In this episode we talk about Japanese stamps. They use stamps in lieu of signatures to sign important documents and such. We previously posted this video without subtitles and our Japanese friends were confused as to who this was supposed to be for, Japanese people or Americans, as Japanese would inherently already know how they work. Now we've subtitled it for your enjoyment. So... ENJOY!
I've just returned from an extended vacation in the beautiful country of Japan and I'm "homesick." I use parentheses because I'm not from there so I can't really call it my home, but I have many friends and a lot of their parents feel like my own, so I can't help but consider Japan a second home country.
And because I am homesick, I've decided to start a video series in Japanese with a good friend of mine. About 2 years ago we got it into our heads to start a Manzai group called "The Kyonshiis." It was named after the Japanese name for a Chinese vampire. But, since no one in this generation seems to know what a Kyonshii is, we've decided to change our name. And our new name is, トカゲ•パラダイス (Lizard Paradise)！ Check out our video where we talk about some differences between Japanese New Year and American New Year. It could be good practice for anyone studying Japanese to hear two foreigners speak it. Hopefully. I hope you enjoy.
Recently, a friend of mine and I passed a pizza place, aptly named Pizza Slice, on the way home from Shibuya one night. As we perused the interior, it had a look to it that was trying a little too hard to resemble a New York pizzeria: white tiled floors, neon lights that read "Pizza" beckoning patrons, pizza behind glass, pizza boxes piled ceiling-high, the whole nine yards. And this being Tokyo, their effort most definitely worked as it drew our American eye balls to the wooden menu standing outside the restaurant door.
The price didn't seem half bad for a slice––300 yen for a slice of cheese––so, as we were quite parched at that point in our journey (not eating lunch does that to an individual) we decided to stop in for a couple.
Now, as any American in Tokyo knows the pizza options here can be a little, well, sparse. It ranges from sorta kinda decent (Gust, Saizeria) to probably-okay-but-horrible-for-the-price (Domino's, Pizza Hut, Pizza-La). And they can be on the small side. It was a surprise, then, that Pizza Slice's, ahem, pizza slices were the sizes of slices we were accustomed to in LA from pizza places that attempted to resemble New York joints. I've never been to NY so there's no way I can make an accurate comparison, so I have to go with what I know.
Taste-wise, it was definitely as good as any place you'd find in Los Angeles that serves this kind of pizza. The cheese was nice and mozzarella-y. The pepperoni were big and pepperoni-y. The grease was as runny as you'd expect the grease on pizza to be.
Complete with greasy paper plate.
This place was hidden under the train tracks just like a pizza place in New York would be, so I hear. It's what numerous movies and television shows have also told me. Even the toilet was an American one, complete with palm tree and American flag near the entrance to the bathroom. There was one glaring omission, though. An omission that might be unforgivable to someone more strict than I am, and that was the absence of parmesan cheese on the tables. This may be to due to the relative high price of cheese in Japan, or maybe the owner's just an a horrible asshole that doesn't deserve our business anymore because I wanted some goddamn parmesan cheese, dammit! But I kid. I don't even use that much parmesan cheese on my pizza. But if you're one who does that's one thing from home you will definitely miss, so remember to BYOC.
That blemish aside, you'd be remiss to pass this place up if you're looking for a great piece of pizza in Tokyo. It might quite be the only place you'd find something that matches the stuff from home, assuming you call Los Angeles home. Come on, New York pizza can't be all that different. Can it?
PIZZA SLICE 3-1 Sarugakuchō, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0033, Japan
Of all the times I've been to Japan I wish someone had told me this earlier. Perhaps it's common knowledge and I'm just late to the party. But I used to think that if you were a tourist, it was a strict 90 days max and you're out kind of deal, but apparently, as I was told recently, I can absolutely extend my tourist visa. And you can too!* As soon as I heard this bit of information I headed straight down to my local immigration office, which was in Yokohama.
All you have to do is make a trek down to your nearest immigration office (入国管理局Nyukokukanrikyoku) and fill out an application and you're on your way. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying it, but if you have what you need the first time you go there it should be relatively painless. I did not have what I needed which resulted in a second day visit for me, but if you're smarter than I am you should be on your way to a longer stay in this beautiful country of Japan.
Things you'll need:
The address of your current place of residence
A decent reason for wanting to extend your stay
The reasons I have include wanting to visit other friends in other places that I haven't had the chance to yet, and more research for a novel I'm writing (check my other writer's blog if you're interested ;)). And I gotta say, I'm getting a lot of more inspiration for it now that I have a chance to stick around for a bit.
