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…….

 

 

 

I can feel the kiss

I recorded this video clip in Vanuatu 2010.
The true beginning…as every day is a beginning.
I just wasn’t aware of it then, that the trip to Vanuatu
was going to set-off a chain reaction of events,
that lead from this moment in Vanuatu,
to my ‘new life’ in Japan just a year later.

The amount of accumulated special moments since then
until this present moment, is huge!
So what I am doing, is to spread them out on my
enormous time line.
I have divided the time-line spanning from little before this
video in Vanuatu until today, and on it I add photos.
To each photo I add a note with event name,
for example “Live gig at Meguro Live Station with xxx band”.

Under the line I also add notes like departure times for
flights, visits from abroad, and everything else.
Just to keep track of all the places I’ve been…
is a task in itself
During the years I cover (about 6-7 years), besides my life in Japan,
I lived in or visited (not in order and many I visited several times):
USA: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico,  Texas,
Utah, and Washington
UK including London and Wales, Sweden, Germany, Laos, Ukraine,
Azerbaijan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan
Vanuatu, Mexico, Canada, Singapore
…. and more
and in Japan, I traveled a total of 6 weeks with Japan Rail Pass.
From northern Tohoku to Kyushu and a lot of it in between.

The program I use for this purpose is called ‘Scapple’
and it’s really invaluable to my book writing project.

In the photo below I combined two screen shots.
In the upper half,
one can see one year (of approximately 7 years total)
In the lower half one can see
how it looks closer up.
I still need to add more notes about each event,
for example names of band members at a live,
or who was with me at a certain bar and so on.

scapple

It is however time-consuming!
Often I find my mind wandering off.
A photo generate an intense feeling of
actually being there.
I can smell the flowers.
I can hear the music.
I can feel the kiss on my lips.
I can hear arguments and conflicts.
I can sense the love
It’s all embedded in this time line.
And the questions arise.
Why?  Why did we meet?
Why did I choose this or that?
It is also time consuming by the whole
metod in itself,
but in the end, I’m sure this is the best way!

Memories, but also a future.
My future.
Our future.
I have no doubt that even if I’m writing my book
about the past, it is not finished.
My story is not finished.
Friendship, and relationships,
continue in to the future.
My book is a snippet of this
continuum!
It really has no true beginning,
nor is it by any means
over yet!

Anna

 

Tourism, Poverty and Sustainability

This little video is from when I arrived in Vientiane, and I figured it
would be good to post today when I’m leaving Laos lol
All is a time mess on this blog anyway….
Last night I sat down an talked with Nat from Australia who opened
a bar/restaurant here in Vang Vieng. We chatted about tourism and development of Laos.
She told me that next year has been declared as a “Visit Laos year”
by the Lao government, and that they have proposed to expand
an develop tourism in the country.
Looking at the potential this is probably huge, and if one had time
and money to invest this is is probably a great place to do so!
However does the world really need another Costa Del Sol,
another French Riviera, or Barbados….
Hopefully they won’t go there… that route… but do something more
sustainable.
Laos would certainly need some cleaning up….
The exhaust fumes in Vientiane are massive!
Just walking in the streets for a short while made me dizzy…
Tourism sure is very complex, as is world economy, and of course
I cannot solve the issue, and for sure I feel very puzzled after being here!
It’s a entangled, complex and multi-layered mess of exhaust fumes,
Buddhism, communism and capitalism…
Oh and lol on the radio in the bus…Music from way back when….
that too adds to this mess…
When I was in Vanuatu it was a more straight forward feeling,
that these people (Ni-Van) need help to protect their culture and
especially help with protecting them from foreigners buying up their land
and making huge profits out of it, all while giving crumbles in return at best!
Mostly tourism there creates poverty, and a income classification,
previously totally unknown on the islands. Most of Vanuatu people now
find themselves in a new dependency once money was introduced,
a dependency due to selling the land to foreigners.
A new kind of poverty not seen there before
Here in Laos there are of course other issues, and for now the
tourism is basically backpackers who come here for the extremely
cheap booze. Vientiane had a fair share of others as well,
mostly Europeans, at least at a quick glance these days in
November of 2011.

Really Japan… It’s 2011

Japanese Gender packaging –

Teasing in a short mini skirt or all wrapped up in tons of fabric…

The world is going global, at least when it comes to consumption
and pollution of the planet.
Entertainment and music is global, I mean people here in Japan
listen to Lady Gaga as do people in Europe, Africa, Australia…
well you get the idea!

BUT is Japan really included here?
In the same world I live in…. surely.
In the same decade? Not so sure….

