After another long day of rehearsing in Nagoya at our silo shaped rehearsal building where you have to bring a second pair of shoes to wear as you "indoor shoes," Nathaniel, Dennis and I head out of the hotel to immerse ourselves in a little Nagoyan culture.  We walk along a covered street, that offers a market-like shopping experience with designer store pricing.  The only things we buy are lunch and ice cream.  


Next we delve a little deeper in the Nagoya neighborhoods and stumble upon a small bakery where two woman dressed in Christmas colored uniforms are working away at an assembly line to make red bean paste treats.  They pour dough into onion shaped cast iron molds, place some kind of yellow yoke and red bean paste in the middle, and then fold the other half of the mold on top to create a pocket.  We stand two inches from the window and film the entire process for about fifteen minutes.  Soon, other people begin to slow or even stop as they pass us, their interest peaked by whatever we are watching.  I'm sure it's akin to Japanese tourists stopping and staring into the window of a Dunkin Donuts, because when the passersby realize what we're watching, they giggle and quickly move on. 

After we've stood around for a while, we figure we should at least give these ladies some business.  The little treats are alright, until I get to the yellow yoke.  It has the texture of hardened bean paste and absolutely no taste.  I'm glad I tried it, but I won't be asking for seconds.  

Click here for a video of the red bean treat assembly line. 

After walking through a few neighborhood gardens, Nathaniel asks us if we've been to a Pachinko place yet.  We shake our heads, and he immediately leads us to King 1000, which I have yet to notice despite it being right next to our hotel.  The doors slide open and immediately our ears are filled with high decibels of noise.  I turn to Nathaniel, and see that his lips are moving, but I can't make out a word, as his voice gets swallowed up by the constant clang.  Ahead of us are isles and isles of what appear to be slot machines.  When I look closer, I realize they are games kind of like pinball.  Metal balls are dropped in at the top of the machine, and travel through a maze laid out below.  The balls either fall into oblivion or into baskets, which the player keeps lined up behind their chair.  Later, when the player wants to cash out, these are turned in for prizes.  


My favorite part of the whole scene are the attendants, dressed in all white, who scurry between isles delivering more and more baskets to the players who are on a roll.  These people are constantly in motion, and continually bowing.  They bow to the entire isle before entering it, they bow to the player before asking if they need another basket, they bow when the basket is accepted or rejected, and they bow to the entire isle before moving on.  It's a wonder how they don't collapse with dizziness, especially with the consistent waterfall of ball barring metal balls to contend with. 

 So players sit at the little stools in front of these machines and basically watch, mesmerized, as the balls tumble down.  The only interaction they have with the machine is a little lever which they occasionally flicker.  I can't bear to stay in the place long enough to figure out what exactly the lever does, but I can only assume it has some menial purpose like changing the slightly pornographic anime image displayed behind the maze.

When the doors of King 1000 close behind us, and we're once again on the busy Nagoyan street, my ears continue to ring, and I talk with a voice that is entirely too loud.  After that experience, I think I need a drink.  Nathaniel decides to head back to the hotel, but we meet up with Adrian along the way, who is also parched.  

We head for a small bar street near the hotel, and climb down a flight of stairs to a local hole in the wall bar.  The decor is pretty eclectic with neon beer signs lining the brick wall alongside a statue of Buddha dressed in a full fur coat and sunglasses.  The bar tender is probably the tallest person in all of Asia, and wears a black cowboy had which adds even more height.  He comes over to our table, and immediately launches into his play by play of the drink specials (in Japanese, of course).  For some reason, I nod along like I understand.  When he finishes, I offer "cranberry vodka?" and he's totally got it, or so I hope.  I notice that Adrian is nearly falling asleep, and I try to start conversation with him, but neither of us can hear over the bar tender's intense "hai!" (yes!) to other customers.  We leave after one drink (falling victim to jet lag's evil spell) and as we head for the door, a glorious round of "hai!" explodes behind us.  We turn to the bar tender who says, "see you tomorrow!"  


We walk down the street, and Dennis wants to check out a place called HIPS because it has a rainbow flag below the sign.  The second he utters the word "hips" a man in a black leather jacket magically appears at our side to lead us up the stairs to the bar, which turns out to be the size and shape of a closet (should I take that as a sign of the acceptability of homosexuality in Japan?)

Anyway, Dennis opens the wooden door and every head in the joint (maybe five squeezed shoulder to shoulder) turn their heads to examine the new comers.  Dennis is so surprised he immediatly closes the door.  Back on the street, the leather jacket man begins to follow us asking if we want pretty girls.  I want to say, "Dude, I'm right here, and you're definitely asking the wrong crowd.  We just asked to see the gay club."