Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A local "adult" store in Iwakuni

Fair warning: This post is slightly above a PG-13, so be sure to tuck your kids in to bed, or at least plop them in front of Frozen for the umpteenth time before reading this. That said...

I frequented (one of?) Iwakuni's adult stores today. I have been told that it is called Miami Books and Video... but since I can't read Japanese, I can't confirm or deny that information. A couple of weeks ago, it was a hot topic on the MCAS Iwakuni Classifieds and Information Facebook page. Unfortunately, the brave poster asking where an Iwakuni adult store might be started getting harassed by immature individuals and took her post off, along with all of the info helpful base inhabitants contributed. A day later, I reposted the question, because, as an admin for the page, I was getting a number of private messages from people asking why the information was taken down and if I remembered any of it. I did not remember any of it, hence, the reposting of the question. Clearly, for a "taboo" subject, there was a lot of interest. But the info provided in the second post was only a fraction of what was shared the first time.

I realized that, as a blogger of my life here in Iwakuni, I would be amiss to have blogged about love hotels, but not about the adult store here. I say "the" because this is the only one I am personally aware of Iwakuni... there definitely may be more.

And let me say, I do not care what you think of this post. If you are offended, stop reading it. If you have other shops you know of and are brave enough to share the info, please post it in the comments. At this point in my life, I don't care what people think of my sex life, and very little surprises me any more. Between my college Sociology of Sexuality course taught by a middle-aged professor who wore neon-colored parachute pants and t-shirts (yes, this was the mid-90s) who invited panels of people to class to talk about their different fetishes (believe it or not, raw ground beef is one of them), and my journalistic career including articles I wrote on subjects such as genital piercings and hermaphrodites, this blog post is a drop in the proverbial wet spot. Moving on...

The adult store that I know of in Iwakuni has a name, but it is all in Japanese, so I have no idea what it is. It is on Route 2, across from the Cazl (Fresta) Mall, a few doors down from McDonalds. Here is the black sign you are looking for:

Here is the white building to the right of the store:

And here is the parking lot of the store:

You want to go in on the left side, under the black sign. Once inside, head to the left through the curtain that says "adult" and you will be met by a library of DVDs the size of my apartment. Actually, it is probably bigger, floor to almost ceiling, rows and rows of various adult DVDs. It is a maze of DVDs. I did not see any about a raw hamburger fetish, but you'd probably find one if that was your thing.

Wind your way to the back, right corner and you'll find toys. Toys for men, toys for women, and toys for couples and groups. I was especially intrigued by the rows of tin cans that were a little larger than a soda can, with the pictures of women on them. These are for men to use, and some have interesting diagrams of the artificial female anatomy inside. There were shelves and shelves of these things. They must be a very popular... or very unpopular... item.

There were rings, costumes, lingerie and phalluses... phalluses in every size, shape, color and vibration speed and variance... some of them even shaped like cartoon characters. As far as the underwear go... make sure you know what you are getting: it appeared that both clean and used panties were available.

There were strap-on silicone breasts for purchase, worn like a backpack, only in the front, as well as a 2-liter bottle of lubricant. There were smaller bottles available, too, though, so don't think that was your only option.

There is also a sign inside the store that tells you in English that you must have yen to purchase anything... "cold cash," to quote the sign. Prices seemed comparable to what you would pay in the States. I would also like to note that the store is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. only, and I did not see one employee (but I heard them in a partitioned area near the exit where you pay for anything you purchase) or any other shoppers when I stopped by around 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.

So, in a nutshell (no pun intended) that is the adult store I visited in Iwakuni. Don't bother messaging me any questions, I only spent about 20 minutes in the place because it was almost closing time, so pretty much everything I know I have shared. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Staples and roller coasters...

Who would have thought that staples and roller coasters would end up in a blog post together, but they have. Let me give you some back story.. and some warning... one of these photos is not for the faint of stomach. In fact, I can't look at it very long, myself... and to think I wanted to be a doctor at one time...

So, to kick things off, there are a couple of things you need to know about me to thoroughly enjoy this post:

1) I love roller coasters. I love the thrill, the death-defying speeds, turns, twists, but with the reassurance that thousands of people have done the same thing before me and survived, and that the coasters are required to be inspected regularly. I've even jumped out of a perfectly good airplane before... in 2000 in Yuma, Ariz., with the Army Golden Knights, as a member of the press. I had an expert strapped to my back and the reassurance that it would be a really bad PR move if the guy packed my parachute poorly.

