Japanese Hip Hop Scene

mood: Interested

So saturday came rolling around and I have a day packed full of plans. In the evening I am meeting up with friends from school in Shibuya to go to club Asia (hip hop club) to watch one of our friends perform on stage for the first time with her band. The friday night before I had come downstairs to the kitchen to be surprised by three Scottish people cooking. One of my housemates Masa had invited them over to help perpare for a large barbeque they were all having at a famous river hang out spot west of Shibuya. After talking awhile with them they invited me out to join them if I was interested and to bring a friend. I said sure why not, I'm really enjoying this English conversation.

So the next morning I get ready and went to the station where the river was to meet up with Josh as he was going to Shibuya as well with our friends later. I think the river was called Tamagawa? I don't quite remember. What's special about it is it's the farthest southern point in the Tokyo Prefacture. On the opposite side of the river it becomes the Kanagawa prefacture.

Here is the view walking from the station to the bridge crossing into Tamagawa.

After crossing the really long bridge, you walk down this path which takes you to a nature area and under the bridge.

The majority of people do their barbeques under the bridge in the shade to keep cool. This spot is very popular and under the bridge it is just littered with groups doing barbeques.

Here is part of the 30 or 40 people that were participating at our barbeque. Those three people standing in the foreground were the Scottish people from the night before and that Japanese guy with the hat behind them is Masa. They were all a big fan of techno so the whole thing was being DJed by different friends of theirs.

This is directly right from that picture looking at other barbeque people hanging about. Unfortunately, since I got lost and arrived late, we couldn't stay for long and had to head to Shibuya pretty soon.

As we were leaving I snapped this shot of a large group of mostly hot women.

After we met up with the girls from school we had a bit of time to hang out in Shibuya before we had to be at club Asia. While hanging out, I spotted this really really creepy foreigner who was greasy and dirty and having this rapist smile on his face while he stared at women. On top of that, he had this small camera around his neck and he'd frequently try to take these "secret" pictures of girls when they weren't looking. One creepy rapist who shouldn't of been given a visa if you ask me. If you come to Japan, don't be this guy.

As usual I also found it necessary to take a picture of a Skyline. The guy leaning agains the poll next to it was it's owner and he kept giving me dirty stares for taking pictures. He looked pretty skinny and I was fairly confident I could beat him up so I just kept on taking pictures.

Once inside the club, we'd just made it in time to watch Risa and her band go on stage. She is the vocalist in the center.

I was quite surprised how well she sang. I'd talked to her many times at school but never really guessed she was a singer.

I don't know what YMCA thing was going on here.

After she finished her act we stayed for a few more hip hop artists to see how they were. I surprisingly liked it, their songs and performances were less a competition of who was more ghetto and dangerous and more just doing it for the fun of music. I guess since so much of the violence is lost in translation when they see our hip hop that their versions lose it.

Nevertheless I found it to be pretty interesting. Some artists were ok, some were good. Most of them had to mention something about me and Josh being foreigners in the room.

One artist which was especially good had spent a fair amount of time in SoCal and became a hip hop artists during his time there then came back to Japan and got record deal. His beats were really good and I highly recommend him. his name is Ohga and that's him pictured above. He's on myspace music as well if you want to hear some of his stuff.

After we were finished at club Asia we decided to all go meet some more friends at an Izakaya in the area. There were also several people I didn't know from other countries there. The two girls on the left in the back were from Korea and China. Two guys on the right also from China and the closer girl on the left is the manager at the Bape store Yuji works for.

Here Josh and Risa are eating a really unusual appetizer that we all got from the restaurant.

which was this. They brought us full mini-crabs meant to be eaten as a whole. claws, eyes, legs and everything. It didn't taste very great as you could imagine, the shell also made it quite crunchy.

Here is a picture of me, Tomomi and Risa 2.

Then here is a picture of me Yukari and Erika.

