Tag Archives: Torikizoku

Quarter of a Century

As Monday was one of Ryan’s few days off, I had decided to tag along and join his merry group of friends in Kobe instead of spending one more repetitive day in Osaka. After meeting Ryan at the Sannomiya station around noon, several NPCs joined our party. In order of appearance:

Nick – Kiwi English teacher

Kaya – Japanese travel agent

Atsushi – Japanese post office worker

Keiko – Japanese nurse

Later on, Ryan’s fiancée Sayumi also teamed up with us us for what ended up being a day worth remembering. In the early afternoon Atsushi and Keiko took us to the café of hotel Piena, which was renowned for its homemade jam, a specialty used in outrageously innovative ways: adding jam in coffee to create… *drumroll* jam coffee. The place was viciously overpriced, with jam coffee costing ¥680 and the pastries hovering around ¥500. Coffee and apricot jam did not mix particularly well, either. However, the cozy café proved to be a very efficient chatting venue for the couple of hours we spent there.

No jam!

Meeting Japanese people without Basti also resulted in a cleansing and confidence-building experience. Suddenly, I was no longer the retard that could not speak Japanese properly but instead became a respected part of the community. In fact, the Japanese might have gotten slightly too excited at my projected level of Japanese considering 75% of it is bluff and the rest is made of anime quotes. Atsushi in particular provided me with a couple of generous references I’m eager to include in my future résumés:

-Your humor… very high level.

-I respect

-Smart cool guy.

I was also suggested a career as a manzai comedian.


Although Atsushi doesn’t drink and Ryan had warned me that he will most likely not be joining us later for the izakaya, we eventually managed to persuade him anyway. The local Torikizoku had been located earlier just in case the situation later needed it, which it did. Thus, the evening soon carried on with the standard prescription of tanrei, edamame, cabbage, chicken heart, nankotsu, kara-age, pickled eggplant, toriheiyaki, torikamameshi, chikin nanban and camembert korokke. I am not going to explain any of those terms, except cabbage. It’s cabbage.

Atsushi and I talked lengthily about topics like Finnish summer, midnight sun, auroras, Fukushima, Japanese politics as well as English and Japanese studies. The discussion was executed with a peculiar combination of English and Japanese, with each of us speaking the language we were able to least communicate with. 勉強になるな.

We left Toriki around 8, earlier than ever before. On the way to the station we passed through a narrow street with an uncanny resemblance to Sector 7 slums. I failed to take any pictures worth publishing, though. With the exception of Sayumi, the Japanese coalition headed home at this point while the rest of us resumed drinking at Ryan’s place, emptying bottles of shochu that his radiophobic ex-colleague had left behind before escaping the country a week prior. Eventually, we accompanied Nick and Sayumi to the station so they could catch the last train back to Osaka before attempting to watch an episode of Dennou Coil and passing out on the floor.


8-bit Trip

I can no longer deny that my lengthened tenure in Osaka is becoming slightly boring. I have a very limited amount of acquaintances in the area, no money to spend on extravangances and a constant doubt concerning my future in the country. Nevertheless, today was a day well spent reminiscing and visiting places of old.

Maantie on kiva kävellä

The day began as usual, going to the front desk before check out time to inquire about the possibility of keeping the same room for one additional day. I wonder if they are getting tired of my living strategy. They first moved me from the second and fifth floor to the eighth, and the amount of money I have to pay daily seems completely arbitrary. The first two days were ¥2300 each, the third and fourth were ¥2200, the fifth was ¥2400 because it was “high season” and the sixth was ¥2250. I am eager to find out what it will cost tomorrow. I eventually managed to keep the same room, grabbed a free coffee and went back to the eighth to plan my Hirakata itinerary properly. With no bike available and a couple of legendary spots deserving a visit, the trip would end up totaling about 10kms on foot.

Just getting to Kyobashi and jumping on the Keihan line after two years sent a tingling feeling to my nostalgia sensors. In Hirakata, seemingly nothing had changed. Toriki and Ring were at their respective spots, and so was the Gaidai itself. In retrospect, trying to visit the university on a Sunday may have been a bad idea. What made it worse is that the goddamn graduation ceremony and huge event with free food had been the day before but I hadn’t done my research beforehand and instead had to leave the premises baffled by my own stupidity.

