Thursday, November 17, 2011

Supa 10-minute hair cutto!

Some of you might not know this (or most of you), but I HATE HATE HATE getting a haircut... I actually prefer going to the dentist! Why you ask me? NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS! Heh no I will tell you why. It all started with the big bang... and then some million years later, when I was maybe 10 and already kinda blind without my glasses, I would go to get a haircut, and have to take off my glasses. Then for half an hour or so, I would have to sit there with a guy (Shawke back then) working on my hair without me being able to see anything! And so since then I developed a deep loathing for cutting my hair. So now I just let it grow until it is too fluffy and unbearable and then I shave it off, rinse and repeat.

With all that useless information out of the way, I get to today's topic. Getting a haircut in Japan is different than other places. It's not as cheap as in Lebanon, but not as expensive as in Europe I guess since you don't tip anyone here. The average for a guy would be around 24$ (more with the conversion rate but it's equivalent here). When I feel like getting a nice haircut I go to this place that gives a 10-minute head massage with a hot tower under your neck along with a usually very cool haircut for that much. I will post a video at the end of this post of the chair that you sit on for the hair washing and head massage! It starts off as a chair, then just like our favorite robots from when we were growing up (not the crappy recent movies...), it transforms into a bed! Too cool!



There is however a place just for someone like me! Who usually doesn't care about how good the haircut is, but just wants to go in and out as fast as possible (so Japanese!), paying as little as possible along the way. Along comes QB House 10-minute cut!



You go in, put a 1,000 Yen bill in the machine (10$ish) and get a ticket.



You then proceed to sit at one of these stations. They ask you which haircut you would like, and proceed to take your jacket and bag and stow them inside the closet. Then they start the haircut. There is no washing at all here of course.
The monitor at the bottom has the latest news (which of course I cannot read unless I have my lenses on...). Then after they're done cutting, the pipe at the right is actually a head vacuum machine thingie that they use on your head to get rid of the cut hair haha. It actually feels kinda nice :)
And all the hair on the ground will be broomed (it's a verb apparently...) to the bottom of the unit where there's another vacuum that sucks it all in. Very efficient. Very Japanese.

When you're done, just as when you enter, all the staff will bow and thank you (or welcome you) quite loudly.

And while I was going to class that day I passed near the university hospital chopper!



video

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sapporo snow festival

The snow festival in Sapporo is a phenomenal event that happens once a year, and attracts (apparently around 2 MILLION) tourists to Sapporo, most of which are Japanese from other areas, but many are also foreigners.



The festival lasts for one week, but for people who live here, the preparations start way before that! The snow plowed off the roads are gathered to be used to make the sculptures. This year however, as it was not near as cold as previous winters, extra snow was needed and brought over from around Sapporo (or so I heard).



I have already uploaded the photos to facebook, but I will upload my favorites again and briefly talk about them.



My favorite sculpture. It is just too cool and no words can describe its awesomeness!



It's so interesting to see how many cultures have similar outtakes of the same subjects. This is an Indonesian sculpture that really reminds me of the Orthodox st. Georges statue fighting the dragon.



You would think that there would be this balance between large-scale and finely-done sculptures but to have both combined is very impressive!



The Lion King musical has been running for a while here so they had a big ass sculpture of Timon and Pumba!



The temperature drops 5 degrees as soon as you get there and stand in front of the HUGE ASS snow statues! However these guys are singing and dancing in half sleeves!!!
Wow!



DOGGIES!!!



Awesome Chinese temple! With all the details that goes with it.



The slope made for snowboarders and skiers jumping around day and night! Too awesome! Mules we need to do this!



Ice jaguar!

The long-awaited return!

People of the world (all two or three of you who read this) rejoice! For the blog is back... with a vengeance. It's been a while since I've written anything, and the more I waited before starting again, the more things I had to write about, and the less I felt like tackling it.. procrastination is a warm and comfy bed...

