Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The World of Japanese Medicine

Despite being an advanced nation that excels in robotic studies and science, Japan is often hilariously behind other industrialized countries.  I suppose it could be blamed on their supposed isolation (even though they're really not very isolated at all), or it could be their stubbornness (they really like to do shit their own way).  I have no idea what it is, but in many fields, the Japanese are inexplicably struggling about ten to fifteen years behind the Western world.

One of those fields is medicine.  Any foreigner who comes to Japan for an extended period of time has probably heard horror stories about Japanese doctors and dentists who still live in the dark ages and do horrible, barbaric treatments to their patients.  According to many foreigners, Japanese doctors don't listen to what their patients want, don't care what their patients want, aren't interested in how their patients feel, and don't even bother sanitizing before dealing with them.

Well, I've now been to a Japanese doctor and a Japanese dentist.  How do foreigners' horror stories hold up?

Let's talk about the dentist first.  I woke up in the middle of the night not too long ago with a strange pain in my cheek and under my jaw.  Some of the pain felt like it was in the root of one of my teeth (this is a pain I'm familiar with, having had twelve baby teeth pulled in my life, and having had all four wisdom teeth removed.  Seriously, people who make fun of Kyo's shark teeth, without proper dentistry, that would be me right now!).  I was immediately filled with dread.  What if I need a root canal...? I thought.  I've heard that's the worst thing to have done in Japan!

I've heard unbelievable stories.  If you get a root canal done in Japan, expect to have it done in a room with several other patients, with no anesthesia, and they won't do it all at once.  Expect to have to come back up to twelve times and go through the horror over and over again.  And there won't be music or TVs or distractions, and they'll laugh and hold you down if you scream.  I hadn't even just heard stories like that from foreigners, I even remember Toshiya from Dir en grey telling a horror story like that!

The worst part was that I would be going to what we around here call an "inaka dentist."  "Inaka" is a Japanese word meaning "rural town", but a lot of foreigners use it in a kind of derogatory fashion to mean, like, "backwaters hell-hole."  And, from what I'd heard, inaka dentists are the worst.  Most of them are old men who haven't opened a medical book in forty years (Japan doesn't require dentists to continue their education or update their practices). 

The only reason I was even going to an inaka dentist was because I asked one of the teachers at my school if they knew any good dentists, and that caused the school nurse to look up one I could walk to, and then the teacher made an appointment for me.  I was dreading it, but I thought if I went in fast enough, I could avoid a root canal procedure.

So how was it?

To be honest, I was completely taken by surprise.  When I walked in, the hygienists behind the counter were very young, and very friendly.  There was a TV on in the waiting room, and tons of children's toys for little kids to amuse themselves with.  I filled out some paperwork (and couldn't believe I could actually understand almost all of it.  Only skipped two questions), and was called in right away.

I continued to be surprised.  Although there weren't separate rooms for patients, each little area was completely separated by thick partitions, so you couldn't see any other patients at all.  This wasn't weird to me at all, because the dentist I used to see in America also separated patients by partitions, not rooms.  And each little patient area had its own flat-screen TV.  Sweet!  This felt like the complete opposite of what should be inside an inaka dentist's office!

Overall, it was a very positive experience.  They were very easy with me - even blowing the air on my arm first to show me what it would feel like - and they constantly made sure I was cool with everything they were doing before actually doing it.  They didn't do anything painful - just poked around to see if there was anything amiss.  Meanwhile, I had a nice TV to watch, and I didn't have to look awkwardly at any other patients.  Plus nothing hurt.  I'd heard stories about people being stabbed through the tongue just during the examination, but this particular hygienist was very gentle.  She brought over a detailed model of a mouth with teeth and told me she didn't see any cavities, so it was possible my back teeth were shifting into some other teeth and causing the pain.  I was very cool with this idea, because I freaking brush, floss, and use mouth wash, and the thought that one of my teeth had somehow rotted enough to need a root canal really pissed me off.  But if it was an orthodontia issue, I could deal with that.  Frankly, I was used to that.

Anyways, she could hardly back up her thoughts without a thorough examination, so they brought me into an X-ray room and took a shot of my mouth.  Then I only waited around for about ten minutes before the dentist himself showed up.  This is where it gets kind of funny.

For some reason, he kept trying to use English with me, even though it should've been overwhelmingly obvious by then that I do just fine in Japanese.  So he kept using Japanese, and then trying to clarify what he'd said in English, even if I was nodding understandingly.  Unfortunately, most of the English he was using was crap he'd obviously just looked up in a dictionary five minutes prior to seeing me, so... it was strange English, at best.  However, I was totally okay with this, because I prefer that the dentist try to make sure I understand, rather than just throwing me down and stabbing me in the face like Japanese dentists supposedly do.  If he had to baby me a little, so be it.  It went kinda like this...

Dentist: No cavity.  Understand?

Me: Okay.

Dentist: Is here [points at the gums on the model of the human mouth]

Me: Okay...

Dentist: Your face.  It has festered.

Me: !!!

Yes, I'm allowed to have Final Fantasy-style exclamation point dialogue.  Anyways, yeah, he told me my face festered.  What he meant was that I had an infection in my mouth, that unfortunately spread and wound up in my gums, which was why it hurt.  He said it probably hurt more during the night because I was lying right on it.  But the point I'm trying to make was that he at least cared that I fully understood the situation.  Even though I was foreign, he didn't just shrug and be like, "well, I'll just silently do what needs to be done, and she won't question me, cuz I'm awesome."  Cuz, uh, yeah, I've heard they do that.  Granted, the dentist spoke so fast I thought he was high, but I can understand that when you've got only one dentist and a whole bunch of patients waiting around at once, you can't really loiter.

Anyways, then I started thinking he would send me home and make me come back before actually doing anything done about the infection.  The reason Japanese dentists always make their patients come back a bunch of times is because they collect insurance money each time.  Thus, the more times a patient comes in, the more insurance money the dentist collects.  Dentists claim it's because patients can't handle a ton of dental work at once, but we all know that's bullshit.  There's no excuse for a patient coming in for a cleaning and only having the top teeth done, and then being sent home and forced to return for the bottom teeth.

Buuuut, I got lucky.  Right then and there, he cleaned up the area around my teeth, did some laser treatment on the infection, and put antibiotic around the area (or, according to him, "antibotic medicine."  I didn't have the heart to correct him).  Then he sent me home with instructions not to eat or drink for thirty minutes.  I did have to make an appointment to come back and have the infection cleaned and antibiotic-ed again, but I thought that was reasonable.

The best part is, the treatment worked.  My mouth hurt on and off for a couple more days (especially right after this one indies show, ow...), and then it was cured!  No pain at all, just like that!

What's more, they treated me nicely despite being stupid.  I walked in one day thinking it was my next appointment, but it turned out I had the wrong day.  Not only did they not laugh at me, the dentist was convinced that walking in on the wrong day was my indirect way of trying to tell him my face still hurt, and he got all worried and was even willing to treat me right then and there.  I assured him I was just an idiot, and promptly left.