What do your elf-eyes see?

White Horse

The first location having ended as a major failure, I needed something to lift my spirits. In addition, I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and it was past noon. If any members of the honorable Stamina Ramen Alliance are reading this, they should know where I was heading by now. It had to be the longest walk I’ve ever done for a bowl of noodles but there was no way I was passing on the opportunity. Due to the uniqueness of the event and the fact that I was starved by the point I arrived, I had to go all in. Watch and weep.

Unfortunately I couldn't bring myself to order both the Shiawase and the Stamina

Main course with extra toppings

Saido menyuu

Proof of Deed


The moseying from Hakuba Douji Ramen to the Kansai Gaidai International Seminar Houses was, although inevitable, also a very needed half-hour to descend back to earth. I was relatively confident that the Seminar Houses would be “open” even on a Sunday, and if the Otoo-san or Okaa-san at number 3 remembered be, I would have a slight (1% at most) chance to actually get in. I stopped on the way at Sanko supermarket because it was within the scope of the day’s mission and also to get a drink after finishing a notorious bowl of spices, salt and fat. Surprisingly, all previously mentioned variables were in my favor. SH 3 was open, Otoo-san was at the counter, remembered my face and agreed to let me see our good old lounge again. As per the Sacred Seminar House Rules of Inconvenience the whole first floor, the place with the best access, had been emptied of tenants. We also briefly discussed the exodus of foreign students caused by the general media panic as well as the ambient barometric pressure.

Penitentiary entrance

I later bumped into Prof. Tracy in the park but he was busy chatting about shaving cream on the phone and rushing to the bus so I eventually gave up talking to him and resumed my walk back towards the station. Few things are more depressing than walking past all the entertainment venues you frequented for a whole year and having nobody left to enjoy them with; karaoke is of limited fun alone no matter how many times you play Moskau.


What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

During a momentary lapse of judgment and after hearing enough requests and compliments that stroked my ego, I promised a few people to get back to blogging when I reach Japan. Considering I have work to do, hideously long and unproductive commutes as well as a fucking master’s thesis to finish, this promise is now considered a bad move. By me, mainly. And by my parents once they see the first  superfluous use of the word “fuck” in the first paragraph after them repeatedly telling me to stop the cussing because “someone might see this”. However, I like writing (and swearing), and keeping a travelogue will allow me to later reminisce what I’ve done in my youth when I’m a sad old man sitting in a rocking chair on a veranda somewhere.

I apologize for being late with starting the blog but it’s been a pretty hectic first week here and I haven’t really had time to sit down and think about what has happened. Workdays including commute time take me about 10 to 11 hours after which I’m stuck in a cold room with broken internet from too many connections and I can’t be arsed to do anything else but sleep. I also haven’t had time to sleep off the jetlag so the bags under my eyes are making me look like some weird anthropomorphic tanuki gaijin. Besides that, though, everything is fine and dandy. I’ve learned how everything critical works around here and all I need now is a bike with too specific characteristics: a) doesn’t cost a fortune and b) doesn’t lead to my demise (looking at you specifically, brakes). From here on out all that’s left are standard salaryman workdays. Also, the amount of photos in the blog may remain negligible because I managed to break my camera about a year ago in Germany during an evening of drunken stupor.

But let’s begin at the beginning. After the final days in Finland spent in bullet time I finally got on the plane and enjoyed a night flight to Tokyo. A couple of movies, Final Fantasy III and Golden Boy helped me through ten boring hours because sleeping just didn’t work out. So off to a nice start there, no sleep whatsoever and plenty of stuff to do the following day. Once at Narita, in order to start with a proper win, I bought the wrong train ticket and had to pay an extra 2000 yen for the ride downtown. After a few quick calls that were interrupted by tunnels, an ingenious plan was devised that I first go to the Finpro office and then check with Sakurahouse whether or not I can move in to my supposedly pre-reserved semi-apartment directly or if I need to find a hostel for the first night. As it turns out, there are very few things I enjoy less than riding on a crowded Yamanote line dead-tired and carrying luggage.

