Here are some weird foods that I have found recently at the supermarket. The produce comes and goes with the time of the year so I am constantly finding new things there. One week there were durians (wrapped in plastic of course), but I did not buy one.

Avocado, mangosteen, kiwi, and mango

Avocado, mangosteen, kiwi, and mango

Here are some fruits. The avocado isn’t really that weird, but I put it in since it is a slightly different color than the ones we get in the US and I bought it at the same time as the others.

Next is the mangosteen, this was a first for me to see. Apparently they have just started importing them to the US from Puerto Rico (wikipedia!).

Next is the golden kiwi. It has a slightly pointed tip and the color is more yellow on the outside than the one I am used to.

Last is the standard mango. Color is much different from the red/green one sold commonly in supermarkets at home.

Let’s crack them open!

Pepsi shiso, wtf

Pepsi shiso, wtf

Wait! Almost forgot about this gem. This is Pepsi shiso. Shiso is a leaf that is common topped with daikon radish and served with sushi. It has a minty, parsely, that kind of flavor. Pepsi thought it would be a good idea to use the flavor in a drink combined with a sickly Mountain Dew sweetness. Ughhh. I could only drink a few sips.

Cut golden kiwi

Cut golden kiwi

The kiwi was very yellow, but had the same texture as the regular green one. The taste was similar, but was more subtle and sweeter. I still prefer green.

Mango, skinned

Mango, skinned

Thinking about it, the color of the mango on the inside is pretty much the same as the common variety in the US. The taste was very similar too. This one was a little overripe so it is kinda hard to tell. I need to do a side by side mango comparo.

Mangosteen

Mangosteen

Finally the mangosteen. Apparently not related to the mango, this fruit is supposed to be the opposite to the durian in the fruit world. The outer shell was kinda like an orange, but the skin was kinda crunchy, anyways it isn’t edible so who cares. The fruit is white and divided into sections like an orange. There is one large seed in the large segment (bottom segment in the photo). The taste is mild and sweet. I thought it was like lychee and peach. Texture is kinda slimy, but it melts in your mouth.

That’s it for now, again, don’t buy or drink Pepsi shiso, you will regret it.

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Yo.

Still alive. Actually I am doing better than ever. Summer is kicking in and it feels like Hawaii, which is nice if there were beaches I could walk to, but is sucky when it is all concrete and working.

I reeeeeally wanted to post earlier, but I promised myself that I would hold off until I accomplished one goal.

That was to get my driver’s license in Japan. Check that off, it’s done.

After failing twice, the first time was for going over a stop line by about 6 inches and not rotating my head enough for checking before turning, the second for not going fast enough (I was being careful wtf) and not moving to one side of the lane before turning. Pretty ridiculous, but I am guessing that test performance doesn’t have much to do with passing since you have to pay to take the test again $$$.

That nightmare is over with and now all I have to look forward to is the anal rape of getting a suitable ride and paying the subsequent taxes.

Possibles:

– Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV-VI

– Subaru Impreza STI

– Nissan Silvia: S14 K’s, S15 Spec-R

– Nissan Skyline: R32 GT-R GT-FOUR GTS-t, R33 GT-R GTS25-t, R34 25GT-t GT-R (This won’t be happening, they are still ~$30k)

– Toyota Celica GT-FOUR ST205

– Honda Integra Type R

– Honda Civic Type R (no SiRs need apply)

Excluding the R33/34 GT-R these are all possible, I could probably do the GT-R, but my quality of life would suffer greatly.

So that is what I have been up to.

Oh yea got a girlfriend too.

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I took an opportunity to visit some relatives in Tokyo for the New Year’s holiday (more info coming soon) which brought me into the streetwear Mecca of Shibuya/Harajuku. In Japan most places shut down for New Year’s, NY eve, and apparently the 2nd of January as well. This resulted in a smaller heat update than the originally anticipated epic clothing post. Also on the 2nd of January, when I had some time to go shopping before leaving for Kansai, there were crazy sales everywhere. This meant there were long lines just to get into certain stores giving discounts. I stopped at a few select locations, but if I had more time I would have browsed more, it is insane shopping there, a truly unique experience.

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You wanted it? You got it. I have decided to grace the internet with another amazing entry. A few weeks ago I went to Okayama Prefecture, which is adjacent to Hyogo to look at leaves. Yes, leaves. They are hot like fire when they seasons change from summer to fall and the leaves change their color. Honestly some of the colors are striking and being one to appreciate a nice color contrast decided to whip out my jaded camera and take a few pics. We stayed one night in an “international villa” which was empty except for us 10. Party time. We didn’t have time to look at leaves when we got there since it was already around 5 pm and being Japan there is no such thing as daylight savings. At least it is light out when I wake up, barely.

View from the villa room

View from the villa room

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It had to begin sometime. After going around to some different shops around town I have begun to find acceptable retailers to begin to unleash my clothes buying fury. Here in Himeji the selection may to not be the same tier as Osaka, Tokyo, or even Kobe, but it will have to serve as a starting point. The mission this week was to primarily to establish sizes. Therefore I stopped by Spinns, which sells new and used clothing, I picked up M size and L size shirts, for less than what I am aiming to pay for “quality” t-shirts while I am here. Also went to Takeo Kikuchi store to pick up a knit hat since it is getting cold.

