Roppongi, May , 2013

Roppongi 2013
Reds during a day of video shooting in Roppongi, Tokyo May 2013.

So…. I mentioned before, that my first encounter with
Japan was spring 2011.
I was actually in grad school in the USA at that time.
The semester had just finished.
The year before I had been to Vanuatu.
The trip to Vanuatu inspired me a lot.
Fascinated me on a very deep level, because it was
so immensely different to anything I had ever
experienced before.
It drove me to do more linguistic research, as well as
interdisciplinary linguistic anthropology.
Did you know that Vanuatu has over 100 languages
but a population of just about 200000?
One of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world
when you factor in the tiny population!

And as you could see in the video below, they look and behave
very differently from any society (I have ever lived in).
However, on a daily basis, they eat, sleep, have sex, argue,
converse, greet each other….much like I do… WE do,
we humans.
However, being there, immersed in their society, I was aware
pretty much from the get go, that their society is different.
They look different.
Their surroundings and living quarters are very different.
Their social rules are different.
I wont go any further into this topic here, but let’s just
face it:
They look different, they have no cell phones, no gadgets,
and there are no stores (outside of Port Vila, and on the majority of islands),
there is not even electricity on most islands…
so we think, we believe, we assume that
they are different
and they certainly therefore must be more difficult
to communicate with.
In the past Vanuatu was colonized by UK and France in a shared colony.
Unique and interesting in itself, and I could probably write a whole
book just about that…
but
My book is about my life and experiences in Japan.

Japan is surrounded by stereotypes.
We all know them.
We know a lot about Japan in the west,
we really do, don’t we?
They are different in Japan.
They bow, they don’t shake hands.
The food is amazing.
They eat sushi in Japan.
They eat rice in Japan.
They eat with chop sticks.
Japan has a loooong history.
They have temples.
The country in itself is gorgeous with mountains and
they have Mount Fuji.
They also have Tokyo,
and subways that are so crowded one cannot breathe.

We know a lot, don’t we?
I also thought, they must be more similar to me,
more similar than the tribal people in Vanuatu.
Right?
I mean Japan is so high tech, isn’t it?
They make robots and stuff.

When I first arrived in Japan, that was pretty much all
of what I knew … the above…
I also knew some about their music.
X-Japan, hide, Luna Sea, Yellow Magic Orchestra,
L’Arc~en~Ciel, Nightmare, Kuroyume, Gazette….
That was it…
When I travelled around in Japan, in the spring of 2011,
I was also confirming it,
I shot photos of temples,
I went to concerts,
I saw exactly what my stereotypes have told me.

Then… suddenly I decided….
to change my life….
and
My life changed
A LOT!!
because after my first trip to Japan,
the trip when “the sky called me”,
I decided to move to Japan.
I wanted to go deeper, discover more, hear more music…

I met Shingo, a Japanese friend, whom I taught English.
We met every day… yes, every day for many months.
I met Yuka from Hachioji (Tokyo suburb).
Then I met Vagu*Project, a Japanese band,
and Vorchaos, and Dazzle! and…
many other bands followed.
We had meetings, talks, discussions
I started the Pink Spider Web.
I was in love with the country and its people.
I still am.
I still love Japan.

A few years later after I came back to Japan,
(I had been in the US to treat a colon cancer)
I met this man in the photo above: Reds.
He is the vocalist in AURA. A Japanese band that started in the
90s and was one of the front bands, and pioneers, for the Japanese
Visual Kei.
We met at one of my favorite spots in Japan:
The Club Sensation in Yokohama.
How we met, and the miracles I felt will be another story.
It was certainly though a very special encounter
and on a very deep level.
Deeper than rational brain can go,
and more amazing than I thought possible.
We truly connected!

He was delighted to see my work on the internet.
How I could reach so many people across the globe.
Because sadly, I had discovered by now,
Japan isn’t all like I perceived it to be during my trips.
Hanging with Japanese bands like Vagu*Project,
I had noticed that they somehow were out of synch.
Out of synch with how technologically ahead Japan must be,
but was not….
Because certainly a country with high tech industries must
have every single citizen on top of the game?
It seemed to me the more I got to know people like
Reds, that Japan is somehow,
Out of synch with the world!

I had, already during my first trip to Japan,
felt that some thing was ‘off’.
Buying tickets for example. –  not possible, at least not the way
I think of
Finding band info online another example –  web pages ill-maintained
and in Japanese only.
Adding Japanese friends on Facebook… was often met with a
stare:  “Facebook???”
This was 2013.. Where were the Japanese online?
They showed me ameoba.
They showed me their web sites…in Japanese.
I was like, but eh…. globally people don’t speak Japanese.
How do you reach your fans abroad?
How do you reach new fans?

