Thursday, July 29, 2010

Under my para para para

It's happening, I am slowly becoming the wayward gaijinette who is falling prey to the native customs. I'm long past using the Sound Princess and carrying my purse in the crook of my arm and this past week I took it to a whole other level: the parasol, or sun umbrella, if you will. Summer after summer I thought that I could avoid the parasol, thinking of it as one of those things I could get away with in Japan but nowhere else (except other Asian countries that place a premium on milky whiteness), but I have succumbed gentle readers. I found myself rustling through the sale racks at oioi (or "Marui" if you must), with determination to walk out of there with either a fabulous wide-brimmed hat a la Hollywood starlets in bygone eras or a parasol.

I will admit to being a bit of a vampire this summer - rarely venturing outdoors on weekdays until twilight - but when I am outside I'd like to avoid sunburn and with my tall nose and all, sometimes sunscreen just doesn't cut it. There's also the grease factor and I'd rather not use sunscreen when I am only going to be exposed for less than 30 minutes. Perhaps you have seen some of the summer fashions of the sun-conscious faction around town these past few weeks. I wouldn't exactly call them fetching with the black arm "warmers" and what I can only call "Asian lady visors." I first encountered the ALV in Vancouver, where the older Chinese ladies like to rock out in the summer wearing these over sized visors that you can pick up at the suburban Asian malls.

Determined not to fall victim to this, uh, trend, I thought a tasteful hat or parasol would shade me from the harsh rays. During my foraging attempt at oioi, I nixed the hat idea after seeing some "young" versions of the ALV. Turning to the assortment of parasols, I discovered that a) they are fucking expensive and b) there is no such thing as a stylish parasol. The last time I owned a parasol I was a little girl: it was candy red and ruffled with a white plastic handle and for some reason I want to say that my uncle picked it up at the horse track. I was the shiznit at five with my ruffled red parasol and pink feather boa. At 26 I still wouldn't mind being the shiz but with a little more grown-up added to the mix. I'm as drawn to sparkle as the next girl and still rock gold bamboo hoops at times, but I was hoping for a modern and stylish parasol that screamed neither "little girl" nor "old Asian lady."

The sale area was a bit overwhelming and I almost talked myself into buying a white ruffly parasol with a purple print that would be more suited to a lolita cosplayer walking around Harajuku than a Kaisha geisha. Everything was either lacy, adorned with rhinestones or printed with ugly flowers. WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE CUTE? And fugly cute that that. I tried to reason that the turquoise parasol with cut-out bow trim fit my bill but in the end settled for an off-white model with only one rhinestone on the whole thing. Stingy of me, I know. Thanks to the sale and some gift certificates, I barely paid anything but the parasol was originally 10,000 yen. $100 for a lousy piece of moving shade!!! Imagine how thrilled I was to discover it raining this morning.

Sting me white

Comments have been responded to! It may take me a while but I do appreciate them. Now on to regular programming...

I have to be extremely careful when I'm at the drugstore because while some of the products bear seemingly familiar names and logos, one of Japan's charming little idiosyncrasies is the propensity to add a little oompf to regular products by either mentholating them or adding a whitening agent. I may joke about being the resident whitie at the Kaisha, but frankly, I don't want to get much whiter than this.

A girlfriend of Indian (dot not feather) descent once used a skin cream from Japan that had an almost bleaching effect on her skin. She relayed the story of how her and some school friends shared the product around and she ended up with strange, patchy markings on her neck. Not only the Japanese brands, but some well-known European cosmetics companies also offer "white" product lines for the Japanese market. I can't begin to understand the chemistry of it, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that whitening your skin is not damaging.

While there may be no cosmetic damage, mentholated products also intrigue me. When I was a student here with a minor rash, I soon discovered that the ointment I had bought for it contained menthol, not an ingredient high on my list when I am applying it to skin delicate and raw from being scratched. Luckily the drugstores here do carry "normal" versions of the product you seek, but for those masochists out there, there is always the methol version. I wouldn't call the beau a masochist by any means (he would definitely answer "s" when posed with the common-in-Japan question of "s or m"?), but he has become attached to a mentholated body wash that apparently leaves you feeling fresh and rejuvenated. I tried it once and the pain I felt in certain areas I can only liken to that felt when bathing in the dead sea as a teenager. It really gives a new meaning to the phrase "fire in the hole."

Once while "holidaying" up North at the beau's family home, I had to buy some contact solution at the local 7-Eleven having forgotten mine in Tokyo. The following morning when I went to put my contacts in my eyes, sur-fucking-prise! mentholated contact solution! If that doesn't wake you up while simultaneously giving you a stoned, blood-shot look, I don't know what will.

For the menthol-inclined smoker, Japan is a veritable paradise. Not only does Marlboro sell "Black Menthol" brand cigarettes (best described as the king of all menthol cigarettes), but Kool has a line of cigarettes where you have to physically pop a menthol capsule embedded in the filter with your fingers for the menthol goodness to seep out. High tech, I know.

This is my version of a gaijin public service announcement: please take care so that you don't end up bleached or stung by some unexpected menthol dear readers - it's a bit like navigating a jungle out there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Children of the corn

Katakana throws me through a loop sometimes and encourages bad habits. When I can't think of a word in Japanese, I often throw a Japanese accent on it and hope for the best. The best being the other person understands what the hell I am babbling (or babbring?) about. I suppose this could be compared to visiting France with limited French knowledge and Frenchifying English words in the hopes it translates. That's not all though, I am terrible about pronouncing katakana words properly, which is easy for me to do when the Japanese word is close to the English original but with some unexpected vowels. I used to say shocoreto for chocolate, instead of chocoreto, throwing a continental spin on the first "ch" sound. I realized my mistake when ordering chocolate ice cream at Baskin Robbins and the woman behind the counter corrected me.