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Internet is working fast so time to post.

This weekend I had my first opportunity to do some actual mountain biking. End result was a mixed bag. I had fun overall and it was great exercise, some of the downhill sections were very fun and the ride down the road off the mountain reminded me of an Initial D race, except on a bike and with limited drifting. The downside was great, the ascent was tough, to put it lightly. As fun and fast as the descent was, the ascent was equally leg-cripplingly arduous. For me at least. If I go up every weekend I may get to a point where it isn’t bad. This would mean probably dropping some weight (read: upper body muscle), thus will most likely not happen.

View from vantage point on the way up the mountain, much to my disappointment this view did not give the boost of energy I had expected

View from vantage point on the way up the mountain, much to my disappointment this view did not give the boost of energy I had expected

So, the million dollar question is what am I doing to really stay active. After carefully considering whether to pay twice as much to go to the gym across the street from my apartment or stay on the cheap and join the gym about 1.5 miles away I went with the penny pincher option. This was no bargain by US standards, ~$40 a month, and this was WITH company discount. So yeah. Most interestingly the gym is owned by Konami, and shares the same logo with the games division. This of course means that

Solid snake spots me if I ask him

Solid snake spots me if I ask him

this mofo would work out here if actually existed (maybe!?). The facility has a pool, sauna, japanese-style bath, two activity rooms, cardio equipment, and most importantly an extremely limited weight/machine area. The treadmills and some of stationary bikes actually have Konami logos on them and have a variety of visualizations with ~FF7 level graphics. As with most places in Japan there are several no shoe zones. Since I wear my “trainers” to the gym anyways it means I have to carry my shoes around. This is probably against the rules, so I will claim ignorance until they force me to stop (more on this method later). The amount of rules/customs there make me miss the freedom of working out at college and other gyms in the US. Some examples are:

– No shoe areas as mentioned above, in my mind anything that touches any floor inside a gym is instantly a biohazard.

– EVERYONE changes into gym clothes prior to working out. Even during weekends everyone changes (me included). I have yet to see someone go from front door to gym floor.

– There are rags on every machine and bench for wiping them down. This is OK I guess, I still prefer USC’s handiwipes or Pro-Robics spray bottle of Simple Green and a rag. Them rags be nasty.

There are many more small things that continue to bother me. There are usually attendants just standing around greeting people and putting pins in the machines to the lowest weight. As with most gyms they don’t want you to take free weights into different areas of the gym. This apparently includes the 10 feet to the decline bench, conviently located outside of free weight area. Since I am a greek god and need more resistance than pitiful gravity can provide when doing sit-ups I usually stick a 10lb (here they are 11lbs/5kg) behind my head and do work. On Friday I was interrupted DURING my set (wtf) and told that I couldn’t have free weights in the area. Then the girl takes the weight from my hand to return it for me as if I am going to continue my set. Yes you are not supposed to take the weights outside their padded home, but no one cares if you use them for ab exercises, it is dumb to think people would not naturally do this. It is like trying to make a river go back the way it came. That was my first encounter with the swift Konami authorities, and will not be the last I’m sure (wait til I drag that decline bench to the smith machine to do decline presses).

Overall there are usually a fair number of people in the weight/machine area. Most are men, as usual, and 95% are trim, as is the norm in Japan. There are a handful of gym rats that can match me or better me in weight. Some are nice and do their sets quickly and with regard to the limited equipment. Some others do not and use the only olympic bar in the gym for around half an hour. For this reason I have switch to a more circuit based workout plan so that I have more flexibility in the days that I go and what I do when I am there.

Another notable item is that the group exercise instructors feel the need to dress up as chariactures of group exercise instructors. This includes bandanas and ass-hugging shorts on the males and different styles of lycra suits and checkered hats on the ladies.

A final note, if you have played Metal Gear Solid 3 you may have used Calorie Mate in a desperate attempt to keep EVA alive. Well it is sold in the lobby of the gym. I do not know what came first, the use of of it in the game or Konami Sports Clubs selling it as a work out supplement. Most likely the latter. I bought the chocolate flavor, there is also cheese, potato, and some other flavors. The chocolate tasted like cake mix, dry cake mix. Here is a pic to remind you:

Fully restores health and stamina!

Fully restores health and stamina!

The gym will suffice as I don’t plan on buying any of my own equipment here. I wish they would expand the machine area, also decisions like having two leg extension machines along with abductor and adductor machines make no sense to me in a gym that size.

First some news. The grocery store next to me has actually been selling bananas for the last few weeks. Apparently everytime that I go there, usually after 7 pm, they are sold out of bananas. I don’t know why there is some banana craze, but it is odd that they dont have enough to last a whole day.

