im - 8/03/2006 07:40:00 PM
Thursday, August 3rd, 2006
Snackey's Spanklicious Summer Vacation In Japan
So my family and I decided to take a trip to Japan this summer. My wife is Japanese so it's kind of a requirement to get back here about once per year to visit the in-laws and chill. Well, maybe not chill, exactly. The summer here is hot, to say the least, and muggy. But it is also the best time of the year to be here, as there are lots of festivals, fireworks shows, and other cool stuff to do. So, I'm here for three weeks while the rest of the Surlies suffer back at the Mpls HQ.
One thing I have to have while I'm here is a bike. I just leave a bike over here so I don't have to carry it back and forth every time I come. The rig I am on right now is a Karate Monkey built up with a 9x1 drivetrain, Nitto noodle bars, flat pedals and 32mm Slickasaurus tires. It's a pretty sweet ride for here because although I can ride a singlespeed most of the time there are some hilly areas here that wear me out in the 95 degree heat, so I went with a geared set-up.
Riding is fun here, cuz you have to constantly be aware of your surroundings or you'll get clocked by a bus or taxi cab. With that said, drivers are relatively polite, so you don't feel like every time you get on your bike is the beginning of a death ride. Assimilation is the key to riding in the busy city here (I'm in Chiba City which is much smaller than Tokyo but still very busy with traffic). If you can't find the flow of traffic it is not going to work out well for you. I find the flow most of the time but since I've been here I've already had two close calls. I don't wear a helmet when I ride in Japan. The irony of this hasn't escaped me but I just never wear one while I'm here. I could make excuses for it but I won't.
On August 13th there is an alley cat race in Kyoto that I am planning to attend. Surly is partially sponsoring it and besides that it is hard to stay away from Kyoto when something like this is going on. Problem with it being held on this date is that it happens just at the start of the Obon holiday, which is the busiest travel season of the summer. I'll be lucky to get a seat on the train, but even if I have to stand up all the way I won't care. Kyoto has this kind of effect on me. It's my favorite city in Japan and maybe the entire world. Any opportunity to go there and I'm all over it.
By the way, did you know that you can drink on the trains here? You can drink almost anywhere, as a matter of fact. The Japanese might be overly organized and borderline anal in many ways but they are very liberal when it comes to these kinds of things. It's one of the coolest things about this place.
This Saturday we will attend a fireworks festival that features 8,000+ tubes and lasts around 90 minutes. They say each firework tube costs more than $100 so if you do the math you will find that it's pretty expensive to put this kind of event on. Corporate sponsors pay for it, but I still find it pretty amazing that they can make these things work economically. Well, it's summer, and the people of Japan have enough things to cause them stress in their daily lives. Events like this are payback for all their time spent conforming to the rigors of a homogenous culture. I think this is why there are no strict laws about drinking here. You might have heard that there are beer and liquor vending machines on the streets in Japan?
Speaking of beer, I went to see a baseball game last night at Tokyo Dome, which is very similar to the Minneapolis Metrodome (unfortunately). I can't remember who won but the lemon sours (Japanese shouchu alcohol mixed with soda and fresh lemon) I had sure hit the spot. After about six of these drinks you feel pretty festive, believe me. The hangover is even better than the buzz. Not kidding... Oh, and here's the best part. Before we went in the game we stopped at the local 7-Eleven to buy some food and drinks. My friends loaded the basket with 8 tall cans (750ml) of beer, three sandwiches, some chips, a bunch of dried squid and other things you eat here when your drinking, and some other odds and ends for the kids. I ask them if it's cool to bring beer and food into the Dome and they say sure. When we get to the Dome and go inside there is a table to the right where we bring our bags and the beer is taken out. I'm thinking, "Great, we have to dump our beer afterall," but instead of dumping it out, they dump it onto tall paper cups and put lids on them. Then they put the eight cups into one of those multi-cup carriers and send us on our way! My father-inlaw even had a glass bottle of Japanese sake that they did the same with. Meanwhile, inside the Dome they sell beer in the same size cups for 800 yen (about $7.00). I don't have any idea why they allow beer and food from outside but who's complaining?
Signing off now. I'll try to blog some more while I'm here to let you know how the alley cat went.