That’s right: it’s 2014. Year of the horse. In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Isabelle explained to me that the horse is a hard-working and under-appreciated beast. I think she’s right, so my New Year’s resolution is to be nicer to horses.
I spent the final moments of 2013 at a house party with some co-workers and new faces, switching off between drinking shochu and Japanese beer. More on the festivities in a bit.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you missed some great photos of Japanese television, which reaches a crescendo of absurdity right around this time of year: 1,2,3,4,5,6. Before you go declaring that Japanese TV is all absurdity for no good reason, that’s just not the case. These scenes of physical torment and humiliation were all powerful attempts to make certain television personalities laugh. If they did laugh, they were beaten with sticks. I guess that doesn’t really present a much better argument for the absurdity, huh… Oh well, it was funny.
I also managed to hop onto Animal Crossing: New Leaf with Sarah (some 6,000+ miles away) for the end of the year countdown:
How cool is that? Games bringing people together and such. Brings a tear to this old man’s eye.
Alright, I’ve assaulted you with words long enough, let’s make with the photos!
Christmas in Japan means Christmas cake, or at least cake eaten on Christmas day. This particular cake had a pleasant variety of textures and the flavor lingered somewhere between sweet and bitter. Since Christmas isn’t a holiday over here, I worked (hence enjoying Christmas cake at my desk). If you use your Where’s Waldo skills, you may even catch a glimpse of the 8-4 new year’s card, an important tradition in Japan.
After work, I continued to do as the Romans do by grabbing some KFC. There was a long line if you were one of the suckers who didn’t reserve your chicken well in advance (like this sucker right here):
Natch, the Colonel was dressed to impress.
I guess it’s time to show some Curry. Here is some soup curry from a place not far from where I am staying.
Here is some curry from Pakumori Curry, which I’m told was once a fairly famous curry establishment. The rice is covered with spiced ground beef, and the veggies were perfectly cooked.
Shortly after Xmas, the 8-4 crew helped coordinate an event at www showing off how the Unity engine can be used for more than making runners/castle defense games for you to play while pooping. It turns out some DJs use the engine to generate visualizations that correspond with their music. How pleasantly artsy! Yours truly helped set up for the event, which required no small amount of heavy lifting.
Side note: the billboard off to the right is advertising a documentary called Cutie and the Boxer, which is on Netflix now! Give it a watch.
This was the sub-stage, which was eventually fitted with a screen where about 4-5 different DJs showed their stuff.
All of these metal bits needed to be brought from a truck outside of www, down about 5 lights of stairs, where they were assembled by a crew until 7 or 8 AM. I was there until about 4, and I thought I was gonna collapse!
Here is the construction of the main stage in progress. I tried to take a few videos of the end result, but only this one was successfully uploaded to Vine. Basically there was a huge, cross-shaped screen surrounded by two other equally enormous screens. Each structure was composed of a bunch of smaller LCD screens, which also needed to be carefully carried down FIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS. DID I MENTION THE FIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS?
A bunch of past patrons had written all over the walls in the sub-stage, because nothing says punk rock like “Oh, good thing I have this sharpie in my pocket”.
I noticed Sophia Coppola had signed the wall as well, and even made a little The Virgin Suicide cross down at the bottom. OMG do they sell a shirt of this at Urban Outfitters????
But seriously, I wonder if this trip was part of what inspired Lost in Translation? When I pointed this out to a Japanese co-worker, he said that most people in Japan aren’t too keen on the way the film depicts Japanese people, and I would have to agree.
Dude smoking in front of box, circa 2013.
The day after the event itself, all of those heavy bits of metal and expensive screens needed to be brought back up those FIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS and put back in that truck. I was so tired towards the end that the truck driver started to help, grabbing my payload from me halfway up the last leg. I have no memory of my body being as sore when I woke up the following day.
Part of my recuperation process included getting a dish from Tinun recommended to me by 8-4’s own Mark MacDonald. What you’re looking at there is some stir-fried, minced chicken along with veggies and classic Thai spices. All that goodness was served with a half-fried egg on top of rice. It was AMAZING. Unlike a lot of Japanese food, this dish is actually, genuinely spicy. I’m totes afraid that staying here too long will destroy my tolerance for heat in food…
Once New Year’s begins looming over Japan, most folks head home to be with their families, so cities empty out. Mark went back to Amurica (presumably to buy guns and fire them into the air) and let me crash at his place. It was a much needed break from the chaos that is my share house. I found my fave brand of chips at the local 7-11 and enjoyed them with a beer. I also marathon-ed The Last of Us, seeing it right to the (somewhat unusual) end. I def want to talk about this game soon, since it has been appearing on multiple GOTY lists.
Walking to Mark’s place brought me through one of the pleasantly tranquil campuses of Tokyo University. Japan’s pretty cool when it comes to trees. They like old trees here. Low-hanging branches aren’t severed simply because some idiot might climb them, fall, and sue the pants off the property owner. No, tree are mostly left to do their own thing, and seeing old trees in their untouched form is something else.
Turns out Persona 4′s Konishi Liquor is a short train ride away from me. I’ll have to go and pay my respects to Konishi Saki-san next chance I get… (SPOILER ALERT: SHE DIES).
Here are a fews pics from New Year’s not taken in Animal Crossing. After it’s officially the new year, it’s customary to make your first visit to a shrine. This practice is called hatsumode. Those who stuck around/stayed awake after it struck midnight walked to Yutenji temple. These are the only pics I have from this trip… As I mentioned, I was drinking. And it was cold. So… these pics suck.
I grabbed a fortune, and wouldn’t you know it: I got the best possible luck.
This can only mean that 2014 will rock for yours truly. No but for real, I hope it’s the truth. It’s always nice to lean on superstitious stuff like this. At the end of the day, luck is equal parts dumb and hard-earned. In 2014 I will continue to earn my luck while appreciating any dumb luck that comes my way. Oh, and horses. I will appreciate horses more. (Thanks, Isabelle)