よいお年を

I realized this is actually the first true New Year’s Eve I’ve spent in Nagoya. Two years ago I went to a friend’s house in Tokyo and did mostly nothing while they celebrated New Year’s with their family. I came home on a late train on January 2nd only to learn that I had left my key in Tokyo. Oops. Last year I was arriving back in Japan on New Year’s Ever and had a bit of a transportation mess up and “had” to take the train from Tokyo to Nagoya and got home at 11:59 pm to discover snow.

This year, I woke up to snow again, although it did not stick like last year. Also Tomo suggested that I have a New Year’s Eve party, so that is what I’m doing. Another house party. I’ve stocked up on food and alcohol so all I am waiting for are the people (and a little prep work remaining). I have no idea what this party will bring. I think there will be a lot of TV watching as there are three big shows in Japan on New Year’s Eve, a music festival, a comedy contest, and K-1 (mixed martial arts) fights. I am relinquishing control of my TV. I don’t care what we watch, I won’t understand any of it anyway.

How or when the party will end I have no idea. I can imagine it will go until the first train in the morning or will end pretty much right after midnight as people scramble to catch the last train to their homes. I usually easily make room for 3 people to crash here, 4 people if two don’t mind getting cozy, but my guest room is occupied by a surprise visitor. We’ll see what happens.

Shopping today was a battle. Of course, most the shops are closed on New Year’s Day, so the supermarkets were filled with people. Going to battle with middle-aged women who have no issues bowling you over. But I’ve said that before.

Fight on!

I’ve recalled my younger days living in a colder climate by using the outside as my refrigerator. Yup. Very white trash or redneck. Take your pick. My fridge though is filled with sushi and sashimi, still some beers, and homemade chili. Yum.

I’m not a big cook in the US or in Japan, but with three days of cooking chili and doing dishes, I’ve learned that my countertop is really, really, really low and cooking and cleaning leads to a backache. It’s perfect height for the aforementioned middle aged women and I’m sure they would call me out as “weak” for my complaint.

Time to do the final preparation for the party. It should be fun!

23.5*sin(θ)

I’ve never been a big fan of the short number of hours of daylight in the winter time. In Indiana, at the far Western edge of the time zone, the sun would rise really late in the morning. I found that very depressing. It was so hard to get up in the pitch black.

Sun Inclination Angle

Nagoya is on the Eastern edge of the time zone, so the sunrise is relatively early. In the summer it is crazy early, and the sunlight wakes me up pretty easily. I’m able to get out of bed, and get going quickly. In the winter though, it is still dark, my room is cold, and I am uninspired.

But now, we are at Solstice, the minimum number of day light hours for those of us North of the Tropic of Cancer, or the sun’s lowest inclination angle. From now until the end of June, the number of daylight hours will increase as the sun appears to take a Northerly trek in the daylight sky. The sin wave is very flat for a while so we are not out of the woods yet, but it is improving. Or will be about 9 hours after I post this.

Venting

In my shower room, and sounding a bit like Morrissey, there is a fan that never turns off. I guess it is some Japanese thing. Maybe I’ve complained about it before. Since the fan goes all the time, I have vents in my shower door where wind whistles in. The air has to circulate from somewhere, so Japanese construction companies are kind enough to put holes through exterior walls to make sure you don’t get a vacuum due to the fan that never turns off.

From the inside of the house, the vents look like this.

Apartment venting in Japan

 

Basically, this vent is “deployed,” or open to the outside. There is a opening on the outside of the house, and a little filter / insulation in the hole. The vent is pushed in to seal the air from entering. Except when you push in the vent, the air changes from quiet and low flow rate around the edges to whistling and faster flow rate. The valves of the vent are useless. In my living room there are actually three vents.

Apartment venting in Japan

 

The outside of the vent is nothing special, it’s only a slight grate over the hole.

Apartment venting in Japan

 

The biggest problem is a have of set of the vents right by my bed, and nothing to keep the air from rushing over my head. I wake up in the winter time consistently with a stuffy ear because of the draft. I’ve tried many different tricks over the past few winters. Primarily I’ve tried to make a vapor barrier inside the hole. It never worked well though and although the volume was reduced there was still a lot of cold air blowing through.

This time I took an even more aggressive approach. It was time to kill the cold air at the source. It isn’t pretty but who else will be on my balcony? Just me. The grate is now blocked.

Blocking apartment venting in Japan

 

I’m sure I’ll need a tape change and even a change in material, but it seems to be somewhat more effective. Of course, that means that more air is rushing through the living room vents. But at least it won’t pull right over my head while I am sleeping anymore.

Meee YOW!!!

I live across the street, and maybe a block away from the biggest concentration of hostess bars in Nagoya (Nishiki). Lucky me. As a matter of fact, the bar district separates me from the biggest shopping area in Nagoya as well (Sakae). In general, I avoid walking through Nishiki because during the day it is ugly and dirty. At night, it isn’t any cleaner, but at least the lights mask the ugliness. I get tired of being welcomed to any number of bars with soliciting men and women. Most often I walk to a major street that is lined with offices and shops to get to Sakae. It is a little out of the way but more pleasant. Those times that I do walk through Nishiki, I can’t help notice the signage with pictures of the hostesses in various “sensual” poses.

As I come out of my subway station, I see a little different signage that reminds me very much of those hostess bar advertisements. This ad though is for a 猫カフェ. That translates to a “Cat Café.” Yes, you read that correctly. It is a café where the draw or the gimmick is a bunch of cats to keep you company.

I think the board shows the most popular cats in their most seductive poses.

nekocafe

 

This is the most seductive.

meee yow!