Anyway, much and more has happened since last I updated my blog, including but not limited to:
1- The Sapporo snow festival in February
2- The Toohoku earthquake in March
3- My birthday in April
4- Beer garden in August
5- Carine's wedding (couldn't attend :( )
6- Majed's wedding and my trip back home for a week passing through Moscow
7- Rami's wedding (couldn't attend either :( )
8- Rainbow march in September

I will write a post about each of the afore-mentioned events. I might also think of other stuff along the way, but first, I should talk about the earthquake, and the resulting nuclear power plant incident.

My last post was about Iron Maiden. This was partly due to the fact that I was going to watch their concert in Tokyo. I arrived in Tokyo the day before the earthquake, and was in bed on the 8th floor when it hit. I know people that were on the 30th floor when it hit and so my experience pales in comparison to their own, but it was still quite scary.

Living in Japan for a year already (when the earthquake happened) makes you accustomed to the occasional earthquake. And you learn to shrug it off as a monthly (or more) event. That is how that one started. I was lying on the bed reading when the room started shaking. Normal stuff. This always happens for a couple seconds and then subsides. Then it started getting stronger. Stuff started falling off shelves. This is when I stopped reading and started paying attention to the shaking, which at this point, instead of stopping, was getting stronger. Drawers were starting to open and throw their contents on the floor. That is when I started thinking of the disaster prevention training we had when we first arrived, and the earthquake simulation we participated in. So I grabbed a pillow, covered my head and crouched near the cupboard (the simulation suggested ducking under the table but there were none and the next best thing I guess is either the bath tub or near something solid).

A little while later, the shaking stopped. And so did the phone lines. That was the very first time I was ever really glad I had a facebook account. We were all checking up on each other through it. The subway in Tokyo was also shut down, and there was so much traffic on the roads that people just walked to their homes after work (of course everyone finished their work day first). A friend had to walk 7 hours to get home. News of the resulting tsunamis that hit started spreading, along with the danger of a nuclear meltdown in the Fukushima plant. Supermarkets and convenience stores all over Tokyo went empty. People rushed to buy supplies and especially bottled water.

The international media however, was a whole other story... I lived my whole life in Lebanon. As such I have witnessed how the international media blows news out of proportion and our families and friends abroad become more worried about us than we are! What happened in March took that to whole new heights. Russian news were showing footage of Sendai that was hit by a tsunami while describing the ruined state Tokyo was in (a fire and some partially destroyed old buildings was the actual damage I think). I don't feel like talking more about it because it pisses me off.

The next day, I went to the onsen (hot springs) with a friend because I was not really worried, and had a relaxing afternoon. That is when my friend's parents started freaking out, and so we decided to go visit my Lebanese friend Dina living in Kyoto that was far and safe enough. We took the express train and realized it was full of women and children. The fathers stayed at work, but sent their children away just in case it was dangerous to be in Tokyo. All evidence suggested it was safe enough to be in Tokyo (opposite of what outside media was claiming) but better safe than sorry. Off to Kyoto. We spent a day there and it was snowing so couldn't really see much of Kyoto, and the next day we went south to Kobe and flew to Sapporo where it was nice and safe far away from all the trouble.

What the news never showed was the thousands of people who lost their homes and were living in schools all over. They didn't show the scores of people preparing rice balls to send to these poor people, they didn't talk about everyone else going on with their lives as best they could, going to work

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Iron Maiden: part II

The second song to display will be one from the new album. It's a cool and very mellow song about, as za title suggests, Coming Home. It was written by Bruce Dickinson (the vocalist) who is also a pilot, and so there is a lot of references to his flying.

Sorry for the silly video but didn't find any live versions of it. Beace.



When I stand before you shining in the early morning sun
When I feel the engines roar and I think of what we've done
Oh the bittersweet reflection as we kiss the earth goodbye
As the waves and echoes of the towns become the ghosts of time

Over borders that divide the earthbound tribes
No creed and no religion just a hundred winged souls
We will ride this thunderbird, silver shadows on the earth
A thousand leagues away, our land of birth

To Albion's land
Coming home when I see the runway lights
In the misty dawn the night is fading fast
Coming home, far away as their vapor trails align
Where I've been tonight, you know I will not stay

Curving on the edge of daylight til it slips into the void
Waited in the long night, dreaming til the sun is born again
Stretched the fingers of my hand, covered countries with my span
Just a lonely satellite, speck of dust and cosmic sand