I should add that each visit only cost me 800 yen!  And I only went in twice!  That's crazy cheap!

The point is, although I'm sure many dentists in Japan are essentially greedy face-butchers, you can never know for sure!  Sometimes, you might just find an extremely modern dentist's office with updated technology, a nice, patient staff, and flat-screen TVs.  My guess is, this dentist studied dentistry abroad at some point.  I've heard those guys are the ones who have their shit together.  So, I guess the lesson to take out of this is... ask around if you need a dentist in Japan.  Because some of them are very good, you just have to find them.

Even in the inaka.

And now for the flip-side!  An adventure in a Japanese hospital after hours!

So, long story short, I was chopping up some chicken for dinner and I put down the knife for a moment and reached for something on the counter.  Unfortunately, this knife was clearly designed by a four-year-old, and the knife has this weird little pointy part that sticks out towards the handle.  I somehow managed to gouge myself on it.  Now, this wouldn't have been a big deal - the cut was actually quite small - but it happened to cut the exact line where my finger bends at the joint.  The result was an unnecessarily deep cut that bled like a fountain and couldn't be closed without some kind of makeshift splint.

I waited around for an hour or so with a paper towel, but the damn thing never looked any better.  At that point, I went to a convenience store to buy some band-aids.  While there, I asked them if they new of any local clinics I could go to.  They told me everything was already closed (at fucking 6:00.  Fucking bullshit).  Feeling sorry for me, one of the ladies offered to help me put a band-aid on.  I shrugged and agreed, and accidentally got blood all over her, which is severely embarrassing.  She probably immediately went and got herself tested for AIDS, syphilis, and Gaijin-ism.  Anyways, I decided maybe the cut needed a stitch, so I called one of the English teachers at school and asked her if she knew where a clinic might be that's still open.

Naturally, she decided this was the time to panic, drive right over, and drive me to the hospital.  Which was probably very unnecessary, and also somewhat embarrassing.  Now, I'd like to give this hospital the benefit of the doubt - after all, this was their after-hours staff.  However, this sounds waaaay too much like so many other stories I've heard about doctors in Japan.  Even when it's not after 6:00.

So I came in, and a doctor saw me pretty quickly.  I was brought into a room where dozens of other patients were lying around looking miserable.  He sat me down and asked to see the cut.  I took off the band-aid, and nearly died of embarrassment.  The cut had pretty much stopped bleeding.  The doctor basically snorted and laughed at me.  He was immensely cocky for someone who looked about twenty-five.  But then, the moment he moved my finger to inspect it, the cut opened right back up and started bleeding.  Well, yeah, that's why I thought a doctor should look at it, duh.  Anyways, he never once sanitized anything, including the tools.  He didn't wash his hands.  And he didn't wear gloves.  Yup.  My wound was inspected by bare, unsanitary hands that were dealing with sick people mere moments ago.

Stay classy, Japan.

So he told me the cut wasn't deep enough for a stitch, but he could wrap it up for me.  So he grabbed this nasty, brown disinfectant, and dripped it into the wound, which hurt like a bitch and made me want to bite him right in his cocky face.  The fun part?  He spilled the disinfectant all over his laptop in the process, and then wiped it up with a tissue.  Genius.  Then he put tape along the length of my finger to seal the cut, and wrapped it up in gauze.  And told me not to take it off for two days.  Haha, yeah, fuck that.

So yeah, clearly this hospital is still operating in the Stone Age.  And no, this was not an inaka hospital.  This was the hospital in the neighboring city.  I can only imagine what a small-town hospital must be like.

One of my favorite moments was when a young woman came in saying she felt sick.  The nurse, as loudly as possible, yelled, "DO YOU HAVE DIARRHEA?!!"  Well of course the woman said no!  How do you expect your patients to be honest and tell you the truth if you're screaming embarrassing questions at them in front of everybody?!!


By the way, that gauze cost me 1600 yen.  Bullshit!

Kind of an amusing story to end on: while waiting around in the hallway, a really hot, young guy came by with bleached hair and chains hanging from his jeans.  But I felt sorry for him because he was walking down the hallway dragging an IV bag with him.  Then I realized he was dragging that IV bag all the way down the hall... to get to the vending machine.  For a soda.  Okay, I didn't feel so sorry for him anymore, lol.  Then I decided he probably just had a cold.

Then I remembered Japan will give someone an IV for literally anything.

Then I remembered Japanese doctors suck.

Aaaand that's my story!  The lesson here being, some of the stuff you hear about the Japanese medical field is true, and some isn't.  Actually, no, it's probably all true sometimes.  There are plenty of medical practitioners who completely enforce the stereotype of the backwards Japanese doctor, but there are also plenty of exceptions.

So just be careful when you can, and tough it out when you can't!

Leaving for Tokyo in a few days!  Winter vacation, y u no come faster?!!  Can't... wait... any... longer........

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vampire Café

I'm typing this entry with only nine fingers. I cut the bendy part of my index finger on a kitchen knife, and now I can't use it. On the plus side, my middle finger's getting an awesome workout.

Today, I'd like to talk about the Vampire Café in Ginza, Tokyo. MelJay and I looked up a list of themed restaurants in Japan and decided the Vampire Café sounded the most interesting. We also invited our friend Caroline along.

The first thing you should know about the Vampire Café is that it requires a reservation (in Japanese). The second thing you should know is that it's very hard to find. The first twenty minutes of our journey reminded us that Google Maps is essentially useless in Japan. The café is marked by a black and red sign hanging off the 7th floor of a building. The contrast between the building's lobby and the actual Vampire Café is hilarious.  It's like going from a normal office building to the black pits of Hell in a single elevator ride. The moment you walk through the door, it's like entering an underground dungeon.  Everything's dark and black and there are cobwebs all over everything.  A man dressed like a cross between Dracula and Eddie Izzard stepped out to greet us.  The guy had a look on his face that said, "yeah, that's right, I'm dressed like a vampire.  What are your life accomplishments?"

Dracula-man led us deeper into the restaurant. The place is small, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in atmosphere:

The Vampire Café puts a fun, creepy twist on your dining experience.  Many online reviewers complain that the café is overpriced.  Personally, I think it's very reasonable.  Most of the food is around 1,000 yen, or about $10. The only expensive things on the menu are the alcoholic beverages.

Here's the menu, which is shaped like a coffin:

Despite the price, we did order some drinks. This one's made with banana liqueur:

This is the one Caroline and I got.  It had passion fruit and mango:

Caroline and I ordered  a delicious seafood pasta with a cute little ghost cracker in it. The pasta was covered in delicious ikura (salmon roe). 

MelJay's dish was hilarious. At it's core, it's just chicken topped with mashed potatoes. However, the potatoes are made to look like the head of a bat, which is impaled by a tiny, fake sword. I love this kind of morbid humor.

Our waiter was a very young man with bleached hair and heavy make-up.  The first few times he came to our table, he seemed very wary of foreigners.  Even though we made it clear we spoke Japanese, our waiter kept using whatever useless English words he could think of.  Eventually, he got a little braver and asked us, "where are you from?" Once we responded in English, however, all the courage seemed to go out of him.