Shortly after we started eating, Risa 1 showed up after finishing everything at club Asia.

Josh getting friendly with the China men we met.

Mmmmm Drinks.

And finally a pic of me Yukari, Risa 1, and Risa 2.

Overall it was a good day. I was especially surprised and happy with the Hip Hop scene here. It was also nice going to a club and not being afraid of someone stabbing me. crazy

Mason on 07.06.07 @ 01:04 PM PST [link]

Getting a Car in Japan Part. 2: Actually Getting your License

mood: triumphant

I know it's been a long while between posts, I'm sorry I was in the hospital ill. But, I'm all better now and have some new posts to unload on all of you.

So in a previous post I gave the first steps towards getting a car in Japan. Well I recently finished the next step, actually getting my license. So I wanted to share with all of you the process it took to get the license.

First let's talk about the Japanese DMV real quick. There is one large difference between the DMV test here and the DMV test in California. First of all, it is incredibly difficult to pass on your first try. For foreigners to transfer their license, they take a slightly shorter driving test then the Japanese but the average person fails the driving test 3-5 times before they actually pass. Also, the course where you take your driving test is on a large closed course.

As you can see above, the large course in the back is for car tests, truck tests, and bus tests. That building with the light blue roof is the actual DMV. The small course on the right is for the motorcycle testing (which btw is much more strict and more difficult then the car test). The small three-piece building on the right is where they make and release to you your license (if you pass).

So here is where the DMV portion starts, this is the front entrance to the DMV. They were doing a blood drive the days I was there so that's why there is a large red cross sign.

So you've got your driving practice in on your international license, you've done your research, and you feel it's time to go and actually get your Japanese license. The first thing you need is a License History from your home state's DMV. I think we all know how retarded the DMV is in the US, especially California, so the simple request to get this form and then get it to me in Japan, took roughly 2-3 months. If I physically went to the DMV (which is obviously impossible), it would've taken 10-20 minutes. I wish I could ship some bird flu to my DMV, they still cause me trouble from 10,000 miles away. Oh and yes, those are my 5 tickets on my history report, I can't help it if I drive like a man.

Next step is to take your US License and your history report over to a JAF location. JAF stands for Japanese Automotive Federation, and if Japan's version of AAA. The reason they require the history report is to get the original license issue date to prove that I've been driving in America with the license for more than 3 months. JAF then takes the history report and your license and makes an official translation into Japanese for 3,000yen (roughly $25). Doing it in person ensures it gets done within an hour of you coming in which is better then sending it in (which takes 3 or more days). Now with the translation, US License, history report, US passport, and foreign registration card, you can go start the transfer process at he J-DMV.

And once you get to the DMV you walk upstairs to the 2nd floor and go to a special window made just for foreign nationals trying to transfer their license into a Japanese one. Cool thing about this window is that there is usually no line and you get service immediately. After reviewing my paperwork, they take me to the back to take a 10-question written test (on the computer with touch screen actually). You require NO studying for this test. You seriously have to be a total dunce in order to fail this test. You have to get at least a 7/10 to pass and I got 10/10 in like 30 seconds. I was practically done before the guy could sit down in his chair after starting the test. The kind of questions are like "should you park in front of a firestation entrance?" and then there will be a picture of a firetruck trying to get out with your car in the way. Another question I remember was "Is it ok to drive over the speed limit if you want to get somewhere quicker?". Oh, also the test is in English, well Engrish, but it was understandable.

After passing the test they hand me the paper which you see above. They then sent me with this paper downstairs to get that small picture affixed to it then to take an eye test. The eye test also had no line and took only a few minutes. They have you look into a viewer and they show you different arrows pointing different directions and you have to tell in japanese if it's pointing up/down/right or left. After 4 or 5 of those arrows he marks a pass on your paper and sends you to the 2nd part of the eye test next door where they point to a chart of red, yellow, and green and you have to tell them which they are in Japanese. After passing that they send you upstairs back to the first window. At the window they review the paperwork again and then schedule you to came back another date for your driving test. I was lucky enough to schedule the whole thing for the next day. The DMV was really quick thus far though, maybe an hour for everything on the first day.

