Episode 10: Jungle Fever
Another week, another weekend.  This week's destination was
Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, a watered-down (pun alert) version of
Disneyland located south of Yokohama.  True to its name,
the Sea Paradise had tropical fish aquaria, seals and dolphins,
water-related amusement park rides and, of course, several large
shopping malls selling souvenirs.  (I already regret not buying
some huggable squid toys, a bargain at 500 yen each, but at least
I got an authentic Totoro towel.)  But the latest claim to fame
of the Sea Paradise was the Blue Fall, a device that first hoists
you up 107 meters and then, without further ado, drops you.
On the train to the HSP, several bragging remarks about tackling
this bungee jump simulator were heard, but after observing
the thing in real life -- complete with blood-curdling screams
and astute observations like "I like the way their legs bend
some 20 degrees above knee level when they fall" -- we quietly
chickened out and opted for tame activities like the Surf
Coaster (whose first drop, however, was obviously designed by
the same maniac responsible for the Blue Fall) and the Aqua
Ride.  The Aqua Ride was that old classic, people sitting inside
a big tire going down a stream and getting splashed a lot.
Since our crew contained half a dozen nubile young Japanese
girls (us poor men were in fact outnumbered), we immediately
conspired to not use the optional rain cloaks and take on the
ride in mere T-shirts.  Unfortunately, the local sea gods
detected our nefarious plot, so in the end only the guys ended
up doing sexy wet T-shirt stripteases while the girls escaped
with nary a drop.  Foiled again!

The above having lightened my wallet by some 8000 yen, you might
think it was enough for the day, but no.  That very night
there was a sayonara party at my own house, not for yours truly
though, but for two compatriots who had completed their 8-month
tour of duty.  The previous day fellow technohead Tariq & I
had spent the whole evening assembling the pieces for a minimalist
set of DJ gear -- mixer, two portable CDs, home stereo system and
transformer, all from different people -- so now it was time for
DJ Gnosis to hit the decks.  Given the (cough) slight limitations
of this equipment I could have played worse and in the end I got
a surprising number of compliments even from people who don't
like techno.

But lo, just as I was starting to crank up the BPM and get some
people on the dancefloor, some people who had gone to Fiji a
while ago pulled out some bags of kava kava and started mixing
up Fiji's national drink, a mildly intoxicating brew that
tastes like muddy water, numbs your tongue and relaxes your body.
Soon enough everybody was gathered around the cauldron, clapping
and sipping away, and I was forced to change gears to some
so-bad-they're-good Fijian B-class pop tunes.  Five kava kava
bags later they ran out of tapes and the general energy level
of the party resembled that of an arthritic sloth, so for the
rest of the evening I played slow groovy dub as people nodded
their heads and grinned a lot.

In the morning I woke up with what I thought was an amazingly bad
hangover (for one beer and one cup of kava kava, that is) and
a serious lack of sleep, but three excruciating hours of
overtime later, I was forced to come to the conclusion that I
had managed to catch a cold even though it was 25+ deg C outside.
So, along with my other roommates (who were mostly nursing real
hangovers), I spent the rest of the day watching a sumo tournament on
TV, crunching away on positively addictive seaweed-flavored chips.
Wakanohana did an oshidashi to Musashinomaru and, as announced in
emergency news bulletins on all TV channels the next day, for this
he was awarded the title of yokozuna (the highest rank in sumo),
raising him to an equal level with his brother Takanohana.  Sure, it
may be a bunch of fat men stomping around, throwing lots of salt and
pulling at each other's belts, but sumo is a hell of lot more exciting
than, say, the 0-0 Japan vs. Czech Republic soccer game that preceded
the coverage.

Being sick in a foreign country is strange.  Instantly, all
your desires to do new different things, taste new different
foods and see new different places evaporates.  Instead,
you find yourself buying trusty Western hamburgers, tasty
Floridan oranges, friendly cups of Nesquik hot chocolate,
all foods that are safe and certified to be free of raw fish,
seaweed and sheep testicles.

Nevertheless, I'm feeling better now (even after yet more hours
of overtime preparing luvverly customer samples), and tomorrow
it's time for a birthday party at a French restaurant, a privilege
for which we all will be forking out in the vicinity of 5000 yen each.
Odd as it may seem, it's another only-in-Tokyo thing: while you
could spend 250 FIM on a French meal anywhere, only here does it
actually seem like an almost reasonable price to pay...

And on Friday I'm off to Saipan, a sunny tropical island in
Micronesia, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific.  Sun, sand,
surf, snorkeling, scuba, bikini-clad women (feel free to substitute
another word beginning with S here), and above all no customer
samples!  What more could you ask for?  Not much, but it does
mean you won't be getting next week's J2J fix before Thursday.


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