The more I consider it, the more I think I could actually give it a go here in Tokyo.  Of course, the move wouldn’t be as simple as just picking up and shifting my life over to the other side of the world.  Some issues would have to be addressed.  Chiefly: 1. What would I do with my days?  2. What would I do for work?  3. How would I get the dog shere?  Well, last things first.  I won’t compromise the safety of my dogs so flying them over from Vancouver presents a bit of a problem.  I can’t see them flying carry-on, nestled under the seat in front of me for the 10+ hour flight, and given the horror stories I’ve heard about dogs flying cargo, I’ll dismiss that option outright.  Short of chartering a private jet, that leaves me with no other options.  But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Air Canada adopts that pet-friendly policy I’ve been talking about for years now, and they suddenly realize the financial benefits of offering pet-friendly flights in which pet owners are actually permitted to purchase seats for their furry companions.  In that case, problem is solved and we could all fly in style.

Which brings us to issues #1 and #2.  Well, I’m sure I could always find something to occupy my time.  I could look into the dark, mysterious and oft-frightening world of freelancing.  Granted the type of money I’d make would be nowhere near the sum I could bring in show running, but certain sacrifices would have to be made.  Hell, I’ve calculated that if I sold my place in Vancouver, I could make enough money to rent a very nice place and live comfortably for quite some time.  QUITE some time.  But that’s defeatist thinking.  IF I can make a modest living, find a nice place, and can move my dogs without hassle, Tokyo could be a viable option…

In which I’d enjoy days like the one I enjoyed yesterday.  Following a leisurely morning spent updating this blog, Akemi and I dropped by the Pierre Marcolini Cafe, her former haunt, to say hello to her former co-workers…

The Maroclini Gang: Keiko-san, Akemi, and Dr. Yukina.

From there, it was a short, three-block walk over to my favorite sushi-ya: Sawada.  It was my third visit there in as many years.  The first time I went, I was blown away.  The second time, I brought Ivon along and he was so impressed that he declared it the best meal he’d ever had.  Yesterday, I brought Akemi along for my third visit and she was blown away by the quality of the sushi, the presentation, and Sawada-san who a delightful host – friendly, humorous, and full of fascinating information on the various ingredients and the painstaking process by which he produces his delicious creations.  For instance, he had a special refrigerator to allow for ice-cooling, lets certain fish rest for days before serving, and prepares his rice thirty minutes to an hour before each service.  Any rice that is left over after lunch is thrown out because he feels the flavor is compromised after an hour, and he starts from scratch for the dinner service.  He served us two types of sea urchin and explained how he washes one with water from Hokkaido because that’s where that particular uni hails from, just north of the island where it feeds on its famed kombu (seaweed).  He served us some otoro, aburi-style, and told us how it was the inspiration for kobe beef.  And the taste, texture, and look of the aburi proved remarkably similar to the famed, well-marbled beef:

There was a strict no photo policy in place so as not to distract the other customers so I can’t offer the visual rundown I’ve done with previous restaurants, but suffice it to say we enjoyed yet another remarkable meal.

After lunch, I finally got to hit Akihabara, aka Electric Town, aka Otaku Central, home of the electronic deals, anime merchandise, and roaming geeks. On our way out of the station, we stopped by Doughnut Plant and picked up two doughnuts: the tiramusi and the vanilla.  Fondy remembered these doughnuts fondly from her days in Tokyo.

My emphatic sampling.
Results in a mess. You can't take me anywhere!

The verdict?  Meh.  Even Akemi was somewhat disappointed, claiming they weren’t as good as she remembered.  Alas, they never are.  We gave the doughnuts to a homeless man and moved on.

The streets of Akihabara!

After picking up a new Evangelion cell phone case for my iPhone (it’s nowhere near an effective protective cover as the one I was using, but it’s an Evangelion cover!), we headed over to the Sega centre where Akemi sought to recapture some more fond memories (these from her high school days) by doing some purrikura which, it turns out, isn’t a hallucinogenic but Japanese slang for “print club”.  We went upstairs and entered one of the numerous little photo booths, then used to the touch screen to select our picture frames – something suitably saccharine – then posed for various shots.  It took me a while to get the hang of it as there was a full one second disconnect between the sound of the click and the actual flash –

I'll go with the plain silly, thanks.

Once we were done, we proceeded to a second booth at which you input your various little doodles, comments, drawings, and symbols onto the picture.  Once that was done, you proceeded to yet another booth at which you input your email address (so they could send you tiny, poor quality copies, natch) and printed up tiny, poor quality copies of your session.

