August Break

What has panda been up to the past couple of weeks since his last update? Well, it involves delicious chocolate cake, dodging baseballs to the face and power flexing in Starbucks. Interested? (umm, I hope so, or else this will be a boring entry! *laughs*) Let’s get into it!



I met up with the lovely Risapie for some night time culinary adventures in Aoyama. I love Aoyama – it’s cool, laid back and filled with delicious bistros and slickly designed hideouts waiting for pandas to stumble into them. We ended up heading over to the (relatively) new M’s Tower complex in Aoyama for dinner at the recently opened branch of the design-oriented Architect cafe. Oddly enough for a Saturday night, we were the only customers when we arrived (perhaps we came too early? Or perhaps everyone else passed out from the heat en-route?). The food was okay, the design and products even better – they had an odd assortment of well designed goods for sale all over the restaurant – all the better to keep us entertained while we waited for our food to come.


Among the foods we ordered was a salad that came drowned in so much balsamic vinegar I almost passed out from the vapours when it arrived at our table. Now don’t get me wrong – I love a good balsamic vinegar with olive oil and crushed black pepper salad. Simple is the best, you see. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and when that good thing happens to be vinegar, the limit is set a little lower than usual. Anyway, it wasn’t too expensive, plus the rest of the food was pretty good, so we didn’t mind so much.

Afterward, we needed something sweet to get all the vinegar out of our systems (does it work that way?) so we headed to a fancy looking bistro in the same complex with a mouth watering display of cakes and pastries in a long glass case that tempted us in. It didn’t hurt that they had lovely patio seating (by this point the horrible scorching day globe had set so temperatures were a little more in the livable range) and an inviting lamp lit cavern of a main room. And the cake… Oh goodness, the cake was delicious. Mmm… chocolate. I love going out to eat with female friends because then I can order what I really want (usually the sweetest, most chocolate-y thing on the menu) without feeling like my masculinity might be impugned. As you can see from the pictures, I took full advantage of this opportunity to indulge my inner choco-holic.


Oddly enough, even when we finished up around 10pm or so, the complex – and Aoyama in general – was still pretty deserted. Weird. Could it be that everyone was home watching the Olympics on a Saturday night? I may never know. At least that meant I could get home relatively early to prepare myself for the torment that was to follow. Yes folks, I’m talking about…


So some friends (the ones from this post) passed through Tokyo recently – some on their way back to their home countries, others just to live it up before heading back to work – and they wanted to watch baseball. I was invited. So I went. For the first, and only time in my life. Because may I just say that baseball is as eye-rendingly god-awfully boring as I had ever imagined? (Apologies to any of my readers who may be baseball fans. You may wish to skip this entire section because I have nothing nice to say about baseball at all, with perhaps the exception of the cute beer girls. For baseball truly is one of the worst sports in the world.)


(continued after the “keep reading” link below)

If you have never been to a baseball game before, first of, just don’t ever go. Nothing good has ever come out of attending a baseball game, unless you count being hit in the face with a line drive from a major league slugger a “good thing.” Seriously, balls fly into the stands – stands filled with children and un-armored individuals, and they all clamor to catch this hard leather wrapped sphere of death hurtling towards them at 160 kilometers per hour with their faces. People get excited over this! Me? I would be getting ready to sue. Who the hell would willingly subject themselves (nay, PAY to subject themselves) to powerful men in tight pants slamming baseballs at their faces? They’re so happy when they catch a ball too – holding it up and cheering and whooping and hollering like they just won the lottery. Friends, catching a baseball is not the same thing as winning a prize – it’s called your survival instinct kicking in to prevent your face from becoming permanently disfigured. You don’t see soldiers in battle whooping and hollering and holding up the rifle slug that they managed to stop with their bullet proof vests, do you? So why are you so happy that you just managed to avoid certain doom?

And lest you think I am exaggerating people, I refer you to this (rather famous) picture:

bsaeball to the face

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Horrific facial injuries amongst baseball spectators. Not that this was a concern because we were safely tucked away up (literally) at the topmost chairs in the entire dome behind the pitcher. Which I suppose most people would be disappointed in, but I was quite chuffed because a) it means I was exceedingly unlikely to get smashed in the face with a baseball and b) I could see everything that was going on on the field.