Over borders that divide the earthbound tribes
Through the dark Atlantic; over mounting stormy waves
We will ride this thunderbird, silver shadows on the earth
A thousand leagues away, our land of birth

To Albion's land
Coming home when I see the runway lights
In the misty dawn the night is fading fast
Coming home, far away as their vapor trails align
Where I've been tonight, you know I will not stay

To Albion's land
Coming home when I see the runway lights
In the misty dawn the night is fading fast
Coming home, far away as their vapor trails align
Where I've been tonight, you know I will not stay
Coming home, far away when I see the runway lights
In the misty dawn the night is fading fast
Coming home, far away as their vapor trails align
Where I've been tonight, you know I will not stay

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Iron Maiden: part I

With the Iron Maiden concert in March approaching, and seeing as many people still don't know about the awesomeness that is Iron Maiden, myself having only gotten to know them 10 years ago... I decided to post a song every once in a while with some explanations or just the lyrics.

Not everyone likes Iron Maiden or metal in general, that's fine. It's ultimately a matter of taste. But you better show Respect (yes capital R, actually gonna go all out and quote Aretha Franklin: R-E-S-P-E-C-T!) to a band that has made 30 or so albums over a span of 30 years, sold over 85 million records with little radio and TV exposure (the church most probably helped a lot with their whole anti-devil-worshiping-music campaign, just as they did with The DaVinci Code... silly people won't learn that no publicity is bad publicity...), they've also played over 2000 live shows, and are still going strong! Their last album released last year peaked at number 1 in 30 countries. Lots of 30s there haha. Blame Wikipedia...

They even have their own plane! Ed Force One (Ed being the name of their mascot who appears on every single album cover). They use it to carry their crew and equipment all over for touring. The lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson (one of the most awesomest vocalists ever) pilots it lol.

Now which song to start with? Such a hard choice...

Zo without further ado! One of my favorite songs by them: Hallowed Be Thy Name.



This is a song from 1985 about a guy waiting in his cell for his hanging o.O very psychological and moving song. This is the live performance at the 2001 Rock in Rio concert. The sub-par YouTube quality ruins it a bit but it's nice to see 250,000 people going nuts over the wild performance! Yes 250,000...



Lyrics:

I'm waiting in my cold cell when the bell begins to chime
Reflecting on my past life and it doesn't have much time
Cos at 5 o'clock they take me to the Gallows Pole
The sands of time for me are running low

When the priest comes to read me the last rites
I take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for me

Can it be there's some sort of error
Hard to stop the surmounting terror
Is it really the end not some crazy dream

Somebody please tell me that I'm dreaming
It's not so easy to stop from screaming
But words escape me when I try to speak
Tears they flow but why am I crying
After all I am not afraid of dying
Don't believe that there is never an end

As the guards march me out to the courtyard
Someone calls from a cell "God be with you"
If there's a God then why has he let me die?

As I walk all my life drifts before me
And though the end is near I'm not sorry
Catch my soul cos it's willing to fly away

Mark my words please believe my soul lives on
Please don't worry now that I have gone
I've gone beyond to see the truth

When you know that your time is close at hand
maybe then you'll begin to understand
Life down there is just a strange illusion.

A cold cold night...

Last post we left off at how tolerable walking out in -6 degrees is.
But is it the same when standing in -18 degrees? NO! But we'll get there.



Last week, Quijote (who lost his Don because he proved useless in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles), Alejandro decided to have dinner at a place we like a lot. They got there before me and, realizing that the guy (sexy word incoming -> henceforth referred to as the dude) was in quite a bad mood and rather intoxicated, tried to warn me, but it was too late...

Arriving at the scene, I did not notice anything wrong. The dude explained that it was the memory of his mother passing away, that he was sad because he wasn't on good terms with her when it happened, and that instead of eating (since the kitchen was closed by then) we should drink some wine. Being oblivious to the fact that the dude was already quite drunk, I agreed and went and bought 3 bottles of wine from the nearby conbini (again convenience store).

