Category: Japan

A Visit to a Freaky Japanese Cat Cafe

by brokenrecordbaby

Saturday daytime, while I was still comfortably oblivious to the severity of Japan’s disaster, Charlie, being the crazy cat lady she is, wanted to visit a cat cafe she had heard about. With the website mentioning free drinks, cookies, Nintendo games and a large amount of cats roaming around to play with I had a very clear picture in my head of what to expect:

I thought it would be a kitsch pink-coloured decorated cafe with frilly sofas and plush upholstery, tea in cute, flowery porcelain cups and cat-shaped cookies with pink icing. Meanwhile cats would stroll around the cafe, rub up against your legs and sit in your lap reveling the attention. And in my head the cafe was run by a very old, grey-haired cat-obsessed Japanese granny.

Quite the opposite turned out to be the case.

The “Cat Cafe” is on the top floor of a busy department store. It costs 400Yen (£3) to go in. Charlie and I tried to go in as a couple to get a reduction but the lady said no. (So, note to all lesbian couples wanting to visit the “Cat Cafe”: they are not homo-love friendly. Bring enough money. Do not expect a £1.80 discount.)

When we entered, we did not find ourselves in a cute, cupcake-icing-pink cafe but in an over decorated and over lit room with a huge “cat train” in its center. A huge statue of a cartoon cat was inside “driving the train” and the rest of the train was made up of separate compartments which one or two cats were using as a bed. A uniformed and masked Japanese girl was standing in the room making sure the cats and our behavior was all right.

In the next room we found further compartments – these were labelled as “Dishwashing”, “Kitchen” and “Warehouse”. The glass cases were colorfully painted and decorated with fake food and mini furniture. Amidst this spooky dollhouse-like fixture were a bunch of sleeping cats.

The room us humans were allowed to walk in had a faux fireplace, perches and bookshelves for the cats to climb, a huge cat head shaped TV playing cat videos and small boxes filled with dollhouse furniture on the walls. There were only five cats in this room whereas all others were imprisoned in the little themed compartments. Three cats were asleep and no sort of disturbance would wake them up, one cat (wearing a pink bandana around its neck) climbed to the top of a bookshelf to glare at us. Fair enough, we had just trespassed his living room. One cat was as adventurous as this confinement allowed him to be, climbing around the perches, and another cat was just chilling. I swear they were being fed sleeping pills. I don’t know cats – but these were groggy. Their eyes were unfocused and nothing motivated them.

The cat who was just chilling suddenly got up…I have never laughed so hard at an animal. He was handicapped. I still feel awful for laughing. His front legs were pretty much not there. They were stumps. Tiny, chopped off versions of the real thing. His hind legs were a normal length so he walked in a downward slant. He wasn’t horizontal – he was wonky. It was too much. Charlie and I were in bits. I managed to snap two pictures of Little Stumpy before he noticed he was being bullied. I swear he knew. He went back to his perch, laid down and tucked his shortcomings underneath his huge, fluffy belly. He then looked at the caretaker girl sadly. The girl went over to him right away and consoled him. It seemed like a regular drill. Oh Stumpy…

We waited for him to get up again to marvel at his ability to walk but he wasn’t having any of it. So, we left this bizarre dollhouse-cat world-confinement. It was real freaky but I’m glad I got to see it before my untimely departure.

Little Stumpy

 

Little Stumpy again

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by brokenrecordbaby

After a 40+ hour journey I have arrived in Frankfurt, Germany and was greeted by Kaija and her boyfriend who, as if they hadn’t been amazing enough, got up at 5am to pick me up and drive me home.

The flight was torture – I had no way of checking the news or finding out how Charlie was doing. We skyped minutes before I had to get to my gate. Panic was starting to break out in Tokyo but not because of the nuclear plants exploding but because of the large possibility of another big quake hitting the capital. Charlie said that supermarkets were stripped bare and the girl living above Alex, our host, was leaving Tokyo permanently asap even though she has a whole life there. Thank god I knew that Charlie had managed to get a flight home the following day so I was somewhat relieved though getting to the airport is another mission and a half and I was worried about that.

I got home and called Alex right away. Charlie, Alex and his Japanese housemate Kenya had all left Tokyo early in the morning and were at Narita airport. Kenya was already en route to Bangkok, Alex was about to check in for a Tapeii bound flight and Charlie was checking in for Brisbane. The airport is completely mental with people scrambling to get a flight anywhere, just away from the quakes and radiations.

