last week  

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Today, my last full day here on this adventure, was a pretty fantastic day. Nicole and I went to a little bit of church with Richie and Junko before we headed over to Marcus and Liana Otsuji's house for lunch. We had a great time talking to them and visiting with them as well. As we were leaving I saw a regular looking key that was not on a keychain under the couch but right up next to the leg of the couch. It didn't look like an important key and I almost didn't say anything, but then I realized that I just sort of blurted out, "hey there is a key right there. I am not sure if you are missing a key or anything." They both flipped out a bit and wanted to know where it was. I picked it up and gave it to them. They then told us that they had lost this house key and they are over $100 to replace them. They had searched high and low. Apparently I was an answer to a prayer. Really. Prayer was their last attempt to find this key. It was sort of leaning up against the leg of the couch, which was chrome, so it blended in a bit. It was funny how I looked down and Bam! There was this key just staring at me. It is really fun to hang out with them and talk, because before last year the only time I had talked to Liana was when we were missionaries, so I only knew this one side of her. I find it very funny and entertaining to see the other side of her come out. Since her husband Marcus, the guy Ben and I went out with after I had been here a week, works for Omniture, we had a chance to hang out with them in Malaysia last year. We are hoping to see them in another foreign country this year as well.

After their house, we went to a trendy little area called Daikanyama to meet up with Mr. 24, Shuichi, and Shuichi's family. We were having a goodbye dinner at a Vietnamese place called Monsoon. Shuichi's wife and two kids are wonderful and cute. We all had a great time. But then after tons of wonderful food, that is when things changed a bit. First a wonderful cake with fruit was brought out with candles and sparklers on it, and chocolate writing that said "Reed Thank you" on the plate. It was such a wonderful gesture of kindness that I had no idea what to say. Both Shuichi and Mr. 24 gave me gifts as well. Extremely nice gifts. The gifts I brought just seemed weak and small.

I felt so lucky and so thankful for the opportunity that Shuichi gave me to come and learn from him. And here they were throwing me a thank-you party and giving me such wonderful gifts. I felt awful, because I really had no idea what to say. I do not have the Japanese vocabulary to express to these two friends of mine how thankful I am. I hope that someday I will be able to do so. Shuichi I know you will read this. Itsumo blog o yondekureru kara. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Kokoro kara thank you. Mr. 24, nani ieba ii no ka? Tape no tsukaikata o oshietekureta arigatou ne. Specialist ni narimashita. Now go get some sleep!

Today's pictures are pictures that Shuichi sent me tonight. Some are from the party tonight, some are from the last shoot with the crazy background, and some are just random ones during my time here.

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Shopping day, 2007. I usually don't like to shop too much, so I try to get my year's worth of shopping done while I am in Tokyo. It works out since I am here at least once a year. I got plenty of shirts, but no pants. That puts me in a predicament. Now I'll have to shop again sometime. Nicole got a few things, including a cute hat. Junko met us for some shopping too. Richie had to record a song...and sleep. Junko and I were pretty wasted after the shopping, so we decided it was best for her to go home and Nicole and me to head back to the apartment for some sleeping before we all went out for the night. Once we hit the sack, I think Nicole crashed pretty hard. I think she was more tired than she realized.

We met up with Richie and Junko at 10 pm and headed back out to Roppongi for more tsukemen. Nicole went up to level 21 on the spice with me, while Richie ascended to level 50. The waiter's face was hilarious when Richie said 50. The three of us got to decorate wooden blocks for the wall for our spicy accomplishment.

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I had my last photo shoot today. We photographed the band "Monobright", a four-piece male rock band. It was really cool to see how fast hair and makeup goes for a rock band...10 minutes for each guy. 10 minutes on front of the camera...It all went really fast and was very basic and simple.

A custom backdrop was made that was great and awful at the same time. It was a repeating intricate pattern of a deep green and hot pink. The two colors side by side almost made you throw up. Really. Your eyes could hardly handle it. But finally they adjusted and it just looked good. Shuichi, Mr. 24, and I took pictures together with the backdrop when the shoot was over.

Nicole was waiting for me in my apartment when I got back! She made it here all safe and sound. It was fantastic to see her. She will get to be here for a few days before we leave on Monday.

We had a dinner right away...okonomiyaki, then a night over at Richie's and Junko's visiting Dawg.

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Since I still haven't been feeling 100%, I decided to sleep in and let that help as much as possible. I feel much better today. It's the first day I haven't had a headache in a week or so. I usually get them once a day, though medication alleviates it quickly. I spent the morning working with Nicole online to try to get things arranged for her to come over.

After that I met up with Richie and Junko for gyoza. We did not do the gyoza challenge, but I had 36 of those tasty things. After gyoza, I took this picture of Junko reaching for Ultraman. That is gross Junko.

We went back to Richie's for a movie and on the walk there, Richie reminded me of a funny story that I forgot to write. It happened two night ago when we were in Roppongi after eating tsukemen.

Roppongi is full of black guys that are from Africa, but pretend to be hip-hop gangsters from America. They walk the walk and talk the talk...or so we thought. They are all working for clubs and try to talk you into coming into their place as opposed to another club. Free entry or free drinks is the usual hook. The conversation went as follows:

"Whassup G?", says the gangster at my side as I walk.
"Word", says I.
"What?", says the befuddled hip-hop imposter.

