Tag: Tokyo

Buddy Unscathed After Tour Bus Overturned By Screaming Japanese Fans

TOKYO — Buddy was uninjured after his tour bus was besieged and overturned by a massive crowd of screaming Japanese school girls, the famous cat’s representatives said Sunday.

Buddy, who touched down Friday in Tokyo for his “Got 2 Have Turkeys” tour, was en route to a performance and album signing in Shibuya Tower Records on Saturday afternoon when his tour bus was blocked by a phalanx of paparazzi. A large crowd that had assembled outside the store gravitated toward the street, surrounding the bus and making it impossible for the vehicle to escape in reverse.

“At first it was just normal stuff: The crowd chanting for Buddy, girls throwing their bras at the windows, boys calling out for autographs,” said MC Kibble, who has been touring with Buddy as the opening act and hype cat. “But when I felt the bus lurch, I knew we were in deep litter. The shit hit the sand, so to speak, and we got jolted around pretty good when they shoved the bus onto its side.”

a1931f8ffbf241a4a7be1cea19ec6ad2
Ai Imajo, left, Asako Imamura and Yuki Mori react after spotting Buddy surrounded by guards and handlers at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo on Friday night.

The crowd was dispersed by Tokyo Metropolitan Police as paramedics arrived and cleared the bus. One roadie suffered a fractured rib, authorities said, but most of the occupants made it out with only a few scrapes and bruises.

An ambulance took Buddy to an undisclosed hospital, where he was discharged after only an hour.

“It was just a precautionary measure,” said the celebrity cat’s human servant, Big Buddy. “We had to make sure His Grace was in top shape before he continues his tour.”

Buddy is scheduled to perform for sold-out crowds at Saitama Super Arena on Monday and Sapporo Concert Hall in Hokkaido on Tuesday before heading to Hong Kong for the next leg of the “Got 2 Have Turkeys” tour.

Japanese Real Estate Agency Deals Exclusively In Cat-Friendly Homes

Proving once again that their country is home to some of the most enthusiastic cat-servants, Japan now has a real estate agency that lists only cat-friendly homes and apartments.

Actually, cat-friendly might be an understatement. Nekorepa Real Estate (neko is Japanese for cat) aims to hook people and their furry buddies up with homes built with cats in mind.

What does that mean? Bathrooms that have built-in cat doors, for example, so renters and homeowners can keep litter boxes there, and presumably put a permanent end to the never-ending feline freak-outs when cats are left out while their humans occupy the throne.

Others have custom-built alcoves in less-trafficked areas where litter boxes can be tucked, with ventilation fans built into the spaces. Almost all of them have an array of perches and comfortable cat-size window spots.

A home earns Nekorepa’s official seal of approval if it meets three criteria, Japan Today reports: “[A]bundant natural sunlight (to facilitate cozy cat naps), floors and walls with scratch-resistant surfaces (so your pet can run and play to its heart’s content), and a design that ensures your furry friend can’t slip out of the apartment and get lost while you’re away from home.”

Click on the images below for larger versions. These are some sweet cat digs:

Pretty much every Nekorepa home has built-in feline-friendly features, like easy-to-reach window perches, plus platforms, bridges and walkways for when cats feel like viewing their kingdoms from above.

It’s worth noting that there’s a legitimate need for a service like this in Japan. Space is at a premium, rental prices are sky high, and it’s not easy to find landlords who allow pets. That’s one reason cat cafes were born in Japan and continue to enjoy success — they cater to people who love cats but can’t have them in their homes.

If you’re living in Tokyo you’ll have the most options, but the company says it’s expanding throughout the country. As for the rest of us, let’s hope a few cat-loving real estate agents read this…

Cats In Games: Yakuza Kiwami 2

I’d been playing Yakuza Kiwami 2 for only a few minutes when I stopped and did a double-take.

My in-game character was standing in the exact same spot I’d been standing in real life six months ago, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.

Here’s Karaoke Kan on that street corner in the game:

Shinjuku in Yakuza Kiwami 2
Shinjuku in Yakuza Kiwami 2.

And the same corner in real life:

Karaoke club in Shinjuku, Tokyo

The game’s recreation of Tokyo is impressive, featuring a replica of the Shinjuku district that feels alive, buzzing with activity and undiscovered adventures.

Here’s Shinjuku’s Don Quijote in the game alongside the real one in Tokyo:

yakuza_donq
Don Quijote in Shinjuku.

Japan is arguably the most cat-friendly country in the world, with cat imagery everywhere, cats as pop culture icons, pet parents pushing their coddled kitties in designer strollers on the streets of Tokyo, and entire islands populated almost exclusively by cats.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before the game brought a cat into the mix, and it didn’t disappoint. In one scene, a character asks you to find his dear little girl who has been kidnapped, and you’re under the impression you’re searching for his daughter — right up until you find the kidnappers, give ’em a good old Yakuza beatdown, and realize your acquaintance’s “little girl” is actually a cat:

A cat in Yakuza Kiwami 2
A cat in Yakuza Kiwami 2.

