Years in the making

The city has been working on a bike lane for a very long time. It seems like at least 2 years. I can’t be sure. I do have some historical records I think on various blog posts. Here’s a post from January, and here’s one from October … of 2009.

Yesterday, they finally opened up the approximately 800 meter bike lane. It removed a lane on a very busy street.

Opening Day

 

The first day the sidewalk was armed with heavily clothed workers on a lower ‘90s kind of day (34 degC) with quite a bit of humidity directing traffic to the new bike lane.

Controlling the flow

 

It gets a little confusing

 

Lots of signage and rules associated with this bike lane and parking areas.

No lack of signage

 

No lack of signage

 

No lack of signage

 

No lack of signage

 

People seemed to be using it pretty happily, well most people. It’s funny to me, because I only see these bike lanes on streets with really wide sidewalks anyway!

This way please

 

たこ焼き – hp3

On March 19, I had a plan to have a たこ焼きパーティー (takoyaki party) with the Fuji Rock crowd, and Tomo was going to come as well and a good time was to be had! That was the plan.

After the earthquake and the issues at Fukushima, I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate or not to have the party. I was writing an email to one of the main protagonists and was typing, “Well, unless something bad happens I plan to go ahead …” and then an M6.4 earthquake hit Yamanashi and Shizuoka and I felt it in Nagoya. I got quite the adrenaline rush and I think my body tremors actually caused more motion in the building than the initial quake.

Things settled down, and nobody cancelled or suggested that I do cancel, so the show went on. And what a show it was. It was quite fun. Takoyaki is basically breaded bits of octopus cooked into a little ball. Sounds great, huh? It’s actually really good, and you can put other foods in there too. And we did.

For this house party, I decided I wasn’t going to supply everything and let things evolve like a more traditional houseparty – in other words people pitch in for the materials that were purchased for the party. I still spent a gob of money on the beer, but other folks brought the takoyaki ingredients.

What was hard for me was to completely turn over my kitchen (and subsequently dining room) to others as they prepared the food. All I could do was step out of the way, find the occasional tool they needed, and take pictures.

Prepping in the kitchen

Prepping in the kitchen
 

Tomo’s mom made beautiful chirashi sushi.

delicious chirashi sushi
 

I was surprised at how takoyaki was made. I always thought the perfectly round balls of mouthing burning goodness came out of a mold. I was wrong. You fill a half mold with ingredients, and the pan is sized such that there is additional batter around the half molds. Then, at the precise time, you somehow use a little stick to gather up the overflow batter and form the other half of the ball and rotate the whole thing in the mold and let it continue to bake. I have NO idea how to make it. As I said, I just gave up my kitchen to the experts. There were three takoyaki “machines” though, so an extension cord was stretched to the dining room table, allow more people to demonstrate their proficiency.

Party time

Party time
 

Not only was it a takoyaki party, but three people’s birthdays were within one week of the party, so we had a birthday cake and celebrated.

Not his birthday
 

Of course, the party went so late that most people missed the last train and found various ways and places to sleep. Although I had several futons pulled out for people to use and still had the couch, not everyone could get a comfortable resting place. That didn’t bother some people.

Sleeping anywhere

Sleeping anywhere

Sleeping anywhere
 

At around 7 or 8 am, I shooed most people out of the house. As the host, I felt like I couldn’t sleep (although I did somewhat). One friend who drove stayed a little bit longer to make sure the alcohol wore off before driving home (athough he said he was good to drive and I know he wasn’t). He crashed in the guest room, which is like a cave, and instead of waking up at 9ish, he rolled out of the guest room around 12:45 pm. We wrapped things up by road-tripping to really good ramen in the countryside. A fun time again. Although Tomo suggests I start the next house party at Noon!

New Year’s Eve Slumber Party

The New Year’s Eve party has come and gone and it seems to have been a success. I never really set a time for it to begin, so at the beginning of the evening Tomo and I were all dressed up with no place to go!

Wondering if anyone would come or not

 

Note I tried a little experiment with these pictures – perhaps a failed experiment. I changed the mode to a program mode because I didn’t want the camera to compensate for a lack of light and over-expose. So, although the party was appropriate mood-lit for a party, every picture is now really dark. Oh well, lesson learned.

