shouldn’t, but there’s nothing I want more in my life right now than to get the hell out of Tokyo

Sickness be damned, I want to get out and leave, leave it all behind. Quarantine, rationing, the all-consuming dread that rules everything around me in this new cruel world. We’ve all been told it is our duty to stay in place, to freeze our lives around us, until this entire ordeal goes away or resolves itself, or is dealt with by the proper authorities, depending on who you decide to believe.

But people have to eat. And I still have to work to feed them.

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Stephen Starts a Diary: May 10th

5/10 Thursday

I’ve been seeing a lot of head office of late.   With my new part time job and increased first-thing-in-the-morning English lessons, I’ve spent far more time sitting around the offices of the biggest comedy entertainment company in Japan than I have actually being a comedian for the company itself.

I don’t really mind.  I get more money doing menial office tasks and teaching English than I do with the all-too-often pay-to-play set up afforded to young comedians in the labyrinthian Yoshimoto Creative Agency bureaucracy.  Today after my Yoshimoto work ended, I went to my ramen job.  I’d like to say that I enjoy doing it but it turns out I enjoy eating ramen more than I do slinging noodles and taking orders from drunk assholes til the crack of dawn.  Considering how much I’ve been working at Yoshimoto recently, I don’t really need to be working that job anymore.  But (a) the ramen is good and (b) I live in constant fear that my cushy sit on my ass at a desk all day doing absolutely nothing gig is going to go up in flames sooner rather than later. Continue reading

Stephen Eats Japan: Rokurinsha, Tokyo, Japan (六厘舎)

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As seen in multiple posts before (like here), I take particular delight in eating tsukemen, ramen’s less well-known (at least in the states) brother.  As seemingly hundreds of thousands of international television programs and publications and snobby know-it-alls on the internet would like to tell you, the be-all, end-all must-try tsukemen is that of Rokurinsha, preferably that of the crowded Tokyo Station basement location because everyone knows food is only good if you’ve waited an inordinate amount of time to eat it.

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Matsudo Ramen Orgy, Part Two: The Best Tsukemen in Japan (とみ田)

With my belly (temporarily) full, I still had a full hour-and-a-half to kill before my seating at Tomita, the tsukemen haven that had brought me to the city of Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture.

Japanese stairs are not for the faint of heart.

Japanese stairs are not for the faint of heart.

Matsudo is a bedroom community located in the greater vicinity of the Tokyo metropolitan area, funneling tens of thousands of salarymen and students to and from the capital city everyday.  This, of course, means that there’s not particularly much to do in the city of Matsudo proper that you can’t really do anywhere else in Japan. So I pretty much just wandered the streets for a few hours, no doubt freaking out dozens of pensioners on the street with my hulking foreign presence and having to climb lots and lots of stairs.

Finally, 4:30 came around and I meandered back over to the relatively humble storefront.  Finding myself immediately instructed to wait by one of the nice dudes working at the shop, I sat down at the head of a long row of chairs jammed unceremoniously between the wall and some space heaters.  I only lasted about two minutes before it felt like my legs were about to melt, mostly because the heater was approximately five millimeters away from my calves and was apparently cranked up to roast.

Second degree burns are no way to start a meal.

Second degree burns are no way to start a meal.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long, as the rest of my seating group (in order to ensure the maximum amount of quality control per bowl, Tomita seats its customers in waves, filling the cramped shop with customers, serving each and every one of them, wiping down and cleaning up, and then starting the process all over again) had all arrived right on cue, no doubt having been anticipating their meal for the past several hours.

I got seated in a relatively unexciting wall seat, pretty much coming face-to-face with a portrait of the (recently deceased) originator of tsukemen, which in terms of dining companions ranks somewhere between an actual person and a bare concrete wall in terms of being entertaining.

My dining companion.

My dining companion.

With my dining buddy for the meal being completely unresponsive (faded framed pictures generally don’t say much), I settled in and braced myself for an experience I’d assumed would be somewhere between face-meltingly amazing and alien ghosts implanting happy emotions into your brain good (that one was for all you Scientologists out there).  It was a relatively short wait until my food was placed before me.