Let's move on to dessert!  Here's what I ordered.  It contains two chocolate roll-cakes filled with cream and blueberries. The bat is made of whipped cream, with solid chocolate bat wings and a chocolate-covered marshmallow top-hat.

Caroline and MelJay got the same dessert: crème brûlée with a white chocolate skull:

It started off innocent enough, but then the vampire who brought us to our table came over and, without any warning, lit MelJay's plate on fire:
Oh, the humanity!!!

I think Dracula-man was dying to scare the foreigners.  He looked very proud of himself!

Overall, we had a great time at the Vampire Café!  It's a bit hard to find, requires a reservation, and includes a 500 yen ($5) table charge for no reason. Nonetheless, if you're into the "dark side" and looking for some unique entertainment in Japan, I would definitely recommend the Vampire Café!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Indies, 12/10, Takadanobaba AREA

Okay, sorry, we're gonna do things out of order again.  I know I said I would write a post about the Vampire Cafe (and, actually, it's about 1/3 written), but then some stuff came up, including a sudden infection (with no known cause) that I had to go to a dentist about, and a sudden, double-surprise-birthday party for a couple friends of mine in Kiryu, and I had to work on Christmas-themed lessons for the students (which isn't easy for me, since I wasn't raised in a Christian household and know absolutely nothing about Christmas), and... bottom line is, by the time I actually had some free time to write, I was back in Tokyo with no computer, and seeing an indies show.

So!  If I may be forgiven, the Vampire Cafe post will be posted after this one, but I'm doing indies first because a lot more goes on at those shows and it's easier for me to forget everything if I don't do it right away.  Then I'll do the Vampire Cafe, and then I'll do a post about Japanese dentists, because I think that's a bit of a hot-button issue for foreigners who come to Japan, and it might be interesting (and informative).

Sooo!  I returned to Tokyo for the weekend to go see an indies show with MelJay.  It was our first concert in three weeks!!!  Can you believe that?!  My gawd, I'm surprised I didn't get gangrene of the soul, hahaha.

The show was at Takadanobaba AREA, which I haven't been to in a ridiculously long time.  Lately, I always wind up at Black Hole.  Anyways, I was irritable about this show at first, because I thought MelJay and I were breaking our 2-3 rule.  This is a weird technique we use for choosing shows, where a band is assigned the number 2 or 3 based on how much we like to see them.  What this means is... if we kinda like a band, then they become a 3, meaning they have to be at a show with at least two other bands we want to see, or it's not worth it.  A band we really like is given the number 2, meaning only one other band we like has to be at a show to make it worth it.  And I don't think a band is ever assigned the number 1, because I don't think we'd ever go to a long event just for one band (at least, I never would), but a 2 band is something we'd go to a one-man or two-man over.  Does that make sense?  Basically, we number them by cluster.  Three 3's = let's go.  Two 2's = let's go.  And any combo of that. 

Anyways, -OZ- and Lycaon were at this show, but they're both 3's.  I felt like we were breaking our rule by not having at least a third band we were interesting in seeing.  That is, until I got a text from MelJay while I was on the train saying something like, "I know you're not interested in this show, but I'm gonna move up for BORN if that's okay."

BORN...?  What BORN...?

I hastily pulled out my ticket and stared at it.  And there was BORN's name listed among the six bands.  It'd been there all along.

I'm so fucking stupid.  And unobservant.

Okay!  So suddenly this show went from "meh" to awesome!  Now we had two 3's and a 2!  Sweeeet.

MelJay and I stopped off at a Denny's before the show, where I got way too hopped up on caffeine (bottomless coffee should never be offered to me), and then we did a little shopping before the show.  Then we stopped at a Segafredo, and I had more caffeine.  Was that really necessary?  Probably not, but I was still in a bad mood for unknown reasons and generally needed a pick-me-up (I think I was still having a slightly negative reaction to the antibiotics I was given for my infection - they made me pretty nauseous the day before.  I was also simultaneously coming down with a cold).  We dallied quite a bit and didn't make it to the venue until fifteen minutes after doors opened, but it didn't matter because our ticket numbers were crap, so we were actually just in time.  A girl from Australia stopped us and asked us for help getting to the venue and stuff (which we were more than happy to do), and it was her birthday and she wanted to see -OZ-.  Unfortunately, though the show wasn't listed as sold out online, a sign outside the venue definitely said it was sold out.  My theory is that people showed up an hour or two before the show and snatched up the last of the "toujitsu" tickets (the ones you buy day-of) and that was why the website wasn't updated enough to say the show was sold out.  Man, that sucks..............  I wish I could've helped the girl out, and MelJay even asked the staff about it, but...... at that point it was impossible.  That.  Sucks.

Anyhoo, it was really crowded in the venue, which is to be expected when 400 people get in ahead of you.  For some reason, MelJay and I reached this mutual agreement that we would just stay in the back.  We had a good spot on the second platform just a few rows back, and we could see really well, and there really wasn't any need to move up, since we weren't expecting dog-piles and stuff.  We pretty much never stay back, but we kinda chilled out for this show.  It was kinda funny though, cuz there was a crazy amount of foreigners at this show, and most of them were in the back.  I'm guessing it's cuz -OZ- and Lycaon, and BORN were there, and they're what I call Foreigner-Magnet Bands (because they're the bands who usually get the most exposure online, release music abroad, or have been to conventions abroad, and attract a lot of foreigners).  I would venture to say there were at least fifteen foreigners at this show, and you never see that kinda thing.  We also had some dudes, and one of them was a very confused-looking young man I named Apprentice.  We'll come back to Apprentice later.

Well, enough babbling, let's get on with it.  The order of bands at this show was completely fucked, as you'll soon see.  But, despite their obscene level of popularity, our first band is quite new (formed in March), so I suppose I can understand them playing first.  To begin this post, I'm happy to introduce... MEJIBRAY:

A little history on MEJIBRAY (all of which I discovered after the show, but is kinda important so I'll put it here): MEJIBRAY's vocalist, who goes by Tsuzuku, is actually vocalist Genki from the now-disbanded VanessA.  MEJIBRAY began as Tsuzuku's solo project with support members, until they all became official (it originally included a drummer, bassist, and two guitarists, but one of the guitarists left just a few months after the band became official).  Their bassist Koichi is also from VanessA.  That's why, despite the band only being formed in March, they have a huge fan-base.  VanessA was a pretty popular band that was around for several years, so a lot of their fans followed Genki-turned-Tsuzuku to MEJIBRAY.  To be honest, I wish I'd known all that before the show, because - due to me being a huge UnsraW fan - people used to recommend VanessA to me a lot.  Unfortunately, I'm extremely lazy and usually need music forced down my throat to bother with it, so I never checked VanessA out despite so many telling me I should.  And then VanessA disbanded.  But now we have MEJIBRAY. 

And MEJBIRAY is pretty cool.  Although I'd been hearing the name a lot, I didn't know what to expect.  MelJay said she thought she'd seen a picture of them and that they were a "dark" band, but "dark" doesn't mean "good."  On the way to the venue, I asked the Australian girl if she knew anything about them, and she just said she'd heard a little bit of their music and it had "good riffs."  Being the cynic that I am, I just assumed the band would suck like most stuff at these events.

