Tuesday, April 05, 2005

3/30: lovely maid says "Enjoy happy!"

[Transcribed from trip journal]

Today I got to the Western-style buffet before the crowds, and after loading up my tray with rice, bacon, scrambled eggs, and two slices of toast with blueberry jam, I sat down next to a mother and her little boy. Kids are much easier for me to understand, since they don't tend to use large or unusual words, so I knew what he said when he leaned forward and said to his mother in an awed voice, "The foreigner is EATING!" A few minutes later, when I began digging into my rice bowl, he screamed, "The foreigner is using CHOPSTICKS!"

After astounding the children of Kyoto, I checked out and gave my luggage to the porter service that was taking our stuff to Tokyo so we wouldn't have to dick with it on the train, praise Jeebus. We took the train to Osaka and met up with Isaac's friend Noco (or at least that's what it sounded like to me), a karate champ. He lived with Isaac in LA for awhile, and someone asked him what the biggest difference was between Japan and the US. Without hesitating, he said, "People in Japan care about other people."


Anyway, Noco told us about some of his favorite anime and manga shops in the area, and then he passed out maps...in Japanese. Now, I can't even read a map in English, much less Japanese, but he pointed out the hot spots on the map and said "Ganbare". Isaac told us the meeting time and place, and we split up. I wandered around and finally found Comic Toranoaro, which was a veritable mecca of glorious items. They had tons of gashopon machines outside, so I bought several Bleach pins, a Bleach figurine, a Bleach keychain, and a Full Metal Alchemist keychain for G.

Next, I wandered into an arcade to use the bathroom, which was on the top floor. When I emerged, I noticed that what I had originally thought were just plain old video games were actually...strip mahjongg games. There was also a UFO catcher that included among its prizes a t-shirt with a very obviously underaged girl sucking on a popsicle that was dripping all over her teeny breasts. Yoiks!

I started to walk into Mandarake and the door alarm went off. I flinched and stood there dumbly as an employee hurried over and said something in rapid-fire Japanese.

"Um...wakarimasen," I said.

He slowed down a little, but I still didn't understand anything except the word denwa, or phone, and I didn't know if he was asking if I had a cell phone that was setting it off or whether he was telling me he was going to call the police and have me beaten and violated with tentacles. Not wishing to take any chances, I bowed as deeply as I could without falling over and hurried out. I turned the corner and saw a little cafe, so I walked in for a snack.


Oh my god.

Oh for cute.

I had unwittingly stumbled upon a maid cafe!

The gimmick behind maid cafes is that all of the waitresses are utterly adorable and wear frilly maid costumes. I actually had to stifle a squeeple of delight when one of them came over, bowed deeply, and led me to a table. The menu was all in Japanese, but I was able to make out the katakana for cheesecake and cafe au lait, so I ordered those in my most halting Japanese and the waitress clapped and squealed "Jozu desu ne!"

Well, gawrsh!

While I waited for my order, I tried opening one of my gashopon capsules and was having a bitch of a time. Two of the waitresses came over and one of them held out her hand. She couldn't get it either, and the other one began laughing at her. The first one said something in the same tone of voice I would use to say "YOU try it then!", and then the other one took it and had a bitch of a time with it too. We were all laughing and finally she got it open and handed it to me with a flourish, and one of the other customers was staring at me jealously, and I smiled smugly at him. Yeah, boooooy! Envy me and my stable of fine Japanese maids.

Japanese cheesecake is really dry, by the way, but I still said "Oishikatta" when the waitress came over and asked how it was. She clapped and said, "Ohhhhh...jozu desu ne!" again and made a big fuss over me as I actually, literally blushed. I could get used to adorable Japanese women fawning over me, that's for damn sure.

When I left, all of the waitresses followed me outside and bowed very deeply. I thanked them and they waved frantically and called out "Bye bye!" as I walked away. I had just crossed the street when I realized that I should have asked to take a picture of them. I Googled "maid cafe" and found some...er...very interesting pictures, but here's one that's safe for public consumption:

This isn't the place I went to, but it will give you a general idea of the gimmick.

When it was time to meet up with the group again, we went to the train station to wait for the bullet train to Tokyo. I bought a chicken obento and a can of what I thought was lemonade and took it to the waiting room to eat. I opened the can, took a slug, and gasped as very strong alcohol poured down my throat.

"What IS this?" I cried.

A fellow traveler took the can away from me, read the label, and chuckled. "It's chuhai. It's like a highball."

Memo to self: a lemon on the label does not automatically mean lemonade. I suppose I'm lucky I didn't accidentally drink cleaning fluid instead, though it sure tasted like it.

The ride to Tokyo took about three hours, and when we got to our hotel, I was horrified to find this painting above my bed:

Seriously, what the hell's with the creepy consumptive chick? I swear that thing's eyes followed me around the room. Fortunately I had this view to distract me:

That's Tokyo Tower in the middle. (And no, it wasn't blurry in real life, but YOU try taking a picture through a window 28 stories above ground, Ansel Adams.)

After I dropped my stuff off, washed my face, and enjoyed the space-age toilet, I went to the Yahoo Cafe to check my e-mail, and then I stopped in the convenience store to buy bath salts, a Japanese harmonica for G, United Colors of Benetton condoms for K, a can of diet lemon Coke, and an ice cream sandwich. Then it was back to the room to flop down on the bed and eat while watching an inane game show.

Man, I love Japan.


Ganbare: Go for it.

Gashopon: Gumball machines that dispense very detailed toys.

UFO catcher: What they call crane games.

Wakarimasen: I don't understand.

Irasshaimase!: Welcome!

Katakana: The characters used for words borrowed from other languages, such as pan (bread) and kohi (coffee). I know all of the characters, which comes in very handy in restaurants, but my kanji knowledge is practically nil.

Jozu desu ne!: You're so good!

Oishikatta: That was delicious.