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My Shiny Little Balls

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 8, 2011

June 26, 2011

All Pictures

No establishment in Japan has parking like a pachinko parlor.

Do you want to pachinko tomorrow?

If you’ve ever been to Japan, chances are that you’ve seen a pachinko parlor or two. They are everywhere, even in little boondock villages in the middle of swampy rice fields. They are always open and have plenty of parking. Many of them have little restaurants or cafes that serve food until late at night.

I have gone into many pachinko parlors, but have never stayed longer than the time needed to use the bathroom. The machines are noisy. The people are very zombie like. Everything is written in Japanese. And the whole thing is very overwhelming. So when my neighbor, Brandy, offered to go with us and show us what to do, Mark and I jumped at the chance.

I hope this ends well.

We got in and sat down at some open machines. We each put in 1,000YEN into our machines and little silver balls came out. We put those balls back into the machine with hopes of getting more silver balls. Sometimes more balls came out, but more often none did.

We ended up losing all our balls. Well, I kept one as a souvenir.  We spent one hour playing pachinko, but many people spend half their lives there. I know I used to work in a place like this.

This place is probably closed down by now.

Would you like a sandwich or some tea?

When I lived in London I needed money to pay for my flight to Japan. It was the summer and my contract in Japan started in November. So I found a job working in the “arcade” in the picture above.

It was a miracle that I got the job, because I showed up about an hour late for the interview. I somehow ended up at Victoria Station which was no where near where I needed to be. I managed to charm Wendy, the manager and was hired. (I honestly think she hired me because she liked my American accent.)

The odd thing was that I thought I would be working in a gaming arcade. You know, the kind where little kids come in and spend all their coins. What it actually was, was a casino with only slot machines.

My job was to give change, clean the machines regularly, serve coffee, tea, and sandwiches, call the hourly bingo, and basically chat up customers to make them want to stay and lose,… um, spend all their money.

“All my balls are gone!”

He asks for tea, but that’s not what he wants.

It was a pretty easy job and I liked most of the customers. One day a guy came in and asked for ” a cuppa”. Later I got to know him better and found him to be a fairly decent guy who wished to keep his anonymity. He asked to be referred to as “Ghosty” and he never wanted to talk about his life outside the arcade. But even on the first day I met him, I knew he was a bit strange.

me – “What?”

Ghosty – “a cuppa”

me – “Copper?”

Ghosty – “Ah-cup-ah”

I stared at this guy waiting for more of an explanation. He put on his best fake American accent. “I want a cup oFFFF.”

me – “A cup of what?”

Ghosty – “You know, a cuppa…”

me – “Oh, you mean tea!”

He lit up and nodded. “Yes, please.”

me – “Sure, I’ll get you some tea. Would you like milk and sugar?”

The people around me laughed. “You don’t put milk in tea dear, unless you’re Scottish. Oh Americans!” said a lady not looking away from her machine.

“I would like some milk and sugar,” Ghosty said.

So I got him some tea, with milk and sugar and handed it to him.

“What the hell’s this!?” he asked.

me – “Your tea, with milk and sugar, like you asked”

Ghosty – “But I didn’t want this!”

I stood there, completely confused. He asked for tea. I got him tea, just the way he asked for it. Then another one of the floor girls, as we were called, came by. She call me over. With her thick Polish accent she said, “Never give that man tea.”

me – “But he asked…”

“I know,” she cut me off. “He comes in everyday and asks for tea, but he doesn’t want tea. He wants coffee.”

“So why doesn’t he ask for coffee?” I asked.

“Who the hell knows! But give him coffee with 2 sugars and a little milk.” As she went back to the break room she shouted under her breath while waving her hands, “These people are driving me crazy!” She was joking… somewhat.

How could something so cute take all of my money and give me nothing in return?

But you speak English

Another day while I was on break at work, two of the floor girls came into the break room. “We need your help. You are a native English speaker; talk to this woman.” My co-workers were from Poland and Estonia. I got up and went onto the floor.

I walked over to the red headed lady they wanted me to talk to. “Could I get you anything?” I asked politely.

She replied with a bunch of rolled R’s and some cackles. What ever she was saying, she seemed to be in a good mood about it.