2) My children consider me the "fun" parent. I am the one who plans fun trips, occasionally allows them to stay up as late as they want to on school holidays, and lets them eat dessert for dinner on occasion. I will sometimes spontaneously agree to crazy requests... sure, go play in the summer rain with your water guns. Wait... there's no lightning, right? Being the "fun" parent sometimes conflicts with maternal instincts. Thank goodness my traditional mothering instincts are nearly non-existent.

3) I really hate bloody, ripped skin. Like, really hate it. To the point where I will feel like passing out if I have to watch too long. I'll never forget when a then 5-year-old Will "accidentally" pushed 18-month-old Xan off the bed and Xan busted his chin on the nightstand. Of course, dad was in charge, but couldn't stop the bleeding. We got to the urgent care, got Xan stitched up... and once my adrenaline rush receded, I had to be put in a chair with my head between my legs... light headedness had set in. And I don't even have to see such injuries... I just have to hear about them. Fortunately, Rodney learned this early in our relationship when we visited a fellow Marine of his in the hospital after a motorcycle accident. He had a major injury to his leg, it was wrapped up and all. But I got to hear the, literally, gory details, and I had to excuse myself. So, yep, I'm a wuss when it comes to blood and hospitals.

Now, a quick backstory on Xan: When he was 4 he saw one of those bungee cord jumping attractions at the mall and wanted to try it. I made sure he understood what it all entailed - getting strapped in, jumping high, etc. - and let him watch another kid do it. Xan wanted to do it. I still had Will go first, so Xan could see him bouncing away happily for his three minutes. When it was Xan's turn to get strapped in, he quickly panicked and said he did not want to do it. He screamed, he cried, and refused to jump. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am a tough love parent. You, son, agreed to do this, I paid for it, and you're going to follow through, even if all you do is stand there in the straps and scream for your three minutes. And that's what he did, much to the ride operator's concern. "Are you sure you don't want him to get out?" he kept asking. Nope, I'm sure. He will learn to face fear, be brave, and follow through on his commitments. Sure, he's 4, but you have to start somewhere. I had done something similar with Will... and you saw him bounce happily. Now, the guy behind me in line, standing there with his kid, who was next, was getting agitated: "Well, you're just mother of the year, aren't you?" Absolutely, dickhead, and I have the trophy to prove it. Sadly, I did not say that. Instead I gave him a couple of sentences about my tough love parenting technique having worked for the older child, who does not appear to have any scarring from the lesson. Dickhead was not impressed. After Xan's time was up, we left the mall.

On the family blog in Sept. 2011, I wrote: Xan getting suited up for the bungee jump. He started to cry at this point and refused to jump. I made him stay there since he had wanted to go up until that point. The guy next to me, with sarcasm, said that I was going to be up for Mother of the Year. Obviously he doesn't know me very well.
Now, a backstory of Will's. Long story short: This summer he had an out-of-control mole on the top, front of his head, which we got approved to have removed in the States while he was visiting his grandparents. When the pathology report came back, it was inconclusive for cancer, so the pathologist recommended an additional 2 to 3 mm of skin be removed on either side of the site. We had to return to Iwakuni for the school year, so that second procedure would have to be completed in Japan, either at the MCAS Iwakuni clinic with a visiting military dermatologist, or we would have to be medi-vac'd (sent on the bullet train to Tokyo for three to four days) to a large naval hospital near Tokyo. Fortunately, the dermatologist from the Tokyo hospital was scheduled to come to Iwakuni, so Will would only miss one day of school. We had a two-month window to do the procedure, and the week the doctor was scheduled to be here was the last one in the window. And then a typhoon hit Tokyo and the doctor couldn't come on the scheduled date. We were told we would get medi-vac'd in the next couple of weeks. A day after the originally scheduled date, we get a call at 4:30 p.m.: The doctor was coming for one day and we had an appointment at 10:30 the next morning, on Thursday.

I already had plans that I could not cancel, so the spouse took Will to the clinic... which turned out to be a good idea. I probably would have passed out.

So, after 13 stitches in the States, this procedure took not only stitches, but also 8 staples. Military medicine may be effective, but it's not always pretty. Sometimes you have to remember that you get what you pay for. This was free. I can't look at this photo too long, so let's move on to the roller coaster part of the blog post.

