Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Valentine's Day...or perhaps I should say "His" Valentine's Day: Part 2

The second part of my Valentine's Day evening was at the host club, of course. We were to arrive at opening time (5:00 p.m.). After enjoying our crepes, we walked towards the club, meeting up with a few other hosts and their customers.

One of the customers in particular I found interesting. Unlike the young hostesses with their up-dos and makeup and fancy clothes, this woman looked very different...she was plain and seemed to look a little older (though it was really hard to tell her age) and on top of that, looked tired and depressed. She was accompanied by an older host, whom my host and the others refer to as "Papa." I forget why he's called that, but I think it has something to do with his age and appearance. He seemed like the strong, silent type. He stood against the wall quietly as his customer sat hunched near the elevator. My host attempted to speak to her a little, but I couldn't understand what he was saying and what her weak response was.

Once the clock hit 5, my host and I went up the elevator, only to be told that we were too early and that they were still setting up ^_^; So we went back down and waited a little longer, then went back up again.

About the elevator. I guess I can call it host club etiquette, but when going up the elevator to the club, it's one couple at a time, i.e. a host and his customer. I learned this when another customer tried to come into the elevator with me and my host, and her host told her to wait. It makes sense, so that each customer is greeted individually when she enters.

My host and I mostly just talked, and he kept flagging down hosts that weren't taking care of customers so he could show them the chocolate guitar I made :) I showed him the stuff on my iPod Touch, and we also talked about music and shopping and hobbies. He now knows that I'm a dork...I showed him a photo of me cosplaying as Silmeria. I also showed him photos of my home university, including a photo of a black squirrel, which for some reason are found on campus but not in the surrounding areas. He asked why the squirrels are only on campus, to which I answered, "I have no idea."

During my three-hour stay, I met three other hosts. Also during that time, my host occasionally got up to do something...and it happened more often than I would have preferred. So while he was away, I talked to whoever was at the table. One of them is an otaku of sorts...he likes anime and visits Akiba often. I guess my host thought I'd be able to relate with him somewhat well...which I didn't, really. I forgot the second host I met...he didn't stay long. When I met the third host for the night, I found out what all this was about. This host (I forgot his name) explained to me that he was a helper. I have my own opinion on why helpers are necessary, which I'll explain later.

My host told me that this guy was particularly good at getting women to come to the club. I wondered what it was, because he wasn't particularly good-looking and didn't have the typical spiked-hair look. Perhaps that was the exact reason why he gets customers. He was very nice, and even wondered out loud what was taking my host so long to come back. I was also able to tell him about my research, and he showed no bewilderment of any sort, which is good. He stayed at my table much longer than I wanted him to, though, because I was more interested in my own host. At the end of the night, my host escorted me out of the club (after I got my shoutout from the hosts), down the elevator and to the nearest corner before we said our goodbyes. It didn't occur to me until after I got home how he had asked me if I had fun, when Valentine's Day was really supposed to be about the guys. But I had a lot of fun, and hopefully he did too. A few hours later he e-mailed me, thanking me for the gift and sent a photo of him holding it :)


So, about explanation is all theory, so here goes. Basically, I think helpers do a variety of things. For one, it keeps hosts that don't have customers busy. It also gives them a chance to be a designated helper at a customer's request. I checked the club's website and found that there is a fee for designating a helper. Not designating one just means that any host that is available will come by, I guess.

I think helpers also serve as distractions. The club is designed in such a way that the customer cannot easily look around at everything else going on around the club. I found very few chances to watch other hosts and customers, because I had to pay attention to whoever was around me at the time. If my host had to leave for a moment, he'd have someone else look after me so I wasn't sitting alone.

Helpers probably allow the designated host to give their customer less attention as well. In the club, ordering more drinks means getting more attention. I imagine that if I had ordered more drinks, my host wouldn't have left so often. (Of course I figured this out after I got home...) I imagine it's different from buying an extra hour, in which there's no guarantee that you'll be spending all of that hour with your host. The idea, in my opinion, is to make a customer happy, but at the same time, leave them wanting more. If the customer wants time with her designated host, she's better off buying more drinks rather than staying longer.

Either way, I had fun, and I learned a lot too. Perhaps I'll extend my paper when I get back home.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Yeah, I know.

I never got to the second part of my Valentine's Day.

For some reason I don't feel like writing about it right now. Too lazy.

I'm going to do the laundry now.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Valentine's Day...or perhaps I should say "His" Valentine's Day: Part 1

In Japan, Valentine's Day is not a day of gift exchange between men and women. This is the day where women give chocolate to their boyfriends, husbands, love interests, and even male co-workers. (Of course, on March 14th there's 'White Day,' which is the opposite.)

Did I have plans for that day? Indeed. I went on a "date" with my host and then to the host club.

