Inhuman Swill : Japan

Japanese Fine Burger & Coffee


We brought home a lot of great souvenirs from Japan, but I think the best are the two rubber drink coasters Laura lifted from a Mos Burger in Mitaka....

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Consigned to the Pit

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Akiko Grace
Jazz shakuhachi? That's what we heard tonight at the Shinjuku Pit Inn, one of Tokyo's legendary jazz clubs, and Doi Keisuke's playing was awe-inspiring. But the real revelation of the evening, to us anyway, was Akiko Grace, whose piano trio anchored the evening's set. Incredibly supple playing, every note clear as a jeweler's hammer tap, but with enough power behind it to blow the audience through the back of the club. After the set, I think Laura was a little taken aback to return from the women's room and find me chatting with Ms. Grace herself. The pianist had signed a CD for me, and we had moved on to talking about New York and science fiction. I think I have a little crush. Laura poked merciless fun at me on the ride back to Roppongi and our hotel.

Much more to post about Japan, and a lot more pictures too, but it will wait until we're back home. Our flight leaves first thing tomorrow morning, and we arrive in Chicago two hours earlier than we leave Tokyo.

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Sailing the seas of time

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Just had lunch (and five beers!) here in Tokyo with a close friend from my high school years whom I haven't seen in (we worked it out) at least 21 years. I can't even describe what a pleasure that was. To compare how far we've both come from those days, and not look back on the times with bitterness—it's a blessing.

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Absolut zero

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Ice Station Tokyo
We may be sitting directly in the path of a typhoon, but at least we're living it up at Icebar Tokyo.

We hit it with Craig Engler and Brooks Peck. All the drinks are made with Absolut vodka, your glass is made of ice, and you're only allowed to be inside for forty-five minutes. You have to make the time count.

We did.

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Congrats to Tim Pratt!

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I'm thrilled that Tim Pratt won a Hugo last night. Paul Melko accepted it, and it was my supreme honor to sit next to Tim's Hugo. Okay, who am I kidding? We passed it down the row and all took turns holding it. Cory Doctorow might have licked it, I'm not sure.

I was disappointed not to win, of course, but we've had a great time this week, with more great times to come today. Congrats to Robert Reed also, and all the winners!

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Much longer ago than "this morning," we hauled our tired asses out of bed, hauled our luggage to the train, and hied ourselves to O'Hare. Check-in was delightfully pleasant, our cruise through security simplicity itself, and to say that our thirteen-hour flight to Japan seemed much quicker than our recent eight-hour flight from Chicago to New York would be an understatement roughly the size of the Pacific.

We sailed through immigration, baggage claim, and customs at Narita, and after two uneventful hours of train travel (with some unasked-for directions from kind commuters), we made it to Tokyo and our hotel. We wandered the streets of Roppongi until the desk clerk's directions began to make sense, and we had the amazing meal we were hunting for at a robatayaki called Inakaya, where two cooks sit across a wide counter from you and fry up the selections you point to from the cornucopia of foods spread between. There is much ritualized shouting, and the food is served to you by the cooks on an eight-foot paddle, without them getting up. The whole red snapper we ate Laura named Bob. I named my tiger prawn Paul. Don't ask us why.

Our waiter kindly took our picture, and then he showed us the restaurant's photo book, full of pictures of patrons like Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Cameron Diaz, Peter Jackson, Viggo Mortenson, Keith Richards, and so on. They will be opening a location next year on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.

The tiniest bit tipsy on sake, we wandered Roppongi again, this time in search of the Absolut Ice Bar. We didn't find it, but I am determined to get there on our return to Tokyo next week and sip vodka from an ice glass whilst wrapped in a Swedish cloak.

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Last of the packing

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We leave for Japan in a little less than ten hours. I'd better get some sleep!

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Schrödinger's apartment

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So last week Laura thought I had died again.

Here's what happened: As we were saying goodnight on the phone, she offered to call me at seven in the morning to make sure I was awake, since she knows I often sleep through my alarm clock. This is not an unusual offer. I accepted.

Then I did a strange thing. I woke up at five in the morning and decided I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep, so I got ready and went to the office, figuring I could get some work done on my book before anyone else got there. I was out of the apartment by 6:30.

Well, around 9:30 I got a call at my little cubicle. "This is Bill," I said.

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William Shunn

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