I walked away, turned to my friends, and told them that I couldn’t help. I had no idea what the lady was saying.

“But you speak English…”

“Yes. But that lady doesn’t. She is Scottish. Her accent is too thick for me to understand. But I guess I could try again.”

I walked over to the lady and said, “I’m sorry, could you speak a little more slowly. I’m having a hard time understanding your accent.”

It turned out she wanted an egg sandwich, but she didn’t say it like this, “I want an egg sandwich. What she said sounded more like this, “Ay won’t un eggy…” and then a word that didn’t come close to sounding like the word “sandwich”.

She then asked me how long I had lived in England. I told her that I had been in the country for over 2 years, but most of that time was spent in Manchester. I had a conversation with the Scottish lady in which I understood less than half of what she said and smiled and nodded through the rest.

Ironically enough, my grandmother’s family comes from Scotland. Her brother still lives there, but I’ve never talked to him, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t understand him any more than I understood the Egg Sandwich lady.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Any Pachinko Parlor
(パチンコ)

How to get there:

  • Go to Japan.
  • Look out your window.
  • If you don’t see a pachinko parlor you might have to go outdoors and walk in any directions for about a block or two.

Website:

Cost:

  • Usually a minimum of 500 or 1,000YEN to play.

Hours:

  • They NEVER close!

Notes:

  • They are everywhere.
  • They have tons of free parking.
  • Never use a machine that has someone’s stuff on or near it.
  • It is not gambling. That is illegal in Japan. Pachinko is “gambling” which is quite legal.
  • Never ask where you can exchange the balls you’ve won for cash. That would make it gambling, which is illegal in Japan. Instead just look for the nondescript place outside in the back where they exchange the balls for cash. This is how “gambling” works.

Map: (Any where in Japan)

Posted in England, Japan, Kyūshū, London, Oita 県, Oita 市, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Put My Toes in the Thames

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2010

November 26 – 27, 2004

All Pictures

Piccadilly Circus

Bright Lights, Big City

This was another trip planned by the International Society in Manchester. They made all the reservations for accommodations and tours. Two of my classmates and I took the big I.S. charter bus to London and had a great time.

My roommate for the trip was Nalleli along with 2 other girls I’d never met before, and haven’t seen since. They had thick European accents that sounded exotic to me.

Since the hostel was segregated by gender, David, my other classmate, bunked with some other guys who had the misfortune of not travelling with any male friends.

Dinner at McDonald’s

We ate our breakfasts in the cafeteria in the basement of the hostel then boarded the bus. The mornings where packed with tours and activities. There was so many things that we did that I can’t remember a single one now.

In the afternoons we were free to go where ever we wished. The girls who stayed in Nalleli’s and my room went shopping. In the evenings they came home, tired with bags and bags of overpriced designer goods. They brought empty suitcases to be filled with the spoils of their hunts. “These are just such great deals! There are just no good shops in Manchester.”

Nalleli and I sat on our beds each evening as the girls paraded their new clothes for us. During these fashions show the ladies would tell us how much each item cost. Nalleli and I kept a running total in our heads. They blew through almost a thousand pounds each by the end of the trip.

Dali’s Elephant

My group, however, was there to see the sights. David, the only British one among us, had already seen everything. He showed us around.

Nalleli and Me: “What should we see next, David?”

David: “I don’t know. What do you want to see?”

He was very helpful.

Big Ben

For the Old and Learned

London is expensive. I don’t care what those shopping girls said, everything in London is overpriced. But there are discounts to be had. For every tourist attraction we went to, we looked to see if there was a student rate. Sometimes the student rate was £2 off, other times it was half price. Even students from schools outside of Britain can get the discount. Just bring a valid, up-to-date student I.D.

The only thing better than the student discount, is the senior citizen discount. If you are over 60 and you are traveling the world, carry your passport with you when you go sightseeing. That thing will pay for itself!

Don’t focus on the river. Focus on the bridge.

Wait until you see it…

Before the trip began I made a proclamation that I was going to wade in or at least dangle my feet into the Thames. How could I leave England and not be able to tell everyone that I touched the most famous British body of water? David looked at me incredulously. “You should really hold off until you see the water before making any oaths.”