I must say, I was dubious at first but I think it did a really great job of capturing my youthful exuberance and big brown eyes…

Damn.  If only I’d known about this when I was here with Ivon last year.

After that, we walked around Akihabara and checked out some of the shops (or, should I say, giant multi-level complexes).  I’d like to bring a new anime series back to Vancouver with me but there are so many of them, I’m having a hard time deciding.  Anyone out there know what’s new and great in the world of anime?

Well, I didn’t find an anime series to check out, I did come across plenty of interesting sights…only in Akihabara…

This guy was a having a great old time on the drum game.
One of the neighbourhood's many maids, trawling the streets for potential customers. I told Akemi that, if we moved to Tokyo, she could work at a Maid Cafe and I could work at the neighbouring Butler Cafe. I'm sure I would be quite popular!
Check out the howitzers on that kid. Something you rarely see in North American cartoons.
The sommelier would like to recommend a Dragonball 1989. Or would you prefer the 2002 Sailor Moon?

We ended up running out of time as we had to be in Roppongi to meet a friend of Akemi’s for dinner, so we hopped on the metro and caught the Hibiya line to Midtown.  Inside the station, I snapped pics of some of the subway warnings.  Check out the smart Japanese raccoons schooling the dumb foreigner…

Look at this moron - all relaxed. He's just asking for his elbows to get clipped by a passing train. Don't they have subways where he comes from?!

Seriously.  If not for stupid gaijin, these warning signs would be wholly unnecessary.

By the time we got to Roppongi, it was already dark.

The streets of Roppongi.

We ended up meeting at the Jean Paul Hevin cafe.  Dinner consisted of a chocolate extravaganza: four chocolate cakes, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate sorbet.  Oh, and  a Perrier for me as I’m trying to watch my girlish figure.

The cakes ranged from great to incredible.
Surprisingly, I preferred the sorbet over the ice cream. Not that the ice cream was bad. The sorbet was simply that good.
And...done. Sort of. If Ivon had been with me, we would have polished off everything.

Akemi got the chance to catch up with her old friend and I even managed to catch a few words here and there.  I think that the only way I’m going to improve my Japanese conversational and listening skills is by going full immersion.  Similarly, I think the only way I’m going to really learn to read Hiragana and Katakana is by picking up some Japanese manga and going through the laborious process of translating each and every panel.  It’ll be difficult at first but, eventually, much easier in time.

We left Midtown and Ayaka, then headed outside where we grabbed some dessert –

Takoyaki! A.k.a octopus balls filled with octopus bits, flour, baking soda, bonito stock, green onion and cabbage. We had two kinds: original (takoyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed) and mentaiko-mayonnnaise (marinated fish eggs and green onion).
They're always half-cooked to produce a molten center designed to deliver maximum mouth burn.

We were on our way back to the hotel when I received an email from my friend Moro-san.  She was interested in hitting Star Bar after work.  How could I say no?  We met up.  I had a couple of Moscow Mules.  I practiced my Japanese and we were treated to a demonstration of ice craftsmanship:

The Boss! Hisashi Kishi!

Mini mailbag:

Major D. Davis writes: “ALL THAT FOOD.”

Answer: Yeah.  It’ll be oatmeal for breakfast when I return to Vancouver.  By the way, Major, nice to have you back.

Lewis writes: “How different is the weather there from what it normally is in Vancouver this time of year?”

Answer: It’s actually much colder here in Tokyo!

JeffW writes: “I’m thinking about trying LDP’s Kale Chips this weekend.”

Answer: How does he make them?  I like them oven roasted after being tossed in olive oil and a bit of sea salt.

Kabra writes: “The purple yam thing, hmmm can we get those here?? Are they really grown in that colour??”

Answer: They’re pretty damn purple naturally but I think that, in the case of the cakes, their color may have been enhanced.  I think I’ve seen them in Vancouver.  Akemi claims purple potatoes are healthier.  As a result, I no longer feel guilty eating those cakes for breakfast.

for the love of Beckett writes: “Akemi, has Joe said anything funny or amusing in Japanese recently?”

Answer: Akemi says to stay tuned for her Shit My Canadian Boyfriend Says twitter account.

for the love of Beckett also writes: “Do you see many dogs strolling Tokyo? Any Shiba Inu?”

Answer: I’ve seen a surprising number of dogs strolling about, mainly small breeds (chihuahuas, shibas, a couple of french bulldogs yesterday) but a couple of bigger dogs as well (a doberman and a golden retriever).

Shiny writes: “I’m going to move to Japan and sell cute wool caps to all these folks wandering around in the cold with not hat on.”