Let's just say I was quite happily surprised.  First, drummer Meto came on stage, and I was like, "the fuck...?"  He was dressed like some kind of weird clown (you can see him second-from-the-left in the picture above) and he was clutching a large teddy bear, which he then propped up on the drum set.  He had this look on his face like he wanted to vomit, which caused me to give him the nickname Pukey-Face until I could figure out his real name after the show (even MelJay started calling him Pukey-Face, hahaha).  Then we had bassist Koichi, and guitarist MiA (who has really weird onstage equipment that looks like a giant computer-screen propped up on the amps.  If anyone knows what that is, lemme know).  Just looking at their costumes, I could tell this was an oddly sexualized band (which would fit in well with Lycaon later).  My thought was confirmed when vocalist Tsuzuku came on stage wearing a mesh shirt with his pants so low they looked like they'd fall off any second.

A note on Tsuzuku's name, by the way.  His name is written in hiragana as つづく, meaning it uses the weird づ sound.  On his own blog, Tsuzuku romanizes his name Tsuduku, whereas websites like write it Tsuzuku.  It's really neither one, and more a combo of the two.  You would actually pronounce the zu/du like "tzu" (so like "tsu" but harder).  But spelling it Tsudzuku looks kinda stupid (even though some online dictionaries spell it that way), so let's just go with Tsuzuku.

Anyways, where do I even begin with MEJIBRAY...?  Their stage presence is super dark, and super intense.  It's more than just "good riffing"... it's great guitar solos, heavy bass, intense drum rhythms, and Tsuzuku is, uh... out of his fucking mind.  I actually wish I could've been down in the front and participating because it looked like so much fun (there was so much hair flying around in the audience it looked like a storm blasting through a rainforest down there).  But I had to settle with standing in the back doing cramped hand-furi.  So much of it came down to attitude with these guys.  Meto played drums as if he was trapped in prison and forced to play for days on end to win his freedom (I don't know how else to explain it... but I think it's because that nauseated expression was on his face the whole time he played, and he was thrashing his head and body around as though he was about to fall over).  And MiA and Koichi both had that "I'm too cool for school" attitude while they played.  And Tsuzuku, well... my first thought about him was, "damn, that bitch can scream like a motherfucker."  He could sing really well too, but his screaming and growling voice was damn impressive for such a skinny little guy.
But I think the thing that really needs to be said about Tsuzuku is his absurd energy level.  It's like he's incapable of feeling fatigue or something.  He was just a whirl of motion up on the stage, thrashing around and shrieking and throwing himself all over the place.  I started to wonder if he had bones.  Even his (horribly forced) attempts at fan-service looked more like he was grabbing the bassist or guitarist and humping the living shit out of them.  Most vocalists would just rub the string section seductively or lick them or something, but not this power house.  Fan-service meant throwing himself at a member and nearly toppling them over, lol.  There was one point where he sat down on the crate facing away from everyone and screamed over and over and over while full-body-headbanging in a creepy, repetitive motion.  He did it so fast and with such intensity that I honestly felt sorry for his brain.  MelJay later told me all she could think while watching him was, "that guy's gonna knock himself out."

But the truly epic performance was the last song.  I believe the song is called Hakuraku, which is a word that means "to peel off."  For this song, Tsuzuku did a marionette routine.  And that's no big deal - marionette routines are common in music.  Ryuutaro from Plastic Tree, Kyo from Dir en grey... it's common.  Hell, even Ayumi Hamasaki pretends to be a puppet in her appropriately-titled song Marionette.  But Tsuzuku's act was different... and I don't know how to explain why.  It's like... he has no bones, but he's all angles.  It would be like if someone tied Jack Skellington up with strings, wrapped those strings around their own fingers, and wiggled them to watch the puppet dance.  The audience got really still and quiet watching Tsuzuku's creepy lurching and gyrations, all of which was performed with much screaming, moaning, gasping, and strangling-sounds.  I found myself absolutely mesmerized in a way I haven't been in a loooong time.

And then this strange, broken-puppet routine turned into the single most incredible onstage temper tantrum I've ever seen.  For about two minutes straight, Tsuzuku screamed, threw himself around the stage, threw his body in ways that looked positively painful, and generally freaked the fuck out.  I didn't even want to blink, lest a miss a second of that chaos.  He even started doing that crazy headbanging I always associate with Kyo during Obscure.  It's that headbanging where you throw your whole body forward while kicking up your legs behind you.  Which really isn't very easy to do, and requires a lot of energy and coordination to keep up.  And Tsuzuku was able to do it continuously.  The amazing thing is, rather than getting tired, Tsuzuku's tantrum grew more and more intense every second.  Some people in the audience started rustling uncomfortably watching it, and the girls behind me started whispering like crazy.  At one point, as Tsuzuku screamed and violently arched his whole body back so far his jacket nearly came off, one of the girls behind me started going, "Kowai!  Kowai!  Kowai!" ("kowai" = "scary!").  Honestly, I have no words to describe this incredible display of onstage ferocity.  Picture, like... old-school Kyo from Dir en grey having one of his most epic freakouts, and you might have an idea of what was going on here.  I was actually worried Tsuzuku was going to break his back, his neck, or accidentally smash himself on something.  So of course it was inevitable that, when the song ended, he threw himself to the ground and didn't get up.  Before I could even try to get on my tip-toes to see what happened, the staff came out and drew the curtain closed.


There was a moment of silence, during which I tried desperately to come up with a word for the way I was feeling.  I turned to MelJay with a lost expression on my face and MelJay, her eyes wide, said, "respect."  I burst out laughing and hit myself on the chest twice with my fist and made a peace sign like a gangsta.

Respect.  Yeah.  

The bottom line is, I was impressed in a way I hadn't been in a damn long time.  Here was a band with explosive attitude, kick-ass presence, intense, in-your-face music, and a vocalist who apparently installed a power plant inside his body or something.

I would have to learn more...

But of course that would all have to wait until after the show, so MelJay and I just stood there "ooh"-ing and "aah"-ing about MEJIBRAY until the next act.  She and I couldn't get over how impressed we were, and how much we were looking forward to finding out if the band was worth checking out for real.

So we'll get back to them at the end of this post (includes a funny story!).  If you're interested in MEJIBRAY, be sure to read the stuff at the end.

Buuut, as I said, the order of the bands was fucked and weird.  So, for whatever reason, the second act was -OZ-:

Then again, I suppose -OZ- has been going on early a lot lately.  There seems to have been some demotion.  Anyways, because the band was sort of "off" at the first couple shows I saw, I always start out by trying to see what kind of mood -OZ- is in.  Cuz it seriously makes a huge difference.  They opened with this really slow, pretty song that I'm actually extremely fond of, but I wasn't sure it boded well for the rest of the act if -OZ- was starting off with a song that didn't require any movement or physical involvement.  I became even more worried when, in the middle of the song, Natsuki completely zoned out at the microphone.  Well, actually, it was kind of hilarious.  He didn't have to sing for about thirty seconds, so he used that time to rest his arm on the microphone stand and stare, unblinking, at nothing.  After awhile I started to wonder if he was even breathing.  Then I started to wonder if he would remember to start singing again, lol.  It was pretty much half a second before it was time to sing that he finally blinked and came back to life.  I wanted to laugh, but decided it was an inappropriate time, lol.