Leaving Tokyo seemed quite drastic to me when my friends/family were urging me to get the fuck out of there but now I couldn’t be more grateful for what they did. They got my ass out of there before the Japanese finally realized that shit was hitting the fan.

I still feel like I am in Tokyo – my body continues to sway back and forth as if I was on a rocking boat due to all the continuous quakes we were experiencing. But I ain’t complaining – I’m safe’n’sound at home reading The Guardian’s live news blog diligently unable to believe that I was part of the turmoil just 2 days ago.

I know not everyone else will be, or wants to, get out of there but I hope they do. Wishful thinking, I know.

First Impressions in Tokyo

by brokenrecordbaby

First chance really to blog as our CouchSurfing host didn’t have wireless.

Soooo, we arrived Monday morning to snow (and snowball flavoured Fanta which I still haven’t tried) we got the Limousine (the name of a very standard bus) to a super posh hotel close to where we had to meet our host. We were so out of it not having slept since Friday night and Friday night hardly counted as we stumbled drunkenly into bed at about 8am and got up at 12. We had 5 hours to kill so we ordered some drinks and food from the hotel restaurant and fell asleep at the restaurant until it was time to meet our host Kenta – a super sweet Japanese banker.

We had Italian dinner – a very random choice for our first Japanese meal but Kenta suggested it and it was cheap – and Japanese Italian food is nowhere the same as European Italian food. For e.g. there was spaghetti with pink fish egg sauce and lasagna made with rice instead of pasta sheets. We got to his place and all bunked up in the same room. Charlie and I annoyingly slept ’til 6pm the next day but we did have 3 nights to catch up on. So, what else to do but go out when you wake up at such hour?

We got directions to Roppongi (famous for its night life) off some American dude who just happened to stroll right into our arms. We headed for the first Irish Pub we saw and met two Australian (of course) brothers Todd and Gerard. Todd had lived in London (of course) and helped build the Tate Modern or something and his last name is Tate. Oh wow. They were two very hilarious guys so we let them hang out with us. We went to Geromino’s Shot bar and had a….shot. Oh, and Roppongi is full of African men handing out flyers. I didn’t know that Tokyo had such a big African community. Anywhoooo then we went to Motown. And yes, it was as bad as it sounds but you know how sometimes the worse a place, the better a place? That’s what the night was all about.

 

 

 

Gerard, Charlie, Todd and Flyer-Hand-Out-Dude

 

 

Tokyo has gingers and kebabs. If it weren’t for those Jap. symbols in the back the pic might as well have been taken in Shoreditch. (except Gerard would have to be wearing a Barbour jacket)

 

 

These 2 Jap. business men were brothers and were dancing like no other. They were the life of Motown. My favourites of the night. (Notice the slice of lemon – not lime –  in my gin and tonic. A subtle cultural difference I yet have to get used to)

 

 

The dude kept making an “O” shape with his mouth. I think he was imitating a fish or something. In rhythm to the music of course.

 

 

Now looking back I am not sure who this fella is but according to photographic evidence we were dancing it up together quite profusely.

 

 

This is Sai – an antiques dealer. He was very persistent and I think he mouth raped me at some point. Don’t worry – I got away unharmed.

We then went to another bar where I met this really cute Japanese girl and told her she was cute. Then she told me I was cute and I was like “Nooooo, you are cute!” and she went “Nooooo, you are!” And then she got her friend who was also very cute and I told her that and then her friend told me I was cute. Getting friendly vibes off the ladies. Then Charlie and I walked home and got lost. It took us 3 hours to finally find Kenta’s crib. Tokyo has no street names so not even Japanese people could tell us the way. Now we are very careful to memorize landmarks as to not let such an unfortunate kafuffle happen again.

Embracing the Thai Attitude

by brokenrecordbaby

I’m not really planning my trip much at all. I’ve got a couch for 2-3 nights when I arrive in Tokyo but after that who knows? It’s a combination of being super busy with my London life, a tad bit lazy but more than that it is the carefree attitude I’ve got towards my trip and I really hope it won’t bite me in the butt. I’ll get there and it’ll all work out I’m sure. I read about about this Thai saying “Mai Pen Rye” which pretty much translates into “no worries” “it’s all good”. (Kinda hakuna matata style just in real life with no talking lions) Apparently it’s the attitude they have over there so by not planning and stressing I’m already embracing the culture of one of the places I will be visiting. Awesome.

