Waste Not, Want Not

It’s hard to imagine us Americans – fat, lazy, energy-hogging, wasteful Americans – responding in the same way as the Japanese have to a significant reduction in their capacity to generate electricity.

And the Japanese are clearly adept at making the obvious and correct decisions as to what they can do without – and what they can’t.

Sakuko Saeki, 75, said she had not only switched off but also unplugged her household appliances. She barely turned on the air-conditioning, instead using a fan in her living room. But there was one appliance she could not give up after all: an automatic toilet, called a washlet, the kind that flushes by itself, raises and lowers the lid on its own, and never ceases to amaze foreigners visiting Japan for the first time.

“I’d turned off my washlet,” Ms. Saeki said, “but I stopped doing that.”

You can take my Washlet when you pry it from my cold dead cheeks!

And what’s with the NYT not even mentioning the primary and most delightful function of the Washlet? It washes your ass (and your hoo-haw, if you’ve got one  of those) with a refreshing and invigorating stream of warm water – and it is the crowning achievement of civilization. Talk about burying the lede…

from NY Times

Helping Japan

NYTimes had an article today about the many foreigners living in Japan who are trying to leave the country – a perfectly understandable response, given the still-unfolding emergency there.

However this was my favorite part of the article:

But not all foreigners were fleeing. One Briton said he was not about to leave.

Michael Tonge, a schoolteacher in Sendai, the closest major city to the quake’s epicenter, said that many of the expatriates in his area were “forming groups using things like Facebook to try to get aid and help to the people who need it.”

“Sendai has been my home for over five years,” Mr. Tonge said, “and the people of this area have taken me in and made me feel very welcome. I can’t leave them now, after this. I think that’s how a lot of the foreigners here feel, too.”

Well done, Mr. Tonge. I salute you.

Closer to home, my friend Steve, who owns Public Barber Salon, is sponsoring a fundraiser for Japan on April 2. Check it out and stop by if you can. Or make a donation here.

Two Dogs Rescued in Japan

I always feel a certain reluctance to share videos like this. I worry it seems as though I’m overlooking or discounting the vast human suffering currently going on in Japan.

But when I examine my own feelings about what’s going on here, I think what evokes the pathos is not simply the “awww” factor of one animal looking out for another. Our relationship with companion animals is simple and uncomplicated – and because of this, it can evoke the best part of our own humanity. I think it can also give us something to aspire to – remaining loyal to others even in the face of great hardship. I’m sure there are countless people in Japan who have done and continue to do exactly that.

From what I’ve read, both dogs were rescued subsequent to this video being taken and are in shelters.

And please donate what you can to Doctors Without Borders. They’re at work in Japan and throughout the world, providing urgently needed care and supplies to victims of natural disasters and wars.

Thinking of Japan

I shouldn’t be watching the news – but not watching seems like I’m sticking my head in the sand. What to do? Of course I’ll donate more money – but it feels so inadequate. I wish there were a solution…

I’m sure most of you have already been able to put a human face on the suffering that the Japanese people are experiencing. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Japan twice – and its people and its culture affected me in a way no other country has. It was, for me, the most amazing of all my travels thus far. I found an absolutely beautiful and fascinating country and a people who were kind and engaging.  Which has made watching this disaster all the more difficult for me…

One day in Osaka, I went to visit the castle, right in the center of the city. As I arrived, there were small groups of elementary school children roaming the park in front, all looking for Westerners with whom they could practice their English. I was lucky enough to be approached (OK, they actually chased me down – it made me feel like I was famous!) The kids were both shy and gregarious – and after quizzing me in English about various facets of Japanese culture, I was presented by each group with a handful of origami cranes and kites they’d made, along with a postcard thanking me for helping them with their studies. Needless to say, they remain my most cherished mementos of my visit.

Please give what you can to JSNC Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

Japan Wrap-up

So, if memory serves, my last post found me in Osaka, awaiting Marco’s return from Kyoto. As it turned out, he was too beat to have dinner that evening, so I grabbed a tonkatsu sandwich and a beer, before settling in for the evening. But then I realized it was very early (only 7:30!) and perhaps I ought to go out on my own and try to find that gay bar I went to last year…

So, off I went, with a lengthy set of directions on how to get to where the gay bars are, near Umeda Station. And amazingly enough, I was able to find Frenz, where I’d had a few drinks my one night in Osaka last year. Perhaps even more amazing, Sari-chan, an ex-pat Aussie who owns the place, remembered me immediately, including much of our conversation from last year. I was impressed to say the least. And of course, he was as charming a host as I recall.