Answer: Great.  Let’s go into business together.  It’s either selling wool caps or working at the Butler Cafe!

Kathode writes: “Anyway, my suggestion for another superhero-of-the-week movie would be “Super Fuzz.”

Answer: Why have I never heard of this movie?  It looks absolutely dreadful – and thus perfect for our SuperMovie of the Week Club!

dasndanger writes: “Oh, forgot to tell you what the dream was about. You updated your blog saying you were back in Vancouver, and I was baffled because I never saw an entry saying that you had actually left Japan.”

Answer: Weird!!!  Were you able to get back to sleep?

SebiMeyer writes: “The legends surrounding the Kappa are quite disturbing. It feeds on human large intestines, which it accesses by crawling up their butt. The cucumbers are just offered so if doesn’t do that to you.”

Answer: Thanks for that educational – and disturbing – tidbit.

Sue Jackson writes: “How do eat all this stuff and not get fat? Do you jog every morning?”

Answer: The secret is in walking everywhere.  It just eats up the calories.  One year of this and I’d probably be at my peak physical shape, ready to box Carl Binder for the championship belt.

ILyes D. Vex writes: “and the pudding cake thing, isn’t it called Anpan or something???”

Answer: Anpan is something different.  I believe it’s a sweet bun filled with red bean paste.

max writes: “Has your dog-sitter mentioned if your other dogs look confused that maximus isnt around anymore?”

Answer: She says they’re doing great and don’t see to be acting or reacting any differently.  Of course that may change when I get back.  I took Maximus away with me for the Christmas holidays so they may well be expecting his return with mine.

Debra writes: “You can have a vacation home there, but we won’t get you back on US TV shows if you move there full time so not going to encourage THAT.”

Answer: I have been considering going the alternate route of simply getting a vacation place.

Pontytail writes: “What do you think Akemi’s mom thinks of you?”

Answer: She seems to think well enough of me to not force Akemi to pack up her bags and move to Osaka immediately.  So far, so good.

Jenny Robin writes: “I’m so sorry.”

Answer: Thanks, Jenny.  Long time no see.  How’s the book business?


33 thoughts on “February 4, 2012: Day #8! Considering a change in location! Visiting Geek Central! Dessert for dinner and dinner for dessert! Make your own ice cubes – Star Bar style! And a mini mailbag!

  1. I’d go for the 2002 Sailor Moon!

    I really need to take a trip to Toyko and try some of that yummy food! Only issue is that it would be a lonely trip since no one I know is as adventurous when it comes to eating. I really would love to try those octo-balls!

  2. “Well, last things first. I won’t compromise the safety of my dogs so flying them over from Vancouver presents a bit of a problem.”
    Not certain if there is a pet airline that goes to Japan, still looking, will post more info if I find anything relevant. 🙂

  3. Nice pictures of you and Akemi!

    Just a quickie – gotta sit down to watch Rosemary and Thyme, and quaint little British mystery series on PBS.

    I have a request, Joe. You gotta take a picture of a hawt Japanese boy (well, man…we don’t want anything criminal, here) for Sparrow and me! 🙂

    Gotta run! Continue to enjoy! (BTW, I never woke up. 😉 )



    Maybe a loop-hole:
    Certified Service Animals (guide dogs, signal dogs, and assist dogs) will be allowed to accompany their owner in the passenger cabin. Please note that advanced reservations are required for the service animal.

    I guess you, Akemi and a couple other people with dark sunglasses on and using a cane, each walking in with one of your “service dogs” would be a bit much? 🙂

    Still looking for more info.

  5. You may already know some or all of what I’ve been finding like this:
    Certain breeds (like the above mentioned bulldogs and pugs) have respiratory issues due to the structure of their face making breathing at sea level difficult at times. The pressurized cabin of an airplane isn’t the ideal breathing environment which can be taxing or lethal for some dogs.

    pug puppy with tongue out smilingMany airlines also won’t accept some breeds, like pugs, if the outside temperature is above 22 C (72 F) since the dogs can overheat easily even in slightly warm conditions.


    Anil P. October 15, 2010 at 04:00

    It depends on the airline. You’ll need to call them to confirm although most major airlines will fly pugs. That’s assuming your pug has no abnormal breathing problems and is in good shape.

    I travel the world with a pug – feel free to let me know if you have any more questions.

  6. Thots to add to your list of things to consider regard a move to Japan.
    The passport/citizen/visitor stuff, the Japanese equivalent of work or visitor permit, and what impact regard your efforts with Akemi’s status for living/working in Canada.