But you know what, don't judge a band by their first song.  After that song, -OZ- suddenly exploded and became a whole new band.  Suddenly, they switched over to loud, angry music, and Natsuki turned into a screaming demon.  He was like a whole different person.  The rest of the band came to life too.  Their right-side guitarist (forgive me, I don't know who's who in -OZ-) got so happy, he started hopping around the stage with a big smile, mouthing along to all the words.  Man, I swear -OZ- is bipolar sometimes.  I once again kinda wished I could go down and participate a bit more, but it was also kinda nice to be in the back and get a chance to see everything.  One of these days, I should get off my lazy ass and try out some -OZ- music, because they've been really enjoyable the last few times I've seen them, now that they're out of their temporary funk.  I think the songs I've been really digging at their shows have been their older songs, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a try.  Besides, I've seen them enough times now that I know the songs and can do the furi without watching anyone.  I'll have to de-lazy myself some time.

So, band order being fucked and all, our next act, for whatever reason, was Lycaon:

As always, very enjoyable to watch, though their music isn't really my cup of tea.  Usually, I feel like I'm the only person who's surprised by the band order, as if all the Japanese people have psychic powers and just naturally know who's playing when.  But not this time.  Everyone was just as surprised as I was that Lycaon would go on so early in the show.  Lots of girls were like "heee?!", and overzealous Lycaon fans started pushing to get up front.  A couple girls next to me dissolved into squeals of delight, which was actually kind of annoying.

Uuuum, not much to say here.  Enjoyed the show, enjoyed the catchy music, enjoyed watching Yuuki roll his shoulders like a stripper...

Oh, and Apprentice.  We should talk about him.  The reason I called him Apprentice was because he looked like he may have been a potential, future-VK performer who was observing.  He was by himself, didn't seem to be there for any particular band, looked generally confused by everything, but watched the show very intently.  So the thing that was funny about Apprentice was, well... that he'd obviously never been to a show.  And the utter fear this seemed to invoke in him.  Especially during Lycaon.  When all the girls started whipping their hair around - and quite a lot of it was smacking Apprentice - he cringed and flinched as though the girls were whipping him with burning chains.  Which was especially funny because this guy was about six feet tall, and obviously in good shape, and should not have felt even slightly threatened by a bunch of girl-hair in his face.  As if that wasn't amusing enough, the Lycaon fans began to do their usual side-to-side moshy-thing.  

I.  Lost it.  I could not stop laughing at Apprentice.  He looked like a cat caught in the current of a river, struggling to get out.  As the girls forced him one way and then the other, he had his hands up defensively and had this panicked look on his face like, "Why, why, why?!  Oh god, oh god, oh god!"  My row in the audience didn't join the fray, so I just stood there laughing hysterically as I watched him.  I laughed so hard, MelJay patted me sympathetically on the back.  That is, when she wasn't laughing at Apprentice too, lol.  I mean, come on, man!  Those girls are literally half your size!

Anyways, our next band up, to my surprise, was Velbet:

I mean, I was surprised because... why the hell was Velbet going on after Lycaon?!  That's just weird...

So here's our dear, baby GazettE.  To be honest, I wasn't sure if it was Velbet or the band LANDZ on stage (since I'd never seen LANDZ before), but then I remembered that each member of Velbet is basically cosplaying a member of GazettE.  It was their "Aoi" that tipped me off.  Ah yes, I thought.  This is definitely Velbet.  And the little Ruki frontman is a bit of a give-away too.  Anyways, I've been seeing them for awhile now - all the way since I studied abroad - and they never really grow on me much more than just mildly enjoying them.  As in, I would never "get into" them, but I never have any problem with them and they're not bad to watch.  But I don't really have much to say.

Our next band is LANDZ:

 Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew.  What the shit?!!  Why in the world did this band go on second-to-last?!!

Are they an older band?  No.  They formed in May and they announced their first single was coming out soon.

Are they made up of any famous people?  Not really.  The vocalist is from and their guitarist is from _Van;lla】, which were vaguely popular bands, but not enough to explain them playing after acts like -OZ- and Lycaon.

Okay, the show was hosted by PS Company.  Are they under PS Company?  Not that I could find.

Did they even fit in with this show?!  No!  They were essentially a pop-rock band.  And a really boring one at that.  What's funny is, after Lycaon and Velbet, about a quarter of the audience bailed and went out to the lockers to drink, smoke, and loiter.  And honestly, I don't really blame them.  This wasn't exactly the show for LANDZ.  I really don't think MEJIBRAY fans are interested in this brightly-colored band swaying happily back and forth and smiling.  Bleagh..........

Fun fact of the day: Takadanobaba AREA's pamphlets, in the fine-print, claim you have to be 18 and over to attend their shows.  HAH.  As if.

Anyways, it stands to reason that, the moment LANDZ was finished, a stampede of people came rushing back into the venue to try and get a good spot for BORN.

So duh, the next band up is BORN:

Uuuuuuuuuuh, same as always, had a really good time, really enjoyed BORN, etc.  For some reason, Ryouga was extra spazzy and, like... had a bunch of silly accidents.  Which was especially funny because, despite being the band's frontman, Ryouga's weirdly shy.  In fact, MelJay and I were talking about how Ryouga, despite his funny dancing and screaming, always has this air about him like he doesn't actually want to be seen.  Which makes it even funnier when stupid stuff happens and he gets embarrassed.  First, during his MC, the mic made this crazy loud, horrible noise in the middle of his sentence.  Rather than jumping or swearing, Ryouga scuttled backwards with his head down like a turtle crawling back into its shell.  What the hell kinda reaction was that, lol?!  Later, when he was trying to wave goodbye to the audience before encore, he didn't realize one of the guitarists was walking in front of him, which resulted in Ryouga punching the guitarist in the face.  Cue more embarrassed Ryouga.  When the band came back for encore (where I believe they played MY SWEET BLACK), Ryouga tried to talk to the crowd, only to discover that he had backup in his throat from all the screaming, which caused him to choke and cough in the middle of a word.  The crowd started calling to him and Ryouga, looking very embarrassed, giggled nervously and said, "zen zen daijoubu" (meaning "I am totally okay").  Man, he is so hilariously awkward, lol.  Ryouga also said they didn't want to do an encore but were gonna do one anyways, which I thought was an odd thing to say (he literally said, "ankooru shitakunakatta kedo, yacchaimasu!" with a fist in the air).  