The great thing is while you're in the interim you're allowed to stay here legally for two months until your results come, in the form of either a phone call or a postcard, which you provide the address for. And then if you get the extension it's good for the specified amount of time––most likely 90 more days––from the point you get the extension. So, you're good to stay for 5 months total, potentially. That should be plenty of enough time for you to get all of your sight-seeing in. All in all, it should cost about ¥4000 for the extension.
Here is a handy list of immigration offices throughout Japan:
I've been visiting Japan for the better part of two months now and I've learned some interesting things about Japan that I wouldn't have thought about before. I will now impart this knowledge in the form of advice to those of you who are planning to or are currently visiting Japan. It's not so much advice as it is common sense, but I had a particular image of Japan before I came here, even despite being here 8 times before.
YOUR STUFF CAN AND WILL BE STOLEN
Now, as many of you who have visited/lived here can attest to, Japan in believed to be a safe haven from crime. Where one does not have look behind him/her a dark street for fear of being mugged or having your things stolen. Where people can leave their belongings unattended in a Starbucks without fear of it being taken. A land where, if you drop cash a friendly native will see it, pick it up, and return it to the nearest koban. While that's still largely true for the most part, this belief will lead people to keep their guard down, much as I did when had my wallet and cell phone stolen in broad day light. I'll spare you the small, useless details, but a friend and I left our belongings in an unlocked car in a small neighborhood in Higashi Totsuka of all places. We were going back and forth moving things between the car and a location from which our car was visible, but it was rainy that day and the thief took advantage of our rain-dulled senses (That's all I got here) and made for the car and took both of our things. The crazy thing was it must have been within a ten minute period as were not away from the car for longer than that. Our stuff was taken by a modern day ninja (allow me this stereotypical description, just this once please).
The irony here is that just before my departure to Japan a Japanese friend and I were trying to convince a non-Japanese friend of mine back home that Japan is the aforementioned land of all that is safe from crime. An ironic situation that she, when told, definitely did not miss the opportunity to reminded me of.
Also lost: a beloved Alf-themed t-shirt, a pair of black jeans and a bag that a friend's parent bought for me. I'll miss that Alf shirt the most, though.
ALWAYS CARRY YOUR PASSPORT WITH YOU
Now, something I've heard you definitely need to do as a foreign tourist is to carry your passport with you at all times just in case you get randomly stopped. And as most people will rightfully think carrying around their passport is tedious. Especially on days you won't necessarily carry a bag of some sort around with you as I have been known not to frequently do. Also, the relatively recent American passport is quite rigid due to the RFID imbedded within it and carrying that around in your back pocket is sure to add unwanted stress to that sucker. So, me being me––I'm quite the mendokusagari––I opted to walk sans passport. I've gotten away with it for the previous 8 trips, so I thought this time would be no different.
One night I decided to take a walk at 1am in the morning from Nishi Nippori back to where I was staying at the time––I figured It'd save me the cost of a typical expensive Tokyo train ticket, and I'd get some much needed exercise out of the deal. It was then when a police car slowed near me. But I thought nothing of it. This is something that hasn't even happened to me in Los Angeles so you can imagine my surprise when it happened to me here in Japan. I was stopped for WWF (Walking While Foreign). Had I had my passport with me, the altercation would have possibly stopped right then and there. But, of course, I did not. So, these fine policemen called for back up in the form of another cop on a bike. They made some radio calls back to the station and they all accompanied back to the station. Not the common neighborhood koban where'd you'd go to ask for directions or some other similar mundane task. No. The actual local headquarters. As I entered the station everybody there stopped what they were doing and stared at me as I walked the down the halls to an empty room. Needless to say I felt like quite the common criminal. Upon further inspection of the faces and attitudes of the officers in the station I surmised the probable reason for my short incarceration: the ever-dreaded BOREDOM. As many places as there are that I want to visit that I have not yet had the chance to in Japan, the inside of a working police station was not one of them.
After a few questions about where I was from and subsequent questions asking me about how Los Angeles is, about an hour and a half later they finally drove me back to where I was staying so I could retrieve my passport and show it to them. But hey, the upside is I totally saved money on a ticket that night. So, in my eyes my mission was absolutely accomplished.
So, rather than actual advice this is a cautionary tale. Some people might think, duh, it's common sense. Don't leave your stuff in an unlocked car and always carry your identification with you. But, as any Japan aficionado, or––as told by the looks of shock upon the faces of my Japanese friends when I told them this story––even the Japanese natives will tell you that being a victim of theft is incredibly rare and not at all expected here. The passport deal, though, is probably a case of sheer stupidity and stubbornness on my part.
Anywho, as you might expect, I now keep my phone, wallet and passport on me at all times no matter where I go here. And anyone other than those with common sense and smarts reading this, please learn from my mistakes and don't ever keep your guard down. Even here in the magical land of Japan.