I only took pictures of the Thames at night. That way you cannot tell how dirty and gray it is. I never did touch it. eww!

All Pictures


 

The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Videos:

Books: 


The London Eye

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 51°30’12.0″N 0°07’10.3″W
  • Go to Waterloo Station.
  • Look up, the Eye can easily be seen.
  • Walk to it.

Address:

Merlin Entertainments London Eye
Riverside Building
County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road
London
SE1 7PB

Phone

Website:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Usually 10:00-20:00
  • Open everyday, but Christmas
  • Time changes each season

Notes:

  • You can have parties in the Eye.
  • You can get some of the best views of the city. The best time for romantic looking photos are just before sunset.

 

Buckingham Palace

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 51°30’04.5″N 0°08’31.3″W

Use any of those underground stations:

  • Green Park (Jubilee. Piccadilly and
  • St James’s Park (Circle and District lines).

Website

Cost:

  • Tour                                      £8.7515.50
  • Changing of the Guard   Free

Hours:

  • Tour: July 31 – Sept 29  9:45 – 15:45

When the Queen is not in residence 19 State Rooms are open to the public. Make sure to book in advance to ensure admission. £8.75-15.50

  • Non-Tour

Well no one can stop you from strolling by at any time day or night, but it’s best to pass by during the changing of the guards.

  • Changing of the Guards

It takes place in front of the palace at 11:30 everyday in summer and every other day in winter. In the summer it’s gets pretty crowded so come with some sort of icy beverage and grab a good spot.

Notes:

It’s great to just walk around and see the gates of her Majesty. Who knows, you might even get a quick glimpse of one of the Queen’s butlers.

Map:

Posted in England, London, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

London

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 14, 2009

June 22-24, 2009

All Pictures

Queen Victoria

A Morning at St. Pancras

We got to the London Stansted Airport very early in the morning and our plan was to take an early EuroStar to Paris. We took a bus from the Airport to St. Pancras Railway station.

As we walked in, we were met by some security guards. They asked us if we had tickets for the train. We told them that we did not, expecting them to tell us to leave. They told us that the ticketing counter opens at 6:00 am and that we were welcomed to hang around in the vicinity. They pointed to a fake grassy area. We looked in the direction they were pointing and saw two people fast asleep, or passed out on the Astroturf.

A St. Pancratic nap

So, naturally, we slept on the Astroturf too. Luckily for me, it was right next to a 24hr Starbucks, so I ate some yogurt before fluffing my backpack and falling asleep.

The EuroStar ticking office at St. Pancras Station

At 6:00 am we went to the EuroStar ticketing office and bought tickets to and from Paris.

There weren’t many tickets available so we got ones for Wednesday to Paris coming back on Friday in 1st class. (My brother paid for the first class tickets. Thanks Malcolm!) Then we headed out to look for a hostel.

My brother was a bit worried because I, in my usual manner, did not make any reservations at a hostel. My plan was to just show up. I told him that there are many hostels near the Bayswater tube station, so we should just go there and look around.

He really wanted to go to an internet cafe to look for places to stay. But since it was still so early in the morning, and most internet cafes weren’t open, it would have been a waste of time. My mom and I left him outside an internet cafe waiting for it to open. By the time it did we had found a place to stay at the Smart Hyde Park Inn, which was good since we had forgotten to leave him any money to pay for internet time.

He just looks so happy!

Malcolm started to have fun

My brother’s biggest complaint during the trip was the lack of ice for his drinks. When ordering a coke in China a waiter would hand him a room temperature bottle of cola. He would then ask for a glass of ice.

waiter:  I’m sorry sir, are you sick?

Malcolm: No. I want some ice for my drink.

waiter: For your drink?

Malcolm: Yes, I would like a cold drink. May I have some ice.

waiter: Why?

Malcolm: It’s a hot day. I would like a cold drink.

waiter: Would you like me to get you a fan?

Malcolm: No, just some ice…

waiter: I’m sorry, but we don’t have ice for drinks.

He had this conversation in every restaurant. All the waiters were perplexed as to why a man would want his drink colder than room temperature. No one had ice for drinks.