I should add that, as usual, the audience got way too out of control during BORN.  This seems to happen a lot with them.  Especially during the side-to-side thing.  We had two pretty epic wipe-outs.  The first one happened when a girl a few spots over from me fell down (yes, the area behind the second barrier was also doing the jumping shit), which then toppled over another girl, and then another, and another, until there was suddenly about ten girls crashing to the floor.  The girl next to me grabbed my arm to stay up, but... I'm sorry, it's every man for himself, and I yanked my arm out of her grasp to save myself, and MelJay grabbed my other arm and pulled me away from the disaster-zone.  The girl who grabbed me apologized to me after the song was over.

There was another side-to-side disaster later that I wasn't involved in, and I couldn't see it that well, but it looked bad.  Some girls fell, and it looked like they fell near the stairs, which makes me wonder if someone fell down the stairs.  I saw a lot of people rush over and some were bent over for a long time, like someone wasn't getting up, and I later saw a girl crying near the stairs, so I think someone had a nasty fall.  I saw poor Ryouga noticed, too, but there's nothing the band can do about it.

Actually, maybe Apprentice really does have a reason to be afraid, lol.

Maybe because we all got so wild, Ryouga thanked the audience over and over and over at the end of the show and seemed super happy.  All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I was able to get out most of my aggression, since most BORN songs are written for the sole purpose of being able to punch the air as much as you damn well want to.

Aaaaaaaand that was the show!

So that night, MelJay and I returned to the hostel and used the internet to look up all kinds of stuff like, "what the hell makes LANDZ so special?" and "who the hell was that psychopath vocalist in MEJIBRAY?" and "is MEJIBRAY actually worth checking out?" and "is it true birds don't fart?"  Okay, no, we didn't look that up.  But fun fact of the day: they don't.

Some YouTube samples told us, yes, MEJIBRAY is worth checking out.  And then MelJay, as usual, checked MEJIBRAY's blogs, where she discovered that the band members are obscenely popular online compared to other new indies bands.  That's when we got suspicious and checked out their origins.  Although the band's origins can't explain how drummer Meto has 1,200 blog followers (MEJIBRAY is his first band ever).  Hell, Tsuzuku has 2,000 followers.

Well, they'd just put out a mini-album a few days earlier and we figured, "ah, what the hell, maybe we can buy it."  But trying to buy indies music on a weekend in Tokyo fucking sucks because so many stores have in-store events, and MelJay and I are too lazy to visit the stores earlier in the day.  We went to Like an Edison in Shinjuku and got cock-blocked by an event.  Amazingly enough, the indies store across the street from it was also having an event.  We went to the Like an Edison in Laforet in Harajuku and got cock-blocked by another event (that surprised me).  Alright, there was still one more option... the ZEAL LINK in O1O1 One in Shinjuku.  We went back to Shinjuku.  Then we went up the seven flights of escalators.

And there was an event, which caused me to accidentally yell, "shit!" really loud in front of some foreigners.  Oopsie.  For whatever reason, MelJay peeked into the store to see what band was in there hosting the event.

And it was MEJIBRAY.

Pfffffffffffffft, hahahahahaha, what?!

OMG, lol.  How does this kind of stupid shit consistently happen to us?!!  You'd think after spending so much time in Japan going to shows, I'd be good at this kind of thing, but I'm just not.  Well, we looked at the clock and saw that it was 4:55, so we suspected the event might end at 5:00 if we just waited a little.  So we milled around Sex Pot Revenge and waited, while trying to get over the fact that we were preparing to walk into Zeal Link a minute after MEJIBRAY left and ask for the new MEJIBRAY album.  Duuuuuur.

As MelJay and I were staring at some cute sweaters, a bunch of guys suddenly walked past us.  I looked up, realized it was MEJIBRAY, and quickly turned away in embarrassment.  But not before seeing very clearly that Tsuzuku was looking right at us.  Faaaaaail.  I really hope MelJay and I were far back enough that the band didn't notice us at the show, because otherwise that's just kinda awkward.  Like we were stalking the event or something.  I hope, by turning away, I made it clear that I wasn't trying to spy on them.
Anyways, once MEJIBRAY was behind the staff door, MelJay and I went into ZEAL LINK to pick up the CD.  Of course, the cashier didn't say anything about it.  Japanese cashiers are trained to just smile and nod at everything, but I'm pretty sure a cashier in the states would've been like, "uh, you know you just missed them, right?"

So one last thing before I wrap up this post: I wanna talk about drummer Meto.  Due to some rather odd characteristics about him, some people are probably wondering what the hell his deal is.  I saw someone on the internet ask if anyone had any idea what the hell's going on with Meto, and that person never got a response.  Well, I can't say for sure what the hell's going on with him, but I can tell you what it seems like. 

When I first saw a picture of MEJIBRAY, I didn't register that it was them, but it was in a pamphlet I got awhile back.  Looking back on it, I remember being a bit surprised when I noticed one of the band members was in a wheelchair.  But I somewhat doubted that the guy really needed a wheelchair (I'm not saying people in wheelchairs can't play instruments, I'm just saying I don't know if that would fly in the indies scene here).  I figured it was just part of the guy's image, and that he was trying to be "edgy."

Well, now I know for a fact that Meto doesn't need a wheelchair.  I saw him walk on stage just fine, and walk past us at ZEAL LINK without a problem, plus he can play the petals on his drums.  So I shrugged it off as a weird gimmick.

But my CD came with a comment DVD, in which Meto sits in a wheelchair in front of the band, playing with his teddy bear continuously.  He doesn't speak, and Koichi has to introduce him.  And MiA was casually resting his hands on the handles of Meto's wheelchair.  At one point, using the high-pitched voice you'd use to talk to a baby, Tsuzuku tried to coax Meto into speaking, but Meto ignored him.  This is from a different video, but this picture should show you Meto's strange, wheelchair-ing (he's the one all the way on the right):

Oooookay.  Well, some people take their gimmicks very seriously, I guess. 

But then MelJay sent me a link to Meto's blog.  I don't really look at indies blogs anymore, but she seemed to think I should take a look at it, so I did.

And then I began to understand.

The first thing I saw was that his latest post was entitled: *g_syk.  Underneath that title was a weird, artsy photo.  It looked like a smoky image of the moon across a wooden floor.  All Meto had to say about this picture was: *w_ko1.


Baffled, I continued to go through his blog, looking for some kind of sense or logic... anything.  It seemed there was none to be found.  Just artsy photos of himself and the things around him, and gibberish.  But then I noticed a small spot of light in the darkness.  The only time his posts are ever written out in legible words is whenever there's an announcement (and the band members don't write those, they just copy-paste them into their blogs).  Any time one of those showed up, Meto gave it the title: *nevvs.  For some reason, my brain latched onto that one, and I realized the two v's form a "w."  He means "news."  This was like finding the Rosetta Stone for me, and I began going through his blog trying to figure out what else I could make sense of.  I'm not positive about any of this, but examples I found include *rh, which seems to mean "rehearsal" and, *inst, which seems to mean "in-store event."  An odd one I found was a picture of some stuffed animal, with the caption *kwkn.  Somehow, my brain was starting to catch onto Meto's strange language and I realized he probably meant, "kawaikunai?", which means, "isn't it cute?"  Often, when he takes a picture of himself, he writes: me+0, which I later realized was his bizarre way of spelling his own name.