I was the only person in the bar. But a few minutes later, a former regular who’d moved to Tokyo showed up. Then a young Aussie on holiday. We were all enjoying chatting together, when who walks in but Stefan, my new French friend I’d met in Tokyo! Anyway, a few more folks showed up and it was a fun though quiet evening. Stefan and I also had a few more drinks around the corner at another bar.

Friday, Marco and I were up and at ’em by 11 and headed to Festivalgate. I’d read about it in the guidebook – it sounded like some sort of crazy giant arcade/amusement park thing. We figured it would be fun just to check out – and I’m sure it would’ve been, had it not gone out of business. The place was boarded up and abandoned – recently, I guess, since all the city maps and subway signs still pointed the way. Oh well – what’re you gonna do?

Then off to the Japanese Ceramics Museum. Took us a bit of time to find it, but it’s right along the river, so we had a lovely, leisurely walk. The museum itself was charming and the collection amazing.

On the way home, we decided to try our luck at a ramen stand. It can be a bit intimidating, since one has to purchase a ticket from a vending machine to get one’s ramen. Happily,this place had a couple of buttons in English (“noodle soup with pork” or “noodle soup with extra pork”) – and wow, was it good. Marco and I were both exhausted – but after standing at the counter, slurping and splattering our noodles, we were completely re-energized.

Ambled about a bit, then got ready for a night on the town. Basically a repeat of my night before – drinks at Frenz and Physique, lots of good conversation with friendly locals and tourists, then home at midnight.

Saturday was my shopping day. Thus far, I’d only purchased track jacket, so I had some catching up to do. Despite getting in early-ish the night before, we were both a bit worn out – travel taking its toll. Marco begged off and I contemplated just chillin’ with BBC World news – but it being my last full day, this seemed like a waste. I forced myself to the subway station and headed to Hep 5, a ten-story mall with a giant ferris wheel on top (I know, right?). And I scored big time – got some hot boots, a cute belt and a great pair of trousers, lined with plaid that shows when the cuffs are rolled.

Quick pit stop for ramen on the way home (now that I knew how to order it) before another night on the town. Saturday is the night in Osaka – the streets were crazy and the bars, which had been so mellow the night before, were packed and hopping. Met more fun boys, danced, drank, then home again…

Oh, I just realized, I neglected to mention that on three of the four prior nights, we’d had a sufficient number of beers to stop into the glamor-shot photo booths. And we were probably ugly Americans, seeing as we were drunk and unable to read any of the instructions in Japanese. We figured out how to take the photos, but then one has to interact with a highly complex set of instructions to get the photos to print. Basically, we’d lean out of the booth, shouting “Sumimasen! Sumimasen!” until an attendant came over and then we’d beg him, “Print-u o kudasai! Print-u o kudasai!” Thankfully this worked… and as friendly and helpful as everybody was, I’m sure they were (correctly) thinking “stupid round-eyed gay devils…”

Sunday packed and ready for the flight home at 6:30PM. Hotel let us check out late for a small fee. I ready to go with an hour-and-a-half to spare, so I made a quick run over to Uniqlo. Good thinking, Eric! Winter jacket, wool blazer, plaid trousers, lots of socks and undies – all for around US$100! Picked up a tonkatsu sandwich for the flight home, then crammed all my new purchases into my suitcase.

Off to the bus station, right next to the hotel, trying to manage two bulging suitcases, an overstuffed backpack and countless shopping bags. Of course, I also had to pick up a couple of boxes of octopus-ball-flavored pretzels at the bus station (you should see the packaging! I’m not made of stone…)

Had some mediocre udon at the airport, then spent an hour buying more tschotskes in the airport mall. Plane was an hour late leaving, but at least it was on a 777 – very comfy in Economy Plus… Though, I swear, not one of the crabby flight attendants cracked even a hint of smile for the entire ten-hour voyage.

Good as it was to be home, I miss Japan terribly – especially after the taxi ride up disgusting 6th St. here in SF. Sigh… Can’t wait to go back to the Land of the Rising Sun. Maybe this time I really will find a Japanese husband…

Hello, gorgeous!

Goddamn! I want to make out with myself, I am so fuckin’ beautiful… And, in case you didn’t notice: three separate outfits means we did this three separate evenings…