Floating Market (National Geographic)

Excerpt from Article "Have Modern Travelers Lost Their Way"

by brokenrecordbaby

Whenever I am in doubt if leaving London is a good idea or not…

 

“Though home is honored as an anchor of identity, there are also disturbing ways in which it can fix us unhelpfully to a version of ourselves we no longer wish to side with. The familiar curtains and pictures subtly insist that we shouldn’t change because they don’t, our well-known rooms can anaesthetise us from a more urgent, necessary relationship with particular questions. It may not be until we have moved across an ocean, until we are in a hotel room with peculiar new furniture and a view onto a motorway and a supermarket full of products we don’t recognize that we start to have the strength to probe at certain assumptions.”

From Alain de Botton’s article in The Wall Street Journal.

Couch Surf Success

by brokenrecordbaby

Finally, after sending out shit loads of CouchSurf requests I heard back from a dude. His name is Kenta, in his late 20s, works at a financial company. Charlie and I will be sharing a room with him and he lives right smack in Tokyo close to a bunch of subway stations whose names mean nothing to me but sound good. Takanawa. Azabu Juban. Hiroo. Oh wow is all I’m saying!

We probs can’t stay their the whole ten days we are in Tokyo so we will have to find another Couch. But it’s good to know we will have a place to crash once we land.

Japanese Drain Art

by brokenrecordbaby

As if I won’t be overwhelmed already with the hundreds of bright, loud and new impressions that will be flung towards my every receptor I now also have to keep my eyes peeled to the ground – Remo Camerota turns drains into art. I want to find some of these bad boys while I’m out there.

Travel Assignment on my Hometown Wiesbaden, Germany

by brokenrecordbaby

I lead the way out pushing aside a thick, stiff curtain of plastic sheets that were once transparent. They are the doorway to a grimy, old slaughterhouse that has been converted to a club called Schlachthof.

Once outside my friends sit down to get a steady surface for their cigarette and joint rolling activities. I am way too hyper to sit down. I look up at the simplistic “Schlachthof” sign that is mounted on the club’s graffiti covered wall. Its yellow light seems faded.

I sigh contently, sip my stale, bitter lager, turn and lay my eyes at another disintegrating building. A brick tower that is so impressive it looks like it was once part of a church but it’s just an old water tower. Soon it will be another party destination for the left-winged, black-clad, weed smoking and baggy pants wearing kaleidoscope of a clientèle that has been coming to the Schlachthof for years.

I hear squeaky wheels. Clanking. Glass bottles hitting glass bottles. Sounds of familiarity. I turn around and sure enough…

“Hans!”. The bald, cute old man looks up from his job of collecting bottles and cans. His concentrated mouth turns into a grin as he spots me running and jumping towards him spilling my beer as I try to dodge drunkards. I give him a big hug, let go and beam at him.

“You’re back!”, he says in German. “How’s London?”

“Yeah, yeah it’s good but how are you?”

“I’m okay. I just really want to be in bed next to my wife right now. You know how we met?”

“No, tell me!” I reply untruthfully. Hans has told me this story before.

“I was waiting on a date. I waited and waited but she spent so much time getting ready to look good that I got impatient. So, I took out her friend instead. We fell in love, got married and are still happily together today.”

I help Hans collect some cans in exchange for more stories. He notices that my plastic cup is empty.

“Here you go”, Hans hands me an unopened bottle of Becks he found, “Now go back to your friends!”

I take the bottle, give him a kiss on the cheek, head to the first group of people I spot to get my bottle opened and strut into the plastic sheets so determinedly that I avoid getting stuck in their cold and sticky grasp. I have passed this doorway for seven years. Schlachthof is the first club that let me in when I was fifteen but looked twelve. It’s where I had the best time leading to the worst hangover. It doesn’t seem like I come here only once or twice a year. The place doesn’t change and if it does change I change with it.

A yelping sound similar to that a dog makes when you step on its tail comes out of my mouth as I spot Dean, the American bartender, by the cigarette machine. I barge past a boy wearing zebra-patterned pants and embrace him.

“Dude, what’s up?!” he exclaims mid hug. “Come on, let’s go.” I follow him into the back room where I know a joint and a big catch up awaits me.

Leaving London in 8 Weeks…

by brokenrecordbaby

Another Travel Article Up

by brokenrecordbaby

On Monday The Expeditioner uploaded an article of mine: “7 Ways to Re-live Andy Warhol’s New York

This is my second travel article online. At the beginning of the month Matador Nights published my article on Hamburg’s night life. Check that out here.

So hopefully this is the beginning of more things to come.