Friday, November 5, 2010

Halloween and Windy Vintage Party

That's right! Two posts in two days! Don't poop your pants!

Two weekends ago, I went with some friends from my seminar house to a 50's/Rockabilly themed party in Shinsaibashi (downtown Osaka). One of my friends, Sarah, (who has a freakin' sweet Youtube channel with a ton of Japan videos!), is really into vintage fashion, and styled us all for the event. We looked foxy as hell! (By the way, a bunch of these pictures were yoinked from other people's facebook albums--hope that's alright! I DID take pictures this night, but on my Polaroid Instax, so I can't share them here.)

From left to right, that's Karolina, Sarah, me, Nancy, and Marie-Lor. We're hot!

I will say, the Japanese know how to throw down with the subcultures. Everyone is so serious about portraying what they're into, and this was no exception. At the party you could dress in both vintage Japanese and Western style, and so there were a lot of people in vintage kimono, as well as attire that was more familiar to me. It was held at a small cafe ("The Garden", if memory serves) and it was perfect--clearly a vintage-inspired place itself, with low lighting and squishy chairs to take a break from the dance floor in. Besides us there were only a few other gaijin there, so we got a good amount of attention. But the real stars of the show that night I think were the characters we met. First of all, there was an okama, or drag queen, present. She was fabulous and very elegant!

Then there was Little Bird. There really isn't much to say about Little Bird other than he is a little old man dressed in a schoolboy outfit with a bird pin and a bird ring, and he's always singing/talking to himself and dancing around gaily. I choose to believe he goes about his daily life in this manner as well.

And there was this guy, Mr. Miyawaki. According to his facebook page, he enjoys Japanese army reenactment. He was very serious the whole time, even for photographs. Later in the evening he changed into a sort of maitre 'd or bellhop outfit.

The music was fabulous, a mix of American and Japanese 50's swing music. At one point, the okama (who's name was Miss Olive, I later discovered) got up and danced and lip-synced to some songs for us. It was amazing! I didn't know the words, but it seemed like most everyone else did, so it was a really fun environment and a great group of people. We had such a blast!

And of course, last weekend was Halloween! Because midterms were that week and it just seemed like everything had been incredibly busy, I sort of threw together a last-minute Marylin Monroe costume on Thursday night (but luckily was able to find a perfect white dress at a vintage store, so it actually turned out pretty good!) I didn't end up going out on Friday night, because I had to get up early the next morning for a field trip to see Takarazuka Review (which deserves it's own post, so I won't go into detail quite yet.) On Saturday night, I went to a rave in Shinsaibashi with some of the same people from the vintage party. It was insanity! The event was actually called the "Yabai Halloween Party" and was at the King Cobra club.

I had always heard from Japanese friends that Japan isn't too big on Halloween unless you're a little kid. Apparently those people had never been to Amemura on Halloween eve. A TON of people were out, and everyone was dressed up. There were a lot of foreigners around (downtown in one of the biggest cities in Japan, so no surprise there), but the Japanese people seemed just as enthusiastic. It was really cool to just mingle and see all of the people in Triangle Park. I had people asking for pictures with me--kind of strange, considering my costume was nothing compared to most of what we saw. A lot of people thought I was Madonna, too--I guess they were getting the names mixed up, since Marylin isn't a hard character to guess. Another thing I found funny about the night was that a lot of guys were whistling and making comments about my low-cut (authentic!) dress as I was walking by, when just about every other girl in the area was wearing about 75% less clothing than me. Seriously, you wouldn't believe the number of asses I saw hanging out of skirts/hotpants. I'm by no means a prude, though--my philosophy is that if you've got it, flaunt it! I just thought it was funny that I got so many comments.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good pictures of my costume; I forgot my camera that night, and I can't find any on facebook. This shot of us girls waiting for the guys at the train station is as good as I can get--and you can barely see my dress!

This is me attempting a Marylin face. It's kind of goofy.

And now I need to get to bed, since I need to get up at a somewhat decent hour tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh, you again.

Here's the thing about blogging--it's very fun, but if you forget to write about one big thing, and then another, and then another, and then put it off some more and tell yourself "I'm giving myself a free day this weekend; I'll get around to it then!", it ends up piling up so much that you just don't want to go through the process of recounting everything anymore. There are so many new things I want to write about, and then I think that I need to talk about stuff I did over a month ago first, and it just gets too frustrating.

So, I'll just keep it simple.

"My life in Japan so far."

My life has become great.

I've made some awesome new friends, and settled into a sort of routine. I've discovered frequent haunts in this area. I've learned quite a lot of Japanese, and can somewhat feel comfortable getting around on my own. My wardrobe has changed dramatically; I feel like I need to make a separate post about this though. I feel like Japanese life is no longer shocking to me in the least--I guess it never was really shocking, but it's becoming the new "normal".

Some new great loves I have--

Yakiniku. This might go into the category of one of my greatest loves of all time, anywhere. A little backstory: I don't eat much meat in Japan. The cafeteria does have some beef dishes and pork tonkatsu, but I'm not a fan of the latter and the beef is generally not very high grade. The chicken is also not my cup of tea. The food at the on-campus McDonald's is pretty much the same quality as in America, but since I'm not much of a fan of McD's anyway, I very rarely eat it. So seafood or no meat at all it is, most days.