I have been visiting and eating with people in rural villages
in the outer Islands of Vanuatu.
I have been sitting meditating with monks, nuns and laypeople in Taiwan.
I have worked in a Lutheran Congregation in Southern Germany.
I have hitchhiked in Sicily and the Eolic Islands.
I have gone to Art school and College in New jersey, as well as
grad school in New Mexico.
I have partied in Pereira, Colombia, South America,
and so on ….
You get the idea here….
…and yes,there are different social rules around the globe,
but,
for the most part the human species seems to follow the social principle that skin and touching and hugging and sex is fun
and something we long to do.
Here in Japan, I’m not so sure what is going on?!
I have read many articles online and in academic literature,
as well as I AM HERE in the middle of it all!;
and they might be on to something in these texts, but no one really
gives  any insights as to why it is so persistent ..
it is ongoing NOW…and when the world is going one direction…
Japan to a certain degree at least does not follow.

Some of this male gender packaging of women, objectification rather,
was part of Europe too, ….about 40 years or so ago.
Yes, yes, I know it still exists! However, there are huge differences.
Something has happened, feminism and what not
and change is constant…. everywhere
BUT  here…
Did Japan miss the 60s and 70s all together.. ?
Were they too busy producing stuff for their huge  financial
come-back post WW2?
Why, why, why, is this rule following behavior so persevering,
when it seems to break away sooner and later everywhere else
(including in China).
If only 50% of the population enjoys a system how can it survive?
This is just a very shallow observation I have noticed over my time
here, and I certainly haven’t been here long enough … yet!
But this theme will definitely be worth digging in to some more

When across the world everyone makes their own local version
‘Idol’ or ‘America’s Top Model’,
Japanese men read manga and watches anime,
but most are super shy and scared approaching real women.
No pleasure for the sake of pleasure without commitment,
unless it is with certain women (or men) for that specific purpose.
A mistress on the side is common…
They have a big sex industry yet the are in the very bottom,
when it comes to having sex within relationships.
All these MUSTs and PRESSURES must be so difficult to carry
and yet stoically they do it even when their own women leave
them for more freedom and pleasures with foreign men!

Please take a note here that I do NOT EVALUATE either path…
I’m definitely NOT saying this is better or worse or crazy…at least
not the no-sex part, the objectification of women is a bit
harder to digest.
No I’m just saying that Japan seems to be of a very different kind.
Somehow CHANGE and DANGER must have been mixed up
in their vocabulary.
and yet they are such eager adopters of products and STUFF…
just not behavior.
Or are they really? The longer I’m here the more I come to notice
that this was a pre-conceived notion I had about the Japanese.
Most of the Japanese that has come closer to me, become friends,
are not at all early adopters, partially because there is
not much to adopt… cash is king, and automatization is not
the Japanese way for the general population.

It is not because they are Asian. China has gone from very few
English speakers to plenty, but Japan does NOT have a young
generation of English speakers. As a matter of fact, if I try to find
an English speaker here, I usually try with an older woman first!
There seems to be a huge bump with people under 35-40 years old
being the ones who speak the least English.
There must be something political motivation here.
A population who don’t speak English, won’t question, won’t know,
won’t learn, won’t understand….. the world today.
Hence, they are way easier to control in a world that has
Facebook, twitter, instagram… all things social media…
it’s danger for anyone in power… who wants to remain in power,
until life is over.

Just sayin’ – No evaluation!
Just curious…Haven’t been here long enough…
Now, I think I need to return to this topic, because it is very interesting,
but also very sensitive.
I have been thinking that it is difficult to be a Gaijin Woman here,
but oh my at least I do NOT have the pressure to live up to an ideal
like Japanese women and men do…
IDEALS NO ONE QUESTIONS…..ever…
Question Authority must be equal to death penalty in Japan.

and here maybe we are getting closer to the true core…
Question Authority is not something you just go ahead and do if
Confucius’ principles are ingrained in your blood, and socialized
since your diaperhood

Japan…. Will you Stay unique and preserve your own values,
or change and go with the flow… In the end it is a lot more complex
than these few lines!

  ڿڰۣ(̆̃̃  to be continued … … for sure!!…..(̆̃̃ڿڰۣ

Our Planet is Fragile

Some more from VANUATU  …
and the totally insane vegetation!

Thick, dense, long vines…


Our local ‘guide’ from the village I spent time with
(doing my Linguistic Anthropology stuff),
told us he is worried.
Lately big cruise ships has started to arrive,
and the narrow sounds are to fragile for such huge ‘boats’.
He also says he takes the tourists around in the forest,
but they trample the ground, and the nature gets
damaged by the huge hoards of people.