Two months ago I planned a trip with ITT on base, to go to Space World by bus and spend the Saturday of the Columbus Day holiday weekend enjoying roller coasters and other attractions. Of course, planing months in advance sometimes works out... and sometimes doesn't. We didn't get the original appointment date for the visiting dermatologist until five days before the procedure. But Will had recovered quickly from his first procedure during the summer, so I thought that four days rest would be fine for him to enjoy the park. But with the surgery being postponed two days, and the need for staples being introduced, it was iffy. Add on the fact that the narcotic pain meds that the clinic prescribed Will made him nauseous all night Thursday, he ended up missing school on Friday. So Friday night, I wasn't sure Will would be making it to Space World the next day. If we cancelled, it was too late to get our $300 back we had paid for the transportation fee and admission to the park. So, Xan and I were going no matter what. But what about Will and Rodney?

It's the ultimate fun mom's dilemma: Do I make Will stay home and miss it and hate his current life situation more than he already does, or do I let him call the shots and do as much as he feels comfortable with? I went with option two. He's a pretty level-headed kid, and I like to give my kids the option to make their own decisions... until they make a really poor one. Luckily, I have not had to do that often.

When Will woke up on Saturday morning, he had had a great night's sleep and didn't want to miss the trip. So, we put some gauze in a baseball cap and headed off to the bus, which left at 7 a.m., extra strength Tylenol in hand. We had a total of six hours on the bus, so I figured if he got tired, he'd nap. I did make sure that he sat on the bus with the good side of his head toward the window so he could lean against the window easily if he wanted. Yep, Mother of the Year, I am.

The bus ride was uneventful... and full of Disney and Pixar movies. If you love Frozen, Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, you'll love kid-friendly ITT trips. But, we made it to Space World around 10 a.m.

No one was more thrilled than Xan to find out that he was tall enough to go on all of the rides.

Everything in Space World is outer space themed... except for the Lucky Land kiddie portion of the park. There you could find a traditional merry-go-round with horses, a teacup ride and a touch tank with rays in it. I guess the park planners ran out of creativity by the time they planned that section of the park.

But here is what we did:

Like any good Japanese tourist attraction, here are LOTS of cutouts to put your head in for photo ops.

We got on a low-key roller coaster first, to "warm up." It was called the Clipper and kids must be 3 years old to ride. We were able to figure out the intensity of all of the rides by the age or height requirement, which were always in English. The Clipper had some tight turns, and it was definitely a good one to test out Will's staples on. Some items to note about visiting this amusement park:

1) Do not wear jewelry. We had to take off our necklaces and I would have had to remove my earrings to ride on the Venus GP ride if I had understood what the girl at the gate was saying. After miming and charades didn't work, she just let me on. I only know what she had tried to tell me because I tried to ride the coaster a second time later in the day and the guy at gate spoke much better English. I refused to take all three pairs of earrings out for a ride I had already ridden, so Rodney and Xan rode alone.

2) Plan to take off all hats, sunglasses and bags on every ride, storing them in cubbies located where you get on the ride. This is Japan, so we never had anything stolen. No one made any comment about Will's staples. Either they didn't notice or the Japanese are just too polite to mention it or stare.

3) If you are taller than 5'7" and weigh more than 230 pounds, you may have trouble fitting on the rides. The spouse, who is 6'3", bruised his knees a couple of times. These rides are not meant for Big OK people. More on this later.

4) Japanese people generally do not scream when riding on roller coasters. In fact, a number of the runs were eerily quiet... I was wondering if the people were having fun or if they were scared silent. In return, the Japanese probably thought we were scared out of our minds, 'cuz like good Americans, we made ourselves heard.

Xan went on his first "big" roller coaster, choosing one that went upside down, the Venus GP, as his first one. I was so proud. Up yours, dickhead. My mother of the year skills created a confident, adventurous kid who accompanied his mother on every ride she went on... even the Zaturn. But we'll talk about that coaster in a minute.

Xan after riding his first "big" coaster.
Will did not ride on the Venus GP because of it going upside down. His choice, but it was going to be my rule if he hadn't made that decision on his own.

To take a break from the thrill rides, we stopped by the space museum where we saw a lot of moon and astronaut paraphernalia. And, of course, there was a cutout photo op. I really want to go to space before I die, so I hope this isn't as close as I get to it:

After the museum, we found the Space Dome, which housed the Mission to Mars and Black Hole Scramble rides. Mission to Mars is sort of like Disney's Space Tours and the Black Hole Scramble is a bit like Space Mountain. But if you have been on the Disneyland rides, keep your expectations low for the Space Dome.