Determined not to give up, he set out to look for restaurants with their drinks kept on display in refrigerators. We walked past restaurant after restaurant until we found one. We sat down at a table and ordered our food. Then Malcolm walked over to the fridge to grab a nice cold Fanta and the Fanta was warm.

The refrigerator was unplugged. It was being used more like a display case for drinks rather than a cooler. Malcolm was defeated.

In Russia and Finland it was cold, so even room temperature drinks would be cold. But in London, Malcolm got all the ice he wanted with his drinks.

He was most happy about speaking English again. Though I must say that for being in Russia for only 2 days, Malcolm picked up quite a bit of Russian. He could introduce himself, order food, and be polite. He even learned some cyrillic. He said that he had Russian co-workers back in Ohio and had a head start. But still…

“If we do a trip like this again, I’ll just meet you guys in England.” – Malcolm

All Pictures


The European Union  
(Great 
Britain
)

How to get there:

You can enter the E.U. and the United Kingdom by a train, plane, or boat. I’m not sure what needs to be done to get a European visa before hand. Americans are issued stamps at the port of entry which allow up to a 90-day stay.

Phone:

  • Emergency number: 112 for fire, police, and ambulance (for the UK and most other EU countries)

Website:

Videos:

The E.U.:

The UK:

Books: 


The London Eye

How to get there:

  • 51°30’12.3″N 0°07’10.1″W
  • Go to Waterloo Station.
  • Look up, the Eye can easily be seen.
  • Walk to it.

Address:

Merlin Entertainments London Eye
Riverside Building
County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road
London
SE1 7PB

Phone:

  • 09:00 to 17:00 Monday to Sunday
  • Telephone: +44 (0)870 990 8883
  • Calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras

Website:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Usually 10:00-20:00
  • Open everyday, but Christmas
  • Time changes each season
Videos:

Notes:

  • You can have parties in the Eye.
  • You can get some of the best views of the city. The best time for romantic looking photos are just before sunset.

Buckingham Palace

How to get there:

  • 51°30’04.9″N 0°08’30.6″W

Use any of the below underground stations:

  • Green Park (Jubilee and Piccadilly lines)
  • St James’s Park (Circle and District lines)

Website

Cost:

  • Tour                                      £8.7515.50
  • Changing of the Guard   Free

Hours:

  • Tour: July 31 – Sept 29  9:45 – 15:45

When the Queen is not in residence 19 State Rooms are open to the public. Book in advance to ensure admission. £8.75-15.50

  • Non-Tour

Well no one can stop you from strolling by at any time day or night, but it’s best to pass by during the changing of the guards.

  • Changing of the Guards

It takes place in front of the palace at 11:30 everyday in summer and every other day in winter. In the summer it’s gets pretty crowded so come with some sort of icy beverage and grab a good spot.

Videos:

Notes:

It’s great to just walk around and see the gates of her Majesty. Who knows, you might even get a quick glimpse of one of the Queen’s butlers.


Harrods

How to get there:

  • 51°29’57.8″N 0°09’47.8″W

Go to the Knightsbridge tube station. Go west down Brompton road and pass Lancelot place. Harrods should be on the left side of the street.

Website

Hours:

  • Mon-Sat 10:00-20:00
  • Sun 11:30-18:00
  • Opens later on Sale Days
  • Open even on holidays!

Notes:

  • A tour guide once told me that anything can be bought at this store if the buyer has enough money. It’s a great place to do some serious shopping if you are rich. If you don’t have a lot of money, it’s a great place to buy a knickknack or two on sale. There is one floor that is always decorated for Christmas. What more could you want in a store? By the way, this place also has the nicest bathrooms I’ve ever seen in a store.
  • For the American shoppers, when using a credit card here, the buyer is given the option of paying in pounds sterling or U.S. dollars.
  • Don’t forget to stop by to see the Dodi and Diana memorial.

221B Baker Street: The Sherlock Holmes Museum

How to get there:

  • 51°31’25.7″N 0°09’30.3″W

Go to Baker Street tube station.

Hours:

  • 9:30-18:00
  • Open everyday, but Christmas

Website

Cost:

  • Adults £6
  • Kid’s (<16)  £4
Videos:

Notes:

I can’t say what this place is like since I never went in. It was good enough for me just to take a photo of the outside. I’m not a big Sherlock Holmes fan.