Being with them, and later with Reds,
I learned a lot.
Japan was not what my stereotypes had informed me.
To write all that I discovered in Japan,
will take many chapters…. like ….a Book!!
so yes, I wont write it all here, because this is a blog,
and this is why I’m writing a book!
I will just leave some for the book…. lol

Working with the bands, seeing hundreds of bands,
yes hundreds, I got to spend a lot of time together
with them.
And now comes the tricky part, because I was still
somehow in an illusion, that by now…
I knew the Japanese. I understood them.
Their struggles with learning English,
(which by the way is perfectly understandable at
one level because it’s equally difficult for me to learn Japanese)
Their gender inequality,
their difference in gender perception altogether…
I got it!
What I also rather quickly learned was their power structures.
What I am not capable of though, is adapting 100% to their ways.

I naively thought of it as a bridge…
A bridge where we meet half-way while connecting.
I still believe we can do this (but I will return to this later and
more in detail in my book).
I really believed we could truly work together!

The implications though, run much deeper than
understanding that they have power structures,
or knowing that they are reluctant to the concept
of change.
Let alone to actually change anything.
Reds was a fresh wind.
He was curious.
He wanted to reach out.
He wanted to connect.
I thought it was a real wish,
I believed it was possible.

And I believed him…
in a way I still do.

The bridge however… is another story.
There is a thin line between
understanding and misunderstanding

To be continued…….

 

 

 

Drinking Time

A glass of Beaujolais Nouveau

Yesterday I was doing something very “Japanese”….
I drank Beaujolais Nouveau ha ha ha

On the actual  ”Beaujolais Nouveau Day” 2011
The vin de primeur was sold at the izakaya located in
the building  where I live.

Seriously me labeling this as a “Japanese” thing to do,
is because I have lived in many places and not once seen such
heavy marketing for the Beaujolais Nouveau Day!
Well, when I hang a lot with friends in the wine industry during
the years I lived in San Francisco Bay Area, California, I was
utterly aware of it happening, but I guess I didn’t expect it to be
a BIG event here in Japan. Like everywhere….
Usually Japan sends vibes to me that it is:
Beer, Sake and Shōchū ( 焼酎 )
and some funky alco-sodas Strong Zero (link about it below)
that is their choice when imbibing alcohol. and yes, of course
common drinks like Gin Tonic,  Jack Coke, Bourbon Soda etc.
but so far when I’ve been out not all bars even serve wine.
I learn something new and remarkable about this culture every day!
Today is FRIDAY and I will go and explore a for me new neighborhood,
Shimo-Kitazawa, tonight.
I’ve been wanting to go there ever since I moved into my apartment
not far from Shimo-Kitazawa.  EXCITING!

For those of you puzzled at the “Izakaya” word
Here is a long list of different Japanese restaurant establishments
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2036.html 

and a little bit about Shochu:
Shōchū (焼酎) is a Japanese distilled beverage less
than 45% alcohol by volume. It is typically distilled from
rice (kome),
barley (mugi), sweet potatoes (satsuma-imo),
buckwheat (soba), or brown sugar (kokutō), though it is
sometimes produced from other ingredients such as chestnut,
sesame seeds, potatoes or even carrots.
Typically shōchū contains 25% alcohol by volume,
which is weaker than whisky or standard-strength vodka
but stronger than wine and sake.
It is not uncommon for multiple-distilled shōchū,
which is more likely to be used in mixed drinks,
to contain up to 35% alcohol by volume.

About Strong Zero and similar canned alcoholic beverages
https://www.tsunagujapan.com/10-japanese-chu-hai-you-can-buy-at-convenience-stores/

 

 

Nature’s Dance

Water and Sunshine making a beautiful DANCE together!
Maybe it’s because I live in the desert that I am so drawn to the water, especially moving water.
However, I think I have been attracted to water my whole life,
and this stirring emotions here in Japan are emblematic for how much
I really miss WATER in my immediate and daily environment.
This morning, July 10, 2011 I heard  to news: It’s a new record in town (Albuquerque, NM, USA).
We have received a total 0.1”/2.5 mm of precipitation this year
(since 01012011) … that is really NO WATER at all!

Food and Labor

For me this was super exciting, but I can see how it might be totally common grounds for my wonderful  Japanese friends.  I have seen rice paddies up close before (in China), but this trip in Japan was both a physical travel from place to place, as well as an INNER JOURNEY.
Suddenly these rice paddies were more than rice paddies.
They made me think of how people live across the world,
but mostly why they stay.
This is a reoccurring theme in my thoughts, probably because I’m so curious and want to find out more about people’s lives, cultures, languages, and dreams.
Rice paddies are FOOD and LABOR… and here they are part of a landscape and a ‘heimat’ with a very strong presence!
In the distance you can also vaguely see Mt. Fuji, a symbol in itself for a nation, a culture… a homeland…
While walking this special day in Nirasaki, I totally lost track of time!
It was a TRUE “NOW” experience, and I the only sense of time I had was a slight fear of loosing this MOMENT;
that the truth I felt, was somehow going to slip through my ‘fingers’ and I wasn’t going to see clearly ever again.
I felt as if everything made sense this day!
I also believe that it was this day, together with the day at Miura Reien,
that magically connected me with Japan and made me overcome my own old and erroneous stereotypes of what Japan is all about!