Tokyo Cafe Walker

… and frequent visits to his favorite cafes.

That line is part of the profile blurb I’ve had on my site for quite a while now, and it really was true. During my first few years in Tokyo, I would cut out articles or reviews (photos with info) on cafes and bars that I found interesting — often from the weekly Metropolis magazine (which back then was called Tokyo Classified) — and paste them in a Muji notebook. I’d always have that notebook — which ended up forming two volumes — in my bag, and so whenever I was out and about and in the mood for a cafe stop, I’d consult it and try to find a new place to check out.

I miss those days.

I’m not quite sure why I don’t do that anymore. Probably a mix of being much busier and working full-time hours in an office — a far cry from the shorter work days I had while teaching English, or when I was working primarily as a freelance writer. I’m sure having a dog contributes to this as well — I’d rather spend time in and around my neighborhood (which has limited outdoor cafe options) with my pooch when I have free time than wandering the city in search of cool new spots.

But I still enjoy a good cafe, and it’s still a joy to be introduced to a new one, or to discover it myself.

I bet you it would also be much easier to keep digital “clippings” of places that I find on websites and the like. And there are now plenty of really nice cafe guides — I even have a few — that are basically properly edited versions of those old notebooks I kept.

I think I need to find more excuses to go out for coffee.


CSR Racing

I played a free-to-play game to completion.

I’m quite surprised by this. The game in question is CSR Racing on iOS, and let me qualify my initial statement by adding that there are still extra races I could do, but I’ve beaten all the “bosses,” as well as each ladder series in all 5 tiers of the game.

Although it does indeed include a lot of possible in-app purchases — like you’d expect from a free-to-play game — I still managed to play through it without spending a dime. Sure, there was a bit of grinding involved — and it got rather annoying towards the end, where improvements to my car cost a small fortune — but it felt manageable, for the most part.

I think the key to the game is that it was perfect for my daily commute — which includes about 20-25 minutes on subway/train. I would have just enough “gas” — the energy unit in the game, that refills with time (or of course, through a purchase) — to keep me playing on my ride “to” and “from” work, and it usually felt like I was advancing at a steady pace. But I should add that the fact that your “save” is done in the cloud and that the app is universal meant I could play on my iPhone when out and about, and then play some more on my iPad when at home (which I did). The developers did a great job with this.

The gameplay itself is rather simple — it’s not a racing game where you actually drive on a track, but rather you just need to shift gears at the right time to max your acceleration, in order to win a straight line drag race. But that shifting mechanic was fun, and mixed with a really nice graphic package and real world cars, I was hooked for the entire game.

It is a shame that the last update to the game introduces very annoying ads that pop up before or after a race — luckily this only happened to me as I was nearing completion, but I think if it would have been like that from the start, I would have stopped playing.

Now I need to find something to fill that CSR Racing void — let’s see how far I get into Galaxy on Fire 2 HD (currently on sale for a buck).


Some Like It Hot (I Don’t)

Fuck it’s hot.

I am not a happy camper right now. True, I’ve lived in Japan for about 14 years, I know what to expect when it comes to how hot it gets in the summer — and particularly in August — but come on. Human beings were not meant to live in this kind of environment.

The Earth — or this city — is fucking with us, I know it.

I admit that I am very much weak when it comes to heat, and I try to avoid direct sunlight like the plague — you should have seen me walking my dog this morning, criss-crossing the street to get to any shadowy area. And I was really hoping that by the time I was back in town — following my trip — that it would have started to cool down slightly.

Oh that silly Jean Snow, so naive.

In a continuous effort to impose autumn on my body, I drank my first autumn beer last night, and today I picked up a sleeveless down jacket at Uniqlo — I’d been wanting one for cycling during the fall and winter, and they sold out fast last year. How ridiculous to be walking back home, sweating, while carrying a shopping bag that holds a down jacket.

I’m back home now, and I don’t believe I’ll be going out again. Air con on, jinbei on, time for more cold beer.


There and Back Again

The Moncton Boys will soon be together again.

I first came to Asia (to China) in 1997, and then in 1998 I moved to Tokyo. That year, I started what would now be called a group mailing list with friends from back home (my hometown of Moncton in Canada). It was simplified in the sense that we would just send our messages to everyone’s individual addresses, and then “reply to all” for the follow-ups.

In January of 2006, I used Google Groups to make it easier for us to continue sending our messages, creating a group I called “Moncton Boys,” and we’ve continued to use it to this day — although we’re certainly not as active as we used to be.

What I just realized now when I checked the group to find out when I had started it, is that every single message we sent is archived there, which as you can imagine is an interesting way to look back at what was being said over the years.

With my upcoming trip in August — the one I need an FM transmitter for — I decided to organize an old-school get-together at my parents house, inviting all of the “Moncton Boys” (we’re a dozen) over for some drinkin’ and chattin’, listening to tunes, and basically catching up. Luckily, most everyone will be in town — 3 others had fled like me.

The one thing that won’t be the same is when we end playing billiards, as I imagine we will. My parents have long had a pool table at home, and using it was a staple of hanging out at my place. One thing that possibly enhanced — but in reality, distracted from — the playing was that the second dog we had — a Shetland Sheepdog named Zarico — had the extremly odd behaviour of constantly running around the table whenever a game was being played. Never stopping. If he was near a pocket when a ball went in, he would let out a bark.

Zarico passed away quite a few years ago. Our games of pool just won’t be the same.