What I'm getting at is that, one way or another, Meto's trying to portray a mental illness.  And he's doing a bizarrely good job of it.  The time he spends in the wheelchair appears to have less to do with a portrayal of a physical handicap, and much more to do with his portrayal of a mental one.  Hence the teddy bear, the creepy stare, his refusal to speak, and the fact that his blog looks like a very uncomfortable acid trip.  What's amazing is how well he manages to stay in character.  Even when he performs, he maintains a bizarre expression on his face.  At my show he didn't do this, but it seems he's sometimes wheeled on stage.  The brilliance of his gimmick is that, unlike the black-and-white simplicity of simply refusing to speak, or having to wear a nose-band all the time, he's found a "character" with some wiggle-room.  Insanity can come and go, so his occasional bouts of walking, or the times when he takes a picture of himself looking more normal, can be brushed off as moments of mental clarity (or properly taking his medication).  The fact that he's able to keep up this character so well is actually kind of amazing.

Now, this kind of thing would never fly in the states, I know that.  Maybe other parts of the West would have a problem with it too.  After all, this is so far off the scale of "Political Correctness" that it's practically in outer space.  But the thing is..... there's something almost artistic about Meto's blog.  In fact, if I didn't know what he was trying to do, the whole thing would look like a massive online art project.  In creating an "insane" character, and with the unbelievable amount of dedication he's put into it so far, he's actually managed to create a small world of insanity around himself... and it's actually almost believable.

I'm not saying anyone has to agree with what he's doing, or even like it... but again...

Respect, I guess.

Anyways, the Vampire Cafe blog is coming!  See y'all soon!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cat Cafe and "Complete" Concert Schedule


But anyways, this is actually a little out of order.  I went to a cat cafe on Sunday, and did something else on Saturday - I went to the Vampire Cafe in Ginza!  But I started with the cat cafe when uploading pictures so, for now, I'm gonna flip Saturday and Sunday and do a post about kitties first!

This particular cat cafe was one I hadn't been to.  Fueled by a strong desire to pet something soft and furry (and not in a dirty sense), MelJay and I traveled out to Ikebukuro.  And Ikebukuro has now become nearly synonymous with "tacos" in our book, lol.  Actually, we got a different menu at El Torito this time, so I tried something that wasn't just tacos:

Mexican food, y u so good?!

Soooo MelJay and I chilled and enjoyed our food because we were actually secretly wasting time so we could hit up a venue later in the day for some ticket sleuthing.  After foodz, we decided to try and find the cat cafe!

Our cat cafe of choice was Nekorobi.  This was based simply on a recommendation we read on the internet.  Nekorobi happened to be right near Sunshine City, hence tacos.  Anyways, on the way to Nekorobi, we actually discovered that there's a stand in Ikebukuro right now selling churros!  I was shocked!  So we stopped off and got some of those too.  They had some odd kinds, like maple sugar churros and chocolate-dipped churros and, uh... hot dog churros?  A hot dog inside a churro???  But we both just wanted plain, old-fashioned cinnamon sugar.  It was sooooo good.

So after being derailed by more carbohydrates, we finally found Nekorobi.  It's not hard to find; it's right by the big, busy road past Sunshine City.  We headed up the stairs, and found that Nekorobi has a nice, see-through door, so we could already see kitties before even entering, lol.  There was a cute little gate we had to open to get to the door, and then we had to take our shoes off and head inside, onto the nice, checkered carpeting.  The lady at the front desk was nice enough to ask MelJay and I if Japanese was okay, instead of just getting all awkward with us, although it turned out they had a list of the rules in English as well as Japanese, which was a nice touch.  The place is 1000 yen for the first hour during the week, and 1200 yen for the first hour on the weekend.  After that it's just 250 yen for every extra fifteen minutes (which is mathematically logical, of course).  If paying 1200 yen for an hour with cats on a Sunday seems steep, Nekorobi also has a vending machine with tea and coffee and hot chocolate and some soda that you can use for free, and it's unlimited.  They also have free snacks, like rice crackers.  They also periodically give you free cat food to give to the kitties.  So all in all, I think the place is very reasonably priced.

But hell, nobody's reading this to listen to me prattle on an on about bullshit, right?  Y'all want pictures of cats!  Well, I'm more than happy to supply them.  Some of these were taken with my cell phone, so they're really shitty quality (sorry, I forgot my camera at my apartment like a dumbass), but some were taken by MelJay's iPhone, so those look better.  But who cares - CATS!!!

Here's a kitty sleeping on top of a pillow and under a blanket.  I think this cat's name was Sugar (literally shuugaa in katakana).  Sugar was really sweet and let me pet him without any fuss:

I don't know what this next cat's name was, all I know is that he had the most epic fur ever.  Look at that lion's mane!  This cat was also really sweet and let everyone pet him and mess with his fur without complaint.  One of the staff guys came over and scrambled up the cat's mane so that the fur stuck straight up and the cat didn't even care, lol:

I don't know this cat's name, but it was really cute.  It stayed under the blanket for a long time but still let people pet it.  This cat was really petite and cute:

This... cat... was... huge... I don't know if it was a Maine Coon or what, but this thing was enormous.  He (I assume "he" because he consistently humped this one pillow) was really sweet and liked being petted and had a very fancy tail! 

Besides being huge, he was also quite beautiful:

And ferocious!  Rawr!

A black cat with folded ears gazing down from his throne:

Eventually he came down to go play in the tube.  The cats seemed to really love goofing off in that thing:

For some reason, the giant kitty also thought he could play in the tube, lol:

 The staff couldn't use their laptop without being bombarded by cats, lol:

Here's a pretty brown cat, which MelJay was petting:

This cat wouldn't stop licking MelJay's fingers, lol:

The leaning tower of cats with a fancy tail for a banner:

It's the world's sleepiest tower:

This little cutie was probably the sweetest, friendliest cat at the cafe.  I believe his name is Doraemon, and it was his fourth birthday!  I figure they named him Doraemon cuz he's just so sweet!  Notice the open laptop?

Mere moments later, Doraemon fell asleep on the nice, warm laptop - effectively closing it - but the staff guy came over and gently moved him off of it later, lol.

I just had to get a picture of myself with sleepy Doraemon.  Sorry I look high, lol.

This little punk is Figaro.  He was definitely the cat with the most attitude at the cafe, and probably the one most often put in time out, lol.  Personally, I thought he was hilarious.  He constantly wanted attention, but didn't know in what form he wanted it, so he walked around meowing and protesting and jumping on things he shouldn't jump on, and generally driving everyone crazy.  Sometimes the staff guy picked him up carried him around just to get him to quiet down a little.

You can see the evil cogs of mischief turning in his head:

And those are the kitties!  In total, Nekorobi currently has twelve cats, and they're all very cute and sweet and well-cared for!  I definitely recommend it!  Hope you enjoyed the pictures!!!

