Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Settling In...

Yesterday started out shitty as it was a newspaper holiday so my walk to the train station was for naught, and then I got to the bakery only to find they were sold out of my two favorite breakfast treats, the German bacon & potato roll and the sausage twist. >sigh< I ended up with a sausage & cheese croissant and chicken & shiso roll. They were good, no doubt, but not when compared to my usual choices. I ended up getting my news from the internet while having coffee.

The day picked up from there though as we headed into Sannomiya, which I guess is what you'd consider the center/shopping/nightlife district of Kobe, for lack of a better explanation. Our first stop was the bank to get cash. The dollar to yen exchange rate now SUCKS and we couldn't have come over at worse time in terms of cost with the dollar being the weakest it's been in years here. It's 90 yen to the dollar now, compared to the 105 yen it was just a few months ago. So rather than take out dollars at this shitty exchange rate, and then also get hit with BS bank conversion charges and international fees, we decided it's better to dip into Mutsumi's Japanese savings this trip. So I finally feel like I have a Sugar Mommy! And it feels good!!

After that we headed straight to what I consider one of the few heavens on Earth, one of the greatest restaurants in the world... MOS BURGER! Yes, it's fast food and yes, it's a chain, but I still love it and it's hard to beat in terms of quality and taste. I've been eating at Mos for 17 years now and it's just as good today as it was the first time I had it. I'll be doing a separate post about Mos so all I'm gonna say about it here was that I had my usual order of a Mos Cheeseburger and a Chicken Burger and they were out of this world! The day got so much better with that first bite!!

After that Mutsumi hooked me up with some cash and I headed over to Junkodo, one of Japan's big book store chains to check out what was new in the world of manga, art books and magazines. Spent about an hour there and bought a few things you can check out if you scroll down.

Next I headed over to see my buddy Maeda-san who runs GUILD, one of the best American comic shops in Japan. Outside of Tokyo, Kobe is one of the most international and ethnically diverse cities in Japan, and GUILD feeds the comic and pop culture habits of the large foreign population here, making it one of the two or three best comic shops in the country. The shop was pretty busy for a Monday and I got to chat and catch up with Maeda-san briefly. Although the exchange rate is working in his favor as he buys most of his stock from Diamond Distributors in the States, it seems the depressed world economy is affecting his business as well as people are spending less, cutting the amount of titles they read, and becoming more selective with the purchases. For comparison's sake, I saw the average $2.99 comic was selling for a little over 500 yen here. His best seller... IDW's Transformers series! I also noticed he didn't have any copies of X-Infernus #1 on his shelves. I hope he was sold out.

I then rendezvous'ed with Mutsumi and we dropped by Japan Railways to buy my Shinckansen tickets to Tokyo. I usually buy them back home in the States before I leave, but we got busy before we left and had to buy them here, which was more expensive. I bought roundtrip coach class tickets, but could have gotten first class seats for the same price had I bought them in New York prior to coming. Oh, well...

Then we headed home to meet my oldest Japanese friend, Izumi. Our plan was to hit Aidoru, which is my favorite restaurant EVER. Yes, I love it even more than Mos Burger. It's one of those places where if I ever had to choose a last meal, I would request it be at Aidoru. However, much to our shock and disappointment it was closed, the mother and daughter that run it having taken a rare day off. Arrrggghh!!

So we instead headed to one of Kobe's finest fish restaurants, one of the city's hidden gems, a little hole-in-the-wall run by an old couple who used to work in Kobe's once booming fish market. The menu changes almost daily and everything they serve is pretty much caught fresh each day, the chef using his old connections to get the best fish that comes in each morning. So we ate and drank and filled our bellies with the best the seas on both sides of Japan had to offer. And yes, there was fugu! Even the dreaded fugu liver no less! But that'll be a separate post as well.

I also got to try some super expensive sake, which runs about $500 a bottle I was told, courtesy of some old rich dude that wanted to buy me a drink. I tried to refuse but was told that I should just accept the drink, try it, thank him and get back to our table, which I did. I like sake and all, but it wasn't worth the money in my opinion.

To end the night we hit a new bar called Mishima that's run by an old buddy of Izumi's and has become kind of a local hot spot in Sannomiya, with Ichiro and other Kansai celebrities known to hang out there. It was empty on a Monday night so we got ourselves a nice area in the lounge and just hung out and drank the night away. It was there I was a shocked/disappointed/upset to hear that another old friend of ours had run into some recent financial trouble and unfortunately turned to some unsavory underground types for help. They got him out of his jam, but in return he's had to leave Kobe. Now he's working off his debt as a driver for the Yakuza in Tokyo. Thought maybe I could hook up with him next week, but I'm not really sure I want to get involved...

We got home in the wee hours and I found my computer was still on, so I went online for a bit. After a little surfing, I came to my senses and decided that on top of my main two rules of "Don't Drink and eBay" and "Don't Drink and E-mail", I now had to add a third: "Don't Drink and Twitter"!

How long until I'll have to add "Don't Drink and Blog"?

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