This is the reverse side of my paper. That stamp means you've paid your 2,300yen for your written and eye test and the 3,000yen for your driving test. Every time you fail the driving test you have to pay that fee again and get another stamp. So you'll often see someone with 3 or 4 stamps. I came back the next day after researching what they're specifically looking for on the driving test and got put in a group of the other foreigners. I was the only American in the group. After waiting awhile a short nazi yelling old Japanese man came out and made us follow him to the driving course.

You're not allowed to take pictures so sorry for not having more but I did sneak this pic of part of the driving course. The old man then sat us down in a group at yelled at us in blazingly fast angry Japanese for about 10 minutes then made us follow him again to where the test car was waiting. It was obvious the tester hated foreigners as I hear frequently about abuse from the testers to foreigner nationals and this old man confirmed it beyond a doubt. The test reflected this as well. How it works is you ride with the person taking the test before you to see a bit of the course then after he fails, you get your chance. The driving test is so difficult in that you can't make a single mistake or you fail, and by mistake I mean something as small as accidently tapping your wipers or forgetting to look over your shoulder for 2 full seconds once when changing a lane. You must do everything perfectly by the book in the proper timing or you fail, keeping in mind this is in RHD on the opposite side of the road with different road rules then America.

When it was my turn I first checked all my car's functions (A Nissan Sunny btw) like my pedals, signal, etc. I also had to check the front and back of the car and under to make sure there was no obstructions. I also had to ask to take the test in a manual car because if you take the test in an automatic, your license only allows you to drive auto cars. The mean angry short stupid man then death stared me the whole test yelling at me at every opportunity, even when it wasn't necessary. For example I had to go through this extremely tight left then immediate right turn where if you touch the curb you'll fail and you must go slow if you have any chance of making it. While I am driving slowly he's vigorously pointing over and over to try to get me to hurry up and mess up. Also as I was going to a blinking yellow light intersection where you must slow down while looking both ways, this dirty old jerk just pulls out a nazi salute as we're driving through the intersection for no discernable reason. As you go through the course it's a series of him telling you to turn at different intersection numbers while he tries to stress you out. Luckily I was aware of the asshattery common to these testers so I ignored him and much to his GREAT DISPLEASURE, he couldn't get me to mess up on anything and was forced to pass my on my first try. The driving practice really helped me get used to driving in Japan.

After the test they made us wait for the tester to give the result to the foreign nationals window which for some reason took two hours. He was probably cursing himself for not being able to fail me and so wanted to make us unecessarily wait the freaking dick. Anyway, out of the whole group taking the test, only me and this one russian guy passed and it was his 3rd time.

After the window got my pass info, he processed the rest of my paperwork and handed back my Cali License, passport, and stuff and told me to go to the 2nd building in a few hours to pick up my finished license. Alright! finally I passed and will soon actually have my license. The whole process was really stressing me. This was the hardest part in the process of getting a car.

Since I had some time to waste I, wandered the neighborhood.

and went to this large park nearby.

Then to an overpass to admire the higher quality of the roadways.

And here I am much relieved to finally have it all over while I wait for them to make my license. After the few hours wait I walked back to the DMV and there was a huge room full of people waiting to get their license. Luckily, as I was walking into the building, they called my name up. I walked up and input a PIN that apparently is attached to my license and they finally gave me the final product, my Japanese Drivers License, or Menkyo in Japanese.

And here it is! Now I'm one step closer to having my car here. The next step is to go get my parking spot I rented officially checked by a police officer then go register my parking spot. From there is shopping time.

As usual, thank you very much for visiting my site!

Mason on 07.05.07 @ 09:58 AM PST [link]