    IF…you are able to take the puppies to Japan, what kind of quarantine requirements, etc.

  7. @Joe:

    JeffW writes: “I’m thinking about trying LDP’s Kale Chips this weekend.”

    Answer: How does he make them? I like them oven roasted after being tossed in olive oil and a bit of sea salt.

    It sounds pretty much the same except for LDP’S addition of lime and parmesan…see:

    As for the getting the dogs to Japan, what does JAL offer? They seem to know how to take care of customers…

  8. Dinner was dessert and ohh man chocolate too, Heaven,yummy, thanks for sharing!! And I listened to the interview you mentioned yesterday on the post, very well done sir.

  9. Wow, another awesome day you had. I’m really enjoying your trip this year! Love the cute snaps of you and Akemi in the photo booth. Too bad we couldn’t see the food from your lunch.

    “Oh, and a Perrier for me as I’m trying to watch my girlish figure.” You know Das is going to get you for that line.

    “Pontytail writes” Pontytail? Are you sure you’re not channeling director Bruce McDonald and his movie Pontypool? I loved that movie!

  10. OH, and the ice cutting was amazing too! Don’t tell me he just throws away the ice shavings. They would make a delicious snow cone or slurpy.

    And call me a dumb foreigner. I don’t get the raccoons. I say as long as your not standing on a red stripe, you should be okay. The raccoons look like crossing guards. And no, I’ve never seen a subway before except on TV. I’m from Texas for goodness sakes. (There was a cow in the road on my way home from work yesterday. Normal. Subway. Not normal.) 🙂

  11. We used to go to Akihabara to find electronic components when the Navy couldn’t come through on parts. But I didn’t say that. We were all ETs (electronic techs) and Electric Town was heaven. I loved the tiny pink toasters, but only picked up a charming little pink iron.

    Postcards? Kawaii desu!

    NUm num num. On everything. Sigh, I never stop craving takoyaki, and I have no way to get any here. Waaah!

  12. Those pictures are adorable!

    All that chocolate looks amazing. Especially that cake, wow. And thanks for the ice-crafting vids! Very cool (pun not intended, oops) and precise.

  13. I’ll tell you about my experience. I had a city that I would go to visit as a tourist. I always thought how wonderful it would be to live there and I could do all these things whenever I wanted to. Then I got the opportunity to live there. My idea of what it would be like to live there and actually living there are quite different. All the free time I had as a tourist is what I didn’t have when I lived there. Working and the duties of life take time and doesn’t leave all the time available to do those things I could do while on vacation. I will say that I am glad I moved there, it was a good experience, and I was able to do things there I couldn’t have otherwise. It just wasn’t the experience I thought I would have. but still good.

  14. Catching up on your blogs from this week once again. We got some sad news earlier in the week and I’ve been rather depressed and busy now trying to make preparations. My father-in-law’s days on our earth are numbered. He was moved to hospice & was no longer swallowing as of Tues, not even water, so I keep thinking it’s bad news when the phone rings. We’ve decided to go up to New Jersey–all of us. I had to sift through 600 hotel possibilities to find the only place that will work for my allergies and Patrick’s autism/OCD tendencies (with full kitchen). Also with the airlines. Jeff had bought a ticket for this upcoming Thursday to say goodbye to his dad, thinking his dad had a few more months. He purchased the travel insurance. Apparently we can only use the policy and get a full refund of the ticket price if his father passes away. I told them there was something very morbid in that statement, that we have to hope his father dies so we can get reimbursed. The airline was a bit more accommodating. He can’t get a refund, but a credit for a flight on their airline during the next year, and they’ll even waiver the $150 change-of-flight fee with a copy of a death certificate and Jeff’s birth certificate to prove that is his father. Then what to do with Maddie. Found a good place for her, but they don’t have check-in on Sundays, so let’s pray he doesn’t die tomorrow or we won’t be able to fly out until Tuesday. My neighbor who tells me she wants to help us anyway she can at least once a year was called and the usual list of why she cannot came up. Then the gross lack of sleep because I’m afraid I won’t hear the phone.

    Love to hear of all your adventures, but you cannot move. If you do, then you won’t be able to produce/direct/write Dark Matter when the idea is sold.

    Hugs to you about your thoughts of Maximus. We have Sam’s and Buddy’s ashes in boxes that are out of Patrick’s reach so we don’t have a “Meet the Parents” incident. I decided that when I die, I want to be cremated. Then have my ashes mixed with all of their ashes (future pets included), put into concrete and thrown into the sea (so new coral reefs will form). I am a Pisces.