 

You’ve got to click on this link to check out the “cat staff.”

This gives you a little more detail about the concept.

What is the course?

 

Here’s a picture of koreo-kun.

koreo-kun

 

I don’t know if they do shows, if they have a pole, or if they will pour you drinks while purring seductively. I wouldn’t be surprise.

The Home of the REAL Central Park

Nagoya may boast of its Central Park, and indeed, like the New York Central Park, it is a strip of land between two streets. The thing is, the distance between those two streets varies a lot between Nagoya and New York City, and does the length.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip back to the US with Tomo to go to a wedding in LA, fun in New York City, and to visit my brother in Boston. What does that have to do with life in Japan? Nothing, but it is my blog and I make the rules. So I will write about it.

LA is home, so I basically went to the Dentist, caught up with friends, shopped, and went to a wedding. Nothing touristy in LA.

We decided to visit New York as well, since we were going to see my brother on the East Coast. I was reluctant at first, because New York is expensive, somewhat of a hassle, and seemed little more than a diversion. I was just being a curmudgeon. I’m really glad we went. Perhaps getting upgraded to first class between LA and NY made the transition a little easier. That was the shortest cross country flight I think I’ve ever taken.

We got in late on a Tuesday, and it was raining. That was the only rain the entire time. We checked into our hotel on Times Square (not my favorite place to stay but quite practical), went to the concierge for an umbrella, and they informed us, “We don’t have any umbrellas.” What? That was a shocker to me. Anyway, I guess I’ve gotten too accustomed to Asian service. After a nice Indian dinner, we called it a night.

Wednesday the weather was very nice, so we decided we’d take a walk through Central Park. The real Central Park. We wandered past Rockefeller Center, past the Apple Store, and on to Central Park. We took a nice leisurely stroll, and surprising were able to enjoy some of the fall colors.

30 Rock during the day, and a very excited Tomo.

A statue at 30 Rockefeller

 

Tomo looking for Liz Lemon

 

A LEGO version of 30 Rockefeller (at the LEGO shop AT 30 Rockefeller).

LEGO NYC

 

A big Apple in the Big Apple

A big Apple in the Big Apple

 

Central Park

Fall in Central Park

 

Fall in Central Park

 

Fall in Central Park

 

Fall in Central Park

 

Fall in Central Park

 

We emerged out of the park in the lower 70s, so we had a hot dog at a hot dog stand (meh, wasn’t so good) and wandered around Madison for a while. Since we were on the Upper East Side, we decided to hit the Guggenheim. We didn’t make it all the way up to the Whitney though.

A quick snack.

Waiting for our hot dogs

 

The Guggenheim

The Guggenheim

 

Classic Guggenheim lettering

 

Is a giant cone art, or just an optical illusion?

Cone in front of the Guggenheim

 

Of course, from the Upper East Side we decided to head to SoHo. Well, actually, that was Tomo’s plan. It was fairly convenient, and the subway has definitely been upgraded since the last time I took it. I could actually figure out which subway to take! SoHo is completely different than when I first started going to New York. At that time, my brother worked in a photo studio on Broadway in SoHo. There was no Chanel. No Gucci. Just artist lofts. Those days are gone. We successfully shopped and then headed back to Times Square to meet a friend of mine for dinner. After dinner we went to a bar and that was it.

Some subway etiquette

 

NYC Subway

 

Japanese featured in subway ads

 

Thursday we were graced with another nice morning, so we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m not sure if I had walked across it before even when my brother lived in Brooklyn. I think I did, but I can’t recall. What a great way to see New York. We walked down to Brooklyn Heights, and the last time I had been to Brooklyn Heights the World Trade Center was still standing. It is strange to see the view now.

Before heading out we stopped at Juniors for a huge breakfast.

Junior's Deli

 

And wandered through Bryant Park. “Designers?” “Make it work.”

Bryant Park subway station

 

The Brooklyn Bridge in color.

Brooklyn Bridge, color

 

Brooklyn Bridge, color

 

But it always looks better in black and white.

Brooklyn Bridge, black and white

 

Brooklyn Bridge, black and white

 

Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge.

Manhattan

 

Around Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights, heading towards the Promenade

 

Manhattan, from Brooklyn Heights

 

From Brooklyn, we went back to Soho and the back to the hotel because we had to get ready to meet a friend at 30 Rock to go to a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Cool, huh? Tomo knows the house band, so we got tickets that way and even had a chance to go back stage and hang with the band for a bit. Very fun to do. The taping was very entertaining, and Anne Hathaway was the first guest and she and Jimmy just geeked out a little bit. They did a segment where they went into the audience, so we were on TV. Yeah. We went BACK to SoHo for dinner (yes, three times) with Tomo’s friend Soon and his girlfriend, Stephanie.

30 Rock at Night

 

Waiting for Stephanie

 

And of course a picture of Times Square.

Times Square

 

Friday we decided to return, once again, to 30 Rock and enjoy the view from the “Top of the Rock.” We did enjoy the view, but unfortunately, my camera battery preferred to stay in the hotel room alone. The view was really nice, but you’ll have to take my word for it.

We had a bit of a snafu going to Boston from New York related to luggage on the train. We worked around it though and the trip to Boston was peaceful.

Amtrak to Boston

 

We had a great time in Boston, enjoying my brother and his family (including 4 dogs and 4 cats), a birthday party, Newbury Street, Boston Commons, Beacon Hill, Jamaica Plain, and Harvard before heading back to Japan on Monday.

Harvard.

Harvard

 

The Natural History Museum at Harvard. Very “old school.”

Natural History Museum

 

A very nice trip, for sure.