Anyway, Tomo had time to watch a little TV before the guests started to arrive. Some were late because they were busy cleaning their room, another was late because their 1.5 hour nap turned into 3 hours, and some were just late. But almost everyone made it.

The plan was to eat, watch a comedy special, and maybe consume a little alcohol. Between the 10 of us, 14 beers, 4 bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of white, and 1 bottle of red were consumed. I think I had at least half a bottle of champagne just myself. Or more. Nobody got sloppy drunk, so the party was able to sustain for a bit.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the food. I heated up about 4 liters of chili (yes, really, 4 liters) wondering if anyone would like it. As it turns out, people did. Some were surprised that it wasn’t a little spicier, so I broke out the cayenne especially for them. I should have gotten Tabasco as well.

Enjoying food at the party

Enjoying food at the party

 

As the night progressed, people got more and more interested in the comedy television special.

Enjoying TV at the party

 

We had a countdown and popped some “crackers.” When I was running errands, Tomo told me to get some crackers. I told him I didn’t think we needed to add anymore food. I thought he meant crackers, you know, like crackers. But turns out クラッカー. or crackers, are like firecrackers. He described them as pulling the string and then they pop. Oh, right. Then I added that I didn’t want the streamers flying out and making a mess. After all, I had just spent three days cleaning. He told me I could find some that didn’t have any streamers. I sort of forgot about them and had no idea where to buy them anyway. But then I went to a 100 yen shop and thought, well, maybe they have “crackers” and maybe I’ll buy some. I never go to 100 yen shops, I absolutely HATE 100 yen shops, but I wanted a small plate for a candle and I wanted to spend no more than 100 yen. So there I was, and I found the mother load of crackers. And, if you can believe it, I even found “No Dirty Cracker.” I think that meant that the streamers streamed but were then captured. I snooped around a little more and then determined that was probably the case. Those crackers were definitely worth it. The text reads, “散らからないクラッカー”, (chirakaranai kurakka-), which roughly translates to “non-scattering cracker.”

No Dirty Cracker!

I just noticed the warning label on the back. Make sure you play with the adult and do not put it in the pocket.

No Dirty Cracker usage instructions

 

After the New Year, the TV special ended, so Tomo broke out his collection of Studio Ghibli movies and folks watched, “紅の豚” (Porco Rosso). Why Tomo brought that collection from Tokyo baffles me, but it was a success. People started wearing out by then.

Enjoying movies at the party

 

We watched the Shiina Ringo Expo 2008 live concert DVD that Tomo and I went to. That was a pretty incredible concert. By then I think I had a lot to drink because I don’t remember tons of that time. Odd. Maybe I was talking to others at the time.

After that DVD finished, Tomo suggested we rented “The Hangover” with Japanese subtitles. Hmmm, so that meant I needed someone with an Apple Store account in Japan to rent it. With so many music fans, that took about three seconds. By this time everyone was getting pretty tired. As I thought, the party turned in to a big slumber party, but the expectation of where and how people would sleep was far less than I thought it would be.

Resting until the sun rises

Resting until the sun rises

Resting until the sun rises

 

I think the heated floors kept everyone pretty cozy, although the wood isn’t particularly soft.

The sun came up, the trains started run, and slowly people started to wake up. Slowly.

Rise and shine

 

By 8:30 am or so, everyone had left and I had the chance to go to sleep. As the host I didn’t really feel like I could go to sleep. So I kept myself going. I woke up at 10:00 am or so, feeling really, really, really bad and tasting nothing but champagne. I’ve never been so drunk that I’ve gotten sick. Really. But on 1/1/11 I was soooo close. But all I could think of is that if I puked I’d never want my chili again. So somehow I successfully held back, fell back asleep, and was able wake up around noon and start cleaning. I didn’t feel very good most the day, but was better in the evening and full speed today.

Thanks to my Japanese friends who broke from their usual traditions to enjoy a house party at my place. This is most likely my last New Year’s in Nagoya, so it was really nice to be able to share it with Japanese.

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!

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.