I know you guys have come to expect a lot of words and sardonic turns of phrases from me but for this one, I’m just going to let the pictures do most of the talking. Continue reading

Matsudo Ramen Orgy, Part One: Tonikaku and waiting for Tomita (兎に角 & 中華蕎麦 とみ田)

Some times on my weekend, I get bored.  And when I get bored, I like to eat.  I know, not necessarily the healthiest of time-killers, but I like food, dammit.

This Thursday (my Saturday), I decided to take a bit of trip to a veritable tsukemen Mecca located but an hour and a half by train from my current home base of Mito.  Ranked number one by just about everyone as having the best tsukemen in Japan (and thus, barring unforeseen circumstances, the world), Tomita, a small-ish restaurant located in the Tokyo “suburb” of Matsudo in Chiba prefecture routinely draws hour long waits thanks to a constant stream of revelers aching to take in the glory of a good bowl of noodles and soup.

I'm not lying when I say that 50% of the "hub" train stations in Japan look EXACTLY the same.

I’m not lying when I say that 50% of the “hub” train stations in Japan look EXACTLY the same.

I arrived in Matsudo at around 2:30 in the afternoon and head for Tomita(とみ田), but a short five minute walk away from the main train station in town.  Since I was arriving after the lunch rush and on a weekday to boot, there had to be a good chance that I could get in and eat my bowl in a reasonable amount of time, right?

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Being a Grown-Up: I guess every birthday is special…

Happy birthday to me.

Happy birthday to me.

So it’s my birthday again.  That happened fast.  It felt like it was only yesterday that I was complaining about it being my birthday (and a particularly cruddy one at that) and waxing poetic on the utter banality of celebrating being born.  But really, it turned out to be a year to the day.

I’ve always felt like the first couple of years of someone’s life shouldn’t be counted in someone’s age.  I mean, the first couple of years, you can’t even take a dump on your own, let alone tie your shoes.  Really, I don’t think we should count that years before someone has to start paying taxes against their age.  In other words, I’m actually five years old.  Someone buy me Power Rangers bedsheets.

Funny things, birthdays.  For the first ten or eleven years, they’re the greatest days ever (even though, for some reason, you always wound up bringing the cupcakes and stuff to share with class to celebrate your own special day, which I’m pretty darn sure is actually some sort of Stalinist brainwashing technique meant to acclimate us to socialized medicine and gulaugs, or maybe I’m just paranoid).  Then, at some unknown point in time, they suddenly turn into the worst days ever.   (“Oh god.  It’s my birthday.  I hope no one notices.  Well, I hope they don’t sing… Crap they’re singing.”)  Maybe birthdays stop losing their importance when they stop becoming massive goallines where you suddenly level up and are granted the ability to drive a car or drink a beer.  That isn’t to say that you can’t go for a joyride when you’re fifteen years and three-hundred-and-sixty-four days old. It just means that, for whatever arbitrary reason, you’re suddenly adult enough to do it without having the cops send you to juvie.  It’s not like you’re anymore mature on your sixteenth birthday than you were the day before.  It just means that some fatass bureaucrat in some cushy office somewhere looked at the calendar and decided that 16th birthdays were the perfect day to give someone the right to text behind the wheel.

You know what else I don’t understand?  The Happy Birthday song.  Who the hell is that for?  If I wanted to hear off-key singing and proclamations of how “dear” I am to someone (A little too North Korea-ey if you ask me), I’d just listen to the latest Taylor Swift album.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate the fact you guys are singing for my benefit but at the very least put in a couple of practice rounds before you’re all making me go deaf.  If you really want me to have a happy birthday, you should all just shut the hell up and leave me alone with my cake.  Amnamnamnamnamnam <–  That’s my flat slob shoving food into his face voice, in case you found that too confusing.