Thus began the longest night any of us ever had in Sapporo. By the second glass, the dude had become quite violent, and The Eye of the Tiger had become annoying to say the least after the umpth time we heard it. Quijote being the heavy drinker he is (drinking a whopping 1 glass of wine!) made Alejandro and me gulp down our glasses to drink as much as we can, thus minimizing the alcohol intake of the dude...

That is when Jake arrived and I cursed myself for forgetting to warn him not to come either... And that is when the dude really became troublesome. More than once, we thought he'd start a fight over nothing, but Jake was calm and gracious, and eventually, like a master ninja, just got up and left without the dude being the wiser haha.



Next comes the part where we tried to get the dude back home. We got into the taxi and went 'approximately' in the direction of the dude's house. The first part of the taxi ride was when the dude started yelling at the poor old driver for taking a longer route than he needed, and Quijote and Alejandro calming him down. Eventually we reached what the dude initially thought to be his house, and turned out not to be... The second taxi ride was when the dude started yelling at the poor old driver (again) for not having children... and Quijote and Alejandro calming him down.
We finally got off at a conbini (slap yourself if you don't already know this word) near his house, and thankfully the guys working there knew him! So he calls his wife to pick him up, gets in a fight with her on the phone, and hangs up... *Super facepalm is in order* and we run after him trying to stop him from buying beer. We order another taxi and wait 15 minutes or so outside for it, and the following equation became apparent to me:
-6 °C + thin sox + sneakers + walking = OK!
-18 °C + thick sox + sneakers + standing = NOT OK! NOT AT FEKIN ALL!



By the time the taxi arrived, the dude had sobered up and knew where his house was.



So a couple hours drinking wine, 2 taxi rides and a nice refreshing wait in the snow, we were back where we started, much, much, hungrier. So at nearly midnight, our choices of places to eat were limited (everything closes so early here) and so it was off to the yakitori place where the mascot is a chicken samurai(?) carrying a shish kebab instead of a sword... love that place! Cheap beer and fried chicken? Yes please! So not all was lost, and Pen2 even joined us so there was someone other than me drinking something other than water... useless Quijote and Alejandro...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dinner? No thanks trying to lose weight...

After ending the last post on a food note (kinda sounds like foot note? meh beykha...), thought I'd ride that wave into this next one. So the second night after arriving and finding out about the gas (got the bill for that half a month and it's 120$ or so... ouchies! So visiting me now is not recommended coz I'm making up for it by not using the heater anymore so it's below 10 degrees inside most of the time lal which is fine by me with Jeddak's 3abayeh or robe), realized that 2 weeks outside Hokkaido makes you miss some things. And people maybe, but mostly things, mainly Soup Curry! Soup Curry is best eaten at Picante and Picante is the second home for someone called Ted, so I call Ted and naturally, he agrees to meet up. Jesse and James also come, Jake is stuck at work and arrives after we're done.



Now Soup Curry was a dish I was not particularly fond of, but it certainly does grow on you, especially when it starts getting cold! And cold it gets! But more on that later.

After finishing, went with Jake to Jacksonville's so that he could have dinner. Me having had dinner decided to just go with some chicken wings and a beer (bill was 1010 Yen tihi I love silly numbers).
Then we decided to look for an "apparently" good Russian restaurant in the neighborhood. We did a whole clockwise turn around the block and finally found it across the street from Jacksonville... so had we turned the opposite direction, it would be a 30 second walk lol. But it was not a loss! For while looking, Jake noticed a new Sushi place, and noticed that the prices were quite cheap. So he decided to go in and try it real quick. The bastardo, fully knowing that my favorite is salmon (he prolly didn't but I just wanna call him a bad name), ordered just that! And me being a good friend who doesn't like to let his friend eat alone (I'm not just wanted to taste it too), ordered some too. The plate comes with 2 pieces and costs 105 Yen which is quite cheap! Needless to say it was blissful, and I ended up ordering 3 other plates... flat fish (forgot the name in Japanese), crab and another salmon to wash em all down with! Bill was 777 Yen for me (again with the fun numbers heh).

The other realization of the night (other than Jake sux and Dal was right about me being a little piggy), was that -6 degrees is not a big deal at all, even with sneakers and ankle-high thin sox. The night after that however, was a totally different story, but that is for the next post...