We also enjoyed the Titan V which reminded me of Six Flag's Magic Mountain's Colossus roller coaster that recently closed, as well as the Boogie Woogie Space Coaster (which, for some reason, reminded me of the Disneyland train coaster, although there were not any mountains or mining equipment). The spouse barely fit in the Boogie Woogie car... Xan finally turned around and told him to stop complaining and tried to push his safety bar down. He managed to squeeze in, but the ride wasn't the most comfortable.

I figured it would be best to feed the spouse at this time. Keep the spirits up, and everything. We were going to go to a buffet restaurant, but we either 1) weren't reading the map right or 2) it was closed. So, we ended up at Lucky's Diner. And, little did we know, Lucky's is apparently the place you go if you want to see the park's characters. We did not, but did anyway. Here the boys are with Vicky Mouse:

Just kidding. Vicky is a rabbit. I mean, seriously, you think Disney would have stood for that? Can you say "lawsuit?"

The characters are... tenacious. They say hello to all members of the family. 

Just a word of warning... the cupcake below looks decadent, but it is extremely dry and not worth the 600 yen ($6) we paid for it. Having said that, we still ate it all. :)

Like the cupcake, the park was all decked out in Halloween garb, and even had a small costume store, with costumes for both kids and adults... unless you are a Big OK adult. Then you're out of luck and need to settle for a headband with ears and a plastic scythe.

The park was not at all crowded. The longest we waited for a ride was 15 minutes. I was surprised since it was a holiday weekend for the Japanese, too. It's not Columbus Day, obviously, but Sports Day. There was a typhoon scheduled to hit Monday, so that may have kept people away, but I'm not sure. We were genuinely surprised by the lack of crowds.

After lunch, we decided to let our food settle before tackling more rides, so we watched the Russian swinging trapeze show. It was a lot of fun, and the perfect thing to do after lunch.

Then it was time to hit the park's crown jewel and scariest roller coaster: Zaturn. It immediately launches you to 130 km (80 mph), sends you straight up 65 meters (213 feet), then turns in to an 83-degree hairpin turn to go straight down, then takes you straight back to the place you started. I timed it. It took about 16 seconds total. Xan couldn't wait, Will didn't want to chance it with his staples, and Rodney... well, Rodney was too tall to ride the ride. The only ride in the park where being too tall was a problem.

The spouse is not a big roller coaster lover, so he was not at all disappointed. That meant it was just me and Xan... who is 8. We get to the coaster and a sign says you have to be 9. He's tall, only has 6 more months until he's 9, and no one asked how old he was. I let it slide. When it was our turn to climb the stairs to the waiting area, we were handed green laminated papers... that had two paragraphs written in Japanese. No other ride had done this. I had no idea what it said, but I hoped it wasn't anything important. I figured if it was super important, they would have one in English...right?

Here is what Rodney got with his iPhone:

I kept my eyes shut the entire time. And it wasn't because I was scared for myself. Sometime between climbing the stairs, getting a green piece of paper and then being strapped in to the ride, my mother instincts kicked in. I, all of sudden, had this irrational fear that my kid would fall out of the coaster and plummet to his death. I couldn't watch that. For a moment while I clutched that green paper in my hand, I even had the urge to tell Xan that we weren't going on the ride. But I held back and applied the tough love parenting on myself. Confront your fear, be brave and follow through on your commitments. So, I kept my eyes (mostly) shut while we were launched up and over the 200-foot hairpin at 80 mph. I listened to my kid scream with glee, felt my stomach jump and my breath be stolen away. I did not have fun. But how do you tell your kid that you would have to ride the ride alone to have fun? Especially when you're the one who conditioned him to be a thrill seeker? Ah... another fun parent dilemma.

Will and his staples got through the day with little fanfare. Everyone slept in this morning, and both boys greeted me with thank you's and telling me how much fun the trip was. Xan wants to go back for his birthday in April. After all, why not celebrate being 9 with a legitimately-allowed trip on the Zaturn? Hopefully my mother instincts will be dormant that day.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Yamaguchi Fleamarket... one of the few good reasons to get up at 4 a.m. on a Sunday...