After Nekorobi, MelJay and I found a Closet Child nearby and went inside.  Wound up finding a copy of the DIAURA DVD that had a limited release of only 500 copies.  Of course I had to buy it, since it was their first one-man, and MelJay and I were there.  Having watched the DVD, I must say our curly hair was waaaay too obvious in that audience, lol.  We managed to find another copy of the DVD at Like an Edison in Shinjuku later, so at least MelJay and I didn't have to fight over it!  After that we went off to find HOLIDAY Shinjuku to buy tickets for a show.  Because of an oshare-kei band.  Yeah.

I'm rotting inside, just a little bit...

Anyways, just gotta throw this in at the end:

Complete Winter Vacation Concert Schedule

My winter vacation concert schedule is... complete?  Let's just assume this is the complete schedule (mostly because we want to survive winter vacation, and any more than this could cause death by hair spray fumes).  I should add that, compared to the last schedule I put up, two shows have been added (I put an * in front of them).  I should also mention that if it's on this list, it means tickets have been purchased and are in my hands.  No going back on these!

12/23, indies, Harajuku Astro Hall, Awoi final one-man.

*12/24, indies, Ikebukuro Black Hole, DIAURA one-man (Christmas special).  This is a special show in which the band will mostly play acoustic songs and cover songs requested by fans.  Should be interesting.

*12/25, indies, HOLIDAY Shinjuku.  Bands of interest: AUBE, Awake (yes, this is an oshare-kei band.  The reason I'm going to see Awake will be explained later, but let's just say it's going to be an extreeeemely interesting performance).  Show also includes acts like Elm and LuLu (are they major...?).

12/29, major, SHIBUYA-AX, D tour final (squee!).

12/30, indies, Ikebukuro Black Hole (New Year's special).  Bands of interest: DIAURA, Lycaon, AUBE, Para:noir (Shou from UnsraW is their support drummer now!), DEPAIN, The Gallo, DEZERT.  For the record, there will be sixteen bands in total.  Other bands include BLOOD, FEST VAINQUEUR, LuLu, Luzmelt, MEJIBRAY, MoNoLith, SCAPEGOAT, XodiacK, Velbet, and a surprise band.

So yeah, of the eleven days I'm spending in Tokyo, five of them have shows.  And most of those shows are of the exhausting variety.  Two one-mans, a major concert, and the 12/30 show starts at noon and literally goes for the entire day.  And the 12/25 show will be exhausting simply because of the mass amount of oshare-kei bands that will probably be there, and the fact that I have to look in the mirror and face myself knowing that I'm going to a show to intentionally see an oshare-kei band.  All will become clear when I write about it later, and hopefully some of my dignity will be spared when I explain myself

But hell... this is gonna be a crazy winter break.  I suppose I wouldn't have it any other way.

Anyways, I'll try to have the Vampire Cafe post up in a day or two!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaching... in General

I'm sure there are plenty of perks to teaching in a good school.  The students are easy to deal with... the teachers are less stressed out... you don't have to worry about being mauled at any given moment...  But teaching at a school whose students' overall grade point average is 10% lower than all the other local schools (this is a true fact) has the benefit of being hilarious.

Today, one of the English teachers was very happy.  "Our students did better on the final exams than they did on the midterms!"

"That's great!" I said.  "Improvement is good.  What were their grades?"

"The class average," said the teacher.  "Was... 59%."


Not much later, the student I often refer to as Perv was herded into the staff room.

"Smell him!" shouted the teacher who escorted him.  The teachers looked understandably confused.  "Someone come here and smell him and tell me his hair isn't soaked in cologne!"

The brave male teacher sitting across from me stood up, went up to Perv, stuck his nose in his hair, took a big whiff, nodded, and sat back down.  Perv wailed in protest.  Then we all watched, giggling, as the teacher dragged Perv into the staff room kitchen, shoved his head in the sink, and started washing the stink from his hair in front of everyone.  I hadn't smelled the cologne until that moment... at which point I was punched in the face by a fist of Axe.  Perv laughed hysterically as the teacher scrubbed his hair and lectured him.  No one in the staff room could keep a straight face.  Finally, Perv emerged from the kitchen, dripping wet.  It was the first time I'd ever seen him with flat hair.  Usually it sticks straight up.

"Aaaaaw, he's so cute!" a female teacher squealed.

Perv took a deep breath and shouted, "sappari!" ("I feel refreshed!") and left the room.  Then everyone cracked up.

Not much later, the English teacher from before was handing tests back to another class of students.

"How did we do?!" one of the girls shouted as she watched the faces of her classmates getting back their final exams.

"Out of the five 2nd year classes, your class was the 4th worst."

The class burst into cheers, with students jumping up and screaming, dancing, and making animal noises.  Hey, I guess it's better than beating yourself up, right?  Some time after that, in a fit of boredom, the student I call Spike pulled his pants off.

After we were done with that class, I sighed to the English teacher and said, "that class is crazy.  They're so loud!"  His response in English was:

"Sometimes, when I'm in that class, I want to shout 'shut the fuck up!'"


And that's my life 5/7 days of the week.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Future Plans and Stuffs

Hokay, clean up post.

Actually, cleaning is all I've been doing the past couple days.  I'm, like...... the worst cleaner ever.  I essentially moved into my new apartment, dumped everything on the ground, and let the filth of my existence accumulate.  Then, this weekend, the horrible realization dawned upon me:

I've become some kind of otaku.

I freaked out and started cleaning up.  Upon ripping apart my futon and washing it, I discovered it had molded.

Panicked psychosis ensued, during which I hallucinated an alien abduction, cried in a corner, and threw myself into a river.

Obviously I'm kidding.  But there was definitely panicking.  The rest of the weekend was spent running around picking up everything, vacuuming, dusting, and mostly trying to turn my apartment into a habitable location for the first time in months.  That is, of course, still a work in progress.

But it just goes to show that some weekends are best spent not in Tokyo!

But speaking of Tokyo............ plans and stuffs.

Here's what's set in stone so far:

12/10, indies, Takadanobaba AREA.  Bands of interest: -OZ-, Lycaon (I'm mostly going to this show out of boredom, lol)

12/23, indies, Harajuku Astro Hall, Awoi final one-man.  Yup.  Should be interesting, lol.

12/29, SHIBUYA-AX, D tour final.  Horrible ticket numbers, but I'm excited!

12/30, indies, Ikebukuro Black Hole.  Bands of interest: DIAURA, Lycaon, AUBE, Para:noir (Shou from UnsraW is their support drummer now!), DEPAIN, The Gallo, DEZERT.  Yeah, this show might kill me.

1/28, indies, Ikebukuro Black Hole, The Gallo one-man.  Brace yourselves, insanity is coming. 

I must confess that during the time period of 12/23 and 1/2 (when I'm taking my winter vacation), I have even more concerts planned than just the ones listed above, but those are the only ones 100% set in stone right now.  I'll update the list later when I know more.

Also, I have no concerts planned for this weekend either!  Can you believe that?!  But I do have other plans of an interesting variety, so we shall see if they work out!  If they do, I'll have an interesting, non-concert-related post with cool pictures, so let's hope this weekend goes as planned!

And now back to cleaning :-(