A week before, I brainstormed a few ideas for a gift. There are so many decorations and materials available that I just had to try my hand at chocolate decorating. I wish there was more emphasis on handmade gifts back home. I didn't want to make anything too cute or childish, and I also wanted to be original. I'm an artist at heart, so I like to be creative. Because my host plays drums, I was thinking of making a drumset but decided against it since it looked too complicated. He's also been trying the guitar, so that's what I decided to make :)

I was very pleased with how it came out! Overall it took me about 15 hours to make. Finding wrapping material was difficult because none of the bags or boxes were long enough. I finally decided to leave it in the pan I used to construct the guitar, and add some decorative wrapping paper and ribbon.

My host was VERY happy when he saw it. Absolutely ecstatic! He told me it was the best thing he had ever gotten for Valentine's Day (not to sound conceited, but I'm sure he was telling the truth :P) When we were at the club, he showed every host that came by our table...actually, he even waved some of them to come over just to show them. I couldn't help but laugh.

Before the club, we had our little date. Originally we were supposed to meet around noon and hang out until the club opened at 5:00, but since he missed the last train the night before, he didn't get home until early Valentine's Day morning and asked if we could meet at 3:00 instead. I didn't mind, since I ended up staying up until 5 that morning wrapping his gift.

When I got to Shinjuku station (fashionably-yet-unintentionally late), he was pretty easy to spot outside the East exit after he told me he was wearing red pants. (I finally figured out how to describe his appearance--he reminded me of Shou, the vocalist of alice nine.)

We went to go buy some chocolate to present to the club for a discount, and then went to the arcade. I watched him play DrumMania, which looks really difficult. Then, since he hadn't eaten yet, we went to Mos Burger, and that's when I let him open his gift :) We hung out there for a while as he looked through my song collection on my iPod. Then we went for crepes (not NEARLY as good as the ones in Harajuku, I was disappointed) and walked towards the club.

I'll stop here and blog about the second part of the evening later. I'm tired and I need some sleep.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yokohama, Minato Mirai and Chinatown

On Friday I went with Kenisha and two of her friends to Yokohama. I hadn't been there since my last visit to Japan over three years ago, so I was pretty excited.

Yokohama is a port city. Location-wise, and considering that Maryland and Kanagawa Prefecture are sister states, Yokohama can be compared to Baltimore back home. Of course, Yokohama automatically beats Baltimore because of the Ferris wheel. Ferris wheel = win.

We were out there for most of the clear and sunny day, but Yokohama actually looks most beautiful at night. When I go back there, I'll take more pictures.

Chinatown is great as well. MUCH better than whatever that place is in Washington D.C., which I like to dub as "Chinablock." Once we entered the gate, I actually felt like I wasn't in Japan anymore. And wow, there's nikuman for days...

A "must-visit" for the summer, I'll say. It was pretty cold by the harbor. It's too bad I can't go too often, since it's a pricey trip at almost 600 yen going one-way.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

5-string Bass Guitar Acquired. ^_^

I finally bought a bass! Ever since my last visit to Ochanomizu, there was one 5-string bass that I kept thinking about (not the one for 32,000 yen). I went back today, finally making up my mind that this was the bass I was going to take home with me.

Isn't it gorgeous?! It's a Fernandes FRB-90. Did you know that Fernandes is actually a Japanese company? So it's good that I bought a Japanese bass in Japan. I didn't really care about brand as I did about looks and pricing, but this works. The list price for when it first came out was 90,000 yen, and I got it for half.

The only downside is that there's a tiny dent near the base of the body. I don't really care though, as long as it doesn't have a big effect on the sound. It contrasts nicely with my bass back home, which is black and has silver knobs.

I went through a bit of trouble paying for it. Apparently when I tried to use my check card as credit, it didn't work. I got the salesperson to tell me where the nearest post office was so I could use the ATM there. And then when I tried to take out 50,000 yen, it wouldn't let me withdraw it. I was thinking something was wrong with my account, but then Kenisha told me to try taking out just 10,000 yen. That worked, so I took out 20,000 more (those ATM withdrawal fees are killing me), and then went to my Japanese bank's ATM to take out the remainder of what I needed.

I still can't believe I made such a big purchase all by myself. I haven't spent that much money on my own since I bought textbooks freshman and sophomore year! February is going to be an expensive month, but I'm being careful with my spending. I've already sworn off UFO Catcher and restricted my shopping to groceries and necessities just so I could buy this bass. Now there's just Valentine's Day and getting my hair done. And tomorrow I'll be going to Yokohama with Kenisha! February has been going quite well so far :)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

I wish I could be at home to watch the Super Bowl with my dad. Every year we watch the game on TV and my mom makes food for us to eat. My dad eventually falls asleep though, lol. I always watch till the very end, though.

I couldn't find a decent webcast of the game, so right now I'm listening to it on the radio using iTunes. The Halftime Show is on right now, and it's 17-7, Steelers over Cardinals. I'm cheering for the Steelers because of Hines Ward, a great wide receiver and fellow Blasian :) Go Steelers!

Man, I miss my mom's chicken wings...