Also at the McDonalds’ here they have a slightly different menu. While they have all the old favorites they have included something so utterly amazing I had to experience it for myself. Its name is the MegaMac, and it is similar to a BigMac in that it has a third bun in between two layers of meat. The MegaMac continues where the BigMac leaves off and adds an extra patty to each meat layer. Yes, this means there are 4 patties within this beast. While not as big as some of the monsters at Carls Jr. and others it is still an impressive sandwich. And eating was depressing, something I will probably never do again.

The MegaMac, it will eat your children.

Onto the Saturday outing.

I went with co-workers Greg and Stefan, and an office lady Hasegawa-san, who brought two of her friends from Mitsubishi along as well. On the outskirts of Himeji City is Mt. Shosha, reading from the pamphlet I was given, is a “mountain of prayer throughout the ages”. Needless to say there were a mass of temple related structures and monuments. Also part of the Last Samurai was filmed here, and Tom Cruise stayed in a house at the top. Originally the plan was to hike up the mountain, but the ladies were going to take the cable car to the top, so we went with them, not wanting to make them wait at the top.

every one except hasegawa-san after getting off the cable car

every one except hasegawa-san after getting off the cable car

i see goatse

i see goatse

the farmers cut images of Himeji castle and some sort of demonic figure into the fields

the farmers cut images of Himeji castle and some sort of demonic figure into the fields

mountainzzzzzzzzz

mountainzzzzzzzzz

outside view of the main shrine, monks were grinding so hard in there

outside view of the main shrine, monks were grinding so hard in there

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So on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week I was very ill with food poisoning. It was terrible and resulted in an embarrassing/humorous situation on Tuesday.

Turn back the clock to last Friday, I went out with two co-workers and three Chinese members of Mitsubishi to an Izakaya-type restaurant. Now even though Chinese people eat the strangest food on the planet on average, for some reason they don’t like to eat raw foods. Fine, cool with me. So one of my co-workers orders a plate of raw meats. Ok. I trust the quality and preparation methods in Japan so I will indulge. I ate my share of raw beef, raw horse, and most importantly raw chicken. The chicken was a first. It wasn’t remarkable and otherwise forgettable.

Fast forward to Monday morning.

There was a holiday so I didn’t have work, but early in the morning I started to feel sick to my stomach. Was it that milk I drank last night? No idea. Interestingly the previous night one of my co-workers complained of feeling ill as well. Things were starting to click in my head as the day progressed and I felt worse and worse. I went to bed early and woke up at the normal time for work. I was still feeling ill, but I felt well enough to come in.

I ride to work and I am sweating a lot even though it was a cool morning. Not a good sign. I change and go to my desk. I am feeling ill and tired, but I think I will be able to make it until midday at least. My boss comes over and tells me that I am going to meet with one of the HR people that did my initial interview at USC. Kay, no worries, now I have an extra incentive to be here. About 40 min later one of the office ladies goes with me to the elevator. While waiting for the elevator to come up to our floor I am really feeling tired, I didn’t get much sleep and had the weirdest dreams ever. The elevator arrives and I go in and lean on the back wall. I can tell something is wrong and plan to hit a bathroom once we get to the first floor. The elevator stops on the the floor below ours on the way down. Damn why do people keep getting on. A man gets on. Next thing I know I am on the floor of the elevator and the door is open to the ground floor. I fainted in the elevator. WTF. Now I am much more coherent while security guard upon security guard comes rushing up to me. Fantastic. A lady doctor, very hot, arrives in a long white coat and I get ferried to the medical building in a security cart. My boss, foreign co-workers, and the HR woman all come in an see me and I end up going home after resting a few hours. I take Wednesday off since I do not want to take the chance of a repeat performance.

So what did I learn from this?

Raw chicken does this.

And that food poisoning sucks. It was the sickest I have ever been and I do not want to experience it again.

I will not eat raw chicken, beef, horse, or anything else that does not live in the ocean.

Madagascar closed their ports 5 min after I fainted.

my stolen internet was being slow so I decided to take some quick pics of my apartment.

entryway

bathroom, shower/bathtub is on the other side of the sink, I don't know why I didn't take a picture, it is more interesting

kitchen/dining/washing machine

tatami bedroom

office area / second room

view looking south, I have one balcony facing south and one facing west

this was the bathroom at the hotel I stayed at for the first two nights. it was small, BUT the toilet had a bidet and a sprayer, which was somehow different, and was totally awesome.

I don’t have much stuff right now so it looks pretty bare, that will be remedied once I get a TV, furniture, and the rest of my stuff.

Next up: uniform pictures, prepare to be annihilated.

Quick post because I am hungry and I need to buy a pillow. I made it to Japan, the flight was ridiculously long and was filled with American students going to Japan for a semester abroad. They were the nerdiest people I have ever seen on a plane. Also there was a really fat guy, at least 400lbs, who was in the program, and he was talking with some of the others in the customs line and they remarked how they didn’t know who their host families were until they met them later that day. I feel terrible for the family that ended up with that fat bastard. I have some pictures and junk that I will put up later, as mentioned above I need to buy some essentials so I can actually get some sleep tonight.