The thing about seeing everything that goes on in the field, though, is that in baseball, it’s not really all that much. Now perhaps I’m spoiled by my upbringing that taught me to favour American football, with its constantly shifting lines of offense and defense and passes and runs and blocks and tackles and kicks and touchdowns and constantly running play clock and such, but in my opinion, baseball can basically be described as watching a bunch of men stand around in a teeny tiny dirt diamond (which was so much smaller than I had imagined it) while a guy in the middle throws balls at a guy standing at home base and then a little light will light up on the scoreboard across the park showing either B (ball), S (strike), F (foul) and some other random stuff like R (runs?) O (outs?) and possibly Q (though I may have just been hallucinating that). Usually it will wind up that somehow every batter will manage to take the maximum allowed number of hits before actually striking out. Like, if they would just strike out bam-bam-bam then get off so the next guy can get on – or if they could just hit a home run and we could all be done with it, it would all be good, but somehow every single guy ends up hitting like 3 out of 4 balls, 3 out of 4 fouls, a few do overs and 2 strikes before finally hitting that last damn strike. Or worse yet, he’ll hit it just hard enough that it’s not caught and he can make it to first base, thus depriving us not only of the limited joy of a home run to interrupt the slow monotony of synaptic death that this “game” is imposing on us, but also prolonging the torment by ensuring that a second batter gets to come up to repeat the process all over again. This goes on FOR LIKE AN HOUR per inning – and there are NINE INNINGS. Dear god joseph mary and panda.


Watching baseball is much like what I imagine giving birth for 10 hours straight without painkillers would feel like, only instead of a cute baby to love and care for, in the end all you get is a dull, empty feeling in the pit of your stomach and the unsettling sense that you may have just wasted a significant part of your weekend that could have been better spent doing something like scrubbing the grout on your bathroom tiles with a toothbrush, or repeatedly giving yourself paper cuts between your toes then going for a barefoot walk in a salt quarry.

Someone told me there are something like 162 games (ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY TWO..!!!) or more in a regular major league baseball season. I refuse to believe that this is true – who in the right minds would willingly subject themselves to this torture more than once, let alone ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY TWO TIMES OR MORE IN A YEAR!? Hell, I didn’t even make it through a single game – I got up and left in the third inning – at the “bottom of the third” as people who are “into” baseball might say, or “the bottom of the barrel that was my soul weeping tears of blood and despair” as I would put it. Seriously. Baseball. What the hell.

That having been said, it was lovely to hang out with people, so I suppose that was a bright spot (though it has nothing to do with baseball mind you ;) ). And I did actually have a good time in that respect, and if I didn’t have to work the next day I probably would have stayed at least until the 6th inning :P


Oh and finally, I am informed by people in the “know” about baseball back home (meaning soon-to-be ex-friends) that there are not cute girls who deliver beer from backpacks strapped to their bodies in baseball games in America. Can someone confirm this? Is this just a Japan thing? How does beer then get delivered to thirsty fans eager for something alcoholic to dull their senses and help them forget they’re stuck in a baseball game if not strapped to the dorsa of a lithe young woman? *laughs*


So the consensus in response to my Starbucks dilemma from my previous video blog (skip to the [CHECK] mark for relevant context) was that I should just take the coupon for the free coffee itself (sans mug) to the Starbucks and that my favourite green-apron-clad baristas would happily redeem it. Most people, including the lovely LegallyHigh (LH)(who has worked in a Starbucks before) and the equally lovely Veronica, possibly the only person in the world who loves Starbucks more than me, seemed to agree that the idea of bringing your own mug to Starbucks was not only weird, but kind of “gross” as well.


In fact, as the lovely LH put it:

“… it doesn’t seem hygenic. As a barista, I don’t know where that cup has been and I don’t really want to touch it or take it behind the counter. Of course I’m sure your cup will be pristine, but on the whole I think encouraging people to bring their own cups is not a good idea. I will tell you that in my many years behind the counter, I handled some seriously gnarly cups. From the homeless guy with his paper cup that has been reused for months to the soccer mom who never takes her tumbler out of her car and asks me if I can rinse the curdled remnants of last week’s white chocolate mocha out [panda: eeeewwwww!!!] I was appalled at was allowed behind the counter in the spirit of environmentalism.”

Oh man. After that cringe inducing story I felt so sorry for LH (and baristas the world over) that I almost didn’t want to try and redeem my coupon (not that I have ever brought a gross mug to a coffee shop of course, but it’s sort of one of those “guilt for the sins of all of humanity” type things. I’m prone to that sort of over-reaction.) But then my desire for free coffee won over, and coupon clutched firmly in hand, I timidly made my way to the my local Starbucks.