But then I discovered yakiniku.

Yakiniku literally means "grilled meat" (if you didn't read the Wiki link), and that's pretty much all you do. I've been to a yakiniku restaurant at Hirakata station twice now (it's a blossoming love, I guess), and the general procedure is as follows. The meat is all-you-can-eat; you pick one of three "sets", which range in price based on the quality and types of meat in each set. I've only ever gotten the least expensive, which comes to about $22 US per person. There are a variety of different cuts of beef, as well as pork, chicken, vegetables, and I think some seafood in the first set. Each set also has a variety of non-grillable sides like kimchi (which I am fond of), potato salad, rice, miso soup, lettuce (to make lettuce wraps), etc.

From the first time I experienced this wonder.

Basically, you order whatever you want within your set, and as much as you want, and they bring out little platters of the sliced meat or vegetables raw and you grill it yourself at a small, circular grill in the center of the table, before dipping it in one of several sauces and reveling in the yakiniku goodness. Part of the fun for me is the new, er, parts of the cow that I've tried (and enjoyed!). At the place I've been to, they start you out with these very thinly sliced, seasoned cuts of beef, which turned out to be tongue. Besides the standard steaks and beef strips, other notable cuts were stomach lining and intestine, which are chewy, yet surprisingly very flavorful. At first, you can't help but feel like you're eating a big hunk of gristle, but when you get over it and realize that the fat can actually add a lot of flavor, it's pretty good. I actually am quite a fan of cow stomach now. (At least the way that it's prepared at yakiniku). I would highly recommend this dining experience to anyone at anytime (unless they're a vegetarian or something unfortunate.) There's nothing quite like gorging oneself on so much protein that you can barely walk comfortably afterwards, after living on wimpy rice and seaweed and various sea fare for so long. I think I seriously crave yakiniku every night of the week. I'm craving it right now, and I just had it last night.

I love hookah. I never went to a hookah bar or smoked it otherwise in the States, but thanks to the very conveniently close Cafe Istanbul and it's smoking and drinking specials, my friends and I have gotten really into it. It's funny, that a large group of these exchange students studying in Japan have found a local hangout in a Turkish-themed cafe smoking a traditional Middle Eastern flavored tabac pipe, but I guess that's just how it goes. I've even learned to blow smoke rings. I'm pretty much a sheesha pro. I'd love to buy one for myself when I get back to the states--it's relaxing, and not as potent (or smoked as often) as cigarettes, and tastes much better. And I still need to fulfill my declared personal dream of blowing a ship just like Gandalf does in Lord of the Rings. It's going to happen someday, people.

I love false eyelashes. And yes, I know. The thing is, it's an accessory that isn't quite appropriate to wear in public in the United States, but is pretty much commonplace amongst girls here. I know that the Japanese obsession with makeup and fashion is somewhat of a point of argument amongst Western observers--but I can't help but just love it. Finally, I can have eyelashes! My real ones are so wimpy and short and feeble, I've always envied those with long, full lashes. It's something that I don't really think I could get away with when I get back home, so I feel like I just need to do what I want and wear what I want while here. Some kids here spend their money on manga and figures and games. I like eyelashes.

Yakiniku only has one rival as far as new loves for food goes--and that is curry. I don't mean the Japanese curry crap they sell with rice in the cafeteria. I'm talking the real deal at one of the two Indian restaurants conveniently placed directly across the street from campus, complete with naan bread and a mango lasse to finish. Chicken curry is my favorite, especially made with squash that they sometimes have for the curry of the day--this post is seriously making me hungry. At least this is something that I could probably acquire pretty easily back in the states. My friends and I have become regulars at New Dehli, and thankfully it's cheap (700 yen for a GIANT set including soup, salad, a small spiced chicken dish, curry with the biggest piece of naan bread ever, and a mango lasse and ice cream at the end. Thankfully they have doggie bags.)

I would write about more loves, but it's getting late and I still have homework to do. And it's Kansai Gaidai festival this week! Which pretty much just means a ton of stands selling various foods (90% of which seem to be either takoyaki, yakisoba, some variation of hot dogs, or udon, curiously) are set up around campus, and the different clubs hold events throughout the days. It goes from today (Thursday) through Saturday, and is mainly just for the Japanese students to participate in (there's a separate International Festival coming up for the exchange students.) But anyone can certainly walk around and enjoy the food and all that, so that's just what I did today. It was fun!

Actually, I'm sort of technically "participating" in one of the events on Saturday, the beauty contest. They have 10 girls who are the actual finalists for the show already picked out to walk during the event, but because this year's theme is based on the popular idol group AKB48, they gathered 48 pictures of girls around KGU's campus to show in a slideshow (from what I understand) during the event. My homevisit partner's friend is on the judging committee and asked to take my photo, so that's how I got roped into that (it's that "brondy girl" power, I swear.). Though from what I understand, I don't actually have to be there since they're just showing my picture, so I'm probably going to end up going on a field trip to listen to a Buddhist monk that day instead.

So, anyway, I need to get started on my homework so that I can get up and not be late for class tomorrow (as I was today--that yakiniku wears your body out to digest, is my excuse.) I really want to make a post about Japanese fashion soon, so expect that! (and I promise that I WILL UPDATE MORE!!!!)