    How long are you in Tokyo? I’m sorry I forgot.

  15. I love kale baked with olive oil and sea salt! I made a big batch recently.
    Sorry you couldn’t sneak some pictures of the food. LOL they should have made an exception for you! Said you were a professional food critic and it was for a blog. 🙂

  16. Aside from this promising new Twitter account, I’ve been curious about this for awhile and well…what’s the story of how you and Akemi first met?

  17. Joey, from what I understand, it’s usually a bad idea to move to a place you love to visit. It’s never as idealistic once you call a place ‘home’. (It’s like consummating a relationship…no matter how good it is afterwards, the thrill of discovery is gone, and along with it, the mystery.)


  18. I LOVE the snapshots of you and Akemi. You really do make a great looking couple. She is full of sparkly happy smiles.

    *smiles* Cheryl

  19. I must admit you’ve done quite well to make such a great impression on Akemi’s mum that she accepts a “geek” writer as her boyfriend/fiancé etc. My best friend is Japanese and he told me quite the horror stories of Japanese parent’s reactions to boy-/girlfriends who did not a have a well accepted job by society. Sorry if that sounds rude, I’m really not trying to be >_<''
    I always thought that even mangaka and manga-story writer are counted as otaku.
    But I guess I have no clue since I've never been to Japan and only get stories. But I really would love to go and see for myself 🙂 I always wanted to go to the origin of Anime and Manga myself. Hahahhaha
    As for the moving decision: I'd recommend the vacation place. Just because if you ever get into financial issues it's probably no fun anywhere, but since you have both feet in the Canadian industry I suggest to stay in Vancouver, because it's the safest thing to do (but I'm German we always do the safe things, lol). And if you ever wanted to move completely to Japan, it would be much easier with already a place to stay for a short while and be able to look for a "long time" place.
    On the other hand it's a decision that ultimately serves your own (and Akemi's of course) happiness. So if your financial state leaves you quite a while to also set foot into the Japanese industry and you don't dread the hardship then I'd suggest you trust your gut instinct 🙂
    And if it doesn't work out I'm sure you'd be Japan's number one Butler 😀

  20. Awwww…love those cute photos of you and Akemi! You make a cute couple! 🙂 Love the video the guy cutting the ice. Very precise and neat. Love how he cut it to just fit it in the glass. Very cool.

    I like how you think of you dogs that way. You are a good daddy to those doggies. 🙂

    Those subway warning signs are too cute! 🙂

  21. Not just a dog transport problem, a shake rattle and roll problem. (map gets going around 1:55)

  22. I accidentally learned to read phonetic Korean by listening while I followed along with the writing. I was really just trying to learn to distinguish Korean by hearing, but it was enough exposure to the phonetics. The parts that really bridged the gap were the words that were sort of English, it made it easier to remember and it made it a decoding game to see the differences.

  23. My childhood best friend moved to Japan, specifically Hammatsu, after college 20 years ago. He teaches English, has a family, and absolutely loves it there. Said he wouldn’t do it any differently.

  24. Your trip this year has sent me to “Google” several times trying to figure out and research what the heck you are talking about. Today it was those cafe maids and butlers. Still not sure exactly why an honorable society like the Japanese would have something like that, but I guess they are harmless. I guess. Are they? Did you know if you became a Butler-Joe you would have to dress as a young schoolboy and possibly have to clean out your customer’s ears? Just something to think about Joe before you apply for that job.

    Good morning!

  25. Akemi, can’t wait for that twitter account! So hope you do it. 😀 Those are adorable photos of you and Joe, very cute.

    Great culture and food shots, and video. Again, great to see the smiles of people who are masters at what they do. Felicitations, Kishi-san.

    PBMom — Hilda, was going to ask if Hubby was rooting for the Giants’ in the Super Bowl tomorrow. You and your family have gone through a gauntlet. Now your father-in-law… Sending many prayers your way, that God would be in the details. {{{Hugs}}}

  26. So… many meals do you fit in through the day? Incredible food pictures! Thanks so much for sharing.

  27. Kathode writes: “Anyway, my suggestion for another superhero-of-the-week movie would be “Super Fuzz.”

    Answer: Why have I never heard of this movie? It looks absolutely dreadful – and thus perfect for our SuperMovie of the Week Club!

    You, apparently, were not glued to HBO circa 1982, when “Super Fuzz” was aired about 50 times a month. You wouldn’t believe the massive amount of utter crap I watched, courtesy of HBO and the fact that I was the youngest of five kids, whose parents had long since tired of caring what their children watched or how late they stayed up.

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