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Photoshoot today. It seems like it has been a while. We photographed the two-girl group "Twenty4-7". This was the same band that on the very first night I arrived, when Richie and I were out to eat, we saw one of their posters and we laughed because we thought the name was interesting. Not the name, but the way they decided to represent with numerals and words. We actually stopped and had a small conversation about the whole thing and some of these small groups in Japan that are just starting out. So I remember it very well. Little did we know that Shuichi was actually the one who had taken the photos for that poster, and I had no idea that I would be meeting them later. Their names were Mika and Me. They were both really cool and really fun. Mika kept running into thing and tripping on things. I laughed inside. The shoot took a very long time. I am not sure why, but they were very picky on the pictures and examined them over and over and would set the same thing back up and shoot it again. I am not sure what the main concern was.

We went out for some very delicious Curry afterward. I took this picture of Mr. 24 while we were walking back to the studio to pick up our belongings. A couple of the studio staff came with us. They were really cool.

Well I just found out that Nicole is coming over! It is not how it was all planned from the beginning, but she is in L.A. at the moment and will be flying over Friday at 3 pm, Japan time. So we will have a couple days together here. She is booked on the same flight home as me too, so that will be fun. Well, as fun as a 10-hour flight gets.

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Today was not very eventful. I prepared the images for The Casper to look at, and put the images up on a website for them to all peruse through. You know, so they can pick out the pictures of themselves that they approve.

Richie and I met up so we could go meet up with Junko and Kazumi for dinner. We went to go eat at Bakundan, a fantastic Hiroshima-style Tsukemen shop. Luckily for us, Kazumi decided to do her homework and check out the place before going. I told her it was in the shopping area of the basement of the Tokyo station, but she found out that that particular location had shut down. Even more luck came our way when we found out that the new location, in Roppongi, had its grand opening today. So we headed over there and ate that delicious meal of cold-noodles dipped in a spicy sauce. I think it was the first time the three of them had eaten there. I believe they were pleased.

You can select the amount of spice put into the sauce. There was a sign that said you get to write your name on a little wooden plaque and hang it on the wall if you go higher than level 20. Richie and I did 21. As you can see, we got our plaques.

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Finally I was able to get together with Richie's band, The Casper, for some photos! We headed to the Latter-Day Studios for the night. We headed over there pretty late, so the missionaries were supposed to leave a key for us in the mailbox. Well, what do you know, there was no key. That put us in a really tough position, but luckily we found an open door. I know that was not intentional and that we just lucked out.

We got it, started shooting, and then all of the sudden there was a man standing in the doorway into the large hall area that we were in. Mind you, this was about midnight or so when he showed up. I figured it was a member passing by that saw lights on, with sudden bursts of intense lights occasionally. I figured he stopped by to make sure everything was ok. As Richie was talking to him, I could tell Richie was slightly confused. I went over and the guy kept acting like he was in charge, and the whole time Richie was just kind of like, "Yeah, who are you? Um, what's the problem?" The guy was telling us something about how all of his stuff had been stolen nearby and that he had filed a police report. But then he kept asking us if we were missionaries. Not in a "help me" kind of way, but more in a "who let you in here" kind of a way. After he left, we made sure to go lock the door to the van we drove over and then lock the door behind us. I think after Atsucid, one of Richie's bandmates, talked to him outside, we came to the conclusion that he was not all there in the head. But when he was talking to Richie, he almost looked like he was about to get violent. Very strange.

The shoot went well and I hope to have some final products fairly soon, but for now I will just give you this one. Yippee! Writing with light...I turned the light green since it says "Casper". I would like to pretend that we were just shooting and Casper the friendly ghost flew in and spelled that out while flying around.

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I have felt weird all day. Last night when I was with Kazumi, every time I felt looked up or moved my head semi-fast, I felt drunk. Not my entire body, just my head. That floating euphoric feeling. It was totally weird, but I think I know why. This morning when I woke up my neck was sore from dancing for hours. The pulled muscles were not apparent yesterday, but they are today. In fact my head still feels weird if I look up fast. I had to ask Kazumi if there was anything in the food that I was unaware of, because the feeling came out of nowhere. But this morning I realized the reason. But today my chest has hurt when I walk or breathe deeply. Sort of like my sternum is bruised, but more on the inside. Anyway, I am not 100%.

If I happen to die from these strange feelings, I hereby give all my camera equipment to Ben Child. The Canon 5D, the lights...everything except the digital Rebel XTI. That particular piece goes to my sister Chelsea. And my photo backpack goes to Sarah. My drums go to Cory Christensen. Brandon, you would have been a top contender for the drums, but your lack of a permanent address...well I don't think drums travel well enough for your lifestyle. You can have my laptop instead. I think it is very decent. My scooter goes to Andy, since he is the only one who can probably keep that type of scooter running. And he has to promise to get a custom paint job done on it of my face on a dragon's body. Carl will do the painting. All sentimental things go to my lovely wife, Nicole, and she can disperse those at her own discretion. Guns go to my brother Matt, and any other thing he wants at all, including some of my life-insurance money to help pay for a wonderful wedding and honeymoon. Please place my car in the "Bitchin Cars" hall of fame. I am not sure where that is located though. Maybe Albuquerque. Richie, to you I leave all the DVDs I borrowed from you. They are here in the apartment and you'll have to come get them. You may have to send my camera gear home too. Ben will be wanting it. Please take the point-n-shoot camera that I have been using, send it to the Grand Canyon, maybe while you are driving my car to Albuquerque, go out on that new glass-bottomed walkway, and throw this piece of crap so it lands on the pointiest rocks you can see. Throw feces in its general direction afterward as well. Throw it until the indians kick you out.

After all the church activities, I went to Richie's late. We took in a movie, Man of the Year. I took these pictures on my crappy camera on the walk home.
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