Well, it was probably the least traditional birthday weekend I’ve ever had. And I mean that in the best sense. A full treatment will follow shortly. For the moment let me simply say that it will include such toothsome plot elements as Third-Reich Immigration officials; pierced, hair-metal-listening German passport thieves; mystery meat that may or may not have been canine in origin; a quartet of nubile Korean college girls; two consecutive pre-dawn awakenings, two international flights, and ten and a half total hours of bus travel. The big day itself – last Thursday, for the benighted among you – was occupied mostly with getting myself out of Seoul, South Korea, and back to my suburban digs in Japan. I treated myself to a carryout cup of sake and some thumpy techno on the iPod during the three-hour bus ride back from Nagoya to Fukui, but by the time I dragged myself through the door it was 11:30 p.m. and by that point I was all but comatose.

On Friday, however, I joined my housemates Joel and Elaine and a Cambodian friend named Srekeal for a surreal bowling experience at one of Japan’s giant, day-glo, all-purpose entertainment arcades followed by a genuine-article, real-deal couple of hours in a karaoke club, which is just about the furthest thing from the Americanized version of karaoke (or as we say there, karyokie) that you can imagine, the one common element between the two being beer, and lots of it. Finally, on Saturday, feeling inexplicably restless, I took a train 45 minutes north to Kanazawa, a city I’d visited once before, on my first weekend in Japan. As with my first trip, within moments of me stepping off the city bus next to Kenrokuen Garden, a perfectly beautiful cloudless blue sky transformed into freezing gray wall of drizzle and occasional downpours. No matter. Paths were followed. Photos were taken. Touristy actions were undertaken. Bad, broken Japanese was spoken. Weather does not deter a real man, or a real birthday boy. (On a related note, they’re calling for rain and snow here Tuesday night. It begins.)

Forthwith, a trio of photos, one from each of the weekend’s three adventures. A full accounting is on the way, rest assured. In the meantime, send pumpkin pie. I don’t think they have turkeys in Japan.

Street vendor in Seoul

Tea house in Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

This is what a real karaoke club looks like: behind every door, your own private, closet-sized slice of musical paradise.