I have lived in Iwakuni for more than 2 years now, and I am huge fan of fleamarkets, antique shops and thrift stores. Those two facts combined should have meant that I have frequented the Yamaguchi Fleamarket at least a half dozen times by now, but it has a few things working against my attendance. 

And here they are, in no particular order:

1) It is only on the first Sunday of the month - and I often have plans that conflict with my attendance at the fleamarket.

2) It is outside. I do not like to be too hot, too cold or too rained on. So, the weather during half the months of the year or more are not very conducive to my desire to attend an outdoor fleamarket.

3) It starts at the crack of dawn. I am a night owl who must have at least 8 hours of sleep 6 out of 7 nights a week to properly function at the high level of functioning I expect from myself. I really should live in the land of the rising moon, not the rising sun. The fleamarket starts at dawn and Iwakuni is about an hour and half away. This means I have to get up between 4 and 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning to be driving off MCAS Iwakuni toward the Sanyo expressway by 5 a.m. And you need to go early if you want to get the best stuff. In fact, rumor has it that serious American antiquers spend the night in Yamaguchi City so that they can harass the vendors especially early, as they are setting up, to get the best items for the best prices.

Overcoming the excuses, er, reasons, above, today was the first time I had ever gone to the fleamarket. I braved the pre-dawn, cloudy morning with the Iwakuni Explorer (Hyla) and our friend Britt. You can find directions and details about the market here. If you have access to MCAS Iwakuni, there are also written directions in a spinning rack outside the ITT office in Crossroads Mall.

So, here is what I found...

Nearby parking is not easy to find. The lots surrounding the fleamarket were full by 6:45 a.m. We just happened to get lucky and a car was leaving as we pulled down a parking lot aisle. Our spot was fairly close to the fleamarket grounds, which was a good thing because we had to stop by the car halfway through our shopping experience to drop off a load of treasures before heading back for round 2. All of the signs for the parking are in Japanese. So, remember that the kanji that looks like a cactus and a square means exit, and the one that looks like an upside down Y with a square means enter. Good luck.

But here is what the fleamarket looks like as you walk in:

Rows and rows of tarps and tents, most of them blue, tell you that you are in the right place. There are all kinds of goods here... plants, kimonos, textiles, wood and metal creations, coins, vases, taxidermied sea turtles...

... dolls, toys, food, tools, fish (both figurines and live), Americana (RCA dogs, 50 cent pieces, Pepsi Cola lamps, etc.), swords, clothing, shoes, and cow horns...

I cannot begin to name it all. You just have to see for yourself. By 7:15 a.m. all three of us had already made purchases. A couple of items Britt and I got were these ito (larger, about 2-3 gallons) and isho (smaller, maybe about a quart) rice measuring containers. They used to be used by the Japanese governmental agencies when citizens paid their bills and taxes in rice.

Yes, you can try to haggle with the vendors. Ikura des ka? is how you ask how much something is. Have your phone or calculator ready so that your translation of numbers isn't faulty. You can type out what you think they said the price was and show it to the vendor to confirm you have your numbers correct. There is a big difference between 3,000 yen and 30,000 yen ($30 vs. $300). But, when negotiating, remember that some vendors, like the one below, are firm in their pricing. Don't be afraid to walk away sometimes. Multiple vendors often have the same or similar products.

I still managed to talk most of the vendors I bought from down on their prices, by 10 to 30 percent, depending on the item. Here are the treasures I brought home... I spent a total of about $150. So, starting from the two rice measuring containers and going clockwise, I got a barrel-like bucket, a teapot, a modern dragonfly stained glass lamp, a replica pistol for my 12-year-old, a bamboo toothpick (free with a sample of fried sweet potato, but I found it interesting), a metal mirror from the Edo period (about 200 years ago, I was told) that says "happy" on the back of it, and two fake plastic grenades for my 8-year-old.

The barrel bucket in the top right corner has a handle, too, and Japanese were smiling and laughing at it when I was carrying it around the fleamarket after purchasing it. I am afraid to ask why.
The mirror needs a good polishing, but you get the idea.
 I really want to know what these marks on the rice measuring containers say.

So, yes, visiting the Yamaguchi Fleamarket was fun, and it was worth getting up before dawn to go... although I will not be doing this every month. There is also a fleamarket in Hikari, which I plan to try and attend soon. But probably not in the next couple of weekends. It's already going to take me a good week or two to catch up on the sleep I missed... but at least I have some fun Japanese treasures to show for it.