After some struggling, I finally got off at the Hiroo station. I was supposed to walk to the office but after having emerged from the chikatetsu I was standing at the first red lights (not the district thereof) when some interviewer approached me with a huge tv-camera, asking if I can speak Japanese and if I have time for an interview. I had to decline because I really wanted to just get to my apartment and get some sleep but man did it feel good to be charisma man again. And then people wonder why I keep coming back here. Soon after deftly dodging the interview my sense of direction kicked in and I spent the next half hour walking around wrong places trying to find my way to the office. I did finally find it though, met with some of the people and left my stuff there before going to eat and explore. Man, eat & explore should be a game. I would own at that game. At around 6 pm I was able to go pick up the keys for my apartment in Shinjuku. I picked up the keys from Shinjuku, the apartment being located somewhere slightly more affordable and far less convenient. And when I say pick up, I mean I had to sign half a dozen documents over and over with several signatures each until I had a seizure. In order to rent a house I needed to agree basically not to do anything in there. I also agreed to being fully responsible and liable for everything that happens in my room, in the house, in Nerima ward, in Tokyo, and in Japan during, after and before my stay. I think there was a fine print in the agreement that if the city was razed by Gamera or Godzilla I would reimburse 50% of the damage to public buildings. Boring story, I eventually agreed to whatever, emptied my wallet and got access to the most expensive key of my life thus far.

<interlude: 1-hour train ride from Shinjuku to Nakamurabashi>

Finding a Sakura house building, even with a map, in the dark, in an area you’ve never been to before, is a depressing experience. Comparable to Hirakata in 2008, the neighbourhood was so quiet I was worried about waking people up with the sheer sound my suitcase rolling on the ground. Eventually I did find the right building and my first day tribulations were finally coming to an end.

The apartment itself has its advantages and disadvantages. The natural characteristic of Japanese buildings is unfortunately far too apparent, meaning that it’s fucking freezing throughout. My room is nice, clean, with a nice kitchen and all the appliances I need, except a rice cooker, the only thing I would really need. The toilet is outside the room, and also shit. The shower is downstairs and very nice if you happen to enjoy temperatures around zero right after the water stops. The cold I caught before Tuesday morning will testify for me not exaggerating that part.

Sakurahouse Nakamurabashi A

The first night of sleep was good, though. I eventually fell asleep while watching a movie and ended up sleeping next to my laptop. Sakurahouse might charge extra for additional entities in my bed so I probably won’t tell them. The following morning was training and evaluation time. I needed to find my way to work quickly enough so I could start comparing different train connections and travel methods. Train rides are always mind-numbingly boring, but luckily I’ve come up with a great game to play during commutes. I call it 電車の王, which roughly translates to king of the train. The rules are simple: The tallest person in the car is the king and wins the game. So far I’ve won every game. I keep all the trophies in my head. Meanwhile in the real world, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were all spent at work. Due to the fact that blogging about work has recently become a dangerous phenomenon for employees and I have no job security whatsoever, I won’t mention anything work-related in this blog again. It shouldn’t be relevant anyway.

Wednesday evening my arch nemesis Joona finally made it to Tokyo so we had our official Akihabara memorial day, avoiding underage girls’ maid café offers and checking out stores for cheap Apple products (Joona) and 3rd to 5th generation game consoles (me). Thursday evening was the first visit to Torikizoku in one and a half years so I had to prove myself I can eat some of the dullest traditional dishes available in Japan, ochazuke. Once that feat of strength was completed we enjoyed some umeshu drinks and cheap happoshu until it was time to take trains back to our respective dwellings. Oh yeah, nobody besides me can sleep at my place without paying Sakurahouse an additional 2000 yen, and if they catch me breaking that rule “the lessee faces immediate eviction“. Due to a high risk / no profit situation, I returned to Nerima alone while Joona took the Tsukuba line to Asakusa back to his hostel.

Everything in Toriki is 280 yen, starting with the 0,75l mug of happoshu

tl;dr – I’m in Japan now.