There are lots more to see and do in London, but we had very limited time. Since I had lived in London for about five months in 2005 and this wasn’t my mom’s first visit, we let my brother decide where we should go.

The beefeaters tell the most gruesome stories in the most wonderful ways. I only wish I were British so that I could be a beefeater when I grow up!

How to get thereGo the Fenchurch or London Bridge tube station. map

Cost:

Hours:

    • Tues-Sat opens at 9:00
    • Sun-Mon opens at 10:00
    • Mar-Oct closes at 17:30 with last entrance at 17:00
    • Nov-Feb closes at 16:30 with last entrance at 16:00

Videos:

An Introduction

Although I never actually went to see it, I’ve always wanted to. But then again, I don’t really want to. I think wax figures are a bit creepy. (Dead communist leaders aren’t creepy, but wax people are…)

How to get there:

Go to the Regent’s Park or Baker Street tube station map

Cost: Click here for Madame Tussauds’ web site and complicated ticket pricing.

Opening Hours:

    • 9:00-18:00 open until 19:00 in the summer
    • 9:30-17:30 on school days

This is the closest I’ll ever get to Isaac Newton or a British queen.

How to get there: Go to St. James’ Park or Westminster tube stations

Hours:

    • Mon-Sat 9:30-15:30
    • Sunday and religious holidays it is open only for church services, but everyone is welcomed to join.

Cost:


Here are some free things to see or do:

  • Big Ben (51°30’02.6″N 0°07’28.6″W)

How to get there:

Go to Westminster tube station  map

It’s free because you can’t go inside without special permission.

Unfortunately I have no idea who one would ask to get such permission. If you know, please tell me.

Other than that you could always run for parliament, but I doubt it’s worth going through all that trouble. But you can walk around it for free any time of the day.

I once joked, before I had ever seen it, that I wanted to put my foot in the Thames. But after seeing the river, I have no urges to jump in. It’s still really romantic to walk along the Thames.

map

Stare at the extremely tall monument to Lord Nelson. In case you care, this is where you can find the South African embassy.

How to get there:

Go to Charing Cross tube station  map

Exit #4 is right next to Trafalgar Square

I’m not a big fan of art, but when I lived in London, my apartment didn’t have air conditioning.  So I spent hours staring at paintings and cooling off.

There was one of a skull that I really liked. When you stood in front of it and looked at it, the people in the picture looked normal, but the skull looked odd.  You have to stand off to the side on your toes to see the skull in a proper perspective. If you ever go to London, check it out.

Remember that Wayne’s World movie quote?

This is a very crowded part of London, which is a very crowded city to begin with. In every city, there is a part of that city which looks like it could be any city in the world. This is London’s any-city section.

You have to see it to say you’ve seen it.

How to get there:

go to the Piccadilly Circus tube station then go above ground.

When the city starts to get to you, just go to a park. One thing I loved about London is that there are many lovely parks to choose from. This one is filled with flowers, especially in the inner circle.

How to get there:

Go to Regents Park tube station. Cross Marylebone road.

Hours:

    • Opens at 5:00 every morning.
    • Closing time varies.
  • Hyde Park: (51°30’26.1″N 0°09’56.4″W)

This is a huge park which is connected to other parks like Kensington Gardens. This is a great place to have a picnic or an afternoon nap. I wouldn’t walk alone in this park at night though.

Don’t miss the Princess of Wales Fountain.

Look for the peter pan statue.

This park is very big.

How to get there:

One way is to go to Hyde Park Corner tube station, but there are many ways to get in.

Hours: 5:00-0:00

Videos:


Notes:

Oyster Card:

Get an Oyster card. It can be used to ride both the subway and buses in London. You can get one from any tube station for a refundable £3. You can also get one for free with the purchase of any monthly bus or tube pass.

It lowers the cost of a single fare ticket.

If you can’t decide whether to get a single fare ticket, return, or day pass, the card will decide for you. At the end of the day, you will only be charged for what the cheapest option would have been.

When your vacation is over you can return it at any tube station and get your £3 back. Yes, there is a tube station at Heathrow Airport.

Map:

Click here for Google maps

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