And most of the time, “Make a wish!” comes off sounding more like a threat than a good-natured whatzit.  “Make a wish!” you all say as cheap-ass wax candles melt all over a previously perfectly fine cake.  Make a wish or what?  Are you going to just let the candles burn down to stubs, coating the entire top of the cake with melted wax in some S&M perverts wildest fantasy unless I make a stupid wish?  Are you going to think any less of me if I don’t make a wish but pretend I did?  What if I wished for something stupid?  I mean, solving world hunger is great and all but what kind of eleven year old would wish for something like that?  Find me a kid who says that’s what his wish was and I’ll find you a pair of parents that should probably have their kids taken away from them.  Being a kid means being a selfish asswad and promptly not getting whatever stupid piece of crap it was that you wished for.  I think we should just ban those sorts of wishes.  That way starving Ethiopian children don’t get their hopes up that little Johnny’s wish for world hunger to stop is going to magically make it so Africa isn’t a stinking hellhole anymore.

You’re five years old, kid.  What the hell are you wishing for a cure for AIDS for?  Two-faced lying bastard.

You know what birthdays are to me?  An excuse to be a fat bastard.  Let me preface this by saying that I have generally stopped drinking for my New Year’s Resolution, which means that I merely a fat bastard and not a fat drunk one, which would just be excessive.

Since I have to work Saturdays (Thanks, Obama!), most of my pigging out had to take place on Friday.  And, since I am a loser who doesn’t like to socialize, most of my pigging out took place alone  in dark, secluded spaces with me crying to myself and shaking uncontrollably like one of those “Vietnam vets” you see at Pier 39 who you’re pretty sure are half-tempted to buttrape you the second you turn the other way.  Okay, that may have been a bit of a fabrication at the end there but I digress.  I did eat alone though and with my earphones in because I live to eat in an isolated realm of flavor because I’m one of those douchey foodsnobs who thinks they’re better than everyone else.

Because I was coming off of a six day work week and because I am a night owl to the Nth degree (thank you American sports), my orgy of gluttony got off to a late start, with me leaving my apartment bright and early at 3 PM, after which I proceeded to Mito Station (pretty much the one happening spot in my entire city) and its Ramen Road, one of my main haunts mainly due to the fact that it is home to pretty much my favorite bite of food on the planet at this current moment: A bowl of tsukemen from Tsukemen TETSU, a branch of the mighty Tsukemen Tetsu based in Tokyo, one of the apparent originators of tsukemen (in which the noodles are served separately to be dipped into the ultra-flavorful condensed pork/fish broth).  Served with thick cut char-shu, bamboo, and the stunning ball of flavor and cholesterol that is an ajitama (seasoned soft-boiled egg), were it not for the fact that I would be dead after a week, I would eat here for every meal of every day if I could.

You know you want it.

You know you want it.

After that, I promptly got on a train and rode because what the hell else was I supposed to do with myself at 4 PM on a Friday?  After a good thirty minute ride on a train populated almost exclusively by noisy high school kids and old dudes who are probably rapists, I wound up in the town of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture’s northern hub and, who would’ve guessed this, the home of the large Hitachi Corporation.  Sure I got there late but the sun was still up and a nice breeze was rolling in off the water (might be important to note that Hitachi is only 100 or so kilometers from Fukushima) and so I walked around and generally just looked like someone casing the city for a crime spree.  But hey, at least I took this picture.

Conspicuously positioned houses.

Precariously positioned houses by the same Pacific Ocean responsible for 3/11.

I didn’t eat in Hitachi because I was too scared to go into a store (and every single place seemed to be closed down).    And so it was back onto the train, this time packed to the gills with sweaty salarymen, weird people, and old dudes that were already blacked out drunk at six in the evening, getting their nasty unbrushed teeth breath all up in my grill all the way back to Mito.  Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I got back to Mito and ate a bunch more crap that ranged between good and okay (but really everything pales when compared to the tsukemen object of my desires) but this post is getting really wordy and my writing muscles are getting tired and I’m rapidly approaching a brain strain and I may have had a bit too much birthday whiskey.  Needless to say, I lack any self-control and pretty much have to gorge myself at any given opportunity.  So really, who’s a year old now?  I still eat everything in sight like Baby Pacman.

 

This restaurant was literally abandoned.  I might have actually been served by ghosts.

This restaurant was literally abandoned. I might have actually been served by ghosts.


No birthday is complete without something that will take ten years off your life.

No birthday is complete without something that will take ten years off your life.