She’s pretending to be flexing and kissing her biceps, I think ;)

Long story short is this: while in other countries baristas might be willing to overlook coupon stipulations requiring you to have your mug present to redeem your free coupon in interest of not contracting some mysterious disease, in Japan, they won’t let you redeem the coupon if you don’t have the mug with you. Given the Japanese propensity for following rules to the letter, I suppose I should have seen this coming. So once again I find myself back at square one – with a free coupon for coffee in one hand, and my steadfast belief that one should not bring their own mug to a public coffee house in the other.

Le sigh.


Okay, that is about it for now. Thanks for reading!

Now listening to: Chris Brown – Forever

77 Reactions

  1. MatchaMonkey

    What I like the most is that the one place in Japan with green grass is located securely indoors :) I would hate to see what would happen if that grass broke free.
    I am surprised that you could not use your barista connections to get your coupon honored…what if you plied them with pandas?

  2. coolnahalf

    hm, i agree with you on most things but i don’t see why it’s odd at all to bring in your own mug to starbucks. id do it. my friend does it all the time without complaint and in cali i see people do it a lot (though cali is probably a bit greener than, say, wisconsin).
    suck it up and bring in your on cup, homeboy! the earth will thank you for it (even if the barista doesn’t).

  3. jessica

    so jealous. how much does a regular average roll cost there for sushi? here, its like maybe 12-20 a roll, depending on the complexity.
    how is the weather there?
    i love your photos of friends. i need to do more of that.who owes who a long rambling email?? probably me…….

  4. momolo

    I’m SO GLAD you hate baseball too! unfortunately, this guy i am seeing is really into it, as well as a variety of other sports whose watching of and whose statistics i don’t care much for.
    the chocolate cake looks good. if you like it dense and sweet, i’ll take you to a nice place in minneapolis.

  5. LH

    OMG Panda, really?!?! Okay, in the case of crazily uptight baristas, the proper protocol is to just take your dang cup and get your dang free drink. I’ve heard the stereotypes about the Japanese being sticklers for rules but I’m really shocked that they wouldn’t accept the coupon without the accompanying cup.
    And, just in case it wasn’t a rhetorical question, in America we have our beer delivered by large men with very loud voices who yell “Coooold beeer!” in your ear. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a beer saleswoman at the Astrodome until my mom gently pointed out that I would have to carry over 50 pounds of beer in a tub up and down stairs for hours. I’m a little confused about the small girls with the backpacks… how many beers can they carry? Are there a ton of beer girls or do they have to run back and forth to restock? Or is demand not that high for beer? Because in America, like, every fan in attendance is required to drink at least one beer per inning (until the seventh inning, when we are cut off to sober up for the drive home–hooray America!). And yes, I love baseball, but I won’t hold it against you. :)

  6. Veronica

    To wash your coffee mug involves the running of a dishwasher, or even just using your hotwater, which is heated by an energy source, plus the addition of soap. Are there really green people that think that is so much wiser than the energy expended to manufacture one paper cup? The ozone will be in trouble long before the landfills get us. It’s all arguable. And it seems the ones that love to argue it have never been to a recycling plant, and have no idea how much energy it takes to recycle. Much more than it takes to manufacture. With aluminum, it can be as much as 600 to 1.
    Oh Panda, I’d go to that Japanese barista with a dirty cup from home and I’d hand her the coupon and then lick the cup, and hand her the cup and say – hey you made the choice, babe.

  7. lizb

    my parents used to take me and my brother to pirates games when we were young. it was awful! you’re lucky you were in an indoor arena…imagine if it was open to sunlight and hot, sticky weather. and your parents wouldn’t buy you a soda, cotton candy, or hot dog because they’re like, $10 each and all your mom brought to sustain your hunger through the hours of sweltering torment were granola bars and bottled water. and you can’t leave in the third inning because you’re like, 11 years old. yeah, baseball sucks…but i feel bad because it was nice that they took us because i’m sure they thought we’d have more fun.
    now, i can watch basketball easily. football…emm not so much it can’t hold my attention. arena football is exciting, though. and anyway, i like watching the athletes..but i’m not a sports fan really. i don’t have any favorite teams or follow anything that goes on in that world. i like going to live games a lot more than watching anything on tv.
    i’ve been keeping up with your blog but i’m SO BAD with correspondence–even when it is just commenting. you know this about me, panda :( it’s not one of my strong points..

  8. online games

    well, speaking of chocolate cakes..! I love them too! hmm..? august break..? thats nice to hear…since i dont have any breaks at’re so lucky to even have post an AUGUST BREAK..wahaha…good one..

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