The game, which is little-known in the US but hugely popular in Japan, also features a, shall we say, less amiable encounter with cats:

yakuzakiwami_tiger
Now would be a good time to run!

Asakusa: The Market Temple

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” – John 2:13-16

Growing up Catholic, I heard the story of Jesus furiously expelling the money-changers and merchants from the temple at least a few times a year in church gospels.

CC273C9C-1A9B-40C7-A3B6-2860C8961DE0
“Christ casts out the money-changers” by Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch.

The message was clear: Houses of worship are supposedly to be solemn and hushed places where people can speak to God in peace.

Sensō-ji temple is quite the opposite.

7786CCAF-ED20-4F0C-8C70-916B7B70390A
Sellers hawk overpriced gifts for tourists en route to Sensō-ji temple.

Sensō-ji is not only Japan’s oldest temple, it’s one of the most-visited spiritual sites in the world, with an estimated 30 million annual visitors.

It’s also one of Tokyo’s most-accessible shrines, just a short walk from a subway stop in Asakusa. All that foot traffic makes it irresistible for local merchants, who sell everything from traditional lanterns to t-shirts, stuffed animals, shoes, bags and hats.

On the day I visited a steady rain hadn’t put a dent in the mixed crowd of locals and tourists.

A giant lantern hangs beneath the temple gate, which was rebuilt in 1960 after a fire destroyed its predecessor. While most of the structures at Sensō-ji are reproductions, the area has been a religious site for more than 1,000 years.

4BBDE128-3159-45A6-B78C-30EA1EAC333C
The temple grounds are a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.

 

39A813FA-D5DA-4722-9342-FD015A7CB55F
A shopping mall featuring eateries, gift shops and a sword smith.

Shinjuku: Godzilla, Government, Shopping and Sex Clubs

“Hey man!”

I turn to look. This is the first bit of English I’ve heard all evening, and sure enough it’s directed at me, the blue-eyed, red-brown-haired, bearded ‘Merican who couldn’t blend into the crowd if I had a human-size Cuisinart.

“Come check it out,” says the speaker, a sharply-dressed guy in his 30s, gesturing toward a drinking establishment just off one of Shinjuku’s busiest streets. “I’ve got the girl of your dreams inside. You like Japanese women?”

“We’re good,” my brother says.

The salesman ignores him, singing his pitch like an R&B ballad.

“You like Japanese women, man? I know you do. We got Japanese women waiting to meet American guys.”

Shinjuku at night
Shinjuku at night.

My trust in my brother is absolute, this bar dude is acting sketchy as hell, and I’m not that much of an idiot, so I take my bro’s cue and follow him toward the intersection.

“What was that all about?”

The guy who approached us was an extortionist, my brother explained. They’ll invite you into the club, let you order a few drinks but neglect to tell you the drinks are 10,000 yen each, or about $90 USD. If you refuse to pay they’ll call Tokyo police, who will take the word of a local business owner over the word of a tourist in what they see as a legitimate dispute.

“Or they’ll spike your drink,” my brother said, “take all your cash and run your credit cards to the limit.”

Shinjuku at night
In Shinjuku even the side streets are illuminated.

Japan’s not the kind of place where you worry about pickpockets or getting jumped by local thugs, but it’s a mistake to assume crime doesn’t exist here.

Tokyo may be one of the world’s safest cities, a place where you can leave your door unlocked or leave your bike unattended while confident no one will steal it, yet tourists are universal easy prey.

3E60ADF2-9C9C-4C3C-A6FA-6742AA4C7866

While walking through Shinjuku’s busy streets I was reminded of an interview with the great novelist David Mitchell, who spent several years in Japan teaching English before returning to the UK.

Moving through Tokyo as a westerner unable to decipher Japanese writing, Mitchell noted, is like being cocooned in your own personal anti-advertising buffer. All that hiragana and katakana written in neon might as well be mood lighting — it’s there, but if you can’t understand it, it can’t invade your headspace.

Mitchell said he found that obliviousness calming and conducive to keeping to his own thoughts on writing. Being there in person and experiencing it for myself, I could appreciate his point.

B3EA5968-2654-4E72-A13D-20DA6323DD0C
Memory Lane, also known as Piss Alley, is lined with tiny restaurants.
Shinjuku
A cook preps skewers of meat in one of Shinjuku’s narrow-alley barbecue spots on Memory Lane, which are only big enough to accommodate a few patrons at a time.
Shinjuku
Another alley leading out of Memory Lane, a narrow alley lined with tiny eateries specializing in yakitori (barbecue skewers).
Shinjuku: Memory Lane
Memory Lane is narrow, smoky and heavy with the smell of grilled meat.

Another famous feature of Shinjuku is the giant Godzilla head, which looks like the King of Monsters is looming just behind a pair of buildings overlooking the neighborhood’s central crossing.

Shinjuku’s Godzilla
Godzilla himself peeks out from behind a pair of buildings overlooking Shinjuku. Photo credit: Tokyo Creative