My Japanification of words does not always work, as I found when I tried to say masturbation with a Japanesque accent. The details of precisely why I was saying masturbation in Japanese are not important, but I did find out that the word is actually onani. This has its roots in some other language but I unfortunately cannot find the link I was looking for so you'll have to take my word for it. Incidentally, the word for fart is not faato, but onara. With so many titillating words crowding my head, it is easy to mix them up. Luckily however, asking "did you just masturbate?" when you wanted to say "did you just fart?" is not such a horrible mix-up, for you could probably safely ask the latter of someone you feel comfortable enough with to enquire after their gas. It's definitely not as bad as saying that you want to smoke some pole when you had intended to tell your boss that you wanted to eat chanko stew.

This past date night with the beau, we went to Corn-Barley in Shibuya, a dining bar with a wooden interior that has a fairly impressive and cheap selection of bourbon. The name of this restaurant sounds (and looks) like corn valley in Japanese, and no matter how many times I am reminded that the name is actually Corn-Barley, it is forever imprinted in my mind as Corn Valley, so that each time we go there, I am surprised to learn that we are not visiting Corn Valley but Corn-Barley. This could also be an indication that my mind is turning into a sieve. I will leave you with a piece of advice: don't use "dining bar" to describe a dark moody restaurant that probably has a bar in addition to tables where you can partake in wine and food, to someone who doesn't live in Japan. It may be a handy term here to describe the plethora of trendy holes being dug all around Tokyo, but it's not actually English, contrary to what your mind might be telling you.

*I realize my feed has not been working, probably because I fucked with it. I think I may have fixed it, but if not, kindly let me know.

Sound Princess Headache

It could be said that I am becoming obsessed with this seemingly innocuous button that spews forth the sound of rushing water to cover any embarrassing sounds during my toilette. But you would be too if you had to concentrate with every fibre of your being to ensure that you got all your business done during the Sound Princess's run time. For reals, I have to either pee really quickly before the sound stops or press it a second time to extend my window of safe pee time. There is added stress when things are taking a little longer and there are other occupied stalls - I have to constantly reassess whether to press the button again or whether I can get it all done before the sound runs out. I don't want to be one of those girls who keeps renewing the SP, because that would give it all away wouldn't it. I know how I look at other ladies when they come out of a stall after extending their safe time more than twice or having just had a one-on-one coochie spa session with the bidet feature. Some women feel so paranoid I can actually hear them increasing the SP volume once it gets going. Yes, gentlemen, you can turn the volume up. You can also yank frantically on the toilet paper roll to add to the symphony being conducted in your stall. The latter technique is most often applied when I first step foot on the tiled bathroom floor, alerting some other toilet-goer to the fact that she is no longer alone. It's almost guaranteed that the moment my heel hits tile some previously solo toiletter is pulling on her toilet paper roll for dear life.

Today I have an SP headache. It could just be left over from an intense session at Dan last night (ladies in Tokyo, try this!) but some days I can't handle the cacophony of faux rushing water. It's not just the sound either, but the creeping exhaustion that comes after constantly worrying about whether my toilette sounds are being fully covered. On days like this I turn down the volume on my SP or I forgo it altogether, piggybacking some other woman's SP, which is all fine and dandy until it runs out and I am caught out mid-pee. It's like hanging off the edge of a fucking cliff. Thank god we all wear heels because if the warning tap tap tap of our soles didn't signal the need to employ the SP, we would have a serious problem on our hands.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Skeletons in my locker

When I recently decided to splurge for a long-term locker rental at my gym, I had to sign a contract one of the clauses of which had a long list of things I was not permitted to store in the locker. Scanning down the list, "dead bodies" kind of jumped out at me. Is this common or special to Japan, where people seem to like cutting up their victims and stashing them all over the place like a sick treasure hunt?! Freakay. I personally don't know how us ladies could possibly fit even a severed hand after the mountain of beauty products and electrical appliances.

In more selfish news (?!), the beau and I are taking a little jaunt down to Kansai next month to pop our Osaka cherries. If any of you gentle readers are feeling charitable (especially after I used the words "recos"), I am looking for recos for food and drink, which is basically all I plan to do down there, save for a quick look at Osaka castle. Sleeping recos would be appreciated too, particularly cheap places or love hotels with freak-a-leek themes! Comment below or hit me up by email to the right. If I was the kind of blogger to sign off with "xoxo" I would do so here but I'm not so, uh, thanks in advance?!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July Manner Poster

The post title speaks to how I feel about the recent posters: uninspired.
I would be remiss in failing to acknowledge the new character introduced this month. Can I call him Muscle Daddy? Is that cool? He reminds me a little bit of the new tobacco hunk in town who has been popping up on some blogs recently. Perhaps this is a new advertising trend in urban Tokyo.

As for Creepy, he reminds me a little of the jerks who try to read the fucking newspaper in the early morning train crush, expecting those around them to allow for extra elbow room and frontal berth. I, girl who is getting crotch-pressed the fuck out of on all sides, do not need to tell you how I feel about this practice. What can I say gentle readers? It's July and I am hot and bothered!